warm weather warriors

It’s summer here. It’s been summer since April. But now it’s really summer, which typically means oh-dark-thirty wake-ups to get in a semi-decent ride before your brains gets baked out of your head.

even Tevis crew needs heat conditioning

But that’s just kind of a factor of Arizona life. I won’t say I love it…but I’m used to it. And I object to the idea of shoveling myself out of 5′ snow drifts even more than I object to convection-oven summers.

And I get Tevis heat conditioning just by existing, and doing things like doing my short-distance errands without air conditioning. (Seriously. I drive a Suburban. Sometimes the drive time is shorter than interior vehicle cool-down time, which makes running the a/c pointless.)

“Mom, I’m sleeeepy.”

Yesterday, I had to make an impromptu barn visit to drop off my monthly board check. It was a busy work day, so I waited until the evening hours after dinner to make the trek down there. Yes, it was hot…but darn it, if I’m going to drive half an hour each way, I’m sure going to get more out of my trip than just sticking an envelope on a cork board. So along came the saddle.

I also needed a live-model photo demonstration for a boot-fitting concept as well, and it just so happens the pony is an excellent hoof model.
By the time I got down to the barn (fighting rush-hour evening traffic, yay) and took the photos I was after, the sun was hanging lower in the sky, a nice breeze was blowing…in fact, it really wasn’t too bad out. 103* without direct sunlight is much more pleasant than 103* with full, blazing sun.

ride off into the sunset…

However, I don’t know how some endurance riders ride in shorts. It was hot and I was lazy, which meant I stayed in my running-shorts-t-shirt attire all day, including down to the barn. I figured I wouldn’t ride for long, and I have a full sheepskin on my saddle…it would be fine. It was fine…but not comfortable. For one, I felt weird without my tights. Two, that sheepskin isn’t as soft and fluffy on bare legs as it is with a fabric layer between skin and sheep.

I spared y’all any photos of my dayglow-white legs, but suffice to say, I’ll be sticking with my ridiculous tights.

“Oh, look, activity next door.”

My little warm-weather night-owl pony was downright sassy. She really does prefer warm weather, and she hates early mornings even more than I do. She’d been snoozing all day long, so by the time evening rolled around, she was ready to party.

I’d barely swung my leg over the saddle before she was striding off. Ummm, excuse me??? Standing still to mount is one of my cardinal rules of horse behavior, and last I checked, that hasn’t changed for the past, oh, 16 years. Ahem. 20 years old and still testing the limits…

shadow chasing

While we just did arena work, she was in very cheerful form, lapping the arena with her perfect 7-8mph endurance horse trot. A couple of times, I tried to slow her down into a Western pleasure jog, and she was having none of it. Nice to know I took my perfectly trained show horse and turned her into a perfectly trained endurance horse.

for warm weather survival, add e’lytes

And I finally tested the Purina Electro-Ease paste. Response? Meh. I think I prefer being able to mix my own custom doses with powder and whatever base I choose. The paste sticks to itself really well, but it doesn’t squeeze out of the tube very quickly or easily (fast syringe work is the key to the pony), and because it sticks to itself in a big glob so well, she was able to just spit it out onto the ground. 

Plus, the taste is very, very concentrated. Yes, minty flavored, but once the flavor and coating wore off, the saltiness was very strong. I was able to syringe enough into Mimi on round two, after knowing what to expect from the consistency, that she got enough to thoroughly taste test. Her reaction? Initially, okay, since she loves mint. But the saltiness lingered so much that I had to rinse out her mouth before she was willing to take a bite of apple afterwards.
So, overall, probably won’t be adding this to my e’lyte regimen. Jury is still out on the powder form…that one isn’t as strong and mixes well in liquid bases.
Pony says, “No thank you for making me your guinea pig. Pick on someone else next time.”

Electrolyting and Syringing

A common complaint from people is that their endurance horses don’t like being syringed.  Mimi herself has always been a basket case when it comes to being force-syringed after a staph infection early on in our time together meant that she had to be syringed nasty-tasting antibiotics several times a day.

So any kind of syringing has always been…interesting.  What usually happened when something like this:  Halter pony.  Stand in the middle of the stall.  Hold leaprope in right hand.  Hold syringe in left hand.  Pony would catch sight of syringe and start wildly flipping her head up and down.  Grab halter for greater control.  Head still flips up and down.  Wrench head around and attempt to jam syringe between clamped lips.  Miss.  Repeat previous three steps.  Maybe get syringe between lips, if lucky.  Otherwise, get on tongue, then squirt half thfe contents out in overeager anticipation.  Pony spits out anything on her tongue.  Refill syringe.  Repeat steps, this time jamming in the back of the throat, wondering the entire while if you’re going to choke the pony or send the stuff into her lungs.  Get the residue of whatever didn’t get all the way in the back of her mouth spit all over you in distain.  Unhalter furious pony, who then retreats to the back of her stall, or even better, the pasture, and then refuses to speak to me for the rest of the day.

Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly an ideal situation for trying to do any kind of e’lyte syringing.  I’d tried all the tricks…syringe filled with applesauce, then syringe with nasty stuff, followed by a yummy applesauce…nope.  She got to the poiunt where she could smell the plain applesauce, and she’d happily take that, but as soon as I’d give her a different one, she’s spazz again.  Syringe dipped in molasses?  No go.  Molasses and e’lytes mixed?  A little better. 

What about just mixing it in her food?  Well…Dad is fortunate in that Beamer seems to do quite well with minimal e’lyting, and he happily munches them down mixed into any of his sloppy goodie mixes. I’m not so lucky. Mimi’s a fussy princess when it comes to salty things, and flat-out refuses her food if there’s a hint of electrolytes in it.

Until recently.

I made a new discovery for an electrolyte buffer. I’ve been using a sugar substitute, blue agave syrup, in my coffee and tea, and recently discovered that it is low-glycemic, horse-safe, and actually used in a couple different kinds of horse treats. Mimi, being a pony, is already predisposed to being more sensitive to sugar, and is on a pretty strict, low-sugar diet (no cereal grains, no molasses, limited carrots), so I’ve always been somewhat leery of having to use a high-sugar base such as molasses to mix electrolytes for her. She never seemed particularly fond of it, either…hence the both of us ending up sticky, between her head-flipping syringe avoidance tactics, and then spitting out half of whatever did end up in her mouth.
Enter blue agave syrup. She loves it. She actually reaches for the syringe now.  She had gotten to the point that she didn’t want to eat any of her sloppy goodie mixes because she was suspicious they might contain e’lytes.  So she wasn’t getting e’lytes and she wasn’t getting her moist food, post-training rides.  Something has to be done.

It’s now been a month, and I’ve been mixing her electrolytes in a syringe with blue agave syrup and water.  After we get back from our rides, while I’m untacking, she stands in front of her hay bag and eats.  By the time I’m done, she’s had about 15 minutes to munch and drink, thus providing a good base of food in her stomach.  I then give her the e’lyte mix via syringe…which she happily reaches for, and then she gets her pan of electrolyte-free goodies — beet pulp, flax, and probiotic.

Something else that I’ve discovered works — I’ve switched sides.  I now stand on her right side.  She seems more comfortable with that, as I think standing on the left side sends her brain back into vapor-lock and unpleasant flashbacks of forced syringing.  Unconventional, but at this point, I’ll do whatever it takes to get her to take her e’lytes and eat her goodies.  I’ve always said she’s a princess, and I don’t mind catering to her whims.

For those curious: I use Perfect Balance electrolyte powder, one scoop in a 2 oz. syringe, about half an ounce agave syrup, and the rest with water, just over an ounce.  Mix it up, store it in the syringe.  You can mix it in a larger batch, like for multiple e’lyting along the trail at a ride (at which point, I use half the e’lytes and half the agave), but if you do that, mix the e’lytes and water in a sealable water and shake very well to dissolve.  The e’lytes take a while to dissolve.  Then add the agave to that mix, and shake to dissolve.  If you have a way to slightly warm the water, that works even better to dissolve everything.

For every endurance rider you ask, you’re likely to get a different answer for e’lyting protocol, and favorite brands, and favorite buffer.  This is jsut the bare bones of something I’ve found that works for me and the pony, and only the tip of what I would consider to be my full e’lyting protocol, and it’s likely I’ll do a post in the future about that very subject.