Friday, June 26, 2015

Wild West 2015

A long, long time ago (okay last weekend seems like ages ago), Major and I headed west (actually north-east) to the Wild West endurance ride. I was anxious: with no competitions last year, two pulls in 2013, a less than ideal amount of training, how would we do?

poor horse is just sooo worried....
campsite 14, prophetic!

cozy camp set up

Major said not to worry. He settled right into camp, got on his game face for the pre-ride vet in (48, all A's) and proceeded to eat his way through the weekend. I was my ride-anxious self, not eating as well as I should and not sleeping. When I heard a thump in the night I panicked, but it was only Major laying down to get his beauty rest.

the face of determination

Morning dawned and still the ride didn't start! Such an early sunrise this time of year, but we did finally head out at 7am. I had the usual debate where to start, so I walked around camp a bit and then headed out a few minutes late, just walking. That didn't last long: trotting turned into passing and Major powered along. The first section is lots of fire road, also a "Man from Snowy River" sliding downhill with a creek at the bottom and a steep uphill climb after. This trail is mostly just a blur!

heading out to the start

I think this is the last time walked for the first 20 miles

traveling! Baylor/Gore photography

morning blur trail, this is the only photo I managed to take on the first loop

I saw the sign on trail for the vet check and got off to walk Major in. He drank well on trail so when he ignored the water I was okay. I had the courtesy pulse taken, he was already down! I vetted in the first 20 miles at 8:56am, all A's. This was a short 30 minute hold where Major took full advantage of his mash! Awesome SO/crew had set up a good spot for us, both holds were away, but in the same location.

first vet check
heading out again

Quickly, we were off again. We were in a nice bubble by ourselves until we caught up with some other riders. But this loop is fun! Lots of twisty singletrack, and better watch your ribbons, because a 90 degree turn comes up just like that! After the fun twisty section comes lots of uphill gravel road. Major kicked it into extra gear and just power trotted. He wasn't pressured or chasing, just moving. The vet check ahead sign came so quickly, and I got off to walk him in…not knowing it was an uphill half mile. Crap. I walked a bit and tailed a bit, Major pulling a tired me. Good thing this is an hour hold! SO met me there to remove tack and help sponge. Have I mentioned how awesome it is to have help?!

coming up the damned hill into the second vet check

dueling cowboy hats

 It took about five minutes, but after moving to a quieter trough area Major pulsed in and we vetted at 10:43am, all A's but a B on gut sounds. Major worked on remedying this with rice bran mash as well as other horse's leftovers! This was also a bit of a blogger meet up (Melinda, Boots and Saddles: Redheaded Endurance: and Figure, Topaz Dreams) as everyone caught up, told tales of the trail and discussed the merits of glue-on versus strap-on Renegades. (I had my trimmer glue on all four, I just don't want to deal with possible lost boots on my too forward horse.)

blogger meet up

Major and I shared some PB&J, I had some chocolate milk, and then it was 11:45am, time to leave already! I wasn't in any hurry so headed out at a walk. Major was okay with that, only a little insistent on trotting, so we just walk-trotted the next couple miles. Then the cavalry arrived! Four horses came up behind us and we let them pass, though Major decided he was being left behind!

final section, heading back to ridecamp
while we were walking along, so lovely, until...

the rest of the ride is a blur

So with my race-brain horse I rode the last 10 miles. At least he was smart enough to stop and drink at the trough. I held him back from full speed trot because on this section of trail it is an old berm with pine trees growing all over, perfect to whack your knees!

Then we came to Hallelujah Hill, which Major really likes. I was way too tired at this point (must feed myself better) and riding like a drunk monkey. We caught up to another rider. He asked if I wanted to pass (no) and what place I was in (umm, no place?). I was just happy I knew the trail and that it was only about three miles to the finish.

The finish was a little chaotic, with about five people all coming in at about the same time, timers asking names and numbers, some riders weighing for BC (!) others not. Turns out we were in 14th place at 1:02pm, wow! All I could think about was getting a completion. 

Back at the trailer best SO ever untacked Major and we sponged him off. We had 30 minutes to get to 64 criteria. After 15 minutes I walked over to the vet, where we were down to 48! Mostly A's, though some B's and one C on guts, better get some food into Major! The vet was very complimentary, saying Major had such nice manners, until he tried to roll at her feet! So Major went back to the trailer, where he ate mash and alfalfa while I took a cowboy shower in the back of the trailer, and felt much better after that.

do not roll, do not roll!

excellent vet card

I could not believe how strong Major felt all day. I think this is what having a base level of fitness can do: smaller amounts of conditioning really stay with the horse. I am so happy with this completion, though he is so damn hot and fast it is a lot to deal with. I think my fitness level is pretty good (masters swimming, hiking, riding) but I learned I'm going to have to step it up to ride like this! I also learned that Major does not like the lower setting on his Kimberwick bit, upper snaffle setting only or he has a fit of head tossing! That was really the only misbehavior all ride, he ate and drank, though now I know to bring even more mash to out vet checks!

whatever, I just did 50 miles

All this training, and this successful finish, makes me a little sad that I think this will be our only ride this year. With the cost of rides, other activities I want to do (camping, ocean trips) and the sheer amount of time all this takes I just have to balance it all. Important? Yes. All encompassing? No. 

But I know my horse is awesome (and not just at eating mash.) Look at the last photo, see, he's going so fast he's trotting out of the camera frame! Onward!

Super speedy man!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

wild west success

Major and I had a crazy, freight-train 50-mile success in Saturday! The rest of the story later, after I recover, unpack all the things, and wrap my head around my thought-he-was-under-conditioned monster of a horse being so successful. Super proud. It also was a fun-filled, inadvertent blogger meet-up, so many other stories of the weekend will be available in other formats! Major looks like he didn't even do anything except eat mash all weekend...

Monday, June 15, 2015

the return of Frankenmask

It came from the depths of the trailer tack room. Patched and torn, it scrambled into the sunlight. Even the flies were repelled by the hideous gaze of Frankenmask! The mask that would not die. Never quite too torn, never quite alive, it survived. Other horses cowered at the sight, their own Frankenmasks' askew.

Belle and Arya, both in their own Frankenmask

Repaired beyond its natural life, the frugal horse owner tries to make it last another season. The flies swarm. After one wearing the holes are fraying again, the mud encrusted, it is found laying in a deadly dirt pile. A resigned scream is heard across the lonely fields.

And a new life is born. This time with an experimental nose flap. But tragedy lurks. What will be destroyed first? Perhaps some unraveling? A rip right by the eye? Muddy Velcro? Or will it be lost in the pasture, only to be resurrected after a severe trampling, or disfigurement by the lawnmower?

Frankenmask is patient. It waits in the trailer darkness, as the frugal owner puts it aside, just in case. Frankenmask knows the other will not survive long, they never do. When will Frankenmask escape again, to take up his ancient duty and make flies cower in fear?

Only the Frankenmask knows.

Monday, June 8, 2015

skillman preview

With a quiet Friday off of work, and the valley heating up, I headed for the hills. Skillman campground specifically. I was hoping to get in some good mileage over trails that I'll hopefully be doing at the Wild West endurance ride. Note: I said hopefully…

whatever: I've got my crack bag
Major unloaded like a champ, and got right to the best part about trailering out: a hay bag full of alfalfa. He also managed to smear most of his mash all over the fenders of the trailer. Oh yeah, we're looking sharp! It was weird to be here with no one about. Literally there was no one camping, no camp host, people are missing out on a great spot! In a few weeks this campground will have more rigs than can fit and be packed with riders and horses.

come on, let's go! I left the trailer just the way I like it. Snacks for later on the fender…

deserted campground is a little strange

But for now the trails are silent and damp, the trees dripping on me, and being the first down the trail means breaking all the early spider webs then doing the spider dance. What? Doesn't everyone know the spider dance? Sadly, there are no photos of this ridiculous set of gyrations.

green means go

trail with a view

leafy green tunnel

We headed for White Cloud, Major going along happily. About two miles in we slowed down, Major realizing he had no friends, and that I was hoping for a training ride, so he must slow to dead-horse speed. Oh joy. He perked up a bit when we saw the only person left on earth, a runner, but then also recovered a bit when we turned around at the highway crossing.

treetop trail

giant sugar pine cones block the trail

I hear something!

So back we went, with a happier Major, until I turned him onto Hallelujah trail to make a loop. But we should go back the way we came! he insisted. We did not. So we trudged along, uninspired trotting, till we came to the big hill. I like hills, I remember this! he seemed to say as we bounded up it. After that I had an inspired horse for the two miles back to camp.

huge stumps were worrisome for about one second before he realized camp was on the other side!


Back at camp I set Major up with a snack, this was going to be the half-way point of our ride...and started feeling crappy myself. So crappy that going out again was not an option. So I waited a bit then Major loaded into the trailer again for the drive home.

I hear something! No, nothing here. I still hear something! Oh, it's the ranger, good job!
halftime snack is important

Damn, I was hoping for a good training ride. I hate trailering all that way (gas prices + big truck = eeekk!) for 12 miles of slogging along. I was trying to figure out another day to fit in a longer ride, when I looked back over the calendar. I was off on my weekends, there is only two weeks till the endurance ride! What?! OK, so now I'm kind-of glad I didn't do 24 miles as planned, but am feeling woefully underprepared.

I printed the entry and it is sitting on my desk in front of me. My brain is anxious: I love this ride. I'm not prepared. But Major is probably fine. But…ahhh! I have the time off already, just do it. I'll see how Major looks today. OK, let me find a pen, and a stamp…

Saturday, June 6, 2015

the long wait is over

I've waited my whole life for a Triple Crown. 

I was born the year Secretariat won, and have a poster of his amazing performance hanging in my house. The first Kentucky Derby I remember: 1982 Gato del Sol.  

American Pharoah's win today had me in tears. The drought is over. It IS possible without changing the format, greatness will prevail. 

Congratulations American Pharoah. You go down in history with the greats.