Saturday, May 03, 2003

Purple Passion - Tom Noll


On the last week in April, the Purple Passion Endurance Ride was held in the Eagle Foothills northwest of Boise Idaho. Why it is called Purple Passion, I don't know. Perhaps it is the purple wildflowers that bloom in SW Idaho around this time of year, or perhaps it is the skin color one sometimes sees after riding in the cold and the rain.

Pam Haynes amiably manages the ride and offers 75 miles, 50 miles, 25 miles, and a trail ride on trails and roads through private land. Purple is the ride theme and Karen Steenhoff even went so far as to appear in a stunning purple quilted outfit with purple hair winning the Passionate about Purple award. Various outer layers covered my purple clothes due to the weather.

I chose the 50-mile ride for Frank and myself (Frank is my horse). Purple Passion was our second ride of the season. Even though we have been riding all through the winter, there are many miles and trails between now and November. Fifty miles seemed to be the correct distance.

It rained during the night and I saddled up under cloudy skies. The 50 started at 7 AM and around 6:30 it started to rain. By the 7:00 start it was sleet and rain. I pulled up the hood on my jacket and wished that I hadn't left my thicker water-resistant bike tights at home. We started up the trail near the end of the pack at a nice quick walk with two fellow riders from the PNER Outlaw Team, Regina Rose and Linda Black. I don't know too much about endurance organizations, but the Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders have a team competition where team members' points are totaled at the end of the season. There are various rules regarding teams and points, and it was an honor to be asked to join a local SW Idaho team called the "Outlaws" earlier this year.

The trail was muddy and gritty and there were horses ahead of us on the trail. Frank can be a competitive horse and we worked our way up to Outlaw Beth Bivens. Beth and I rode together for the first loop. Frank has a nice quick trot whereas Beth's horse Niles prefers to canter. Frank likes to canter as well, and when he hears Niles canter then Frank gets the idea and wants to canter too. At the canter, the speed can rapidly increase. So I spent most of the first loop signaling Frank to slow down and Frank spent most of the first loop signaling me to go faster. For nearly the entire loop there was another rider about a quarter-mile ahead and Frank desperately wanted to catch that horse.

The weather had cleared when we started the second loop. Beth mentioned that she was going to take a more relaxed pace so Frank and I headed off up the trail alone. After a few miles of riding alone, we came up to Linda Voigt and her horse Carlos at a water tank. Carlos and Frank made their greetings and then began to work together as they traveled along the trail. The trail goes through sage-covered rolling hills and on one hill we rode beside a young bald eagle flying in the wind at our level. Eventually the trail leads back to camp for the second vet check and hold.

The weather looked questionable for the start of the third loop so I put on my jacket. It was pleasantly warm when the sun was out, but I knew that the weather could change quickly. Frank was somewhat slow leaving camp but we saw Linda and Carlos just ahead on the trail and Frank was loosened up and ready to go when we caught up to them. We loped along the ridgeline and then headed down to the creek. Up along the creek bed it began to rain and in a few miles we were in a full-on snowstorm with rain and graupel (graupel is small snow pellets for y'all down south). We were riding up and down muddy hills and into the wind and snow (just like the old cowboy song - Lighting and thunder and it's pouring down rain, my golldarn slicker's in the wagon again...). I noticed that Frank's heart rate was higher than usual on the hills. It is hard work running up hills in the mud. Eventually the storm passed and we made our way back to the creek and then to the ridgeline and trails near camp.

We came out of the hills and onto the nice sandy road leading back up to camp. Frank wanted to move so we cantered on in towards camp. Frank was more relaxed after having traveled nearly 50 miles so I thought it was an ideal time to practice flying lead changes. We cantered up the road doing a lead change every quarter mile or so. As we neared the finish line I asked Linda if she wanted to tie at the finish but she graciously hung back one length while I finished.

At the Purple Passion, there are riders doing the 75 and 25 on many of the same trails as the 50-mile ride and there are often riders ahead of you and behind you on the trail. Until the finish, I had never checked our place in the field of riders. There was some hootin' and hollerin' as we approached the finish line and we were surprised to learn that we finished first and second in the 50 (to be completely honest, the weather discouraged some very good riders from starting, and two riders ahead of us missed a turn and had to repeat a section of trail). The weather cleared in the afternoon after the ride and we enjoyed a nice potluck dinner with the other riders, the ride managers, and the ride veterinarians, all of us relaxing in the sunshine.

Frank is quite a horse. We went out and did an even quick 50 at a nice pace and finished first.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho

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