Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cuyama XP 2012

*This is going to be looonng, because it was a long, amazing, unforgettable experience that included many firsts for me. You've been warned!!

Saturday PM--Catching up

To begin from the beginning...We met A at the Hwy 20 and I-5 junction in Williams on Wednesday around noon. We were there 10 or so minutes before her and let the dogs and horse out for a walk about. It was breezy and chilly but that's much preferable to straight up rain.

It was sad to say goodbye to my noble little pups, but i knew I would see them soon.

Soon A arrived and we threw all my junk into her rig.

We're ready for the road!

It was about a 10 hour drive to camp near New Cuyama, but you could have fooled me, the drive went by really quickly even as a passenger. We stopped and let the horses out to graze and relax, made a fuel stop and a food/water tank filler stop (“Oh yes, we’re just filling a few little buckets” I assured the gas station guy when I asked to use the spigot and hose outside the station.) And then we were there! We pulled into ride camp at about 11 pm Wednesday night and parked just inside and to the right of one of the gates, figuring we’d find a better spot in the morning. The horses went out on their Hi-Ties in blankets with yet more food --Desire ate non stop the whole trailer ride and was round as a little piglet when we got there!-- and we crawled into our beds. 

Ride camp, Thursday morning:

Thursday we had all day to get sorted out, relax, and say hullo to people. Turns out our parking spot was actually kinda perfect, since it was near the porto-potty (we had a toilet in the much-beloved borrowed LQ trailer but wanted to save water for as many showers as possible), a big trough was right across the from us, and A’s stallion had his own sort-of private spot made by his side of the trailer and a screening row of bushes 10 or 15 ft behind him. A few of the older ladies *coughbusybodiescough* thought we were too close to the gate entrance and would block the larger rigs getting in but we confirmed with the Duck’s wife that we were fine and many a large rig fit past us as more riders arrived throughout the day and evening.

We saddled up late Thursday morning and took the horses out for a leg stretcher. A’s stallion, Alamahn, is such a handsome guy and he moves beautifully. He is a really quality horse citizen as well as being a beautiful stud, A has done an amazing job with him. We rode side by side on mare and stallion and chatted away, no issues. They camped great together too.

Out for a leg stretcher

After our mellow ride, maybe 5 miles of walking and a few short trots, we spent the rest of Thursday eating, getting our crew bags ready, eating some more, relaxing, and maybe a little more eating. Sharing all the good stuff out of your respective coolers is part of the joys of camping, I think. A made these little pita pocket situations with hummus, cheese, peppered turkey, and lots of greens, and they’re frickin amazing, I have to buy hummus and pockets and replicate it at home. 

I hadn't gotten a spare size 1 Glove for Desire before the trip as I had intended, but we were camped across from Trailwise Tack and the nice lady there sold my a Glove and let me borrow her fly spry--major oversight, there were gnats and should have brought our own--and also gave me a sample of her homemade fly deterrant/healing salve which I'll have to try. Desire gets sores on her belly from the bugs in the summer and I have to keep something on it at all times. I usually use War Paint but I'll try this stuff too!

Ride camp Thursday afternoon:

We vetted our horses in in the evening, which was of course very different than a regular AERC vetting in. I got to meet the infamous Duck at last, and the vet check was a gums check, skin tenting, gut sounds, and a trot out away, with an “Okay” from the Duck you were vetted in and good to go. No rider cards, we filled out our name and horse’s name on index cards at ride meeting and put them in a box as our official entry for riding the next day. On the back of the index cards was a little mock-up vet card with all the criteria filled in with As, lol. We got maps at ride dinner and I was a little unnerved when Duck said things like “after that, there’s no more ribbons, just go with it” but A assured me we would find our way. We dropped off our crew bags at the meeting, and that was my first use of my snazzy Snugpax crew bag that I’ve had for a year now, haha. I had filled it with alfalfa and grass flakes in the hay compartment, Desire’s cooler, more water bottles, duct tape and vet wrap, Ziplocs of two different kinds of grain, and some granola bars. I clipped my small bucket to one of the outside zippers, too.

Crew bag maiden voyage:

Ride meeting, Thursday PM:

My cooler went out with my crew bag so Desire borrowed a sheet from Alamahn. What a ladylike bite of hay!

After dinner and meeting we walked the horses again and went to bed pretty early. By this point I was bouncing back and forth between being really nervous and feeling really jazzed and ready for my first 50, it was kind of a mercy to quite the emotional yo-yoing and get to bed in my cozy flannel lined sleeping bag. P.s. flannel lined anything is EPIC.

 Evening ride camp:

A and I were up at 5 Friday morning though there wasn’t really much to do before the 7 am start. She fed both the horses early so they were munching away and our saddle bags were already packed so we had some hot tea in the trailer and I tried not to hide in the corner and breath into a paper bag. Lol, I wasn’t really that bad, but I definitely had that squirmy feeling in my stomach. We tacked up at 6:30 and rode out to warm up just before 7. A mentioned sometimes the starts didn’t happen exactly on time and that was the case this time. 

A's game face, Friday morning at ride start:

Desire was fired up, jigging in circles and absolutely unable to stand still so we rode around the meadow like everyone else, keeping moving. We let the majority of the riders head out on the start first, looking for a good spot to start in. You know, scoping for horses going bananas and letting them leave first! Of course Desire wasn't exactly the picture of composure either, but she wasn’t terrible, just prancey and sometimes more sideways than forward. We finally decided to join the stream of riders going out, but then the “we’re late!” people started passing us right away and as they trotted by Desire got more and more pissed off at being held back.

Leaving from the start:

 It was all I could do to keep her in a straight line as they trotted past, since she wanted to swing sideways which would have put her butt in the passing lane. Things were feeling a little dicey when a lady on a REALLY nutty horse came trotting/jigging/shimmying up behind us. The energy of the two horses clashed horribly and Desire was instantly worse. I turned her around to face back towards camp so she would see A and her stallion not far behind us, just in time to see the other jazzed horse as it started backing at speed up over the bank and through the rough ground behind it, then surged forward past us back to the trail and suddenly, where a broken sharp culvert and chunk of rusty fence went under and to the right of the trail, the horse just threw itself sideways off the trail and fell heavily, the woman riding him hitting the rocks and screaming bloody murder the whole way down. It was DRAMATIC. She quickly got up and apologized for screaming while her horse, a Mustang, trotted around loose at high speeds. A couple people moving out ahead of us stopped and blocked the way and there were 4 or 5 of us blocking the other way, and the horse was quickly caught. The lady led her horse back to camp and I guess that was that. A little disconcerting, to say the least. 

We headed out again and Desire was still jigging, then she got worse again as a couple more pairs caught up and passed us. She kept trying to go sideways as we were next to small but significant drop offs from the edge of the trail and it was seriously pissing me off. That's just part of riding a competitive Arab though, yes?! Due to weather concerns the trails for the day had been switched so that Friday was the hardest day, with the biggest hill climb, an approx 5,000 ft  switchback ascent to a Duck-worth awesome view.

 View from the trail before the mountain climb:

A got a great photo of us:

 Desire and I had a pretty much non-stop battle up the mountain, she wanting to race everyone and everything in sight and me wanting her to take it easy up the hill, and trot out at around 8-9 mph on the flat spots. Far too rational a plan for miss mare, she jigged and sidled and was just generally a pain in the ass. One gal that passed us early in the morning on the trail said, “I’m sorry, been there!” as she rode past. I was definitely frustrated BUT it was so exciting to be at a ride, in my first 50, my first ride with Desire, there was lots to think about and see besides my silly mare. A was riding with us and we leap frogged with a few pairs up the mountain and finally out of the fog--there was even some tiny patches of snow on the climb!--to an awesome view:

At the top the leaders started passing us on their way back down the hill, and Desire got totally confused. For the first time she wasn’t pulling to go-go-go, she was walking as briskly as she could, sometimes stopping of her own accord to look behind her, then in front again, hesitate in total confusion, and then walk on when I queued her. LOL. It was tooooo funny, she was obviously conflicted on which direction we should be taking to effectively pass everybody. Of course in reality we were near the very back of the pack but in Desire’s brain all morning we were racing for first. I enjoyed the walking, and was pretty amused by her confusion, but we made our way steadily along the top of the mountain and it was nice to finally enjoy a normal gait on her after our jiggity jig all the way up.

Finally walking, looking for imaginary people top pass, focused ears:

 People started saying “not long now!” as they went back past us and soon we came around a corner and saw the run around spot. We called in our names to the Duck, gave the horses a bite of grain, and that was that, time to head back down the mountain.

Below, Karen Chaton is in Renegade orange to the left of the truck, and the Duck is standing in front of the truck! Got to meet some XP legends :-)

Heading back down the mountain, photo evidence of So Cal snow!

I knew I didn’t want to jig down the mountain for the longevity of my body and I was pretty sure that was going to be Desire’s plan, so once we got back on the downhill trail A and I both got off to lead our horses on foot. She took off jogging and with her and Alamahn’s longer legs they were soon a few turns ahead of us. Desire and I jogged along, with me playing helicopter with the end of the reins to keep her from charging past me. She doesn’t have the best ground manners even at home, it's a constant work in progress, and on the ride she was ahead of my shoulder and well on her way to dragging me if I didn’t keep on her constantly. I saw a flat and short uphill stretch coming and was getting tired of the helicopter game so jumped back on and trotted til we rounded the corner to the next downhill section. I caught up with A here and we passed Dave Rabe and the Renegade riders a little in front of him, A still jogging and Desire actually moving nicely at  a slow jog downhill, very under herself for once. 

Out of the blue I heard a big diesel engine revving and turned to see the Duck barreling down the hill with horses and riders jumping out of his way. He was calling “emergency, I’ve got to get by!” out the window and luckily we came around a corner then and had a big spot to pull off into as he flew by. That got everyone worried of course, no one wants the vet/ride manager in a panic over a mysterious emergency. After A remounted and we set off at a slog jog down the hill, we soon heard a helicopter and a rider we passed said they saw it landing down near the lunch stop. We were concerned but also enjoying the trail, as there were some wildflowers to be seen and luscious grass beside the trail on the way down, the horses had a bit of the edge off and could be talked into stopping to snatch big bites every few minutes. Near the bottom we saw the helicopter take off and when we reached the bottom of the mountain again we trotted along the flat at a good clip toward the 25 mile mark and lunch stop. I caught a glimpse of the tail end of an ambulance pulling away as we rounded a corner and sure enough a few bends later there was a fire truck turning around and the ambulance driving out. Not good signs! 

Getting closer to the bottom and lunch stop:

We got to the spot where we had to dismount to go through a gate and then walked the horses into the lunch stop, once again playing helicopter with the reins to keep Desire from charging away in front of me. We came in at 12:05, so just over 25 hard miles in 5 hours.  At the lunch stop we heard rumors that the helicopter etc was for a rider who had been hurt by an out of control loose horse.   :(

There was no vetting in, we just gave our names to a gal at the water troughs and then collected our crew bags and found a space out of the way to park ourselves. A watched the horses while I retrieved hot dogs, chips, and lemonade for both of us. My GOD, a burned hot dog never taste so good as after 25 miles up and down a mountain on a fresh mare!

 I was feeling really good though, and ready for another 25 miles, which was exciting as this was going to be the true test. Up to that point I had only been doing Lds so would have been done or 5 miles from done. I felt good and ready for more, especially after eating. Desire hadn’t drunk a lot at the couple of water stops on the trail but she tanked up at the lunch stop and ate a little grain and a good amount of alfalfa. A and I pooled our grain and hay resources so we were offering both horses every sort of grain and hay. They both ate well and when we saw a lull at the vet line we took them over for a quick skin tenting, gums, trot out, “okay” and we were good to go. At 1:05 we’d returned our crew bags, put bits back in, tightened girths, and were heading back out. 

Leaving lunch:

We had come into the lunch stop bunched into a group of 6 or 8 riders so just out of lunch there was a little passing and then A and I were settled into a quiet pocket again in no time. The trail got a little hairy for a few minutes, it was quite brushy and narrow and wound around, next to, and through a stream with big hoof+ sized rocks to go over. Desire was excited to go but was clever enough to realize this wasn’t the sort of ground to try to trot over so we picked our way through it successfully and then came around a corner and up a little hill to some wider dirt trails out in the open again. A was a little behind us and we trotted the flats and power walked the up hills, steep short little hills where I grabbed mane and got up off her back. 

Lunch stop falling away into the distance as we climbed and wound through some more short hills:

Desire started getting squirrelly suddenly and I looked back to see a guy on a paint coming for us at a good clip, so I chose a little hole in the bushes to tuck miss D into and he called thanks as he jammed by. I could see him off and on as we alternated climbing and descending in the wide open desert spaces, it was reassuring that I was on the right track though there weren't really any confusing spots and all turns were well marked. I had the map but hadn’t needed to get it out at all. From that point on, probably about 28 miles out, it was just Desire and I for a while. A was behind us somewhere and the guy on the paint had disappeared in front. Desire was moving out really nicely, walking briskly and trotting whenever I even thought of asking her to. We wound around the hills for a while and then came down onto the flats again in sight of ride camp. Desire was pretty interested in the whole ride camp situation but the trail turned off to the east and we headed away from camp again. 

She seemed a little confused but was willing enough, and then got snorty and spooked at the water trough at the turning point, which was full of weird oily water and bees. Not very appetizing! But I made her walk up and sniff it since it was so scary at first. On the last descent into the flats I had seen a group near the trough that had then trotted away out of sight, so again was comforted that I was on the right track. After the oily trough we trotted out along the flat dirt road at a good clip, and I started to get the first pangs of a head ache. My hair is so insanely thick it’s like an insulating layer and that plus the helmet in the baking sun are a terrible mix. I have to figure out something to help with it, some sort of super skinny cold pack I can put in there or something because without fail my head cooking gets me into trouble every time there’s  a ride with lots of sun exposure. It resulted in heat stroke at Patriot’s Day at Lake Almanor last year and I could feel my head starting to roast on the trail now too. I sampled my water bottles again to reaffirm which had the electrolytes--the saltier one!-- and started pounding that and my other water like it was going out of style. I was determined not to have my XP experience ruined by heat stroke or a migraine. 

About this time there was a few forks in the road/trail and I got out my map for the first time, which promptly resulted in total confusion and worry as maps often do. I checked and thought I was on the right path and then just gave up and decided to follow my instinct as it was much less alarming than my map. Around another corner we spotted a group at a water trough a half mile or so ahead so I was reassured of the trail once again. By the time we got there they were out of sight, but Desire was so worried about looking for them and if anyone else might be coming behind her that she only took a little sip at the trough and half chewed one handful of grain. We set off again and after a long trot came to a right hand turning up a hill and a little wire gate you had to get off to open and close. I’d been chugging water and trying to ignore the niggling little headache and by that point had to pee which I did without shame next to the trail after closing the gate. Ahhh, feeling better and ready to fill the bladder back up again as soon as possible. 

We headed off on another short section of winding on a narrow trail and then came to another gate to open and close. I saw a couple of riders out ahead of me a few turns after the gate on the big open road trail again, but they were soon out of sight. We trotted along the road where acceptable and walked a few more hills, then came to a spot with some really nice grass and I made Desire pull over and she grazed immediately. I had done the math and was thinking I had 4 hours to do 17 miles and it was (relatively) hot and I needed to be smart. I sucked down more water as she grazed and then a trio of ladies came around the corner and passed us after stopping for a few bites of grass for their horses. Desire was surprisingly calm about them passing her, I think she was still slightly confused as to what the situation was and would take a bite, stop chewing and stare around her, then take another bite, try to leave, and repeat. Once she lost any interest in grazing we continued on.

After a few miles I caught site of A’s pink helmet coming around a corner behind us and between her coming toward us and the three ladies in front of us we would see once in a while, Desire was again stumped as to who to worry about. We were at about 37 miles by that point and I was glad to have company again, so I pointed Desire back the way we had came and waited a minute or two for A to catch up. It was good to ride with her again and soon we were winding through another narrow, rocky, brushy section, Desire following behind Alamahn. I had to make sure she was actually paying attention to the challenging footing instead of just locking onto his butt and blindly rushing forward, but that was doable. We came to a big metal gate and A jumped off and opened and closed it for us, and at the trough just past it Desire finally drank long and deep. 

The gatekeeper:

We wound up a really neat little mini canyon and then back down to someone’s homestead for another stop at a trough and I jumped off to pee again. My hydration plan seemed to be working alright, my headache was still nagging but wasn’t getting out of control and I was still enjoying the ride though my right ankle was getting pretty sore by that point. With the mileage and the running in the morning the ole metal ankle wasn’t feeling too hot but I stretched it out of the stirrup as often as possible and it was holding up well enough. 

We had some fun trotting blasts away from the homestead and around the narrow, open, dirt trails, following ribbons on the bushes. The horses broke into an easy canter at one point and we caught sight of a group of riders climbing a short very steep hill ahead of us so we slowed to walk up it. We passed a guy ¾ of the way up who was NOT happy about climbing the hill, his horse was clearly tired and apparently so was he. At the top of that hill there was another super steep short section that the group of 4 or 5 riders we’d seen were now heading up on foot, and we climbed it easily and then passed them for a minute but as soon as they remounted they charged past us at a way faster trot than we were interested in. After that little leap frog session Desire and Alamahn were both fired up and even as we were nearing 55 miles they were both strong and fresh and wanting to charge it. I was both tired by and extremely impressed with my mare, considering this time last year she was heavily in foal with Sheza, and this was only her third endurance ride ever. Sure she had been proving a challenge but there was no doubt she had the toughness and fitness for it. 

The ride photographer, Lynn Glazer, got a flat on the long drive up the top of the mountain we rode up so unfortunately there weren't any ride photos from Saturday. A played ride photographer for me for a minute though! :-)

We realized we were back on the trail to go back into camp and almost on auto pilot I almost turned left at the gate for camp but the ribbons actually told us to loop out and around for a last half mile or so and then we were finally there! A bunch of ribbons told us we had finally done it and were heading into camp, so we jumped off, took off bits and helmets, and loosened girths. We pulsed right in at the finish and had a successful trot out and that was that!

 We had successfully completed our first 50 with no real issues, no boots coming off, and a happy, healthy, eating, drinking, pooping, peeing horse! And a mostly fine, very happy rider with a sore ankle! We finished at 5 pm so had a 10 hour go of it. At ride dinner we found out it had been a 55 miler and it sure was a variety of pretty tough terrain but it was beautiful and awesome and rewarding and my horse is a rock star!

Happy campers after 50 miles:

Desire was still pulling me around on her evening walk, fresh as can be. Ride dinner was freakin delicious and we found out A finished 69th and I was 70th  out of 86 completing riders (though not sure that's totally accurate, have to check results). We finally found out about the whole helicopter, ambulance incident, apparently a horse had gotten loose and taken a guy out and he was taken by helicopter to the hospital. We were told he had no broken bones but some sort of bleeding and was being monitored at the hospital. Hopefully he is doing much better by now! There was an injury due to a loose horse at the last XP too, pretty scary. We saw so many people getting dragged around camp by their horses, it's pretty interesting to see the different horse and rider relationships and lack thereof. Desire is by no means perfect but she was certainly manageable and wasn't a danger to anyone else, aside from me at times! 

We were both too tired to even bother showering Friday night and were in bed in no time.  I still had a nagging light head ache and it persisted into Saturday, but I slept pretty well and was up to see A off and take Desire for a walk, as Desire was *pissed* to not be heading out with the other horses and was going bananas on her Hi-tie. She calmed down after a long walk and a drink at the trough and then was pretty mellow back at the trailer so I crawled back into bed. It was foggy and really cold in the morning without a horse pulling your arms out of your sockets! I bundled up and went back to bed then woke up abruptly a while later to see blue skies and a hot sun, so I scrambled outside shedding layers as I went, and pulled Desire’s blanket off. She was a little sweaty underneath and I sponged her and cleaned her up some more from the ride. As I was brushing her out A came in for her in-camp lunch stop.

One of her shoes had slid so she pulled it off and reset it real quick, hey that’s a bad ass girl folks! 

After eating and taking care of things she headed back out and I did a few things like scrubbing my Easyboots for Sunday and then retired to my chair in the trailer to write up the ride. Here I am now! It’s going to rain tonight and in the morning and hopefully taper off throughout the day, so I’ll be busting out my super stylish camo rain suit I stole from my husband for the ride tomorrow. I’m thinking about putting my boots on tonight so I don’t have to try to wrestle with them and getting her hooves clean and dry in the rain in the morning.  

Sunday PM

I put the boots on last night and boy am I glad I did. A finished her Day 2 50 in great shape and after dinner and a ride meeting where we found we wouldn‘t know what trails we were riding until morning, we walked the horses, I put on the boots with loose gaiters and passed out hard in bed. I had a light nagging headache all Saturday that wouldn’t quite leave and I mostly just hid in the shade in the trailer and elevated my sore ankle. I knew if I slept hard that night I would get rid of the headache for Sunday's ride. Fortunately my body cooperated there!  

It got windy Saturday night and by early morning was raining pretty good. The rain kept starting and stopping, giving us hope that it wasn’t going to be too persistent. Unfortunately that wasn’t quite the case. I put on a long sleeve, polar fleece, breeches, sneakers, and my husband’s camo Frog Togg waterproof jacket and pants. Suuuper sexy! We tacked up in the rain and threw the waterproofs back over the horses as quickly as possible after the saddles were on. Desire was looking about as happy as a wet cat and had a definite cranky mare nose curl going on but was more than ready to get moving when it was time. 

Sunday morning--bbrrrrr! So unpleasant her halter is trying to jump off her nose and leave, apparently! 


When it was time to go and A jumped on Alamahn,  they got out of sight walking around the corner in camp before I was mounted, so we put on a little show for camp. As I had my foot in the stirrup and was stepping up off the ground Desire’s love disappeared around the corner and she straight up took off after him with me barely managing to swing myself into the saddle. The waterproof pants were baggy and I almost got hung up on my cantle pack as I swung my leg over clinging for dear life. I saw a few surprised faces but hey, I didn’t come off, lol. 

We headed off in the same direction as a few other riders, 15 minutes after the 7 am start. Most of the (small) pack of riders had already left though we leap frogged with a few small groups through the first few miles as usual. It was raining lightly but steadily and when we came out of the dirt trails onto the dirt road we had just ridden on the previous days which had been wide and sandy with great footing, this is what we found:

It was a slippery, soggy mess. Desire was as fired up as she had been on Friday and the slippery footing made that all the more unnerving. We came across two stuck pick up trucks and a pretty bitter ranch hand walking on the mucky road and slip slided our way by. The rain was on and off and Desire was being quite a jigging little nutter butter, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable situation. I jumped off and ditched the rain pants in a matter of miles because they were too baggy and kept riding up to my knees which didn’t make them very effective and was insanely annoying. We moved along dry river beds for a  while and could do some trotting/jigging and a couple more pairs passed us, then we crossed under the highway and avoided some quicksand to cross a shallow stinky river and climb up for a nice long trot on a dirt road with nice footing. We ended up doing some slow cantering when the pounding pissed off trot became too much, and I’m not lying when I say I was cold, wet, and pretty irritated with my mare. Well, going back and forth between really irritated and pretty impressed. I didn’t know just how much fuel this mare had in her tank and  now I do! She probably could have done all 3 days but I know that I couldn’t have taken another day in the sun with no shade on the trails. As miserable as the cold rainy windy day was today it was much more suited to our complexions! 

We crossed another dry river bed and not long after under a tunnel under the highway that was just higher than our heads when mounted. It was a little unnerving jigging along under there with your head tucked down just to be sure, but it was a short tunnel and no harm done. A few miles later we got to do our trot-by poses for Lynn Glazer, though A and I both ended up cantering by. I’ve never had a cantering ride photo, thought it was worth a shot! We dragged into camp pretty soggy, cold, and hungry for the lunch stop and vetted right through. The horses got their coolers and blankets back on right away and Desire drank but didn’t eat very much, she had a few bites but mostly was napping.

A and I hid in the LQ with the heat on and changed as much of our clothing out for dry stuff as possible. I switched over to a sweatshirt, my down vest, and my Irideon waterproof jacket but didn’t bother with dry socks since my sneakers were soaked and coated with mud and I didn’t even want to get as filthy as dealing with my socks would have required.

Soggy sneakers..note the coating of white hair at the top of my shoe heel..yeah Desire is still shedding..lol

We gobbled soggy day old egg salad sandwhiches like they were steaks but the real treat was a cup of hot tea and a chocolate bar apiece. Ahh boy nothing was ever so good as that combination on this day after that morning of riding!!

Due to the rain and it’s effect on the trails our second loop was going to be the same one as the morning. When I pulled Desire’s blankets after our hour hold was up she wasn’t shivering but within the time of losing the blankets and walking to the vet out she was shivering pretty hard. It was alarming and the vet cautioned me to warm her up slowly with lots of walking. Hardy har har, I wish. She did walk out of camp fairly nicely but then a mother daughter pair that had taken the wrong trail appeared in front of us and we were quickly back to jigging. They moved out past us and Desire and I led the way through the narrow trails and then slowly jigged our way along the mucky awful road again.

Below, a short stretch on pavement to get out of the soggy footing, wish you could see A better, with the rock-on sign and tongue sticking out!

 By the time we reached the dry river bottoms again the rain had ceased and the sun was peeking through for a minute here and there and Desire was finally settling down. We had some nice controlled trots though the good footing and she even settled to a nice, very brisk walk when I asked. My right front boot had popped off once in the first loop and did it again twice in the second loop, it’s very worn out and actually has a hole in the boot wall that I had noticed on Saturday but is much bigger after today’s ride. Luckily I bought that size 1 from the Trailwise Tack lady so it’s ready to step up and replace the worn out one. All my boots are super worn already, I’m surprised I’ve gone through them so quickly but I guess they’ve all got over 300 miles in the last few months. 

The rain had stopped, see I was feeling a bit cheery:

We had a nice mellower ride under the highway and out across the good trotting road again, every time a pair of riders would pass us Desire would get all cuckoo and jig sideways again so they really must have thought she was a nut job but when they got out of sight she would settle down some. Not a lot,  but some. She sure is strong and has that competitive spirit! 

I was down to my sweatshirt as we crossed back under the highway through the short tunnel and we were only a few miles from camp when the rain started up slow but steady again, and then a nasty bitterly cold wind blew up. Before I had time to put them back on my rain coat and vest were soaked in their respective spots on the saddle so I was down to just my sweatshirt in the rain and wind. The last few miles were brutal, I must say,  but also exhilarating because we knew where we were and knew we were close to camp. As cold and damp as we were we knew we were going to make it and complete our respective goals and soon would be warm and dry! 

We vetted right through with happy healthy horses and headed straight for the trailer to settle them in and get ourselves warm and dry. The rain had stopped again by the time we vetted through which was a mercy for the untacking/cleaning up process. Desire had drunk well all afternoon and dove right into and finished her feed tub and munched a bunch of alfalfa too. As soon as she was settled I went inside and got into warm, dry clothes and fuzzy warm socks and made more cups of tea for A and I. 

Woo, another 50 miles down for the 4 of us!

My Easyboots after the fact:

Once in the LQ we cranked the heater up and basked in the feeling of miles well ridden. A had completed 155 miles and I had done 105! In just a matter of days. What a truly cool thing. I had moments where I was absolutely furious with Desire, and felt tired, hungry, cold, wet, too hot. But she was a champ all weekend, ate and drank really well, peed and pooped like it was going out of style, and was full of spice at the finish line each time. She had a good roll on our evening walk tonight and both horses did some grazing before going back to the trailer for even more evening grubbing. A had some grass hay that they weren’t eating much of so we each bedded down the mucky area around our respective horses so they could lie down in style if they wanted. Then it was a delicious ride dinner, a kick ass ride t shirt and sweat shirt, and shower and bed time! 

We slept hard and woke up to blue skies and sunshine Monday morning. We had things cleaned and packed up within an hour and were ready to hit the road. As A said, we were like barn sour horses, ready to gallop home!

Desire cleaning up scraps, Monday morning:

Snow on the mountains! Not many folks left in camp:

 Was obsessed with this tree for some reason:

Driving awaaaayyy!

We had another fun, uneventful drive back up the I-5 and pulled into the gas station at Williams around 4 pm. We spotted the bright orange Bomber easily and there was my husband waiting with the little dog greeting committee and some hot chicken and potato strips! All three things were equally welcome, as I had (and still have) an appetite like a, well, horse from the weekend. We loaded up all my stuff in our trailer, put the protesting Desire back into her humble straight load, and it was off for home! 

Desire was walking and trotting all around her pasture and up and down the hill this morning, grazing busily, and seems in fine spirits. She sure is an awesome mare, it's pretty amazing that she is this tough and fit when she is turning 16 this year and this time last year was heavily pregnant. I'm really proud of her and us as a team and forever grateful to A for including us in this amazing experience! 

Cuyama--I'll be back!!


  1. What a great write-up! I'm so guilty of writing long, detailed ride stories...so I love reading others that are the same! What a great experience, and congrats on finishing your first AND second 50s! You and Desire sound like you'll be an awesome team. :)

    1. Thanks! When I read it again I thought huh, I REALLY wrote that shit up, but since the experience included so many firsts I really wanted to have it recorded for longevity and review in my future training/experiences. And so you all can enjoy it, of course! :)

  2. oh, you rock! Awesome adventure, 100 miles, amazing, you look great! Mommy Desire rocks too! (OK, too many exclamation points, but totally deserved.) She sounds like a total handful, but it seems like you managed her just fine. I love how things worked and didn't (boots, headache, trail) but you just managed and soldiered on, and let us know the good and bad points. Lots of good advice in there. Congrats! Are you now over 250 miles?!

    1. Thanks! I've now got 195 LD miles and 105 endurance miles :) Can't wait for more!

  3. You need to fix your post - you did 105, not 100! Woohoo, so proud of yall! It's like it's almost too much to write up, all the hot and cold and wet and frustrated and proud and exhilarated and awestruck, all in one day.

    Love the pic of A doing the \m/ rock-on. I found my NASTR pics when I cleaned out the trailer last week - I'd flung them in there crying and never got them out - and I was \m/ in most of them. PRO TIP: it's really hard to get your hand oriented to where they come out right in the pics.

  4. Fantastic ride story! I found myself totally immersed in it and wondering how you really did manage to cool out with thick hair and heat... if you figure it out I'm all ears. I can't even imagine doing our first and second 50 back to back but cheering for you guys this coming ride season!

    1. My thought is dunking my head at troughs! When I go to spin class I dump about half of my water bottle on my head throughout the class or I get a headache from the heat build up, so sticking with that trend.. I also try to carry a bandanna that I can dunk and tie around my neck or put over my head and the tips of my ears. Of course in this case the troughs were *ahem* not the cleanest so I might have ended up decorated in green slime, but hey..

      And thanks! When is your first planned ride?

  5. My first visit to your blog & I get to read the ride story of your first two 50+ rides! Congratulations! The pictures are so good & you did such a great job of paying attention to yourself & your horse!

    1. Welcome and thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed it. My husband has taught me to enjoy the photo taking experience in the last few years and I just love to write--so the combo on endurance rides works out well! I'll be checking out your blog too :)