Friday, February 1, 2013

In which Fiddle smiles for the camera...and for her new little friend

It's that time of year again.

The Mobile Equine Dental Clinic of Dr. Sarah Metcalf, DVM

"Hi Fiddle!  Step right into the office, and Dr. Metcalf will be with you in just a moment."
Tegan is Dory's new grandchild--
the happy result of "family restructuring."
She loves being a BARN KID!

Fiddle has been here before.  Dental visits used to be a big, they are an annual routine.

When the sedation has taken hold,

Fee is a "happy drunk"

Sarah examines the patient's bite and grind patterns.

"I can't feel my lips.  Do I still have lips?"

 Then she fires up the power tools to grind off the sharp "hooks" and make everything flat and comfortable again.
Sarah has biceps like "Rosie the Riveter" 

She checks her work visually, and follows up with a manual exam.

For an Arab, this requires about 12 inches of hand-and-wrist.  To manually examine Fee's back molars, Sarah goes elbow-deep.

"Rinse, and spit."

One last check to make sure the alignment is okay.  Then, the patient is released to go walk off the sedation.  Although Fee burns quickly through sedative (as evidenced on Spay Day, when she was extremely difficult to sedate for surgery!) we don't give her any extra, because she doesn't wiggle around in the stocks even when she's mostly awake.

"Are those my lips?  I still can't feel my lips..."
This also allows her to emerge from the "drunken sailor" stage quicker.

Note that Fee's head is almost exactly the
same size as ALL of Tegan.  

"Sorry, Fiddle.  No cookies until you wake all the way up! 
Come visit me soon and I will give you more!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In which many riders are also readers, so here's a book review!

Have you been wondering what to read now that you've finished reading Endurance 101?

Here's a suggestion:

ISBN 0-525-24845-5

Pacific Northwest region rider and author Karen Paulo (now Bumgarner) recently announced that she is working on a revised edition of her classic American's Long Distance Challenge: the complete guide to the sport of endurance and competitive riding (1990).   

It's been a long time since I read the first edition, so I tracked down a copy (yay, public library!)  and read it.  

The first thing I notice is the abundance of photos. There are many horse breeds represented in the photos--not just grey Arabs, but also plenty of Appaloosas, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, gaited horses and even (page 16) a Standardbred!  Photos also clearly illustrate stages of the vet check, scenes around camp, and trails all over the United States.  The captions are clear and concise.

The book is well-organized, with a good index in the back.  The text is more detailed than Endurance 101, and is an excellent resource for experienced endurance riders as well as beginners with a long attention span or a long winter season in which to read the book.  

Of course, it's always interesting to look at a book that is nearly 25 years old to see what has changed.  Most obvious is the lack of helmets.  Very few, if any, of the riders pictured in this book are wearing helmets because at the time it was written most people didn't wear them!  I am sure that this will be different in the modern photos that Karen adds to the revised edition.

I noticed that there have been other, sometimes major, changes in acceptable "best practices" for horse care since this book was published.  For example, endurance vets now strongly encourage much more rest for horses after competition.  When this book was written, 3 or 4 days pasture rest was considered sufficient time off.  Now, it's more common to allow a day or two off for every ten miles traveled--usually at least a week of leisure following each major event.  The practice of giving tired horses unlimited access to food (especially beet pulp) and water is relatively new as well.  These changes and many others will certainly be addressed in the new book.

The strength of the 1990 edition, which I hope remains unchanged in the new version, is the sense of historical connection that the author brings to the topic.  She has been an active competitor in the sport for many years, and her experiences and stories and photos from earlier days are wonderful, adding a vital color and shine to her book.

America's Long Distance Challenge (1990 edition) is out of print and sometimes hard to find.  If you want to read it and your local library doesn't own a copy, ask them to inter-library-loan it from a library system that does own it.  I'll be sure to announce the availability of the new edition here...and I plan to ask my library to buy several copies of the new edition, too!  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

In which we explore some new trail, offer praise (and offer some help, too)

Duana and I took Hana and the Dragon out on a brand-new stretch of trail that was recently opened by the county parks department.

Ears at the bottom:  Fiddle and Hana

I'm just getting the hang of MapMyRun, so here's my experimental trail map insertion:

This new trail is an add-on to the Centennial Trail, a rail-trail conversion project that was begun in 1989, the centennial of Washington State (hence the name).  With the new bit (including a new trailhead),
View of the Nakashima Barn from the horse-trailer parking lot

the trail is now 30 miles long, stretching from the Skagit/Snohomish County border to downtown Snohomish.   Details about the trail (including plans for expansion and hopes for future connections with other trail systems) are HERE.

The Nakashima Barn trailhead is of tremendous historical interest, and there are tons of interesting details HERE.  Here's the short version:

This farm was originally part of the Bass Lumber Company.  In 1937 1,200 acres were sold to Takeo Nakashima, eldest American-born son of Kamezo and Miye Nakashima (and thus, the first in the family legally allowed to buy and sell property in the United States).  
close-up of one of the oversized photos mounted
on the Nakashima Barn

The Nakashima family planted pasture where the Bass family had cut down trees, and began to run dairy cattle on the farm.  Without electricity, up to 40 cows were milked twice each day by hand.  

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering nearly 120,000 West Coast persons of Japanese ancestry to relocate to internment camps.  Kamezo and Miye Nakashima were sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp.  Takeo Nakashima was ordered to go to Minidoka Internment Camp.  Before leaving, he sold the farm to Iver Drivstuen.  

Vintage photos decorate the exterior of the barn

Reportedly, Mr Drivstuen came to the Nakashima Farm to buy a bull and was told that in order to buy the bull he would have to buy the entire farm, which he did for $12,825 (about $10 per acre). 

The Nakashima Farm was eventually deeded to Snohomish County for use as a park, and is now the northernmost trailhead of the Centennial Trail.
Duana and Hana appreciate good parking for the rig!

There is a separate parking lot for horse trails, with enough room for about 6 rigs (or 10 rigs if they are parked by endurance riders).

Let me say some good stuff about the trail:

Lots of room for ponies...and the Dragon

The trail designers clearly want to give ponies enough room.  "Horse space" is either a very wide shoulder next to the paved trail, or a separate parallel trail nearby, usually wide enough that you could drive a truck on it.

Traffic crossings
Horses can see the bicycles and bicyclists can see the horses.
That's a good thing.

are clearly and safely marked.  Note the clear sight-lines to avoid conflict between ponies and wheels.  Excellent job, gang.  We all appreciate lack of conflict!

At the place where we needed to cross Highway 9 (a very busy road)
Easy to reach!
there is a traffic "crosswalk" button installed at rider-height (there's a walker/bicycle height button on a different pole).  The button activates warning flashers so that approaching traffic will know that there are live bodies in the crosswalk.  Very nice.

The bridges are wide and well-constructed, with hurricane-fence side rails and cement decking that is properly textured to allow good traction even in borderline-icy conditions.  It was 45 degrees today, so ice wasn't a problem, but we had copious rain and a bad bridge deck would have been slick.  This bridge over Pilchuck Creek wasn't even slightly slippery.  Well done, bridge crew!
Duana leads Hana across the bridge over Pilchuck Creek

The bridge also allowed good sight lines so that we could see the approaching bicyclist 
We talked to this nice lady, and she fed the horses some cookies
(we carry cookies so friendly bicyclists can do that)

and she could see us.  It's easy to avoid collisions if you can see long distances!

Duana was nervous about crossing the bridge (it's pretty high up over the "creek") so she walked beside Hana the first time we crossed it.  
Hana is clearly not concerned about the bridge

I stayed in the saddle, and on the way back, Fiddle and I led across the bridge.  

The Dragon's "cautionary ears", which warn those handrails
 to stay where they belong!

When we got to the other side, Du was regretting that she hadn't tried riding across it.

Well, duh.  The bridge is still right there.

So, we crossed it again--

Du is happy.
Hana is sure that she would be happier if somebody
would hand over a cookie.

and this time, she rode it!

Here's more good stuff:  we saw blobs in the trees.

Blobs!  Isn't that exciting!

Close-up/cropped version of the blob:

Mature bald eagle, looking for fish in the creek

I'm spoiled when it comes to eagle sightings.  This time of year it's not unusual for me to see 6 or more bald eagles sitting in trees or fishing in the river every morning as I drive to work.  But still, it's cool to see them without a truck windshield between us.

So, that was the good stuff.  Now, here's some stuff that is problematic.  First, something small:
Fiddle says:  "No way!"

It's a good idea, when directing humans to change "lanes", to give them some color-coded indication of where you want them to be.  

Horses, however, view sudden changes in the comparative lightness/darkness of the trail as Something Truly Evil and Frightening.  Even a Sensible Horse like Fiddle refused to touch this white pavement the first time she saw it.  Too scary.   Too dangerous.  Best to go wa-a-a-a-y far around.  

You know, I've spent years getting this mare to make good decisions about terrain.  From her point of view, it totally makes sense to stay away from this weird bit of pavement!  Though the designers did add a cute touch to it:
Real horse shoes--draft horse size--embedded in the cement

Pretty.  But not something a horse-person would ever have designed.

The "horse crossings" are a minor problem.  With practice, a horse will learn to ignore instinct and walk on the scary white pavement.  

A much bigger problem is the horse trail itself:

Do you see the problem?

This trail is FLAT.  Total elevation gain on our 5 miles out/5 miles back ride was 196 feet--less elevation change than I have from the top of my driveway to the bottom of my pasture.

This trail is through a SWAMP.  I know, I know:  I always say that this entire half of Washington State is a swamp...but in this case, you can literally see
Non-moving water is a bad thing...especially when it's on your trail.

real, true, Swamp stuff while standing on the trail.

The problem :  FLAT + SWAMP = WATER THAT DOESN'T MOVE.   A flat trail bordered by swamp does not leave anywhere for water to escape.  The result:

We only counted 6 or 8 sets of hoofprints in addition to ours.
That's not very many animals to rip up a trail so completely...
and this is a public trail that will (hopefully) see a lot of use,
even in the wet months.
water doesn't escape.  It flows off of the pavement, onto the "shoulder trail" designated for horses, and it Stays.  Right.  There.

For months.

We got off this stretch as soon as I took the photo.
The mud is already deep enough to pull horse-shoes off.

This trail, if not amended and armored promptly by a LOT of gravel, is going to end up hock-deep in shoe-sucking mud.  And once it gets chopped up by horse feet it will never drain and will require an excavator to clear out so that gravel can be added.  Yowch.

So, here's my proposal (which I will send this week to the Snohomish County Parks department):

We moved off the pavement into the mud to allow
a flock of migrating bicycles to pass

"Y'all bring the gravel.  I will bring a crew of people to spread it.  Together we can create a sustainable trail that will be usable by horses all year round--not just the two months of mostly-dry weather we sometimes get in the summer."

This trail is fixable, and it is worth fixing. It's gonna take a lot of gravel, and it will take a lot of people to move that gravel. But it's much easier to fix it before it gets torn to shreds.
This little stretch has just a bit of slope...enough to move
the water from the trail to the drainage ditch nearby.

So, Parks people, when you read this:  I'm serious.  Call me.  We can do this.