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!