Thursday, April 29, 2021

Owyhee Tough Suckers 100 Ride Report - Crysta Turnage

by Crysta Turnage

Well, it was our day but was not our day...

The ride started in the dark (DARK, moon had set) at 0500. I had been very efficient with getting things prepared the night before. Riding a 100 with no crew, I knew the more prep I could do for each checkpoint in advance would equal more time I could rest and relax. So I was mounted and had been walking around camp for several minutes when Regina announced the trail was open. There were only 9 of us in the 100, and I only saw two other riders who were ready. So Bravo and I trotted off into the dark and put ourselves in an unexpected position - we were leading the ride!

Bravo was focused and on point. I've ridden him enough in the dark to trust him to do his job on the footing and my job was to concentrate and keep us on the trail. There were red LED lights guiding our path and thankfully enough of them that I didn't need to doubt myself very often. We trotted for miles together in the dark, just the two of us. The LED markers stopped just about the time the sun had started to make an appearance. I was now having to squint at the bush to see if I could see a strip of ribbon, there wasn't enough light to actually SEE the colors yet. Bravo was happily snatching grass during our walking breaks. He had not eaten very well the night before, so was making up for bad decisions by grazing along the trail. Around 8-9 miles the sun was finally up enough we could see clearly and move out with more confidence. Bravo is a "want to be in front" horse so he was just joyful out there on our own. He was so relaxed and efficient. We arrived at the second set of water troughs and I gave him a dose of elytes though he declined to drink. He peed three times on the first 20 mile stretch to the trot-by check. At this point we were in our own little bubble - I had not seen or heard anyone behind us so we were just cruising and doing our ride.

We reached the 20-mile trot-by check shortly after 0730. Bravo was ready to drink here and passed the check with no issues. I took a quick inventory, realized we didn't need anything just yet, and set off for the 10-mile lollipop loop which would bring us back to this away vet check. We did a 10-mile loop along the top of the rolling plateaus, looking down into the Oreana Valley and the former Teeter Ranch. I was glad I had my rain coat as the storm front began to roll in. Thankfully it just spit on us this loop, nothing of any real impact. On a few occasions I could see a group of four riders behind me, but B and I just stayed in our little bubble.

We arrived at the 30 mile check and one hour hold around 0900. B vetted through with all A's (excellent gut sounds!). It turned out we had about a 5 minute lead over the group behind us. I wasn't there to "race" per say, its not like it was a competitive ride, but was interested to see how B would do going his "happy pace" all day. The terrain and footing was very forgiving and definitely allowed for long trotting sections. Today was about enjoying being on the trail and out there together and marveling at what this horse is capable of. It was about making sure my adjusted electrolyte protocol kept him happy and going well over 50 miles. And making sure that I took care of both of us well enough we could get through the entire day and evening. The first 50-miles was like a big lollipop loop - we went out 20-miles to the check, did a 10-mile loop, and then back on the same 20-miles we had ridden in the morning. It was fun and different to see the trail and surrounding terrain in the light this time!

It had been so dark earlier that I wasn't able to appreciate the beauty of what we were riding through. This area is similar high desert vegetation but the mountains are totally different, more low plateaus and deeper river valleys than the true climbs we have in Nevada. It was fun to see all the other riders as well since the 50s had started at 0800 and were now making their way to the vet check.

We made it back to camp and the hour hold at 50 miles around 1220. My camp neighbor Jeff and I were laughing since he was leading the "chase pack" which was running about 5 mins behind. Dr. Jessica vetted Bravo and marveled at how well he was doing metabolically. I was SO SO SO PLEASED. He has NOT been an easy horse to manage but today so far had been flawless. He was eating, and drinking, and peeing, and just HAPPY and doing so well. Then we trotted and she had a funny look on her face as we were coming back. I was quite surprised, he had felt wonderful out on the trail. Something inconsistent on his left front, bring him back for a recheck before we go out again. Ugh! B isn't my "soundness" issue guy - that was Digs. Thankfully I learned a lot about getting an iffy horse through rides from Big D.

We passed the recheck and headed out for a 20 mile loop from camp. The first several miles were the same as the morning trail, and then we made a left hand turn and proceeded up a canyon on the LD trail. The LD riders were now starting to return on this trail from the away vet check, so again it was fun to see everyone and briefly say hi as we climbed. B hit his standard mid-afternoon OMG I'M SO HUNGRY MUST EAT ALL THE THINGS phase which is nearly like clockwork for him. So we walked and jogged and grazed and stopped often for bites of grass. Near the top of the climb Jeff, Jessica, Mike and (?? Nance?) caught up to us. They all checked and made sure we were okay and I assured them it was just hunger issues. Bravo ate a bit more and then tucked in with the group. We all rode a few miles together to the next water set and along the highway. Jeff and I were in front chatting, and at one point I looked back and realized the others weren't there anymore! B was over his "I'm gonna die unless I eat" phase and back to normal feed the hungry pony status. Jeff and I had a good time trading off the lead back and forth and I was actually happy to have some company for the upcoming 30-miles, since it was going to be just a 15 mi shorter repeat of this same 20 mi loop, done twice. Gus and Bravo were well paced together, other than needing to either stay REALLY close or well back to avoid the blowing dust in my contacts. The rain storm caught us just before we got back to camp and I regretted my mistake of taking off my jacket and leaving it in my trailer at the last hold. While I got SOAKED, at least it wasn't too cold and it wasn't long before we were back in camp.

We arrived in camp at 70 miles around 1615 or so. Vetted through with that same watch on his left front. It wasn't noticeable out on the trail, but I could see it out of the corner of my eye this time while trotting. Same recheck before we head back out. This was only a 40 minute hold and I scrambled to refill water bottles, elyte syringes, carrots on my pack, change out of my wet clothes from head to toe, and oh yeah.... eat something myself. This ride was all about liquid calories for me pretty much. If I couldn't drink it or slurp it in the saddle, I didn't have time. We rechecked his leg before heading out and it was the same as noted previously - slight and occasional but "something".

Jeff and Gus had left on time and I was a few minutes later after I got organized and did our recheck. I really just wanted to finish and wasn't concerned with placing so it was good to get back into a pocket by ourselves. B and I both had a serious case of the "fuckits" doing this same loop again. The 15 mi yellow was only different from the previous 20 mi pink by having a different cutoff point. I realized this was the first 100 I've ever done which had so much repeat trail. I've been very fortunate to not have this be a regular occurrence. Regina had to make several last minute changes the week of the ride due to OHV and water damage to past routes used. Some of what we rode was new trails she had just found to link together. I'm not complaining, it was just an interesting observation to see at what point we both got a little low on motivation. I also made myself take some elytes, drink at least a 1/4 bottle, and get some calories every time I started to feel a little mentally low.

B and I continued the same climb up the pink/yellow loop that we had before. When we hit some of the flat road up top, he picked up a trot and felt off on his right rear. I jumped down to check his shoes (Easycare Flex) and found he had slipped a nail! The clinch was still super tight, but down into his hoof and I couldn't loosen the end. The nail itself had folded over the edge of the shoe and was lifting his hoof wall on the lateral heel. It probably felt like a small rock under the edge of his hoof. I texted my husband and we tried to puzzle out if I could somehow pull the nail with my Leatherman. I tried a few different options but wasn't brave enough to bend the nail all the way back, for fear that I wouldn't be able to actually PULL it and would just make it worse. At this point, the best option I had was to walk him into camp (forward was closer than going back) and see if we could pull the nail and/or shoe and see how he looked. So that's what we did. Kept moving. When we got to the softer footing areas, B would pick up a trot of his own accord so it definitely seemed to be related to sore feet on any harder footing.

Back in camp at 85 miles and there's a farrier available! He pulls the nail and we trot for the vets.... hhhmmm. We all see something. Nothing consistent but he's just not moving like he should. Beth and Suzanne come over to help crew and we all sit and stare at him and try to decide what to do. He's eating really well and has a great attitude still, but I can tell his feet hurt. I go talk with the vets (she's absolutely wonderful by the way - Dr. Jessica Heinrick). From the 70 mile check to the 85 mile check he has gotten a bit worse, we both agree. If we do the last loop and he gets any worse, then we will probably not get a completion. He's not bad enough right now for a vet pull - this is a Rider Option call for me to make (RO-L). Its a little after 8 pm so time wise, we could go walk the entire last loop and still be good on time...

I go back and look at Bravo. And I realize that as much as it sucks I need to make the right decision FOR HIM and pull. He would totally go out, not feeling 100% and do that last loop because I asked him to - but that's not fair to him. The completion and the miles are all about my ego and my wants and desires - not his. He got to have a super fun day doing what he loves but that last loop would not have been any fun for him. Could we have risked it and maybe completed? Yeah, maybe. But would it have been the right thing to do if I take the human component out of it and just judge my horse as he stands there? Probably not. Did it suck to have that outcome after such a fabulous day? Absolutely. Do I regret my decision? No. So we both got cleaned up and into bed at a pretty decent hour.

The completion rate was REALLY good! 7 out of the 9 that started all completed. I was happy to cheer on everyone at awards the next morning. For as far as we went, I actually felt REALLY good the next morning and didn't have any issues getting all cleaned up and packed to go. The drive home had enough rain storms that while I stopped a couple times for gas and restroom breaks, I didn't unload Bravo at all. He arrived home after our 7 hr drive and looked good moving around the corral. By yesterday evening I couldn't see any hint of the soreness.

Next on our agenda is a multi-day at City of Rocks, another Idaho ride! I've been wanting to go to this one for several years so am really looking forward to it.

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