As I sit here in front of my computer feeling far more crippled after 30 miles than it is fair for a regular (read consistent) endurance rider to be, I am sore and tired and my back hurts and--Wait, When is the Next Ride again??
Don't be alarmed, I'm crippled in a good way! No incidents or accidents, just 30 miles of good ole kidney/back pounding fun on my air-lift ride, Blaze. I have officially confirmed that my body is more torn up riding an LD on him (even now, with him moving better barefoot and with me 20 lbs lighter and more fit than last year) than riding 100 miles on Desire. I "hovered" in some sort of 2 pt/not posting for at least half of the ride on Blaze yesterday and that was a good thing to give myself a break from the epic posting (he throws you about a foot out of the saddle)--but Oh, Yeah, I am feeling it today. People love to query why I don't jump into 50s with Blaze, maybe I should just let them take him for trot and see if they still wonder!
To begin at the beginning, I'm a mean horse mom and decided to wash Blaze Friday morning before we left. It was 75 degrees in the shade by 7 am so I wasn't particularly worried about chilling him and washing him any day prior would be foolishly erased by the 4,395 rolls he took before we actually left. So Friday morning it was. Of course despite the fine weather his hind quarters started shivering lightly by the time I rinsed the conditioner off so I felt guilty and had to let him move around and warm up. I figured if I put him in the "aisle" that runs between our stand of Italian Cypress and the paddocks (aisle can be shut off on each end with hot tape) he would roll but at least it wouldn't be in the epic little pig sty dirt hole he has created in his paddock. He let me know what he thought about the whole thing by immediately rolling, but also cantering back and forth, bucking and putting on a big ole show, too! Always nice to see high spirits from your mount on the morning you leave for an endurance ride!
It was 90 miles from our door to ride camp. The drive was quite easy from our place to Auburn and then sent me back to childhood with the hairpin turns on the 49. A very windy but relatively short bit of road and before we knew it we found camp! The people at check in directed me to my camping spot next to D, my hoof care expert, who brought her home bred Arabian, Launi, for his first LD. She was majorly nice enough to speak up for me so when we got there we found not only friendly faces to camp next to, but a sturdy, empty horse camp corral for Blaze! Such luxury since my mounts are generally quite unglamorously tied to my 2 horse Miley at rides. The corrals were permanently installed and part of the very nice horse camp setting, there were a few scattered around camp but not many and it was very nice of D to save us one.
Launi was waiting to welcome Blaze :)
Setting up the sweet digs:
Launi and Blaze took to each other right away and alternated between sharing food and trying to nibble on each other's faces passive aggressively. Blaze was gelded late and has some stallion-esque tendencies, he has always maintained neat stallion piles where he lives and if he lives with a mare he is a total Herd King snot and has been known to mount mares in the field. Launi is about 7 and was gelded 2 years ago, with foals on the ground, so he appreciates the ladies himself. You can almost imagine them chatting up the chicks together ;)
Let's be friends and bite each other:
Camping effort was minimal, with the ride so close to home and a shorter ride day overall we downsized the Arabian Nights compound a bit:
Funder was there to do the 50, while D, my regular training buddy N, and I were all planning on the 30. Here we are in the middle of a no-doubt serious ride camp chat fest:
My Crew Husband and the 2 sidekick pocket dogs came along since it was going to be a short trip, and as usual they were quite popular in camp.
Wilbur the Wonder Wiener
I was recruited to trot out Launi for D, he is hugely tall and she is, well, not! He was lagging it in his pre-ride vet check and causing some concerns for the vet so we did a practice run and then re-checked him through:
trotting the Launi-Moose:
Don't forget important pre-ride activities like reading your welcome packet. Don't study too hard though, soon you'll be at the ride meeting where 5 ppl will tell you 6 different answers and none of it will make sense anyway. Just look for ribbons!
Blaze does not require a pre-ride of any sort but I was bored waiting for the 8 pm ride meeting while being simultaneously too lazy to do the whole tacking up thing. Plus I needed to visit Funder's camp and say hi to Dixie. And thus, bareback riding over for a chat and back (with a beer) was born.
Ride meeting was how most ride meetings are: long, sometimes painfully confusing as 8 people ask the same question at different times and occasionally get different answers..I was used to being on the 50 so was all ears at first, then remembered I was on the LD so tuned out..by the end I was cold and hungry and had concluded that my ride strategy was much the same as it had been before the meeting: Ignore Babble, Follow Ribbons.
The 30s had an 8 am start which meant that I was up by about 4:30 and seriously twiddling my thumbs by 7 am. Then I found the green glitter in the horse trailer and some time passed bedazzling Blaze's number and a heart on his other flank:
Launi and Blaze ready for action..or eating
Here comes N and Willow! Ready for the ride
Ta da! Here is the home team from the Lake Oroville trails, ready for the GC 30 :)
Corral buddies ready for the trail:
N's Game Face! She means business--and so did Willow!
Away down the start we go:
Oh, and the footing? Fan-frickin-tastic! Okay yeah there were occasional tree root/rock sections (very short,) some weird cement blocks kinda half sticking out of a few short climbs (easily avoided), but on the whole the footing was great: either single track trail, shady dirt logging roads, or gravel road, but that was always shady and pretty friendly for gravel road. Hills were minor, mostly very short, sometimes steep, but we couldn't even tell which was "Their Hill" as in THE hill of the ride, so that tells you something--and really, after
Cruising the forested trails with Nikki and Willow
I hadn't been planning to ride with anyone, in fact I didn't have much of a plan, since Blaze is pretty reasonable and you can never count on what everyone *else* has planned that may or may not affect your ride start. I think anywhere from 5-10 riders left before us and then I saw N strike off in a perfect gap in the riders and decided to tuck in "behind" her (like a 1/2 mile, for starters). Soon enough Blaze got whiff of the ride spirit and picked up a fantastically lifty, bouncy trot and we caught them, and from there we rode the entire way together! It was so cool to do the whole ride with a regular riding friend from my home trails, and particularly with N, since we have a blast riding together. Willow, she of the shying, spooking, uncertain, unmotivated behavior at Lake Oroville trails, was channeling Desire right down to the way her boots smacked the ground purposefully all morning. I had never seen that side of Willow before and I was impressed. Sure she was also channeling Desire in that she was a bit checked out and goey at times but N was her match and they led the way probably 70% of the ride. I have to stress again how mind boggling that is, since often Willow won't lead for even 500 ft on our training rides at home without stopping/balking/shying. Clearly she has a much higher opinion of new trails and a little competitive spirit!
The first miles went well, Blaze was perfectly happy to trot along behind Willow, he has much shorter legs but has incredible reach, I was at 2 pt on his back trucking a 10 mph trot easily which feels very different on a 14 hand horse than on a bigger one! I even told N I swear his feet weren't hitting the ground at some points.
We had an interesting little interaction with a rider on the trail and N and I were both rolling our eyes so hard we might never have gotten them back to the front of ours heads if it had gone on any longer. Out on the trail we came up behind a rider just walking along on her horse so we said hello and proceeded to pass but she immediately let her horse pick up the trot right next to me and then go faster and faster so that all of a sudden the 3 of us were in a foot race. N and I slowed back to the walk, rolled our eyes, and watched as the woman slowed back to a pokey walk not far in front of us. Okay, we decided to try again and this time N merrily announced we were passing on the right, only for the woman to take off again, cut off N, and charge along. This happened a third time and by then we weren't into this 3 horse race situation AT ALL and in fact were pretty appalled by her trail etiquette or lack thereof. N happened to recognize her later as a longtime rider and Tevis winner, which is ironic in and of itself. Luckily a sharp left turn came up in the trail and we managed to pass her and take off without any more issue.
Blaze gets Quench electrolytes in his feed daily but I totally spaced syringing electrolytes in the morning (coz you know, I didn't have enough time..eerrr umm..) so I gave him a dose at about 12 miles out. Then the regular troughs suddenly dried up and we didn't see another drop of water until mile 21 or so. 9 miles isn't long, it's true, but the great softer footing and time of year made for a lot of dust and we were keeping up a good pace, so we were at map checking-re-checking point by the time those 21 mile water troughs showed up. Both horses took long, I mean LONG, drinks there, I even spaced out completely in my brain for a minute or two and when I tuned back in Blaze was still drinking. Impressive. He then stopped at each of the 4 water troughs on his way by and drank from each. Love!
It was only 2.5 miles to the vet check at that point and we followed the very well marked trails (complete with ribbons, signs, paper plates, and chalk work) down a narrow winding alley trail through the pygmy and trotted until we saw the 1/4 Mile to Check sign. We dismounted, loosened girths, I pulled Blaze's bit, and went to pulse in. Basically, I was operating like I was riding Desire, who's pulse will drop like a stone if it isn't already down, by doing those basic things. Blaze is not Desire, and was always slower to pulse down. He was at 68 bpm his first check but he drank, started eating while I poured water on his neck, took a long pee, and was down below criteria in a couple of minutes. I got the usual helpful hints to not let him eat for pulsing, but then maybe you should but then maybe you shouldn't--and took my daily grain of salt. There are so many answers and options and shades of grey in this whole endurance thing, every horse really does behave differently and taking anything anyone says as gospel truth does NOT do you any favors. So smile, remember that YOU know your horse, and proceed accordingly.
Blaze and Willow chowing at the vet check:
Just as I snapped an Eating picture Willow's head snapped up and it became a Posing picture
All told we were 5 minutes behind Willow for our out time but N kindly waited for us and after stuffing our faces, vetting through (all As with B for gut sounds), getting a glimpse of D still alive and on board Launi (hooray!) we were off for the last 7.5 miles to the finish. Willow started to slow down and lost her motivation as leader at the point so Blaze took over and was more than happy to charge along at a good trot. It was a relief to switch up to some cantering in there too, I train him at the canter fairly regularly and think I might do so more, since his trot takes so much out of me.
We emerged out of the trees to the finish line and the kind volunteers clapping for us. There was some general confusion and misinformation spread around but basically we had to pulse to 60 for our Completion and then had 1/2 hr to do the final vet check. I hadn't realized how close to camp we were so we were trotting right to the finish line and it took Blaze a couple minutes to pulse down but he did in short order and that was that!
Cooling Blaze at the finish:
Gut sound bribery..you know you wanna eat it..
I love this pic, he looks soooooo cute and small:
Cleaning him up for the Vet Check, good boy eating
Willow and Blaze final Vet Checks:
Cute little pony trot out :)
Blaze is always making friends, see that tilt to the tall vet's head? Can't you just hear him saying "awww hiii" Yep, everyone does
Some leg love for snoozingBlaze:
D and Launi were back and Finished when we were done vetting and she was happy to report a successful first LD for her big boy. I trotted him at the vet for her again and he got his Completion,
yay Launi and D!
While the husband packed, I stuffed my face with Strawberry Crepes and ride dinner, and we were on the road and home before dark. It was a great ride and a great performance by Blaze and all our local horsey buddies who went. See you at the next ride!