Monday, May 13, 2013

Cache Creek 2013

We did it! It was super hot and hilly and tough, but we made it through!

the masked bandit of Cache Creek
Friday evening I had my doubts. After vetting (no comments on the cuts on his legs, just superficial now) I took Major on a short practice ride, just to make sure all our gear was fine, etc. He was a raving lunatic, lost two boots galloping up the hill after the creek, was madly spinning coming home. I just about threw in the towel. It made me so upset I was freaking out about Saturday morning, couldn't eat, a mess (more on all that later).

Major looks awkward, but best crew/SO braids making Major pretty

But I'd come this far and if I had to walk the first 10 miles with a spinning horse I was going to at least get to the first vet check, dammit! Sometimes getting mad is what I have to do to get through the upset part.

So Saturday morning we crossed the start line about 10 minutes after the first riders, and yes, Major lost his mind for the next 15 miles. I had decided to start barefoot just attaching my boots to the saddle (after great advice from Mel) because in the first couple miles there is a muddy bog area, a creek, and a couple big hills, all perfect places to lose boots. And I counted 6 easy boots on the trail (others counted 10!)

So we powered along like a locomotive, he'd see the next horse and ratchet it up even higher. The only thing I could do was steer, no cantering allowed, and keep him off of the butt of the horse in front. It was exhausting. That first section (red) is a total blur, but I did get off and walk the big hill into the first vet hold.

We were pulsed down already, but high on respirations. The head vet had set both parameters at 60, concerned about the heat index (with a high temperature of 95 and high humidity we were going to be riding in the danger zone). But within 5 minutes we met both criteria, and vetted through with all As but a B on hydration. I considered putting on boots, but Major was doing great, if the footing got iffy I'd put them on, but I'd wait for the next vet check.

He was still a little crazy as we headed out for the second leg (white). If we were with a  small group, staying in the back, it was great to just move along, But eventually we didn't fit the pace of that group, and I'd move him up, and Major would proceed to scan the horizon for the next group and power towards them, trying to catch every group. This is only my third 50, and I definitely prefer single-track type trails without long sight lines, most of this ride was fire-road sized with views for miles.

lovely ponds, but it was so hot!

There was water everywhere! At the top of every hill there would be a whole collection of troughs. Freshly filled with sparkling water. It was great, and Major drank well all day. No sponging out of the troughs, but scooping was fine, so Major got very wet all day. There were many ponds you could go in as well, but we only waded into one when we were with a like-minded rider, and got to watch the bullfrogs scatter.

We came down another big hill into the 25 mile/lunch vet check. My awesome SO/crew was there, taking some photos, and we untacked the horse and started cooling him off. Again, pulse was down, not quite for respirations. But he came down quickly enough, and vetted through all As, B on gut sounds. The hold was up the top of a short hill, but it seemed long to hike it! Once at the top there was mash of some sort, Major thought it was delicious and ate 2 big containers of wet mash. Then alfalfa. (probably an A on gut sounds now!) I ate a banana and some chocolate milk. I was NOT doing well in the eating department, though I was drinking enough water. The hold went more quickly then I thought (I was hanging with Mel and Farley) and I left about 10 minutes after my out time. The extra rest was nice though.

truly a ridge ride, great views

This section (blue) was the one with the big hill. But we had quite a few miles before we got to it, Major was doing just fine, still charging along trying to catch horses ahead. But I could actually take a few photos, and rode along with Mel for a bit. Then came Berkeley Hill. It didn't look fun, but neither did it look that bad. I'd been scared by stories of people walking up and throwing up, resting along the side. Major just kept power walking, up and up. The trail leveled out, but you could see riders up ahead of us climbing again, so we just kept walking. And got to the top, thinking it wasn't so bad! Good to have enough horse left to think that!
Coming up Berkeley Hill (Not me, Mel and Farley!)

A few more miles brought us to the troughs before the third vet check, and we walked in down the hill. Again, pulse was down, respiration took us an extra 10 minutes of cooling. Again, lots of water was so great! Two friends were here, and both their horses were pulled, one for lameness and one for cramping, I was getting worried! SO was able to come to this stop too, and was such awesome help with refilling my water, untacking, helping scoop, etc. Then we went to the vet. Great score (I think mostly As, I was a bit tired at this point and can't remember). The vet noted that the check was on sharp gravel, and Major didn't like it, but wasn't lame. The vet thought he'd be fine the rest of the trail. Should I put on boots? The dilemma. Major was great on trail, no ouchiness at all. He tells me pretty quickly if his feet are sore, by walking on the sides of the trail. I had no signs, so I continued.

small section of single track

We left the third check and onto purple, the road home! The long road home. This trail did a big almost loop into a really lovely open field area, just a beaten trail through grass. That just kept going and going. I'd ride along with a few people, swap places, drop back, leapfrog again. I was trying to keep a more even pace, but Major did not agree much of the time. When he finally stopped chasing other horse (about 42 miles in) I knew he was a bit tired. Then came a long downhill into the valley. We were by ourselves. And Major was not happy to being led down the trail, he really hates it (we need to work on that). Walk 50 feet, stop, pull on my horse, walk, stop, repeat. I was tired too, I knew we were so close. Are we there yet?

lone rider ahead, Major still trying to catch up

almost done, field of almost dry yellow lupine

At the bottom of the hill a couple people caught up, and Major got a second (third? fourth?) wind. Or maybe he could sense camp was ahead. He tried charging ahead, I got him to walk, but it was a fight. I let another rider pass, and now Major really wanted to catch up! I did let him slower trot to catch up, and we came to the finish about 5pm, a long day!

foreground ears, middle creek, back ridecamp!

As I walked in there was my SO taking more photos, and my family! My Mom, Dad and Sister had all come over to see what all the fuss was about. So they got a sweaty hug, saw the dirty horse, and got to watch for the next half hour as we untacked and cooled Major down, got him a mash ready, and went to the vet. We did the trot out, vet looked him over, proclaimed all As, but just a bit tired and to keep cooling him to get his respirations down even more (criteria for the finish was 68, we were at 60 for both within the 1/2 hour criteria).

I walked Major a couple times, and while tired, he looked pretty great. Pulse and respiration were down, he just just standing quietly resting. He ate about 4 mashes, I tried to make some fancy with yummy stuff, but he wanted his plain beet pulp and grass hay pellets. We stopped by the awards ceremony, where they had already read off my name as 31st (I think?). There were 88 starters and 71 finishers. The first two people into the finish didn't meet criteria. I was glad for the tougher criteria, this was a ride where a horse could get into a lot of trouble.

I went to bed (early!) and didn't plan on walking him in the night, though Major had plans of his own. A loose horse came over and spooked him (all we can think of) and I felt the trailer shake the truck. And woke up to no horse on my high tie! This is why I always sleep in pants! I was out the door in about 5 seconds, and SO was out the other side. SO found Major about 50 feet away, just standing there with his long lead rope, clip and broken velcro strap. I retied him (hard-tied to the trailer this time) and SO tried to catch the other horse, to no avail. It ran off down to the other end of camp, we saw other lights go on, about all we could do right then. (Never did figure out what happened, he isn't a reactive horse, but gets scared with other horses in his space, being low-man in the herd dynamics.)

Of course, then I couldn't sleep, more excitement than I needed! But Major just stood around and chewed hay all night, making lovely poop piles and was happily tied to the trailer in the morning. He had no edema, even after standing around during (most) of the night, legs cold and tight, eating, drinking. We packed camp and headed home that morning, everyone a bit more rested. Two hours later we were home, Major trotted into his pasture and took a big drink of his "own" water.

back home being obnoxious
I checked on him later, walked him around. He is sound and happy (after 50 barefoot miles, awesome!), didn't seem to lose any weight, and wouldn't stand still for a photo (dragging me over to the grass). I am super proud of him. Even at the end he was strong and pulling! Me, not so proud, I need to take care of myself better and try not to let nerves get to me.

Our final stats (GPX file here if interested) say there was 7,915 feet of climbing. Which probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't 95 degrees in early May, when none of us are used to it yet! Major was really strong all day, the only thing I'd love to improve would be the insanity in the beginning. I didn't like him very much as he was tearing my arms off, but I really love my pony. He was brave and strong and did everything I asked.

What a horse.

shamelessly stolen from Charlotte's Web


  1. Great job! What a tough ride; I don't think Dixie and I could've pulled that one off. Too hot too soon, like you said. I'm super impressed that you did it bare - even with good footing, that is no small accomplishment.

    Isn't it a wonderful (maybe a little frustrating, but mostly wonderful) feeling when your horse gets that fifth wind and starts pulling again to get to camp?

    Did he rip the velcro loose or did he manage to break the hi-tie? Scary :(

    1. I was glad he had enough to pull for home, though my arms were pretty tired!

      The high tie is fine. Just the part that velcros on broke. I actually have to look at if more closely to see if the Velcro gave or if something ripped off. It is a cheap thing to fix, I'd been using the same one for a year. Scary but alls well in the end!

  2. Congrats on a great ride and successful finish! Sounds like it was a really tough ride, especially with the heat, but you did a great job of managing him!

    (Also, sent you an email about boots.)

  3. Sounds like an awesome ride and looks so from the photos. I'm totally amazed that you rode it barefoot but it sounds like Major was all systems go. 95 and high humidity sounds like our May-September rides so now that you've done that your ready to come tear up these east coast trails, right? ;)

    When they free themselves it's so scary. Rose freed herself once and attacked (kicked) a free horse that tried to steal her food another time. I've totally become paranoid for the slightest rock of the trailer and deliberately buy more than enough delicious hay so that I can use the sound of her eating as a reassurance that she's still there.

  4. Congratulations! Sounds like a pretty kickass ride despite the heat! Major is such a superstar. I'm really happy to hear the cuts were no big deal at all. Really excited for your 50 mile barefoot completion, that's a pretty awesome achievement on top of everything else you accomplished for the day! The biologist in me loved the little bullfrog aside, too. =)

  5. Congratulations! I read this earlier in a more timely fashion but am just now commenting. That sure is a long and tough 50, great job to you two!