Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rides of March 30: We done good.

Yep, the weather was about as bad as they predicted on Friday night. I was mostly dry, and mostly warm enough to sleep most of the night (thanks in no small part to Cersei - I wished I had two dogs!) At 5 am I gave up on sleep and made coffee, then climbed in the truck and cranked the heater on full-blast high heat and sat in there for a solid hour. At that point I felt ready to face the 26 degree day.

I got Dixie booted and tacked up before the 50s left at 7 - she gets super antsy when "everybody" abandons her, and it's best to be done by that point. Threw her purple waterproof blanket on top of everything and she looked oddly like a camel. At 7:45, I put Cers in the truck and hopped on Dixie for a nice long warmup. She wanted to trot; I asked her to walk, she walked like a pro. I took her cautiously down the ridecamp road and she did a Bambi on ice, so I knew to watch out for the footing. The wind, rain, and snow last night actually managed to freeze the first couple inches of the ground.

We were walking toward the gate when the RM called the trail open. I looked around and nobody looked really hotshoe ready to bolt for the lead, so... we walked out first. I kept her at a loose-rein walk for another quarter of a mile, then started asking for a trot on the good footing and a walk on the treacherous bits. I kept waiting for somebody to pass me... and waiting... and waiting. We hit the first water tank, four miles down the trail, before the next group caught us. I waited while all the horses decided not to drink, then one of the riders hopped off to fix a stirrup and I asked if it was cool if I left, and we headed out briskly again. I knew they'd catch me again, and just a mile or so later they were back.

The guy in the lead sounded really familiar. Dixie fell in pretty well with their horses. She just doesn't pace well with Arabs. Her medium "go all day" speed is always 8-9 mph, no matter what gait she uses, and her walk is bigger than most Arabs' walk, so we trot a bit faster and walk a bit faster, but we walk more often so we get passed. This was the two-track section of trail that goes up the hill past the big water tank and the bigger railroad oil tanker, so our speeds weren't a problem. We fell in talking and leapfrogging, with me on the right track and the group of three on the left track.

Eventually I realized they're the group from Susanville who sometimes ride with A, the woman I rode the Arabs with last summer. They realized who I was, and we had a laugh about it. Everybody knows me at first glance at rides because I'm the one on the big spotted TWH - but they'd never seen me on my horse. And they couldn't see my face, because I had on a ski mask and a hat. I stuck with them for the rest of the loop, and we plugged along at exactly the average speed I wanted to go - around 5.6 mph.

The first loop of the 30 (second loop of the 50) starts off with 5 miles of easy rolling hills that goes off in a weird direction, sort of like it's an afterthought, then there's a very big loop that winds along a couple of hills, tops one, then plunges down toward Lynn's place. The trail usually goes through her yard and along her property down by the river, for some guaranteed nice grazing, but we skipped that this year! The weather was just too shitty to bother. Instead of going onto Lynn's property, we hung a left at the fenceline and took a singletrack up a long canyon, then cut over into Dead Horse Canyon and on up to the plateau where ridecamp is.

Dead Horse Canyon: Used to contain a dead horse, then the bones of a dead horse, but now even the bones are gone. I think they should rename it to Country Directions Canyon, because it's so very "Ok, you just take the highway down past where the Wethers' farm was and turn left where the school used to be."

Anyway, the climb up the canyon is one of the two Big Climbs I think about when I think about ROM. In 2010 Dixie was drag-ass tired by the time we got up that canyon, but she perked up with some food and rest at the vet check and we finished. In 2011, we were trying the 50, so we'd already gone almost 30 too-fast miles when we started that climb, and she bonked hard. Everybody disappeared and she was sure she'd be the next Dead Horse to inhabit the place, and I ended up getting off and hiking with her to get her to the top. So yeah, I'd spent many hours training hills this year, and I'd watched my speed really carefully, and I picked my companions carefully, and I was still nervous going into it.

Dixie did fine. She was slower than the rest - they can trot where she has to walk still - but she didn't run out of gas. We got to the water tanks at the top and she actually drank a bit, then I grouped back up with Susanville and we trotted briskly off. It was a two-track again, and I was in the back row, and we were all yakking away, and right about the time I started to wonder why I hadn't seen any ribbons lately we hit an intersection and realized we'd missed a turn. We turned around and saw the frontrunners for the 50 headed off down a different trail, so we had to backtrack about a quarter mile to the tank and get back on the right trail. Not too bad as far as missed trail goes - and yes, there were SEVEN ribbons indicating the turn we missed. We took turns blaming each other as we trotted on into camp. :)

I fed Dixie not one but two flakes of 40/60 alfalfa/grass hay yesterday, because she chows it down so good and I wanted her to have a full stomach. And because it's not summer, so she's got a lot of hair, so she can't get very sunburned, right? Well. She didn't burn; she itched. Normally Dixie permits me to scratch her eyes and ears when they're covered in sweat, but she never begs me to scratch her, or rubs up against me. She was scratching her face - on her legs, on immovable objects, on Funders - by the time she got off the trailer at ridecamp, and her bald-side eye was just dripping gross mucous. Poor, poor horse. Anyway, there's nothing but super-rich beautiful leafy green alfalfa at the vet check, so I bypassed the line and headed for the trailer.

(taking pictures required taking off my gloves and I was rarely willing to do THAT.)

In a few minutes, I headed over to the vet check and vetted through with all A's and a 53 CRI. I was absolutely delighted. I'd been electrolyting religiously (not heavily, but she'd had four quarter-doses by that point), I'd been feeding her carrots at every single stop in lieu of grazing, and I felt like I had done a good job pacing us. All A's made me feel like I was in fact on the right track!

I goofed around feeding the horse and the Funder and playing with the dog til my break was over. I didn't see the Susanville gang, and I was a few minutes "late" heading out, so I assumed they were already gone. I headed over to the out timer at the same time as Argh Dammit Why Can't I Remember Her Name. (She knows mine, we know a bunch of stuff about each other and our horses, hell I even kinda remember her face, but for the life of me I can't remember her name.) Anyway, we headed out together, paced very well, and stuck together for the second loop.

Argh rides a super cute uppity bay Arab mare. She's always in heat and she gets infuriated if Dixie gets too close or (gasp!) passes her, but she prefers to trot at about 7 mph so Dixie passed her quite often. The second loop (last loop for 50s) goes out across the plateau, then starts up the other Big Climb then down a small hill, then up a bigger hill, about four times. Eventually you fetch up at the top of a stunningly beautiful canyon that drops 900' in about a mile and a quarter.

I got off and ran it. HORRIBLE MISTAKE, SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TOP. I know that Dixie does recover quite well on long downhills without my weight jouncing around on her. I know that I can run a mile downhill. I was pretty sure that I could run a mile downhill at a ride, with people passing me. I kind of forgot about the arctic clothing I was wearing - let me tell you, three shirts a hoodie and a ski jacket, plus a ski mask and a helmet, gets unfuckingbelievably hot when you're trying to run down a mile of deep sand hill. Argh was patient beyond words and didn't ditch me for either of the two slightly-faster groups who passed us, and I managed to get all the way down the hill without having a heart attack.

There were no very large rocks at the bottom, but Dixie patiently lined up at a bank on the side of the road and stood very still while I flung myself on her, grabbed neck to keep from flipping over her onto my head, and got my stirrups back. Then we were OFF again - the last 8 miles or so is mostly flat or slight uphill. We ripped along a cow trail to a trough, where both horses drank really well (21 miles and she drinks like she means it!), then hit the sand road. Argh's mare was totally infuriated with this ginormous unnatural beast following her and insisted on a slow canter, and Dixie just went balling through all her gaits at about 10 mph. Big trot, rack, pace, canter, repeat. Argh was going about 10.5 mph so she kept sloooooowly drawing ahead of us, and Dixie was working hard but she felt like she had enough go to keep going, so I let her. We hit the five-mile crossroads water tank, slurped up more water (yay drink mare drink!!), and rolled on into camp.

Argh has a HRM and her mare was cruising at 120 bpm, so she didn't even slow down when camp came into view. I knew that Dixie was working harder, and I'd decided that we'd walk in once we saw the trailers, so I made her walk. Biggest fight of the day, and nicest running walk - it didn't help her heart rate, but I won the fight. I caught up when Argh got off to walk the last quarter mile in, and we walked in together. Argh pulsed in immediately and Dixie came down in about 2 minutes.

I took her to the trailer, stripped her tack and got her to eat a bit, then with my heart in my throat we headed for the vet. I let her walk shoulder-to-shoulder with me and I swear to God she took one funny step in that 100 yards and I was sure she was lame. I had her trot a few steps, then walk again, and she didn't do it again... but I wasn't sure.

And we vetted out with... a B for impulsion, A's for everything else, CRI of 52 - LOWER than at lunch. (I will link you something about CRI in the next post; lower is better.) Cool tight legs. I picked up my t-shirt and went to pack up. Dixie was furious that I kept dragging her away from the piles of glorious alfalfa, back to the trailer with its stupid grass hay.

My Susanville friends came in about that point. Somehow they'd started behind me and never quite caught up the whole time. Sigh, oh well!

I stopped on the way out to throw away my trash, and saw the RM walking around, and went to tell her THANK YOU for such a fun ride. She said, "Did you get your Top 10 prize?" and I was all "Whaaaaat we never top 10!" She assured me that yes we did and I walked over to the prize table yelling "We are the champions!"

We finished in sixth place (out of 15-20 LD riders), in about five hours, and I got a purple hoofpick and free shipping from Action Rider. WOOHOO! I also got another purple ROM t-shirt for completing, and an engraved purple carabiner for the 10-year anniversary of the ride. A victory for the best color - and for the best horse.

I am so happy with/for my mare. This shit is not easy for her, and it's a big learning curve for me, and we're rocking along, noticeably improving. I'm getting all teary-eyed thinking about it.

Next post: all the stuff that went wrong. And pictures that don't fit with this too-long ride story.


  1. So, it was worth it after all! Yeah!

    One more idea for staying warm overnite in the trailer, I haven't tried it yet but might have to at our first ride if it doesn't warm up!

    I was thinking of getting some of those 8 hour hand warmer things and putting a couple on top of my socks and then putting on a large pair of socks over top.

    I heard of people using them on hoof wraps to help and abscess blow and thought, if I can keep my feet warm- I can stay warm even in the stock trailer :)

    1. Oh yeah, I used hand warmers in my socks and my gloves overnight - I cannot fall asleep if my hands or feet are cold. My fingers are crossed that yall have a lovely spring HOTR!

  2. Wahooo, you did it, and purple gear to prove it. I'm so proud of y'all!

  3. Congratulations! Together you two make a great team!! Love reading your stories

  4. Way to go!
    I love hearing about your training and the rides. :)

  5. Great story! Well done, you must have been on top of the world!

  6. CONGRATS!!!!
    What a fantastic result! AND WELL DONE ON YOUR PLACE!!!!!
    Makes me cold just reading this post... but jeez it sounds fun.
    Give Dixie a BIG kiss on the nose for me- she deserves it. What a trooper!

  7. Whoo-Whoot-WHOOT!!
    Yes, you two definitely done good!

  8. Now see? Aren't you GLAD you went?

    I remember that kind of ride with Phebes. Where you have to blink hard at tears and realize what your horse just gave you.



  9. Woo hoo! Congratulations to you and Dixie! And what the heck, the pup too! Excellent!

  10. Next post about what went wrong? Clearly an awful lot went right - way to go Dixie!!

    1. I tried out a lot of new gear, and the weather was awful, so yeah, a lot of things went wrong! But stuff went right, too. It was in no way a disaster, just a "remember to bring two rope halters" learning experience.

  11. You two are AWESOME!!!! (I would gush on about how much I admire your fortitude and perseverance, but that would be awkward...) ;)

    Well done, and can't wait to see the pictures.

  12. WOOHOOO! you guys are the Champions! that is so exciting - you guys done good! it will get easier, you 2 will become pros, and you will wear your Happy Face tights next time.
    I write this as it is snowing outside!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

    1. It snowed here last night too! Argh. At least we're IN HOUSES, looking out at it.

  13. Thanks, yall :) Dixie's moving around good, and I feel ok too - my arm hurts? I guess I was pulling more than I thought? but everything else checks out ok.

    Cersei continues her usual routine of sleeping like it's an Olympic sport and she's training to win it.

  14. Awesome! You are a hearty soul to handle that weather, and the ride too! Dixie is back! I hope you're defrosted and we can hear the rest if the story...

  15. Yay Dixie and Funder! I thought about you off and on all day--glad to hear it was a huge success.

  16. SWEET! Good job Funder and Dixie! You guys are tough, I have to say I was mightily enjoying my warm house but honestly thinking of you on Friday night.

    Even though I've met Dixie and KNOW the size and shape of her, sometimes I "forget" that you are doing everything we're doing on Arabs on a big, hairy Viking horse! And you're doing it well! SO even more kudos for that, and I can't wait til we get to hang at a ride again! Cache Creek?

  17. Whoohoo! Glad ya'll completed, even happier for you that you hit top ten (something I'm pretty sure I'll not be doing ever... ) Now to go read the next post!

  18. That's fantastic!! Congratulations on having such a wonderful ride with your mare and also for your 6th place finish!

  19. Wow! That's wonderful! Good job, you two.

  20. You amaze me....seriousily....

  21. YAY !! Despite the weather, you two were a fantabulous team! TOP TEN!!Congrats.. so happy for both of you...


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