Monday, April 23, 2007

My First Ride/ High Desert Classic - Susan Cooper

Friday afternoon I left the house and travelled the short distance to Ride Camp in the Stillwater Mountains in Fallon, NV. I got to camp, set up my stuff and got Whisper out and walked her around. She seemed calm and interested, but not nervous or excited. We vetted in, and luckily, both vets there this weekend (Susan McCartney and Jamie Kerr - both SUPER)were familiar with gaited horses, so while she gaited and trotted for her trot out, they knew what she was doing, so I got perfect scores for my "trot out". I told the vet it was my first ride, and I had not a clue what I was doing, so he (Jamie Keerr) took a lot of time to talk to me and tell me what to look for in my horse. The most important being "EDPP" which is eating, drinking, peeing and pooing. Any change from her normal, and I was to bring my horse to him. He also went over electrolying, and said it was an art as well as a science, but that the horse needed to be drinking well to start with, and the weather wasn't going to be hot, so I probably didn't need them.

A husband and wife (Roger and Mary Cook-Davis) parked their rig next to mine and she was riding in the Limited Distance 30 mile ride as well. She had a lot of experience in Endurance and has completed Tevis twice, and while her horse was fit, she was not, so she was only doing the 30 and she said I could ride with her and she would mentor me. I explained that another newbie friend of mine was meeting me there, and that girl wasa bit pokey, so we may need to ride on without her, as my goal was to get a completion in the allotted time. My friend arrived for dinner and the pre-ride meeting and met my new friend, Mary, who had agreed to mentor us during the ride.

I actually slept pretty well, and just felt Whisper a couple of times. She had eaten well, but was not drinking very much, but considering how cool it was, I was not concerned. We saw the 50 milers off at 7am, at which time I saddled up Whisper. There were only 11 LD riders, so we left at the back of the pack a little after 8am. Our plan was to walk the first mile, but all 3 horses were antsy, so we trotted out right away. If they were going to waste energy, we figured it might as well be spent going forward! After the front horses got out of sight, our horses calmed down, and Whisper's trot became more relaxed and head down. I must say, my friend, who has been a slowpoke during our training rides, kept up! We trotted mostly with a little bit of walking the first 3 or 4 miles, until we hit a bad rocky area. This lasted for more than a mile, and when we got out of it, we had a bit of time to make up. Whisper's two trail buddies at that point hit their trot stride, which was a bit too fast for Whisper's trot, so Whisper cantered, but her canter is nice and relaxed, so I let her pick her gait, and I picked the speed.

At the first water stop (about 8 miles in) Whisper didn't drink much, but it was cool, so I wasn't concerned. From this point, the trail wound up a wash thru a narrow canyon, and it was absolutely georgeous. I had my camera with me, but I was too busy riding to get my camera out. We hit a pretty good pace in the areas where we could, because the rocky areas slowed us down so much. We got into the vet check/lunch stop (the halfway point at 15 miles) after 2 hours and 45 minutes, and Whisper pulsed down to the required 60 bpm within 3 minutes! Here she drank water and pigged out on beet pulp, hay, apples and carrots. This was a mandatory 1 hour hold, and when I vetted Whisper in, she got A's on everything, but a B on gut sounds. I vetted her in before I fed her, so next time I will let her eat for 15 minutes before I vet her in.

The three of us left after an hour on "fresh" horses. Whisper was still having to canter to keep up, but at this point, my "pokey" friend and her horse were hitting their groove at their fast trot. My friend realized her horse was enjoying it and I was happily surprised that I had to actually ask her to slow her trot down so Whisper didn't have to canter the whole way. We left the good dirt road for another wash down a canyon that was really narrow. At this point, Whisper hit a really nice trot and we wound our way around the rocks. At the next water stop, Whisper realized she better get a drink, and tanked up with the other 2 horses. We hit another water stop at the 25 mile point, and I realized this was the distance of most LD's, and while we still had 5 miles to go, it was pretty easy so far. It was the last 5 miles that I had to encourage Whisper at bit, but she was still ears up and seeming to enjoy herself. We didn't trot so fast by then, so Whisper hit her saddle rack which I enjoyed! We ambled down the road at this nice pace, and I was glad to see Whisper had her head up, ears up, and looking around with interest at her surroundings! We crossed the finish line at 2pm, 6 hours into our ride, but with only 5 hours on the trail. That gave us an average of 6mph for the ride.

We vetted in shortly thereafter, and Whisper got A's on everything but a B on gut sounds. I was told not to worry about a B, as a lot of horses always get B's on gut sounds and you don't have to be concerned untill you get C's.

At this point, Whisper ate everything in sight and drank well. All was good! We had dinner later and I not only got my completion award, I came in 5th and received the heavyweight 1st place award for the LD riders! This morning before we left for home, I took Whisper for a walk and realized she looked and acted as if she could do it again!

I have to say Ride Management was great and KUDOS go to manager Nancy Upham and secretary Heidi Siegel. Everyone was nice and very helpful to us couple of newbies. Special thanks to vet Jamie Kerr who went out of his way to explain things and make sure our horses were doing well. This is definately a great community as I expected it to be and I was NOT disappointed.

All I can say is it was a GREAT experience and I am definately HOOKED. Of course, I owe my completion to Mary Cook-Davis who mentored us for the ride and got us (especially my friend) to realize what it takes to complete and the pace one has to ride. I tried telling my friend before, but what do I know?? I think she will be more ready to actually do "training rides" rather than pokey rides.

Susan in NV
Happy High Desert Trails
Nevermore Ranch

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