The Manzanita Endurance ride held Oct. 5 in the PS region just along the border with Mexico is out in the middle of nowhere. When you see a road sign saying "next rest stop 60 miles" - you know that you're headed away from civilization. But that said - this ride put on by many time ride manager Terry Woolley Howe turns out to be a lot of fun. Terry's rides always have great amenities, facilities, and scenery.
The ride is located in the Manzanita Horse camp 65 miles east of San Diego on the Campo Indian Reservation with our basecamp at 4000 feet. It's high chaparral country with cool nights and pleasant days this time of the year. The camp is located in a small valley with oak trees surrounding it in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. The setting is that of early "B" western movies and should look familiar. Many movies of the 40's and 50's used the area for filming. There are towering stands of granite rocks, desert trails weaving through chaparral, and a nighttime sky full of millions of stars.
The camp has facilities for RVs and about 90 pipe corrals for our horses. Plus it has showers which seem to really enthuse the women riders. The night is cold before the ride - in the high 30s but warming up to a pleasant temperature during the day. The moon is a small silver crescent shining over the camp before we get up early to get our horses ready for the start.
There's about 80 starters in the 25 mile LD, 71 in the 50 mile ride, about 6 Ride and Tie teams, and a few 15 mile fun riders all under the veterinary supervision of AERC President Barney Fleming, Hugh Hewett, and other vets. The ride is moderate with some hills, sand, single track, dirt roads, and lots of these little tubular cactus called Chola. The start at 6:30 just after sunrise is a nice controlled start leading to the first vet check at a little over 14 miles.
It's well marked everywhere - cute signs on yellow that say things like trail turn ahead, steep slope use low gear, watch for falling rock next to a 10 ton rock balanced on top of another, and big stump behind the next bush. There's a few difficult places - one with a permanent sign saying Crash Crevice - but your biggest hazard is the spiky Chola that can get you or your horse. One finally got me late in the day but apparently my horse was more agile than I was and avoided them all.
The most striking scenery is the huge rock formations. There are towering stands of rock with unusual balancing rocks on top of each other - many tons of rock that you wonder how this happened and why it's still there. Glaciers perhaps ages ago but now it's the desert. Huge rocks cover the hillsides helter skelter as if some giant hand had just tossed them at random over the landscape.
The vet checks have fresh fruit, firm ice cold fruit popsicles, and other treats handed out by the many volunteers. At one place on the road where there's nothing around but sagebrush - there's a stand with a tent for shade set up just for handing out treats to the riders. Terry certainly takes good care of her riders and their horses.
Little eight year old Sarah from an earlier Terry WH ride is here with her father to see and hold the horses again. She remembers my guy from the New Ride in June and leads him around the camp after the ride is over. She's learning to ride and will someday be out there on our rides just like many of those other little girls who grew up and are riding this trail today.
It's just a personal view but men seem to come into horses later in life than the women. Women have wanted horses all their lives and while they may have breaks for college or family usually return to horses. Guys get distracted early in life and miss out on what can happen between you and your horse. At this ride, I see a number of motocross guys in full safety gear. We are polite to each other but I think they are missing out on something important in life.
The stalls are a nice feature at a ride - you don't get the squeak from a trailer tie or the banging of buckets on the side of the trailer all night to keep you awake. But you don't hear the nice quiet sound of the horses munching on hay all night either. And when the water bucket is knocked over in the morning - you don't know if he drank it and tipped it over looking for more - or whether it was tipped over early and he never drank. But for showers - there's no downside at all - they are always great to have.
Terry has an excellent catered awards banquet as always. Her awards ceremonies are always funny with comments such aa "there are 4 Icelandics in the ride now including John Parke and how they are going to replace our Arabs the horse of choice for endurance".
First in the 50 is Shelli Sexton followed by Suzy Kelley(BC on La Petite Dancer) with Ernie Lohman in third. Ernie is riding so much and doing so well that he is 1st and 2nd in the PS heavyweight standings on two different horses this year. 70 of the 80 LD starters complete and 61 of the 70 starters in the 50 mile ride finish. Terry does an AERC BC for the LD ride and also has a broader Best LD Horse award.
Terry - another very nice ride even if it's way out in the middle of "nowhere".