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 :)