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!!!!