"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Monday, October 27, 2014

Fort Valley 50: The Ride


Friday: The Fort Valley 50

The First Loop: 18 miles
I woke up twice during the night to check on the horses and toss more hay as it seemed fit. They ate hay and drank nearly the entire muck bucket of water throughout the night. As it turns out, Liz and I were on alternate shifts: she was waking up basically 1-2 hours after I was and doing the same thing! She caught Lily sleeping flat on her side that evening, which is absolutely fantastic: 100% relaxed mare at her second ride ever! I guess that made one of us that slept well that night? ;)

The next morning I was a bundle of nerves. Lily ate half of her mash (I wasn't too worried because she had eaten hay pretty much throughout the entire night and like I said in the previous paragraph, they had drunk nearly an entire muck bucket of water that we had topped off at 10:00 pm) and was antsy, so while Liz finished getting ready, I longed Lily for 5 minutes to let her get the willies out. She trotted and cantered but didn't throw any bucks or leaps, which made me happy. Her brain seemed to be in a good place after all. 

I gave Lily a dose of electrolytes and Charles held her for me while I mounted up and prayed to Daniel to make her behave. Lily took 3 dancey steps while Liz and Q waited patiently next to us. It worked: Lily settled immediately and was happy to walk down to the start line next to her buddy. We checked in at the start line, said good-bye to Charles and rode off at a walk. I want to note: Lily was wearing Vipers on the fronts and Renegades on the hinds. Both are by Lander Industries, but the Vipers work better for rounder feet and the Renegades tend to work better for more spade-shaped hoofers. I was hoping this combination would hold up for the entire ride. I had packed my other 2 Vipers and 2 Easyboot Gloves in my cantle bag, along with a roll of mueller tape and Vetrap. That's the sole purpose of my cantle bag: to carry boots!

I needn't have worried: Lily was "up", yes, but she had absolutely no issue staying at a walk at my gentle request, though this was not true for all of the horses. We watched a gray Arab in front of us spook at the end of the concrete bridge we had to cross. His steel-shod feet slipped and all 4 legs splayed out as he almost hit the pavement chest-first. His rider stayed on and they moved out okay, but it was scary to watch.  

We trotted on up the hill then veered right onto the trail. 

We started catching and passing horses as our mares powered on up the first hill in the trail, Lily in the lead. And then the cables on one of Q's Vipers snapped and Liz had to get off to replace the boot. Once that was sorted out, we continued on our way. 

We walked the mares down a very rocky section of trail, going down the mountain for a ways. We trotted where we could but walked most of it because there would be plenty of time later to pick up speed. The views from this part of the mountain were quite spectacular.

Riders in front of us.
Lily's ears saying, "You're sure you don't want me to catch up to them? Because I totally can..."
Liz and Q.
Yup it was a rocky trail. Liz asked, "So, after the Old Dominion, what do you think of this?"
My response: "I'm perfectly fine with this." And so was Lily.
Gorgeous, GORGEOUS peak fall colors on the Virginia mountains.
We continued on down the mountain at a walk, until the drag riders caught up to us and then we picked up a trot. We did feel a little harassed because we were making good time and would have plenty of opportunities later on to pick up speed and this was just the first loop, but we trotted on until they were well out of sight behind us.

There was one spot that Liz recognized from last year: there is a farm next to the trail where the grass was really tall last year. The farm has a small obese flaxen-maned gray miniature stallion that charged the fence through the grass spooking all of the horses. This year the grass was short and Liz was able to point out the mini as he took off running from across his field towards the fence. We leaped off of our horses as he turned towards us, galloping up the fence line while making these horrible snorting/snuffling/grunting noises that made him sound more like a pig than a horse. 

Lily and Q LOST. IT. 

Lily bolted backwards as fast as she could go as Q spun around in a circle and managed to somehow get herself between Lily and me. I almost lost my grip on the reins when I couldn't get past Q's rump but Lily slammed on the brakes when she hit the end of the reins just as Liz pulled Q out of the way and I was able to get my other hand on the reins. 

We managed to get the mares moderately calmed down and hand-walked them past the offending mini, who followed us on his side of the fence, still making his pig noises. Now that I could see him more closely, he literally looked like a gray pig with a white mane and tail. He was tiny, smaller than Kenai, and so fat that he had absolutely no waistline. Even his neck was short and set funny on his shoulders...he really looked like a pig with a wig.

Liz was getting ready to mount up when I realized I had a boot snafu and had to stop and fix it. Lily just stood there with the reins on the ground while I messed with her hoof and the boot. I could hear Liz talking to Q and still trying to get her to calm down. "She is so good for you for that," Liz said, as Lily obediently picked up her foot, held it up while I wrapped her hoof and stuck the boot back on, then put it back down when I took a step away, and weighted the foot so I could do the straps. She really is a saint, and I've gotten to the point where I take for granted the little things like this that she does for me that make life with her so easy.

When I was done, I realized that the mini had followed us all the way to the other side of his pasture and was still just standing there watching us from his side of the fence, which is why Q was still so worked up. By this point Lily was over the mini. "Oh...it's just a fugly little horse." 

We continued walking until it seemed safe to mount up again, and continued on down the trail at a trot. Eventually it led us onto a stone dust paved road where we were really able to pick up speed. We cantered along, the mares' booted feet ringing in a staccato beat on the harder footing, one mare's hoofbeats filling the spaces between the hoofbeats of the other, making us sound like some sort of equine train: "Chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh." It was a pretty and unusual sound and it became my favorite sound of the day. 



What comes next gets blurry because the first and second loops of the Fort Valley 50 double back on one another, so they are already mixed up in my mind. There was a second long but moderate climb, which is where these photos were taken. The views were breathtaking:


We had to stop to take photos.
Halfway through this climb Lily said, "Okay, I need a break from leading." Which was absolutely fine.
Q led the way for the rest of this stretch up the mountain and back into camp.

Moving along the ridgeline
Beautiful colors everywhere. I think I was grinning this entire ride.


While riding across the ridgeline, I ate the Powerbar and the Energy Blend I had packed.

And then we were going back downhill, back the way we had come to begin this loop. 

We rode past Becky Pearman and that's when she snagged this photo: 
This is what she looked like for 50 miles!
We trotted the rest of the way towards camp and slowed to a walk as we came onto the last stretch of road. Liz's GPS had clocked the ride in at about 17 miles instead of 18, and the miles had just flown by as they tend to do when you're riding a good horse with good company across gorgeous land. 

I dismounted as we arrived at the concrete bridge that had caused issues for other horses that morning, loosened Lily's girth and removed her bit. We hand-walked into the hold exactly 3 hours after we had left: right on schedule. Charles was waiting for us with a crew area set up for both Lily and Q. He did a stellar job as our one-man crew for this ride!

Crew area near the vet check. 
Both mares' heart rates were down within about 10 minutes of arriving. 


Waiting for our turn at the check.
Since it was cool (in the low 50's), tack removal was optional. We chose to leave tack on to keep the girls' backs warm, which is what everyone else was doing. Q breezed through uneventfully and Lily also passed the check with mainly flying colors. Her CRI was 60/60 (Cardiac Recovery Index, which compares the heart rate pre trot-out vs post trot-out. Very fit horses will have an equal or lower heart rate AFTER the trot-out). I think she was given B's on one or two hydration parameters but I wasn't surprised because a) there had not been much water on this loop and b) it is normal for Lily to not drink for the first 18 miles when the weather is cooler. 

We had a 45 minute hold so we walked the mares back to the trailer. Q had a mash at Liz's trailer so I set Lily loose in the corral, which ended up being a great idea: she alternately ate her mash and walked around, relaxed, eating her hay and carrots that Charles offered, and both pooping and urinating. Her urine was a light yellow color: completely normal. 

Relaxed, happy mare.
She didn't finish her mash, which I had left soaking that morning, so I made her a fresh batch that she dug into. She only ate half of the second batch, but between the two she had eaten the equivalent of an entire pan of mash. In the meantime, Charles filled our water bottles and both Liz and I ate. I chugged half a Gatorade, a bottle of cold water, and attacked my pollo en escabeche dish and ended up eating at least half of what I packed in one sitting. It really hit the spot. Brilliant idea to go to the trouble of making it ahead!

I had been wearing a long sleeved Patagonia Capilene 2 shirt + a short-sleeved microfiber shirt over it under my safety vest. It was starting to warm up so I changed into only a dry long-sleeved Cap 2 shirt and both Liz and I donned our safety vests again for the second loop. I mounted up at the trailer to use the mounting block. To my surprise, Lily had another brief moment of hyperactivity, "LET'S GO!" I had to burst out laughing. The conditioning work I had put into her during the last 4 months was really paying off. She walked out quietly at my request.

On our way to the start
Ready to rumble!

The Second Loop: 16 Miles
We trotted back up the paved road and across the concrete bridge like we had for the first loop. Q was pretty unmotivated at the start of this loop so we did some walking but once we reached one of the initial steeper hills, Lily really wanted to trot so I let her move out. We stopped to wait for Liz and Q at the first switchback, then trotted on together, Lily in the lead. Liz and Q pulled us along at the Old Dominion, and Lily and I were able to return the favor on this ride. 

We dismounted and hand-walked the mares down the same mountain that we had ridden them down in the first loop. I had been expecting this and had worn my hiking boots in preparation, which made negotiating the rocks easy. We probably hiked about a mile before we mounted up again, when the ground was more level. The mares picked up a trot and we continued on down the trail.   Eventually we came to a pipe gate where we turned the opposite direction from the first loop, which would take us through the woods for a ways, and eventually to very pretty white pine forest that Liz remembered from last year. Last year it had been great for cantering but this time it was kind of muddy so we just trotted through for fear of more boot issues (more on that later).

This trail offered plenty of access to small creek crossings and puddles. Lily drank at every. single. water source. Even the puddles. I was beyond thrilled. She used to be picky about her water sources: it had to be clear water, and it had to be deeper than her fetlocks. -_- Not anymore! We did get to ride into the Shenandoah River, where the mares got to stand in knee-deep water, drink their fill, and cool off.


Derp ears. She was shaking her head.

Liz and Q-Bee
We did some long stretches of FS road through the woods as the trail started very gradually yet steadily climbing as it took us in sweeping loops across the sides of the mountain. We did a lot of trotting and cantering here, Lily still in the lead.

Love her ears
Autumn!!

And then we got to the worst climb of the ride, which after the awful 5-mile rocky climb of the Old Dominion, was nothing. It was the toughest part of this ride, yes, and I would have found it difficult if I hadn't done the OD in the summer. But given how awful the OD was, this seemed okay by comparison. The mares were still getting a workout though. We rode for the first section of this climb then dismounted and led them the rest of the way up. The entire climb was maybe 2 miles long. It was really good to get off and walk. I started to get really stiff while the mares were climbing. Liz and I were still feeling good as we reached the top so we continued leading them on most of the downward climb on the other side. Both girls had a nice long break from having to carry us. One big difference between this ride and the Old Dominion was all the talking. We were relaxed and happy and not worried about having to race the clock, and Liz and I chattered most of the time that our horses were not actually cantering. It made the ride feel like just one really long trail ride instead of a competition. It's a big difference when you can ride so many miles with a friend. Once the ground started leveling off, we got on to trot some more. During this short section we had to slow to a walk a couple of times to allow other riders to pass or to pass other riders, and each time we slowed from walk to trot, my hamstrings cramped up. Can I just say OW?! I groaned silently: I had brought my elyte pills but had forgotten to pack them in my saddle bags, so I had taken none during the ride so far. I had been drinking water but it was not enough even on this cooler ride. Live and learn. Taking my feet out of the stirrups and wiggling my feet helped release the cramps. We just kept trotting until we were within sight of the concrete bridge on the way back into camp. Again we dismounted at the bridge, loosened girths, and I removed Lily's bit, leading the mares into the vet check area. We stripped tack for this one. Lily and Q drank a bucket and a half of water each, which made Charles have to scramble to get more! We sponged their legs and bellies down to help them cool off.


Q was down about 5 minutes before Lily but Liz had to make a line. Charles and I were taking turns listening to Lily's heart while the other sponged. When Lily dropped to 66, I walked her over to the check since we would be waiting. The person at the pulse check prior to the vet check obtained a heart rate of 60 by the time it was our turn. We were right behind Liz and Q.
Liz waits with Q by the vet check while we vetted so Lily wouldn't get stressed over not seeing Q.
Lily went through with the same scores as before, with a B for skin tenting and capillary refill time. I was a little surprised by that given how well she had been drinking but she had A's on everything else and the vet was not concerned. Her CRI was 64/64. 64 was the highest heart rate allowed. I was a little surprised that it wasn't lower but it was warming up (temps were now in the 60's), this was only our second endurance ride, and there were a lot of horses around us: Lily had been antsy and nickering occasionally at other horses while we waited, and she had tried to dance away from the vet when they ausculted her, something which she never does.

Trot out
The vet did note that she was a little girthy on the left side, so back at the trailer I swapped out her Woolback for a second girth which I'd brought just in case: Lily's original fleece dressage girth with a Woolback girth cover. Both mares ate their mashes in the same arrangement as before: Q at the trailer, Lily in the pen. Lily urinated yellow and pooped and ate most of her mash. She had another dose of electrolytes before we tacked up. It was another 45 minute hold and I ended up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out a different underwear situation because I was starting to chafe. Note: if you have chafing issues, bring extra underwear. Just changing into dry underwear at the hold can do the trick. I barely had time to eat though. Charles started threatening, "I'm going to eat your chicken if you don't sit down to eat!" "NO! Don't eat my chicken! I just need to do one more thing!" Liz made me a turkey and provolone wrap that she shoved into my hand that I was able to finish while running around getting my act together. Charles filled my water bottles with half Gatorade and half water, and I shoved 5 elyte pills in my mouth that were chased down with 600 mg of ibuprofen. I was starting to get sore.
Liz studies the trail map from last year's FV 50.
Not sure why they didn't provide maps this year.
The highlight of this hold was Gail! She was riding Nimo in their first LD on Saturday and we knew she would be arriving around this time. I looked over and pointed out to Liz what I was pretty sure were Gail's truck and trailer, with her cattle panel corral next to it, just across the way from us. Gail and Nimo were nowhere in sight so we figured they were out for a walk exploring. Gail showed up as we were starting to tack up, so we had the opportunity to catch up quickly before it was time for Liz and I to continue onto the third loop. Lily was given another dose of electrolytes before I hopped on.

 Lily's attitude? "Oh, we're going out again? Rock on."

Third Loop: 15 Miles
Both of the mares were in the afternoon doldrums but Lily snapped out of it well before Q. We had our last boot snafu at the beginning of this loop. I had SO MANY boot issues throughout this ride that I actually lost count of them. I had packed in the trailer 5 Vipers, 2 Renegades and 4 Easyboot Gloves total, and made sure I had 4 boots in my cantle bag at the beginning of each loop. The cables on 2 Vipers frayed, the cables on the third Viper slid, the cables on one of the Renegades slid. The Easyboots stayed on, but they were on for most of the third loop only and I did apply hefty amounts of mueller tape and Vetrap to Lily's hooves prior to hammering the Gloves onto her feet with rocks from the trail. Lily finished the ride with a Viper on her RF and Gloves on her other 3 hooves. The captivator of the Viper on her RF would chafe the back of her pastern her so, so badly it is a true wonder that she was not lame at all during this ride. I wouldn't discover it until I removed her boots after the final vet check. I had never had this issue with the Vipers before, but it looks like a third degree burn and was so painful I gave her bute Saturday and Sunday. The frayed cables may have been partly my fault: Ashley had warned me that they had had quality control issues with one batch of cables and had sent me replacements, but I had only changed the cables that frayed at the Old Dominion ride; I figured the other two boots were fine because they performed perfectly throughout the rockiest 50 mile ride of the East Coast and during every conditioning ride after. I will note that the boots are adjusted perfectly and they fit well: there is still a little bit of wiggle room between the boots and Lily's feet, which is the way Renegades and Vipers should fit. Over-the-coronet band boots like Cavallos and Fusion boots do not work for this horse because of her hoof angles: she gets chafed every single time. Barefoot is not an option at the Old Dominion rides: hoof protection is absolutely mandatory. You are not allowed to start without it, and you are not allowed to finish without it. I see glue-ons or nailed Easyshoes in our competitive future. I don't care about the cost at this point. I just want something that will STAY ON HER FEET DAMMIT. (And it will most certainly NOT be steel after seeing the way the steel-shod horses slipped on pavement. Booted horses or horses with Easyshoes did not have this problem.) My boot frustrations reached epic levels at this ride. I was glad I had so many boots on hand but at the same time felt it was ridiculous that I needed to have so many boots on hand! Other than the final boot issue, this was my favorite part of this ride and one that I will carry with me for a very long time. It was a beautiful loop that took us through woods with ups and downs that were very much like the Patuxent (aka Redneck Park) trails that we love so much. Lily's ears were pricked and happy as she charged down the hills at a trot and attacked the uphills at a bounding canter. She felt as fresh as if we had just started the ride. I had to ask her to walk so Q could take breaks. The mares drank at every creek/puddle when given the opportunity and soon we caught up to a group of 6 other riders with whom we would be leap-frogging for the entire rest of this loop. It really felt like we were at an endurance ride for once, instead of Liz and I just riding by ourselves at the end of the pack (not complaining as us and our mares work well together solo, but it was nice to get the full endurance ride experience!) We would periodically ride behind some of the others, which gave Lily a break from leading, until Lily decided that she did not like the pace and wanted to pass. So we would pick up a trot/canter and pass.



The trail reminded me in a way of a jumper course. Liz had showed it to me on the map and it was incredibly convoluted. I had gotten the hang of watching for confidence ribbons (blue and white) and turn ribbons (red), and thanks to seeing the map beforehand, was especially on the lookout for those turn ribbons. Turns would often come up on us quite quickly, but it really added extra interest to the ride and kept the mares focused on us and the trail. The trail took would wind around hayfields with the golden and red mountains in the background. Like I said: I was grinning the entire ride. It was hard to believe the incredible beauty around us. The elytes and ibuprofen took effect and I was able to continue riding as before. No pain anywhere and I still had the strength to two-point up hills and while cantering. It was effortless riding.


 There were two big creek crossings on this course and we let the mares go into the water, hang out and drink as much as they wanted. They both drank well at every opportunity.

Walking towards one of the creeks.
Good girl!


More hay fields
Second creek crossing


We came across a very sudden turn that I missed but Liz did not. The trail was basically invisible but it immediately took us up a vertical but thankfully short climb. Liz and I had our hands up our girls' necks as we urged them up as quickly as they could go. Lily and Q trotted up: it was too steep to attempt to walk!


We were on more rolling countryside after this. We were still leapfrogging with the other riders we had previously caught up to. Every time they were in front of us, Lily would argue about wanting to catch up to them, but I held her back: I didn't want her galloping too much on this last loop. I was pleased by her spirits though: this mare was not tired! Like I said before: she is a very honest horse, and will always tell me when she's tired and when she's ready to continue. She doesn't often get that competitive and when she does, it's because she's feeling spectacularly good. I want you guys to remember this.


Liz took this awesome video. Mine didn't come out as well.

We would eventually pass the group of 6 riders. As we arrived at the last field before returning to camp, we stopped to let the mares eat. However, they both sensed that we were close and were not interested in eating then. They just wanted to continue.


We crossed the finish line at a trot, holding hands so we could tie. We tied for 30th place out of 34 riders that would complete, finishing the ride in about 9 hours of riding time (sans holds; 10.5 hours with holds). Our average speed throughout the ride had been about 6 mph, a very conservative pace.

The Last Vet Check
The finish line was about 1/4 mile from the vet check, so we immediately dismounted, loosened girths, I removed Lily's bit and we hand-walked the mares into the hold.



Charles had everything ready. We stripped tack and the mares took small sips of water but not the impressive guzzling from before. Lily was still pretty hot so we started sponging and scraping. Liz threw a cooler on Q but Lily was hot enough that I did not want to do that yet. Q was down within 10 minutes or so and Liz took her down to the check. Lily took another 5 minutes to get down to 66. Charles suggested we go to the check but I knew we had a full hour for this last hold to get the horses vetted through, so I told him I wanted to wait until Lily was down more. This is when things started to get dicey: instead of continuing to go down, her heart rate started to climb again. It hovered at 72 and stayed there. We offered more water and she wouldn't drink. I started to worry. We had arrived in a long pocket between riders so Liz and I were the only ones at the hold at that moment. The vets noticed we were having problems and called us over. Lily's heart rate rocketed up to 80 as the vets listened. Her skin felt cool to the touch now so a cooler was thrown over her.  I was asked if Lily had been drinking on trail and I told them she had chugged at every water crossing. They believed me : they could hear the water in her gut. She actually had really good gut sounds. But she had the most awful skin tenting I have ever seen and her capillary refill time was very prolonged at around 4 seconds. (That is a D score, in case you were wondering.) I was in shock. I was told that she had been receiving enough sodium with her electrolytes but she needed more potassium to help the water in her gut reach the rest of her body. Someone tracked down a container of No-Salt (potassium salt) and Lily was given a syringe orally. I was given the go-ahead to let her eat grass, mash, drink water. We had 30 minutes left to try to complete.

In the meantime, Liz was having some issues with lameness. While running back to the trailer to get Lily's mash, I passed her and Q talking to the farrier, who was hoof-testing Q's feet. We gave one another 3-word explanations and continued with what we were doing.

Lily ate about half of her mash, only when held up for her. She wanted grass, so we let her eat grass. She did not want more water. I stressed about her dehydration. She was given a second dose of No-Salt. She ate more mash. She looked a little better when I took her over to the vets. We completed with a CRI of 64/64 again, to my surprise: I had not been expecting to complete at all and had completely given up on the notion. Her capillary refill time was at 3 seconds, her skin tenting still wasn't great.

I was NOT happy. I honestly didn't even care about the completion. I just cared that my horse did not look right yet and she should not be struggling like this when she had done SO WELL on the trail in every single aspect.

Remembering what had happened to Hannah at hers and Tucker's first 50, I asked the vets if I could bring Lily back later for them to look at again. One of the big things AERC has been pushing is for riders to have their horses re-assessed two hours after completing/finishing if you have any concerns at all. Your completion won't be taken away from you, and the exam is free. Sadly not everyone knows about it, and I'm not sure this would have been at the front of my mind if Hannah had not talked about it on her blog. Thank you Hannah, for sharing what happened.

The vets said they would be happy to look at her again for me. Dr. W, one of the toughest vets at the rides in our area, took it upon herself to be in charge of Lily. She had vetted us through the first check. She told us they would all be at the ride dinner/meeting/awards.

During all of this Gail and Carroll, Nick's wife (the ride vet; they trailered Lily to the OD in June), had been helping and talking to us but it is now all a blur.

I took Lily back to the trailer and put her in the corral. Liz was already there with Q and this is when I learned that they had not completed due to a cramp in one of Q's hind legs. :( Thankfully, it was just a cramp and not a more serious injury, but it was a huge bummer because Liz had been aiming at getting the Old Dominion Triple Crown.

Lily seriously frightened me when she started sniffing around the corral and pawing furiously. I went into a blind panic, thinking that she was colicking. In an attempt at confirming that it wasn't something else, I gave her a flake of hay, another of alfalfa, and a fresh batch of mash. She attacked the alfalfa and ignored everything else. The pawing had been because she was demanding the food she wanted. This is not the first time she does this, but given all of the other circumstances, she really scared me.

I was still terrified that she was not eating her mash. It was the only way to get water into her when she was refusing to drink. All of our stuff was still at the hold area and Charles insisted that I go with him right then. I ended up getting into an argument with him because I could not leave Lily's side at that moment; I told him I would help him get our stuff later, I needed to watch my horse for a minute. He ended up storming off and later I learned that Liz helped him bring the stuff over. I was happy to help, I just could not do it at that moment!

I poulticed her legs and removed her hoof boots. Her heart rate was around 60 and she had good gut sounds but her skin tenting was the same. I threw her lined sheet on over her cooler as the temperature continued to drop. The low for that night was predicted to be in the 30's. Dinner had started and I could hear the announcer saying things that I could not understand. I put stuff away, stopping every few seconds to look at Lily. She continued eating her alfalfa. She touched her mash twice. She neither pooped nor urinated.

After an hour, I finally joined Liz and Charles for dinner. They were serving taco salad and thankfully we were able to get food before they were done putting it away.

I received my completion award (a cap) and sat back down to finish eating. We had been at the meeting all of 15 minutes. I realized I had just lost my appetite and wondered how on earth I would find the vets in the darkness with the amount of people gathered at the meeting. I was just debating whether I should just grab Lily and bring her down, when Dr. W found me.

I left my unfinished food on the chair and we walked back to the trailer. Charles came with us. It was 8:00 pm. It had been almost exactly 2 hours since we'd crossed the finish line at 6:06 pm. Lily was just standing around, not eating. Her heart rate was 56. Her skin tenting was even worse than when we first returned to the check and her capillary refill time was even more prolonged at 5 seconds. I wanted to cry.

Dr. W quietly and matter-of-factly explained that she was worried about Lily's hydration status. She gave me the option of waiting and monitoring her overnight. She offered bolusing IV fluids and did say that if Lily was her horse, she would give her fluids. At the same time, she said that plenty of people never have their horses re-checked and they do fine. However, I knew that my horse was a raisin. I knew that she would not willingly get the fluids she needed orally at this point. I chose the IV fluids. If Dr. W had said we needed to go to Leesburg, that's what we would have done. Lily is insured so cost is quite frankly not a big concern. But this is why we have the ride vets at these events. This is what they are there for. These are truly passionate vets that love the sport and love these animals.

Waiting for Lily's neck to be prepped.
So that's how, at 8:30 pm, we found ourselves next to another member of ride management's trailer who had hi-tie clips where IV fluid bags could be hung as high as possible (the higher you hang the IV fluid bags, the faster the fluids will flow into the animal when you don't have a fluid pump) while Dr. Bob's vet student clipped and surgically prepped the skin over Lily's jugular. Dr. W injected the skin with lidocaine to numb the area (a really nice touch) so Lily never felt when the 10-gauge IV catheter was placed. It had a large-bore extension set that was sutured in place. 10 liters of IV fluids, of which 5 liters had added potassium chloride, were bolused into her. Charles stayed by my side.

An hour later, those 10 liters were almost finished. Lily was looking significantly better: instead of just standing there quietly, she was starting to look around alertly, so Charles was asked to fetch mash and hay for her to eat. Charles returned with Gail, who hung around talking with us. It was so wonderful to have the moral support. Lily dug into her mash with the eagerness that had been missing at the vet check. Relief. It was decided to give her another 10 liters of fluids.

Liz stopped by to check on us and have Q looked at. Lily was feeling well enough to nicker at Q but stayed calm after they left. Dr. W examined Q and, other than body sore, declared that she was looking good. Her cramp was already improving.

We would hang out with the vet for two hours while Lily received her fluids. I would learn that Dr. W went to school with one of my favorite residents at work, Dr. B. I had instantly liked Dr. W's manner, the confident way in which she talked, and the fact that even Dr. Bob, who is an endurance ride vet veteran, had come over to see how she did her IV catheter placement. As it turns out, I could not have been in better hands: Dr. W is a boarded equine sports medicine specialist and she has been volunteering at endurance rides for 6 years now. Charles ended up entertaining her with some of his ER stories.

We were supposed to try to catch a sample of urine when Lily urinated. Per Dr. W, it was not a matter of "if", it was a matter of "when". Lily pooped halfway through her 20 liters of fluids and finally urinated as Dr. W was clamping the line when the fluids were done. This ended in laughter: in her determination, Dr. W actually stuck her hand in the stream of urine with a syringe case to catch the sample. She just wanted to confirm that it was yellow.

It was.

I love vets as dedicated as her.

Lily's CRT by then was around 2.5 seconds, her skin tenting slightly delayed but 75% better than it had been prior to all of this. The IV catheter was left in just in case and covered with Elastikon tape so Lily wouldn't rub it out overnight. I was to bring her back in the morning for a recheck before we left.

Lily ate another mash before I put her in the corral with Q. She then attacked the hay that Liz had set out for them. Charles and I hung around talking and watching her, waiting for our adrenaline rush to wear off, before we were finally able to go to bed.

I did not sleep well. Duh. I woke up multiple times during the night to check on Lily.  It was freezing cold and I had to run the truck heater at 2:00 am to warm up, despite multiple layers and comforters. Sometimes she was eating, sometimes she was not. Her skin tenting continued to improve, as did her CRT.  I could tell she was pooping: hers were softer than Q's.
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Saturday

We woke up at 7:00 am. Lily's CRT was a normal 2 seconds and her skin tenting was normal. I set up a mash for her and left it soaking, then ran over to Gail's trailer with Liz to help her get ready for her first LD on Nimo. Who is a Friesian, in case you are not familiar with her blog. And if you're not familiar with it, you should totally go read it. She is new to the sport but few people research what they do as thoroughly as she does. I learn something new with almost every post! And she has done an incredible job conditioning a DRAFT for endurance.

Gail and Nimo ride off into the sunrise.
Once Gail was on her way, I took Lily out of the corral so she could eat her mash. Charles and I then walked down to the vet check with her to find Dr. W. Dr. W was thrilled with how she looked. She removed the IV catheter and cleared us to go home. I was instructed to continue the mashes and daily electrolyting through this week.

Lily received another mash upon returning and was then placed in the corral with Q. We gave them hay and started breaking camp. Blankets were removed from the mares as the sun climbed higher in the sky and temps warmed up. 

Yup, my mare was that horse at camp. The one with the neck bandage.
But you can see that, if you remove that bandage, she looked really good. She didn't even lose weight at this ride.
We stopped by one of the vendors to pick up a tub of Perform n' Win, the electrolyte that had been recommended by Dr. W because of its higher potassium content. 

When it was close to 11:00 am, we went down to the bridge to wait for Gail to return.


We were able to meet her as she was returning from the first LD loop. 


Liz and I stripped tack as they were walking which meant Gail was able to immediately vet in. His CRI was awesome...I think it was 59/54. Him and Gail IMMEDIATELY had a fan club.

Liz and Charles walked them back to their trailer. Dr. K, one of the vets that had looked at Lily the day before, wanted to talk to me about electrolytes. It was a truly enlightening conversation and I am waiting for the e-mail with his research paper; I will share what I learned then because I think it will help other riders. It was very clear and black-and-white, which was exactly what I needed to learn. No one had ever explained the art of electrolyting in this manner, neither in school nor online, and I finally understood how to recognize and prevent specific electrolyte imbalances. Oh, and he also recommended Perform n' Win. 

I joined my peeps at Gail's trailer, where we helped her get everything organized for her next loop and saw her off again. It's crazy how quickly a 45 minute hold will go!

Team Nimo
We finished packing up and Lily was given a dose of electrolytes + another mash before loading onto the trailer. Q's cramp was fully resolved and her body soreness improved. Liz and I said our good-byes and went our separate ways. 

The drive home was uneventful. Once home I set Lily free in the barnyard to stretch her legs. I washed off her poultice and gave her yet another mash for dinner. She drank water as well, and asked to be put out with her friends when she was ready. 

Charles and I continued on our way home, exhausted, to finish unpacking. 

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So how do I feel? I was happy to be in the hands of a truly fantastic vet. I love the medicine of the more aggressive, straightforward vets that tell it to you like it is. This type of vet will take the side of the animal, sometimes to the point where the pet owner might complain about lack of bedside manner, but it is because this type of vet truly cares. They are passionate about their job and they want what's best for their patients. They will fight tooth and nail for your animal, and I ended up with one of these individuals on my side, which gave me tremendous peace while everything was happening. I literally sat back and let her do her thing. I was happy that I could afford this care and that, despite it technically being emergency care, it was still very affordable (I have wondered about this and know others have the same question: how much did it cost for 20 liters of IV fluids (that was 4 bags of fluids total) + injectable potassium chloride + a very sterile catheter prep + IV catheter placement + fluid line + the one-on-one attention of the veterinarian, who happened to be a boarded equine sports medicine specialist? $426 in Virginia. Not bad at all, especially for this area. Way less than an emergency visit from your regular equine vet. I recommend having your horse insured and/or having a separate savings account or credit card specifically for equine emergencies. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.) I'm beyond happy that I have the veterinary training I have to realize that this really was NOT a moment to wait and see. My mare had turned into a raisin, plain and simple, and she was not getting the fluids she needed orally. She NEEDED those IV fluids.

What could I have done better? With the knowledge base I had, nothing. I could have done nothing better. I had pre-loaded her with electrolytes for the week prior to competition, I had given electrolyte doses at the standard time intervals (the night before, the morning of, and once at every hold), she had been drinking and eating like a champ throughout this ride and had performed to the absolute hilt in such a way that I felt like my heart was going to burst with pride and love for this mare. She was forward, she was happy, all the way through the entire 50 miles. She LOVES THIS SPORT and after only one competition, she already knows what her job is when it comes to this sport. Move down that trail efficiently, ask for breaks when she needs them, drink at every opportunity, eat at every opportunity. She is happy with that, I'm happy with that. She asks, I give. I ask, she gives. We take care of one another and we get to explore new trails over great distances together. It is a beautiful thing. I have never seen her so happy at anything ever in 3.5 years of owning her as I did at this ride. As long as she is this happy with this job, I will not take endurance away from her.

Would we have prevented this if we had practiced at LDs first? I have been thinking about this and my conclusion is: No. It would not have made a difference. The common denominator between the Old Dominion and Fort Valley is that Lily has not run into problems recovering until she surpasses 40+ miles. We probably could have been doing LDs for a long time, and we would have not run into the electrolyte problem until we started 50s anyway. Potassium was recommended at the Old Dominion by Dom, but I was afraid of playing with electrolytes too much afterwards: at the Old Dominion, Lily developed a heart murmur while giving electrolytes and it went away after I stopped giving them...or it could just have easily have been coincidence: the heart murmur developed as a result of inadequate preparation in terms of conditioning for the long, intense mountain climb of the OD and disappeared over more forgiving terrain. She recovered really well at the hold where the heart murmur happened, and the murmur did not reappear at that ride. She just had difficulty pulsing down at the last hold before the finish, though she was very excited then, so the issues recovering could have also been partially or mostly because of all that. The vets didn't think there was an electrolyte issue then, and it was the same group of vets at Fort Valley. Actually, Dr. K himself, the one who gave me the elyte recommendations at the end, was the one that vetted and passed Lily at the last away vet check at the Old Dominion. Like I have said before, electrolyte imbalances whether as a result of a metabolic disturbance or created by the person giving the electrolytes, can kill a horse. Or any living being, for that matter.

The conclusion is that each individual horse is different and Lily needed something more: she needed potassium. I just didn't know how to recognize the signs. I didn't know to research on how to recognize the signs because I didn't know there were separate signs to indicate different electrolyte deficiencies. I didn't know how much potassium to give or how much to modify the current electrolyte dose if more potassium was needed. But now I know. My ignorance didn't cause Lily to colic, it didn't cause major suffering, her life was not in danger yet. There is a great chance that it might have been later on in the night if we had not taken action when we did. But I can guarantee you that the dehydration she went through from lack of potassium will NOT happen again. My recommendation for other endurance riders new to the sport who are still figuring this out: along with whatever brand of electrolytes you are using, keep a container of Nu-Salt or No-Salt in the trailer (both of these products are basically salt substitutes that use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride for people that need to be on low sodium diets), along with a container of non-iodized regular table salt. Just in case. You may need them or a fellow rider may need them for their horse.

Please be kind in the comments. Feel free to ask questions, but be kind. I could have simply omitted all of this but I am being honest and sharing my experience in the hopes that it will help others, and I don't think I should be punished or judged for that. I trained my horse appropriately, I followed all of the recommendations available to me from other much more experienced riders, and my horse did what she was supposed to do as an endurance horse with the energy of a well-conditioned horse. I was using an electrolyte recommended by endurance vets at the AERC convention in Atlanta: Perfect Balance Electrolyte. Shit like this can happen to even the best-prepared rider regardless of experience. It can happen to you too. I'm telling you about this so it doesn't.

I made the right decision by choosing to have fluids given to my horse. I was not ashamed that she was the one with the neck bandage in camp. I was complimented for taking care of her the way she needed to be taken care of, both by the vets and other riders when they heard the story. I would have preferred that she have not needed the fluids to begin with, OF COURSE! And I would have given anything to have the knowledge I have now BEFORE this ride. But I now have the information that I needed to be able to safely continue in this sport with a mare that truly loves her job. She gets a well-deserved vacation and an easy winter, and we'll see what next year brings.

Another photo by Becky Pearman

Review post to follow.


37 comments:

  1. Dude, totally don't feel bad - you're right. When you noted in camp that you didn't understand why people felt bad about taking extra veterinary measures to make the horse okay at rides it really got me thinking. I don't get it why people end up feeling guilty about doing the right thing; early or later, as long as you're doing the right thing, why feel bad? I still am pondering over the whys and thought mechanisms and schemas behind how and why it happens, in fact! You definitely did SO right by her and it was SO evident in how awesome she was on trail. Shit happens, and then good things are done to rectify the shit to make it okay again. Because Life.

    So, despite ALL this crazy that happened after the ride, my main thoughts when I think about the ride are all centered around that last loop. About WEEing through the fields and across the creeks and through the woods. About you missing that turn and me being all, "Nicole? Hello? Turn. Turn. TURRRRNNNNN." And then us going up that steep stint of trail and thinking to myself, "BAD TURN BAD EVIL BAD." as I giggled my way up it with you and Lily and Q.

    WHAT A FUN TIME.

    And you and Carlos were arguing before he and I got the stuff? 'Cause I so totally missed that. I was SO stuck in my own head. I was just like, "Saddles? Our saddles? Uh yeah, we need those. Uh yeah, I'll go." Because I needed OUT of my headspace then and lugging heavy things sounded good.

    Aaahhh adventure. Winding and twisting and turning at every chance. Wouldn't change it for a thing!

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    1. Oh that's the thing: I don't feel bad. I still feel like I should, but I don't. I don't regret the ride, I don't regret starting with 50's, I don't regret the (conservative!) pace we kept, I don't regret anything. I really loved this ride. I would have loved to know the whole recognizing-specific-electrolyte-imbalances thing prior, but I actually went looking on the internet afterwards and I can't find a clear-cut explanation anywhere like what Dr. K gave me: "If the horse is doing this and this happens, it needs more sodium. If the horse is doing this and this happens, it needs more potassium. If the horse needs more potassium, you adjust the electrolyte dose in this manner and substitute this much potassium." That is all I wanted; I just didn't know that information was out there, and even now knowing it, it is still hard to find. I was terrified of electrolytes and I had no idea how to tell if what I was giving was the right thing. I'm just relieved that we were able to catch this before it got worse and that I will be able to keep it from ever happening again.

      "Shit happens, and then good things are done to rectify the shit to make it okay again. Because Life." <- Yes. So very yes.

      So this ride. The third loop. It was magical. Beautiful. So much fun. On Lily, with you and Q, laughing into the wind as we swooped around those hayfields with the setting sun behind us. And that is what I will forever think about when I think of my first Fort Valley 50.

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  2. So relieved to hear Lily is doing better! There is no shame in what you did as a responsible horse owner, if anyone at that ride had an issue they should re-think why they joined the sport in the first place. I, for one, really appreciate folks like you and Liz that take the time to detail training and prep and post ride thoughts- it’s a wealth of information for a distance riding hopeful like me.

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    1. It was a relief to see how kind the people at the ride were. The vets were initially stern with me when they first assessed Lily, but almost immediately they realized that I was telling the truth about Lily drinking, that this was an electrolyte imbalance and helped both fix the issue and educate me. One of the things that stands out about the whole experience was the way those vets' eyes lit up when they were explaining. They love the sport and the horses and they want to help the riders do what is best for the horses that give them all.

      Several people around camp heard about what had happened to both Lily and Q and came up to ask us how they were doing the next morning. In a totally non-judgemental kind of way: they sincerely wanted to know. I was complimented by total strangers for giving my mare fluids before she took a turn for the worse. I was not embarrassed about her pressure bandage; it was simply the sign of something right that had been done.

      She is doing fabulously at home, happy in her pasture, getting her daily electrolytes and eating her mashes like...well, a horse! :)

      I'm really looking forward to your future adventures with your beautiful girl Quest. I just found your blog recently and have been catching up!

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  3. I cannot imagine the terror you must have felt - I would have been on the verge of panic. Question for you - what symptoms would have indicated a too-low level of potassium? It doesn't sound like she was having any trouble...until she was. That's the scariest part of your entire story. I'm so glad that Lily is ok!

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    1. Me too! It was a huge relief. The IV fluids made her recovery simple and quick. Without them, it would have taken her days to recover even without more complications.

      Ok, so here's what Dr. King said. I will repeat it in the review post:
      - If a horse is not drinking on trail, it needs more sodium. You will need to add non-iodized salt. He did not tell me how much and I didn't think to ask because it hadn't been an issue with Lily. I'm hoping it's in the paper he's supposed to send me.
      - If a horse is drinking well and seems to be doing well on trail but is having a hard time recovering (delayed hydration parameters like the capillary refill time & skin tenting, and/or prolonged elevated heart rates in a horse that is properly conditioned), the horse needs more potassium.
      - If the horse needs more potassium, you will give 5/6 of your electrolyte dose and substitute that 1/6 for Nu-Salt or No-Salt. Dr. K recommended Perform n' Win because he helped design it. The dose on the label is 1 to 3 scoops. Dr. K said for endurance, you will give 3 scoops for each electrolyte dose. If it is very humid, you will double that dose, which will be 6 scoops. So if the horse is on Perform n' Win, which is the specific electrolyte we discussed, and it is not recovering despite eating and drinking on the trail, you will sub 1/6th of that dose for the Nu-Salt: 1/2 scoop of Nu-Salt if you are giving 3 scoops of Perform n' Win (you will decrease the Perform n' Win to 2.5 scoops) per serving.

      He is very big on electrolyting: a dose of electrolytes each day the week prior to a ride, the night before the ride, the morning of the ride, and at every hour during the ride. If you are not able to give electrolytes during the ridden portions of the ride (you shouldn't wait more than 3 hours), you will want to play catch-up at the hold: 1 dose of electrolytes immediately upon arriving at the hold, 1 dose 20 minutes into the hold, and another dose before leaving. This seems like a monumental amount of electrolytes based on what I've heard other people give and it may be excessive for some individuals because each horse is different, but Dr. K is a well-known and respected ride vet, so I will take his word. This is the protocol we will be following at our next ride.

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    2. I have a feeling these recommendations will vary also depending on the climate: it might be different in a dry climate like out in CO or CA. It might serve you well since you live in the very, very humid climate of FL. :) Now you know what to watch out for with Ruby.

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    3. Thank you for all of the details! I had no idea that low potassium could affect a horse like that.

      Is there any concern that large, continuous doses of electrolytes might be tough on a horse's stomach? Ruby's dam had such horrible ulcers that they nearly put her down last year so I don't want to take any chances.

      Also, I forgot to remark on the mini in your story! Wish you guys had gotten video of the little bugger, lol.

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    4. You're welcome!

      Yes, there is a concern with ulcers and electrolytes. Some formulas are harsher than others. A lot of vets and riders like Endura-Max, but it is known to be harsher, enough to burn mouths. A lot of people that use it will mix it with a milder formula. Liz for example mixes Perform n' Win and Endura-Max, as does Mary Howell, who is an experienced endurance rider in our region and Liz's mentor. Perform n' Win is considered to be easier on the stomach and so is Perfect Balance, the electrolyte I had been using until now.

      When you do go to your first ride, I would probably start with the standard recommendation of dosing 1x/day the week before the ride, once the night before, the morning of, and once at every hold (just make sure she's eaten first so you're not doing it on an empty stomach. Also, a lot of horses won't want to eat after being syringed elytes because of the taste), and then just keep tabs on how your girl is doing throughout the ride with her water drinking and recoveries. Bring your electrolyte container and also non-iodized salt and No-Salt just in case, so you can make adjustments if you need to. And don't hesitate to ask the vets questions if you have any concerns at all or simply want to learn more. They have the most experience with this and should be able to give you recommendations based on what they are seeing with Ruby at the time. They are always happy to answer questions.

      While describing the little mini I started wishing we'd at least gotten a photo! We were both so mad at him that we didn't even think about it! Haha

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    5. Mel has an excellent article on hydration and electrolytes here:
      http://bootsandsaddles4mel.com/blog/2012/convention-hydration-seminar/

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  4. First, it's about the horse. Isn't that the heart of endurance?

    I'm really glad you and Lily are healthy and whole. I am thankful that you made the ride and then the vets recognized what was happening and were able to help. I really look forward to seeing the information from the vet about electrolyting, because I think we all are in the dark when it comes to that stuff.

    I wish I could have been there with you, laughing our way across that hay field. And I'm glad that they left you signs. . . . Daniel had a great time.

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    1. Yes, it is indeed about the horse. :)

      And I would have so loved if you could have been there! I'll be explaining about the electrolyting. I may need to write an entire separate post later when I get the written info, but I'll share my notes in the review post that's coming up.

      And OMG we rode past the stick and it took me a second to register. I literally brought Lily to a screeching halt and swung her around and said to Liz: "They left us a sign!!!" So we both had to get pics. It made our day and made that last loop even MORE special!

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  5. I have to make this quick because im mountingg up but at least in the regions out here alp the ride vets ARE paid. Its not a ton of money and I agree they often go over and beyond....but in most cases not volinteers.

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    1. Thanks Mel! I can't for the life of me remember now where I had heard that they were volunteers; someone had told me that, but since I'm not sure what the source was now, I edited the post accordingly. Thanks for the correction!

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    2. LOL you can totally tell I was typing that one handed on my phone as I was trying to mount my horse in the dark.

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    3. I'm so happy you got to ride! And loved the post it inspired! :D

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  6. Thank you so much for such a interesting and informative post! I'm going to be volunteering next season at a few LD distances with hopes of competing one day myself and this post had such wonderful insights - so thank you :)

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  7. Scary but all is well in the end. So glad Lily is ok. And that most of the ride was great! Lovely photos, though wish I could see that evil devil pig mini! I hate that this sport (any horse sport) you have to learn the hard way, but that seems to be the case. I appreciate the whole story, I think we're here to learn from each other, good and bad.

    Thanks for all the education stuff, I'm going to read back over it, hopefully try to remember some of it! Electrolyting is so specific to region, horse, time of year, trail conditions and more. It's a wonder we figure it out at all.

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    1. Thanks irish horse. :) And yes, I'm regretting not having snagged a photo of that obnoxious mini!

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  8. I agree (how specific elytes are). Not to mention that because how horses utilize electrolytes is adaptable, what is true this season or even for a set of seasons might not work again/in the future/in 3 years.

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  9. Saiph, you did the right thing for your mare and there is no shame in that... I am a wreak, like every other crazy horse owner out there, when something is not right with my horse. My husband knows to not even talk to me, lol... How scary, and I am glad you followed up with the vet and everything worked out for Lily and Lily got everything she needed...

    Now to the fun part, your ride sounds amazing!!! It is interesting, after reading your OD experiences, I felt you were not that happy about the ride and a little bit defeated, but after reading about this ride, it sounds like you had an amazing time with your mare and a good friend. It makes all the hard work, effort, and time worth it.

    I love your education in your last post about training and feeding. I know I don't do as many miles as you guys do, but I do worry and my horse being fit enough, strong enough, and nourished enough for what we do. You really make me think about those things and I can’t thank you enough for it.

    Glad Lily is getting a well-deserved vacation, although she clearly loves her job so she might not be too happy about it… I can't wait to hear about more rides next year!!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment JWall. :)

      Yes: this ride when compared to the OD was like night and day. The OD was literally one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I felt awful about having thought it was a remotely good idea to choose it as a first endurance ride. (I still go, "What on earth was I thinking?!") I'm glad we tried again; we would have missed out on so much. I hope the next ride is simply fun, with none of the chaos! And I'm really happy that all my babbling on conditioning, nutrition, etc have made a difference for you and Liam. :D

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  10. I think my #1 takeaway from that very long night with Hannah and Tucker is that sometimes you can do everything right and shit still happens. You did everything right. Shit happened. I'm very glad you were in a place - mentally, physically, all of the above - to make great decisions and act to help Lily when she needed it.

    Oh, and congratulations on the completion. :)

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    1. Thank you Amanda! :) And you are absolutely right.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your experience - the good and the scary:) I think it helps so much to find out how other riders solve problems and I'm really looking forward to the elyte information. I've been pretty conservative in using them just because the information about them seems so difficult to decipher, so getting something more concrete may help me feel more confident.

    Congrats to you and Lily on your completion and I hope to see you both at No Frills next year!:)

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    1. Thanks Gail! :D I hope Dr. K gets back to me soon. I may have to include the info in a separate post later.

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  12. First, congratulations on completing with a happy horse. Stuff happens and what I've learned from lots of reading, talks with experienced riders and my tiny bit of experience is that each ride is different. Once you solve one problem for one ride, the next will bring a new challenge.

    I am very interested in reading the research he gave you. My first 50 was the weekend before your ride and we had issues with hydration as well. Her CRI was an amazing 40/36 at the end, but her other markers were sub par. The vet there was not concerned at all due to her A gut sounds and CRI, but I was very worried and kept a close eye on her. Maybe potassium would have helped her.

    I am going to look into the Perform N Win.

    Last, did he mention anything about giving that many elytes when so little water is available on trail? When water is plentiful I don't mind shoving elytes down her throat to balance it out, but it sounds like water wasn't offered much at the ride and I would think that giving that much and then not having any water around would be detrimental.

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    1. I can't wait to read it too...I e-mailed him on Monday and am still waiting. I'm sure he's super busy so I'll e-mail again next week if I haven't heard back from him yet. I have some of the same questions you guys have brought up.

      I read your post on the way down to my ride (GREAT JOB by the way!!) right before losing phone signal and am still playing catch up on commenting! But I did see the parallels between what happened with Lily and what seemed to be happening with Gem.

      I had the same concern about electrolyting and lack of water at the Old Dominion ride in June. Not only was it one of the toughest courses on the East coast, it was hot, and there were not that many water sources. I backed off on the electrolytes at that ride in part because I was concerned about the lack of water. Like you, I figured that giving electrolytes when there isn't much water available could be detrimental. I still don't know if that was the right thing to do or not. It was such a difficult ride on so many levels.

      At this ride, I would have electrolyted more if I had had more information. There actually was tons of water available. The first loop only had maybe one tiny creek and a water trough placed by the trail, but on the second and third loops there were plenty of creeks, large puddles, and the Shenandoah River for the horses to drink from. Water sources every couple of miles. That was why I was so surprised over Lily's CRI's and her dehydration at the end: she drank more consistently and in much greater volumes than she had at the hotter, harder summer ride. But the electrolyte imbalance explained it.

      Again, his recommendation is pretty much the highest I've heard for endurance horses. I've seen and heard of riders that electrolyte this much, and to me it always seemed excessive. Especially when compared to other riders like Mel from Boots & Saddles, who barely electrolyted Farley and she did fantastic on desert rides. Like she said in her comment above, the correct electrolyte formula will vary greatly by horse, climate, terrain, and distance.

      I would not have considered going this recommended route unless I'd had the issues I had at this most recent ride. We'll see at the next one how Lily does with a little bit more of a different elyte in her system. I don't think I'll be giving quite as much as Dr. K recommended, but I will be electrolyting more than I was. But that's just me with *this* particular horse. :)

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    2. I added this to my responses to Melissa's comment above, but here Mel discusses correct and incorrect electrolyting of an already dehydrated horse, among other really awesome tips:
      http://bootsandsaddles4mel.com/blog/2012/convention-hydration-seminar/

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  13. It really sounds like you're doing an amazing job with your horse, so I wouldn't worry about it for a second (advice I often loathe to hear but would do well to take). It's amazing the way you seem able to listen to your horse and what she's telling you, and I'm happy you did the right thing for her!

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    1. Thank you ColbyJazzmus! You really get to know them when you spend so many hours conditioning and training. I know you'll get there with your girl too. :)

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  14. Your ride photos are absolutely breathtaking!

    You did good by Lily. Looking forward to reading the elyte stuff, but like you suspect, it's wildly different in low-humidity regions. Hugs, glad she's feeling better!

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  15. Congrats on completing! I wish Liz and Q could have too. That's so awesome that you got to hang out with Gail and Nimo too! He is so gorgeous! I'm glad Lily is okay. That had to have been terrifying!!!! I never realized how complicated electrolytes are. Thank you for being so honest and sharing what you learn with all of us!

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