Sunday, May 18, 2014

A weekend with AERC’s cousins: NATRC and Ride and Tie - Funder - Full Story

5 May 2014

So instead of spending my weekend doing AERC endurance prep stuff with my AERC endurance horse, I went for a drastic change of pace and did NATRC and RnT stuff with other peoples’ endurance horses. Fascinating, right? Read on!

Friday afternoon, I hauled M’s Fetti to a NATRC ride at Mt. Diablo. She’ll post about it soon, I hope! She says she took lots of pictures, and it’s beautiful country over there. Anyway, my part of her adventure was to show up on Friday outside of Santa Cruz with the trailer, haul Fetti up to Mt. Diablo, leave the trailer, and come back for them Saturday afternoon. Easy, right?

Yep, easy. Except for traffic. The 85 mile trip from Felton to Clayton took us three and a half hours, when we’d naively assumed we could do it in two. Instead of showing up at a comfortable 5:30, we got the trailer dropped at seven pm, during dinner/meeting. Eeek! I was super hungry and sick of driving, so I just made sure Fetti had food and water and bailed on M. Sorry about that. Well, a tiny bit sorry about that. ;)

Saturday morning I did some errands, then came home and cleverly napped all afternoon. We were originally supposed to go to a party Saturday night (my thinking: “LDs take six hours, therefore I’ll pick up the trailer in the afternoon and traffic won’t be so bad and I’ll get Fetti home and drop the trailer and head over to the party kinda late”) but Graham was sick and apparently NATRC really wants you to stay for awards, so the party got back-burnered. (Sorry K!)

At six I headed back over to Clayton. I knew M had finished happily, and I wanted to see the awards and cheer her on. I wasn’t sure what they were offering or how much tickets cost, so I ate ahead of time and showed up at seven, after dinner and just before awards began.

I knew a few people — well, to be honest, a few people recognized me, but you may remember I’m face-blind so it’s really, really hard for me to recognize casual acquaintances “out of context.” Anyway, the point is, there was some crossover between AERC people and NATRC people.

So here’s how AERC awards usually go: Filthy, tired people trickle in and eat a vast amount of food. Ride management gets up and talks a little bit about the day: unforeseen obstacles, accidents, weather, how good/bad all the horses generally looked. They call out all the finishers, last to first, usually LDs then 50s (if there’s a hundred, most of them are still on the trail, and they’ll have their own awards the next morning). Everybody gets cheered as they go collect their finish award. Top Ten gets extra loot. If there are bonus awards (mid-pack, oldest team, turtle, whatever) they get extra loot too. One of the vets gets up and talks about how wonderful the top-ten looked and how it was so hard to determine Best Condition, then announces BC, which gets extra cheers and even more loot. The meeting breaks up into people going home and people staying overnight (who continue drinking and giggling).

NATRC awards were different. First, the people look clean and well-rested (they’d only ridden 27 miles, and they’d finished hours earlier and cleaned up). Then they raffled. I don’t mean they raffled, like, three halters, those people raffle like woah. It took over an hour to raffle everything off. Next, the one of the judges got up and talked about the trail. Then they called awards for a bunch of categories — NATRC does three weight divisions (heavyweight, lightweight, junior) and three classes (open, novice, and competitive pleasure, and I do not pretend to understand the differences, and there’s also “distance only” which isn’t eligible for awards). They placed out to 6th for some of the weight/classes and to 3rd, I think, for the rest of them. First place got lovely handmade plaques; the other placings got certificates. And to top it off, they ran through each class twice: once for horsemanship, once for horse. (So a superior horse with a less talented rider could win its horse class, or a great rider on a horse that didn’t look as good could win her horsemanship class.)

The way it played out in real life was that out of 40 teams, about ten teams got called over and over again, and a couple of teams got called once, and everybody else didn’t get their names called at all. I knew, intellectually, how NATRC does awards, so I wasn’t surprised … but as we trooped out (at nine pm, egads) I was surprised to realize how sad I was for M.

Coming from a non-show background to AERC endurance on a never-gonna-win horse, I really embraced AERC’s “to finish is to win” motto as a personal standard. I didn’t realize that because AERC really thinks we’re all winners for finishing, AERC puts a priority on acknowledging us all for our personal “wins” vs. the trail. That’s why ride meetings call out all the finishers. That’s why everybody who finishes gets something for finishing.

The something isn’t always very impressive — I’ve gotten everything from a ride photo (so lame!) to logo drinkware (woooo yeah!). But I have a physical memento of almost every AERC ride I’ve ever done. I have proof that we did the thing. M bought an average number of raffle tickets, but didn’t win anything. Her sweet mare followed all the rules and got her through the whole day, but M has nothing tangible from completing the ride. I’m a little sad for her, y’all. Yeah, she’s got her pictures and memories, and there was a ride photographer, but ride awards really do matter. I can point at every single completion award I’ve ever gotten, and I’m so proud of all of them.

So that, oddly, was my big takeaway about the difference between AERC and NATRC. NATRC doesn’t give completion awards and it sounds totally petty, but even a tiny leather keychain means a lot to the rider. It brings back good memories every time I look at my High Desert brush or my Twenty Mule Team wine glass...

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Australia's Red Range 90 km - Full Story

After Mr.T’s first successful 80km in September at New Italy I gave him a full month off to enjoy being a horse and peacefully grazing during such lovely summer days. It was hard not to ride but it was made easier by being so busy planning my wedding and wanting him to have a decent rest.

However, I decided his next and last ride of the year would be 90km at Red Range at the end of November and to do that I needed to start getting him fit again ASAP. But I had to keep my promise of not riding until after my wedding and I also wanted to stay off Mr.T’s back to partially continue his rest for a bit longer.

So for 4 weeks I gave him full rest and then for another 4 weeks I went from 2 lunging/ground work sessions a week to every second day, increasing in duration and intensity. While we worked on increasing fitness, we also worked on our bond, communicating more and more each session at liberty. Needing less and less tack each time to control him...

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Friday, May 09, 2014

Gold Rush Shuffle - JayaMae - Full Story

May 6 2014

There is something about crossing the finish line just as the sun is setting. Being blinded by the vibrant orange and red filling the sky, and then squinting as your eyes adjust to the dusk. Galloping across the field, just a 1/2 mile from your destination, the chill of night caressing your cheeks….

Just as the holiday season began last year, Jakob and I headed to the Gold Rush Shuffle near Camp Far West Lake outside of Wheatland. It was a fairly quick drive, and as we pulled into ride camp, the excitement began to build. Jakob and I had signed up for 2 days with our horses, Asali and Beauty. We were to ride the 30 on our first day, and the 50 following that. It was to be Jakob and Beauty’s second 50.

We had a fantastic ride on the first day! The horses did well and as always, I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my son on the trail. The following morning, Jakob and I headed out with well-rested, fresh horses. The sun was making its way high into the sky and its rays danced on the meadows in the front of us. The fields were green, not brown and dry as they are at summer’s end...

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Biltmore 2014 - Heather Reynolds - Full Story

Thursday, 08 May 2014

The Biltmore ride was postponed by a day this year due to the river threatening to flood the banks. (We are all too familiar with what happens when it floods, last year we got to "enjoy" the river for a few extra days before we could leave.) All things considered, the race went very smoothly. Cheryl shuffled all of her paperwork and somehow stayed very organized. The footing was also really great as the rain had softened the ground just enough. The best part was the stunning weather. I have never seen better weather at the Biltmore. There was very little humidity, no rain and nice warm temperatures without roasting any one.

We drove up to the race on Thursday. We had glued up all of the horses earlier in the week. Most had on the Easyboot Edge but one had on the Easyshoe on his hind feet. We arrived with a little daylight left and set up the horses.

We had brought up 4 and Yvette had trailered up the 5th horse for us. I would be riding Stirgess the first day in the FEI 75 then RR Opening Act the second day in the FEI 55. Jeremy would ride RR An Honest Crook on day 1 in the FEI 100 and then RR Most Likley on the second day in the FEI 75. Nicki Gilbert also came to ride her horse that we keep for her, JG Btash. She would ride him on day 2 on the FEI 75 with Jeremy...

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One 50 Down - Jenni Smith - Full Story

May 7, 2014
We’ve successfully stepped up onto the first rung of our ladder to Tevis 2014. We completed the American River 50 on Saturday, April 26th.

mid-race shot, but clearly we had a good time :)
American River is a point-to-point ride along Folsom Lake and (shockingly) the American River. Slightly more complicated than most endurance rides because you have to get your rig moved to the end point, but really challenging terrain and very beautiful.

Because the trail is not conducive to passing in the early going – it’s mostly single-track – we made a point of starting out farther to the front than we typically do. We were caught up in the midst a fast-moving group of about eight horses – switching leads every once in a while – into the first vet check at about 17 miles. Only one of those horses left the vet check in front of us and we caught him up fairly quickly.

He was riding a mustang, a really tough little sorrel gelding that Stella took an instant, violent dislike to. No beating around the bush with that mare, if she doesn’t like a horse (okay, let’s just say “gelding”) everyone knows it. When he was riding behind me she tried to slow down so she could kick him bettter. When we stopped at a drinking trough, she’d spin and fire at him if I didn’t keep a sharp eye on her. It was kind of funny but keeping horses from injuring each other is serious business in endurance racing...

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Monday, May 05, 2014

My Very First Endurance Ride Experience - Aarene Storms

Haikufarm Blog - Full Story

...The year was 1998, and I had recently moved my horse, my dogs, and myself away from my hometown.

In the process of moving, I fell among questionable company. You know, the kind of people who ask questions like, "Hey, I've been thinking about this endurance thing. You wanna try it?"

Oh, hell yes.

Although I was enrolled in graduate school and working a full-time job, I wanted to do that endurance-thing more than anything else in the world. I rode my mare constantly that summer, read the old Ridecamp listserv like a crazy woman, and dreamed of the Tevis.

It never occurred to me at the time that my beautiful-on-the-inside mare and I wouldn't quite fit in. I knew that endurance riding Was. My. Destiny.

But, when we arrived in camp, clearly there was One of These Things That Was Not Like The Others...

My horse wasn't slender and spritely. She didn't have a chiseled profile, a babydoll head, dear little tiny ears, and a "blow-up-my-nose-and-I'll-carry-you-to-the-moon" expression on her face.

My riding companion was not much help. Her horse (a foxtrotter/arab cross) at least looked like an Arab, and he was being an idiot. He looked like he belonged in the crowd.

My mare was brown. She was sturdy. She had a head like a boot-box and an expression that clearly said "I am too sensible to let you get hurt out here."

We didn't fit in...

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