Apparently they tweak the Ed Ride a little bit every year. This year, there was a bike race on the upper part of the trail on Saturday, so we were scheduled to ride the trail out of order. Saturday was Foresthill (60some miles) to Auburn (100 miles), and Sunday was Robinson Flat (30some) to Foresthill (60some).
It's pretty crucial to preride FH to Auburn. Yes, Tevis is held during the full moon, but it's black as tar under the trees. You have to believe that your horse knows the trail and trust her to move down it fast enough to finish, and your horse deserves to know where the end is.
The logistics of Tevis are mindblowing, but the logistics of the Ed Ride are even more amazing to me. You must have crew for Tevis, and your crew moves your rig from point to point to meet you. You don't have to have crew for the Ed Ride - the outstanding volunteers will move your rig for you. I'd signed up to have ~someone~ move my trailer, but Wayne talked his friend into coming and we ended up having Dean move my trailer to haul both horses around.
So here's D the day before. She's just a tiny bit thinner than I'd like, but not too bad.
This year, they did a staggered start. Mentor-rider teams left every five minutes, so we wouldn't get caught up in that "fresh horse racing with the pack"thing. The three of us left at 6:30 on the dot.
We rode through the tiny town of Foresthill, which was oddly deserted - on race day, everyone in town brings lawn chairs and coolers and sits by the trail/road, cheering the riders along. Bill Gore was there taking pics, and of course he got some beautiful shots of Dixie.
About a mile outside of town the first disaster started to unfold. My Pretty Princess started slinging her head. That was the fourth time she's done that - once at Washoe '12, when the flies came out by the lake. Once at Rides of March '13, when the old saddle was pinching and I was sick and riding like shit. Once at Washoe '13, when the sleet came in sideways. And once at TevEd, and I didn't know why. I wasn't riding like shit! The saddle and tack fit perfectly at Washoe a month previously! I couldn't see any flies! What the hell, horse!
And she wasn't just flipping her nose up and down. When she does this shit, she will drop her head between her knees and toss her head so hard the reins will go over her ears. She'll thrash her head back to my toes. She is paying no attention to her feet when she's doing this, and I knew if she tripped we'd go over the damn cliff and it'd be a bad scene. I got off at one point and tightened up her girth and crupper - maybe the saddle was sliding forward and hurting her shoulders? Obviously I took no pics at all, but trust me, it's a gorgeous trail. Just wide enough for one horse to comfortably trot, lots of natural water and small rock pools, very nicely maintained trail. Lots of gentle up and down but nothing too killer. Dixie started drinking at 12 miles, maybe, and kept drinking great all day.
I just chocked up the reins as short as I could and booted her forward every time she tried to toss her head and toughed it out. By the time (10 am) we got to the first vet check at Francisco's, I was ready to pull. I came in and the volunteers asked how my ride was going and I blurted out my woes. A volunteer immediately knew what was wrong.
"Oh, it's flies! I live out here and my gelding does the same thing. There are hordes of teeny tiny biting gnats out right now. Slather on some fly spray and see if that helps."
So I did. I got her pulsed down and vetted, borrowed some fly spray, and just coated her head in it. If you're one of the four people who's been reading this thing all along, you'll remember that back in '09 the spray bottle was our biggest nemesis. Dixie used to absolutely panic if you went anywhere near her with a spray bottle - like galloping around the round pen til she was completely lathered. Well, it's 2013 and she's learned to tolerate all kinds of previously-intolerable bullshit from me, so I just yanked her head down and squirted her all over with fly spray and she was a big girl about it.
She'd rolled in the red dust at FH the day before and she was just manky with it.
And she did not toss her head again. Lesson learned #1.
So we headed out again. The river crossing was lovely and not too deep. There's a dam higher up the American River, and on Tevis Day they hold the water back so the flow is very low. But they won't hold it for the Ed Ride, and the river gets pretty high after 1:30. We got there well before and the water was only up to the horses' bellies. I knew I shouldn't, but when the water touched my feet it felt so good and cool that I let my feet get wet and it felt amazing. Bill was there again, taking more gorgeous pics of my gorgeous girl.
The second section wound along above the American River, and we started to see other trail users. Two guys had fishing poles and those floating chairs, and Dixie was like, oh that's NBD and walked right past them. She has the best brain :) The river was just gorgeous below us. The day was starting to heat up, but I was drinking and eating and I felt fine. The last section of road into the Lower Quarry was pretty hot and rocky, and the horses were all hot coming into the second check, but they made it.
"I hate you, human. Are we ever going to turn around?"
Dixie took a little while to pulse down, but once she did she stayed near 50. A lot of hot-and-tired B's on her card, but she was eating and drinking and we only had six miles to go. We headed out along the river again. We worked up the canyon, away from the big Hwy 49 Foresthill bridge (it's like 700+ feet high above the river) and popped out at No Hands Bridge, which is much lower and shorter and used to be a railroad bridge. It's not infinitely wide, but it's easily wide enough for a car and it's got some little guard rails and well it's called No Hands Bridge so when I saw the photographer I had to do it.
It was Dixie's first point-to-point ride, and I think she just lost heart toward the end. She can be directionally challenged, but she knew that we were nowhere near the trailer and she couldn't understand why we hadn't turned around yet. But when I yanked the saddle at the fairgrounds she knew we were done, before she even saw her trailer.
Here she is back at Foresthill. I really think she looks almost exactly as good as she did the day before. I know it's not the same angle but I was doing real good to take a post-ride pic, period.
I fought that crushing headache til after 6, but I did manage to do one extremely smart and productive thing: I trimmed her hooves.
Friday night I'd gotten Kevin and the Easyboot people to come look at Dixie's horrible feet and ridiculous boots - everybody who looks at the way her Gloves fit double-takes, because there's just no way they should stay on. But they do! Oddly, I lost two back boots on Saturday, but the fronts stayed on. You can kind of see how abysmal they look in the Lower Quarry pic, if you're a boot nerd :)
Anyway, Kevin said take off a lot more toe, at the very least go back to the white line. It's the kind of thing I know, and if I was looking at someone else's hoof pics I'd say "well duh, pull the toe back," but that's why you need outside eyes sometimes. Dixie has incredibly thick hard feet, and I was dreading working on them.
After the ride, I thought "I should pull those wet boots off and let her feet dry out." I sat there for a moment in the shade, and then I thought, "... and I really should trim them while they're soft and wet." It was so hard to force myself to trim - I had to do one foot, then stagger back to the shade and drink another bottle of elyted water, then do another foot, etc. But I got it done, and soggy feet are so much easier to trim. I think in the future on trim days I'm going to boot her, hose her legs, ride for an hour, then pull the boots and trim her soggy feet. It was that much easier.
And ~oddly enough~, the boot fit looked much better after the trim. :rolleyes:
Then I decided not to ride Sunday. It wasn't for points or miles. I want to do Sunriver 100 in two weeks, and I really didn't want to override her and injure her. I live close enough, and I have wonderful friends in the area, and I can come back and ride the canyons some other weekend before we try Tevis next year. And the consequences of getting heatstroke in the canyons are very high - there is no easy way out, if I heatstroked out down there. I do not know if I could walk out if my horse couldn't haul me out, and it just wasn't worth it overall.
I was so close to doing everything perfectly, too. I know that if I get conditioned for the heat, if I keep my neck cooler wet, and if I eat and drink regularly, I can do this. But I wasn't conditioned, and I really didn't want to injure myself, so I pulled. Partly I feel like shit for not being Tough Enough and Badass Enough, but I think that's just pride talking and I made a good decision. :-/
So I played trailer driver on Sunday! We all got up at 4 am, loaded Vader and Mocha Jack in my trailer at 5:15, and headed up to Robinson Flat. Wayne's friend and I waved them off at 7 and headed back down at 7:30. I packed up my camp and loaded Miss D and got on the road for home at 9.
Next: the usual post-ride gear/training stuff.