Endurance Ride:  Top of the Rock – Squid

In case you missed it, here’s the ride story about Friday’s LD on Moxie at Top of the Rock endurance ride.  Saturday was Squidy’s endurance debut.  Well, LD anyway.

Squidy is normally a really sensible, well trained, and exceptionally well behaved senior Quarter Horse.  Except in ride camp.  I was so irritated with her while attempting to glue on hoof boots the night before, as she kept trying to dance around and pull her feet away from me with fresh glue on them.  She knows better!  Again, I worried that this bad behavior was a preview of the next day’s ride, as I had thought with Moxie.  Wrong again.  :)

I used the same strategy that worked so well for Moxie:  start after the pack leaves, walk down the road, then pick up a trot in a sensible calm manner.  I did start with a friend and we rode together for a few miles.  The first loop was an out and back with a small loop at the end.  While struggling with holding back the freight train that was Squidy, I followed my friends through a wrong turn and after a while we discovered that we were doing the small loop backwards from what I had done the day before.  My friend also had ridden the day before, and I thought she must know what she’s doing and I figured at that time that I had been wrong the day before (remember I missed a turn yesterday? So I thought maybe that was why I missed it, if I was in fact backwards there wouldn’t have been adequate ribbons at the turn), so I proceeded to keep following them.  Then we started passing oncoming horses, and after several went by, we knew we must be going the opposite direction after all.  At least it was the same route and mileage, though I think the direction we went actually had more hill climb.  Oops.  Apparently it was a common problem all weekend, most likely due to all the trail marking sabbotage.

During that loop I decided my friend’s horse’s pace was a bit faster than I wanted Squidy doing, so I hung back and let them go.  Squidy was upset and certainly experiencing race brain that I’ve seen from her on group training rides, but she was manageable and eventually settled into her own ride.

She did insist on getting down the trail as quickly as I would possibly allow and had no interest in grazing (No grass for Porky Le Chop?!  Wow…) or water on the first loop.  She did take carrots that I handed to her on the fly, but she did not want to stop for anything.  Mare on a mission.

Photo by Kristen Warning

My right knee was extremely painful immediately from the start, and I was so glad that I had conditioned Squidy to canter quite a bit, because I really didn’t want to post the whole 25 miles again!  Squid has this nice rocking horse lope that is effortless for her and smooth as silk for her rider.  It isn’t fast, not much faster than her trot, but it is a nice cruising gear.  She does have a faster canter, but I think it loses efficiency.  Her heart rates are always low, both in a trot and a canter, so I decided to lope on good footing, trot on moderate footing, and walk on hills and bad footing.

Squidy felt like she could go all day.  I had unknowingly pulled a cord off of my heart rate monitor (HRM) while tacking up and it wasn’t working on the first loop, so I just rode her conservatively, walking up hills as I didn’t want to go over 150 bpm into the anerobic zone.  She felt great so we just sailed through that first loop, alone after letting my friend go on ahead.

She came into the vet check looking great, but since my HRM wasn’t working, I didn’t know if her pulse was down or not.  Surely not, right?  It is a hot day and she’s a thick girl.  So I went to pull tack and start sponging before putting the hand held HRM on her.  Oh.  43.  Well, I guess I wasted a few minutes, as I clearly could’ve just went to the pulse check with tack on.  Oh well, lesson learned.

She ate like a hog and drank well in the hold, got all As in the vet check and a CRI of 40/36, and was very business like about the whole thing, as if she’s been doing this all her life.  It was actually her first ride ever.  She loved it.

We headed out on the second loop and my now functioning HRM said her heart rate was way higher than usual.  She felt fresh and forward and wanted to go.  Is the HRM just not reading correctly since she’s not sweating enough yet and I didn’t put gel on?  Or is something wrong?  Her gait felt good and symmetrical, so I didn’t think there’s any pain to cause it.  She wasn’t hot to the touch and she ate really well in the hold.  So I decided the HRM wasn’t accurate, but rode slower just in case.

We got to a section of mud and really bad flies for a few miles.  Squidy’s biggest fault is that she is the itchiest pony in the world.  She hates flies on her face.  She was so irritated and kept flipping her head all over the place.  Both of us were miserable and I hit a mental wall and just wanted to be done.  The footing was too sloppy to outrun the flies, so we just plugged on through it.  We ended up walking a lot of that miserable second loop.

Squidy was so irritated that she didn’t want to graze on the second loop either.  This worried me some, but she was eating carrots, and was drinking well, so I figured she was just too mad about the flies.

Finally we got to a gravel lane and picked up a nice lope, and I swear, we both smiled.  We cruised through that section and came to another single track.  I knew we were near the end, but Squidy didn’t.  Having been riding alone for the last 20 miles, and having not seen a single other horse the entire second loop, Squidy failed to see the point to it anymore.  She stopped and looked back at me.  My first thought was that something was definitely wrong.  I got off and checked her over, fed her a bit, and decided she was fine, and had just reached a mental block after a miserable loop and being alone for so long.  I got back on and asked her to jog, which she did.  She was fine, trotting the last mile into camp.  We kept up a trot until about 300 feet from vet check, then I got off and led her straight into the pulse check.

I think they were surpised to see a thick Quarter Horse being presented for a pulse check straight off the trail still tacked up, and in 85+ degree heat.  I told them I had a HRM and that she was definitely down.  Sure was.  She checked in with a pulse of 51 and a ride time of 3:56 (including starting late and walking a lot of the last loop).

I went and pulled tack and ran a sponge over her once quickly, then went straight to vet, not wanting her to cramp before getting her completion.  Just in case.  I once had a horse who got a muscle cramp in her hindquarter while I was leisurely untacking and sponging before vetting, and it cost me my completion.  I won’t make that mistake twice, and worried that being a big muscled horse that Squidy might be prone to cramping too?  Not to worry though…

She vetted through with all As and a final CRI of 48/44.  The vet was impressed.  Many horses were struggling in the heat with hanging pulses and needed a lot of sponging.  Not good ol’ Porky Le Chop.

I was told I was in 10th place.  I was surprised.  I had no intention of top tenning.  I was just riding my own ride, and a conservative one at that.  Apparently I passed a lot of horses in the pulse checks, since Squidy was already down right off the trail.

I figured I might as well stand for Best Condition judging.  I knew I wouldn’t get BC, as I’m a featherweight and we came in 10th, so we get no extra points in either catergory.  Getting a free vet check 1 hour post completion can provide useful information, and I’m always eager to learn anything I can, so we did it.

Squidy at BC judging.  Not the most flattering position, but believe it or not, that sway back is a million times better than it was last year post baby!

Squidy presented well and when I asked the vet if she looked like she’s ready for 50s, he said yes and said he really liked her.

Imagine my surprise when my husband’s 17 year old QH Paint ranch pony, who had a baby last year, and survived what should have been a career ending heel bulb laceration the year before that, got High Vet Score at her first ride on a hot day in June.  Wow.

Squidy recovered exceptionally well, and in fact was rather sassy all afternoon.  Her legs stayed clean and tight and she passed her mini lameness eval the next moring with flying colors.  Well done, old girl.

On to 50s.  :)

Lessons learned:

  • Squidy is even more athletic than I already thought.
  • We really need to work on race brain and relaxing to eat on trail.

That second one really surprised me, as she is normally the most greedy hungry horse I’ve ever met.  She will normally drop her head to graze immediately upon stopping from a gallop.  The girl can eat.  I had given her the preventative dose of omeprazole through the ride to prevent ulcers, so I don’t think that would be the cause.  She just seemed too intent on getting down the trail to want to waste time eating.  At least she ate well in the hold, but still, I’d prefer that she snacks on the trail too…

I’m not sure how I can fix this, as she eats so well on training rides already…  similar issue with both of the girls.  Any suggestions?

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2 Comments

  1. Liz

    Daaaang! Great job and congratulations! Too freaking awesome about her pulsing down FAST, getting 10th, AND high vet score! I can only hope Stan will do a fraction of that in August at our ride. This post definitely has me thinking about getting an adapter kit for my HRM for him. I’ve never wanted to do that, as I can become very data-obsessed, but it may be a good idea for a big QH in hot August heat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I get a bit data obsessed too, but it doesn’t get in the way of reading my actual horse at all. I think the HRM is most useful for me at keeping the HR below 150 on hills, and for knowing where they are as you’re getting close to the vet check so you can manage them accordingly. I love it. Not absolutely necessary, but a nice tool to have.

      Like

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