Tuesday, September 6, 2016


We're back from our trip to the Grand Canyon XP Endurance Ride, and thankful our travels were safe.

I have so much to share, and no idea where to start. They say the beginning is usually a good place, so we'll go ahead and start there.

Our trip, minus a few "down times" was really fun! The ponies drank well in the trailer each time we stopped to rest them, and that was huge, especially for the Sassinator. She is not great at drinking, especially while traveling. LOL The efforts I've made (the last couple months) to figure out how to encourage her to drink while in the trailer, sure paid off! The recipe for Sweet water certainly helped.

For those who are unfamiliar with Sweet water, it's a combination of 2 cups stabilized rice bran mixed with electro-lytes (I used apple flavor) and about 6 cups of water. Of course, because my ponies are spoiled, (come on now, certainly that doesn't shock you!) LOL I also add a few black oil sunflower seeds. The ponies love it and will happily lap it up just about any time offered!

Immediately after work that morning, we loaded the ponies and got on the road. David navigated, and I drove the whole way; we both were pretty tired by the time we arrived. (We get up each morning at 2:45 for work, so driving to the GC when we finished work at 7:30 that morning, made for a very long day!)

We set up part of our camp and got to sleep early. The next day we finished setting up, I braided the horses' manes and tails, made sure they had lots to drink and eat, and we took them for a short, easy ride to stretch out their legs from the long trailer haul the day before.

In the afternoon, we vetted the ponies in and all went great!

Finally, ride morning! We'd gotten everything ready the evening before, so the process of tacking up for our ride went very smoothly. The only problem I ran into was when I went to start my GO PRO as we were heading toward the trail, the case broke. Ugh! I quickly rode Sassy back to the trailer and dropped off the camera. No point carrying it with me when I couldn't use it!

We headed out and were having an absolutely beautiful ride! The ponies LOVE their jobs, and were both ready, willing and anxious to fly! They each settled into their respective gaits, and we all enjoyed the nice, cool temperatures and the gorgeous views. For the first 3 hours, Sassy and Chase were first and second. The trail was quite rocky, so we made sure we did not canter them until we reached areas where the trail was appropriate for faster gaits. In one of the meadows we crossed, Sassy alternated between her wonderful Rocky Mountain Racking Gait and her smooth canter. It's like floating on air when she's in either of those gaits, and I felt literally like a 5-year-old, even letting go of the reins, spreading my arms out at my sides and looking up into the sky feeling the cool breeze on my face!!! Sheer joy!

Chase was just as smooth for David; he does rack, but is still working to perfect that gait. No problem, though; Chase's canter can match Sassy's flat walk in smoothness and speed, or he can kick it up to smoothly match Sassy's racking speed!

That boy has certainly come a long way from his first few endurance rides! I must boast what a "pro" he is at camp now also. He never gets spooky or uptight now; he either stands quietly tied to the trailer, or he watches everything from the corral. No more escapes, no more freaking out when Sassy is out of sight. We're both very proud of him!

Back to the ride: :) Two female riders caught up with us, and for about an hour we played hop/scotch with them. I wish I'd been able to find out their names; we actually had decided (all 4 of us...) that we'd continue hop/scotching for the whole ride, so we were going to exchange info afterwards. They both were so much fun to ride with! Very friendly, wonderful attitudes!! Sadly, things didn't go as planned. I'm hoping they may see this write-up and will get in touch with us.

After awhile, it was just David, Chase, Sassy and myself up front again; the gals had stopped to adjust their tack and encouraged us to continue on. As we were gliding down the trail, quite unexpectedly, Sassy's gait changed, and I could feel she was having problems with one of her boots so I jumped down to fix it. Sure enough, one of her front boots had twisted and the strap broke. I changed the boot and off we went.

Unfortunately, about 15 minutes later, Sassy's gait changed drastically again, and I knew it was another boot issue. Once again I jumped down and changed the other front boot! I found this very unusual; in all the rides we've done, Sassy has only lost 1 boot, and another time, one of her boots had to be changed. She wears the Renegades very well and has very few problems with them ordinarily!

At the time of changing the second boot, I attributed the problem to the fact that David hadn't placed our order for new boot shells early enough to receive them before our GC ride. He ended up changing boot parts and "assembling" boots from our prior e-ride collection.

We were enjoying the temperature and the scenery and had all but forgotten about the two boots needing to be changed. The fun of the ride took over, and we were "flying low" again, just enjoying everything!

Sadly, that was not to last. Endurance rides are only consistent in their inconsistencies! Emotions can go from way, way high to being slammed to the lowest point in less than a second, trust me on that one! Perhaps that's part of their allure? :)

This time it was Chase who needed a boot change. Once again, we pulled off the trail, changed the boot, and then got on our way.

Both ponies were doing great, despite the boot interruptions. We checked heart rate monitors, and they were within 4 beats of each other,. and both were aerobically doing fantastic!

We continued on and it seemed in no time at all, we were at vet check! This was fine with us as we were both hungry. LOL We took the ponies to the water, and they both drank like fish, especially the Sassinator! I was so, so pleased! My efforts at figuring out ways of encouraging her to drink and stay hydrated certainly were paying off; I whispered to her how incredibly proud I am of her, and she gave me the biggest kiss on my cheek.

A couple volunteers came over to take their heart rates and check us in; after a few minutes, Chase was down, but we were waiting for Sassy. At first, no big deal; her eyes were bright, she wasn't overly-sweaty, she drank, she ate and was very, very peppy. Effee (thank goodness Effee was there!!!) took Sassy's heart rate again, but she was in the high 70's! We looked at each other in surprise. I walked Sassy around a little, removed her headstall and bit, loosened the cinch, rubbed her head, which is her cue to lower it a little, and she did so very willingly. Sassy was totally relaxed, and Effee and I agreed her heart rate still being elevated was very strange. She asked how the ride was going, and I mentioned about losing a couple boots, but that was the only unusual occurrence. The vet came over and found it odd as well that Sassy's heart rate was not dropping; her hydration was excellent, she was not breathing fast, etc. etc. We were puzzled to say the least!

Effee suggested we remove the saddle and pad, which we did. Sassy's heart rate came down a little, but not yet close to the required criteria of 60. I made sure I was taking deep breaths and remaining calm, especially because that mare reads my emotions like a book! LOL Time started ticking by, however, and we were starting to get concerned. It just didn't make sense!

Finally, Effee suggested we remove all of her boots, and that's what we did. On a whim, she asked me to trot Sassy out and back. Very willingly, Sassy started running with me, and I heard Effee and the vet call out to me to come right back! I stopped, turned around and started running back with Sassy when they told me, "there's the reason her heart rate's not dropping! Her front feet are SORE!" I stopped running and just stood there for a few seconds in wonderment and disbelief! Effee and the vet looked at Sassy's front hooves; when I saw the look on Effee's face, my heart dropped to my own "hooves." I could read it in her expression that something was terribly wrong.

Effee asked me when Sassy last had her feet trimmed, and I felt like someone punched me in the gut as the realization hit me. Both ponies had been trimmed on Sunday; our ride was on Thursday! They'd been trimmed too close to the ride date!! We had tried to have them done earlier but had scheduling difficulty with our trimmer's calendar. No fault; just his and our schedules weren't matching, and the only time he could come up was on Sunday.

Well, I knew at that moment, I was not holding out hope for Sassy's heart rate to drop. Even if it did, I was NOT going to continue riding her. She was in pain, and all I wanted to do at that moment was get her out of pain. :(

David and Chase got ready and continued their ride. The great news is that they did complete, and they finished in 15th place!!! That was fabulous, and I am proud of both of them!!!!

Sassy and I remained at vet check and pooled our efforts to make the best of our sad situation.

We kept each other company while we waited to be trailered back to base camp. We both ate and drank and did our best to keep our emotions in check; Sassy's eyes were talking to me and I knew exactly what she was feeling and saying. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep my tears from escaping, not wanting Sassy to pick up what I was experiencing inside. I realize she's still reading me, but it would be much, much worse if I outwardly showed my frustration at myself! Please don't think for one second that I believe I'm pulling the wool over Sassy's eyes! She's much too smart and perceptive for that, and I am fully aware of her ability to read and feel my emotions! My efforts of biting the inside of my cheek were only to lessen her interpretation, if just a little bit.

Finally, it was time to go back to base camp. I got her settled in the corral, took care of our dogs, put the tack away, etc. etc. etc. Not long afterwards, Chase and David completed their ride and joined us at camp. David, of course, asked if I was ok and then he looked over at the Sassinator. He looked back at me with tears in his eyes and told me she feels like she let me down! I then lost it and broke down in tears telling him I already know how Sassy feels. One look at her beautiful face, and almost anyone would be able to "see" what she was feeling!!

I dried my tears, went over to her and told her in no uncertain terms that she did NOT let me down, and she had nothing to apologize to me for!! The apology was from me to her because I had messed up and had her feet trimmed too close to ride day, and I explained that to her.

We were doing our best to deal with disappointment and celebrate David and Chase's accomplishment at the same time. Emotional rollercoaster? You bet!

My first reaction was to quit riding endurance. The last ride we had the issue of dehydration; this ride, I messed up and didn't have her feet trimmed early enough. In my mind, it felt like I was hurting my sweet, loyal, able-to-do-this mare! I will admit I am still pondering that decision.

Thankfully we were camped near some wonderful people; namely, Michele and Sam Sharp and Effee and Brooke Conner. Effee came over to check on us and we looked at Sassy's front hooves, and it was at that time we found the abscess! Yep.....she had a small abscess on her left front foot. Fortunately, it was draining, so I knew the pain would be ending soon, or at least I hoped it would be.

I considered then riding Chase either Friday or Saturday; we'd gone all that way, and I would have loved to have seen more of the beautiful countryside. Sadly, however, we noticed Chase was very, very footsore the next day. It made sense; he'd been trimmed the same time Sassy had been. :(

Obviously, this upset me even more, and I felt incredibly guilty.

Michele and Effee and later that evening, Monique, all were so nice, so caring and so encouraging to me! They all listened to me vent at how upset at myself I was, and they assured me that Sassy and Chase will be fine; this is something they will heal from very quickly. I sincerely thank you all for being so very kind!! You ROCK!

Thursday, July 7, 2016


This has to be one of my all-time FAVORITE videos! I was walking back to where David and our horses were waiting for me. All of a sudden, I hear hooves ~ LOTS of hooves! I grabbed my camera, and by the time I had it turned on, about 25 horses had ALREADY PASSED ME! There were 11 riders (horseback), and I think that's what made all these guys bolt. The 11 riders were actually frightened. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wow! Who knew it was going to take almost 5 weeks to finally learn whether Sassy is "ok" or not? Looking back, I'm not sure how I made it through as calmly as I did, but the news is here, so let's move forward!

First, you may recall that Sassy started to "tie up" during an endurance ride on May 11 in Mt. Carmel, Utah. If you don't know the details, please scroll to the blog post prior to this one; that way I won't repeat what many of you already know. :)

We arrived safely back in Phoenix, and our vet drew blood and had labs done. As we pretty much expected, Sassy's muscle enzyme levels did come back elevated. The specifics: normal is between 200-500; Sassy's came back at 3,000. At first, I was quite concerned, until Dr. Harvey explained that the 3,000 really only confirmed what we already knew. Sassy had "started" to tie up.

She went on to tell me that most times horses get a lot further in the tying up episode, which seriously elevates their muscle enzymes to the hundreds of thousands! She's seen results as high as 300,000! That put things more in perspective for me.

Additionally, Sassy's potassium level was a little higher than normal, but nothing alarming.

We decided that since she was still elevated after a week had passed, we would test her again and add a couple more labs; ie. Cushing's and PSSM1 and PSSM2.

Here's a link with information on Cushing's followed by a link for info on PSSM 1 and 2:



I had asked Dr. Harvey about Cushing's for two reasons; the first being I noticed Sassy wasn't totally shedding her winter coat, and the second simply being Sassy is now 17 years old.

Side note: someone actually suggested to me I should have Sassy tested for Cushing's because of her age, and then they felt the need to inform me that "Cushing's is the beginning of the end....." I don't think I'll comment on that here right now; in fact, I think most of you who are reading this know me well enough to know how insensitive I deem that comment to have been, and equally unnecessary. Why give it anymore credence?

Moving on, we had a second set of labs done, and received the results today. Sassy's levels are all normal! Of course, I wanted to jump up and down and scream "horray," but I could hear a BUT in Dr. Harvey's voice.

I told her I could hear the concern and told her I could handle knowing everything, even if it wasn't positive. I assured her I can and will deal with whatever it is; I won't fall apart because I need and want and will take care of Sassy no matter what.

She took a deep breath and replied she believes Sassy is in a gray zone, meaning we should continue to watch her closely and test her again in a few months using different procedures for the above-mentioned afflictions. She reminded me that 2 years ago I asked her if she thought Sassy could possibly have Cushing's because she still had a little winter coat left in June. Dr. Harvey asked me what made me think that at that particular time, and I told her that a horse I'd been close to had just been put to sleep because she'd had Cushing's and no one knew about it, and the horse foundered. They tried packing her feet, etc. but it was just too late and she was just in too much pain, so the owner had the mare put to sleep. I was crushed; it was the first horse I knew personally that had foundered and been euthanized.

That mare was about 4 years older than Sassy, but I was associating the disease with the teenage years (although not sure where I got that from). I was glad Dr. Harvey reminded me of that conversation, and I was surprised that I had momentarily forgotten it! She assured me then (as well as now) that Cushing's has more symptoms in addition to not shedding winter coat. Sassy wasn't exhibiting any other symptoms then, nor is she now.

So you're probably wondering the same thing I was wondering.....why is Sassy in a gray zone? I must confess I was thinking it had something to do with the fact that Sassy has had somewhat of a cresty neck since we first adopted her. At the time, of course, I did not know how significant that could become.

After adopting Sassy, Dr. Harvey came out and examined her, gave her vaccines, etc. and we discussed health care management at great detail. I was pretty green at the time, though, due to the fact I'd never owned a horse and had not been around them for about 19 years. The conversation I had today with Dr. Harvey made much more sense to me than 5 years ago, so at least I know I am learning. :)

Dr. Harvey pointed out that Rocky Mountain Horses have a tendency to become IR (insulin resistant), and their weight needs to be watched consistently. Sadly, I will never be able to get rid of Sassy's cresty neck, although it's much better now than it was 5 years ago. At some point in her life, as we all know, Sassy was not taken care of. She'd been terribly neglected, and apparently was very overweight at some time. We have no way of knowing when or for how long, nor do we know to what extent! Dr. Harvey believes Sassy either did founder or came very close to foundering sometime during those first 12 years of her lonely life. The timing was incredible for her to have been rescued when she was, which all the more convinces me she's a gift from God!

If Sassy had been taken care of the first 12 years like she has been these last 5 years, we wouldn't need to "worry" and try to stay on top of the situation, but that's not the case. As they say, "it is what it is." Therefore, I will deal accordingly.

Dr. Harvey suggests we test Sassy again in about 3 months, but in the meantime, she's given the green light to go ahead and let Sassy continue doing her endurance rides that she loves so much! We discussed retiring her, but it's too soon to make that decision. I felt very relieved and proud when Dr. Harvey told me she's comfortable making this recommendation because she knows that I am so in tune with Sassy that the second something doesn't feel right, or if Sassy acts differently, I will know about it. She said I am so "on top" of these health issues, that she's confident if/when Sassy's health changes, we'll know immediately and will be able to deal accordingly.

The feeding regimen I have Sassy on now still provides her enough calories for energy for endurance riding, and it contains very little sugar. If Sassy seems to have a little less energy than "normal," we (Dr. Harvey and I) will discuss dietary changes, but we both feel confident what I'm doing now is exactly what Sassy needs.

I rode her yesterday, and it was the first "real" conditioning ride I've done with her in about 7 weeks. She ROCKED! We did 12 miles in about 90 minutes! Sassy was having SO much fun, but I did have her slow down several times so I could evaluate her; I also had her stop completely twice so that I could check her for any signs of anything not being right. Sassy let me know during those 2 stops that the only thing that wasn't right was we weren't GOING! LOL

Gotta LOVE that Sassinator!

It's getting late, I'm still fighting bronchitis, and my eyes are closing. So, I will end this for now and post it, but I will edit it and add the rest of the information tomorrow afternoon. For those of you reading this, thank you for caring about Sassy, and thank you for allowing me to share her with you! There are some people out there who are not so keen on her, and as far as I'm concerned, that no longer bothers me. It's their loss as far as I'm concerned, and I no longer waste time worrying about their opinions.

I am a very blessed horse mom, and I thank God and my hubby each and every day. Sassy is an unusual, wonderfully-unique, extremely complex and lovingly affectionate mare. She's also strong, healthy, determined, focused and loyal; I'm so, so thankful she's allowed me to love her and honored beyond belief that she loves me back!


The last of Sassy's bloodwork results came in this morning;
she tested NEGATIVE for PSSM1 and PSSM2!!
Soooooooooooo thankful and VERY happy!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Well, I've been told that when dealing with anything having to do with horses, I should always expect the unexpected. After this last week at the Mt. Carmel XP ride in Utah, I have become an avid believer of that statement.

We drove there on Monday, May 9, filled with expectations of SO MUCH FUN! After all, this would be our second time attending the ride in Utah, and we knew how beautiful the area is. Additionally, both our horses had done so well getting through the 50-mile ride last year, which included the infamous Hill of Death, and we were very excited about riding that trail a second time. We carefully prepared our horses; alternated their conditioning workouts, making sure to increase their feed to fill their hind guts, used their most supportive saddle pads, had sponges attached to the saddles so in case they got warm, we could sponge them off with water, made sure their boots had new cables and fit well, etc. etc. etc. With every detail carefully taken care of, what could possibly go wrong? Ouch!

We left Phoenix, where it was pretty darn warm, on Monday, May 9; the horses spent 7 hours traveling in the trailer. Along the way, we stopped several times and offered water, but Sassy refused to drink. Chase does great at drinking almost any time, any place; the Sassinator, not so much.

Monday evening we arrived in Utah, and it was cold, so we blanketed horses. Tuesday morning was cold and stayed chilly most of the day. We fed and watered as we typically do the day before an endurance ride, but because of the temperature, Sassy didn't drink a whole lot.

Wednesday morning, we woke up to hail and rain. As we booted and saddled the horses, we attached their butt blankets to the saddles to keep their large muscle groups warm; we rode them around camp a few times to warm them up and when the trail opened, we began our Hill of Death ride.

The beginning of the trail means climbing, then more climbing, followed by still more climbing! Chase was anxious to go, and as usual, so was Sassy.

As we finished the last of 3 immediate climbs, I felt Sassy slow down considerably. I moved her over to let other riders pass. After about 4 or 5 minutes, she completely stopped walking, and I felt her "shivering" underneath me! I took a quick look down at her back legs and saw her trembling; I felt across the top of her rump and flanks, and they were still soft, so at least I knew she hadn't totally tied up yet. As I jumped out of the saddle and stood next to her to lead her completely off the trail, she turned her head to the side and looked at her legs. She looked up at me, and back at her legs; suddenly, she took her muzzle and "bumped" her right back leg as if trying to make it stop! I gently re-directed her to not do that, and I lightly rubbed her flank, thigh and gaskin. Her rump rug was still in place, and I straightened it as I wanted to keep those muscles covered and warm.

She and I stood off trail for about 10 minutes; several people asked if we were ok, and I would answer quickly and politely as possible, saying we were fine and they were free to pass us. Sassy was very, very distressed; she still wanted to GO. Each time a horse and rider would pass, she would toss her head; her body language to me was very clear. In my heart I knew that the sooner it was just she and myself on the trail, she would calm down enough to be able to walk back to camp.

Finally, we made it down, and as I approached the vet in base camp, Sassy snorted and started prancing! The tremors had stopped, and she was acting like her "regular" happy-hyper self.

The vet examined and found Sassy's vitals were great; heart rate was 52! I kept trying to describe what happened, and said I was concerned she was tying-up. At that point, the vet thought Sassy had just been cold, especially being that we were from Phoenix, where the temperatures were much warmer.

I got back in the saddle and rode Sassy to the beginning of the trail; as we walked, I was carefully evaluating her and even though she was acting peppy and determined, I just felt she was "off." We climbed a small section of the first hill; I stopped her and looked back at her legs. Slight tremors. Sassy on her own started to continue the climb, but I stopped her and once again dismounted. Slowly I walked her back to camp.

By this time, no one was there. The vet checks that day were out of camp, and everyone/anyone else who was there for the first day was/were out riding. I untacked Sassy, and blanketed her (it was still quite chilly outside.)

She drank a little water, and I fed her some mash. I grabbed my phone and tried to communicate with friends on facebook. No connectivity! I couldn't even get out an email.

Finally I was able to text a couple friends and explain what was happening and asked them to look up information for me on the internet. The texts made it through, but ever so slowly came the responses. In all honesty, it was a day from hell! If I could at least have gotten online to look up information, I wouldn't have been quite so stressed. Nope! I couldn't even get a cell to make a call until about 2 hours later! Very, very frustrating.....

While I was standing next to the corral trying to think of what I should do to help Sassy, I noticed she was starting to pee. When I saw the color, I nearly froze with fear! It looked just like blood; in fact, I thought it was blood! There was only about 3/4 to 1 cup on the ground, but the color was very evident. I took several photos and tried to text them to a couple friends so they could look up info on the internet. Frustration set in further because due to the area we were in, there was not enough data reception to be able to upload the photos.

My insides were shaking, my heart was racing, and I started to feel panic ~ sheer panic. Instead of giving into that emotion, though, I forced myself to breathe deeply, stay calm for Sassy and THINK. Sassy was pacing and was quite active in the corral; she'd look at me in such a way as if asking WHY was I standing there and WHY weren't we out on the trail. I talked with her forcing my voice to sound "normal" so that I wouldn't let her know how worried I was. The next thing I saw were hives on both sides of Sassy's face!? Shortly after the hives showed up, her eyes started swelling! By this point, I wanted to scream or run or beat the hell out of something ~ anything ~ but I would look in her eyes, and I knew my BEST action at that moment was to stay calm and keep her calm.

The hours dragged on, the weather warmed up, so I took Sassy's blanket off. It figured that five minutes later, the sun went behind a cloud, and it started to rain. I went and retrieved Sassy's lightweight rain blanket and put that on her.

Watching her running around in circles, I thought she needed a walk. I put on her rope halter and took her lead and we started slowly walking around camp. She seemed a little more settled by the time we got back to our trailer, and I was happy for that. I took my phone and tried to make a call, and I was finally able to get through to our vet's office! After I explained everything, the gal told me she'd get the info to our vet and would call me back asap. I told her my dilemma about lack of reception and that texting seemed to use the least amount of data. Bless her heart, she texted me back shortly with info from our vet.

In the meantime, the hives disappeared, Sassy's eyes cleared up, and she had peed again. I was able to catch it on video that time, and the color was much lighter, which I found very encouraging! When I texted that info to our vet's office, she messaged back saying that was great because it meant Sassy had not completely tied up.

Since her vitals were all good, and she was eating and drinking and voiding, I was told to keep an eye on her and evaluate her again the next day.

It was much warmer the next morning, and Sassy ate and drank well. Her urine was a wonderfully-light color, almost clear, so I finally saddled her up to go for a short ride. As soon as I got in the saddle, Miss Sassinator started moving out. I held her back, of course, and made her walk for about 10 minutes. Finally we attempted a short climb up the trail, and she did great except for wanting to go, go, go. As we continued to walk, the hill became more steep, and I noticed Sassy relenting and slowing down on her own. I stopped her and looked back at her legs to see some very mild tremors. No way was I going to continue, so I jumped out of the saddle and walked her back to camp.

Of course I consulted with the ride vets, and they wanted to do bloodwork, but they couldn't because they had no tubes onsite. We called a nearby clinic, but they were totally booked for the next 2 days. Since Sassy was doing better, I consulted with the ride vets again, and we all decided she'd be ok to travel. The first 2 days had them leaning toward her not traveling until bloodwork was done, and the extent of the tie up could be determined. Seeing how well she was eating and drinking, though, they determined her muscles were a little sore, but she'd be ok to travel.

By this time, we're coming up on Friday, and it was agreed that Sassy should have one more full day of recovery. I decided then I would ride Chase in a 50-mile ride, and I'm really glad I did. The expected week of fun and relaxation, had been anything but! David and I both knew a ride would be good for me. (I will post about my ride with Chase in a separate post, but we completed the 50 miles and had a great time!)

I'm skipping ahead here to how Sassy's doing now. We took her to see our vet, Dr. Harvey, yesterday. After completely evaluating Sassy, blood was drawn and sent out to the lab to try to determine if this tie up was, in fact, a perfect storm from several unrelated factors, or if there is a hormone / metabolic problem we need to address.

Dr. Harvey highly doubts Sassy has Cushing's; that was discussed because she hasn't yet completely shed out her winter coat. I was assured that's not unusual at all, and Sassy presents no other symptoms of Cushing's.

Dr. Harvey knows Sassy well, she's been her vet for over 5 years; she pointed out several things to me, which helped put this all in perspective. We had traveled from very warm temperatures; Sassy had spent basically a day inside a trailer without drinking (even though she'd been offered water); upon arriving in Utah, the temperatures dropped drastically, and, as she pointed out, when any of us is cold, we don't drink as much. That brings us to almost 2 days of Sassy not taking in enough water. Yes, she drank on Tuesday, but not enough to make up for what she did not drink while traveling on Monday. We woke up to hail and rain Wednesday morning, and Sassy didn't even want much mash before we saddled up! Perfect storm.

We are anxiously awaiting the lab results, and the minute we receive those, I'll be sure to update. In the meantime, Sassy is resting, not being ridden, but being kept pretty quiet. We massaged her, and, thankfully, she doesn't seem sore any longer.

Monday, March 14, 2016

MARCH 11-13 Old Pueblo Endurance Ride SONOITA, AZ

What an incredible weekend! We went to the Old Pueblo Endurance Ride in SONOITA, AZ this past Wednesday. Our original intent was to ride the 55-mile on Friday followed by the 50-mile on Saturday and come home Sunday.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to find anyone to crew for us, so we had to adjust our goals, which worked out just fine. We've been doing our own "crewing" for the last year, but riding back-to-back e-rides is much more involved in terms of preparation, etc. Taking care of the dogs, getting horses untacked, cooled down, brushed/groomed, ice-booting their legs followed by poulticing their legs, then finally getting ourselves fed is quite time-consuming. Add to that the preparations for early the next morning, and there's just not enough time for sleep.

We decided to take Saturday off and ride the LD on Sunday instead.

Thursday afternoon, we took Sassy and Chase over to vet in for the next day's ride. Sassy vetted in with all A's and heart rate of 32. Unlike the last ride, these vets are very familiar with gaited horses, and they told me she has a beautiful Rocky Mountain gait. :)

Chase vetted in also with all A's, heart rate of 44, and his smooth TWH/Spotted Saddle gait was recognized as well. :)

It was nice to have them graded as we know they should be - gaited ponies. :)

So, the next morning, we saddled up and took off on our 55-mile adventure. It started out great; the temperature was cool, the sunrise was gorgeous, the ponies were feeling their oats. After a controlled start, horses and riders spread out, and the fun was apparent.

As typical for the start of a ride, the ponies are extremely energetic, and anxious to go. I typically let Sassy canter and gallop a little so she gets it out of her system early. So it was that morning, until, almost 4 miles into the first loop, I suddenly noticed my left rein hanging. Hmmm, I thought, that's interesting.

I managed to slow my steam engine enough to move her off the trail, and I jumped down. As I looked, there was my Mylar bit dangling, with one part of it on the left rein, and the other on the right rein. It actually had BROKEN! Obviously that was very odd, and an experience I had never had before, and not an experience I was eager to take on at the beginning of a 55-miler! LOL

Telling myself to ponder that later, I quickly removed Sassy's headstall and tried to devise a makeshift way of somehow controlling her. And those of you who know her know that was a serious challenge!

Fortunately, a rider behind us stopped and offered to let me use her sidepull rope halter. Btw, I had never even seen one before. ;) NO worries; I put said halter on the Sassinator, clipped reins to it, thanked the gal and climbed back up in the saddle.

SIDE NOTE: David (still on Chase) never moved. LOL. They stood quietly and watched.

As I climbed up in the saddle, I looked at them and said, "let's roll!" David took a deep breath and asked if I was sure about this. I laughed and answered, "What other choice do I have? Just gotta do it!"

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Here's something I am so surprised about, that it chokes me up. While riding with no bit, and me in the saddle, Sassy and I managed to open 2 gates! David and Chase closed them.

We continued on and knew after the water break that we were getting closer to base camp and the 45-minute vet hold. Yay! I knew since we had gotten to that point without anything else breaking, we'd make it to the trailer where I could grab a non-broken bit. LOL

Well......not quite!! Only a few miles from camp, Sassy and I both recognized the trail from last year. I knew what she was thinking ~ Oh yeah.......let's fly! This section of the ride had become Sassy's favorite; the footing is wonderful, there are twists and turns, a little climbing and descending, and even bramble bushes she loves to jump over! I immediately knew she was going to be a handful. LOL Whispering in her ear, I let her know she could canter, but I was not going to allow her to gallop. We compromised on a "CANLOP." LOL (half canter, half gallop ~ Sassy language)

Suddenly, I hear a very strange noise, and I feel her gait change a little. Having no front brakes, I squeezed as hard as I could and got her to stop. I looked down, and her left rear boot had totally twisted. She was going to just ignore that little tidbit of information, but that was not allowed. I moved her off the trail, removed the boot and saw that she was bleeding; not a lot, but I still wanted to take care of it immediately. After I sprayed her foot with Vetericyn and secured the boot back on, I climbed back up into the saddle and off we went. She surprised me by completely standing still! Trust me, for Sassy, that is absolutely amazing. :)

Riding without a bit would have been the furthest thing from my mind until I had no choice. I have been told a true equestrian could ride that way any time, any place without a problem. My response? They have my utmost respect!!

For Sassy and myself, however, this is a huge milestone! We have taken only a few group lessons; sadly neither of us have had formal training. I've learned a lot from Sassy herself, as well as asking riders for tips, watching videos online, reading, reading, reading, etc. Considering the void of lessons, plus our age(s), I hope you don't mind me saying how very proud I am of us both.

We rode 16 1/2 miles, maybe a little more, in that skinny rope halter! My girl knew she could have run to her heart's content, and a couple times, she did test the waters. In the end, however, our mutual love and respect were truly recognized.

After we successfully vetted in for the 45-minute hold, we quickly went to the trailer. While the ponies were chowing down their mash and drinking water, David quickly walked the dogs and got them set back up for the afternoon, and I grabbed another bit and put the headstall back together. Time for a quick gulp of water, and back in the saddle for the second loop. That was another whirl of fun, and with no equipment malfunctions I'm happy to say. Back to base camp for our second 45-minute vet hold, and back out to the third loop. Both ponies were still looking and acting fresh as we did our trot-by third vet check and went out for the fourth and final loop. The 55 miles were suddenly all behind us; amazing how quickly it seems to fly by!!!

After our last vet check and completions, we retired to the trailer for most of the rest of the afternoon. We took care of the horses and doggies, had a small bite to eat, and then fell asleep feeling tired, but proud .... very, very proud!

Our actual ride time (moving time, not including vet holds) we found out the next morning was 7 hours, 15 minutes. We're more than ecstatic with that time! Our horses have come a long, long way in a rather short period of time; they're all heart, and they give us all they have. We're lucky, lucky horse parents!

I will be updating this post with links to some videos of ride highlights ~ you know, without a bit ~ LOL. I'll also be posting about the LD ride we did on Sunday. For now, though, I have ponies to go feed, and.....oh, a little more unpacking to be done. Here are some video highlights of the 55~mile ride:

This one is from just before the bit broke:

Next up, this video I shot right after the bit broke, and we now have a rope halter with reins attached to it:

This next one shows where I had to pass a couple riders (usually we pass on the left, but the riders didn't move, so I had no choice but to pass on the right); Sassy was a little tough to handle here, and I tried to explain to them:

Coming up next is Sassy trudging through a bunch of water, and it's a big deal because she used to be terrified of water!

Monday, February 29, 2016


I have quite a story to write here, but first, a little preliminary history so it all makes better sense.

In May, 2015, Sassy and I completed a 55-mile ride in Utah at Mt. Carmel.  Two days later, we attempted another 50-mile ride and things were going very well.

Around mile 15, though, Sassy developed an intermittent limp; at least that's what it felt like.  I asked David if she appeared to be limping, and he said no.  Several other riders also said she looked just fine.  Still, I just "felt" something was not quite right; I dismounted, and I walked her back to base camp.

The vets both checked her over really carefully, and could find absolutely nothing wrong!  In a way that was very reassuring; I still had that "gut" feeling, though, and could not shake it.

The vets suggested I ice Sassy's legs during the vet hold, and they would check her again in 30 minutes; if all appeared fine, I could take her back out on the trail.  It took me less than one second to explain that the only place I was taking Sassy was to the trailer!  Knowing her as well as I do, I knew something just wasn't right.  I pulled her out of the race, took her to our camp, iced her legs and we both rested.

Fast forward about 3 weeks from that day; every once-in-awhile, Sassy still appeared (to me) to have an intermittent limp.  I wasn't sleeping at night from worrying, so I took her to see Dr. Voss, a lameness specialist at Arizona Equine.

He put Sassy through a battery of tests for over an hour, and we found the "problem." She'd been wearing steel shoes, and the shoer was doing a less than stellar job.  Sassy's heels were way to high, and the shape of her hoof was starting to elongate!  Dr. Voss suggested the shoer apply the shoes to his (Dr.Voss) specifications.  He provided me with both pictures and written instructions.

I presented those to our shoer, and he said he completely disagreed with Dr. Voss!  Long story short, I fired him.  I had Sassy evaluated by two different barefoot trimmers, and had her shoes removed.  The first prognosis was that I wouldn't be riding the Sassinator for at least a year!!!  That's what terrible shape her feet were in!!  I consulted with another barefoot trimmer, who was able to relieve pressure on Sassy's right front foot, and in so doing, we found THE problem!  She'd had an abscess that had manifested while we were in Utah!  That's why she'd been intermittently limping!

We rehabbed her, and she's been healing very nicely; in fact, her shoes were pulled July 31, and we actually competed in an endurance ride October 3 at Mingus Mountain!!!  We successfully finished the ride in 3 hours and 41 minutes, with all A's!

Once again, I had Sassy completely checked over by our vet, who agreed with Dr. Voss's  findings and assured me that Sassy IS sound.  That being said, I must add that Sassy IS a gaited horse, and not all vets are familiar with all the gaits these horses bring to the trails.

At Mingus Mountain, one of the vets was actually not going to "complete" Sassy's accomplishment because she thought Sassy's gait was "off!"   I told the vet that Sassy's gaited, and that what appears to be stiffness is the way the gait looks from the back, but that Sassy most definitely is not lame.

Well, she didn't want to take my word for it and consulted the other vet; fortunately he was (is) familiar with the gaits and assured the first vet that, in fact, Sassy is sound, and we left with our completion.

Whew!  Since then, we've completed another 50-mile ride, which makes the Sassinator very happy!  Fast forward to February 27 and our attempt at another 50-mile ride in Wickenburg, AZ.

We arrived Friday afternoon and set up camp as usual.  After filling out our paperwork, we took Sassy and Chase over for the vet check.  Chase and David were in line just ahead of Sassy and me; while one of the vets was checking Chase over, I was called over to the other vet.

As always, Sassy received all A's on her vet card, and her heart rate was 42.  Time to trot her out and back so the vet can check for soundness.

I took the lead, gave a "click" with my tongue, and Sassy and I took off.  She went into her beautiful racking gait without hesitation.  We ran to the cone, turned around and she racked all the way back without falter.

While Sassy and I were on the way out, the vet looked at David and said, 'her butt's moving side to side!?'  David replied, 'well, yea, she's a gaited horse.'

I came back smiling, (having NO idea anything was supposedly wrong) and the vet card was handed to me.  In so doing, the vet said to me, "I've never seen anything like that before."  Not fully understanding what he meant, I took the card and walked about two steps figuring we were finished.  As I looked at the vet card, I asked the vet what he meant to which he replied he's not familiar with gaited breeds and ever saw a horse swing their butt side to side.  I'm a little slow sometimes; I thought he was teasing, just trying to be funny.  In other words, I was still not anticipating a problem!

Very quickly, though, the light came on.  He intended to leave the B on Sassy's vet card!  Sorry, folks, but that's unacceptable in my world.  It may not mean anything to some of you, but to me it does.  Sassy has come a LONG way, and has made so much progress; she had to learn to gait all over again after being abandoned for 5 years and then being ridden as a non-gaited breed at the rescue ranch because they were not familiar with gaited horses either!!

Sassy "floats;" Sassy "glides;" Sassy is VERY sound; therefore, a B makes NO SENSE???!!!

I spoke with a Ride Manager, and she took us to the other vet and explained we needed a re-eval done on the trot out.  Right from the very second that vet laid eyes on Sassy and me, I sensed an attitude.  At first, I told myself it was my imagination, and I respectfully explained why I was questioning the B.  She looked at me, sighed, and told me to go ahead and run Sassy out and back.

I proudly took the lead and gave another "click" and off we went.  Again, sheer perfection.  Sassy immediately went into that beautiful rack and turned around and racked back.  The vet folded her arms across her chest, looked at me and said she wanted me to run her again.  I looked at her and replied, 'ok.'  Before I could move, however, the vet put her hand up toward me and told me to "rest a minute and catch my breath."  I really need to not assume people are positive and playful all the time; why?  Because this vet was not positive nor playful; not even friendly!  At least not to us!  I looked at her and said I was fine; she insisted I wait and catch my breath because she didn't want me to collapse!!!???

Folks, I wasn't out of breath to begin with!  A little background here:  I taught aerobics for OVER 20 years, and I still work out EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I asked David if I appeared to be out of breath, and he said not at all.  And trust me, he would let me know!

Anyway, I let her know I was fine, and I ran Sassy out and back AGAIN.  Just like the previous 2 times, Sassy did exactly what was asked of her.   As we stopped in front of the vet, she scrunched her nose and asked me how old is Sassy.  (It's written on the vet card.......)   I answered that she's 17 years old.  The vet dramatically threw her head and rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, well, come on!!  She's old!  She's got the right to be stiff with arthritis; she's 17!!!  Let's cut her some slack." ?????

Now, to some of you, that would be NO BIG DEAL.  Not the case with me, and this time, I will not apologize for my sensitivity.  I was disrespected as a person, and my horse was disrespected as well!

Instead of saying what I was thinking, I simply turned and started to leave.  She then very loudly said, 'it's no big deal; you can still ride tomorrow.  We're not disqualifying her.'

I did not bother to respond; it was better I not because I was no longer feeling positive.  It was taking every ounce of energy for me to not lash out and tell her what I think of her disrespectful manner!  David was not thrilled either with her reference to me catching my breath so I don't collapse.  ??  Now, if I had been huffing and puffing, that would have been completely different!  Personally I wouldn't speak to someone in that manner, especially being unprovoked.  Where's the basic respect??

Bad enough she disrespectfully spoke to me, but add then her sarcastic demeanor while telling me Sassy's old, stiff and arthritic ~~  well, that's a recipe for complete disharmony to say the least!

I convinced myself to calm down, take care of the things needed done that evening in preparation for the ride the next day.  Sadly I slept fitfully that night, but somehow managed to start the next morning with a positive, happy attitude and with a huge smile on my face.  Of course, I must give Sassy the credit for my smile; how can I not smile when with her?

Despite the intensity of the trails, Sassy flew through both morning vet checks with flying colors!  She pulsed right in at 64 both times, had great gut sounds, was not dehydrated and was not lame.

After the one-hour hold of the second vet check, we went out for Loop 3.  We had finished the first two loops in only 4 1/2 hours; the third loop was seriously nothing but deep washes, lots and lots of rocks, with more rocks in-between, and intense climbing, climbing, climbing and then, of course, descending, descending and more descending.  It took us 3 hours to go 13 miles!  After completing 26 miles in 4 1/2 hours, it's obvious how tough the 13-mile loop was for it to take 3 hours.

Still, coming into the 3rd vet check, Sassy pulsed in immediately at 64!!!  Unfortunately, we had to wait in line, and there was a lot of chaos.  Other riders hosing their horses off, getting them sponged down, horses eating, drinking, waiting, swishing tails, etc. etc. etc.

Sassy does not like to stand still, does not like to wait and her heart rate spiked up by the time we got to the vet.  He knew Sassy had already pulsed down to 64 as it was recorded on the small vet card given to us when we get off the trail and come into the vet-hold area.  Still, her heart rate shot up when she became frustrated with having to stand andwait.   He suggested I wait 10 minutes, and he'd try again. We hosed her down, and one of the ride managers took her pulse, and she again was at 64. We moved up a little, and had to wait again.  Being the impatient mare she is, she started throwing her head in frustration, which spiked her heart rate to 78!   We hosed her again, and it lowered to 64 for a 4th time.  That was great, except by the time we got to the vet, we knew it was going to take too long for us to go back out and finish that last loop. 

When asked to take her heart rate so that we could then RO (meaning Rider Option to stop the ride for our horses), the vet refused!  She commented that the horse is old, and since her heart rate went up after her coming in at 64, she wasn't going to do anything except pull her!!! I made sure at that exact minute to tell the Ride Managers to give us an RO, and they used the heart rate they got, which was 64.   The next morning, the ride managers had a meeting to decide whether Sassy's record was going to read she was pulled for metabolic reasons, or the owner decided to "opt out" of completing the ride.   Since they'd seen the whole ordeal and were active in helping cool Sassy and tried to help alleviate her agitation from waiting, they agreed with me that Sassy most definitely could have gone out and finished that ride!!  They apologized to me, and they granted me the RO.

.......to be continued...........


First endurance ride of 2016 was January 23 at Bumblebee Ranch!  It was just fantastic!  We rode our best 50-mile completion to date, and we all went home healthy, sound and happy.

We started out just before daybreak and watched a gorgeous sunrise and felt the cool, crisp air on our faces.  The horses love the brisk temperatures; it makes them playful, frisky and energetic.

The trails were challenging, but most definitely manageable.  We rode with our friend, Andrea and her beautiful mustang, Lily.  Our pace was a pretty even 6.7 to 6.8 sometimes 6.9 mph, and all 3 ponies flew through their vet checks with flying colors!

Here's a photo from our ride:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sassy ~ AKA Sassinator


My mare, Sassy, had a very rocky start in life.  She was labeled “very forward-going” and proved too difficult for the original owners to handle.  Originally ridden by a 16-year-old, Sassy was to be a cutting horse.

Unusual calling for a Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse?  Not really.  Farmers found this breed to be strong,  cooperative and very willing “to work.”

Sassy was sold, and, sadly, not treated well.  Approximately 4 years after living with the new owner, Sassy stayed behind when they moved out of state!  For the next 5 ½ long years, Sassy was alone in a field.  She was given water by neighbors, but mainly existed on her own.  That still brings tears to my heart ~ the thought of my girl lonely.   The “up” side, however, was she learned to be self-sufficient and to take care of herself.

Before being put up for adoption, Sassy was taken to a rescue ranch and put under saddle for 3 weeks on trails.  We saw a video of her and decided to see about adopting her.

When we met her, she didn’t look like the mare we’d seen on film.  Her head was down, hair falling out in patches, she had 4 bruised feet, and no record of ever having been vaccinated.  From being tangled in burrs, her mane was roached; her tail was cut beneath the dock for the same reason.  No muscle definition, no energy; she just looked defeated.

I stood in front of this sad, worn-out mare while the ranch manager told us about her.  They called her “Donia;” she was quiet, but cooperative, hadn’t made friends with other horses, but didn’t fight with them either. She was once registered with the Rocky Mountain and Kentucky Mountain Horse Associations.   

(Upon registering her, I learned she’s mostly Rocky Mountain and about 30% Arabian.)

None of that mattered to me, however; my heart literally hurt watching this “old, over-the-hill mare.” 
Suddenly, Sassy raised her head ever so slowly; her eyes met mine bringing time to a screeching halt!  Our eyes locked, and a communication, an eventual relationship of respect and love was born.  She didn’t look away from me, and I couldn’t look away from her!  Her eyes literally spoke to my heart; I thought we’d be a good match, especially since I’d been away from horses for 19 years!  Sassy would be a slow, good beginner horse.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Fast-forward 18 months; it had taken 9 months for Sassy and I to connect.  She had every reason not to trust me, and for a long time she didn’t!  I resorted to sitting inside her stall pretending to read a book, not letting her know I was paying any attention at all.

Finally, curiosity overwhelmed her; she began sniffing my hair and nudging my arm.  Still, I paid no attention.  This went on for weeks!  Being patient worked!  One day while I was feeding, she walked over and followed me around the barn and pasture!

At last it was time for our first outing.  Filled with hope and excitement, I saddled my mare and attempted to climb up into the saddle to participate in a group riding class.  NO way!  Instead Sassy skirted away, not letting me mount.  Frustrated, we stood in the back of the arena and watched instead of participating.

When class ended, my mare absolutely refused to load in the trailer!  The instructor gave me a lesson in handling a strong-willed horse like Sassy.  As I watched her “communicate” with this complicated creature, I suddenly “got it!”   She’d been testing me to see if I was worthy of being her alpha!

A quick bonding process took place; suddenly we were attending classes and riding in the desert.  I was no longer afraid of this magnificent mare, and she actually “liked” me in spite of herself.

Each outing, we rode 4-6 hours working our way up to 8-9 hours!  Friends teased me because this mare NEVER tires.  We decided the day I finally wore her out, we were throwing a party.

One day we met 2 riders who told us about “Endurance Riding.”   A friend from high school had mentioned endurance also.  The info I received intrigued me, so I looked into it.

Sassy was now in outstanding physical condition; our vet calls her “chiseled.”  We started clocking our mileage, and were easily completing 20, 25, up to 28 miles in a day.  I found out about an endurance event close by and entered.

People did a double take when we said we were attempting 50 miles on our first ride.  I was advised to start with an LD.  Undeterred, Sassy and I started our journey and had gone 44 miles when my husband’s horse took a fall.  His horse was fine, but hubby had a bad cramp in his leg and couldn’t continue.  Sadly, we decided to RO at 44 miles and returned to base camp.  I have no doubt, however, that Sassy could have and would have finished that first 50.

Our next ride, 6 weeks later, was a 55-miler; Sassy and I successfully completed 67 miles, though, because I mistakenly took a wrong turn!  A friend watched us come in and cross the finish line; Sassy pulsed in immediately at 58!  My friend laughed and called her the Sassinator!  One day later, we completed an LD.

A month later, we conquered another 50; 6 weeks later, another 50!  Two months later, we finished an LD in 13th place!   We find ourselves anxiously awaiting each new endurance event!
Sassy, now nicknamed “Sassinator” finally found her calling!  We had previously tried the show ring and did ok, taking a few ribbons, but the name of Sassy’s game is Endurance!  She’s never been happier!

By the way, that old, sad, worn-out mare is 17 years young!  Who knew?  SHE DID!