Friday, January 01, 1999

'98 Death Valley Encounter - Karen Chaton

We just returned from a wonderful week spent in Death Valley, California riding the DVE ride - 4 days and 200 miles. I think a large portion of the riders there are all RC`ers so you`ll probably get a lot more stories.

The ride is a lot of fun. A real challenge and a test that only the toughest horses are able to complete the entire 200 mile distance. Not only are there some very challenging climbs, but the footing is also a challenge all by itself. Add to that the incredibly warm temperatures and sunny days and you`ve got one difficult winter ride. I know I learned a lot about my horse - we had enough of our own problems - but managed to perservere and I think due to a great deal of luck, experience from others and having one tough horse - we managed to get thru it. (we being me and Rocky). This was Rock`s first multiday.

As usual, this being a Bumgardner was an adventure. We should expect no less, I suppose. I think Jackie wants the second day of this ride to become legendary.

The first day of the ride we started at Valley Wells. We rode to Ballarat the first day. We did one loop back into camp, then rode out from there to the next ride camp location. There was plenty of room in camp to accommodate 108 riders and horses. (I think that is how many started the first day)

I knew from the start that I would have problems with Rocky`s soft heels. And I did. I knew I couldn`t ride him in easyboots because I couldn`t put the heel strap on over the soft heel bulb. He normally has very tough feet and loves to go over rocks (how do you think he got his name!) I decided to put the boots on at the start of the first day, hoping that his feet had dried out some from being down there overnight. I rode the first loop with Becky Hackworth and her daughter Heather. The trail was actually very nice, the footing wasn`t too bad at all. Only we came into the vet check and Rocky was a little sore/off on one of his front feet. So I took off his boots, walked him around every few minutes for his hour hold and re-checked him and he was fine. The rest of the trail that day was such that he didn`t have any trouble for the remainder of the day. Jackie implemented a new vet check procedure (new for this ride, not for every ride). When you went into the vet check, you were supposed to vet right away. Then, before you could leave again the vets had to watch you trot out - just to make sure everything was okay. After lunch on the first day we headed over to Ballarat and the crews/drivers moved our rigs over to the new ridecamp location. The new location was a little more crowded, but everybody had room. The RC in Ballarat has showers and an interesting little store. Though the showers weren`t working - I think somebody said they filled up the horse water and used up all the pressure in the tanks. Oh well.

Day two was to be the most difficult day, same as the year before. Only this time because of the ice on one side of the mountain Jackie decided to send us around in a "P" shape on the mountain rather than a full loop. That way we would not have to go over the large sections of solid ice on the trail. Only, at the very start of the ride, a miner (there are lots of mines there) had marked with - you guessed it - orange trail tape - how to get to his mine. Which started out going up the same way as our trail, but then went to the left. Well, everybody - and I mean everybody - went the WRONG WAY! I think almost everyone went at least 1-2 hours out of the way. Straight up the mountain - and when the frontrunners ran out of trail (which was a lucky thing, actually), we all turned around and headed straight back down. Finally got onto the correct trail. I had commented to Becky that `this trail doesn`t look familiar`, but being that I came down the trail in the dark the year before I wasn`t exactly sure that it was wrong. At least going up the correct trail there were creeks along the way. Yay! We had a loooooooong climb ahead of us (again!) and we chose to walk most of it (as we had the original hill that we climbed, at the first start). Once we reached the top and Sparrow (water guy) - we had more water for the horses, and some hay. We stuck around for a few minutes and let the horses eat the remaining hay and talked with Sparrow for awhile. Becky joked that we had probably climbed 9000` feet - and he said - in all seriousness - `oh no, you didn`t even come close to that - you only did a little over 8,000`. Ha ha. And we`d only gone what, 16 miles? This was going to be a long day. Headed back down the mountain, got off and walked the horses thru the steepest parts. Finally made it back down, I think we made it into lunch check at about 2 p.m. - had an hour hold. Then headed out for the last loop. (we passed Trilby on our way back - she was cantering!) This loop was good footing, and the horse was still feeling good without the easyboots. His urine didn`t look too good, and I told Barney who checked him over and said to bring him back if it didn`t look better next time - and luckily, it was perfect for the remainder of the ride - other riders told me that it could have been nothing more than the change in diet. He had been eating a lot of alfalfa at this ride, and he usually doesn`t get any. I was also giving him more probiotics than normal. But it didn`t stop me from worrying about him all night and day . I kept a close eye on him, and everything else was normal. He was eating well, drinking, had a great attitude, never got stiff, and continued to urinate large volumes and normal color so I can only hope that nothing happened to cause any damage or harm to him in any way.

We started out the third day full of optimism. This is my least favorite day of the ride. The first 8 miles or so was nice, good footing. Water for the horses, they drank well. I was still riding with Becky and her horse Mark. soon after that the trail changed and became very rocky. I stopped and put an easyboot on Rocky`s tender foot and he was fine for awhile. Then he got a little sore so I took it off. The vetwrap that I had around the heel strap was soaking wet - that is how full of moisture his feet were. So we continued, at a walk all the way down to the lunch vet check. He was moving nicely on the firm stuff, but very owie on the soft deep sandy rocky stuff. We made it into the vet check and now the horse was sore on the other front foot. I think that both of his heels were just tender and bothering him from going over all those rocks. So this is what we did - I had my crew bag there with all my EB stuff, luckily. I pulled out two size 1`s, cut the heel straps off completely. Then, cleaned up his foot and easy-foamed the boots on his front feet. We did this while he ate and during the hour hold the foam set up Linda (Barney`s wife) helped me clean up the mess - hay sticking all over his feet - and trim away any hairs stuck to the foam around the edges. Then we left the check with him still a little sore but I knew that once he walked a ways with the heels protected that he would be fine - plus the footing on the way back was a lot better. By the time we reached the next water he was trying to go go go and felt absolutely 100% again. Whew! All morning I thought for sure I would have to pull him at lunch, so I found this to be some sort of miracle that he was now sound from something so simple as foaming on those easyboots without the heel straps. What a lifesaver!!! We could see the lights of Panamint Springs for quite some time and the horses seemed to know that is where we were going. By the time we reached the highway crossing it was completely dark. My husband waited for us at the intersection and drove behind us with his flashers on to keep anybody from running us over, since it was a 65 mph zone. The shoulder alongside the highway was nice and wide, and we had to let the horses trot some - otherwise Rocky was trying to jig, he wanted to go so bad. I thought for sure by the third day he would be over that jig thing. Was I ever wrong. I felt good that night, confident that the horse would be sound in the morning. It was 6:33 p.m. when we finished. A long day, but good for the horses not to have gone any faster over the terrain that day.

I got up at 4 the next morning to walk Rocky and make sure everything was okay. I had apparently worn out the switch on the light (it`s by the bed in the gooseneck, so I can turn it on and see the horses outside in the pen), and could no longer blind my horse 50 million times a night looking to see what he was doing every half second.

I think that due to the difficulty of this ride, among other things, that many of the riders were a little short with their tempers. All around us, people were yelling, snapping, and biting each others heads off. Eeeeeeeeeeyikes!!

Our RC at Panamint Springs was nice. Each of us had our own RV campsite, with water. There are showers there - tiled and everything. A little restaurant across the street too. The ride starts going up the highway, then Darwin Canyon - thru Darwin then up to the vet check which is somewhere in the middle of nowhere. At this point I was a little tired of Rocky wanting to jig, so I let him go a little more and trot out. The vet check was a little cool and windy, but before that it was really nice and warm. I think some of the longer haired horses were getting a little hot. I had clipped Rocky`s neck, which I`m sure helped him a lot. He seemed to adapt to the warmer weather just fine. I left the vet check with a nice fresh feeling horse. I think he knew we were going back to camp. A little while later, April Mitchell riding Zayante caught up with us. Our two horses were very competetive together. We were going over really nice footing, and both of us let the horses out. I think we were going over 15 mph. What a blast! We were still holding the horses back. It was like we were floating - and this was on the downhill too. The horses weren`t feeling the least bit tired and we continued letting them move out. We walked thru the town of Darwin. Interesting place. Then we went down down down a long paved road. I didn`t remember it being paved for that long on the way out in the morning. We made it to the top of Darwin Canyon and decided to get off and walk down. It`s pretty rocky and the last thing I wanted to do was lame up my horse at the very end of the ride. Once we got to the bottom, I got back on and Rocky and Zayante resumed their competetiveness and we just hauled butt all the way to the finish line! We finished in 10th and 11th place. :) Yippee!! Walked into the camp back down the highway and vetted the horses right away. Lucy had come down to ride on the last day, but nobody had any sound horses left for her so she took Rocky for me while I went to shower :)) and cleaned him all up for me. I think he was most interested in eating. I had kept up the carbos on him during the ride, every two hours, and electrolytes three times a day (pre-ride, lunch, post-ride). Rocky didn`t want to eat much of anything except hay - which he ate lots of. He did eat a fair amount of the beet pulp based feeds during the ride, but that was about it. On the last day he did eat a couple of pounds of LMF and I find that kind of funny. At this ride he brought his mileage total up to 1075 miles. It was at almost the same exact mileage marker that Weaver started to eat the grain feeds too! I guess what they say is true - it really does take about 1,000 miles to know if your horse has really got what it takes to be an endurance horse! I sure hope the next thousand are as much fun as the first....though with less of a learning curve .

We got nice insulated coffee/travel cups each day for completion awards. Everybody that completed all four days on the same horse will also receive a sweatshirt with the ride logo and our name and horses name embroidered on the front. The ultimate status symbol! ;+)

Jackie had a band for us and a nice awards dinner on the last night. I think I was the only one (ah hem) that didn`t get on her list for completing all 4 days on the same horse. I suppose that`s okay, cuz now the whole world knows anyway, right? ha ha The band played till midnight and many people danced. Mostly Trilby and Dave Rabe. I don`t know how Trilby has so much energy. I`m half her age and don`t have that much energy. (wimp)

I`m sure I left out lots of stuff. We had a nice time, it was especially enjoyable because my husband was NOT grumpy and we got along the whole time :). I took lots of the human form of Pro-Burst at this ride and came home feeling great - no stiffness at all. Just tired. I liked that stuff- works better than taking Orudus or Vitamin I.

Happy Trails,

Karen in Gardnerville & Rocky, 1075 miles, just weight taped him and he came back with exactly the same measurements he left with! & Weaver, on vacation :-)

P.S. and the ride song goes something like this.....
ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the toad
ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the toad
why did you jump........into the road
you used to green and fat....
and now you red and flat....
ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the toad
why did you jump........into the road
;-) (you had to be there)

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