Top picture is from the day before, showing off her pretty new American Trail Gear halter, courtesy of Renegade :).
Below is after finishing a tough TRUELY 55 mile ride. That's what happens when you get lost........
Day 1 at Wild west is a 55 miler and even though each year I do it the trail changes, it’s always a rocky, rough, long trail. And I know if I do all 3 days, day 1 is the day that I will feel like I rode the hardest, yet I will finish the latest.
Thus, I REALLY didn’t need to add another 7 miles onto this particular trail.
I confirmed a really important fact Friday. You cannot see signs and ribbons as well if you are off running, than when you are mounted. Combine that with a rider that is slightly hard of hearing and a horse jogging beside you in noisy boots, AND tack jangling in your ear and what you have is an off trail rider, following the LD loop back into camp, regardless of the number of people yelling at them that they are on the wrong trail.
And since me and Farley and speedy demons down a hill if I’m on foot and we are the ones passing people, not vice versa, no one was going to easily catch us.
I didn’t realize I was on the wrong trail until I was almost back to the photographers.
The orange and black ribbon loop was a lollipop loop and so it wasn’t easy to recognize that I was off trail because at some point, after doing a large loop, I WAS going to be on this same trail headed back to camp.
Farley thought I had lost my mind, and completely lost trust in me when we spent a good 25 minutes going down a trail that was obviously marked with ribbons, and then a good 25 minutes going back up that trail, and then continuing on the correct trail that was also marked with ribbons (she looks for ribbons).
Farley was absolutely convinced that this whole thing was some cruel trick to make her *think* we were at a ride, when we were *actually* doing “conditioning”, which she is less than fond of and which she sees no point in.
And it’s hard to argue with her based on her performance this spring, but nevertheless we will discuss that later and get on with our story.
So at this point, I went from leaving camp last (according to plan), moving up to mid pack in the first couple of miles (according to pack), to being turtle by about half an hour (not to plan).
Farley makes a really poor turtle. She is motivated by horses behind, not horses ahead, which is why we start at the back (her mind is more likely to stay intact).
Doing a 30, now 37 mile loop all by ourselves with NO ONE in sight was not her idea of a good time.
As for me and my mental state? I was still getting off and running all the significant downhills. And as I was running down a particularly long and sucky one, I realized that this was like a very poorly executed ride and tie. Because the only thing stupider than abadoning your horse at a tree hoping to come across it at some future point, hopefully BEFORE you have to climb that huge hill, is to have your horse BESIDE you, perfectly capable of carrying your a$$ down the trail at speed.
I started to do the math and was about 95% sure I was going to rider option at the first vet check, which was my hour hold. I had done somewhere between 5 and 7 miles extra on this loop, which would make this day somewhere 60+ miles. I was NOT doing 60 miles on this horse, only to follow it by a 50 the next day, and then 100 miles 4 weeks later. Could Farley do 60 miles? Yes. She might even do the 50 the next day. But I would be compromising Tevis. And the 50 the next day was my favorite loop. Pretty, single track, and right up Farley’s ally. My other option was to do the 60 miler, and then not ride the next day......or rider option today, do a small loop by myself so I could get 50 miles in, ride the 50 the second day, and be on track for Tevis. The downside? If I finished both days this weekend Farley would have her 1,000 miles.
I decided that because of my stupidity, Farley didn’t get to have her 1,000 miles.
I decided that Tevis was more important to me than this weekend and a rider option just made sense.
I decided that in this case, the bird in the hand (knowing I could finish today’s ride) was NOT worth the bird in the bush (the next day’s 50 and tevis).
I decided to ignore my normal philosophy that TODAY is the most important day and you dont know what is going to happen tomorrow and thus you do what you can TODAY.
The fact that I was going to rider option kept me going through that loop.
I even had the entire blog post written in my head and I knew I was going to get kudos for doing “right by my horse” and making a “difficult decision”.
I came into the PnR point announcing that I was almost sure I was going to rider option, still a 30 minute turtle.
I went to camp to pull tack and vet in and consider my options. Jessica told me that Farley looked better than the average horse coming in. I looked at my phone which I had turned on the GPS by some dumb luck and realized that with my extra mileage I had only done 30 miles. It was a short loop.......I had done the mileage that the loop was supposed to be, which meant as long as the next 25 mile loop wasn’t long, I would still have only 55 miles. And if I wanted my 50 miles that day as a rider option, I would have to ride a 20 mile loop by myself for no completion.
So I decided that as long as Melissa (the head vet, who puts on this ride with her husband) confirmed my mileage counts, I would go out.
At the check Melissa confirmed my horse looked good, that the first loop was short, and that the second loop was as stated (25 miles). She then did something really wonderful.
“You have plenty of time to finish. The front runners get to the out check in 2 hours and then back to camp in an hour. It will take you two hours to get back to camp and longer to get there, but don’t let the vets out there pull you for over time. If they give you problems, have them call me on the radio and I will back you up”.
I left the hold at 1pm, with 7 hours and 15 minutes to do 25 miles with a 45 minute hold.
I figured based on the information that Melissa had given me it would take me 3 hours to get to the out hold.
It took me 2 hours and 10 minutes.
I passed the first people ahead of me within an hour.
I did the same strategy I had the entire ride. We walked up the hills, I got off and jogged the down hills, mounted trotting for the flats, and walking all the nasty nasty rocks (and there were a ton of them......). I have to admit - going out to the out check t I broke down and broke a skinny branch off a tree and used it as a dressage whip - the first time I had ever used a crop during a ride.
At this point we were still turtle, my calves had some deep muscle bruising from uncovered stirrup leathers (my full seat is worn through at the bottom of the flaps and I didn’t realize I needed to keep my leather covers on.....something I rectified at the lunch check, but riding 30 miles and 4 hours did some serious damage on my calves, which sort of screwed me for the last half of day 1, and day 2) and could not enforce her being in front of my leg.
Something Farley took FULL advantage of. I don’t use a crop on the trail because I’m afraid that I will misuse it and ask my tired horse to go forward at a pace that is inappropriate. However, I decided that I could NOT keep asking her to go forward with my leg and she was spooking and sucking back which was making me more and more sore - and telling me she wasn’t exactly tired. So I decided that I would use a dressage whip only in place of my leg. A little “tap tap” when I kissed to trot, no more.
Farley quickly got the point and we moved forward at around 5 miles per hour (as in, I checked my watch and at each hour I would check my GPS to make sure we had gone 5 hours).
After we caught the people in front of us, I was able to discard my “dressage whip” and just kiss.
After going down down down down a scary stretch of broken up old pavement with a river of rocks we got to the vet check. No issues and 45 minutes later we were on our way.
I was hurting bad. Farley knew we were headed back to camp and we alternated between her charging down single track switch backs with me clinging to her back like a monkey, and me begging her to just let me dismount and I PROMISED to go at the fastest shuffle I could down the hill if she would JUST LET ME GET OFF because I my pulse needed to come down at some point.
I was a couple miles out of the vet check when I realized that my crupper was gone. My ATG BRAND NEW CRUPPER had freakin’ fallen off my saddle with the ring had broke off my brand new Distance Depot gullet adapter thingy that adds a ring to the back of the saddle for saddles that don’t have a back ring.
I was pissed.
At some point we passed 4 more people and came into the vet check.
Jessica said she looked “above average”, we vetted through (all A’s AGAIN).
My GPS stopped (phone died) some where on the trail back at ~52 miles when we were still a couple miles out of camp so I absolutely did 55 miles on day 1.
At the ride meeting my crupper was in lost and found....Jessica said I was not allowed to complain that my $2 sunglasses were not :).
Jessica and I finished our day off with dinner. After carefully boiling and steaming the rice based pasta for a rediculous 20 minutes.....I decided to drain them. Carefully. And managed to dump the entire pot on the forest floor in a bed of pineneedles.
I decided that picking the noodles off the ground and brushing off the pineneedles, rinsing them, and calling any residue “basil” and “rosemary” was preferable to going through the whole cooking pasta ritual again. I swear that at the end of the ride I have the intelligence of a three year old.
Then it was bed, more supernatural, more moon, and SLEEP.
Instead of going back through the story and integrating some other small details from this day that I want to talk about, I’m going to just dump them here, and then we will move onto Day 2 and another 50 miles.
1. Strap on boots. Worked perfectly. Didn’t touch them the entire ride even though we went through soft stuff, single track, up and down jeep track etc.. Were super easy to put on in the morning, and easy to take off that night. Didn’t need to clean them before riding in them the next day. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden any significant distance in the strap ons - I condition entirely barefoot and I glued on for Cache creek. The strap ons are so easy and work so well, that I think that if I had to do Cache creek over again, I would not glue on. And if I was worried about that boggy section in the beginning of the ride, I would just start it barefoot.
2. Food. I was really really proud of myself. I ate in the saddle every hour on the hour. The nutella and almond butter mix came out of my sqeeze tubes perfectly and I could also suck it out of the opening. The tube was super easy to find and pull out of my saddle bag. As a note, one of my big camping squeeze tubes lasted me 1 1/2 days on the trail. I actually found myself hungry every hour, so I think one mouthful of Funder’s goo every hour is a good starting point. If I was still hungry after my mouthful, or I got hungry between the hour (only happened once or twice in the 2 days) I pulled out a luna bar or candy bar. Along with the Goo, every hour I took an electrolyte capsule, and then in the afternoon I bumped it up to 2 each hour since with the running I was working hard and it was hot. I drank straight water in the saddle, and vitalyte drink mix at the vet checks. I only carried a liter of water with me, and on the first day when I was running a lot with the vet checks only 25 or 30 miles apart that was pretty marginal. I think the spackle/bear bait has been reduced to a backpacking food only since the goo is working better in the saddle, even if it isn’t as yummy because of logistical constraints. At the lunch vet check I dived into my little containers and ate a bit of everything - again, this system seemed to work really really well. Day one I stayed mentally really sharp, never got nauseous etc. I was pleasantly surprised. The real test was going to be day 2 when I started the day with a headache and nausea, but I’m getting ahead of myself!
Welcome to the Boots and Saddles blog. "Boots and saddles" describes a horse of(f) course - my experiences in the endurance world, as a veterinary student, and as a life long student of the horse. This blog is part of a larger endurance information site, which promotes renegade hoof boots and education for riders in their first 1000 endurance miles. I hope that you are entertained, informed, and inspired.
Funder: I swear, endurance is the sport of tying as much random crap on a dirty horse as possible, then riding til you chafe your thighs raw.
Elizabeth Funderburk: You're not tough just because you can destroy your body faster than everybody else around you. That is a ridiculously difficult thing for me to remember...You can be plenty tough without being dumb...
Bethany Faubel: Funder's right: being tough doesn't mean being damaged before you have a chance at senility. Otherwise, we would be calling all professional boxer/wrestlers not only tough but intelligent as well...
"Endurance is a series of small disasters, interspersed with larger disasters. The sport of endurance is your ability to solve and learn and prevent them. (and enjoy the process)"
AareneX on 2010 Goals:
"I will not be discouraged by setbacks in 2010, but will use them as training opportunities for successes in the future."
JB on Revelation 7 "More then just bruised ego's are at stake in endurance, as the horses whole life and well being is on the line".