Friday, October 31, 2008

A Spooky Story

My Halloween costume is ruined!

I was planning to dress up as a cow. At dusk, I was going to head out to the paddocks and scare Aaruba's socks off. Can't you just see it? Naked from the knees down!

Alas, during last night's ride, he proved that the Bane of the Bovine has broken.

Many of you will recall that Aaruba has long suffered from a phobia of cows. Would you believe that there's an actual web page dedicated to cow phobia? I quote psychological trainer Jan Heering:

Phobia of cows is an intense condition of fright or dread of something, which does not have the power, or capacity of causing any sort of actual danger or threat.

I'll say it's intense.

The first and only time Aaruba ever reared under saddle was about a year ago, during one of his early rides outside the round corral. We'd just come upon a pasture full of Angus (henceforth known as Carnivorous Cows from Planet Horseflesh), and Aaruba spooked.

I misinterpreted the source of his terror and turned him the wrong direction, blocking his view of the monsters and causing him to panic. Up he went. This was no cute, little half rear. It was a full-on, release-the-reins, chest-to-mane, don't-move-a-muscle-lest-you-pull-him-over-backwards rear.

It's not nearly as much fun as the Lone Ranger pretends.

What is most pathetic is that most individuals are aware of the fact that their fear is unnatural or irrelevant but they are unable to escape the condition and feel terribly ashamed of themselves.

Hmm. Aaruba never indicated knowledge that his fear was irrational. He never demonstrated any shame. He certainly was pathetic, though. For months, I was obligated to dismount and lead him, bug-eyed and foaming, past every cow we met on our conditioning rides.

We live in farm country.

There are a lot of cows.

They are not only afraid to see a cow but the mere thought of they might see a cow horrifies them to such an extent that they suffer from panic attacks and ruthless anxiety.

Now we know what ails Aaruba. Cows are responsible for his gastric ulcers!

Somebody order me a hamburger.

It is indeed unfortunate that cow phobia therapies require months and even years to show results and in the process, the victimized individual has to be exposed to the phobic condition repeatedly as part of the treatment.

Repeated exposure? Did that. And yes, it was unfortunate.

Ride after ride, I required Aaruba to pass fields of cows in hand. It was rather like leading a stick of dynamite by the fuse.

About 500 miles into the summer, I was able to ride, albeit very quickly, past the tiniest, sweetest, most doe-eyed Jersey calves. One at a time.

By 700 miles, we could pass a smattering of Holsteins, so long as they weren't grazing too near the fence, or mooing, or moving. Breathing was (usually) tolerable.

At the 800 mile mark, we charged up a hill past an entire herd of Angus. Aaruba seemed to be filled with helium and rocket fuel, but we survived. Just two miles up the road, we passed a feedlot lined with cows eating silage from a concrete ditch.

We didn't die.

It was a proud moment.

And then, there was last night. Last night, my friends, we passed a pasture brimming with yearling steers, a smattering of cows, and one fortunate bull. I shortened my reins and dropped my heels, waited for Aaruba's trotting legs to convert to pogo sticks. But, he simply sped up. A little.

Oh heavens above, I thought. Miracles happen!

And then...

Oh hell below, the herd is moving!

All two hundred head turned and walked as one in the same direction we were traveling, a great army of Carnivorous Cows from Planet Horseflesh rolling like tanks over the grass, wet noses glistening like fangs in the setting sun.

Three months ago, this turn of events would have sent Aaruba straight to Neptune, leaving me splattered like a skunk on the pavement.

But last night, Aaruba's courage prevailed. Pogo stick trot notwithstanding, we cleared the area in good form, all flaring nostrils and flagging tail. Hail the conquering hero!

Ms. Heering would have been proud.

Sadly, I'm still out of a Halloween costume. Any ideas? Maybe I could whip up a quick combine suit...

On another note, my November issue of Endurance News arrived today. The cover story is "What Your Horse's Urine Color Means." I think I'll leave this issue in the bathroom for our Thanksgiving guests. Why not? They already think I'm crazy.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buckle Down: How to Use the Near Side Cinch Buckle

I hope I'm not the very last person on earth to figure out the near side cinch buckle. If I am, well, I'm going to blame my lifelong preference for English riding.

Though I grew up riding English, I encountered enough Western saddles to learn the traditional latigo-tying method. You know, the one that leaves a knot under your leg and the tongue of the near side cinch buckle dangling uselessly.

None of this mattered when I was using English tack with billets and girths. But, when I fell in love with my Stonewall endurance saddle -- cinch, latigo, and all -- I knew I'd need to find a better way. Surely cinch manufacturers have a reason for including a near side buckle!

They do. Here's how it works:

Begin as usual, looping the latigo through the cinch buckle and back through the rigging ring. Instead of tying a knot, though, bring the latigo back down to the cinch buckle as if you were going to make another loop. Tighten appropriately, then place the buckle tongue through the nearest latigo hole. Be sure to get the tongue as far through the hole as possible.

Next, bring the latigo back up to the saddle rigging, taking care to press the tongue against the layer of latigo between the tongue and the buckle. This will prevent the tongue from coming out of the hole, which could result in the latigo working loose.

Secure the excess latigo by running it back through the rigging ring. Voila! A nice, neat, flat, secure cinch.

I know, I know. It doesn't look as secure as a knot. But I've ridden hundreds of miles and quite a few spooks using this method, and my latigo has never slipped.

Try it!


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

What treatments can effectively cure equine gastric ulcers? For too many horse owners, that is the $64,000 question -- almost literally, it seems! To make matters worse, attempts to answer the question are often rife with controversy. Below is an introduction to the most common pharmaceutical treatments, as well as some natural alternatives.

Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor that halts the production of stomach acid, allowing ulcerated tissue to heal. Omeprazole’s key weakness is its susceptibility to rapid destruction by gastric acid. This means that omeprazole will be most effective if administered in conjunction with ingredients that protect the drug long enough to permit its absorption into the bloodstream. Omeprazole is available in a variety of forms:

GastroGard and UlcerGard -- These Marial products are formulated specifically to ensure the desirable absorption of omeprazole by the equine body . The prescription version, GastroGard, boasts a body of research proving effectiveness in curing equine gastric ulcers. Non-prescription UlcerGard is labeled as a preventative and is therefore subject to less rigorous research and inspection than its Rx twin, but it appears the contents of the tubes are indeed identical; only the recommended dosages differ. Unfortunately, at $30 or more per dose, a month or more of treatment is beyond the reach of many a horse owner’s pocketbook.

Prilosec -- This human form of omeprazole does not contain the necessary protective carrier and is, therefore, ill-suited to use in equines. However, anecdotal evidence suggests some horses have enjoyed at least some benefit from the administration of Prilosec.

Compounded omeprazole -- Compounded medications consist of a mixture of ingredients, presumably combined with a particular effect in mind. Compounded omeprazole, therefore, includes some omeprazole in combination with other ingredients. The actual quantity of omeprazole in such compounds varies widely – some say omeprazole may comprise anywhere from 20% to 90% of the compound – and this variation would seem to account for the diversity of results achieved through its use. Though available for about one tenth the price of GastroGard, compounded omeprazole may not permit bioavailability of the critical drug, and it may not be shelf stable.

The results of a University of California, Davis, study indicate that GastroGard is more effective than compounded omeprazole for curing equine gastric ulcers and preventing their recurrence. Some have questioned the validity of this research, saying it is limited, flawed, and influenced by Merial as a funding source.

Long-term, low-dosage use of GastroGard/UlcerGard is frequently recommended for prevention of EGUS recurrence in ulcer prone horses. Aside from the financial burden of such a regimen ($7-$10 USD per day), however, it bears remembering that horses produce gastric acid for a reason. Stomach acid aids in the breakdown of dietary protein and destroys potentially harmful bacteria. Protracted suppression of stomach acid, therefore, may result in inefficient use of dietary protein and/or predispose the horse to stomach tract infections. In humans, long term acid suppression leads to poor absorption of Vitamin B12; this may or may not be a factor in equines.

Administered orally in the form of pills dissolved in water to form a paste, sucralfate adheres to existing gastric ulcers, reducing pain and continued deterioration. However, it has no proven curative effect, and because it adheres only to ulcerated tissue, it will not serve as a preventative for horses that do not already have ulcers.

Ranitidine is a histamine receptor antagonist that suppresses acid secretion but does not block acid production. It is somewhat effective for curing equine ulcers and is considerably cheaper than GastroGard, but must be administered every 8 hours and is only effective if training is suspended for the duration of treatment. For these reasons, ranitidine is typically rejected as impractical.

A 2005 study at Murdoch University in Australia indicates that ranitidine is less effective than omeprazole at curing EGUS.

Alternative Treatments
The internet is rife with anecdotes touting the effectiveness of various alternative cures for equine gastric ulcers. Unfortunately, research to support such claims is sadly lacking. Below are links to a few options, some of which are presented in an alarmingly pseudoscientific manner, but all of which have their own contingent of proponents:

Okra Pepsin E3
Chamomile tea and slippery elm bark powder
Aloe , sometimes in combination with MSM or slippery elm bark

Certainly chamomile, aloe, and slippery elm all have ancient reputations as soothing substances. Both slippery elm bark and okra form a mucilaginous gel reputed to calm and protect the stomach lining. Chamomile has long been used as an anti-inflammatory antibacterial agent, thanks to the natural chemical chamazulene; it also contains A-bisobal, which is believed to hasten the repair of damaged tissues. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a naturally derived sulpher product with anti-inflammatory properties, is frequently used to treat joint problems in equines; some believe it may also enhance the curative benefit of aloe or other substances by increasing absorption through enhanced circulation.

All these alternatives appear to be low risk, and anedcotal evidence suggests that they may have at least some efficacy in horses with EGUS. For details, consult your local witch doctor.

The Conclusion?
Draw your own. When Aaruba was diagnosed with ulcers, I followed my vet's recommendation to administer a full course of GastroGard. Its positive effect was obvious after only five days, but when the 30-day treatment ended, the ulcers recurred almost immediately. Others report more complete success with GastroGard, and still others say compounded omeprazole or alternative treatments benefited their horses. The choice is up to you, your vet, and your bank account.

Regardless of how you treat them, chance are you'll need to take steps to prevent recurrence of EGUS. The next post in this series will compare a variety of supplements billed as ulcer preventatives.

Related Posts

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series
Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Timing Isn't Everything

On a hill overlooking Oregon's Willamette Valley, there is a house with a large yard. Beyond the yard is an overgrown walnut orchard. At the edge of the walnut orchard is a yellow barn. And in the yellow barn sleep the memories of my first endurance horses. They whisper among the cobwebs, curl like cats upon the beams, press their hoof prints in long vacant stalls.

They were Arabians, of course. A black-bay mare, elderly and kind, with a stripe and snip and one white hind. Another bay mare, agitated, ever pacing. And a rose-grey gelding, the first I raised and trained from youth, the horse of my heart. Who can tell how many miles we traveled, those Arabians and I, bareback and fleet among the wheat fields and vineyards and woods that made our home?

In those teenage years, I knew nothing of the sport of endurance. I rode for sheer pleasure, alone for hours at a time with the wind cool on my temples and a horse hot between my knees, my fingers tangled tight in reins and manes. I wore sweat pants and t-shirts, paddock boots, never a watch. The shadows kept time as the trails wound on. My only rule was 'home at dusk.'

These days, I surround myself with layers of data. Rides progress from planning chart to stopwatch and stethoscope to spreadsheet. The resulting lists and graphs intrigue me, and I find no sin in this.

But lately, these October days beguile. Shall I ride hills when the trees are aflame with autumn in the valleys? Must we canter when the last rays of an Indian summer could, if only we walked, cloak us in remembered warmth?

And so I slow my horse's pounding feet. I close my eyes, sway upon his back, absorb his breaths as though they were my own. Speed and mileage mean nothing today. These, after all, are the rides logged not on paper, but on our very souls.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Announcing The Best of the Barb Wire Contest: Win Free Tack!

The Barb Wire archives include over 125 posts now. I think it’s about time I added a Best of the Barb Wire section, don’t you? I suppose that I could choose my favorite posts and slap them up there…but when it comes to the best of The Barb Wire, your opinion matters far more than mine. And so, allow me to introduce The Best of The Barb Wire Contest:

What is the Best of The Barb Wire Contest?

The Best of The Barb Wire Contest is your opportunity to nominate your favorite The Barb Wire post for inclusion in a new sidebar section, Best of The Barb Wire. All participants will be entered in a drawing for a FREE, CUSTOM-MADE HALTER BOSAL COMBO from Crazy Ropes by Debbie! I’ve had great success using this Indian bosal for endurance conditioning and starting green horses. More about that here.

How do I enter the drawing?

It’s easy! There are two ways to get your name into the drawing. Each individual may enter up to TWO times, once in each of the following ways:
  1. Nominate your favorite The Barb Wire post for inclusion in the upcoming Best of The Barb Wire section of this blog. Simply select the post you wish to nominate, and include its TITLE and DATE in a comment on this post (Today’s. The one you’re reading right now.) I’d especially like to hear WHY the post is your favorite, so I can write more like it in the future!
  2. Mention this contest on your own blog or website, or on a public forum. Simply direct your readers to this post so they will know how to enter. Be sure to leave a comment on this post saying you have done so, or I might miss it!

How long do I have?

The Best of The Barb Wire Contest will be open for entries through November 10, 2008. That gives you two whole weeks to peruse The Barb Wire blog’s archives and nominate your favorite post.

Are all readers eligible?

Yes! New readers and longtime friends are all welcome to join in.

Are all posts eligible for nomination?

Yes. You may nominate any post I’ve written since The Barb Wire’s inception. You may wish to use the Read All About It section of the sidebar to help narrow your search. (Are you most interested in endurance ride stories? Check them out by clicking on “Ride Stories." Do you love to read about training techniques? Select the “Horse Training” collection. Are you a Shots in the Dark fan? Be my guest.) If you’re really ambitious, use the Blog Archive section of the sidebar to tour the entire history of The Barb Wire.

In case you’re short on time, here are links to some of my favorite posts (in no particular order). You’re welcome to nominate one of these, or any other The Barb Wire post that strikes your fancy. Remember to comment on today’s post regarding why you chose the post you did!

Do You Hear What I See?: Communicating with Horses

Upward in the Night

M'Lady, If You Please: The Respect of Horses

Shot in the Dark: Insider

Shall We Dance?

Overcoming Fear: Handling Horses with Confidence

Call Me Crazy: A Word about Natural Horsemanship

Glory in Motion: Riding at the Speed of Delight

Applied Physics

The First of Many!: 50 Miles at Old Selam

Breaking Free: Training the Herdbound Horse

A Moment of Silence: Communicating with Horses

Have fun, and thanks for playing!


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

"Expensive horse," said my vet, passing a rueful gaze over Aaruba as he drowsed in the stocks, still half-tranquilized after his annual dental float. It wasn't routine work like this that made him expensive, though. It was his gastric ulcers.

Aaruba's Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) has cost me over $2,000 over the past two months. Endoscopy, GastroGard, sucralfate, extra feed, more GastroGard, Doxycycline, ulcer supplements... Expensive horse, indeed.

Sadly, Aaruba's condition is not unusual. Evidence abounds that at least 60% of performance horses across the spectrum of breeds and disciplines suffer from some degree of gastric ulceration. Many cases are asymptomatic, others manifest themselves in subtle shifts in performance or behavior, and some go so far as to cause anorexia and recurrent, mild colic.

Trust me, you don't want to go through ulcer treatments for your horse if you can avoid it. If you've already been through treatment, you most certainly don't want to do it over. So, what strategies can you apply to prevent equine gastric ulcer formation or recurrence?

Free feed hay: An empty stomach is an acidic stomach, and an acidic stomach is prone to ulceration. Horses on pasture or allowed unlimited access to grass hay are at lower risk.

Limit or eliminate grain in the diet: Grain promotes the production of the hormone gastrin, which in turn stimulates increased production of stomach acid. Research indicates that the bacterial fermentation of concentrated carbohydrates releases volatile fatty acids that contribute to rapid ulcer formation. Additionally, horses produce less saliva when eating grain when eating hay; this is significant because saliva works to neutralize stomach acid. Some experts recommend that, if you must feed grain, quantities be limited to one pound per feeding; ideally, the calories your horse currently receives from grain should be replaced with fats such as corn oil.

Similarly, don’t make a practice of feeding soaked hay: A horse consuming soaked hay doesn’t need to produce as much acid-buffering saliva as a horse consuming dry hay, and therefore has a more acidic gastric environment.

Include alfalfa in the diet: Alfalfa’s calcium content acts as a buffering agent in the stomach. Unfortunately, excess calcium is also associated with synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, or “thumps,” during protracted exercise. Furthermore, alfalfa has a high protein content (up to 20% or more), and excess protein is known to increase risk of metabolic problems such as azoturia, or “tying-up syndrome.” For these reasons, endurance riders must balance the risks and benefits of feeding alfalfa, taking steps to balance the diet appropriately. In most cases, two or three pounds of alfalfa hay daily is acceptable.

Avoid exercising a horse on an empty stomach: The upper, non-glandular portion of a horse’s stomach does not produce acid and is not meant to contain acid; it lacks the protective coating that is present in the lower, glandular portion of the stomach. Experiments using an endoscope demonstrate that exercise on an empty stomach allows acid from the glandular portion of the stomach to splash the non-glandular portion, contributing to ulceration. The presence of food in the stomach creates a floating mat or paste that reduces splashing and resultant irritation.

Avoid long-term or frequent NSAID use, if possible: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as phenylbutazone (bute) and flunixin meglumine (banamine) block production of the prostaglandin PgE2, resulting in decreased blood circulation to the stomach and increased gastric acid production. Interestingly, ulcers caused by NSAID use tend to appear in the lower, glandular portion of the stomach rather than in the upper, non-glandular portion where ulcers related to athletic effort generally develop.

Consider preventatives: When your horse faces a stressful situation, such as trailering or competition, you may wish to administer preventatives such as UlcerGard (omeprezole) or an antacid. When selecting a preventative, be mindful of drug policies; some sanctioning bodies prohibit the use of common ulcer preventatives.

Reduce stress: EGUS appears to be largely a man-made condition. A horse on the range, left to its own devices regarding shelter, feeding habits, and exercise, is highly unlikely to develop ulcers. Unfortunately, such a life is impractical for the vast majority of domestic horses. It is our responsibility as horse owners, however, to mimic as closely as possible the lives our horses are designed to lead. Minimize stalling, maximize turnout, allow constant access to hay or pasture, respect your horse's innate need for equine companionship. Know your horse as an individual, and go out of your way to make his life easier. His stomach will thank you.

Despite our best efforts, some horses will still suffer from gastric ulceration. The next post in this series will examine treatment options for curing existing ulcers in adult horses.

Related Posts

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Moving Out: Increasing Speed and Confidence on the Trail

Disemboweled stuffed cow in the ditch? Meh.

Roaring, spewing farm truck? Shrug.

Tailings from a ground squirrel burrow? Danger, Will Robinson, DANGER! Hit the brakes! D-o-n'-t m-o-v-e...

Oh. Sorry. I was just replaying the soundtrack of my early trail rides on Consolation. Eleven days and five rides ago, I lamented that she suffered from speed deficit disorder on the trail. Young and green, out in the wide world away from her buddies, accompanied only by some human who hadn't a clue just how dangerous a pile of dirt can be, Consolation tended to move at a glacial pace.

This was unfortunate. As an endurance horse in the making, her default gait should be a working trot, and I had no intention of cajoling her along the thousands of miles we'll cover together in years to come.

I spent a few days pondering the issue, consulted some horsemen whose opinions I respect, then lined up the options and looked them over. They fell largely into two schools of thought:
  1. Give her time to adjust. Let her stop and smell the roses. Take slow rides with plenty of grazing stops, encouraging her to think of the trail as a pleasant place.
  2. Don't let her get away with it. Throw your heart down the trail and trot after it. Confidence breeds confidence.

I believe both options have merit. Because horses have unique personalities and needs, successful training depends on our ability to tailor lessons to the individual. So, I asked myself, what do I know about Consolation?

Consolation is royalty, that's what. She's as powerful as she is elegant, as smart as she is dominant. She's the kind of horse who can easily train a human, and she's more than willing to be a leader if her human is not. Furthermore, any human who's going to lead her will either be fair, firm, consistent, and trustworthy -- or dethroned.

It seemed to me that if I took Option 1, the smell the roses route, Consolation would quickly learn that being "looky" meant less work. If I allowed her to poke along, pausing to eyeball every aberration in her surroundings, she'd control the situation and we'd never get anywhere, either literally or figuratively.

That left Option 2, which I decided to apply along with a healthy dose of empathy. While I would require Consolation to trot most of the trail, I would simultaneously respect her trepidation. Here's how the plan looked in action:

After several minutes of walking to warm up, I asked Consolation for a medium trot along a familiar route. She responded. When I saw something ahead that I suspected would alarm her, I cued her to swerve away from it before she did so on her own.

This communicated a powerful message: I am looking out for you. I will keep you safe by helping you avoid danger. I will not force you into a situation you aren't ready to face. In return, I expect you to trust me enough to carry me where I ask, at the speed I request.

The result? After just a few rides, our pace has picked up (see Consolation's Conditioning Log in the sidebar), our relationship has strengthened, and we're both having more fun. No more pausing and nagging, hesitating and urging -- just a steady trot, often right past the same obstacles that only last week were cause for concern.

I love it when I choose well.

A couple caveats:

First, I don't mean to imply that I never let Consolation stop to look at a particularly horrifying bogeyman. Sometimes, it's only fair and prudent to allow a horse extra time to evaluate a perceived danger. The spooks I'm asking Consolation to trot confidently past are of the everyday variety -- stumps, slabs of concrete, tumbleweeds, gated pipe -- things we've been by often enough that there's no real excuse for "looky" behavior. (You'll recall that Consoliation is in her second month of trail rides, and we walked a lot of miles in hand before starting her under saddle. The above plan would not be appropriate for a horse's first trail experience.)

Second, my plan will only work if the horse's "hustle" button is properly installed. Before taking Consolation back out on the trail, I spent a couple, short sessions in the round corral making sure she understood that a trot command means exactly that, and she is required to "hustle," that is, speed up within the gait, upon demand. Enforcing this lesson was a simple matter of giving the command (first with thought, then seat, then voice, then leg, and finally tapping her hindquarters with a dressage whip as a last resort.) Consolation is no dummy; she got the message loud and clear. When she consistently responded to my seat and/or voice, I felt she was ready to return to the trail, and I gladly left the dressage whip behind.


Related Posts

Breaking Free: Training the Herdbound Horse

Where To, Ma'am: First Trail Ride on a Green Horse

Thinking it Through: Training Horses as Individuals

Connecting the Dots: Breakthroughs in Horse Training


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

If I had my way, I would not be writing this post. If I had my way, Aaruba’s gastric ulcers would have resolved with treatment and never recurred. If I had my way, I would not care about ulcer treatments, preventatives, or alternatives.

Alas, I do not always get my way.

By the end of the day following our 55-mile ride at Owyhee Canyonlands in September, two weeks after Aaruba finished his month-long course of GastroGard, I knew the ulcers were back. Aaruba's poor appetite and uncomfortable aspect led to a call to the vet, which led to another $500 GastroGard purchase and $100 in Doxycycline, in case the recurrence was due to an infected ulcer.

The antibiotic treatment went out the window after four doses. Poor Aaruba despised the stuff and lost every bit of appetite the GastroGard had so recently restored. So, I had to hope the GastroGard alone would do the trick…but what if it didn’t?

Time to do some homework.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll provide a series of posts detailing the questions I asked and the answers I compiled from various resources both online and in print. My research focused particularly on gastric ulcers in endurance horses, which face some special concerns. Here are the questions I’ll address:
  • What strategies can prevent equine gastric ulcer formation or recurrence?
  • What medications and alternatives are available to combat equine gastric ulcers, and are there any problems associated with their long term use?
  • How effective are ulcer preventative supplements, and are there any problems associated with their long term use?
  • How do the costs and benefits of various supplements compare?
  • What does the American Endurance Ride Conference say about ulcers and ulcer treatments in endurance horses?
  • And finally, how will I apply this information for the benefit of my own herd?
Please remember that I’m neither vet nor expert. I'm just a bookish nerd who loves my horse but can’t afford a lifetime supply of GastroGard. Feel free to comment throughout the series with your own experiences or additional resources. I look forward to your insight. After all, gastric ulcers are extremely common in performance horses. It pays to be informed.

Related Posts
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Thursday, October 23, 2008


You know by now that I love my Indian Bosal from Crazy Ropes by Debbie.

Although Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle worked well for Aaruba, Consolation and Acey didn't appreciate the poll pressure it applied. Also, the Bitless Bridle's crossed straps didn't release as readily as I might have hoped, and the tight noseband inhibited eating on the trail, a practice that is desirable for an endurance horse.

Enter the Indian bosal. All the above problems vanished, and Aaruba responds even better to the Indian bosal than he did to the Bitless Bridle. It's perfect for giving my green horses clear, familiar signals much like they receive from rope halters, but with some extra oomph, and I particularly like the convenience of using only one piece of headgear during an entire session, from catching to cooling.

Okay, I'm starting to sound like a walking infomercial. Sorry about that -- but I really do love this thing!

...which leads me to my announcement:

Debbie at Crazy Ropes has generously agreed to sponsor a contest here at The Barb Wire blog. The prize? A free Halter Bosal Combo like the one Aaruba modeled for this post (custom sized and colored for your horse, of course!)

I'll post contest details and rules on Monday, October 27. In the meantime, here are a couple hints:

1) Participation will be really, really easy.
2) Check out The Barb Wire's archived posts.

That's all I'm sayin'. Stop by Monday for details!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources

I promised in this post to provide a list of my favorite resources regarding equine endurance condition- ing. Below are links to some of the articles I returned to time and again while creating a conditioning program for Aaruba's first year in the sport. (For those who'd like to see the day-by-day details of my horses' endurance conditioning logs, check out the sidebar of The Barb Wire blog.)

Conditioning Program Resources

Conditioning for Your First Endurance Ride -- This 2001 article from the Southeast Endurance Rider's Association provides suggested workout schedules for three months of conditioning toward a first Limited Distance (LD) ride. It includes approximate heart rate recoveries you should expect, as well as other concise details that made this one of the resources upon which I relied most heavily in designing Aaruba's early conditioning program.

Four Month Endurance Conditioning Schedule -- This schedule from Cypress Trails breaks 12 weeks of conditioning for a moderately-paced LD into 2-week intervals. Though brief, it includes some advice worth remembering, such as, "Don't ever increase speed and distance during the same training ride."

Tips and Hints for Endurance Riding -- This resource from Old Dominion Endurance Rides, Inc. offers general advice about the first three months of conditioning. Their schedule is a bit less conservative than my own, stating that a horse should be ready for an easy LD within 2 months instead of 3 months, which is a more common recommendation.

Related Resources

Is Your Horse Fit? The Physiology of Conditioning -- This document is more scientific than the others, so pour yourself another cup of coffee before diving in. If you're serious about conditioning, I highly recommend periodic reviews of this article from Alberta, Canada's Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, as it explains the events taking place in your horse's body as it undergoes preparation for endurance work.

American Endurance Ride Conference -- The AERC website is, of course, a fantastic resource for all things endurance. The "education" tab will direct you to numerous resources, including the Rider Handbook that I all but memorized during my years of waiting to become involved in the sport. Chapter Six of the Handbook includes some excellent conditioning information, including a recommendation that you spend 6 months preparing your horse for its first LD.

Preparing the Endurance Horse -- This document appears to be the transcript of a verbal presentation made by Eric Hought. As such, it's a bit difficult to read, but I review it periodically because I believe it contains some good advice. Though Hought addresses conditioning in general terms, he focuses on training for endurance, that is, preparing the horse mentally as well as physically. Hought suggests a very conservative method, stating that 1.5 - 2 years is reasonable for preparing for a first LD. If you want to read more about training for endurance, check out Jim Holland's Articles 1-9, which provide numerous, valuable recommendations that I have applied in training my own horses.

Have you ever wondered exactly how endurance riders log their miles? I'll share my (rather nerdy) method in an upcoming post, as well as the (possibly more practical) methods suggested by other riders.

In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite resources for equine endurance conditioning programs. I'm always looking for more to update this list over time; I'm particularly interested in articles about conditioning up from LD and endurance, maintaining fitness in the off season, avoiding overtraining while building fitness during a busy ride season, and other topics less commonly addressed in resources designed for individuals just getting into the sport.


Related Posts

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shot in the Dark: The Horse

Where in the wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy, Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle,
and strength by gentleness confined.
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.
All our history is in his industry.
We are his heirs, he our inheritance.

~ Ronald Duncan, "The Horse"


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Workouts

I spent my weekend entertaining the local farm workers.

Idaho's sugar beet harvest is in full swing. Our country roads roar with loaded trucks. The fields are dotted with migrant workers, tractors, and bizarre machinery that chatters and clangs from dawn 'til dusk. Fallen produce litters the roadsides. It all adds up to a very confidence-building environment for green horses.

Saturday morning, I took Acey out in hand. She looked impossibly cute in my Stonewall saddle and Indian bosal, her wee bay ears flickering amid a great billow of forelock. We walked and trotted along the road, returning waves and smiles from the Mexican workers. A pair of women paused to ask whether I was trying to make the horse tired. I explained that I was mentally preparing Acey to be ridden out in the great, wide world. Jogging away with my little mare, I called back, "But it's certainly tiring me out!"

After riding Acey in the round corral and taking a quick lunch break, I saddled Consolation for the first ride that appears in her new endurance conditioning log (see sidebar). Our fourth mile saw us trotting along the same field. The workers waved again, grinning.

Two hours later, Aaruba and I flashed by on the last of thirteen miles, during which we averaged a blazing (for us) 10 mph. The workers had reached the far side of the field by then, but I swear I heard them laugh and holler. I just shook my head and cantered on. Yes, it's me -- the crazy lady, passing yet again with a taller, greyer, faster horse.

On Sunday, we repeated the drill, except that Aaruba and I swapped our sweaty workout for an hour's hack along the irrigation canal, enjoying a ravishing sunset and periodic stops to mow down clumps of autumn grass.

Exhausted I may be, but I'll never get tired of this.


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Share the Love

Well, what do you know? I took a break from the round corral yesterday to enjoy a bowl of melon and grapes while catching up on email, and found a surprise in my inbox:

Cherie, a thoughtful owner-barefoot trimmer who writes One Red Horse, chose The Barb Wire as one of several recipients of this award. Thanks, Cherie! It's wonderful to know that what I post here is interesting and helpful to someone.

And now, I get to pass it along to some of my favorite bloggers:

To Life at Star's Rest, where Carmon's heartwrenching sincerity infuses her posts about the mustangs, greyhounds, trials, and love that fill her remote mountain yurt. (Okay, so the mustangs aren't actually in the yurt...)

To April at EnduranceRider, who recently completed her first 100-mile endurance race on her Arabian, Tanna. April rode with a partly-healed, badly-broken leg, and she updated her blog several times during the race. Now, that's dedication.

To Maria, The Thoughtful Horseman, from whose posts on barefoot hoofcare and related subjects I have learned much.

To Lynn of A Virtual Visit to Laf'n Bear Studio, because I never tire of reading about her equine anatomical research and sculpting technique. Her finished work is nothing short of breathtaking.

To Kimberly, whose well-written, thoughtful, and useful posts make Enlightened Horsemanship through Touch one of my perennial favorites.

Here's how it works:

* Include the logo on your blog or in a post.
* Nominate at least 5 blogs.
* Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
* Link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Thank you, fellow bloggers and readers who comment here. Your insights often make my day.


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Log On: Sample Endurance Horse Conditioning Schedules

Nearly four years passed between the day I learned of the sport of endurance racing and the day I first set hoof on the conditioning trail. During those years, I devoured books, websites, forums, and articles on the subject. I studied AERC and FEI rules, scrutinized veterinary advice, and pondered opinions about everything from tack to nutrition. As Aaruba's training progressed toward readiness to begin conditioning, I concentrated my research efforts on the specifics of preparing a horse for the physical effort of endurance racing.

Though I found many excellent sources offering general advice about conditioning, including some guidelines regarding mileage and speed in the first four months of conditioning, I searched in vain for that which I most craved: sample records detailing the conditioning efforts of actual endurance horses at varying levels of fitness. This lack inspired me to include Aaruba's Conditioning Log in the right hand sidebar of The Barb Wire blog. Consolation's Conditioning Log will appear there very shortly.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert. I've just completed my first endurance season. I've accumulated all of 155 AERC miles, 50 of which are Limited Distance. However, I don't think I qualify for blind-leading-the-blind status, either. I continue to refine my conditioning schedule in accordance with ongoing research, and I try to keep you posted on my successes and mistakes so we can learn together.

I hope that my conditioning logs will serve as one of many references, especially for beginning riders in need of concrete examples. Of course, my way is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the best way. It certainly won't work for all horses, all riders, or all situations.

I tend to err on the conservative side, being that my primary concern is for my horses' longevity in the sport, but I've suspected myself of over training at times. I prefer a highly goal-oriented, calculated approach that involves a lot of planning and spreadsheets. This is a strength, I believe, but it can be a weakness as well. Though it's important to progress through a series of planned workouts, gradually building speed, strength, and endurance in an intentional manner rather than throwing a casual armful of workouts at the horse and hoping they stick, it is equally important to allow yourself and your horse some flexibility.

Horses, like people, have good days and bad days. Listen to your partner. Go faster or slower, longer or shorter if necessary. Observe him carefully and try to determine the cause of his shifting energy level or mood. This is the single most important piece of advice I can offer: Have a plan -- but ride the horse and not the plan.

In an upcoming post, I'll share links to my favorite resources on equine endurance conditioning. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite conditioning tips or even a link to your own conditioning log. I'm always in the market for new ideas!


Related Posts
How to Condition an Endurance Horse: A Collection of Resources
Rider Resource: Endurance Conversions Chart
Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Not Brilliant...

It's not even original. But, it surely is handy.

I found this miniature carabiener on a sample tube of sunscreen (of all things!) and figured this would put it to better use. I leave it attached to my Stonewall all the time now, so I can't forget a hoof pick and don't have to bother with saddle bags or latigo.

It joined me and Aaruba for a fantastic ride today, jingling along for 11.5 miles of trotting, cantering, and dodging bellowing, onion-laden trucks -- all on gravel, all barefoot. It can be done!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Triple-Header Days

It has finally happened. I now have not one, not two, but three horses to ride. Acey has replaced Consolation as the green bean of the group, and Aaruba has graduated to downright safe and pleasurable.

You might recall that, back in late June, I took my first ride on Acey. Though calm, she was less than confident about moving forward under saddle, and I determined to do more ground work -- particularly driving -- with her before mounting again. As it turned out, Aaruba's conditioning, Consolation's training, and life in general got in the way. Twelve weeks passed before I spent any more significant time with Acey. Finally, with Owyhee Canyonlands completed and the ride season over (waaah!), the time was ripe to try again.

After a quick review of such prerequisites as giving to halter pressure and accepting ropes dangling around her hind legs, Acey and I spent several days "plowing" the round corral, until she moved forward freely and turned and backed with ease. Then, I mounted up and asked her to move off. Voila! Confident forward motion.

I usually disagree with old-time fiddler and horse trainer Frankie McWhorter's training techniques, but he had a point when he said that ten days of ground driving equate to thirty days under saddle. To read about how I introduce ground driving, click here. You might also be interested in Susan Catt's description of a different ground driving method; see her September 7, 2008 post at The Pony Expression.

Consolation is moving right along...sort of. We've conquered her obsession with returning home and are now focused on adding up miles and experiences. This is a bit frustrating at times because Consolation likes to pick her way cautiously along. Given her way, we'd poke down the road at 2 mph, investigating every stone and twig for concealed artillery. She's not spooky, exactly, just careful. I try to view this as a nice change from Aaruba's emotion- charged speed games, but truth be told, it's a bit frustrating. There's nothing worse than having to push a horse down the trail.

What's the solution? I'm not sure yet. I think, however, that I'm dealing with a combined lack of confidence and a poorly installed "hustle" button. Miles under a firm but empathetic rider should cure the former; I've begun remedial training to cure the latter. This is an easy problem to fix, requiring only clear signals and consistency. Consolation has plenty of "go" both physically and mentally; I just need to train her to engage it.

The "hustle" command works like this: think, look, seat (if mounted), voice (click), leg (if mounted), more leg, tap hindquarters with dressage whip. Consolation is no dummy. Yesterday, it took all of one tap with the dressage whip (startled the cobwebs right out of her brain, that did!) to get her listening for a "hustle" click.

By the way, I'm calling this the "hustle" command because I'm asking for more speed within a gait, not an upward transition. Interestingly, Consolation has gait changes down pat, including the pre-cue I've found useful for gauging Aaruba's energy level on endurance rides. Before chirping, "trot!", I almost always ask my horse, "ready?" If the horse wants to trot, I'll get a trot in answer to my pre-cue question. If not, I get it on the "trot!" command, but I know my horse isn't enthused about the idea and respond appropriately.

Speaking of Aaruba: He enjoyed a two-week vacation to celebrate the end of ride season, but I think he liked our first trip back on the conditioning trail even more. Here he is, cooling out in the round corral after Monday's 9-mile jog.

Note that I took him out in Consolation's Indian bosal from Crazy Ropes. Though it's a bit small for him, he went beautifully in it. Once my sponsorship saddle arrives from Stonewall Saddle Company, I'm going to order him his own Indian bosal, fancy-stitched in red to match the blinged-out saddle.

Bling? Me? I'm branching out, folks. Live a little!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Insider

Insider, Barb stallion standing at In the Night Farm

He was more than tremendous strength
and speed and beauty of motion.
He set me dreaming.

~ Walt Morey
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Paying My Dues

Anyone who rides green horses -- and almost anyone who rides horses in general -- is bound to fall off eventually. Considering I've spent the past few years riding nothing but green horses, I've sensed for some weeks that my number was just about up. Sure enough, last Sunday's ride on Consolation proved just the one I'd been waiting for.

Consolation is at a point in her training where I've begun riding her several miles at a time, even along roads and trails that are new to her. We trot much of the distance, walking only when she needs extra time to absorb her surroundings, or else tries to hurry toward home. She's proven watchful but sane, and her typical spook consists of a hasty, stiff-legged halt followed by a moment of staring, then cautious progress. The occasional whirl typically precedes a hard stop and a sigh of relief.

I much prefer Consolation's spook to Aaruba's high-headed prance-and-snort style. It has the added advantage of encouraging me to ride with a long leg and deep seat, for Consolation is quite athletic and can, to borrow from Marty Robbins, "turn on a nickel and give you some change." Last Sunday's ride featured two such turns. I'm pleased to announce that only one of them resulted in an unscheduled dismount.

We'd been out for our longest ride yet, much of it through new territory, and were returning home after a long discussion about whether or not Consolation would cross a particular puddle. We'd survived a breezy orchard, roaring farm equipment, loose dogs, fanged trash cans of death, the aforementioned puddle, and a flock of pheasants. I felt Consolation's concentration waning as we made our way back to In the Night Farm along an irrigation road with a flooded ditch on one side and a 40-foot dropoff on the other. Naturally, it was there that Consolation met her match...a horse.

The skinny bay was nosing about his drylot when Consolation and I rounded a bend. They saw each other at the same time. Holy handspun horseshoes, Batman! The bay leaped two feet in the air and came down running. Consolation spun 180, swinging her front half right over the ditch. I got a good look at the watery depths but stayed astride and (mostly) upright as Consolation bolted.

Digging in my seat and commanding "Whoa!", I managed to regain a stirrup while I considered my options. A single-rein-stop was out, considering the ditch and dropoff. I'm not a fan of employing the SRS once a horse has reached a full gallop, anyway, due to the risk of causing a fall. Instead, I applied a series of hard pulls and releases on both reins. Consolation charged on, flexing only slightly in response to the reins.

I was about try bracing one rein while continuing to pull and release the other when she slowed, probably in part because she'd put significant distance between herself and the Killer Bay Horse. I immediately released all pressure on her face. Counterintuitive? Maybe, unless you understand that a horse who feels trapped is more likely to continue its efforts to escape.

"Whoaaaaa." Consolation stopped, snorting and trembling. I rubbed her withers, flexed her head in both directions, then dismounted to lead her several hundred yards back to the home of the Killer Bay Horse. The KBH seemed have recovered from his fright, but both horses eyed each other with deep suspicion as we passed.

With the KBH safely behind us, I remounted for the final mile of our homeward trek. Consolation's red alert status faded to yellow, but I kept my heels well down as a chill breeze washed up the hillside, rippling grasses and our reflection in the irrigation ditch. I breathed slowly, deeply, communicating calm to Consolation. Eaaaasy, Lady. Eaaaasy now.

And then it happened. One moment I was riding peacably along, and the next I was on one knee in deep, moist sand, with Consolation dancing at the end of her rein. The pheasant was still clearing the grass. I've never ridden -- or shall I say, failed to ride -- a faster spin in my life. Maybe we should take up cutting.

Remounting to try, once again, to cover the road home, I considered my good fortune. Not only had Consolation moved out from under me so fast that I'd nearly landed on my feet, I'd caught my balance on such soft earth that my knee didn't even bruise. (Later, I discovered that the middle knuckle of my right ring finger found a less forgiving surface, but a chipped knuckle seems quite a small price to pay for my first fall in several years.)

And so I have paid my dues. I figure I shouldn't fall off again for another two years, at least...and when I do, it's bound to be off 13.1 hand Acey, right?


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bring Me That Horizon!: Fifty-Five Miles at Owyhee Canyonlands

Last night at o'dark-thirty, I woke to a growl of thunder and rain pattering the skylights. I pulled a blanket around my shoulders and rolled over, supremely grateful to be home in bed instead of on a cot in my horse trailer with ride day looming. Of course, a week ago I was delighted to be in exactly that place -- enjoying much better weather!

After the ride meeting for Owhyee Canyonlands Day 4, which featured Yellow Tail Shiraz and a giddy group of riders, most of whom had been at the Teeter ranch for several days already, I'd hastened back to my trailer to buckle Aaruba into his blanket by flashlight. I topped off water buckets and passed out extra hay to both Aaruba and Consolation. Then, I stepped to the dark side of the trailer, away from camp, spread my arms, and stared up at the sky.

I hope those of you who live in cities find opportunity, now and again, to travel far enough from light and smog to see the Milky Way. It looks like a skiff of clouds at first, but then you realizes it's a dense band of stars that cinches the night from horizon to horizon. Stare long enough, and constellations emerge like childhood friends: Orion, Capricornus, Andromeda, and Ursa Minor, who cradles the dim and comforting North Star. I watched them dance overhead until the generators shut off and voices faded. Then I crawled into my sleeping bag to wait for morning.

And morning came. Though the 55-mile race wouldn't start until 8:00, I rose at 6:00 to ensure I'd have plenty of time to get Aaruba's Easyboots on, a prospect made difficult by the dawn chill -- Bares are much more flexible when warm! Aaruba was more relaxed than he's ever been in ridecamp, thanks to Consolation's presence. He ate well and behaved like an angel...until I finished tacking up and headed for the start.

Sweet Aaruba, who has never turned a herdbound hair, transformed into a bellowing, prancing maniac. He wouldn't stand for mounting, which wasn't all bad--I wasn't quite sure I wanted to be on board! I moved him in circles while the lead horses took off. So intent was he on exchanging desperate neighs with Consolation, Aaruba didn't seem to see them go. Figuring I wouldn't get anywhere -- literally or figuratively -- by hanging around, I tried leading him down the trail. Still he screamed and circled like a crazed beast, nearly mowing down the vet(!) and earning himself several sharp reprimands in the first half mile before he calmed down enough to mount.

Blessedly, his behavior improved as we headed out in earnest. All those training sessions focused on pacing had left an impression on him. By employing the same method -- spinning him in tight circles when he failed to respond to my requests to slow down -- I easily maintained control despite the presence of other horses ahead, and Aaruba settled down to work by mile 5 or so. This proved useful when the trail led us up a razorback ridge whose sides fell away several hundred feet on each side. I didn't have my camera along, but Merri the Equestrian Vagabond (whom I finally met in person, after following her blog all year!) took some lovely shots now posted at

Near the end of the first, 18-mile loop, Aaruba caught Consolation's call on the wind and began hollering again. Though much better behaved than at the start, his pulse on arrival was 78 instead of our usual 60-64, so we lost a few minutes as I sponged him and massaged the base of his forelock, breathing slowly, slowing my own pulse as a mirror for Aaruba's own.

Fifty minutes later, we headed out for Loop 2, a 22-miler, near the back of the pack but with at least two riders behind us. The loop started out on the same trail as the first loop of our first-ever LD last spring, and I couldn't help thinking how the hills seemed both shorter and less steep than they had in May. (Maybe, if this phenomenon continues, we'll get to Tevis someday and find it's just a walk in the park!)

The trail led us through sand and sagebrush, over the only highway in the vicinity, past a herd of pronghorns whose fleeing backs flashed like fish in the desert. Aaruba and I bumped into a few other riders along the way -- once a pair who'd missed a turn and were backtracking just as I reached the triple ribbons indicating a change of direction, and twice a husband-wife team on two of the many gaited horses competing that day.

Upon arrival at the second hold, Aaruba pulsed down more quickly. We vetted through with mostly A's (B on gut sounds), then headed for the trailer, where Aaruba munched hay and beet pulp while I pulled off his tack and downed a plate of Cuban Beans and Rice Salad, which turned out to be excellent ride food -- quick, filling, flavorful, and tough enough to handle a couple days in a cooler. As suggested by Jackie Fenaroli at Stonewall Saddles, I removed one of our thin, felted wool, prototype saddle pads to change the angle of my saddle very slightly, providing Aaruba some relief during our final loop.

Loop 3 led us 16, scenic miles atop accordian-folded ridges. Well behind most of the pack, Aaruba and I enjoyed watching other riders trot in the opposite direction across a distant ridge, silhouetted against a hazy, blue sky. By the time we reached the portion of trail on which we'd seen them, I expected to look back and see the few riders tailing us coming along the first ridge, but there was no sign of them. After watching the deserted trail for many miles, I was distracted from wondering if they'd pulled when the land to our left fell away to reveal a breathtaking panorama. Hart Creek Canyon, through we we'd ridden on Loop 1, spread out at the bottom of the cliffs, jagged with mysterious cuts and draws, shifting like a dragon's hide under shadows cast by scudding clouds.

Just as Aaruba and I turned toward ride camp, smiling at a paper plate featuring an arrow and the triumphant word HOME!, we caught sight of another rider just starting along the first ridge. I almost envied her the ride ahead, so beautiful had it been, but Aaruba and I went in the opposite direction instead -- down the same, steep hill we'd traversed twice already that day, across the cobbled creekbed, and along the last road home.

Aaruba covered the final miles at a flying trot, but those 55 miles were showing by the time I'd untacked and led him over for our final vetting. Metabolically sound but leg-weary, he was obviously glad to return to his pen for a nice roll and all the alfalfa he could eat.

And no wonder, I thought as I dove into a handful of trail mix. We'd walked much less than at Old Selam, and apart from the first half-mile, I'd ridden the entire trail. With a ride time of 7:33, we'd averaged 7.3 miles per hour (compared to 6.6 mph at Old Selam). And, once again, this ride was our longest yet.

How many more times will I be able to say that? Quite a few, I'm betting. Our first 75. Our first 100. And there's always the Santa Fe Trail Ride...