Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tom & Frank, Owyhee High Country - Tom Noll


Early in September my horse Frank and I rode the Owyhee High Country
three-day ride. This was a big deal for us. Two years ago Frank set the
pace on this ride. But, earlier this summer, Frank had some lameness issues
and he missed the Big Horn, which is his ride. My thoughts are that a horse
might have a great year or two, but it is a very rare horse that has more
than a few great years. Perhaps Frank could be one of those rare great
horses, but I would be happy if we could just continue to go on down the
trail together for many years to come and that is what I've been working
towards. This year our goal was to run all three days of the Owyhee ride
and have a good time along the way. Frank and I are pals on the trail and
we both think alike. We've both run a few 100s and I hope Frank enjoys my
company as much as I enjoy his companionship on the trails.

Late Friday afternoon I pulled into the ridecamp at Bates Creek. I set up
camp next with Virginia Ware on one side and Ron and Lois Belknap on the
other side. All were three-day riders and Ron and Lois have been tearing up
the trails this summer. I could not have asked for better camp neighbors.

Frank and I would be running at mid-pack. We have had our days running in
front but these three days would be at a more moderate pace. The first day
was Sinker Canyon and we started off at the back of the pack. Coming into
the creek bottom I hopped off and ran all the way down the grade and into
the bottom. I thought to myself, "Well it sure isn't Wasatch, but at least
I can still set a pretty mean pace on the downhills." Frank matched me step
for step. He never complained about my pace and he never said that we could
go faster.

We talked with our friends at the creek bottom and then took off up the
drainage. We headed up the creek at a walk and then up the road at a
canter. Wahoo! This is riding! Frank was switching leads on the curves and
running uphill without even breaking a sweat. We ran around the top and
then off the top and back to the canyon. We stopped for the vet check and
Frank and another fellow Kathy Arnold horse named Quinn shared some leftover
grain with Frank and Quinn each taking turns and waiting while the other
took a few mouthfuls from the bucket.

We left the vet check and it was hot. I ran out of water and the ranch
hands at the Joyce Ranch graciously let me get a drink and refill my bottle
from a faucet outside the ranch. Nance Worman and I rode in to the camp
together and I was at the 50-mile vet check of a 155-mile three-day run.

Day two was chasing demons. Day two around Toy Mountain is a big ride and
two years ago Frank and I led the entire day. My riding partners and I rode
hard and fast that day two years ago and Frank was the only horse of the
three to come back for day three. This year was slower and I planned to
take in the trail and finish again with plenty of horse left. I rode up the
trail with Lynne and Carla, two outlaw ladies from Grangeville Idaho, as
well as Tom Dean and his wife Jan. The five of us set a nice even climbing
pace and we hooked up with the Max the Mule Guy, Nance Worman, and Mary
Forrester and rode into the vet check together. We left the vet check
together but Frank has a faster pace and soon Frank and I were alone on the
trail again. From the pass at the top of the Owyhees you can see off to the
Snake River in the east and off to Nevada, Oregon, and California to south
and west. Looking to the east I thought, "Tomorrow we'll be drinking water
at the Snake River" and that is a sobering thought given the distance to the
river. We took off on the steep downhill. Part of the way down the trail
Frank stumbled hard in some soft dirt and I came off and hit the ground in a
big cloud of dust. Frank was ok so there was nothing else to do but to pick
myself up, get back on, and keep on riding. We passed the old stage stop
where I drove my car in to ski the Owyhees one day in May some years ago.
Now I can't believe that I ever drove up that rough and rocky road all for
some spring tele turns on Quicksilver Mountain. Frank and I made our way
down the mountain trails and across the scrub juniper flats to the last
water tank eight miles out. I gave Frank a twenty-minute rest with a hay
slurpee in the water tank and then we headed on down the trail and back to
camp. Frank knew exactly where we were and he took off from the tanks at a
rocket canter. Had I let him, he would have run all the way back to the
Bates Creek Ranch. As it was we ran most of the last eight miles and came
into camp at a fast Wahoo pace.

My goal on day three was just to hang on and finish. Again, we started at
the very end of the pack. Frank had run 105 miles in two days and we had
another fifty to go. Early on I hooked up with Heidi Smith and we shared
the trails together for rest of the day. We rode around Wild Horse Mesa and
headed down to the river for the last water stop before the vet check. A
large rattler guarded the river trail, but we chased the snake into the
brush and our horses took a drink at the river. Heidi and I followed the
Oregon Trail into the vet check and then followed the ride trails back to
camp. We both rode up Rye Patch Road at a flying canter with our reins
slack on the saddle. I was laughing hard. We rode in to Oreana and the on
up the road to the ranch. Our horses picked up the pace as we got closer to
camp and they would have run full-tilt boogie into camp had we let them. It
is something really special to have a horse that still wants to run flat out
after three days on the trail. Frank finished day three in the top ten
after starting dead last and we had successfully ridden 155 miles of Owyhee

John and Steph are the most gracious hosts and they open their ranch, their
home, and their hearts for their riding guests. Owyhee County is still
rough and rugged territory and the Teeter Ranch is an old-west stage stop in
that dry desert country. The Owyhee Trails are rough and rocky, the horses
are tough, the riders are weather-beaten from days in the desert, and each
trail and each day is full of special memories.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll

SW Idaho

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Swanton Pacific, my first 100 mile - Sandy Holder

by Sandy Holder

Where to begin? Well, I can't say at the beginning because you'd probably be asleep before I got to the real story so I'll start with why the 100 miles in 1 day title. You see, at the AERC convention, my daughter was so excited about my first attempt at Tevis that she bought (ok, with my money) a decal representing the title above. Of course, she said we couldn't technically put in on the trailer until I actually had DONE 100 miles in one day. As most of you already know, completing Tevis on my first attempt at a 100 was not to be (something about me pulling Tally at Foresthill when his trot out revealed a grade 2 lameness - but sound as a bell 4 hours later - a good decision I think). So in our tack room the decal sat while I contemplated how my new addiction for 100's would be "fixed". Ah, that's right, the famous "The Most Beautiful Trail in the World" and Barbara McCrary's Swanton Pacific 100 (SP 100). Guess I'll have to victimized (oops), I mean see if Katie will "volunteer" to crew for another 100 miler! Having a daughter into endurance (good thing for me she's not into 100 milers yet) is really terrific.

But the stars weren't shining too brightly so to speak for the two days ahead of the ride. Four seriously major crises occurred, one of which by itself could have been overwhelming (a family friend with breast cancer will be coming to live with us until she's healthy again). I won't go into any more details but when you head into a ride like the SP100 with terrible challenges hanging over your head, your confidence level is, shall I say, a bit depleted - at least mine was. In fact, I acknowledged to my husband that there was probably only a small likelihood that I'd actually finish. He to his credit, bless his heart (particularly since he's a non-horsey type) simply remarked that it wouldn't be called "endurance" without some challenges! I think I'll ask him about "endurance" midway through his Iron Butt rally (11 days on a motorcycle with potential routes all the way from Alaska to Florida back to Colorado)! And it wasn't getting any easier traveling to the ride, a late start and the Hwy between Gilroy and the coast shutdown. We arrived at ridecamp, as you might imagine, late in the afternoon, and me with a heavy heart. It was here, unbeknownst to me at the time, that our luck began to change.

Driving into camp, it appeared that all the "good spots" were pretty much taken. Into the meadow we headed where the vet in area is, stopping to unload my precious Tally boy so he didn't have to endure a bumpy ride, hoping to find a spot to squeeze into. With a sigh of relief, we noticed a really beautiful spot and as it turns out, right between our good friends Don and Pam Bowen and JULIE and BOB SUHR!!! Ok, maybe I should take out the capitals but you'll know why I kept them in by the time you finish the story!

And the miles started to melt away until we were really riding alone. It was at this point that my pony started to question me and for me to start thinking (not always a good thing) about not having any of my riding partners of the past 4 years there with me. As I started to become a bit melancholy, a piece of advice that a very warm and loving person (did I mention experienced rider) shared with me prior to my attempt at Tevis. "Ride your ride not like it's a 100 mile ride, but from vet check to vet check". I'll give you a hint who said it - she has 27 Tevis buckles and both she and her family (including her famous mother) have given a tremendous amount of encouragement to both me and my lovely daughter.

Coming upon the photographer (and trying hard to smile), I noticed someone jumping up from a chair and calling out, "you're here already?!". . . it was Dick, my riding buddy, stealing away from work to come out to the first vet check to greet me. Wow! It was hard not to tear up given the thoughts that had just been racing through my head!! Anyway, I hopped off my boy as I came into the vet check, pulled his bit knowing his pulse was already down and gave my pony over to my wonderful crew Katie and Dick. Taking in the surroundings, I noticed an open area with all the right things, particularly a Porta Portie (even if the closest one did say "Men" - which had at least one woman in it that day). The McCrary's had thought of everything.

In and out of the vet check - good, well with the exception of gut sounds (only B-). All morning long Tally had been nervous - I could tell because of the mess he'd left on his hocks. This wasn't a total unknown to me, but still, he'd not been like this since his second year in endurance (this being his fourth) and the less than ideal guts sounds played on my paranoid mind (and would throughout the day). So with only a completion as my goal, we stayed in the vet check for an extra 10 minutes to allow him to continue to eat, which he did quite voraciously. We let him eat until he stopped and went into "power snooze". After a minute or two we finally decided to depart. Of course, the only problem with hanging out sometimes is that you're all by yourself with no other horses going out with you. I'm sure you can imagine how "excited" (yeah, right!) he was about leaving, so with a mile and a half of payment, I decided to hand walk him until we found good footing.

Coming off the road, we entered a fairly large stream and found a photographer sitting on the other side. I found out later when my daughter presented me the photo at breakfast the next day just how good a photographer we had - a picture definitely for the house wall. In and out of the airstrip (and friendly encouragement from Kiki and Peter), we continued on, vet check to vet check, sometimes riding with a group and sometimes alone. It was during one of these "alone" times that we came upon Frank and his pretty little mare Gypsy. Evidently Gypsy had pulled long and hard on Frank and had come into the first major vet check at 8:30 a.m. (we didn't come in until after 10 a.m. but doing the 100 had done a longer loop). He thought she was "done" but as nothing obvious appeared to be wrong, was hand walking her to the next check. I believe he'd been walking for quite sometime and for an "older gentleman", it appeared to have taken a bit out of him. We walked for a bit and talked and as we were talking, I noticed that Gypsy was taking quite an interest in my handsome gelding. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see that Ms. Gypsy was just a bit lonely and so with a little encouragement and us stopping to wait, Frank and Gypsy became our new riding partners. . . and riding we did. Here's where I think I need to share with you that little Gypsy had either gotten really rested or had been bluffing her dad that she wasn't doing too well. Either way, Frank suddenly had his hands full of a lively mare. It was fun keeping Tally at a steady pace and watching Gypsy alternately take the lead and fall behind us. As we approached the coast, we were joined by Lori Olsen, another QuickSilver Endurance Rider, and rode a beautiful stretch of trail (even though it was a bit slippery occasionally) to the lunch stop at a ranch on the California coast. The weather had been tremendous all day, misty and cool with the sun poking out to warm us (but not too much) as we enjoyed our ride.

Trotting out once again, Tally was virtually all A's with the exception of gut sounds. Once again I wondered about my talented mount and waited for Cory to check and subsequently recheck my boy. When possible, having the same vet see your horse throughout the day, particularly if he's both an experienced vet and endurance rider helps. We trotted him out twice (1/2 hour into the vet check and then just prior to leaving) to do CRI's on him and consult on his gut sounds. A few questions and soliciting Cory's opinion gave me some sage advice, "take him slowly to the next check and we'll see how he does there. I think he'll be fine." Of course, going slowly is not a problem when you leave and ride by yourself on an inexperienced (at riding alone) horse. With no one in site, we walked and talked to each other quite a bit. As my daughter later put it, he walked slower than Sister, our 1100 lb mare that thinks walking only means stopping to get another blade of grass. With 25 minutes between us and the group behind us (we'd encouraged Lori to leave while Tally continued eating and Frank had RO pulled with Gypsy reasoning the RIDER was unfit to continue), we went so slowly over 10 miles that the folks riding 25 minutes behind us DID catch us. . . only to find me now on a "raging" mount - too full of himself to want to listen! Ugh - talk about extremes!!!

The good news about having some riders catch up was that I met Debbie and her horse Remfire. As it turned out she was a really caring rider and she and I were to continue through the night past the Saw Mill vet check together and even into the finish. It was with her that Tally and I experienced our first true night ride (oh yeah, you're suppose to have DONE THAT already right?!!).

And then it happened. . . it was night and we came up to the top of the bluff by the ocean. The clouds parted and the glow of the full moon exploded with bright light! Oh man, what a magnificent sight!!! So beautiful that as I relaxed to enjoy the view, my lively boy decided to take advantage of me and jumped forward, almost breaking into a canter, to pass the two riders in front of us. I'm sure I heard Jonathan mutter something less than flattering to his riding partner about my horsemanship at that point. (I did apologize profusely and fell back behind them. Hopefully he understood when, toward the end of the ride, I decided not to challenge either one of them for a higher spot in finishing as we all rode in together).

We rode by moonlight, off and on over the hills, through a glowing valley and into the last vet check. Having dumped all my extra tack at the Saw Mill vet check (thinking with only ten miles to go I wouldn't need my pommel pack, sponge, scoop, etc.), I realized at the final pulse stop 5 miles from the finish (and before a killer mountain) that I had neither water for me, nor more importantly, electrolytes for my pony. Sensing my concern, Debbie asked about us and to my surprise, handed over a syringe filled with the same elytes I use mixed with unsweetened applesauce. Two lessons learned in a short period of time. One, don't EVER dump your pommel pack and TWO, my horse really likes his elytes with unsweetened apple sauce. THANK YOU, THANK YOU Debbie and Remfire for the joy of riding with you and your help on the last leg of our adventure.

As we crossed the same grassy meadow we started off in, the mist by the glowing of a full moon and the whoops and hollers of the two young girls waiting for us to cross the start/finish line gave me goose bumps. With my big white horse pulling at the reins, we trotted into camp. Can you imagine my surprise when somebody told me I needed to hop on the scales at sometime past midnight? My bleary eyes couldn't even focus much less my mile weary feet stand on the little tiny scale!!! So Kirsten held my saddle (FreeForm - only 7 lbs. or so but heavier than I could hold at the time) until I balanced on this little bitty thing and with a big gulp, we weighed in. Of course I promptly notified everyone that I was NOT going to interrupt my long awaited snooze and show up at 7 a.m. for the BC judging!! That was, of course before I woke up the next morning and shared with Julie Suhr my fabulous adventure - this at exactly 6:38 a.m. Without pausing for a second, she told Bob to get Barbara and that "WE WILL HELP YOU GET HIM READY". . . oh man, I dare say, an offer I couldn't refuse??!!!

Well, win or lose BC, I'll never be the same. My first 100 miler on my adorable Tally and Top 10 to boot. Guess all I have to do now is wash my trailer so I can find a clean spot to put that decal on!! Hmm, I wonder if I should ask Katie where it should go??!!!!!

Highlights of the ride (not all of which you PERSONALLY would want to experience):

  • * An incredibly delicious dinner and pre-ride meeting. Barbara McCrary really touched my heart when she shared with us how she and Lud had almost given up on doing the ride until their children became interested in riding. . . and almost given up again, and the third generation stepping up to participate. . . and each generation represented in the riders of 2005

  • * Sleeping some the night before the ride (hmm, - or was that a full glass of red wine?)

  • * Katie spraining her left hand (yes, she's left handed) while trying to help me tack up my nervous boy. . . good news is that its not broken, nor did it deter her from crewing - that part was fabulous I might add!

  • * Starting the ride with no buddy - the first time in 4 years - which can be mentally challenging for both horse and rider.

  • * Riding Tally in a snaffle bit with no buddy horse in sight (he actually surprised me and did quite well at the start)

  • * And here's where it begins to get really good - giving your number to a group of amazing volunteers who call out encouragement until you are no longer in site.

  • * Heading across a misty field and finding someone else trying to "start late" to keep their high strung mount a bit under control, and Tally relaxing and letting me focus more on the surroundings (I have no idea who it was but really appreciate the "help")

  • * Heading up a steady grade - I really like this - to take out some of the "hotness" (adrenaline) from my excited mount and warming him up

  • * Level ground with excellent footing to let him trot out (this is where he excels and the ride starts to become fun)

  • * Meeting previously unknown riders (hi there Jill) to share time with

  • * Realizing that everyone in the forest can hear you when you scream because of "knee knockers"

  • * And finally stretching out a bit and riding ahead of the current pack, having the opportunity to talk to my confused boy about why and where we were, oh, and I should mention singing not TOO loudly ?