068. Of Fitness & Fawns


Thrilled that Nakai’s transitioned well over to apartment living and satisfied with his weight gain, we are now back to working on our fitness levels. As much as I loathe summer weather, we ride the most during this season.

I wasn’t sure how quickly Nakai would lose muscle and wind with his vacation time. Time off never seems to make a difference to the Arabs, and some of the Quarter Horses seem to revert nearly overnight. Thankfully, there didn’t appear to be much of a difference with Nakai. I rode conservatively for the first couple weeks and am now increasing his speed and miles.


We’ve also continually worked on removing race brain and the ever constant ‘wait’. Nakai’s doing great in both areas. Last Sunday I had an awesome 8 mile loop with Maria on the home trails. I made Maria trail boss (it’s always me!) and laughed at how easily she still gets turned around. Nakai contentedly worked behind Beamer, rating beautifully and kepping his head on our little gallop strip. He hit 34.8 mph! We rode side by side and I held him back a bit, not sure if I could trust Beamer not to spook (I did not want to be side-swiped). In that aspect, Nakai’s too honest – He will never take the shortcut back home or spook at the deer in the wood line while we gallop. He just loves to run.

Wednesday (I think? I’m losing track of days) I made plans to ride with Marina and Mechele was also available. We hit the trails and I was impressed at how nicely Nakai worked behind Jasper and Rose. I believe this is the first time he’s ridden with Rose since winter, and normally they feed off each other and create little monsters.  It was an excellent ride until we slogged through a muddy patch and I watched Rose’s shoe cast fly through the air toward us. She lost her shoe, too, so M cut her ride short and I finished the loop with Marina.

I’m having a bit of an issue with my ankles again. The numbness starts on the outside of my ankles and works it way up my calves. It burns and then goes numb. Both ankles are afflicted, and I’ve narrowed it down to tight ankles and bunching materials. I’m also chalking it up to having spent the last 6 months riding in my western, but I shouldn’t have this much of an issue switching back to my endurance saddle. I love my wide tread endurance stirrups but am wondering if I need to switch back to narrower ones and see if it helps.

I am a conformational train wreck.

Today’s ride had zero ankle issues (go figure). Maria and I planned to ride early, but she woke up sick so I was on my own. Nakai had a nice warm-up in the ring and we hit the trails. We almost finished a loop of Mechele’s fields when a fawn shot out ahead of us. I whoa’ed Kai and we walked. Out pops another one! Twins! They were older, about lab sized, but still had the bright white spots. Mom obviously left them to go feed, and here I was messing up their hiding spot.

Imagine my surprise when one comes circling back through the hay like a little velociraptor and begins calling to Nakai. The fawn would come close before darting off again. At one point the little babe was brave enough to stand so close I could have reached out and touched them. Nakai flicked his tail, scaring both, and they bounced off into the hay again. I rode away only to look back and see them following me!

They followed us into M’s second hay field and through the wood line into the BJ’s field. Seriously worried that they would follow us on the rest of my 5 mile loop and get lost, I turned Nakai back around and we walked back to the first field. I did end up throwing carrots at them to scare them back into the taller section. I zipped away while they bounced, thankfully without fawns following. Dripping with sweat and losing motivation, I headed back to the barn. What was supposed to be an at least 5 mile loop was 3.

Here’s a couple videos of the little babes:

067. Weight Updates

A month has passed since switching Nakai to stall board. Mechele’s suspicions about feeding time being unduly stressful for him seems correct. It took a few days for his new routine to sink in, but Nakai enjoys his “room”. A few times now I’ve walked into the barn at 10:30-11 on weekend mornings to find Nakai just finishing his grain. According to M, he’s taken to occasionally napping in between finishing breakfast. Clearly, my worries about him settling in were unnecessary.

Here is a before picture, taken in late April:

2 weeks in:

This is from Sunday:

Almost immediately I saw a big difference in his withers and topline after two weeks, and now he has an nice layer of fat covering his ribs and his tail head. He’s filling in behind his withers, and we’re once again working on improving that topline. I wasn’t sure how quickly he would loose muscle mass or fitness, but it’s not as bad as I anticipated. He’s back up to enjoying 5+ mile hacks at home and had no problem completing Green Lane last weekend (He finished with plenty left in the tank).

Side note, but after clipping him I found two large (almost completely identical in location) white spots under his winter coat. They weren’t solid white, like a pressure point would be, and instead were almost lace-like in pattern. Apparently only half of the hair there is white, because as his clip grew in the white spots disappeared (see the most recent picture).

 Thank Lawd he’s a such an expressive mover, because he’s not much to look at when he’s just standing around…



066. Green Lane

Maria and I managed to get one last hurrah before Carl (Maria’s F-150) goes to Ben for repairs. We must have subconsciously remembered the traffic horror that is Qtown Alive, and we opted to head out to Green Lane on Saturday.


The last time we did Green Lane was back in late October or early November. Beamer is on his way to getting fitter, but I asked Maria to dictate our speed. The radar was clear with the exception of a small rain band passing through, so we took our chances and loaded up. As soon as we unloaded the horses it started raining again.  I ended up calling Ben and asking him to run over a hoodie for me; I was cold! It’s hard to believe the prior 3 days were in the high 80’s and here I am layering!

Once the rain passed we hit the trails. Nakai was so happy to be off the property again; he and Beamer had a great warm-up on the red trail.



Upon hitting the blue trail, Nakai turned on and wanted to fly. He floated over the rocks and roots while Beamer tried his hardest to do the same. He rated nicely and for the most part patiently waited for Beamer after every technical crossing. Beamer was awesome for Maria and tried so hard to carefully pick his way over the many logs, rocks, and slick footing.

The only excitement was a chipmunk dashing through the underbrush (which was apparently cause for concern) and a very curious mutt who gave chase to use while crossing the camping area. Beamer was worried an in attempt to head off potential issues I wheeled Kai around and started back after the pup. I am thankful Nakai is dog broke and seems to take great fun in chasing things; he was all business and the poor pup seemed quite concerned the “big dog” had turned the tables on her!

My little vitcory was Nakai finally peed under saddle! Sounds ridiculous, right? In the 9 years I’ve owned him, I can’t remember him ever peeing under saddle. I used to try teaching him (my old BO had a horse who would waddle off trail if he had to go, and he knew a cue to do so) to no avail. I thought Mustang might cure him – no way he could hold it for 50 miles… but he peed during the holds after I stripped tack. He always waits until he’s tied at the trailer or has just loaded.

We did a bit over 11 miles, and Beamer was feeling it by the end. Nakai seemed disappointed we took the shortcut back instead of the last gallop hill, but overall I am very pleased with this fitness level despite having a reduced workload over the last few months. He ate well, his hydration was good, and he felt awesome. What a perfect day!

065. Revisiting home trails


Nakai has settled quickly in his new stall routine; Mechele says he seems to enjoy coming in for meals. On the other hand, I keep forgetting he has a stall. I tore my tack trunk apart looking for bell boots and they were on his door. Oops!

The stars aligned and I found myself riding at the same time as Marina, Theone, and Mechele. I’ve been working diligently on Nakai’s patience (he’s  most impatient at home). She wanted to do a slow conditioning loop with Lina so this was the perfect test.

Nakai rocked! It’s the first time I’ve been out on the home trails with friends in months. I’ve either trailered out with Maria or been by myself.

The first hurry up and wait happened 20 feet into the trail. Mechele attempted the rocky crossing with Lina. Nakai watched her eyeballing the rocks and poking them with her hoof. He was standing so patiently that I didn’t care if Lina took all evening.  If Lina never crossed, I would happily end the ride there!


Rocks were no but the mud was OK, so off we went. Marina and Theone zipped into a fast trot and I worked to keep Nakai soft and slow. He has a ground-eating extended trot and wanted so badly to work at that pace, but after a few minutes he softened and rated. He kept his attitude in check but we squirreled all over the trail – a hip popped out here, a shoulder there, or he would drop behind the vertical and try to scoot forward. He settled after about  2 miles, more resigned to his situation that agreeable, but it was a big improvement and I was thrilled.

If I can get the chance to work on rating in a group a few times a week, I think I’ll see a continually improvement in mellowing out his competitive streak.

 

064.

I write this with trepidation, as I feel there is more I could be doing -should be doing- but here I am wading through murky waters, lost and insecure.

In February, I noticed some weight loss. We evaluated Nakai’s feeding program, gave him a vacation from riding, and had the vet check out a few alternative avenues. He had his teeth floated, tested negative for Cushings, and his ERU is under control. Basically, I was told to add more fat to his diet, cut back on the harder work, and go from there. That’s what I did through March and April, and while I noticed a bit of weight gain it still wasn’t what I wanted.

Late April rolls around and he’s acclimated to summer pastures. Again, there’s a weight increase but I still feel like he isn’t thriving. I’ve been down the google rabbit hole, wondering if I need to call the vet back out for a full blood work up. Compared to our usual riding schedule Nakai is still in light work. Now that summer is fast approaching (and with it bugs), Nakai’s back to wearing his ERU mask almost 24/7. ERU masks are amazing and a crucial aspect to his long-term treatment, but a serious downside is that they are more difficult see out of than regular fly masks (Kai cannot wear a standard mask). Since he’s completely blind in his right eye, the mask only compounds the issue.


Mechele had her own concerns, and brought up the lack of sight being an issue in regards to the rest of the herd. The other significant issue with the mask is that he has a much harder time seeing the other horses. This results in not being able to read body language, and over the weekend somebody had nailed him.  He had bite marks up and down his right side (blind side), a couple of which were pretty swollen.  Nakai’s current herd is small and they all get along well. There’s bickering at feeding time, and since I’m not there during the feeding I wasn’t aware this had escalated.

He needs to wear his mask or risk an ERU flare up (3 weeks of medication, pain, and the possibility of a flare up in his good eye). If he wears the mask, he’s quite literally blindsided during feeding.

Mechele’s suggestion is to switch over to stall board. She’s thinking the extra stress of being almost blind and have to eat quickly is starting to take its toll on him.  I’ll admit I’m a little hesitant – mainly because Nakai has never been stalled in the over 9 years I’ve owned him. I’m crossing my fingers he won’t object to being inside and will relax when he realizes he can eat as slowly as he likes.


I’m going to start taking weekly pictures to document any changes, good or bad. If this doesn’t help I’m going to call the vet back out, do a full blood panel and try to figure out where to go from there. . . and as much as I hate thinking about this, I have to discuss when enough is enough for him. Nakai is 26. I’ve met horses over the years where all of a sudden they were “old”. It’s like they aged overnight and nothing was quite the same. If I’m at this point with Nakai, I have to assess his quality of life and be able to recognize when enough is enough.

Sigh.

062.


Over the past two weeks I’ve had some incredible schooling sessions with Nakai. He feels light, responsive, and ready to work without the impatience that normally plagues us. Is it possible that at 26 years old he is finally settling down? I’m sure we’ll have a moment or two the next time we do a fast ride out with friends, but for now I’m enjoying his agreeableness.


In fact, with the exception of Maria I haven’t ridden with any ladies lately. It seems I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone else! While I miss catching up with them (I have a bad habit of sitting in the middle with everyone else, chatting away when we should be working), I find myself more motivated when riding alone.

On the flip side, I’ve logged over 56 miles for April so far and the majority has been hiking with Mulder. He has a much higher energy level than Honey, so the plan is to start doing longer hikes (6+ miles) in anticipation of completing Green Lane (12 miles) and Rickett’s Glen (7-12). I’d love to make both of them a regular jaunt, especially since he needs all the exposure he can get. Getting him fitted for a hiking pack, harness, and boots are on the list too.

 

 

061. North Side Trails

The south side of Nockamixon is all horse trails. From Elephant road to the dam and back is about 12-14 miles depending on how many loops-within-loops you do. The North side has significantly less trails with the two loops being accessed by the fishing pier entrance.

Thursday I hiked the Old Mill trail with the dogs and ended up doing 5 1/2 miles. The trails were in pretty decent condition despite the rain we had. I didn’t have enough time to do the Quarry trail, so when Maria said she wanted to trailer out again I suggested we go here. I wanted to snoop and it seemed like the perfect footing and distance for Beamer. Plus, it was a trail I haven’t done with Nakai.

You can see a significant shrinkage in his right eye from ERU

It starts off rocky and then opens up enough to ride side by side.  A great canter section runs parallel to the lake and we had a nice hand gallop uphill. Strangely enough, the top trail was by far the wettest. The quarry trail turned out to be a beautiful combination of wooded trails and grassy openings, and we checked out a dead end that overlooked a small cove of the lake while the horses grazed.

Nakai loved being somewhere new! While we only did 8.6 miles, it fell in line with Maria’s goal. Both horses settled quickly despite being a bit up and ready to work. Beamer handled the technical footing at the beginning and end of the trail really well, and I got a chance to work on Nakai’s waiting. I was glad I brought my sponge (and also glad I clipped Nakai). Beamer was super sweaty by the time we finished, so we trotted over to the fishing pier to dip the horses and sponge off.

These past couple weeks have been a bit crazy – I got sick (again), Khoshekh’s been back and forth to the vet for a suspected UTI, and Ben’s truck has been on the fritz. Hopefully I can get back into a regular riding routine soon.