Tuesday, October 18, 2005

2005 Season Reflections - Tom Noll


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
were reunited.

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.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll

SW Idaho

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