My first rider option pull!
November 27 2016
by Nick Warhol
I took Sorsha and Donnie to Camp Far West Lake for the three-day ride, hoping to ride day two on Sorsha on her second 50, and Donnie on Day 3. Rain was in the forecast, but who cares about a little rain? Gretchen Montgomery brought her two horses up from Ridgecrest, rode Coquette Friday on day 1, and finished, getting her 10,000th endurance mile. That’s a big accomplishment. Congratulations to Gretchen! Friday was nice weather wise; I drove up on Friday, having done thanksgiving with the family. The forecast for rain kept changing, and now it was supposed to start Saturday morning at 8am. Saturday morning came nice; clear and cool. Gretchen rode her 5K mile horse Spice with Sorsha and I. Sorsha passed test number one- she just walked out of camp with me, not caring in the least about leaving her pasture buddy. Nice! We left at 6:30 am near the back of the pack, with spice leading Sorsha and I down the road. Sorsha did a good job, being more relaxed than her first ride. She still gets a little nervous when horses pass us, especially at a trot. She wants to go with them! She also likes to be in front, but will follow other horses if need be. We switched back and forth as we rode the first hour and a half or so, having a really fun time. (the pictures above were taken before 8am!) Guess what happened at 8am? The rain started. Lightly at first, no problem. Then the front came in. The wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and the rain started. Real rain. In no time we were pretty wet, but worse was the cold temp and the wind. The trails were not too bad so far, but they were deteriorating fast. Real fast. By the time we got to the gun range the trails were either slippery mud, or actually running water, like little streams. It was very slippery, so we walked a lot, only trotting on the couple of roads we touched for a bit, and on some of the trails that were flat. By the time we got to the old ride Camp, the whole area was a swamp. There were deep mud holes you could not see under the standing (running!) water on the trails. And the cold. The temp as in the high 40s, we were soaked, and it was windy. We got off the horses and walked with them to help keep warm, but I kept falling down in the mud. Just past the old camp we got on a gravel road that was trottable, but it was covered in water, a couple of inches in places. When I first brought Sorsha home, she would not cross water or muddy spots. We spent a a lot of time working on that, but Boy, that’s a thing of the past! She’s an official water horse now, having done half of the whole loop in the water and mud. She was such a good sport.
We were cold to the bone, soaking wet, and walking in the slop. Reality set in when we looked at the clock. This loop was what, 22 miles or so? It was noon and we were still not near camp. It was an easy decision to quit. First, we were cold and quite uncomfortable. The rain, cold, and wind would not stop. Second, there was no way on earth we were going to finish on time, or in the daylight, since we still had 2 loops to go, and I was not going to trot her in this mud. But most importantly, I was not going to risk hurting my horse in this slop. If I hurt her I would not be able to forgive myself. We slogged our way into camp, arriving at about 12:45. We started at 6:30. We vetted the horses, turned in our cards, got the horses fed and blanketed, and hit the campers. Thank you whoever for the camper! That furnace and hot water heater were never more appreciated. It took a while to thaw out, and the hot chocolate and warm food made us feel more like humans again.
Was I going out the next day on Donnie? I don’t think so. Not a chance. Many people were not going out the next day after hearing the stories about the trail. Am I sorry I quit? Nope! She looked fantastic for the vet at the end, pulse 36. This was my pull, not hers. I think it’s the first time in my 24 years of endurance that I quit a ride because of me. On the bright side, I got the best practice ride in water and wet conditions for my horse I could ever hope for. Are you kidding? I would NEVER have done that as a conditioning ride. Yuck. You should have seen her trotting on that road, through 2 inch deep water for a half mile at a time, water spraying up over us like being sprayed by a fire hose. Diddn’t matter, we could not have gotten any wetter. I wish I had come a day earlier, but oh well. We drove home Saturday evening in the rain, all the way home. Okay rain, you can stop now. Im happy for Gretchen and her 10K miles, and im happy with how Sorsha is doing so far. Next stop- fire mountain in January, and 20 mule team in February.
You can read many more of Nick's entertaining endurance ride stories here: