Sunday, October 3, 2010

Warren Tessier

My last competitive trail ride of the season. And I am kind of bummed about that, but I was really looking forward to this ride because I have heard so many good things about it.

The Warren Tessier 30 mile Competitive Trail Ride is hosted by the Hartland Riding Club at Connie Tessier's house in Hartland, Vermont. Once again, Megan picked up John and off we drove (in the pouring rain) on Friday afternoon to Vermont.

When we arrived at Connie's house, no one was there. For a minute I had foxhunting deja vu and worried that we were in the wrong place or the ride was cancelled! Once again, I was glad to be wrong! Soon more trailers and horses arrived.

We set up our paddocks and unloaded the horses and settled them in. John had spent the past two days in his stall because of the heavy rain at home so I took him for a walk around the riding ring and back. I walked and trotted him and then trotted him in circles. He was pretty spunky to start but he settled down and was trotting with some semblance of behaivor so I took him back to his paddock.

Shortly after this, the vets arrived and the vet in process began. John had his best trot in ever. He scored below average and I was ecstatic. I know that sounds odd, but at past Competitive Trail Rides he has bucked and cantered during the trot in, or done park trots. He was getting a reputation for "putting on a show" during his trot in. The only problem with this is that you lose points for change in gait from trot in before the ride to trot out after the ride. It is hard to replicate the "shows" John put on in trot ins after a 25-30 mile ride. I have been trying to untrain the show horse in him to just do a relaxed trot in. Although we still have more work to do, we are making progress.

Dinner was a potluck in Connie Tessier's house. This was a lot of fun. At many rides, we are all in our own area, doing our thing with our horses and often don't get to interact much with everyone else. Dinner at Warren Tessier was a big family affair with everyone laughing and joking. The competitive trail group is a really nice group of people and it was fun to sit and chat.

We were visiting with Connie (who at eighty is spunky and lively and one of the nicest people I have ever met) in the living room when Joanna came in and told us that one of our horses was loose and eating grain out of the back of the pickup truck. Megan thought it was Minnie since her paddock was in front of the truck, but the situation sounded rather suspicious of something John would do so I followed them back out to the trailers.

Minnie was standing in her paddock, watching John eat her grain with a horrified look on her face. I grabbed John's halter (the first time I have ever taken it off of him at a ride and look what happens!) and carefully backed him out of (he was in between Lasher's electric fence paddock and Meg's truck and trailer) and took him back to his paddock. We use a single strand of tape and it was pretty obvious he had ducked right underneath one section and gotten out. When I put him back in his paddock he started leaning on the fence, eating the grass on the other side. Burnie soon discovered that he had forgotten to attach the tape to the fence charger, John got zapped a couple of times and his healthy respect for the fence returned.

For anyone that has ever heard me joke that I sleep like a dead person, it has been confirmed as a truth in the competitive trail ride community. Two horses (not ours) got loose Friday night and everyone in ride camp heard them and woke up to help catch them. Everyone, except me. I slept through the entire incident and heard the recap from Burnie and Dale Saturday morning.

More trailers (local riders) arrived Saturday morning. We had our pre-ride talk and we were off. They lengthened course time because they recently had six inches of rain. We had a maximum of five hours and forty five minutes to complete the ride without time penalties. Several friends and veterans of the CTR circuit told me that this was a very tough ride and to be careful and use all the time I was given. I asked a lot of questions and made a game plan. Go fast when I could, go slow where it was questionable and take time penalties if necessary.

John and I were riding alone again. As we were warming up, I could feel a lot of horse under me. He was raring to go. Considering that our last ride was only two weeks ago, I was a little surprised! The first ten miles were pretty interesting. John was very strong and even though we were riding alone I had to work hard to keep him at a controlled trot and to bring him back to a walk for questionable terrain. Somewhere in the first part of the ride we went through a mud puddle, I just thought it was a regular mud puddle like the others we had seen and ridden through but in the middle of it, the water was up over my stirrups. John lunged and slipped a bit to get out of the puddle. At another point early on, I was trotting in some decent woods trail and all of a sudden we hit a puddle that was obscured by leaves and John slipped. I blame myself for not paying careful enough attention to the trail and I believe one of these two incidents is the cause of later problems on our ride.

There was more dirt road than I had bargained on. We trotted most of it with short spurts of canter and a few short walk breaks. I was still a little nervous about time after the VERDA ride and decided to go fast when I could since I did not know what the rest of the trail would be. I should have given John a few more walk breaks.

At around mile ten, John stopped on the trail and did not want to move. Two riders were right behind us and he kept stopping as we climbed a hill. I had a very strong suspicion that he needed to pee. He did, but he would not do it (despite the fact that he did on other rides).

After seventeen miles we arrived at the hold. I had caught up to Megan and Burnie (along with several other riders) in the last couple of miles before the hold so rode in with them. John was very busy watching all of the action at the hold. He made the pulse check, but they said he would have pulsed down lower if he could just focus. We went for our trot out and the vet said he was off and asked me to trot again. He has never had lameness issues and I was freaked out. I asked the vet if I should pull him but she said it was mild and that I could keep going. I seriously considered pulling him, I really don't want to hurt my horse, but since I was ahead of time and the vet said it was okay, I headed back out.

I went back out with Megan and Burnie. I thought I would try riding with them and see if John could behave in company now that a large chunk of the ride was done. For awhile, we were fine riding together and it was a lot of fun. I was very glad for the company because I was still slightly freaked that John was off and they could help me keep an eye on him. After about five miles of riding together I had to let them go ahead though. Leaving the hold, John was pretty mopey and didn't have much "go." After a few miles, he got his second wind or whatever you want to call it and started grabbing the bit and galloping to catch up with Minnie and Dolly. In areas of questionable terrain, with a horse that the vet has already declared as slightly off, I decided this was not a good idea. I let them ride on without me. John was thoroughly unimpressed with my decision and declared this by snorting as he park walked down the trail. Once they were out of site he settled back down.

The last five miles were pretty uneventful. It took forever to get from the four to go sign to the three to go sign and I started worrying a bit about making time. Then all of a sudden I was a the "1 to go" sign. I let John walk as slow as he wanted to for the last mile, I had a little over fifteen minutes left to get back. When Joanna and Bill caught up to me I verified that it had really been the "1 to go" sign. Where was the "2 to go" sign? I had missed it about one minute after the "3 to go" sign. They had mismarked that stretch just a tad. I walked John back into base camp after five hours and forty four minutes out on the trail (including 31 minutes at the hold). I untacked and sponged him off and waited for my pulse check.

Linda, one of our judges from Leverett, did John's pulse. He was antsy and kicking out with his hind leg. He still needed to pee and would not do it but was obviously very uncomfortable. And he would not pulse down. Despite all of the walking on the last five miles, he still pulsed at a 56. I was really bummed. Linda told me to throw him outside and not let him in the barn until he figures out how to pee outside. She said that if he hadn't been so uncomfortable he would have pulsed down lower. Tough love. But I'm not so sure I can do that to him. Since its our last ride of the season I am going to try to train him to pee when I whistle instead. Friends that race Standardbreds do this and we have months to work on it.

We trotted out and the vet said he was off in his right front. It had been the left front at the hold. She was not too concerned, I was more worried because I have never lost lameness points before.

After the trot outs, I tied John back up at the trailer to eat hay. He finally peed, for a really long time. We did our hands on with the vets and he was puffy in his right front fetlock and right rear. I really think those two slips early on had a lot to do with this and feel bad that I didn't steer him clear of those puddles.

All in all I am really proud of John. Once again he tried his heart out and really did a good job. We have plenty to work on before next season but I am really happy with John and the amount of effort he has put in this year. I want to take him on a couple of hunter paces and fun trail rides this fall and then he will get three months off to rest before next year.

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