Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 Gold Rush Shuffle 50

Everything went right!

Yall know that I've had a rough year - 2012 went absolutely perfectly, then 2013 has been a seemingly neverending series of "learning experiences."  I don't regret a single attempt this year, but I really wanted one nice smooth successful ride before the end of the year!

When I first started thinking about endurance, I was living in Memphis with no plans to ever leave.  I remember seeing the Desert Gold Thanksgiving ride on the AERC calendar, and thinking it would be pretty cool to ride endurance over Thanksgiving weekend, especially in California where, I don't know, it's sunny or something.  When we came west to Reno and then to SF, I kept meaning to go... and then they quit having it.  Sadness!

Shawn Bowling and the Chappells stepped up and took over the Thanksgiving slot, and I wasn't going to miss out again.  I'm planning on taking Dixie down to Ridgecrest in February to bang my head against the wall again finally finish a hundred, and I wanted to get one last ride in before "winter break."  Aaaand I really wanted to get to 500 miles.

So I sent in my entry and watched the weather and headed up to Camp Far West.  It's a reservoir outside of Wheatland, north of Sacramento.  The reservoir land runs beside Beale Air Force Base, and there's a shooting range (infamous among endurance riders) and an archery range.  Most of the Central Valley is as flat as Kansas, but the lake is nestled in some gently rolling hills that make for surprisingly gorgeous views.
The lake property is grazing area and there were a lot of cows with calves out.
We vetted in (42 pulse!) and got settled.  This is Dixie's cleaner side so this is the picture you get of camp.
It was a big ride!  I don't have any idea what kind of attendance they had for Friday and Sunday, but Saturday's ride had almost seventy riders on the 50 and over thirty on the LD.
 Looks like Rob Lydon's hat, so it must be the vet criteria part of the meeting.
Morning came early, as they always do, and I got ready to ride.  I planned to stick with Lucy and Patrick all day, and we plonked out of camp together about ten minutes after the start.
The weather was gorgeous.  I really can't overemphasize that - it was one of the nicest November days I've ever ridden in, and I got to ride in it all day.  This is the best sport.
UNO is the spotted fellow, and Fergus is the buckskin.  They're both half-Arab (unless UNO's saddlebred?) and they're both hundred-mile horses - exalted company!  ;)

Dixie and Fergus alternated leading the way.  Dixie was quite happy to walk big or gait big, and Fergus is a half-TWH with a big walk, so I don't think UNO got to walk more than a couple miles total. UNO didn't seem to mind, but poor Lucy had ridden on Friday too, and she got quite tired of trotting!
I was talking to Mel and Aurora earlier this month, and I whined how depressingly grey-brown California is in the fall.  They disagreed, and Mel said something rather poetic about how the land is poised to explode into green when the winter rains come.  So this ride, I tried to appreciate the scenery.

PFT and Fergus, who really didn't appreciate Dixie's disrespectful attitude.  Whenever he was in front and she'd pass him at a walk, he'd make the most ridiculous grumpy faces.  She completely ignored him, too. Poor disrespected Tevis pony.
Anyway, you can barely see it in the photos, but there's a faint haze of green on the ground.  A couple weeks ago we got a little rain, and all the fall grass germinated.  It is pretty!

The worst thing I can say about the ride is that there are a lot of low-hanging branches.  There were tons of gates, but we only had to close a couple of them behind us - and Patrick was a long-legged gentleman and took care of them for us.  There's loose barbed wire in the grass beside some of the fencelines, but if you know that, you will stay on trail and be fine.  And of course we rode by the infamous shooting range!
Dixie was good about it, but I thought perhaps I shouldn't tempt fate by taking pictures until we'd gotten past it.  There were a lot of guys shooting pistols and a few bigger shotguns, and even the calmest horses were a little anxious about all the banging.

The maps were really terrible, but the trail marking was so good I never once doubted we were on trail. Seriously, bravo on the trail marking, guys!  We rode out for a while, then went under the road and did a loop, picked up a token to prove we'd been out there, went back under the road, and continued down the trail to a trot-by.  Dixie didn't want to drink, but she ate hay while we hung out for a few minutes, then we looped on back to camp.
Back at camp, she finally decided she was thirsty.  I'd been somewhat concerned because she hadn't really drunk yet, but she marched right up the main tank in camp and started slurping it down - I lost count of her swallows in the mid-thirties.  We vetted through with a B- for gut sounds and A's for everything else and a 48 CRI.

One of the things I've been working on this year is consciously trusting my horse to take care of herself. I mean, horses are idiots, and she'd happily gallop ten miles and then graze for the rest of the day, so I have to set the pace.  But she drinks when she's thirsty, and she eats when she's hungry, and she rests when she's tired, and I'm trying to respect that.  I wish she'd drink at every puddle, and I wish she'd graze the unappetizing dead grey grass along the trail, but I can't make her do those things.  All I do is worry needlessly and irritate her if I try to force her to drink.

So once she started drinking, the last little worry I had subsided.  At the hold, she scarfed down some mash, then napped and watched the horses headed out of camp.  I wandered around eating and filling up my camelbak and whatever else it is that I do that takes me an hour - I don't even know, really.
We were back out on the trail before 1.  The last loop ran along the shore of the lake, which was quite low, so it's "below water level."  I think the piles of rocks are probably fish habitat - they seemed deliberately piled up in areas.
Trail marking is hard with such flat terrain.  They'd done a good job spray-painting green arrows on boulders and putting ribbons on stumps, but I can see why people were unhappy on Friday.  Friday's ride was a 55, so the slower riders were headed mostly west, at sunset, looking for green markers that were hidden by sharp shadows.  But Saturday was a 50, so we were coming through much earlier and had an easy time.
Dixie actually marched out of camp on her own.  No coaxing or kicking or leading the angry horse required - she powerwalked away briskly, leaving UNO and Fergus far behind for a couple minutes.  I was like, Dixie, we're ditching our friends!  But I couldn't bear to shut down her post-lunch impulsion, and the boys caught up soon.
 So we plonked on through the last loop quite cheerfully and vetted out with all A's.  Woo!
Saturday was the last day of the 2013 ride season, so that's a wrap, folks: we completed four of seven rides, bringing us to 500 lifetime miles.  I'll get a mileage patch and my name in the AERC magazine (wooo!), but it felt like more of a milestone for Dixie than for me.

Horses don't get a shout-out in the magazine til 1,000 miles.  A thousand miles is a truly huge accomplishment, and I think Dixie's got a good shot at getting there, but I'm still quite proud of her for making it to 500.  I felt like our first fifty was a total fluke, and I've felt like every fifty since then has also been a total fluke, but maybe not.  It's just another part of the "trusting the horse" lesson I've been learning:  she really is an endurance horse.

I didn't run at all; I wanted to see how Dixie would do if she really had to carry me the entire day.  My knees were killing me by the end of the ride - in the future I am going to get off and jog for at least five minutes every hour.  Since I wasn't running, I didn't wear my compression socks, and my legs are actually MORE sore than they were after the 25 at Briones.  I ate a lot, I drank a lot of water, and I took my electrolytes - I'm stiff today, but it's the least sore I've ever been after a 50.

My feet were numb/tingly off and on all day, which is a sign that I'm not riding correctly, but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.  Dixie goes with great impulsion when she's out with other endurance horses, but she's a lazy-ass slug when we're alone, and I only get the tingly feet when she's motoring along.  I must be bracing somehow.

I put Dixie in properly-fitted 0 Gloves on the front and too-loose very old 0.5 Gloves in the back, and once I'd pounded them on I never touched them again all day.  Mostly the trail was dry, but there were a few creek crossings followed immediately by hill climbs, and I was pleased that I didn't lose boots there.  Boots that don't fit are nightmares, but boots that do fit are a thousand times better than shoes.  I put her compression socks on her fronts after the ride, and the next morning she had no fill in either the wrapped fronts or the unwrapped hinds.

I rode with a crupper for the first loop, but it rucked up her hair pretty good and I started to worry about rubbing, so I pulled it at lunch.  I have an interesting bruise on my inner thigh, because I started the ride with a carabiner flapping around the pommel and I slammed into it for an hour straight before I really noticed, but once I got my pommel bag properly secured all was well.  Dixie started flipping her head on the way into camp at lunch, so I put the running martingale on and that put an end to that nonsense.

Also, very early Sunday morning, that horrible monster stepped on my foot, PIVOTED, and froze there.  Sorry if I woke you up yelling "fuck, ow, get off my foot!" at 6:35.  But after I got my foot back she let me hang on her neck and sniffle into her mane - we have the most beautiful abusive relationship :)

Next:  Year-end wrap up and goals for next year!  Or maybe a story about my Souvenir Tumbleweed I brought home when I was 12.


  1. UNO is a fantastic name for a horse.

    Congrats on the mileage and completion! Bet it was encouraging for Dixie to finish up in daylight with so much left in the tank. Also, I somehow hadn't realized before that trailer-side picture how long and lanky she is!


  2. Awesome! Love the story, love the photos, love that you had a grand time. I'm also really glad the ride seemed like a success, guess everyone was wanting one last ride, and you got a perfect weather weekend. The little green shoots of grass are popping up all over, and Dixie looks great. You're a great team, until she steps on your foot! My toenail just fell off a couple weeks ago from when Major trompled on me at the Tevis sweep. Twice. But we love the beasts.

  3. Yay team Fixie! So glad you had a100% successful ride to end your year.

  4. Yay, congrats on a great ride and hitting 500 miles!! What a gorgeous area to ride...sounds like a good way to spend Thanksgiving weekend.

  5. You always get the most epic of ride photos, hands down. And YAYAYAY 500 miles! (That catchy 500 miles song is now in my head...ooooh I will walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more ....)

  6. Awesome! You two are badasses to the end and it's time to admit it, Dixie is an endurance horse. Scrappy and I totally want to cruise a 50 with you two sometime soon! Or maybe it'll be VC 100?? :)

  7. Congratulations to you and Dixie. You two are an awesome team. Hope we get to ride together again some day in the coming ride season.

  8. Congrats to a great team!!!!!

  9. Yeah! Congrats on a good end to the season:)

  10. Well done you & Dixie! 500 miles... awesome! And i'm so happy for you to finish the year on such a good note. Here's to 2014!

  11. Yay!

    Just that.

    Only, twice.


  12. First of all you write the best posts. I always feel like I was there with you which is awesome. Second, you and Dixie were meant to be a team, perfect abusive relationship and all!

  13. woohoo - Go Team Fixie!
    If I ride a lot at a walk, my kneecaps start sprouting knife blades out of them. Only cure is for me to get off and walk until the knives come out. One kneecap has actually not completely recovered from the Moab ride last month. it is NOT old age. I just try to trot a lot, or get off and walk more!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  14. I feel the same about your writing: like I'm there on the ride. Love the vicarious thrill of going on the ride with you, thanks!

  15. Congrats! I know it has been a rough year for you, and it's nice to see you end on such a good note. 'grats on the 500 miles too!

  16. Way to go on the 500 miles! May 2014 be a positive, life-giving, prosperous year for you and yours.


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