One of the great things about this ride being over Thanksgiving weekend is that it lets you look back over the previous year and think of all the things that you have to be Thankful for. On the 9-hour drive to Jean, Nevada this year I thought of all of those things. Weaver and Rocky, I am sure, don't realize how much I appreciate them, nor do they understand all of the great and wonderful experiences that they have given me. I can shut my eyes (not while I'm driving tho), and think back to any of the various places we have been over the last year and I am magically transformed to that moment. I remember sponsoring a junior on her first 100, while she slept with her arms around Rocky's neck in the last couple of miles to the finish. I remember Weaver drinking out of the Snake River, and of the blisters he put on my hands trying to slow him down after leaving the vet check on the last day at that ride. I remember the how the air smelled from the soft rain and Weaver's warm breath on my neck when I got off to get a gate. Everything I think of makes me smile. I am truly Thankful this Thanksgiving.
As time goes on I think I have learned to appreciate each ride a lot more. I am not in any hurry to finish, because then it is over. I rode with John Bass on the first day, and we finished last. We had the most amazing ride. There was a storm, and the sky filled the desert with the most incredible colors. The contrast between the brown desert and the rainbow of colors in the sky is something that is just so special to get to experience. The weather was just perfect - no wind, it didn't rain and we were comfortable. As John and I went over the Rocky Pass for what may well be the last time anybody rides over it on an endurance ride, I collected one of the trail markers to keep as a souvenir. We were in last place---the first time we went thru Rocky Pass we were getting lapped by the front runners. The second time thru was pretty peaceful! As I was leading Weaver down the steepest part of the pass, he stopped and turned his head, letting me know that we were getting too far ahead of John and Boomer. I looked back and saw that John was indeed quite a ways back, he looked like he was trying out for a role in Night of the Living Dead, or the Mummy, by how he was moving . This gave me more opportunity to snap photos of the spectacular colors. The days are short, so we rode the last couple of miles in the dark. Lights from the Nevada Landing casino blinded us and so we just let the horses find the way. They knew better than we did where the trail went. This day's trail does a loop back into the same camp. We finished at 5:30, went to the ride meeting at 6:00 then headed over to the casino to eat dinner. What a day!
On the second day we ride point to point, from Jean out to Blue Diamond. I really like this trail because it is so much fun to ride. The trail winds and dips and turns and goes up and down. I was sponsoring Heather, a junior, and her horse Marc. Heather's older sister Miranda was moving my rig and Rocky for me to Blue Diamond. I rode Weaver and waited for most everybody to start and leave camp until we left. This resulted in a nice easy relaxed day. On some of the last rides Weaver has become really difficult when he doesn't get to go at a pace that he wants. I much prefer to avoid that kind of situation. Anybody who thinks a young horse is difficult at the start---an experienced *strong* and opinionated horse isn't a whole lot easier! :+D On this day, same as the one before, I often felt as if I was riding a ballet - as the horse just glided thru the trail with such ease and grace. I feel so safe and secure on Weaver, he has never fallen with me and he loves following those narrow single-track trails with as much enthusiasm as ever. We did get rained on a little bit this day, but the temperature was warm and it was nice. The night before it rained for hours. Weaver's neck and head had been wet for a full day and he was still in a good mood. Ordinarily, he hates bad weather. But, this was just rain, no wind, and warm -so he was pretty content. Because it was warm, humid and raining - the horses just never did dry. My Gore-Tex raingear kept me dry and warm, and Weaver had a polar fleece rump rug. The rain from the night before made the desert even more beautiful than ever. The barrel cactus were vivid red in color, the moss had turned bright turquoise and green and the Joshua trees stood out against the brown earth in their new shiny green colors. Add to this the colored rocks as we head up towards Cave Canyon and the clouds in the sky and you've got nearly every color imaginable. Heather decided to pull at the lunch stop, so I continued on and rode the rest of the day with Tracy and her stallion Dragon. The trail markings had been tampered with, but we managed to find our way without too much trouble. It was about 3:30 when we finished--7:00 a.m. starts. RM provided a really nice hot dinner to us that night (the other nights we had the casino restaurants to choose from), and completion awards were polar fleece throws.
On the third day I rode Rocky. This day was the 1st ride day of the new ride season. We started last and stayed behind Trilby for several miles out. I spent a lot of time working on getting him to walk and trying to keep him calm and from getting too wound up. Knowing he'd already spent 2 days not being ridden to get wound up (he hates being not-rode!) He likes to try and use every excuse in the book to break into a gallop. I found that morning, the only two gears Rocky had were "neutral" - which is when he was standing still and "faster", which is what he tried to achieve no matter what gait we were in. It went something like this: (from the horses perspective) "I want to gallop, if I can't gallop, I will trip. When I trip I will save myself by going into a gallop. If you try and control my speed I will run thru a cholla cactus". Yet, I never got mad at him, instead I talked to him and patiently kept working with him until he understood. When I started to feel him responding to my leg aids and he was staying in a trot, I let him go a little more. When he tried to get going too fast we would go back to a walk. During the lunch vet check he probably tossed his head up in the air at least 100 times -all the while eating, drinking, peeing on his food, and dragging me around. Apparently Chill Out wasn't in Rocky's vocabulary on this day. He gets like this sometimes. After lunch I let him go a little more and that made him really happy, though I still had to bring him down to a walk if he saw riders ahead. This was a great training day for us, because at the end of it I felt that I had accomplished something. We still have a long way to go. I still don't know how many cholla cactuses we knocked into.
Well, all three days went by too fast. Just like that, it is over. The casino is there, and we ate dinner in it one last time. It is nice to have good friends. We had a great time, talking about the magic we have from riding our horses on such a fun trail. I will miss this ride. Weaver and Rocky, between them, have completed the last 21 days, or - 7 years - of Silver State. We've had a lot of great times here, and will really miss this trail. It is a real treasure! Thanks to LVDR, Claire, Fred, Peggy and all of their wonderful helpers on all of their hard work. We really appreciate you. :-)
& Rocky .....looking forward to wherever we end up next year :-)