I begin this story with trepidation as I am not sure how the injury to Flame’s back will hold up. At the beginning of February, she did something in the pasture to create a grapefruit sized lump right in the middle of her back on her spine. Of course, this is exactly where my butt sits when I ride. Over the span of the next few weeks, the injury subsided to a hard walnut sized lump which gets mushy after working her. Then, within a day after a work out, it hardens up again. (shrug) It does not seem to affect her ability to fly down the trail and she hasn’t bucked me off in pain, so we’re going to the ride.
Second concern I have is that I tried to make a “come back” last year … and all my fans should remember how THAT turned out … as Flame did the ride without me. “Ride your own ride” and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I know Flame gets excited to be competing and I’m just gonna let her be excited.
Cheryl and I decided to save money and trailer over to NJ together. Good plan *UNTIL* she decided to ask me how she should get to the ride. Now, I had read the directions, knew where we were going, but in my mind, I was thinking “I don’t know WHAT I was thinking” and I told her she could shoot over to Jersey on I-78.
By the time I figured out my mistake (yes, we were GPS-less) we were near the Jersey border, so I sent her down 611 (in the dark, while it was misting, pulling a horse trailer) Can we say, “Oh my!”?
So, we added an extra 45 minutes (unnecessarily) to our ride time. Cheryl decided it was because we started out on a normal time schedule and I didn’t want to ruin my reputation, so I detoured us onto Dodie-Time. (chuckle) It’s possible, it is certainly possible.
We actually arrived at the base camp to check in on time. They said be there by 7:30 am and we were there at 7:35 am. And several people arrived after us. The horses were fine and Cheryl wasn’t ready to hit me in the forehead with a hatchet.
Okay – now pay attention to the vetting practices at this ride.
The lay judge was very thorough on Flame and found every scurffy bit of stuff on Flame that I was prepared to point out to her. Good, I don’t want to be losing points for something she missed at the initial check in. The vet (however) missed both of Flame’s splints when she did the leg check, so I politely pointed them out to her to mark them on the sheet. I didn’t want to lose points at the end because she didn’t see them at the beginning. She thanked me and I did my trot out. Now, at a CTR you have to circle left and circle right as well as straight line. Because I cannot run fast enough for Flame to gait correctly, she usually trots or racks. I also lunge her in the circles so I can see whatever it is that the vet sees (in case they say she’s showing some lameness or stiffness issue). The trot out must have been fine because the vet said, “Thank you!” and that was it.
We checked in and got our starting positions. LAST. Not because we arrived late, but because that’s where we ended up. We had already discussed how were were going to ride. No way were Flame and Crash going to putt-putt at a 5 mph CTR speed, so our plan was to ride it the way they wanted and if we had to stay in hold extra time so our ride time wasn’t under the minimum of 4 hrs 10 min, so be it. Besides that, extra hold time means I get to eat the marvy sandwiches that Cheryl made for us.
As were we readying ourselves at the timer station for the start of this 25 mile CTR, Flame is dancing circles around me, twisting her reins into a perfect macrame of biothane. I am perfectly content with her attitude, she is READY to go. Cheryl was mounted on Crash, because he had no clue what was going on and his looks at Flame were like, “Dude, chill out!”
(names are changed to protect me from getting beat up)
I hear someone call out my name and I turn to see “Linda” and her daughter. She says to me, “Hey Dodie, these are green horse so don’t be blowing by us and make them crazy.”
As they are to start two minutes in front of us, I suggest that they switch places and let us start in front of them because no way is Flame going to slow down for anyone in the first 5 miles. “Linda” agreed and suddenly I was throwing myself onto a spinning horse so we can go out in 60 seconds.
WHOO HOO …..
As I thought, we cranked out the first 15 mile loop in 87 minutes. Yes, that is an average 10 mph. I was smiling the whole time. Flame and Crash were totally turned on.
I was really enjoying the trails and the scenery. Even though it was supposed to rain on us, it never did. We got some mist at one point, but I was actually thankful for that as our horses were really working hard.
I had the most fun on the mogols (Cheryl, is this the correct term?) This is where the trail does up and down and up and down due to erosion. Joker used to break my back on these things, Flame was the absolute funnest ride on these things. She put herself into a perfect 4 beat gait and it was like being on a roller coaster. Very smooth and balanced, Flame went up then down … then up then down. It was way cool. At one point, I found myself laughing out loud. (BTW, I am an avid roller coaster rider at the amusement parks!)
We passed horse after horse and amazingly, Flame did slow down to about 7 mph hour and passed in a mannerly fashion. Maybe she hasn’t forgotten everything she learned three years ago about trail manners on a competition.
When we got into hold, we waited our 10 minutes and then did our P/R. Flame was 48/20 …. Crash was 60/28. Flame checked in totally fine for her trot out (I believed, as the vet didn’t say a word to me). Apparently, Crash’s gut was quiet and the vet was a little concerned so asked Cheryl to come back before she went back out on trail. Of course, this threw Cheryl into a worry-fit and she started talking about pulling him, etc. (sigh) I told her to relax and let him eat some.
Flame was more interested in the horses leaving back out on trail than eating. That concerned Cheryl but didn’t faze me one bit. This is normal behavior for her on the first loop. She starts eating and drinking on the second loop. Always has. I think she’s too busy wondering if someone is going beat her, than in eating.
We stayed in hold an hour (normal hold time for a CTR is 20 minutes). I got to eat the most yummy sandwich that Cheryl made for us, and eat a carrot, and eat a plum. Then I drank a whole bottle of gaterade (oops, now I’m gonna be on a sugar high – like I really need that)
When we decided we could go ahead and ride the second loop without coming in too early, we went up to the vet to have Crash checked. He was fine! Gut sounds were A-Ok. So off we go to the timer to go back out and here comes “Linda” and her daughter again. I heard her tell her daughter, “Stay away from that horse.” as she pointed to Flame. I will tell you, that was really a heart breaking thing to hear from a seasoned rider. Flame has never done anything to any one or any horse. She is a bit of a nutcase when a ride starts, and she’s fast, but she’s never been any trouble or caused any harm. I felt very sad that she would say that about Flame.
Off we go. The second loop of 10 miles went a little slower as Crash was tiring out. Flame was still turned on and a couple times when Crash slowed way down, I was hard pressed to keep her behind him. She wanted to go-go-go. She did listen, however, and I spent the next 10 miles talking to Cheryl about all kinds of things that had nothing to do with the ride we were on. We actually got to enjoy the scenery a little more as it wasn’t blurring by us. We did walk about 4 of the 10 miles, just to keep ourselves over the minimum time limit. It was a great ride and a great trail.
(PS: Both Flame and Crash are barefooted on this ride and for those of you not aware of Crash’s story – read this link)
We come into the timer at 4 hrs 12 min … and our actual ride time was 3 hrs 6 min (for 25 miles, you do the math).
At 20 minutes, we went up for P/R. Flame was 40/28 (excuse me? 28 respiration? I was counting her breaths and it was about 12.) I asked the young man to redo her breathing as I believed he made a mistake. He said no. Flat out! No hesitation! NO!
O. k. (dude!)
I went over for the trot out and now that Flame has done her 25 miles, she’s less inclined to trot with her nose straight up in the air all excited like and dragging me across the sand. She actually performed a nice running walk, complete with the traditional Tennessee Walker head-nod. I was pretty impressed as she was still “turned on” yet being mannerly and not pulling me everywhere. The vet said, (and I quote this directly!!!) “Thank you, good job.”
So now we wait for hands on. It went really quickly. The ride management did a superb job on keeping this CTR moving. We didn’t wait long at all. On the hands on, I didn’t hear any feedback on Flame’s changes during the ride that I didn’t expect and based on what I did hear from the vet and the lay judge, I’m thinking to myself that we lost about 3-4 points in the metobolic section (sticky gums, skin tenting).
And Flame is STILL turned on during the hands on … we could have left out of there and did another 25 miles. She was really in working mode. I was very pleased!
Crash was very tired and he was falling asleep with his head on my arm while he was getting his hands on. (chuckle)
So, we get to the awards ceremony and received our completion award. Cheryl was thrilled. Her goal for the day was to get a completion and she did! 25 miles for Crash – WHOO HOO.
My goal for the day was to see how Flame’s back held up and it was just fine (according to Flame).
Dinner was most awesome (Thank you cooks!!!!)
They didn’t break the riders into two groups for awards (Lightweight and heavyweight). That kinda disappointed me as a horse carrying a fat ass like me is working harder than a horse carrying a 100 pound rider. But, that’s okay. I didn’t come for the awards, anyway.
I got my score card and I was correct, we lost 3.75 points in the metobolic section. THEN … I fell out of my chair. (Literally, ask Cheryl). The vet never said word one to me the entire ride – not at the check in – not at the halfway – not at the end. She marked Flame at an 8 lameness at final check. THAT IS SERIOUS! She never said word one to me that I needed to follow up with something going on.
F&*()%^ vet! Your job to keep the riders informed so they can make correct decisions for their horses. She marked Flame as a 1 lameness at check in. That vet should have said something to me at check in so I would have been aware that there was a potential problem.
Now, I didn’t see a freaking thing at check in or at the final … and since Flame was on a lunge and I was watching her, I suspect I would have noticed something wrong if she was an “8” lame!!!!
I flew back to the trailer to check Flame. I had Cheryl trot her out for me. Nothing. She was moving perfectly fluid and tight. No limping, no offness, no hitch. What the hell?
I checked all her legs. Nothing. They were smooth, not even windpuffs, no swelling, no heat. I checked her feet and remarkably, they weren’t even worn that much (probably because we were on sand all day). Nothing on her feet.
What the hell.
Well, I am very upset that the vet didn’t say anything to me at check in, half way or at the final about Flame’s apparent lameness. I did send in my mail-in ECTRA review and clearly stated that I believe the vet should have communicated with me about this apparent lameness. In retrospect, I think the vet believed Flame’s head-nodding TWH running walk was an indication of lameness, but I don’t know … because she never talked to me about it at any point during the ride.
It makes no nevermind to me anyhow. Flame got a completion, she’s not lame, she had a ton of energy left after the 25 miles and her back is fine. That’s all I care about, really!
Here she is resting before we load up and go home.
The ride home was WAY faster than the ride there, as Cheryl took the correct roads home (hehe). It was kinda hard on me, though. I had forgotten my sun glasses and the sun was directly in our eyes all the way home. My eyes hurt so bad that I gave myself a horrible headache. I couldn’t hardly bear it by the time Cheryl got to drop me and Flame off at the barn. I know better, having such sensitive eyes to sunlight, but … I’d rather forget my sunglasses than my helmet (this is another story for another day!)