June 15, 2015

Summer Has Arrived in the SE

I knew it was going to be hot, so I set my alarm for the butt crack of dawn...er...I mean 0500. I snoozed until 0530 and then dragged my butt off to the barn. Gem wasn't so thrilled to see me that early knowing that I only show up before daylight when we have a long way to go, but she came right to me and loaded in the trailer without issue.

Even at 0730, when I climbed aboard and headed into the woods, it was hot. The woods were a bit stifling with the humidity and lack of air flow. I planned to do the same loop we did at the Equathon for 15 miles because a) I know it super well and b) it has a lot of difficult climbs. Gem was in a good mood and started off well.

The one thing I have been disappointed with in our move to SC is the lack of wild life. While WI may have been a frozen tundra there were a ton of song birds, bald eagles, a migration of swans twice a year as well as deer, coyote, fox, raccoons etc... I think the most I've seen here is a squirrel and some snakes.

As we were cruising along I saw this beauty and grabbed my phone to take a picture:

Dusty had shown up by then to hike with Wyatt and the dogs and I was just sending him a text with my find when I got this message from him:

"Just flushed 10 wild hogs of various sizes including piglets. Very cute. They took off. Be careful"

Damnit. Now my stupid turtle didn't seem so cool. I hoped I'd see the hogs before I was finished since he was on the same trail as me, but I never did. I know they can be really aggressive so maybe it was better that I didn't.

Gem did really well keeping a solid citizen pace up for the first 5 miles. She tackled the hills without pause and was a very good mare. At mile 5 she started to slow and I could hear her breathing harder then normal. I got off and walked her a bit.

We were both dripping with sweat and it was getting hotter. I knew there was some grass up ahead so I let her stop and shove her face full. At least she would get some water and electrolytes from the grass. She had ignored every creek we came across which isn't unusual for her. I got back on her after the next steep climb and asked her to move out but kept her to around 4-5 mph. I didn't want to push her but knew it would only be getting hotter so dragging the ride out wasn't smart either.
Once we were out of the woods, she actually cooled down and dried off a good bit. The sun was blazing hot, but there was a slight breeze and the humidity was down once we were out of the trees.

By mile 7 I was growing concerned. She had dropped to a 1.7 mph walk which is ridiculously slow even for her. The humidity in the woods was killer and I had just about emptied my 2L Camelbak. I hopped off and gave her another break.

We kept moving and I allowed her to choose her own pace up the hills, but asked for a decent trot on the flat and downhill sections. She did okay and kept up an average 4 mph pace which I was perfectly fine with. Still her breathing was harder than I liked.

When I came across the 3 mile marker for the red loop we were 9 miles into the ride and had about 5 left if we kept going forward. At our current pace it would have been another 1 1/2 hours to finish and it was getting hotter and hotter out. I made the choice to turn around and do the 3 miles back to the trail head. It meant finishing 13 miles instead of 15 but I didn't really care. I just hoped I hadn't pushed her too hard.

She moved fine the next 2 miles keeping the 4 mph pace up. At the 1 mile marker she quit. She stopped and looked back at me asking me to get off. I obliged and hand walked her in the last mile watching her closely. She was moving slow and breathing slightly hard but was sound and ok.

Once we reached the trail head I threw her tack off as quickly as possible and cold hosed her down for forever. Her heart rate lowered quickly and once she was cool she attacked the grass. I hadn't brought a mash for her because the barn was locked before I got there Saturday night and wasn't opened yet Sunday morning. There has been some thievery at the barn so the BO has been locking up the feed room to avoid losing more bags of feed.

I loaded her up and got her back to the barn and made her a wet mash. She gobbled it down and then drank probably 5 gallons from the tank in her pasture before heading off to her herd. She looked fine but very tired.
The temperature was 92 at 1130 when I loaded her back up at the trail head. I found out later that the heat index was 100. Even having drank all 2L of water I spent the rest of the day overly fatigued and with a killer headache. It was insanely hot in those woods. Had I known that in advance I would have gotten up at 0300 and been on her by 0500. Apparently full blown summer has hit SC.


  1. We've been climbing up that way temp-wise here too. I've started giving sloppy mashes both pre- and post rides whenever possible, with added elytes in both mashes. Lily, who is always my concern when it's hot + humid (Gracie recovers quicker; I swear coat color is a factor with that) has been recovering much quicker since implementing this. In FL I used to carry a small spray bottle mixed 50/50 with water and rubbing alcohol: the alcohol accelerated the water's evaporation on her coat and helped keep Lily so much cooler when we had round-the-clock temps in the 90's with 80+% humidity. It might be something easy you can try for rides like this. Just make sure you spritz her with the mix from the ground a couple of times: some horses take offense to the alcohol smell or find the cool tingliness of the evaporating alcohol to be an unusual sensation. Lily got used to it really quick though, once she realized how much better she felt! Also works for the humans. :)

    1. I will try the alcohol/water spray idea. Thanks! Typically, I either won't go out at all over 90 or go out before the sun comes up when the air is still cool from overnight. I just didn't plan very well this time.

      I also need to think about my feed. I don't mind the stuff at the barn. It is a locally milled mix and Gem does well on it. To be honest, I don't even know what all is in it, but I operate under the principle of "if its not broke, don't fix it". There must be a good black market for locally milled, non name brand feed though because the BO has lots loads of money of feed this spring/winter. Someone cut his fence at the arena then the deadbolt on the feed door, so no he locks it up. I don't mind at all and understand his reasoning, but he locks it at like 4 pm and unlocks it at 8 and I am always there before or after those times, so I can't get her grain. I guess it is time that I look into keeping some grain on hand at home in a Tupperware.

    2. There was a point to my feed rambling, I swear! I just forgot to get to it :) Anyway...I generally like to "feed the effort" and feed her afterward with her vitamins mixed in and she does just like Gracie: she drinks all the extra fluid first then eats the grain. I think I may try the before as well and split the amount in half and see if that helps.

    3. "There must be a good black market for locally milled, non name brand feed" -> this made me burst out laughing. It is indeed bizarre that someone is breaking in and stealing BO's grain. That's insane! When you mentioned it in the post I thought maybe it was another boarder stealing the grain, but breaking through fences and a deadbolt to get to the grain...wow! I don't blame the BO for locking it up. Is there a neighboring farm with skinny horses?

      Can BO let you have some of the grain to keep at home so you don't have to buy something different at the feed store? Maybe buy a bag from him for your own personal use? It would go a long way since you only feed it after rides. Or maybe he can tell you where he has it milled? Over here in Frederick MD a lot of horse farms use the Farmer's Co-Op because they have several quality grain formulas that are inexpensive thanks to being milled locally. Farms can have their own formulas made up by the Co-Op if they're buying in bulk; they get a fantastic deal this way. It sounds like maybe your BO does something of that sort.

      And re: trying splitting the amount of mash before and after - that's exactly what I do with Gracie because she does *not* need any extra calories! Haha But it helps me get extra water and elytes into her so it's a win-win. :)

  2. Gem, I understand, I'd have wilted away in that heat!

    Good news for the both of you, WV in August will feel amazing in comparison!!!

    1. It could barely feel worse. It was 102F yesterday, real temp. Ick.

  3. I think the swing between cold and wet to hot and wet is happening too quickly for a lot of horses to adapt to. I know Ashke struggled on Saturday to finish his ride, which I blame the humidity for.

    Glad you both are okay.

    1. I read that! Didn't get a chance to leave a comment yet, but yeah it seems this year isn't giving any time to build tolerance. It is supposed to continue really hot here for at least this week and I just hope it cools down again soon. Can't get much conditioning done safely in this weather. It was already 80 when I went to work at 7 am this morning.