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. be continued...........

No comments: