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!