Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Tevis Educational Ride, Foresthill to Auburn

...or, Only One Day?  You Wuss!

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 climb up after the river.  Don't we just look like we know what we're doing?  ;)

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.

Just beautiful.

A selfie.

 Look, Mom, no hands!

And then the evaporative cooler on the back of my helmet dried out.  I got hot.  I went from "huh I'm kinda hot" to crushing heat headache & making bad decisions in about 20 minutes.  I was out of water for Dixie, I was almost out of water for me, it was blindingly hot, and Dixie was huffing along at about 100 breaths per minute.  I got off and started walking her and that just got me hotter, but I'll be damned if I hurt my horse when I can possibly spare her.  I walked uphill in the heat, which isn't something I can do, but Dixie was so hot and we were only two miles from the finish and I was just terrified that I'd colic/thump/tie-up her.  Finally Wayne and Becky convinced me to get back on - I probably looked half-dead - and we dragged ass into the fairgrounds.  I took my helmet off because it was SO HOT and I didn't care if I fell off and died.  

There's a big rock tank of cool water just at the border of the fairgrounds.  I yanked D's bridle off and she went in up to her nostrils and drank, and I soaked my helmet and stuck it back on and the cold water running down my back was better than drugs, dude, it felt SO GOOD.  I yanked all of Dixie's tack, hung it on the fence, and walked her up to the hoses.  She was probably at 120 when we came in. I sprayed her down for a few minutes - somebody was talking to me so I don't really know how long it was, less than five minutes - and checked her pulse.  She was down.  I took her over to Melissa Ribley and she vetted out perfectly.  We did the thirty-whatever miles in 7:15, a completely respectable pace.

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.


  1. You are an inspiration, really! I think you also made the right decision by not riding Sunday. Especially if you have another ride in 2 weeks.
    The pictures of the two of you in the river...gorgeous!

  2. Sounds like you had a really super ride, minus the flies at the beginning and the heat at the very end. I'm glad you finished and both you and Dixie were fine after a brief respite. Good luck at Sunriver in 2 weeks!

  3. Yay for completing the first day! I think we've all said it before: There is no shame in pulling for the sake of your horse's health, and certainly no shame for the sake of your health. It's the smart, conscientious thing to do.

    I've been in the areas you were riding (my mom lives VERY close to there and ride those trails regularly)...and I'd love to be able to ride there whenever I felt like it! Too bad I'm stuck out here in the sucky midwest. :(


  4. "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."

    I think you made a very smart decision. We're already badass enough by going out and doing what we need to be stupid about it. Save yourself and your horse for another day.

  5. What a totally great experience that must have been. I love the river crossing photos. You were having waaayyy too much fun!!! and it showed in those photos. I definitely think you averted heat stroke for yourself.. so you played it smart and survived. It doesn't take long does it?? So long term goal is Tevis for next year for you and D? Wow, you have really come a long way.. so cool.. so inspiring..

  6. No shame in your game Funder... heatstroke is no joke - like being drunk without the fun parts + the bad decisions could become fatal ones.

    Great pics - number three is just beautiful! :D

  7. This is something I can only dream of. Thanks for blogging it out so I can live vicariously through you.

  8. Awesome! Those canyons are HOT, you are tough, badass and SMART for not over-riding your horse. And walking the last 2 miles, I do that trail a lot, and it is hard! Good job you and Dixie, if you ever want to practice those last 20 miles again let me know!

  9. I believe it is YOU that reminds me constantly that being tough us not the same as being stupid

  10. I so wish I lived out there. That trail looks stunning and I will be routing you on hard-core from out here when you ride Tevis. I may even jump up and down and dance at each check point that you cross.

    Knowing when to not override is still something I'm learning. I think you were smart about all of this and I am totally intrigued by the idea of those funny cooler things... do they actually cool you? Tev-ed sounds like it was an amazing experience and I wish all the best trails for you and your amazing Dixie pony.

  11. I believe that ride by you and your horse, was awesome! Well done Dixie, well done you! Great pictures, great ride.

  12. Good job taking care of your horse...and you too, of course. It was 80 here on the coast that day; I can only imagine how hot it must have been in the foothills. You are plenty tough, as is Dixie. Lovely photos. Can't wait to hear about Sun River. Go Team Fixie!

  13. What everybody else said: me too. Did you have a cooling vest? Gotta have a cooling vest.

    Did you sponge your own legs? Sounds totally stupid but it works: the big muscles of your thighs (THOSE ARE MUSCLES!!!) will cool off faster if you sponge yourself while you're sponging your horse. And if your big muscles get cooler, your body cools.

    Another entry from the "learned it the hard way" school!

  14. Just LOVE the photos! Looks amazing if HOT!


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