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Thursday, April 8, 2010

A most unwitty post in which Melinda muses about various things

I have ZERO funny stuff to say.
Absolutely nothing witty, entertaining, or remotely humorous. 
Work is sucking the creative juices out of my brain, which you can actually SEE - if you look really really hard I'm sure there's a blue, viscous substance pouring out my eyes and into my computer screen, taking with it my creative juices and all energy.
Update on Farley -
Today is her last day of bute.  I was reserving judgement on the injection treatment, and was too chicken to do anything but walk on a loose rein under saddle until my lesson yesterday.  She felt good and the trainer said she's moving a LOT better.  Whoo hoo! 
I think the trick is going to be staying on top of any inflammation, which means I'm not going to be shy about using bute if I think she needs it for a day here and there.  Of course I will be evaluating my program to try and prevent inflammation in the first place!  But - I think her longevity hinges on keeping inflammation at very low levels if she shows any sign of discomfort I'm going to be on top of it IMMEDIATELY and do whatever is necessary, whether that's an NSAID, vet evaluation/injections, Adequan, or time off. 
I've had 2 readers bring up very good points in the course of this situation. 
(sorry - this is the point I muse about various things and generally turn this short, quick post into a long rambling diary entry with no real organization.... and yes, when I talk about various groups of people I realize I am generalizing)
"You have to pay to play"
***I understand better now what it means to be a "good" owner of a performance horse.  This of course is open to interpretation, but how I understand it at this point in time, is that if I'm asking my horse to perform at a high level (like 100's) than it is my responsibility to make the horse as comfortable as possible, and for a hardworking horse this is *probably* going to mean some sort of "maintenance" program to deal with inflammation.  And that means spending the $$ that is necessary.  Kind of like making sure you have a well fitting saddle.  It's important and you may have to spend the $$, but it's unfair to the horse to compete any other way. 
I think that endurance could learn a lot from the eventing world.  Eventing horses compete at a very high level with stresses that are similar to endurance horses.  Eventers (I'm generalizing here) understand the benefits of a "maintenance" program and using the latest technologies to keep their horses comfortable and competing, and sometimes, just because something is invasive, doesn't make it wrong.  Sometimes invasive procedure (like hock injections) that won't make anything worse, just allow the horse to be comfortable is the right thing to do.  (For example, the hocks are going to fuse whether I do the injections or not, I'm not causing more harm, just alleviating pain).   Eventers are very open about whether they do joint injections and the different sorts of "maintenance" things they do.  When I asked for feedback of injecting joints in endurance, I was shocked at how many people in endurance do injections - it just isn't talked about and as a result I think many newbies in my position don't know what to do because there isn't the discussion that there should be on this.  Endurance people are more likely to "sweep it under the rug", than eventers in the same position.
Of course, I think the reverse is true as well - eventers probably could learn something from endurance - the philosophy of rest and time off, general management of horses (pasture, barefoot), and looking for alternatives for invasive procedures that work as well and keep the horse happy and healthy. 
I had a very interesting conversation with my trainer yesterday.  She has had several endurance riders come through her program to take dressage lessons and she admitted that she wasn't very impressed with their knowledge regarding conditioning and well being of their horse.  One thing eventers do is have a well structured conditioning program for fitting their horses.  Just take a look at Andrea's blog - eventing a go go.  She followed a very specific program founded on sound principles, to condition her horse.  We might argue that eventers need more rest in their programs and eventers will argue that endurance riders don't do enough intervals and speed work.  Both of us are probably right.  There seems to be a lot more resources in the eventing world - trainers, books, organizations etc. I understand that the endurance "atmosphere" is a bit different and the people making up the organization on a whole want to be left alone with their horses and their training methods, but until we start making some solid resources available to people, we are going to continue to struggle with our image to the outsiders.  I understand that places like "ridecamp" do not represent ENDURANCE, however they are among the most active and vocal and so one cannot help but form opinions of the organization based on comments there.  No one doubts our dedication to the welfare of the horse, however (in my opinion) our organization/sport on a whole doesn't have the proper resources and sometimes sends the wrong message to newbies on using the technologies available to assure the well being of our horses. 
I understand that the endurance sport is relatively new sport and we are constantly changing and trying to make the right decisions to keep up with the changing climate of culture, society, and our world.  What worked when this was a small, localized club must change as we add members - especially as we add members from other sports.  What works for a smaller group of people doesn't work well for a larger, more global community.  We need to get to the point where people like my trainer are not surprised when she gets an endurance student (me) whose horse is sound, and seems to have a basic knowledge of conditioning and exercise stress. 
Obviously this is a subject that I'm probably going to evolve as time goes on....but that's where my thoughts are at the moment.  I LOVE this sport, and I am dedicated to being a good ambassador and help out however I can.
"This type of situation helps clarify what really matters"
So very true.  I can play with the idea of speeding my rides up and possibly being a top 10 competitor.  I can pretend to care about awards, points, and rides....BUT when my horse goes lame or has a problem, it becomes obvious I only care about one thing.  A SOUND HAPPY HORSE WHO LOVES HER JOB.  That puts everything in perspective and makes it very easy to do the right thing - skip a ride, rider option, pay for medical care, etc.  It also helps with the difficult decision of when to retire a horse.  In my case, when I cannot keep her sound and painfree, when utilizing the technologies that are in my budget, it's time to retire her.  Any technologies I use, cannot have a significant risk of making matters worse in the long run.  If I'm in vet school and I can't afford joint injections, and she's not comfortable doing endurance or dressage without them, then we don't do endurance or dressage when she doesn't feel good, even if that means we do trail rides at a walk on a loose rein for 4 years. 


  1. Oh man, what an interesting post.

    I'm looking forward to one of your typical comprehensive series on Bute and ulcers. Or just a series on ulcers, period! I know you'll do everything you can to minimize the risks of Bute, and I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

    One of my best friends is an eventer, and we talk a lot about the differences in training. I feel that most eventers do too much micromanagement and invasive maintenance work. I think there is a LOT to be said for turning your horse out in a big pasture, or going off for an easy hack on a loose rein.

    One of the things that drew me to endurance is that it's such an everyman sport. You need $$$$ and skills and a trainer and facilities and a brave, scopey, sound, trained horse to event. You need $$, a willingness to learn to ride better, and a horse with four sound legs to ride an LD. Obviously I have a half-trained spooky horse, no pride, and limited money, so I like endurance ;)

    I know that you'll do the right thing for Farley, and that's why I'm proud to have you as a blog friend. :)

  2. Ridecamp - I spent a good two years reading every post on ridecamp. (Law school was often very dull, and I had hours in between classes with nothing to do.) The thing about ridecamp is that there's nothing that every single poster agrees on. There's no Received Wisdom of the Ages that's handed down without one person popping up to say "Oh but I did the complete opposite and finished Tevis four times in a row." I think if a prospective rider spends enough time reading Ridecamp, she'll realize that. It's just a bunch of individual spouting off opinions.

  3. Funder - great points. I love that it's so easy to get into endurance. I like the amaturer feel to it and how every one (in general) works together. I also like that you can take almost any horse and at least do some LD's, maybe a 50 or two. I LOVE it. But, I just wish that we as a sport had more comprehensive resourses for people. I devour everything I can find and sometimes it's hard to seperate crap from what truely is good science (whether or not it works for your horse or not is besides the point). AND I like that endurance riders tend to go the non-invasive route first. I know some of this is because there's no "professionals" in endurance - we aren't racing for gobs of $$$ (and I'm glad, I LIKE that it's an amature sport) but I wish so badly there was more research. Most of the studies for endurance are performed at Tevis (at least the ones I come across), which is great, but can we say "NOT a typical endurance ride"?

    I think all of us have expressed frusteration at the conditioning guidelines that are out there for starting an endurance horse, and most of us have thrown up our hands in disgust and muddled through it on our own.

    I think the sport is moving in the right direction with things like a published drug threshold/prohibited drug list. Yep the ideal is drug free, but how many of us have given bute at some point prior to a ride and then, even though there is nothing still acting in the horse's body, worried about a positive drug test in 2 weeks? I admit I didn't do something that was BEST for my horse because I was worried about failing a drug test in 2 weeks - so instead I let the horse muddle through it and of course they were fine for the ride, but they could have been more COMFORTABLE muddling through it.....

    By the very nature of what endurance is and the type of people in endurance I think we will always be less structured than eventing (and that's a GOOD thing), but I envy some of their training/conditioning resourses.


  4. Regarding bute and ulcers.....I've never had a horse prone to ulcers (that I've known of.....). I did ask the vet about bute/ulcers but he explained (and it was backed up by reading I've done....) that the dose perscribed (1g twice a day) and duration (3-4 days) is so far under the levels expected to produce ulcers it was really a non issue. Now, if one of my horses was going on a higher dose (2g twice a day) for a longer duration (10 days) - this is the level where they start to see I would take steps to minimize that risk, such as go on a NSAID that doesn't have such a high risk. Based on my reading and my vet's reccomendation, I feel comfortable giving the 1g dose up to 1-2 days without worrying about ulcers. Especially because Farley is not the type that usually suffers from ulcers.

    If I found myself giving bute more and more often (for example, if I felt like she needed it more than every 6 weeks or so), I would take her to the vet and evaluate what is going on and my options beyond Bute.

    Even before this issue came up (hocks) I admit that I DID give bute after really tough rides.

    Some of the things I do to minimize ulcers or other side effects when I give bute are:

    Only give bute to a horse that hydrated. This may mean waiting until the morning AFTER a ride to give it. My advice is to ALWAYS ask the ride vet if you are uncertain about buting after a ride.

    Only give bute during meals or when a horse has been eating. In my mind - forage in gut = less ulcer risk, so therefore giving bute when there's forage in the stomach is good right?


  5. So as someone who has been working on bringing a horse to first-ride-ready status, I agree and disagree about needing better resources.

    I agree because it would be helpful if you could just go read this book, do what it says, and have a conditioned horse. That would be nice!

    I disagree, because I think that the nature of endurance riding is way different than eventing. I'm guessing that Eventing in New York is a lot like Eventing in Arizona, except for the weather. The dressage course is the same size, same number of jumps, etc - the actual contest is similar no matter what region you're in. So having a more conclusive guide works for Eventing. Endurance, on the other hand, is drastically different: a ride up and down hills with rocks, or a basically flat and sandy ride, or one that has fetlock-deep mud for most of it - you'd really need to condition differently depending on the types of rides you're doing, because while the distances are the same: LD, 50, 75, 100, multi-day rides....the ride conditions differ enough from region to region that it'd be almost impossible to do a comprehensive how-to.

    Not only that, but the way you keep your horse, whether it's at home, boarding stable, stalled, or at pasture also makes a big difference. Whether you're shod, booted, or barefoot makes a big difference. If you have arena access or not. If the closest trail you have access to is a ___mile drive away, or if you have trails at your barn door. If you're starting w/ a young horse, or one that is older and has had a different career previously. So many variables, I think that any "comprehensive" conditioning guide would be surprisingly unhelpful anyway, unless it was written specifically to your exact circumstance.

    my 50 cents!

  6. Very very good points (that I didn't consider :))! I still think we could do more to educate on the fundamentals of exercise physiology. Philosophies and guidelines that are generally consistent over a wide range of terrains. For example - I did zero sand and flat training - but did lots of rocks and hills and was till prepared for a desert ride, so SOME of the training IS universal.

    I'm so frusterated about the lack of our knowledge when it comes to preparing a horse for such long distances!

    Of course, the main issue is that is not a whole lot of reserach specifically on endurance (because there's not a huge amount of money in endurnace....).
    ....but the lack of $$$ motivation in endurance is also what makes alot of us very happy about the way endurance is. Definately a catch-22.

    I just keep thinking that we (collective "endurance we") could do so much better by our horses and there could be serious advances in the physiology of our sport if we just understood it better. What is happening when we feel like our horses get a second wind? We know why there tends to be a "wall" in runners at 18 miles, 45 miles etc and it's well documented. What about similar walls in horses? What phyisocolgoically is happening? How can we use that to our advantage? And this is just one question I have among a thousand.

    I also have to remember that most of us ARE doing this as a HOBBY and it's suppose to be FUN - we aren't necessarily trying to be the best we can be, we are trying to have fun and keep our horses happy and sound.

  7. oops! that last comment was from Melinda

  8. I really think that one of the most important things I've learned so far on my endurance adventure is how to listen to my horse. I don't mean "how tight is she wound today," I mean "how tired is she?" If I had a better, more detailed guide to conditioning, I probably would've followed it (or tried to). But all I had were vague instructions, so I had to develop a feel for her energy level. Kind of like how the anti-HRM people say you should know how hard your horse is working from paying attention to the horse, not from reading an LCD.

    On the OCD side of things, I have lately been agonizing over the definition of "hill work." What % grade is a good hill? How many feet/miles long should a set be? I have an infinite variety of hills out here! I keep telling that part of my brain to shut up and ride. ;)

  9. I'm in total disagreement on the HRM thing (at least as it pertains to my horse). I found out the hard way that my horse being forward does NOT MEAN SHE'S OKAY. My horse pulsing to criteria in ten minutes DOES NOT MEAN SHE'S OKAY. My horse having bright eyes, and a strong trot out DOES NOT MEAN SHE'S OKAY. Riding with an HRM taught me where some of my horse's weakness is. She is solid and non-stressed at a slow working trot, she is borderline at the extended trot, and she is physiologically blowing up at the canter and hand gallop. I had experienced (very experienced) endurance riders tell me that my horse was extremely athletic and gifted to this sport. These were people that spent time riding with me. I and they were wrong. She isn't an easy horse to read. She vetted through with no problems including a stellar power trot out. She was actually in crisis physically. She's hard horse to read.

    The problem with training resources is the variables involved in this sport, that and most working people don't have the time committment to actually do those six day a week programs with constantly increasing mileage. When I have kept up that pace I've ended up with a tired, burned out horse.

    I think one of the best things for an endurance horse if you can afford the extra expense are lessons. Dressage, or whatever other discipline, but something with a focus on a different type of training, using muscles in different ways, and getting your horse's focus on YOU. I can do one, or I can do the other, but financially both is not within my means.

    The endurance resources that I have read are often written beyond the scope of a newbie's understanding. Not saying we are all stupid (well some may argue about me *LOL*) but sometimes what you think you understand is not what actually is happening. For instance my "epiphany" moment on 50 mile horses that train less than I do!

    Someone should get some good resources together and publish "Endurance Riding for Dummies". Just my 2 cents. ~E.G.

  10. I would love to see an "endurance riding for dummies" book!

    When I'm thinking of the way the world "should" be I struggle with the balance-

    Ye,s I want people to be better educated, have better resourses available to them etc. - BUT I also don't want to exclude the very people that make up the foundation of this sport - many of us don't have the resourses to spend that it seems like many of the "traditional" horse sports have. Like EG mentioned, we have limited dollars and have to decide where we are going to spend those $$. It's wonderful an endurance rider doens't need special training, or a special horse, or special facilities. I love that down to earth culture, so the trick is - how do we work within this "grass-roots" culture and do the best we can? And that is a *very* interesting, complex question.

    Endurance Granny - don't feel bad. I have a college degree in this area (physiology, nurtrition, exercise etc.) and I STILL have trouble understanding most of the resourses out there for nutrition and exercise. :) It's a field full of contridictions which doesn't make it any easier!

    One problem I have is I'm never content to do something "good enough" - I always want to do it to the best of my ability and current finacial resourses. *sigh*. Remember Melinda, this is suppose to be FUN. (but for me, fun IS researching and writing, and thinking about the details!).

    I am by NO MEANS an expert at anything I write about on this blog, but I hope, by being totally open about my journey and my mistakes, and my sucesses, that this is a tool that other newbies can use. Maybe someday I'll be able to put together a comprehensive guide and resourse for endurance people! (Maybe I need to change my potential focus for vet school?) :)

    BTW- if it seems like I'm contridicting myself in the post and here in the comments, I may be. I haven't thought about this subject very long and I'm still developing my views on it and considering different arugments, so what you are seeing is a development of a philosophy - not the final product.

    Thank you everyone for giving me a forum to post about this!

  11. Just to note -- many eventers, especially at high levels, do give horses a LOT of time off. They often get shoes pulled and turned out to pasture for at least part of the winter and do little or nothing.

  12. Eventer79-thanks for chiming in. That's great to know that that is the practice at the higher levels. Those horses work so hard!

    Just out of curiosity, do you know what the general rule of thumb is for the upper levels when it comes to events and time off? The usually recomendation for a 100 mile is 4-6 weeks of off/easy work after the ride. The horse usually gets the first 10 days of that completely off, with the rest of the time easy or turned out to pasture. I would really like to hear a post about the recovery protocol for eventers to see if there's anything I could glean for endurance.


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