Lazy J Ranch
Elfin Forest, CA
The West Region's Wickenburg ride (January 27, 2007) was to be our first fifty; a first mother and daughter fifty. But that was not to be and in hindsight it was a good thing! Due to a loin rub, my horse, Jazzi was not fit for a ride. Daughter Danielle's horse, Lyric, had been legged up by Danielle doing loops around Paint Mountain, a hilly, rocky pimple of a mountain here in Elfin Forest. But now Lyric had to travel 6 hours by herself and due her first 50 without Jazzi. As a mom, a rider and well,self proclaimed worry wart, I was concerned. But all the neuro transmitters used in ruminating over all sorts of possible bad case scenarios were allf or not. It was a fabulous ride!
The God's conspired to bring together a four day weekend with good weather allowing Dani and Lyric to compete. The Gods also provided the bestsponsor, Karl Phaler and his amazing Spotted Saddle Horse, Bubba. I could not have asked for a better team to watch over my girls. With thousands of endurance miles under their belts I knew Karl and Bubba would teach Dani andLyric things I could not. I am so grateful to Karl and Bubba for sponsoring my girls. Yes, I was disappointed I would not ride, but I could crew, help at the vet checks and learn from a "on the ground perspective."
Dani and Lyric have completed several hundred miles of LD and CTR, but a 50is a very different animal. They needed extra gear, two riding pants, extra cinches, all sorts of stuff not needed for an LD. We usually compete in hotweather, so cold weather gear was added to the preparation equation. Dani needed gloves, a beanie for under her helmet, clothes to layer and other cold weather riding gear. Lyric needed all her coolers, heavy duty blanket, leg wraps for after the ride, etc. The list goes on and on.
The drive was long, over 7 hours, but relatively easy on interstate 10 and highway 60. We unloaded once, both Lyric and our new Lab Zacky enjoyed the brief respite from the monotonous rumble of the road. We arrived in Wickenburg in the late afternoon with banners and signs welcoming all the endurance riders to town. The ride camp was on the rodeo grounds not even a mile off the highway. We were greeted by Steve an expatriated Wickengurgian who was elected to his position by being absent at an earlier planning meeting. He directed us to the back of the grounds, next to the rodeo arena were we found a quiet, tucked away spot. Steve and his talented wife, Janet are prime examples of the kind and thoughtful volunteers that made this ride so enjoyable. The volunteers numbered in the hundreds (yes, hundreds) who worked countless hours ensuring both horse and rider safety and fun. Ride manager Nancy had covered all her bases and a lot more. Pizza dinner with beer, wine and salad was provided on Friday night. At the vet checks they even had horse blankets. This is one well managed ride.
On Friday we had some much needed retail therapy and Dani rode some of the trail. Karl arrived from the mountains of south east Arizona, braving snow and sleet to get to ride camp. The weather in Wickenburg was simply beautiful, a perfect desert day. Soon it was time for the ride meeting. Then get serious about the crew bag, set out clothes for the next day and try to sleep.
Saturday came in cold with frost and ice in the horses' water buckets. I made a warm beat pulp mash for Lyric and coffee for all. Dani was up in the early morning darkness, focused on her job. Soon the ridge to the east had a warn yellow pink glow. It was time to saddle up and get to the start. And what a sight the start was! Over 50 horse and rider teams circling in the dirt lot as the sun rose over the craggy hills. Bubba was all business and thankfully Lyric followed his lead and quietly walking in crazy zig zag patterns between the other milling riders. The start was a very civilized affair, a NATRC start, really.
The trail consisted of two 25 mile loops, each with a vet check at the halfway point. The lunch and hour hold were back in camp. The 25's rode the first loop, the 50's both loops. My job was to meet Dani, Karl and our friend and neighbor Jill at all the vet checks and crew as needed. I had so much fun at the vet checks holding horses, getting hay, watching the time for riders, chatting with the volunteers, etc. I learned so much from the riders and watched how they managed their horses. Jill's crew bag was a killer as it had tools to pull shoes. Thankfully no one needed those tools.The first vet check was cold and management had dozens of horse blankets ready for the lathered horses who came in steaming and dripping. The trail was fast with firm sandy footing, small hills and some rocks. Many of the rocks had been hand racked off the trail earlier in the week ( can you believe that!). This again made the trail fast. As the mid pack 50'sarrived at the first vet check, the front runners from the 25 were also arriving.
Dani, Bubba and Jill all came in mid pack and vetted out with out any issues. Lyric's easy boots were staying on and Dani was warm and comfortable. Bubba and Karl were also fine as was Jill. Lyric had A's on her vet card with a B on gut sounds. Same as at check in. Bubba had all A's. Bubba and Lyric ate well. Soon they were back out on the trail and I was off to meet them at base camp for the hour hold.
At base camp it was still cold and soon riders started coming in. Dani and Karl came in mid pack and vetted fine. A quick change of clothes for Dani, some food, restock the packs. At Karl suggestion we pulled the Easy Bootst o find tons of sand. I kept thinking how much better Lyric would go without all the sand in her boots. Soon the hour hold was finished and they were off on the second loop. Jill was about 10 minutes ahead of Dani and Karl. Everyone, horse and human looked good and went happily down the trail.Vet check 3 was at a private ranch next to a dirt airstrip, out in the desert with lots of scratchy brush, cacti and loose cows. The second loop had stretches of deep sand which slowed the riders. Several of the front runners missed a turn and got lost. The usual characters I had seen come into the first two vet checks were not in the same order coming into vet check 3. Several riders has blooded arms from the brush. I started getting worried about my riders as it seemed like forever for them to get to vetcheck 3. A stray black steer was chased out of the vet check several times and was bellowing out on the trail back to base camp. Finally Dani and Karl came into view. They were all fine and Lyric wanted to eat. Bubba wanted to have his face scratched. Jill was still out on the trail.The volunteers at vet check 3 were the nicest most diverse group I have ever had the pleasure to meet. From 6 year old girls in shorts and cowboy boots to retired snow birds from the mid west all were kind and happy to be a part of the ride. The barn had been cleaned; you could eat off the floor! A buffet table was set up with food and drinks for all. The porta potty got a lot of business as the desert brush does not afford much screening out onthe trail.
Jill finally came in with tails of missing a turn. The weather remained cool, perfect riding weather. Back to base camp and the wait at the finish. As the sun started it's descent in the late afternoon the temperature also dropped. The vets were working fast to vet out the horses so they would not chill and stiffen up.It was a busy place with riders coming in, the vets busy, horses being walked and many helping hands. At about 4 pm Karl and Dani appeared on the horizon, bathed in the soft late afternoon light. Dani was visibly tired,but happy. Lyric was tired and Bubba just wanted his big face scratched. Both horses pulsed down in minutes and went straight to vet out. Bubba got all A's. Lyric was very tired and got B's on attitude, way of going and gut sounds. Back at our camp site Dani and I washed her with warm water to get the salty sweat off her coat. However, the temperature was dropping fast and Lyric got chilled even with a dry polar fleece cooler on. We added a blanket and I walked her which finally warmed her up. She liked the towel on her neck the best. Lyric's legs had two very small (less than a half an inch) scraps in the front. No swelling, no heat. We rubbed her legs with alcohol and wrapped them in pillow wraps and standing wraps. Lyric was tired, her hind was sore and she was hungry. We served her a banquet of warm beat pulp mash with lots of carrots and alfalfa.
The dinner and awards were at the community center a mile from ride camp. Volunteers stayed at camp to watch over the horses while we ate. The food was excellent with BBQ, salad, several kinds of cake, beer and wine. The community enter was filled and everyone was so gracious. Even the girls from vet check 3 were at the dinner now in dress up clothes. A band played country western songs. The folks in Wickenburg sure know how to have a fun time.
Dani and Karl came in 24 and 25th out of approximately 52 riders. All the juniors were given a special award, a Land of the Sun metal halter hanger. Very nice! The ride pictures were beautiful with tall saguaro cacti in the background.
Everyone sleep well that night. Lyric ate all night and was very stiff in the morning. The drive home was uneventful, just long. I can honestly say I learned a lot and had a fun time crewing. I am forever grateful to Karl andBubba for taking such good care of my girls. It was a perfect first 50!