Thursday, March 15, 2018

On a Roll: Broxton & Take No Prisoners

Fueled by the prospects of being able to tackle some major endurance challenges in the coming year, Teresa and I began strategizing how to prepare our horses for the Old Dominion 100 in June, one of our sport's rockiest and most difficult rides.

Teresa and Siena at Broxton.
As a baby, Teresa had kidney issues and was treated with steroids, resulting in a DDD chest that made her top heavy and riding horses not always a pleasant experience, even wearing two bras. She'd decided to get breast reduction surgery in February, and we were able to enjoy the Broxton the week before, with me aboard Gryphon and her on Siena.

Back in Virginia, my new friend Azzam (a mechanical engineering graduate student from Saudi Arabia) was willing to help

Siena and me at Take No Prisoners
keep Welcome fit while Teresa recuperated.

My mom and I were enjoying an afternoon in Virginia Beach with Teresa post-surgery, when I got a call from Barb asking me to come get Chrome, who had gained weight and height over the winter and was becoming a bit of a pest. Gryphon needed a break anyway, so I swapped him out. We'd taught Chrome how to lunge and started him under saddle the previous summer, and to my delight were able to pick up where we left off, knowing that even if he turned four in June the soonest we might take him on his first limited distance ride wouldn't be until late this year or early 2019.

Meanwhile, my friend Caron who rides dressage graciously began patiently working with Siena, having great success in getting her to round, use her back and develop the neck muscles just in front of the withers. I could tell the difference by early March, when I competed her at the Take No Prisoners ride in South Carolina, again escaping the worst of a windstorm that caused hundreds of thousands of power outages. My friend Lily Kuhn and Chrome came with us, and after a short warm-up ride together the day before the competition, Lily took Chrome through his first pre-ride vetting experience. The little guy also did fine being left alone the next day while Siena was on trail, managing to devour most of a bale of hay. As we headed home, it felt great to watch the two of them devour green grass and clover at a roadside stop.

All about EPM & Sarcoids: Perseverance Pays Off!

The year I turned 50 was difficult for Siena and Gryphon, my two competition-age horses. After we spent 90 days (late May-late August) treating Siena's Lymes with minocycline (17 pills per feeding, $1,600 total), she continued to act fearful and hesitant at the trot and canter, even though technically sound.

My friend Teresa McCarty suspected EPM, so my local vet did the standard neurological exam of turning her in circles, etc. He didn't see much of a physical issue, but I insisted on getting her tested. Yep, she came back positive.

Hoping I'd caught the EPM early, I began treating Siena with Rebalance (cheaper than Marquis) and spent September & October administering 2X daily syringes of a sweet-smelling but nasty-tasting clear liquid that she came to hate.

Gryphon at Big South Fork - left chest
strap loose so it didn't rub his sarcoid.
I learned there's a link between ulcers and EPM - those nasty little protozoans are able to cross the blood/brain barrier at ulcerated areas - and also that Lymes and EPM can create a double whammy. If you suspect something similar might be going on with YOUR horse, go to, print the form and mail it with a red top of your horse's blood to save a bunch on diagnostics (thanks Jennifer Smith for this tip!)

Meanwhile, Gryphon's chest sarcoid grew from the size of a walnut in May to baseball size by July (the Xterra ointment my vet prescribed seemed to piss it off). Located just to the right of the breast collar center strap, this big, red, bloody blob made me embarrassed to compete him.

My vet's next attempt to eradicate it involved chopping off as much as he could using local anaesthetic (afterwards I spent 20 minutes holding gauze to Gryphon's red spurting chest until the clotting process finally took over). The little guy then suffered through two rounds of chemo that caused patches of hair to fall out, so that he reminded me of the Velveteen Rabbit. He made it though a tough 55 miles at Big South Fork in September, then the damn thing started growing again and I feared it might be cancerous.

Most of the remaining sarcoid mass was subcutaneous, so my vet now suggested a trip to Blue Ridge Equine for complete sedation surgery (estimated cost $2,500).

Welcome at Fort Valley,
thrilled to be back on trail! 
I'd already spent over $5,000 that year on my two horses, so partially motivated by cost savings I instead tried the treatment suggested by longtime endurance vet Dr. Stan Alkamede of Ontario, whose company developed Novavive, an immune system booster that offers a more modern approach to combating sarcoids. I bought two 5 ml vials for about $400 and with help from Teresa, divided it into four 2.5 doses given at weekly intervals. Following Dr. Stan's instructions, we sedated Gryphon each time and perfused the area in and around the sarcoid using a fine gauge needle, finishing up just before Thanksgiving.

Teresa and me at Black Sheep Boogie, well bundled
since it was only 19 degrees at the start of the ride.

While G&S were out of commission, we got our competition fix on borrowed horses. For Ride Between the Rivers in August, Lisa Green graciously let Teresa and me use her wonderful mares Breeze and Amana. Then Barb Horstmeier let me swap out 3 year old Chrome for her 12 year old mare BR Welcome Tarika, who'd been on an 18 month layoff. Once we got Welkie fit, she completed the Sand Hills and Fort Valley 50s in October with me aboard, followed by  the Black Sheep Boogie and JD's 50s in November with Teresa aboard.

Princess Siena sails through JD's 50.
The 2017 AERC ride season ended on a happy note, with Siena achieving a Top Ten finish at JD's with energy to spare. And with short days giving me little opportunity to see my horses in daylight, it was almost Christmas before I noticed that Gryphon's sarcoid had miraculously disappeared. You need to give it several weeks to take effect, but Novavive WORKS!

On a windy, below-freezing afternoon just before the New Year, Teresa and I packed up her 5 little dogs, along with Siena, Welcome and Gryphon, and headed to Florida for 10 days. We spent the first weekend at Leah Greenleaf's ride, with Solstice Pecile doing a lovely job aboard Siena. The next day, New Year's Eve, was the warmest of our entire stay. While the horses rested, we trekked to Cedar Key with the dogs for a wonderful afternoon of walking around the quaint bayside town, then enjoyed steamed shrimp and tropical drinks at a dog-friendly outside bar.

Snorkeling at Devil's Den on New Year's Day.
Bob Gielen again gave us a place to spend the week, and facing cold and rainy weather, Teresa used his electric hookup to ensure we stayed warm and toasty each night. I normally hate cold water, but on New Year's Day, Teresa's excitement at having Devil's Den in Williston practically to ourselves helped me take the plunge into this subterranean river to enjoy paddling around with a snorkel tube, fish and a turtle surrounding us as we hovered above the scuba divers, their lights shining in and out of subterranean caves.

Siena's front legs were a little puffy after the deep sand of the Greenway ride, so we rested her and competed Welcome and Gryphon on the Friday of the Goethe ride. The next day, I volunteered as an official while Teresa crewed for our friend Alisija Zabavska, who finished 2nd in the FEI 100. Meanwhile, Virginia was enduring an arctic blast, with single-digit temperatures and a heavy snowfall just before we returned, grateful that our endurance adventures had provided a temporary reprieve from winter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tennessee-Brand Kindness Makes Big South Fork a Ride to Remember



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Redhead Power

At the Young Riders Team Challenge, a 120 km FEI event held on Nov. 12 at Broxton Bridge Plantation in SC, months of preparation, persistence and working conscientiously to address issues as they arise paid off more wonderfully than I could have ever expected! (In other words, sometimes an apparent setback is only the first stage of a big leap forward, one must just keep the faith!)

Sarah's hair matches Siena!
That Thursday, 17-year old Sarah Buckley's connecting flight from Maine was delayed a few hours, but she still arrived at my place that afternoon in time for a test ride on Siena, where she immediately noticed my little chestnut mare was moving much more balanced, thanks to consistent schooling in draw reins with lots of sidepassing and cantered circle to help round her up and use her back and hind end more fully.

Lisa Green agreed to give us a lift down, and by 7 p.m. the two mares and we three ladies were heading south. We pulled into cold, quiet basecamp around 2:30 a.m., tied the horses with hay bags and water, and slept until daylight. That Friday was a blur, as Sarah attended the four breakout training sessions for young riders. Lisa & I set up camp, and then our crewing area. Dr. Ann Stuart performed a chiro check on Siena, working on her right shoulder (might have gotten stiff from trailering frontwards instead of her preferred direction backwards.)

Around noon, me and our team of four young riders (Calla, Amelia, Hunter and Sarah), plus Calla's sister India who was riding the 50s, tacked up the horses for a 4 mile warmup before the vet in. All of the kids were riding their horses for the first time, even Sarah, who was aboard Breeze so I could evaluate the cough Siena still had from the previous weekend, although no other symptoms were in evidence. It seemed to work itself out as we neared the end of the ride, and I could tell each of the team was doing a great job managing their unfamiliar mounts. It's amazing how talented and brave our young riders can be!

Using a megaphone so everyone around could hear, Jack Weber read aloud a brief bio about each rider from the six teams as their horses were presented for the vet-in. Afterwards, I was running around finding a bridle to borrow for Siena (since in the dark I'd accidentally left hers at home), which is why I missed being in the team photo! I was also busy crewing for my friends Megan Davis and Meghan Dunn (Meghan was riding Megan's horse - long story why they needed help but I trotted ginormous Shabaani at nearly every vet check and was delighted when they finished 3rd and earned a Certificate of Capability!)

We all slept soundly and the temperatures didn't drop as much as forecast. Nonetheless, it was brisk (low 40s) as the riders set off at 7 a.m. on the first 24 mile loop, which included a midpoint trot out for the vets but no hold. Lisa and Sarah ended up riding together nearly all day - after all, the two mares had trained together and paced well, with Breeze leading most of the time so that Siena could draft off her (less work for most horses unless they prefer being alone). By the second hold I was starting to relax, since Siena's sore shoulder and cough were no where in evidence and she was pulsing down remarkably fast. Tom Hutchinson, listening with a stethoscope less than a minute after we pulled her saddle and before we'd put more than a sponge or two of water on her neck, looked up in surprise and said "She's already at 48!" which was well below the 64 pulse criteria. I soaked her usual Safe Starch pellets in water, tossing in a bit of Lisa's oats and sweet feed, and she happily gobbled this mash up at every hold, nibbling on alfalfa and coastal hay towards the end. Sarah also took great care of herself, although we had to find her a pair of chaps to borrow early on! Around 4 p.m., I walked out to the finish area with two horse coolers, a bucket of water and some electrolytes and horse treats. About 4:20, Meg Sleeper's chestnut mare Rabia, ridden by Marcelo from Guatemala, crossed the line in first place. Eight minutes later, and much sooner than expected, Lisa and Sarah appeared on our line of sight and cantered across together, with Lisa finishing second overall and Sarah in third place/second young rider.

Just as in Canada, the completion trot out was a nerve wracking experience since the vets asked to Siena trot a second time. She was more warmed up for the second trot and everyone could tell how happy I was to learn she'd completed as I cried and hugged my mare, then Sarah. India had successfully completed the 50-miler earlier that afternoon, and only a short time after Sarah, Hunter, then Amelia and then Calla all completed successfully, for a 100 percent completion rate among our Gold Medal winning Northeast Team (technically only three of four riders need to complete to be considered for a team medal, but team vet Pam Karner, chef Natalie Muzzio and I were especially proud of this achievement reflecting the careful riding and quality equitation. Not all the teams were so lucky - only one of the other five actually finished enough riders to be considered.

Both Lisa and Sarah agreed to present for Best Condition - it's a great final check of a horse's metabolics and you never know who might get stiff and not trot as well! During the lull between BC and the awards, which didn't start until almost 9 p.m., I carefully poultice both mare's legs while Lisa tried to work out the kinks in her sore back (from all that cantering!). I'll never forget the sight of Sarah bounding along in excitement - she's normally very reserved - after the selectors for next year's U.S. Young Riders Team told her they wanted to see her continue the qualifying process, which includes three more 120-km completions, ideally on alternative mounts to Siena.

With a cracking fire and the making of homemade s'mores in the background, the award were a wonderful experience. Each member of the organizing committee, including my friend Amelia and her son Jason who did a fantastic job keeping us all fed, were introduced and applauded. Then each person who finished received wonderful recognition from ride organizer Cheryl Van Deusen. The awards were especially nice, with each member of our Gold Medal Team receiving a lovely embroidered cooler for their horse. As we headed home the next morning, I was on Cloud Nine that we'd have such great news for Sarah's proud parents and many excited friends.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fueled by Kerry Butter

Check out our lakefront view at Skymont!
Of all my horse friends, the one who lives closest is Kelly Lane, who a few years back moved just down the road in New Kent County. While we regularly meet up for training rides, she isn't able to get away for AERC rides nearly as often as yours truly.

So, we were really looking forward to traveling together to Mustang Memorial in southern New Jersey on Oct. 1. Then Mother Nature struck, turning my place into Noah's Ark (we were hit with 8 inches of rain in just 12 hours the Wednesday before the ride, with the wet stuff moving north for an unrelentingly gloomy weekend forecast).

We'd already decided to use Kelly's rig instead of mine, a Yukon SUV pulling a teeny Brenderup --  NOT the best setup for a muddy basecamp! Considering another option, I sweet-talked Kelly into adding over 500 miles to our trip by heading west to the Skymont Ride in central Tennessee. Ike Nelson does a fantastic job of managing this fundraiser for the local Boy Scouts. Having traveled there two years earlier with Gryphon, I knew how my way around and how fun those trails are along the scenic Cumberland Plateau. Best of all, their forecast called for sunny skies and perfect fall weather!

Siena chomps as I enjoy more Kerry Butter!  
We both worked all day Thursday. I was helping run a conference in DC and my train didn't reach the Staples Mill Rd station until 9 p.m., so it was nearly 11 p.m. with a steady drizzle falling when we finally finished packing and hit the road.

Taking turns driving and sleeping, Kelly and I covered the 600 miles in under 12 hours, arriving mid-morning. While I grazed our hungry horses in a grassy field near camp, she found a place to shoehorn the rig at the very end of the crowded basecamp. But our cozy site was right on the lake! After hauling our crewing area gear to the other end of camp and going for a warmup ride, we enjoyed some wine & appetizers that included Kerry Butter from Ireland and Ciabatta Bread (Kelly is quite the "foodie," and high fat diets provide necessary energy for riders as well as their horses!)

Heading toward the ride briefing along the glowstick-marked path to the lodge on the other side of the lake, we caught up with friends over dinner, including Dana Abernathy and Joe Ford, who'd both successfully completed their rides earlier that day. Sleepily returning to our campsite, I happily snuggled in the back of Kelly's SUV until time for the pre-dawn feed.

At last! Kelly & Dinero finished with all As about 5 p.m.
Ride day dawned crisp and clear! I decided to ride close to the front and Siena was a pro all day, slowing down for the technical rocky sections & cantering the flat, smooth ones. On the first loop, I paced with old pal Debbie McClary on her young mare, then caught up with Leigh Ann Pauley on the second loop and Kathy Torgeson on the third. Kathy's mare (who'd done Tevis same year as Gryphon) was the only horse doing BOTH days of the ride, so when Sudi Lenhart and Debbie caught up to us on the last loop just 3 miles before the finish, Debbie and Kathy opted to hang back. I gave Sudi a quiet pat on the back and a grin, then we enjoyed a good-natured race to the finish, taking turns leading those last few miles. Sudi, who is President of the Southeast Endurance Riders Association, graciously held back as we crossed the dam to the finish line so we could tie for second place.

Siena had fantastic recoveries and solid vet scores all day, and I'd planned to stand for Best Condition. Then Dr. Otis saw her favoring her left hind during the warm up. We'd finished an hour behind winner Tina Cochran, so probably wouldn't have had a chance anyway. Given that this was Siena's prep ride for the FEI 75 at Broxton, I asked Dr. Ike, who is an equine chiropractor, to check her. He found soreness in her lumbar region that he said could wait til I got home to be adjusted.

Siena enjoys a hearty roll after her 2nd place finish.
Later that evening, after I'd helped Kelly & D.D. with their completion and got some packing done, we enjoyed wonderful photo slideshow of the day by the ride photographer and hearty meal served by the Boy Scouts, sharing our table with Angie and Josie McGhee and Jodi Buttram and her daughter Joni Burden.

Heading along the glowstick trail to bed, Kelly checked her SUV only to find that the battery had drained. Some nice neighbors gave us a jump start and we decided to go ahead and hit the road while the vehicle recharged rather than taking a chance on it not starting when we'd originally planned to leave in the wee hours. Kelly left her air mattress set up in the back, we again took turns driving and sleeping, pulling into my drive before 10 a.m. Sunday.

My 2-year old gelding Chrome's microchip had come in the mail, so after work Monday I trailered him & Siena over to the vet so he could get it implants and she could get her chiro adjustment. I was delighted that she was moving soundly during the pre-examination, but she deserved this therapy after 50 fast miles of trail and 1,200 miles of hauling in a strange trailer. And Chrome got some great experience learning to enter a stall all alone and stay patient!

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Tale of Two Chestnuts

Colleen Greene hit it out of the park in managing her very first AERC ride, at Powerline Park in Southeastern Ohio on Sept. 17. I was looking forward to seeing some new trails, and along with a few other endurance friends from Virginia made the trek over the mountains to reach basecamp by noon that Friday.

Located a few miles north of I-70 on a hilltop overlooking the Ohio Valley, this 1,000+ acre private property had hosted some extreme ATV competitions, with the beer cans and two grave-type memorials as sober evidence.

Lily and her good old Shiloh after their drag ride
But that afternoon the sun was shining, the breezes were blowing and it was wonderful to be alive and surrounded by some of my favorite endurance friends, including Dale Weaver and Peggy Thompson who parked right beside us.

I'd brought good old Shiloh to keep Gryphon company and for my friend Lily Kuhn to enjoy. She volunteered all weekend and got to ride the last loop, managing to keep Shiloh from doing his infamous drop & roll going through the pond crossing!

The weather forecast called for a spot of rain early Saturday, which happened to coincide with the start of the 50-mile ride. As we "endured" a thorough soaking, I followed behind Dale on his 18-year old mare Luminaria, watching her slip and slide through the first few steep ATV paths off the hilltop to the lower trails.  The rain soon let up and the trails quickly dried, but a few riders decided discretion was in order and optioned to not continue.

Dale and I were delighted to find that the trails, while technical and steep in places, were very doable and lots of fun. Never have I ridden such a well-marked trail, with spotters at several different points to keep us all honest. Pulsing ahead of Dale at the first hold, Gryphon had a 64/56 CRI and I decided to pick up the pace a bit, riding long enough with Skip Kemerer to have a good chat about AERC ride sanctioning (hopefully he'll bring back Michaux!), and had fun encouraging new rider, Sam Hammond from western NY state, who completed her first 50 that day.

G-unit proved that little can be POWERFUL!
By the 2nd vet check it was clear that 15-year old Gryphon was having a VERY good day. I caught up to frontrunner Laura Bramel on the 3rd loop and we left out together on the 4th loop, taking our time to let the horses eat and drink along the way before letting Laura take the win (my goal that day was best condition).

I almost didn't want this ride to end! Gryphon looked amazing at his best condition trot out, and I basked in the many compliments my plucky little rescue received before grabbing a brief nap.

All the riders and volunteers gathered for a yummy potluck dinner as the sun began to set. Realizing I couldn't wait for awards - I had nearly 8 hours of driving ahead - Dale agreed to pick up my loot and we hit the road with 2 glowsticks duct taped to the upper back corners of my rig since the running lights were on the blitz (don't worry! brakes and turn signals still operational!)

Lily snoozed and I played old CSNY cassette tapes: "Tin soldiers and Nixon coming ... four dead in Ok- Hi -Oh," pondering the weekend's events and what had transpired halfway around the world that same day, at the World Endurance Championships in Slovakia.

While my friends Meg and Tom didn't complete (Meg's Anglo Arab Rim was pulled at the last hold and Tom's Reinman, a second cousin to my Siena, at the exit exam before the 4th loop), three other U.S. horses - Greyson bred by the Crandells, Meg's mare Rabia and Valerie's Colin for Gold - all finished to make their riders from England, Guatemala and Japan and associated crews super happy and proud.

But what many will remember about this year's WEC is that a 15-year old chestnut mare from the United Arab Emirates, allowed to go out on the 4th loop despite fatigue and possibly some pain blockers, took such a bad stumble on course that she broke her right front leg and had to be put down right then and there. I heard that Tom's wife Gina witnessed the tragedy and know this has reopened the gaping wound of what's wrong with the international level of our sport, which uses fast flat courses that push even the best endurance athletes in the world to the breaking point.

I cried for that mare - I still do when I think of her helplessness to have her rider listen to her fatigue and the price she paid for human ego - and vow to do what I could as the owner of an FEI passported mare with much potential, as an apprentice FEI official and as a member of the AERC International Committee and board of directors to take a stand. Tom Hagis spoke for us all in his desire to see the  UAE riders banned for the next decade. As Neil Young sang so long ago,

Gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her, and found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Back on Track with G-Unit during the Dog Days of Summer

My friend's grandson treats Shiloh to a carrot as Ginger looks on
After Sarah Buckley & Siena's outstanding performances at the Biltmore and Coates Creek FEI rides, Princess SiSi got the rest of the summer off competition to focus on "ring work" (3-4 times weekly attempts at dressage-type riding and side-passing using side reins as a crutch). Hoping her carriage and back strength will benefit to help Sarah successfully compete her at the Nov. 12 Broxton Young Riders Team Challenge, which is also a demo event for the FEI Young Riders World Championship in Verona, Italy next year.

As the heat of July bore down without pause, it was time to learn if $750 in stifle injections solved Gryphon's hind-end lameness issues following his pulls at Foxcatcher and Biltmore. Hoping a trip 700 miles north would mean a cooler if not less mosquito-filled ride, I talked my husband Shan into taking off work for the haul north of Ottawa to Chrystal and Rob Woodhouse's new Pioneer Ride in the Madawaska Highlands.

We swung by Dessia Miller's in Stormont to pick up her young rider Marissa, the niece of my friend Kim Wooley, and to meet Chrome, the 2 year old offspring of her 100-miler finishing stallion Cognac Amberfyre "Farley" and Lynda Townsend's nicely bred mare Vondelehrs Black Bart. When I got talked out of breeding Siena to Farley for the time being, Dessia offered me a fantastic deal on one of his offspring, without the stress of foaling and accident-prone babyhood. We were hauling Marissa's mare to and from the ride and would pick up Chrome on the trip home.

We enjoyed talking with Marissa about school, hockey and other aspects of life in the Great White North. She saved the day by having Canadian cell service to helping guide us through some confusing turns on the way to the back of beyond.Arriving at the remote ridecamp by early afternoon, we decided that Gryphon got along so well with Marissa's mare they could stay in the same pen.

While Marissa hung out with friends and family, Shan, me and our collie mix Ginger unhooked to explore the area, stopping at the crossroads of a tiny town with the only diesel for miles to soak up local atmosphere and share a yummy poutine (French fries with cheese curds and gravy) from the roadside food truck. On the way back, Shan got some advice from the nearby campground owner on the best trails to ride his dirtbike while I headed to the ride briefing for the 2nd of the 3-day ride.

As Chrystal read out results from the first day's ride, I saw Earle Baxter and Maribel who'd been with me at the New Mexico ride in April, along with my old friend Libby Llop, who'd gotten pulled at the finish but brought two other horses and was planning to go out the next day.

Temperatures dropped nicely overnight, with gray skies on the second day that helped keep temperatures from climbing too high. We trotted steadily for 12 miles to a 15-minute hold, then continued on to the 25-mile vet check before turning around and returning the way we came, with a 2nd vet check at the same place we'd had the morning hold. Despite the difference in size (Libby's Andalusian cross mare was 16'2" to Gryphon's 14'2"), the two horses paced well together and we shared food and helped each other at each stop. I'd come up with the idea of soaking some dried out baby wipes with fly spray, pulling a couple out of a ziplock bag every so often to refresh the ones tucked on each side of our horses' browbands. The long day of riding gave me plenty of time to soak up the harsh but serene beauty of the landscape, which included numerous ponds and marshes. At one point we rode past a lonely cabin labeled "Gary's Weatherstation" accessed by a bumpy road, with a sign along one boulder-filled hilly section labeled "Marge's Tilt a Wheel."

As the never-ending ups and downs started taking their toll, I dismounted several times to jog beside Gryphon and hand-feed him bits of roadside grass. Just before 4 p.m., we reached the finish line and Gryphon completed with solid vet scores. Head vet Stan Alkemede encouraged me to come back in an hour to stand for best condition, and I was thrilled with his post-ride CRI of 14-12 (heartrate of 56 beats per minute before the trotout and only 48 afterward, obviously the heat conditioning he'd suffered through back home contributed!) He earned the second Best Condition of his career and I celebrated with a glass of wine. Shan and I decided one day of riding those tough trails was enough and we packed up (plus I helped Libby's husband Quentin get their truck to a high point of land to negotiate some over-the-phone stock trades) while waiting for Marissa to finish her set-speed ride on the 3rd and final day.

Dessia helped us make an early-evening appointment with the vet at the border crossing before giving Chrome's feet a quick trim. The Canadian vet, who was stuck there late to inspect a load of still-alive Peking Duck, couldn't have been nicer and reality returned as I turned my phone off airplane mode to receive 3 days of missed emails, texts and voicemails. Chrome unloaded and reloaded twice on the long trip home and was greeted by loud whinneys from Shiloh and Siena as we pulled in the drive just before sunrise that Sunday morning.

Gryphon is already grinning as we start the Iron Mountain Jubilee
As the heat continued through August, I patiently exposed Chrome to the pleasures of fly spray and cold hosing. He quickly acclimated to the herd, with Shiloh showing particular affection for the little "pomey" with his inquisitive, sweet face, crooked blaze and the dog-bone shaped white spot on his muzzle. I'd been thinking of entering Gryphon in a 100-miler at the end of the month, but with work duties limiting the time I could be out of the office and Shiloh having taken a young rider through 30 miles of West Virginia's Ride Between the Rivers in early August, I opted for a much shorter trip and offered my Teresa a chance to ride with me at the Iron Mountain Jubilee in southwest Virginia.

Siena seems to enjoy her role as Chrome's big sister
Teresa's new friend Lilias, who grew up in not far from the IMJ basecamp, was a welcome addition to our road trip. Arriving by late morning, we three soaked in the New River before setting up our crew area at the away vet check and checking in Gryphon and Shiloh. Lilias bought ice to help us cool Shiloh on ride day. Even through we were going slow and steady, it took nearly 20 minutes to pulse him down at the last hold and nearly the full 30 minutes allowed at the finish. I was too hot and tired myself to consider that he'd have gotten stiff during that timeframe, and he ended up being slightly off to get pulled at the finish. We all hit the New River one more time (except Gryphon who didn't need ANY cooling at the holds and is water phobic!). Watching Shiloh enjoy his hippolike roll of contentment, I felt a bit better about putting his 24-year-old body through all those hills and rocks in the heat. We got to my place just before midnight and enjoy DVRed Olympic jumping competition the next morning over waffles and omelets. Teresa's Kagen water leg wraps worked wonders and Shiloh had virtually no filling in his legs and was trotting sound when we checked him the morning after.

It's nearly mid-September now and the hot weather still hasn't let up. While Shiloh and Gryphon rest up, I've enjoying taking Chrome and Siena on trailer rides over to my friend Maury's, where I pony Chrome off Siena while she legs up her two hunt horses. Cooler weather can't get here soon enough!