Saturday, April 27, 2024

2024 American River Classic - Nick Warhol

April 26 2024
By Nick Warhol

The American river ride was the first ride that Sorsha and I have done in over seven months. Family obligations have kept us from doing any riding, but we have that pretty much sorted out now. I drove up on Friday morning with Ines and her spunky gelding Rayos. Camp was PACKED with rigs; the parking team did a good job getting people situated. We got so lucky since we were the third from last rig to fit in the main area. We got a great spot very close to everything. The weather was perfect, finally, although I was a little worried about some of the muddy bogs that might be present in the cool area due to the recent rains we've had. At the ride meeting the trail lady talked about something called the long water, be sure to take the long water; don’t go to the left. What was that? Well, I guess we'll find out.

The ride this year was different than past American river rides in that it started and ended in cool, doing loops in and out of camp, as opposed to the point-to-point ride that's always been in play at this ride over the years. The last time I did this ride about 8 years ago, I found the single track from Folsom Lake to the Auburn area was just too torn up, technical, and downright nasty to do again. I was glad to see a change. The ride was 3 loops for the 50: the 15 mile red, the 10 mile white, then the 25 mile blue. The red and the white loops started and ended in cool. The blue loop was pretty neat since it went from Cool to Auburn, backwards on the tevis trail, to the vet check at the overlook and then back to Cool the same way we came.

We left camp at 6:15am with a controlled walk over to the start, then took off with the pack at 6:30 with over 60 horses in the 50. The ride started right out on single track , which is fun, but makes it hard to pass people, especially early on. For some reason we just couldn't get away from the conga line of horses during the first few miles. It's just so much easier to ride by yourself. We hung back after a while and let the groups go but kept getting caught up in other groups; It was kind of strange to keep getting stuck with many riders. The trail is a mixture of really nice single track and jeep roads with good footing in most areas. There were boggy sections, as well as some rocky stuff, but overall the footing was quite good. We ended up on a long downhill road to the American river, which was pretty full, (the rapids were loud!) and skirted along the shore to the East for a bit. We then climbed all the way back up to the top of the canyon where Cool is located. After 10 miles we finally were able to ride by ourselves the last five miles into the vet check back in camp. We still didn't know what the long water was. Sorsha recovered instantly with her classic 40/40 CRI and ate happily at the trailer for 30 minutes.

The next loop was the white loop, using many of the same trails and the same area as the red loop, but included the infamous long water. A look at the GPS route we recorded shows the crazy repetitive trails used on all three loops. A couple miles from camp we noticed over to our left a couple of people trying to extract a poor horse from the mud. That looked pretty grim. The lady at the ride meeting had said “be sure to take the long water, don't go to the left or you'll get stuck.” Well, apparently this rider went to the left and got stuck.

We turned left into the long water which turned out to be like a Creek, but it was deep. Sorsha is a tall horse, and my feet and ankles were underwater as we slogged up this Creek / puddle / river that wasn't moving, for at least a couple hundred feet. I would have taken a video, and I wish I had, but I was a little bit nervous in there. It was really deep water. And at one point Sorsha thought she might try to exit stage left, but I caught her, and with one nice left leg push I got her back into the deep water in the center of the pond. That was exciting! We exited the water, with horses dripping, and continued on, but had some trouble with trail marking on the white loop. We got lost twice and did an extra 1.6 miles. (we have a gps) One benefit was that the wrong trail we were on was a great single track! Once back on trail, we continued on with winding trails back to the start finish and second vet check in cool. Another great CRI for Sorsha, this time 40/36.

We spent our hour hold letting the horses eat which they did happily, and headed out for the out-and-back loop to Auburn in the heat of the afternoon. It started out in the same general area with the other loops, but eventually made its way over to the Wendell Robie trail all along Highway 49 towards no hands bridge. I recognized right away when we got on to the tevis trail, and we rode across the no hands bridge enjoying the beautiful views. There were a lot, and i mean a lot of people walking on the road along the river between the bridge and the auburn area. It was very crowded with people; we made our way as best we could along the river loop and then to the last vet check at about 40 miles at the Auburn overlook staging area. The check was at the very top of a big climb which was hard on some horses. It was hot, and several horses weren't recovering, but Sorsha certainly didn't have that problem. She was 44/40 here, it took Rayos a few minutes to come down, but he did. Several horses were pulled for non-recovery here, and I think some were probably not able to make the cut off time.

We spent our 30 minutes and continued on, riding back the way we came towards Cool, going in reverse across no hands bridge. It was a long, slow climb up the rocky trail up the Canyon, (at least they kept us off the training hill!) but we took it easy not being in any hurry. We got to the top, then looped around, did a couple more miles and then headed to the finish. It was a long ride; we finished at 5:20, with the winner finishing at about 3:15. The winner happened to be “sandwash” Ali Woodward, riding one of Melissa Montgomery’s Mustangs. (Melissa was pulled at the 40 mile check). Ali has turned into one of the best catch riders in the West region. She needs to get her own horse, well then again, maybe she doesn't! Sorsha finished with her classic 40/36, CRI impressing the heck out of the vets. We finished in about 15th place I think out of the 60 or so starters, but I fear there were some overtime pulls at that last vet check. All in all it was an excellent ride, although getting lost a bit, we had a great ride in good weather on great horses. Next ride will be the Christina Chesterman in a month!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

2024 Eagle Canyon - Emilee Randal

Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride - Day 1

By Emilee Randal
April 22 2024

I’ve never been to this ride before but I had an absolute BLAST. I rode with Max both days.

Fire vetted in perfectly Friday night and I felt confident about holding a strong pace. I wasn’t sure if I had ridden her enough, but Darlene told me about a million times that my horse was fine and we would do well. She was right.

We started at 7:30, nothing hectic and we held 1st and 2nd for a little while. Eventually Suzanne Hayes (the woman with 100 100s!!) passed us and we knew we’d be fools to try and keep up, since we were planning on riding both days.

4 miles in I was in agony. The Ghost I’m using has a flap that rubs my knees and I had to vet wrap my legs. It was hell.

We held 2nd and 3rd the rest of the day. We saw an antelope and a few burrow owls, along with a coyote.

I had to compensate funny because of my knees (which were swollen and bruised) so I was very sore the next day. Uh oh.

We finished about 30 minutes behind Suzie and Fire had all As, along with a 56/48 CRI, so Max and I showed for BC. Max won, along with high vet score, and there weren’t any other juniors on the 50 so I didn’t qualify for Junior BC. No biggie.

Fire started devouring more food than she had in the 2 days we’d been there and she was drinking fabulously. I think she knew we were going again.

Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride - Day 2

Again, we started at 7:30. this time, Layne Bownds Lewis (the fab ride manager) was riding. What happened is her story to tell, it is posted, but I ended up galloping back into camp to get her husband and some help, and then I galloped back out again. Layne is tough as shit, pardon my language but it’s necessary.

Thankful for good horses, and I’m sure Layne would appreciate if you all would keep her in your thoughts.

We rode the first two or three miles with Leah Cain, then split off on our own and watched as Suzie trotted out of sight with David and Melissa Laws in front of her. We wanted to keep a steady pace since we were riding horses who weren’t fresh - and that is what we did. The girls were hotter Sunday than they were Saturday, so we decided if they still felt great at the end, we’d pick up speed on the last loop (10mi).

Layne lent me a saddle cover for the Ghost so I could ride without issue, and my knees got better all day, but I was sore as hell from needing to ride funny the day before. Last year in Moab, Fire was backsore by the end. This time, she was not. Anywho, we saw lots of antelope, great blue herons, and a plethora of whistle pigs. We ended up making time on the last loop and I felt Fire get tired about 4 miles into that loop, so I kept that in mind and we came into camp.

Her 10 minute CRI was 60/64, and at the hour it was 60/60. I think she will recover just fine and be ready for The Mary and Anna Memorial Ride.

Thank you to all of the people who helped me through this ride. Joslynn Terry wrapped Fire’s legs for me and crewed for me all day, knowing how sore I was. I couldn’t have asked for a better helping hand. Darlene Merlich is a wealth of knowledge and I’m thankful for her guidance these last few months. Celena Pentrack’s voice was in my head ALL day, reminding me to ride well. Marlene has been so patient while I figure out the Ghost and I’m very pleased with it, as long as I have that seat saver. Everyone knows how wonderful my mom is and I am so thankful for her hauling me all over and being my #1 supporter.