Hi everyone- sorry for the long gap in stories, but 2009 was a truly rotten year. In fact, it was probably the only rotten year I can ever remember having, but I guess that’s a good thing. It started out bad when my Donnie came up lame in the rear in late 2008. We believe he fell down while running in his pasture. He had this stupid come and go lameness in his right rear that just could not be diagnosed. (I took him to the vets, who said “If this is a pre-purchase exam, I’ll buy him”!) They need to see a lame horse to diagnose it, and I just could not oblige them. So- I did what I had to and gave him the year off. Then Judy got laid off, then I got laid off (but I was only out of work for a week or so), then to top it off Judy took a dive off the top of a hay stack and shattered her wrist, broke ribs, dislocated fingers, just a train wreck. (She’s all better now). I rode two rides in 2009 on her horses, which is the fewest since 1991 or so. So depressing! But as we know, life is good, and things always get better. Judy got a great job, her surgery was a success, and my Donnie is back. I started riding him in November, and found him, how shall we say, a tad energetic? We slogged through conditioning during the stupid wet winter of 09/10, and tried out our luck for a comeback at the Washoe ride in early May. Connie Creech and those Nevada guys are just the best. Washoe is a tough ride, and I have not been on those SOB’s since riding Zayante, but my Donnie is talking Zayante lessons and pulled me through looking great, and most importantly, sound! So far so good. It was very nice to be back at a ride with my horse.
Judy and I signed up for 3 days at the Wild West pioneer ride up at Skillman horse camp, near Nevada City, up at about 4500 feet in the low part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Sierra is famous for the classic saying- “Don’t like the weather? Just wait a minute, it’ll change!” We packed up on Thursday, May 27th, and had to sit in our living room, in beautiful Northern California, waiting for the pouring rain to stop before loading the horses. Come on – this is summer! This El-Nino stuff is for the birds. We drove out with the wipers on, and drove up in the rain to the horse camp, where it was of course snowing. Let me repeat that- it was snowing, and about 34 degrees. We put the heavy blankets on the horses and huddled in front of the heater in the camper. We braved the ride meeting in the snow, where our good friends Robert and Melissa Ribley told us about the “fun” we were going to have tomorrow. Robert, being the smart guy he is, had changed the day one trail to keep us from having to brave the five foot snow drifts up in the high country where the pink loop usually goes. Oh great, this sounds promising. It was. We started out in the morning cold, in the rain, and on very, very wet trails. As Robert had advised us- dust would not be a factor today. It was cold, wet, and sloppy. We were taking it very easy, as it was hard to see the rocks under the snow. It was not too bad, as we had on our rain gear, and at least it wasn’t windy. Just wet, and very slippery. We were walking along in the soggy forest when about 15 pounds of snow fell from a tree right on top of Donnie and me. He leaped very well- we were pretty surprised, and the snow went right down my shirt. Nice!
The first loop today was a better one to do in this weather- it started out on slippery, goopy, sloppy, wet and snowy single track trails that we pretty much walked, but the bulk of the 30 miles were on fire roads that at least were not too steep. It was raining; Judy said she wished it would snow, since that’s a little easier to deal with. So- what happens? It starts snowing again. Thanks Sweetie. It was walk, trot, walk, trot, walk between the puddles and mud bogs through the whole loop. Endurance riding puddle lesson number 1: always walk through the middle, even though the horse wants to go on the edges. A couple of people missed this one and tried the edges; they and their horse took a swim in the muddy, cold water in the road. We wound our way through the wet forest, dripping wet, passing many chained off driveways, until we came to the monster PGE hill that I had Donnie tail me up. What a hike. It took us about 5 hours to do the loop and make it back to base camp, where it was, well, still very wet. Go into camper, change clothes, get nice and warm and dry, then- go back out into the wet. The second loop was supposed to go up into the high country, but unfortunately it was impassible. Robert changed the loop so that when we started to get to the deep snow, we headed back down the mountain towards the camp and on to an out and back road that was in good shape and easy to trot. On the way there in the forest we had to cross through a little soft area, and my poor horse sank up to his hocks in the bog. Oh heart attack! He slogged his way out, and Judy wisely took Color around through the trees. About 10 miles of trotting brought us back to camp and the finish and another change of clothes. The next time someone asks you why you have 20 blankets in your trailer, just refer them to this day. (Half of them are hanging in the back of the trailer, totally soaked!) 50 brave souls started, and 48 finished this true test of endurance riding. Light rain and snow greeted people at the ride meeting; those guys who had just arrived were listening to the horror stories from today’s riders and looking up at the sky. It’s always worse when you get through! Robert just kept saying that the weather was going to keep getting better. The rain on the camper Friday night was not reassuring. If it’s snowing in the morning, do we start? I don’t know……….