Thursday, September 30, 1999

High Fat Diets and Grass Disease - For Sancho - Jackie Laurents


In my last article (Cheval Endurance [Horse Endurance] No. 8) I emphasized the fact that a diet rich in fats was beneficial for an endurance horse, and constituted, at the same time, an antidote for grass disease (Valery Kanavy, the world champion from the USA, feeds her horses in this way).

I continued my research in the hope that it will be seen as definitive progress in the understanding and the treatment of this disease, although initially I did not wish to publicize it out of my resentment against the community of endurance races. I write this for Sancho.


In 1989, a series of droughts in the area of Médoc (in southwest France) caused chronic azotemy in my horses, which manifested itself during endurance training. In the spring of 1992, a year after I had decided to replace grain with whole meal and fluffy foods, hoping that grass from pastures would serve as a ballast, grass disease broke out. I lost just one filly due to an affected nervous system, and transported the rest of the herd to Dordogne to new pastures.

The horses recovered, but their athletic shape remained rather unstable, with relapses. They could not stand grain, granule, complete vitamins, or excessively grazed pastures. Since my research had led me to discover the protective function of fats in this pathology, in 1998 I was able to obtain significant results using fats. However, because of financial constraints, I had to cease this treatment in the fall of 1998. I did not have to wait too long for results; at the end of winter, my horses were in disastrous shape, and one of them died of neoplasmatic lung cancer. An extremely skinny 23-year-old mare suffered from high anemia and serious liver problems so much so that it was diagnosed by my veterinarian as piroplasmosis; the liver problems were further accompanied by a skin disease and a very low level of phosphorus in the blood. All these symptoms could be noticed in the other horses, mares, colts and stallions.

Thus, I went back to the project that I had abandoned in the spring of 1998 by putting my horses on a diet which consisted purely of organic hay, and embarking on a treatment with B vitamins in injectable solution (vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, and PP—water-soluble vitamins with trace elements of Fredop). To my greatest delight, I witnessed an amazing athletic recovery of my horses. The 23-year-old mare regained her magnificent shape in two months. Three stallions, untried for 10 years (they could cover at most 1 mile) started their sporting career.

Consequently, I contacted Dr. Zientaras at the Central Research Laboratory in Maison-Alfort (a French veterinary school), the author of an article published in Science et Vie, N°909, June 1993. I acquainted him with my observations, namely that the disease in question was caused by nitrates affecting the respiratory system through the impairment of the oxidation-reduction mechanism (B6 and PP vitamin deficiency). Dr. Zientaras confirmed that the disease was not viral, but rather nutritional and that my hypothesis was plausible.

I continued my investigation by contacting Dr. Daniel Maume, the discoverer of dihydroxindole 2.5, at the veterinary school in Nantes. He confirmed the plausibility of my theory and sent me his research project on "hepatic encephalosis." Drs. T. Rouillon and F. Sickel, both Drs. of Science, as well as veterinary practitioner D. Langronne also participated in this project. Their research from 1992 did not get much publicity at the time.

History and Clinical Approach to Grass Disease

For the first time, grass disease appeared in Great Britain in 1920, on the west coast of Scotland. From the beginning, it was known as a fatal condition in horses, with unknown causes and no remedy. The symptoms of this epidemic of grass sickness which became endemic begin with the usual series of colics accompanied by stomach ache, sweating in certain body areas, muscle trembling, accelerated pulse and increased respiratory rate. In the final stage, one may notice a complete intestinal stasis. The horse's stomach gets more and more pulled up, and this situation deteriorates, resulting in the animal's death. Baron Guy de Rothschild writes on this subject in "Courses et Elevage" in 1990. His father Edward had to scatter 90 brood mares in distant areas in 1930, in order to save his Normandy farm from "horse sickness" which, in his opinion, is caused by overgrazing and overstoring. If I hadn't moved my horses in 1992, I would have lost them.

Dr. Maume’s clinical description of the symptoms of hepatic encephalosis is as follows: jaundice, high cardiac frequency//elevated pulse, incomplete digestive paralysis, photosensitivity on light body parts (horse's white stockings), atoxy, pushing against the wall, abnormal behavior (walking across the hedges), amaurosis, muscular fasciculation, and convulsions in the final phase.

Biochemically, one finds a considerably increased level of GAMMA GT, alkaline phosphates and a high level of SGOT, as well as hyperammoniemia, doubled bilirubin, and hemoglobinuria.

Moreover, in the latent phase I observed anemia, an extremely low level of phosphorus in the blood, slow growth, and pellagrous injuries on the back. Sometimes, there are also mouth injuries and edemas.

In order to complete this clinical description, I should add that the term "encephalosis" was invented by Charton to describe a syndrome similar to that of encephalitis or encephalo-myelitis, caused by nutritional imbalance with the intervention of clostridium-Welchii.

Robin and Belloc bring our attention to a grass disease in Brittany which appears in a great number of animals, either at the initiation of grazing in spring, or in stables, due to nutrition based on clover and roots.

Biochemical Analysis

Using gas chromatography as well as mass spectrometry at high resolution, Dr. Maume proved the presence of an unusual molecule in the urine of sick mares; a dehydroxindole 2.5 with a formula C17H31NO2SI3, and mass 365. The only thing to be determined now is the position of OH groups. According to Dr. Maume, the presence of this molecule might cause problems with tryptophan metabolism that can be solely of nutritional origin. Consequently, the profound alteration of this metabolism could cause all the aforementioned symptoms. Now one has to identify the factors which indirectly disrupt tryptophan metabolism, or a substance which directly affects it. Dr. Maume examined pyrrolizinidic alcaloids in over one hundred white clover samples collected during the epidemic, but in vain. In his opinion, frequently occurring copper deficiency in the Norman livestock could make the situation worse. As in the study by M.R. Paradis, "Tryptophan and indole toxicity in ponies" (USA, 1989), Dr. Maume came to the conclusion that tryptophan is toxic only when ingested. Therefore, indole is the only toxic agent, produced when tryptophan is altered by intestinal flora. In this way, the passage of cynurenin is blocked, which causes nicotinamide shortages, pellagra symptoms, hypoexcretion of indolacetic acid and indole in urine, as well as liver biotransformation.

At this point, a presentation of general characteristics of tryptophan would be desirable. It is one of the twenty amino acids that make up proteins. It consists of lateral, aromatic and non-polar chains. It is indispensable because the animal organism does not seem to be able to synthesize the indole nucleus. It participates in the formation of niacin.

Tryptophan is largely responsible for the absorption of ultraviolet light in proteins (around 280 N-M). An average proportion of tryptophan in every protein is 1 to 100 amino acids. Some proteins, such as insulin, acetylcholine, or ribonucleas A do not have tryptophan.

Tryptophan is completely destroyed in the course of acid hydrolysis, when there is a strong concentration of reactive and increase in molecule movement, or an extreme pH and high temperature.

Biosynthesis of Tryptophan

The transformation of tryptophan into cynurenic and xanthurenic acids represents the fundamental stage of its catabolism.

The first step in this process is triggered by FE heminic tryptonasis pyrrolasis oxydasis. Cynurenic and xanthurenic acids are eliminated with urine in a variable proportion; its increase is one of the first signs of vitamin B6 deficiency. In the process of oxidation in the chromaffin cells of the intestinal mucous membrane, about 2% of tryptophan is transformed into oxytryptophan. Other extremely rapid chemical transformations take place in most of the tissues. Through decarboxidation in intestinal flora, tryptophan produces tryptamin and oxytryptamin or serotonin. Tryptamin and oxytryptamin are quickly destroyed by monoaminooxydasis (MAO) which transforms them respectively into indoleacetic acids (Auxin or plant growth hormone) and into oxy-5 indoleacetic acid, which inhibits decarboxylasis and which could act as a regulator in the synthesis of serotonin through retro-inhibition. The other substance that affects decarboxylase is phosphate pyridoxal (vitamin B6). The level of serotonin decreases along with a deficiency of vitamin B6. Serotonin has important vasocontractive properties. It reinforces intestinal peristaltis and plays a certain role in the brain. Like dopamine and noradrenaline, serotonin is a neurotransmitter; it reduces tension and acts as an alarming and controlling device in an adaptative situation. It controls aggression as well as the functioning of kidneys and blood coagulation.

As an aside, I would like to comment here on my 23-year-old mare, born from a thoroughbred father of the most prestigious provenance. He was totally uncontrollable and so were his few foals. Certain aspects of the mare's morphology, such as the unusual length of her kidneys, could qualify as pathological. Convinced of this fact, I was rather surprised to notice that at the European endurance championships in Florac in 1984, according to analyses carried out during and after the race, this mare’s level of serotonin was 8 times higher than that of all the other horses, i.e., about 1000 micrograms per liter. At that time, I was sure that serotonin causes nervousness. During a race of 4500 m in mountainous territory, this mare did not stop galloping. At the 90th kilometer, reached at the speed of 16 mph, a blood test showed a complete absence of lipomobilization. Having in mind the French mathematician René Thom’s catastrophe theory, I was sure that this mare possessed all the characteristics of an organism on an evolutionary edge which, once destabilized in specific circumstances (such as endurance breed), could evolve towards a new equilibrium.

But this is a completely different story...

Anyway, only this mare and her descendants, i.e., 2 daughters, 5 grand-daughters and 3 grandsons, survived grass sickness, as if the increased metabolism interacting with serotonin constituted some kind of protection.

The other possible transformation of serotonin is its conversion into melanic pigments. Melanins are as widely present in animal organisms as they are in the kingdom of plants. Our skin abounds in melanin (a macromolecule). The production of melanins requires enzymatic and non-enzymatic stages. In the latter, red pigments are formed by a lateral chain which becomes cyclic and forms a nucleus. Then, in brief, polymenization and formation of melanin take place. Pathologically, pigment produced in large quantities by melanomas is excreted with urine. Through the comparison of ultraviolet absorption spectra and the observation of melanogenesis, the formation of dehydroxindole, an ephemeral compound with physiological pH, was also proved. The synthesis of serotonin is influenced by light; thus we have an accumulation of serotonin during the day and of melatonin during the night.

Under the impact of intestinal flora, tryptophan is eliminated with urine in the form of indole. The latter abounds in urine of the Equidae species, whose gut flora are particularly active.

Tryptophan in mammals participates in numerous stages of biosynthesis of coenzymes to nicotinamid NAD and NAD+ (tryptophan oxygenasis). Quinolinic acid constitutes the final stage of these transformations. Nicotinic acid or vitamin PP intervenes in the process of oxydoreduction.

Acute hemolytic anemia after oral administration of tryptophan and indole in ponies

In this study, Mary-Rose Paradis shows that after oral administration of tryptophan (0.35 g/kg) in ponies, one can detect restlessness, increased respiratory rate, hemolysis, hemoglobinuria and bronchiolar degeneration. Two peaks in mean plasma tryptophan values were observed 6 and 12 hours after the administration. Analyses proved that from 5.84% to 16.75% of tryptophan was converted into indole. The compound 3-methylindole was not found. In ruminants, 3-methylindole is a toxic factor in the development of acute pulmonary edema and emphysema.

In the horse, 3-methylindole administered orally and intravenously causes severe obstructive pulmonary disease. Not all the species are susceptible to the pneumotoxic effects of 3-methylindole. However, decarboxylation of indoleacetic acid by anaerobic «Lactobacillus» species takes place in a large number of organisms. Among the factors involved in the production of 3-methylindole from dietary tryptophan are: the availability of tryptophan substrate, the percentage conversion of tryptophan to indoleacetic acid, and of indoleacetic acid to 3-methylindole, as well as the presence of a suitable microbial environment. Pneumotoxicity of 3-methylindole and indole further depends on monoxygenase toxification and detoxification processes in the lungs and other tissues.

Overall, the increase in bilirubin (4-5 fold), and in iron blood serum (2 fold) corresponds to hemolysis. A similar increase in phosphatase alkaline serum could suggest "cholestasis". The observed degeneration of tissues could have been caused by ischemia and anoxia rather than by a direct effect of hemoglobin (reduction of oxygen transmitted to cells). Indole inhibits cellular respiration in kidney and liver tissues, thus causing renal and hepatic anoxia.

The toxic metabolites indole and 3-methylindole have similar biochemical properties, as they are both non-polar, lipophilic and soluble in ether. The lipophilic qualities of these compounds could cause their adherence to cellular membranes. Indole and 3-methylindole attach themselves to red blood cells and break ciliated protozoa. Indole provokes hemoglobinuric nephrosis, but contrary to 3-methylindole, does not cause lung disease. Cattle are less prone to hemolitic effects of indole. The lipophilic properties of indole and 3-methylindole allow them to interact with one another and with cellular membranes, especially with the membranes of red cells, and to create Heinz bodies. Scientists described an identical syndrome in horses with methemoglobinuria, after the ingestion of red maple leaves. This case, linked with the ingestion of tryptophan, could be the result of several toxic agents, since the intestinal flora have the ability to convert tryptophan into indole and the latter is found in high concentration in green pastures.

Thus, one should investigate the substances supporting tryptophan as well as the other possible toxic agents and their behavior.

Question of Vitamins

Vitamin B6, in particular pyridoxale phosphate, act as enzymes, as transaminases in bacterium and in certain animals. The action of cotrasaminases consists of a reversible fixation of NH3 groups. · Pyridoxale phosphate is a coenzyme in decarboxyphases of certain amino acids and vice versa. · It participates in the process of degradation and synthesis of tryptophan in some microbes. Its intervention in the synthesis of amino acids explains its intervention in the synthesis of hemoglobin. · Vitamin B6 intervenes in the oxidation of fats. The relationship between B6 and fatty non-saturated acids explains the protective function of fatty acids against B6 vitamin deficiency.

Acid lactoses, obtained in the oxidation of pyridoxine, reinforce anti anemic protection and stimulate the production of folic acid. ·

It is important to keep in mind that vitamin B6 deficiency causes acrodynie, inhibits growth and produces convulsive attacks in rats. Avitaminosis also provokes microcytic and hypochromic anemia accompanied by convulsions and epileptic attacks, slowing of growth and vision problems in pigs. A few of these symptoms can be also observed in poultry. In humans, one applies vitamin B6 to skin, blood and neuromuscular system infections. It is very widespread in nutritional products.

Pellagra Preventive Vitamin PP: niacin, nicotinic-acid.

Vitamin PP can be found in tissues only in the form of denucleotide, nicotinic amid and adenin (NAD and NAD+).

Vitamin PP plays a fundamental role in intermediary metabolism. The two codehydrases I and II transport hydrogen and act as coenzymes in numerous dehydrases. They participate in many different reactions, thus their importance in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and lipids. Their secondary role is the metabolism of water and metals, in particular iron.

Avitaminosis provokes pellagrous digestive injuries and mental problems. Its endemic form appears after an excessive consumption of grain (corn), whereas its conditioned form appears in alcoholism. A long time ago it was noticed that vitamin PP deficiency does not afflict pigs, as their daily intake of food contains enough tryptophan. Vitamin PP is very widespread; it is used to treat skin and mucous ailments, porphynuria, or to provoke cephalic vasodilation. Principal anti-vitamins are: pyridine acid 3, sulphonic, acetyl-pyridine 3.

Although for a long time considered useless in animals and humans, B vitamins were known to be synthesized in the digestive tracts of all animals by micro-organisms and to participate in the nutrition of their host by turning the vitamin into a simple metabolite. This allowed one to detect certain vitamin deficiencies through a simple alteration of intestinal flora. There are also cases of asymptomatic hypovitaminoses, which at first sight resemble a state of perfect health. However, a poisoned organism can suffer from deficiency, the effects of which become independent from their causes, and while the latter disappear, the former develops into something completely different from classical avitaminosis. What could be a toxic factor in this case?

Let us examine two types of poisoning: plant poisoning (from beets) and chemical poisoning through nitrates.

Plant Poisoning: Case of Beet roots in Pigs

This analogy is not unwarranted, as it could serve as a model for red maple leaf syndrome. If beet soup, made of roots and leaves, is ingested when still fresh, it is harmless. However, if it is distributed 6 hours after cooking, it causes problems; it is usually most noxious after 12 hours. The animal staggers and falls, as if struck down. It can recover through vomiting, which corresponds to ancient theories on gastric troubles. In 1950, in Russia, Lukine proved that this condition is caused by alkaline nitrates after their transformation into sodium nitrates in plants. Nitrates poison both blood and the nervous system (beets abound in sodium). My ancestors in the Dorgogne region knew that a copper kettle in which they cooked sugar beets became verdigris through oxidation, if it was not properly cleaned.

Chemical Poisoning by Nitrates

Nitrates, such as chlorates, can cause death in all animals. Having ingested them, the animal becomes apathetic, anorexic, and suffers dyspnoea and stomach ache with diarrhea, bloody at times. It urinates frequently, its urine being brown-red (methemoglobinuria); then its kidneys become completely blocked. The heart rate slows down, the animal falls down and goes through convulsions before dying. At the autopsy, one can notice an unusually dark color of blood. The gastrointestinal tract is congested, whereas the liver and kidneys show injuries and degeneration.

Nitrates transform the ferrous iron of hemoglobin into ferric iron. This oxidation makes hemoglobin incapable of transporting oxygen. Since 70% of hemoglobin become methemoglobin, the animal dies if nitrates or chlorates are not gradually eliminated by kidneys. One can combat the poisoning with reductants, such methylene blue or sodium thiosulfate. Nitrates are widespread in nature, and animals need them up to a certain limit which is, unfortunately, often exceeded in modern farming.

Etiology of Grass Disease

In this study, we are interested in herbivores. However, one first has to consider micro-organisms, without which, in Pasteur’s words, life would not be possible, as the work of death would remain incomplete.

Micro-organisms decompose organic matter, producing nitrogen. Ammoniacal ferments transform organic nitrogen in humus into ammoniacal gas. Nitrous ferments transform ammonia into nitric acid. The latter gets combined with lime and potassium from soil and forms soluble lime or potassium nitrates which circulate with underground water and penetrate into root hairs. Nitrification, being simply an oxidation of ammonia, takes place at the temperature of 30°C with sufficient humidity. Capillaries carry water towards the surface when the soil dries up in spring or summer.

Apart from artificial fertilizers, horses give manure which ferments very quickly (immediate action of sodium, lime and potassium nitrates). In its solid form, animal manure contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphoric acid. As liquid, animal wastes provide nitrogen, in the form of urea, uric and hippuric acid, as well as potassium. Micro-organisms transform these compounds rapidly into ammoniacal carbonate, which breaks down into ammonia and carbonic gas. The latter is given off, as is ammonia.

Bacteria that can assimilate nitrogen from air live in leguminous plants (clover, alfalfa, peas). They feed on plants’ sap, because due to the lack of chlorophyl, bacteria are incapable of breaking down carbon oxide; in return, they give the plant nitrates that they assimilate (symbiosis). Each leguminous species has a symbiotic relationship with a specific bacteria species and cannot cooperate with any other.

Plants interact with ultraviolet radiation through the intermediary of cryptochromes, which detect the intensity and the direction of light. They condition the opening of stomata, i.e., pores enabling gas exchanges in photosynthesis. Cryptochromes control the biological clock, which assures a regular 24-hour rhythm for major biological functions. It is important to keep in mind that in the morning solar radiation is polarized circularly at 1% to the right. It could destroy amino acids. Also, let us not forget that tryptophan absorbs ultraviolet radiation in proteins.

Sensitive leguminous plants can activate an anti-oxidation enzyme. They have a characteristic bulge at the base of the leafstalk, a so-called pulvinus. This organ provokes very rapid movements, at least once a second, according to the intensity of sunlight. Nitrates, liberated or absorbed in this way, can be preserved in larger quantities in organic farms rather than in the traditional ones (organic specifications forbid harvesting at the beginning of the day). The roots of leguminous plants, forced to penetrate into the ground to be away from the light source, develop horizontal shoots as soon as they detect the presence of nitrates. A special gene is responsible for this process.

Nitrates and manure have a deep impact on flora, to the advantage of the leguminous plants which increase the overall production of nitrogen in herbaceous farming. Before achieving maturity, green grass can store up to one third of its nitrogen under the form of amids (e.g., silage). The addition of urea to the ration causes an increase in protids contained in the cattle rumen from 6.8% to 10.7%. This transformation is promoted by starch (such as in beets and maples).

And finally, the greenhouse effect augments plant production, as in real greenhouses. The increase in temperature stimulates microbes' activity and the return of carbon dioxide to the soil. Also, the decomposition by micro-organisms is quicker. Overall, the modification of precipitation systems affects both the plant and animal world.

Mary-Rose Paradis' Study—Critical Assessment

Mary-Rose Paradis' study does not put enough emphasis on kinetics in enzymatic reactions. Kinetic studies measure the speed of reactions and analyze their fluctuations depending on their environment: the concentration of substratum pH, temperature, the presence of inhibitors or activators. When one talks about reaction speed, one has in mind the initial speed which affects enzyme concentration. The latter is proportional to substrate concentration. There is a certain speed limit that cannot be exceeded. In a given moment, saturation takes place according to the quantity of available enzymes (in fact, this process is much more complicated as the catalysis goes through several stages). The aforementioned study does not sufficiently explain the role of inhibitors, in particular the reversible inhibition of B6. It should also make a clearer distinction between the digestive capacities of horses and cattle (cellulose, fibers, protein level, carbohydrates, etc.).

In our hypothesis, one can speak of an irreversible inhibition, characteristic of an adulterating agent: iron and hemoglobin oxidation by nitrates. Grass sickness functions through a threshold effect.

Cell metabolism results from about 2000 enzymatic reactions. The frequency and number of these activities depend on the genetic setup. Subject to genetic regulations, enzymes change their structure. By affecting cellular respiration, as shown by Mary-Rose Paradis, indole is at the core of the mechanism which controls organelles in the mitochondrial matrix. These organelles contain a complex system of transporters and enzymes from the respiratory chain, such as cytochromes. In this way, indole alters the functioning of the respiratory chain (ATP). Mitochondria possess their own DNA. Each cell has several hundred mitochondria which have the specific characteristic of being inherited only from the mother (brother, sister and maternal cousins). All of them have the same mitochondrial DNA, but its rate changes so rapidly that it can vary from one brother to another or even within one organism.

This peculiarity was already well known at the origin of the thoroughbred Arabic breed. Modern horse breeders, such as Lord Derby, Tesio, or Boussac also know this, practicing very risky in-breeding on mares. The whole history of modern thoroughbred horses is based on the super elite mare Pocahontas.

The genetic impact of the grass syndrome results in the development of certain weaknesses; it can serve us as a warning and an example:

1. One would have to know better the structure of mitochondria and their function in adiphocytes (see thermogenesis) in ponies, which differ from horses in their ability to store fats.

2. In 1931-32, the years of grass disease, Baron Rothschild's champion Brontome, excelling in classic races (2400 m), whose flexible and easy style always delighted the crowds, ended its brilliant sporting career. This tough and incredibly fast horse had to give up a fascinating career at the age of 4, because of a cough at the end of the spring.

And finally, mitochondria take up only 4% to 5% of the total muscular volume. In the course of endurance training, this number is tripled; that way, muscles have more oxygen and more "factories" to transform the former into ATP.

Discussion (see "Hemolysis on a big scale" by Mary-Rose Paradis)

Grass disease could be considered an asymptomatic fractal pathology. It is possible that we are dealing here with Turing structures (activators), inhibitors and diffusion carried out by lipids. A different approach towards this nonlinear, fractal pathology, resulting from ultraviolet radiation on a macroscopic scale (animal and plant kingdoms), could be borrowed from mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

The major characteristic of fractals is that they present a certain structure, no matter the scale at which they are examined. One can zoom in on them ad infinitum. Fractals do not necessarily produce identical elements. They can show different faces, depending on the scale as described in Laurent Nottale's book "La relativité dans tous ces états" (“Relativity in all its states”). The most developed living organisms are known for the tight interlocking of different organizational stages: atoms, genetic set-up, DNA, chromosomes, nuclei, cells, tissues, organelles... All these organizational levels coexist, each one of them having its own function and being irreplaceable. Each contains new information which may not be simply reduced to those carried by a preceding level. This information circulates among various structures, from the most basic to the most complex ones, and back, maintaining coherence in the system. Multicellular organisms such as we are cannot be reduced to one enormous cell. Still, our level of organization promotes the cellular form, protects it and increases its chances of survival. Human beings as well as horses are determined by quantum movements, genetic make-up and external factors. We are entities in which the microscopic and the macroscopic interact continuously; we are in a sense quantum macroscopic objects. The hierarchy of organizational levels spreads all over the living world; animal and plant kingdoms. From a single DNA thread to the whole planet, this global coherence stems from the accumulation of structures and information which circulate between them.

Thus, if considered on the most fundamental level, where space and time are implied, fractals could be a structural manifestation of the non-differentiability of Nature.

Translated into English by Anna K. Piotrowska, Harvard University, USA and Alika Laurent.

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Outlaw Trail Story - Karen Chaton

We started in the dark on day 1. As Crockett said, it was as dark as the inside of your eyelids. We began with a controlled start and as we began our long ascent to 11,100` I couldn`t help but grin from ear to ear. This was one ride that I had wanted to do for at least four or five years and this year I finally firmly decided that we were going to go and as Jean Luc would say `make it so`. Now here I was, about to begin one of the most exciting adventures on horseback anyone could hope to experience in their lifetime.....

The trail was rugged, and since it had been raining was quite muddy. The controlled start continued for several miles and then Crocket pulled back and let others pass him. Along the way he opened gaits for us and kept a watchful eye on us. The scenery was magnificent and not at all like what I expected the Outlaw Trail to be like. We were riding in a beautiful fall forest complete with an occasional lake, meadows and falling leaves in all the various shades of color. Even waterfalls. Because of the clouds and recent weather pattern there was a bit of a mist to the air which made it seem like we were in some sort of fairyland. We crossed plenty of water for the horses to drink and cool out of. We did a lot of walking because of the mud and the rocks and other obstacles on the trail. We went thru one gate and soon began a long three mile straight of going downhill. This section was very difficult on us as it was muddy, rocky and contained quite a lot of debris in addition to being very steep. I had gotten back on in one spot when Rocky started to slip in the mud....the only thing causing him to stop sliding was when we slipped into some large rocks which caused him to lunge forward over them, and we slipped off of the trail. By some miracle I managed to stay on him, and he stood his ground while I regained composure. Near the bottom of this it was very muddy and steep and this is where I learned that horses can moon walk with the best of `em! Our lunch check on this first day was a little over 40 miles into the 55 we were going to be doing. On the way down into the check another rider noticed that Rocky`s hind shoes looked like they had slid over a little bit. Probably from all the hillwork in the mud. We made it into the vet check and vetted thru just fine. Dave was there (hubby/crew) to meet me with a blanket for Rocky and my trailer along with my spare horse. After Rocky finished his trot out we noticed that he had just stepped out of both of his hind shoes. Arrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!! So over to the trailer we went to try and scrape as much mud off of his feet as we could so we could foam some easyboots on. The hour seemed to go by rather quickly trying to get everything done and taken care of. After all, the 45 miles that we had just come had been long and tough. We left the check and headed straight up a mountain out of the check. Up into the aspens and thru meadows. Made it into the finish with a couple of hours to spare (13 1/2 hours allowed for 55 miles). Dave met me with the spare horse so I used the spare horse as a saddle stand while I pulled Rocky`s tack and vetted. I wimpered something to Crocket about how my horse had lost both of his hind shoes, and he said to come back in an hour and he`d do something about that. (big smile>) Dave had the sun shower waiting for me so I got cleaned up in the meantime. Got the horse set up with new back shoes and re-glued the easyboots on the front feet since I was sure they wouldn`t stay on after all the mud we did that day. I kept Desitin on him (went thru two large tubes). Up on the mountain we spotted an entire herd of Elk. This was an incredible place. The only problem with this camp was the availability of fresh cow-pies, which forced one to watch where they were going .

On the second day we again began with a long controlled start. The terrain this day was equally as breathtaking while at the same time completely different than the first. We had never ridden on slick rock before. It`s really not as slippery as it sounds, though you need to know how to go over it or else your horse could slip and fall. The trail was anything but flat and it took an eagle eye to spot the next marker. Sometimes because of the steepness of the trail you couldn`t see the next marker so you had to just pick a direction of travel and head up and hope that you`d pop up in the right spot and see the next marker so you could continue. Sometimes you`d get to a marker and continue straight and other times you`d need to make a turn. There were no footprints to follow on this stuff. Having horses up ahead was an advantage, though several times the group of riders would be coming back so often it was to no advantage to be in the front. I was riding in the back and often found myself in the front or near the front due to the other riders spending time hunting for the trail, or missing a turn and having to backtrack. On part of the trail was an old telephone line, which was about neck height, and you had to be careful and watch for that less you hang yourself. Especially if you weren`t on the trail. The vet check was early this day, only about 20 miles into the ride. After we vetted we had to load our horses into our trailers and haul about 5 miles down the road where we got out and continued. We could spent our hold time either at the vet check or at the new place where we moved to. After the check is where we passed Andy, the runner. I can`t believe somebody was out there running this entire course. WOW!

I caught two other riders just before we headed down the trail from hell (can I say that?). It was a steep trail, on the side of a rock face and it was generally entirely rock. Not just small rock, or slick rock, but rocks of all sizes and shapes. We all got off to lead down. It was difficult for all of us on foot. One rider lost her didn`t get far. I gave my horse plenty of slack with the reins and let him pick his way thru the rocks. This was the most technical type of trail that I`ve ever seen on an endurance ride. It was doable, but you had to be careful, go slow and pray a lot (to the endurance gods). Sometimes I`d slip, or my horse would slip and we`d both topple down a few feet over the rock and usually we`d come to a stop without any mishap. Rocky got a couple of surface cuts and scrapes in this section, and of course even a little bit of blood on a grey horse looks horrid. I wasn`t so afraid of the cliffs or the rock ledges or some of the technical trail that had others turning pale because I`ve come to the conclusion that I`m either going to die or I`m not, and aside from being careful there isn`t much else I can do about it. So just try and enjoy the adrenalin and the highs associated with being scared @#$%less, keep a sense of humor and try not to worry about the horse :).

We had a second vet check only a dozen or so miles from the finish where we could refill our drinking water. I brought Rocky in a little hot so went down to a big mud puddle and sunk to my ankles in the mud so I could get my sponge into the water to cool him off. They didn`t have any horse water here so we all had to get a bit muddy here in order for the horse to drink and for me to cool him. I brought him back up to vet and have our hold, where Rocky really dug into the food. I continued after this down the trail and shortly caught up with another group of riders that included Sharon Dumas, Doyle Patrick and Jaime Kerr. Just as I caught them we all missed a turn (ohhhhh boy!!). Turned around and headed back. Sharon marked it with more ribbon so the rest of the riders wouldn`t have that problem, and off we went. We had some good sections of trotting thru here, then came to more slick rock and we all got off. More splendid scenery. We could see Escalante as we got further down the mountain. It seemed like a long ways off. Came to an intersection where Doyle said "it`s this way", and other riders said "no, it`s this way". They went their way, and I followed Doyle cuz I knew we were going the right way . So we got ahead of them, but not for long cuz soon after we popped up onto a street and didn`t know which way to go, so followed all the footprints. (dumb, dumb, dumb!!!) Somebody in a truck stopped us and told us to go back and turn at such and such street, and of course by the time we did the others had gone ahead of us. We trotted into the finish line and vetted. Just as I was finishing up the vet noticed that Rocky had a bunch of cactus barbs sticking all in his leg and ankle. Ohhhhh man!! I plucked them all out, one bled quite a lot which the vet said was good. I hoped that I had gotten them all completely out and worried and fretted about him and if he`d be alright. Later that night he was quite sore to the touch around that ankle.

The next morning I had Rocky warming up at 4 a.m. to make sure he was sound and okay to go. He was! He`s one tough horse. Still sore if you touched his ankle but I knew that leaving him tied to the trailer and having him hauled around all day wouldn`t do him any good, so I may as well ride him. This third morning was the day we started in silence, for an hour in order to honor those great people in our sport who have come and gone. The good long walk was good for Rocky. We heard Elk bugling off in the distance. Way kewl. Another beautiful day, we were in t-shirts in no time. This day we went back up to over 11,000` again and rode thru some absolutely wonderful forests, where we were completely engulfed in aspen and birch trees with their flittering yellow leaves all about. This was another very technical day which caused the horses to have to work quite a bit. I kept wondering if Rocky had it in him to keep going thru all of this. I was asking for more from him than I had ever asked before. I got off to lead him over a creaky old wooden bridge that had loose planks, and due to my DIMR at this point I didn`t pull his reins over his head (NOTE: *always* lead a horse over an obstacle with the reins!) and instead grabbed his halter and started walking him over the bridge. Well, the end result is that I have a nice round baseball sized bruise on the back of my calf, and had my foot squashed.....nothing broke though, and I got back on and continued riding in just a low pitched whine ;^0. A few of us got together into a group and just sort of meandered the rest of the afternoon together. We got a few sprinkles, but that was all. As we came into the finish we put the junior Bergen in front of us and the four adults (all on grey/white horses) rode four abreast and that`s how we finished. The Little Bear Gang. :+)

I vetted thru right away. I had Weaver brought over and vetted him in as well, as I was certain that Rocky wouldn`t be fit to continue the next morning. But doggone it, he looked like I had no choice but to ride him again :=). Happened to have found a junior named Sandy who was in need of a horse to ride so we made her an official Pinkerton (if you are a Pinkerton that means that you changed horses or missed a day and if you are an OUTLAW you have been on the same horse all 5 days) and off we went! This worked out perfectly for us, since it made Sandy happy, made Weaver (very) happy, and also made my husband happy who was at this point getting very tired of dealing with a very P.O.`d horse. Sandy was a good rider and had no problem handling Weaver, even though he had three days full of pent up energy. He was a gentleman though and didn`t do any funny business which made me very happy as well. Sandy had only done two endurance rides before this, the Tevis and the Swanton 100.

On this, the fourth day we got to start an hour later - 7 a.m. Yesssss!!!! Partly because this day was *only* (as if that`s not enough?) 50 miles. For about the first hour my leg cramped up so we`d have to walk in between trotting until I worked it out. After that, the pain went away and my leg was happy. I loved these nice controlled starts for so long, giving the horses such a nice warm up which is really important on a ride like this. Even though this day was less difficult, especially technically, it still caused the horses to work. The varied terrain still demands a lot out of the horse. We would encounter everything from mud to deep sand to rock and also some nice footing. I was beginning to feel the excitement of becoming an OUTLAW, and I think Rocky was too. We had a vet check at about 19 miles with a short hold. This day we spent a good deal of time being pissed at each other. I was still mad at him for stepping on me at that bridge the day before (who cares if it was really my fault, I was still mad at him....). We mainly followed behind Weaver this day, which of course caused me to take most of my pictures of him and Sandy. hehe She had to hold him back for the first 35 miles, but after the hour hold he mellowed out to his normal self and she had him on a loose rein. Dave met us at Tropic for the hour hold. Everything was going extremely well. Rocky was no longer sore where the cactus got him, and it was a gorgeous day. We left after the hour hold and had to pass a couple of ranches on the way into town where we crossed over and headed up towards Bryce Canyon. Rocky spooked at a cow that was colored differently than any he had seen before. He was starting to feel his normal self again, complete with attitude. Went past the local high school where we saw some overzealous teenagers had painted soap words all over the cars in the parking lot. hehe. Onward we went, catching up with Andy the runner. He directed us onto a couple of turns that we may have missed otherwise. I can`t believe that he was maintaining as fast or faster an overall time on this type of terrain than we were on the horses! We kept climbing the hill and rode alongside the cliff edges where we had incredible views of the canyons. The trail was marked extremely well in this section, in fact you nearly needed sunglasses to keep from being blinded by the trail markings. I had the horses both wearing breast collars because I had them on loose cinches. I made a point of getting off on all the downhills to help Rocky out and give him a break. We finished this day late in the afternoon, near the back of the pack. Vetted thru fine, then cleaned up and took a shower. We cleaned the horses up but before they could dry it started pouring rain. When we moved to that camp we had been told to make sure and park downhill, so that when they pulled us out we would be pointing the right way (boy they weren`t kidding!). I tried to get all of Rocky`s various scratches and boo-boos cleaned up, and kept icing his legs. Walked him often.

This evening included a history lesson. Wallace Ott came to speak. He is the only living person to have known Butch Cassidy. He brought lots of historical information with him including photos, artifacts and of course personal stories. He had spearheads he had found on the trail that the Smithsonian had dated at over 10,000 years old!

Day 5. I couldn`t believe that we were starting the last day already. It seemed as if it had flown by. Another 7 a.m. controlled start. By going so slow the day before my horse had recovered and was strong again, wanting to be in the lead and having enough attitude to want to toss his head. We rode down to the Pahrea (sp?), which was absolutely incredible! The river was shallow, while the rock canyons towered above us reminding us how incredibly small we are. As the sun rose, light reflected off of the brilliantly colored rock and thru the crevices and breaks in the formations. Steam from the horses sweat rose above forming a cloud of mist among the groups of horses. While the river flowed about us, we picked our way thru the wet sand and the rocks. There was no one trail, and each horse chose their own route to follow. The canyon seemed to go on forever, then we finally made it into the vet check. The vet assured me that Rocky could do it....we could be OUTLAWS.....and so we spent our hour hold fully inspired by the possibility of making it thru all five days of this trail. Dave met me at this check, having ridden in with Marty (Trilby`s crew). The horses happily inhaled hay and drank well while I had one of the sandwiches provided, and chugged down some soda. Caffeine...give me caffeine!!!!

Back down the trail we went. Sandy was getting a little tired but still in good spirits. Jeff Leuternaur was also riding with us. As this trail progressed we found ourselves on more slick rock. I got off and led and watched while Sandy rode Weaver down some of this technical stuff and was just amazed at how graceful and how smoothly the two of them moved together. (why is he such a clod with me?) As I led on foot down one trail thru very thick trees (where you couldn`t see ahead at all) I shot out of the trail right onto a really steep bank that dropped into the river!! Eeeeegads, and there was no way I was going to be able to get on in this position, the entire saddle was covered up with tree branches. Hmmmm. After some finagling of where to put the horse and the rider, I finally ended up on him again, and we got into the river and even though we didn`t see any trail markers we saw prints so followed those. I looked back and honestly could not see how we could have possibly come down that rock that we had just come down. We continued on thru the river section. It was the warmest part of the day and so we sponged here and there to cool them. They drank well, and Weaver was trying to eat the rocks, since there was no green stuff available. We were all smiles when we made it into the last vet check, 6 miles from the finish. The horses were down right away and spent their hold time eating well. They gave us water and Snickers, which helped Sandy quite a bit . On the last 6 miles of the ride we opened the horses up and just flew! I couldn`t believe how much they wanted to go. I had Rocky in a fast canter while Weaver quietly trotted with Sandy and he was ahead of us! As soon as we started going down some steep stuff, I got off and led down. I wanted to bring the horses in cool and dry in case we had another afternoon thundershower. What a feeling to pop up over that little hill into camp and be finished! I was sad in a way, that it was over. But what a sense of accomplishment. Both horses vetted right thru and we headed over to the trailer to take care of them. Got to take another shower and clean up good before the awards. They served steak dinner that night, which was excellent. They did a nice presentation of the awards. All in all, 15 horses completed all 5 days of the ride and 265 miles (OUTLAWS!!). Another 8 riders completed all 5 days on different horses (Pinkertons!). We received pure silver Outlaw Trail coins (troy ounces) for each days completion award, and for overall our horses each received a beautiful polar fleece Outlaw Trail blanket (donated by Easycare and made by Tammy at Trail-Rite). Us OUTLAW`s also got vests with the ride logo, and in addition they had several other awards and items to give out.

This was the nicest trail that I have ever ridden. It was something that most of us would never get to see on our own; most people don`t even know that country like this exists. We are incredibly fortunate to have people like Sharon and Crocket out there who are willing to do the work and effort required to pull off something such as this. This ride defines what endurance is all about.

This page links the photos I have put up. It will take awhile to get all 5 days up. (the first three are up now)

Happy Trails,

in NV
& OUTLAW Rocky, 2,010 miles
& Weaver, 3,105 miles

Tevis - The All Alone Ride - Nick Warhol

You can`t miss this horse. He stands out like a porcupine in a nudist colony, or a 90 pound fresh salmon on the floor of a donut shop. He doesn`t`t look like many of the horses at Tevis, in fact he looked like only one other that was there. He`s Warpaint, the Endurance Appaloosa. My wife Judy let me ride the spotted wonder at Tevis this year for a couple of reasons. My horse Shatta`s suspensory is still mending- he can`t do any rides until next year. Here I was, bummed to the max without a horse, when Judy decided to take pity on me and let me give him a try at the castle Rock 50. I finished the ride and had a great time, so I did the Oakland Hills 50 a few weeks later. I finished that one after a slight detour down the side of a mountain, but hey, not even plunging down a mountain can stop that horse. (Not even Gary Fend`s multiple attempts to make SURE I got lost on his trail could stop me!) The kicker was winning a free entry to Tevis at the AERC convention. Wouldn`t`t you know it, those entries aren`t`t transferable, not even to a spouse. Since I had been having so much fun on the horse doing conditioning rides she decided to give me a shot at my third Tevis. I finished the first one on Zion but got pulled at the finish, last year I finished really strongly on Shatta`s first Tevis and got my first buckle, and I wanted another one this year. For some reason this ride seems to grab hold of me: there`s something very special about it. I`m not sure how to describe the attraction except to say that the ride is a challenge, and I really like what head vet Mitch Benson says about this particular ride: It`s 30% horse, 30% rider, and 40% luck. I was really depressed when I found I couldn`t`t ride on Shatta, and became just as excited when I realized I was able to do it again.

I changed the horse on my entry from Shatta to Warpaint and began to get ready for the ordeal. We drove up on Thursday morning before the ride and set up camp in our usual place, just down the road from the start area, back in the forest a little bit. One thing about this ride that I`m not crazy about- it`s the second dustiest place on the planet, second only to wherever is dustier. You begin to get used to the dust in everything, including the food, water, clothes: you get the idea. At least it wasn`t windy. It did seem a bit cooler this year- that`s a good thing for Warpaint. As relaxed as I seemed to be about the ride, poor Judy was a bundle of nerves until we got checked in. I took him out for a few miles to warm him up before the vet in, and after our ride he passed the vet check just fine. Once we got checked in I really began to think about the ride. Yep, we`re going! This horse is a real pain-in-the-ass before, during, and for a long while after the start. Here I was, about to go and ride Tevis on a horse that just went crashing down a cliff on (my) his last ride because he can`t/won`t stand still, ever. I`m a pretty confident type of person, since I know I can do the ride, and I know he can do the ride. Last year I had no problem going right to sleep the night before the ride. This year I found myself lying awake in the camper thinking about the Granite Chief Wilderness and what it was going to be like going through there on a horse that won`t stop or stand still. What about the California loop and those (gasp) neat 500 foot drops to the American River just inches from the edge of the single track trail? I remembered how much fun it was to jam through there on Zion, and even more fun last year on my horse, who was perfect. There`s dust on the roof of the camper. What will those trails be like on this ballistic horse? I wish that horse out there would shut up so I can get to sleep. Would Warpaint calm down above Squaw Valley? What time is it, anyway, and why is Judy asleep? How am I going to get through the start without running over people, or going off the road? Oh, shut up and go to sleep.

Ride morning came way too soon when the alarm went off. My riding buddy Sally Abe came along this year to help with the crewing since she wants to ride this thing, perhaps next year. She and Judy had things well under control. We had a nice, relaxed morning getting ready. The horse was even standing reasonably still while getting tacked up. Judy and Sally pulled out at 4:30 to drop off the truck and get to Robinson Flat, leaving me in the dark on the back of a horse who was VERY alert and jigging already. Like I have said before- he thinks the ride begins once you hop up on his back. I jigged up and down the road for about 15 minutes and headed to the start. We jigged past the number taker and tried to find a spot to stand in the crowd. Except that he does not stand. I found a nice little spot just off the road where we spent the final 10 minutes jigging in a small, square pattern. Funny- if you stop him, he`ll pause for a second, then just go sideways, through bushes, trees, Honda Civics, whatever. Of course it`s not really that bad, but he just won`t stand still. I discovered something in that 10 minutes that would save me this day: as long as he kept moving forward he was fine, even when moving forward at a half a mile an hour. He will jig slower than a cat can walk, but as long as he`s not stopped, he was fine. Hmmmmmm.

The Start! I was riding by myself this year, which helped me on Warpaint. We started moving up the road, and as always the pack would stop, then go, then stop, then go, etc. This would drive Warpaint nuts! Once we got going we only stopped a few more times, but I hate to think of what some of the riders were thinking of me and my sideways horse. It was so dusty I can`t believe I could breathe that stuff. Absolutely terrible. Maybe Tevis needs a three tiered start, sort of like a foot race? Let the people who are planning on going faster leave at 5 minutes until 5, let the next group go at 5, then let the slower people leave at 5 after. Who knows, it might help the crazy congestion and dust of that start. I wasn`t having any fun at all until we got to the single-track trail. At least by then it was only a single line of horses, not two or three abreast. Except that the first time I had to stop for traffic, Warpaint paused his two seconds and went sideways, right off the trail. Okay- this won`t work. It was then I remembered the little, bitty, jig at the start. When we got started again, I held him back and made sure there was at least 50 feet of space between me and the horse in front of me. When I saw the horses in front stop I`d haul him down (no small feat) and get him into that half a mile an hour jig. Know what? It worked! Perfectly! I`d creep up on the horses in front of me, and just as I`d get close they would move, and I`d keep my distance again, then slow down again when they stopped, and so on. I was really jazzed since it worked. At last I found a secret that really seemed to work. From that moment on I used that technique on all single-track trails until after Robinson flat.

We blitzed along the normal trail towards Highway 89 but then took the new underpass. Some people watched Warpaint sort of jump up the rip-rap rocks since he thought that would make a nice short cut. Dumb horse. Strong, but dumb. Rather than head up the parking lot to the ski area we immediately started climbing on a new single-track trail that was a good climb, but was very dusty. The pace was faster than I liked, but this horse feels like a train climbing hills like this. The 50-foot rule worked perfectly all the way up this climb. It was really nice except for the dust. We were way up the mountain by the time we passed the base lodge. The trail continued climbing and eventually dumped us out on the main ski run about a quarter or so of the way up to the top. I really like this part since I`ve skied here so many times. The road is wide as we jigged up the mountain. We did some trotting but mostly took it easy. There were still a ton of horses around here that were filling up all the little creeks where there was some water. I knew the Ap was thirsty since there was no water stop at the bottom. We were about a half mile or so from the upper camp when we came upon the aftermath of the Debby Lyons accident, all though I had no idea what had happened until much later on. All I saw was a rider lying on her back a couple of hundred yards away being attended to by a couple of people. It turns out she was hurt badly and needed to be rushed to a hospital for some emergency treatment. We were all very relieved to hear that she would be fine. (as a side note- at the awards ceremony Debby`s husband Jeff Herten told the crowd about Debby as he accepted his buckle. Apparently she told him to finish the ride and not to worry about her. What a competitor! Helmets off to Debby, and get well soon!)

Warpaint drank a lot of water at the mid mountain lodge and did his walk-around-the-rider thing while I tried to give him electrolytes. Dumb horse. It takes two people to do this. I realized how many times in the past I thought Judy shouldn`t`t let him do this. Yeah, right. He almost walked through the water trough, another one of his specialties. Once up on his back we headed up the rest of the mountain and climbed over the top of the world at the monument. Stay around, look at the view? Forget it- it was freezing up here. Thank goodness I kept my jacket on. We hustled down the back of the Ski Mountain into the depths of the toughest part of the ride. Okay, horse, this is it. Let`s just get through this. We went in, following a big mule, and kept our distance. What worries? He did absolutely great. As long as he could see those horses in front, and I kept him slow, he went through there without a single worry. In fact, he did one thing so neat I actually laughed. There is one short step up about two and a half or three feet high, straight up a sheer rock. I watched three horses in front of me scramble up it, slip, and one even slipped down for a moment. Warpaint got to it and just jumped up it- he never even touched the rock! Man, for a video tape of that! The wilderness was a non-event for me again this year, knock on wood. We zipped through it and hit the rocky and very dusty roads that lead down to Lyon ridge and a trot by. We passed about 30 or so horses in that 3 or 4 miles. We stopped for another huge drink and a bathroom stop for me, another shot of salts for him, and off we went with no wasted time. The single-track trail from Lyon to cougar rock and beyond was so dusty I started getting irritated, sort of like I was irritated at those tree branches at the Gold Country ride. No matter what you do you just can`t get away from it, and it`s no fun to breathe it. We went around Cougar Rock again this year, mostly because I wasn`t about to stand in that line to go over. I ran into Karen Chaton just past Cougar Rock- she and I rode together last year from Foresthill to the finish. We rode into Red star ridge together and had a nice water break. We rode along together for a little while after that but she left me- Rocky was trotting faster than I wanted to go. I then realized that I had been riding by myself all day so far. Warpaint was still pulling and jigging as we walked down into Robinson Flat into the beehive of activity. Our good friend Jean Schreiber was there once again for us, setting up a perfect crew spot in the trees the day before the ride. Marilyn Russell was also there, helping Carolyn Schultz on her second attempt at Tevis. Poor Carolyn made it to Francisco`s last year and got pulled. She wanted another shot at that elusive buckle. Her big horse Echo looked great so far.

It took Warpaint his normal 10 minutes to recover to 60 here, which he did without trouble. He went right through the vets (much to the relief of Judy) and began his eating binge. This horse does it right- he eats and drinks everything in site. I got treated to some superb service including the magic Tevis Egg salad sandwich that I credit for my success here, as well as my shoulder massage. What a life! After a nice break we got him ready and headed out right on time. Carolyn had left about 15 minutes before me. Warpaint jigged out of camp- no shortage of energy here. We left by ourselves and headed down the rocky Cavanaugh Ridge trails, again, totally alone. I found myself talking to the horse and singing old songs out loud. That`s a habit I picked up while racing motorcycles in the desert. The thing about dirt bikes is that no one can hear you sing! I have to watch that on horseback. We passed a few horses but just kept trotting on down the trails to the big, flat, gravel dirt road called the freeway. Warpaint hit the road and just took off. No horses anywhere in sight and he`s just trotting as strong as at the start, but now he`s totally relaxed. Once again I realize how much I like a horse that doesn`t`t spook at all. Never. Nada. Nothing. Just as solid as a car. I began to realize again just how amazing this horse is. He is just sailing along down this road, passing horses with ease, going like this because he likes it. Most people who I pass say "Hey, it`s the appy!" It`s easy to spot this one, especially as he goes by. I passed Carolyn somewhere on that road and didn`t`t even recognize her. We got to the Dusty Corners trot by check and went right on through after a short break for water and some food. We rode out alone again, and turned down onto the neat single-track trail that was new last year. Except this year it was much more rocky and chewed up, especially at the beginning. It was a pain for the first mile or so but then got better. Last year I rode through here with Sam Bartee- it was dusty from the other horses. I never even saw a horse the entire length of the trail. No dust, just Warpaint jamming down the trail. He does not need another horse to be with him, or chase him, or be in front. He just goes, all by himself. We started down the steep trail into the first canyon- I led him down the entire way. Ride Director Larry said the trail was chewed up. It was miserable. Rocky, chewed up, dusty, yuck. We went into the river at the bottom and cooled down a while, crossed the swinging bridge, then headed up the first big climb into Devil`s Thumb.

This horse goes uphill like a ski lift! I rode a few turns than hopped off and had him tail me up. We kept passing horses, even at a walk. People can`t believe it when he goes walking past them up this climb. I was getting pooped by the top and was happy to see the water and lemonade. The horse drank a lot of water as did I. Off to Deadwood and our friends Karen Schwartz and Roberta Dunn who were working as in timers. They asked where Carolyn was. I didn`t`t know- uh, oh. Warpaint recovered in about 7 minutes which really pleased me- he ate for a while, then we left with a flake of hay under my arm as we walked out down the trail. He ate the entire thing before we started down the long canyon. I rode him for a while, then got off and ran down to the bottom. We were all alone again after passing a couple of horses. This second canyon trail goes down forever, but we finally got to the bottom and started the long climb up to Michigan Bluff. I was again off him the whole way up, but didn`t`t need to be. Up, Up, Up. We got to the top and went to the water tanks. A group of wonderful volunteers basically told me to go away and eat something and they would take care of him. They soaked him down with water like pros, and after only 5 minutes or so he was down. Wow- he`s recovering better as the day goes on! I was thankful the weather was so nice- of my three Tevis rides this was by far the best weather. We got a little nervous at the trot out when the vet asked us to trot again. They noticed a little wave on his right front but after a faster trot it seemed okay. My good buddy vet Jamie Kerr was there and suggested I make sure to trot him a little faster. It worked- he looked fine. I let him eat for an extra 15 minutes or so before leaving. I saw Carolyn come in just as I was leaving- great! She`s still in it. I jigged out of town (!) to the applause of a bunch of spectators. Neat! The out timer told me I was in 50th place. (long pause for dramatic effect)

I almost fell out of the saddle! I looked at my watch- it was just about 5pm! I was in shock as we trotted away, once again all alone, now with the horse in his relaxed mode. Here`s where he begins to become magic. Once that crazy stuff in his brain is gone it gets replaced with this business like attitude of just going forward. No reins needed- just go forward. He trotted up the hills out of Michigan and down we went into the third little canyon. I hopped off and jogged all the way down to the bottom, except this trail was beat to death as well. What happens to these trails? I think a rock monster has it`s offspring on Sierra single track trails. Across the creek at the bottom for another big drink and up the short climb into Foresthill. What a neat welcome- a couple of hundred people cheering and clapping for the Appy. Everyone is so excited to see him. He`s still jigging as we head into the last big check. Yeah, it feels nice to have so many people interested in him. Judy and Sally meet me as we walk into the sea of people. Warpaint is quite the center of attention. There is a ring of people around him watching as the crew gets his tack stripped and him cooled down. Sooo many people ask me if he`s an Arab or thoroughbred cross. I just say he`s as appy as an appy is- no crosses in his background. He recovers again very quickly and passes through the vet with no problem. I like this vet- a tall guy with a beard and baseball cap. He looks at the card that says "watch the right front". He replies: "Yeah, he`s got one, all right." Warpaint eats like the proverbial horse while I get my dose of hamburger from my great crew. Bad news for Carolyn- Echo is off at the trot and is done. She is having much more than her share of the 40% of bad luck. Sixty minutes goes fast here. I saddle up and head out of the check all by myself, again. There`s a lot of daylight left as I jig through the town to the cheering of more people. I continue to realize that it`s fun to be on such a noticeable horse. We hit the California loop and pass two horses as we head down the first few turns.

Then the magic returns. This horse turns on the jets and just starts trotting down the trail; solid, fast, totally relaxed, totally in control, just like riding a machine. There are no horses, anywhere. The time goes by too fast through this wonderful section as we just sail along. I am about 90 minutes faster this year at this point than last year so I get to see a lot more of this trail for the first time. It`s still a little light as I begin the drop down to the river. We did pass a woman leading a horse to Francisco`s that she was going to pull, but that was it. Just him and me, trotting along through the dark, just loving every step. He knows where he`s going- I`m just along for the fun. We start down the nasty section of tail that I was worrying about the night before that drops down to the river. I just shook my head- he was on auto pilot. We then heard some voices as we caught up to two riders. I rode with them down the last part of the single track at a fast pace that brought us past a group of 5 horses that were walking. I rode with the two into Francisco`s and the next to last vet check. The ride workers once again took over and did everything for me- what a treat. Warpaint recovered quickly again, but was a little inverted this time. I waited around for a while as he ate before taking him to the vet. He passed, but the vet noticed the right front and said it looked okay, just take it easy, and let him eat a while here. He had great gut sounds but the vet wanted him to un-invert before we left. I gave him about 20 minutes and he was fine. (It turns out I told Judy after the ride and she says, "Oh, yeah, that`s normal. He comes back down in about 10 minutes." He did that exactly.) We took it easy out of the check and onto the next section of trail. I rode along for a while leading another rider but left her just after the river crossing. Yikes! We entered the water and moved a couple of feet down stream with every step forward. That`s a funky feeling, but the Appy loves the water. He blasted right up the steep trail on the other side and off we went again at a trot. I wanted to take it easy but he was making that difficult. After a couple of miles I caught a rider who was walking, but walking fast. His name is Tony Brickel and his horse has the fastest walk of any horse, I mean ANY horse I have ever seen, or will ever see. Tony`s horse had looked a little funny to the vet at Francisco`s, so Tony said he`d just walk in for the finish and make sure the horse looked okay at the Quarry. I walked along with Tony for an hour or so- actually Warpaint was jigging / jogging since he could not walk that fast.

We got to the Quarry and made it through the check fine. Jamie was there and after watching Warpaint trot quickly he said he looked just fine. I was pleased and left right away since it was chilly. I trotted up the road for a mile or so and caught Tony again! Man- I was trotting and he was still walking! I said I`d see him at the finish and passed him as we trotted along the wide, flat, road. We got to the highway 49 road crossing and walked the steep, nasty trail up and down to the no hands bridge. Just as I walk onto the bridge a horse catches me- It`s Tony! It can`t be! "Hey, how`s it going?" he says. I can`t believe it. Who need to trot? That horse could top ten at a walk! I tell him again I can`t believe it and trot away once more, determined that he`s not going to catch me again! We trotted along the ravine, only 4 miles to go! We start up the last hill at a walk- Warpaint is walking, a little slower now, but I`m just waiting for Tony and that horse! He never did catch up to us by the time we got to the top of the climb. We headed down into the little last loop, all alone once again. No horses, no one, just me and him. He`s still trotting strongly and wants to hurry up the hills. Unreal. I look at my watch- it`s 2:00 am. Wow. We round the corner and finish at 2:13 am in 32nd place.

We passed the little trot out vet check where I got nailed 2 years ago on Zion. (That`s still okay. He was lame) We got to the Quarry and made it through the check fine. Jamie was there and after watching Warpaint trot quickly he said he looked just fine. I was pleased and left right away since it was chilly. I trotted up the road for a mile or so and caught Tony again! Man- I was trotting and he was still walking! I said I`d see him at the finish and passed him as we trotted along the wide, flat, road. We got to the highway 49 road crossing and walked the steep, nasty trail up and down to the no hands bridge. Just as I walk onto the bridge a horse catches me- It`s Tony! It can`t be! "Hey, how`s it going?" he says. I can`t believe it. Who need to trot? That horse could top ten at a walk! I tell him again I can`t believe it and trot away once more, determined that he`s not going to catch me again! We trotted along the ravine, only 4 miles to go! We start up the last hill at a walk- Warpaint is walking, a little slower now, but I`m just waiting for Tony and that horse! He never did catch up to us by the time we got to the top of the climb. We headed down into the little last loop, all alone once again. No horses, no one, just me and him. He`s still trotting strongly and wants to hurry up the hills. Unreal. I look at my watch- it`s 2:00 am. Wow. We round the corner and finish at 2:13 am in 32nd place.

We passed the little trot out vet check where I got nailed 2 years ago on Zion. (That`s still okay. He was lame) So far so good. Down to the fairgrounds for the last vet check. He is at 64 BPM and trots fine. He did it! I`m looking all around for Judy and Sally as I take my lap. They don`t seem to be here. I stopped and weighed him for the post ride weight test. He weighed 1045 at the start, 1001 at the finish. The weight guys were impressed. I take him over to the big pile of hay bales that he begins to devour. While I waited Tony made it in- I asked him how it went and he told me that he had walked into the finish from Francisco`s and only three riders had passed him, including me. Amazing. I waited around for about 40 minutes until Roberta comes up and asks me what I`m doing here so early. Early? Ask Warpaint! I think he could have gone a lot faster, given the way he looked and felt. She went and got Judy who felt really bad about missing me at the finish since they were up preparing the stall. I didn`t`t mind- her horse had done it again and gave me an absolutely flawless ride.

I really enjoyed the awards ceremony, since the Appy had done so well. I was really impressed when they gave Tony his 1000 mile buckle. Yep, I want one of those, and I`ll have one. There`s something about this ride that will keep me coming back. Now Warpaint is 3 for 4 at Tevis. The one he didn`t`t finish was when he was one of the horses that slipped down on the paved bike path at Squaw Valley a few years ago. I also learned more about this horse that I ever thought I`d know. For years I`ve watched Judy want to kill this animal at times, but she always sticks it out and is in love with him at the finish of a ride. I now understand. Totally. Like I said, he`s a major pain at the beginning, but once underway he`s the most incredible horse I`ve ever sat on. And now I know the secret! Maybe I`ll tell Judy, or maybe I`ll just tell her he`s un-rideable and keep him for myself. Oh yeah, fat chance. The neat thing is that we have both done the ride on this remarkable horse, who I really believe is one of a kind. Say hello to him the next time you see him on the trail. That is, if you can get his attention. He will be focusing on what`s ahead of him, and how he can get there in as little time as possible.

I`ll be back next year on Shatta.

Nick Warhol
Hayward, ca.

Heat Stress and the Endurance Horse: Electrolytes are not the only answer! - Gayle Ecker

These suggestions are a combination of the results of my research (along with Mike Lindinger) as well as the result of many discussions with riders, veterinarians and pit crew people.

The recent thread on heat stress in endurance horses generated a great deal of very good discussion about optimal management of the endurance horse. Concerns have been raised about the number of horses at the PAC that needed treatment.

Electrolyte supplementation, while a VERY important part of the equation, does NOT address the heat build up that occurs with exercise. The major route of heat dissipation is through the evaporation of sweat. Note that we said the evaporation of sweat. Sweat that runs off the horse or sits on the skin without drying quickly will not contribute greatly to the heat dissipation. A high humidity level will compromise the evaporation of sweat, even if the weather is cooler. During our research, we have documented significant losses of water and electrolytes even in cool weather because the humidity level is high. The horse still generates large amounts of heat, but dissipation is compromised due to the high humidity. Water and electrolyte losses can be high with high humidity even if the temperature is around 21 d C or 72 d F.

We are fighting physics. The horse does not have as much surface area to dissipate the heat as does the human. Nor can we force the horse to drink as much as it needs to replace the water losses. Of all the horses we have included in our research studies, NONE had enough water to replace the losses. Most never came more than ½ to 2/3 of the water loss. While this may not have put the horse in a position where vet treatment was necessary, these losses were certainly at a level where circulation and cell function would be affected. This would definitely impact continued performance. For the horse that is working within its capacity, this may not have a noticeable effect, but the horse that is being pushed a little harder may have greater problems with the added stress.

Currently, with our performance profiling, we are starting to see horses that are receiving enough electrolytes to replace the sweat losses, but they are still in a water deficit situation. The reduced total body water compromises blood circulation as blood volume is made up of predominantly water. The reduced blood volume means that less blood is available to get to all parts of the body, therefore, skin blood may be reduced, which means that heat dissipation is compromised. Blood flow to the muscle may be reduced, meaning less energy is taken to the muscles (and the muscles begin to rely more on the local muscle stores) and the efficiency of removal of heat and other metabolic wastes from the muscle can be compromised, leaving heat in the muscle. Blood flow may also be reduced to the gastrointestinal tract, which means that the absorption of water and electrolytes and energy will be slower, thus prolonging the time for replacement of the deficits, and predisposing the horse to colic-related problems.

Conditioning and heat acclimation are two other very important components of a horse`s ability to compete in the heat. A well-conditioned horse will be able to withstand exercise in the heat better than an unconditioned horse. However, this does NOT mean the horse can handle exercising in heat and humidity at the same level. The performance level will drop. For example, the horse may only be able to exercise at that speed for half the time when high heat and humidity are present. Acclimating the horse to exercising in the heat and humidity will gain back some of that time, but never all of it. The horse must slow down if it continues to exercise.

During many conversations with riders, people often comment that because it is not hot, they are not concerned about a hot horse. However, rides with some of the most problems are not the hot ones, but rather the high humidity ones. The temperature does not have to be high. Some of the rides have had temps of only 70 d F or about 20 d C, but with humidity of 80-90%. This impairs evaporation of sweat, and it is the evaporation of sweat that takes the heat away. If the sweat does not evaporate (ie., leaving dry hair below) then the sweat is contributing little to heat loss.

Well conditioned, motivated horses do not always show the signs of heat stress/dehydration/electrolyte depletion until they have rested a bit and the "adrenalin rush" has calmed. Then the problems start to show the clinical signs. Also, the longer the blood flow has been reduced to an area, the greater the chance of developing problems.

We have some wonderful, knowledgeable and caring veterinarians in this sport. However, they have only a few tools to use to when checking over a horse and only a few minutes for each horse to gain a "picture". It cannot and does not tell the whole story. If the vets were able to pull blood and take weights on these horses as they come in to vet checks and perhaps before they went out again, then they would have more information and perhaps fewer horses would have to be treated at rides. Given the cost of doing on-site analysis, this is likely not feasible without financial assistance. It may be possible at the international rides, but certainly not for the smaller rides.

So, as riders, we all must learn about our horses and pay attention to the signs (working very hard to avoid D.I.M.R.!). Dr. Mike Lindinger and myself have been doing research on endurance horses for many years and (unfortunately) have collected a great deal of data on horses that do not complete the ride. In many, many cases, the rider has made comments like, "Well, he wasn`t as eager as usual, but I was in a hurry at the vet check and I didn`t pay much attention." It is difficult when the clock is ticking and there is so much to think about and get done. It may be hard to pick up on the more subtle signs the horse gives us unless we pay close attention. We cannot depend solely on the vets to pick up on these signs and must be more attentive to our mounts.

The CRI is one of the tools that is useful for the vets to use. The usefulness of the CRI is that it is a sensitive, though not specific, indicator of stress in the horse. And there are horses that seem to give us little or no outward sign. There may be changes in the blood work, but outwardly, the horse shows few signs of an impending problem.

A delay in seeking treatment for a horse in distress will very likely result in a condition that is much worse. It is quite remarkable how fast a horse will turn around with prompt and effective treatment to replace the water, electrolytes, and energy deficits. The longer an animal (or human) is in a deficit situation or the longer the heat stress/exhaustion persists, the greater the chance of serious health problems developing. Often, horses and human marathon runners are never able to achieve previous levels of performance after suffering from heat stress/exhaustion/stroke. Although clinically, there does not appear to be something physically wrong, it seems the chemical pathways and/or the body`s thermostat never fully recover. Prompt effective treatment is preferred for the safety and long-term performance of the horse. Many ride vets prefer to begin treatment promptly to prevent the problems from becoming more serious. This may be one reason why we see more horses treated at rides. Replacing the water, electrolytes, and energy quickly and effectively, through oral or I.V. administration, can make a big difference to the health of the horse and head off more serious problems. This shows a high level of concern and professionalism on the part of the vets. But, this should also be a lesson for the riders who may have pushed their horse too fast for the conditions and the fitness/ability of the horse.

When cooling, there are some effective methods that can be used to help cool the horse quickly. Before getting to those, however, keep in mind that these horses run hot between vet checks. The longer the temperature stays elevated (or the higher it goes between stops) the greater the potential for the heat stress/heat exhaustion/heat stroke scenario to develop. If we cannot help to dissipate the heat faster between vet checks, then the horse must go slower to reduce the heat build up. Use any opportunity you can to help cool your horse between vet checks.

Concentrate on their necks, chests, shoulders, legs (inside and out) with REPEATED applications of water. Continue applying repeated layers of water until the water coming off is not heating up. Keep the horse moving to help dissipate the heat through airflow and keep good blood circulation to and from the muscle. Although there has always been a fear about using cold/ice water on the large muscles of the horse, the Atlanta Olympic research has shown this does NOT cause a problem with eventing horses. Although the avenue of ice water should be considered for a seriously overheated horse, it is usually not necessary for adequately managed endurance horses, if the repeated applications of water is used. Do not place towels over the neck and head as they act as insulation. Do not merely throw water on the horse, as this is ineffective. The water must have time to cover the skin to pick up the heat, then be removed. Loosen the girth as soon as you can as a tight girth restricts blood flow to part of the skin. Free up as much of the surface area as you can to let air circulate. Consider clipping the hair along the neck, chest and upper legs. This is necessary if the horse has started to develop a winter coat, as the hair traps the sweat underneath the hair, and acts as insulation.

If your horse is not eating and drinking well, slow down and take more time at the vet check area. The horse needs time to cool down, restore blood flow to the gut, and relax before the gut can start to work more efficiently to absorb water, electrolytes and energy. The longer holds allow the horse time to replace the sweat losses and regain energy. For many horses, this strategy (taking time in the beginning of the ride to let the horse eat and drink) pays off later. The horse gets stronger as the day goes on and finishes well. Horses that have higher body mass losses early in the ride will finish with a slower ride speed if that deficit is not effectively replaced and the water and electrolyte balance restored. When administering electrolytes, think about giving electrolytes for the next hour of sweat losses, not to catch up on what was lost on the last loop. Trying to "catch up" while still exercising is very difficult to do as the gut is not functioning at optimal levels and needs more time. Get creative to get as much water into the horse as you can by adding it to grain rations, soaking the hay, soaking beet pulp, etc. More horses are "under-watered" than "over-electrolyted" (but that`s another complete thesis!).

It is also worthwhile to stop and check your own hydration. A sweat loss resulting in as little as 3% of body mass can result in cognitive impairment, i.e., if you are given a simple mathematics test following a dehydration of about 3%, you do not score as high as you would when fully hydrated. Therefore, it is possible, that due to the dehydration-induced cognitive impairment, riders may in fact miss the signs the horse gives us. Fluid losses in riders may be 1-2 L/h, depending on conditions. We take a great interest in the colour of the horse`s urine (the darker yellow means more dehydration). It may be advisable for the rider to show the same concern towards him or herself!

Gayle Ecker, Equine Exercise Physiology