Friday, June 21, 2019

Wild West 50 2019

Some people reel off endurance miles by the thousands. Some of us take eight years to make it to 250 total endurance miles, but we did it! I am so happy for a successful 50-mile completion at Wild West!

This year was a horse roller coaster: abscesses, colic, not enough miles in training (I thought), but I decided to go for the 50 mile ride at Wild West anyway. I knew Major could do the 25 (we had done one 18-mile ride about three weeks ago, our longest training ride of the year), and I thought he was capable of a slow 50. But slow was the key, I needed to keep him sensible (hah!).

in the land of orange
pre-ride: demented beaver log piles (actually for burning!)
anxious horse has to deal with it

Honestly, I was an anxious wreck leading up to the ride. It didn't help that Major's barnmate (who he could care less about at home) had parked near us, the two fool horses kept calling and dancing about when they couldn't see each other. Sigh. Even a pre-ride I thought would settle my nerves didn't help when Major kept worrying about his "friend" back at camp (but I did see a bear!).

heading out

Ride morning started out awful: I was anxious, Major was nervous about his friend, and I just had to breathe and deal with it. I headed out on trail about 10 minutes after the start, I had no idea who was ahead/behind, I just knew I needed to get him moving. I tried to keep him at a dull roar, but by a few miles in my arms were already starting to feel it! I caught up to some riders who did not mind me riding with them at their mostly sensible pace, so we hung back from them (to Major's annoyance) and tried to behave ourselves. This was a 25-mile first loop, and there were some very rocky sections of trail that I slowed Major to a walk for…those sections have been my downfall before at this ride.

it was all a blur

I could not take my hands off the reins for the entire loop. We came in and luckily he was down to 60 already, so our one-hour hold began. After untacking (much thanks to the SO for all his help!) we vetted in all good, and I proceeded to lay on the floor of the trailer trying to decide if I was going to rider-option since I did not particularly like my horse very much right then…

contemplating life laying in the trailer
best vet mash ever

But I didn't. And we headed out only five minutes late (Major was over with my SO eating the vet-check mash, much better than his own (though it looked the same!!)). I was annoyed when he pulled my arms out for another five miles or so, but then he finally seemed to get it. This was another 25 mile loop, and we settled in with a like-minded rider. Their horse was happy to be behind, Major is always happy to be in front, and now he was "winning" the race, and we didn't catch anyone else the rest of the ride.

only photo I took of the lovely view

This section featured an awful get-off-your-horse, super-steep, powdery-dirt-with-big-rocks section, as well as more rocks and not enough water. But after the mid-way troughs the horses perked up on the twisty single-track, and the rest of the ride I pretty much let Major choose what we would do: if he got tired he'd choose to walk, then trot, even a fast power trot as we got close to the finish. I was pretty impressed that he was still going, I was pretty much done!

coming into the finish among the trees

So took this photo of his hot dog!

We crossed the finish line, and then the anxiety begins. Will he vet? We untacked and gave Major a quick sponge-down, but then I wanted to vet right away. I wasn't sure if he was ready, but he sure seemed fine! We walked over to the vet and he was already at 60 (criteria was 64). Trotted him down and back holding my breath, and the vet checked everything else and declared us good. A finish! It had been a long time coming.

really happy with this vet card
four off the floor

For me, putting in all those training time and then having our success is what makes me the most happy. That I did actually judge Major's fitness adequately, that I did put in the miles (about 250 training miles this year, nothing more than 18) and elevation gain (about 30,000 feet, since we can't do much at speed I use this to increase difficulty) that it took to make sure he was fit enough. I'm sure proud of my big, brown beast. Thanks Major.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Report: My perfect ride

Trail: Cronan Ranch in Coloma, CA
Weather: 80 degrees with some big, fluffy clouds.

Horse: Major is so happy on these trails, even repeating trails he thinks is fun!

Users: All the bikes were nice, hikers too.
Tack: No boots were lost.

Distance: 15.5 miles
Elevation: climbing 2,235 feet

Sometimes it is just that simple.

Friday, June 14, 2019


Compromise in relationships can be hard, especially when it means watching your horses butt for three miles down the trail.

three-mile views

But let's back up a bit, because we did do 13 miles before that compromise came about! We headed out of Auburn early, no one else in the staging area and the trails morning-cool. We've had a weird spring and got lots of rain in May, when we usually get almost none! So the trails are green (and still sometimes muddy) and water is flowing everywhere.

we're being followed

We encountered very few people until No Hands bridge. There are usually a few tourists or casual hikers about. Nope. This time an entire school field trip of 30 kids, I'd say about 8-9 years old, were crossing the bridge! To screeching cries of "horsie!" we walked slowly on the opposite side of the tiny horde, who, to their credit, actually listened to their minders and stayed to one side. Major really didn't care, and normally I'd let kids pet him, but that many on the small bridge was just asking for trouble!

little yellow flowers dot the grasses
awesome trail markings!

We continued up the hill over to Cool (best town name ever). We wandered about, this time NOT getting lost like usual, but only because there was a ride and tie scheduled the next day and they had the trail exceptionally well marked! I followed part of the course past ponds filled with croaking bullfrogs and singing birds and thought about how lucky we are to have this access.

blackbird pond

bullfrog pond (covered in cottonwood snow)

Then we started for home, and I once again remembered that Major thinks we are riding the WRONG way. Even though we came from that direction, on that exact same trail! He is an awful slug, and if I get off and walk I am then dragging him to his death. So…we compromised…my horse led home, me tailing down the canyon. We were passed by a couple runners, but Major just kept marching along. I have a tailing rope but was lazy and used my reins…next time the rope! While my reins are 10 feet long my tailing rope is longer, and being a little farther behind so I can see my own feet and not face plant is a better plan! I only almost fell once…Major's tail/butt saved me from face-skidding down the trail.

Back down at the bottom on the canyon I was surprised to see the last of the kids from before walking back across the bridge. The last three (including a girl with horses on her shirt!) got to pet sweaty Major. That is probably the thing they'll most remember about the trip, though they were supposed be learning about gold rush history or nature or something!

nope…Robie Point trail

We had a bit farther to go, and I did drag Major down the Robie Point trail (he also hates that one but it is short and I had to get off and pee anyway) and back to the trailer and trough…where he finally dank after almost 20 miles, arghh. The staging area is looking a bit disheveled because no one has mowed it, but Major thinks it is great for rolling in after getting hosed off!

I'll smash the grass if they won't mow it!

I think we BOTH had a good ride. I believe that compromises and agreements with your horse can only help the relationship. I've got to trust him not to walk us off a cliff, and he knows I'll let him eat mulberry leaves when we get home. Win-win.

the giraffe enjoys mulberry leaves

Monday, June 10, 2019

monday moment: snake!

I am sure many of you have encountered the ringed, articulated black python on your trails. It is one of the largest snakes we see, and Major was quite wary and made sure to keep an eye on it both times we crossed its path. Luckily, it must have recently eaten, as no movement was seen.

the phython sits in wait
and still sits there 3 hours later…

Our usual trails don't have any ringed pythons, just your average venomous snakes (which Major takes no notice of), though this rattlesnake was tiny (but I certainly kept a wide berth as we walked around!)

tiny but fierce!

Keep an eye out, I've heard there are also white line snakes that hunt asphalt roads, and others have reported the python in green!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

slow torture

Slow as a sloth? Or slow as pulling ribbons at a trail trial?

My friend C is a volunteer for a local trail organization. They do good work, but when I went to one meeting, I quickly realized they were not for me (arduously long discussions of such minutia I couldn't stand it.) However, I am glad they exist and that people are not as impatient as I am.

The last few years they have put on a trail trial and it's super close to home, so when C asked if I wanted to help pull ribbons I said sure. She did warn me it might be slow. I figured it is good for Major to walk slowly and behave himself.

We arrived at the location, which is a main parking lot for Folsom Lake. And it was just getting hot, so people were out in droves. With weird blow-up floaties like giant watermelons, flamingos and C even saw an alligator! We'd never been there, but Major wasn't the least concerned (I did keep an eye out for errant rafts!).

Major is obviously very concerned in this new place…

We headed out on trail at 10:30am. It was getting hot, and was very happy I'd put my complete shade visor on my helmet. We walked along nicely for about 15 minutes, pulling ribbons. Two other folks came with us, more the merrier! We got to the first obstacle in the trail trial (some sort of backing around a bush, standing there, I'm not sure), and riders were still working it. So we waiting…about half an hour. And this continued for the whole of the torture session ride.

those annoyed ears say it all…

In 4 hours we went 6 miles. Two days before we'd gone 20 miles in the same time, so I didn't truly blame Major for getting more and more jiggy at each stop. I just got off and held the reins and let him walk circles around me. There is a level of behavior I expect, but standing still for 6 hours is not what I expect from Major, walking around me was fine!

Another torture: through no fault of anyone except Mother Nature, the lake is exceptionally high and many trails are under water. So they had to reroute the trail trial along the unused-by-cars park road. So at least three miles were spent walking on asphalt, though mostly shaded with oak trees. Not our usual lovely trail experience!

that sign says "Closed Area, No motor vehicles!"
There was a cold drink and a peanut butter sandwich (and alfalfa for Major) waiting back at the trailer. They had a lot of participants and people looked to have fun. In the end, as my friend C and I always confirm, no one died and we had an adventure. But maybe next time I'll volunteer for something else!