Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting My Ducks in a Row - Fergus


In reality, I haven't actually got this duck in a row yet, but I'm working on it. Up until now there hasn't been any real hurry because Fergus has been on break since February (a product of having too many horses to ride, rather than not wanting to ride him), so like many things around here, it has been on the back-burner. Given that I hope to start him up in 100 milers again next year, I need to get the problem sorted out.

* * *

Unbeknownst to me, Fergus developed a couple of rubs either side of his withers during Tevis last year. At Foresthill, my vigilant crew distracted me ("look! Elephant!") while applying Desitin, and off I went again, blissfully unaware.

Keeping in mind I can't actually see Fergus' back from the ground, it wasn't until pre-Virginia City 100 prep six weeks later during the washing/primping/obsessing phase that I noticed that he had scurfy callouses on his withers and Crysta admitted "oh yeah, he got those at Tevis and we deliberately didn't tell you about them". This is what crew is for - to prevent you from obsessing over which you cannot do anything about.

The day before Virginia City 100, 2012. You can see his newly-minted wither callouses
I put his pad on and felt around underneath and concluded that in my efforts to protect his back and pad his Skito appropriately, I'd probably overstuffed the pad and it was causing bulges right about where he didn't need them. So the pad got destuffed and off we went and did VC100. No back soreness, no obvious rubbing.

Fast forward to 20 mule Team 100 in February - Mr Mild Manners became an overachieving GIANT HORSE and proceeded to move out as BIG as I've ever felt him move before. He rubbed the cr*p out of my legs in the first 12 miles (trying vainly to keep him to a subdued dull roar) and I knew that if he didn't calm down, my crippled body wasn't going to get close to finishing the next 82 miles. Luckily he did calm down and returned to his normal self, but not before skinning the insides of my legs.

What extra-special-BIG movement can do for you - the insides of my legs 50 miles into 20 Mule Team.
If it did this to my legs, what might it be doing to his back?.

Again, he finished with no back soreness or obvious holes, but the callouses were definitely still there. Come summer time, his fluffy winter coat shed out and, voila, two large white patches either side of his withers, a rear left-hand white patch, as well as some "frosting" either side of his spine. Not what I wanted to see.

Photo taken standing on the hay pile above him:
  • Pretty sure the wither spots are my fault from overstuffing the pad and two-pointing a good deal. 
  • Think that the patch in the left-rear was from when pft was still riding unbalanced from his broken leg. Now that he's more balanced and lost 20 lbs, think that problem has been remedied. 
  • The frosting along the spine - not sure, but wondering if it's heat-related from him building up friction from his BIG movement?
So I concluded that although I've been using Skito pads almost my entire endurance career, apparently it wasn't cutting it for Fergus and it was time for a change.

From looking at his back, I don't believe he's suffering from a 'saddle poking' issue - I don't see any atrophy of back muscles:
Curiously, the area that is "frosted" also has raised hair along it.
I didn't notice this until I was taking these photos.

Another problem is because his back is so long and there's SO MUCH real estate available, my saddle tends to slide back off the raised part of his withers onto the flat part of his back, causing the front of it to sit too low and tilt me forwards slightly (I don't have this problem using the same saddle with either Roo or Uno - where the saddle sits closer to their raised withers). So whatever pad we end up using, it needs to be able to be shimmed at the front to raise up the front of the saddle.

Instead of sharing a pad with the other horses, it looks like Fergus will have a special one of his very own.

Using Sensation treeless saddles, it made sense to go to the source, so I emailed Kate in the office and sent her some explanatory photos. She suggested either replacing the foam padding in the Skito, especially if it was more than three years old (, that would be a "yes"...); or getting one of their new endurance pads made with Eco-Gold padding ("Ultimate impact protection with a combination of shock-absorbing technology; Reduced friction, rubbing and pressure points" - yup, that would be what I'm looking for).

Since I'd like to try something different for Fergus—particularly with a view to the idea that his big movement may be causing some heat friction—the Sensation endurance pad is the route I'm going to take.

(as an aside, another thing she mentioned was the temperature sensitivity of the foam used in Skitos - that it tends to become "mushy" and loses some of its support when riding in heat. I'm thinking that if I like the Eco-Gold padding, it may be that I replace all the foam in my existing Skitos (in need of overhaul) with this kind of foam).

(and as another aside, Christoph Schork used one of these pads during Tevis this year and said he really liked how cooling it was).

Today I emailed Kate at Sensation to set the ball rolling so that Cinderella will be set up ready for Fall Training (if we ever get organised enough to start such a thing)(right now I have three horses lined up in my head for "Fall Training", so we'll see).

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