Saturday, January 22, 2011

Year in Review

Well, now that Storm has finished his first season of endurance riding, I figure I should write up a little review. He's come a long way from when I got him 18mos or so ago, as a supposed 'bucking, rank, untrainable stallion'...rrriigghhttt.. Never did see that horse, and doubt I ever will :) We went from an out of shape, and mostly pacing horse, to a fit and decently gaiting horse that is a blast to ride.
Here are our stats for the 2010 year, Starting with Death Valley, and ending with Desert Gold:
Rides attempted: 11
Rides completed: 10
Pulls: 1 (RO-L)...I pulled him at Desert Gold when he came up lame, with a muscle cramp on the
trail. Vet didn't see it by the time we got to the check, but I figured better safe than sorry...
50's: 1
LDs: 9
Multi-Days: 3
Total miles: 300 (250 LD)

Things that changed:
-HR at rides went down both at check in (form the mid 50's to often in the mid 40's, sometimes
all the way down to high 30's)
-HR at vet checks improved (from high 50's to usually a 48 now)
-he got hotter as he got fitter (we need to work on other horses passing and leaving him..he
wants to catch them all now! LOL)
-his gaits significantly improved as he got fitter, as did the length of time he could stay in them

Things I learned:
-saddle type is important to fit for him. He tends to do better in a saddle that works with how his
back changes in varying gaits. We tried a good number of saddles, and the Wintec dressage
(500) seems to be working the best.
-he does not need a lot of electrolytes, but he DOES need them, particularly on warmer rides.
-he takes GREAT care of himself...drinks at every (even early) water and eats like a pig.
-a bored horse is a spooky horse
-Storm is GREAT at fooling me into thinking he has less gas in the tank than he does. He is in
way better shape than I give him credit for...he likes it that way, as he can do easy and LD rides,
instead of harder rides and moving up to 50's. I have his number now though and that's over
with! LOL :)
-I need to be more careful in cold/wet weather with him...get a bigger rump rug!
-Easyboot Gloves work like a charm on him and he has awesome bare feet! Best of our herd.

Here is a video I made for Storm. I have horrid editing skills (only my second video), but it was fun to make anyway :) Enjoy! He sure IS my "loving one man show".....
Edit: well shit! Stupid You-tube took out my audio..I even PAID for the damned audio track! I have to figure out how else to upload the video...and it is a huge file (took 2hrs to put it on youtube...) suggestions??
Edit 2: Well, youtube can stick it...Vimeo rules! :)

Strom 2009/2010 from Natalie Herman on Vimeo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Death Valley and Storm's Graduation Ride (part 3)

From sunset, to sunrise, day4 of the Death Valley Encounter was a smacking success!
The ONLY pose I have with Storm in his hat, not looking mad! LOL :)

Ok, now on to the pretty pictures post :) Part three, the graduation :) As noted in part 2, at the ride meeting, we found out the trail would go up into and to the top of the Slate Range again. there is a radar station up on top of one of the high peaks...that was to be our destination. Then back down the mountain, through the desert, and into camp for a lunch hold. Once more into the desert to the waterfall at Indian Joe's, and then back to camp for the finish. A good test to see if Storm really was ready to bump up to 50s, especially after the 30 he did the day before. I was going to ride with Terri and go for a nice, easy, back of the pack ride.
Again, up early and getting ponies ready, it felt good to be up to go RIDE again :) We left camp handwalking and after most the last stragglers passed us, we got on and walked a while more to really warm up the ponies. The trail went backwards from the previous day, up the canyon to the water trough. Storm figured out where we were going after not too long up the canyon, and tried to stop and even turn around a few times. Hmm...too smart for his own good...guess he knew today was more UP and was thinking it was a stupid idea to do all that he did yesterday...AGAIN... LOL.. Well too bad, we were doing it :) He tanked like a good horse at the water, and I reapplied his desitin. Then we wandered into the Mtns some more (I had expected we'd turn off the old trail here, but no...hmmmm how far up will we go??) and went up and up. Storm at one of our first rest stops...he doesn't want to pose nicely, LOL..grumpy ears!
One of the many views of the Panamaint Range and Valley

We stopped and took some pictures, then up some more. Finally, we turned off the old trail, and went along the top of the slates, heading in the direction of the radar mtn.

Oliver and Terri posing at one of our scenic spots...

And Storm, not as into posing...LOL

We ran into a few really scenic spots, went up and down some fun little trails, and as we were climbing up yet another big hill, we saw someone back behind us.
More pretty views, and yes, that is the trail that seems to drop off the mtn there, LOL.

Huh...thought we were the last 50s! as the figure came closer and closer, I recognized was Janet and Ladybug! She caught up with us as we were taking a break on a particularly steep section. Turns out she was the one and only LD that day, and her 4th day out on Ladybug. Great :) She hooked up with us, and we rode all the way to the radar tower together.

Storm heading up the hill...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

There were a few really cool single track trails winding up the last mountain, and some scenic views to die for, and Steve Bradley was up on top of one of the best. He got some great shots of us all!

Setting up for a good pose...Susan's crew bought this pic too, they loved it so much and how it had the view in back...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

And finally posing...for once Storm is cooperating :) (Photos by Steve Bradley)

Then up another steep climb, and over more rocky and fun single track...felt like we were mountain goats climbing some far away trail...well, maybe not a goat, but I WAS on a Mountain HORSE and we were on a faraway trail I suppose :)

Up the trail we go...way up to the top is where we have to head to...

View of the trail we came over, back behind us...It is really a nice motorcycle trail...not the goat trail it looks like :)

This is one of the things I love about endurance...the cool, faraway places we get to discover. So up and up some more we went, and finally got on top next to the radar station.

The radar station up ahead, and a view from the trail...

Here, the trail petered out onto a rocky jeep road, that went down...down....down... Janet moved on out on Ladybug, and Terri and I got off and handwalked. And walked...and walked... ....sighhh...this is the boring part of endurance, LOL...when the scenic trail ends, and you pop out on some gravel road. After some miles of walking, it popped onto a single track trail that went straight down a ridgeline, Terri managed to slip negotiating the slope, and twisted her ankle. OW! But we still had a ways to go. The ridgeline dropped us into a pretty little canyon, that eventually went all the way DDOOWWWNNNNN to the desert floor again. After climbing over rocks ledges and other interesting obstacles.
I always thought I should enter my horses in those 'extreme cowboy races'...we wipe the place clean...I laugh at the indoor 'trail' course they set up in arenas with fake waterfalls and fake creeks and much of what we negotiate (especially on Duck rides, which are a far cry from groomed bridle paths), is many times harder than these 'extreme' trails these races have, LOL... And I LOVE it. I know a lot of people complain about 'technical trails. Me?? I get bored on easy jeep road or groomed woods trails. I like clinging to the sides of mountains like a goat, and climbing over logs and ledges. It makes life much more interesting. Course it makes for a much slower ride (least if you like your horse), but you get much more variety and often these trails lead to great scenery!
Well, we finally got down the mountain and into the desert, and then had to take an oddly roundabout way back to camp...going way OUT and away, then basically doubling back again, before heading back into camp...sighhh...I hate going in circles just to make mileage, LOL..give me more goat trails any day! :) We let the horses boogie where the sand was decent footing, and walked the deeper washes. Soon we saw the road back into camp, and walked the rest of the way in. Both Oli and Storm looked and felt great, and after tanking at the water trough, pulsed right down. So back to the trailer for lunch we went.
The evening before, Karen Chaton was handing out party hats for the horses, to be worn today since it was New Year's Eve. A fun way to celebrate! I had planned on getting it on Storm's bridle that morning, but we were running late as usual, so I left off of that and found time at the lunch hold instead. Storm looked totally adorable in his, but seemed none too pleased with the whole deal. I guess it wasn't very studly to be wearing a party hat, LOL :) Too bad, it was going to stay on the rest of the ride!

AAAAWWWW...Isn't he ADORABLE?!?!...Squeeaaaalll!!!! ;)

This is what he thinks of the whole hat thing....

That's ok, I love you anyway...KISSES... (His eyes speak volumes...Stupid Human!) :) LOL...

I checked and fixed up his foot, and after eating something, went to brush him down a little....WTF?! He had some swelling and heat in his armpit! Dangnabbit! Looked like the beginning of a girth gal. But just like at Cuneo Creek earlier this year, his girth goes no where NEAR that area...after thinking on it a little and checking where it was happening (WAY up front in the pits, in the folds of skin there), I think his long winter hair was just getting sweaty and gross and the folds were rubbing on each other. So I cleaned it all off (might shave it a little, to normal summer-length for the next ride) and rubbed in a bunch of Bickmore's (did the trick like a charm at Cuneo) got a different, fleece girth (just in case, covered that basis as well), and tacked him up at the end of our hold. I also left the girth really loose (we were just going to go ride around the flatter desert on a shorter loop than the first, no goat climbing left) and hoped for the best. Oli had a rub going on under the ring of his breast collar, so she left it off for round two and we Bickmored it too. That about killed my tub of it, so I'll have to get more...I need to by stock in it...LOVE that stuff!Sometimes the old remedies still work the best :)
So after tacking up, we headed over to the vet, and all was cleared for takeoff again. We hopped on and walked off into the desert for loop two. The first part was a little square out behind camp, towards a gravel pit from the day before...then across the road that leads to camp (the horses were NOT happy crossing it...they turned straight for home, LOL), to head out across the Searles Valley. The trail was mostly a gradual and easy rise towards the foothills on the opposite side of the valley. We had nice views of the Slates, with the much taller Panamaints peeking over the top of the range, covered in snow.

The view we had of the Slates and the Panamaints creeping over the top...

Lots of sand and scrubby brush.As we went and lots of water stops on this loop (much easier to provide water, when there are actual roads! LOL..wonder if anyone will invent a water bucket holder and water container, that would schlep well on, or behind a dirt bike on a single track trail? LOL :) Being winter, it was ok though. But the boys did enjoy getting lots to drink on this loop, or maybe just the excuse to hang out and chill at the water troughs? Yes, that was likely the real goal....
Both horses seem to be saying: "Dude....are we there yet??" LOL....

As we wandered the desert, Oliver all of a sudden got real alert to something...Storm was oblivious, though, and then Terri said "LOOK! Donkeys!" There was a small herd of three wild burros off in the distance. They stood watching up, as we got closer and closer...Oliver really was wound tight, and Storm was STILL oblivious...LOL... Then all of a sudden they moved around a little, and one of them blew and snorted a few times fairly loud. THEN he figure it out..and his eyes bugged out of his head and neck arched...and Oliver followed suite and both did great Arab imitations ;). They alternated between creeping down the trail this way, and slamming on the breaks...not wanting to get closer to the dreaded, long eared, horse eating desert monsters...LOL. Terri and I on the other hand were laughing at the wimpy boys and cooing over how cute the burros were. Finally the burros moved off, and we continued down the took several miles though, before the boys stopped being wound tighter than a piano wire.

Can you spot the burros in the pic below? Storm couldn't...good camo on them! Nature sure is perfect when it gets to work as designed :)
There they are! Aren't they cute?!!

Onward we went, walking or moving out as we felt, and slowly heading for a 'finger' on the map, that would then double us back (ugg..another dopey random trail thing, LOL..) to almost where we were, but up in the foothills instead.

One of the many, long and sandy roads we traveled...

I was bored...playing with shadows....Storm's looks almost like a unicorn! Ok...a bit us a stunted unicorn (more calcium, maybe?)...but still! I can dream, right? :)

Tucked in the hills was the hidden treasure of our journey through the valley. Great Falls (as the Duck calls it), also know as Indian Joe's... Susan said when she was a kid, her girl scout troop would come up here in the summer to get in the shade of the mountain and get to hang out in the water and stuff. She said it got it's name from an older guy, Indian Joe, that supposedly lived somewhere up there and lived off of eating the burros and having access to the water there. Hmmm... interesting! LOL.

Tucked way up under those hills is Indian Joe's....

Storm doing a nice little Runwalk to catch up to Oli, almost at the waterfall...

This was a neat little spot...the hillsides had a neat formation up there, in kind of a jumble of rock, and there was a small waterfall coming off the side of the mountain, to drop into a pool and trickle out in a small creek.

Is this the neatest jumble of rocky hillside you have seen, or what?

Jumble up close...

In years before it was a VERY small waterfall, pool, and creek...but after the rains this year, it was a nice size. Very quiet and pretty :)
The horses enjoyed another good drink, but Storm at this point was really hungry (he normally likes to snatch grass and such on the trailside at other rides, to fuel himself throughout the day). He snatched at a bush and started chewing on it...hmmm..I tried to take it away (kinda prickly branches with nothing much on it), but he went for more...well, if he likes it that much??? Poor guy...he had a very disappointed look on his face...the flora in the desert was not exactly satisfying!

Plenty here to drink...and clear as any water could be!
But food??? Not so much...what a look...That bush is what he is eating...

"It's your fault Oli...somehow, I know it is!"

"Oh, buck up sunny, and act like the REAL endurance horse you are today!"
After a rest there, we headed out of the shadow of the mountain, back into the desert. Or tried to... we could SEE the edge of the shadow out there...and the warm sunlight beckoning (it was MUCH colder in the shade at this point in the day...bbbrrrrrr....). But try as we might (ok, so we didn't exactly gallop after it, LOL), the shadows lengthened faster than we could get out of them. Sighhh...oh well...

Running around in the desert...sun is leaving us! Oli is flying along in his trot, Storm kept having to canter to catch up. But we had lots of FUN! :)

The horses were happy, as we were headed back in the direction of home now, and they picked up to some fun gaiting. Then, where we thought we'd turn onto a straight shot road back, the ribbons turned off and headed parallel to camp, and into the desert some more! Dang nabbit! We stayed in this direction for a while, then headed on a road that again looked to take us to camp....only to once again have ribbons turn us away and further away from camp. The ponies (and riders) were not pleased! Oh out and around the desert some more, then finally across the highway and onto a parallel road, that DID head for camp (map confirmed it...hated to pull it out, but was wanting no more surprises! I was ready to be done, and Storm was a little tired and bored too...though not beat or overly tired..yes!). The sun had gone down behind the mountains at this point and we had been riding in the dusk for a little bit...looked like we'd make it back just before it actually got dark..yeah! Too cold to be poking around in the dark out here...
With maybe 2 miles at most to go, we kept things down to a fast walk and leisurely made our way back to camp with nice, cooled off horses. At the finish, we found the vet and got our completion exam, and all was GOOD! Whoo hoo! Storm was officially finished with his first, real 50! He now has graduated to the level of a 'real' endurance horse (well, least in many ppl's eyes...personally, I still say LDs are real endurance too...I know too many horses that CAN'T do the distance, no matter what ppl say about pulling horses out of pastures and just going, or 'any' horse can do it... the LDs are easier in distance, but it still is DISTANCE and timed...and in a way they are also harder, as you have to ride smarter to finish correctly and in time, unless you are racing).

Smart boys...both took naps quite a bit the next day :)

Storm still had at least 1/4 of a tank of gas left, likely even more (as he has often proved he is very adept at energy conservation and acting SOOOOOO TIIIRRRREEEDD, then bouncing around when he wants to, LOL). So after 80 miles of decently tough riding in two days, with a foot that was still not 100% (though he never showed any offness on it) and an armpit gal (which looked just fine back in camp...a little hair rubbed off, but it was no longer swollen or hot). So the next ride, when he was back on his full game, he should be even better, right? :) I am thinking he'll go for more 50's at Eastern Mojave! I am totally on a high now! He's proved he can do the distance, and I think he'll continue to prove it. One more step up the ladder, to maybe...just MAYBE, being the first (as far as I know...if anyone knows different, let me know!) KMSH stallion to do Tevis... how cool would that be?? And another step for ME to do Tevis... ;)

"Sure, I will do Tevis...IF I don't have to wear this !#&*^ hat EVER again!" (Can you tell, he never got over it, the whole ride! LOL)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Death Valley and Storm's Graduation Ride (part 2)

One of the views from up top...Balarat is to the right of that flat thing in the background. (Photo by Terri Tinkham)

Ok, so a few days behind in the update, that's new. It is hard to get motivate to write these things, though I DO like it, just not the blogger format, sighhh... and I get soooo distracted while writing too, LOL :) But onward....

So I had decided that I would either ride a 50 or an LD on day 3, depending on what the trails were...though leaning more towards the LD, as I kinda wasn't sure I wanted to venture out on a 50 without knowing how the boo-boo foot would hold up. It looked great, but then you don't know what miles will do. I went to the ride meeting, and the trail for the 50's looked to head over the Slate range to Panamaint Valley to lunch at the 'Charlie Manson Bus' (hmmm...bad juju if you ask me, to have lunch at a place like that!), then back over the Slates to camp. Hmmmm...not really an easy day AT ALL...a lot of climbing and a lot of being out in the middle of nowhere out of camp, and tromping through the rocky mountains... So I decided to do the LD instead. That alone would be a decently tough ride...We would have to haul over to the radar Station on the road to Ballarat, then ride to lunch, then up and over the Slates back to camp. A nice, 30 mile tromp over the mtn to warm Storm up after standing around all week, LOL... Hauling to Ballarat also turned out to be a quick panic to figure out how to get there... Our rig was totally not set up to go anywhere (hot fence hooked to it, pop-top camper up, etc), let alone that I didn't have a driver, since Terri was riding the 50..and during the meeting, Susan was contemplating just going for another 50! But then she changed her mind and said she could haul me... turns out though, there were only 4 of us that we knew of (at the meeting that night), that were riding the LD, and one of them happened to have a 4-horse rig with a driver :) She offered to haul all of us handy was that?! Great! So we made plans to meet the next morning, tacked up and ready to go. I'd navigate, as I was the only one in the group who had done the ride before, and knew how to get to Ballarat.
I got up with Terri, and we got the ponies ready. It was great to be up and getting to RIDE this time:) By 7, we were over at the hauling rig. It was going to be me, Susan, Janet Tipton (on a cute as a button Mustang pony sized mare, and she was also our chauffeur that day...THANKS!), and Kara Henry riding Carla Richerson's backup horse on his second day of LDs here. We tossed in Janet's mare, Ladybug, in first, then the two geldings, then Storm got the last slot. Everyone loaded well and was well behaved on the 20 minute or so drive over the was fun to see the Slates from the truck, and ponder where we'd have to cross on the horses. Ride start was to be at 8am, but no one was around yet when we got to the radar station. All the horses were unloaded, tack checked, then we stood around and chatted, and walked the horses, while we waited for the starters. Soon the water truck arrived...still no Annie...then a caravan of rigs arrived! Three or four more horses were starting, that we didn't know about last night, and Annie was leading the rig pack. Sometime after 8, with everyone up and ready, we got the go-ahead to start and were off .
Susan and Cash...happy pony even on day three and looking good :) (Photo by Janet Tipton)

Susan and I were trying to stick together, but Storm walks out much faster than Cash, and kept getting ahead...Kara and Janet were also with us, and the other riders were kinda getting out ahead, except for one gal on a wonderfully spotted Appy (Dalmotion was his name, we later found out...and he did look a bit like a Dalmatian!). After a few miles, we all started to string apart, as Susan and I wanted a nice, LONG warmup, and much of the trail was rocky road anyway and not very conducive to trotting/gaiting. Dalmotion and his rider (sorry, just can NOT remember your I guess you'll be D's rider in the post now, LOL) stuck with us, as her guy was a)kinda bonding with us (didn't want to trot away, even with crop use, LOL) and b) totally boots! Hmmm, wonder how he'll do on rock heaven...not the sandiest desert around...But so far he looked fine, but of course she didn't want to run him on the rocks. She'd get ahead a little on the sandier parts, then we'd catch her again on the 'ok' parts, and we'd all walk the rocks. We hopscotched that way for some time, until we hit the edge of the dry lake bed (which actually had a shimmer of water in it this time...quicksand heaven I bet!) and had good footing. isn't he cute?? Like a big dalmatian :) (photo by Janet Tipton)

D's rider went on down the trail at a brisk trot, and Susan and I went between moving out some and walking, depending on how Cash was feeling (or really, what his heart rate monitor was saying, as HE was saying she should let him run the whole way back to camp, LOL). Storm was gaiting along decently and eventually we saw the vet check off in the distance. We walked in, then handwalked, the last 100 yards. Went to the waters and both drank, and Annie pulsed us in..both boys were down with no issues. Good :) The check was only 15minutes, as we were around 10 or so miles in...I love Duck rides...I hate going to rides that make LDs spend a whole hour in the VC (thus making you go faster on trail to make up time)...a 1/2 hour is good, and one CAN always stay longer if you want or your horses need. And we did..15mins was too short to get some food in them, AND in us (mmmm, Cup-O-Noodles for 'lunch', hot chocolate or coffee/poor man's mocha...good way to stay warm on a winter ride day!) and let the ponies rest up for the long trek over the hills back to camp. The other LDers mostly left on their 15 minutes, but that was their thing...and then one 50 was already!! into the VC...hmmm...didn't recognize him either (usually at Duck rides, there are always 3 or 4 ppl that are the 'usual suspects' for coming in the first few places, as the rest of us just meander along the trails at a more leisurely pace)... and at the time, didn't know he was a 50 either.
I watched the ponies while Susan got the human vitals for us. Storm and Cash were being really good, and practically eating out of the same dishes and bags. Of course they thought each others food was more interesting than their own! But they shared very my boy :) And they were also sharing with Chris Heron's goofy looking Bulldog with the goofy name of 'Cornfed' who names their dog that?! Chris of course...LOL. He was also trying to share MY food too...noooo..MY soup! Go get your own! By around 25mins, we vetted through and then started packing up, and by about 35mins in, we were headed back out on the trail. Storm vetted through fine, and his foot looked good too. I had been desitining it at every 'stop'...water, pee, or tack rearrangement breaks. Then at the VC I cleaned it completely, looked it over, put more Bickmore's on it and then more Desitin. Then continue with slathering Des at other stops. Seems to have worked and got Storm through both days with no problems :) I also checked his other boots at the VC, taking them off, checking for sand, any rubs on his feet or pasterns, etc. It all looked good! There was a tiny bit of sand in the bottom of the boot, but nothing really that would bother a horse. And I LOVE how easy this check is to do with pop the boots off and check them, and back on in less than 5 mins for all four..and he had one glued, so that made it even faster. I even do it out on the trail at water stops if I have gone through deep sand or other bad's just THAT fast and easy, and no tools required, LOL.
So off we went out of lunch, continuing our easy pace and walking when the horses needed it or the footing dictated it. We didn't see anyone for some time, until the 50 miler blew by us...I at first thought he was a local-yocal, there to show us endurance riders 'how it's done', as he was set up in total cowboy gear for both himself and his horse (no offense to those that use that at e-rides, but one rarely sees that anymore...usually it is e-saddles or english saddles, tights, and maybe a few jeans here or there...but not full cowboy wear and tack on the it is a tad surprising when you DO see it), and he was setting somewhat of a fast pace, cantering along on his smallish horse.
Well, didn't the other riders...we found the all (well, cowboy dude was cantering UP THE MOUNTAIN at that point, in the distance, so he found the trail) milling about at the base of the Slates, where the jeep roads we had been on, petered out onto a single track motorcycle trail....
And no ribbons....Hmmm....had everyone confused, but I had done the trail before and knew there was NO other way up that range around there, but that motorcycle track. The others were not sure and were trying to find the 'real' trail and such luck guys! So I told them to just follow me :) And as we picked our way through the rocky foothills, I did recognize it was the right trail. It was a tad disconcerting, but hey, these things happen...sabotage, hungry cows (no really...for some reason, cows like to eat brightly colored trail ribbons!), or who knows what, can lead to ribbon loss on a trail. And then a resourceful rider pulls out their map (and there really was only ONE way up the mtns...not like there were a bunch of branching choices) and finds the way...or just follows someone that knows ;) For once, that someone was me! Usually I am the one following someone else that has done a particular trail before, LOL.
Storm did great leading on up the hills, until we came to a steep hill. He kinda went up it, but halfway through, decided (as per usual with him...he hates uphills that to him make no sense, when he thinks he can turn around and find an easier way up, LOL) to stop and try to find a better good...this was a steep up...well, Cash was behind him and just went right on around him and plowed on up the hill like a REAL endurance horse, LOL. Then Storm figured it must actually be the only way up after all, and followed Cash.. Boys...too many heads to think confuses them sometimes and he makes silly decisions ;)
Storm on top of the first ridge... Cash looking on and telling him to 'Smile already!' Storm only did grumpy ears...not happy about all that climbing around hillsides like goats ;) (photo by Janet Tipton)

We continued on this neat motorcycle track (thanks whomever made it! It's very well constructed, a lot of fun to ride, and offers excellent views!), alternately switch backing across the hillside, or going straight UP it, for a little while...then we hit the top of the first little ridge, and stop to let the horses rest a little and all of us take pictures. At this point, we had a nice little group going with the four of us from Janet's rig, and D's rider.
Kara on Carla's horse...seems he was the group's class clown! :) (Photo by Janet Tipton)

The horses all paced similarly (not that any of us really wanted to go fast in the rocky and hilly terrain) and got along great. We alternated who was in front and behind and had a great time chatting, taking pictures, and making our way through the mountains. We mostly walked the whole way, and had a wonderful time :) Bout 2/3 of the way through, going down a switchback, we hear a motorcyle coming...hmmm??? And as it comes up the wash we were headed for, I saw ribbons fluttering off of was The Duck! Turns out, the guy that was supposed to mark the trail, hurt himself or got really sick or something... the Duck gets an email (after all of us had been on trail for hours of course), saying "I'm hurt and can't mark that mtn trail...will that be a problem?" or some such...Problem?!!? Lol.. it sure is! So TD had to hop on his bike right quick, and get the trail marked. Luckily, all us LDers were there first, and we were in no rush..I'd like to see the top ten 50's wanting to make time, have to figure out if they were on the right trail or not :)
We continued on our way, and then not far from there...oh look! There is the cowboy on his little horse...smacking it down the trail (not really beating him, but whacking it on the butt a bit...but still....) with...a what the heck is that?? I think a piece of junk metal?!
Didn't think it would take long to catch him...not many horses can canter through the mtns the way he was for long... And the horse (turns out it was a little mustang) was smart enough to know it too, and decided it was walking, only walking, and nothing the guy could do would convince it to do otherwise. It didn't look totally spent or anything, but definitely like it was tired of running around like an idiot. Heck, the guy was (at that point we found out he was a 50 miler) so far ahead of the other 50's, he really didn't have to go fast in that terrain. The mustang agreed, and tagged along with us...the guy tried to make it go ahead of us several times (a few times when we'd turn on a single track from a jeep trail), and it would balk each time it got a half a nose in front of the lead horse (mostly Storm at that point), and put on the breaks. The whole train would then stop, and we'd watch him try to goad the horse along for about 10 seconds, then cut in front of him and suggest he should just let his horse stay with us and walk. He did, but you could tell he was not happy. Well, we were not either...the poor horse was not having fun, and he wasn't really listening to it... I tried talking to him a little and see what was up....can't remember his name, but he said he was from the Auburn (I think?) area and this was his horse's second or third ride (and he's running for first on a tough, mountain 50??)..but he 'packed all over the moutains', packing and endurance RACING (and when you are in first, you are racing dude) is NOT the same thing...anyway, he wanted to do Tevis this year (better slow down or the horses won't even get to Tevis, let alone through it) and this was his way of getting his horse ready for it. Hmmm... Well, I tried to talk to him a little about how a horse needs at least a year or two of rides before it should try Tevis (ja, some go earlier, but he needed the hard line read to him) and that generally it's a 'slow and steady wins the race' type of ride, not a go out and ride as fast as you can.... and other helpful advice. I tried to phrase it in such a way, as to be helpful, and not just ream him out (most will just ignore you if you do that anyway), and I sure hope some of it sank in, for his horse's sake at least.
At any rate, he finally separated from us all, as we walked down the long canyon out of the mountains...he at least got off his horse, and jogged on down the road leading him at a trot...Next time I saw him was in camp...the horse had just vetted through and looked 'ok'...but had a bunch of tack galls on him. I think he'll have to revise his equipment for Tevis as well, or he'll never get through the ride... The next day he was on a new horse, also in the top ten, also with gals on the horse...sighhh...Oh well...he'll learn one way or other, and I hope his horses come through ok. Nothing against ppl that have good horses to top ten on and are well prepared...but this person did not seem to fit the category...
When we finally got to a water trough on the other side of the mountains (the last was at the vet check I think...), all the ponies dove in. Storm didn't even look at any other horse...he drank...and drank...and drank....other horses left and more came...and he drank....and drank...and some more! Sheesh! I never saw a horse tank that much! The water level in his bucket went down quite a bit, LOL. What a good boy! He really is great about eating and drinking, and of course energy conservation, LOL... At this water, the next few 50's finally caught us too and went on down the trail. And this group WAS the 'usual suspects'...and at least half an hour behind the other guy. I'd have to see the results, to see if they caught him or not...
From the waters, we walked down the canyon and finally dropped down into the desert. At this point everyone kinda split apart again, and Susan and I were mostly on our own, with occasional sightings of the other riders. Finally, we came onto the long road into camp and decided to walk in the last few miles and let the horses relax and cool down and whatnot...We were riding with Janet and Ladybug at that point, and none of the horses were too happy about walking...they all knew were 'home' was now, and wanted to get there in a bit more of a hurry, than we did. But we mostly were able to keep it down, and finally hand walked in the last little bit.
Got to the finish, and more drinking at the water trough, and then pulsing in...both were in with no problems...yes! Finished! Oh, and Dalmotion seemed to finish fine totally bare too...pretty good in that terrain!
Now we only had to pass the vet check. So back to the trailer we went, and let him eat and relax a little and clean him up, then back. Oh, and Susan said we should show for BC, since we were all in the top ten and one should never pass up an opportunity to show, if the horse is in decent shape. Well...I remember my and Storms only other showing for this ride a year ago as a matter of fact. And I am sure Kristen, the vet, did too! LOL... Suffice to say, Storm did NOT win BC then..heck, I couldn't even get him to move out faster than a walk (he thought when the ride is done, it is DONE...none of this running around afterwards stuff, LOL...we practiced trot outs a bunch when we got home from THAT ride...)
I went ahead and showed anyway...what the heck, good practice and maybe a way to redeem ourselves from last year, too. We had to wait for the 50 BCers first (lost of activity just that point in time, LOL) and then Susan showed first...course with her Ay-rab, she looked pretty dandy with that fagged tail and smart trot :) Cash did look pretty darned good for a 3rd day horse! Then it was my turn, and I crossed my fingers and took off, hoping my horse would follow.... and he DID! Whoo hoo! Not a fancy gait-out by any means (not sure he'll EVER look as snazzy as an Arab...he just is too lazy to put in any more effort than needed), but he moved out the entire out, circle in both directions, and back! Success! And at arrival back at the vets, Kristen said "That was MUCH better than last year"...guess she had remembered, LOL :) If nothing else, that was worth showing... That done, we went back to the trailers and relaxed (and were fed and catered to by Susan's wonderful crew) until Terri came in, and then went to the meeting. Storm felt great all day and his gait and foot felt fine, so I was going to go for the 50 again tomorrow. Susan said Cash's back was a tad sore (something she has been battling and having to make saddle and pad adjustments) and she was going to opt out of riding the next day. At the meeting, someone else won BC (no surprise, even if both horses had looked great, we were WAY far behind and most likely less or equal in weight to other riders) and the route for tomorrow's 50 was laid out...BACK into and to the top of the slates, lunch in camp, and a final, shorter loop around the desert. Well, guess Storm was going to have to buck up, and do a tougher 50 than I had would be a great test though, especially after the tougher LD today. Time for him to graduate and become a real endurance horse ;)
Next: Part three, and graduation day....

And here is Janet and Ladybug...they are having too much fun, no? Cute mustang pony!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Death Valley and Storm's Graduation Ride (part 1)

Storm in the second camp, looking like a wild, handsome, windblown mustang...with a binkie! LOL...

Death Valley Encounter marks Storm's one year anniversary as an endurance horse. He did his very first (and second) LD at this ride a year ago, and now he has done his first (he DID do one other, local, 50 in Sept, but it was SO easy, I don't count it as a real 50, as it really didn't test his capabilities of doing a real, tougher 50, like we usually have them out West here) 50 as well. He also did a tough 30 miler the previous day, and now has 80 miles as a good start into the 2011 AERC season. Whoo hoo! This ride was very scenic, so I think I will run this blog post mostly off of pictures with captions :)
It was going to be very iffy on whether or not Storm was going to go, because after coming home late at night from Desert Gold, Terri had forgotten to close the pasture gate (which lets horses into the middle, roundpen pasture and shares a fenceline with Storm's pasture) when she let the horses out of the trailer and put up Storm. This resulted in Terri's new mare teasing Storm over the field fencing that is in that pasture (and usually has a hot tape on top, but was not hot due to the solar charger being issues with geldings, but an in heat mare? Even good boys find that too tempting), and him going over the top of it. Terri found the fence stomped down and Storm in with the mare and geldings...two weeks later, a preg check showed nothing, so luckily it was late enough in the year to result in no real breeding. Good thing! But sheesh! Too much excitement. I had initially checked him over superficially that morning, and no lameness or big bleeding wounds, so back in the paddock and mud (over fetlock deep) and I fixed the fence (which had torn wire squares and holes, but was mendable). Issue I thought.
A week later, we go out to the beach for a nice ride, and I was able to really clean storm of all his mud...I get to his hind legs, and WTF!?!?! His right rear pastern is puffy, warm, and looks skinned up and crusty...almost like after a rope burn...hmmm...I clean it up more, and find two shallow cuts in the 'bend' of the upper part of the pastern. he didn't get away from the fence jumping cleanly after all. I cleaned it up well and it looked fairly good, and checked for lameness...none I could tell. So we decided to lightly walk-ride him and stick him in the ocean waves...salt water baths are always good for these things.
Then began the long convalescence...I figured I would clean and goop up his foot really well and wrap it up like a porcelain vase...keep it as clean and dry and pliable as possible, til it finished healing. Clean and Dry? In a Humbildt Winter????? Riiighhhttt....two weeks to DVE and there was MUD just EVERYWHERE! And it was constantly raining, so Terri had the mare in the shelter area (which is in the same pasture as the roundpen) since she had no winter coat, having come from hot eastern Texas a few months ago. So putting Storm in the non-muddy roundpen was out (didn't need a leg stuck in pipe corrals or some other crazy thing, with her on the pipe corral talking to him). That left trying to keep him locked in his shelter....not stall...shelter...
First two nights: baling twine a corral panel across the front of it....FAIL...Storm was out of there quick, he just barreled right through the 'gate' and broke the baling twine...he does NOT like being stalled! So I went and scrounged around the property until I found some corral panel connectors in the tack trailer. That took care of one side, what about the 'gate' side? Two stout lead roped fed between the side wall and the roof support pole...wrapped several times around the other end of the panel. It was ugly, but solid...not good if we had to evacuate in a jiffy, but with all the rain, not like the shelter was going to burn, LOL. That kept the beast in....
Next issue: after almost 5 days of this and lots of rain, the mud and water outside had no where to go but inside. And his floor was plain old dirt....shit! More mud happening...I tried old hay...I tried straw...I thought of shavings, but they would just melt. After a week or so, I was thoroughly frustrated! And having to run to Trinidad at least once a day to muck out his stall and drag out mud and such, was not fun and time consuming and damned short winter days meant most that happened around headlamp got a lot of use! wrap would have made most vets proud...even with all that (I changed the wrap every 2 days), he was CLEAN under the wrap and mostly dry..just a tad damp from the moisture in the mud seeping through. Not bad! And it looked to be healing ok. It would just be a race against the clock to see if it would be ok enough (since we were going to the alkaline desert...aka SCRATCHES heaven, it REALLY had to be nicely healed, or I'd just be asking for scratches...) to take him to DVE. With about 5 days or so left, the rain finally let up (but not the mud) and I was able to put him in the roundpen area and get him out of the mud a bit better.
Finally, a day or so before we left and one last wrap change, I tried to show up in daylight so I could actually see the foot a bit better. It looked really good, and he was totally sound on it (was the whole time really) at all gaits... So I decided to take him. If nothing else, I could tend it better in the dry desert and do a few Duck Miles, if he couldn't do a full ride day on it. That decided, off to DVE we went!
My original plan after he did so well at Desert Gold, was to ride 2 50's. Ride a day, rest, ride a day, rest.....or ride, rest, rest, ride. But with his foot as it was, and by ride weekend, over 3 weeks of no real riding, I wanted to take it easy. I decided that I would let him chill the first two ride days (and with the travel and rest days as well, it would be almost a good week of more healing time), then ride an LD on the third day to see how he felt both foot and energy wise, then ride the last day's 50 if all went well. Or another LD, or nothing if he really did horribly on day 3 for whatever reason. I could also help the ride management on the two off days that way as well.
We left Christmas Eve (I celebrate Solstice anyway as my christmas and new year...makes so much more sense to celebrate the world getting LIGHT again, LOL....the pagans had the right idea there! So I don't mind being gone over the holidays) and headed down to our first stop over in Healdsburg. Then drove to Tehachapi on the 25th. No rain and only a little wind. Our friends who left the 25th and drove as far as I think Los Banjos, got POURED on...and it was miserable driving...the storm must have been chasing us (and we did have to outrun a few dark spats on I-5 that almost caught us during one rest we barely missed the storms) the whole way south. From Tehachapi it was smooth sailing for the last few hr leg to the first DVE camp spot. We saw a bunch of tire ruts and rigs were parked in odd places...guess it rained a bunch here too! I held the horses while Terri tried to find a spot................and promptly got stuck! She went RIGHT for a set of those tracks and didn't have enough speed up to go over the dips it made, and spun out the back tires (obviously we only have 2WD)...sighhh..saw it coming! LOL...Luckily Anne Nicholson (part of ride management) was there with a bigger truck and towed Terri out. I think we will have to pay more attention on the XP ride, since ppl supposedly got stuck there a lot too...not good to start out the year with embarrassing yourself in front of the other riders, LOL... But she found a solid and dry spot and slanted us a tad downhill in case it rained some more, so we aught to be able to get out of camp :)
We spent that day and the next relaxing and getting ready to ride. It was so nice to be in the dry (well, drier than at home...the sand was actually wettish as it had rained so much the week before...odd for the area, but still 'dry' for us, LOL...made for a NICE, HOT grounding for the electro fence though!) desert again and the temps were nice during the day and not horrid at night. Our friends from Humboldt, Susan Wardrip and her husband and daughter, as well as her close friends from the Redding area (boy did we get spoiled by their crewing by the end of the ride!) arrived later that day as well. Susan and her friend had grown up as a kid in Trona, not too far from where we were going to be riding. This was going to be her first trip back to the desert since she was about 10! How exciting! She was also bringing along a younger, new horse, so we were planning on doing some easy rides together. We went on a short ride through the desert on the eve before day 1, and Storm felt good! His foot seemed much better to. So it looked good for a Day 3 start :) I was keeping the wrap off, but lots of good goop (a healing ointment as well as a good, thick layer of desitin) on it all the time. Storm and Kashmere (Susan's horse) seemed to get on well together on their ride as well. Good!
The next day, Terri went out on the 50 and finished well, but right around sunset. Susan did fine on her guy as well on the LD. We had been told the new plan was to move camp to the new camp after today's ride (originally this was to happen after day 2, but a rainstorm predicted for the night of day 1, would turn the old lake bed to everyone was heading out after riding day 1). I had spent most the day working the finish line, and watching Storm in his pen across camp. He behaved all day, only talking a few times when he thought he saw a familiar horse. He is SO easy as a 'camp' many of them just throw major fits all day when their buddies head out on the trail. He whinnies once, then goes looking for his mush it! :) I also cleaned and packed up camp and set it up most of the way ready to head out, once Terri got back. She came in not long after Dave Rabe and Les Carr, and as we were taking down the pop top to the camper, I hear my name called. It was Dave...he wanted to know (most the camp was cleared out by that time) if I would be willing to drive Les' rig over to the new camp..... ???.... Turns out, Les was still recovering from some broken ribs from a riding mishap, and had over calculated his strength. He managed to finish the 50, but was totally exhausted and not feeling good at all, and couldn't see straight/feeling dizzy. Obviously NOT a safe idea to drive 25 miles in the dark with a horse trailer to the next camp. Hmmmm...well, sure! Why not? Guess it was time to jump in the fire and go for it....Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh.......
Let me explain that...not many ppl know, but I have a slight 'big rig phobia', LOL... I HATE driving big and unfamiliar trucks/rigs...always worried I will crash, or do something wrong and break stuff, or whatever... part of that is due to my depth perception issues, which or FINE for driving really (horrid for parking though, LOL), but just doesn't let me feel confident hauling a long/wide vehicle, at least until I get used to its dimensions. I had the biggest fears before I first drove Terri's rig, but now feel mostly ok with hers. Les'??? A bigger truck, a much bigger camper, and a heavier/longer steel horse trailer! And in the dark in totally unfamiliar territory! YIKES! LOL... But I didn't want to be a) a total wussie that everyone was going to laugh at, and b) let down Les, who is such a nice guy and has been helpful when others have needed it in the who could let him down now, when HE needs help? That would not be a good XP child! So I finished packing Terri up and down the road I went..though first I had to figure out how the hell to get out of the danged lake bed (it helps to figure out your lights and brights...they were so weird to keep on, compared to mine. But got it eventually) and then not crash into the vet hauling the ride horse trailer, parked in the middle of the only path out..oops...just missed her! LOL...hmmmm, not a good start..least we were crawling along on a dirt road ;) HOLD ON TULIP! Nutcase driving your trailer! Poor horse! Sheesh... ;)
We made it onto the mostly deserted rode (thank heavens for that), and headed off to the new camp. I only had a vague idea where it was (turn right at the big T-intersection, go through the town you eventually hit, go out the back of town, then on the right eventually will be camp...), since last time I saw it was a year ago...coming from the total OTHER direction (camps for this ride change around a lot from year to year), and wasn't even sure how far we had to go (I had those directions with Terri in HER rig)...great. Shoulda waited and let Terri or someone else go first and follow! Oh well, this way at least I could crawl along the highway at 40mph and get familiar with the rig... We finally arrived at the T and made the turn, found town and drove through...only problem, it did not look familiar in the dark! We did go through it last year in the day time, heading for one of the other camps, then doubled back to the camp we were going to now, from the other direction a few days later...thus the vague idea of where to go. I hadn't remebered crossing train tracks...TWO gas stations, or that school! Ummm....we didn't take a wrong road in town, did we??? I THOUGHT there was only one way through, but in the dark, who knows! I finally got REAL nervous when I saw signs for 'loose gravel', and other 'bad road' things...(lots of flooding signs too from the rains), and was sure we were heading off into the desert to get lost and stuck somewhere! So as I saw more lights (cars or ??) behind me, I pulled over in a big turnout next to kinda a junk yard, hoping to get re-oriented. As a rig I recognized drove by! And then Terri pulled in behind me too! THANK HEAVENS! I guess if they were all going that way, I wasn't lost! Whew! So I got back on the road and followed the other rig, and Terri followed me. Turns out we were at most a mile or so from the camp, LOL... I just had let my doubts get the best of me again!
All the drive over, Les was being real nice about telling me what a good job I was doing, how well I was driving, etc (as I white knuckle clutched his steering wheel, LOL) and then he was trying to explain where all Tulip's 'stuff' was and how to set him up for the night, as Les really could only manage to crawl into bed when we got there. I told him not to worry, his pony was in good hands! (Well, least once we stopped driving and got to camp, LOL). Once in camp, I got Tulip unloaded and set up with food, water, and a binkie, while Terri found our camping spot (saved ahead of time, thanks to Susan and her crew!) and took care of our ponies. Then I went over to finish setting up camp with the electro corrals and the like. We also had dinner waiting with Susan's friends again (like I say, we got spoiled that week! Whatever will we do at the next ride, when it is back to Ramen noodles and doing all the camp chores alone?? LOL ;) ) and ended up into bed later than planned, but happy :)
Hanging out in camp on Day 2...

The next day, Terri rode the 50 again, and Susan ended up joining her. She finished the LD riding with Terri (who was coming into lunch), and Kash looked so good, she elevated up. Whoo hoo! He finished that day looking great as well! I spent the day hanging out (since the vet check was in camp, there was plenty of help and I was off the hook that day) with Bill and Este (husband and daughter), messing with boot conversions, saddle/tack, repairs and taking Storm for a little walk for a final check of his engines... all well there, so I decided he'd go on the LD the next day.
He looked out this end of camp a lot...he liked looking out into the desert, vs at other horses left in camp...

He's so pretty in his brand new, turquoise blankets (a light and mid weight matching set) took me a while to find some in this color, that were not a gawdzillion dollars... Tough-1 makes LOTS of colors, in a decent quality, for a great price! Mine came from Chick's Saddlery...

I had planned on using Easyboot Gloves all the way around, as he goes really well in them with no boot losses and no extra stuff needed. But then decided I would put a Glue On on the bad hind foot, so I could keep it gooped up all day and not worry about gooping up a gaiter, or stuff getting trapped in the goop in the gaiter and causing issues. It was really windy that day (but sunny...the storm never showed up the night before or that day...just blew on by, pushed by the gales) and I had a heck of a fun time trying to set up so I could glue the boot without sand going all over, or things blowing away, LOL.
Most of Day2 in camp looked like this...big clouds would blow over the mtns, look threatening, then blow right on by.... no rain at all, just WIND WIND WIND...

But other than that, I have to say gluing is now WAY easier than last time I had used it (over a year ago I think). The new glue gun is SO easy to use one handed, and the glue seemed to be a different consistency, so it didn't set so fast (it was cold, which helped, but I had glued boots on a client a month back, in warmer home temps, and it was the rush!), I was all alone as Terri was still riding, but I got that boot on with no issues in no time flat (after I spent a bit extra time PREPPING...that's an important step). The boot stayed on beautifully for 4 days and 80 miles and when I WANTED to pop it off, came off much easier than in the past I think gluing for XP will be easy peesy! A quick check of all my gear, go vet Storm in, and I was set for the next day.
Part 2: Riding!
"Aren't I just adorable?!?!"