Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On the Up & Up

It was my birthday yesterday! I celebrated by taking the day off work for some needed for self-care and to indulge in whatever I wanted to do. As a result, I got a very nice three-day weekend and appropriately started it off with a visit to the barn accompanied by C and W. Quest got a nice grooming session treatment and wormed.  She was well behaved for everything and stood patiently. The weather here is definitely getting cooler at night so her winter fuzz was coming in strong.  

A couple weeks back, the vet stopped in for follow-up visit and it was good news.

With the correct shoes now, the mareface is MUCH better. She was not getting the correct support from the previous set of shoes so now we have upgraded to fancy ones. According to the vet, it’s made a significant difference so I’m glad at least something has helped.

Vet also suggested confinement to aid in recovery.
To the surprise of none, it didn't work. At least we tried.

It was tough not to get down on myself for not addressing her club foot sooner but I'm trying to be proactive about learning and self-educating. A couple months ago someone on the AERC FB page posted a question about her endurance horse with a front club foot.  Reading her story and the comments helped me see that not all hope is lost for Quest and me. With proper hoofcare and management, we'll be a force to be reckoned with. 

And so far things continue to go well. The shoes are working out and Quest continues to happily motor around in pasture. Hopefully in another couple months we’ll be back to (slow walking) undersaddle shenanigans.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trail Riding in LA

I was blessed with the opportunity to take a riding vacation in Los Angeles this year. This was my first real vacation in a very long time- It was good to indulge and escape life for a few days but more importantly, the time and distance away gave me fresh (and very necessary) perspective on things for the future I have planned for Quest and me. 

Because of the time and travel distance, I opted to do this trip solo. My host, D, picked me up from LAX after I landed and after grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed north to her ranch where I would spend the next two days. The drive was long but pleasantly filled with great conversation. D and I talked about horses and endurance riding pretty much non-stop! Her and her daughters are active AERC competitors in the PS Region and with years of competition experience under her belt, D was a wellspring of knowledge and advice. 

After arriving at the ranch and getting settled into my room, I changed into my riding clothes and headed out to the barn where D introduced me to my partner, a lovely 11-year old Polish Arabian gelding named Estaire JCA. 

We headed into the arena first for D to show me a few things and do a final tack check before we hit the trails for my first day of riding. 

The terrain was completely different from anything I have yet to experience. The footing was mostly sand of various degrees of compaction with some rocks here and there which isn’t anything too exciting. But those sudden and steep elevation gains though...wow. The first section of the ride had a LOT of climbing and at points it felt like we were going straight up the side of the mountain, even with the help of trail switchbacks. Then there was the foliage which featured a lot of dense brush and low hanging trees with some pretty gnarly branches.  A lot of dodging, weaving, and ducking was required- no chance of daydreaming here! 

Navigating a steep climb and switchback turn

Afternoon sun and all smiles

I was grateful that Estaire was super honest and surefooted. There were a few areas were the trail narrowed to a thin ledge weaving around the side of a mountain and he never once missed a step. We did about 8-9 miles on the first day before heading back to the ranch. I showered, had dinner, and was asleep the instant my head hit the pillow. 

The next morning’s ride started at 8AM and we were joined by two of D’s daughters Is and B. The majority of the trail covered that day was done on the Pacific Crest Trail which is used by a lot of endurance riders in the area to train for the Tevis Cup. We also came across a handful of hikers who get mad props and respect from me- If riding the trail was tough, to hike it on foot is a whole other thing! 

We were so high up that it was cold enough to need jackets!
Thick morning fog also caused some misting rain

The weather eventually cleared up though and we got some breathtaking views

These pictures only capture a small portion of what the sights were like.
It was really an experience of a lifetime

Our group of four had a great time together and got in about 16 miles. After the ride, we got a delicious lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant/bar/inn. Not surprisingly, we talked more about horses and endurance and at D’s prompting, I shared a picture of Quest with everyone. D took one look and instantly said to me, “You have an endurance horse right there- with training and conditioning, she will take you anywhere.” I couldn’t help but smile with happiness. 

After food, we headed back to the ranch where I finished packing up my things and D drove me back to the city. As with the drive over, we talked the entire way but however this time it was a different kind of talk. I confided that the series of setbacks Quest and I went through had caused me to question if I had what it takes to get her ready. It was even more discouraging when my efforts to find a local AERC mentor fell on deaf ears and when I asked a local endurance rider for assistance, I was told “No hitchhikers allowed”.

D was aghast and angry for me. And she then proceeded to give me a kick in the butt lol In so many words, she said I needed to get out of my own head and trust myself that I have what it takes to start competing when Quest was ready. Her words were not unkind at all but the meaning was very clear: Setbacks happen to everyone. I shouldn't allow that or what other people say or think prevent me from enjoying a sport that I clearly want to participate in and obviously have an affinity for. 

It was tough love but it was something I really needed to hear as I start to put together our game plan for the future. We’re still on this road together and we are not giving up anytime soon.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Checking In

Well, hello there. The blog has been pretty silent as of late but much has been going on behind the scenes. Over the last 2-3 months, we have been focusing all our attention on recovery and doing a generous amount of self-care.

In Quest-terminology that means enjoying vacation and getting chunky.

The first order of business was trying to figure out the proper shoeing arrangement. Mareface got her first set of fronts last cycle and she did really well in them...until she pulled a shoe. Fortunately it was the day before the farrier was due back out but unfortunately that was when Vet K was supposed to check Quest's progress. The pulled shoe didn't allow for a clear evaluation so it got pushed back a couple weeks. Vet K was nice enough not to charge me for that, thankfully.

The second issue has been containment. Mareface had been allowed to roam the pasture freely in hopes that she'll stay quiet enough to heal.

See, this is nice. Being good & socializing with neighbors. 

But then there are days when I visit and Quest is tearing around the field like a wild child. As much as I don't want to contain her, Vet K suggested that we should try something to get her to stay more still. So the nice folks at the barn are trying to set up a temporary corral of sorts. Hopefully this will aid in the recovery process and not make her a stressful mess.

As for me, I've used the time to take care of myself and build new friendships within the various communities I'm a part of. I have been getting time in the saddle but most of my hours lately have been spent reading, practicing saber, and doodling lots of art. I really miss working with Quest and sometimes get really sad thinking about it but such is the state of things. We just have to allow time to do its slow, steady work.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mareface Update

When Quest first came up lame, the barn worker suggested it might be Lyme since there was a huge outbreak at the barn this year. I was doubtful since she didn't exhibit any of the other symptoms at all. She was content, fat, and sassy. But of all the things to go possibly wrong, I'd take an abscess or Lyme over any other injury. It's strange how owning a horse changes your world perspective...

Enjoying her vacation. At least one of us is happy

After immediately ceasing all work, I did my own quick diagnostic. I could tell the issue was on her right diagonal. There was no heat/swelling around the hoof or legs and zero reaction when I palpated suspensories (thank goodness). Other than the lameness Quest was totally fine so I opted to do a bit of wait and see. After almost a week of rest though, mareface was still NQR so I got the vet out. With nerve blocks, Vet K isolated the issue to the RF heel, took radiographs, and currently we have it diagnosed as caudal heel pain, possible soft tissue injury. It seriously sucks that we could be dealing with a similar issue yet again but the vet said prognosis is good overall.

After giving it some thought, it's really is a matter of form follows function. If you have bad form, there is bad function. Quest is slightly clubfooted on that leg. It has been a repeat offender and source of grief for two years out of three. From the very start, I have been responsible for her trims and used a professional to reset/check my work regularly. We have zero issues when doing rides in the arena or meandering on trails. However when the workload increases to include longer and faster mileage, that's when things appear to start falling apart.

Looking back, I dare to venture that this was about the same point in our training/conditioning timeline that the suspensory injury surfaced. The signs seem to point that Quest needs extra help to stay sound and active. This means corrective shoeing, which is something way beyond basic owner maintenance work. One of the things J mentioned to me right before we left WSS was that she would put front shoes on Quest if she were her horse. A year later, and probably none the wiser, I am finally going to do just that. We will see how the shoes work out and move on from there.

This newest development will change a few things in terms of management and competition. Obviously first is adding the front shoes but I guess on the upside, I now have more than enough Gloves for her hinds and for spare tires. As for competition, I'm not sure what the future holds for us distance-wise. As much as I would have loved her to be my first 50/100-miler horse, she may be limited to CTR/LD distances only. This will largely depend on how she holds up to future conditioning mileage. If the corrective shoeing proves to be the answer, maybe we could venture into the realm of longer CTR-format distances like a 2-day 50 or 3-day 100.

It's not the best news but we do have a game plan lined out with plenty options. I knew getting into distance riding with my own horse would be difficult but this has honestly not been an easy journey, especially with so many setbacks right from the onset. I've never been one to go down without a fight though, and we are not giving up just yet.