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.