Thursday, January 18, 2018

Across Morocco on horseback - Full Story

A month-long adventure from the dunes of the Sahara to the Atlantic coast

January 17 2018
Saskia Burgess

The night before I set off to ride on horseback across Morocco, I spread the map out on the kitchen table. This is a trip I have dreamt of doing for years but it is only now that I am starting to focus on the reality of what I am attempting. I draw a sloping line from Erg Chebbi on the edge of the Sahara to Plage Blanche on the Atlantic coast. The ride is — although I don’t know this yet — 956km from start to finish, across sand dunes, desert plains and mountains. I’ve tried to read the itinerary but each time I start, I stop: “Long canters . . . big black plain . . . lonely valley . . . stony road . . . red sand.” If I can’t even read to the end of the trip, how am I going to ride it? It will take a month — there will be nine riders and we will be camping, although I note that there are hotel nights and days off in Zagora, Tata, Foum Zguid and Guelmim (counting the hotels is a soothing sport). The best way not to feel daunted is not to think at all.

I am reading, for moral support, the extraordinary early 20th-century memoir of a woman who crossed Morocco on horseback before me. Lady Grove, author of the not-very-catchily entitled Seventy One Days’ Camping in Morocco made the journey in 1902, with 25 armed soldiers. She carried a pistol and a “white, green-lined umbrella” and “never rode a yard in the sun without holding it up”. She developed a “catlike affection” for her tent and “beloved” holdall. Mine, even minus pistol and parasol, is threatening to turn into an enemy. I’ve been reasoning (rightly as it will turn out) that luxuries — a down-filled pillow, a sheepskin seat-saver, flexi stirrups — will be necessities. But struggling with the holdall at Heathrow, I am likely to do myself an injury before even getting on a horse. I am travelling with two friends. We are in our sixties — our bodies neither pliant nor compliant. Why are we taking this on? Easier to ask than to answer.

We fly to Ouarzazate where Renate Erroudani meets us. At 55, she rides like a heroine on a grey Arab mare and wears a turquoise turban that flies behind her as she sets off at a fast canter. Delacroix could have painted her. I first fell for her outfit on a trip along the Agadir coast (she ideally likes riders to have sampled a week before committing to the marathon month). Originally Swiss, she is married to a Moroccan and has organised rides in Morocco for 30 years. An endurance rider with no need for GPS, the desert is in her head...

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fire Mountain 50, 2018 - Nick Warhol


January 17 2018
by Nick Warhol

The weather gods smiled on us last weekend. It rained like mad in the Bay area for a couple of days, as well as throughout the whole state of California; that almost never happens. The desert got almost 24 hours of solid rain. And then it stopped! I drove down from the Bay Area to Ridgecrest on Wednesday in perfect weather with the two horses and my brand new dirt bike. Fire Mountain ride manager Gretchen Montgomery and her husband Mike put me and my horses up at their place for a couple of days before the ride. Their house is a 3-minute walk to the ride camp. On Thursday morning the sun was out, it was about 55 degrees, and zero wind. I set out on the brand spanking new KTM with zero miles on the knobbies to help with the trail marking for the ride and was treated to about the best conditions possible. There is nothing like riding anything, be it horse, dirt bike, mountain bike, quad, dune buggy, monster truck, even a big wheel in the wet desert. It did not hurt riding the new bike that is VERY nice. I spent a few hours working on the trail, touching up the ribbons, and then just went riding. And just kept riding till it got dark. I was out there for most of the day just enjoying the stunning desert on the new bike.

Friday morning I had to grudgingly park the orange 2 wheeler and concentrate on the horses. In the morning Gretchen rode Donnie out with me on Sorsha for a warm up ride that went well. I went and did errands and moved my rig over to the base camp, a block from Gretchen’s place. Convenient! I took FEI gun Mike Tomlinson out in a side-by-side to have a look at the trail which he declared marked. Co-ride manager Brian Reeves and I did a couple of errands for Gretchen, then I walked over to get my horses and bring them to the camp. Just as I arrived so did Judy, who drove down on Friday with Kristin Ojala from the Bay Area with her spunky mare Lani. We vetted the horses in, and I had a little “airs above the ground” with Sorsha on my trot back- she was jumping around like a bit of a Lipizzaner. Hoo boy! We spent a nice evening in the party bus of Barry and Jennifer Waitte- that thing is seriously plush! For those of you who know those guys know that their wine is always pretty good! Bob Spoor, Shellie Hatfield, Jenni Smith, Kristin, and (sorry, I can’t remember his name) got treated to dinner. Nice!

The 50 started saturday at 7am- Judy on mister Donnie and me leading the big, brown (excited) girly horse on foot for a bit. She is still just too excited in camp and at the start. I hopped on after about a half a mile and then it’s all good. We were in the back of the herd as we went out on the green loop, the more technical of the three. The desert was in perfect condition- wet from a drenching rain meant no dust, no deep sand, no mud, just perfection. The trail climbs up a small range and through a short rocky section, maybe a half mile, but that’s about it for this ride. You get dumped back into the splendid wet desert for a while heading out towards highway 395, but not across it. An ever smiling Bill Gore was out snapping the pics. The trail turns back towards town and after a water stop, we head down what used to be called Nazi canyon, where idiots had spray painted all kinds of trash on the rocks. Gretchen recently led a team up there and cleaned off just about all the graffiti. Very nice! Its twisty and rocky for a bit but opens up into a nice, big, fast slightly downhill wash. At about mile 13 I was in front on Sorsha booming right on down the wide wash at a big trot when she spooked big at something that I sure did not see. She did not fall off of me, it was the other way around! Yes, I bit the dust at a pretty good speed. Whammo on the ground I went, landing hard on my left hip. I actually rolled at least once given the speed we were going, hitting my helmet on the ground. Sorry Abbas! (He gave me that helmet) She did not go anywhere, in fact somehow I still had the rein in one hand. I got up slowly and walked on down the wash on foot for a bit, then hopped back up and let Judy lead for a while. At least I wasn’t really hurt! That’s the first time coming off of her from a spook. Judy was behind me and said she just launched at nothing Judy had seen. We hit camp in just under 3 hours for a quick 30-minute hold. Both beasts looked great, so out we went on the second loop on orange ribbon. This is a cool 15 mile loop in that its mostly nice trottable desert trail, and some great single track. It winds up through the moon rocks south of town, out into the open desert, and then back through the rocks on neat twisty trails. Yippee! Judy and I traded places in front, but my big, brown, girly horse was done with spooking. I noticed my hip was starting to hurt pretty badly; the Advil in my camper was calling to me. We headed down into camp, but Judy noticed her right foot was hurting a bit from being kind of sideways on the stirrup. She could trot, but it was hurting her somewhat. I got my drugs and went to vet the horses while Judy rested up and wrapped her foot. Both horses were perfect. The hour lunch was nice, and even better when the Advil kicked in and I was not in quite so much pain. We headed out onto the best loop in the ride, the pink loop that consists of almost all nice trotting on rolling desert. We trotted out the first 10 miles or so, but I noticed that my Advil was wearing off. (I should have brought some with me) I could ride, but it hurt. Especially when walking downhill- there was some kind of little movement that caused a nice little spike of pain. We made the turn at the far end of the loop and headed back towards camp with about 8 miles to go. The sun was low on the horizon, and the trail headed due west right into the sun. It’s a great trail out here- single track across the dez on rolling ground. Judy’s foot started to bother her again, and I’m hurting- what a pair we made. We decided to slow down and do more walking for her, but it was actually better for me to trot. I’d hop off of Sorsha and lead her on foot until my hip was hurting, then I’d get back on till that hurt, then back off, etc, etc. The sun was now setting, and lo and behold, what do we have here? Ride management to the rescue! Brian Reeves and John Rice appeared in a side-by-side with glow bars. I didn’t really need them, knowing pretty much every square inch of the area out here, but that was nice of them to do for us. Especially since they did not have enough, and they started hanging them too early, so they actually went back to the ones they put up that were behind us, took them down, leap frogged ahead of us, and put them up back in to camp. Now that’s service!

We trotted a little, but mostly walked the last 5 miles or so into camp and arrived just after dark at about 6pm. I trotted Sorsha for Mike the vet, and that was a mistake. Not for her, but for me! Ouch! Brian came to the rescue and trotted Donnie for us. Both horses were perfect, Sorsha was 40 pulse at the finish. She’s ready for the 100 next month! (I will be!)

The idea of riding the next day sounds good until the next day came. I was very sore, and Judy’s foot was in need of some healing. We packed up and drove home, calling Saturday a success. Judy finished her second 50 on her comeback, and now Sorsha has 400 miles. Thank goodness I did not get really hurt, and that I have an Advil injury. Its three days later and I’m still sore but its improving. I’ll be ready to ride in a week after the ponies have had their break. Then its down to the 20 mule team 100 where I get to ride that superb new KTM for a couple hundred miles marking the trail before doing the 100. It’s the best weekend of the year!

Thanks to Gretchen and her crew- they put on a great ride that I recommend highly. It’s a fun ride, especially when the desert gods smile and make it wet out there. I hope we get the same next month!

Friday, January 05, 2018

Death Valley XP ’17: Lessons from the Trail - Redheaded Endurance - Full Story


Last year after after 4 days on 4 different horses at Death Valley XP I shared some of my favorite Survival and Comfort Items while catch riding a multiday. This year I’ve already pretty thoroughly covered how we pin-balled through multiple vehicular malfunctions, so it seemed timely to now share some things learned/confirmed while riding the same horse for 50 miles for multiple days.

Kenny has never needed splint or fetlock boots before in our mileage together and I rarely have ever used them with any horse, but I’ve been packing both types of leg protection boot for years now. This ride this habit proved invaluable, when at lunch of the Day 2 50 miler I noticed that Kenny, naturally knock kneed/toed out on the front with an inward swinging movement, had given himself a knick on his left front with his right front. I made it a point to run back to the trailer to grab the fetlock boots before we left on the second loop, and when on a pee break I saw the interference mark freshly disturbed, on went the fetlock boots. Kenny wore them the rest of the 150 miles, barefoot and booted, and there were no further issues.

I also got very lucky in the Bring All Things regard, because when transferring gear from my rig to T’s, my husband threw in an extra saddle pad that I hadn’t planned to bring. It was a green Coolback pad with a 3+” longer flap than the barrel pad Woolback we usually use, and it too proved vital when I noticed that Kenny had a spot of rubbed off hair right where his clip started/pad ended, where the leather billets ran. I have never had any sort of rub on Kenny before in 50 milers with this clip, but this was a multi-day that crossed mountains, so possible issues were handily revealed! The pad my husband had unwittingly included proved to be perfect under the Specialized and covering the rub spot, and there were no were further issues...

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2017 Death Valley Escape - Karen Bumgarner

Karenshorsetales Blog - Full Story

January 3 2018
by Karen Bumgarner

This ride has been on my "must ride" list for years and I finally got to go!! The locals call it the Death Valley Encounter, but for me it was a brief escape from cold and snow, and as I write this, it's 18 degrees so I'm ready to return!!

The day after Christmas when most people are shopping, I was trying to make my way through Boise. It was like being on a suicide mission with two big wrecks in the West bound lanes and more piling up as drivers ignored all the flashing lights warning them of what lay ahead. On my side, heading East, all the Einsteins were rubbernecking at the wrecks and then slamming on their brakes, only to slide off and land in the median. I was scared spitless, or something like that, the spelling varies. You don't get pictures of that since I was still doing my own driving. Once the other side of Boise I had to stop at the rest area and relax my shaking hands. Then onward to Gooding, meet the Cobbley's and stow my rig at Huber's.

The remainder of our trip was uneventful. We marveled at the sun and the rising temps, we were so excited to meet 60 degrees!!! We made it to Ely, NV and stayed at the fair grounds there. Brrrr in the morning. We piled in the truck and Mike says "where to today Miss Daisy?" "Oh anywhere warm will do nicely", I replied. We made it to Trona, CA. and camp around 3'ish. I don't recall exactly we were all way too excited...

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Death Valley Encounter 2017 - Kipling the Wonder Horse

TheMonkeysKnowNothing - Full Story

January 1 2018

Ride to Remember for sure

Fabulous ride. Everything went my way so the monkeys too had a nice time.Best part for me was getting to go with my girl, Ice. Mr Monkey is finally getting to ride instead of crew.

Ice is a caterpillar (gaited horse) so he got to slink along on her for 66 miles altogether. I've tried so hard to get her to play 'bounce the monkey' and though I know she tries hard, she just can't do it! She moves like a caterpillar. Oh well.(There were lots of caterpillars at this ride)

I did 155 miles altogether excluding some doubling back from getting lost on the third day.I only wanted to take the trails that led back to my gal so whenever my monkey tried to stop and read the pie plates I .....bounced.She tried to get me to stop. I stopped. I did. At every blood pie plate.BUT...I can bounce on the spot REALLY well!I'm an expert!

So armed with a GPS, map, written instructions, ribbons AND pie plates......she still got lost. A lot! She's an expert!Anyway on the fourth day she gave up the maps and stuff and just kept her eye on one big hairy moving trail marker called Crocket Dummas. Good idea I said...

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2017 Death Valley Encounter, Day 1: Panamint Valley - V Jaques

Furtheradventuresteam91 - Full Story

by Valerie Jaques
January 1 2018

I have to start with a bit about the trip to the ride itself.

Demon and Hoss started fussing under the divider with each other almost immediately upon loading. I tied them both, not short, but enough to prevent any real reaching under the divider. The trip was uneventful until we stopped at the Walmart in Adelanto. I was sitting in the cab clearing my notifications when the trailer started rocking. Demon has in the past been known to start pawing mindlessly, and I assumed it was him acting up when I hollered and went back to see what was up. I climbed up on the side of the trailer and looked in at Demon, who gave me a wide-eyed look and tilted his head toward Hoss.

At this point I noticed Hoss's hind leg did not look quite right. There is no way it should be at quite that angle. In a bit of a panic, I ran back and opened the gate.

Hoss was sitting on his butt like a dog, held up by his lead rope just enough to prevent him from tucking his front legs. He immediately tried to exit the trailer, but his head was still tied. His foot hit the spigot on the 55 gallon drum, opening it and creating a flood of water in the midst of his predicament. I yelled at him to whoa, and ran around to untie him. Once he was freed, I told him to come on out and he was able to get out of the trailer and gain his feet with little trouble.

Letting my heart rate come down, I started asking Hoss to move about a little to make sure he was OK before re-loading him and heading on up the road. I was looking Hoss over when a car stopped and the most exuberantly excited young man (I'd say mid-20s at most) asked in the most breathlessly awed voice if he could have a picture with Hoss. I can honestly say I have never seen someone in this particular age group so enthused to meet a horse. Hoss was, of course, an incredible ambassador for his species and stood quietly for petting and to have his picture taken. I really wish I'd gotten a picture of those two young men with Hoss. It was truly enchanting and did quite a bit to distract me from the distressing situation we had so recently found ourselves in...

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