Friday, October 14, 2005

Grand Canyon Experience - First Multiday - Maureen Moss

Maureen Moss

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
Nicholson ride.

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
amazing ride.

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
first 100.

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!


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