The Great Hunt

My first foray back into endurance riding is this upcoming weekend, at Battle of the Flatlands, and we’re more or less ready. I still have to pack the trailer, have the husband poke and mutter over the truck, and clean out the truck so I can repack it. Of course, no trip gets under way without a few bobbles. The kid’s home sick with something (thankfully non-Covid) that has been ripping through the school and my household, though he usually bounces back in a day or so. Tarma picked up a small cut on her rear leg from our ride last weekend, thankfully with some daily care it’s healed just fine. Last night I had the vague idea for a quick arena bareback ride, just to say I rode, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Figure one thing out, then another pops up.

Usually when I arrive after dinner, she’s mowing through her half flake of alfalfa or standing in the run in, keeping watch. Last night my Spidey senses went into overdrive, she was about to lay down and doing the Flehmen response, over and over. Her eye wasn’t quite right, so I led her into the arena. It’s shedding season, so usually she has a vigorous roll or two, then either pops up and canter fart bucks around or comes back to me, telling me she’s ready. Last night, for the first time ever, she just…stayed laying down, not rolling over, but showing no “normal” signs of colic distress (no rolling and moaning, no heavy sweating, no kicking or biting her belly.) She let me approach while she was still down and rub her all over, another first, and she didn’t want any food or treats. I called my barn owner, who mentioned when she brought everyone in an hour earlier Tarma was normal.

Not her normal

I hooked up the trailer, grabbed my stethoscope and hurried back to the barn. She was standing when I got back, but her eye still wasn’t right. She had good gut sounds, normal heart rate, good capillary refill, so I took her down to the trailer and she loaded right up. I called a friend (who, sadly, has been through colic’s, chokes, laminitis/founder and Pigeon Fever, all in the space of the last three years!) She talked me off the pure panic ledge and we made a plan, I was going to drive around the country block and then compare her hooves temperature to another horses (heat in hooves is a bad sign of laminitis/founder). I avoided the drive, as soon as I closed the divider she gave a nice, wet but well formed poop (the trailer trick works every time…and when it doesn’t, that’s a cue for a vet call!)

Horse folks understand why I included this photo!

I led her back up the barn, and her hooves didn’t feel any different from a friend’s horse, so I asked her to lunge, both in the arena and some tight circles on the gravel. She didn’t put a foot wrong or bobble, and she was starting to make mare ears at the dog running amuck, always a good sign. She also hoovered up the treats I had, so I led her back to her stall and she immediately took a big drink and started in on her alfalfa, and her eye was her normal self again. Plus, she gave a nice solid fart. Our best guess was either a mild heat, some gas, or just tired from a busy pasture day. I’ll see how she is when I visit today, and if her eye is still good we’ll head out tomorrow morning. I was thankful I had level headed barn owner and friends to call, and I had all my emergency gear easy to grab without thinking.

Normal, innocent, stuffing her face, “What? You worried about me?” eye

A more ongoing concern is her slightly sore back. I always palpitate her back a few days after a solid ride, and lately she’s just leaned into it, more like a massage. Two days ago she showed a little soreness to the right rear, where the saddle was a bit flat before it’s reflocking (though when did the same last night, not so much as a twitch). It comes as a deep shock to absolutely no one that the free Wintec saddle, which has been through four very different horses, isn’t perfect for Tarma and I. Also a deep shock is that I’m not as strong as I once was, plus I’m unbalanced. It doesn’t help that according to one saddle fitter I’ve had out, I’m an 18 or 19 inch seat…the Wintec’s only 17 inches. So begins the one thing I absolutely wanted to avoid, The Great Saddle Hunt. I’m the lady who rode in a Barefoot treeless on a leased Quarter Horse gelding and struggled for a year or so, before finally riding in his normal Western saddle and had a lightbulb go off in terms of security and stability.

Not as comfortable as the treeless, but a lot more secure

So far I’ve narrowed down the search to…almost everything that doesn’t have a horn. I rode in one friend’s saddle, a Stubben Scout, which was okay. Another friend’s different Stubben was quite nice, but they no longer make that model (and I have to figure out what size Tarma might be if I want to find a used Stubben). A more all purpose English saddle would probably fit the bill, as long as it’s flocked (no CAIR or treeless for me). There’s a few others I’ve seen other endurance riders in, including Rector Panels, Synergist and Specialized. The lighter the better for sure, that’s one of the main things I appreciate about the Wintec, it’s less than 10 pounds by itself.

Literally my pretty pony

Part of my time at the endurance ride will be wandering around ride camp, checking out saddles and seeing if folks would be willing to let me try a few on Tarma, so I can narrow down fit and comfort. This is one of the benefits of “just” doing the intro ride, I won’t have to rush and try to make time. Plus I can hop in and volunteer for the longer riders, get my feet wet again. Fingers crossed that I’m not packing the rig for nothing!

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After years of borrowing horses, working to ride and catch riding, I finally have my own horse, a spicy chocolate mare...but also a demanding day job (who doesn't?), a nerdy husband, a soccer loving kid who needs to be parented (by me, duh), and the ultimate trail buddy, a chocolate Labradork!

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