Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to work

Dixie was pretty sure she'd retired. I mean, look at what's happened: she did an endurance ride. Then she was left to her own devices for two weeks in Nevada. Then I loaded her up, took her on a long trailer ride, dropped her off in a green pasture with some amenable buddies, and left her alone. I mean, I did ride once last week, but surely that was a fluke, right? She's clearly retired.

When I turned up in smiley tights to catch her, she was, to put it mildly, unhappy. I got THIS face:

And I got ridiculous behavior. For 30 minutes, she acted like she'd never been on a trail ride before in her entire life, culminating in a showdown with a large stump. She walked up to the stump, froze, tried to spin, and threw it in reverse for about 50' of backing up. I talked to her about the physical characteristics and ecological importance of stumps on nature trails while I coaxed her back up to it. She got to the exact same spot and did the exact same thing - vrooom backwards down the trail. I let her shake and snort and stare at the stump for a while, then I asked her one more time to walk past it - and she made it. After that, she gave up on the silly behavior and was generally her usual solid self.


We plonked around on the trails in the park for an hour and a half and managed to get 8 miles in. I was more focused on exploring (and helping Dixie recover her brains) than on hitting speed or mileage metrics. I had Dixie slow-trot up hills and on flats and walk down hills.


When we got back, it was rinse time. Sulky Dixie was unhappy again.

Back at the trailer, with a pan of mush, she was slightly happier.

When I got home, I sent in my entry for Hat Creek Hustle on June 16 and 17. Yep, we're gonna try a two-day. HC isn't supposed to be a terribly hard ride, so I'll just see how she feels at the finish Saturday - if she feels good, we'll ride again Sunday!

That means that I need a long ride this weekend. I'm planning on going to Quicksilver Park, south of San Jose, on Thursday - I can avoid the weekend crowd that way. I've got GPS tracks for an 11 mile loop, quite hilly, and if we run that loop twice I'll be happy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two right feet, windshield views, etc

Here's the view of the Bay from our patio at dawn:
Patio, dawn

And here's the poor kitten, slayed by a Ray of Death:
Ray of Death claims another victim

RIP, kitten. RIP.*

So I made the trek out to see Dixie and trim her feet today. I'm still mostly well, but last night I woke up coughing and spent the whole night half-awake, coughing once every 30 seconds. I feel like somebody punched me in the throat - but otherwise I'm good! No aches or fever or anything. Just the cough. I figured just a cough meant I can still trim, so that's what I did.

I only took pics of the right feet, because as it turned out it was Horse Ranch Tour Day at the local school and there were like 40 fourth graders (10-year-olds) running around. Dixie was pretty cool with it, but I figured two sets of pics was enough.

Front right:
Front right before
Front right after

Front right before
Front right after

I just didn't see much to do on the rears.
Rear right
Rear right

All four feet got tea tree oil cotton shoved in the stinky frog cracks. They all look so different! I think they still look good, but they're definitely not desert feet anymore. If I can just get out there and do like 15 miles on something hard and get that sole out...

Here's some random pics of the barn (ranch). I think that whatever we're first exposed to is our default normal, and the first place I boarded was like a little rundown kingdom, composed of individual fiefdoms that were maintained to various levels of repair and cleanliness. That's just "as it should be" in the back of my mind - not the kind of full-care barn where each horse has an equally nice, equally clean, equally bedded stall.

One of the nicer fiefdoms - white vinyl fence with a big Appendix-looking QH.

Stalls with attached pipe runs - some of the ones further down the row have solid plywood or plywood/mat walls, and everybody has a different tack shed of some kind.

This weekend, someone's moving their trailer out of the line of trailers on the right, so someone else gets to move from the "overflow" parking on the left to the "main" parking, and then I'll get to move my trailer (from a nettle patch in the emergency overflow area) to the spot on the left.

Huge pastures... where they supplement grass and alfalfa. :( Dixie's in a small pasture, but at least she gets grass hay!

*no cats were harmed in the making of this post

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moved, past tense

We did it!

I packed the trailer
Fully packed trailer

And the truck
Band of gypsies

loaded the critters, and headed to California.

Getting through the Ag Inspection Station was a huge relief. I had to pull off and go in the building and get my papers stamped. Not a big deal, but I got the shakes a bit when we were cleared to go.

Truckee was cloudy
Clouds in the Sierras

So was Donner
Clouds over Donner

Traffic was light, and my rig did great up the pass.
Donner Summit!

I had to stop at the Gold Run rest area to pee and shake some more. There was a ton of construction for about 40 miles on the west side of the Sierras - one lane downgrades, massive machinery jackhammering out the old asphalt, pouring new cement, etc. Transmission braking is a wonderful thing - I hardly had to hit the brake pedal at all.

Anyway, Gold Run. Dixie was not so thrilled that I didn't let her out.
Gold Run rest area

Then on to Dixon, just west of Davis, CA. I meant to stop at a different fruit stand in Davis, but I did that thing where you drive really slowly right past your stop staring off at it asking yourself "is that my stop or is it the next one hmmm oh shit yep that was it." But Dixon was ok too.
Dixon produce stand / truck stop

I went in the fruit stand and bought some cherries and carrots, then came out and led Dixie around and fed her carrots and grass for 20 minutes. Then back in the actual gas station to pee, and finally, eventually, back on the road.
A bite to eat in Dixon

So I had an ancient little Garmin car GPS and two GPS apps on my iPhone, and ALL THREE insisted that the best way to get to Portola Valley was to take 80 over the Bay Bridge then 101 through the city, down to 280.

I thought this was a terrible idea. I wanted to cry every time I thought about getting over the Bay Bridge with a trailer. I didn't care how long it took, I decided to go the long way around.

Last chance to decide: Berkeley right before the Bay Bridge.

I went down 880 to the hopefully less scary Dumbarton bridge. I was really planning on going all the way down to San Jose and catching the very end of 280 and coming back up, but by the time I got to Dumbarton I was too tired to add the extra 75 miles or so, and I didn't really care if we did die on the bridge.

I had hit the point of maximum stress. Finally, all my rational and irrational worries were melting away, because my brain had run completely out of freaking-out hormones. It was kind of peaceful.

I pulled up to the Dumbarton toll booth - in one of the Fastrack lanes, because I have a Fastrack - and sort of dimly wondered if the trailer would fit through the automated toll booth. I glanced at my mirrors and decided it probably would just barely fit, slowed down to about 5 mph, and squeezed through with maybe 2" to spare on either side. In retrospect, when towing, one should probably use the far right toll booth with the box trucks.

It was a long approach to a fairly short bridge. I saw a cool car of some kind:
Cool car headed for Dumbarton bridge

Once we made it over the Bay, the GPS's stopped insisting that we turn around and go back up to 80 and actually routed me through Palo Alto with very little fuss. I met the barn owner and we turned Dixie out for a few minutes in an arena. The BO has had pasture introductions go wrong before, so she wanted to see how Dixie acted at first - I knew Dixie would be fine, but I didn't even try to convince the BO. Everybody says their precious Snookums-pony is an angel, and it's almost never true.

So Dixie rolled in the empty arena, then looked around at the other horses walking and being ridden around outside. We got bored watching her do nothing, so we took her down to her pasture and turned her out.

Chillin with her new herd

That was mercifully boring too. The paint gelding came up first, then the two solid geldings, then eventually the oldest mare. There was a little bit of squealing. And I wouldn't even go so far as to say Dixie struck at them with her front leg, it was more of a foot-stamp. Good girl. Very good girl.

All those stops (Ag Station, Gold Run, Dixon) killed my time. 262 miles in 6 hours - that's a 43 mph average, instead of my usual one-stop-only 68 mph average. This is possibly the only thing in this whole post that's applicable to endurance - I drove about 5 mph slower than normal, but I lost 20 mph on my total average because I stopped three times and dithered around at Dixon. Knock a decimal place off, and you can see how crucial it is to get in and out of vet checks ON TIME - a 6.8 mph easy endurance ride could turn into a 4.3 mph barely-made-cutoff ride with just a little extra time in holds.

I dropped the trailer at the barn and went off to see our new house for the very first time. It's absolutely lovely. G was doing that thing where he kept telling me everything he thought I'd hate about it and I was pretty freaked out about it, but it's perfect. Well. There's ghastly blue carpet everywhere, including both sets of stairs, but other than that it's perfect.

The cats and Cers settled right in like they've always been here. Our movers showed up on-time to unload the pods. Nothing was broken. I had to swap out the 3-prong dryer plug for a 4-prong plug, but even my precious W&D work fine.

And now I'm sick. I feel like I have the flu, actually - periodic fevers and body aches and a sore throat, but no sneezing or coughing. I'm glad I held it together til I got moved, and I'm pretty sure I'm just sick from all that stress. I feel pretty spacey and I'm just plunking along alternating unpacking a couple boxes at a time and then resting.

So there's your update. Not one of my best posts, but you know we made it safe and sound.

Oh and yesterday, I went out and rode for maybe half an hour. Hoping I feel better tomorrow and I can go out again. Dixie says it's fine with her if I leave her in that pasture for the rest of her life ;)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Never let them tell you that they're all the same*

The One Point Five Year Plan is coming to a close. As you may or may not know, because I talk about it all the time but in indirect ways, last December my husband took a job in San Francisco, with the ultimate goal of moving me + the four-leggers + all the stuff out there in 12-18 months. Now, the 18 months is at an end and we (the Nevada part of the collective) are making the Great Leap Westward.

My dashing husband has arranged the house on the other end of the trip. This was no small feat, and I'm not downplaying his involvement - but if he wanted to tell The Internet about his life, he'd have a blog. I have:

Fought down my Zen desire to throw away all our stuff, and instead neatly packed it.

Arranged for shipping containers.

Loaded one of the containers.

Hired Big Dudes to load the rest of the containers.

Consolidated and packed all my Horse Stuff.
This is a "mobile tool carrier" from Home Depot, and it's also a sweet tack trunk.

The bottom has electrolytes and psyllium. Middle has vitamins/random crap. Upper has trimming tools / more random crap.

Done necessary truck and trailer maintenance and upgrades.
The truck needed its SHOCKINGLY EXPENSIVE 30k mile service. The trailer needed some minor Dixie-clysm repairs, plus a new spare tire mount. Remember when I made a cabinet? That killed the tack room spare tire mount, so I needed a new one.

Gotten the cats, dog, and horse UTD on vaccinations and health stuff.
^^ Ok, not post-vax, that's just how he likes to sleep in the bathroom. FOR REALS, post-sedation for tooth floating:
Not so good at walking.

Arranged for a reroof of the house. Pix forthcoming. SEE? I don't ALWAYS do it myself!!

Cleaned most of the house (minus the room I'm living in, the kitchen, and the bathroom I'm showering in).

Arranged for Horse Living Quarters (at the barn I liked the most, in Portola Valley!)

Washed the horse's nasty mane, and took a video that's too large to wirelessly transfer, and will be the subject of a future post.

Let no less than three sets of strangers potential renters tour the house in various states of horrible disarray.

Tomorrow is T-1 Day. All I need to do is clean the bathroom and kitchen, pick up the last couple weeks of dog poo, hook up the trailer, take the last of the recycling to the dump, load cram all the stuff in the barn into the trailer, return the cable modem, pick up my Coggins and health certificate for Dixie, pre-load the truck, clean the kitchen and bathroom, and sleep peacefully. Then Friday I can feed Dixie, trap the cats, finish loading the truck and trailer, and roar over Donner and into San Francisco with everything I own. Piece of cake.

(Wish me luck!!)

*Going to California, Led Zeppelin

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Washoe: gear review

Yall, I am so tired. It's the home stretch of packing. This won't be a very good post, but if I don't get it done soon I will forget to do it at all.

Horse gear:

The Gloves took some time to put on, but boy did they work well. No complaints. I wouldn't tape for every ride (and I will continue to train mostly barefoot when I can), but they get an A+ for competition.

I got a new cantle bag from Griffin's to hold my spare boots. That's what the leg strap of the blanket caught on during the early-morning near-death experience, but that's user error. I'm happy with the bag - between the length of my saddle pad and the way I tied it to the crupper D, it doesn't rub her loins, which was my only real concern. It's very plain, shaped like a mini duffel bag, about 18" long and 6" wide. And it was only $20!

The last NEDA ride I did, I got a scoop for a completion award. I took it at Washoe, but I only used it once - the weather was cool enough that I didn't need it. But it works well.

EDIT Damn, I'm so tired I forgot to put this in the original post. My rope halter? The paracord one from Mrs. Mom? Gets an A with bonus points. The woven padding on the crown WORKS - Dixie had no rubs from her near-death experience. And the paracord ties tight but unties easily. When we got home Sunday, I was sure I'd have to yank it over her ears or maybe cut it off, but a little fingernail action got it untied like normal. I don't remember how much it cost - under $50 - and it was money well spent.

The rest of my gear was the normal stuff I detailed in the Gear tab at the top of the page.

Human gear:

The Kerrits breeches (pretty sure I have these) get an A+. Very comfortable, and when I fell and gashed my knee, the breeches didn't tear. I didn't overheat in the afternoon, and I didn't get hypothermia at 6 am.

My seamless microfiber panties felt like tiny knives digging into my thighs at the thigh holes. F. F MINUS! They're great for LD or shorter distances! They didn't bug me at all the first loop! But the second loop was pretty painful, and the last loop was awful. My riding buddy L suggested bike shorts, so I'll try those or commando next.

My Ann Kratchovil custom blue and purple fringed half chaps were outstanding. I am still kind of embarrassed about them - the last thing in the world I need in order to ride is half chaps, what with the western fenders and all, but I fell hard for them when I saw her booth at the convention. In fact I spent my "custom breastcollar" fund on half chaps instead. No regrets. They really tie my shocking blue and purple look together, IMHO. I may spray paint my helmet metallic purple just to cement my "worst-dressed rider" award.

My shirt rocked. It's a New Balance longsleeved running T with a zip neck I found at Sierra Trading Post (but can't find online again, so maybe it's gone forever!) High tech fabric that works. Same with my underlayer, my New Balance built in real bra tank top. I love that thing so much I went back and bought another, and when they die I will weep bitter bitter tears.

I rode in my cheap "barefoot" shoes, and they were very comfortable. When I got off and led Dixie down one waterfall of fist-sized rocks, it sucked, but the rest of the time they were great. And it wasn't like "ow ow I can't do this," it's just that I knew I was walking on jagged rocks.

My Wal-mart knock-off Camelbak gets a passing grade. I suppose. I misaligned the threads at 5:45 am and when I put it on it exploded ice-cold electrolyted water down my back. Later, on the trail, when I went to drink from it, there was a kink in the tube and I couldn't drink til we slowed down long enough for me to unzip the backpack part and yank on the tube and unkink it. And it has a pitiful flow rate. But it kept me hydrated - 2 liters per loop means happy kidneys.

I ate a powerbar thing and some almonds on the trail, and an apple and a quarter pound of ham at lunch. I really wasn't hungry - most people aren't, on ride day - but you gotta try.

Wool socks and Costco gloves, as always. Except for losing that glove, they were up to my usual standards.

One day Real Soon Now I will do another tab of my gear. But for now, it's time to pack again. Tomorrow Dixie goes to the vet for a tooth floating so you'll get real content! And camping this weekend :D

EDIT forgot the halter review!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Adrenaline junkies?

So Friday Sunday night I was giving my husband the blow-by-blow ride story over IM, and I'm all "and she lost her everloving mind at the start and was cantering in place and thinking about bucking." And can you believe it? He called me an adrenaline junkie!

I've been thinking about it, and he's half right. I think most horse people are, or were, kind of adrenaline junkies - or at least I am. But if I just wanted the holy-shit-I-almost-died thrill, I'd have a mountain bike or a motorcycle. The thing that makes horses so addictively seductively fun is the combination of crazy almost out of control power plus willing cooperation from the horse.

The best feeling in endurance is when you crawl back on to your horse for the last loop and you've still got a lot of horse left. I think everybody who rides knows what I mean when I say it's a huge rush to have a lot of horse - it's canter pirouttes, it's slingshotting around the third barrel and going full speed for the gate, it's letting the horse spin on its hocks to gallop after that cow, it's going hell-for-leather at a coop chasing a pack of dogs. It's fucking outstanding and terrifying all at once.

When it goes wrong - usually when the bucking or the bolting starts - it's just no fun at all. But what's gone wrong isn't the speed or even the moves. It's the feeling that you're just a passenger on a roller coaster that's gone off the rails.

Yall, I hate bullshit stereotypes like "women like pretty flowers and men like tools!" I try very hard to not talk that way, think that way, or pass on that kind of thinking. (And you know how much I like tools. Did I tell you I have a router?!) But the fact of the matter is that most equestrians in America (in developed countries?) are women. Why do we overwhelmingly love horses? I think it's because we get the thrill AND the partnership. We're not dominating the course - we're dominating the course with our partners. When it's going right, we've got a half ton of amazing athlete cooperating with us, willingly taking us along on an amazing ride we can't duplicate any other way.

I don't think it's good that most equestrians are women (or bad, for that matter.) But I do think that's why we're equestrians instead of mountain bikers. Solo sports are person vs. thing. Horse sports are team vs. thing.

So I realize that every normal person in the world wonders why I want to ride a horse for ten hours. Why did I spend years working up to it, and months dreaming about doing it again, and more money that I ever want to consider gearing up for it? It's for the little moments of adrenaline rush, over and over all day. It's when you crawl back on your horse and point her at the trail and all of a sudden you both come alive and you're flying, again.

Edit: hurf durf, days of the week are complicated.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I just can't stop laughing at how TERRIBLE we look. Please, if this is the first ride story you've read on my blog, please go back and look at some of the other ride pics. I swear to god I can ride, I enjoy riding, and my horse enjoys it too.

Me: We're going to die! :D
Dixie: Get out of my face bitch or we WILL die

Me: We're going to die! :D
Dixie: Just let me do my job first.

Me: We're going to die but at least we look pretty! :D
Dixie: Oh shit is that photographer going to kill us?!

2012 Washoe Valley II 50 miler

Yall. Theoretically, you're supposed to give your horse her last meal of "grain" three hours before the ride starts, so that it's in the right place in her guts to do her the most good while you're riding. But that's 3 am, and NOBODY wakes up at 3 am thinking "yep time to feed the horse." But I did! I woke up at 2:30 because it was so cold I needed to turn the heater back on, and I made the ultimate sacrifice: I got completely out of the sleeping bag, put my shoes on, climbed out of the tent (yes it was even colder outside), and dumped the pre-soaked beet pulp / hay pellet / grain mix for her. I am the champion.

My alarm went off at 5 am, and HOLY SHIT IT WAS COLD. I was seriously reconsidering my choice of sports. I turned on the truck to charge my phone, made coffee, checked the horse (yep she ate all that 3 am grain and licked the pan), slathered ICE COLD Butt Butt'r on my ladybits, and generally felt very sorry for myself. Eventually, with some coffee and some blessed heat in the truck, I felt up to the challenge.

I pulled Dixie's cooler, tacked her up, and threw the waterproof blanket on top of the saddle. Her cooler is a fleece job with a closed chest, so it slips over her head like a sweater and fits snugly. The blanket fits more loosely, and it's got an open chest that closes with velcro and some buckles, so it's easier to drape it over a saddled horse. Everybody does this, and I've done it at almost every ride before.

At 6:20 it was time to mount up, so I undid the belly straps, un-velcro'd the chest, and pulled the blanket off my horse. Except it didn't come off completely - one of the leg straps caught on the pommel bag and OH MY GOD, HOLY SHIT, THERE'S A PURPLE MONSTER ON MY ASS I'M GOING TO DIE Dixie started flailing around like a 3/4 ton marlin on a line.

Horse people know exactly how horrifying this is, but I have a couple of non-horse readers: this is seriously bad. This is exactly how horses kill themselves and cripple themselves. It's the second worst possible outcome - if her halter, lead, or hi-tie had broken and she'd RUN THROUGH CAMP WITH A PURPLE MONSTER EATING HER ASS it could possibly have been worse. The only thing I could do was stand at the corner of the trailer talking loudly but calmly to her, telling her what a good girl she was and how it was ok. About five and a half hours later, Dixie slowly started to calm down and looked at me and stood still. She was literally shaking like a leaf.

I just stepped up and started scratching her neck telling her what a wonderful brave amazing horse she was. Her muscles started to relax a tiny bit. I told her she was outstanding and I'd save her if she'd just hold still, and I slowly ran a hand back and unhooked half the blanket, then I ducked around and started scratching her neck on the other side and slid down and unhooked the blanket. She darted away from it. I picked it up and rubbed it on her nose and told her how silly she was.

Then I bridled her, led her around to make sure she hadn't gone lame, and mounted up. We walked pretty calmly up to the start gate, let the hotshoes roar on out, and then I was cold and I thought maybe if we trotted I'd warm up so we went out mid-pack.

Dixie's brains fell out her ears for the second time that day. It was horrible. I was so cold I couldn't feel my feet or my hands. It was all I could do to hold her to a fast gait - she kept trying to bolt and I'd yank her back with my numb hands and she'd start bucking/cantering in place and I'd let her go and she'd gait for a hundred feet then try to gallop. Rinse and repeat over and over.

I felt very sorry for my dumb ass.

But then the sun peeked over the hills and this beautiful fog started coming up from the valley. We hit the water trough at the top of the park, maybe 2 miles in, right behind a guy. He stopped, so I manhandled Dixie to a stop, and two more people came up behind us. I didn't even make Dixie stand at the trough, but I did insist she not run off til all the horses declined to drink. We walked across the road, I let her gait off, and the worst was over. She was still chasing the horses ahead of us, but she wasn't trying quite so hard to gallop after them.

A couple miles further along, we came across the ride photographers, and Dixie and I took the World's Worst Ride Pictures. I have this utterly terrified death's head grin on my face, and my head's down at a funny angle so I have a double chin, and Dixie looks completely freaked out, and in one of them she'd just tried to bolt so I was hauling on the reins and her mouth is gaping open like some Don't Do This You Asshole educational photo. It's bad. I might post it anyway, it's that hilariously bad.

But! Man we look sharp! Everything except my breastcollar is blue and purple, wheee!

At the bottom of Jumbo Grade, we finally caught the horses ahead of us - it was our friends B&D and another rider I didn't know. I gladly let them "tow" us up the big hill at Jumbo, and we all hopped off to walk down the back side. We all walked the horses down a waterfall-of-rock trail, and when it leveled off a bit B&D mounted up and headed off. The other rider, L, asked if I'd like her to wait while I got on, and I said YES PLEASE, and we hopped on up and spent the rest of the ride together.

Dixie did a great job as lead horse. She headed out with her Big Walk, and L's mare walked the rocks and trotted the nice bits and kept up just fine. L had ridden Saturday too, and she was also looking for a nice easy 10 hour finish. We wound on down through some lovely views, and when it leveled out we hit a water tank and both horses drank. While they were finishing, M and a couple other new people showed up, so I said hi but our horses were done and off we went. Dixie trotted off strongly, and L was sure our pace was good, so we stayed in the lead and zipped along the flat bits. There were two railroad crossings, but Dixie just took a good look at the ties and rails and walked calmly over them. ET and somebody else passed us, but Dixie somehow managed to stay cool about the whole thing.

We lost sight of all the horses ahead of us on a rocky powerline road through the hills, but then M and the other new person, C, caught up and we all slogged on through the rough bit. We climbed up the hills outside of camp, then decided to hop off and walk the horses down the steep grade to camp. C was trying to find a pocket by herself, so she took off a little bit ahead of us. The three of us stuck together quite happily.

The road down the hill toward camp is quite steep (-14% grade), hardpacked sand dust over solid rock. I slipped, twisted as I fell, and slammed my knee down. I cussed, got back up, walked like fifteen feet, and fell AGAIN, on the SAME KNEE. FML.

M and Info the Mustang, shortly before I fell.

My Kerrits winter tights get an A for durability. My knee was crusty with blood but they didn't rip. I like to think that the half-chaps protected my shins from damage, but I didn't really fall on my shin...

Sand over rocks.

So I gimped on into camp after the first 25 mile loop. We had an hour hold. Dixie vetted through just fine - B's for mucous membranes and gut sounds, indicating that she needed to eat and drink, but A's for everything else and a good CRI, so she wasn't too tired. At the trailer, she dove into her mash and hay and carrots, and I spent a little while taking care of myself. I slathered on more Butt Butt'r, glared at my knee wound, and ate a quarter pound of ham and an apple. I gave Dixie another half-dose of electrolytes. I refilled my knockoff Camelbak, which was performing adequately if not superbly, and then realized I had a good 15 minutes to spare. I pulled the rain fly off the tent, rolled it up, and shoved it in the tent bag, then packed a couple of things from inside the tent, then decided it was time to mount back up. I went to pick up my gloves and there was only one glove.

After 5 frantic minutes of searching, I realized I must've rolled the left glove up with the tent and shoved it into the bag. I was now out of time to look for it, and I only had one spare right glove in the trailer, so I headed out like some demented white-girl Michael Jackson. The only drawback to biothane reins is that they get slippery if your hands are at all damp, and I dunno about you, but when my horse starts yanking on the reins trying to bolt off, my hands get damp, and that's when I need a good grip on the reins. So gloves are not essential, but they sure are nice to have. Oh well.

I met up with M and L at the out gate, and we headed off merrily together on the second 18 mile loop. We were all sort of planning on a 10-hour ride, and we'd gotten in after the first loop an hour and a half faster than we'd thought, so we were in no rush. We'd looked at the map, and M and I are pretty familiar with the area, but I didn't know exactly where we were going (and I don't think she did either). All we knew was this loop went "up and up and up."

We plinked along some really lovely singletrack beside Eastlake Boulevard, the main road. Horror of horrors, the mild weather plus the lake equalled flies. My poor princess has not had an insect touch her glowing white hide in almost a full year, and she reacted poorly. These stupid slow black flies drove her NUTS. I don't think they were biting flies, but they were touching her face and she could not stop slinging her head. I felt so bad for her. I would smash them with my whip whenever they landed on her neck, and she appreciated it, but it wasn't enough.

At some point I took the lone glove off and looked less retarded.

L was happy in the middle or back, and M's Info only has two gears currently: a 3 mph walk or a 13 mph trot. So Dixie ended up as lead horse again. I kept telling her that if she'd walk faster, the flies might not get her, and she did a pretty good job. We caught up to C for a bit, then she took off again. The trail was pretty nice, only rocky in bits, and we were having a grand old time - til we popped over a rise and saw the water tanks at the crossroads and realized where we were going.

We climbed that hill.

There's a gravel (?) mine in that extinct volcano mountain. It's an active mine, so there's a very nice truck-quality gravel road that switchbacks up to the mine, then some jeep trail leading up to the top. We had to go up that hill, circle around behind it, and come down a different trail that went like 50' from the big gravel road. We could see horses slowly marching up it and horses gallivanting down the trail on the other side.

C was off her horse at the water tanks, feeding him hay. We rode up and joined her. She was flinging hay into one of the tanks, then fishing out the wet stuff and offering it to him, so we all stood around for 15 minutes feeding wet hay to each others' horses. Of course our own horses didn't want stupid soggy hay from our hands, but they wanted the delicious wet hay the strangers had. Everybody ate a lot of hay and drank a lot of water and eventually, reluctantly, we all remounted and headed on the death march.

C was riding a "formerly paint" grey NSH/Arab (exactly like Phoebes, I think) who had a great walk, so I sicced Dixie on him and we plodded up the road at 4.5 mph. Then 4 mph. Then 3 mph. Then M and L caught us at 2.8 mph. I checked Facebook. I responded to a lady who emailed me about my Craigslist "goat for sale" post. Dixie was SO UNAMUSED.


We kept getting excited when we'd make it to a turn, but there was just MORE HILL behind every turn. We checked out the riders behind us who were glaring at the hill from the water tank or slowly death-marching up behind us. It was 2.2 miles of hell with 1100' of Everest climbing.

Approximately four thousand hours later, we hit the top and found another water tank. The horses drank great and grazed for a while and we headed for home. C took off again - still looking to ride alone, poor thing - and the three of us stuck together.

Here's the really cool bit: A billion years ago, in 2009 when I'd first come to Reno, I rode this bit of trail. I had gone camping with two decidedly not endurance riders, and we just went exploring in the hills. We found this long rocky switchback down to the lake, and as we rode I noticed some old dolomite dots and a ribbon or two hidden under the sagebrush, and I deduced that it was an endurance ride trail and it must be from the Washoe Ride. And like some little kid watching the Space Shuttle launch who said "I wanna be an astronaut!", I said "I wanna do this ride some day!" Three years later, I did the ride.

It's a beautiful trail in early May. There's tons of desert peach just starting to bloom, and it's not nearly so rocky when your horse has boots on, and it's not nearly so long when your horse is in great shape and you've got great friends to hang out with. It was pretty special.

I think we rolled on into camp for the last hold at 3 pm. The shorter second loop took HOURS longer than the first loop. It was, in fact, up and up and up. The second hold was just 15 minutes - I wanted to change clothes, but Dixie said she was hungry so we just stood at the vet check and she ate hay and grass for the whole time. She carried me up Death March Hill; the least I can do is be uncomfortable for one more hour.


C and L headed out of the last hold, but I could see M walking up so I waited for her. She hopped up on Info and I pointed Dixie at her buddies trotting off and said "go get 'em!" and she did. It was another amazing moment that made the hell of the morning totally worth it: my horse had done 40some miles, but she had gas left in the tank. We caught up quickly and roared up this amazingly fun twisty singletrack to the top of the park. We hit the tank at the north end of the park, let them graze for a few minutes, and trotted off again - west to the lake, then southeast back to camp. C and I ended up together again with the fast-walking beasties, and we decided we needed to trot to the finish. We trotted up to the big white finish line and both horses slammed on the brakes - they knew they were done. We were finished at 4:10 pm.

Dixie was clearly still very hungry. I took her back to the trailer, pulled tack, and let her devour another pan of mush and some hay. When she slowed down, I took a deep breath and lead her over to vet out - and she was SOUND. She PASSED. She got A's and B's for everything with a kickass CRI (like 56/50 or something, just outstanding numbers for us). She had cold, tight, sound legs and loose muscles and a perky look in her eye.

As always, the hardest part was packing up. I really don't mind riding cavalry, without any crew, but trying to leave after a ride is brutal. The boots, which did not budge all day, also did not budge when I tried to get them off - I ended up sitting down, slowly yanking them back and forth off of each foot. Then I took down the tent, packed away the million things I'd brought, packed up my trash, scattered the manure and hay and leftover mash, stowed the hi-tie, loaded the horse, and went HOME. I had the best shower in the universe and slept in the best bed in the universe in a gloriously warm house, and I felt remarkably good today.

My girl looked great this morning, too. Cold tight legs, a little tucked up in the butt but not too bad. A little "oh don't even THINK about coming over here," but generally in a good mood.

And that lady I emailed came and picked up the goat today. He's gone to live on a hobby farm with a llama and some chickens. Dixie's hollered a few times for him, but mainly she's eating and chilling out at the fenceline with her horse neighbors.

To steal Aarene's line: Life is good.