Saturday, October 1, 2022


Ft Lewis Challenge

Oct 1-2, 2022

Roy, WA


October found us back in Roy, WA, to round out the season at the very ride where we began it all. I had a little more confidence in going to this ride since I already knew the trails, the elevation was flat, and I had already completed a ride here this year, certainly Amira and I could do it again.

Ride manager Heather had been in touch with me about shooting some video of her trails to help promote the ride for 2023 and I was happy to oblige now that I have gotten better at taking video from horseback. Ellie and I headed over with Amira and pony boy Astro on Thursday around noon. Heather loaned us her portable corrals for both horse and pony and it was quite a treat to be camped out in such style. I had found a small tent the previous week at Goodwill, and some more camping supplies such as an air mattress and more cooking pots so we were better prepared for this last weekend away.

Friday morning Heather took us out on her quad to show us the gravel roads that make up some of the longer loops for the 50 milers and even though I shot most of it (handheld), the footage was so rough it was almost unwatchable. Sadly I will have to give up on that idea for any future rides unless we have more equipment to help smooth out the jarring nature of the quad.  

Friday late morning Ellie and I saddled up and rode the 10 mile loop in its entirety, and filmed periodically with my phone to get some footage without the worry of a competition happening at the same time. Ellie was able to set a steady pace with Astro and we ended up finishing the 10 miles within the time frame we would need to do for an actual endurance ride. This gave Ellie confidence and she decided she wanted to enter for the 25 mi ride the following day.

She did not announce this to me however until about 7 minutes until the start time day-of! It was a bit of a mad rush to get her entered, pony vetted through, tacked up, Ellie fed and on the trail. We left only 15 minutes late which I think is quite the achievement!

The weather was just a little cool that morning with a fog settled on ride camp that slowly lifted and burned off as the sun came out and warmed up to the low 80s. The trails were awesome. Mostly single-track through the woods, the scenery is always changing. About 2/3 through the ride Astro spooked sideways at a suspicious moss-covered stump and Ellie fell off, onto some rocks. She was able to continue, although did have some pain from her rough landing.

We spent about 3 hours on the first 15 mile loop and when we came into the vet check the horses pulsed down pretty quickly. Amira pulsed down faster then Astro this time. He typically has a lower heart rate overall but he is a bit out of shape lately. I was surprised to see that while Amira does not eat well in camp, her gut sounds were holding steady at mostly Bs and a C; while the pony who eats everything all the time did not have better scores. This could have also been affected by the fact they were vetted through by different veterinarians.

We didn’t waste any time on our hold. We did pull the tack so the horses could rest and eat comfortably. We also tried to eat a little ourselves. Amira was up to her same issues of refusing any kind of food other than hand-grazing, of which there was not a lot of due to the time of year. I let her rest in her pen and watched her while I took care of myself. Since her gut sounds were acceptable (not great, but not terrible), I had already decided to go back out with her for loop 2 to try for a completion.

Sadly Ellie was not feeling up to more miles. She was very teary about it and upset, but she was visibly shaking and had pain from her fall, and her stomach was bothering her. I hugged her and told her I was so proud of her, even if she hadn’t completed her first endurance ride this weekend, she still did 25 miles between Friday and Saturday’s rides!

I was not thrilled to be riding out alone after our hold. But I was curious to see how Amira would handle it. The first couple of miles was a bit stop and go. Pausing, hesitating, asking if I was making the right decision by leaving her buddy in camp. Eventually I was able to get her going in a steady trot, and thinking I was at the tail end, I just let her set the pace. As I checked my gps I was surprised to see her trucking along at about 8 mph. Then she heard some horses coming up from behind us. She decided at that point that she was all business, and she became a machine. We started eating up the miles and passing other riders!  After the photographer at the graveyard she wanted to canter and we came upon another rider who heard us coming and also kicked it up to a canter. We ran along like this a bit and then came to the water stop. After a drink and short bite to eat on the grass, we continued on while the person who was trying to stay ahead of us started visiting with some other people at the water stop.

All told it was a fabulous 10 miles and we got to the end before I even expected it. Amira pulsed down within about 5 minutes and vetted through with no problem, although she did refuse the oat float this time, which she always seemed to love at previous rides.

I kept an eagle eye on her the rest of the afternoon and she just rested in her pen. I took her on a couple walks and she nibbled a bit on the left overs at vet check, and grazed a little on the dead grass but I really wish she had a better appetite at the rides!

At the ride meeting I discovered that I had placed 17th out of 35 riders which was quite a surprise! I did not realize I was mid-pack. That is our best placing so far and I hope we can continue on that trend next year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


Midnight Rider

Friday, September 9, 2022

 AERC Day Ride

Mt Adams, WA

Ride Manager Bobbi Walker, Secretary and co-planner LuAnn De Young


Dr Mike Vanzwol and Dr Mike Witt


Where to begin the story of this ride? I have wanted to do a ride at Mt Adams since way back when I was riding Sinwaan 2007-2012. For one reason or another we never did make it there. My friend Ruth did the ride one year and since the completion shirt was red, she gifted it to me since it was “my” color. I have always cherished that shirt for that reason.

It was announced June 8 that the Midnight Rider event would be done at Mt Adams. This was unfortunately a bit late in the season for some folks who had already made other plans for their ride season, so I think the turnout was a bit less than was hoped for. Bobbi did a great job of promoting the ride. They had amazing donations for prizes; they flew Bruce Weary in for a clinic on night riding; they had a multi-day ride weekend with options to do an intro ride, 25 mi or 50 mi on both Friday (day ride) and Saturday (night ride). With all the time off Amira had for her medical leave in July, this ride was timed about right for us to make it out again.

Plans don’t always work out the way you think they will, and such is what happened this season with my daughter and her pony. But Ellie is a good sport and enjoys documenting with photos and video, so even though she wasn’t planning to participate in the ride she still wanted to attend and camp out with me, and I was glad to have her along.

I did a solo ride on Amira on Monday (Labor Day) and the 7 miles went well. When I first started out with her last winter she would do a fair amount of hesitating and refusals. That could have been linked to her ulcers. Now that those are resolved, she is not quite as bad about it. She may walk a lot slower than I would like leaving home, but she is walking and we will keep training on the sticky spots. I had a plan in my head that we would ride our own ride, solo, at Mt Adams and see how that worked out.

Ellie and I packed up Thursday morning and left around 12:30. It took us about 4.5 hrs to make the trip since we stopped twice for gas and restrooms. Amira travels quietly but does not eat in the trailer, I think due to stress. I am not sure how to encourage better habits on the road. Since we got to camp later then I hoped, we set up camp and then vetted in before I had a chance to pre-ride. The ride meeting was at 6:30 and after that I tacked up to at least get a look at the start before the next day. Amira had a couple of moments of halting and questioning why we were going out alone in a strange place when it was almost dark outside but once we got to the single-track trail she was ears up and moving forward at the trot. I figured ride day would work out just fine.

Our camp neighbor was a lady named Beth with a Saddlebred mare. She was also doing the daytime 25 mi ride. She offered to ride with me but at that point I declined because I wanted to try and do it solo.

Ride morning I was able to e-lyte Amira without any issue by using applesauce in her syringe. I saddled up and then hand walked her for about 10-15 minutes to let her graze before the start. She does not eat well when she is in her portable corral. She is turning out to be a bit high maintenance when traveling!  When it was almost time for the trail to open, I put on her bridle and mounted up and rode closer to the start. She could see the horses milling around, excited to get going, and she was calm. She stood there and grazed while I waited for the front runners to clear out.

I didn’t want to wait too long to get going however since I knew I would need all my allotted time for this mountain ride. I saw Stace and Marlene Moss walking up, so I decided to ride out with them. I knew they would stop soon for Stace to get on and I would see how Amira did at that point. Stace found a stump or something, so they pulled off the trail and I encouraged Amira to walk on. Well, she wasn’t too sure I knew what I was talking about. She started halting and then giving me a baby step or two. We weren’t making much progress when along came Beth on Foxy and Lindsey on Mia. They had planned to ride together and were at the tail end. I asked if I could ride along with them after all and they were very kind to let me tag along to get out of camp.

The single-track trail was awesome and in no time we were at an intersection. There was lime on the ground and an arrow, and I would have gone left had I been alone. I think I made the mistake at my first ride with Lara about crossing over the lime line on the ground! We had some discussion and decided as a group to go right (the wrong way) which was the way in back to camp. I am not sure how much time we wasted doing an extra loop back around to the start but there we were.

On the trail I got to know my riding companions better and enjoyed their company. Lindsay is a vet tech and had trained her QH herself from a feral 3 y/o. She was great about verbally reminding us to keep to a steady gait of around 6 mph. We took turns leading and Beth’s ASB liked to go faaassst. I was hopeful that between the stretches of fast trotting/cantering and the steady pace of the QH we would balance out for the walking downhills and get us back in time.

The first loop, named “Bumble Bee” for the black/yellow ribbons, was a true mountain ride with 1,773 ft of elevation changes. It was a 15 mile loop. At 8 miles in you are at the “top” of the climb for that loop. The ride up is a combination of single track through the woods and a gravel road that has a long steady climb. Amira did really well on that long climb, the horses seemed pretty well matched and needed breathers about the same time.

Periodically we would check in with someone stationed out there at the intersections to make sure we did the full loop and not head back early on a shortcut. I think it was the second check point that Lindsey’s horse teleported sideways under her and I heard her scream behind me. I was not sure what happened and then I saw horses and riders on the other side of the tree line going the opposite direction. We were on a gravel road, and they were just off of that on a dirt single-track and with all the foliage we did not hear or see them coming!

During this loop there were two small creek crossings, and a large wooden bridge, which is where the ride photographer Merri Melde was stationed. The first creek crossing was about as wide as a horse and not very deep. I was hoping Amira would just walk across like a sensible mare, but she had other ideas. After pausing and evaluating the distance she decided a donkey leap over it was in order. I do not know how I stayed on, it was the largest jump I have ever ridden, much larger than the situation called for. Ha! When we approached the second creek crossing, I took a look at the mossy rocks and decided I didn’t want to land on them and cripple myself should she take a giant leap again, so I dismounted and led her across. There were lots of rocks and stumps to give a boost at this ride for remounting so that was a plus!

The wooden bridge looked a little sketchy to me, and we were the last in line to cross it. I held her back a little to space out for the ride photos. She went right across like a pro. I was relieved!

Water was stationed at all the intersections as well as periodically throughout the loop. I never once thought “I sure wish there was water,” and I was so pleased to see Amira drinking from about the 2nd tank in on the ride, and most every tank after that!

Donna Lacey-Bacon was the refreshment coordinator on the Bumble Bee loop and she did a great job! Coming back down the mountain one of our stops had her greeting us with water, chips, candy bars, and apples for the horses. I had not packed anything other than a water bottle so I was thrilled with a mini Snickers at that point in the ride, and Amira started following Donna around once she figured out this nice lady would feed her apples. Ha!

Headed back down the mountain it started out quite steep and with rocky footing, or roots across the path on a tight woodsy trail. It was not ideal for any amount of speed. We did a lot of walking. Downhill trotting was also tough for Lindsey with her tailbone injury. We ended up walking a lot more than we should have. Lindsey had decided that she would rider-option pull at the hold, and wanted us to be aware of that ahead of time. She encouraged us to get back to trotting, and make up some time. About a mile or two from camp Lindsey decided to walk the rest of the way in. Beth was leading and would get ahead of me with her mare’s big trot but then she would walk and I would catch up. I used that as a training opportunity to hold Amira back to a slower trot and not get swept up with another horse. I made that mistake with my first horse, Sinwaan. She was amenable but I think she was also tired.

When we were about a half mile from camp, we dismounted and loosened our girths and walked the rest of the way in. I was expecting Amira to be at criteria, so I was frustrated when she did not want to stand still for the pulser. She was being a real pill. I took her over to the oat float and let her get a good drink and nibbles and then tried again. I was feeling bad about the fact she kept swinging away from the pulser, and not standing still, when she had been much better behaved at our previous rides. The pulser had enough difficulty that she tapped out and asked another person to try. The second person was able to get a pulse on her and said she was at criteria. (Watching the video later I realized it was really blowing hard - windy so that may have factored in, but still, she needs more training to stand still!)

We didn’t waste any time heading over to the vet because by now I have already burned through a lot of time. I was trying to focus on being calm, and just getting through the vet check so we could move along to our hold. Amira didn’t want to behave for the vet either. She was not standing still. She would turn and look the other direction, or swing away. Dr Mike said to stand on the same side of the horse as the vet, so I will have to work on making that a habit in the future. He finally held up her front leg so he could get a good listen to her gut sounds, which he said were pretty quiet. “Make sure she eats well on the hold” he commented. Otherwise he said she looked good.

I took her back to the trailer alongside Beth and her mare Foxy. I put her in her pen and took off her bridle. She stood there and looked around. She did not act interested in her hay. I made her mash and she ate that but not with any gusto. At this point I was really watching her closely. Since we had a bad colic in July and have been dealing with ulcers, I was not wanting to risk her well-being. I thought I saw her flanks tense up. I don’t know what a horse tying up looks like but I didn’t want to wait around and find out. I took off her saddle and led her back down to the vets. Dr Mike did another through exam, this time she stood still for him, and said she looked fine to him. He had no concerns. So at this point I was thinking I would rider-option pull from the rest of the ride. I led her around camp and she would graze but I was concerned she wasn’t getting enough in the time that we had.

I checked the time and it was about 12:30. Only 90 minutes to finish for a completion, there were still 10 mountain miles left with 921 ft of elevation changes. I knew that wasn’t happening. I headed back to the trailer and passed Beth on her way out. I let her know I would probably pull out at this point, but I still wasn’t 100% decided. I wished her a good ride and thought maybe she could complete with how fast her horse trots.

After I thought it over for a couple minutes, I decided I was ok with just doing the 15 miles and consider it a great conditioning ride to bump up our fitness. I wanted Amira to eat more so I could stop worrying about her. I walked her around for an hour or more, to the oat float, to the grass near Mia’s pen (she seemed to be most relaxed over there) and she grazed most of that time. I thought for sure Beth would be back any time.

Beth came in over time, and it turns out most of the second loop was gravel roads. She had been unable to get Foxy’s hoof boots on that morning and she got sore from all the rocks. But she was sound on the grass and Beth was glad that she finished the ride this year, even if it wasn’t a completion.

Carlos Martinez was the cook and meal planner for the ride weekend, and Friday night was chicken fajitas. Every rider and volunteer were fed. Carlos was kind enough to make me some veggies without the chicken. I was able to spend some time talking to him before the meal and he was very impressed with all the people who come together and volunteer their time to put on this ride.

After dinner I spent more time walking Amira around so she could get more grazing in. She seemed to be doing well by the evening, so I think I was worried about nothing. Dr Mike had given her a B on gut sounds, and I never looked at her card until after I made my decision to pull out. I thought him saying she was pretty quiet was worse than it actually was. Well live and learn, and since this was her first ride back after recovery I don’t have any regrets.

Saturday morning we had some time to kill between when we got up and when Bruce Weary was scheduled to speak. After Ellie and I ate breakfast, and I led Amira around for grazing for a bit, we tacked her up so Ellie could get a look at some of the trails closer to camp. I took her out the Bumble Bee loop and made the circle around back to camp that we had done the day before in error. Then we walked away from camp on another dirt road towards the Mt Adams horse camp. Amira had some moments where she wasn’t sure she wanted to walk away from camp but we got her going, Ellie aboard and I on foot, and probably went about 2 miles. 

Then it was time for the night riding clinic. Bobbi stood up and explained how this came to be. She based much of this on her experience with the Tevis educational ride. You pre-ride the end of Tevis in the daylight so when you get to it on the real ride in the dark it is more manageable. She explained that the night ride for the LDs that evening would be the same loop twice. I didn't understand the benefit the first time she said it. But then she explained that the first time you ride it in the evening (light) and then the sun goes down and you get some night riding in on familiar trails. That sounded pretty smart to me and I think I might be willing to try it out next year. Bruce Weary told his story of his adventure to get to camp with his flight changes and lost luggage and somehow he ended up where he needed to be with his saddle and everything else so that was a relief. Bobbi also has volunteers on this ride as "trail angels" who wear glow lights and ride behind everyone so no one will get lost or left behind in the dark. 

The ride was well marked, and the trails were pretty neat. Even with limited trails this year compared to previous years, I can see how this ride is a favorite for a lot of people. 



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Saddle fitter

 After the last endurance ride I was concerned enough about Amira's sore back that I tried a lot harder to get in touch with our local saddle fitter. Turns out the previous number I had been texting to try and reach her was outdated and not hers! 

Suze was happy to schedule a time to come out. She is very knowledgeable and picked up right away on the fact that Amira has an overdeveloped Spinalis muscle and asymmetrical shoulders. She also has an incredibly short back and my saddle, which is filled with air (and is hard), was resting past her last rib on her topline which created our issue after the last ride.

I had borrowed a Winners Circle MW Trooper saddle from a fellow rider to see if that fit any better. That was too tight on the shoulders, but she did like the way it was cut in the rear.

We discussed options, of which I don't have a whole lot of being on a budget. She thought she could probably take my Wintec and convert it from being air filled to wool flocked instead. I am excited to see how that works out. It is cheaper then a new saddle for sure! And I can't exactly put on the miles without a saddle either. 

Dean also agreed to loan me his Specialized saddle that he uses on Rocky to see how that works on her. Not for me to use but just for my information, in the future when I can afford a replacement saddle. I do like how customizable the Specialized saddles are. I checked them out at their booth at Convention in January and ended up buying one of their saddle pads. So if the fitter likes the SS on her that is something I could try to purchase in the future. 

Suze will be back out on Friday and we will see where we are at with things at that time.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Still Prineville Trails Weekend


Still Prineville Trails Weekend

Prineville, OR

April 29 2022


For our second endurance ride, Heather and I had discussed and decided on the Still Prineville multi-day ride in April. Heather wanted to attempt two days of consecutive riding and while I was not 100% sold on the idea, I was open to giving it a shot. Dean was planning to ride all three days and take multiple horses so we figured I would again haul Amira but probably also bring Amelia home with me since Dean would stay an extra day and Heather and I did not plan to take Monday off work.

Shortly before the ride Dean had back pain and was not feeling up to riding so he canceled on going altogether but was so kind to loan me a set of panels so that I would not have to tie to the trailer. We went over Wednesday evening to pick up the panels and thankfully they fit in the back of the pickup without removing the canopy!

With everything up in the air as to if we were going or not, it was a bit of a mad scramble to get packed up Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Another thing that factored into my indecisiveness about going to the ride was Sinwaan. On Saturday morning before the ride he choked, and the vet that came out worked tirelessly to get him tubed and cleared out, it was rough going there for an hour+ and I wasn’t sure if he would make it. I was worried about him being alone for four days and the Fleischers were happy to have him back to horse-sit him while I was away.

We were able to leave town before 10 am and made it to Biggs Junction by 12 pm. Here the road went from an easy interstate to up-a-mountain highway. I had looked at elevation in advance and determined the total climbing to this ride was more than going to Flatlands, there is a mountain on this route - Grizzly Mountain? (3569’) - with a 15-50% grade that is bigger than Snoqualmie.  I was a little worried about that, especially with hauling two horses in the trailer. I took advantage of the slow lane on the uphill and at times let the pace slow to 40-45 mph to not stress the truck out too much. We made it to ride camp by 3 pm with no difficulty and saw some pretty neat views and clouds that looked suspiciously of rain. The weather prediction was to be nice Friday and Sunday but rain on Saturday.

We unloaded the horses and then unhooked the truck so we could pull it forward and remove the panels. We set up camp and then got registered and vetted in and decided to do a pre-ride. The trails looked great and were marked well with all colors of ribbons. After all that we had dinner, and later attended the ride meeting.

This ride didn’t have the Ride With GPS routes set up properly. It sounded like some of the older ones from years past would work but they might be the wrong direction, or there may be some changes and as the trail names were rattled off I lost track of what they were talking about since I had never done this ride before. Other than Flatlands I never had the option to ride with GPS, so it sounded just like the olden days where you just follow your ribbons and pay attention. The ride meeting itself seemed a little bizarre, but I was not concerned since between Heather and myself I figured we would do just fine.

We periodically took the horses out to stretch their legs and graze. The start time was 8 on Friday so we would have plenty of time in the morning to get ready. It got dark around 8:30 so that is when we all went to bed.


Friday morning was shaping up to be a nice day. I mixed up electrolytes in applesauce this time since Amira seemed to like that better at home. Heather helped me dose her with a syringe and we made some progress on her taking it a little easier this time with not so many head nodding avoidance attempts. I tacked her up and decided to use hind boots to protect her fetlocks. She had clipped herself at home cantering around with Ellie a couple days prior. I mounted up and walked her around and she was feeling excited. She is not out of control, but she is learning what ride camp is about and eager to get going. We again waited around in camp until it seemed everyone who was tacked up had left and then we headed out with Heather on foot leading Amelia for the first ½ mile or so.

First, we rode the “Short Red” loop of about 13 miles. It took us out of camp and out around a bit before coming back past camp towards the plains of sagebrush. Occasionally there would be a gate with a person standing there to watch over it, so we didn’t have to dismount to get through it. I was sure to thank them! After riding a bit we saw a vehicle parked across the two-track trail to point us to the plains and the short cut area which was not really an established trail, and Amira decided to jump some brush instead of plowing through it like Amelia did ahead of her. That was a surprise! We weaved around the sage brush and watched for ribbons, and finally we reached a water tank but the horses did not really want to drink much so we continued on the more established trail. That took us up and around to a section of fencing with cattle on the other side. There had been a group of 4 riders here that we could see from a distance, and they moved on before we got there. 

When we arrived, we saw that we had to dismount and open and close a section of fencing (gate). Thankfully, Heather was willing to do that as I have trouble getting back on without a mounting block. Amira was not too sure of the gate, she thought that looked pretty sketchy and “what is that COW over there staring at me?” After a minute or two of asking she finally walked through, and Heather closed it up behind us. We walked a bit to let the horses settle and to allow the riders ahead of us to create a bigger gap.

As we went along the scenery got prettier and I could see a snowcapped mountain ahead of us. I tried to take a photo with my phone, and I dropped it. Uh oh! Stop! Well now I had to get off and fetch my dusty phone. I took a photo of Heather posed while I was on the ground. Luckily, I was able to mount up with Amira standing in the trench of our trail. Hooray! At one point we had a horse coming at us which did not seem right. The lady said she went the wrong way and had already done 8 miles, and someone had told her to finish the loop in the wrong direction for a completion (not a placing). I told her the ribbons should be on her right in the future.

We had amazing weather and came back into camp a little sooner than we expected. We hopped off and loosened our girths and made our way to the pulsers. It looked like there was only one person doing pulsing, so I took Amira to the water to let her drink while I waited our turn. Once Heather was down, I went back over to get a pulse and ended up with a vet and he went ahead and did the whole thing for us. We were able to do our trot out and vet through quickly and had good scores.

Our hold was only 30 minutes today and it went by in a flash. Amira was not really excited about eating her hay, so I gave her soaked grain and then had Ellie lead her around so she could graze on grass while I ate my granola bar and banana, and downed a Gatorade.

There were lots of little holes in the ground around camp and we discovered they were home to little ground squirrels the size of a hamster. I do not know their official species but a local called them “whistle pigs” as they have a piercing whistle to communicate. Ellie had passed the time by observing and photographing them and had them all named and accounted for by the time our ride was over. They were sure cute!

Our second loop was the “Blue” loop of about 12 miles. We headed out the same way, Heather on foot leading and me riding at the walk until we were about a ½ mile out. This loop was my favorite of the two, it had a lot of mountain terrain with climbing and the views were so pretty and the scenery kept changing. Lots of established single and double track trails. We saw little yellow flowers and later little purple flowers. Lots of stumps, some were burned, and the horses had a second look at those. We led part of the loop and Amira had good energy once she thought we were headed back towards camp. On a particularly long climb we were just trotting along, and we overtook an Appaloosa that had been ahead of us. It was his first ride, and he was really doing well. At some point the same lady going the wrong direction on the last loop also passed by us going the wrong direction again, but this time she said, “I am going the wrong way, but I am not lost this time!”

What goes up must come down, and the downhill was a little rocky and we maintained a slow trot although I really need to work on this as it became obvious to me that I was not riding very well. The sheepskin on my saddle is very comfortable but it tends to throw me forward which is not helpful on a downhill. Each time I would think I should probably ask Heather to slow to a walk, the terrain would flatten out a little and we would just keep trotting.  

There was an ancient orchard with a sign “Julius and Sarah McCon Orchard”, and the photographer and friends were hanging out at that spot to capture us as we came through. At first the horses were not too sure about this party in the middle of nowhere, but we kept them going at a trot for the most part and I am hoping for a decent photo.

Just when I started getting tired and wondering how much farther, there was ride camp in view, and it gave me a renewed energy. We were still at least a mile out but it was a welcome sight. Once we got there we untacked right away and led the horses over to the pulsers. Amira did not have any trouble this time pulsing down, her new low was 46. She scored decently, As+Bs other than gut sounds which I expected for this picky mare.

Huzzah! Completion number two in the books! Another point for her towards her Achievement award.

After the ride I was keeping an eye on her and she is not a voracious eater like I would want to see. She kind of nibbles at her hay and mostly stands around and watches the camp activity. She will graze decently well if led around on a halter near Amelia so that is what I ended up doing a lot of, or enlisted Ellie to help me, just to keep her eating and her gut moving. She does like her Triple Crown senior grain I have her on now to try and prevent her from losing any more weight, so I gave her that every couple of hours soaked as well.

This weekend ride had multiple things happening which I was not aware of until we got there. They had a trail challenge Friday evening, which was an 11-mile route which led people past multiple obstacles, all of which you may encounter on a real trail. The lady in charge of that stressed the education portion of the obstacle, wanting people to come away with more information on how to properly approach and pass things like llamas, or a pack string of horses.  I learned a lot just observing her tack up her pack string and hearing her discuss how the people judging would score the riders. I would have liked to have tried that with Amira, but she was tired, and we were done for the day after our 25 miles.

Since the ride is a benefit for Mustangs, they had a couple of rescue horses there for adoption as well.

At the awards meeting we found out that we placed 20th out of 22. We had passed the one Appaloosa, and the gal going the wrong way only got a completion, not a placement, although her ride time was probably better than ours. Apparently, this was her second ride ever and she did not have a good mentor yet, but Darlene announced they were going to help her out and get her going properly in the sport for next time.  Heather said our actual time riding was about 4 hr 25 min which is only 5 min slower than Flatlands, only this ride had a lot of climbing so I was happy about that.

The awards on Friday night were wine glasses with the ride logo on them. It was a nice glass, but I was worried about breaking it so when they announced on Saturday night that they had some leftover prizes from previous years I was delighted to trade my wine glass for a drinking (pint?) glass. Years ago, I got a glass this style from a ride and it was my favorite until it broke in the sink, so I am glad to have a replacement.

Heather and I discussed the next days ride throughout the afternoon and evening. Initially I was worried about Amira not eating and taking good enough care of herself to attempt another day, but by evening she was behaving normally, EDPPMF. I had used rear boots on her to prevent more injury and she did have a raw spot on her one fetlock from her previous injury, so we talked about how to wrap that to prevent it from getting worse. We were a little concerned about the weather because the prediction of rain had us worried about footing on the trails – the locals said it can get really bad, really fast.

The Saturday ride had a vet check out on the trail, so we decided to pack a bag in advance to be ready in case we decided to ride. Bags had to be in a pile by “6 am or sooner” so we decided to get up at 5 am, walk the trail and decide by 5:30 am.


At 5 am the trails were great. There were no issues. It was overcast but so far so good. I entered for the ride and Heather and I shared her out-bag and had it ready to go. The out times were earlier today, probably so they would not have to staff the out check for as long, and the 75s had canceled, so the 50s left at 6:30 am and the 25s left at 7 am.

Since I was up early it was not too bad preparing for the ride. I had used vet wrap on her one hind that had the injury and was about to tack her up when I checked her back for soreness. She flinched and I called Heather over to check her out. It was clear to us both that she was sore and not going to pass a vet exam so there was no point in putting on a saddle. I did not recall checking her back the following day after our Flatlands ride, so I was not sure if this was a new issue due to the elevation changes. (I usually just give a horse the week off after an LD anyway) Heather decided to head out alone and I wished her a good ride!

Since I was back in camp, I decided to ask the ride vet about the back soreness. Dr Cassee was available, and she said she would start by looking at the tack. It could be a fit issue. It could also be a rider issue, and I am not too proud to say that is entirely possible, I know I was not riding great on the downhills. I made it a priority to get in touch with a saddle fitter once we got home.

Amira was not thrilled about being left behind, but she was not overly anxious. She enjoyed grazing and walking around camp with me while the weather held out. At the start of the day, I thought we got lucky as it was not raining! Heather texted me at 9:48 to say her out time from the hold would be 9:58 and things were going great. Just as she was leaving the hold it started raining. I put Amira’s blanket back on to help keep her dry and I crawled into the truck with Ellie. The rain was light at first but then it really started pouring! I started to not feel so bad about being back in camp, nice and dry with an iPad and the Office to watch with Ellie. We watched a couple of episodes and then took a nap.

It eventually stopped raining and we took Amira for another walk around camp to graze and stretch her legs. I realized with a start time of 7 am, Heather would need to be done by 2 pm for her completion. So, I went over near the finish line to keep an eye out for her. I saw a lot of horses coming in and vetting through, some were 50s who then headed back out. 

At about 1:50 I saw Heather. I was thrilled she was back in time, since I was certain it was not easy out on that trail in the downpour! She untacked and got her horse pulsed down and vetted through just in time for her completion. I was very happy for her and proud that she met her goal of riding 50 miles this weekend.

Heather got Amelia cleaned up and fed and then ate some food herself and we chatted about her experience out on the trail. She said today’s ride had even more elevation changes, was a much tougher trail and the rain made it that much worse. She had gotten off and jogged for probably 3 miles and really concentrated the second half of the ride on moving at the safest speed possible to reach her goal. It got windy and we moved our chairs to the back of the trailer to stay comfortable but at one point we heard the horses fussing a bit and we looked out and her shade canopy had blown away! Thankfully, it blew over to an empty spot in the field, and not into any horses. Three other ladies ran over to help us disassemble it and put it away.

At some point a horse broke free of their panel containment system and ran around camp and up the road and over the hill before finally coming back into camp where it was caught a little while later. She was tied to the trailer the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday I was most excited about the taco truck that had been advertised. I looked up their menu online ahead of time and was happy to see three vegetarian options! One was a spicy mushroom taco, another sauteed vegetables and the third was a green chili and cheese. Ellie and I were first in line to place our orders at 5 pm and all three were very good! What a treat to have hot food prepared for us out in the wilderness.

Awards were around 7 pm and by then it was last call on tacos, Ellie and I decided we could eat a couple more, so we happily munched on those during the ride meeting and awards for Saturday’s riders. We discovered during the LD results that someone somehow squeaked in behind Heather so she was not the tail-ender (turtle). There wasn’t a prize, so it didn’t really matter.

The top ten riders got cutting boards with the ride logo burned into them and they had more wine glasses and pint glasses and a t-shirt or two from a previous year. They announced the trail riders results and Darlene on her stallion Rock had placed 2nd in that. The trail riding prizes were neat backpacks full of goodies!

After taking the horses for a last walk that evening, we called it a night around 8:45 pm.


Sunday morning it was time to pack up and head out. Heather and Ellie and I all worked together to organize and repack our things. We rolled out of camp at 8:45 am. Since they had more things happening on Sunday there were still trucks and trailers coming in and the road was not wide enough for 2-way traffic. We pulled over for a while to let some trailers past and then a few people on horseback went trotting by us, using that section of road as trail for their endurance ride that day. The weather looked much better for them Sunday!

Headed home I was worried about the mountains but it was easier going back then it had been coming in. After crawling up the inclines at 40-45 again, we cruised down the big hill into Biggs at 50 mph without needing to use the brakes. We fueled up and I was going to get Subway but their computer system had just gone down so they couldn’t sell me a sandwich. Oh well.

Made it home safe and sound. We dropped off Heather’s horse Amelia and then took Amira home. I went back to get Sinwaan and the horses were glad to be reunited. Sinwaan had done great at the Fleischers and enjoyed his visit with his old friends Midge and Cloud from over the fence.







Thursday, April 14, 2022

Battle of the Flatlands @ JBLM


Battle of the Flatlands @ JBLM

Roy, WA

April 9 2022


Heather and I have been doing training rides on Sundays for the past couple of months. She has been a huge help to me in getting Amira going as an endurance horse. Setting goals, learning to rate our speed, only increasing speed or distance at a time, not both, etc. Since December when I bought her I have been able to put a pretty good (gradual) fitness foundation on her. Because both of our horses are fairly young (7 yrs) and mine is green as well, our priority has been to maintain a good mindset with the horses. If they are acting spooky or naughty, take the time to slow down and work some circles, do some bending exercises, bring them back to the horse you want to ride. If you see a problem area, work on it. If you ignore your issues at home, they will only be amplified at the ride.

We decided to do our depletion ride two weeks before the endurance ride. This was a 15 mi ride with a goal of maintaining a 5-6 mph pace to see where the horses are at in their fitness and allow their bodies time to recover before the big day. On our first loop we had a bit of a challenge as Amelia threatened to kick and Amira spun around and leapt, and I fell off and landed backside on some concrete. Amira ran away through a plowed field and finally stopped and let us catch her, so I got back on and we resumed our ride but the horses were feeling pretty spooky that first loop and we took a time-out to work with them before continuing our second loop. I had been recovering from that and hoping it wouldn’t be an issue.

Heather has a local endurance friend, Dean, who has a big trailer. He had asked her if she wanted him to haul her horse. They worked that out and I followed with my truck/trailer because I wasn’t sure if my horse would get on his trailer with a rear tack compartment. We met at her place about 8:30 am on Friday morning. We convoyed over to Roy WA together which was a great relief to me just to have another adult nearby in case of any issues.  The drive was uneventful. We had a pit stop in Ellensburg to fill up on gas and then we made it over Snoqualmie pass with clear roads. Then we had some torrential rain and after that some pretty heavy traffic (20 mph on the interstate) and then what seemed like town driving that went on for quite awhile and before we knew it we were driving along the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and I even saw two horses at a water stop doing a pre-ride and then I really got excited.

We arrived about 2:30 pm and they directed us to park past the tree, I let Dean pick his spot and I pulled in next to him with enough space for the horse corrals between us. We unloaded and let the horses graze a bit, the ride camp was in a beautiful pasture and the grass was lush! We then set up the portable corrals that Dean had brought, and he was so kind to loan me one for Amira. I used to use electric tape for Sinwaan, he always stayed in it really well, but every horse is different, and they made the announcement that they would not be allowing it at the next ride, so people must tie to the trailer or have a portable corral.

Heather asked if I wanted to do a pre-ride once we got camp set up and registered, and I thought that sounded like a great idea! We were really glad we had time to do that because on this ride you walk down the road a bit and then the entrance to the trails is this large hump, gully, hump and then it flattens out. At that same corner is a road sign and some stumps/large rocks to give the horses something to eyeball. Some horses had an issue with this entrance. Heather led Amelia and they had a look at the obstacles and decided it was ok to proceed. Heather led for about a half-mi and then mounted up and we rode on to check out the trail. What we saw initially was primarily double track with great footing, smooth gravel with some occasional rocks. There was a mossy forest that was just magical to view. It was all so pretty. We turned around and headed back after about 2 miles.  When we got back Ellie wanted to ride so I had her hop on and ride around ride camp for a little bit and then we untacked, did some grooming and then took the horses over to be vetted in.

The pulser noted that Amira was at 60 and that had Heather a little concerned. 60 bpm is typically the criteria your horse has to meet to continue on and if that is her baseline there may be a chance she would take longer to meet that after our ride and get a completion. (For example Amelia was 37) So I waited a couple minutes and asked for a re-check. Again it was 60, so Heather suggested I ask the vet about it. We had Dr Cassee vet us in and she said that yes she was running at right around 60 but not to be concerned unless there were other signs for alarm. She scored all As on her card and I was very happy about that. I decided she must keep all her excitement on the inside, and I would just see what tomorrow brings as we had a good plan for a conservative ride.

Meanwhile Ellie (my daughter who is 12) was doing a great job capturing everything with photos and video! She had a couple of cameras and was following us around and getting footage whenever we were doing something.

After all that was done, we had some time so we ate dinner and kept an eye on the horses as they settled into camp and before too long it was time for the ride meeting. They honked a nearby car horn and the Beagles started howling. It was pretty cute.

Heather Costigan was the ride manager and spoke about the base, and if we were to encounter anyone out there the military always has the right of way. The ride camp was on her personal property, she was glad to have us all there for a nice easy (flat) ride. To please be welcoming to the newcomers, there were a lot of them registered (50?) Sarah Aleshire made announcements regarding the trail markings and answered questions before they introduced the vets. Mike Foss DVM spoke about the importance of EDPPMF in your horses – Eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, moving freely. These are the things you want to see them doing. They also stressed having a blanket or rump rug available since horses can cramp up if their muscles get tight standing around in windy cold weather. Dr Cassee hung around to answer any additional questions from newcomers and the rest of the people dispersed.

We hand walked the horses after that and let them graze a bit and then it got dark and we all went to bed around 8:30 pm. It seemed silly being in bed that early, but it was cold and dark and there was nothing else to do. Ellie and I had made beds in the back of the truck and we were warm enough, although I was not able to sleep very much from the excitement.

Ride day dawned and I got up about 6:30 am. Dean was already mostly tacked up and trying to loosen his breastcollar on Creedance. Creedance was excited and ready to get moving! Dean mounted up and walked him around waiting for the trail to open at 7 am. There were about 13 entries for that distance. They were doing the 15 mi loop twice and the 20 mi loop once.

Ellie and I had decided on yogurt, fruit and granola for breakfast so that is what we had and then I got dressed and ready to go. Heather and I decided to tack up around 7:30 since the out time for our distance was 8 am. I was strangely not nervous like I used to be. I was feeling very Zen. Maybe it was because I was pretty sure my horse would not go through that giant water crossing (at only 4 mi in) or maybe because I thought we would lose a shoe, or her pulse wouldn’t drop low enough in time. Any rate I had pretty low expectations going in and apparently that really helped my mental state.

I tacked her up, she was a little excited due to all the camp commotion, but I mounted up and walked her around just to start warming up and give her a chance to see how we handle rides. Yes, there is excitement, but no, you don’t have to worry about it. At about 8:05 when the LD riders were going down the road and starting on their ride I heard a bunch of noise and I look over and see a horse crashing through the brush (NOT on trail) and I hear his rider say “HELP ME!” and I see the horse running away with her and then a horse trailer blocked my view and when I saw them again it was only the horse. Someone else was trotting that direction to go catch the horse and the rider was somewhere behind the trailer. Oh dear that is not a great way to start out! All the commotion had some of the horses still in camp all excited and one horse that was tied to the trailer broke free and ran all around camp and I think another horse may have busted out of their containment system too, so it was a bit of a ruckus. It is good this ride camp is basically a pasture, it is completely fenced except for the entrance gate, so loose horses can’t get too far.

Heather and I had decided to wait about 10 minutes after the start time to head out, to avoid all the nonsense of competitive horses and riders. I was especially glad when I saw all that. Thankfully while I was riding around camp I realized I had forgotten to put on her little bell boots so I rode over and put those on. She was starting to clip her front feet with her hind toes and I did not want to risk an injury. By then it was a good time to leave, camp was pretty well clear, and we walked on out.

There wasn’t a very big shoulder on the road to the trail, and Heather led Amelia down to the up and down lumpy entrance and through it and walked awhile, and also jogged with Amelia and when the horses felt good and solid she mounted up and we began our 15 mile loop. It was double track for quite a while and then we got into single track and it was very twisty through the woods and brush and the scenery was constantly changing (and so was the weather haha) and at times I wasn’t sure it was actually a trail but then we would see the ribbon markers and know we were on track. We aimed to keep the horses to a slow trot most of the ride to both complete on time and not over stress them. With Amelia in the lead this was easy as Heather can keep her nice and consistent at 5-6 mph. When I was in the lead we would creep up to about 8 mph and either Heather would ask me to notch her down a bit or I would catch on and slow her myself.

We came upon the water crossing and it was magnificent. The nice thing about it is that the footing is very solid since it is usually a crossing for vehicles. We knew we were not going to get stuck in mud, and it would be safe. We heard hollering and realized the photographer was knee high in the water at the other end, ready to take photos of the great event. Heather and I had made a plan for this ahead of time. I was just going to pull over and give Amelia time to get in the water. Once she was making good progress then I would come down and attempt with Amira. It only took a couple of minutes for Heather to convince Amelia that this was a good idea. After that it was no problem. Amira didn’t want to be left behind and plunged on through. Once we were safely on dry ground on the other side and walking along I teared up a bit! Such a great relief that my ride was not already over!

I can’t say enough good things about the trails. They were ever changing, from double-track to single track, from gravel to dirt, and the scenery was always changing and always beautiful! Very few elevation changes but there were a number of downed small trees so it was good to keep an eye out when in the heavy brush single track trails. We rarely slowed to a walk, but did as needed for any technical parts. We saw the photographer again, this time in a meadow. I let Heather go on first and followed along, trying to rate Amira but I don’t think I got her going easily or collected how I wanted for a photo. Oh well, maybe next time.

When we came cruising back towards ride camp we dismounted and loosened our girths and led the horses back down the road to help them lower their pulse as much as possible before we got to the timers. We discovered Amira loved the oat water tub, she would try to nibble out all the oats.  I asked for the recipe and was told “we literally just poured a bag of oats into that water tub.” Ha! I let her drink a bit before asking for pulse. She was down to 60 within 5-10 minutes and thus started our hold time, with an out time of 11:55.

The vet check went really well, although since I had tried to unsuccessfully give her electrolytes (Heather did manage to get some in her mouth before the ride) when the new vet attempted to check her capillary refill she just raised and tossed her head and did not want any part of that. Otherwise she stood very good and still for all the other items on the card to be checked. She was responsive to my request to trot for the vet, and she did what was asked. Good mare!

The hold time was a flurry of activity as we were given 45 minutes. Some of that time is used in the vet exam and following that we walked the horses back to the trailer and put a buffet of food in front of them. Alfalfa hay, grass hay, water, grain, carrots, etc. Heather asked Ellie to please keep an eye on the horses and if they were not eating to let us know. Then we, the riders, took care of ourselves. I ate a granola bar and downed some Gatorade with a fizzy people electrolyte tablet added to it. I also made sure to use the restroom. Amira was acting like she wanted to roll (itchy) and I didn’t want her to damage my saddle so I put on her halter and had Ellie hold her outside the pen so she could graze on the grass. My mom showed up and wanted to feed me but I told her it would have to wait until after my second loop!

Before we knew it the hold time was up and we were headed back out for our second (10 mi) loop. It was mostly single-track through the woods and there was a lot of things for the horses to look at so Amira took the lead as she has more confidence. We worked on setting a steady trot and just ate up the miles.

 Towards the end there was a hailstorm! We encountered a lady leading her mule. I felt bad for her but she said her mule just did not want to go. We came upon a group of riders who were out doing the trail ride and they pulled over to let us pass which was very nice of them. We played leapfrog with another pair of riders but soon decided to just let them go on ahead since we didn’t want them running up on our tail when they decided to canter. Then it started raining sideways and it was in the horses’ faces and they hesitated to keep going. We were close to the trees at that point so with more encouragement we were able to get out of the worst of it and then not long after it cleared up. At that point Ellie texted me and wanted to know how far away we were. I texted back 1.5 mi. It went by really fast and before I knew it we were all done!

We again dismounted and loosened girths before heading back down the road to ride camp. Amira’s pulse was a little high – I think 62? So we went to the oat water and I let her drink and play in the tub while I removed her saddle. When I asked for the recheck it was 54! Yay! Good deal, she passed and got a completion time. Then we headed directly to the vets. My mom and Ellie were ready with horse blankets in case of a line but we got lucky and did not have to wait to vet through. Amira scored really well on everything except for gut sounds, she got a B on one side and a C on the other. I asked if that was going to prevent us from earning our completion and Dr Mike said no worries, just let her eat and rest and she should remedy that herself. At this ride they held onto the ride card for scores and placements. I knew we were at the end but I wasn’t sure if I was the turtle or not. Some rides give a special award for turtle.

Heather says per her GPS, our active riding time was 4 hr 30 min for the 25 miles. I am really happy with that.

We put the blankets on the horses and walked them back to the trailers and let them eat and continued to watch them but they were hungry and tired and alternated between eating and resting. “Now mother, I will take you up on that picnic!” She had brought pasta salad and hoagie fixings and cotton candy grapes and juice and home-made chocolate chip cookies (with no walnuts) and it was all very delicious. Quite the treat to have such a feast after riding 25 miles. We enjoyed some sun and conversation and then (as was the norm here) the wind picked up and the sky darkened and my mom decided not to stick around for bad weather. So we bid her good bye and she left.

At some point Dean returned, he was in 3rd for the 50 mi distance, and Heather helped him with Creedance for the vet check and after care.  His son and family stopped by later and Dean went with them to dinner.

When the last 50 mile rider came in much later they decided to have the after-ride results meeting. They started with the 25 mi distance and announced the top riders and best condition winner for the special awards, and then asked, “if you are here and want your completion please raise your hand and tell me your name.” Many of us did but it was quickly apparent that the results did not go past 16th place so if you were lower then that your placement was a mystery – for now. They then did the same for the 50 mile riders. They had a really nice turtle award for the 50s – a $100 gift certificate to an endurance vendor. Wow! What a great prize. Then I was even more curious if I had gotten the turtle award. Sarah told me she would be working on the full results over the next week and could let me know my placement but they did not have an award for the 25 mi turtle.

After awards Heather and I made some more food for dinner and sat under her canopy and had a nice time chatting. Around 7 pm a car pulled up and asked us about the awards meeting. We told them it already happened, and they were upset because I guess it was posted somewhere it would be at 7 pm and as they were local they had come back for it. Then a couple more ladies showed up, the person who won the 25 mi distance and a friend. I messaged the RM Heather and she said she would be back to pass out their completion awards since she was headed to the store. At that point the weather got cold and windy again so Heather and I went and sat in the back of the horse trailer and drank hot tea and enjoyed some conversation.

When RM Heather returned I was able to have her sign my AHA form for Amira’s first point towards her Achievement Award. My goal for her is to earn a “+” after her name. You can do that by earning 75 points. You get a point for completing a LD ride, and can earn more points per ride by either doing longer distances or by placing above more riders.

All that taken care of it was starting to get dark. Dean had returned so we took the horses for a walk and graze around camp. It had emptied out quite a bit with people packing up and heading home. The horses really enjoyed the grass and were tucked in for bed as night fell.

The next morning I heard Heather up and around so I got up, I think it was about 6:30. We packed up the truck and trailer and took the horses for another walk and graze before leaving camp by 8 am. Since I had been getting texts about accidents closing down Snoqualmie for 5 hrs on Saturday, and the current conditions looked like a lot of snow, we decided to head south through Portland and the Gorge for the drive home. This added an hour (at least) to our travels but better to be safe then stuck, or worse.

The drive was uneventful, I was following Dean and he missed the exit at Troutdale so I pulled off anyway since I was getting low on gas. They ended up stopping at Hood River and by the time they were ready to get back on the highway I was passing their exit so we joined up again for our travels. Arriving back at Heather’s I realized we never got a photo of the three of us so we posed for one and then I headed the last mile home.

Amira stepped off the trailer and dove into the grass, I let her eat, removed her blanket, groomed her a little and then took her to her pasture with Sinwaan. He was very happy to see her! They took a little trot around the pasture, had a roll and a drink and then settled back into grazing side by side. Amira did EDPPMF and I could relax. All was well.

Special thanks to Heather for being such a great riding partner, we have had many things to work on and she has provided many tips that have helped us a lot. Thanks to Dean for convoying over with me, and loaning me his corral panels. To my daughter Ellie for being such great crew – film and for the horses. Appreciation to Heather Costigan for putting on a great ride, and Sarah Aleshire for answering all my questions both before and during the ride. Jala Neufeld for the wonderful photography. And my mom for stopping by with more food! Thanks to Maureen for taking great care of Sinwaan while I was away, and my husband Matt for caring for the dogs in my absence. It takes a village!


Happy trails. Next stop, Prineville!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

A new horse arrives

Here is a story I wrote for Jennifer Buxton's blog and it seems as good a way as any to jump start this blog back into action again! 

How I turned Breyers into a real horse (thanks to Covid) XD

 I have a 25-year-old Arabian gelding named Sinwaan, who I did about 5 years of limited distance endurance on when my kids were very young. We had an old camp trailer that we would take to the rides to contain the kids, and my mom would often come along to help baby-sit. Sinwaan started dragging a hind toe on our training rides and wore down his shoe flat across the top and no amount of diagnostics from an equine sports vet could provide any answers, so quite unexpectedly I found myself without a horse to ride. Because I had a limited budget and did not think he would land softly in a non-use home, I hung onto him and had to come to terms with the fact that I was now a retired horse owner instead of an endurance rider. It was a very difficult adjustment for me, but the next decade of years found me more immersed in model horses (and parenting!) to help fill that void.

 I have attended BreyerFest twice in my life, once as a kid and once as an adult. It was overwhelming, wonderful...a true experience. Enter Covid in 2020. The Breyer team offered a virtual substitution. I was very excited when I learned that I could now enter the contests from my home state of Washington! The 2020 theme was Celtic Fling and I thought really hard about how to best present a diorama that would evoke emotion. I decided on the story of Boudicca and her chariot, and it really became a family affair as we brainstormed how to include an added element of fire in the final photos. I yelped as they called my name on the webcast and welled up with tears. It was really special to win the “Feis” model and I had ZERO plans to ever sell him since I cherished the whole process of creating that diorama and what he represented. It was the first and only prize model I had ever owned to that point.

 2021 and we still have covid. Breyer again offers a virtual experience, only this time the participants are restricted by state/country due to gambling laws. Crazy! I was relieved that my state was not on the blacklist (but I know Jennifer and a lot of others were rightfully upset by this). The theme was Horse of a Different Color, and the guidelines for the diorama contest had us reimagining an existing piece of art. This time I decided on Little Bit scale and reworked it into the Remington Mountain Main. I was pleased with the outcome but wasn’t as convinced that I had a shot at winning that time. Thankfully I did make it as a finalist and won the lovely “Stubbs" model.

 The past couple of years my daughter has been riding my friend Bethany's horse Shimmer and pony Mazi on the weekends and really doing well. I am so proud of her ability to listen to direction and apply it to her riding and she improves each time. I had become a “barn mom” and while that was special and I loved sharing my passions with her, what I really wanted to be was more involved and riding with her! What to do? There is a very green horse at the same barn and I started doing some training rides and while that was fun and exciting, it still wasn’t my own horse.

 End of autumn I asked my neighbors if they would lease out their pasture. I have been so incredibly blessed to have wonderful folks looking after Sinwaan for me, but they are getting older and didn’t want to take on any new horses. After I had a job change, I started thinking it would really be nice to have my own horse to ride again. It took a couple months of discussion and after thinking it over and negotiating my neighbors agreed. Now that I had a pasture nearby, I could start looking for a new horse!

 I decided at that point to sell my Stubbs model to start a 'real horse' fund. That gave me a nice start, and with that I started casually looking at Dreamhorse to get an idea of what was available. I came across an ad with no photo. I emailed the seller and the photos she sent me made my heart sing. If I could custom-order a horse, this one checked all the boxes.  Bay, Arabian, Bask-bred and beautiful. 

I arranged to see her in person and on the drive up there (Oct 29) I thought I would throw up; I was so overwhelmed. I had never shopped for a horse of my own before! Sinwaan was given to me by my aunt, he made the long trek from Virginia to Washington when my son was just a baby so I took him on pretty much sight unseen. So this was a whole new experience for me. I was reading articles on “how to shop for a horse” and I was so worried I would get swindled. How do I know if I can trust the people selling this horse?

 I did not need to be so worried or suspicious. The seller and her friend were very nice down-to-earth and upfront people. It was important to them that this horse go to the right buyer, just as it was important to me that I make the right decision. The friend rode her first to show her skill set, and then I rode her and I was just over the moon for this horse. I had my husband shoot videos and I watched them over and over all weekend, asking my friends for feedback. One thing I insisted on was a pre-purchase exam. The vets were all scheduled out a couple weeks so this worked in my favor. Now that I had found a horse that I couldn’t live without, how do I pay for her? I didn’t have quite enough in the fund.

 I decided when it came right down to it, a real horse was more important to me than a model. So I put Feis up for sale and it was a bittersweet moment when I packed him up for shipment.

 I first looked at my new horse "Angel" around Halloween, and didn’t end up bringing her home until December 9. It was a VERY long trip to get her, as our mountain pass had a lot of snow and ice and we took a different way going home that added a lot of time to our journey. But it was all worth it! I have renamed my new horse "Amira" and she has settled in well, and has proven to be a nice steady mount for both myself and my daughter.  One of my friends soon commented "how incredible is it that you buy the very first horse you look at?" Yes, it is really amazing that it worked out so well. 

 My long term goal is now (once again) to participate in endurance. I have reconnected with a good friend that I conditioned with 10 years ago. It feels like we are coming full circle. We took time off for the kids, had things that prevented both of us from being as involved as we would like with the horses and now we are back to riding. Amazingly enough we both have mares the same age and color that are pretty similar in how far along they are in their training.

I would not have this horse without Breyer offering both a virtual way to enter the contest, and for providing such lovely prize models!  THANK YOU BREYER :)

See you on the trail!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Patient History Report: Sinwaan - 10/24/13

For those of you who are interested and have been following Sinwaan's story lately, he went back in to see the specialist Dr Dora Ferris on 10/24. Here is her write up of that visit;

Misc Medical Procedures - Ultrasound - hind suspensory ligaments
Sinwaan presented today for re-examination and ultrasound of his hind limb proximal suspensory ligaments.

Examination: He does not have significant back pain today and there is no withdrawal response when the tuber sacrale are compressed. At the walk both hind fetlocks drop/hyperextend when in the weight bearing phase of stride. At the trot, his lameness has not improved despite the 3 months of rest. The left hind foot continues to have a club footed appearance due to the short worn toe.

Sinwaan's heart was ascultated and was within normal limits. He was sedated with 4mg of detomidine and 60mg of xylazine IV. Both metatarsal regions were clipped and prepped for ultrasound examination. The left hind suspensory ligament was ultrasounded and compared to the right hind suspensory ligament. There was mild thickening of the plantar fascia of the left hind limb compared to the right. The suspensory ligament of the left hind was mildly enlarged, especially laterally compared to  the right hind evidenced by a reduction in the space between the suspensory and the metatarsus. Hypoechoic areas consistent with muscle and fat within the ligament were symmetrical from right to left. There was a mild  bone irregularity at the distal portion of the attachment of the suspensory ligament on the left hind. A brief  non-weight bearing exam was performed as well which did not show additional lesions.

The ultrasound did not reveal significant disruption or damage to the suspensory ligament at this time. My biggest concern is that there could be a slow, chronic degenerative process in play, causing mild breakdown of the suspensory ligament. Some have suggested this can be linked to metabolic syndrome in some horses. Sinwaan is slightly overweight, and resting will only make this more difficult to manage. This could be linked to a metabolic syndrome.

It is also thought, that in horses with a similar presentation there is nerve impingement of the deep  branch of the lateral plantar nerve beneath the plantar fascia due to the swollen suspensory ligament.

We can discuss further treatments, and I am  happy to talk about these at any time. Treatments I would recommend pursuing:
Testing for equine metabolic syndrome, including insulin and cortisol (ACTH, Dex suppression testing). These cost around $100. Unfortunately in the fall and winter horses can come back falsely negative, so it is best to wait for this testing until spring. Some management changes could be undertaken prior to testing in an effort to minimize his weight changes. Changes include grass only hay, minimal concentrates or grains, or substituting with a low starch grain, minimizing or eliminating grass pasture turnout, etc.

Platelet rich plasma - While there is not visible disruption of the ligament, these horses often have a degenerative process occurring and PRP could potentially provide growth factors that can slow or decrease this process.

Radiograph - Radiographs of the hock/proximal suspensory region of the left hind limb could be helpful for two reasons, they could show if there is sclerosis (increased bone density at the proximal suspensory region) and could outline any hock changes as well. He may still have a portion of hock pain that is contributing to his lameness. If there is sclerosis at the origin of the suspensory ligament origin (consistent with the bone change seen on ultrasound) it would be consistent with a chronic issue.

In the interum time, I would like to start the following therapy for Sinwaan.
Lateral weight shifting - Stand to the side of his hip, facing him. Grasp his tail up as high as you can on the tail bone, then gently lean back, pulling him towards you. Watch for the  contraction of the quadriceps muscles on the side you are facing and slight dropping of the fetlock. You want him to resist the drop, and hold himself up without pushing and moving away from  you. This will improve his control of his hindlimb and muscle activation. Ask him to hold the contraction for as long as he is able, currently about 3-4 seconds, ideally he will improve several seconds per week until he can hold the activation for 20 seconds. Repeat this exercise for both hind limbs 5 times a day.

Aquatic therapy can be very helpful for these horses. While taking Sinwaan to a rehab facility is not really an option for him, exercising him in a pond, lake, or creek might be beneficial as long as the bottom of the lake is not deep and muddy, and the weather is not too cold. Please let me know if you have anything along those lines available to you and we can discuss a protocol.

I would like Sinwaan to have low impact exercise if possible. Walking in hand or ponied from another horse initially on a straight line on firm footing would be ideal. Start with 5 minutes 1-2 times daily, increasing by 5 minutes each week, until he is walking for 20 minutes up to twice daily in 8 weeks if possible. As he progresses, we can begin to add weight to his back.

Please apply the DMSO/Bute mixture to his proximal suspensory regions up to 1 time daily for 14 days. Please wear gloves and do not allow this to touch your skin. Don't touch his leg after you have applied it. This will help reduce the inflammation that may be occurring, and may help for any nerve pain he may be experiencing.

Shoeing changes - Research has shown that a high foot angle (tall heels) puts increased strain on the suspensory ligament. Since his heels have become so tall, I would like to have them trimmed to more closely match his opposite foot. Care needs to be taken that they are not shortened too much and cause a broken back hoof-pastern axis. Sinwaan may also benefit from heel extensions to bring support back under his fetlock further. In the past that has helped horses with similar conformation. I'm not sure who you have used in the past, but let us know if you need recommendations for therapeutic shoes.

If these therapies are started, I would like to recheck him next month if possible. Otherwise we can discuss his progress on the phone.

Dora Ferris