Observations from the vet line
|June 15, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Equine Endurance|
Last weekend I had the pleasure of vetting another endurance ride. I would be hard pressed to decide what I enjoyed more – vetting or riding. Both are rewarding, hard work, long days, and come with lessons learned.
Oh yes, I learn as much from working the vet line all day as I do out on the trail.
Here are the things that Mel-the-vet wants Mel-the-rider to do differently at rides (or continue to avoid) based on what she’s seen on this side of the line – and maybe there’s some things that resonate with you too.
(Note I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of years, so not all “lessons learned” are from this weekend).
Leaving a good impression in the vet line boils down to 2 really simple things – trot out well, stand still for the rest.
No, this doesn’t come naturally to all horses, but consider it another “Endurance Horse Got Skillz” moment and do the homework.
What else can Mel-the-rider do?
- Be calm – the best looking (and behaved) horses seem to have riders that are projecting calmness. Take a deep breath before stepping into line
- Be organized – it helps the calmness part.
- Trot in a straight line – OMG this makes a huge difference. I can’t emphasize this enough. Before starting to run, pick a point and run STRAIGHT towards it. Don’t change your mind half way and take off at a tangent or make some weird figure eight. It’s an out and BACK, not a race track oval. When you reach the other side, turn the horse around and run straight BACK to the vet on the same line you went out on.
- If told to go a certain point (such as a cone), go ALL THE WAY TO THE CONE. Due to space limitations in the vet areas, the trot outs can be short in my area. It can be a real surprise to have to trot out the full length of an “official” trot lane. Do it anyways. ALL THE WAY TO THE *CONE.
- Don’t let horse rub on vet or scribe – it makes the horse look like an ass, the heart rate to go up, and it’s difficult to do a good exam. Having the horse rub on the rider is slightly better….but is still not ideal because of the last 2 things. This is my number one pet peeve with Farley – the rubbing. She picks the vet line because she knows I’m likely to let it go because I don’t want to make a fuss. NO MORE.
- Keep the horse’s head facing straight ahead during the exam. The position of the head can affect some of the parameters and the vets are trying to be consistent. Bonus – if the horses head is still and facing forward…they aren’t rubbing.
- Have less stuff on the saddle (Keep it simple!) or at least tie it down better for trot outs. Having a crap load of stuff bouncing around (and off) the horse isn’t fun.
- Don’t make excuses.
- Keep buddy horses out of the way. It’s fine to have around for moral support, but use common sense and keep it outside the vet box if possible.
- Have someone else trot the horse if Mel-the-rider can’t do it “well” due to stiffness, injury etc. It really does make a difference on how the horse “presents”.
- If you see/hear lame steps during the trot out, KEEP GOING for the full trot out. It may not be consistent (which is an important consideration), and the vet will be able to give me better information of which leg it is etc.
- Don’t haze (or let the crew haze) the horse unless it’s actually needed. EDIT: It’s been pointed out several times that some sanctioning organizations don’t allow hazing of any kind. Make sure you understand your organization’s rules. Even at a ride where a wave or a shout is allowed, it’s not like as a vet I’m dead and blind. It gets taken into account when I’m scoring the horse.
- Yes, a young or inexperienced horse might need a pop on the rump with the lead line/reins to start the trot out. Phase this out eventually. As a vet I’ve actually been hit and had a lot of near misses with the buckles on the end of long reins because of riders doing this. If you are going to do this, at least warn the vet/scribe to stand back. The trot out area can be tight and there’s less room than you think to wave stuff around.
*An unnamed vet *might* have moved the cone out to a ridiculous distance away for the last couple riders last weekend just to see how many riders would go all the way to the cone, which is a request I repeated a gazillion times throughout the day. NOT ONE OF YOU FELL FOR IT. You endurance riders are an independent bunch…..
On the trail
As I rider, when my horse gets poor scores, I figure it’s inevitable that it’s just going to get worse, I’m going to get pulled, and there’s nothing I can do that’s actually going to make a significant difference between this check point and the next.
Actually, that is absolutely INcorrect.
You can actually have a horse that looks better at the next check. It won’t always get worse!!!!!!
Your best chance at this magically occurring phenomenon is to SLOW THE EFF DOWN.
Yeah, I know you think you are taking it easy. And that your next loop will be slower…but the trick is to SLOW DOWN MORE. If everyone around you has slowed down and you are riding with the same pack (albeit slower…)….you probably haven’t slowed down enough.
Sometimes that means you have to get off. Sometimes it means spending extra time in the hold. Sometimes it means spending extra time at every single cooling opportunity to help the horse manage heat better. Combine that with a slower pace on the trail and that’s probably “slow enough”. It makes an amazing difference and it’s the number one thing I will remember when I’m on the other side of the line as a rider.
The rest of it
A couple more tidbits from Mel-the-vet that Mel-the-rider should remember.
- There’s a lot of older horses in this sport (yay!). I’m not the only one trying to keep a late-teenage/early-20’s horse going.
- If a vet says “you should stand for best condition” then do it if you can. (and don’t argue with them about weight and time. If they say it, they mean it).
- Vets have very limited information on loops, mileage, and remembering the hold times – especially if there’s several distances with loops all out of camp and everyone is at camp at once. Always ask a question to the person that is likely to give you the most accurate information. When it comes to the trail, that’s usually someone that’s not the vet.
I’m so looking forward to my next ride!!!!!!! Two weeks until Farley’s first 50 mile of the season. Yesterday we did our go/no-go conditioning ride and while it was not ideal (LOTS of elevation gain in the hottest part of the day, solo for 3 1/2 hours, combined with a headache for me, made for a VERY GRUMPY MARE and a LESS THAN PATIENT RIDER) there was enough there for me to feel comfortable doing the 50 miler. Now I just need to go practice my trot outs and not let all this fly out of my brain when I take my stethoscope off and put my helmet on!