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Million Pines ride story (long, as usual)

Well, after hearing about this ride for nearly 2 years, I finally made the
drive (just under 450 miles, about standard for us) to do it, and boy
howdy what a weekend!  This ain't just a ride, it's an Event. :)

We loaded up EARLY Thursday morning and managed to leave the barn on time
to the minute -- is that a feat or what?  We arrived before dark, which
was goooood, because the ridecamp site turned out to be exactly what I'd
been told  -- "Better get there early unless you have tremendous skill at
backing your rig among the Million Pines."  The site is absolutely
gorgeous, and it's really not much of a problem to park -- *IF* you have a
tiny rig and get there on Thursday before dark. <BG>  Next time I'll know
to bring a swimsuit so I can hit the pond with the others -- wasn't
mentioned on the ride flyers. :(  And more importantly, next time I'll
know to use a haynet cuz you gotta pick up all your hay before leaving
instead of scattering it, and I didn't know that and I let Lakota play in
his hay for 3 days. :(

The whole weekend was much fun.  Lotsa good food, good weather and fun
people.  The ride is quite scenic and fun, and the vet staff was
wonderful.  I was terribly impressed with how quickly they managed to get
everyone in and out at all the VCs.  

Anyhoo, we arrived just before dark, parked, & unloaded Lakota.  He
immediately put out a pile of horse apples, and some of them were yellow
and kinda slimy looking. OH NO!  When my dog does that it means major
tummy upset, so I panicked <of course>.  We made camp and I put Lakota on
the highline with hay & water, which he immediately tucked into.  Hmmm,
but what about the slimy yellow poop?  I ran in search of The Voice of
Experience, Susan Kasemeyer, and she kindly offered to come look.  After
poking the yellow apples with a stick <g> she said it looked like maybe
he'd eaten mustard or something else springing up in the pasture and I
probably shouldn't worry about it.  Sure enough, he made 2 more yellow
piles that night and then it was all green afterwards.  Whew!

Friday we hung out in camp, not doing much besides getting ready for the
ride -- braiding manes, filling buckets, and tizzying. :)  Lakota ate
everything I gave him and drank quite a bit too -- more than ever before
-- so I was happy.  At the ride meeting I was very surprised to learn
there were 94 entries in the 25 and they would be starting only 30 minutes
behind us on the same loop.  This made me change my ride strategy
immediately, because if I waited to leave well after everyone else as I
had planned, I feared we'd be run over by a swarm of racing 25s.  So I
decided to hang back just a bit and start at the tail end of the main body
and try to get down the trail as soon as possible ahead of the 25s,
without letting Lakota get caught up in the racing.

He did surprisingly well.  After crowhopping the first 15 miles at Goethe,
I was a bit concerned <g> but he surprised me by really behaving well.  He
was excited and pulling a bit, but not seriously, with practically no
crowhopping at all.  I used the vosal on him for the first time at a ride,
and he went really well in it.  I was pleased.

We did the first loop in 1:43 and he looked good at the VC.  He ate a 2-lb
bag of carrots while I sucked down some of my favorite cherry jell-o salad
and we headed back out on the second loop.  He started out cantering
merrily along, and went quite well the entire loop, alternating trot &
canter.  His HR was a bit elevated, which I wasn't pleased about, but it
was really hot.  And of course I lost my sponge at the beginning of the
loop, so I wasn't able to sponge at all to cool him down (though he had
finally started drinking, which was good). Upon arrival, I went straight
to my rig to sponge him down before going to the P&R ... but my buckets &
sponges were gone!  I couldn't believe it.  No one ever steals anything at
a ridecamp.  Mitch and I looked all over, in the hopes he'd moved them for
some reason and had forgotten about it <g> but noooooo water, no sponges.  
I was really mad, because Lakota hadn't been sponged in well over an hour
and he was hot, and I wanted to cool him down but couldn't!  Mitch quickly
grabbed another bucket and ran to fill it with water while I dug around in
the trailer for an old sponge.  As we were trying to dump water on Lakota
and cool him down while sharing a single bucket & sponge, a man we didn't
know (who clearly doesn't have a *clue* about endurance riding) came over
and said "I borrowed your buckets to prop something up by my camper.  Do
you need me to bring them back?"  I said "MY GOD YESSSSSSS!!!" or
something to that effect <BG> and he brought them back.  By then *I* was
pretty hot with an elevated heartrate. :))

We cooled Lakota down and I took him to the vet check.  His CRI was 60/66
and gut sounds were B+ -- all the rest were As, but they asked me to
bring him back for a recheck on the CRI before heading out.  He ate a few
more carrots and a bit of hay, and I took him back for a recheck.  This
time his CRI was 52/56 and the vet said to go back out but take it easy,
cuz he wasn't recovering as well as he should.  I took him back to camp
and sat in the chair about 10 minutes to let him eat some more.  When he
stopped eating, I saddled up and headed back out.

This time we left alone and started at a walk.  When I asked for a trot
after a couple of minutes, his HR shot up to 170 at only a light jog, and
I nearly turned around right then.  But I decided to take it easy for a
mile or two and see how he was doing, in case he got a second wind after
walking for awhile.  We ended up doing the 3rd loop very slowly, mostly
walking, stopping to graze and drink at every single puddle, which made me
happy, but his HR was still running about 20 beats high and he didn't want
to trot much, so I figured we would either pull at the next VC or walk the
4th loop for a 12-hr completion, depending on what the vet said.

We arrived at the VC at 4:30 and I told the vet that Lakota seemed tired,
no gas, and his HR was elevated.  He checked him, had me trot him out,
then turned to me and said "What do you want to do?"  I replied, "If you
tell me there's no reason not to take him back out, then we're going to do
the last loop as slowly as we can and still complete on time."  The vet
replied that there were reasons not to take him back out -- he was clearly
tired, gut sounds were low and he was somewhat dehydrated -- but he'd pass
him for me to walk the last loop for completion if I really wanted to go,
since Lakota did willingly trot out for me and wasn't in distress. I said
no, completion wasn't that important to me, I'd rather pull.  In any
event, we couldn't walk the last loop and finish in time, because after
the 30-min hold we'd have to do 11 miles in 2 hrs, and Lakota just doesn't
walk that fast -- we'd have had to trot some, especially if we stopped for
water & occasional grazing. So we pulled. I was disappointed not to
complete, but I didn't want the completion bad enough to risk
complications for Lakota.

I spent the drive home on Sunday trying to figure out what went wrong.
Comparing this ride to the 50 we completed at Goethe in December, Lakota
did *much* better mentally (less excited, listening to me, no
crowhopping); we kept about the same speed on the first two loops; and he
ate & drank better. The terrain was about equally challenging (pretty
easy, really, with some sand and some mud but lots of good footing and
plenty of water).  The only difference was the heat, and I guess I simply
mismanaged him due to lack of experience.  This was our first warm-weather
ride, and he still has a pretty heavy winter coat.  I didn't sponge on the
first loop until it was nearly over, so I let him get pretty hot pretty
early, without realizing it -- never needed to sponge on a ride before,
cuz we've only done winter rides up to now -- and I was much too
conservative in my use of electrolytes, I think.  I simply didn't realize
what the heat & humidity would do to him.  He was eating & drinking better
than he ever has before, so I can only assume that the electrolyte
shortage prevented the proper absorption?  I dunno, and I'm certainly open
to suggestions.  I plan to do Longstreet's Charge on May 22 and want to do
better on managing Lakota in the heat.

I had a great time this weekend, in spite of the pull.  Lakota ate & drank
that night after the ride, and looked quite perky Sunday morning. He
dragged me around the pond on our walk <g> and actually ate & drank a bit
in the trailer coming home.  Today he looks like he spent the weekend
hanging out in the pasture, no weight loss or soreness or dullness of
attitude, whereas I look like I was in a car wreck -- achy, stiff &
bruised. <BG> But man oh man, did I eat some gooooooood Southern food and
had a great time hanging out with fellow riders and Ridecampers.

See you all on Pigeon Mountain!

Glenda & Lakota
Mobile, AL
AERC # M18819 & H27310
SE Region

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