Well, none of my friends can believe I've taken this long to tell them about my trip to Arizona but I've been so swamped that I never felt like I had time to do it justice. Finally got on fall break and my brother found out! :-(( Ring, ring, "Hey, heard you're off work. We're over here painting the house for Mama and Daddy and need you to do the trim" Wahhh!
But I'm ready to talk so here tis.
The moral of this story is that whining on Ridecamp can be a good thing. Apparently, I whined and sounded a little down a while back and as a response I got a post from a Dayna Weary saying that she had been conscripted by her husband Bruce to invite me out to Arizona for an endurance ride lest I should fear that I was being invited out by some pervert. I didn't know it at the time but Bruce only wanted to allay my fears in that area until I agreed to come and the airline ticket had been purchased. Then he took a twisted pleasure in suggesting that I might just get off the plane and be met by a person who I would consider the worst possible Ridecamp person to have lured me out there. :-P Ha, ha, very funny. Even after I was convinced he wasn't, he hinted that maybe I wasn't the only person he'd invited. Bruce has a twisted sense of humor.
Normally, I would have felt I couldn't miss school but it just so happened that the very weekend they wanted me to come was the end of my daughter's contract at her dude ranch job in Colorado. That meant either Bill or I had to buy a plane ticket and fly to Albuquerque, NM to meet her and help her drive home. Bruce and Dayna assured me that they could use their Southwest Airlines points to fly me back to Albuquerque after the ride rather than home, so I could justify the trip. I would get to do a ride, and SAVE MONEY!!! Anybody who knows me knows I can't pass up a deal like that.
The flight from Nashville to Phoenix was the most unusual pre-ride day commute I've made. My daughter's stuff had barely fit in the car when she left, so I knew I couldn't fit much in her car for the ride home. First, instead of filling up a truck & trailer with my ride gear, I had to get it all in a backpack. I didn't dare check luggage so I had crammed all my regular clothes and enough books on cassette to get me through a 1400 mile marathon drive home into one carry on suitcase, then had to get my ride clothes into a backpack. Turns out Bruce & Dayna don't wear helmets so I needed to bring my own. So...in goes one helmet, one pair of RIDE TENNIS SHOES, >phew!!< tights, gloves, sponge, etc. Honestly, I was so afraid the security officers searching luggage would open that bag. There's nothing quite like the scent of a pair of shoes that's been in pond water, green manure, etc. etc. Ugh. If they'd lit a fuse I'm sure those shoes would have qualified as a shoe bomb. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it all in so I just told Dayna the way she could recognize me getting off the plane...I'd be the one in the helmet.
I'm not sure why, but it was easy to spot Dayna in the airport. Endurance riders somehow manage to look really fit without looking like aerobics instructors. When I had talked to Dayna on the phone about coming out I asked her were they the type people who would lure me out there just so they could drive off and leave me in the desert. She assured me not, but when she whisked me away in her Lincoln, and phoned Bruce to tell him "The parcel has been collected" I wondered if I'd ever said something on RC that had really offended them. :-P
Dayna and I talked a blue streak for the 2 hour drive to the camp...mostly about raising teenaged girls. It's hard to be scared of a 50 mile ride next to sheer rocky drop offs when you've been facing teenaged girls daily. This would be a picnic.
So...we pull into camp and how are things different from the South? Well, first, you opened a gate to get in camp and closed it behind you. Seems there would be cows that had free roam of camp and the gate needed to keep them in. That was a darned big ranch because we rode about 25 miles before we had to open another gate. Of course, I think it had about as much graze-able forage on it as 2 grassy acres back home. I saw one cow and calf and I think that might be all the land was able to feed. >g<
First I met Bruce. I know everybody has been waiting for me to get on here and describe Bruce to them. Well, if you've seen the National Geographic show about Tevis, picture Boyd with short blonde hair. The more I think about it, the more I think Bruce may have been riding under an assumed name in that video. If so, he has taken riding lessons since then. Since I came up to approximately his ribs I had a feeling the horse I was borrowing would be a big boy. And he was. I was riding Heisman, a big flea bitten Arab with a very impressive record (4000 miles) so I was in good hands.
I had been worried since the invite that they wouldn't have a saddle with holes punched high enough in the stirrup leathers for me. Bruce had told me I'd be riding an Abetta saddle with a fleece seat cover so as soon as I saw the saddle there on the rack I started taking up the stirrups to make sure they'd go up enough for me. I struggled to pull the fenders as far up into the saddle as I could get them, took the stirrups up to the highest notch, buckled on the keepers and then Bruce noticed what I was doing and said, "Ummm...that's my saddle". Oops.
Dayna's motive for the weekend was obvious from our first call. Seems she had just read my EN article where I griped about people in campers running their generators. Her plan was to corrupt me by having me spend the weekend in an air conditioned camper, sleeping on a feather bed and eating hot meals. If they'd had the toilet in their brand new camper hooked up it might have worked, but the walk to the porto-let cleared my head and I think I passed the test since I haven't said a word to Bill about taking out a second mortgage to get something like that for myself. The hard part about sleeping in the camper was that Bruce and I are both chronic "one-upsmanshippers". Every time one of us told the "last story of the night" the other had a better one. You know how it is at a slumber party when you turn out the lights, everybody gets quiet...and you try to stay quiet...and then somebody speaks and it all starts up again? >g< Poor Dayna.
OK, enough trivial stuff. The TERRAIN. I don't think I ever realized Arizona is so mountainous. If you said Arizona I just pictured desert. Nope, it was mountains. BIG mountains. The ground is a dusty, fine dirt with a scattering *everywhere* of loose volcanic rock. You could be trotting along on a flat trail and suddenly there would be a leg breaker type hole...the kind we get when an old dead pine stump underground rots out, but they have no reason for them I could see. They said it had to do with the volcanoes.
The really different thing about out there is that you can see forever. You can see mountains that are a hundred miles away. If I step outside my door at home I can see Lookout Mountain which is maybe 4 miles from me to the East and it rises up to block anything else that direction. Out there you could see a rider on a mountain from far away. Out here a rider is out of sight behind foliage 20 yards ahead. Out there you can see GROUND on distant mountains. There wasn't much that I'd call a tree till you got into the pines higher up the mountains. The "scrub oaks" are wicked little bushes that have *tiny* little miniature oak leaves. The limbs are made of cast iron and it is a *grave* mistake to think you'll just brush one back as you ride by. Bending apparently requires moisture and there isn't any, so it's like snagging your tights on a ragged metal rod. OUCH! They must use cutting torches to clear trails.
The "Man Against Horse" ride is just that. They had a 50 mile endurance horse race, a 50 mile human race, 25 mile LD horse, (don't think they had a people 25) a 12 mile human race and a 12 mile fun ride. This was something else strange to me. There were 18 horses in the 50, and maybe that many runners. Maybe 30 in the LD and over a HUNDRED in the 12 mile fun ride. We seldom have those here, and if they do maybe 5 or 10 show up. I didn't get to see any of the fun riders. They got there after we started and were gone before we came back. I don't know if they had fun or not. By the way, this is the first ride I've been to where the manager complained that antelope had been eating the markers.
If you ever have a chance to do an endurance ride over a course where they're having a human race, I highly recommend it. Boy, do runners get a lot of food! Every five miles or so we'd come up on a table and they'd offer us granola bars, tootsie rolls, M&M's, Gatorade, pretzels...it was crazy. I have never eaten so much at a ride. Next time I'll enter a higher weight division since I'll probably make it at the end. There was a Native American guy whose name I wish I could recall who had won the race and beat the horses for the past 5 years. I saw him but wouldn't have picked him as a favorite. He was sort of the Jayel Super of humans...just incredibly middle of the road. Not too big, not too muscled, just handy. He said he wasn't in good shape this year. Turned out he was still good enough to beat the horses but got beat by a tall Caucasian. I guess I could be happy...Caucasian pride and all, but the Native American was closer to my height so I related more to him. A woman came in third; it was just hard to pick who would make it and who wouldn't. A couple of younger Native American guys whose legs looked *so* ripped gave out around 25 miles. Meanwhile there was a guy who looked like a heavyweight still going (I think he finished) and there was actually a 67 year old man who did the whole 50.
Back to the horses. Bruce was riding his Fox Trotter mare that happens to be slim and gray so you have to look twice to notice it's not an Arab. She had a very "Lemme At 'em" attitude so my job was to stay behind and not challenge her to a race. I kept waiting for the catch with Heisman. He was steady, controllable, sound, and strong! I actually had my camera out on the first loop taking pictures as we started. THAT'S a dependable horse!
I had almost left my sponge at home but decided to take it just in case. What I found were a lot more opportunities to sponge than I expected. Heck, I figure if your horse is drinking out of a green cattle tank nobody's going to complain about a little sponge getting dipped. There was even a puddle or two. Bruce had a little collapsible bucket that he got off and dipped but good ol' Heisman acted like he'd seen leaping sponges all his life and let me do my thing from his back.
Vet checks were different. Out here they're usually in camp and I have an elaborate area set up with a truckload of stuff set out. Their checks were away, which make sense because if you rode within 12 miles of camp all the time you'd never lose sight of it out there. When we came into the check we stood around the water tank and a pulse taker came to us and took the pulses. I looked around and there was no sign of a "vet check area" but there were horses occasionally trotting down a strip of driveway so I guessed somebody down there was a vet. We got our pulses, then instead of going to vet through we stood around at our food that Dayna had set out and let them eat and had a bit ourselves. Finally, when it was almost our out time we went down to the vet and did a trot out. Very casual.
Now lets talk rocks. We have rocks, but we have some dirt under the rocks. They have rocks under their rocks. If I had been in charge of the pace on this ride we'd have had to walk the whole time. I just didn't look down. I figured if Bruce thought it was trotable and Heisman was willing, I'd just mind my own business and take pictures. There was one huge mountain that we had to get to the top of and it involved a narrow switchback trail cut into the side of the mountain. The air was thin and we'd been about 25 miles. There were a couple of 20ish *extremely* fit looking runners who ran out of steam there and were calling it quits. Bruce got off his mare and was tailing up and I was riding along in front turning around taking photos of them. Heisman meanwhile was expertly picking his way over loose rocks and around the switchbacks. I suddenly realized what I was doing and noticed that though there was lots of scrub brush around, there was absolutely nothing capable of slowing your tumble if you took one step off the trail. It would have been a long roll through cactus and boulders to the valley below. >shudder<
The ride itself was a great experience. I finally got to see the West without a freeway in sight, and on a *good* horse. It was fun to see the way the westerners run things and how and why it works for them. I got lucky on the weather, everyone said it was uncommonly pleasant...really warm but not the least bit miserable. The temp didn't feel bad at all to me. I think the South is "bake" and Arizona is "broil". I could feel the heat burning my skin but not inside my head. I did forget the sunblock and chapstick. By Monday my lips looked like one of those westerns where someone has crawled across the desert with cracking lips. I think there were 4 mouth sores. (Dentist appt. 2 days later with new dentist...perfect timing...trying to explain that I *don't* have Herpes type 6).
As we got down off the mountain and traveled along the sandy washes again I was just thinking how impressively sure footed Bruce's western horses were and how I had trusted my life to them trotting those switchbacks...not like Kaboot, who does summersaults on decent footing. As I pondered this I saw Bruce's mare's front hoof hit a soft spot and in slow motion she demonstrated a *perfect* Kaboot tumble. First, Bruce realizes he's riding a short horse with no head, then he has to tuck and roll left as she continues her flip. Boy, I sure was glad she did it in a sandy wash in the valley instead of on the side of that mountain where I'd have had to wait around for him to climb back up if he was still alive. Bruce was bruised but fine.
I finished the ride feeling great. I hopped off my horse, trotted him out for the vets, and suddenly thought I was going to puke. It's hard to look nonchalant when you're blocking the vet line with your hands on your knees hoping you don't puke and let everyone realize how much of the runner's food you scarfed up all day. Also, since I'd finished top 10 I really needed to weigh before losing any weight so I managed to pull tack, and stand on the scales before I handed Dayna the horse and collapsed in a worker's chair. Someone suggested the heat got me but no, it wasn't even particularly hot and there was no humidity. I'd say it was either thin air or all that runner food I ate.
The moment passed, I felt better and enjoyed a great ride meeting with nice awards, then went back to Bruce's house which is the absolute antithesis of mine. I live in a log cabin with wood floors, walls & ceilings (to match the dirt). Bruce's house is white...inside...outside, up and down. My house has stacks of magazines, walls of bookshelves that are full and have more books stacked flat on tops of the rows. My furniture consists of primitive antiques (mostly from my primitive ancestors) His is tastefully sparse... refined, like a decorator magazine. My horses eat along a wood plank fence with the buckets hanging on posts by baler twine. Bruce has 4 large pipe stalls (which he designed) with feeders and automatic time locks on the gates to let them out after they've had enough time alone to finish. I just looked at it all and thought, "It's amazing how much a person can accomplish with no humidity".
I am profoundly grateful for the big adventure Bruce & Dayna gave me. They flew me out, took me into their home, let me ride a wonderful horse on a beautiful trail, drove back and forth to Phoenix to pick me up and deliver me to the airport...and I gave them...my sponge. I'm trying to come up with something better, but so far that's all they got out of it.
I did find out that though Bruce hit SEVEN THOUSAND miles at this ride, he's never done a ride in the east. That gives me an idea...I'm just not sure I can get my house clean enough for company! :-)
Friday, October 28, 2005
Well, none of my friends can believe I've taken this long to tell them about my trip to Arizona but I've been so swamped that I never felt like I had time to do it justice. Finally got on fall break and my brother found out! :-(( Ring, ring, "Hey, heard you're off work. We're over here painting the house for Mama and Daddy and need you to do the trim" Wahhh!
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Daughter Danielle, horses Lyric and Jazzi and I were very excited about the
Manzanita ride. This would be Jazzi's first real endurance ride and this
would be Dani and Lyric's 3rd or 4th 25 miler. Our neighbor Jill and her
beloved RC Lawman were doing the 50. Friends Tara, Craig and their daughter
Danielle were all signed up for the 25. Tara's Danielle (Walker) was taking
her new mare, Bell.
The Elfin RV and the new trailer was just about fully packed Thursday, the
night before. I had my clothes washed and snacks packed. All the water
bottles and the Camelback were found and filled with filtered water. A bale
of hay was secured in the back corner of the trailer by a new set of D rings
waiting the test run. Lyric knew something was up and she started pacing in
her stall with the Friday morning feeding. I kept running the list in my
mind, over and over.
Finally the packing was done and the horses loaded in less than 5 minutes.
At 12:30 pm Friday the Elfin RV's big V10 roared to life and we were on our
way! The RV hummed and the horses were quiet as we snaked up the San Elijo
canyon past the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve where we train. This is
perhaps the most dangerous part of the entire drive as the road is very
narrow and windy with no shoulders and no room for mistakes. The locals
call it "the narrows" and in spite of it's beauty from the hundred year old
coast live oak canopy and murmuring creek, this is no place to day dream
about an endurance ride. I pray for safe passage as we traverse this
section, asking for divine protection in a green gate to hell.
In minutes the danger is passed and we rumble past the smelly chicken ranch
and retired dairy, beacons of a previous life. Soon to be a new horse
community; homes in waiting. With the smell comes cell service. Jill had
somehow managed to get 20 minutes ahead of us and we chatted on the cell
phone about the traffic, food and our horses and kids. We fill the Elfin RV
with gas (oh that hurt!), chatted with a endurance want to be and we are
gliding down the 15 south. as usual Dani has her nose in a book and I am
looking for traffic reports and some traveling music. I settle on Jimmy
Buffet, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time.
We hit the ride camp in a bit before 3 pm. Terry, the ride manager has very
funny signs instructing us to locate our assigned hook up and place in life.
Quickly the horses are unloaded, hay bags and water set out, RV leveled and
plugged in. Time to find friends and vet in. As if directed from a
supernatural power Jill and Tara have set up camp next to each other under a
massive oak. Bobbie and Karl are next to them. We spend time catching up
and all to soon the sun is starting to set and we still need to pre-ride the
A quick tack up and we are exploring the groomed dirt and sand road as it
gently rises toward the scrub covered hills that will test both horse and
rider the next day. Dani and I wonder out load if Lyric and Jazzi remember
the trail from last year. I assume they do remember as both Jazzi and Lyric
are relatively quiet and have dispensed with the silliness they displayed
last year. In what seemed minutes the sunlight is gone and it is time for
the ride meeting.
As with many sacred riding areas, Manzinita has experienced growth that has
blocked trails. Terry is funny when explaining that the start of the ride
is a bit different than last year as the new neighbors have not given
permission for the ride to trespass. I am thankful we will by pass most of
the cows due to the unfriendly new residents. The third loop for the 50 is
new too. I am too hungry to listen and my "mental-pause" infected brain has
shut it self off for the night.
Dinner is a Mexican pot luck affair at Tara's RV. We all get in and chow
down on scrumptious chicken tacos, cheese enchilada casserole, salad and
beer. The two Danielle's are happily reconnecting, Jill is making new
friends and are tummies are happy. Our horses are happily slurping their
beat pulp and electrolyte soup and their hay bags are stuffed full. I only
let my self have a couple of beers. I learned not to drink too much alcohol
at the Descanso CTR earlier in the summer with my neighbor Jaisia. I played
a big price for one too many glasses of wine and I was not going to repeat
Still I am in heaven. The companionship in ride camp is some thing I
cherish. It makes bedtime come way too soon.
At 6:45 I awake the Sleeping Beauty. Dani is a dream in comparison to many
teenagers. She gets up with minimal complaint and starts getting ready.
The camp is relatively quiet even as the 50 milers queue up to take on the
trail. The weather is cooler than yesterday, but will be in the high 80's
with the possibility of humidity and even rain. This is very different from
last year when it was in the 70's to low 80's, dry and cold at night.
I recheck my pack, apply sunscreen and nag Dani to speed it up. At 7:30 we
are ready to complete the last horse preparations and mount up. Somehow it
is 7:50 by the time we make it to the starting line. The camp is way too
quiet and I start wondering just what I missed at the ride meeting when my
brain was turned off.
We are joined by a true gentleman, Pat (sorry, I can not remember your last
name) on an equally kind gray Arab gelding. We attempt to move down the
trail, but Jazzi and Lyric are being naughty, small bucks, failure to
respond to cues, speeding up when asked to slow down. This does not help
Pat's horse at all and within minutes all three of them have shared a
secrete pact to test their respective riders ability to stay seated. We ask
to pass a large group from Challenge Ranch who's leader is having a stern
conversation with his black gaited horse about who is boss. Lyric gets
really silly when she is turned in a circle and some scrubby bushes rub her
belly. Dani is getting mad. I have my hands full with Jazzi who thinks she
is a race horse.
Lyric now has 2 full season's of CTR and 3 or 4 LD's under her belt. She
has matured and grown up. At 7 and 1/2 years of age, she has learned to
drink, eat, pee, poop and rest when it is offered. I trust her to take care
of her self. Dani is a beautiful rider and together they are a TEAM. I am
only concerned about Lyric's left front hoof. On Monday the furrier
discovered she had crushed her left front heel. We believe it is due to the
high speed trail work Dani had been doing over the previous several weeks.
The right only had some mild damage. Lyric is very left leaded. Due to the
crushed heel Team Lyrelle (Lyr-e-elle, Lyric and Danielle) was bumped to
the LD from what was to be their first 50.
Jazzi (a 6 year old National Show Horse) on the other hand has one year of
only CTR and has not learned to drink early in the ride. She usually waits
until 10 or 15 miles before she drinks. But when she does drink, she tanks
up. Last year at the Warner Springs CTR, I had a real problem with lack of
control with the Little S Horse Hackamore. Jazzi is now in a French link
snaffle and has more training with Michelle Nicklo, a Clinton Anderson
trainer. At the start I still had my hands full, but I was still in control
and after a few circles, neck bends, side passes she started to settle down
What I love about this horse is her walk and willingness. She has a 4 to 5
mile per hour big strided walk that eats up the miles. Her trot is very
comfortable and easy to ride. But, Lyric can out trot her any day of the
week and Lyric is a full hand smaller than Jazzi. Needless to say this
really makes Jazzi mad!
After about 45 minutes all 3 horses have settled down and we start taking
turns leading, following and bringing up the rear. Jazzi prefers the lead.
Lyric has recently developed a fondness for the lead too. Pat's horse is
very well behaved in any position. The trail was very well marked and no
loose cows. The footing had a lot of new deep sand and moguls from
motorcycles. It was getting hot and I was glad I had a full camelback of
water for me and two large bottles to cool Jazzi with.
Up we go through the brush, them down into the off road staging area. Less
than a dozen off roaders were in the staging area and all were friendly and
turned off their engines. We were monitored by the ham radio team known as
"React." They were all business getting our numbers and making sure we were
all fine. Water was available in large black troughs kept full by
volunteers. As expected, Lyric drank well here, but Jazzi just looked at it.
Pat had a GPS and kept us informed of our mileage and pace. (I could not
locate mine, bummer.) It was getting hotter.
Next was up a moderate hill and down the other side with amazing views of
the badlands in the San Diego and Imperial County desert. An old railroad
line cut a path down the side of a steep rugged mountain. It disappeared
into a tunnel. It was beautiful and frightening all at the same time. The
horses did well and we were trotting much of the trail. My heart rate
monitor was working well. Jazzi was between 120-130 while trotting and in
the 90's when walking.
Soon it was time to climb in earnest up to the vet check. Our horses did
well and moved out. I was ready for a rest. Dani and Pat looked great. In
fact Dani even tailed up some of the hill.
At one point I had to pee as I had just about drained my camelback. Pat was
so funny as he was thankful I needed a pee stop. I almost fell over laughing
in the wet sand as Jazzi peed with me!
The vet check was a mass of horses and humanity. The volunteers were so
kind and helpful. Jazzi, Lyric and Pat's horse dove into the food. Lyric
ate the grain as if she was starved. Jazzi did not want the grain; she
wanted the alfalfa. Against my better judgment I let her have it. Lyric
pulsed down immediately, as did Pat's horse. But Jazzi stayed at about 60
and criteria was 56 (or was it 58?). Long story short I lost 20 minutes as
I forgot to loosen her cinch. It dropped the minute I loosened it.
Pat went on ahead so he would not be overtime. Lyric vetting with out
problem and Jazzi had a B on hydration. The vet wanted her to start
drinking. So, what does she do after the vet tells me this? Yep, she
This was a 20 minute hold and with the late start, extra hold time, we were
late. The second loop is much tougher than the first and we are now in the
heat of the day. Dani is soaking her cotton over shirt and I have refilled
by horse bottles and camelback. We are off and trot the beginning, but
Jazz's heart monitor is showing 200. She is strong and is fighting me to
catch up to the group ahead of us. I am worried sick as it must be 90
degrees and the humidity is high for the west coast. I slow us down and her
rate drops, but I can not shake by fear. This, of course makes Dani mad as
Lyric is fine and ready to move on down the trail.
We pass the ride photographer, same place as last year. And like last year
Jazzi thinks the camera is going to eat her. Dani gets Lyric all collected
up and she looks lovely. We then cross the road and the hard part begins.
This part is steep with large, room size boulders with pockets of deep sand.
We are behind a wonderful older "been there, done that" mare with a tough
young junior on board. Jazzi puts her feet exactly were the lead mare
steps. In places she has to let her back end slide down while the front
gingerly steers. Thankfully this section is not long and we are done with
the slip and slide.
The rest of the loop is more up than flat with some very funny trail
markers. "Turn off your AC"," downshift" are two I can remember. Dani is
tailing a fair amount up the hills and Lyric is loving it. I am keeping
Jazzi wet with water. At one point I dismounted and re gelled my electrodes
which cured my too high heart rate. But Jazzi is tired and I an worried.
As I said, this is a tough section and the final climb out is brutal. The
ride photographer is waiting to catch us as we climb out of the desert
canyon. The back ground is stunning and the picture of Dani and Lyric is
priceless. On the other hand Jazzi and I are more than a bit bedraggled and
tired. More water at the top and finally Jazzi tanks up. She drank for 5
We waited 15 minutes to let the horses rest and recover. Dani took great
delight in taking off her shirt and dunking it. We were now late, but only
by about 20 minutes. The rest of the ride is mostly a gentle downhill on a
dirt road and a bit of single track. We can make it!
About 4 miles from the finish the front runner in the 50 came cantering up
the road to the 4th loop. They were wet, but looked strong. Later I
learned the front runners were lucky as someone pulled the ribbons on the
3rd loop and Jill ended up doing and extra 10 miles.
To the cookie and drink stand and more water. Turn left, down the single
track and back on a dirt road to the finish. I kept an eye on the clock and
we were going to make it in time! Jazzi and Lyric know we are headed home
and they perk up. We meet some really nice folks on gaited and quarter
horses. Everyone looks good. Lyric is ready to race in.
We make it to the timers with about 5 minutes to spare, but they are telling
me we are 15 minutes over time. Now I am confused. We were under the 6
hours, right? No, in endurance the ride time starts when the ride starts,
not when you start. That's a CTR rule. I was too tired to be very upset.
Dani took it in stride. We made a difficult ride in 6 hours, our horses
pulsed down immediately and vetted out with no problems. Jazzi's improved
her hydration and the vet was pleased too.
I learned many things on this ride. First, just because a ride is billed as
easy does not make it so. The trail had been changed by the tremendous rain
we experienced last winter adding more deep sand and moguls. Loosen your
cinch even if you never needed to before. Re-gel your electrodes at the vet
check. The rider does better when she has lots of water too, just like her
horse. Team Lyrelle is awesome and I am one lucky mom to be blessed with
them in my life. Jazzi is vastly improved, but still needs more
conditioning and needs to learn to drink early in the ride. I love it when
we pee together. I love my RV and it's comforts. Yes, I am getting too old
for lots of stuff, but endurance is NOT one of them. (I should have sold
the tent at the garage sale.)
A BIG THANK YOU to Terry for being the ride manager extraordinaire, all the
volunteers who made this ride possible, my ride camp friends who put up with
me, my daughter who also puts up with me, my horse who carts my big butt
around and my husband who lets me be me and still loves me in spite of all
the dirt, horse hair and early morning feeds.
Lazy J Ranch
Elfin Forest, CA
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The 2005 season began with a trip to Southern Utah for the Color Country
three-day ride. Leslie and I lived in Salt Lake City for eight years and we
spent a good deal of time in the Colorado Plateau Country. Color Country
was an opportunity to visit some terrain that we hadn't seen for over 15
years. The first day was pleasant riding on red trails in Utah and Arizona.
Who can forget the second day? It started off as mist and drizzle but
quickly turned to snow and rain. The cloud ceiling just kept getting lower
and lower all morning until it touched the ground on the trails we were
riding. We rode on through the snow and cold. I left the duster at home in
the barn and was riding in a light shell. At about the end of the first
loop I followed a runaway horse about five miles off the endurance trail but
he was lost to the fog. Before the day was through, the horse and rider
After three days of Color Country I was off to a local ride, Purple Passion,
on my wife's horse Max. Max is underrated. He would be an outstanding
100-mile horse but we've stuck to running mostly local trails. Max has the
heart, he has the passion, and he has the flash. Max and I had a fine
finish at PP.
Then it was on to the Owyhee 60. I thought about the 100, but my horse
Frank does not really enjoy multi-loop runs out of camp. He learned
endurance on the Big Horn trails of Wyoming and he holds those memories.
More than two loops are not fun in his horse mind so we rode the 60
together. Against my better judgment, we started off with the leaders on
another drizzle day on the Owyhee 60. We ran hard, perhaps too hard, and
Carolyn Roberts and I holed up at the Sierra Del Rio Ranch at 40 miles. We
let the leaders go on and we rounded out the top five.
After the Owyhee 60, it was an unforgettable day training on the Hard Guy
Trail in the Boise Front on Memorial Day weekend. Frank and Skyla Stewart's
horse Tempo ran together, they ran hard, and they ran well. It was the big
horse and the little horse, two bay horses, two hard guys, running up their
trails at their own fast pace. Then, two days later, Frank showed front-end
lameness. The x-ray films were troubling. Was it a career ending injury?
Some of the best vets looked at Frank and offered their diagnoses, opinions,
and solutions. My farrier and I worked together and we gave Frank some time
to rest and recover.
Big Horn was in a few weeks and I needed a horse. Two of the best riders I
know offered one of their horses, Mozart. The three of us, along with my
wife Leslie, planned to head off to Wyoming together and ride together on
the Big Horn 100. Last minute injuries and changes left only Leslie and I
bound for Wyoming with Max and Mozart. Leslie and I gave our regards to Tom
Van Gelder at 4:00 in the morning outside of Shell Wyoming and started up
the Big Horn trail on Max and Mozart in the dark under the stars in the
northern sky. We rode up the Slide, Black Mountain, and the Shag Nasty, and
down the Adelaide Trail. We rode across the Big Horn Plateau past Shell
Creek, Antelope Butte, and Horse Creek. We rode through the canyons and
then down the Dug Way to Hudson Falls. Leslie decided that she had enough
at 75 miles and Mozart and I left Hudson Falls dead last and alone with
Tracy Blue and her quarter horse Bud for the last 25 miles. Tracy and Bud,
Mozart and I, traveled through the night under that same canopy of stars and
that night Mozart dug deep within his heart and his soul to finish his
first-ever endurance ride at dawn on the Big Horn Trails the next day.
After Big Horn I helped out at the Owyhee FEI 100. I wanted to see the hot
horses run through the desert. It was a tough day at the Sierra Del Rio
Ranch and we saw some fast horses and fast riders pass through on their way
to their own memories.
>From there it was on to the Owyhee High Country three-day ride over Labor
Day. I had been doing light riding with Frank and I thought that we were
ready to start a reserved three-day ride in the desert. We traversed the
foothills, canyons, and passes from the Owyhee peaks to the banks of the
Snake River. Frank ran steady for three days and turned in another
outstanding performance. Frank seemed sound at the finish so my next
thoughts were about the Owyhee five-day ride in October.
Frank and I showed up at Bates Creek in October and we began five days and
260 miles of Owyhee desert trails. Frank had never done a five-day ride.
We rode one day at a time. Getting up in the morning, making warm mash,
eating breakfast, saddling up, riding all day, taking care of Frank in the
evening, eating dinner, taking a short evening walk, and then off to bed to
do it all over again. We probably rode a little too hard on the first three
days but we held on again to finish all five days in the Owyhee desert. At
the end of the fourth day, after dinner, Steph mentioned that there would be
recognition for the horses and riders that completed the most miles and most
days of Owyhee trails in 2005. And, at the end, when the mileage was
totaled up, Frank had run nine days and 475 miles of Owyhee trails in 2005.
We never planned it that way, but he is one tough horse.
When I look back on the season I remember the high times as well as the hard
times. The thoughts that Frank's endurance career might be over, the memory
of Mozart hanging on with all of his heart to finish the Big Horn 100, the
memory of running nine days of Oywhee trails, as well as thinking about Max
at Purple Passion, and Max and Frank at Color Country. I remember the
people that I met along those trails, all of them riding their own tough
horses like Hawk, Kris, Saud, Chaco, Equal Terms, Addis, Kavod, Sam, Macho
Gypsy, Chief, Flame, and all of the others. This past year I had the
privilege to ride tough horses on rough trails, and every one of them is a
real outlaw horse. They are the true descendents of the horses that Butch
Cassidy cached with sympathetic farmers and ranchers throughout the mountain
west, and I am lucky to have traveled the endurance trails with outlaw
horses such as these.
Friday, October 14, 2005
I made doing the Grand Canyon a goal early in the summer and planned
everything toward that. My husband and I haven't done that many 50's,
and when we have the opportunity to do a multiday, we've done LD to make
sure we could ride all days, so we knew we'd have to work to get both us
and the horses ready.
We worked up to a couple multidays and a couple 50's and were confident
we'd be able to at least do one or two days of Grand Canyon, but really
wanted to do 3. We also knew we'd have to be prepared for a single vet
check, away from camp, which hadn't been in our experiences either.
I also didn't know how to pack for 8 days and 3 horses (we picked up a
horse at the ride to bring home).
So lots of things to be unsure of, but also knew that we'd learn a lot
from the Duck and all the other wonderful people at the ride. And
prepared to make any decision for the best welfare of the horses.
Previously primarily CTR riders, we have been trying to increase our
speed a bit. I have been much happier seeing my horses alert and eager
after a 7mph ride than being on the trail all day at 4mph and just bored
or tired from going too slow for their capabilities. But I expected
that we would want to go very slowly at the Grand Canyon and wasn't sure
how best to manage that. My horse just doesn't have a walk (3mph and
she doesn't want to do it), and if I forced it she wouldn't be carrying
herself as well as she should and would end up sore.
Basically we decided to just listen to our horses. They'd been training
at the same elevation and temps and just had a blast. We just kept at a
steady trot (except for photo ops!) and found the entire format of the
ride just really worked perfectly for both us and our horses. We slowed
some for the last day and led a fair amount just to save them from
concussion on some rockier roads. But even at the end of the last day,
they were pulling and still taking care of themselves in the last 8
miles on a totally awesome boogie through the bottom of a little canyon.
I think the low temperature was the biggest factor in our favor, but I
am now really thrilled with single loop rides, single vet checks that
are out of camp - as well as the very laid back atmosphere of a Dave
We didn't bring enough grain, a little too much hay, not quite enough
water, but otherwise I don't think we made a single mistake with
managing our horses. I think we might have been able to do 5 days, but
it just made better sense to stick to our plan. They got stronger each
day, didn't lose a pound and had a grand time.
Especially my horse. I have had her for sale (I have too many horses
and have listed more than I want to sell just to make sure I sell some
before I have no more money for hay), but she is most definitely off the
sale list now. I call her the Energizer Bunny. She is very short
strided, but is very nimble and can handle the worst of terrain leaving
many horses in the dust. Ears forward, she'd surge forward every time
she saw a ribbon or a fun twist in the trail - it got harder and harder
to hold her back each day. We have continued to bond and there's just
no way I could part with her. Especially after 150 miles of this
My husband had been a little nervous about 50's after a scary experience
with one horse, but now he is quite confident in his own, and his
horse's abilities. I'm now trying to plan next season to include our
There really aren't enough words to describe this experience. As I rode
each day I was composing a note to Ridecamp as I went and if I wrote all
that, this would be about 15 pages long. I learned a lot about me and
my horse (and extended camping) and am just so glad that we found a way
to make this trip. Thanks to all involved who made this ride work, and
those who shared grain and knowledge with us!
We'll be back for more!