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[RC] When my horses have been treated - k s swigart

Lisa Salas said:

I would be very interested to know how many horses
?at any given ride are treated, which distance they were
?riding and at what point they were pulled for treatment, 
symptoms that caused the treatment (elevated heart rate?
?body temp?), which region and what was the weather
?like, and any other information that would be educational
?to the rest of us.

I cannot give the data for all horses at all AERC rides, but I can answer many 
of these questions about the horses that I have had treated at an endurance 

1) In 1993 after day 5 of the Outlaw Trail (although the horse had skipped day 
2 because of a saddle sore he got on day 1) in the Mountain Region.? The 
weather was clear, temperatures were probably in the 70s, and being the 
Southern Utah desert, humidity was pretty low (but don't ask me how low). After 
completing the ride 27th of 88 starters in 5:21 (~35 minutes behind the first 
place horse) with "Ok" for all parameters on his vet card, a few hours after 
the ride the horse was not all that interested in eating and showed some signs 
of being a bit uncomfortable; his heart rate was about 40 which was pretty 
normal for him.? Matthew McKay Smith (who was competing at the ride not vetting 
it) was camped near me, looked at him, said yes, he is a bit uncomfortable, we 
did some massaging and belly lifts with a towel and gave him a shot of 
dipyrone.? Within a half an hour he seemed more comfortable and started eating 
and looked pretty much like his normal
self.? He behavored normal overnight and I trailered him home the following 
day, and he behaved normall for that too.? A month and a half later he 
comeplted his first 100 miles in one day ride.

2) In 2002 at the 20 Mule Team 100 in the Pacific South Region. The weather was 
clear, temeratures were probably in the 70s during the day and maybe the high 
40s over night, and being the Southern California desert, humidity was pretty 
low (but down ask me how low).? At the 92 mile vet check which we arrived at at 
about 1:00 am my horse recovered in the time it took to get from the in gate to 
have her pulse taken (probably less than a minute) at which time I took er to 
the vet who checked all her parameters, which were all "Ok" and was asked to 
trot out.? At which time, the vet who had had the opportunity to see her trot 
out both earlier in the day at vet check 1, and earlier in the year over four 
days at Death Valley noticed that, though she was not lame, she was not moving 
like he had seen her before (incidentally, she was travelling wide behind, 
which was not like her, and seemed a bit "slow' in the hind end) so he asked 
the Duck (who was also at
the vet check) to have a look.? The Duck also thought it an odd way to move 
for this horse (he had also seen her lots before this ride), checked all her 
other parameters which were still all perfectly normal, including her CRI 
(which was 40/40), asked me if this kind of movement was normal for her at this 
stage of a 100, to which I could only say that I didn't know since this was the 
first time we had gotten that far in a one 100 (her only other one day 100 she 
had fallen on a paved road, skinned up her knee and fetlock and was pulled at 
50 miles).? He told me that she was "within parameters" and that she was my 
horse, I knew her better than he did, and that there wasn't anything "wrong" 
with her movement except that it was unusual for her.? I decided not to go on 
because she seemed tired and uncoordinated and I was afraid that she might trip 
in the dark and injure herself so we trailered back to camp, where she spend 
the night eating, drinking,
ppeing, and pooping like she normal does.? The following morning she could 
hardly move because she was fairly substantially ataxic, although she moved 
trotted out soundly (but wide behind) once we got her to take the first step.? 
The RM called the Duck to let him know that I was having a problem with my 
horse, he looked at her, said he had never seen anything like that before, went 
and got Jamie Kerr (who had ridden the ride, not vetted it) who also said that 
he had never seen anything like that before, but decided that "we need to get 
some fluids into this horse."? We pulled blood to do lab work on it, and gave 
her fluids, she peed normal color after about 4 liters (they were 3 liter 
bags), and seemed to be moving okay after 6 liters, so we took her home (which 
also happened to be about 15 minutes from Chino Vally Hospital, which is the 
clinic she would have been taken to from the ride had she needed to go to a 
clinic). she was seen by my own vet
the following day, he didn't see anything wrong with her, said that he had 
never heard of anything like that before, and we did the lab work on the blood 
samples which came back as totally normal except for high in potassium (which I 
am told may not have been meaningful since it was over?two days from the time 
the blood was drawn to the time it got to the lab) and a CPK of ~9,370 and an 
AST of 825, which while outside the range of normal for a non-working horse, 
not particularly outside the range of what is often seen in horses that have 
done 92 miles of an endurance ride.

3) After having done 280 more miles at the end of 2002 and during 2003 with 
multiple top ten finishes on the same horse (and several participations in the 
"Pride Project' with blood work that showed the numbers to be the same as all 
her other Pride Project participations), in 2004 at the NC 100 in Warner Hot 
Springs in the Pacific South region.? The weather was clear with temperatures 
in the high 80s low 90s and the humidity was very low (under 10% if I remember 
correctly).? I did ride the horse with a HR monitor during the ride and noticed 
that her working HRs were 60-70 when walking, 85-110 when trotting, and 75-90 
when cantering. At ~60 miles (vet check 3 which was practically in camp) after 
vetting through with all A's a CRI of 44/40 and a comment from the vet that 
"these horses (mine and the two others who I rode in with) look the best of all 
the horses we have seen so far" and eating and drinking like a pig through the 
1 hour hold she moved a
little uncoordinatedly in the hind when I got on to leave the vet check, so I 
took her again to the vets, who said, "she looks great, go."? So I got back on, 
she turned around oddly again, so I got off, told them I was pulling her, and 
took her back to camp, and told my crew (who was the same as who had been at 20 
MT), "Let's not wait for her to eat and drink through the night only for her 
not to be able to move in the morning, and jump straight to the treat her with 
fluids part."? I took her to the treatment vet and explained why I wanted him 
to treat a horse that "looked fine."? While waiting (while he treated other 
more compromised horses) her condition did again begin to start down the road 
of "ataxic" at which point three other very experienced endurance vets agreed 
that they,too, had never seen anything like that before, "but yeah, it does 
look as though there is something wrong with this horse."? She was again 
treated with IV fluids, which
the vet fortified with Mg++?and Ca++ (and something else, I think Na+, but I 
wouldn't swear to it).? Again she peed after getting?about 4 ?liters, but we 
gave her another 6 (since she was hooked up to the drip, the vet figured we 
might as well), by the time I took her back to the trailer she was again moving 
normally.? I had made arrangements with Barney Fleming (who was vetting the 
ride) to "privately" do the "Pride Project" with him so he had pulled blood 
from her the night before the ride, spun it down and frozen it, with the 
intention of analyzing it (along with others pulled during and after the ride) 
when he got home (since he didn't have his machine with him).? However, the 
treatment vet DID have a machine with him, so before she was treated with the 
fluids he pulled blood from her and Barney unfroze the sample from the night 
before and both of them were run on the same machine.? All the parameters were 
within normal except for the CPK on
the second sample (after 60 miles but before the treatment) was 3300 (AST was 

I have, since then, retired this horse from endurance.? I SUSPECT that this 
condition is caused by some kind of electrolyte imbalance because of the way 
she responds to treatment, and I SUSPECT that it is a magnesium deficiency, 
since ataxia is one of the symptoms of hypomagnesmia and magnesium is a 
parameter that was not included on any of the multitude of blood tests that 
were done on blood samples taken during endurance rides.? But if so, then this 
horse has a bit of a problem with metabolizing magnesium, and if the problem 
shows up as ataxia, then I don't think she is a good candidate for an endurance 
horse.? I have since done some private experiements?during hot days at home 
?(using my other endurance horse and a friend riding her as a control) which 
includes blood work with magnesium tests, and have found that this horse AND my 
control horse both get magnesium deficient in the blood during long term 
aerobic exercise on hot days, so I suspect
that lots of endurance horses are magnesium deficient during endurance rides 
and their riders just don't know it, but this is almost pure speculation based 
on very few data points.

I started doing eventing with the horse instead until she started to get heel 
sore in the front feet from the jumping when the fences started getting higher 
and inow use her for a trail riding horse, lesson horse, and just a few weeks 
ago she pulled a cart for the first time.? She could probably still do 50 mile 
rides (the problem never showed up until she had gone further than that), and I 
might be able to use her for a Ride & Tie horse now that people other than me 
can ride her (she marked and unmarked the trail for the Bar H Ride and Tie this 

4) In 2008 at the 20 MT 100 in the PS region, the weather was clear with 
temperatures in the 70s? duirng the day and probably the 40s over night and it 
being the Southern California desert humidity was pretty low (but don't ask me 
how low), we completed the ride at ~3:00 am with all As all day (and night) and 
CRIs of 48/40 (35 mi); 48/44 (65 mi); and 44/40 (post ride) and meeting 
criteria of 60 in the time it takes to get from the in gate to the P&R check.? 
Some time between 7:00 am when I took the horse for a walk, and 8:30 am after 
breakfast when I took the horse for another walk, my horse became unable to put 
down her left hind leg, and it started to swell, her HR was slightly elevvated, 
52.? I consulted the head vet (Melissa Ribley) who confirmed that she was in 
pain, gave her some torbagesic (sp?) and maybe Banamine (I don't remember for 
sure), and consulted with the Duck who speculated that she may have gotten 
stuck with a cholla.? I asked if
she thought it would be best for me to find a place to keep her there in 
Ridgecrest, or to trailer her home (~ 3 hours, and again, closer to the same 
nearest clinic), and it was decided that since she now seemed comfortable 
enough to load into and stand in the trailer, that it was probably best to get 
on the road.? I took her home, she seemed to be moving much better when she got 
off the trailer, so I called the vet to come out and see her the next day.? 
Which he did, x-rayed her to see if she had broken anything (she hadn't)...to 
make a long story short, she had contracted cellulitis that responded to a long 
course of heavy duty anti-biotic treatment but never showed any signs of having 
a wound.? It took a couple of months for all the swelling to go away, but she 
hasn't had a problem with it since.? Lots of speculation on how she might have 
gotten it, but it is just that, speculation.

5) in 2009 at the 20 MT 100 in the PS region, the weather was clear with 
temperatures in the 70s? duirng the day and probably the 40s over night and it 
being the Southern California desert humidity was pretty low (but don't ask me 
how low), at the 65 mile VC after meeting criteria immediately upon arriving 
and letting the horse rest and eat for the required 1/2 hour before being 
checked (a requirement of the ride) she pooped on the way into the vetting area 
and I noticed she had a little bit of blood on her stool so I proceeded to the 
vet and told her that we wouldn't be going on and why.? The vet checked her 
with a 48/48 CRI, a B- for gut sounds, and a B for skin tenting and mucous 
membranes, but otherwise all As so she "passed" the vet check and we decided to 
watch her before deciding whether to go on.? She was kinda tired and wanted to 
lie down and rest, so?I told the vet that I didn't need to watch her any more 
before deciding whether to continue,
we weren't going on no matter what, I had seen enough.? I took her back to the 
trailer when she lay down and had a long nap, which was sufficiently concerning 
that the vet asked if I would like to treat her with fluids.? Though she did 
get up and started picking at food, she was still showing signs of being 
dehydrated and when the vet suggested wetting her hay I said that that was 
almost guaranteed to reduce her interest in eating it to zero (since wetting 
her feed even at home when she feels fine puts her off her feed), so we decided 
to treat her with fluids.? She continued eating (consistently although not 
voraciously) while she was getting the fluids, peed with normal color after 
having 13 liters of the 15 liters total that she got, ate and drank pretty 
consistently all night long and moved easily when I took her for short walks 
every couple of hours through the night peed and pooped normally, travelled 
home without incident the following day and
has seemed normal ever since.? I am currently conditioning her with the 
intention of drag riding at the Malibu Ride in November (Kim Fuess has asked me 

At the vet checks leading up to the 65 miles where we stopped and she was 
treated, she recovered at each of them within the time it took to get from the 
in gate to the pulse check.? At the first (15 miles) and third (57 miles) vet 
checks where the CRI was taken immediately after meeting criteria her CRIs were 
52/52 and at VC 2 (36 miles) where the CRI was done 1/2 hour after meeting 
criteria her CRI was 48/40.

As you can see from these reports, in these instances time to reach HR criteria 
after arriving at a check point, and CRIs did nothing to indicate any incipient 
problems that would later be treated.

The only times I HAVE had a horse with a "hanging" pulse that didn't come down 
almost immediately upon arriving at the check point were caused by external 
stimuli that "agitated" the horse.? 

At the 1997 Mt Charleston 75 (PS Region, temperatures in the 70s?, low humidity 
being the Southern Nevada desert) at the first vet check, my horse was coming 
in to the first vet check (at base camp) at the same time that the 50 milers 
were leaving for the start, and every time one of them would go by and head out 
of camp her HR would jump up like it was on a trampoline.? I am pretty sure it 
took pretty much the whole half hour (the time it took for all the 50s to get 
out of camp) for her to come down if you could get her to stand still for long 
enough to get a stethoscope on her.? As the day progressed and she got more 
tired, she cared less about all the stuff going on in camp and her recoveries 
by the last vet checks were "as long as it took to get from the in timer to the 
pulse checker."? When I pulled this same horse from the Desert Pines 100 at the 
~60 mile VC, it was because she had recovered abnormally quickly at the first 
and second vet checks.

At day 1 of ?the 1999 Rocky Mountain MD ride (MT Region, temperatures in the 
70s?, low humidity being the high altitudes of the Rockies in the summer time) 
my horse had a hanging pulse of 80 at the finish, so I took him to the vet, 
where she did a CRI which was found to be 80/76, at which time I asked her if 
it might be explained by the agressively biting horse flies that he was 
stomping his feet about, and she asked me if i had electrolyted the horse, 
which I hadn't and said that I never did.? Shortly after that, my crew got back 
from their sight seeing with the keys to the horse trailer, so I applied some 
fly spray and gave him some electrolytes; he recovered to 40 w/in 2 minutes of 
these administrations so I took the horse to the vet for his completion check.? 
She said that oral electrolytes do not work within 2 minutes and that it was 
almost assuredly the flies.

Personally, I have never found absolute HR measurements to be all that 
meaningful.? Some horses have low heart rates and "recover" quickly and some 
don't.? And I haven't found it to be all that closely linked with level of 

What I HAVE found though is that when heart rates are uncommonly low for that 
individual and the HR (and the horse) is rather unresponsive to environmental 
stimuli, THAT is one of the first signs that my horse is getting tired and 
might be getting into some metabolic trouble.

if other people want to tell about when they have had their horses treated at 
rides, I would be interested to hear if their experiences are different from 
mine.? Because MY experience is that HR is a piss poor indicator of well, 
anything..? That a much better indicator is to take a look at the whole picture 
and get that "gut" feeling that something just ain't quite right, and to not 
let a "normal" heart rate (and/or any of the other specific parameters) lull 
you into thinking that everything must be okay.

But if other people's experiences are different (presumably like the first 
across the finish line horse at the NC 50 this year), I would be interested in 
hearing it.

Orange County, Calif.

p.s.? You will note that most of the ride/treatment reports that I have given 
here have weather conditions of "temperatures in the 70s with rather low 
humidity."? I doubt that that weather condition was much of a contributing 
factor.? Altough it might have been, because one of the things that happens in 
such weather conditions is that the horse can sweat A LOT but it dries out so 
quickly that you never see it, you can only taste it, in all the salt that is 
mixed in with the dirt on your horse's coat (which you may only taste if you 
are as anal about currying your horse at vet checks as I am).

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