Thursday, November 16, 2023

2023 Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of My Way Endurance Ride - Julie Figg

November 15 2023
By Julie Figg

Yes, those are cactus in the background and no, we are not in our usual backyard. Rudy and I travelled to McDowell Mountain for the endurance ride that was put on last weekend.

I've always wanted to participate in this event but since Sprite, my other Appy, gets such a heavy coat, like a wooly mammoth, I never went. Well, situation changed and this year Rudy is mature enough to handle a few more rides so last Thursday we packed up and headed to Phoenix. Overnighted at Summer Sage Stables in Flag, which, BTW, is a fabulous place to stay.

I'd entered the 75 as I wanted to see how Rudy did riding at night. I've done a few night rides and really enjoy the trail in the darkness. It is magical, a little terrifying at times and totally fun. Our goal was not to burn trail but have a nice steady ride and finish.

The ride started at 6 am and there were only 2 other riders in the 75. At this time of the morning It was still 0darkthirty. Since Rudy can sometimes get a bit excited at the start, like moving sideways and getting all silly, I opted to let the other 2 go ahead. Good move as the single track trail was lined with cactus of every sort. I could just imagine the explosion we'd have if we brushed a chola cactus bundle. So with the other 2 out of earshot we trotted out on a nice loose rein.

I was told the first loop can be a bit rocky on the out and back. Yes, they were right however the scene of the sun coming up over the mountains was absolutely beautiful. Since Rudy is not exactly tinker bell we had to take it slow on the rocky section. We finished the first 26 mile loop in exactly 4 hours. Right on track to finish around 8 pm, my goal.

Hold was uneventful, Rudy pulsed in with a 48 and all A's. I knew the challenge would be coming though and it didn't involve trail, it would be the heat. I'd clipped his neck and a bit of his flank but living at 6800 feet and having feet of snow in the winter lends any horse to grow a thick winter coat.

I did not want a metabolic pull, not a cloud in the sky and was pushing 80 degrees so the next loop I rode accordingly. Taking care not to overdo Rudy I sponged at every tank and walked stuff I'd normally trot. Coming into the hold after 24 miles Rudy pulsed in at 44/36! I was surprised the vet Susan took the 2nd pulse after the down and back but she was doing it for everyone. By the look on her face I almost thought something was wrong but when she said, hmm what is 9 times 4 I knew it was the low HR!

Our out time was 4:32 so my plan was to get as many miles in I could before it got dark. Rudy thought otherwise, he is a horse when out in wide open space by himself can get a little unmotivated and poky. The next 9 miles he rode like a slug, I couldn't get him motivated. I knew I had plenty of horse under me but geez! That's ok, I rode the horse I had and at this point I didn't want to upset the apple cart. The sunset was gorgeous and the lights of Phoenix were off in the distance, what a sight! The trail lights looked like small fireflies and without them I'd have been sunk. The small white ribbon of trail was visible enough that I didn't use my flashlight however with its twists and turns Rudy and I spent the time trotting/walking.

At mile 16 or so at the hay and water stop there was a trail volunteer out there with COOKIES! OMG what an inspiration, I thanked her profusely and enjoyed my snack. Rudy chowed down on some beautiful green alfalfa and at this point I knew we could get this ride in the bag.

Onward we went and the next couple of miles were uneventful. Mind you, I'd been hearing coyotes howling in the distance on and off all night but I was surprised to hear them now so close! Little bastards started to follow me, I could tell as their little yippy howls were staying behind me. I've been tracked before by a coyote at my brother in law's place but not by 3 or 4 of them. I finally turned around and screamed at them something not repeatable and shined my bright light their way. This got them off my tail, thankfully! They were probably just curious about what was tromping around in their world in the darkness. I never felt spooked by their presence, it was just weird.

Crossing the road Stephanie DuRoss was there to greet me and offer up hay and water for my pony and encouragement and a snack for me! What a treat! It was great to hear I only had about 4 miles to go! The lights of camp never looked so good! We finished around 9 pm with all A's and a HR of 44.

What a well run ride! The vets were fantastic and the whole event was beyond well run. Loved the dinner on Friday and the ride meeting was the best. Trails were super well marked and water and hay plentiful. Thank you for such a super event, I'll be back! Oh, did the ride in Easyboots, have been using them all year on all my rides, a first. THANKS AGAIN TO ALL THAT PUT THIS RIDE ON, A CLASS EVENT!!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The Maiden Voyage of the S.S.S. Hillbillie Willie - Merri Melde

TheEquestrianVagabond blog - Full Story

November 2 2023
by Merri Melde

Super. Star. Standardbred. Hillbillie Willie takes a solo trip to the Weiser River Trail Halloween ride

The last ride of the season was going to be one big adventure: Willie’s first solo Endurance ride. He hadn’t trailered anywhere by himself since 2016, and he’s always had his bestest buddies with him at any ride he’s traveled to.

Loading, transport, and arrival went remarkably well to Cambridge, Idaho, 2.5 hours away… so, so far so good!

There were a few horses already in camp when we arrived at the fairgrounds, but the best distraction was: grass! Willie is not a voracious eater, but my goodness, he loves him some grass. He doesn’t get much of that living in the Owyhee desert. We spent a while grazing, and then I put him in a fairgrounds pen beside other quiet Endurance horses, and I never heard a peep out of Willie while I set up his pen at Regina’s trailer.

When I moved him to his trailer pen, a few more trailers had arrived, and Willie whinnied now and then, but he never ran his pen with anxiety, so I thought things were looking up. When Melissa and David drove in, I flagged them down to park next to us, as we’d all be riding the 50, and they’d finish before Willie and I did, so he’d always have new buddies close to him.

Due to this and that, I got approximately seven minutes of sleep Friday night, but that wasn’t because of Willie - I only heard a few whinnies out of him during the cold night. But come early morning, when people started bustling about in the dark and horses started waking up, Willie let loose. He whinnied every 30 seconds, for like an hour. When I went out to tie him to the trailer to saddle him up, he was uncharacteristically antsy, wiggling about with big wide eyes. This was the most worked up he’d been at the start of a ride in years, which made me a bit nervous. What was he going to be like mounting, and starting on the trail?...

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Thursday, November 02, 2023

2023 AERC Young Rider National Championship! - Mollie Quiroz

By Mollie Quiroz
November 1 2023

This past weekend was one to remember! I was lucky enough to fly back to Auburn for a few days to compete at Camp Far West in the 75 mile Young Rider National Championship with Mack and ride the 50 the next day with Grit.

After spending the last few weeks helping getting everything organized for the race, I was thrilled for the chance to actually get to ride. Mack’s had a big season this year. He did 2 50s to start our season, came in 10th place at Tevis in a very competitive field, and came in 2nd place in the Virginia City 100 7 weeks later also among a highly competitive field. Since VC in September, Mack has been resting in anticipation for our season finale which was the Young Rider National Championship at Camp Far West.

Although the field was small, we knew it would be a super competitive group and that I would have to ride smart and stick to our plan in order to be successful.

I got on Mack early Saturday morning and got him all warmed up so we’d be ready to go once the trail opened. I started the day with Reyna Mero and we moved along at a brisk pace but had a great time talking and exchanging stories. Our horses went together really well and we had a similar ride strategy. We were a few minutes behind Sanoma, who was in first, when we came into the first vet check.

The horses pulsed and vetted and before we knew it, it was time to head back out. We went out on our second loop and once again had a great time. The horses looked great and felt really good.

We came into the second vet check, pulsed, vetted, and I was able to discuss the rest of my ride plan with Sam during my hold. Once I got cleared to go, we decided that it was time for me to start to make my move. Mack and I’s competitive side had kicked in, especially after a comment about how we would never catch first place. I knew I had a lot of horse left but I was curious to see how Mack would handle the speed increase over the next two loops.

Mack and I took off out of the vet check to chase down Sanoma who was 5 minutes ahead of me. We started passing people doing the 50 and the 30 which only motivated Mack more. A couple miles in we saw Sanoma and the chase was on. We caught her and rode into the next check with her. Mack ended up pulsing one minute ahead of her horse and that was all we needed!

It came time to go out on our last loop and the race was on! Mack never let off the gas and he felt fantastic. We came across the finish line in 1st place, a good ten or so minutes ahead of the next rider. Mack vetted through and we had officially won the Young Rider National Championship! The icing on the cake was finding out later that night that Mack also won High Vet Score and Best Condition by around 200 points!! It was the perfect end to our season.

Sunday morning came early and that meant it was time to go back out for the 50 mile ride with Tierney and Ryan. I got the chance to take Grit for a spin again and had so much fun! I led the girls through the first loop and that was it! I put them in front and they paced us wonderfully through the ride. They worked together when it came to leading and setting the pace. I was so proud of them and amazed at how far they’d come in the last year. The horses looked great and they took great care of them throughout both days.

The three of us took home 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place with Tierney winning the overall Best Condition aware and Ryan winning the Junior Best Condition award. Thank you to Kimberly Ellis and Katie Stilwell Beloberk for trusting me to race with these awesome kids! They are truly incredible!

This weekend and this season would not have been possible without so many amazing people! First a huge thank you to John Brain and Brain Ranch Horseshoeing for keeping Mack’s feet happy all season long! He always felt so amazing and I never had to worry about his shoes!

Also a huge thank you to Dr. Jennifer Elizabeth Mayfield for being the incredible vet that she is. Without her we wouldn’t have been able to get to the bottom of the issues Mack has had in the past and I can’t say enough about how amazing she has been with getting him to where he is now.

Another big thank you to Cara Choy for ensuring that Mack felt his best all season! It all came together this past weekend and we couldn’t have done it without Cara!

We also want to give a big thank you to Specialized Saddles for donating such an amazing award for 1st place! We primarily ride in Specialized and it’s always been a dream to win one and this ride provided me with that opportunity!

Thank you to Shawn and Lisa Bowling and Crater Hill Equestrian for everything they do for us! They not only put on the ride and gave us this chance, but also encouraged us and cheered us on throughout the season and made it all possible!

And my biggest thank you goes to Samantha Ellis for pushing us this season to reach our goals and then some, but also encouraging Mack and I to keep pushing and working endlessly to get to the bottom of any concerns I had about Mack. We couldn’t have this without you and I’m so happy we were able to bring it home

Now Mack gets the next 6 months off to rest and recover and just be a horse. He’s more than earned it!