Tuesday, October 31, 2023

2023 Man Against Horse - Virginia Jenkins

by Virginia Jenkins
October 30 2023

Molly and I were looking to squeeze in one more ride this season as we weren't quite ready for it to end. So, off we went to Man Against Horse! I had always heard of this ride, but had never had the opportunity to go. We saw they had belt buckles as completion prizes and sent our entries within the hour.

Flite has been the star of the show this season, but I have been consistently riding Shaw while Flite rested. We did the LD at Buffalo Creek in August and he did so well that I decided to throw him into a 50 for this ride so I could sneak in a first year towards decade. I made this decision with the most ignorant view despite everyone's cautions, "Oh, it won't be that hard. We're from the MOUNTAIN region. Arizona can't have anything on our mountain rides, it'll be a breeze!"

Well. We were humbled. When Arizona says they climb a mountain, they climb a damn mountain. All. The. Way. To. The. Top.

Shaw and Joey started out a little fiery for the first 5 miles or so and then settled into a nice pace. Shaw had that excited face of a toddler and was giving it all he had while still being respectful of my rating.

We got up the first climb pretty easily and thought we had our suspicions confirmed that this wasn't ACTUALLY a hard ride and this must be the mountain they're talking about. At this point, Joey kept acting like he was dying and would stop in the middle of the trail. Shaw led us a ways until Princess Joey could find the will (or force) to continue through his hunger.

We rolled into the first vet check and vetted through easily. I had popped a cable on one of Shaw's hind renegades, but it miraculously didn't budge for about 10 mile so I had to figure out that situation during the 30 minute hold.

Luckily, Cathy had a magic bag full of renegades and loaned me the perfect size. I decided to try to work with the broken boot as long as I could so I wouldn't put much wear on Cathy's boot. Molly had some electrical tape in her bag, so I wrapped it up and put the spare in my bag. It stayed on almost the whole ride until I was foolish enough to take it off not realizing the roll of tape must've fallen out of the saddle bag.

While we were at this first check, a volunteer saw us put our coolers on and said, "If you need those here, you'll definitely need them at the top."

Hahaha, sure. You mean the top of the next "mountain" we'll climb? Should be EASY.

We moseyed on out of the check and this is where Shaw was really confused about what we were doing in the middle of nowhere, so far from the temporary semblance of home that was base camp. Despite, he plodded along behind Joey, our fearless leader.

This road went on FOREVER. The last ride I did was Virginia City and I kept saying, "Why all these ROCKS?"

When they say it's rocky, you should believe them.

We kept thinking that if we were reaaaally going up a mountain, we'd have to start heading up soon since there were only a few miles to the vet check. More proof it wasn't going to be a real mountain. That peak ahead of us isn't feasible. Well, we got to Check 6: The Oasis. Here, they burst our bubble. We asked how far to the vet check and they said, "A couple miles, but you're headed up there." He pointed to the top of the mountain that we had NO idea would really be the trail. We gulped and continued onward.

This part of the trail was absolutely insane. I trailed most of it and at point point Joey was going very fast and Shaw was chasing him, but I couldn't see much of the terrain because I was sprinting over it too fast trying to keep up. Molly later said she closed her eyes during that part 😂

I continued to tail and Molly hiked since Joey is above tailing. We passed a runner and he said, "Only 1000ft to go!" WHAT? We've already climbed so much, how do we still have 1000ft?? On we went.

We swapped positions so Molly could tail off of Shaw and we continued to climb the mountain. I finally couldn't go any further without being a hindrance, so we both mounted up. Up ahead we saw the boulders we were told about. I heard Molly behind me say, "That can't be the trail, right?"

Yup, here we go! Shaw navigated it expertly like he'd been doing endurance for decades. We got to the top and into the next check nicely, but were still in shock because of the literal mountain we climbed and how well our boys did. We left that check with 17 miles (I think) to go and it was pretty uneventful down the mountain. We got to the flat area close to camp at the boys had enough gas to canter in and ask to go faster.

We both finished and earned our fancy buckles. It sure was an accomplishment and I definitely have another talented endurance horse on my hands. I am wildly impressed with him! Can't wait to see where we go next! Thanks for the adventure, Molly!

Saturday, October 14, 2023

2023 Autumn Sun 100 - Julie Bittick

October 10 2023
By Julie Bittick

Last ride of the season

Starting at 5:30 am, self preservation made sure we went out last and did not catch another rider until we had a few miles under our belt. AND when we finally caught up to the first riders ahead of us, Hondo actually stopped, watched them trot away and took the time to pee before moving on….what?!! He also had zero shaking when I was saddling up pre-ride, he knows his job and finally seems completely comfortable in that space!!

Hondo was golden, it’s amazing the transformation over this season. In April I’m pretty sure fellow endurance riders were writing my eulogy when they saw our horrific and totally embarrassing start to the first endurance ride of the season. Now on our last ride of the season, Hondo was as cool as a cucumber. Lots of hard work and putting into practice great advice from some of our top horse men and women finally paid off!

My focus was to just be better than our first 100. So basically don’t get lost (yep almost had a temper tantrum that would put toddlers to shame at Midnight Rider) and I had more trust in Hondo’s fitness and amazing recoveries (so I let him move!)

By mile 80 we finally caught up to the 1st and 2nd position riders, just when I was passing my stirrup leather snapped. OMG what the heck!!

After assuring David and Melissa Laws that all was fine, I started to channel my inner MacGyver. Not holding back any punches here, my inner MacGyver SUCKS! I hade a couple of zip ties and a carabiner. That jimmy rig lasted about 10 steps.

So then I channeled my inner tough girl and decided I would just ride without stirrups. That lasted about 2 miles, muscles screaming and thighs being rubbed raw, decided my inner tough girl sucked!

So then I engaged the brain - do I have cell service? Yes! 1 bar, just enough to call in crew. The amazing crew, there would not be a success story without them!! I was 5 miles from where the trail met the road and somehow @ 10:30pm there were folks more than happy to drop everything and meet me to swap out tack and keep us moving forward. Will never be able to fully repay their kindness!

Back in the grove and moving forward I finally looked up and saw there was a meteor shower on display, the best one was the huge streak across the sky and a large ball of explosion. If I hadn’t realized the meteorological event going on, I would have freaked out thinking a plane had exploded in the sky.

I believe this amazing astronomy event was put on for the 40th birthday of our fearless ride manager and all around beautiful human being, Jessica Huber.

Hondo and I finally made it back to camp by 12:30am and he looked so great! Hondo tied for high vet score with Melissa Laws beautiful grey.

It is an honor to be a partner to this horse!

Thank you to all the volunteers, vets, and crew! There would not be the sport of endurance without you. Merri Melde for the picture credit.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

2023 Quicksilver - Nick Warhol

October 3 2023
by Nick Warhol
photo by Nina Bomar

The Quicksilver ride went off very well this past weekend in San martin, Ca. We had a great turnout, in fact the best in several years with about 21 in the 50, about 49 in the 25, and about 18 fun riders. The weather was perfect all weekend except for, of course, ride day. Wouldn’t you know we would get the first measurable rain in months on Saturday. It wasn’t much, and the cool weather was sure nice, but it was wet enough to get some of the trails a little sticky and slippery in the morning. Brian Reeves and I spent 11 hours on Thursday marking the trail and getting the water on the trail, then on Friday I went back out to finish the marking and check to be sure the cows had not done their usual damage on the signs. They did not; in fact, this is the first time in the many years I have been marking this trail that we did not lose a single sign. We also provided Ride with GPS that a lot of people tried and liked.

I spent a couple of nights at the Kilty-Newburn Hilton in San Martin, where Sorsha got her own plush, private pasture. Thanks Jill and Michael! On Friday night I was going to stay in camp, but I did not have a place to sleep since I did not have my camper, so I got treated to a queen size bed in the Schneider rolling Hilton. I even got to sleep with Pony, Shel’s sweet dog, on my bed. She’s a big one, not a foo-foo dog. I have not slept with a dog on the bed since I was about ten. It was nice! She’s a real sweetheart. Thanks Lisa and Shel! Speaking of dogs, I had to include a picture of Lori Oleson’s new puppy, Jemma, who was taking care of crew duties for Lori. She’s a lab, but what a color! And I thought Podie was a cute puppy!

I started out on the first loop of the 50 in the light rain, riding with Nina Bomar from down south. We rode the whole first loop together and had a nice ride. I thought her horse was a seasoned, experienced guy since he was so good. Turns out it was his third ride! Nice horse. We did have to take it pretty easy in a few spots due to the slippery conditions. I did not have any issues with mud sticking to Sorsha’s shoes since I had the Equi-pack sole guard in there, but her feet kept throwing mud up all over. It hit the bottom of my shoe, which stuck, then it got between the stirrup and my foot. It was a bit slippery there for a while till I stopped and got rid of the mud from my shoes. We had a great loop- we just rode along and made the best of the wet conditions.

Except for the vet check. You may have heard that like in baseball, in endurance riding you can always have something happen that has never happened before. Yep, in my 32 years and 15K miles I have never crashed in a vet check while trotting my horse for the vet. Michael Newburn drove the ambulance trailer up to the vet check; it was parked with the back open at 90 degrees, and pretty close to the vet trot out lanes. I was in the lane closest to the trailer as I trotted Sorsha for the vet. Michael was sitting on a chair inside the back of the trailer, and just as we trotted by, he moved. Sorsha saw that and jumped to her left a bit, which is where I was. She basically body-checked me in mid trot. She trots fast for the vet! I took a real header, hitting the dirt and actually rolling over a couple of times. She just stopped while I picked myself up and tried to brush off the embarrassment. I was the laughingstock of the vet check for a while. I reminded everyone that “we shall never speak of this again!” Thank goodness no one got a video of that one!

Lunch at 25 miles went quickly; I headed back out and hooked up with Lisa Schneider on Shel’s horse Paco. Another great horse! He really moved along nicely. The second loop was great since the mud was gone and the trails were in nice shape. I have not ridden with Lisa for a while, so we just trucked along at a great pace, catching up on family, horses, and of course AERC stuff. We got to the last check at mile 38, and picked up a junior rider named Stella Stilwell, whose mom, Karen, had been pulled. A REAL junior. 8 years old! Lisa took her on in a heartbeat, and let me tell you, this kid is incredible. She rode her horse in front of Lisa and I just about the whole 12 miles to the finish, and she knows how to ride! She actually paces perfectly, much better than a lot of adults I know. She knows when to stop and walk. Oh, and she just happened to have finished the Virginia City 100 a couple of weeks ago. She’s 8! It was a treat to ride with her.

We let Stella come in ahead of us for fifth, I got sixth, and Lisa seventh. Our ride time was just over 8 hours- it was a 24.5 mile LD and a 49 mile 50 this year. The only issue I know of was a woman came off at about mile one and got hurt with a concussion and got taken to the hospital. I don’t know who it was, or the extent of her injuries yet, but She did get a ride back to camp with Juan on my quad, so I think she’s okay. Juan and Rachael went out and found the horse, and Rachael led it back to camp on foot. A long way! Thanks, Rachel!

Nina ended up with BC, which is pretty cool, since it’s a new horse. Sorsha blew through the ride as usual, and hit her 2000 mile mark with her finish. It was a great weekend from my perspective; we got loads of compliments on the ride in general. Thanks to ride manager Jerry Wittenauer and his crew, to Brian for his help with the trail and vet check work, to Jill and Michael for putting up with me and my Big, Brown, Girly Horse, and to Lisa, Shel, and Pony for the great bed on Friday night. The ride will return next year, better than ever, with some changes and improvements. It better be back- it’s the only ride in the Bay Area anymore, unless the fireworks makes a return. That’s so depressing. Next stop: camp far west if all goes according to plan!