This past weekend, DH and I trekked to southern Ohio for the Black Sheep Boogie. We had never been to this ride before, but had heard nothing but good things from the friends who had gone. The original plan had been for DH and a friend to ride the 75 on Saturday, then I would ride the 50 on that friend's other horse on Sunday. However, 3 days before we left, the horse I was supposed to ride hurt himself in the pasture so would not be going to the ride. I was bummed.
Thursday was pretty miserable driving down. It rained. Then, it rained hard. Then, it stormed and hailed. I think about 7 hours of the 9 hour trip were wet.
We got lucky that the rain ended for the last part of the trip, which involved driving down some pretty windy, narrow roads to camp. The field we were to camp in was pretty soggy but we got in without issue and set up. Only a handful of other people were there, which surprised us. After getting everything as prepped for the ride as possible, we settled down to watch the next round of storms come in.
(notice the empty buckets):
We didn't have long to wait before it was storming again. We actually knew it was coming before we could even see the clouds, as suddenly the small creek that bordered the pasture we were parked in was raging
.. little did we know what was happening about 45 minutes northeast of us.
The runoff easily filled all those empty buckets! The storms finally abated just after dinner.. giving the sun just enough time to heat things up and make it feel like a swamp. Yuck.
Friday was forecast to be sunny, breezy and 85. We woke up to overcast skies and fog.. and weren't we surprised when it started raining about 7am.. and kept raining until just after lunch! Other riders started rolling in and we did not envy them having to set up in the rain. Eventually, rigs had to be dragged to their places with the tractor! We were lucky that the field around us was parked first, so not badly torn up.
The sun came out in full force for the afternoon, making temps climb sharply. Not sure the humidity dropped at all though and it continued to feel like a swamp. Some friends went out for a brief ride and came back to report the trails were a slimy, muddy mess - to the point that one dropped from the 75 to the 50. Oh boy. Got registered and vetted in without incident.
It never really cooled off overnight and was still really humid (meaning foggy) when the 75s started at 6 am. Thirteen brave souls departed camp looking enthusiastic.
The first loop was 13.5 miles. We expected the front runners in about 90 minutes. DH expected to be back in 2-2.5 hours. I got the last of the hold stuff set up, watched the 50s and 25s start, then sat down with the friends also crewing and waited. 90 minutes, no front runners. At about 2 hours, the front runners arrived. DH came in about 30 minutes later. We got Sultan pulsed down and into the vetting with little fuss and a healthy dose of water.
DH said the trail was not only muddy (hardly a surprise), but was also very, very technical. You were either going up or going down with no places you could really make time. That was not how the trails had been described to us, so we figured they were giving them the worst first thing to get it over with before the heat. In no time, the 40 minute hold was done and DH and Sultan were back out for the second loop, this one 25 miles. DH expected it to take about 4 hours.
I passed the time helping anybody who looked like they needed a hand. I didn't know many people at this ride, as it drew people from the mid-west versus the northeast people I tend to know. I got to see some amazing horses and meet some new friends. We got a bit of a break between when the 50s and 25s went out and the 25s finished, so I made sure to have some food myself and top off all the buckets, etc.
We had expected the 25s to start rolling in to the finish about 11.. but none did. Eventually the first one came in about noon.. and the water started flowing. It was hot, still super humid and the sun was blazing with not even a hint of a breeze. About 15 minutes after the winner, another group came in to round out the top 10.. but everyone was having a hard time pulsing down. The bulk of the LDs came in just before cutoff.. giving them very little time to make pulse. I was hearing from everyone that the loop (which was to be the one DH did last) was horrible
- muddy and rocky and longer than the 11 miles it was supposed to be. Oh oh.
We expected the front runners of the 75 into the second hold about 11:30.. but they didn't arrive. So we waited.. and waited.. and waited. And I started getting that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The front runners eventually came in about 1:30.. and they didn't have anything nice to say about the trail. DH made it to the hold about 2:30 - a full hour longer than he had expected.
Sultan came in hot, which was no surprise. I had the water and ice ready and he was soon looking like a drowned rat. His pulse was jumping around a bit, but it never occurred to me that was anything other than heat related - it would be at parameter (which was 60 all day), then jump up to 64 or 68 when he moved. Water on, scrape, water on, scrape.. then off to the vetting.
DH brought Sultan back after getting all As and he happily drove into his sloppy food. DH said they needed to go back for a pulse recheck, because he was 60 at the pulse takers but had bounced up to 68 by the time he walked through the ankle deep mud to the vet (who was out in the sun), but then was down to 64 after the trotting. The hold passed quickly, between refilling Sultan's mush and trying to cajole DH into eating. He had nothing nice to say about that loop and was not looking forward to going out and having to do it again!
We got Sultan tacked back up and DH went back to the vet for the pulse check. I followed at a distance, carrying the mounting block. The vet listened, and listened, and listened, and listened. Then he went and got the head vet. Oh oh. She listened. Then she started walking towards her trailer, with DH and Sultan following. Oh oh!
I go across the vetting area (still carting the mounting block) and ask what is going on. DH says heart rate is fine, but vet heard an arrhythmia! Vet gives DH a couple syringes of oral calcium, one for then and the other for 15 minutes later. Then come back for a recheck. We go back to the shade and I pull out the stethoscope (we normally use electronic heart rate monitors). And indeed, I hear it too. Shiitake.
We stand in the shade with a confused horse (he knew he was supposed to be out on trail again), me listening to the arrhythmia normalize after about 8 minutes. DH and I discuss what is going on and the trail conditions and the weather and the time and decide its not worth it. We untack. Sultan is totally back to normal well before the second calcium dose, but we give it anyway and go back to the vet.
The vet is initially concerned seeing us reappear with a naked horse, but she listens and agrees the rhythm is normal. Sultan is cleared to go back out on trail. DH rider options. Ride over.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening going between crewing for others and listening to Sultan every 15 minutes or so. He was totally fine from that point onwards and I think was rolling his eyes at my obsessive checking. He was bright-eyed and happy and actually was something of a jerk when out hand grazing. There were lots of other rider options, as that 25 mile loop (which the 50s did too) was just brutal, and everyone had heard from the LDers that the final loop was no better. It was also hot as hell and still humid (someone at the hold said the office weather station said it was 92 with a real feel of 108).
The winner of the 50 came in about an hour before cutoff. I am not sure I have ever been to a ride where so many people - and people known for being fast riders with good, experienced horses - barely made time or didn't make time! It was so bad, the ride manager wound up changing the last loop for the 75s, going out to mark an entirely different trail consisting almost entirely of gravel roads. Otherwise, I am not sure anybody would have made the time on the 75.
The next morning, we got packed up and on the road early. We had heard some rumblings from people coming into camp Friday about bad weather having hit West Virginia.. but we got to see some of it for ourselves. While the interstate (79) was open, the evidence of the mudslides that had it totally closed for a while was still apparent. We passed multiple places where it was clear the hillsides had come down, and in several areas the road crew was still out scraping up mud and trucking it away:
We passed the exit for Clendenin which was blocked by police cars.. which prompted a quick google search as to why:
That certainly put some perspective on our disappointing weekend. :sad:
Big lesson learned this weekend was that electronics are not always your friend. I thought I had done my homework in terms of stethoscope vs electronic monitor by using both at home after training rides to make sure the handheld was getting accurate readings (which is was). [Some horses are never read correctly by such electronics.] It never occurred to me that when his pulse was jumping around, it was actually an arrhythmia that it was picking up, versus a heat reaction. Now I know, if I ever get such erratic readings again, the stethoscope will come out! We could have corrected the problem an hour earlier if I had.