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[RC] Horses and Heat - Bruce Weary DC

Last year I did one of the Duck's rides in the Mojave Desert in May, I think, and it got very hot, well over 100 degrees in mid-afternoon. And the desert sand reflected that heat even more. I rode my foxtrotter gelding, Chato for two consecutive days, and the second day was hotter than the first. He did well, for the most part, but on the second day, at about 42 miles, he just quit on me. We were riding slow, and I only wanted a completion, and he was in no metabolic trouble, but he simply wouldn't advance if I was sitting on him. He would follow me anywhere, but wouldn't carry me. I saw him do the same thing again later at Tevis. I think he just knows when he's had enough, and doesn't want to get into trouble. At least that's my best guess. So, I was left with half a bottle of water to cover 8 miles back to basecamp going downhill into ever increasing heat. Mojave Desert heat. And I had to walk in a sandy wash that was 6-8 inches deep. Either that or walk in the bushes and become rattlesnake bait.
I just kept marching, and sipping on my precious water. I began to become somewhat delirious and my hands began to tingle, a sign that my nervous system (that silly brain and spinal cord thing) was being affected by dehydration. I kept on, but about three miles from camp, I became genuinely fearful for my well-being, so I climbed aboard and told Chato: " I just need one more mile from you, buddy." I had to use my crop, but he carried me a mile at a trot, and no further. He stopped of his own accord and wouldn't take one more step with me on his back. I hiked another mile and a half (now completely out of water) and I made it to some water barrels that Dave had put out. I stripped down and had a water party in those barrels, sat in one, soaked my hat and shirt and dunked my head. Even drank from them. (I apologize to any of the riders that came after me)
I told Dave later what had happened when he came by to check on my horse, who looked marvelous and was eating and drinking like a pro. Dave told me something I'll never forget. He said that horses are not only much more expendable than people in situations like this, they can tolerate heat and humidity far better. He told that if that ever happens again, unsaddle the horse and turn him loose if you have to, and go find help. He said he sees more riders that have trouble with tolerating heat than the horses they ride do. He was actually a little upset with me for trying to finish the ride and putting myself at risk. Personally, I think he just didn't want me to become lizard food cuz I'm the only one who can fix his back.
Another lesson learned from heat and hardship in this wonderful sport we are all so passionate about. Dr Q, who was happy to wring out his underwear after all that.


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