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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The puppy is sleeping, thus I post

Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to compose a blog post with a young puppy running around? Everytime I get myself settled, up I go! "Leave it!, Here's your toy, Go out side, Come in the house, Kennel, Go outside, Let's go, Come on, Don't bark at the cat, Reed are you going to take that from her?, eat your food, sit.". It's the best thing that could have happened to me this summer. I can't get too fixed on what I'm doing or too obsessed about one project because if I'm not breaking my focus now, I certainly will be in 20 minutes.

I'm learning the rhythm of the day. When we go out, when we come in, when we nap, when we play. Dogs are really amazing creatures. I'm not convinced that they win over horses.....but I may be a wee bit biased and really, they serve 2 entirely different purposes. One of my gifts from work was a book: " Inside of a Dog", by Alexandra Horowitz. If you, like me, enjoy an overanalyzing perspective of something common, I highly recommend it.

So, considering the above, I'm going to cheat. I'm going to post a slightly-edited-email that I sent to a friend who asked a question, which also happens to answer a question asked in the comments a LONG time ago, that I always meant to get around to.....

The question in the comments was:


So when and what factors would lead you to consider that a prospect is "KAPOOT", a deal breaker, or otherwise washed up to the sport?


I've had to consider whether my horses were still suitable for endurance. Most notably, Minx, but recently I've also had to consider whether Farley continues to be a horse that should continue to compete in endurance.

Minx had trouble staying sound with the work and had a couple weird non-pulsing down issues at one ride, and then later mild colic (non-ride related).

Were these isolated problems that I just needed to work through and give them time, or was it the start of a trend and downward spiral? The problem was, she was my soul-mate. I loved that horse. I also loved endurance. I wanted to do endurance on HER. Emotions make a cool-headed rational decision hard. In my opinion, an isolated incident is not usually a reason for me to give up on a horse. However a repeat of the same issue is a time when I should be reconsidering my choice of career for a horse - especially one as strenuous as endurance. I managed to get and keep Minx sound long enough to complete 3 rides our second season, however little stuff that continued to happen. At our last ride (a pull), she had a weird pulsing/gut sound issue. That was the last straw. If I wanted to continue to do endurance I had to get another horse. At least for the present, Minx was "Kapoot". That being said, I did have plans to do some easy LD's on Minx to see if we could reach a compromise between my wants and her needs, but she passed away before I could do so. So you can see, that even though I can SAY that she wasn't suitable and I should have found something else, I still couldn't quite let go of it, even at the end.

When Farley tied up, I had to face the same issue. Based on the fact it was a single incident, I didn't feel like I had to find a different sport. As long as there are no other incidents, I feel comfortable continuing to compete her. HOWEVER, I'm now facing the decision with a different issue - the left front SDF tendon. When Farley came back with a SDF bow in the early stages of endurance, I rehabbed her through it and decided that we would still go for it. Again, isolated incidence, by all indications completely healed . But now, 3 or 4 years later, I'm faced with a reinjury. As this is a second occurence, I'm considering carefully whether to put her back into endurance competition and in a year I will be critically evaluating whether I'm comfortable. The decision will *probably* be - 50's yes, 100's no. Just like when Minx had multiple incidences of lameness, I decided: LD's maybe, 50's no.

Obviously, I'm not giving anyone absolute advice on what to do for YOUR particular situation, I can only share what I've been able to decide for me personally, a relative newcomer to the sport.

If I decide that Farley can't do endurance will I get another horse? Probably. I'll be sacrificing lessons, shows, and maybe the saddle I want to do it, but endurance is that important to me. I've gotten a lot accomplished only having the finacial responbility of one horse, but I'd rather do endurance on a shoe string budget on a bareback pad, than be able to take all the lessons in the world and have matching biothane tack.

One reason I might risk a return to endurance with Farley where I wouldn't with Minx, is because Farley absolutley loves this job, where Minx was indifferent to it. However, a 3rd reoccurence for the SDF on the LF with Farley would be the last, as I wouldn't probably risk it after that.

Things are never as black and white as some people would like to make it seem. This is the advice I would offer someone trying to work through their own woes: make the decision you would be able to live with if the worst happened. That's what I'm struggling with now. Farley will be very sound from this re-injury, and absolutely suitable for whatever riding I want....but endurance will increase her risk of injurying yet another time. And the next time might be serious enough that she's never sound enough for even light riding or an alternative sport. At the end of the day, how much am I willing to risk and what decision can I live with, if the worst happens?

Doing stuff with horses is always a matter of risk - there is no guarentees that if you retire a horse from endurance that it then won't have a freak accident in the pasture the next week and have to be put down - but that same horse may have been sound for many years on the endurance trail! Or it goes the other way - you put a horse back to work and that's the last straw and now the tendon is so destroyed, or the organ failure is for real this time and the horse has to be put down, where it could have lived many years on pasture and light work.

So be sure you are making YOUR choice, there are no guarantees of tomorrow - which I have recently been reminded of in my non-horsey life.

On a related note, consider the often said expression on the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If I do decide to return Farley to the endurance trail, it will only be after a critical look at my training program and ride day plan - much like the overhaul I did to my horse management plan after the tye up. I either had an suitable training program or an excellent horse, based on our performance in the 2010 season - and the reality is I probably had a bit of both. Nothing perfect and the learning the tweaking can and will continue - and I would argue is MANDATED anytime something untoward like this happens. So, when making your decision of the "Kapootness" of your mount, make sure you are putting thought into what and how you will make changes to the plan.


  1. Aren't puppies great?

    As for endurance horses... I find myself asking the same questions.

  2. I think **all** endurance riders ask these questions--at least all the thinking caring endurance riders. The other kind are, quite frankly, not welcome at my campfire.

    We continue to debate this question on behalf of Jim's horse Hana, who at age 13 is not-quite-sound-enough for 50's. She *might* be sound enough for 25's, if Jim ever has the time and inclination to get his horse and himself back into training. However...the mare is 13. She's totally sound for trails, for dressage, even for arena jumping. If we take her out on a 25-miler and overestimate her soundness and injure her further, she might end up as a totally-lame, unrideable 13-year-old mare. We can't afford an extra horse--as long as we own Hana and Fiddle, we won't get another. And the prospect of finding a home for Hana if she becomes unrideable is...undesirable. So, she's retired from endurance, and Jim will need to borrow a horse if he wants to compete again--either from me (i.e. Fiddle), or somebody else. He's ridden lots of borrowed horses in the past, and doesn't want to do that again. So....? You can see the dilemma. If only somebody wanted to trade an adorable red arab showpony for a sturdier steadier standie....sigh.


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