This morning at 10:18 the famous Chincoteague ponies embarked on the annual swim from Assateague Island. The swim always takes place at on the last Wednesday of July at “slack” tide (when there is no current); the annual foal auction will take place tomorrow, starting at 8:00 a.m.
I’ve always wanted to watch the swim, and this year I managed to come across a live feed of the event. It wasn’t as much fun as being there but I probably got a better view since the event draws tens of thousands of spectators. Not to mention the heat index was 104 when the ponies started their eighth of a mile swim.
This year approximately 200 ponies made the swim and none had any issues, even some of the smaller foals. Once they emerged, there were a few tussles among the stallions and some frantic mares looking for foals, but soon the herd settled down and I saw a few bystanders stroking ponies over the fence.
The annual pony swim became famous in 1947 with the publication of Marguerite Henry’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague. Certainly, it was one of my favorite books as a child and I spent many months dreaming of owning my own Chincoteague pony.
It’s been hot here. Up in the 90s almost every day. I tip my hats to my friends who are still taking lessons, still competing, and have lived to tell about it. I’m riding, but only in the early morning or early evening when the temperatures are a bit more forgiving.
This weather reminds me of when I was a kid, at riding camp. As a New York City kid, the opportunity to spend eight whole weeks riding every day was about as close to nirvana as I could imagine. I certainly wasn’t going to let a little heat get in the way.
As I recall, we rode twice a day — from about 9 a.m. to 11 and then again in the afternoons. There were no water breaks. I don’t remember ever being given even a sip of water during a lesson. In fact, kids regularly fainted, slipping off their horses or collapsing to the ground when dismounting. I never fell off my horse, but I certainly collapsed once I’d landed on my feet. As a parent, I can hardly believe that was the norm. Of course, we didn’t wear sun screen back then either.
Instead, we were told to add a bit of salt to what we drank in the mornings. Sheesh. It’s lucky that no one suffered from real heat exhaustion.
These days, I’m a wimp. I ride in the shade. I don’t ride very hard. I don’t ride very long. I have water at hand. And, I wear sunscreen.
I don’t think either Zelda or Freedom mind taking it easy when it’s this hot. And at least Zelda really enjoys the shower after.
Have you ever done something wrong for years and then realized there was an easier way? I wear half chaps and paddock boots most of the time when I ride — they are more comfortable, cooler and less expensive than my tall boots.
Until I started riding Zelda, I never thought much about where the spurs go, because I didn’t ride with them. Freedom does not need spurs. I didn’t even own any spurs. So I’d never thought about whether you should put your spurs over your half chaps or under them.
Just look in all the catalogs. There are dozens of photos of half chaps and boots. None of them show spurs. It must be that none of the catalog riders need them. But Zelda is a nicer horse to ride when you wear spurs. They are not to make her go faster; rather they are to
remind her who is in charge. I don’t wear large spurs, just the Stubben soft touch spurs. They tip the balance of power.
So for the past three years, I’ve been putting on my boots, zipping up my half chaps and then forcing they spurs over the chaps.
Then I read a post online and discovered that most people put their spurs on UNDER their half chaps. Light bulbs went off. I felt dumb. The spurs fit much better, especially as I like to ride in Blundstone boots and they are a bit thicker than my tall boots.
So, what things have you done for years and then discovered a better way of doing them?
It’s been hot here. All week. The only times to ride are early in the morning and just before sunset, but in the evening you also have to contend with the bugs.
I took Freedom out early, but maybe not early enough. I looked for a shady part of the field to ride in because the direct sun was brutal by 9 (I probably need to ride at 7 but can’t get myself up and out of the house that early!)
Freedom needs regular work or he “forgets” that he’s supposed to work for me. He doesn’t need much, just a reminder. Just as well because it’s too hot to do much.
Healing soft tissue injuries and wounds can take a long time — when Freedom strained his check ligament a few years ago, he was off for several weeks and had to be rehabbed on a slow, conservative schedule. One of the things I didn’t know about then was the use of cold laser therapy — also known as low level laser therapy — to accelerate healing.
Cold Laser Therapy is a treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light (usually around 800 nm) to interact with tissue and is thought to help accelerate the healing process. It can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute or chronic conditions to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase function. The light has the ability to penetrate 2 to 5 centimeters below the skin in the 800-900 nm range.
Studies indicate that laser therapy can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation and increase microcirculation.
Recently, Carol Gifford, who is the vet behind Walden Woods Animal Acupuncture started offering laser therapy as part of her practice. She uses it to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase function and to stimulate acupoints for those patients who can not tolerate needles. (This, by the way, would be great for Freedom who has benefited in the past from acupuncture but who has a somewhat extreme reaction to having the needles inserted).
So, does it work? I haven’t had the chance to try it on Freedom yet, but since I have been suffering from Posterior Tibial Tendonitis. For those of you who have not
injured this tendon, it inserts into your foot along your instep, runs up beside your ankle bone and attaches to the tibialis posterior muscle. It’s role is to stabilize your foot. Any time you run or walk, your posterior tibial tendon locks your ankle in place, helping to hold your foot in a strong, rigid configuration when you push off the ground. It also functions to invert your foot, rolling your ankle to shift your weight to the outside of your foot. It is a very common injury and, as I can attest, it takes forever to heal.
Last week I had one of those lightbulb moments. I realized that cold laser therapy might be able to help. Like many horse people, the line between doctor and vet is somewhat blurred in my life. So, I asked if I could test the laser on my damaged tendon. I’ve had three treatments so far, spending 10-15 minutes pulsing light into my ankle. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
The area treated feels warm (not hot) for at least an hour. It’s not uncomfortable, but it feels different.
There has been less pain and swelling, even after activities that generally aggravate it. For example, riding has been a problem because of the way that my foot pronates in the stirrup, but on Friday I was able to to ride for more than 2 hours and still felt okay.
Of course, this is just anecdotal. I’m continuing to use more “conventional” therapies. I always wear shoes that support my arch (I live in Birkenstocks and use Birkenstock inserts in my other shoes), I’m doing physical therapy exercises, and have become an expert at applying KT Tape. But I’m optimistic. I’ve been trying to get this to heal for months and while my ankle is a lot better than it was after the initial injury, it’s never completely healed. It would be great if this was the answer!
Have you tried cold laser therapy on your horses? Or yourself?
This webinar should be required for all equestrians. Yes, it’s an hour. But it contains very important information about your brain. Dr. Lola Chambless is Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and an avid equestrian who had competed up to the CCI** level.