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[RC] Descanso disasters, vol 2 - Nancy



Descanso 2008 will go down in the books as the ride that showed me how fast things can go wrong.  Most of you know my 16 year old daughter, Danielle was piloting my 7 year old half Arab mare, Jazzi with sponsor extraordinaire Heidi Helly.  I had been trying to hook up Heidi and Dani for some time as Heidi’s Andretti is a come from behind horse, a style that fit Jazzi very well.

I was crewing and volunteering with Katrina an 11 year old horse fever victim and her mom Carolina who drove up to the ride for the day.


Vet check one at 13 miles went fine with Dani and Heidi coming in at the back of the pack with excellent recoveries and vet scores.  Heidi and Dani reported all was well with both riders and horses.   Jazzi was eating, drinking, peeing and pooping well.  She usually does not drink this early in a ride, but the weather was hot, in the 90’s.  Soon the 20 minute hold was over and our riders were back on the trail.


Carolina, Katrina and I loaded up the crew bags and drove up to the Stonewall mine and vet check 2.  This check was at mile 26 and usually afforded lots of shade.  However, a group of mounted park volunteers were camped in the vet check area and they were not happy.  Thus, the premium, shaded part of the vet check was off limits to the ride.  With the temperatures in the 90’s, I was amazed at how little the riders grumped!


In spite of the limited space we were able to get our crew area set up in the shade.  Soon the riders started coming in.  It was hot and getting hotter with the humidity also rising.  I was so happy to see Dani and Heidi come in now mid pack.  They reported that Jazzi had been drinking well and had tanked up at the top of a “butt kicking hill”  about 4 miles before the check.  Both riders and horses looked fine.


Dani handed Jazzi over to Katrina and we walked to the water barrels.  Andretti was at criteria (56 beats per minute) in seconds.  Jazzi took about 4 minutes to pulse down with a few sponges of water and loosening her girth. Jazzi put her nose in the water barrel and played with it for a few seconds.  Jazzi does this to let me know she is aware of the water, but is not thirsty.  However she then refused a carrot.  The red flag went up.  We walked her to the crew area were a horse  buffet was laid out with wet mash, carrots and 3 types of hay including Jazzi’s favorite alfalfa.


Instead of pulling Katrina to the alfalfa, Jazzi stood in front of it and started pawing.  A larger red flag was now flying in front of my face.  My gut was screaming at me, something is wrong, really; really wrong.   Katrina walked Jazzi around the cramped vet check as other riders streamed in.  We offered Jazzi alfalfa a second time and a second time she stood over the hay pawing.  Heidi looked at me and suggested we get Jazzi to the vet to have her gut sounds checked.  All I could do was nod in agreement as all sorts of bad feelings swam about in my head.


The vet, Katie Prince had pulled Jazzi and me at Malibu 4 weeks earlier for saddle fit issues.  I was more than a bit relieved to see her as I trusted her from this previous encounter.  As she listened for gut sounds I could tell from her _expression_ it was not good.  No gut sounds were present in any of the four quadrants.  She instructed us to strip all tack and walk her for 10 minutes.


In spite of the growing heat and crowded conditions, Katrina walked Jazzi as I fretted and fretted with the bad feelings growing in my head.  After ten long minutes we were back with Katie for a second check.  Again, no gut sounds.  I started to cry.   As a survivor of numerous bad life events, I felt as if  I as stepping onto the bad roller coaster of life, again. But, as usual, I sucked it up and started attending to the issues at hand.

Jazzi received several IV medications.  Jazzi’s rectal temp was 102, just a half a degree above the upper limits of normal, her heart and respiratory rates were within normal limits.  But she was very uncomfortable and was becoming crabbier by the minute.  If we stopped walking her she would “park out” attempting to relieve the pain and tension in her gut.  Around and around the camp, dodging riders and horses as best she could, Katrina walked Jazzi in the searing heat.  But Jazzi was not getting better she was getting worse.  More IV drugs and more walking; awaiting the trailer to take us back to base camp.  All the while my anxiety was rising along with Jazzi’s belly pain.  This was a distance rider’s nightmare come true.


We somehow got Heidi off on time, cleaned up our crew area and packed the car in time to load Jazzi when the trailer arrived.  This brought back memories of waiting for the paramedics when Jerry was hit on his motorcycle; it took forever as I helplessly waited and watched my loved one suffer.  I guess God was not done giving me things I could handle.


Once back to camp head vet Fred Beasom (Dr. Fred) asked another vet (sorry I can not recall his name) to take over and pass a stomach tube.  Good news, no reflux and oil was flushed into Jazzi’s stomach easily also without refluxing back.  She was still in severe pain and “parked out” whenever we stopped walking her.  Jazzi received more IV meds and almost went down several times.


 Dr. Katie arrived back at camp and did a rectal exam.  This was extremely painful for Jazzi as the contents of her abdomen were pushed to the right and she had several tight bands indicating an impaction and/or excessive gas. An IV was placed and fluids were started. Finally Jazzi started to improve; although she has massive amounts of drugs on board you could see she was in less pain as she started to pass gas and urine.


 My good friends Russ and Kathy arrived from Escondido to help me per my frantic phone calls.  I had to decide what hospital to take Jazzi to San Luis Rey or Helen Woodward.  I decided to go to Helen Woodward as it was only and hour away and closer to my ranch.  San Luis Rey would take 2 hours and would be an hour plus drive from my ranch.  With cell service spotty in camp, it made communication with my home vet and Helen Woodward Equine Hospital difficult at best.


Dr Fred continued to keep up to date with Jazzi’s progress.  He reviewed the ride with Dani who had kept Jazzi’s heart rate below 150 throughout the ride.  When Jazzi’s heart rate went above 140 she slowed down and had a corresponding reduction in Jazzi’s heart rate.  Dr. Fred was clear that nothing was done wrong, sometimes bad things happens.  All involved felt the heat was the major villain in this endurance nightmare come true.


Jazzi spent the night in the equine hospital and received about 40 liters of fluid. Katrina and I were able to pick her up early afternoon Sunday.  Jazzi was so happy to come home and eat!  And she has continued to do well without incident. After about 48 hours Jazzi looked as if nothing happened and is already asking to go take a walk along the creek.


I am so grateful to so many who helped us.  Heidi, you are awesome, I am forever indebted to your kindness, humor and knowledge.  All three of the vets, the numerous volunteers, ride manager Terry Howe, friends Russ and Kathy for coming to our aid, horse mom (and nurse) Carolina who stuck with us through the entire long, hot day, Katrina who walked Jazzi for miles and willingly did anything she could and Danielle, the best daughter a mom could ever ask for.  Dani, God blessed me with you and answered my prayers 16 years ago when I asked for a daughter in the San Ignacio de Loyola Mission church.  And Jazzi who in spite of enormous pain and suffering still loves me, licks my hands and wants to go back on the trail.  In gratitude, always,


Nancy Reed

Lazy J Ranch

Elfin Forest, CA