by Nick Warhol
June 16 2019
I rode Sorsha on her second 50 of the year on Day 2 of the now 4 day wild west ride at Skillman campground near Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Gretchen Montgomery joined me for the ride on her mare Coquette. I have done thirty plus 50 mile rides at this event over the years so I know the area pretty well. The ride this day was a modified version of the usual route with some differences. The day has been a little short in the past, but not on Friday. It was easily a full 50 on a long day in the saddle in a weird ride. It was very hot, which does not bother me, but the heat and trail took it out of many people. An amazing half of the riders got pulled on this day which I don’t ever remember happening. The ride used to be about 60% single track and 40% roads, but not now! Ride management did me a favor and made it about 90% single track. It was a great trail for me anyway. Long story short Gretchen and I just rode all day and had pretty much a perfect ride. We missed several turns, as did many people, but were able to back track and find the route pretty easily. The ride started at 7am and we finished at 6pm in 19th and 20th. I believe about 48 started and only 26 finished. My knee did well again as it did at Cache Creek 4 weeks ago. My solution is to walk a quarter mile every 5 miles or so- it really helps refresh my knee.
Oh, about my horse. When I got Sorsha 3 years ago I told people I think this is going to be a good endurance horse. Oh boy was I right on that one! She is no longer going to be a good horse, she is now officially a very good endurance horse! I’m astounded how far she has come so quickly. She is a metabolic machine with incredible recoveries, which is a good thing. In her first few rides I had to lead her on foot from camp due to her nerves and excitement- not any more. We walk out perfectly looking like a trail horse. She would not go near water, mud, or moist ground. (On my test ride before I bought her we had to turn around because of a little mud on the trail) Now she crosses anything. She used to have a fit and spin around when another horse passed her or she passed one- not any more. She goes up hills like no Arabian I have ever ridden. She eats and drinks like a seasoned pro. Her number one issue is she is flighty and spooks. She was VERY spooky at first which led me to have to ride her differently that Donnie, that’s for sure. I know she is going to launch so I have to be ready at all times.
Here’s where I admit that you never stop learning about horses. Before the Cache Creek ride a month ago I was talking to my friend Ines Hoffman who I rode with. I was explaining how I had to ride Sorsha differently than Donnie because of her spooks. She gave me some simple advice that at first I did not pay much attention to. She just told me “Don’t ride her like she’s going to spook, ride her like she won’t.” I started thinking about that, and during the ride she pointed out that I was looking for things for her to spook at, which the horse probably felt. I stopped doing that and just relaxed, like I do when I’m on Donnie.
Yeah- night and day difference. She did not spook at anything during the Cache Creek ride, even when she was in the lead of our group of horses. Not one spook. At the ride on Friday Gretchen and I spent just about half and half leading the other. Sorsha did not spook once. She looks at things, and will move over on the trail a little bit when she’s looking, but no spooks other than one little startle when she walked over a deep rut filled with branches. She’s a different horse in the last couple of months, and is an absolute joy to ride. I was obviously communicating nervousness to her. It is so neat to see the incredible improvement in just a couple of years.
Next stop is Fireworks where I will ride with Judy and Donnie on the 25. My year is focused on getting Sorsha primed for the Championship 100 at the 20 mule team on November 2nd. It’s my trail and I can’t wait!