Friday, November 05, 2021
At the Bill Thornburgh ride in southern California
by Nina Bomar
November 3 2021
When the Caballeros show up for their first endurance ride, you take notice. It
sweetness and his rider was friendly, soft spoken and took a few minutes to chat with me before catching up with his friends. When I asked how the ride went afterwards, he noted that the long trots were really challenging. He then whispered something about feeling a little sore and wearing jeans
Amongst the group, there was an Andalusian /Quarter Horse cross, a 20 year old Paint/ Tennessee Walker and a purebred Quarter Horse. Bob G who is Allan’s more experienced friend rode Allan’s red headed mare “Ruby” who is an Arabian/Paint. They won the Limited Distance ride (30 miles) and also received the Best Condition award. Bob has even finished the Tevis Cup 100 so this was a mild version of all that has accomplished since Allan introduced him to the sport.
It wasn’t surprising when Allan later told me that they all wore jeans except for he and Bob, but I’m guessing that those Cowboys may invest in some riding pants, before the next endurance ride comes along. The real beauty of this group of men is that they all board out their horses, because they live in the city. Two of them are beach boys who live on the sand in Newport Beach and in Long Beach, which is a far cry from the desert conditions at the ridecamp in Inyokern, CA
It’s the women behind the men who we need to credit for this brigade. After all Allan’s wife “Lauren” got him involved with the Caballeros when in 2008 she invited him to their women’s riding group’s Xmas party. He met one of Lauren’s friend’s husband’s and he then invited Allan to hook up with the Caballeros. Allan said…”He assured me that I would enjoy myself and ever since then we have become good friends”. In the end all the boys/men had a great time and they were extremely happy to finish the ride. With Allan at the helm, how could it be anything but fun and exhilarating. Allan commented how, “they learned a lot about their horses and what it is to keep a pace, with training and cooling techniques, plus more. Allan was so over the top cheerful in the end and he proudly bragged about how his star student had even expressed an interest in stepping it up and trying to do a 50 miler in the future.
Without a doubt, the guys appreciated Allan’s guidance. It was not an easy ride even though it was flat... it was still long and there are time constraints that must be adhered to. Allan shared that struggle and said, “During the ride it was all going good until we reached the final water stop at Callie’s. I’d brought a hand held heart rate monitor and had been checking heart rates throughout the ride. He went on to say… “When I checked everyone with 7 miles to go and only 2 hours to finish, the heart rates and recoveries were not to my liking. I went into the “just finish” mode. I completely hosed their horses down and we all walked and trotted slowly to just make the cut off time”. The magic of it all is that they finished and everyone got a completion.
Being a mentor isn’t always easy and Allan set a precedence and offered a commitment that will forever stick with these guys. Their horses might be hoping to go back to sorting cows, but I’m betting they too were very proud of themselves, the work they did and the miles that they completed.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Sometimes things work out different than we had planned. After cancelling Danny's entry to the South Mountains Ride because he is having a hoof issue I thought my ride plans for the weekend were a bust. When the weatherman predicted a perfect fall weekend I decided at the last minute to change my tact and headed up to the Fort Valley Endurance Ride in Virginia with my little home bred girl, Summer (Nancy's Summer Dance). Her dam is my NATRC National Championship mare Shady Rock Rose and her sire is Don and Nicki Meuten's Stetson CD. She has only ever done 25s and CTRs but I decided to take a chance that she could finish the 50. I bred and raised her in hopes that she would be my next endurance star but bad luck along the way sidelined us several times over the years preventing us from reaching our goals. Now at age 14 she is mature and strong and hasn't had a mishap in several years so the odds seemed to be in our favor.
Fort Valley is a tough mountain ride, made even tougher by the reintroduction of the Indian Graves Trail (second loop of the 50) that had been taken out of the ride for the past 6 years after becoming impassible due to severe storm damage. Indian Graves was infamous for it's long, steep climb that ended with a series of rock steps that horses had to leap up to navigate. Exciting but somewhat dangerous. A while back a crew of hardy souls camped out for several days, packing in equipment like sledge hammers and hammer drills and such and busted up the rocks, opening up and fixing the trail so we can once again enjoy it's exciting beauty and making it much safer. I am in awe at the superhuman feats it must have taken to make that happen!!! Thanks Pete Godwin, Mike Cleveland, Janice Heltibridle and others!!!!
Summer started the ride feeling good and strong and I was glad for the mountain we had to climb right away to give her mind and body something to think about instead of trying to race the horse in front of her and wasting too much energy. She got right into the groove and right down to work, marching up the mountain and when we took the right hand turn onto the Milford Gap Trail the sun was just coming over the mountain creating a golden light that we rode towards. We hooked up with a couple of other riders, Tom Hagis and Terri Carroll and we completed the first 19 loop in a conservative timeframe. Summer vetted through with all As and set about eating all she could find at our vet area.
The second loop sent us up the same mountain which the horses were a little less enthusiastic about than at the start. After crossing the mountain and riding along the Shenandoah River for a bit the trail branched off towards Indian Graves. By this time Summer had told me that she wanted to slow down a bit so we separated from our little group so that I could read her properly without the influence of the other horses around. I started to realize that she was getting pissy because we were repeating trail we had done in the previous loop because as soon as we took the turn onto the new trail she picked right up. Since I have had her since birth we have a very close relationship and our minds were melding by this point. Up and up we climbed and she was strong and forward just eating up the trail as she adventured forward. As the trail became steep and very rocky we came across 2 riders that were off walking their horses up the mountain on foot. Summer became impatient at their slow pace so when we reached a wide part of trail I asked to pass. She marched on, perfectly comfortable with the terrain since it was similar to what she is used to training on at home. When we reached the summit I was amazed at the difference the trail work had made. Still challenging but not dangerous as it once was. Once we reached the top I had forgotten how slow the mile of ridge trail was before reaching Milford Gap and the trail back to camp. It follows the spine of the narrow ridge and consists of a skinny, almost nonexistent trail picking it's way through the rocks and boulders offering gorgeous views of the valley below and the brightest leaf color of the day. Finally we got to the turn for camp and Summer was glad to be able to trot. She passed her second vet check in fine form and we were good to go for our last loop.
Once again she ate everything in sight and delighted in all the special treats like apples, carrots and grain she was allowed to eat. When I saddled up again she gave me a WTF look because she thought she was done. This is the first time she was ever asked to do 3 loops and she was certain that I couldn't count!
We headed off in the opposite direction as the other 2 loops. Instead of going back up the mountain this loop winds in and out of local horse farms and the surrounding countryside. This loop is much more tame until you hit a long, steep climb in a cut over area that seems to go up and up only to go back down once you get up there! By this time I could tell that Summer's climbing muscles were getting a little tired, understandably , so I got off and walked the steep downhill to give her a break. We came to a field where I let her graze for a few minutes and when I got back on I could feel her energy return. The sun was starting to get low and the angle of the light enhanced the scenery, giving a magical cast to the autumn colors. The last part of the trail winds back and forth around and through a series of fields and hedges and just when you think you are almost there it takes a turn away. Eventually we came to a turn I recognized as the last turn before the finish line. We had been riding the whole loop by ourselves but when we saw the finish line tent I put my leg on Summer and she surged forward at an energetic trot as if she was racing a competitor to the finish. I had a lot of horse left and it was a good feeling to know. Once again she vetted through with As from the vet and we had our first 50 mile completion!! A very proud moment for this horse mom!!!
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
by Jay Mero
Virginia City 100 lived up to it’s reputation. Rocks, rocks and more rocks but also lots and lots of climbing and ups and downs.
We had a rough couple weeks leading up to the ride. Our 3rd mare Stella our friend Chelsea was going to ride decided to skid down some pavement two weeks before and redecorate a front knee. Then Lena struggled with her feet and shoeing, and was lame off and and on, better and then worse, ten days before the ride. ￼￼ I wasn’t sure we’d be able to fix it in time. Lots of hand wringing. Turns out after much anxiety and diagnosing and shoes taken on and off - fixing one problem, then creating another problem - the last lameness was just a couple close nails on her LF. The problem was there were no other holes to use, so a late Tuesday 4:20 pm call and plea to Riding Warehouse (they were amazing and got the boots to me next day)and I had a new set of big enough Easy Boot gloves to go on over the front shoes to hold everything on since the LF only had 3 nails holding the whole thing on.
After all that drama things seemed to smooth out. The trip to camp and the pre ride was all easy. It was wild to literally ride through the middle of Virginia City and warm up in a parking lot on Main Street to await ride start at 5 am.
The trail lived up to its reputation for sure. Rugged. Beautiful views. And all up or down on some pretty gnarly stuff. Reyna and I wanted to be competitive but still finish. We spend most of the day riding with or just behind the leaders - generally in 4th to 6 th place. We were not able to bring any of our own crew, but our friend Justin Loewen who’s horse my friend Chelsea did ride, was amazing and crewed for us. Reyna’s mare started to look a bit shaky with some front end lameness around half way and then by the 76 mile hold she was consistently off. Reyna graciously took her pull in stride and changed gears to help Lena and I the rest of the night. So Lena and I had to go off in the dark on hour own for the last loop. Lena has always been independent and strong willed enough to just keep on going, no company needed. Most horses and riders need some support and help on long 100s especially in those last hours in the dark, and try to pair up or ride in groups. Not Lena, she’s the same strong, willing horse all on her own. We were sitting comfortably in 4th by then, with over 3 hours on the next place and I just wanted to cruise it back in without tearing up any more body parts on the mare or myself. We spent over a third of our ride time - 5 and a half hours, of a total ride time of 14 hours and 14 mint - in the dark, again no head lamps.
Lena brought us in safe and sound for a 3rd place finish, about an hour off the two leaders, friends of ours, who decided to have a race off to the finish from the last 94 mile check in. At that time they had only been a half hour ahead of us. That’s how fast they were going the last 6 miles of the ride. The other lead horse of the day was pulled at the finish for lameness (gee we know how that feels ￼). Lena’s finish pulse was 48 and she snorkeled her way through buckets of mash during and after the ride. The next morning Lena did not look as good as she did for the Tevis BC showing. I think the extra weight of the easy boots over the shoes and just the trail took its toll. We finished up with a bit faster ride time than even Tevis. We presented for BC, but she just wasn’t quite sound on her LF or quite as perky. My friend Kassandra’s horse, who was second and was involved in the race in, looked amazing and was awarded a well deserved BC.
All in all a super fun weekend. We are grateful for the time with friends and for their help, the challenging but beautiful trail, the exceptional ride management and for yet another opportunity for Reyna and I to ride together. At least we have one buckle to show for the effort and Reyna’s mare looked much better the next day. It’s also a hoof/shoeing thing, they are half sisters and share the same cursed feet issues. So a long, long well deserved rest for these girls - I don’t think we’d ever ask horses to do Tevis and VC 100 again in the same year, unless it’s a 3 month gap between the rides again. And even then we’d consider it carefully, as they arguably are the two toughest 100s out there, certainly the two toughest in the West.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
A pack trip cut short
July 19, 2021
Outside an emergency room entrance, a strange town stretching ahead. Wobbling: unsteady on new crutches, a hospital issue suit of sweatpants and t-shirt was completed with a single anti-slip sock. A flimsy plastic bag held all my belongings; a vial of narcotics and $150 in cash. No wallet, no ID, and no phone. It was not a good way to end a day.
The Continental Divide Trail ranged ahead towards its terminus in Canada. Closer was the famed Chinese Wall in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Closer yet was our lunch destination in the aptly named Pretty Prairie. In one of the nation’s most scenic areas, I was annoyed. This was supposed to be day 2 of a 10-day pack trip through the Bob and we hadn’t yet decamped from the trailhead. I had been planning this trip for months and wanted to get going, instead we were going on a day ride to a location I’d visited dozens of times before.
The South Fork of the Sun River sparkled in front of us as it raced to the Gulf of Mexico over 1,000 miles away via the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. We would cross the Sun twice before we made it to our luncheon spot near the Pretty Prairie patrol cabin overlooking a glade in the forest...
by Tamara Baysinger
Friday, September 3, 2021. In the forest near Centerville, Idaho. Early.
Breakfast goes down on a queasy stomach. I slept some, between long bouts of tossing and turning. I'm not super nervous ~ Ledger has good training, I know these trails, and we're only going 25 miles ~ but first rides are first rides, and anything can happen. So I'm a little nervous.
Ledger has cleaned up his hay overnight. He stands quietly for tacking up, with the help of Mr. Sweaty and a bowl of Outlast. The temperature isn't too far above freezing. Ledger shivers despite the blanket draped over his rump. I do, too.
The clock ticks toward starting time. Riders are milling up and down the road through camp. Some quietly, some prancing, a few spinning in anxious circles. Heads are high, eyes wide, heels down. Ledger and I do groundwork, getting his mind right, not straying too far from the trailer. No need to get him and Starfish, who will be staying behind, agitated over the pending separation.
My plan is to trot straight out of camp after most of the field is gone. Ledger will protest about leaving Starfish, but a little smack on the butt should be all it takes to keep him moving. Once we're out of earshot, we'll be golden.
Reality isn't quite like that.
It starts out well. A little reluctance, a little weaving, a little piaffe that's better saved for the dressage ring...but we're out of camp without much trouble. Hooray!
And then, the ribbons lead us sharply to the right. So sharply that Ledger reckons we're headed back to his buddy. That's when he loses every marble he has.
I feel him gather as if to run. One-rein stop! That shuts down the speed, but not the tension. He spins around. Stops. Gets light in front. Uh-oh! Disengage hindquarters NOW! We spin and spin until I find a split second in which to dismount.
On the bright side, I'm not cold anymore...
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
2021 Big South Fork
by Tennessee Lane
We finally got home yesterday from our Big South Fork adventure! What a trip, I was happy to have my mom join me (and Griff, Thor, and RockAFeller.)
Long story made as short as possible... we had a great time and it was awesome to see Tennessee (the state) and the Big South Fork Forrest. My ancestors fell in love with that beautiful area long ago, and while I truly enjoyed emersing myself in the rich flora and fauna of those epic trails, I have to say that I am not at all a fan of the HUMIDITY!!!
RockAFeller was unphased by the climate and we had an absolute blast on the 30 miler on Friday. That gave me a sneak preview of the trails I would be riding for the 100, I must confess that I nearly dropped Thor back to the 50miler afterwards (and in hindsight, I should have.)
The trails are awesome, very fun, technical, and stimulating. It is very ACTIVE riding because of all of the erosion. Along with 2-way traffic there were deep, slogging/suctiony muddy patches all along the way, at least one patch per mile if not a quarter mile at a time. There were also washed out limestone gulleys and shelves that we were sliding or lunging up and down, there were extremely rocky stretches, deep sand stretches, and a few fair climbs and decents. I honestly enjoyed the diversity and the challenge but I had some reluctance about navigating it all in the dark toward the end of the 100, particularly the slick, narrow, sandstone chutes that so many horses (not mine) had fallen in during the daylight.
Nonetheless, since Thor had traveled so well and was so ready, I opted to go ahead and start the 100. Of course the day of the 100 was the hottest day of our entire trip, dangit. Thor did awesome, he was strong and forward and very smart about how he was handling each obstacle. He took great care of himself and me, he ate voraciously and drank well. Because of the heat and humidity, we were taking it at a fairly relaxed pace and just tried to stay in our own pocket all day, away from other riders, but there was some leapfrogging anyway.
Regardless, after about 60 miles, I could tell that he was very hot. He was still performing great and had a great attitude, but when he gets hot, his heart rate hangs high no matter how much you cool him. (I found this out after finishing the 102° City of Rocks ride in Idaho, he hangs out around 65-70 despite being otherwise normal and healthy.)
So after cooling him, I took him to the vets and explained his state and my previous experiences with him at hot rides. We walked away smiling, happy and healthy with a Rider Option Pull, and I have no regrets. We enjoyed our time on trail and were relieved. There is a video of Thor immediately after pulling, he looks great and I am so happy to have pulled when we did. I can't risk my golden dreamboat!
The only heartbreaking thing about this pull is the revelation that I will never take Thor to Tevis, it's just too hot. I will only be taking this champ to cooler rides (or at least, not combining hot AND humid.) Unless for some reason they ever delay Tevis till a cooler month again! Here's hoping for that LOL. HUGE THANK YOU to Celeste Turner, Matt, and Julie Figg for helping my mom crew for me!!!
by Nick Warhol
The pre-ride Carnage!
I like going to new rides for the first time, and these REER (Redwood Empire Endurance Riders) are a great group who are able to do something rare these days- the seem to have fun putting on rides! I was able to do all three of their rides this year- Chalk rock, Redwood, and now the Cuneo Creek for the first time. I have always said my favorite place to ride is in the desert, but this redwood forest riding stuff might be making me rethink that a bit. It is truly incredible riding in these forests, especially in the redwoods.
We sure had some excitement before the ride itself. I drove five hours up on Thursday in the original Pony Tug sans camper again with no issues. Joyce Sousa had the best camp spot in the place staked out and invited me over to their spot in the shade. This horse camp has to be one of the best in the state. In the afternoon a lady walked up and asked if we might help her with her Ram truck. She reported the steering was not working after she heard a big bang while backing her trailer into its spot. I walked over with her to have a look and found a “HOLY S^%$! moment when I saw what was wrong. The drag link arm had snapped in half. This is the arm that goes from the steering box to the front wheels. The thing that makes the wheels turn. She started the truck, and turned the steering wheel all the way in both directions, and the front wheels did not budge! Oh man, if that had happened on the freeway- I don’t want to think about it. I took some pictures of the broken part (that should never have broken in the life of that truck), that we texted to the dodge dealer in eureka. They ordered the part, she arranged for a tow, and would get it fixed on Monday.
On Friday a woman walked up looking for me saying “I heard you are the guy to ask about broken trucks and stuff.” She said she tore a wheel off her trailer while driving in. She sure did- she clipped a redwood tree with her giant living quarters rig on the narrow road in to camp and literally ripped the entire wheel off the axle, snapping it right in two. The giant trailer was there in camp sitting on one wheel with the other wheel in the back of her truck with the other part of the axle still attached. Cripes! All I could do for her was to locate the axle manufacturer and exact part number so she could call a trailer repair place in eureka to get a replacement. I doubt they will have this puppy in stock! And to top it off, a woman pulled into camp with yet another long LQ trailer, cut too close to a post in a turn, and ripped her sewage and plumbing right off the trailer. What next? At about 6pm Jim Biteman (ride manager) came by asking for some help with a tree that had fallen across the trail that day. A park volunteer had come across it on friday afternoon and said it was bad. Uh- yeah it was! Jim, Dennis Sousa, John Neihaus and I drove up to the top of the world with a couple of chainsaws and found it. It was a ride ending tree! The biggest part of the canopy was on the trail, eight feet high, and there was no way around it on either side. It took the four of us about 45 minutes to cut it up and clear the trail enough to pass. Thank goodness that was the extent of the wild stuff that happened before the ride.
Oh yes, the ride. It was fun! I rode most the first loop with Michelle Rowe, Jim Brown, and Molly Quiroz. This ride is known for up and down- yep, that’s what it is. A Long moderate, single track climb from the start takes you 4 miles up to a wide, soft fire road that rolls along for a few miles on top of the mountain. There is more climbing but not too bad. It was nice trotting at a good pace for a few miles up here through the forest. The top was very wet from the heavy fog. We got to our downed tree location, then it was 4 miles straight down the mountain. Long, steep, down on good roads. Michelle and Molly went on ahead while Jim and I jogged down most of the hill on foot. At the bottom we found a flat single track that wound through the redwoods for not enough miles. It was serious fun! Sorsha led Jim and Kid at a very brisk pace, flying along through the dark forest, around trees as big in diameter as my car! We crossed the paved road and had a few more miles of odd trails and rocky creek crossings that finally led to camp. We pulsed down right away, and after an hour hold Sorsha and I headed out with Michelle back up that same climb that we went up at the start. Jim and Molly caught us about half way up, and we got onto a long, hard, gravel downhill road that I was not crazy about going down in a hurry. We did an easy pace to the bottom, then headed for the big climb on the other side of the road.
At this point I let the three of them go; Sorsha and I did the rest of the ride alone and had a blast. Well, except for that climb. It was a whopper, and just kept going up and up and up for too long. The big, brown, girly horse trucked right up it, all alone, with me feeling bad for her, having to drag me up like that. However ugly that climb was, the way down was worth it. We got on to a nice, groomed, well used single track that went down slightly, but the whole thing was trottable, and at pretty good speed. It must have gone on for 8 miles or more- boy it was fun. It took us all the way down to the forest floor where the monster trees were. I’d drive back up there to ride that trail again. We crossed the paved road for the final time, and rode back on those weird trails through the rocky creeks towards camp. I was riding in what I thought was 7th place, when we had some confusion at the finish when I caught Samantha Ellis and her two juniors literally at the finish line.
Huh? How did that happen? They did not pass me, so we talked about it, and could not figure out what happened.
I know she did the whole trail, I did the whole trail, and our ride times were checked by management and were consistent. We agreed that the only possible explanation was that I had gone off trail for a moment, somewhere, and did not realize it, or she had gone off trail for a moment, somewhere, and did not realize it.
Either way- who cares? That’s part of endurance. We all made it in the top ten, with me tenth, so all was great! There was another separate oops when someone told me I was in 11th, so I did not show for BC. It turns out I was in tenth. Oh well. Sorsha was at 44 at her completion and looked great.
I decided to skip day two since my knee hurt, I had gone up and down those climbs enough already, and this way I’ll ride the 50 at the quicksilver ride coming up on Oct 2nd. I can certainly recommend this ride, and would not hesitate coming back. Especially since I realized that the Sunday ride went up that great trail! Next time.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
We did it! We finally FINALLY did it! I think it’s actually starting to sink in the enormity of what Cora Lane and I accomplished in completing the infamous Big Horn 100 Endurance Ride. To be quite honest, I didn’t think we’d even make it through the vetting in the night before, let alone finish the ride. Ever since City of Rocks the beginning of June, Cora and I have been plagued with gremlins. I’ll leave all those fun little details out so as not to bore the non-horsey folks out there, but I can see my horse friends in the back ground nodding slowly in solidarity. All y’all know all the things that can and do go wrong and boy did they.
Anyway, we vetted-in the evening prior with all A’s on our card and a few scribbles noting Cora’s apparent new bug allergy (😳😭🤷🏼♀️) and then sat in on a rather entertaining ride meeting where the particulars of the trail and expectations from the vets were shared. If any of my riding buddies ever get the opportunity to go to a ride where Dr. Irena’s vetting, do it. The woman is hilarious. Serious and a no-nonsense vet, but hi-larious. Afterwards, we finished packing everything on the crewing list into the truck and headed to bed around 9:30. Praise the good Lord for unusually cool weather in Shell that let us get a couple hours of decent sleep.
3:00 AM—Get up, dressed, Pooper Pony fed and saddled and to the start.
4:00 AM—Trail opens and I hear Karen B calling my name in the dark. She and I start out together across the desert in hopes that our horses will start quietly and reasonably.
4:01 AM—Pooper Pony Cora Lane gives a little chubby mama rodeo which is quickly ended with a swat to her backside.
(I’m thankful these episodes are really uncommon)
4:30-5:00 AM— Cora Lane and her new friend Rio are happly trotting across the Wyoming desert towards the base of the mountain and our first vet check (a trot-by to assess soundness) of the day which is about 12 miles into the ride.
6:40 AM—We arrive into the trot-by 40 minutes later than we really should have and realize we’ve gone over 16 miles instead of 12. Regina and Steve both give me the look that says we’re way way behind where we should be and I know it. After a shortened pit-stop to eat and drink we hop back on and buzz along the road leading up to the forest access that serves as the entry to the Dugway Climb. I look behind me and Karen and Rio aren’t there. Figuring they’ll catch up and knowing we’re down on time I keep going. Every so often I look back to see if I can spot them and eventually I do— a mile and half or two miles behind, but still coming. Good. They’re okay, just slowing down.
It’s time I ride my own ride.
We begin the Dugway Climb and Cora is chugging along happily. We pass a pair of riders and let them know that they’re more than welcome to pass us any time if they catch up (which I’m certain they will). 22 miles or so into the ride I’m gleefully celebrating the fact that the Renegade glue-ons Cora’s wearing have stayed on her feet as long as the set I applied to my good buddy Rueben last summer. Maybe glueing them on instead of nailing composites was a good idea after all!
Then her hind end slips on a rock and I hear the tell-tale rip of the glue. I look down and sure enough, her right hind boot is only attached to about half her hoof. I’m glad I have spare strap-ons on my saddle. We stop at the next creek crossing for a drink, electrolytes and snack so I take the opportunity to go ahead and pop the shell the rest of the way off and get her strap on boot on. No biggie, I think, but deep down I just know we’re going to start losing the other glue-ons.
As I’m climbing back in the saddle the pair or riders we passed at the start of the climb catch up and pass us by. Cora Lane does not particularly appreciate this and we spend the next several miles through the canyons section an absolute hot mess. I refuse to let her chase down the other horses even if that means we walk the remainder of the miles into the first hold. As if riding a hot, snorting, prancing pony through canyons with loose trails, rocks and drop-offs is not enough, both my front and rear saddle bag zippers start splitting apart. 😐😳
Ohhhh boy. Now I have to get off The Dragon and gather up everything that’s falling out of the packs and cram my pockets full (Thank-you, Ride Boldly, for amazingly large pockets!). I’ll spare you all the details of that fine 15 minutes and just leave it at, I got everything picked up and safely back in the saddle.
Despite making her walk (prance?) what seemed like forever, we eventually catch and pass the pair of horses she was so concerned about catching and almost everyone else who started the ride. Satisfied with herself, Cora settles right it as if she was never worried and gives no more fuss.
10:00 AM—We make it into Horse Creek (vet check one), pulse and begin our hour hold. My wonderful, incredible, amazing crew met us there and may or may not have laughed at my bulging pants pockets. A little finagling has the saddle bags packed back up with essentials and zipped shut. I express my concern along with everyone else over the added mileage that popped up so early in the day. Horse Creek was supposed to be 25 miles into the ride and my GPS is reading 34.99. We’re told the trail is being adjust ahead of us to account for the added miles.
Regina keeps a close eye on the commotion.
11:00 AM—As soon as we’re released from the hold we’re whistling Dixie down Hunt Mountain road—Regina’s instructions to make time there while we can sit at the forefront of my mind. Cora happily moves out, stopping regularly for big bites of grass along the way. My wonderful, incredible, amazing crew stops and opens each of the gates going down so we can keep on moving along.
At the base of the Antelope Butte ski area we meet them again for a good drink and a mash and I hear that the trail we rode up the hill took us right past a little bull moose that Cora Lane and I totally missed but that they could see from the road—I was a little sad about that. After a little break with them there we head on through the trot-by at Antelope Butte and then on to the Ranger Creek Guest Ranch (vet check two).
2:58 PM— We make it to the ranch, pulse and begin our second hour hold. Cora vets through beautifully and parks in the shade with my wonderful, incredible, amazing crew who attend to her every need and mine. While out on the last section on trail I heard her hoofboot making more noise than usual. On inspection we found that part of it had somehow folded up underneath her hoof and was broken. Hey! At least it stayed on!
Knowing we still had 50 miles to go, I opted to nail on a composite we’d brought along instead of chancing it with the only other spare boot I had. I gave the three remaining glue-ons a once over just in case they needed replaced while I was at it but they seemed fine(!!🤞🏼🤞🏼!!) so I left them be.
I’m not a great shoer by any stretch of the imagination, but somehow I managed to get the dang thing on and back in the saddle in time to leave to hold at the end of our hour. Regina let me know that the next section through Boulder Basin would be a long, slow haul so I wanted to make sure we left as soon as we were able. Never hurry, never tarry.
Regina was right (isn’t she always?). The trail around Shell Reservoir and through Boulder Basin was a slow, frustrating stretch with boulders as big as cars and plenty of missing ribbons to slow us up. In three different intersections we had to stop and hunt for the hoofprints of the only horse and rider ahead of us so that they could lead us to the next markers. Slowly but surely, we made it out of the basin to where my wonderful, incredible, amazing crew was impatiently waiting. Cora chugged and ate while I relayed my tales of woe and Steven informed me that Regina had left a map with them for the remaining 6-7 miles or so of trail into Battle Creek (just in case there were missing markers in the dwindling light). Determined to make it into the next hold for a good break for us both, we high-tailed it down the trail.
9:15 PM— We make it into Battle Creek and it’s getting dark (vet check three)—Cora is ravenous and I’m freezing cold. I was warned that it’s typically chilly once you drop into Battle Creek, and everyone who warned me was right. As we pulled in Savannah handed me a jacket and Jesse covered Cora with a warm blanket. The vet came right over and informed me that the hold had been reduced from an hour to 30 minutes due to the cool conditions. I told him I’d chance staying a little longer because my horse was absolutely starving and needed time to eat and rest before heading off the mountain.
About 40 minutes after arriving we headed off into the dark to begin the last 23 miles off the mountain and to the finish line.
I can’t tell you even now how long it took, or what happened along the way (except for the group of baby skunks that turned into shiny bowling balls which turned out to be a bunch of sage brush 😳), but the 16 miles off the mountain into Trapper Creek felt like an absolute eternity. Time stood still. The temperatures climbed and I regretted the jacket I was wearing but couldn’t bear the thought of losing it to the night. Every section we slowed to a walk I found myself nodding off and slipping sideways in the saddle. The rocks slipping down the mountain underneath her feet felt like riding a waterfall and I thought that the riders behind us would catch up, but they never came.
Somewhere, far below us, I could see the lights of Shell and what looked like a pickup truck spinning cookies near Trapper Creek. What’s Steven doing spinning cookies in my truck this late at night? I’ll have to give him a talking to when I get down there. Will I ever get down there?
Oh. That’s not a truck. That Suzy’s headlamp ahea of us. Way way far away.
Eventually, sometime in the wee morning hours Cora Lane and I make it off the mountain and meet our wonderful, incredible, amazing, GIGGLING crew at Trapper Creek. They have food and water for Cora which she gladly cleans up and they force water and electrolytes into me.
Seven miles. Just seven miles to the finish. I know those seven miles well, and I know they’re just miles, nothing hard no more downhills. Just miles. We’re almost there.
Regina mans the gate and cattle guard at Trapper and offers a few parting words of encouragement. What were they? I don’t catch them but I’m thankful for them, for her, for my crew, for my horse....seven miles and we’re done.
More quiet darkness. Seemly unending quiet darkness. I’m pretty sure Cora Lane is following the lights on her own now, thundering along as if she could go on forever. Some mythical creature of the night. Next thing I know, I’m sick. So sick. A mile and a half or two miles from the highway crossing in Shell, and I’m sick. I contemplate trying to get off so I can be sick in the desert and maintain some shred of dignity, but then I think I can make it to the highway. My wonderful, incredible, amazing crew is there....I can make it.
It takes far longer than it should to get there but we make it and I keep from upchucking in front of everyone.
“You’re only two miles from camp!” Savannah exclaims happily.
“One mile” I reply. “It’s actually closer to one and a half, but right now I’m gonna call it one mile.” I hear Regina at the gate behind them and I’m so happy to hear her voice. Of course she’s there, she’ll stay until the last horse and rider come through safely.
Crossing the highway Cora Lane spooks at the lines and I can’t help but laugh. 99 miles into one of the toughest 100s in the nation and she’s spooking at lines on a road.
We get across the highway and follow the ditch a short distance to the gravel road that takes us into camp. One. More. Mile.
I’m not feeling better but Cora Lane is happy to pick up a big trot and whistle right along. A massive trot. Strong. Capable. Ready for whatever’s next. That instant was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had on a horse and absolutely indescribable.
And then there they were. My wonderful, incredible, amazing crew standing there at the finish line, smiling the biggest smiles and laughing.
I hear a distinct “Congratulations!” from a shadowy figure bundled up in a camp chair in the dark as I dismount.
“Let’s vet through for our completion, and then I’ll take the congratulations” I replied, a little fearful that something would be wrong at the final vetting and she wouldn’t pass.
Still not feeling super fabulous, I sat on the water tank while Cora was unsaddled and Steven took her over to Dr. Irena for the final check. Heart rate? Good! Trot out? Good! Hydration and gut sounds? Good! Congratulations. Your horse is fit to continue.
So, in the early morning hours of July 11th, Cora Lane and I finished the Big Horn 100 with a ride time of 19 hours and 59 minutes, second place overall and first featherweight.
I can’t begin to express the gratitude I have in my heart for our wonderful, incredible, amazing friends, Jesse and Savannah and their girls Brielle and Sonia. For my husband, Steven, or for the incomparable, Regina. Without each of you there with your smiles and encouragement, advice and helping hands, I’m not sure we would have made it to the finish. It sure as heck wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun!
Not to be left out are Cindy Collins and Vickie Hogen—who weren’t there in person, but rode in my heart all those long miles. Without their encouragement I may not have ever tried again.
Lastly, but most important of them all, Cora Lane. You carried me more bravely and more brilliantly than I ever could’ve imagined, hoped or expected. Are there more words I owe you? Yes, but everything I come up with falls miserably short. So, I love you Chubby Mama.
“What they had done, what they had seen, heard, felt, feared – the places, the sounds, the colors, the cold, the darkness, the emptiness, the bleakness, the beauty. ‘Til they died, this stream of memory would set them apart, if imperceptibly to anyone but themselves, from everyone else. For they had crossed the mountains… “
Thursday, July 15, 2021
June 21, 2021
The Old Dominion weekend 2021 did not go as I envisioned after the amazing 50 mile ride from Camp Bethel a month ago. I’m so grateful.
It appeared that Khaleesi had finally made her come back and I assumed full speed ahead into some 50 mile rides with the end of the season potentially doing a 2-day ‘hundred’ or back-to-back 50s at Fort Valley in October.
On a 25 mile training ride in mid-May we crashed hard on a dirt road and everything spun down the drain in front of me as my horse bled profusely from her deeply cut knees still 6 miles from the trailer. If you haven’t read that story you can find it HERE: Have Mercy Blog.
I didn’t know what would happen or how the healing cycle would go, but it was clear my best laid plans were being derailed. My most basic hope was that this wreck did not permanently damage my favorite horse in a way that might be bigger than just a ride postponement...
Read more here:
June 22 2021
by Valerie Jaques
It's enough to make a person question their life choices.
After pulling at 20 Mule Team with a stone bruise, and having addressed such with pads, and seeing no further sign of lameness in Demon since, I was fully confident we'd do well at National Championships and bring home a completion. It was not to be.
Two weeks before National Championships, I reshod Demon. The bruise in his hoof looked good, was well keratinized, and he was trotting sound even after a 10 mile ride. He got new shoes and pads before turned back out until we left for Montana.
The whole trip started out rocky. My elderly dog, Mac, suddenly took an extreme turn for the worse and clearly required euthanasia. The vet couldn't get out to perform the job until noon Thursday. I had planned to leave Thursday morning. Well, OK, guess I'm leaving in the afternoon. Shouldn't be a huge problem...
Saturday, June 19, 2021
by Christine Stewart Marks
Well, we’re back. I know you’ve been wanting to hear about the ride in Michigan, so I’ll give you the result and then a rather long recap in which I wax philosophical.
(That way, you can skip the long recap if you want to, y’know?)
Only three riders started the 50 mile. Only two completed. The third one was me. OK, now you can skip the recap.
--It is a long drive up there. We took nine hours from our 4am start at home to arriving in Hesperia. The good news is that we got there in time to rest and had gotten far enough north to avoid the dismal tropical weather plaguing Indiana before the real heat of the day. The bad news is that we were both tired, and never seemed to get caught up. I had not slept at all the night before (unsurprising), so I started in a bit of an energy hole. Naturally, I didn’t sleep that night, either. Too much going on.
--Thokkadis vetted in fine, and it was cooler up there than it had been, but the humidity was still hanging around. By the time I got up to feed her at 4am it was foggy (sigh). I noted at the time that she had not consumed as much water overnight as I had hoped, especially since she had been pre-loaded with electrolytes. I knew there was water available on the course, so, undaunted, we started at 6am. The two other riders were both determined to set speed records, at least to begin with, and bounced away on their tall, leggy Arabs, rarely to be glimpsed again. So Thokkadis was basically doing the ride by herself, which makes it a bit hard to stay motivated. At least, that was what I thought. So we tore through the first 2/3 of the first loop, slowing down for the deep sand, which was deeper than I remembered it. Of course, they have been having a drought in Hesperia, and dry sand gets deep fast. So we averaged a comfy 6mph for much of the first loop. Then she started to lose her motivation. She did not drink at any water stop, and I have learned that if she is thirsty, she will drink. If not, you can stand around and encourage her until you get thirsty yourself, to no avail.
Hmmmph. We came in at about 5.5mph, which is still ok. But then I messed around trying to take care of her. I cooled her down, walked her in to an immediate pulse down, but her guts were really quiet. This is not like Thokkadis, and I worried. “Take her back and feed her,” said Maureen (the friendly vet). I did. Gave her another wet mash and plenty of grass to graze. Apples. Electrolytes. Stuff. Did she drink? Nope. Her attitude was “Okay” but not as good as usual. I returned to the vet and asked for evaluation. Gut sounds were better, but still a B-minus. “Go on back out—it’s early yet” was the vet’s advice. So, resolving to slow down and let her gut catch up with the rest of her, I left 15 minutes late, having hung around in hopes that she would drink more. She trotted out of there like she meant business, so I knew she wasn’t in trouble. I meant to keep it that way.
Second loop—here’s where the academic exercise came in. OK, this trail was well marked. And I know, because I rode alone all day. But lesson one is this: never fuss with your tack unless you know for sure where you are and where you are going. We did the same loop as before, only backwards, and while I was trying to get a pesky snap hooked on my breast collar, fumbling around like an idiot, I missed a turn. I kept on going down the road. Let her graze grass along it and relax, hoping to stabilize her a bit more. Then I hear a 4-wheeler coming up behind me. “Hey, you missed a turn! Go back to the asphalt.” I claim sleep deprivation.
Well, *&)(*(#!!. Thokkadis and I turned around, found the turn, and off into the sandy woods we went. At last a water stop! This time, there was no debate. The electrolytes had finally kicked in and she drank. A lot. Thank heavens! We kept on going, but my slow-down and missing turn had cost us time we really didn’t have. As I looked at my elapsed time, I knew we were probably going to finish overtime. At that point, I could have pushed her. She drank again at another water stop. But that is not the way I do things. So instead, I helped pull ribbons as I rode. I finished the second loop at 4.5 mph. Slowed down again by sand and the desire to kick-start her guts, we happily moseyed into the vet stop and pulsed down immediately. By this time, it’s in the mid-80s and humidity still hanging around., though it’s better than it was in the foggy, foggy dew.
Vet and I had a confab. Her guts were much better—one quadrant still a little quiet, but I knew that would turn around soon. I still had time to finish IF I pushed her to 6mph. I still had one hold in there—tick-tock. I looked at Thokkadis and she looked at me. No-brainer. This horse is SO precious, and we are like one organism when we ride together. Risk heat issues and gut complications? Not THIS Viking.
She trotted out (rather perfunctorily) and I RO’d at 30 miles (actually 33 according to my tracker. Ha!).
We went back to camp, both took nice drinks, and settled in the shade. NOW the humidity is dropping…I can feel it. But we made the right choice. The two gazelle-like Arabians finished, but they were both really tired, too. It was not as easy a course as I thought it would be. Trying a 50 this early in the season is a gamble anyway; I expect all her really long attempts will be made in the fall. But it was worth a shot. Like mud, sand is not easy footing. And the shorter your legs are and the more strides/mile, the harder it is.
We will try this ride again in September.
SO. What did we learn in Michigan? A lot, but I’m as tired of typing as you are of reading. Until next time—“Marks the Red”.
PS: There is NO outcome worse than a horse requiring veterinary treatment. None. Not to me, there isn’t. And at my age (and hers), we are maybe more cautious than we have to be. But there it is! We had a good time riding, got a fabulous conditioning ride in, and gave it our best shot. It was a successful ride for everyone. --MTR
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Well, it was our day but was not our day...
The ride started in the dark (DARK, moon had set) at 0500. I had been very efficient with getting things prepared the night before. Riding a 100 with no crew, I knew the more prep I could do for each checkpoint in advance would equal more time I could rest and relax. So I was mounted and had been walking around camp for several minutes when Regina announced the trail was open. There were only 9 of us in the 100, and I only saw two other riders who were ready. So Bravo and I trotted off into the dark and put ourselves in an unexpected position - we were leading the ride!
Bravo was focused and on point. I've ridden him enough in the dark to trust him to do his job on the footing and my job was to concentrate and keep us on the trail. There were red LED lights guiding our path and thankfully enough of them that I didn't need to doubt myself very often. We trotted for miles together in the dark, just the two of us. The LED markers stopped just about the time the sun had started to make an appearance. I was now having to squint at the bush to see if I could see a strip of ribbon, there wasn't enough light to actually SEE the colors yet. Bravo was happily snatching grass during our walking breaks. He had not eaten very well the night before, so was making up for bad decisions by grazing along the trail. Around 8-9 miles the sun was finally up enough we could see clearly and move out with more confidence. Bravo is a "want to be in front" horse so he was just joyful out there on our own. He was so relaxed and efficient. We arrived at the second set of water troughs and I gave him a dose of elytes though he declined to drink. He peed three times on the first 20 mile stretch to the trot-by check. At this point we were in our own little bubble - I had not seen or heard anyone behind us so we were just cruising and doing our ride.
We reached the 20-mile trot-by check shortly after 0730. Bravo was ready to drink here and passed the check with no issues. I took a quick inventory, realized we didn't need anything just yet, and set off for the 10-mile lollipop loop which would bring us back to this away vet check. We did a 10-mile loop along the top of the rolling plateaus, looking down into the Oreana Valley and the former Teeter Ranch. I was glad I had my rain coat as the storm front began to roll in. Thankfully it just spit on us this loop, nothing of any real impact. On a few occasions I could see a group of four riders behind me, but B and I just stayed in our little bubble.
We arrived at the 30 mile check and one hour hold around 0900. B vetted through with all A's (excellent gut sounds!). It turned out we had about a 5 minute lead over the group behind us. I wasn't there to "race" per say, its not like it was a competitive ride, but was interested to see how B would do going his "happy pace" all day. The terrain and footing was very forgiving and definitely allowed for long trotting sections. Today was about enjoying being on the trail and out there together and marveling at what this horse is capable of. It was about making sure my adjusted electrolyte protocol kept him happy and going well over 50 miles. And making sure that I took care of both of us well enough we could get through the entire day and evening. The first 50-miles was like a big lollipop loop - we went out 20-miles to the check, did a 10-mile loop, and then back on the same 20-miles we had ridden in the morning. It was fun and different to see the trail and surrounding terrain in the light this time!
It had been so dark earlier that I wasn't able to appreciate the beauty of what we were riding through. This area is similar high desert vegetation but the mountains are totally different, more low plateaus and deeper river valleys than the true climbs we have in Nevada. It was fun to see all the other riders as well since the 50s had started at 0800 and were now making their way to the vet check.
We made it back to camp and the hour hold at 50 miles around 1220. My camp neighbor Jeff and I were laughing since he was leading the "chase pack" which was running about 5 mins behind. Dr. Jessica vetted Bravo and marveled at how well he was doing metabolically. I was SO SO SO PLEASED. He has NOT been an easy horse to manage but today so far had been flawless. He was eating, and drinking, and peeing, and just HAPPY and doing so well. Then we trotted and she had a funny look on her face as we were coming back. I was quite surprised, he had felt wonderful out on the trail. Something inconsistent on his left front, bring him back for a recheck before we go out again. Ugh! B isn't my "soundness" issue guy - that was Digs. Thankfully I learned a lot about getting an iffy horse through rides from Big D.
We passed the recheck and headed out for a 20 mile loop from camp. The first several miles were the same as the morning trail, and then we made a left hand turn and proceeded up a canyon on the LD trail. The LD riders were now starting to return on this trail from the away vet check, so again it was fun to see everyone and briefly say hi as we climbed. B hit his standard mid-afternoon OMG I'M SO HUNGRY MUST EAT ALL THE THINGS phase which is nearly like clockwork for him. So we walked and jogged and grazed and stopped often for bites of grass. Near the top of the climb Jeff, Jessica, Mike and (?? Nance?) caught up to us. They all checked and made sure we were okay and I assured them it was just hunger issues. Bravo ate a bit more and then tucked in with the group. We all rode a few miles together to the next water set and along the highway. Jeff and I were in front chatting, and at one point I looked back and realized the others weren't there anymore! B was over his "I'm gonna die unless I eat" phase and back to normal feed the hungry pony status. Jeff and I had a good time trading off the lead back and forth and I was actually happy to have some company for the upcoming 30-miles, since it was going to be just a 15 mi shorter repeat of this same 20 mi loop, done twice. Gus and Bravo were well paced together, other than needing to either stay REALLY close or well back to avoid the blowing dust in my contacts. The rain storm caught us just before we got back to camp and I regretted my mistake of taking off my jacket and leaving it in my trailer at the last hold. While I got SOAKED, at least it wasn't too cold and it wasn't long before we were back in camp.
We arrived in camp at 70 miles around 1615 or so. Vetted through with that same watch on his left front. It wasn't noticeable out on the trail, but I could see it out of the corner of my eye this time while trotting. Same recheck before we head back out. This was only a 40 minute hold and I scrambled to refill water bottles, elyte syringes, carrots on my pack, change out of my wet clothes from head to toe, and oh yeah.... eat something myself. This ride was all about liquid calories for me pretty much. If I couldn't drink it or slurp it in the saddle, I didn't have time. We rechecked his leg before heading out and it was the same as noted previously - slight and occasional but "something".
Jeff and Gus had left on time and I was a few minutes later after I got organized and did our recheck. I really just wanted to finish and wasn't concerned with placing so it was good to get back into a pocket by ourselves. B and I both had a serious case of the "fuckits" doing this same loop again. The 15 mi yellow was only different from the previous 20 mi pink by having a different cutoff point. I realized this was the first 100 I've ever done which had so much repeat trail. I've been very fortunate to not have this be a regular occurrence. Regina had to make several last minute changes the week of the ride due to OHV and water damage to past routes used. Some of what we rode was new trails she had just found to link together. I'm not complaining, it was just an interesting observation to see at what point we both got a little low on motivation. I also made myself take some elytes, drink at least a 1/4 bottle, and get some calories every time I started to feel a little mentally low.
B and I continued the same climb up the pink/yellow loop that we had before. When we hit some of the flat road up top, he picked up a trot and felt off on his right rear. I jumped down to check his shoes (Easycare Flex) and found he had slipped a nail! The clinch was still super tight, but down into his hoof and I couldn't loosen the end. The nail itself had folded over the edge of the shoe and was lifting his hoof wall on the lateral heel. It probably felt like a small rock under the edge of his hoof. I texted my husband and we tried to puzzle out if I could somehow pull the nail with my Leatherman. I tried a few different options but wasn't brave enough to bend the nail all the way back, for fear that I wouldn't be able to actually PULL it and would just make it worse. At this point, the best option I had was to walk him into camp (forward was closer than going back) and see if we could pull the nail and/or shoe and see how he looked. So that's what we did. Kept moving. When we got to the softer footing areas, B would pick up a trot of his own accord so it definitely seemed to be related to sore feet on any harder footing.
Back in camp at 85 miles and there's a farrier available! He pulls the nail and we trot for the vets.... hhhmmm. We all see something. Nothing consistent but he's just not moving like he should. Beth and Suzanne come over to help crew and we all sit and stare at him and try to decide what to do. He's eating really well and has a great attitude still, but I can tell his feet hurt. I go talk with the vets (she's absolutely wonderful by the way - Dr. Jessica Heinrick). From the 70 mile check to the 85 mile check he has gotten a bit worse, we both agree. If we do the last loop and he gets any worse, then we will probably not get a completion. He's not bad enough right now for a vet pull - this is a Rider Option call for me to make (RO-L). Its a little after 8 pm so time wise, we could go walk the entire last loop and still be good on time...
I go back and look at Bravo. And I realize that as much as it sucks I need to make the right decision FOR HIM and pull. He would totally go out, not feeling 100% and do that last loop because I asked him to - but that's not fair to him. The completion and the miles are all about my ego and my wants and desires - not his. He got to have a super fun day doing what he loves but that last loop would not have been any fun for him. Could we have risked it and maybe completed? Yeah, maybe. But would it have been the right thing to do if I take the human component out of it and just judge my horse as he stands there? Probably not. Did it suck to have that outcome after such a fabulous day? Absolutely. Do I regret my decision? No. So we both got cleaned up and into bed at a pretty decent hour.
The completion rate was REALLY good! 7 out of the 9 that started all completed. I was happy to cheer on everyone at awards the next morning. For as far as we went, I actually felt REALLY good the next morning and didn't have any issues getting all cleaned up and packed to go. The drive home had enough rain storms that while I stopped a couple times for gas and restroom breaks, I didn't unload Bravo at all. He arrived home after our 7 hr drive and looked good moving around the corral. By yesterday evening I couldn't see any hint of the soreness.
Next on our agenda is a multi-day at City of Rocks, another Idaho ride! I've been wanting to go to this one for several years so am really looking forward to it.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
April 27 2021
What do Idaho's Owyhee Tough Sucker endurance ride and the Mongol Derby have in common?
Normally held the first weekend in April, Tough Sucker switched with Eagle Canyon - which is normally the last weekend in April - because numerous riders were seeking a 100-mile ride, either for 100-mile newbies, or as early prep for the AERC National Championships in June in Montana… or the Mongol Derby in Mongolia in August!
Go figure - it hasn't rained in months in the Owyhee desert, but Mother Nature saved it all up for the weekend: it's not called the Owyhee Tough Sucker ride for nothing! Just pack your trailer full of the full range of clothing, and expect it all, and you'll be set. throughout the day, depending on what part of the trail you were on, you might have had warm sunshine, cold showers, thunderstorms, or gulley-washing downpours.
Eight riders signed up to do the 100-miler, which became nine riders, when Jeff Stuart on a whim changed from his planned 50 on 18-year-old JV Remington (Gus) to the 100. In his 17 years of endurance, he had yet to finish a 100. "I like 50's," he said, but it didn't take long to convince himself to go for the 100. The 4 rides with Mongol Derby connections/aspirations came with Dylan and Stevie Delahunt brought 3 riders along.
Super-adventurer Stevie has competed in the Mongol Derby, Gaucho Derby (Argentina), and Race the wild Coast (South Africa); Dylan and friends crewed while Stevie led Alexandra Fetterman (endurance rider doing her first 100, riding the Mongol Derby in 2022), Heidi Falzon (venter doing her first endurance ride, riding the Mongol Derby in 2022), and Deirdre Griffith (horse packer doing her first endurance ride, riding the Mongol Derby this year) to a finish in the Tough Sucker 100.
Jessica Cobbley and Brass, and Mike Cobbley and Khalid finished second and third, and Jeff Stuart and Gus won the 100 by 4 minutes in a ride time of 15:18. They also got Best Condition. Not bad for a couple of old guys (they just reached their Decade Team status in the Antelope Island 50 miler two weeks earlier). Jeff got that 100 monkey off his back!
Seven out of nine finished the 100-miler.
Seven started the 75-miler, with 4 finishing. First place and Best Condition was Melissa Montgomery aboard West Wind Dragon in 10:26.
Finishing third aboard Bucephalos was Lindsay Fisher in 11:45. If you look closely at this 23-year-old gelding, especially when he pins his ears when she trots him out, he might remind you of a certain Monk, whom Lindsay rode for many years, finishing Tevis on him 5 times and winning the Haggin Cup in 2019. And that's because he's the sire of Monk. He started endurance at age 16 and has only done a handful of rides, but Lindsay's bringing him along with the goal of competing at Tevis. It's possible that Bucephalos and Monk could ride the trail together, and, as Lindsay pointed out, how many times have a parent/offspring ridden Tevis together?
18 started the 55, with 15 finishing. Trina Lenmark and Rushcreek Cricket won in 6:10 and got Best Condition. Suzanne Ford Huff and Beth Kauffmann hauled from the Gardnerville, Nevada area for the ride; in finishing in 6th and 7th places, Beth hit the 15,000 mile mark (she was sitting on 14,999 miles :) )
29 started the 30-miler, with 27 finishing. Zane and dad Matthew Geddes came in first, with third place Simone Mauhl and Dudley's friend Boogey getting Best Condition.
The Owyhee Tough Sucker will happily take credit for helping steer a couple of Mongol Derby competitors over the next 2 years in the right trail directions (Idaho's Bob Long won it in 2019, you all know). We'll be watching and rooting from the Owyhee desert!
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Or- I need a vacation from my vacation!
by Nick Warhol
The fire mountain and the 20 Mule Team rides were canceled in the winter due to covid, but with the restrictions lifted, ride managers Gretchen Montgomery and Brian Reeves decided to do a combined ride on the weekend of April 10th with Gretchen’s rides on Friday and Sunday, and the 20-mule team squeezed in between on Saturday. It was a busy weekend for everyone!
I drove down a week early with Sorsha and her guest Reyos, the spunky gelding owned by my riding buddy Ines. I shuttled him down for her early so she could do a 50 at Gretchen’s ride. I rented a truck for 10 days since the Pony Tug is finally back with a new transmission (replaced under warranty since the new one I put in 22 months ago failed and had a 2-year warranty!) It won’t ever tow a horse again. My new truck won’t be here till July; I’m seriously looking forward to that showing up. I’ll hold the old one in reserve until the new one arrives in case we have an after hours horse emergency. Gretchen and Mike graciously gave me a room in their house a block from the ride site. That sure made it easier since I had no camper.
I got to work on the trail bright an early on Monday morning in serious wind. I mean really serious! It was so windy they closed the highways since semi-trucks were being blown over. I was out trying to put up highway crossing and other signs, but it was almost impossible. The wind was so strong that at one point, I was out in the open, and I could not open the driver’s door of the truck. I had to exit the passenger side! I got my 25 or so signs up, distributed hay around all the vet checks, and tried to mark the trail in town. Chalking the turns was not possible, and it almost took two people to put a single ribbon on a bush. One to hold the second person up without being blown over, and the second person had to somehow grab a branch that was whipping back and forth like windshield wipers on mach 2 speed. It was a very futile effort; I lost a half day of work.
The wind settled on Tuesday; I went out at 8:00 am on the bike to check and fix up gretchen’s 50 miles of trail for her rides. The wind had done a number on her ribbons; it had either snapped many off or it twisted them around the branches of the bushes making them hard to see. I was joined by my new friend Mike Caufield on his KTM 350 dirt bike. He’s a good rider who lives in Ridgecrest and wants to learn how to mark trail for the Valley Riders. OKAY! I sure appreciated the help. It took us most of the day, so when we finished, I tried to catch up marking in town and attempt to get back on schedule. I finished up about 7pm. Wednesday is the day to mark the 20 MT 35-mile night loop on the bike. That takes about 4 hours, plus the new 7 miles of the start for the 65-mile loop. I had a nice snag when Brian called me to tell me that some low life Ass^(%$ had emptied the water trough at the 395 south crossing and stolen it, along with the bale of hay there and my cache of trail marking ribbons. I can only carry so much stuff on the bike, so I put supplies in key spots on the trail in advance and “refit” when I get there. Val went into a ribbon tying frenzy to replace them. The same dork apparently also stole two more bales of hay from the 395 north vet check. At least I did not have my ribbons there yet! I then went out and checked the 15-mile blue loop that Brian had marked on Monday. I had to put down the chalk since it was too windy to do it Monday. I also got to go back and do chalking in town since the wind was moderate today. It was a good thing I did! The wind came back with gusto on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday is the long day on the bike when I mark the 65-mile pink loop. It’s an all-day affair, but Mike C came along again today to help. It was nice until about 1pm, but that darn wind started up again. I’d have to get back out at some point to do the chalk for the last 15 miles of the trail. There wasn’t a lot of time left! Ines arrived in the afternoon, so at about 4pm I took an hour and a half off to go ride Sorsha with Ines and Reyos in the strong wind. It was still way too windy to do any trail marking.
Friday was supposed to be my day off so I could rest a bit before riding the 100 on Saturday. The wind had stopped, thank goodness, so I went out in the morning to finish up the chalking I had not been able to complete. I also walked and marked the mile trail section that I can’t ride a bike on. I got back to camp and took off all the bike gear; I got a call from Gretchen telling me that people were getting lost on her second loop. The ribbons were down! It wasn’t a total disaster since the riders were able to find the trail after only loosing a few minutes looking. I told her I’d go out and fix it later in the afternoon so it would be okay for her Sunday’s ride. But then the leaders on the last loop were lost. It turns out that some of the guys who were marking the trail for the motorcycle race on Saturday had accidentally pulled our ribbons in a section about a mile and a half long. There are probably a hundred trail crossings and road intersections in that section, so Gretchen drove out to the spot to tell the riders what to do until I got there. I suited back up and went out and fixed it. While I was out there on the bike I went ahead and fixed the second loop for the guys on Sunday’s ride. I made it back to camp just in time for the riders meeting for Saturday’s 20 mule team rides. So much for my day off!
For some stupid reason I woke up on ride morning at 2am and just could not get back to sleep. I drug myself out of bed at 4:30 and got Sorsha tacked up and led her over to the start. She was fine, but got a little amped before the start. I got on to start the ride, but hopped back off and led her a block or so at the start. I hopped back on and once we started moving forward on the trail she was fine. I rode out of town on the new start trail with Gayle Penya and her friend, but went on ahead at the 10-mile water stop. I rode her alone having a great time for the next 9 miles to vet 1 at the sand dunes. I did have a weird semi-disaster with my eyes. A few miles before the vet check the wind started up and my eyes started burning like I had poured gasoline in them. I was riding with my left eye closed with tears streaming out. This was not going to work! I got to the check and poured water in them, but they were burning, and this was a problem. Sorsha blew through the check, and when I left, I hooked up with Lisa Schneider on the 65, and Michelle Rowe on the 100. We trotted up towards sheep springs chatting, and I told them my eyes were dying. Lisa opened up her portable medicine chest she carries on her horse and gave me 2 Benadryl tablets. (I saw a portable defibrillator in there!) 30 minutes later I had totally forgotten about my eyes. They were fixed! I obviously was allergic to something down here in April, which is two months later than this ride usually is. Thanks Lisa! I’m adding them to the Advil packets I carry. It was starting to get pretty warm outside, and there is ZERO shade out here. We rode along together all the way to vet 2 at the trees at mile 34, where I had the treat of the weekend. Ines, Brenda, and Cindy came out to crew for me. When I say crew for me, I mean it! It was actually kind of incredible. I pulled in, they sat me in a chair in the shade of a tree, grabbed Sorsha, and just took over. They did EVERYTHING and just made me sit and eat. I have not experienced that kind of plush treatment before. I could get used to that! It’s a shame the hold was only an hour, but eventually I had to leave. I left with Lisa and Michelle, continuing along together on the section I call the flats. It’s a long, flat, 5-mile section along the railroad tracks. Michelle thought for a minute we were going to be able to skip some of it, but no, I had to add in a couple of miles to make up for the nasty stuff I removed from the trail later. She said she hated this section. Okay, I told her, now this section is no longer known as the flats, it is now called “Michelle’s trail!” She groaned and said thanks. We trotted and even cantered a bit in the heat down the long, flat road until we reached the water at Goler road. The horses were drinking a lot today, thank goodness, and lucky for us Brian had put out extra water because of the heat. It would have been really ugly to find an empty trough, but there was no chance that would happen. Thanks Brian! We started up Rattlesnake canyon (I saw only one Mojave Green this week) and Lisa and Michelle were going a little faster than I wanted to go, so I let them go on ahead as Sorsha and I walk/trotted up the climb. We got half way up the canyon and turned right to take my new trail for this year. I removed 4.2 miles of hard, rocky and straight downhill roads in favor of the nice soft road that cuts through the pass at Laurel mountain. Boy what an improvement, if I do say so myself! Joyce Sousa and Jennifer Neihaus caught me before the water stop on top of the climb, and I rode with them for just a bit, but they were also going faster than I wanted to go, so I let them go as well. Jennifer was on a mission- she was trying for the “Ironman” award that I sponsored. One rider would ride 200 miles in three days on at least two horses. 50 Friday, 100 Saturday, 50 on Sunday. There were three people attempting the feat. If anyone can do it, Jennifer can!
The heat was starting to get pretty bad as we dropped down the canyon into the valley. There was no breeze at all, and the heat was pretty stifling. You could just not escape it. It was a little like riding in an oven, or at least that’s what I imagined it was like. Sorsha was being great and just kept on trotting along, with us being all by ourselves. It was a hot 90 minutes to the vet check at 55 miles, and the water sure felt good on my head. The 10 miles back to camp was hot as well, and it was sure nice to see camp at 65 miles. Ines was there helping me again, so I got to mostly sit and try and cool off. The temperature was dropping a bit, thank goodness, and a little breeze kicked up. Sorsha was eating well, so I let her stay a few extra minutes to chow down. I headed out in a tee shirt, and at the camp exit I saw a guy on a big grey getting ready to head out. I asked him if he’d like to ride together to give our horses company, and he said sure! His name is Buz Arnold, and it was the first 100 for him and his big horse Gus. Or Gus-Gus. Or Gussie. We rode out of town and into the desert on our last 35-mile loop. Gus was funny- on the way out of town he’d pause for a moment then go again. I think he was not sure this was correct! We were trotting along and caught up to Kassandra Dimaggio on her stallion. They were walking along, but once he got a look at my pretty mare, he instantly fell in love and joined us! He was a good boy, and he seemed interested in Sorsha, but Kassandra did a great job of keeping the big boy in line. It seemed to work best if she rode in front of Buz and I, with us side by side behind her.
We bopped along Boundary road together, and I noticed something weird- it was still light outside! Duh, in mid April there are a couple more hours of daylight than in February. It did not get dark until we were past the ridge summit and on our way down to the 395 south crossing. The air was actually cool! What a treat! I was still in a tee shirt. Buz snapped on his red glow bars on his breast collar, Kassandra did not have any lights, but I had my homemade battery powered blue LED strip lights on my breast collar. They work really well, casting a nice, soft blue light that lets you see the trail. Not to mention your crew can see you from miles away! It was totally dark out with absolutely no moon. Kassandra tried a couple of times to go ahead, but told us with a laugh that her horse was walking right off the road into the desert since it was so dark. She hung with us, riding the big boy in front of us in my light. Buz and I were taking it easy. It was his and Gus’s first 100, and they REALLY wanted to finish. I was in no hurry and just wanted a finish as well, so we walk / trotted the whole loop in the dark. Gus still had lots of punch left, and when we were on foot, Buz kept asking him: “why can’t you walk next to me nicely like that brown horse does?” Gus was puling on him, wanting to go faster. Good Boy, Gus! The three horses were drinking great from every water; we hopped off and led them in to the last check at 90 miles. Sorsha was at 44, typical, and big Gus recovered right away, both trotted great, so after our quick 20-minute hold we headed out on the last 10 miles towards home. We hopped off and led our horses for ¾ of a mile down the last downhill from the ridge. (that felt good on the old knees!) Once back on its just 2 miles through town to the finish. We sent Kassandra on ahead since her boy was going faster than us anyway. Buz and I trotted into the finish at about 12:40am, which was a pretty respectable time, for 9th and 10th place. I thought it was a decent time until I heard the winner finished at 8:30! Yikes! A tip of the visor to them. In this heat? I guess they were able to do some heat conditioning. I certainly could not. Both Sorsha and Gus looked great, which is all we could ask for. I led my big, brown, girly horse (who is now 3 for 4 in 100 mile rides) back over to Gretchen’s, gave her a ton of food, and crashed into bed. No problem sleeping tonight!
I woke up Sunday morning and thought about Jennifer. Would I go out and do a 50 today? Nope. Pass. Not her! She headed out at 6:30 am on the 50 after finishing the 50 on Friday, and the 100 just a few hours before. I did, however, head back out on the bike to clean up the pink 65-mile loop. Its just so much faster to do on the bike, and I felt good after about 6 hours sleep and a huge breakfast. I got back into camp on the bike at about 2pm, then went out and walked the section of trail I can’t ride on. I drove out and picked up all the signs, my bags of ribbons, etc, getting the whole thing done by about 4pm. We were going to go have dinner and lots of beer. I showered, and went back to camp and arrived just in time to hear that Dave Rabe had come off White Cloud and the horse had taken off across the desert. Oh boy. I hopped in the side by side and headed out to where he was reported to have come off. I found Dave walking slowly in the desert towards the main powerline road. He was hurt, but as he said: “I’m not dead.” (You have to know Dave.) He told me that his horse tripped or fell down, Dave came off, and the horse rolled over him. He had hit his helmet, and had what looked like at least a few broken ribs. He convinced me he was okay and did not need to go to the hospital that moment, and we needed to find his horse. We actually played the Lone Ranger and Tonto- we went back to the point where he came off, and we tracked White Clouds boot prints across the desert for about a half mile or so. We lost the track a few times but were able to find it. We got to the main powerline road that goes straight back into camp, but the horse had crossed the road and continued on into the desert. I knew where he was going. The tracks led straight towards the BLM wild mustang facility, about 3 miles away as the crow flies. There are a couple hundred horses and Burros there- that’s where he was going. Dave agreed we should go look there, and that’s where we found White Cloud. He was standing with his nose touching the fence on the other side of the mustangs. Dave was relieved, and being typical Dave, he asked me how far would the ride back to camp be. Ah, no, we are getting a trailer. I called Brian who grabbed Gretchen and rushed out to pick him and his horse up. We got them both back to camp, and our friends took over. Head vet Mike Peralez quickly inspected White Cloud and found him just scraped up. I think it was Kasandra who took him to the hospital where they confirmed 3 completely broken ribs, but no punctured lung or internal damage. Suzanne and Daryll Huff split up and drove Dave’s rig home for him. Endurance riders are good people.
Jennifer did indeed finish Sunday, making her the only person to complete the Iron Man challenge. That’s quite an accomplishment. Her award is a blanket of her choice, monogrammed with a bunch of stuff on it about her accomplishment. Just think- she will have the only one on the world! Congratulations Jenn. You deserve it.
We finally made it to dinner at a brew house and many beers. It had been quite a week. So much went on all week the 100 seemed almost like an afterthought. Not really! Sorsha is pretty amazing. I’m not sure what her next ride will be, in June perhaps, maybe Montana de Oro. I did get into Tahoe Rim which I love. What a great way to spend a week, even if it was a little busy at times. See you next year!
Thursday, April 15, 2021
by Nina Bomar
April 14 2021
It was our second day of competing at the Fire Mountain ride with Heidi Helly on OP, Dave Rabe riding White Cloud and me on my beloved Niño. Together we moseyed out of camp knowing full well that we’d be riding together as planned on the night before.
We had gathered around for tacos and live music, compliments of Heidi’s husband Patrick and fellow endurance rider Bart. They gave us a jam session that will forever be remembered. Juan and I managed to squeeze in a little dancing in between the cooking, serving, singing out loud and simply having a grand celebration.
Heidi mixed the salad while people showed up for the tailgate festivities. It was a joyous evening and while we all stuffed our bellies and shared stories, it was the music that made my heart sing. The romantic sound of the guitars flowed effortlessly and only because we had two great guitarists willing to provide... Even my horse Niño often peeked his head around the corner of the trailer to express his appreciation, while standing beneath the dark desert skies and enjoying the classic tunes.
Our Sunday morning start was quiet and soon we had a nice pace going with just the three of us. Heidi noted that we were the 100k mile club with Dave nearing an all time record of 75k miles and she recently surpassing her 15k mile mark from the first day’s ride. Then there was me, trying to pick up the slack but we certainly ain’t there yet. As we approached the ride photographer, we planned to make it a cover photo shot. It was our own fantasy to be accompanied by Dave who is a living legend in our sport and such an honest man. He has decades of stories to tell and Heidi too but the best part was when we made some pretty funny jokes about what it’d take to make a front page magazine appearance. At the very least, we were thankful knowing that Dave has achieved that status at least once in his illustrious endurance riding career but he deserves so many more... they both do imho...
We trotted on laughing and then complaining at times when we had inadvertently lost the marked trail. The ribbon was now backwards from the previous ride on Friday and if you didn’t pay close attention, it was easy to screw up. We agreed on numerous occasions to quit storytelling and to pay better attention to the ribbons that would send us in the right direction. That was hard to do and soon we’d get distracted and share the memories of another great experience.
The Fire Mountain ride isn’t so easy... either you’re going uphill or downhill with very little flatland. The weather was warm at times and the horses pushed on brilliantly. At the lunch stop Dave and I had a beer, mine a Mexican Corona and his an American Organic... He’s purely a meat and potatoes man who loves to enjoy a cold beer.
We headed out on our last 20 mile loop. The horses were doing great, while we promptly missed a turnoff and climbed an extra mountain. At the top, we asked some motorcyclists if they’d seen horses, while knowing perfectly well that they hadn’t. Needless to say, it was another turnaround and a screwup that was our own fault for talking too much. We figured that while we got in a few extra miles, we always managed to correct ourselves and we continued on. It was at the last water stop where we let the horses drink, snack on carrots and we prepared for the final trek back to camp. We only had a handful of miles left to go and we were ready to see the finish line.
With Heidi in front, then me, followed by Dave, we trotted off. It was a sandy area and we took it slow, when suddenly I heard Dave say... No no no! I thought we had taken a wrong turn but I saw the red ribbon on the lefthand side and I turned around to assure him we were good.
Much to my surprise and while it all unfolded within seconds, I saw White Cloud take a tumble and he did a somersault right over the top of Dave, scrambled to his feet and came trotting in my direction... without Dave. I tried to grab him but he went right on by. I told Heidi to go back and make sure Dave was okay, while I would try to catch his horse. I waited for a minute to have her blessings and to be sure that Dave was in fact fine. They both directed me to go on.
I had initially jumped off Niño after the commotion began and then I jumped back on him as he was still quite excited and I was too. There was a lot going on for my young horse but he handled it brilliantly and we tried with all our might to catch White Cloud but every time we’d get closer he would go faster. We tried backing off too and completely stopping but White Cloud was on a mission and paying no attention to us. He kept his nose to the ground and was on a hunt presumably heading back to camp on his own.
Feeling frustrated I called Heidi from my cell phone as we got farther away and I didn’t want to lose contact with them just incase they needed more help, while I also didn’t want to lose sight of Dave’s horse. I knew how important that was to stay with him but I was struggling.
Heidi said that Dave wanted me to ride on and to head off through the desert for a bit and to then try and get in front of him to cut him off, but the further ahead I got, the faster he galloped... making it impossible to catch him. I tried that several times but we continually failed and I went from sweet talking to cursing at the sob for not stopping. It seemed we kept going farther and farther and faster and faster with each mile.
Soon we found ourselves crossing through the middle of the barren desert and completely off trail. I was afraid we would get lost not to mention the Choya cactus that was hiding beneath on the desert ground. I stopped Niño feeling completely defeated and we managed to find our way back to the trail where I called Heidi again. We waited at an intersection of trail and all met up to discuss our next step.
Dave was walking and holding his chest but said he was feeling fine and he was coherent. He said his ribs hurt. I told him what direction his horse went and pointed out that he was headed towards the powerline road. He decided that he would walk in that direction and try to find him while we called for more help. The good news is that the horse was soon caught down at the holding pens and Dave was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with three broken ribs.
We had a whole posse come out to the rescue and the ride management handled it all with grace and efficiency. We are very thankful that in the end, everything wasn’t worse off and that Dave has an entire village always willing to help him. He’s a beloved leader in our sport and soon he will be back on his horses hitting the trails...
Monday, March 08, 2021
by Nick Warhol
I had one heck of a week! it started with my truck breaking down AGAIN the day before I was supposed to head to Arizona from the bay area for the Land of the sun ride in Wickenburg. I was planning on staying at Brian Reeve’s place on the way down, then he and I were going to Ridgecrest for a day and a half to work on the trail for the upcoming 20 mule team / fire mountain combo ride on April 10th. My transmission failed again on the way back from a local ride with Judy and Donnie on Saturday. Sometimes my luck does work- the tranny was replaced 20 months ago, and the repair had a 2 year warranty. Whew! Its in the shop now getting fixed under warranty, but once its back it will never tow a horse again. Not to mention it was serious luck that it broke before the day before I left for my week-long trip. I called Brian to cancel and he said: “No, use one of my trucks!” He told me to drive down to his place in Squaw Valley, Ca, (not the ski place, the one near Fresno) and leave my car and take his dodge dually home and the trip is on as planned. He and Val have a really nice ranch setup in the hills near King’s Canyon. Their generosity was unbelievable. I got his truck, drove it back home, loaded up and and off to Ridgecrest we went. I spent a half day with him in a side by side and a day on my bike finishing up the trails for the ride. There are several changes since we are doing it the same weekend as the fire mountain ride, and there is a large motorcycle race on saturday that caused some major re-routing. All is good- we have the new routes set, and the changes on the 65-mile loop are VERY good for the horses. (I removed 4 miles of hard, rocky, downhill, boring roads)
Sorsha and I truck pooled to the ride with Gretchen Montgomery and her mare Coquette. It was another 7 hours from ridgecrest to Wickenburg. 15 hours of driving is a bit much for a 50, but there are just no rides yet where I am, and I wanted a 50 before the 100 at 20MT on April 10. I’m not sorry I went at all. I love doing rides in new areas I have not been in yet, and it did not disappoint. Ride camp is at a place called Boyd Ranch at the end of a good quality, eight-mile dirt road from the highway. We arrived on Thursday, giving the horses a full day to recover from the long drive. The ride camp is about perfect- it was deluxe and had everything you might want short of hot showers. We took the girls out for a ride Friday afternoon to get them loosened up, and to introduce Sorsha to the Saguaro cactus. These things are monsters! They grow from the size of a fire hydrant to bigger than a football stadium goal post. She did not seem to care about them, or the six foot high cholla cactus plants, or the massive prickly pear plants the size of cars, but for some reason she did not think much of the barrel cactus. I grew up in the desert, but let me tell you, there was a LOT of cactus in this place.
The weather was cold at night, but during the day it was really nice- cool but not cold, and not hot. My perfect weather is when it’s too cool in the shade for short sleeves, but just right in the sun. The 50 would be run on three loops: 17, 12, and 20 miles, all of which returned to base camp. It seemed a little odd to only have one hold after the second loop, but its good to have the extra time at this ride. The 50 started at 6:30 in the almost light. The first loop started out really neat- single track across the open desert through the rolling hills. The trail was tight- it wound back and forth around bushes (AND CACTUS!) every few feet. It would open up a bit, then get really tight again. you needed a lot of trail marking on trails like this since you are riding from ribbon to ribbon, and they provided! The trail was marked superbly using a lot of ribbon, and the nice bio degradable spray paint arrows on the ground. I came to really appreciate those arrows! The area is pretty rocky everywhere, but was not an issue for us with Sneakers. The single track was really fun, but after a while I noticed that it was getting demanding. It wasn’t like just trotting along at Point Reyes; it took your full attention and concentration on every turn (every 5 feet) to make sure you stayed on trail, and more importantly, steering your horse with your hands and legs to keep them out of the cactus that was everywhere. After a while it felt like a three-hour dressage test! it was fun, but the continued concentration made it relentless. We would get a break every once in a while, but unfortunately the relief was trudging through deep sand washes. I prefer the single track! The ride management said they did it their best to mitigate some of this sand by routing us out of the wash and into the desert next to the wash for relief. Well, it was relief of sorts; it was 18 inches deep in the wash and a foot deep out of the wash. This was the only really tough part of the trail for us, since I don’t train in this stuff. Sorsha has never even been in sand that deep before. We just trudged through it at a walk. I tried to walk some on foot for a bit but it was too deep for me to even make any headway. I was always amazed when people would come trotting by us at speed through this stuff. It’s fine if you are prepared for it, but we were not, so we just took it really easy. It was slow slogging for a couple hours of the ride.
Once out of the sand, we got back into the desert and more single track. Turn, Turn, Turn, concentrate, turn, repeat for an hour. Gayle Penya coined the perfect phrase that described this type of riding- it was hours straight of pole bending, but the poles had spines!
The first loop did end with our real first flat section, a nice hard wash that we trotted on for about a mile and a half. WoW! That felt good to actually move out a little. The loop ended on a weird series of roads and soft wash that ran through ranch property. The trail in went right through base camp to the vet area for a pulse, trot out, and go vet check. The second loop continued with the same type of trails. We found and saw Crockett’s Saguaro, (In one of the pictures) the absolutely bizarre giant cactus that someone had to design. It could not have grown like that! It was pretty cool. We also got to see lots of a plant called an Ocotillo, a yucca I think, that looks like a cactus, and feels like a cactus, but is not. It’s a big, spiny thing that looks like, well, an Ocotillo! (in the pictures) The flowers were just starting to come out. Back into the sand and more single-track pole bending through the cactus. It was about here, around 30 miles, that I found myself thinking something I don’t think I have ever thought in 30 years of riding. “Boy, I’m ready to get off the single track and find a nice dirt road!” Usually it’s quite the opposite!
The hour hold at 30 miles felt good, and the ride provided bag lunches for us. We set out on the last loop of 20 miles and it was actually better in terms of diversity of trail. Yes, there was still plenty of pole bending and deep sand trudging, but we were given a few miles of dirt roads that were quite welcome. We encountered a couple of gold miners on the trail, including one big, scary looking guy who had blocked the trail with his truck, making us ride into the rocks to get around. He had dug a huge hole that looked like a grave next to the trail. Yuck. He was not at all friendly, so we left him to do his thing, what ever it was. There was some nice trail that we could actually trot along at a good clip, and even a real honest-to-god downhill that we could lead down on foot! I realized I had not really been off the horse in about 45 miles. That felt good on the old creaky knees. Some more sand led us to the last road section in the wash and we popped out of the wash at camp and into the finish. Both horses looked great- the Big, Brown, Girly horse’s CRI at the vet out was 40/40, about normal for her.
One thing I miss with the Covid stuff is the awards meeting. It is really nice to know how many horses there were, finishers, who placed where, etc. I have no clue how we finished, other that there were about 37 starters, and we finished with about 9 horses behind us. Pretty specific! I have no idea about pulls. I just heard today that a horse went missing from the ride and as of today (I think) is still missing. I sure hope they find it.
It was a long week with lots of driving, but it was worth it to sample the Arizona desert. It is spectacular country, that’s for sure. My only gripe about the ride was the sand, but other than that it was a fun time. We got the final trail details worked out for the fire mtn / 20 mule team ride coming up in a month, and I got to spend a day on my dirt bike in the desert which is always a plus.
I hope to see everyone at the ride on the weekend of April 10th in Ridgecrest. It will be a great party, that’s for sure! I’ll be riding Sorsha on the 100 for the 4th time here- (she is 2 for 3) Funny- it’s the only 100 she has done so far! We will have to do something about that this year. Championship, Big Horn, Tevis……..
Land of the Sun 50, Wickenburg AZ, West Region