I don’t even know where to begin with this blog. It’s probably not going to get the length or thought it deserves, but I will at least try. I entered John in the Crooked River 30-mile Competitive Trail Ride (CTR) on May 26th in North Waterford, Maine. Because of my new job, John went up to Maine Friday morning with Megan and her sons. They settled him in and vetted him in. I got there at close to 10pm Friday night. Without their help, I would not be able to attend at all.
We had ridden the North Waterford trail system twice in 2011, once for Pine Tree (he was lame after 17 miles) and once for the October Maine rides (he was reserve champion). We got up Saturday morning, and went to the rider’s meeting. They had me riding out with Megan and her boys. I haven’t competed with a group yet this year – Leverett being our only CTR of the year. But, I had ridden with Meg at Jersey Devil last year and John was fine, so decided to give it a try. I figured if John was having problems I could always go off by myself.
The trails in Maine are rocky. They recommend the horses wear pads. John was not wearing pads, and I had some guilt about not putting pads on him before we went. When we rode out of camp, we were going uphill on newly finished trail and it was all gravel. John was strong and in the front of the group, but jostling for position with Minnie and Cocoa.
It’s been so long since this ride, I don’t really remember too much from the early miles at this point. He never did anything terrible, behavior wise, and there weren’t any huge missteps. He was really strong and fighting with me to let him race the other horses. At some point, I’d had enough and rode ahead of Megan and the boys. Later on, they caught up, and I let them pass, and continued riding alone.
We passed the vet at the trot for a fly-by (basically this means they assess the horse as you trot by, and make notes on your score sheet) and got the go-ahead. We ran into the photographer, trotted by her and stopped at the river for water. She smiled and waved us on.
Sometime soon after this – something wasn’t right though. I guess it probably started around the time I went to pass the Rice’s. This is an odd coincidence because it was the Rice’s I was behind for a while and then passed at Pine Tree, the other ride John came up lame. When I finally let him pass their horses, he didn’t want to leave their group, and I had to push a bit to keep him going.
By the time we got to the “1 Mile to the Hold” sign, I was trying to make John walk. I had a sneaking suspicion something wasn’t right, but really hoped that I was wrong. He kept pulling the bit and trotting along, and I kept asking him to walk into the hold.
He pulsed down at the hold (15 miles into our ride) without an issue and we headed over to the vet to trot-out. He was dead lame on his left front. I say dead lame; the vet said it was a Grade 3 lameness – head bob lame – not going any farther today. I could see it trotting next to him. Dr. Kohut couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but he was definitely lame.
Long story short, we climbed back into that black ambulance horse trailer – that luckily stayed hooked to the truck this time – and got a ride back to ridecamp. I was definitely frustrated, and still am. He scored a 97 (out of 100) at Leverett and was grand champion limited distance horse for all of ECTRA in 2011, but two out of the three times we have ridden at North Waterford, he has come up lame.
My farrier says he probably aggravated his check ligament because of his upright conformation. I had another lyme test done, just to be sure since his last one was spring of 2011 (it was negative).
My theory is; that the check ligament is the problem. I also think that we aggravated the check ligament when we galloped the rail trail a few weeks before Crooked River (much like the rearing incident at the beginning of Pine Tree may have played into that lameness). Riding out in the group, with him being so strong on tough trails, probably made his situation worse.
I don’t know if my theory is wrong or right, but I am really nervous about going to another CTR. At the same time, I really want to get him back out there – because how can he score a 97 on one tough ride (Leverett) and be dead lame on the next one? I really hope that it was rider mismanagement and not a serious – need the vet- lameness issue. Since it was rider mismanagement/horse behavior issues that caused last year’s lameness, I am going to take my chances and enter him in one more CTR before I go all out with a lameness exam etcetera (since he is sound now).
Other than a lame horse, and a frustrated rider, Crooked River was a lot of fun. Since I got back to camp so much sooner than everyone else, I had my horse cleaned up with leg wraps on, and was able to help other riders with their horses as they came in off the trail (and it was really hot that day – so they appreciated the help!)
Check out the photo that Wanda Clowater of Clowater Art took - we had just passed the fly-by vet inspection and were headed to the river for the water stop: