It's been a tough year for my two competition-age horses, Gryphon and Siena.
|Siena with Sarah Buckley aboard|
After a promising start to her season, Siena's Lyme disease relapsed in May (after a heartbreaking finish-line pull at the Biltmore 75). The poor mare looked WORSE after 60 days of treatment, so we tested her for EPM and the results were positive despite her not having obvious neurological issues. Halfway into that 90-day treatment, she's already looking much better, with powdered colostrum and Cavalor brand probiotics to help her body cope. After some more time off, she'll hopefully bounce back like many other great horses who've been sidelined by these chronic conditions.
As for G-unit, in early spring a tiny sarcoid on his chest tripled in size over just a few weeks. It resisted initial treatment with Xterra ointment and grew to the size of a baseball before I convinced my vet to chop it off, followed by 2 doses of chemotherapy drugs injected into the wound site that made him uncharacteristically lethargic plus caused him to shed so much fur he looked like the Velveteen rabbit.
Sympathizing with my lack of rideable horses, my friend Barb Horstmeier offered to swap out my 3 yo Chrome for her 13 year old mare BR Welcome Tarika. I'd briefly boarded Welcome at my place when she was 4 and truly enjoyed getting her back in shape throughout the month of August.
With Gryphon finally acting perky, I decided to make the 600-mile trek to the Big South Fork ride in Oneida, TN on Sept 8 & 9. Barb met me near Roanoke on the haul west. We stopped at a rest area around lunchtime to let the horses graze, only to discover that the starter on my old but reliable F350 had died. I lined up a tow and alerted the Ford dealership in Kingsport so they had parts ready when Barb and the truck arrived shortly before closing (I'd stayed with the horses). We got back on the road by 6 and pulled into ridecamp just after dark, getting help from my fellow AERC board members Susan Kasemeyer and Bob Marshall to register and vet in.
|Thrilled to be out on trail with G again!|
Friday dawned crisp and clear and I enjoyed a blissful first loop aboard Gryphon, who managed to keep up with Erin Champion's big horse. We talked back and forth about horses with Lymes and EPM not always having obvious symptoms, and I arrived back in camp with Gryphon looking bright-eyed and eating voraciously.
Having missed the ride briefing and wanting to slow up a bit, I left out on the 2nd loop alone and chose the wrong direction on the loop's lollipop for about 2 miles before Anne Liddell got me straightened out. Within 20 minutes I was back on track, and delighted when Diane Doll and April Johnson caught up to pull us through the rest of the loop.
Diane and April were delayed by needing a shoe on one of the horses reset, but I managed to catch up to Roxanne Ciccone just after the beginning of the final loop. Without her help, I might have gone the wrong way at two intersections. It was a LOONG tough section of trail with several steep climbs and a 10-minute stop partway through, and we didn't finish until almost 5 p.m.
Dr. Bob noticed Gryphon's back was pretty sore while doing the completion exam (I'd forgotten to bring the thick saddle pad Lisa Green gave me) so I poulticed G's saddle area as well as his legs. Barb and I enjoy the afternoon sun and our beverages of choice while chatting with other riders before dinner and the Saturday ride briefing. Claire Summers kept me enthralled as she shared her adventures during the Mongol Derby. She said the paleo-food was much better than expected, the steppes were beautiful and a lavender-like scent of wild herbs pervaded the whole region. She and her partner Rachel figured out a sluggish pony can be ponied by a fast pony and are already saving $$ for another go, planning to shave a couple of days off 9 days it took them to coverthe 600-mile trek based on all she's learned.
|Welcome is a delight to ride!|
Walking over to get coffee early Saturday morning, I learned that the Big South Fork River was still too high for horses to safely cross, so we'd be using the same trails as Friday and not have to pack for away vet checks. Welcome was calm as I warmed her up, and Vickie Crance for setting a steady pace of mostly trotting on the first loop. As we finished walking up a steep hill at the end of the loop and Welcome resumed her trot, I could feel something wasn't quite right. At the vet exam, Dee Dee Huff gave us a chance to try to represent but even with help from a nice masseuse lady (sorry I forgot her name!) couldn't work out Welcome's cramp in time and decided to start packing to head home a bit earlier than planned. When we loaded around noon, G didn't react when I rubbed his back and Welcome was moving better.
We'd gone less than 10 miles and were starting back uphill from the Big South Fork River gorge when a critical fuse on my truck blew and the truck accelerator pedal stopped working. Barb stayed with the rig as park rangers arrived to help direct traffic, while I flagged down a ride back to camp to look for help. Two nice young men worked the better part of an hour checking and finding the right fuse to replace before I realized we'd need another tow and called my husband Shan to explain he'd need to come fetch us with his truck.
The tow driver's friend in Oneida had just opened an automotive repair shop, so I had him take it there while April Johnson's husband Daniel, who was no longer needed to keep water tubs at the away hold filled up, used ride manager Eric Reuter's big truck to get the trailer and horses back to camp. I'm very grateful to Eric for allowing us to borrow his truck for another 4 hours, and to Daniel for agreeing to help move the horses about 80 miles south to Eric and Nelia's farm, closer to the interstate and much easier to find after dark.
Barb and I tried unsuccessfully to nap while waiting for Shan, who pulled up at 9:30 p.m. after encountering lots of traffic from those fleeing Hurricane Irma. We drove straight through the night, dropping off Barb around 2 a.m. and making it home just as the sun was rising, where I watched each horse take a good roll before heading to bed. The best news came a few days later, when the Oneida mechanic called to say he'd gotten my truck running for a very reasonable price. I won't have a chance to fetch Trucky for a few weeks, when Susan K agreed to pick me up at the airport and drive me up to the mechanic (she lives on the same road as Eric).
While this year's Big South Fork presented some unexpected challenges, it was tremendously uplifting to experience the kindness and generosity of all the folks who helped us make it safely home. This sport has helped me discover there are great people all across this county, with some especially wonderful folks hailing from Tennessee!!
The book of Hebrews, Chapter 13 verse 2: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.