Sunday, December 19, 2010

Desert Gold, Part 3

Happy boy! Look at that blue sky behind us! Much nicer today!

Ok, back to blogging :) Day 3! The morning went as the previous two days went. Judy went home the day before, so no one to ride day 3 with... that was fine, always someone out there to pass by, or hang with and chat, or just chill on my own too. The day was nice and going to shape up warm. We had a 15 mile loop that came back to camp, then the same loop in repeat, to finish. So if anything went wrong, I could pull (or be pulled as it may be) in camp and not have to sit around waiting to go home again. After Terri left, I went to find a vet, and see if we Storm got the final ok to go. Same vet from the night before was still out and about, so she watched him gait out and gave us the thumbs up! She also did a full VC (since we didn't finish the day before, and on a multi-day ride, usually your previous night's finish vetting is the pre-vetting for the next day) and said he must be REAL excited....his pulse was "a whopping 36"...LOL. And all the rest was an A too. Goodie! He looked great to me too :) Back to the trailer and get tacked up, and over to the start. I was starting a little behind, hoping I could get him to calmly start out and do a nice, LONG warmup before we moved out. Give his muscles as much a chance as possible.
That worked for a little while, but as on the previous days, the 50's caught up with us yet again. Luckily we'd been going a few miles, and he felt good, so I let him play with the 'big boys' for a few miles again, before slowing him down again. We varied between going along in our own hole by ourselves, and going along with some 50's, all the way to the vet check. Storm felt awesome, and we were able to move out at a fairly consistent pace, so that we were into the check by 10:20-something... That put us ahead of our usual 5mph pace, LOL... Nice, as I knew we'd have tons of time to finish, and I could take it easy later if I had to.
I hand walked from the 'finish line' area, to the pulsing and vetting in the main camp. We stop by the water at the finish, and at the pulsers, and he drank both times. Got our time from the in-timers as well, and went straight to the pulsers. Storm was at a 52. Then we walked right to the vets (they funneled us that way, no way to go to the rig first and untack or feed the horses or whatnot...kinda odd, but ok!), where we got checked right away as there wasn't anyone in line. Same vet as before...she has us gait out and then do her check (kinda make it like a CRI that way, with the pulse in pulse)...Storm was at a 48! Super! All the rest were A's too...and then her husband, who was scribing for her, looked under Storm and said "see, he does still have his equipment" or something to that effect...LOL... So she looks, and says something along the lines of "Huh, you're right! What a really nice guy!" I joked and said that was why he still had his 'equipment' :) She had vetted him most the weekend, except a few times, and hadn't noticed til then! LOL... That is how I like it...every ride, someone new will see how good he is, and will think favorably on his breed...and maybe we'll attract a few more Mtn Horse lovers as a result! I know I keep saying it, but it really is my new spread the word about these awesome horses...and if a stallion can show them, all the better...because most ppl think stallions are wild, and if they see he isn't, they might just think about how good the geldings and mares of the breed could then be!
Anyway, vetcheck done, we headed to the trailer and had lunch. The sun was out and I was happily relaxing (though had to take Duke for another walk...downside of the check in camp, he knew I was there and wouldn't hush up til I let him out! He definitely is still a young and insecure dog! LOL... As Storm was happily chowing away and then taking a nap, I stayed a good while longer...had about an hour of a break, instead of only 1/2hr, since I had so much time on the clock still. After his nap, I tacked him up again and out we went, back around the same loop. Kinda boring, but at least we both knew where we were going :) Storm was content to mellow out and go along at a steadier pace than the morning. We again encountered several ppl, but mostly spent the rest of the day alone. Which of course made him less happy............BUT!....
Unlike our time at Chamberlain, when I asked him to move out, he would, and walk when I asked him to walk. No more refusals and shutting down! I think the good part of sharing trail with the 50's all weekend, was that he FINALLY figured out that he was not REALLY all alone out there.... that there was always a horse to find, or that would find us! So he was much perkier and happy to be out on the trail... YES!!!!! I can't say HOW HAPPY that makes me :) I really HAD been way in the dumps after Chamberlain, no matter how many times someone told me 'young/new horses always do that at some point' to see it really was just a funk he'd been in, and not a death knell to our endurance career, made me totally happy!
He was slowing down a good bit towards the end, but at that point it had really warmed up and it was the end of 3 days after all, and with plenty of time left, I was happy to poke along and let him pick the pace. So we ambled (heck, with a gaited horse, amble really works as a word, LOL) into the finish. Luckily THIS time, Scott (the ride manager) was the only one waiting there on his quad, and once I told him I was an LD, I was told my finish was in camp. WHOO HOO! No more of that pulsing down issue! So I hopped off and walked in, and sure enough, we were right down again. Can't remember where...not as spectacular as our lunch pulsing, but in the 50's and 'in' nonetheless. I went to the trailer, untacked, fed him a little mush and walked the dog. Then took him back over to the vet. All was good :) So we finished our third day, with no issues, and no hint of the previous day's cramp issues. WHOO HOO! All in all, a happy ending to a weekend full of ups and downs and lots of things to learn :) And with as well as he felt and did all weekend, and finally having the energy to want to run with the 50's and gait well most the day, I had a new goal. :)
Next in line: maybe two days of 50's at Death Valley at the end of December!

Going along happily on our last day :):)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Desert Gold, Part 2

Storm and I, wet but happy midway through the ride...

So, after a decent first day at DG, and a good night's sleep, I was up again in the morning helping Terri get Oli ready for the 50. Then more walking Duke, breakfast, and finally getting Storm ready for the LD start. I was all set, and walking across the road to the line, when I realized I'd left my vetcard in my OTHER back to camp for the card, and BACK to the start. Sighhh... it will be nice to do Duck rides again soon, and not have to fuss with that or big, sticky numbers on my horse.... Anyway, back at the start, I was dead last as far as I knew, since I was now late starting. And just as I went up the first little hill again, the rain started as well. YUCK! I had my rain pants and good coat tied to my packs though, if it continued. Looked like it was clearer down the trail though. I figured we'd have a calmer ride for a while.
Well, that is until the 50's caught us again. They yet again had a short first loop, then on common trail with us all the way to the vet check. So, after the first few miles down the trail in relative calm, here we go again with the WANT TO GO! Hmmmm..well, he was warmed up and as long as he listened to me, I let him go along for a while... soon though, the rider I was following (a good ways back though...just kept him in site) was getting up a faster pace than I wanted, so Storm and I got to argue again about slowing down. A few more riders passed, and the same thing... until we finally went up a long enough hill, he figured it was a good idea to walk on his own.... yes! :) Though I did prefer his new (controlable) forwardness over Chamberlain's slacker attitude! Up top, another rider caught up to us, on a nice looking horse...wait, I recognize that horse..hey, I recognize that rider! It's Vicki Giles and Robin Hood. For those that don't know, Robin Hood is a BLM mustang, that (as of THIS ride day) has 10,000 miles and been all over the place. A great testament to Mustang toughness.
So as they trotted on by, Storm of course wanted to follow. Then Robin slowed down and Storm was still going, then he walked after a little and Robin caught up again and trot by, and Storm would gait and so on. We repeated that about 4 times, when I pulled him up and let him just walk too when Robin fell down to a walk. So Vicki and I started talking, of course starting with 'what is that horse?' We rode together from that point to just about the vet check. And she was starting to ooh and ahh over Storm as we went along...and didn't even notice he was a stallion :) Just how I like it. As we were talking about something or other about body shape, I mentioned something along hte lines of Storm's big honking neck and it being most likely related to him being a stallion. "He's a STALLION?! Wow, what a NICE boy" or something along those lines... always surprises ppl, cause they are not used to so mellow (Robin had alternated with being RIGHT behind or in front of Storm, or just next to him almost bumping our knees on a wider road, and sticking his nose in the water troughs next to Storm's) and that makes Storm such a nice ambassador for his breed. By halfway to the vet check, she even mused about the outcome of a breeding to her older mare (just a fantasy musing...said she was too old to breed anyway) and asking about what the colors would be, etc. We also chit chatted about other random things. She's really nice! I had seen her at many rides, but never had a chance to ride with her, or really even meet her around camp. It was fun getting to ride with one of the well known people of the sport, on one of the more well known horses of the sport. Robin is an adorable horse, too! Least he was that day (I hear he has been known to be difficult and he and Vicki have parted ways a good number of times at rides, LOL), and he went along at a perfect pace for Storm...both horses wanted to mostly walk up hills, and move out more on the flats, so that worked well too!
Bout an hour into the ride, I finally realized the rain wasn't going to go away, so put on my rain pants. I was feeling a tad bored at the time (was still in the leap-frogging with Vicki part of my ride, and mostly alone) and thought I would see if I could get them on while ON the horse, walking along...hmmmm. Wish I'd had a was FUNNY! I put one leg in, then swung the other leg over the saddle, side-saddle style, and got my other leg about halfway in. Then kinda got my leg back over the saddle, straddling the saddle. But they wouldn't stretch at the waist enough, to come over hips spread astride a saddle...hmmm. At this point, if Storm had been a twerp, I would have been in trouble, all tangled up in my pants and 'stuck' standing in the stirrups straddling the saddle, LOL. Instead, he kept moseying down the road we were on. So then I figured I had to be on one side of the saddle, to pull up the pants. So then I had to swing my leg BACK over the front, flip around so I was laying belly down over the saddle, and then put one foot in the stirrup on that side and pull up the pants..... And it WORKED! Whoo hoo! Now back in the saddle in normal mode, Storm still fairly obliviously wandering down the road with no one at the helm, LOL. He's a good boy :) That killed 5 minutes and would have probably made the Funniest Home Videos or something if it had been captured on NOT to get dressed! LOL...
Anyway, it rained off and on for most the day, sometimes with a good wind blowing it all over and even a spat or two of sleeting or attempts to hail. was a cold rain, but I was tucked away in about 5 layers and was ok... Most the trail was good, but some of the single track was a little muddy and slippery, and Storm slipped out a few times. Nothing bad that I thought, but it probably tweaked something that later led to......our first pull.......
So sometime later, heading towards the vet check (maybe 6 or 7 miles? maybe less...wasn't paying much attention), some other riders came up behind us, then started passing us. One I saw, had a horse step pacing...ah ha! Another gaited horse! :) the rider pulled up with us, as we were walking, and let the others continue on. She was wanting to take it a bit easier from there on. Turns out she was from back East, had just move out to CA not long ago, and was riding a Racking Horse mare. Her horse was also barefoot (totally so...another rider that had been under the impression the footing was 'great', only to find out it wasn't! I just boot no matter what..saves me a lot of heartache can always take them off, but hard to put them on if they are back in camp!) and doing ok, but not super happy by that point (we had been on a lot of the roads). She also had not ridden much lately, and thought her horse was getting tired. So we all rode together towards the VC for a while, chatting and having a good time despite the rain. We were not far from the VC, and Rackinggal (can't remember her name right now, darn it!!) decided her horse had done enough for the day, and she was going to pull at the VC. I think that may have jinxed me!
Not long after, I swore I felt Storm do something 'odd' in his hind end while gaiting... but not consistant...then again, I felt something...hmmm (still being relatively new to gaited horses, I am having to learn to feel what is 'normal' and what is not)...another 1/4 mile, and yup...a definite hitch in the left hind...Just to be sure, I asked Vicki and Rackinggal if they saw anything...yup... Shit :( It still wasn't hugely consitant, and only at a gait, but I knew we were done for the day. He probably pulled something slipping, or cramped up from the wet cold and wind (I rode with a rump rug, but on a bigger horse like him, it only covers so much..and the wind was whipping under it a good number of times, flipping it around). Bummer :( Just when we were doing so well! At that point, we hit a slippery, single track up over a hill, that dropped to the road into the vet check. I figured we were two miles tops from the check, maybe less. I hopped off and led, as I didn't want him slipping and sliding and doing more damage. Rackinggal stayed back with me, and Vicki went on ahead with a few other riders. We handwalked the rest of the way into the check, and the sun was even coming out after a while and it warmed up. After about 15 mins, Rackinggal (walking mostly behind me) said Storm was looking more normal...good! But even if he walked out of it, I was done...sure didn't want to hurt my boy more, and I knew from the previous day (the loop back home from the VC was the same), that there were a good deal of hills to go, and some slick spots. Better to quit now and save him for other days. 15 or so mins after, we hit the VC.
Checked in, told the timers we were pulling (or getting pulled), then went to the vet line. Storm pulsed in at 48 again, and was stretching out to pee as he got pulsed...pee looked great, but as he pulled up and walked out of the stretch, he did about 4 totally limping steps behind! Left Hind again....then walked normally. I thought the vet was kinda looking our way, so as I walked that way, I asked "You even want to see a trot out after that?" "After what?" Guess she hadn't been looking... So I told her what I had observed on the trail, what he just did, etc. She had him gait out and back, and looked real hard....not a thing. What??? She says he looks fine! she checks the rest of his criteria and all is good. She says I should go ahead and ride, and I said nope, we are pulling, cause I am not sure what was up and thought he'd cramped or something.. She didn't seem too convinced, but went ahead and took my card and put down the pull. Then while that was all going on, she saw he was resting the left hind a little...she suggested pulling his boot in case something was up with it, so I did...nothing in the boot or where the gaiter was or in his foot... she shrugs... At that point Storm had been standing still for about two minutes or so, plenty to stiffen up. So I asked the vet to watch him walk off as we left the vet line...and yup, first 3-4 steps WAY hitchy...guess she believed me now, LOL :) So I definitely wasn't going to ride him home. Storm's first, official pull...albeit an RO-L. By the time we walked over to a free spot on the crew-bag trailer (how convenient! Not much else in the VC to tie a horse to, without going a good ways away from where the bags and stuff were). Then the waiting began. The ambulance trailer had just left with three pulls...and there was Rackinggal and I, and then another lady pulled....then three more! I think by the end of the ride, there were something like 17 pulls? There weather took its toll on the ponies, I guess! We waited for over an hour, but that was fine. I had plenty of blankets, the sun was out most of it, and Storm was happily resting and eating everything in sight.
When time came to load up, there was a slight concern because he was a stallion and there were only 'barred' dividers in the trailer. I told them he'd ride with no issues next to another stallion or a gelding, and if he had to, with his head tied up short even next to a mare (he rides with my mares at home, with just a clear vinyl thing I glued in the head part of the divider of the Brenderup...just squaks at them when they first get in, then is quiet, doesn't act on the squacking though). Luckily the Racking mare was the only mare, and the other pull with our group was a gelding. So we loaded the mare, then the gelding (who was sharing the crew trailer area with us while waiting, anyway, so Storm kinda knew him by then), then Storm. I tied his head just in case, but there wasn't a sound or squabble out of any of the horses. Off we went back to camp, all quiet the whole way (I heard that the driver later remarked about what a nice stud Storm was and how well he traveled... I can't imagine what horses everyone must meet, to think that it is so exceptional for a boy to act that way...maybe it is a gaited thing? All I know, is most gaited studs I know about are also quiet boys, not raging maniacs, LOL).
Back in camp, the weather was much better. Storm also looked really good, so after getting him untacked and camp cleaned up a bit and the dog walked and such, I decided to take him to the vet again. I had never had a horse cramp up on me, so wasn't experienced with the it something that comes and goes? Leaves hidden damage or just goes away, etc? I have had a cramp or two in the past myself, running around or whatever...I was always fine after it was worked out. But I am not a horse, and sure not an endurance horse! So who knows... But I was wondering if I could take him out again the next day if he was sound, or if it would cause some kind of damage that would make matters worse. It wasn't worth an extra ride day, to hurt my horse, if there was any chance riding him would mess him up more.
I gaited him around a bit, and all looked great, so over to the vet I went when I saw a quiet time. I gave her the whole story up to this point, and asked her to check him over and if he was clear, if he could go out again, or if it would do him any damage. She had me gait out a ways and back, and said he was good...perfectly symmetrical and not a thing wrong that she could see. So her verdict was to bring him back in the morning for a final re-check, and if he was good, I should be fine to head out again that day. Whoo hoo! So the weekend wasn't lost!
Back to camp and more puttering around, then dinner and waiting for Terri. She came in after dark this time and after helping her a little, we went over to the fire to warm up and wait for the ride meeting. Next day's ride: the same 15 mile loop, twice, with a VC in camp. Hmmm...kinda boring, but good for Storm! If we got the green light to go and had an issue by lunch, at least this time we'd be in camp. Rain was clearing that evening and not to return, so the next day should be sunny and warmer...also good for Storm's icky weather (which if it had been, I think I wouldn't have started...not worth it to maybe trigger another issue)! After the meeting, time to head back to the ponies, tuck them in for the night, one more walk for Duke, then bed.
Storm looking good...I look more like I am wearing a life vest or something, with all my layers, LOL...but it kept me dry and warm!

Next: Part 3...a great end to a crazy weekend

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Desert Gold...all sorts of adventures... (Part 1)

Storm Day 3 (no photographer day by Renee Baylor)

After a hectic trip to Germany, I was looking forward to riding for the end of October. I was going to take Cheyenne to Lake Sonoma, and do a 50 on Storm at the Lake Almanor ride. Unfortunately, rain canceled the LS ride, and then Terri got really sick with some flu/cough thing, that knocked out LA. I tried to get a last minute ride with someone, but it wasn't going to happen (doesn't help to have a stallion in that case..even though he is such a gentleman, many ppl just don't want to deal with a stud in their rig and camp...though I have seen more mares have issues with each other, and horses getting kicked or stepped on, than Storm ever has with any sex of horse..he just is so mellow!)...So there went October! And our normal, early-November ride was also canceled this year, Lake Oroville. That meant the next ride wasn't until Thanksgiving! I also didn't have much time to ride over the month, so I decided to take Storm, but only do the LDs. All three days were 30 milers, so I figured if he did well and could do 90 miles in 3 days, he could do a few 50's at the next ride. Plan hatched, I was all set.
Terri's Mtn Horse from Canada, Boots, wasn't working out for her. He just was too skittery for her tastes an was going to be too much work to get broke and ride. So she sold him to a Mountain Horse breeder and trainer in Arroyo Grande. To seal the deal, she agreed to haul him down there as well. AG was about 3 hours south of the Desert Gold camp, in Fort Ord, so we figured we'd drop him off on the way down. We stayed just south of San Jose on the first night, then drove as far as King City, where there is a really nice fairgrounds. Terri dropped me off with the two endurance boys, then drove the last 1 1/2hrs south to AR to drop off Boots.
I amused myself for the next 4 hours or so, grooming the boys, braiding them for the ride, letting them run in the arena, and reading. Right around sunset, Terri pulled back into the fairgrounds, and we got ready to set up the camper and trailer for the night (we'd haul back up to Fort Ord in the morning). As Terri opens the back of the horse trailer, out jumps this big, black and tan dog! WTF?!? Where did that come from?
Duke, with his dopey look and goofy ear, at home...

So here is his story... The gal who was taking Strom, had to run off to Montana or somesuch, to pick up some horses while there was a break in the weather. She left her assistant in charge of the ranch, and Terri handed off Boots to her. When Terri got there, there were several dogs running about, our new charge right up front to greet Terri. So Terri unloads the horse, trailer door stays open...she chats with the assistant for just a little bit, then goes to close the door. Then chats with the other gal another while, meanwhile not a sound from the trailer. She gets in the truck and drives to King City... and we now have a god! Oooppss... Turns out he was dumped at the ranch a few months back, probably due to his goofily cropped ear and too long of a docked tail. He's a goofy, young Dobberman boy though, and we were willing to have him hang with us until the ranch owner could come up to the ride and get him. That whole thing didn't work out though, so we ended up taking him home, and I think I have found him a nice home up here with another local e-rider. It was quite a crazy ride though, to have to deal with a big, boisterous, young dog in camp. He needed lots more attention than we had time to give, and was going a bit stir crazy!
Nice dog and a bit cute, once you get used to him :)

So back to the ride! It was supposed to be cloudy and cool all three days, with possible rain on the second day. At night, it was COLD (high 20's to low 30's, which is not normal for the coast) and some rain prior, made the trail sand nice and firm. The roads had been graveled, which made for better trails overall, but not as nice for the horses..grrr...oh well. Glad I had Storm though, as old Chey's joints would not have liked the gravel. The night before was Thanksgiving, and like every year, we had a wonderful potluck dinner with all the fixings (and even some special treats like venison!) and lots of desert. I was totally stuffed and happy :) After dinner, there was a good ride meeting around the central fire pit. There was going to be an out vetcheck, about 18 miles into the ride, then back home. Sounded good to me. We tucked the horses in with lots of food and blankets for the night, walked Duke (the Dobbie), and went to bed.
Up early and a bit cold, I helped Terri get Oli ready (this gives me at least a half hour more sleep, so I was happy to trade off with some help) and then I had to walk the dog again. Puttered around a little, and then it was time to get Storm ready as well. I had agreed to ride with Judy, a rider I had met before, that just wanted a slow and easy ride and a good finish. I was hoping with another horse along, Storm would preform better than at Chamberlain. As I was almost ready, Judy came by the trailer, and told me she'd head to the water tank at the far end of camp (on the way to the start line), then head back over here if I wasn't heading her way. Fine with me, I only had to grab my helmet and adjust a few things.
I headed to the tanks not but a few minutes after she left...but no Judy...I didn't pass her coming back, but there WAS a second way back. I waited a few minutes in case she'd doubled back, but with no one coming, and a minute or two past start time, I decided to handwalk to the start and she could catch up. Or maybe she'd also headed that way and was waiting... Nope, no one there, so off I went. A few other LDs passed me after I hiked up the first hill and got on, and Storm actually was pulling on me and wanting to go. I made him walk and warm up properly, and we hit a split in the trail with a spotter and a gaggle of 50's waiting around for something... The spotter told me to go on ahead after asking what distance I was in, so on I went. The 50's had a short loop first thing in the morning, then they were to head to the vetcheck on trails that shared a good bit with ours (with I think a few split offs that made it a longer loop to the VC, but always coming back to our trail). I had forgotten that about previous years' rides, and it would be interesting to see what Storm did, when the front runners all rushed by us.
Interesting indeed...not 2 miles down the trail, and just starting to gait out a little, here they came! They all passed us politely, but Storm still got caught up in the excitement of it all, and was acting like a real dork...just getting all fired up and wanting to RUN. Guess it was better than quitting on me, LOL...but still! Not the exactly the behavior I expect from him. So we did lots of flextions, sidepassing, etc, to get him more focused on me, and not taking off after everyone else. I did find a few fifties that were going at a moderate trot, that matched his gait a bit better, and let him go along with them for a little bit. But after a few miles, they picked it up more, and I wanted him to slow down again. Ohhhhh no, no...he did NOT want to let them go. I ended up getting off and leading for a while again, until we found a pocket of our own and he had settled.
This worked well... he was still wanting to go (now that he knew he wasn't all alone), but not running off like a mad man. Perfect! We continue this way for a while, up some hills, down some hills, up some more hills...then low and behold, I see Judy up ahead! We'd caught her again :) Perfect. So we rode the rest of the way to the vet check together, and Storm was happy as a was I, as Judy's horse had a nice, mellow trot, that we could gait along to just fine. Actually, were gait was concerned, he was gaiting as nicely as ever today! When he was wanting to chase those 50's and I was holding him back, he was racking along like crazy! Tick-a-tack-a, tick-a-tack-a...oh the fun! And with Judy's horse he did a slow rack, or sometimes a saddle rack..but no step pace or hard pace... Awesome! I swear he gaits nicer every ride, the stronger he gets and the more time he spends in gait at home he is still lazy at times and drags along in a step pace when he doesn't want to animate...but at rides he has been really picking up gait, and this day was superb!
Anyway, we got to the vets in plenty of time, checked in, and moved to the pulse box. Storm was at 48! Wah?!!? I though the pulser must have had it wrong, but wasn't going to argue... that is as low as it has ever been at a check! Hmmm... On to the vet, and he went through with great scores, and after Judy checked through fine too, we found our crew stuff and set up for a nice lunch. It was only a half hour, with tack optional (we left it on, as it was still cool), which I you way more time on the trail, which lets you take it easy out there instead of chasing the clock. And if the horse really needs it, you can always stay longer (and often I do, especially if I am in plenty of time), and by the time the horses had eaten their fill and we'd had lunch too and were set to go, it was prob. 45mins before we left.
Off we went, back up some good hills towards home. Up and down, up and down, we gaited and walked our way towards home. We had to walk a lot on the gravel roads, as Judy's horse was totally barefoot (she had been told the footing was 'great'...well, I think that person was thinking of last year, BEFORE all the roads got graveled..uggg) and though he was 'ok', he wasn't wanting to really run on the rock much. This cut into our time a good bit, and after a while, I was worried about cutoff, as I couldn't tell how close to the end we were. So we trotted most the good footing, even some of the up hills. Storm was getting a little warm as the day got warmer (I had meant to trace clip him, but hadn't been able to find the clippers! Gggrrrr :( he is pretty fuzzy) but he seemed ok. We had just finished walking a spell, when we hit a nice, sandy road again. So we moved out at a decent clip....until I started recognizing where we were...oh no! Not far from the finish! I reined him in and sure enough, there was the turn to go down the last hill to the finish....Opppsss... I normally walk in the last mile, esp when it is really warm or the horse is really fuzzy, or whatever. This usually gets us pulsed in by the time I cross the line. We walked from there and I had planned on hopping off at the water trough where the start had been and handwalk in. Toss some water on him and hopefully we'd be down by the time we hit camp.
Next mistake: I had also forgotten that the finish was where the start was, even for the LDs...not in camp! Shit! So I had basically trotted a while, then walked right to the finish...NOT my normal routine!
We hopped off, I let him drink and loosened the girth, and poured some water on him. He didn't seem too high (my HRM watch is broken, so I have been just feeling his heartbeat at the girth and guessing..when it feels close to what I guess is about a beat a second, we are close), so asked for a quick check. 72...MmmmKkk...not down yet... sighhh. I scooped some more water and in another minute or so, went for another check...still 68-70ish..hmmmm.... Storm was not helping eihter, as he kept squirming and tossing his head around and wanting to walk off. See, camp was just across the road and he was NOT happy to be stuck here! He was sweaty, itchy, hot, and hungry and wanted to find his buddy in camp (little did he know Oli was still out on the trail). He was quite irritated with this waiting around with camp in smelling and hearing distance. And of course the 50's were all coming in too...and THEY got to keep walking back after they signed in. This was the first time I had Storm in such a situation. Normally we always finished in camp, or a mile or so away, where he didn't know it was right there.
So more scooping (though he didn't feel as hot anymore, but heck, it couldn't hurt, right?) and then I even pulled his saddle. Judy also took some time to come down (she also thought it was camp related, and it turns out lots of the LDs were having the same issue that day...least it wasn't just my silly horse!), but pulsed before me. As 15 minutes went by, and he still wasn't down (he'd drop to 64, even 62, then shoot back up to 68-70 every time he squirmed or another 50 went by or he would fling his head all over...sheesh, just stand still and settle!!), I of course broke out the "paranoid mommy" side again...maybe something WAS wrong...he never takes this long to come down...sure, he looks fine, is acting pissy and impatient, but maybe....just maybe, it was all a little too much for him after almost 6wks off with only light riding....sighhh...there he goes again, worrying me! LOL..Bringing along a new horse, is so nerve wracking! They have so much still to learn, and you still have so much to figure out about them! Sighhh.... Of course now we also had the added worry that we'd be pulled. If you don't pulse down within 30 minutes of your finish time, you are out! ACK!...Me getting all upset about it wasn't helping either of course. 20 minutes went by, still no go...21...22...FINALLY! We finally were able to get a 60 pulse on the HRM handheld, and we were IN! Thank heavens! Our friend Laney, who was working the finish line, stuck with me and kept coming back to check him. She also was able to keep with him through his fidgeting, and was able to calm me (and thus him) down, when I started loosing it. I was really gratefull for her sticking with me, LOL.. I was so not a happy rider at that point (after having had an othewise AWESOME ride!) and she got us through the tight spot :) Many thanks!!
I flung the tack back up and rigged it enough to get back, and started hand walking him in again. Once at the trailer, I pulled it again, took Storm to a sandy spot for a role (he really enjoyed that...winter coats make them SO itchy when they sweat), and then he tucked into his food like crazy and drank a bunch more too. It was all he wanted...get back to camp and get to relax. I took his pulse again, and sure enough, it was mid 50's.....sighhh...what a dork! Yet ANOTHER thing we'll have to work on, though not sure how one could simulate that situation at home in training runs... after 20 mins I dragged him off the food and took him to the vet for our final run through. All good again. Whoo hoo! So we'd start the next day. Judy was going to sit that one out, so I was on my own.
Back at the trailer, I was finally able to relax a little and Storm was able to eat and relax too. Then walk the dog some more (seems every time I'd try and sit a bit it was time to walk the dog!) and putter around getting camp organized (we had to pick up manure at this ride, so I dragged several bags of it to the dumpster every day, as well as having to pick up water on the way back) and then brushing up storm after he dried. Soon enough, Terri showed up and not long after, it was time for the ride meeting'd that happen??? Well, we did have a late (8am) start, so that cuts into the day a bit... So much for relaxing though! At the meeting rain was predicted for the next day (ick), an 8am start again, but a longer (20 miles) way around to the vet check, then the same trail back (wouldn't that make it over 30 miles?? Hmmm). Tucked the horses in again, walked Duke AGAIN, and back into bed. That was over fast!
Next: Our first pull and a rebound for the last day. More in Part 2!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chamberlain Creek

Ok, I'll start the updates with the 'downs' first... Guess it is always best to get the bad news out of the way first! And with two months between the ride and now, and a very successful 'up' at the Thanksgiving rides, I can look back on it in a better light! :)
In retrospect, what we went through is fairly typical of many 'young' horses at their first endurance rides. Just that Storm is usually so good, and not young in age, that I forget sometimes that he is really still a greenie! It was just so frustrating at the time, that I got a tad bit carried away at the time. So to start... Chamberlain Creek is a 'close' ride to just over 3 hours away, it's nice to not have far to go for a ride. A lot of local e-riders go there, and a lot of their local riders ride our rides, so it's almost like a local club ride....everyone knows each other and it's a great big family outing, helped along by excellent management. It's not an easy ride, despite being within 20 or so miles of the coast. We have some pretty significant coastal mountains in California, thanks to the wonderful plate tectonics around here. They are not 10,000 ft tall or anything, but they are UP, DOWN, UP, DOWN without relent. So I chose to do an LD on Storm here, as it would be a fairly tough one. Often, the weather also gets really warm, despite the fall months and nearness to the ocean (ocean only helps in sending humidity to add to the heat). Last year it was close to 100, with added humidity. But it is also a really fun ride, with good ppl (though after recent logging operations, the trails are not as nice as they used to be...lots more gravel :(...oh well).
Storm and Oli enjoying some breakfast together, while we do last minute packing of the trailer.

We got out early Friday and took off for the ride. We were going to meet up with some friends, Linda and Slim, who were also bringing along two gaited horses for the LD there. Terri was of course going for the 50 with Oliver. When we got there, hardly anyone was there yet, so we got to pick a great camp and save a spot for Slim and Linda as well. This camp is small and in the forest, so it can get VERY tight (ppl literally backing between two trees, that may be 6" on either side of the trailer, is common) and it helps to get there early, and have as small a rig setup as possible. We were able to get in one of our more liked areas, backed up to the small bluff over the creek. This lets you spread out in the 'back' and still not be in anyone's way.
Storm's camp corral setup with highline to the trailer and Oli in his corral behind him.

We set up some corrals between trees, and a highline for Storm's night time tie, and got the horses and everything else set up for the next day (the downside of Friday arrivals...I like arriving Thurs, and then having all day Friday to do stuff as well as relax...arriving on a Friday makes it all a bit more hectic. Linda and Slim arrived sometime while we were organizing, and set up next to us with their ponies on hie-ties. Then we all got to bullshit a while and catch up on what we'd been up to.
We soon signed in, vetted through, and then went to dinner and the ride meeting.
Storm with all his goodies...three kinds of hay, mush, and water. All set up on the highline too.

Nothing new from last year, and the weather was supposed to be fairly warm, but not super hot. Goody! I didn't eat too much, as I was feeling a bit off...not real sick, but not right either. Good thing too, as that night whatever I had (felt flu-like...chills and just BLAH and bad digestion) had escalated. Basically, I was up all night with only fitful periods of sleep, and wore out by the time morning hit. But, I was feeling somewhat better... not a ton, but enough to climb my way up onto my horse and sit tight for 6hrs and Git 'er Done....
I was hoping to ride with Slim and Linda, but they sometimes like to go a bit faster than I do, esp for Storm's current conditioning on the level of trail we were going to be on. But we at least were going to start together. The start is across the creek and up a steep, slippery, but short hill, on a logging road. Better than in camp, as otherwise it can be a free for all with horses not crossing the creek, bucking up the hill, slipping and falling down, etc. We were going out with some other LDs, and S+L's horses were getting a bit cranked up, with Storm feeding off that. So we all waited until everyone got up ahead, then headed to the start. Storm drank first thing, right in the creek, and S+L's horses got a tad out of sight up the he got a tad excited and wanted to hunch up up the hill...oh oh...guess I should ride him a bit before a ride, rather than get fat and sassy resting at home! LOL... once on top, I hopped off and decided we were NOT going to behave like that, and I was going to lead him til he settled down. That was fine, except now S+L were really getting out of sight, which made him more antsy. FINE...we'll just hand walk slowly, til they are gone, and ride alone...They were already starting to gait off, which was faster than I wanted to go right off the bat anyway. I figured there was plenty of time to catch up later, if I wanted to, and maybe a few ppl behind us as well.
Well, that plan backfired...big time. Maybe it was my own lack of energy, or whatever, but Storm basically quit on me. All was ok up until the first vet check...he was a bit pokey, but with the hills and no one to motivate him (turns out there was no one at all behind us), that wasn't too big a deal. But he just wasn't wanting to go much...least he WAS going, albeit at just the minimum 5mph...We even missed the photographer, who left thinking everyone had passed him. Once in the vetcheck, all was well..pulsed right down, vetted through with great scores (I was a tad concerned before, as he was dragging his heels so much), tucked right into his food and all.
We left the VC and headed for the second vetcheck...this is where we started to fall apart...I had to use my crop (wish I had worn the spurs, but he was so good at the last ride, I didn't bother...oops) to get him to even leave the check. I think he figured he hadn't seen ANY horses all day, and now that he had 'found them' (the 50's shared the check, so even though I was last in the LD, there were 50's coming through on their second loop), he wasn't about to leave them all again.
This is something that I have been told is a 'green horse' issue. I was lucky, and my first endurance horse was a been-there-done-that horse, that knew his job already. My mare, though she hadn't done endurance, was such a well broke and been-everywhere horses, that even though she wasn't excited on her own, she plodded right along when I told her to. Storm on the other hand, did what other greenies do, and decided he was quitting. From the lunch vet to the next vet, I could barely get him out of a walk. We made it to the next check, and again his scores were fine (except 'attitude and gait' of course...couldn't hardly get him to do a gait-out, so he wasn't stellar there), but I had an even harder time getting him to leave THAT check. Some other riders had left 10 minutes before, so I was hoping he'd catch them and could draft off them (while he was dragging along, I kept thinking it was 'attitude', but of course my paranoid mommy side was trying to come out and say something was wrong with him, and that was why he was dragging, and maybe we should quit...uggg...that emotional roller coaster...mad, worried, mad, worried, etc...was not making me happy...). But ten minutes is a long time, in endurance and they didn't come into sight for some miles yet.
At this point, I was seriously worried we'd go overtime, as we were barely moving along. I knew where the last check (really just a water stop with spotters that have some goodies for ppl and horses) was, and how far from there to the finish. I knew we were close. But every time I'd kick him up to a gait, he'd drop right out after a few yards, or just ignore me totally, or even stop if I stopped. Sighh... And I just had no energy to deal with it, after being sick all night.
We almost caught a few ppl near the last water stop, but they took off around the corner, as I was turning toward the water. Storm drank, ate some hay, and off I went again, hoping he'd perk up if we caught them. And we did....and he did! But....they were walking along slowly (50's with plenty of time left to finish) and I was REALLY close to I had to get Storm by them...he REALLy did not want to pass and leave them...sighhh...
I was getting more frazzled and at this point was literally having to take the rommel on my reins and smack him every few minutes... I was at the point, where I was so mad, I was ready to get off, tie him to a tree, and walk back to camp without him. I just felt soooo let down! It was totally unreasonable, but lack of sleep will do that to you, LOL. As we beat our way down the trail that way, constantly checking the clock (I had less than a 1/2 hr left, and was not totally sure where I was vis a vis the finish), I FINALLY realized where I was...bout 2 miles from the finish I guessed.. and not much time left! Ride management puts out signs starting about...ohhh...I would guess a mile or so from the finish? They are a series and say things like "Almost".... "There"... "Just"..."A bit"...."Further"...etc I knew if I saw those signs, I would be within grasping distance of the finish... The clock was ticking and no signs..and ticking... FINALLY! With not ten minutes left, I saw the signs... I was nearly in tears at that point, for real! Those that know me, know that is rare for me. But I was just SO relieved to see the signs, and so done physically and emotionally... But I still had to make it OVER the line, and pulse down in TIME! So I kept kicking and wacking and finally saw the turn in the trail, that meant I was right about there. Checked the clock...2 or 3 minutes left! ACK!
We crossed the line, gave the vet card to the timer, I hopped off, loosened Storm's girth and took him to the water. After all that, I hoped to whatever powers may be, that he would just pulse down and we'd get our completion.... Pulser came by as I was tossing a little water on his neck, and started counting...I am waching the clock... DOWN!! And yes, with less than 30 seconds on the clock we had MADE IT! I about collapsed right there. Storm seemed fine (and happy again, as a few 50's walked in as I was standing around the water) and we headed back to camp (camp is down a mile or so of trail and across the hwy...). I just hand walked, as I had to vet in once back in camp (this is a ride that having only 1/2hr to vet after finishing at the finish line, is time to do anything but walk back, dump tack at the trailer, and walk to the vet line) and just didn't have any 'ride' left in me at that point anyway. Storm happily was pulling on me, trying to catch up to the other 2 horses (who were being led faster than I could muster at that point) and oblivious to whatever issues I was having...typical male. :)
Back in camp and tack dropped, we went to vet in, and despite my still nagging mommy-brain still thinking something just HAD to be wrong with him, he vetted through with flying colors as always. I took him back to the trailer and set him up with his post ride goodies, and just flopped in a chair and vegged. Thank heavens THAT was done. I sure hoped he learned that he could do a ride alone, and not die...cause he darn near killed me! UGGG... Greenies are not easy I guess! Up til then, we'd either done a ride with another horse, or always found horses around us. This was our first 'alone' ride, and it was enlightening. I had all sorts of doubts in my head after, but was willing to set them aside for a few more rides, and see if we had just fluked at this one.. With a trip to Europe to visit family imminent, the next ride wouldn't be til the end of October. I'd see how he did then.
Turns out the October rides didn't work out, but we went to the Desert Gold 3-day over Thanksgiving and had some more interesting things to learn...but more to that in the next post!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New update...

coming soon! I have some great reports from the 3-day Desert Gold ride we did over Thanksgiving... and the Chamberlain Creek ride we did at the end of September... we had some big downs, some huge ups, and now I think he is ready to go do some 50's at the Death Valley ride over Christmas/New Year's.... Stay tuned in the next few days :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Proud of my Boy...or Patriot's Day was a Success! (Part 2)

Gaiting through the woods, Day 2 (Photo by Renee Baylor)

Day two started as had day one...up early with coffee (hmm, and not nearly as sore as I am on the morning after riding Chey...I like this going gaited thing!) and then helping Terri get Oli ready (that was the fair deal...if I help her, we get to sleep in a half hour or so longer...whoo hoo!) for the 50. Then off to the showers and some breakfast, and then time to tack up. Storm gave me quite the big, bug-eyed look when he saw that saddle coming again....oh the joys of multi-days...he'll catch on though :) He's looking really good and perky, like he never did anything the day before. Good!

Linda was going home today, so I was on my own with Storm this time, unless I caught up with any of the other riders, as I was planning on just going the same turtle pace I had the day before.
I left camp after the other riders took off, and we went out the same way the second loop of the previous day started. Across the creek and up the big climb, to the first water. I was hand walking to avoid the 'must catch everyone' syndrome from the previous day, and was looking for a mounting rock/stump/whatever, and totally missed the sharp turn to cross the creek... I found a mounting spot, hit the second creek crossing (from the return to camp the previous day), and realized my mistake...ooops. Turned around and went back (not even a mile, luckily) and found the turn, just as another rider was coming down the, thought I tended to start late! Turns out it was the drag rider...oops... so off I go, with her riding along behind me. Storm was happy to have another horse around, but her horse seemed none too pleased about it, as it wanted to trot faster than Storm would gait. And it liked racing up hills (we start gaiting, then her horse would trot BIG, so Storm would pop into an easy and slow canter, so her horse would start to canter, then gallop...uggg). So she would take off up the hill, and I would rein in a very mad Storm (I was NOT going to go galloping up all the hills on the second day of a ride!) to a walk or easy gait (depending on the hill). Her horse would be huffing and puffing at the top and waiting, and we'd move on again when I caught up. Onward we went until the lemonade stand check point of the day before, where I again let Storm eat a little, before heading out on the trail to the lunch check. Storm was a little confused, as he wanted to take the trail back to camp, not the outbound one, but we got on down the trail ok :) There was a nice young girl there helping, asking if we needed anything, needed horses held while we went off in the bushes, etc. She petted on Storm and was trying to feed him carrots and apples, which that early in the ride he wasn't interested in, just some of the alfalfa laying about.

The drag rider stayed behind at the check a little, I think in hopes of letting me get ahead, but not 15 mins out of the check I heard her coming up behind me, and we did the darned 'race up the hills' thing again. It was her first ride and she hadn't ridden her horse in that situation before, so she didn't know he'd be so competitive. She kinda just let him go too, but oh well. Pretty nice gal, and we talked some along the way, but it WAS driving me nuts that she couldn't keep her hose to a steady pace, and Storm was a bit irritated too. The trail was old logging road all the way to the lunch heck, with only a few spots of bad road gravel on it. It rolled up and down hills, and though I didn't go fast, I made it to the vet check at a decent time.

Gating through the woods on the way to the lunch check... (Photo by Renee Baylor)

The check kind of popped up on us (since I hadn't done these trails before, and the map was not a good help, I just rode along hoping for the best) and we had been gaiting up a slight hill for a while, with only a little walk, when we saw the 1/4 mile sign. Again, it was a fairly warm afternoon, so I hopped off, loosened the girth, and walked in. I didn't think Storm was down, and while I was getting him a drink, I heard Terri's voice... she was on Oli, just about to leave...oopss...hate it when that happens, as of course the horses get all excited about seeing their much for any chance of a low pulse... So I yelled at her to get her attention, and she came over and agreed to hang with me a few minutes, so Storm would pulse down. Again, walked to the pulsers (this time they were before the vet) and his first pulse was still a little high, but after a few scoops of water and a minute or two, the second time they tried it was down. Great! Terri was officially off the hook, and she went on down the trail for her neck loop, while I took Storm to his crew bag. Tack was on for this check, and after tossing his bridle and my helmet, and grabbing a handful of hay, I went back to the vet (the pulsers had tried to get me to go down first, but I wanted to be more organized first and grab him at least a few bites of food).
Pulse now was his usual 56, and he vetted through with all A's.... a surprise, as we had just come in, and I figured at least his gut sounds would be a B...ah well, guess that food stop at the lemonade stand was good for him :)

Lunch vet card...all looks good here...

I tied him to a tree with food and water, and went to the porta potty and snack table (fresh fruit, candy, cheese/peanut butter crackers...mmm). Then relaxed and ate, while he did. Because it was so warm and he'd already done a day of riding, I gave him some elytes as well..YUCK!!!! He was not happy about that, and the stupid syringe was sticking too, so I had to stick it in his mouth several times...not happy! But we got some down him. I usually just give them elytes in camp in their food, am and pm, and call it good. But at hot rides and the horse is sweating more, I will give some at lunch too. As slow as I ride, this is plenty...or at least, my horses have so far always done well with this protocol. We'll see how it does for Storm. At the end of our hour, we went back out on the trail and headed for home. According to the map, we'd go back to the road to the lemonade stand by a different road than we cam into the check, then head back to camp the same way we did the day before.

The ride today was only a 25 miler, so the one hour hold took up more of our ride time, so I had to pay even more attention to my time. I felt a little pressed coming out of the check, but the road from and back to the lemonade stand came up sooner than I expected, and I arrived at the stand in no time. Great! As that again allowed me time to let Storm eat and hang out at the checkpoint. The little girl was there again, and asked if she should hold him while I went off in the bushes. Sounded like a good idea, since I had had a bunch of water at lunch, and since the drag rider stayed in the check for some time after I left (wasn't tacked up or waiting to head out...I think she was going to wait til after the 50's went through again??), I was all alone again. So I felt safe letting her handle him while I went in the bushes. I did find a strategic bush though, from which I could watch in case I was needed. It was really cute...she was petting him a bunch, talking to him, and trying to feed him carrots (which he just is not too excited about, but you could see he was grudingly eating them, to please her...LOL... very cute). When I came back out of the bushes, he had this long suffering 'help me please' look on his face that almost had me laughing...what a good sport though. I grabbed a few snacks for myself, threw a bunch of water on him (which was still ok per the crew there...whoo hoo!), and then mounted back up. The girl gave us some carrots 'for on the trail or back in camp', and with many thanks to all around, we were off again.

Having done the trail the day before, I knew where to make time or not, and how long it would take to get back to camp. We were in plenty good time and were able to just keep an easy pace back to camp. This time I was ready for the 'spooky barn' and we got by it ok (though a few boulders earlier were oh so scary). Storm knew where we were going, so after coming down the ridge, he was wanting to boogey back to camp. I made him wait and cool down in the creek again, then walked back the rest of the way. This time the vetting and pulsing was being done right off the trail. He pulsed in at the required 60, then we walked down to the trailer to dump tack and clean up a little, before walking back to the vet.

Our finish card (the pre-ride was last days finish) and the 'Star of Excellence'

He was down around 50 when I was getting him a last bit of water, waiting for my turn in the vet line...then we moved over to the vet, where a horse had peed not long ago...he of course had to take a nice whiff, which everyone was getting a good laugh out of as he stuck his head out and curled his lip in a great stallion flehming... Course his HR then went up to 56 as he got checked through, but all his scores were A's again...I talked with the vet a little (he rides a stallion too at times, so we swapped stallion stories) since no one was behind me, then went back to the trailer and I set up Storm with all his goodies and wrapped his legs again. After a little while, I took him to the arena, where he got to go for a good roll, then I took him to the wash rack and hosed him off, where there was yet another little girl...seems he attracts them, LOL....who wanted to help. He is not big on being hosed, so I had her stay away for that, but then let her scrape all the water off him when I was done, which he stood nicely for. Then back into the sun by the trailer, to dry.

Looking good after the ride, all wrapped up and eating lots of goodies.....

The rest of the afternoon I just hung out, reading, and keeping an eye on Storm. Now and then I'd take him for a walk to keep him loose and find yummy grass, and then go back to reading. Eventually, I wandered up to the dinner area and got something to eat, and waited for Terri to arrive and chatted with a few friends. She finally got in just before the meeting again. Dinner was quite good all three nights, and the dessert on Saturday night was this awesome bread pudding I want the recipe for...mmmmmmmmmm!!!

The awards were done with pretty quick, and I was kind of bummed they didn't even mention which horse/rider teams did both days, which is usually standard at a multi day...but I guess if you are into racing, they have lots of goodies, as they even give 'first' awards for each weight division. The same horse in the 50 won BC both days... awesome job for a two-day horse!
Then we had the Best Horsemanship award again....and as the vet (who was sitting at the dinner table with me) started talking about eating dinner with the horse's rider, I got all excited again...then he mentioned it was a stallion. And he was talking about how well behaved the stallion was on the trail "How many of you even knew you were riding with a stallion these last few days" (or brain is fuzzy at this point!) and that the rider had done an excellent job handling him and so on and so forth. Then he announced our names. WHOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!! Storm wins the Best Horsemanship award! AWESOME! That is more special to me, than any other award we could have gotten. I am just so danged proud of this horse. He is absolutely a doll, and he is such a great ambassador for his breed. This is why I love the Mountain Horses, along with their great gaits and beauty and do-anything attitude and ability. They are such nice, all round horses, in such a great package, with a wonderful disposition. Anyway, enough gushing about that now. The award for BH was a neat little 'survival toy' with a radio, signaling thing, flashlight, siren, etc. Guess if I get lost at a ride, I am all set to go, eh? :)

Our fun Best Horsemanship Award...have to figure out how to work the thing now...

After dinner, we moseyed back to camp and got as much stuff organized and packed up as we could, as Terri wanted to be back home in time to get the cat from the vet the next day. That done, we tucked in the horses for the night again and went to bed. The next morning we broke camp early and found a nice cafe in Greenville for breakfast. Mmmm, french toast instead of coffee and oatmeal....great! Then 7ish hours to home. What a great ride we had, and what fun!

And a final picture from the trail. He's turning into all I was hoping for! Awesome horse! :) (Photo by Renee Baylor)

Proud of my Boy...or Patriot's Day was a Success! (Part 1)

Gaiting down the trail...not sure why I am looking so serious, LOL.. (Photo by Renee Baylor)

After the plans of going to Bryce fell through, we decided on the Cuneo Creek (see last post) and Patriot's Day rides as a decent substitute. Both are 2-day multidays, so we'd get a good amount of riding in afterall. Not as great as Bryce (but nothing can beat an XP ride in such a pretty place), but it would do. I decided to try Storm's first 50 at Cuneo, as it is a relatively easy ride. Then, because Patriot's Day was only a week after and I was also planning on the Chamberlain Creek ride two weeks later, I thought doing a (or multiple) 50 would be too much at this stage of his conditioning. And even if his body was fine, I didn't want him to blow his poor little brain and think this whole endurance thing wasn't any fun. So I decided to do two LDs instead. This would still get him some mileage, and I could see how he'd do on a multi-day ride.

Patriot's Day is a nice ride run out of the Greenville, Ca area. It is not far from Lake Almanor (and the 50's get pretty close to the lake and later in the year, there is also a nice 25/50/75/100 around the lake as well, and we'll probably go do that 50), hosted by a wonder kids summer riding camp, Copper Creek. It is a benefit ride for the local Rotary Club and the whole town seems to come out to help. The riders and horses are absolutely spoiled (carrots and apples on the trail, even a free lemonade stand at one of the checkpoints!) and the camp has everything from arenas and wash racks for horses, to showers and a pond with a boat for the humans. I highly recommend this ride to everyone :) Trails on the 50 also come with a wonderfully scenic view of Mt. Lassen in the distance. The ride is moderately difficult (some really good, hard climbs, but then lots of open, flat or gradually downhill roads to move out on), so pretty doable if you take it easy.

We were going to get out early Thursday, but had a few hangups. Terri's cat had to go into the vet for some testing and such (she hadn't been eating well for a few days and seemed unwell), so we drove her by the clinic and dropped her off. Also, Storm decided it would be fun to delay our trip another 20 mins, by breaking his slider window in the trailer. Yes, he BROKE THE WINDOW! His stall in the trailer was missing the metal bars (broke out at the and weak aluminum, that didn't like all the opening/closing it got the last few years) and this allowed him access to the actual window part. What I think he did, was stick his big snozz out through the opening (slider was in the open position, which put it on the inside of the trailer, against the main part of the window, with a 'tab' sticking out into the opening), got a little stuck, and then pushed around against the tab. This caused the whole thing to shatter. ARRRGGG!!! Luckily it was safety glass, so though we had a mess to clean up (it went on the floor of the trailer, on the parking lot, in his hay bag even...sighhh), he wasn't injured. That horse is such an oaf sometimes, and just can't leave well enough alone! We were going to have rings installed in the trailer, so we could hang some of those fly-mesh window coverings (the other two grates are about dead too), but just hadn't gotten around to it yet... what a dork. So anyway, it was closer to noon before we got out of town and on our way. Luckily we only had about a 7hr drive to camp.

We arrive close to sunset, and found a nice spot on the far side of the parking area (kind of a pasture area, that is used as a driving range for smacking some golf balls I think), under the trees and by the ropes course (boy, wish I were still a kid...this camp had LOTS of cool things to do!). We set up some electric corrals and a high line inside Storm's for night time tie up, and just managed to set all the camp stuff up before dark. Then the next day we got to relax and hang around camp, watching ppl arrive and waiting for our friend Linda to arrive, as we had a spot saved for her. Later in the day, I also helped a lady go out and ride her horses. It was kinda odd...she needed a second person to ride her backup horse, as her other horse wouldn't go out alone and she didn't like ponying. Hmmm, k.... She wanted to even pay me for it (which was really being a jockey or something? LOL)...I didn't want any money, heck we only went out for less than 2 hrs, and the horse I was riding was a total doll and easy to ride (the horse she was on, on the other hand, was not at all!). So it was kind of fun :) But she insisted, and paid me does that make me a 'professional' rider now? LOL...

Our camp setup...our boys are great and so relaxed...they'll sleep about anywhere :)

When Linda arrived, she set up her big TWH, Chance, on a high-tie on the side adjoining our corrals. Storm took GREAT interest in Chance, which he normally doesn't with other horses. He kept wandering over there and doing his excited we walked them around camp together, and even let them sniff noses and 'important parts' (all very carefully of course), so Storm could figure out that Chance was not a mare. He finally settled, but it was very weird. Linda finally figured out why, though...Chance looks almost exactly like a mare that Storm had bred at least once, if not a few times...big, black, with higher white socks. Interesting! Of course after riding together the next day, Storm could have cared less about Chance...just like with mares here at's like once he understands that a horse is 'working' with him, it is no available for 'recreation'...whatever the case, he is always good with a mare after having ridden with her.

We gathered our packets and vetted through A-ok in the afternoon, and then had a lovely dinner (the ride has an option for buying dinners Friday night too..yeah! Much better than Ramen noodles :) ) and then the ride meeting. LD's start at 8:30...WHAT? I am not a morning person, but at rides I do like to start early. Everyone says they like to 'sleep in'...but really, HOW can you sleep in when the 50's are up and making noise, and as soon as they leave, all the LD horses left by their buddies are screaming their heads off? And with a 50 rider in the rig with me, I'd be up at 5:30 anyway. So what was I supposed to do for 3 hours??? LOL. Oh well.... I did get a shower in the morning, cleaned the pens (manure/hay had to be taken to a manure pile), ate some breakfast, and still had almost an hour left. Least I wasn't feeling rushed.

I tacked up and booted Storm (I love how the new Easyboot Gloves work with him...they just go on and off easily and they stay on, don't rotate, etc with no added stuff like sports tape or whatnot... no rubs either since we have been using the new gaiters...whoo hoo!). I even had plenty of time to put ribbons and bells (left over from our parade earlier in the year...they look great on him!) in his mane, then Linda and I (she wanted to ride with me and keep Chance to a slow turtle pace, which was great for me, as Storm likes riding with a companion instead of alone) wandered over to the start area. My watch had us at a few minutes before the start, so the front runners SHOULD have gone by the time we got there.... Nope. Ride time was about 7 mins slower than my watch...oops... oh well. So I hand walked while Linda got on and rode around...then a few minutes later they let us go. No one was in a big rush, but Chance got all wired up as the horses trotted off, and Linda was swept up with the front runners or risked getting bucked off if she had held him back. I was up on Storm by then, and he wanted to go with as well, but I had a plan and was sticking to it. I made him walk out (which he was not happy with, but behaved himself decently...just pulling a bit more than I like and trying to break into a gait) and the front runners finally got out of sight.

All went well for a little bit, but then more horses caught up with us and it was back to pulling and trying to gait off... hmmm, guess Redwood was not unique...he really HAS caught on to this whole competition thing. This is why I don't mind a lazy and laid back horse...they ALL learn to GO once they get the idea of the 'game', and they are in that adrenalized ride environment. But at least a quieter horse doesn't get all upset and hunchy, or otherwise dorky, like an already hot horse tends to do at rides. A few miles up the trail, I finally had enough of the argument about what speed we were going to do (and with a BIG BIG hill coming right up, I did NOT want to go blasting down the trail and blow my ride right at the start), so I simply got off and hand walked again for the next mile or so, until he finally calmed down and realized I was in charge again.
So often, I see people fighting their horses half the ride, and the horse is not learning anything and both are worked up. When it gets to the point that the horse is really not listening to me anymore, then I don;t play into the fight anymore and just get off... much safer that way and the horse can settle down and not burn all his energy fighting you down the trail. This may not work for everyone, but it has always worked for me, so that is what I do. So far, it has resulted in many ride completions and a sane horse that learns to listen to me.

I also used this as an opportunity to work on tailing. Storm is fine with me pulling on his tail, but due to his lazy attitude, he doesn't tail well. He'll stop and turn around and head back the way we came, when I'd try and tail him (I think I am going to make a light set of driving lines out of parachute cord or something, that I can rein him with on the trail, to fix that issue). Since he was so hell bent on catching the other horses, once he at least agreed to walk (fast), I got behind him and let him follow the trail. Worked great until we hit the BIG, LONG, HILL (called the Zipper, because of the steeper and many switchbacks). Then he decided going back to camp was a better option again and I got back on. He huffed and puffed to the top, but carried me up just fine. Then we got to go a gradual downhill for a good while on a good road.

Eventually, wandering up and down the ridge, we hit the checkpoint way up on top, that was the turnaround for the LDs at maybe 8 miles (30 mile ride this day, this was the first loop, then lunch in camp, and a second loop). There was water, hay, apples and carrots, people water, and even snacks. Did I mention we were spoiled at this ride?? Linda was there waiting as well...she had decided that was a good spot to wait for me and get away from the front runners, who were going too fast for Chance.

Here we are, leaving the mid-loop checkpoint, looking good :) (Photos by Renee Baylor)

I spent a good 15 minutes there, letting Storm eat and relax. It was good for Storm, but it did put me slightly behind schedule for when I wanted to be in camp for lunch. It was ok though, as the rest of the loop was mostly downhill and was slightly shorter than than the first part. So we were able to make decent time, and I got into lunch just about when I had planned to. We had to go back down the Zipper, which I got off and led, and then gaited all the way to the 1/4 mile sign. So it was going to be interesting to see what his HR was going to be (my HR watch is broken, so can't use the monitor).

The setup at the lunch VC was a bit odd...they take your in-time where the trail comes into the camp area, then there is a little walk to where the water troughs are set up. Then about 150 yards or so to the arena, where the vets were. Instead of having pulse takers, the vets were to take our pulse (and do the vet check at the same time if you wanted...which would have require dumping tack there, and no down-time for eating and resting in the VC before a check). This ate up a lot of time, and of course the horse could possibly still be (or go back) up in HR when it hit the vet, as you had to wander over there and it was a fairly warm day (mid-upper 80's). I wasn't sure of my strategy, but let Storm drink at the troughs and figured I would just go ahead and head to the vet and get a pulse (from sticking my hand on his side at the waters, he felt just around 60-64 maybe...). I wasn't sure about scooping at waters either, so he didn't get cooled off either. A good test I suppose :) At the vet line, they gave you another 'pulse/in' time (though depending on the line, you might be 1-5 mins from even getting to see the vet, so not sure what that time really does for you) and put you in line. There were only two ppl, already at the vets, so I got in to the vet in a minute or so of standing still, tack still on, in the sun....hmmm... Well, no worries, he was down! Whoo hoo! 56, which seems to be his 'standard' pulse in right now...seems to get that a lot. Not bad for no cooling, and only walking in the last 1/4 mile. Good job Storm :) From the arena, it was another 100 yards maybe to my trailer, where I dumped tack and set him up with all the goodies he'd need.

Linda turned up about 10 mins later (I had left her at the in-timers, since I thought Storm would prob pulse in ok and didn't want to squander any time, as I was kind of right on the schedule I had worked out, to finish in time and didn't have much leeway), and I thought she was all set as well as she was untacking, etc. Then she said she still had to go pulse in..hmmm?? I think she didn't quite understand the pulse/vet thing, but then she was saying they wouldn't take her pulse? Not sure. At any rate, it put our times way apart by the time she did go pulse in (20 mins or so into when we arrived), so I decided to leave on my own (again, not much leeway to finish without rushing and riding too fast). He was eating and drinking great, and I vetted Storm through about half way through the check (I often like to wait to the end, but they wanted tack off and with the check area and trailer areas all over the place, I didn't want to waste time) and he got mostly A's with a B on guts, which didn't worry me since we hadn't been in the check that long and it came back to an A at the finish. 15 miles down....

Our Lunch vetting.... A B and an A-...not bad at all...

15 more to go.... After the hour hold, we went back out on the trail (this time he was a bit better about leaving camp, compared to at Cuneo where I practically had to beat him down the trail, so he is learning fast that camp doesn't mean we are done...good!) and out on loop 2, which also starts out with a pretty significant hill (the camp seems to sit in this little bowl of a valley, and the only way out, is UP). He was not too pleased about that, but once we saw another rider up ahead (turned out it was a 50 miler), he perked up. At the very top was another water stop (yes! Thank you!) and he tanked up and I chatted with the 50 miler, who it turns out I knew (she hadn't recognized me at first, since I wasn't on Cheyenne...I think that is going to throw a lot of ppl for a while, who have seen me on a big gray the last 5 yrs). We decided to ride together a little, if the horses paced the same, and it did work out. She went a tad faster than I had planned, but most of it was downhill and Storm was doing fine and having fun, so I let him keep up. There was another uphill before the last checkpoint, and she was going a good trot up the hill and some canters, so I slowed Storm down a little. He wasn't too happy, but I didn't want him tuckered out since he had another day to go.

The check was the lemonade stand (mmmm, REAL lemonade too, not that powdered stuff..what a treat in the heat of the afternoon!) and Storm was a little hot, so I got off and let him eat (hay, apples, and carrots yet again) and drink, and the volunteers said this was an ok spot to scoop as well, so he got cooled off. Knowing where we were, and seeing it wasn't that far back, I relaxed a little (as we made decent time following the 50) and took it fairly easy back to camp. Most of it was back down the mountain, to the road, but that meant we had to climb back up over a small ridge to get back into our valley. Not fun at the end of the day, but Storm did alright, and some of the trail was a fun, single track that wound through tight, knee-knocking trees. Then it popped out on top of the ridge, with another fun, single track trail that wound down the toe of the ridge and through a bunch of manzanita bushes. At the bottom, a road took us by an (very scary apparently, as Storm SLAMMED on the breaks at a good gaiting clip, almost unseating me...sheesh) old barn-type building and over a nice creek that was deep enough to stand in and scoop out of. We passed over this creek at another spot at the start of the loop, so I knew we couldn't be too far from camp. With plenty of time on the clock, I made him stand in the creek and get nice and wet and cooled down and eating some of the grass on the embankment. Then we mostly walked back into camp, where we again had the kind of weird timer/pulse in the arena setup, only this end of the trail was almost twice as far from the arena, as the first loop's end. Luckily I had plenty of time (since LDs don't 'finish' until they pulse in...I was worried about what would happen to ppl close to cutoff though) and when we got over there, Storm was at 56 again. Great! Finished with 45 minutes to spare... not bad and pretty close to the turtle pace I had wanted to do.

Our pre-and post-ride check...All A's...great to see :)

Tack off and letting him eat a little, we went back to vet in within the required 1/2hr and all A's again. Super job! I brought him back to the trailer and he continued to inhale food for another 1/2hr or so, then settled in for a little nap, while I clayed and wrapped his legs. He has an older fence tangling ( think..not clear on the story really) injury on a hind leg, that so far never has caused him problems, but sometimes will stock up at rides a little...actually, it always looks a little puffier than the other legs to begin with... Anyway, I figure it can't hurt to wrap him and he always looks great after a few hours of wrapping (back to normal thickness). I might even invest in ice boots for him, though with only an ice chest to keep things cool and no LQ freezer, not sure if it is any better or worse than cold water and clay, by the time the boots would actually get used. Will have to investigate that...

Linda came in about 1/2 hr later, and she pulsed and vetted through alright as well. Whoo hoo! Chance did it :) His first ride and Linda is now back in the endurance 'game'. Yes! We got to relax and then have dinner (dinner starts really early and you kind of just go when you feel like eating) and Terri made it in on her 50 just in time for the ride meeting. Only downside of the ride...the meetings are before the cutoff time, so it kind of rushes the turtle 50's. Hmmm.. Ah well. small gripe in an otherwise perfect ride :) Ride meeting was good, and the LDs, instead of getting a Best Condition, get a "Horsemanship Award" in its place. The difference was that instead of coming from the top ten riders only, all horses in the distance are evaluated. And not only for fitness, but for how the horse behaves, how horse and rider interact, how the rider is behaving towards ride staff and those around them. I like having a BC since that is something that AERC awards and you can make a goal of going for the national BC award (both LDs and 50's+), but this kind of an award is great too, as it rewards things I find important too, besides just fitness of the horse, how heavy you are, and how fast you ride. I find there are a lot of fast and fit horses out there, that are total jerks (and often due to their riders not having much control over the horse) or that the rider is rude to ride staff and other riders, in their race to be first. That doesn't display good sportsmanship (or horsemanship), but is 'rewarded' by prizes for first, top ten, and BC anyway, if that rider/horse make it in that category. So then it reinforces that rider/horse's behavior as 'ok', since it worked to win. Oh well.

At any rate, the "Horsemanship" award went to a nice Arab stallion, that if I remember correctly, was on his first ride that day. Awesome :) It is always nice to see a stallion get an award like this, as there are not many doing this sport, and some of them are real dorks, that shouldn't be on the trail (often more due to the rider, than the horse really). At first, when the head vet started talking about 'this time the award goes to a stallion', I was getting a little excited, thinking it might be Storm. But not to be...oh well! He's a good boy anyways and looked in great shape, so I was happy. After the meeting, we organized for the next day (the LD and 50's first check was out on the trail, so I needed to send a crew bag this time) and tucked in all the ponies for the night. Ride start was at 8 for me, still a little late in my mind, but at least a little better than this time.
Another shot from the trail (Photo by Renee Baylor) Day 2 in the next post...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cuneo Creek 2010

Our Camp setup...Storm in a pen, Oli and Chey in the hot fence, all sharing hay hanging on the corral..worked great! :)

Storm did his first 50 just over a week ago...and passed with flying colors!
As I mentioned in the last posts, our local endurance club hosts 4 endurance rides each year. The last in the series, is usually held around the first weekend of September, in the lovely Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I had originally intended to take Storm to the Bryce Canyon XP ride in Utah that same week, but Terri's goat decided to develop mastitis a day before we left. This totally changed our plans. After a quick call to the ride managers to see if there was still room, we decided to go do the Cuneo Creek ride instead, and a week later, the Patriot's Day ride. If we did both days, we'd still get 4 out of 5 ride days (Bryce is a 5-day ride) in, with less travel on top of it. After Storm's stellar performance at Redwood, I decided to try his first 50 at Cuneo.
This is a 2-day ride, and I was planning on doing one day on my oldster, Cheyenne, and one day on Storm. I'd figure out which day after seeing the trail layout and checking temperatures. I ride at Cuneo all the time, as I am a member of the MAU (mounted assistance unit) group there. So I know how far the trails are, how the elevation changes, trail footing, etc. After finding out the trails, and with weather predicted to be hot (but slightly cooler on day 2), I chose to ride day one on Chey and day two on Storm. Cuneo is a fairly easy ride (slightly short trails and though some hills, most are long, gradual climbs, vs straight up and steep), and a great 'first' for horses...first LD, first 50, first multi-day, etc.... I did my youngster's first ride there last year, and so it was fitting to make it Storm's first 50 as well. I knew exactly how fast I could go where, and what the trail did where, so time-management would be a simple task (vs at rides you don't know, and have to 'guess' by mileages and what others say about the terrain), and I could take my time and not feel like having to rush through to finish on time. Another nice addition: there was only going to be ONE one hour hold in camp, instead of multiple holds, which would mean I had even more time on the trail. Whoo hoo!
We arrived Thursday afternoon, as all the good (shady, with corrals...this is a 'real' horse camp with permanent corrals, real bathrooms with showers, and even a sandy roll pit for the ponies) spots are gone by Friday. We stuck Storm in a corral, and set up a hot fence area for Oliver and Chey, then relaxed the rest of the day. The next day, my friend Vanessa (who was going to be a vet secretary both days and came down with us) and I took Chey, Storm and Oli (I ponied Oli off Storm, and both boys behaved wonderfully! I love how easy going Storm is with everything knew...I had never ponied off him before, and Oli kept switching sides and getting the rope under Storm's problems there either) on a ride to where I had remembered a swim hole in the creek, that was big enough for horses. I found it 6 weeks ago, so wasn't sure it would still hold enough water, but it would be fun to try out anyway, and it was hot enough to just dunk ourselves in, if nothing else (95+...we were not happy that it would maybe be that bad all weekend)! It was about 1hr out to the hole. Once there, we untacked and tied horses to trees on the creek bed, to take one in at a time, as there was not much room (SMALL hole, maybe 30ft across at the widest), and none of the horses had been swimming before that we knew of. The nice part of the hole, is that the creek is really shallow (horse knee-deep) and then gradually goes deep enough to swim, but never REALLY deep (7ft maybe at the deepest?), so the horses can keep their feet most the time and just barely have to swim. And a person can also stand in the water most the time, and let the horse swim around them. This is perfect for teaching a horse to swim for the first time... Oliver was the calmest and just swam around easily (maybe he has done it in the past, with a different owner?), Chey was not too excited about it at all, but liked just standing belly deep in it and cooling off, vs swimming. Storm was not too sure at all, and did that 'rear/swim' thing a lot of newbie horses do, the first few times they feel lifted off the ground. So I had him swim without me a good bit, then with me til he felt ok with it, and then called it good. Good enough for a first try :) He seemed to like standing knee deep and pawing at the water, splashing everything around, best of all... Afterwards, we tacked back up and rode back to camp. We had Easyboot Gloves on all the horses btw, as the creek bed and most the creek had big rocks in it. They stayed on the whole time, through the water play, and after, all wet and squishy (stopped squishing a few minutes down the trail), and not a rub or other issue. Great!
Once we got back, I vetted in Chey, and put him up. A few hours later, I braided his and Storm's manes, and brushed them down and checked them over one last time. I noticed two swollen spots in the 'folds' of Chey's armpits, one with a dime-sized rub on it... WTH??? Looked like a girth gall, but the girth is never that far forward, and in the almost 5,000 miles I have ridden him, I have only once had a gall.. found something similar (but not as severe) on Storm as well. Took him back to the vets, and they thought it was a gall too, but that if I kept the girth back off it (wouldn't believe me when I said it never goes there), and lubed it up well, we should be fine for the ride the next day. Hmmmm...Well, I pulled out the good old Bickmore's Gall Salve (that stuff is AWESOME...always carry it!) and slathered it on. I also cooled the pit area, as it was BLAZING hot...after it cooled down, the swelling really reduced. I think what happened, was that due to the heat, the folds rubbed against each other, and caused the galls, not the girth. At any rate, I decided to check him in the morning, and bump down to the 30 the next day, instead of doing a full 50 if needed, in case it would get worse. It looked better in the morning, but not great, so I did bump down. Though with Bickmores, and riding later, not only did it not get worse, it seemed to get much BETTER...Could have done the 50...oh well.
So, after tacked up Chey and booted him up (in buckle-converted Bares with dome pads...he LOVES these as they cushion his old-boy joints so nicely), we did the 30 instead...well, turns out we did a nice 15mile trail ride, instead. Why? Well, since I decided last minute, I was busy finding the RM and vets to let them know my decision, and get a new card, number, etc. In all that chaos, I forgot to get a new map and find out where the LDs were going (I guess knowing the trails gave me a false sense of security....ooops!). It was a controlled start, and as we were going down the trail, I ask the leader which loops to do. "Orange, then Yellow" was the answer. Cool, no problem. Wrong.... I was with the group for a few miles, all trotting along, when out of the corner of my eye, I see this dark, floppy thing go flying behind me...turn around, and there is my Dixie Midnight flopping to the ground behind us.... BBBRREEAKKKS!!! and flip the horse around and off the trail. I had left the girth real loose, just in case it WAS the girth somehow, and I guess that didn't sit too well with the DM pad, letting it work out from under the normal pad and scoot out the back of my saddle. So while I fixed my tack, the rest of the LDers went on by me and I was all on my own to the first trail split. This split had a samll paper plate on it with "30's Day 2 (note the 2) right, 50's/All Day 1 straight" or something similar...couldn't quite tell, as Chey was upset at having been left, and hot to go, and dancing around the sign, which was not in a big print or on a big plate. All I saw was "30's right" and there were some ORANGE ribbons hanging in the trees to the right. Since I was told to follow orange, I went right.
Wrong... Oh well. Off I went on a nice, BIG loop.... I kinda thought I was going wrong, when I never caught anyone. But i kept thinking they had left at a good clip, and I had wasted a LOT of time with the saddle/pad issue. And there WERE prints all over out there (duh, it's a horse trail...and someone had to have marked it too...). Note: I'll have you know, I was never 'lost'...I knew the trails and where I was on them, where to go, where camp was, etc... I just happened to....errrrr....take the incorrect trail for that day's ride, LOL ;).... By the time I came all the way around the loop, to the next split, I had pretty much figured I was wrong, though. Sure enough, a sign saying "30's Day 2, Right, 50's...." I knew I was totally on the wrong trail. I decided to go straight, which would take me to a trail and back to camp in another 1/2 hr. Oh well... I figured at that point, I was not meant to be out there that day, and should have listened earlier..Goat problems? Girth Galls? etc... the getting off track was the last straw! I 'could' have continued on the 'day 2' loop, in hopes that if I did all the miles, and did the after-lunch trail correctly, I might get a 'completion only', but decided not to push my luck, esp since I knew the 50's would be coming UP the trail I would have to come down, and might beat me to it even this early... most likely not a good idea. So home I went.
Turns out, when I got back to camp, they were running around looking for someone free to be another vet secretary. So I said after putting up the horse, I'd be game. I vetted Chey through and then ROed for getting 'lost', set up Chey in his corral, checked Storm, and spent the rest of the day hanging out, relaxing, and helping vet sec. That was fun, and educational as always, and not a bad way to spend a bungled up day. Of course, by lunch, not to mention the end of the day, every rider and the entire camp, had heard of my getting 'lost', and were having a ball ribbing me... lost at your home-territory ride...I'll never live THAT one down :) LOL...
Here we are, after heading home...I was laughing, telling the photographer all about my mishap. We can have fun even on bad days I guess! :) Photo by: Barry Thorpe

On to Day Two, with hopefully more success. At least this time, I knew for sure where I was going, as I was back to doing a 50. And I was going to ride with Terri, if our pacing worked out ok... Storm looked great in the morning, and his gall, which wasn't bad to begin with, looked ok. I gooped up his pits with Bickmores 'just in case' anyway, tacked up and booted up (four Gloves...he does awesome in them with no tape, or any modifications, despite a wider, 'spade' shape to his feet), and off we went. The first loop was exactly where I had started off the previous day with Chey, and after the first 2-3 miles of flat going, we started up the switchbacks of a good sized climb.
The benefit of the uphill slant, is that Storm picked up a WONDERFUL rack...there was a horse a few switchbacks up ahead that he wanted to catch, so he kicked into a higher gear. It was fast, smooth, and FUN! He is such a lateral horse, that on downhills he'll tend to fall into a step-pace (we are working on that though, and it is getting increasingly better), but an up hill will square him up into a nice runwalk or rack, depending on the speed. On flats, it depends on how I can get him to collect up or not, how tired he is, etc. He gets better and better every ride though, and the stronger his muscles get, the more he'll gait correctly. And it sure is a gaited grin ride, when he does hit that nice lick :)
After getting to the top of the climb, we go around the mountain a little, then back down, down, down, down on a gravel logging road. I pretty much get off and lead this, as I feel it's better on the horse's legs to not ride down all that gravel downhill, especially since I am in no hurry to win anything. This got us to the split in the trail I decided to go home at, the other day. So up the mountain we went again, on another gravel road, to where a beautiful, 5 mile single track trail, switchbacks down, down, down again into a majestic, old growth Redwood grove. This trail, because it was a very gradual decent, we rode down. I worked on getting Storm to rack and run walk instead of step pace, and was having pretty good success. We would also canter on the flat areas of it. FUN! Then another couple of miles back to camp, for our one hour hold. We pulsed in at the required 60bpm pretty much right when we got in, then went to the trailer to untack, and after a little bit of resting and eating, went to vet through. All A's... whoo hoo! And he felt and looked good to me up to this point on the trail, as well. Good to go for loop two.

Our mid-ride vet check....all looks good, and a smiley face from Vanessa (sec-ing for Dr. Powers)

Now for the interesting part. The previous rides Storm had done, all had Out vet checks. This means they were somewhere out on the trail, not back in camp. One big loop away and then back to camp, which gives the horse a good sense of 'we have to get there'. This would be his first ride with a check IN camp, meaning he'd have to get tacked up and go back out, even though he'd think he was 'done', since being in camp had always meant that on loop-rides. Some horses don't seem to care either way, others HATE leaving camp again, and will even buck, rear, and refuse to leave without (or even sometimes with) another horse to follow out. I wasn't sure exactly what Storm would do, but since he is a tad lazy, I figured he'd need some convincing to leave. And sure enough, he gave me an odd look while tacking up ("Umm...WHAT are you doing? We're back home, right??"), and sure enough, leaving camp was not on the itinerary... ("! We are DONE! The trailer is right THERE! Stupid human, I am NOT leaving a perfectly good food and rest place!"). Sure, I could have stuck Oliver in front, and Storm probably would have followed, but that would not have taught him anything, and then what if we didn't have another horse next time? So I led the way out, with much nudging of the heels and I did have to get out the crop and smack him on the rear a few times. Then he finally, though dragging his heels, left on the out trail, Oliver towing behind.
The heel dragging continued for over a mile, when we were finally passed by another rider and friend of ours, and maker of awesome tack (, Gail Hought. THEN of course, all of a sudden, we were awake and pulling on the bit again, LOL. Up the hills we went, then along a fun, rolling, dirt logging rode, where we had some great gallop sprints for fun :) Then we hit the last, long trail back down, another gradual switchback for some miles, back down to the creek and the last 2 or so mile trail back to camp. Storm was a tad tired, but had plenty of energy left. We pulsed in as soon as they could take it, at the required 64bpm. Then we again went back to the trailer, untacked, let the boys eat a little and rest (not even 1/2hr), and went to vet in. He was down to 56 by then and again, ALL A's. Best of all?? The head vet, Dr. Ellery (though Dr. Powers was 'officially' vetting us for the completion, we had all three pretty much vetting us in, as we were the last riders), gave Storm an awesome compliment. He said "This is a fine horse, and he is an excellently behaved stallion, and I really want you to know that. He is is so well mannered. Great job!" Ohhhhh, my heart was fluttering at that :) What an AWESOME boy! He is the BEST ambassador for his breed.
The Pre-ride and finish exam. All A's :) His pre-ride pulsing is getting better and better too...he used to be a bit higher (low 50's) because of the 'excitement' of being in a new place, but it is dropping lower, and one day I hope it will get close to his 'real' resting HR (38ish at home). Then I know, he'll be totally blase about being in a ridecamp :) Unfortunately the photographer only stayed for day one, so I didn't get any pictures of Storm and me :(:( Oh well....
I poured lots of mush and hay into Storm that evening, and he looked content and not 'worn out' at all. The next morning he was bright and chipper and like he could go ahead and do it all again. Whoo hoo! A job well done, for his first 50. Next up: two days of LDs at Patriot's Day. I was debating what distances to do, but since it was only one week away, and I wanted to not blow his brain or body, and decided to do two LDs, instead of an LD/50 or 50/50. Even though he looked and felt great, he IS still knew at this, so I will have to curb my enthusiasm and keep it fun and easy for him for now :)