Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lessons Learned - NASTR 50 - June 2004

The NASTR 50 would be my horse Sinatra’s and I third attempt at a 50-miler this season (2004). We had successfully completed 135 miles of LD and one 50 in the 2003 season of our first year of endurance riding. Due to saddle-fit issues, and money and time constraints, we had not done a 50 since July upon starting the year. So far we had 35 miles at Rides of March before a pull for lameness (slight muscle pull) and had successfully completed 50 miles at the Upham’s wonderful High Desert Classic I in April. Sinatra had done wonderfully at this ride and finished with plenty of energy and time to spare. NASTR would be our next attempt at getting a 50 under our belt.

One of my biggest problems is often trying to do too many things at once. What that usually means is that only one or two things are done well and everything else gets sort of half-assed. In this case, I think the care and time I usually devote to RIDER preparation prior to a ride was sorely neglected. There was a big Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento the weekend of the ride. I live in Reno and my mom lives in central California, we made plans to meet Thursday night and go to the Expo in Sacramento, which is about a 2-hour drive for both of us. I worked a full day Thursday and it was after 7 pm by the time we were checked into our hotel room in Sacramento. We had a late dinner at the nearby mall (hamburgers) and then stayed up WAY to late talking and planning what we wanted to see the next day.

Sleep was restless and not very good being in a strange bed. I couldn’t get the right temperature and woke up feeling tired. Not a great start to what I knew was going to be a long day. We had breakfast in the coffee shop and then went to the Horse Expo. Abbreviated version was the Expo was WONDERFUL but I was dehydrated and full of junk food as I left at 7 pm to begin my 2-hour drive home. Luckily my mom was headed to her sister’s house in Nevada City and was following me up the I-80 because about 5 miles before Auburn, my Blazer started smoking REALLY bad! I pulled off the road and there was a big puddle of oil that had been blown out of my exhaust pipe, never a good sign. So we called AAA and waited for about an hour and a half before the tow truck driver showed up. The tow truck driver was really nice and crawled around under my car with a flashlight. As luck would have it, the oil drain plug had come loose and that is where the oil was coming from. Since I had pulled over shortly after it had started smoking, the oil level was fine and I was able to drive home with no more problems. Unfortunately, instead of being home around 9 pm as I had planned, it was now 12:30. = (

4:00 a.m. rolled around way too soon. The NASTR ride was being held in Palomino Valley, less than half an hour from my barn, so I had the luxury of trailering out that morning. The ride started at 6:00 and I had mistakenly believed that 2 hours would give me plenty of time. Since I had gotten home late the night before, I made a quick lunch for myself and darted out the door. At stop at the gas station provided fuel for the truck and drinks for me. Off to the barn, a 5 minute drive, and the challenge of hooking up the trailer in the dark, by myself. That took MUCH longer than expected and I grabbed Sinatra and off we went, already a quarter till 6.

Sinatra ate the whole way in the trailer and at the ride site while I saddled. He had been grained and received his soaked mashes with electrolytes from the trainers while I was gone the last two nights, so I didn’t worry about that at least. I quickly saddled and went to the registration trailer. I signed in, received my rider packet, and vetted through. All of the other 50’s had left by then; it was 6:30, a full half hour after the official start time, by the time I was mounted and heading out. = (

Poor Sinatra, he didn’t know if he was in a ride or not. He thought he was when we got to camp, but now we were out on the trail by ourselves, with no one in sight. He was being pretty sluggish, not wanting to walk out and trotting really slow. I took advantage of the pace to study my ride map. We had a 28-mile loop with a quick trot-by at 20 miles, before returning to camp for an hour hold. Then it was a 17-mile loop with a 15 minute hold before that last 5-miles that essentially went “around the block” from ridecamp. This first loop was supposed to be pretty difficult with a long climb in the first half. So Sinatra and I trudged along, me pushing him at times in order to maintain a 6 to 7 mph pace. And we started to climb…..

Slowly at first, just a gentle slope, but it kept on going, and going, and going. Soon we were in a canyon, following a little natural stream headed the opposite direction. After several miles (about 10-12 miles in maybe) we came to a spring-fed watering trough. Sinatra took a long drink and I sponged him. Then the hill took a turn for the worse and was virtually straight up for the next mile and a half or so. Once to the top we were rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys (hey, I can ALMOST see my house from here!). We were at the highest point for miles around and it was spectacular. We started to drop slightly and followed the single-track trail along through the canyons on top of the ridge.

In one of these canyons, a flicker of movement high and to my right caught my eye. It was a mustang herd! The stallion was either black or a really dark bay and he had at least three mares with him. He started trumpeting down to us (that really loud snort they do) and Sinatra just STOPPED! NO, stupid horse, GO! He had his neck stretched to it fullest and was locked on the stallion, who was clearly agitated and running back and forth several yards in front of his mares. I was kicking Sinatra only to be rewarded with one small step, then another, still not paying attention to me. GREAT, just what I need is a horse fight in the middle of nowhere with no one coming behind to save me if something went wrong. Sinatra then made matters worse by trumpeting back at the stallion, challenging him. That’s when I lost it and started screaming at him and slapping him with my hand on his neck as hard as I could. It was enough to get his attention and he promptly trotted out of there, with QUITE the spring in his step!

This was what I needed all along, finally a horse with some energy and forward impulsion. We easily trotted the next couple of miles (with Sinatra and I both checking over our shoulders every so often) until we met up with a couple that were just getting ready to leave a water trough. They politely asked if they could leave and I said yes. Asked if they had seen the mustangs and they had with no issues, luckily since they were both riding mares, one of which WAS a mustang. They left and I got off and took a few minutes for Sinatra to drink and be sponged. Got his head back on me and not the other horses (Oh Mom! Now we have someone to chase!) and started down the trail. This next section was single-track that ran along side of the mountain, often with a steep drop off. Good training for Tevis (a future dream of mine). I didn’t mind the heights and Sinatra is very sure footed. We followed this little trail for a while through some small up and down little hills and then started our descent. YUCK! Steep, nasty, loose, shale footing. I was off walking and would slide down until I hit the end of my reins/leadrope. Sinatra’s job was to eat weeds and act as my anchor until I came to a stop. Then he would slide down behind me as I took off again until he stopped to grab another bite. We looked like a dysfunctional slinky I’m sure but it worked. It took a LONG time to get down this hill but with the footing I just didn’t want to ride it.

At the bottom was what would have been our trot-by. Instead there was a friendly volunteer with a trailer for those who rider optioned and a water tank but no vets. She was with two riders who had pulled and they were happy to hear I was last and no one was behind me. Sinatra took a good long drink and then we started the unseemingly long trot on the hard packed dirt road to camp. We had to ride through the swarms of Mormon cricket covering the road and I took perverse pleasure in hoping Sinatra would squish many of them as we went. We had to ride past a farmhouse with lush green pastures and Sinatra was very nervous and anxious the entire time. Alligators in the grass maybe????

The trail diverted into the sage again and a hidden little creek for another drink. This was a nice little section and it was good to be off the road again. Finally we caught up to the couple in front of us again, Peter and Kari, two vets from the Redding area if I remember correctly. Their Mustang mare was pretty tired and they were going to Rider Option so were walking in the last 3 miles or so to the check. I SHOULD have gone on ahead but stayed with them, both Sinatra and I finally glad for the company.

I reached camp again at 12:50, a full six hours and then some since I had left. WOW! But, at least I was nearly 30-miles done and I know the last 5 are all flat, so how bad can the rest be right? Went to the trailer and pulled tack. Let Sinatra eat a little as I sponged him and then went to vet through. He was 50/44 on his CRI and had all A’s except for a B on muc. Membranes and Gut Sounds. We went back to the trailer and I tried to care for myself. By this time, the lack of sleep and fluids was really starting to catch up to me. I was dying for some protein but could hardly eat. I forced myself to eat half of my turkey sandwich and drink 32 oz of water. I had been drinking half-Gatorade and half-water on the trail but still felt dehydrated. I tried to just rest and let my stomach settle, by now I was feeling pretty sick. But my horse was fine so after our hold I was saddled up and headed back out.

The vet couple had both pulled at the lunch stop, Rider Option, but I was excited to find out I was heading out on the same loop as some of the top-ten on the 75-mile ride that was being held in conjunction with this. I know all of these people, Mayeroff’s, Dave Rabe, Nicole Woodson, so had a great time. Sinatra had pretty much just poked along for the first half so I felt like I had a fresh horse under me as we left camp. He was so full of himself, that going down a hill several miles out he proceeded to try to buck me off because I was holding him back from the horses in front of him that were already down the hill and heading off. I stayed with him (Yeah for me!) and got him settled again but he was pulling hard to go and loving the faster pace. When we finally got to the first water stop, all the horses drank well and ate the hay that was set out for them. The Mayeroff’s left but I stayed behind to ride with Dave and Nicole, who were going to go a little slower. We had a great time and set off on another big climb.

On Rides of March, we had ridden this same trail but instead of making us go up and over the big microwave hill, they kindly led us around. Not so at the NASTR ride (this is supposed to be a good conditioning ride for Tevis, Hal Hall won and got BC on the 75). Up and up and up we went yet again. It was so nice to be riding with someone though and Dave and Nicole were setting a great pace except for several long stops since Nicole was starting to not feel so well either. We finally made it to the top and hiked down the gently sloping other side, Sinatra was eating everything in sight as we went. Down to the bottom and the next water stop, by now it is after 4 pm and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to make it. I have about 7 miles back to camp, a 15-minute hold, and then 5 more miles to do in slightly less than 2 hours. No big deal some might say, but I have a young horse, in only his second season, and by this time I was thoroughly TRASHED.

We watered the horses and then I left off by myself on the “short-cut” for the 50’s since the 75’s had a few extra miles tacked on to this loop. I tried to get Sinatra to lope some so I could relax some of my muscles, but he his a trotting horse by nature and takes more work to make lope. We cruised along towards the next water and I thought there were actually some horses in front of us. Sinatra was being spooky about some dirt bikes and stuff since we were by ourselves again (horse-eating fences and such) so this section was actually what probably put me over the edge. By the time we got to the water, I could see that there were two riders up the trail. We set off to catch them. As I got closer, they started to trot. I wanted to yell, “I’m only a 50!” in case they were the front-runners on the 75. I didn’t want them to think I was racing for a placing. Eventually I caught up to them and realized they were riding the 50 as well!

They could not have been more surprised. They were sure they were the last ones out. We started talking and I was VERY pleased to meet Gretchen and Merri from Bridgeport. In fact, this is the same Merri that went to Egypt earlier this year and whose stories I eagerly awaited reading on Ridecamp! We all decided that time was against us at this point and to just walk in from here. There is not sense in racing two young horses (Gretchen's and mine), plus Raffiq felt off to Merri. So we happily chatted our way back to camp, arriving at 6:05 pm, five minutes after the cut-off with a hold and 5-miles that would not be accomplished today.

Although I’m disappointed I’m now 2 for 4 in my 50-miler attempts, I certainly can’t blame this one on anyone by myself. I started late, I took my time when I should have paced better, and I didn’t take care of myself and was hindering my horse. Sinatra vetted out great at the finish, 50/50 CRI and all A’s, I had a TON of horse left. I am happy with my decision not to push him once I realized I would have had to really rush. I certainly don’t condition at those speeds yet (10 mph for several miles) that would have been necessary in order to finish the ride. It would not have been fair to ask that after already traversing 40+ miles of difficult trail.

So, chalk this one up to lessons learned. At least I know we’ll be better prepared next time. Our next ride will be in September, wish us luck at our 5th attempt! Hopefully we’ll have 150 miles to our credit soon. =)

My First 50 - Tour de Washoo - July 2003

Riding with the Big Boys, First 50, Washoo July, 26

It wasn’t that long ago (Rides of March, 2003) that my horse, CT’s Sinatra, and I completed our first LD ride. My mom (who had also done her first ride) and I remarked somewhere around mile 20 of the 30 mile trail that we could not IMAGINE doing 50 miles. We were especially worn out, and our horses were tired as well. We could hardly believe the riders coming in back to camp in the near dark, just finishing, as we had already taken a little break, had dinner, and received our awards. I guess it’s amazing what a difference a few months can make….
This last Saturday, July 26th, my horse and I had the pleasure of completing our first 50 mile ride at the Washoo Ride held in Washoe Valley near Reno, NV. We were very sedate, back of the pack finishers, who completed with about 50 minutes to spare. My biggest thanks goes out to my riding partner for the day, a man named Ted from the Cool, CA area who has been doing endurance since 1978 and who’s mare is now just a few miles short of her 3,000 mark. Our two horses worked together very well and it was a boost, for both Sinatra’s spirits and mine, to have some company for our first real venture into the sport of endurance. =)
I haven’t had Sinatra very long, just since early February of this year. I named him that because he definitely stands out in the crowd with his two blue eyes and overo paint job. He is a 5-year-old grade gelding with four white stockings and a great BIG blaze (almost a bald-face). He always causes a mild stir in camp and people usually ask his breeding, of which I have NO clue. He must be one of those horses that are pretty generic looking because I’ve heard a VERY wide range of guesses. =) We have done 4 rides this year prior to Washoo, all LD’s, with a 2-day 50 as his last ride(s). He was ready to move up, but I was a little unsure of myself.
Last week was near record highs for the Reno area but the weatherman had been forecasting mid-90’s for Saturday for the last week and it hadn’t changed much. With that in mind I decided to brave the heat and make our first attempt at the longer distance. Friday I was able to leave work early and, with a slight delay in packing due to thundershowers, was at ridecamp (about an hour from my house) by 5 pm. Sinatra vetted in with all A’s and proceeded to eat everything in camp. He is VERY good about eating at and during a ride, he thinks he ALWAYS going 100 miles the next day even though, at this point, 30 was his longest ride. I decided to forgo sleeping in the cab of the truck for the back of the horse trailer since it would be cooler and roomier. Note to self: NOT a good idea with a horse that eats, and eats, and eats all night long. I ended up removing his hay bag around 11:30, empty bucket by 1:00 and throwing a flake of hay on the ground, because I was tired of him jerking the trailer reaching for wayward strands of hay and weeds, sometime around 2:00 in the morning…. So much for sleeping before a big day! I was very comfortable though, so maybe some earplugs would be a good investment for me. Sinatra ate about ½ bale of hay, drank about 10 gallons of water, and peed an entire lake to his credit. Good boy!
Ride morning dawned crisp and clear. It actually got pretty cool (low 60’s overnight) for the first time in about two weeks so it felt GOOD out. I decided to wear my new tights that I made myself (gloat), a jog bra, and a long sleeved white shirt based upon recommendations received on Ridecamp. I also wore a Camelback (70 oz) with half Poweraid and half water for myself to drink (this worked GREAT, I just had to tighten the straps as it was emptied) and carried two large (32 oz) bottles of water to squirt Sinatra with. I knew staying wet and cool would be the name of the game today. The trail was opened at 7:00 am and I started in the middle of the pack. Sinatra usually does well in a crowd but today was the first time he thought about bucking with me. He wanted to trot out but we had some slower riders on narrow trail in front of us so I had to hold him back. He got a little more “rounded” than usual but after a verbal warning on my behalf, cantered in place for a few strides and then preceded to behave himself except for a little occasional head tossing to let me know the pace was still not suiting his tastes.
The trail was laid out extremely well. Three loops of 25, 15, and 10 miles respectively that all returned to camp for the vet checks. The first loop had quite a bit of elevation changes, taking us up, up, up in the morning to the top of McClellan peak where the TV Stations have their towers. There were beautiful views along the way that looked both west down on Washoe Valley and the lake as well as views south over the town of Carson City. At the top near the towers ride management had put out some hay and several water troughs. Sinatra drank very well (he usually does) and then dove into the hay. I waited at the top for about 3 minutes or so for his heart rate to drop to 60 before we continued on.
From the top of the mountain we headed northeast down towards the town of Dayton. We didn’t quite go that far (they do on the 100 mile Washoe ride held in May) but rather after reaching the bottom, turned and went northwest back towards Jumbo Grade which would link us into the valley. I rode most of this stretch with Connie Creech’s little group and we got off and walked some of the long downhills. At one point, we crawled down a really rocky hill to some water troughs that were naturally fed at the bottom of a small canyon. Sinatra didn’t drink here (it was only about 10 minutes since the last water where he drank really well) and I totally ripped my sponge bag on a stray piece of wire while sponging him off. I stuffed the destroyed bag into my cantle pack and the sponge was strapped into an empty water bottle holder on the same. At this point, we headed back up the really gross rocky hill and I let Sinatra really tail me for the first time. I have been working on tailing with him on flat roads so he’s used to me being back there, but he still needs someone else in front of him as incentive to keep walking down the road. As our little group headed back up the hill, I grabbed onto his tail and off we went! A little more ambitiously than I had originally intended! I quick tug on his lead and he slowed down to a more sedate pace. =)
At the next water stop, a puddle with a really steep edge about 10 minutes from the last one, again Sinatra didn’t want to drink. This kind of concerned me since he had now refused water twice in a row, and that was VERY unlike him. I have a feeling this one was more of a location refusal though, since he’s still working on the whole “puddle crossing” issue and he would have had to step in the water to get a drink at this stop (sigh). So I hung out there a little longer than most people and Connie’s group moved off. It was at this point (maybe 15 miles in) that Ted Goppert came along. He waited for me while I tried to coerce Sinatra to drink and even let me borrow his scoop to see if he would drink out of that (he didn’t). So we continued on, up another mountain and back down into a fun little twisty single-track trail at the bottom of a canyon. A group of three riders, one on a green horse, and one a green rider joined us, we took turns leading/following and our little group progressed very well. This trail lead us out to Jumbo Grade where there were water troughs waiting at the point where this loop intersected with the last 10 mile loop. Sinatra drank really well here and we elyted the horses. From this water stop, it was only about 5 miles or so back to camp. Once back in the park, we followed a fun little trail that twists and turns through the sagebrush. We would take this trail (2 miles or so total) all three times today as we looped back into camp. About ½ mile from camp, we got off and walked the horses in. We came in from our first 25 miles at 11:28 am and Sinatra pulsed right in at 42. Good Boy! =)
At this point, we had an hour hold so I went back to the trailer, pulled tack, and gave Sinatra his mash. He happily dove into his mash and slurped up every last bit. When he was done eating and I was about halfway through my tuna sandwich, we went over to vet through. Kevin Lazarchef was the head vet; he is a REALLY nice guy that I have gotten to know from attending several rides this year. He has a daughter just a few months younger than my son, who just turned one the weekend before. He always asks me how Taren (my son) is doing and knew that I was going for my first 50-mile completion. He checked Sinatra over, gave him a G for “Gross” on those mashy mucous membranes (actually an A) and had me trot him out. As I came back from the trot out, he looked me dead in the eye and told me “He’s pretty lame, we’re going to have to pull you.” I gasped and exclaimed that I had JUST trotted him to the vetcheck from the trailer and he had looked just fine! Kevin started laughing and said that he was just kidding, he looked great, A’s for impulsion and gait and that we were cleared to go. BRAT! =) So we went back to the trailer for a little more lunch for both of us (Sinatra = eat, eat, eat) then tacked up, met up with Ted, and headed back out.
This loop (15 miles) took us west out of camp towards the beach. It was very pleasant riding along the water’s edge with the breeze. We rode the entire length of the lake, maybe 5 miles, probably less (I’m a horrible judge of distances). Due to the sand, which could be fairly deep, we walked almost this entire stretch. From there we cut over to a dirt road for an “out and back.” Sinatra had fun spooking and looking at the other horses and farm equipment that lived along the road. At the end of the road was a clipboard that you had to sign with your name and rider number. We both signed-in and then headed back out. Honestly, this was the only point in the trail where I wish there was some more water. Due to the low water level at the lake, we hadn’t braved what looked to be some pretty boggy mud/sand to get a drink there. After we had returned from the “out and back,” we were able to get the horses a drink at a water trough in a little parking lot. They both drank well and we soaked them down. I also soaked myself, which felt absolutely wonderful! From here, it was back into the park for a quick jaunt back to the twisty trail into camp. I think it was around 3:30 or so as we got back into camp, Sinatra pulsed in at 48 and again had all A’s and B’s at his vetcheck (well, actually another G for “Gross” on those mucous membranes due to an apple and some carrots this time!). This was only a 15-minute hold, tack on, so it wasn’t long before we were headed back out for our last 10 miles!
These next five miles or so were probably the hardest for Sinatra. At this point, I had already ridden further than I ever had before (40 miles) and he was a little disappointed to leave camp but just seemed to resign himself to the fact that I was going to ride him forever, I was never getting off, and we would just keep coming to camp and leaving again until he died. =) Once he realized this, he just kept moving down the trail, my slow but steady boy! He had actually lead a good bit of the day today since Ted’s mare didn’t like to be in front. That was pretty new for him, leading another horse, since usually when we ride with company he’s in the middle or back. But he did good and just keep on going down the trail. This last 10-mile loop took us back out northeast towards Jumbo Grade, which we crossed, and into the smaller hills on the north side of the grade. Both horses (and riders) were pretty hot and tired. It started to cloud over (thundershowers on hot days are very common in Nevada) and that gave us some relief. It even sprinkled a tiny bit. My knees started to get very sore, something I used to have problems with but had gone away as I started riding more. So I got off and walked as much as possible but it felt like I had a huge blister on the bottom of my right foot (I don’t so go figure). This last 10 would actually have been a really fun loop on some fresh horses, but for now we were just going down the trail nice and steady. About 8 miles from camp, Sinatra realized we were heading back and started to perk up. When the trail would turn away for the general direction of camp, he would LOOK towards camp and kind of wonder why we were going a different direction. Once we looped back to the water troughs where the first loop joined in, I had a whole new horse. Sinatra drank but was very eager to keep going, since he now knew exactly where he was (we had ridden this trail several times before the ride as well). My steady boy took a nice easy trot and carried us most of the way back. I did get off to walk a couple more times but for the most part stayed on and trotted.
I was a little disappointed as we came upon the finish line. I had always envisioned myself cantering across the finish on my first 50 amidst some clapping from the volunteers (silly maybe). Instead we found that no one was there to great us and I didn’t have the heart to make Sinatra canter. Some people directed us to the vetcheck where the “new” finish line was. We got off and walked the couple hundred yards or so to the vetcheck and Sinatra was pulsed down (56) when we got there. It was about 6:10 pm so that was a total ride time of 11 hours and 10 minutes, “trail” time of 9:55. He vetted out with all A’s and B’s again and we did it, we got our completion! Dr. Lazarchef congratulated me on a job well done and asked me if that was my first 50 since the baby. When I told him that was my first 50 EVER he was pretty impressed and re-expressed what a good job I had done. I was very proud of my boy! He has come a VERY long way in the five months I’ve owned him. The trust and bond we have built is amazing and he really looks to me for guidance and assurance.
I went back to the trailer and pulled tack and gave Sinatra another mash and a bunch of hay to chew on. I didn’t sponge him since it was getting cool but he wasn’t sweaty except for under the saddle anyways. After a few rubs and pats I went to go see what was left of the ride dinner. It is kind of sad for those last few finishers, especially us newbies doing our first rides, when it is all over and done with by the time we get into camp. Dinner had already been served, awards presented, and most people were leaving camp on their way home. There was plenty of food left (hamburgers, etc) and we got our choice of colors on the finishing awards (bags from Rider Relief). I have YET to get a T-shirt in the five rides that I have done now…. =) So I don’t even KNOW who won, who top tenned, who got BC, who finished, who didn’t, etc. I DID enjoy sitting and visiting with the people who were remaining, a well-rounded group of very experienced riders. And I learned that if you are a male, it pays to race to the top of the hill at our rides out west. We had a very cute female photographer at the top of the hill waiting for riders to come in. Since she was all alone and could see riders coming WELL before they got there she, umm, how do I put this, decided to “sunbathe” so she wouldn’t get any tan lines. =) And no, not even the front-runners were lucky enough to get a show!
All and all I had a great ride and learned some valuable lessons. Am I hooked on 50’s? Heck, I was hooked on 50’s before I even did one! =) My 105 miles of LD I did so far this season was just to get ready for what I accomplished on Saturday. And really, these 50’s are just in preparation for my final goal, 100’s. I’m hoping to try my first one sometime late NEXT year.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Second Ride - Land of the Neversweats 25 - 2003

Saturday, May 17, 2003

My horse, CT’s Sinatra (so named because he’s a paint-cross gelding with two blue eyes), and I enjoyed the beautiful weather and gracious hospitality of our hosts this weekend at the Land of the Neversweats Ride. He and I were going for a completion on the 25 LD on Saturday, our second ride ever. I’ve only had him since February of this year and we’ve been slowly conditioning and getting ready for rides.

I left Reno on Friday around 2:30 and arrived in camp around 5 pm. Not bad for 100 miles in an old truck that’s getting a new engine this weekend! Pre-ride vetting was supposed to be happening between 4 and 7 pm. I was met at the gate to the Nucking Futz Ranch (yes, that is the correct name) by a helpful volunteer who directed me on where to park and let me know that they were going to provide dinner to all the riders on Friday night at no charge as well! I got my gelding unloaded and camp all set up. He had handled the trip very well and, although eager to check things out, he was behaving himself very nicely. Spending the entire day tied to the trailer at the Washoe Ride two weeks ago while I volunteered and scribed for the vet was the BEST thing I could have done for him. He is starting to take all this traveling and excitement at rides very much in stride. Not bad for a 5 year old that hadn’t been out much before I bought him.

Dinner was excellent but due to a sudden illness by one vet and an emergency with our other, Dr. McCartney didn’t arrive to start pre-ride vet in until almost 7 pm. Everyone lined up and patiently waited while she checked each horse. This ride was hosting a 25 on both Sat and Sun, a 55 on Sat and Sun, and a 2-day 105 mile ride. After vetting was completed we had our pre-ride meeting in the dark, around 8:30 or so. Dr. McCartney warned us to take very good care of our horses tomorrow. There were 63 horses and only one vet, which meant that if she had to treat a horse, then they may have to stop the ride. They staggered the start of the 55 and 25 so that she could attend the away check that the 55’s had around the 20 mile mark (I’m not exactly sure on that mileage). The 55’s would start at 7 am and the 25’s would have a leisurely morning and start at 10 am. I turned off my alarm clock (there was NO WAY I was going to sleep that late) and finally crawled into bed around 9:45 pm.

I slept a lot better than I expected in the truck cab. It's just long enough I could stretch out. My biggest problem was the full moon was SO bright it was shining in the windshield and right into my eyes. So I slept with my head under the covers for a while. =) I need to get a windshield shade. The other windows are tinted really dark and you can't see in. I woke up when they made the rounds honking the horn at 6 am…. What to do for the next 4 hours??? I got up and gave my horse his breakfast and then crawled back into my sleeping bag and read my book for a while. Sat around and watched the 55’s get ready to go. Finally it was time for me to start saddling my horse and before I knew it, it was 10 am and they yelled, “Trails Open!”

There were 11 of us entered in the 25 mile ride. We all left at a nice leisurely walk and after a few 100 yards, took up a nice working trot. Sinatra was feeling good and behaving himself very well. We were soon passed by a lady on a big Morgan gelding who was traveling much faster than I wanted to that day (she ended up winning the ride). After about 6 miles, our little group (as in all 11 of us) ran into Dave Cootware going the opposite direction. He was the front-runner in the 55 and was kind enough to let us know we had all missed the turn about a mile back. So we all turned around and back-tracked, oh well, at least when EVERYONE misses it, it makes things fun and very fair! That was the ONLY section of trail that was not clearly marked that day.

Sinatra was doing great on pacing. I love this horse! We ride and train by ourselves quite often so he’s not very attached and will let me know when he wants to speed up or slow down, regardless of what the horses in front of him are doing. Today was the first time he felt a little “racy” with me but he was still very easy to rate and control. He’s just starting to understand that endurance is a lot of fun and it’s even more enjoyable in company! We did a lot of trotting with intermittent walking where it was rocky or he needed a break. I ended up riding the first 10 miles or so with a really nice man by the name of Heinrich (I believe) from Napa on a dark gray 6 year-old Arab. The trail was really nice, with a lot of single track and jeep roads. There was some rock but you could just slow down and walk through it. There was also some deep sand, but we have sand we train in at home so Sinatra didn’t mind. There were some rolling hills and great views of the surrounding valley. Not a tree in sight though, unless it was hooked to someone’s sprinkler system! This is the N. CA desert after all, only a few miles from the NV border.

After a short but really steep hill, I got off to adjust my girth and didn’t really see Heinrich again (he ended up finishing 5th). So I rode the last 10 miles back into camp with a lady from Red Bluff (sorry, I’m absolutely HORRIBLE with names!). Our two horses were pretty evenly matched and we enjoyed taking turns leading and following. About ½ mile from the finish, she and another couple behind us decided to walk their horses in. Sinatra had been having great recoveries all day and was happily trotting along at about 100 on my heart rate monitor so I let him cruise on in. I walked him the last 100 yards and by the time we go to the In Timer, he was at 70. I jumped off, grabbed my vet card, got my time, and walked him around the corner to the P & R where he pulsed in at 56. Good boy! At our first ride, the vetcheck was so exciting that it took him about 5 minutes to get used to everything and come down, even though he was walking in at 70 at that time as well.

Since we had an hour hold at this point (20 miles) I walked him back to the trailer to untack. He drank a BUNCH of water (he always does) and dove into his beet pulp mash (soaked Manna Equine Senior w/ electrolytes). I made myself a sandwich and let him eat. When he was done with his mash, I took him over to get vetted. He received all A’s except for a B on capillary refills and his pulse after his CRI was 40! Wow! This horse is doing awesome!

We went back to the trailer and hung out until I thought it was time to go. I saddled up and walked over to the Out Timer to discover I had hit it right on the nose and it was exactly time for me to leave. So I got on and started on the orange 5 mile loop. This loop was REALLY rocky, lots of loose shale and big river rock in a dried out wash. Sinatra and I were taking it slow and easy (he was doing his “slug horse” walk) and the couple who was behind us right before the first vet check came up. I followed them for about 3 of the 5 miles and then trotted towards the finish as they walked their horses in. Again, Sinatra was just happily cruising along on a loose rein, choosing his pace, at a nice 100 bpm on the heart monitor. Suddenly, about 100 yards from the finish line…. There was a HORSE-EATING DONKEY!!! At least Sinatra thought so. He stopped, snorted and then plowed through the sagebrush in an effort to get away from the donkey, who was calmly standing by the fence on the OTHER side of the road! Silly horse! Oh well, there went my low heart rate and two finishing positions as Sinatra shot up to 130 on the monitor and took a little while to settle down. He finally pulsed in at 54 about 3 minutes after the donkey episode, still a very fair recovery. But the couple ended up passing me at the finish and I was 8th out of 11th.

I took Sinatra back to the trailer and gave him some carrots and an apple. I untacked and sponged him off. We then walked back to get our completion check. He was all A’s this time with a CRI of 40 again. I was so proud of my guy! He did AWESOME this ride! I weighed him after the ride and he only lost 9 pounds! From 833 to 824, he stands about 14.2 with his shoes on. =)

At the awards that night, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that we won the Horse of Excellence Award!!! It’s a beautiful sheepskin rug (the kind with the really long fleece). My 10 month old son loves to lay on it but I have it on the back of our sofa so he can’t get it too dirty. My thanks to Ride Manager Rosalee Bradley and all the volunteers and sponsors for this ride. EVERY rider in the top-10 for every ride that weekend got their choice of a nice prize and top finishers in their weight division also got a bottle of fly spray (I was also top Featherweight). The food and hospitality were absolutely fantastic and very much appreciated! I will definitely be back next year, hopefully to ride the 55!

Things I learned on this trip:
1. Food: I made some of that box Pasta Salad and added cut up ham pieces and some peas. It was GREAT cold for a Friday night dinner and snack after the ride. They also were providing potato soup and rolls on Friday night for dinner for free. It was excellent but I did not do it justice. I had oatmeal for breakfast, I just sat and read my book and forced it down a little at a time (I have a nervous stomach and cannot eat before a ride). I did eat two packages. I had a tuna w/cheese sandwich for lunch. It was good cause I made it with a lot of mayo and relish (and GARLIC, yum) so was plenty moist and went down easy. Sinatra was SURE that he wanted some, even though I told him horses don't like tuna, but he persuaded me into giving him my last bite (mostly bread crust) and he agreed with me, horses DON'T like tuna! =) I drank a TON out on the trail. I filled my big water bottles (about 32 oz) with 1/2 Poweraid and 1/2 water and drank one whole one before our 15 mile hold. I drank the last bottle on my last 10 miles of trail and drank an additional 16-20 oz or so at the vetcheck back in camp. I had to PEE when I got into camp for the check and again when we were done, so that's really good for me! Dinner was plentiful and good. Pork roast with applesauce, rolls, potato or macaroni salad, corn, coleslaw, and a TON of desserts. I skipped dessert too, I just can't handle a bunch of sugar after something like that. The applesauce was plain out of the jar but tasted SO good!

2. Check that your water tank doesn't leak BEFORE you fill it up. Someone at my barn was being helpful and put in a 90 degree elbow for me so my on/off valve was below my built in holder and it leaked (slowly, luckily) where the valve connected to the elbow. I was thankful I had bought one of those BIG muck buckets cause I put it under to catch the drips and it was more than 1/2 full when I got there and had sloshed out some. So my water that should have lasted me all weekend was gone by Friday night. Luckily I had bought water bottles for me and my big bucket and my 5 gal bucket were full so I didn't have a problem and they had water troughs close by.

3. I LOVE my big muck bucket. I filled it up when I got there and ended up dumping about 1/3 when we left Sat evening. Sinatra drank out of it some and I used it to fill smaller buckets to sponge him off with.

4. Train horse to wear shipping boots. Sinatra had a FIT when I put one on his right back leg on Thursday night so we made the trip without. He did look awfully cute in his fly mask that he wears in the trailer to protect his eyes from flying hay bits. And he LOVED his polar-fleece cooler on Friday night (it was pretty cold and windy).

5. Husbands are great at helping you clean and wash the horse trailer, but they look at you kind of funny when you try to explain how your water tank got filled up ALL the way before you noticed it leaked and then created a 1/2" of mud in your tack room.... Husbands can also pull out those rubber mats much better than wives can! =)

I had a GREAT ride and a nice trip and am really looking forward to the ride in two weeks at Silver Springs, NV hosted by the NEDA club. Hope to see you there!

Our Very First Ride - Rides of March 30 - 2003

The hours were creeping by and I was watching the clock constantly. At noon I would be free to leave work for the day and start my adventure! It was Friday, March 21st, 2003 and tomorrow I would be riding in my first LD, a 30 mile ride. I had only planned on working half a day in order to finish loading my gear in the trailer and meet my Mom, who was bringing her horse JT up from California, at my friend Dovie’s house in Lemmon Valley around 2 pm. Finally, I was free to go and I drove the whole way home with butterflies in my stomach. This was the SECOND time I had attempted to do my FIRST ride. Last time, I had arrived at the barn on Friday to find my mare Sugar standing on three legs with a framing nail almost 3” deep in her foot. 8 months and $2,500 in surgery later, I still had a permanently lame horse. I sold her in March of 2002 and had just recently purchased Sinatra, my new blue-eyed gelding, on February 17th. Needless to say, I changed into my riding clothes in a hurry, grabbed the last of my stuff from the house, and practically flew to the barn to check on my horse. Yeah! He was looking great and ready to go. I loaded him in the trailer and away we went.

This was a nice first ride since it was so close to my house. Lemmon Valley is just on the other side of the mountains from where I live, and I have been out there several times in the last month to pre-ride some of the course with Dovie. She had offered to let us keep the horses at her house, a few blocks from ride camp, and use her extra corral. It was nice being able to go home and sleep in my own bed and not have to worry about my horse getting loose. Plus I knew he would sleep better and be able to move about more freely. Although it was kind of difficult having two trailers in two different places and having to keep track of what went where when. My mom showed up about 5 minutes after I got there and we got her horse all unloaded and stuff transferred over.

We decided to haul over to the ride site and get a spot before it got too crowded and take a short ride before vetting in. Found a nice spot along the arena so I could block Sinatra in and he wouldn’t have cars driving behind him. JT is good about that kind of stuff so he got the driveway side. Sinatra was SO excited. We took a walk around ridecamp before saddling up and he was checking everything out. Everyone was checking him out also, he really stands out in the crowd. I got a LOT of “nice horse” comments; Mom said he was the belle of the ball. We went back to the trailer and saddled up. Sinatra was so excited he practically scooted out from under the saddle blanket in fear when I put it on him because he was so busy looking around at stuff.

Since I had ridden some of these trails before, I kind of had an idea about the “pre-ride” loop I wanted to go on. But one wrong turn found us cutting new trail through the sagebrush. At least I had a general idea of where another trail was so we headed that way and eventually came upon what would be the very first part of the ride tomorrow. We headed back to camp and decided on the way that since JT wasn’t conditioned for the deep sand, and Sinatra was barefoot, that we would take it easy in the sand and hard-packed roads and cruise along everywhere else. Made it back to camp with no problems and both the boys vetted in with all A’s. There was a scale there (3’ x 5’ wooden board between two PVC pipe rails) and we decided to weigh the horses before the ride. JT was a good boy and weighed 930 lbs. Sinatra edged up to the board, eyes bulging and snorting through his nose. Then he decided to come through the PVC rails, but JUMPED the entire board. He barely hit the front and back edges with one hoof. This caused quite the scene since the scale was next to the vet check line and there were quite a few horses waiting. Oh well, we had enjoyed other people’s antics while we were waiting. Maybe next time…

That night was the ride meeting where we learned that it would be 15 miles to the vet check (and first water) and then 15 miles on a different trail back to camp. Joyce, who boards her horse Alex where I keep Sinatra, was a volunteer for the ride and we put our vet supplies in her truck. We went to Dovie’s for dinner and had good food and great conversation with several other riders (Lou, Mike, and Sally) who had been in the sport for years. Dovie offered to feed in the morning for us, very nice, so we could sleep in more. One last check on the horses and we went home to bed, excited about the next day.

Our ride started at 8 am but we woke up at 6 and hurriedly got dressed and ate a quick breakfast of eggs and toast. It was supposed to be around 50 that day but really windy, so I wore my polar-fleece tights, a T-shirt, and a windproof jacket. We left the house by 6:30 and drove over to watch the start of the 50 at 7 am. There were almost 100 horses entered in the 50! We parked the truck on a side street and stayed warm in the cab, watching the horses mill about and then set off down the trail. When it was clear to go, we headed over to Dovie’s to catch our two and get ready. We had our halters and horses at Dovie’s but our saddles in my trailer two blocks away at ridecamp. Away we went to get saddled. Once we were almost ready, we realized we had left our water bottles in Mom’s cooler in my truck at Dovie’s. Great! I had some extra empty bottles so we went to find a hose to fill them. Instead we found one of the ride managers, who gave us some waters to take with us, they were for us at the vet check anyways she said. Thanks! Now we’re ready! No wait…. I don’t have my sunglasses! And I REALLY need them. So Mom rides and I walk Sinatra BACK over to Dovie’s house so I can get them out of my truck. Okay, now we’re ready. We ride over to the starting line and don’t see anyone else, it’s already 8:20. Off we go!

The boys are feeling good and since we’ve already walked all over the place this morning, we start off at a nice brisk trot/gait (Sinatra trots, JT gaits). Pretty soon we are starting to catch and pass other people who started after the “pack” and we even leapfrog a little bit with a couple of really nice girls from the Auburn area. We stick to our plan, walk in the deep sand, trot where we can. Unfortunately due to the dirt bikes that ride in this area, often where the footing is good the trail is all whooped out. That’s really hard on the horses’ legs so we end up walking more than planned. The trail was nice, well marked and easy to follow, pretty soon it lead us up a big hill and down the backside. We get off to walk the downhill. Mom learns that JT had a lot longer stride than her downhill and tries to keep him behind or beside her. Sinatra followed behind really well at the end of my leadrope, letting me choose the path.

The trail continues to follow the edge of a burn from prior years and meanders between and among the hills. There is a lot more up and down than either of us were expecting. One hill we encounter is REALLY big and REALLY steep. I get off and decide to lead Sinatra up. It doesn’t take very long of me trying to drag his butt (he’s too busy eating the bits of grass that are growing along the trail) to realize this is NOT a good idea. Mom and JT are now way ahead of us and the last two riders (who we had passed earlier) are now passing me. I try to turn Sinatra so I’m on the uphill side but that means he’s facing away from the other horses. He’s having none of that so I decide to mount on the offside. I get about halfway up when Sinatra freaks out (I hadn’t ever done this before) and trots off into the rocks, headed totally off trail and in a hurry. I don’t know what is worse, hanging with my belly on the saddle trying to stop my horse or worrying that he’s going to stub his bare feet on some rocks and be too sore to finish the ride! And we’re not even to the vet check yet! I end up trying to jump off but catch my feet on some rocks and land on my hands and knees. Sinatra pulls the reins out of my hands but doesn’t run away (good boy I guess). This time he’s willing to stand while I mount on the correct side and we head up the hill. I fish a band-aid out of my first aid kit and put it on the scrape on my pinky finger. It stays on long enough for it to quit bleeding.

Since I had pre-ridden some of this trail with Dovie, I thought we were a lot closer to the vet check than we were. I had told Mom that morning as we left that we had to be at the vet check by 11 am since we only had 7 hours, with a 1 hour mandatory hold, to complete the ride. That meant we had 3 hours to get to the vet check, and 3 hours to get from there to the finish. By 10 am I was starting to wonder how much further. I had ridden some of this trail before with my other horse Sugar, but always from the opposite direction. After we left the hills we had some BEAUTIFUL stretches that invited long trots and some nice canters. I kept thinking that the vet check was just around the corner; this was probably the longest part of the ride for me. Finally we could see the rooftops of the campers and trucks that were there and got off to walk our horses in. Sinatra was in the low 70’s as we came over the knoll and saw the check in the valley below. He immediately spiked into the high 140’s upon seeing all the activity. We walked down and let them get a drink and some hay. JT was pulsed in and cleared to go while Sinatra was still hanging right above 60 (the requirement). Finally he was cleared to go and we received our “In Time.” If they passed inspection, we would be free to continue in an hour.

It was REALLY windy at the hold. We were thankful that we had our windbreaker jackets on. Both horses ate and drank really well, although JT was more interested in a nap than food before too long. Sinatra was enjoying the hay until he found an apple and some carrots buried in it. After that he was more interested in looking for the “treats” and would only pick at the hay. He ate all of his mash and would have cleaned up all the apples and carrots at the check if I had let him. They also provided food for the riders, Mom had a PBJ and I had tuna. Also some chips and waters. I grabbed an extra bottle for out on the trail since I had drunk one on the first half of our journey. The boys vetted through just fine, although Sinatra would not trot away from the vet (Dr. McCartney this time). She did give him A’s though since he trotted well on the way back. It was nice to take a break but the wind made it uncomfortable and we huddled next to Joyce’s truck until it was time to go.

After our hour was up we mounted up and headed back out. This time into the wind, which made it hard to talk and our jackets blew up like balloons. The footing was good, although a little hard with small rocks, but we had walked so much that morning, both Sinatra and I were ready to trot more. We followed the dirt road and sand pipeline that I had ridden numerous times before on Sugar. At least I knew where I was for sure now. Soon we headed off into the hills to our left and through some narrow more rocky footing. We were walking along, getting passed by the top 10 riders in the 50. Sinatra always gave a good warning, he would see them coming from behind and start to trot a little. He wanted to get off the trail when they went by but never spooked too bad. It was amazing to watch them fly along (most were trotting or cantering) thinking they had already ridden 20 miles further than us. All of them had Easyboots on their horses, thus could go faster over the footing. Mom and I talked about how there was NO WAY we were ready to do a 50. We were getting tired enough, thank you very much.

After a little bit we came back out of the hills and followed dirt roads. We passed Hungry Valley and I knew it was not too much further into Lemmon Valley. The footing was good and the second half of the ride pretty much allowed us to trot or canter as we wanted to. At one time, Mom was in the lead and I was riding behind. Suddenly, the ribbon that was on the tree next to JT blew straight towards him. Although we had been riding past blowing ribbons for the past 3 hours, JT jumped about 3 feet to the left and Mom ended up hanging onto and over his neck. Sinatra jumped for good measure but I was ready for it, having seen JT go. Mom laughed and I congratulated her for staying on. Funny how they can pass something 100 times before they notice it.

Soon we could see Lemmon Valley and knew the finish was close. Mom got excited and hurried in across the line. I knew that our time wouldn’t officially stop until we pulsed down to 60 and with the delay I had at the vet check, I took my time and walked in. I look forward to doing a 50 though, so I can race across the line, even if only with myself. Sinatra walked in and straight to the water trough. He had done so well about eating and drinking all day, what a good boy! He was in the low 70’s when we crossed the line and came down to 60 in about 2 minutes. We ended up finishing at 2:10 pm, so total ride time was 4 hours and 50 minutes. Grandma, Grandpa, and Alissa showed up right as we crossed the finish line. Alissa walked the 3 blocks back to camp with us. It felt good to get off and walk for a while.

We unsaddled and brushed the horses a little bit. Sinatra was really sweaty but JT was only wet under his saddle pad. Sinatra is really hairy and shedding fast though. Went to our final completion vet check. If you do not pass, you do not get a completion for the ride, even though you finished the entire course. We had the same vet as our pre-ride check and both horses passed with mostly A’s and some B’s. Sinatra did really well and got compliments for completing the ride barefoot. The vet was actually kind of amazed. We walked the horses back to Dovie’s so they could eat and roll at their leisure. Once there, I realized that I had left the keys for the truck in the horse trailer back at ridecamp. I couldn’t bear the thought of walking back so Bob, Dovie’s husband, was kind enough to drive me over to get them.

We took the truck back over to ridecamp and hung out and watched other people do their completion check. We stayed until Dovie and her friend Lou finished. It was so windy though that pretty soon we were huddled in the cab of the truck, waiting for dinnertime and the awards. We put our sweatshirts on under our jackets and left our half-chaps on our legs to help keep warm. Dinner was excellent, even if it did get cold very quickly. I ate a TON, tasted so good. We got a nice sweatshirt as a completion award. We were kind of rude and left as soon as we got ours. I wanted to get inside out of the wind and get warmed up. We hitched up the trailer and took it over to Dovie’s, decided that we’d leave Sinatra for one more night and do all the tack/supply change in the morning. Hurried home and took a bath, where I promptly fell asleep in the tub. I dreamt of riding and falling off and kept waking myself up. I got out of the bath and went to bed. In the morning I mentioned my dreams to Mom and she said she had been dreaming of falling off as well. Must have been our minds reliving the secret anxiety we had from the day before.

Sinatra and JT looked great the next day. In fact, Sinatra looked ready to do it again. That’s good, cause I sure wasn’t! I can’t wait for my next ride, I’m definitely hooked. I plan on a few more LD’s (25 – 30 miles) but hope to attempt a 50 before the end of this year. For now, I know we have learned some invaluable lessons and finally embarked on the journey of a lifetime.