My horse, CT’s Sinatra (so named because he’s a paint-cross gelding with two blue eyes), and I enjoyed the beautiful weather and gracious hospitality of our hosts this weekend at the Land of the Neversweats Ride. He and I were going for a completion on the 25 LD on Saturday, or second ride ever. I’ve only had him since February of this year and we’ve been slowly conditioning and getting ready for rides.
I left Reno on Friday around 2:30 and arrived in camp around 5 pm. Not bad for 100 miles in an old truck that’s getting a new engine this weekend! Pre-ride vetting was supposed to be happening between 4 and 7 pm. I was met at the gate to the Nucking Futz Ranch (yes, that is the correct name) by a helpful volunteer who directed me on where to park and let me know that they were going to provide dinner to all the riders on Friday night at no charge as well! I got my gelding unloaded and camp all set up. He had handled the trip very well and although eager to check things out, he was behaving himself very nicely. Spending the entire day tied to the trailer at the Washoe Ride two weeks ago while I volunteered and scribed for the vet was the BEST thing I could have done for him. He is starting to take all this traveling and excitement at rides very much in stride. Not bad for a 5 year old that hadn’t been out much before I bought him.
Dinner was excellent but due to a sudden illness by one vet and an emergency with our other, Dr. McCartney didn’t arrive to start pre-ride vet in until almost 7 pm. Everyone lined up and patiently waited while she checked each horse. This ride was hosting a 25 on both Sat and Sun, a 55 on Sat and Sun, and a 2-day 105 mile ride. After vetting was completed we had our pre-ride meeting in the dark around 8:30 or so. Dr. McCartney warned us to take very good care of our horses tomorrow, there were 63 horses and only one vet, which meant that if she had to treat a horse, then they may have to stop the ride. They staggered the start of the 55 and 25 so that she could attend the away check that the 55’s had around the 20 mile mark (I’m not exactly sure on that mileage). The 55’s would start at 7 am and the 25’s would have a leisurely morning and start at 10 am. I turned off my alarm clock (there was NO WAY I was going to sleep that late) and finally crawled into bed around 9:45 pm.
I slept a lot better than I expected in the truck cab. It's just long enough I could stretch out. My biggest problem was the full moon was SO bright it was shining in the windshield and right into my eyes. So I slept with my head under the covers for a while. =) I need to get a windshield shade. The other windows are tinted really dark and you can't see in. I woke up when they made the rounds honking the horn at 6 am…. What to do for the next 4 hours??? I got up and gave my horse his breakfast and then crawled back into my sleeping bag and read my book for a while. Sat around and watched the 55’s get ready to go. Finally it was time for me to start saddling my horse and before I knew it, it was 10 am and they yelled, “Trails Open!”
There were 11 of us entered in the 25 mile ride. We all left at a nice leisurely walk and after a few 100 yards, took up a nice working trot. Sinatra was feeling good and behaving himself very well. We were soon passed by a lady on a big Morgan gelding who was traveling much faster than I wanted to that day (she ended up winning the ride). After about 6 miles, our little group (as in all 11 of us) ran into Dave Cootware going the opposite direction. He was the front-runner in the 55 and was kind enough to let us know we had all missed the turn about a mile back. So we all turned around and back-tracked, oh well, at least when EVERYONE misses it, it makes things fun and very fair! That was the ONLY section of trail that was not clearly marked that day.
Sinatra was doing great on pacing. I love this horse! We ride and train by ourselves quite often so he’s not very attached and will let me know when he wants to speed up or slow down, regardless of what the horses in front of him are doing. Today was the first time he felt a little “racy” with me but he was still very easy to rate and control. He’s just starting to understand that endurance is a lot of fun and it’s even more enjoyable in company! We did a lot of trotting with intermittent walking where it was rocky or he needed a break. I ended up riding the first 10 miles or so with a really nice man by the name of Heinrich (I believe) from Napa on a dark gray 6 year old Arab. The trail was really nice, with a lot of single track and jeep roads. There was some rock but you could just slow down and walk through it. There was also some deep sand, but we have sand we train in at home so Sinatra didn’t mind. There were some rolling hills and great views of the surrounding valley. Not a tree in sight though, unless it was hooked to someone’s sprinkler system! This is the N. CA desert after all, only a few miles from the NV border.
After a short but really steep hill, I got off to adjust my girth and didn’t really see Heinrich again (he ended up finishing 5th). So I rode the last 10 miles back into camp with a lady from Red Bluff (sorry, I’m absolutely HORRIBLE with names!). Our two horses were pretty evenly matched and we enjoyed taking turns leading and following. About ½ mile from the finish, she and another couple behind us decided to walk their horses in. Sinatra had been having great recoveries all day and was happily trotting along at about 100 on my heart rate monitor so I let him cruise on in. I walked him the last 100 yards and by the time we go to the In Timer, he was at 70. I jumped off, grabbed my vet card, got my time, and walked him around the corner to the P & R where he pulsed in at 56. Good boy! At our first ride, vetcheck was so exciting that it took him about 5 minutes to get used to everything and come down, even though he was walking in at 70 at that time as well.
Since we had an hour hold at this point (20 miles) I walked him back to the trailer to untack. He drank a BUNCH of water (he always does) and dove into his beet pulp mash (soaked Manna Equine Senior w/ electrolytes). I made myself a sandwich and let him eat. When he was done with his mash, I took him over to get vetted. He received all A’s except for a B on capillary refills and his pulse after his CRI was 40! Wow! This horse is doing awesome!
We went back to the trailer and hung out until I thought it was time to go. I saddled up and walked over to the Out Timer to discover I had hit it right on the nose and it was exactly time for me to leave. So I got on and started on the orange 5 mile loop. This loop was REALLY rock, lots of loose shale and big river rock in a dried out wash. Sinatra and I were taking it slow and easy (he was doing his “slug horse” walk) and the couple who was behind us right before the first vet check came up. I followed them for about 3 of the 5 miles and then trotted towards the finish as they walked their horses in. Again, Sinatra was just happily cruising along on a loose rein, choosing his pace, at a nice 100 bpm on the heart monitor. Suddenly, about 100 yards from the finish line…. There was a HORSE-EATING DONKEY!!! At least Sinatra thought so. He stopped, snorted and then plowed through the sagebrush in an effort to get away from the donkey, who was calmly standing by the fence on the OTHER side of the road! Silly horse! Oh well, there went my low heart rate and two finishing positions as Sinatra shot up to 130 on the monitor and took a little while to settle down. He finally pulsed in at 54 about 3 minutes after the donkey episode, still a very fair recovery. But the couple ended up passing me at the finish and I was 8th out of 11th.
I took Sinatra back to the trailer and gave him some carrots and an apple. I untacked and sponged him off. We then walked back to get our completion check. He was all A’s this time with a CRI of 40 again. I was so proud of my guy! He did AWESOME this ride! I weighed him after the ride and he only lost 9 pounds! From 833 to 824, he stands about 14.3 with his shoes on. =)
At the awards that night, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that we won the Horse of Excellence Award!!! It’s a beautiful sheepskin rug (the kind with the really long fleece). My 10 month old son loves to lay on it but I have it on the back of our sofa so he can’t get it too dirty. My thanks to Ride Manager Rosalee Bradley and all the volunteers and sponsors for this ride. EVERY rider in the top-10 for every ride that weekend got their choice of a nice prize and top finishers in their weight division also got a bottle of fly spray (I was also top Featherweight). The food and hospitality were absolutely fantastic and very much appreciated! I will definitely be back next year, hopefully to ride the 55!
Things I learned on this trip:
1. Food: I made some of that box Pasta Salad and added cut up ham pieces and some peas. It was GREAT cold for a Friday night dinner and snack after the ride. They also were providing potato soup and rolls on Friday night for dinner for free. It was excellent but I did not do it justice. I had oatmeal for breakfast, I just sat and read my book and forced it down a little at a time (I have a nervous stomach and cannot eat before a ride). I did eat two packages. I had a tuna w/cheese sandwich for lunch. It was good cause I made it with a lot of mayo and relish (and GARLIC, yum) so was plenty moist and went down easy. Sinatra was SURE that he wanted some, even though I told him horses don't like tuna, but he persuaded me into giving him my last bite (mostly bread crust) and he agreed with me, horses DON'T like tuna! =) I drank a TON out on the trail. I filled my big water bottles (about 32 oz) with 1/2 Poweraid and 1/2 water and drank one whole one before our 15 mile hold. I drank the last bottle on my last 10 miles of trail and drank an additional 16-20 oz or so at the vetcheck back in camp. I had to PEE when I got into camp for the check and again when we were done, so that's really good for me! Dinner was plentiful and good. Pork roast with applesauce, rolls, potato or macaroni salad, corn, coleslaw, and a TON of desserts. I skipped dessert too, I just can't handle a bunch of sugar after something like that. The applesauce was plain out of the jar but tasted SO good!
2. Check that your water tank doesn't leak BEFORE you fill it up. Someone at my barn was being helpful and put in a 90 degree elbow for me so my on/off valve was below my built in holder and it leaked (slowly, luckily) where the valve connected to the elbow. I was thankful I had bought one of those BIG muck buckets cause I put it under to catch the drips and it was more than 1/2 full when I got there and had sloshed out some. So my water that should have lasted me all weekend was gone by Friday night. Luckily I had bought water bottles for me and my big bucket and my 5 gal bucket were full so I didn't have a problem and they had water troughs close by.
3. I LOVE my big muck bucket. I filled it up when I got there and ended up dumping about 1/3 when we left Sat evening. Sinatra drank out of it some and I used it to fill smaller buckets to sponge him off with. But I need to buy a little net like for a fish tank to clean off the hay that blows in there.
4. Train horse to wear shipping boots. Sinatra had a FIT when I put one on his right back leg on Thursday night so we made the trip without. He did look awfully cute in his fly mask that he wears in the trailer to protect his eyes from flying hay bits. And he LOVED his polar-fleece cooler on Friday night (it was pretty cold and windy).
5. Husbands are great at helping you clean and wash the horse trailer, but they look at you kind of funny when you try to explain how your water tank got filled up ALL the way before you noticed it leaked and then created a 1/2" of mud in your tack room.... Husbands can also pull out those rubber mats much better than wives can! =)
I had a GREAT ride and a nice trip and am really looking forward to the ride in two weeks at Silver Springs, NV hosted by the NEDA club. Hope to see you there!
Crysta and Sinatra (who definitely stands out in the crowd!)