We arrived a few minutes before the riders left, and were taught how to take pulse using a stethoscope and to count respiration by watching the horse's flank. I picked up the knack of listening for a pulse pretty quickly, though the heartbeats were both quieter and slower than I had expected. Respiration was much harder! It took an immense amount of concentration and focus to watch a horse's flank and discern an actual breath as opposed to huffing, or quivering, or just shifting weight. I was not expecting that to be the trickiest part.
Riders set off not long after we arrived, at about 9:45, the four drivers first and then riders in 2-3 minute intervals.
|Rider staging area looking down toward the barns.|
|Riders setting off.|
The hold was all ready with buckets of water for cooling out, larger tubs for drinking, and some people had come ahead and left hay for their horses. Everyone at the hold had brought their dog, it seemed, and the pack played around for a while until the first horses arrived and then we got down to business.
|Drivers watering their horses soon after arriving.|
|Hold area getting busier!|
|Riders jogging their horses out for the vet check at the hold.|
Again, I was not great at seeking people out, but I did enjoy the horses I worked on. One man who was clearly very serious about his final check out asked me to come into the stall with the horse several minutes before he was due, and he stood with the horse's head in the back corner, talking to it and stroking it, while I talked to him as well to get the horse used to me. He was also apparently a bit picky about who did the check; I'm not sure what qualified me, but I liked talking to him and his horse was lovely and exceptionally well-behaved, so I was fine with it.
After the horses got their p&r checked at 20 minutes, they had to report in to a vet check, where they jogged out in a line and in a circle, had their backs palpated, and the vet did a general check-over that included listening to gut sounds. I've seen less involved annual physicals - it was really impressive!
|Final vet check,; the chestnut is having its back palpated.|
Overall, it was a great learning experience and a really terrific community of riders to work with. I'd do it again in a hearbeat!