Storm and I in camp the day or so before the ride...photo by Bobbie Lieberman
Ok, now that I am somewhat combobulated after coming back from DVE, I can post our adventure...:) Overall in summary, he did an awesome job for his first ride and I think he'll make a great endurance horse! This may get long...hang in there or just skip along if you get bored :) I think I will split it into two posts anyway....
Since deciding Storm was going to do a ride sometime soon, I have been looking for one to take him to. It had to be an LD, as it will be a while to get him in shape for 50's, with our rainy winter weather. I decided on the Death Valley Encounter over New Year's for several reasons. It was an XP/SSR (managed by Dave Nicholson) ride so I knew it would be low stress and a great intro for him without a bunch of horses galloping off in a tizzy, riders worrying about "winning", etc. Management is fairly loose too, so they don't harass /you with a gazillion vet checks, spotters, etc. You just get a trail to follow and some mellow ppl to ride with... for me, a perfect setting for a horse's first ride :)
We would also have a longish 2 day drive to get there, so it would be a good chance to see how he'd travel (a BIG key that I think a lot of ppl forget about in endurance, though perhaps not everyone is as nutty as Terri and I...we often hear ppl saying they won't travel more than 9 hrs to a ride....that's a close ride for us...most rides are 8+hrs away and the good ones are often 2-3 DAYS away, LOL). Storm did really well traveling, but still is a bit impatient in the trailer (paws the wall if he is not wanting to stand, wants to get out, needs more food, whatever...so we had to work a bunch on that...) and needs to learn to drink in the trailer (drinks great if we pull him out, but not as well if standing in the trailer). As with all our horses, we are lucky with him too, it appears. No problems with unloading in rest stops, truck stops, etc. No matter how noisy, busy, or traffic-y, he was calm, ate, drank, hopped in and out of the trailer, etc. GOOD BOY! Hurdle number one passed :) I find that if a horse can't travel well, then it is a big stresser for an endurance horse. They become dehydrated, stressed out, possibly colicy/ulcery, set. So a horse that will haul a lot of miles with few issues is a BIG plus in an endurance horse, esp in an area like ours, where we have a long ways to go to get to anywhere...
The first night we stayed just south of San Jose at a friend's, where there were LOTS of other horses. We set up Oli, Storm, and Brian (our friend Laney's new horse, who came from Canada with Terri's new horse and we were dropping off for Laney to reduce shipping costs for her) in some pipe corrals, and Storm only said "hi" once and proceeded to settle in for the night nice and quiet-like. GOOD! It is always interesting to see what a stud will do in new environments. Will he settle down? Pace all night? Scream all night? Etc.... again, for an endurance horse, he HAS to be able to settle down...and NO ONE wants to be kept awake all night in ridecamp by a stud talking to all the mares all night (trust me, been there, done that, wanted to kill the owners, LOL). And how would one go about training a horse NOT to "talk"? Better to have a quiet one to begin with :) After a good night's sleep, the next morning we met Laney in Gilroy to hand off Brian to her. From there, we were going to stop in Tehachapi that evening, but when we got close it was only around 4ish and camp was only another 2-3 hrs away, so on we went to camp, near Johannesburg, Ca.
We arrived in camp after dark and a long day's drive, and just tied Oli and Storm to the trailer overnight instead of trying to set up camp in the dark. We were the first ones in camp (this was the night before, the 2 days before the ride. So we were REALLY early, LOL. Next day we figured out how we wanted to be parked and organized camp. Oli and the other horses do great in an electric fence and during the day Storm was able to hang out in it as well as he seemed not to challenge it (he knows what it is from home). But just for safety I tied Storm to the trailer at night, or if no one was around to watch him, since he still is a stud and you just never know. Didn't want him going on any unauthorized "dates", lol :)
That day some of the first people started pulling in and we ended up kinda in the middle of one section of camp, so he'd be right in the middle of a bunch of other horses and that would be a good test as well (many ppl with studs will park way out on the fringes of camp, to reduce "stimulus" to him). He camped great though! No screaming (just whinnied now and then while all the new rigs would pull in, wondering who all these new horses were, LOL), no fussing, nothing. Just hung out in camp looking fairly bored, and was a good boy....Hurdle number two passed!
That day I took Storm for a quick stroll away from camp, and woah boy! We had a whole nother horse! Normally he is kinda a lazy, unmotivated horse when taken out alone. He likes to be with other horses instead. But he'd been eating alfa and grass alfa on the trip (much less mess than the rye grass we also brought and wait till camp to open) and with being cooped in the trailer or tied to it, he was a bit of a handful, LOL. Especially cause he did NOT want to leave all those other horses in camp :) So we had several good arguments about what I wanted to do vs what he wanted to do, but we made it down the trail and back ok. We just had to have a few discussions about who was driving and what direction we were going in, at what speed :P That was good though, as normally he doesn't try and challenge me, so this way I know what he does when he gets in a huff (mainly tries to turn around and go back to camp, or just plant his feet and balk at going forward).
Several more ppl arrived, including fellow gaited pals Carl Phaler and Bobbie Lieberman. They brought Gypsy, a nice, black TWH mare (that can be ridden in a neck rope!) and Annakate, a really nice Morgan mare. They parked right across from us, and Storm really seemed to like ogling Gypsy. Good thing too, as by the end of the day, Carl decided he liked Storm so much, Storm now has a "date" with Gypsy this spring. He is such an awesome boy, I think he'll just sell himself! Then we had one more day before the ride. Terri and I like getting there early so the horses have at least a full day of rest before a ride, especially when we drive so far.
The next day (evening before the ride) Terri and I hand walked the horses a while down the trail and then I rode back to camp. I had only a halter on him and I was bareback, but since he had Oli with him this time he was pretty good. Lots of ppl were watching as I was riding this "wild stallion" in a halter and bareback. What fun! I got to do a lot of promotion for this wonderful breed, as ppl kept wanting to know what he was. I think that boy will end up a good ambassador for the KMSH, with his great looks and wonderful disposition :) He also got a clip on his neck and chest, as it was in the upper 50's to low 60's, which in the desert and with a full winter coat is fairly warm. He had never been clipped as far as I know, and he was really wary at first, but once he figured out the clippers were not going to eat him (and these were big, loud, body clippers too), he stood perfectly for his clip job. :)
Next morning was ride day! I was planning on riding days 1 and 3 and rest him days 2 and 4. He is not in great shape yet, but most horses can do an easy, slow 25 if managed correctly. If he was done after one day, that would have been fine too, and the plan was to ride however he needed. If we went overtime, that was ok, long as he went the miles and saw what it was all about, and he got the riding/camping experience. I hooked him up with a heart rate monitor so I could keep close track of how he was doing. First day 50 is a figure 8 looping that ends up in camp and has out vet checks. The 50's go through the VC twice and the LD's once and head home. The LD's only do the first loop, with the VC being about halfway. We leave camp, head up over a hilly area to the town of Johannesburg, ride across Hwy395 and skirt the outer edges of town past the old cemetery, and then up another good sized hill around an old mine, down to the town of Randsburg, and then down to the flats, where in a few miles we hit the lunch VC and then head back home, paralleling the train tracks, going back under 395, and then through sand washes back to camp.
Terri and Oli started at 7, I didn't have to start til 8. So I got Storm all ready and let him hang out for an hour (wanted him tacked up and ready, in case he pitched a fit when Oli left and I didn't want to tack and boot up a dancing horse). He was actually really fine with Oli leaving. He is SUCH a foody, I just hung some alfa and some mush in front of his nose when Oli left and it was a total non issue. Whoo hoo! All our other horses are so bonded to each other, they pitch a total fit when left behind. This is great! A total and unexpected bonus :) He was like this all week too...a slight nicker when Oli leaves, then dives in the food and could care less, hanging out quietly the rest of the day. In fact, the HRM read 34...guess he was REAL excited :P
Just before 8, I started hand walking him and met up with Mary, a friend from my area, who it turns out was riding her horse's first LD too. She wanted to know if I was going to take it easy or not and if she could ride with me. So we hooked up together and it seemed a good match. She had a nice, Anglo-Arab gelding that was a real sweetie, and Storm and he became fast friends within the first few miles. We tried to get out of camp last, so we wouldn't have to deal with horses passing us just yet, but that didn't happen. So of course we had some..errrr...interesting times when the 4 ppl behind us came trotting by, as well as one lost soul who went the wrong way and had to get back on track again :). Storm was not too happy with being passed at a trot and he actually had a minor blowup at one pair of horses and we had to do some circling (course it was within the first 2 miles, so he was full of energy yet) to get his mind, and feet, back on the ground. No biggie though, most horses new to endurance have little meltdowns while getting passed at speed, til they get used to it. After everyone had finally passed, we moved down the trail fine and Storm settled right in behind Mary's horse. Since he liked being in front, and Storm liked being behind, it worked great!
We went our merry way to Johannesburg, where we had a great time getting the horses through town. The big "scare" for both horses, was this huge billboard we had to ride under. It was next to the hwy, and there was a big green hwy sign next to it. The horses had to go between the hwy sign and under the billboard, but cause of the hwy sign they could not see the traffic. So it must have seemed to the horses, that the billboard was "making all that noise" (several semis and lots of cars were passing us, "behind" the sign) and they did NOT want to go under it, LOL. Storm finally was the bravest and scooted under the billboard followed by his buddy. After that, both horses were a tad hyped and we had a fun time skirting town, with barking dogs, rundown and trashy properties with weird spooky objects all over the place. Storm is usually pretty mellow, but even he was startling (can't really say spooking as he wasn't reacting that strongly) at stuff. Finally made it up to the cemetery and then around the mountain and down to Randsburg. Randsburg is this neat old town, basically one street and a bunch of older buildings from the old mining days. It is just this shy of being a ghost town and just has such a unique flavor. I LOVE riding through it, and we ride right down the middle of main street. Mary and I got some GREAT pics from the ride photographer there (will post when they are up on her site). After Randsburg and getting on the flats, we boogied into the VC. I got off about 1/2 mile out and walked Storm in. By the time we got there and he drank (which btw he did great all day..really takes care of himself well), he was down to 55 and we were in. He dug into the food and ate 3! bowls of mush and a bunch of hay...what a foody! None of our other horses eat like that, LOL...he'll have plenty of fuel on rides I think... After our hour hold, we vetted through (he did fine, but REALLY needs to work on the trot out...does fine at the pre-vet, but at the VC and finish when he thinks he is "done", he totally won't go and I have to drag him. So from now on, after every time I ride him, he has to do trot outs, LOL) ok, and took off for home.
Since we had to parallel the railroad grade for some miles (like it was RIGHT next to the jeep road we were on), Mary and I agreed we'd hop off the horses and get off in the bushes if a train came, as neither horse had ever seen one. Sure enough, after about 20 mins, we saw lights in the distance.... a big, long freight train. As it got closer, we got off and moved about 50ft into the bushes and handwalked on. Storm did really good! He was a bit unsure about it, but not overly excited. Luckily these are all big, slow freight movers out here, so they don't go whizzing by. After a few minutes (this thing was LOOONNNNGGGGGGGGG and it prob took 7 or 8 minutes to pass us) he calmed enough that I decided to move back onto the jeep road with him and really push it. He was fine, except when the wheels would squeal on the rails now and then. He'd jump at that and run a circle around me. But by the time the train finally got to the end, he was just plodding along like nothing was happening. What a good boy and a great training exercise! Mary and I hopped back on and took off for the highway crossing. We stopped at some water troughs and had a bunch of dirt bikes pass us, which after the train were no biggie at all. Then to the crossing, which was actually a low underpass (maybe 10ft high at most?) tunnel. Again, Storm went through fine, once convinced that that dark hole was indeed tall enough for him to fit through, LOL...
After the crossing we had a bunch of desert sand washes that wound between the hills to ride through on the way back to camp. He was finally getting a good bit tired and in the deep sand really slowed down. Mary's horse knew we were headed home and was going a tad faster (he was in much better condition than Storm) and so he would get ahead while Storm would walk, then we'd catch back up when HE would walk, then he'd trot off again. Kinda leap frogged most the way to camp that way. Bout 3 miles from camp, the front running 50's caught us again and Storm and Mary's horse went back into minor meltdown mode evertime one passed us, especially on one that cantered by. But by the 6th or 7th rider, he finally gave up and decided just plodding along while they flew by was just fine by him. What a good boy :) By this time we had about 1/2 hr to go and knew camp was "somewhere near", but not sure where exactly. So we were going along at a decent clip, when all of a sudden we saw the finish line up ahead. Oops...there went the idea of walking in, LOL.... I hopped off, loosened the girth, and walked in the last 100yrds. He came down within a minute or so ok, and since there were only 8 of us, we were asked if we wanted to weigh in for BC. What the heck I figure, why not. Good practice if nothing else, LOL.
Had 1/2 hr to go vet in and the trailer was on the way to the vet, so I stopped there, pulled tack, and wandered to the vet. Didn't know til after, that I had an hour if I was going to BC (LDs often are done when they come in at the finish with their completion, vs waiting an hour or whatever like 50's do), so didn't really give him any time to relax. But it was all for fun and practice anyway, not that I was serious about showing for a BC. He actually seemed to do well......until we got to the trot (gait) out...oh BOY was that pathetic. He would NOT GO! I was dragging him and everyone was clucking and waving arms and I barely got him out of a walk, LOL...very embarrassing, but very funny too! Good thing I wasn't serious...then he got stuck on the pink ribbon that was supposed to section off the VC area and dragged it around and broke it. Gawds I wish we'd have had video of the whole thing, as it was the worse BC showing ever, LOL :) Ah well.
After that, I put him up, wrapped his legs, and gave him lots of goodies. He did such a great job and I was extremely pleased with his performance. :):) He looked great and like he had plenty of horse left in him, so I figured I would let him rest the next day and start day 3 with him. Third hurdle passed, he finished the ride in a-ok condition. Whoo hoo! Later that day Terri and Oli came in and both ponies were happy to see each other. Another good night was spent in camp, with not a peep out of Storm.
Storm after the first ride day, all wrapped and w/binkie
(anyone know where I can find a teal/turquise fleece binkie?)
Plenty of light left in those eyes...I think he can go another day :)
What? I'm HUNGRY, OK?!?!