Thursday, October 20, 2005

Manzanita Ride - Nancy Reed

by Nancy Reed

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
that mistake!

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
and walk.

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
started drinking!

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.

Nancy Reed

Lazy J Ranch

Elfin Forest, CA

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