In which there is a ride report and discussion of pink lemonade

Ears on the Range
I've ridden at Home on the Range almost every year since 2000.  (There were a couple of years I did the trail ride with young horses, including Fiddle). 

The ridecamp has changed location three times since I started riding it, but the terrain is basically the same:  endless, beautiful stretches of scabland and grass.  I didn't expect this year to be much different.  And in fact, the terrain was similar to past years...


this year, the condition of the terrain was substantially different.

(insert ominous music)

 This was our first clue that the rangeland had gotten a whole lot more rain than usual:

(the loser who speeds by at the end of the video got stuck in the mud about 50 feet after I shut off the camera...and he dug a gigantic trench through the middle of camp with his truck in the process.  I deliberately did not look to see who was driving)

Despite a dismal weather forecast, the morning of the ride dawned rather prettily. 

Sunrise on ride day

I should know:  Fiddle and I climbed up a hill so we could warm up at a calm distance from camp and watch the sun rise.

The first loop was relatively dry, with few least, the terrain provided very few obstacles...

Fiddle is not a big fan of cattle,
but she followed 'Lupe and Sister into the cows!
The route is pretty.  There are a few farmhouses to trot by, and some irrigation creeks,  

and even a railroad bridge to duck under.

We were warned that "tall" horse/rider combos would
never fit under this bridge, but we walked under easily. 
No trolls here!
Mostly, though, the first loop was cattle pasture and prairie.  14.5 miles in 2 hours...not exactly speed demons!

The second loop, however was tall grass and CRP Grassland
Can you see the flags marking the trail?  No?  Me either.
The grassland retained the water that was absorbed and drained from the cattle range.  It wasn't deep was deep water.
Soooo pretty.
That's the part where I mis-calculated. 

I've ridden this ride so many times that I followed my routine...but although the temperatures were cool, my horse was working much harder than usual because of the wet ground.

For the work she was doing, Fiddle needed more electrolytes

The best guess is that I vastly under-electrolyted Fiddle, choosing to feed the weather, rather than feeding the work.  That's a big oops, and I should know better. 

Walking out of the second vetcheck.  Her scores:  straight-A's. 
However, when we got back to the trailer, she peed "pink lemonade",
which indicates a very early-stage tye-up.

"Tying up" is the much-easier-to-say layman's term for Rhabdomyolysi, a muscular disorder condition occuring in horses either during or immediately after exercising.  Classic signs of tye-up include stiffness, sweating, muscle tremors and reluctance to move as a result of painful muscle damage.

Fee didn't ever show any of those symptoms.

Throughout the weekend, she was what we Pacific Northwestern riders call "EDPPMF":  Eating, Drinking, Peeing, Pooping, and Moving Freely.  (It's not a snazzy acronym, but it works for us).

Her only symptom was the urine discoloration, but it was enough for me to grab my vetcard and pull us from the ride.

In an exam later in the day, the ride vet confirmed what I saw:  no symptoms except the urine color.  We opted to allow Fiddle to "treat herself" by eating and drinking, which she was (as always) eager to do, rather than administer fluids or painkillers that might depress her inclination to eat and drink on her own. 

Tye-up can be serious.  Fee's tye-up was atypical, in that it didn't occur early in the ride; she didn't show the discolored urine until the vetcheck at 25 miles.  Her muscles didn't turn rock-hard, and she showed no sign of discomfort or unwillingness to use her back end--in fact, she offered to kick another horse on our walk back to the vet area!

Urine the color of pink lemonade is a reason to stop riding; urine the color of coffee is a reason to stop dead in the trail and call for a vet to come to you.  There are links to scientific articles about tye-up at the bottom of this post if you want to know more.
Fiddle doing one of the things that Fiddle does best: eat.

In this case, we are mostly guessing that insufficient electrolytes were the cause.  As my vet says, "we only have one data point, and that's not enough to draw a line."  

I dearly hope that we never get more data to draw a line.

As for the mud, it didn't dry up in time for everyone to exit camp without help from the Valet Tractor:
The SS Illegible gets a tow to high ground
But as for Fiddle, she seems to be just fine.
Blue sky, pretty mare.

Not much in the world makes me happier than that.

Here are some online resources and explanations about tying up:

Tying Up: Rhabdomyolysis in Horses.   November 8, 2010 (updated)  by Robert N. Oglesby DVM

Tying Up in Horses. (Fact Sheet).   Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc;  reviewed by: Fairfield T. Bain, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVP, ACVECC.


  1. For those of us who feel unsure how to electrolyte the work OR the horse, do you mind sharing how much / what brand you gave (usually give) the Dragon? I mean, it sounds really "well duh" when you explain it, but I could so easily make the same mistake without ever thinking twice during the ride.

    You did good by your girl. :hugs:, again.

    1. I use Enduramax electrolytes, usually a one-ounce dose (mixed with applesauce) or two before leaving home, and three times per day in camp on non-ride days, and before the ride and at each vetcheck during cool-weather/non-strenuous rides, plus an additional half- or full-dose each hour on hot or strenuous rides, plus a dose two hours after the finish line.

      My mare needs a LOT of electrolytes, even under ideal conditions...when the going gets tough (or hot...or both), she needs more.

      Learning curve...!

    2. Excellent, that's just what I've started using! So - you mix a one-ounce dose with applesauce, then split it into three servings, or do you give one ounce elytes plus applesauce per dose?

      I have been going with one ounce in applesauce, syringed into Dixie before/during/after rides at about a half an ounce per stop. I suspect I'm still under-elyting her, and I've been slowly bumping it up this year - but it's hard when you do one-stop 20-30 mile rides.

    3. One ounce plus applesauce each time. I mix up the doses 6 at a time and load them into syringes to make it easier.

    4. Remember each horse is an individual and unfortunately they don't come with instruction manual. Some horses need more than others...too much can be as bad as too little. Like Aarene said, "its a learning curve".

    5. That's extremely helpful, thank you! I think I will bump Dixie up to 1/2 ounce per "dose" for our next ride and see how she tolerates it. She's lighter-skinned than Fiddle, but she's also big-boned and hairy, so I think your guidelines will help us.

  2. I remember that my STB needed a TON of elyts too. Doesnt' seem to matter with Farley - which is probably how I've gotten away with being ambivalent towards elytes for the years I've been riding her. Garlinghouse's lecture during the convention this year really made me look at the whole hydration/elyte issue differently that's for sure.

    So glad everything turned out OK for you guys. Mets are so much scarier than lamenesses IMO. Kidney failure.....*shudder*.

  3. I had a very VERY similar thing happen with my Standardbred, Dressy, on her first fifty a couple of years ago. I pulled her at 37 miles because I just knew she was done. No pink lemonade that I saw, but she stopped eating - something she has never done, before or since. When I got home and had blood pulled... sure enough she'd had a mild tie up.

    And I'm with you on the electrolytes. Dressy needed more. Even though the weather was cool. And that was when I realized that she always needed much more than my Arab ever had (and a different brand). In her case, I give even more than you give Fiddle. But we are much hotter and more humid here too, so that's probably the difference.

  4. Good for you for catching the issue and pulling Fee. Alot of people would have missed/ignored the issue because there weren't other signs.

    Thanks for sharing the info - so many things to learn and watch out for!

  5. Aarene, the mare looked So Great out there that I was flat out of words when you told me she had gotten into trouble. Fully agree that it was one of the toughest HOTR rides that I've ever done. The tall bunch-grass combined with the heavy footing on the second loop, took it's toll.
    You were smart & Fiddle looked 100% when I got up in the night - watching me - "do you happen to have anything to eat on you?" :-)

    1. LOL, Connie, as long as the mare is able to beg for food, I know she'll survive!

    2. I'm glad everything turned out OK! Thanks for the electrolyte info- I'm starting to research that for C. So far I've just fed them in feed before and after a ride but that was with Dazzby doing 25s.
      Oh, and the puppies are adorable!!!

  6. P.S. That's Charlotte being pulled in - the horses were out of the trailer. Then again - that was us being pulled back out on a Sunny Sunday morning!

  7. BTW, what do you have mixed in with the elytes? Looks like pumpkin?


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