Saturday, March 3, 2012

NEDA Spring Tune Up

Argh. It feels like a hard failure of a ride. I want to whine about what a hard failure of a ride it was. But the numbers say we didn't do too badly at all.

21 miles, 3500' of climbing, 4 hours moving time.

It was a beautiful day, with gorgeous scenery and great company on the trail. I got a little sun on my arms for the first time in what, six months? Whee! My scheme of bringing a case of beer instead of a side dish to potlucks is going over gangbusters and winning me tons of new friends. My feet in their silly barefoot shoes do not hurt. My husband is coming home tomorrow. And I think that's all the blessings I can count for today!

Look at this fine-looking (slightly dirty) Viking war pony!

We set off down the hill. I love these shots - did you know that Lake Tahoe is right behind that mountain? Did you know it's just chilling out a thousand feet above Washoe Valley at the base of that mountain? It really trips me out, thinking about it. Lake Tahoe's surface is a thousand feet higher than the valley, but it's deeper than Washoe Valley. It's a really unbelievably big lake, yall.


These trails are steep and rocky at the best of times. Today was not actually the best of times - we got some snow on Wednesday, then it warmed up and the snow is melting as fast as it can, which means the trails are tiny muddy rivers.

At one point, Dixie was powerwalking up a huge hill (passing Arabs left and right!) and we hit a section that was basically a ditch. Instead of walking sensibly in the bottom of the ditch, she was walking on the slippery side of the ditch. Right as I thought to myself "if this silly horse doesn't get off this slope she's going to slip" she slipped and fell down, very delicately and lightly, on my right leg. I got ice cold mud all over my leg, but I just stepped off and led her a little way down the trail to make sure she wasn't hurt. She was fine, but she'd lost a boot, so I got ice cold mud all over my gloves and hands as I washed off the straps and jammed it back on.

And that's pretty much how my day went. No injuries, no catastrophies, just a lot of minor-to-middlin' Slightly Bad Things.

I think this is Reno, waaay away to the north, but it's a really pretty photo regardless.

The first loop, 12 miles, went pretty well actually. I started in with a big group of people I know (shout outs to all my peeps) and things went better than I'd hoped. People would be inspired to power trot past us on gradual climbs, then Dixie and I would catch up and smoke them on the downhills, or (gasp!) we'd catch them at a walk on the steep climbs and pass them. I never thought I'd see the day where my big cow of a TWH would manage to pass an Arab on the uphill. Then we'd slow down and another group would catch the spirit and boogie on past us, and the cycle would repeat.

I think this is A, on Fire, who I rode in the Lake Almanor LD last year.

It was actually everything I love about the spirit of endurance. Nobody cared if you rode off in the middle of a conversation - you gotta ride your own ride. Everybody politely let me pass when I asked, and I got clear of people booking past me. We'd just pick up where we left off when we ended up near each other again.

The ribbons were plentiful but erratic. Hey, it's NEDA, it's a low budget low stress fun experience, not an FEI ride. The markers used mostly pink, but they ran out of pink and switched to multicolored part of the way through the marking experience - so about 2/3 of the first loop and 1/3 of the second loop were pink. The rest of the ride was random ribbons. They were always on the right, and the turns were well marked, and there were plenty of confidence ribbons.

The cottonwoods? willow things? are budding out!

Somehow Dixie lost two boots, front right and left rear, on the long downhill back to camp. I thought about going back, I really did, but I figured I'd come find them later or some kind soul on a short horse would find them for me. A kind soul (on a tall horse) DID find them and returned them to me at a little seasonal spring, but we were only a mile or so from camp and they were mud-caked so I just plodded on half-booted.

We walked in to camp and Dixie pulsed down (64) in a couple of minutes. There's no hold in NEDA rides, but I like to take 20 minutes or so at the trailer, and I got to spend those 20 minutes scrubbing all four boots in a bucket of water and putting them back on. Please, little boots, I thought, just one more loop!

I also shed my jacket and headed back out in my magical sports-bra-tank-top and a fuzzy sleeveless vest. Do you note a pattern of ridiculous optimism?

I headed back out with four people. L was riding Ebony, who's like always the top points horse in NEDA - but she's usually pulling a cart. Ebony was sure she needed to pass all the other horses but then maybe she should slow down and gawk at all the sagebrush she usually doesn't see while pulling a cart wearing blinders. L was kicking like a kid on a lesson pony, so I handed her my over-and-under and Ebony squealed like a pig and decided to just trot up the damn hill. We got to the top of the hill together and took a breather, then Dixie went powerwalking down the back side and I didn't see L again til after the ride.

We chased a disappearing tail up endless mountains for a long time, until suddenly we were alone. Our three buddies were far behind us, and the horse we were chasing had gone out of sight, and it was just me and Dixie.

"Wait, what?"

I started to worry about ribbons. Dixie decided we were lost and slowed down. Boots kept coming off. I got cold because we were going slow and I'd left my sweatshirt at the trailer.

It's a Nevada Endurance Thing.

I spent the next hour four thousand years stressing about my horse and the trail. If you look at the Strava map at the top, it looks like a retarded cloverleaf or something, but that's not how it rode. We did a fairly simple loop for the first half of the ride, but the second half kept crossing over the first part of the trail and doing bits of it backwards and bits forward and cutting off into new territory and yall I was sure I was lost. Not like, "oh god where is the trailer" lost, but "I am not doing the trail in the right order" lost. Eventually I decided that I'd ride for 22 damn miles by the damn GPS and then I'd point my horse down the hill toward the trailer and we'd head in and call it a day. But until then we'd just keep the ribbons on the right and follow the dolomite arrows, even though we were totally lost.

More hosebags.

Dixie also knew we were lost. There were no horses for hundreds of miles and her stupid human had led her into the wilderness to die. She slowed down to a crawl. At one boot-fixing pit stop, I snapped off the biggest juniper branch I could grab, but it was only like 12" long. Based on her reaction, it must've felt quite nice as I thwapped her madly about the neck, shoulders, butt, and flanks to try to get her to trot on the nice downhill sections.

Eventually, we moseyed near enough one of those cottonwood/willow things for me to get a Proper Horse Beating Stick, and I snapped off something north of three feet long. Of course, by that time we were only a mile or so from camp, and Dixie had decided that we were actually on the right trail headed in the right direction, and I only had to wiggle my stick to get a trot.

And then we finally caught up to another rider a quarter mile from camp. I'm sure I get no credit at all in Dixie's mind for getting us home safe: we were alone, and things were terrible; we found another horse, and YAY CAMP!

I rode into camp, flung my stick dramatically into the bushes, slithered off my horse, and announced that I hated my horse, the sport, and horses in general. Beth immediately produced a beer that she'd saved for me and I decided that perhaps hate was a strong word.

We finished with 21.1 miles on the GPS, and I'd hit stop at some point because I hung it on a different spot on the saddle, so I'm calling it exactly 22 miles. Ribbons on the right. Watch the hoofprints. Trust the ribbons.

I ate a lot of fried chicken and a handful of Fritos and felt quite a bit better about things. Dixie ate some hay, and some ration balancer, and some hay pellets, and drank a couple gallons of water, and looked pretty good. This is way too long anyway, so tomorrow I'll talk about Everything I Did Wrong.


  1. I think we've all had days like that - lots of annoying mini-ctastrophes, then at the end of the day you look back & you have to say, well we got here safe, all in one piece, better days are yet to come :-)

    A bit annoying about the boots coming off all the time though - these are your "old faithful" renegades, right? Maybe they've worn so thin they're over-flexible

  2. "her stupid human had led her into the wilderness to die."

    Been there, done that, still get told about it.

    Glad you both lived to tell the tale.


  3. Wrong? *LOL* Surely a newbie in the sport would NEVER do ANYTHING wrong...right?

    Congrats on your finish. I want NEDA where I live. Oh, and Dixie rocks, you should be proud.


  4. It may not have been a fabulous ride, but it was sure great reading about it! Can't wait for the next installment! (Great pics, too.)

  5. Send a pic of your GPS unit- we'll create you something to hang it from so that you don't bump it anymore ;)

  6. you two SURVIVED! YAY! and, well, aside for a few things that, like you said, weren't so terrible after a beer and food, you done good!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  7. You know what tho--- your horse drank, ate, and didn't throw a complete hissy about being alone- she just turtled. I'd say thats a good day.

  8. Atleast you didn't panic.. regardless, I have to tell you, I am living vicariously through you. Can I send Mags down and you can start conditioning her???Ofcourse, you will have to clip her wooly mammoth winter coat, but it seems you have mastered that skill.. Great ride story..nonetheless..

  9. Made for a great story Funder. You and your viking war pony rock!! And my lord it's beautiful out there - thank for the pictures. :)

    Believe it or not - I got lost on the beach once. Couldn't find the trail back off the beach into the woods. No landmarks, waves washed away our original tracks, all dunes look pretty much the same... my (darling) horse Cowboy kept telling me it was further. I kept turning him around. As it got dark, I finally put the reins on his neck and yep - he did know exactly where to go. Bless their hearts.

    Maybe I didn't read carefully enough... what was the significance of the snow writing?!

  10. Hosebags!! That's awesome. You survived Funder--oh and so did your horse-- +100 points!

    Hey you know me, Ms. get heat stroke on an LD and want to diiieeee, but it's only an LD they say but I've never felt worse I say..well anyway we don't always have fantastic ride days but if we survive, we win!

  11. I LOVED your photos. Dixie looks great--what a gorgeous day and place. Sorry it wasn't a completely delightful time, but it sounds like overall ya done good. I do know what you mean about those days when lots of little stuff goes wrong and you feel miserable and wonder why in the world you are doing this. I think we've all been there.

  12. Oh, and it may have been a miserable ride, but, as others have said, it made a GREAT story. Fun post to read--even if not a fun ride for you. Hope that cheers you up (!)

  13. I laughed reading this, but I probably would have torn my hair out if I had lived it. Also-- your sky is SO BLUE out there.

  14. Awesome photos, and Dixie looks great. It sounds frustrating to me, and all the little frustrating things add up to one annoying ride. I blame Strava, the little subhead that says "There are no achievements on this ride." you finished, your horse is healthy, all is ok in the end.

  15. The stories just aren't as exciting when all goes well! The pictures were absolutely gorgeous and it sounds like fun even if you ran into a few snags. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.

  16. Tammy said above: "It may not have been a fabulous ride, but it was sure great reading about it! Can't wait for the next installment! (Great pics, too.)"

    Totally agree with this. :)

  17. Sounds pretty darn good to me.
    Love that blue blue sky in your crisp photos.

  18. Funder, you are too freaking funny! 'A proper horse beating stick'...LOVE IT!

  19. Heh, so you may not have had the greatest ride ever, but you and Dixie BOTH lived (despite your best attempts to do her in, I'm sure), and it made for a great story! And the photos are beeee-u-ti-ful!

  20. Photos are like "being" there! You couldn't have done too much "wrong" as your completions is all about what you did Right! Dixie looks Great & that's the icing on the cake!

  21. Holy crap is it ever gorgeous out there!

    Mary Hunter just put up a post on negative reinforcement and clicker training that you might find interesting:

    1. Very interesting! Great to hear that Kurland uses subtle/neutral negative reinforcement cues - I think they really make training effective, if you use them right. Thanks for the link.


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