Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patriot's Day Lake Almanor LD

My overall impression is: And now I know!

So, my original plan was to ride my friend's grey Arab mare in the 50. I've been helping to condition her for a month and she is a nonstop trotting machine. Aaaand Friday she was a three-legged trotting machine - she got kicked in the pasture Thursday night. Sigh. So I rode a green chestnut mare on her second LD. Fire's first endurance ride was last year or early this year, and she hasn't been ridden all that much since then. I thought a 50 would be iffy on her so I pushed to ride her LD - I think her owner would've been happy either way, and I think Fire could've done the 50, but I don't want to break somebody else's horse!

I knew Lake Almanor was an FEI* ride, and I knew that FEI rides are usually very flat, very fast, and precisely the correct distance. It didn't really sound like my cup of tea, but I'm a very openminded newbie, so off I went!

I drove by Lake Almanor
... and kept right on going, a good 30 minutes away. It is a really pretty lake and I'd love to go back to see it!

Ridecamp is in a huge meadow. The tiny glints in the distance are rigs in the meadow. Most people parked back under the trees.

We set up our camps on the far edge of the meadow and took the Arabs down to vet in. Fire vetted in with all A's, and she behaved pretty well. We let the horses graze and listened to the ride meeting and looked over our packets.

I had three different sheets of paper detailing the 25. A color map showing all the loops (numbered phases), with my two loops written on the bottom - red white & blue and pink & pink checkered. A sheet showing all the out times and phases for each distance - again, rw&b and p&p. And a written description of my two loops - really handy, except it said rw&b and green & green polka dots. I did ask at the RM, but I asked at the wrong time, they said they'd address it, and I never heard them answer the question. (Neither did two other people on the LD.) I decided I'd go with my time-honored system of following everybody else, because I usually forget what loop I'm supposed to be on anyway. I figure if you're gonna get lost you might as well have company.

At the RM, they changed the start times. They were originally supposed to be staggered every 30 minutes (100s at 5:30, 75s at 6, etc) but management changed it to one hour intervals. As a lowly LD, I got to leave at the scorching hour of 8:30 am. Yippie.

The horses ate and drank well overnight, and the owner and I managed to cram four Gloves on Fire before she headed out on her 50. She warned me that at Fire's first LD, she had to get Karen Rabow, endurance mom extraordinare, to hold Fire to get mounted. I've lived through all of Dixie's meltdowns so I wasn't too worried about it.

Fire lost her mind when her buddy Spirit left without her. I didn't care, I hung out by Dixie (who was quite calm) til 8:15, then somehow got Fire bridled and walked up to the start. I walked her in circles til 8:27, then got on. Compared to tall spazzy Dixie, she was quite easy to mount! We trotted up and down the road by the start til 8:30, then we were off!

I had a friend to ride with, A on her calm Anglo-Arab. We let the racers blow by and I told A I had to let Fire move out a bit. She was cantering in place, head down, moving 4 mph, on the verge of a total freakout. A agreed and we headed off at a fast trot. Fire's 9, but she doesn't have a lot of miles, so she's still got a baby trot. I got to lead because the other mare can easily out-trot Fire and I didn't want her to canter too much.

One of the many skills that I'm trying to master is reading ride flyers. I read "If you plan on riding with speed we recommend pads or easyboots. We have avoided rocky areas as much as possible." to mean "Not many rocks; shoe/boot up if you want to ride fast." That's not actually what it means - the whole course was on quite hard quite rocky logging roads. It was comparable to a flat version of NASTR.


The first loop went by really fast. Oddly, I wasn't scared. I kept thinking I should be scared - I was sweating so hard my sunglasses kept slipping and I didn't unbridge the reins once. Every time we got passed, Fire did the "I'm about to lose my mind" head-down slow canter, but I was careful to not hold her back to the breaking point. I made sure to ride her - there were a lot of, uh, little rocky ditches? I guess where the loggers had dragged trees across the gravel roads. Anyway, we slowed down for every one then I'd let her move back out. IIRC, there was only one water stop on the first loop. Fire played and took a sip; the other mare drank very well. We zipped through the first loop at about 7 mph - and yes, the first loop was exactly 12.5 miles!

Ride pic. My shirt is a Game of Thrones tee that says Winter is Coming. It's important to remember these things in July!

The check was difficult. We'd met up with Fire's owner (and more importantly, Fire's BFF Spirit) about a mile from camp, right after the front right boot came off. I got it back on and got back up (again, I have Mad Sk1llz from dealing with my idiot horse) just as Spirit came up. We got a half mile from camp and the boot came off again. Pounding a NQR boot on with your hand while the horse dances around is harder than it looks! I left the damn thing off; it was close enough to lead the horses in.

Fire wouldn't pulse down unless she was right by Spirit. With Spirit there, she was great - 60/58 CRI** (if I remember correctly) and all A's. We went back to the trailers, banged the boot back on properly, and drank slushy-gatorade til owner-A's 30 minute hold was up. She left and a couple minutes later my ride buddy A showed up. Time to go! I thought that was a little weird but I didn't have anything else to do so off we went to the out timers.

A was cleared, I wasn't. The P&R volunteers had mistakenly given her a 30 minute hold and correctly given me a 50 minute hold. The out timer volunteers were confused and told us to take it up with the P&R people. We didn't really have anything to take up, per se - my buddy A waited an extra 20 minutes and we left again together.

We headed out at 11:10 and it was pretty hot and flat and dismal. We hared off down what we thought was the right trail, then I realized A was looking at ribbons on the left and we stopped and powwow'd about what trail we were supposed to take. I finally said that I had two pieces of paper telling me to take pink & pink checks (and only one telling me to take green & green polka dots) and I was going to stick with that come hell or high water. We went back a half mile to the crossroads, studied the ribbons and chalk, decided we were in fact on the right trail, and proceeded on.

Our second loop (phase 4 I think?) was common trail for a long way, then a big loop down the entrance road. There were two water stops and it was exactly 12.5 miles. There was almost no shade and not much scenery. We came across one volunteer out looking for a missing horse. Our horses were, thankfully, less hyper. About 8 miles into the second loop I finally unbridged my reins.

Again, I set the pace. A was getting tired and the horses were less enthusiastic. As always, I kinda wished I had a HRM. But I don't, so I just went by how Fire felt under me. When she was tired, we'd walk a little ways, then when we hit a brief patch of shade or when the trail went downhill slightly, I'd urge everyone up to a trot. I am not ashamed to say I let the FEI racers pull us along for the last few miles! We'd walk, someone would canter by on the 75 or 100, and I'd urge the horses to chase them. We'd trot for a while after they were out of sight, then walk a bit again. I kept us going about 6 mph for the second loop (because that would get me out of the sun in two hours!) I called off the miles to go and time to go as we plugged along.


We made it back to camp with two not-very-tired horses. Fire was a total ass at the vet check line. I was That Person Everybody Backs Their Horses Away from. It was totally embarrassing, and yall know I don't embarrass easily. Spirit wasn't around, and I was determined to get that horse vetted out without her friend, so we stood in line (FOR EV ER) working on manners. When she'd crash into me I'd lay into her with the end of the lead rope. When she screamed I made her move her feet - usually backwards and forwards, but I slipped in some hindquarters too. When she was quiet I encouraged her to graze.

The LD/50 vet had the patience of a saint, and I wish I remembered his name so I could thank him for being kind to us. The Red Asshole vetted out with a 58/56, IIRC, and all A's again. She crashed into me a few more times and screamed all the way back to the trailer. Spirit was just leaving on her last loop when we got there, and Fire had a total fish-on-a-line meltdown when HER ONLY FRIEND abandoned her again. Thank God for rope halters. She screamed for a while but settled down to eat hay eventually.

We'd finished 7th out of 13 or 14, in about 4:30 total time. (Rob Lydon won 1st place FEI and BC in under 4 hours on the 50. Nothing as humbling as somebody riding twice as far as you in less time!) Completion award was a ride picture.

Overall, it was fun, but I probably won't go again. I had two problems, one minor and one middlin', but it's just not my bag.

The hold time thing was a minor problem. I am always amazed at how well endurance rides go off with so many non endurance volunteers. I'm not faulting anybody for that - mistakes happen, and if somebody wins because they let a volunteer give them the wrong hold time, well, they suck and should not sleep well at night. That's a personal integrity issue!

The conflicting info about the second loop was a middlin' problem. I compare all my ride problems to Big Horn, and hell, not knowing which clearly marked loop to ride doesn't even rate on the Big Horn scale of things! The ride meeting rambled on and on about FEI 100 mile info only, and it sucked that I pretty much got blown off about which loop the lowly 25s were supposed to do, but not a big deal in the end. If you'd done the green loop instead of the pink loop - well, they're both 12.5 miles, and it's just an LD, right? :sarcasm:

The food was excellent, the camp was in a great location, and... well, the ride award was pretty lame. (Hell, I buy pix even when I don't complete!) But mainly the trail sucked by non-racer standards. I like technical trail and/or scenic trail, with some neverending flat roads to break up the stunning views every so often. This trail never saw Lake Almanor and never climbed a hill to look at other hills. I am not disappointed, because I knew that's what FEI rides are like - but now I know for sure that I don't like them.

I want to say thanks to the people who made this ride happen for me: Fire's owner A (she's awesome, but you know I don't name names on my blog), my ride buddy A, and the woman who introduced me to Fire's owner. Couldn't have done it without yall! Also a big thank you to the ride management and volunteers - there wouldn't be a ride at all if a ton of people didn't show up to sit in the heat all day and the cold all night.

Next: Dixie, Cersei, friends!

*FEI - the racing side of endurance.
** CRI, cardiac recovery index. The vet checks the horse's pulse (first number) then you trot out and back, then he checks it again (second number). If the pulse is lower the second time, you're golden. If it's higher, the horse is tired or not fit to continue, depending on the numbers.


  1. Loved the picture of you and Fire. This post was educational for me. I don't do endurance and didn't realize the FEI rides had some distinc differences.

    By the way "That Person Everybody Backs Their Horses Away from." I've been that person as well, although not at an endurance ride. It IS embarassing!!

  2. It was good to meet you! Sorry we just disappeared but I was in heatstroke mode and didn't re enter the land of the living until about 2 pm today. I have a bunch of pics of you and Fire my husband took if you want me to email to you or something.

  3. I suppose riding other horses besides your own is always an adventure but I'm glad you found a buddy. I am often guilty of letting faster horses pull Rose along too. I fully plan that for our first 25 we're going to let the horses we know and ridden with before pull us along as I know Rose can pace with them and that they have a pretty similar ride style to me.

    Btw, your description of the FEI ride also made me decide to never have interest. I need changes in the scenery and some variety in footing. Maybe even a couple deer or bikers too to keep the space lively. =p

  4. It sounds like you had a good time, even with the few issues you encountered. If nothing else, I had fun reading about the story! And, I always learn something new when I read about your rides.

    Great pictures by the way. :)

  5. Sounds like you did pretty darn good all considering! Where's the Big Horn story?

  6. Thanks, yall!

    Caitlin, I think the ideal is to have a horse that'll breeze on through your chosen distance without any help, but there's no shame in getting a little inspiration from faster riders!

    HHmstead, I haven't done Big Horn (and I waffle a lot on whether I ever would!) Merri did a big series on her crewing experience starting here. And there were tons of horror stories on Ridecamp about last year's ride - people got off the unmarked trail in the middle of the night in a freak blizzard and spent the night on the mountain. I mean, compared to that, "what loop do I take" seems like such a minor gripe. ;)

  7. OK - I must say that I did the 100 at this ride last year and I really liked the ride. Yes, a lot of it was wide jeep roads, but I found the scenery to actually be pretty, was a smaller ride that was pretty relaxed. I too had some issues - most of them related to the fact I was one of the very few non FEI riders and as such the whole point felt a little different, although I think the vet and timer staff did try to not let us feel that they were kinda annoyed at us taking almost the full time. I'd do the ride again because it's a local 100 for me, but probably not for a 50 or a LD unless I was brining back an injuried horse - single track can be tough. For a young horse or one I'm still training it would be a tough course just because of the issues you stated.

    Your story had some laugh out loud moments. LOL. Makes me want ot put it on my website...hint hint hint. Maybe we could post it regarding an "unspecified" ride?

  8. I was so confused about the loops on my 100, I gave my crew one order - while I'm on the trail, find out what my next loop is. then, right before I go out, tell me where it is, show me, and tell me the color. I never could have kept it straight based on the maps and the ride meeting.


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