Monday, April 4, 2011

Nevada Derby

We went, we saw, we ... well, ok, all we did was finish. No grand ass-kicking involved. But I'm delighted!

The ride is just 20 miles north of Reno, near Palomino Valley. It's only about 15 miles from my house as the horse trots, but a good 30 miles by paved road. Dixie's never quite been all the way to Winnemucca Ranch Road, so thankfully she wasn't sure where "home" was and didn't try to convince me to "let's just go home now."

We'd planned on staying for two days, but ended up coming home Saturday. The Sunday 15 mile ride was cancelled, the weather turned iffy, and Zach's horse Bo got pulled with a cramp halfway through his ride. Huge bummer for him (and trust me, I know exactly how heartbreaking it is!) but at least Bo bounced right back and is a happy camper again.

Dawn at camp

WRR is in a really lush green valley, at least compared to my blasted wasteland to the south. There was a stream! We crossed it several times and rode beside it for miles. Ridecamp is in someone's pasture, I can't remember their names but they're awesome people to let HORDES of trailers park there. It was covered in the strangest green stuff, not brown stuff or thorny stuff or sand. Is that really what "grass" looks like?


Cersei was extremely annoying. I carefully loaded the truck, inside and out, got Cers' new harness and old collar on, and left her tied to the outside of the truck til Zach and His Mom got there. Dixie loaded quite well in their 3h, and I loaded the dog and followed them out to where Bo is boarded for the winter, just a couple miles from ridecamp. We pulled in and I jumped out to see if I could help load Bo. Bo does not approve of riding in the rear slot. We ended up unloading Dixie and loading Bo in the second slot, then loading Dixie in the third slot. Then we jumped back in the vehicles to roll the last couple miles to camp.

That's when I discovered that Cersei had dived over the seats into the back, crashed into the tray of chocolate cupcakes I'd bought for the potluck, eaten one, and dived calmly back into the front seat. She might have gotten away with her perfidy for a few more minutes, except she smeared chocolate frosting absolutely everywhere. Frosting on my sleeping bag bag, on the comforter, on my pillow, on my box of tangerines, on all the front seats, all the way up to where the backseats were folded up.... arrrrggggh. I was rather short tempered with her all weekend for that. At least it made a good story as I wandered around camp talking to various officials looking for a trash can!

Dixie vetted in fine. A lot of the gaited riders I know from the gaited lists spend a lot of time worrying about vets, bitching about vets, and stressing about the "trot" part of trot-out. I am pretty sure that West is the Best because the vets here have never given me any grief about Dixie's gaits at trot-outs. Last year when we were really new, they'd look a little befuddled if I forgot to tell them she's a TWH, but now they vaguely remember us. (Being a distinctive Holstein of a horse pays off, I guess.) Dr. McCartney doesn't even ask us to trot out, she just say "ok go do your thing."

If you've done the Derby before, the route this year was different. We got a lot of snow this winter and the runoff left the usual trail a pretty muddy mess. This year's trail went through the foothills parallel to Winnemucca Ranch Road, turned around near the ranch, and came back down the road to camp. The 50 milers' second loop went around a mountain (where it's gone before in the past), and the third/second loop was just 5 miles on dirt roads in a short loop around camp.

I knew a few more people at this ride, and I'd pretty randomly camped right next to Meredith and John Mayeroff, who help out/RM at Rides of March and at NEDA rides. They were glad to see me trying again. I rearranged my stuff in case it rained overnight, tied Dixie to the truck, and headed to chocolatey bed with my most beloved wonderful puppy. At least she did her job well and kept the inside of the truck noticeably warmer overnight. I slept rather poorly - I had not one but two vivid nightmares about Dixie being horribly maimed. I was really glad to wake up at 5:40, even though it was way earlier than I needed to be up.

Overnight, Dixie drank a little water and made a huge mess of her hay. I had plenty of time to very slowly and patiently tack up, braid her mane, dose her up with electrolytes, and even get all four boots on. I started on time and settled in with some medium-pace riders - a pair of ladies from Loomis, a lady on a bitchy black mare, and a guy on a superbly behaved stallion belonging to Tinker Hart. He told us the horse was a stallion about 6 miles into the first loop, and none of us had any idea, before or after, that the horse was a stud based on its behavior.


The first half of the loop had pretty much all the climbing there was for the LD. My schizophrenic GPS says it was somewhere between 1500-2000' of rise, depending on which program I use to look at its actual data. Who knows! Not very hilly for Nevada, anyway.


The five of us leapfrogged along pretty companionably for the whole first loop. There was one "oh god I'm really going to die" moment, but it was over too fast for me to get really scared (or get a picture!) The guy and I were walking up to the top of a hill, a little ways behind the ladies from Loomis. One of them got off to lead her horse for some reason, and the other disappeared over the hill mounted, so we didn't get off. We crested this little hill and there was a ridiculously steep rock slope straight down about 30'. Seriously, it was a 45-50 degree slope. It looked like there was a path in the sandy dirt between the suitcase-sized rounded granite boulders. The stud started down, and Dixie looked at it and felt confident about it, so I waited a horse-length, told her to be careful, and let her pick her way down. Halfway down the slope, we ran out of dirt and the horses had to step onto a huge slanted boulder to keep going down. I realized if I was going to die, at least it'd been fun, and there was absolutely no way out of it, so I just groaned and leaned back a bit and before I knew it she was safely across it and down. The three mounted riders agreed that the girl who'd gotten off was clearly the sensible one.

The 25s turned around a couple miles before the 50s did. We had water and hay at a pleasant spot where the stream crossed under the road. There was an acute shortage of Saturday volunteers, so they'd left us a clipboard and a watch and asked us to sign in for a 10 minute hold. The five of us signed in and tried to get our horses to eat and drink. One of the other horses drank pretty well, but most of them were like Dixie and insisted they were neither hungry nor thirsty. Two guys on mules arrived about 7 minutes in to our hold.

The first half of the ride back was just lovely. The little creek burbled alongside the road, and there was green everywhere and big puffy clouds. I let Dixie stretch out and do her thing - she'd do her smooth fast trot, she'd rack, and she'd pace.

See the little ranch up ahead in this picture? I want this place. I need to win the lottery so I can convince the owners to sell it to me. And it had the biggest cottonwoods - no, actually, the biggest trees, period, I've ever seen in my life. They were six feet across if they were an inch. They were mostly dead and only about 20' tall, but my god they were massive. I seriously could've hidden my horse in them if they were hollow. I was too busy gaping to get a picture, sorry!

Look at the little creek!

We came down out of the end of the valley only to discover that they'd moved ridecamp. We saw a tiny speck of white on the horizon and decided that must be camp and our GPS's must be lying, but as we slooooowly got closer we realized it was a different ranch. Then we passed that ranch and rode for miles and miles through a bunch of road we were sure we'd never seen before. Finally, hours and hours (ok, fine, minutes and minutes) later we really did see ridecamp and our hateful lying GPS's were proven to be right all along. That incredibly long stretch was the only really awful boring part of the ride, honestly.

My friends from Loomis zoomed off ahead, and the mules came out of nowhere and passed us all. I'd slowed Dixie down quite a bit - maybe I shouldn't have let her zip off after the turnaround, ooops. Stallion guy stayed near me most of the time, and we came up on Meredith and I rode with her for a bit. Eventually we rolled on into camp for our 50 minute lunch.

Dixie looks like a hobo's yak in this picture. 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.

Dixie vetted ok, with a few B's reflecting her lack of eating and drinking. Then back to the trailer where I spent 45 minutes trying to convince her to eat or drink anything, with absolutely no success. She didn't want dry grain, wet grain, bananas, tangerines, hay, or very many carrots. She was super pissed when I electrolyted her again, and even more pissed when I rinsed her mouth out with water. I scarfed down some real food, curried a little of the dried sweat mud crap off of her, and we headed out again for the last 5 miles.

I admit, I didn't think she was going to drink. I thought this was a repeat of our dismal ROM showing. But I also thought that 5 more easy flat miles wouldn't hurt anything, and dammit at least we could complete a stupid LD. We headed off on the easy final loop, where I cruelly made her move out at a decent pace instead of letting her wander along at 2.5 mph screaming at the horses in the distance.

~22 miles, ears still up!

She felt pretty good. Tired but not exhausted. I knew we could/should do the last loop in about an hour, so that's what we did. The gentle breezes had picked up and giant clouds were rolling across the valley - both in the air, making big shadows, and dust clouds on the valley floor.


We caught back up to the Loomis riders along the last leg of the loop, and a guy I hadn't seen before joined us. Not sure if he was a 50 or a 25. He was an "about to complete", either way, so we all walked in. We saw burros, and some people in a big chuckwagon with a four Clydesdale hitch, and some wicked devil cows.

We didn't stop at the truck, just headed straight to the P&R people to pulse in for our final time. We did all stop at the water tank, and she drank! She drank like drinking water was her job! Then we wandered over to P&R, got our finish time, and headed back to the truck to untack for the last vet check. Zach had to chase us, and I called her a cow, but she did some kind of intermediate speed soundly and vetted ok.

Dixie found some delicious oat hay on the way back to the truck, so I handed her off to Zach's Mom and stowed all my gear and petted my almost-forgiven dog. We all stood around and talked and let her eat for a while, then we loaded her up and headed home.

Other People's Hay is always better

Next ride: High Desert Classic, two weeks. Gonna try a VERY SLOW 50 with LOTS OF ELECTROLYTES.


  1. I waited all day for this! Congrats on another 25 miles, are you about to hearn a Chevron? Your girl is getting there. On the electrolytes err on the side of caution. Once she starts drinking her thirst response will likely be kicked in and she will drink and drink and drink. I'm finding that with Phebes. I've actually quit stopping at every water hole and begging the little turd to drink. I've learned that when SHE IS READY, she will drink, then I stay out of her way and let her have at it. Probably what you did was pretty close to right. Did you try a half dose the night before? That might make her want to drink a little more overnight, or not...but worth a try if you haven't already. Congrats on another good finish. You guys will get there and probably sooner than I do! Hug the hairy Yak for the Granny :)

  2. I should have 110 miles LD when the Derby results get submitted! :D Triple digits, baby!

    I will definitely elyte her overnight next time. And screw the sunburn, I'm going to pack some alfalfa - hopefully she'll want to eat it, and it'll help buffer all that salt sloshing around in her stomach.

  3. The guy riding Tinkers stallion is Fred Emigh, super nice guy! Sorry, i shouldn't have told you to syringe her mouth out with water, guess it didn't help! But instead of doing a lot of electrolytes at the ride, i would start giving 1/2 doses 3 days before the ride and actually try giving less at the ride. I didn't give Bo any electrolytes this past weekend, but instead i supplemented him with salt and trace minerals the days leading up to the ride. With sassy, and i suspect with Bo, once i give them electrolytes they get pissy and refuse to eat or drink much at all. Everyone has their own protocol, you just have to find what works for your horse =)

  4. "endurance is the sport of tying as much random crap on a dirty horse as possible, then riding til you chafe your thighs raw."

    If I ever take up endurance riding I would like to make this my slogan lol.

    Congratulations on a good ride. The pictures made it look increadible.

  5. Zach - yeah, he was a real nice guy. :)

    I *always* elyte her grain at home, so that doesn't help at rides. I think I will try syringing her the day before, maybe 1/2 am and 1/2 pm at camp.

  6. Hahaha, Story, everybody loves that line. I should print bumper stickers or something! ;)

  7. Great job! Love the pix and the bumper sticker idea! You should be proud of yourselves. Good horse, bad dog! ;)

  8. Woo-hoo...sounds like you two are hitting a lick.

    (And just in case you don't pop back in for a few days...Yes, exhibitioning is getting a competitive setting 'run' on your barrel horse without getting a time. They are very inexpensive and yet invaluable when you first start hauling a barrel horse.)

  9. Congrats on your completion!!! I heard that was a really tough ride. Laughed so hard at your description of gaiting during trot outs. Oy.

  10. Ok, forget the bumper sticker... I want that saying embroidered on a saddle pad!

    Congrads on completing and I'm so glad Ms. Dixie has decided to drink!

  11. Thank you guys! :)

    The video of the "YOU COW!" trot-out is on Facebook, but I haven't gotten around to posting it anywhere else yet. See if this link works?

  12. I know nothing about endurance riding, but that sounded like a blast! And the photos are gorgeous! Congrats on a great ride!

  13. Great ride recap, it sounds like you guys had a great time! The scenery is absolutely gorgeous out there, that sky, wow!

    I couldn't get Dazz to drink during the first loop of our LD either. She seems to be wanting to go further w/o drinking that first time.

    Sorry to hear about the demise of the cupcakes- I'm thinking maybe I might try brownies next time- they seem to be a little more robust:)

    We are coming back to Reno in Aug- I can't wait, it looks so beautiful there!!

  14. Congratulations!! The pictures are wonderful and it sounds like you had a great ride. It's great that Dixie is starting to think about drinking. I can't wait to hear how you do on the 50 mile ride. (Holy crap... 50 miles??!!)


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