Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Barn's burnt down / now I can see the moon

When I was a kid, maybe in the early 90s, my parents had that saying tacked up on the tiny corkboard over the phone.  Barn's burnt down / now I can see the moon, from a Zen-saying-a-day calendar.  I always liked it, and I saw it a lot in those days.  (Remember when you had to pick the receiver up from the base to answer the phone, and if you wanted any privacy at all you had to buy an extra-long cord so you could drag the phone into your bedroom with you?  Gah, like, I really didn't want my stupid parents to hear me talk about my Rock Star Boyfriends.)

When we left Ohio, I made a promise to myself that I'd say yes more often.  Ohio was a real low point in my life - I couldn't find a job of any kind, my gelding Champ died, Dixie was more psychotically unrideable every day, and I didn't even do anything while I was there.  I didn't go to any horse events - shows, day trips, camping trips, nothing.  I didn't go people-camping or hiking or even the water park I drove past on the interstate most days.

I couldn't do anything about Champ or the economy, and I didn't have a trailer to go places, but I promised myself that when we got to Nevada, I'd seek out horse people and if they offered to do stuff, I would say yes unless I had a compelling reason to say no.  Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing with my horse, but surely if I just kept doing stuff with her this whole mess would get better.

And thus began a new phase of my life.  I rode with ~C.  I rode with the crazy lady I boarded with.  I rode with the crazy lady's neighbors.  I went to Vegas to meet two of my internet friends.  I slowly met more people, slowly got invitations to go ride with them, and I always said yes.  It never seemed like a good idea at the time, honestly - I'm a quiet, shy, only-child introvert by nature, and I've spent my life fighting that tendency to hide from people. But I kept doing it, and it slowly got easier, and I've had so many awesome crazy adventures just from saying yes.

After TRR, my friend S was like "I think I might ride VC for the first time this year, and we should ride  the Cottonwoods loop ahead of time, and you should come stay at my house."  Of course I said yes - it's almost habit at this point - and we decided I'd come over on Friday and we'd ride Saturday and Sunday.

Then the Rim Fire exploded, and the wind blew the smoke north to Reno, and I almost backed out. Half of my friends were like "you are fucking insane do not come to Reno this weekend."  But S was like "come anyway, we'll go somewhere not smoky and ride," and NOAA said the smoke might shift Friday night, and I decided to stick with the Just Say Yes plan.

I drove into a smoke-pocalypse.  (If you think I haven't spent the last five days trying to figure out a more clever name than that, you don't know me at all!)  It looked like a big cloud...

Then I drove into the big cloud and the sun turned orange.  It looked like the dying world in The Magician's Nephew.  This is when the barn was burning down, btw.

The smoke was unbelievably bad.  We drank margaritas and ate excellent food and made contingency plans on Friday night, and when we got up Saturday it was just as bad.

Dixie and Taz got along like gangbusters.  She squealed and threatened to kick him in the head, and he fell instantly, deeply, permanently in love with her.  With mares it's touch and go, but I can't think of the last time Dixie met a gelding who didn't worship her unworthy hateful self, LOL.

Saturday morning we double-checked all the weather forecasts and decided the only place to go was west.  We could've ridden out of the Auburn Fairgrounds, but I knew it'd be really busy and I steered us toward Skillman instead.  Two years ago I went people-camping there with Mel, and while I still can't get properly excited about riding Wild West I really wanted to ride the trails.

By the time we figured out a plan, headed out, stopped at the ag station, stopped to pee, stopped to check on the horses, turned down a logging road instead of the campground and had to find a place to turn the trailer around, and finally got set up in the day-use area at Skillman, it was almost one, but by god we'd come this far and we were going to ride.  In a nod to the possibility that we'd get lost and spend the night in the woods, I brought a flashlight and my new Spot, and S brought two candy bars.  We are epic explorers, yall.  We saddled up the horses in a state of great excitement and headed off down the one trail I knew.

We'd forgotten to give the horses any water, but at least the sky was blue and there was a campground not far off with faucets.
Skillman has some truly lovely speederbike singletrack, and the next time I go back I'll bring the helmet cam, cause there's no way to video that with a handheld camera.  Taz was like "awww hell yeah let's do this" and Dixie just tucked in and roared along after him.  We zipped up to the people campground.

S had brought a little scoop for Taz to drink out of, and I put a plastic bag in my helmet to make a water bucket for Dixie.  I was pretty proud of my little psycho pony - she didn't even bat an eye, just stuck her face in up to her nose and slurped like five helmet-fulls of water.
We headed back and went down Hallelujah Trail, and right at the point where I thought "Wow this is really bushwhacking, even for us" the trail just died.  Dixie had to step sideways over a foot-high pointy log into a dry stream bed composed of head-sized boulders to give Taz room to turn around, and then we were off again.  Taz threw a boot (one of many - I am so grateful that Dixie's boots inexplicably fit her fucked-up feet so well) and when S got off to pull it, he was like "oh you're tailing?  Grab on let's go" and he took off without her.  Impressively, she ran like a quarter mile up this steep "trail" yelling for him.  He stopped at a switchback like, "What? I thought you were tailing, stupid" and away we went again.
We got back to camp at three.  We'd only done about ten miles, but it was gloriously pretty.  I started doing the math in my head and decided I absolutely had to leave at four, so we walked around camp and found the other trailhead, then tied up the horses.  The camp host came back by and offered us maps, so we went over to his little compound and talked to him for a bit.

Turns out he's a retired sword swallower from the Ren Faire circuit.

Now he makes steampunk instruments and vehicles.  I photoshopped these guitar pics (fixed the levels so that the guitars are visible and the background isn't washed out).

He made the Unhipster Bike, too - a vintage bicycle, with a 35 cc gas engine strapped to it - but the wheel came loose while he was hauling ass down a hill and it's broken right now.  
Eventually I had to go, so I flung Dixie back in the trailer and headed west.  I got her home right at sunset, which was actually scenic for once.  If you embiggen the picture, you can see SF across the bay - this is coming back down the hill from Dixie's barn.
Any time any of yall want to go camping at Skillman, I'm in.  Awesome, awesome trails.  I might even brave the too-packed campground and try to ride Wild West next year.  

Then Monday morning I found out that the renter in Reno had burned down the garage/barn.  
None of my stuff was in it, and it's adequately (but not extravagantly) insured, so it shouldn't be a big deal... except it is.  I kept it together talking to all the insurance people, but I bawled when I saw the video.  There's such a big difference between the metaphorical "you can never go home again, a la Heraclitus and the river" and "hey some jackass burned part of your home down and you'll never have it back."  It's not like we were planning to move back to that house, but... shit.  

I'm trying to see the moon, yall.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dixie Summer 2013 Hoof Post

I've been really working hard (or at least working often) on Dixie's feet and they look amazing.  Here's some before pics, from the end of April.

Too much toe, too much heel, too much everything.

And here they are in mid-August, heels as wide as I've ever seen them.  I could probably take more off the toe, still, but it's easier for me to just go at them once a week and keep them looking exactly like this.  I trimmed, then rode 10 miles bare, then hosed her off and finally at the last minute remembered to take pics.

This one looks awesome - front left.
 This one is still stretched.  Too much heel probably.  Front right.
 Right again.
 Right and left.  Left and right?  Words is hard.

Equine infrastructure improvements

This one's just a little roundup of Stuff I've Had Done to make endurance easier, in a general sense.

So when we went to Sunriver, I stopped for gas (in Weed, CA, and if you think they're not capitalizing on that name, you are sorely mistaken).  I was prodding at things while I was waiting for the tank to fill, as one does, and when I shoved at the spare tire mount on the tongue it fucking broke off in my hand. Oh. Shit.

So I threw the spare on top of the rest of the shit in the truck and away we went. But throwing the spare on top of the rest of the shit is really, really irritating, so I wanted to get a new spare tire mount installed, plus I wanted some attachment points to tie a bale of hay in the horse compartment.  I asked my semi-local endurance group (Quicksilver Endurance Riders) but their recommendations, universally, were for this one dude in Morgan Hill.  That's like 60 miles of shitty traffic from where my trailer lives, so I turned to Yelp and found Barstadt & Donitch, like a half a mile away, and talked to them about it.

They did lovely work!  I got the spare tire mounted where I'd originally wanted it mounted, above the fender on the driver's side.  (Yes, that's a shitty place if I have to change a tire on the road, but mounting it on the passenger side would interfere with the hi-tie/horse care, and I hi-tie a hell of a lot more often than I change tires on the interstate.  Plus that's what US Rider is for.)

They know what they're doing.  The problem with trying to DIY it was that the perfect attachment point is between two of those metal studs, and I really wanted it attached to the studs.  They bolted horizontal metal straps down, attached at each stud, with the actual mounting rings positioned in exactly the right spot to snug the bale down as smoothly as possible.
 Works with the divider in use...
 And with the divider open.
The shitty bungee is for photo purposes only, and after I took those I went home and found a nice new racheting tie-down.  Nothing is impossible where horses are concerned, but it would be very difficult for Dixie to get a foot in that strap.  

My hay stayed put for the whole Tahoe Rim trip - with just Dixie, riding backwards, to Lucy's, then we popped Roo in the front stall and put Dixie riding forwards in the back stall.  It's out of the way for her and much, much easier for me than loading and unloading a huge Cali bale in the back of the truck.

Mel and I persuaded her brother to weld me a homemade hoof stand too.  I picked it up on the trip to TRR and OH MY GOD NO ONE TOLD ME HOW AMAZING THEY ARE.  I had become gradually confirmation-biased over the years - I knew a hoof stand would be nice to have, but a mass-produced retail hoof stand costs as much as a ride entry!  I'd done ok trimming without one, and that just proved that I didn't really need one.  I still think you don't need one but lordy mercy they're nice to have.

Anyway, T said I had to paint it so it wouldn't rust.
 Black was boring though.
 I made a bunch of stencils and did it up in my usual tasteless style.

You'll know it's me when I come through your barn
I'm gonna trim that horse in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is around.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TRR wrapup

I guess I'll start with (new) gear.

  • Liz made me some new reins!  They're old climbing rope, cause she's a badass rock climber, and they're super extra long so I can (theoretically) tail with them.  The rope is quite stiff and coils nicely and I love the way it feels in my hands.  With my old beta biothane reins, I always needed gloves because they got slippery if my hands were sweaty, and the reins were just a little too short - I had to lean forward to let Dixie graze, and that gets old fast.  I can sit up straight while D gets a snack, and the rope just wants to fold itself in a neat little circle when we're trotting along and I need to take up the slack.  Love them.  A++.
  • Lucy convinced me to buy a Salamander helmet visor a couple months ago, and no, I never bothered to put it on until this ride.  It rocks!  I didn't need sunglasses, it didn't obstruct my view, and I didn't look dorkier than usual.  
  • I hit a sporting goods store last month and bought a bunch of new purple running shirts - tanks, tees, and long-sleeved technical fabric, plus two new sports bras.  They are comfortable.  The girls are well contained.  They're supposed to be heat gear, but I don't know how well they keep me cool because it wasn't a hot ride and Oakland is never hot.  (God, yall, it was 81 yesterday and I was dying.  I got in the truck and drove to REI in Berkeley where it was 69 to cool off.)
  • Fleece velcro stirrup leather covers.  OMG, they're wonderful.  I am no longer scared of my leathers and my seat is so much better - even with half-chaps, I'd been unconsciously flinching my legs away from the risk of getting pinched or rubbed on the leathers, and I didn't even know it.  Now my legs wrap gracefully around D's barrel and everything is just so much better.  (Also, running is way easier without half-chaps.) 
  • Riding fly mask.  That bitch of a horse has developed a head-slinging habit that's worthy of its own post, and one of the things I'm trying is a fly mask.  I don't want to punish/prevent the behavior if it's a physical problem, so I'm trying a bunch of little fixes to rule out any physical discomfort.  Anyway I can slap that fly mask on from the saddle at a walk and she can see just fine, so there's not much more to say about its performance.  
Old gear:
  • I have made my peace with my beloved Griffin's pommel bags.  With the old saddle, they hung directly over the pommel and worked fine.  I tried to hang them the same way on the new saddle, but the bags sat too far back and I banged into them and got that horrid bruise at Washoe.  At TRR, I hung them forward of the pommel, where the strap joining the two bags is resting on Dixie's neck, instead of on the pommel.  They worked fine that way.  No rubs on the horse (YMMV), no bruises on me, tons of room to carry junk.
  • I used my ATG breastcollar and crupper, but honestly, I don't think I ever needed the crupper.  Every time I checked, it was floppy loose back there, and we did nothing but hills.  That leads me to...
  • OMG, I love my Specialized saddle.  I can't get really good pics on a white horse, but her back muscles are filling out.  I need to check the fit again and maybe her right side doesn't need the shim anymore - but it ain't no thing, no need to call a saddle fitter or nothin'.  Specialized + fleeces = happy horse and rider.
  • My shit-ass $30 Garmin 205 is almost entirely useless at this point.  The battery lasts 10 hours max, and of course I turned it on when I saddled up at 7:30 so it was dead before Marlette Lake. (Tracks here.) Instead of upgrading to a touchscreen Garmin, I'm switching to a Spot Gen3 tracker - G can track me in real time on a web app, and it's got an oh-shit button to summon the medivac helicopters if it all goes really sideways.  
  • Everything else was unchanged or not used.  
Things I didn't do:  I didn't electrolyte, at all.  It just wasn't a hot ride, and the more I learn about equine physiology, the less often I give electrolytes.  I'm not anti-electrolyte, but it just wasn't necessary.  I didn't even braid her mane - I put pigtails in at 18 miles, but no aggressive cooling.  

Dixie didn't drink at 10 miles, but I think she started drinking at 12 miles, and she took good care of herself all day.  She wasn't interested in water at Red House at 32 miles or Marlette Lake at 42 miles, but she was grazing at both spots and she drank every other time it was available.  

Because we were starting so late, I waited til the morning to put her boots on, and they did not budge all day.  TRR isn't the biggest challenge to boots - I think slogging through mud is the hardest - but it was a lot of rock climbing.  Per Kevin's advice, I've gotten really aggressive about keeping her toes pulled back to the white line and her heels as low as I dare to take them, and her feet look better than ever.  I've gone from 0.5 Gloves (that never looked quite right, but never came off either) to 0 Gloves on her fronts.  Getting the gaiters done up is a challenge, and I have to walk her around for like a quarter mile before they will close, but I sure love them.

Oddly, she had one rub, on her back right pastern.  Never had a rear gaiter rub before.  Maybe a rock got caught in there for a few miles?  

I have a badass new hoof stand and I need to take pics of how beautiful her feet look, so try to contain your excitement - a Hoof Post is coming soon.


So we're going to tackle the Virginia City 100 in 5.5 weeks.  It's hard, but I think we have a good shot at finishing it.  Dixie's really evened out into a slow, steady horse who just chugs along for hours and hours, and I'm fitter than I've ever been in my life.  I feel like I've got our gear and nutrition under control.  I have good crew (Mel!) and good riding friends (Nevada!) and we're going for it.

I really want to do a hundred, and if you have to ask why I just can't explain it to you.  :)  My husband and I have the most rewarding & trusting relationship of my life, but Dixie and I are a very close second.  Me and her?  We can do things together I never imagined she could do, that I never imagined I could do.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 Tahoe Rim Ride 50

I just don't know if I have enough words to describe this one.
So Friday I headed to Lake Tahoe.  I meandered along, meeting Mel for lunch and picking up Lucy and Roo in the foothills, and we made our grand entrance to camp about 5:30.

Dixie walked out of the trailer lame.

I always wonder if I'll ~know~ lameness when I see it, cause gaited horses already move a little funny, but the second she hopped out of the trailer I knew something was wrong.  She was off, somewhere high up in her left rear, and I could see it before she even got that leg out of the trailer and on to the ground, and I FREAKED OUT.

It was probably a cramp, from the twisty stop-and-go trip up Hwy 50, but holy shit!  Do I try to walk it out and start the ride?  But it's such a hard ride!  Do I just give up and not even start?  But I love this ride so much and I came so far!  We got the horses and gear situated at Sanne's trailer, where they'd be spending the weekend, and I took Dixie straight to the vets with my little hands flapping helplessly in the air.

She was already moving better.  Dr. Hassan and Dr. McCartney watched her trot (step-pace) out and said yes, probably a cramp.  We talked about how it's 18 miles to the vet check and a long trailer ride back to camp, and I said I'd ride five miles out and if she was moving funny I'd hike her back to camp, and I was cleared to start.  B for gait, 42 pulse.

The ride started at the leisurely hour of 8, which is nice if you're a fast rider but left me thinking about sunset times.  Nothing for it, though - the vet check is fairly inaccessible, and it takes the volunteers something like two hours to get from base camp to the vet check.  Nobody would help if they had to get up at 4 to do it!

Dixie was ready to get it done.  Put the bridle on and get on already, human!

Lucy and I started out toward the back of the pack.  I can't remember, but I think there were ~20 people in the 50?  We trot trotted a bit, and when the horses weren't quite so fresh we dropped to a walk.  I knew we had a lot of climbing to do, from camp at 7000' up to above 9000'.  We leapfrogged a bit with my friends Angela and Pam, and they ended up behind our little parade as we came out of the forest onto the "singletrack with exposure."
(I just love that phrase.  It's so clinical, yet evocative.)  I am stealing this picture from Lucy, because I only took video of this section and I don't have it ready to upload yet.
Bill and Rene, the photographers, were waiting for us at the top.  Killer pictures as always, and I can't decide which one I'd like to get enlarged!
 I really like this one.
 WOOHOO!  \m/

You may notice a lack of junk tied to my horse.  This is possibly the vainest thing I've ever done, but I actually bought that shirt (Under Armor heat gear) just for this ride, and I didn't tie a bunch of extra shit on her, and I scrubbed her mane and tail with soap on Thursday, because I wanted to look GOOD in my pictures for once.  I mean, Dixie always looks good, but sometimes she looks good despite the mismatched tack and colorblind rider, you know?  

We headed down the mountain, toward the vet check at Hobart Reservoir, and it was time to trot-trot-trot.  At some point, Roo took the lead and kept it most of the day - an amazing performance by a natural follower.  (All four horses in our little group were followers, so we tried to trade off who had to take the lead, but Roo took most of the burden.)  He's the little grey fellow you will see in almost every one of my pictures.

Hey, there's Washoe Valley!  Looking north toward Reno.
 Brave Roo, trot-trot-trot along the flume trail.
 Washoe Lake.  I always think it looks like Mirrormere from up here.
Hiding near that shattered log was a tiny portal to hell leak in the water flume.  It was burbling a tiny jet of water about 2" out of the ground, making a threatening peaceful hissing noise, and all the horses had to give it the side-ear as they crept past.
Deeply troubling wet spot.
We trotted on around the hill and into the vet check.  Everybody pulsed down quickly, I hugged all my friends, and we vetted through fine.  The 45 minute hold went by quite slowly, actually - I got everything done that I needed to get done and realized I had fifteen minutes to just relax.

We tied Dixie and Roo to the same tree, but that didn't work out quite so well.  Dixie ate her mash, and some of her hay, then she ate some of Roo's hay while glaring balefully at him, then she shoved him out of the way and dove into his mash.  He backed up and licked the outside of the bucket while staring adoringly at her.  We had to leave a human at them at all times to save him from his new love.

The second loop is short, only 12 miles, and we zipped along at our usual slow-but-steady speed. This year the second loop was the same course, but run in reverse from last year, and everybody agrees that it works better this way.  We climbed back out of the vet check, up a pretty singletrack (instead of climbing back up the boring rocky road.)  Our group met up with one of the bike rescue guys.  There are two different bike patrols out there, I think, and the equestrian and bikers are trying really hard to work together and share the trails safely.  Somebody had lost a sponge on the trail, and one of the bikers passed it up to me to take back to camp.

We went back up to where the photographers had been.  The horses were quite cheerful - we were headed back to camp!  YAY CAMP!  But then at Snow Valley we turned left, away from camp, and the horses fell into a sad funk.  I got off and started running downhill, dragging my horse like a reluctant cat on a leash, and we made it down the alpine slope to a little meadow in pretty good time.  The Dedicated Turtle (I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name!) dinked along behind us, and we leapfrogged with a lady on a beautiful black MFT.  The horses topped off their tanks on good grass, then we got back on and trot-trot-trotted along the flume trail back to the vet check.

The sky was SO BLUE.
 Back on sandy trails.  I was feeling good, so I kept hopping off and running down the hills.  I'm not very fast, but just getting my weight off Dixie helps her a lot.

We got back to the vet check for the second time in mid afternoon.  Dixie and Roo pulsed down in just a few minutes, but Luv and Nikki (Angela and Pam's horses) ended up pulsing about ten minutes after us.  Everybody vetted ok, and we had an adequate amount of time, so Lucy and I left about five minutes after our hold was up and moseyed down the road til the others caught up.  Then it was time to trot-trot-trot again and try to get it done in time.  We had four hours to go 20 miles, with one more large mountain to climb.

The third loop is a long, gentle climb up the flume trail, up and up and up til your horse is utterly sick of trotting up hill, and then there's a quarter mile of very steep horrible bullshit.  We finally slogged up the last bit (well, Dixie and I slogged.  Roo and Luv gleefully cantered it.  Nikki was happy behind Dixie, slogging away.)  A quick drink at the troughs at the top, and on to Twin Lakes.

It's really hard to pick a favorite section of such a beautiful trail, but I especially like Twin Lakes / Herlan Peak.  It's not as high as Snow Valley, near the pro photos, but it's very quiet and majestic and forbidding.  The lakes were gone this year, so we skipped riding through the little valley and tackled the singletrack up to the top of Herlan.  I took a few pictures...

... and then we came upon a mountain biker.  He explained that his friend was further up the trail with a broken shoulder and they were trying to walk him down.  Could we call for help to meet them at the road, down by the troughs?  We all looked at each other for a second and got to work.  Angela had reception (how?! we both have iPhones and we both have AT&T, but I have shitty urban AT&T or something and I never get reception in the wilderness!) and I had the co-RM's phone number.  She called Crysta, who said she'd call the bike rescue guys.  After at least five minutes of where-we-are discussion, we headed on up the trail and he headed down the trail to wait for help.

Our time was getting tight, but we talked about it and agreed that if the guy wanted a ride down, we'd put him on a horse and someone would walk him out.  You can't just leave people, not late afternoon at 8000'.

We climbed and climbed, and eventually we came upon the injured guy.  His brother was with him, walking the bikes down, and the injured guy was mobile (but quite unhappy) - more likely a dislocated shoulder than a broken one.  He didn't want a ride down, but again, none of them had reception. Angela still did (WTF!) so she called Crysta again.  Crysta gave her the number for the bike rescue patrol, and she called them and everyone pitched in to describe the situation.  Angela passed her phone down to the brother and they got a plan together.  He got the bike patrol number, for when they got reception, and two more bikers showed up - not sure if they were all riding together or if they'd just met up on the trail.  But they seemed to have things under control, and after much discussion, we headed on our way.

We'd lost at least fifteen minutes, possibly as long as thirty, helping out the injured dude.  I don't think any of us were resentful about stopping - it was absolutely the Right Thing To Do - but we really had to hustle if we were going to finish in time / finish before dark.

Eventually, we made it over the peak.  I wish there was a little sign at the top or something, because you climb and dip and climb and dip and then suddenly you're dipping more than you're climbing and you realize you're on the other side.

Roo and Luv disappeared around the corner at one point, and when we popped around the bend a few seconds later, Angela was climbing on a rock to mount back up.  Whuuu...?  Luv had just clotheslined her on a tree branch, but by god she kept a hold of the reins and she hopped right back on with just some bruises and rope burns and away we went again.

We zipped past a campground, eventually dropping down to the valley floor and booking along a wide sand road headed to Marlette Lake.  Luv had decided that Dixie didn't deserve Roo's affection (and really, Dixie was that really hot abusive crazy ex-girlfriend) so Angela's in the rest of the pictures!

It was getting dark, so I took Dixie's fly mask off.
 Marlette Lake, heading toward dusk.  We'd been up on that peak on the right.
 Such a pretty lake.  Dixie wasn't interested in drinking, but she chowed down on the good green grass at the shore.
We were on the home stretch now.  Around 7pm, we passed the sign that said 4.5 miles to Spooner Lake, so we had one hour to cover maybe 5.5-6 miles.  Time was extremely tight.

I am not gonna lie, the 4.5 mile singletrack between Marlette and Spooner is the longest four point five miles of my life.  You cross a few bridges, the kind that definitely contain trolls, and climb up (JFC, up again?  seriously?) and drop down and climb up and drop down.

Dixie and I ended up behind Pam and Nikki - they were tired and Dixie said she couldn't trot up any more hills, ever.  Roo and Luv, little energizer Arabs, trot-trot-trotted away and our two just watched them go rather wistfully.  Nikki started pulling on poor Pam, who was really tired, and I put Dixie in front to give her a break.  We walked the up and finally started down, and I started trotting the pretty bits and walking the boulders and trees again.

I fell into a black mood.  At this pace we'd finish at like 8:30.  Maybe I could whine and get miles-only completion, cause we'd stopped and helped that biker, but I didn't want miles-only.  I wanted to finish properly, within my 12 hours, and get my proper fit-to-continue-in-the-allotted-time finish.  I wanted to finish in the daylight.  I mean, shit, here we go again just like Sunriver:  my almost-worthless GPS had run out of battery somewhere back there.  I had nothing but a cell phone for light and absolutely no extra clothes.  (Oh, vanity, thy name is Funder - but those pictures were so worth it, dude.)  At least I knew exactly where I was, and I knew ride management would come look for me.

We finally came out of the rolling singletrack onto some flatter stuff and I looked at my horse and said, "This is it.  If we don't trot-trot-trot all the way to camp we won't make it, so I need you to start trotting and never stop."  Dixie flicked an ear back at me like, "oh, sure, ain't no thang" and she took off at her lovely step-pace and we flew along the trail.  Her ears were up and she was quite happy.

When she let out an enormous bellow, I knew she'd smelled her BFFs, and sure enough, a few minutes later we caught up to Roo and Luv.  Lucy and Angela just blinked at us in surprise.  "We were through trotting hills," I explained, "but not quite through trotting in general."

Everybody grazed for a minute, then I said, "Come on, Dixie, let's get this shit done" and away we went, back in the lead, trot-trot-trotting to the lake.  We came up on a couple groups of people with dogs, and we slowed to a walk long enough for them to grab the dogs.  We didn't want to blow past them like total assholes, but I explained "we're sorry we're in a hurry but we have 25 minutes to get back to camp or we lose our race!"  They grinned and waved and we were off again.

We got around the lake and Dixie was like, whew, close enough, time to walk.  Roo took over again for a bit, then Luv took the lead and freakin' cantered up the last switchbacks to the road into camp.  We finally pulled them up there and walked the last quarter mile in.  Our new worry was getting the horses pulsed down fast enough to vet through before they got cold and cramped up - it was very dusky and chilly, and we didn't want to come in so hot that their pulses would hang.

We finished with 11 minutes to spare.  Worse than last year, but all things considered, a good showing.

Lucy and I headed back to our camp at Sanne's trailer.  We yanked tack, threw coolers on, and let the horses stuff their faces while we anxiously waited for them to pulse down.  We didn't dare sponge them, but they came down to the 68 pulse to finish quite quickly - maybe 10 or 15 minutes?  (You have one hour after the finish to pulse down to 68, so that's entirely normal.)  Back up the vets, a quick trot-out and exam, and we were done!

The last three riders - poor Pam, who we'd ditched so callously, the black MFT, and the Dedicated Turtler made it with four minutes to spare.  I'm so happy that Pam finished - she was very, very tired and sore and she really had to dig deep to put on that last burst of speed and get it done.  They vetted out and everyone was finally done with a long day.

I know there was one pull, one rib-cracking fall, and some LDs who took the wrong trail and did 38 miles instead of 30, but surely you're sick of reading this post so I'll wrap it up here.  Gear, videos, explanations, future plans (Virginia City!!) to come.

Go Dixie!  I'm so proud of her.  She is slow as molasses but she's surefooted and she's got heart and she just does not quit.  She never took a bad step all day.  That is the hardest 50 we've ever done (twice!), and it's harder than the 80 miles we did at Sunriver, and words just can't describe how I feel about my horse.

edit oh here's the post-ride photo.  Dixie was extremely angry that we'd stopped on the way to her stall, with her dinner, for stupid human photos.  Dirty, yes; angry, yes; poorly, no.  :)