We're home! We were planning to spend Saturday night and come home today but around 3 yesterday the temperature started dropping and the wind really picked up and the chance of rain sent us tent-dwellers headed home! I like to give Blaze a chance to rest overnight but he probably wouldn't have had any fun standing to the trailer getting stiff in cold winds and/or rain. We were only about 2 hours from home on mostly straight roads so we went for it. It was nice to have a hot shower and sleep in my bed last night! Little sore today but not too bad.
So, the race. Just like last time, despite his complete lack of drinking or eating on training rides Blaze went right into consumption junction mode when we arrived on Friday. He ate two big flakes of oat hay just in the afternoon and grazed every time I walked. He drank from the troughs despite the water being pretty nasty. It was about 88 degrees Friday so he definitely needed to be drinking. We stopped in Yuba City on our way out of town to get ice and foodstuffs and also a canopy because we had Google Earth-ed the camp site and could see there was no shade. GOOD THING we did that or we would have been really hating life Friday. Ride camp is a big open meadow and BLM didn't mow it this year so it was knee high grass and prickers and no shade to be found. Our canopy really saved our butt and since we are both short we had it set super low to block all the sun, it was funny, it looked like Hobbits must be using the canopy we had it set so low. We brought Georgia, the chihuahua, this time so keep Josh company since there wasn't any great fishing to distract him with. She had a heck of a time wading through all that tall grass but I confess it was nice to have her along! She is my constant companion.
It cooled off nicely Friday night and we cooked up some steaks on our camp stove, yum! There was a 50 mile ride, 25 mile ride, 25 mile Ride & Tie, and 15 mile Ride & Tie, so it was a pretty busy race morning. We 25 milers didn't start til 8 am which is interesting, I've never started so late. It would have been a bummer to start that late if it were a really hot day but it wasn't too bad and there was a pretty consistent breeze throughout the day. Blaze was such a cool customer at the start of the last race I thought I would try starting in his S Hackamore..haha, bad plan! Luckily I had my snaffle on another set of bit hangers in my pack so about 100 yards past the starting line I pulled over and switched it out because he was absolutely losing his mind. It was a pretty chaotic start with people taking off, then some pulling over, some passing, and then a pretty big creek crossing only 1/4 mile after the start, so some horses wouldn't do it, people were piling up, etc. Blaze charged through that creek crossing like nothing, despite being almost up to his belly and we were off. I didn't wait til the end of the pack to go, I went towards the back but not last. I was very aware of time as I didn't want to finish over time like Whiskeytown. The first miles it was still cool and shady and pretty flat so I figured we better jam while it was nice. Blaze and I are still figuring each other out over distances (in new places, anyway) and since I didn't know the trails again I was sort of flying blind. I certainly didn't realize that essentially the whole ride is hills!! I got a little worried as the climb up just kept going and going, and then when you started to go downhill and thought you were done, it was time to go back up again! I walked B up almost all the hills and even got off and hand walked up the steepest, just to try to save as much of his energy as possible. He was fighting me pretty hard the first few miles but I eventually was able to use horses glimpsed far ahead of us as an inspiration to trot out strongly but in control. I made the mistake of using new equipment without testing it and paid the price a little bit but it worked out in the end; I have a pommel bag with two water bottle holders but knew that wasn't enough to keep me hydrated and be able to get water on B so I bought a Camel Pak but forgot to check that it had a lower strap to go under the rib cage to keep it secure. It had a snap that goes across the chest but with Blaze's "oh my god, horses in front of me! GAH!" early behavior which translated to a horrendous, pogo stick straight up and down trot, the Camel Pak was bouncing up and down on my shoulders, rubbing them raw and driving me nuts. I had an immediate genius idea that I would use my vet wrap and wrap it around the CP and then around me, thereby making my own belly strap but went to my cantle bag to get the wrap and discovered when I took out my snaffle I forgot to re-zip the bag and my hoof pick and vet wrap had fallen out. So the first loop, 15 miles, I rode with the reins in one hand and my other hand holding the bottom of the Camel Pak so it wouldn't bounce so horrendously. We jammed pretty hard that whole loop, walking uphills, trotting and cantering flats, and I ran beside B downhills. I like jogging the downhill actually because when I ride him downhill he either a) walks down them so painfully slowly I can't even tell we're moving or b) trots down them way too fast and trips and almost face plants. So jogging beside him was great as he kept a nice, safe, controlled jog next to me and we still made good time without risking him at all. I haven't done much running at all since my broken leg a year and a half ago but it went pretty well! I wore breeches and sneakers, no half chaps (thanks to Elicia for that suggestion) and it was great! Definitely wore my ankle brace and that was important. We came into the lunch time vet check in about 2 hrs and 40 minutes, pretty good for us and a 15 mile loop of pure hills! He pulsed right down which was AWESOME. Craig Brown, the vet from Oroville that we saw at Whiskeytown did our vet check and we got all As and he said Blaze was a "good, solid little horse" Agreed, Craig, agreed! We hiked up the hill to the spot where everyone was eating and Josh had brought the truck and our ice chest and Blaze's mash ingredients etc. I'm guilty of being an uptight bitch when I come into lunch checks, there is that time limit and all I care about it getting Blaze fed and watered so Josh is pretty much a very good guy to crew for me and put up with my not-so-charming moments. It will get easier as I get used to it again, get my routine ironed out, and also once I am doing rides (a few I know this year but these same rides again next year) that I am familiar with. Being unfamiliar with the terrain definitely adds a little stress! Oh, and I feed Blaze Bar Ale feeds that I hand mix into a wet mash for him but at the race they had a Bar Ale Distance Plus pelleted feed that was everything I hand mix concentrated into one pelleted feed! And Blaze ate the crap out of it. So I am calling my feed store this morning for them to order me some, luckily they are big Bar Ale customers.
We headed out of the vet check after Blaze majorly tanked up on water (yay yay yay). We had to climb the big hill we had just come down so I walked all the way up. Bonnie, the lady that ran Whiskeytown ride and loved Blaze so much, was riding her palomino on the 50 and left the lunch check at the same time so we chatted a bit on the way up to the hill. Her horse walked faster than Blaze of course so she was soon on out of sight. We trucked along the flats again, I ran down a couple of hills, and then I caught up with 3 other 25 milers and ended up riding with them the last 5 miles to the finish. They were going the same speed I was and it was nice to tuck in with someone else. We jammed down the final hill (yep, definitely like jogging next to B better than riding down them) and as we were coming to the finish other 25 milers started catching us. We fell behind our group for a minute but Blaze broke into a beautiful, collected but ground covering canter across the last big meadow and caught them again. We charged back across the stream we had crossed at the start and power trotted back to camp. Pulsing and vet check were right in camp at the Vet station so I got off Blaze and walked him the last 1/4 mile or so and then pulled his saddle and sponged him the second we got to P& R. A gal check him once and he was a little high but she checked him again about a minute later and he was pulsed down. Blaze had a big drink while we waited for final vet check, then got A's and a couple of B's on the final exam. We ended up finishing 24th out of 31 riders in about 5 hours 45 minutes (including the 1 hr lunch hold, so 4 45 riding). Blaze did so well and as usual got lots of compliments and kinds words on how cute and quiet he is. I sponged him thoroughly, gave him a mash, and put on his polar fleece as soon as the wind started getting nasty. We were going to stay for the awards but we were all packed and loaded at 5 and it was getting worse by the minute so we decided to just check what place I got and split. Oh, we were camped next to some really nice people from Humboldt county that did the Ride & Tie and got their email, they are really cool and can't wait to ride and camp with them again.
All in all, a great time!