Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby Thoughts

Any mare can foal at any time...those immortal words from (I think!) "Blessed are the Broodmares". As the post title suggests, I've been thinking about ones, that is! My lovely Teke mare, Annie (Anastasia) is due to foal pretty soon and so we've been getting the foaling stall ready, dreaming big dreams and trying to figure out when she'll pop. From past experience, she'll pick the most inconvenient time (for me), which means next weekend, when I'm supposed to be at Klickitat Trek. The timing works out too, as she'll be within 2 weeks of her due date, so the baby will be ready to be born. We'll end up making the decision whether to go or not based on what she looks like this week. Right now, I'd say I have between 1 day and 2 weeks, depending on many factors. Mares foal when they foal. I know some lucky people whose mares would foal on exactly the same day of pregnancy year after year. Not so for me. I've had them foal at 318 days, I've had them go past the magical 340 days. In the end though, as long as mama and baby are ok, the rest is just horses.

Why the worry, you ask? Why not just let nature take it's course and wake up to a happy, bouncy foal one morning? Well, most of the foalings here at Cascade Gold have gone without a hitch, but there have been several that if I hadn't been there, the outcome would have been grim, including 2 of Annie's. Most likely, fescue toxicity has been the culprit in most of my troublesome foalings, but at a certain point, you can't do much more. One year, all three mares that foaled were red bag deliveries (most likely the fescue) and one foal ended up not surviving. I won't even go into the vet costs! The mares had been off any sort of pasture for months, on forage that couldn't have fescue, but it didn't matter.

So, why go to all the trouble of breeding and foaling out horses? Well, being a breeder is kind of a calling. I try to produce foals that are better than their sire or dam or both. I very carefully match up horses to (hopefully) minimize faults and maximize excellent traits. It's worked pretty well so far, and in general, I think I've produced horses that improve on at least one parent. There have been some heartbreakers, but over the years, we've done pretty well. There are so many variables that seeing a horse you bred and raised doing well under saddle is a major achievement.

My absolutely favorite part of the whole process is the week before the mare foals. In that week, you can see the end of all your years of hard work culminating in the perfect foal ; perfect conformation, perfect sex, perfect color, perfect temperament. Once the mare foals, you have what you have. But that week before...better than Christmas any day! Running out to the barn to check on 'weird noises' and 'she was restless'. Even sleeping in the barn when you're pretty sure the time is close. It really is a time of wonder. I never get tired of it. Once the baby is born, that is amazing also. This young life, ready to be gently guided into being a partner for some lucky person. Foals know nothing about what we expect of them, so every interaction is so important.

I'll post photos and blog when the baby comes. Right now, it's a buckskin filly.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mt. Adams ride, May 15, 2010

Here is the 'official' Mt. Adams ride photo. I think this was after the second loop and I'm still bouncy and smiling. Photo is by Jessica Anderson.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mt. Adams Endurance Ride, May 15th, 2010

I'm pretty sure I now know the meaning of 'endurance'. We're back from our lovely weekend on the slopes of Mt. Adams, near Troutdale, WA. Absolutely gorgeous views, snowcapped peaks, tall firs, lovely meadows, wonderful trails, lots of happy horses and riders. So, why the comment, you ask?

At my last 50 mile ride, Home on the Range, I did great until the last mile, where I ended up getting off my horse, putting my head between my knees and waiting until the world quit rushing around. We finished, the horse was fine, but after that I've been doing more conditioning rides and I really worked on what I'd eat and drink at the next ride, so I wouldn't have this problem ever again. Well....

We rolled into ride camp around 3 pm on Friday, got camp set up, vetted in, met some friends, took care of the horses and hit the sack pretty early. None of us slept well, a common problem before a ride - lots of excitement! We were up at 4:45, ate a good breakfast, got the horses ready and hit the trail a little after 6 am. We had a little bit of excited horses, until we got out of camp and then both Galen and Allie settled into their work. Nice loose reins, long, steady walk to warm up and then a good trot up and down stunning trails. Both Wendy and I had to comment on how many trees the ride manager's crew had to cut up - the numbers were amazing! At the ride meeting, they mentioned 80 downed trees cut on ONE loop. I think they undercounted. We started at the back of the pack, wanting to just finish in a reasonable time with happy horses. Our first loop of around 13 miles took us a bit over 2 hours, which was a little faster than we really wanted to go. So, after a short vet check, we headed out for loop number two, where we got into a very nice pace, traded leading back and forth and enjoyed the scenery. This loop was around 12 miles and we did it in around 2 hours again. Lots of up and downs and we trotted most of the downhills. Now, the day was starting to heat up a bit. We had our lunch hold, and the horses both thought they should roll, which didn't work with tack still on. We all had our lunches and then moved out at around 11:30. So, so far, around 4 1/2 hours of riding. We got into the third vet check at 45 miles at 3:34, so now we were really slowing down. I had ridden without half chaps on, thinking they would cause too much heat build up. Bad move, as the trotting downhill was really working my calves and the stirrup leathers were most definately THERE. I'm sure that to save my calves I changed the way I was sitting and then OTHER parts started complaining. Once again, the trails were gorgeous, but this was a very long loop - 20 miles to the next vet check. We had some lovely views of Mt. Hood, met a bunch of snow on the trails (horses thought it was much too late in the year for snow), but now by the middle of the loop I was hurting more than a little. Not too bad until the final 5 of that 20, but we still had one more vet check and then 5 miles in. It was around 80 degrees and the horses handled it beautifully, eating and drinking whenever they could, no problems with them. We got into the last vet check and I crashed. I got off Galen and basically ended up on the ground. Thank goodness for Wendy and for the wonderful lady that gave me some frozen sugar water. I just laid there for a bit, while Wendy trotted out the horses and grazed them. They were fine and after a few minutes, I was able to get up, soak my head, drink more (really, I was drinking plenty of water, had electrolytes, Power Bars etc). We only had 5 miles to go and I had Wendy to drag me in, so we got on and headed out. I'm pretty sure that if I had been alone, I would have pulled at this point, as I basically hung on to the saddle and let Galen follow Allie in. He was great, not trying to get ahead and catch everyone (he's quite competitive), but being careful so I didn't just fall off. I was thinking very hard about pain relievers and I'm sure I was riding like a sack of potatoes. The last 5 miles took almost exactly 2 hours and that was (for me) real endurance. Not fun at all and I did think of telling Wendy to go on ahead, but then decided that would be stupid, as I was close enough to falling off that it would be unsafe. So, even though she was doing pretty good and the horses were fine, we went very, very slowly the last bit. I did make it into the finish line and Monica was there waiting with the camera, a chair and a beer (hail to Monica!) so I crossed the finish at 5:24 and collapsed in the chair as Monica vetted Galen through. He got all As again and gave a little attitude during the trot out (probably soooo tired of just walking!).

So, what did I learn? First of all, being humbled can happen at anytime. I had thought (!) I was conditioned enough for this ride. I was in better shape than at the last ride, my horse was going great, I thought I had fixed the holes in my eating and drinking routine and everything seemed to be going well. I had plenty of time to think during that last 5 miles and I think that the combination of the heat (although 80 really isn't that hot, we haven't had a day at home yet that's over 70 and I've still been conditioing in a winter jacket) and the hills got me. I'd rather it's me that is the weak link than my horse (who was AWESOME), but dang, sometimes getting a little older sucks. The stuff that used to be so easy just isn't any more. Obviously, just (ha!) working on the farm, riding at home and conditioning, is no longer enough to keep me fit. I had thought my fitness was fine, but was very definately proved wrong. Thankfully, I had a good friend that took care of me on the trail (thank you Wendy!) another good friend in camp that took care of my horse when I couldn't (thank you Monica!) and now I have to treat myself like one of the horses and get in better condition. It's pretty obvious that Galen could do much more, but he's stuck with me, so I need to get up to his level, or at least closer to his level.

We're planning on going to Klickitat Trek in 2 weeks, unless Annie decides she will foal over that weekend, and I'm going to be smart and go down to a 30 mile LD. If all goes well, I'll do 2 (it's a 2 day ride). In the meantime, I will suck it up and really start conditioning myself. Sigh. Well, in the long run, this will be a good thing! I'll be in better shape and can do my wonderful horse justice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Soggy Tuesday

I have to admit, I'm kind of dilly-dallying today. It's been raining, sleeting, hailing and raining again the last day or so, so the ground is soaked. I know I need to get out on the trails, but I don't think today is the day. Monica and I did get out on Sunday, and while it spit rain a bit, it wasn't bad. We were able to head down to the Redmond Watershed, where even if it is raining, the trails are wonderful. We put in a nice ride, the horses were happy, and got home around 4ish, just in time to feed the rest of the herd.

We're getting ready for the Mt. Adams ride. I've never been to this one, but have heard wonderful things about it. I have been to Klickitat Trek, which is in the same area, and it's absolutely fabulous, so I expect Mt. Adams will be just as nice. Wendy and I will do the 50 again and Monica is going to do the 25. Taz' conditioning is coming along nicely and Monica thinks they'll be just fine. Taz has years of conditioning behind him, so even if he hasn't gotten the months of conditioning Allie and Galen have, he'll do just fine for a slow 25. That will give Monica lots of time to take photos too!

I've been working with the youngsters some and I think Danny (Magdan) is going to be a super dressage horse. He is so elegant and his gaits are so nice. Unfortunately, I'm not quite as elegant as he is (he's the slender, exotic type of guy and I'm more the sturdy, easy keeper type), so we'll see if I ride him in any shows. Tommy (Asil Tumay) had some dental work done, so he should be happier about the bit (there was some serious rooting and head-tossing going on - retained baby teeth!). Andre is looking very good and begs to be played with and is so happy and willing when I get to him. Annie (Anastasia) is coming home from Canada soon and will be foaling sometime in June. We have some breedings planned for Salam this summer and all in all, it's pretty busy.

OK, enough putting off, time to go to work.