Sunday, February 24, 2013

More about plans with Sweetie and Raven, etc.







Sulphur's Nataqua (Taqi) The Still Untrained Mustang


Here it is late February and I still haven't done anything with Taqi, my own little Mustang who is way overdue to be started under saddle.  This is due to some living situation changes and some upheaval, that will be settling down in the next month.  I found a good ranch caretaking situation with a like minded lady, former distance rider, who I met a couple of years ago and knew slightly, and she is getting together a trailer for me to move into on her 20 acre place.  In the meantime I am staying temporarily back at Sue's on the Georgetown Divide.  I will be commuting 3-4 days a week about 80 miles round trip back to the Grass Valley/Nevada City area to work, etc.  Then I will be in Brown's Valley, a few towns downhill from Grass Valley on the way to Marysville, at about 1,200' in the rolling hills and oaks.

So while I am here in Greenwood, I am getting Sweetie back on a program with the help of a 16 year old horse crazy girl with no horse, who will help Sue's daughter Sarah and I get Sweetie and Raven back in shape.  Raven needs to get out too, he's only coming 19, which is not old for a well cared for endurance horse.  The plan is for Sweetie to do Tevis again with Sarah, as long as we can keep her on a regular program including at least drag riding one or more 50's.  At the same time, with the help of our 3rd rider, Raven will get in shape to do a fifty, and not just any fifty, but the AERC Championship in Southern Idaho in September.  I found that it was only a ten hour trailer ride from here, and Sweetie could do the 100, and Raven the 50.  I don't know yet who will be riding whom, but we are trying to make it our goal to get there.  We all have to save our pennies too.  Sue is really excited about the prospect.

We just looked at a Google Earth view of the ride course, and it is mostly flat with few climbs, in flatlands and rolling hills in a place called City of Rocks.  It looks really cool.  I know they put on an "all the frills" ride for this one, having crewed for it back in '04 in Reno, Nevada.  My rider rode both the 100 and then the 50 two days later on the same horse, a Morgan Stallion named Indiana Red River who was the only horse to do both rides.  He was carrying a heavyweight rider too.  He was very well behaved, having come a long way from his first season at the 2000 mile Pony Express Ride, of which he did 550 miles over about two months between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Virginia City, Nevada over the original route of the famed mail carriers.  He also won the high point Endurance Morgan Award the year after, completing two 100's and eleven 50's for a total of 750 miles in one season, with a 100% completion rate.  If  you want an excellent trail or distance Morgan, I can put you in touch with his owner, Joan Zeleny, who has a few of his offspring for sale every year.

So between trying to round pen Taqi and helping to get Raven and Sweetie in shape, I have my work cut out for me.  Oh, and I'm riding Raven for the first time today, all 16 hot to go hands of him.  That should be interesting.  At least he's super smooth being a Kentucky Mt. Horse.  I'll report on it later.  Stay tuned.

 Taqi and Pete
Taqi is helping Pete fill the troughs.  He is fascinated with water having come from a dry region of Southern Utah.  Notice the flattened orange cone behind the trough.  Taqi killed it.  It used to be one of his favorite toys.  He also has a jolly ball, a big rubber ball with a handle that he carries around and has even been known to come over and hit his pasture mates with.  He keeps them on their toes.  I haven't measured him lately.  He may be 14 hands now, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is still 13.3.  He looks like a Quarter Pony at this point.  I heard the original Quarter Horses were Mustangs crossed with Thoroughbreds.  People who came up behind me on Sweetie asked if she was a Quarter Horse judging by her big butt.  They get it from Mustangs who are built like brick houses.  

Drinking from the Hose


Here's an update since riding Raven last Sunday.  He was fine, very well behaved, not hard to control, but did want to run around like a maniac in the sand when we got down to the bottom of the canyon at Cherokee Bar by the American River.  It was like being at the beach, he went a little nuts and I had to be careful with him in the deep sand.  Neither wanted to drink, so we started back up and I anticipated him wanting to take off again like he usually does.  It is rocky, and being a little tender footed from the rains and mud and lack of recent riding, he chose to keep a sane pace back up.  I definitely used a different set of muscles with his unique gait.  I was sore more in my quads than my groin muscles.  It takes some getting used to.  He is so tall, I'm not supposed to be on a 16 hand horse!  Its fine once I'm on, but getting there can be a challenge.  He at least stood for the mount.  Getting off is like dropping off a 6' fence.  If I end out riding him on either the American River or the AERC Championship, that will be a new experience.  

Violet, the new 16 year old rider did just fine on Sweetie.  I think this might work out.  I noticed for the first time that Sweetie wings out a little in front with her semi-gait that she does.  She reminds me a bit of a Peruvian Paso, which gets their gait from the gaited Spanish Mustang, or Spanish Jennet.  Makes me wonder if Taqi will have any gaited-ness in his way of going.  I hope so.   Some from his herd are gaited.  We'll see.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sweetie featured at UC Davis Horse Day


Mustangs Featured at UC Davis Horse Day!


We were invited to the University of California at Davis, California Vet School Horse Day as the only Mustang to finish this year's Tevis Cup, and got a nice response from the crowd.  She has put on a bit of weight since the ride but still made a good impression.  It was a very good showcase of Mustangs in general for the big crowd that was there for seminars.  Sweetie provided some comic relief by carrying on every time we passed a Jack stud that was corraled there near the arena.  He turned out to be a well known local one named "Action Jackson" who also carried on, braying and sticking his head through the rails.  They were totally in love with each other.  His stud fee isn't too bad, they would make one heck of a mule!!  More later.

Here's a link the BLM Newsbytes article:
file:///C:/Users/Judy/AppData/Local/Temp/5w24mb11.tmp/553%20Extra-UC%20Davis%20Horse%20Days%202012.webarchive




Gayle Lee Spiffing Sweetie Up for her Appearance


Modeling the Tevis Browband at the UC Davis Horse Barn

Sweetie made quite an impression, what with her neighing to announce herself as usual, or her carrying on with "Action Jackson" the jack stud, every time she walked by his corral.  People gathered around and laughed as she nickered to him, arching her neck, with him braying in return.  The presentation was very well done and good publicity for Mustangs, who are in greater need than ever to be adopted.  There are more than 30,000 in captivity and more and more are getting cleared out (not just thinned out) of their herd management areas every year.  There is even proof that the "excess unadoptable ones" are being sold off to slaughter in Mexico and Canada.  The BLM's budget cannot bear the cost of feeding all these horses that have lost their homes on the range in favor of cattle, pipelines, mining, and other projects taking place on BLM land.  The Mustang and Burro Protection Act is being violated as we speak.  Please donate to the Humane Society or The Front Range Equine Rescue, the two best Mustang protecting organizations.  

In that light, during the presentation question and answer period, Sue's old friend, and our groomer for the day, Gayle Lee, asked loudly, "What are you going to do about Mustangs getting shipped off to slaughter?"  She mistakenly said for dog food, and I had to correct her and said "no, its for people food in Europe and Japan, its too expensive for dog food!"  Her question was handled well by the presenters, who said, basically that they couldn't address that, but wanted to promote them as much as possible and focus on that.  So, people, adopt, adopt, adopt!!  It's only $125 and its an incredible bargain for what you get.  


Monday, August 13, 2012

Da Blow by Blow, Part 2

Another View of Cougar Rock


At the Robie Park Vet Check-in



We arrived at the Last Chance vet check, the halfway point of the ride, where she drank well while I doused her with my scoop.  This time she recovered her pulse in about ten minutes and again passed with all A's and B's. I dunked my cool off vest in the water trough and  left the stop 17 minutes after arriving, joining Linda Reznicek on her Tennessee Walker for the trip down Devil's Thumb Canyon.  When we got to the bottom I thought about going down to the river to dunk Sweetie, but none of the people I was riding with were heading down there, instead heading across the swinging bridge.  I had to make her wait because there were three people on it and you are not supposed to have more than that or the bridge will swing too wildly.  She didn't seem to care about the movement.   I had decided Sweetie would only pitch a fit if I tried to split off and go down to the river, so I followed the rest,  instead stopping at the creek on the other side and dunking my sponge on a string in a few times and cooling her neck with it.  I later regretted not getting in the river.  When I looked across, there were a group of people all belly deep on their horses and Sweetie would have gotten over not following her friends with these other horses there that she could have latched onto.  The herd instinct is strong with Mustangs, it means survival to them and its hard to argue with them.

We toiled up the other side, it seemed to take forever to get to the top.  Just when you think you are finally getting close, you round a bend a find there is still a ways to go.  The lady ahead of me had a shirt that said "TROT TROT TROT" on the back, and a patch on her helmet that said 15,000 Miles.  It turned out to be Tammy Robinson who makes the Trail Rite Magical Ointment that cured Sweetie's raging case of scratches that she picked up at the Wild West Ride. I didn't realize it was her at the time or I would have thanked her. Finally at the top were a bunch of water troughs, and I got off and started dousing Sweetie, scraping the water off as fast as I could pour it on to better cool her.  The water can heat up on her skin and form a barrier to cooling in these conditions, holding the heat in.  She was panting like a locomotive and it took her awhile to recover to normal breathing.

All of a sudden she took a flying leap forward, just missing landing on my foot.  Apparently she had been bitten by a bee.  The people at the stop were very helpful and filled up my water bottles and gave me a cup of lemonade.  Finally I climbed on and continued the mile to the Deadwood stop at 55 miles.  She recovered fairly quickly to criteria and I trotted her out for the vet.  I dunked my vest again and started down El Dorado Canyon, the second deep canyon.  It was not as steep or with as many switchbacks as the last canyon, thankfully.  At the bottom the humidity was stifling.  I had never felt it like this in all my 15 times through this section.   It felt like more than the 60% they said it was.  On the way up the other side I met up with another rider on a Mustang, Charles Cowan, another Pacific Northwest rider who had joined all the rest of the PNER riders at our campsite for dinner a couple of nights before.  He was also riding a Mustang, but one born in captivity, not BLM.  He exchanged nasty faces with Sweetie (the Mustang, not Charles) on the way to the next stop at Chicken Hawk.  When they get tired and cranky they tend to take it out on each other.  We passed through the town of Michigan Bluff, the former site of the one hour stop, and stopped briefly to let them drink before pressing on.

At Chicken Hawk, the 64 mile point, it again took a long time to get her down to criteria.  It was down to the wire to get her pulse down, I mean down to the minute.  She just hung at 72 and finally came down after having gallons of water poured on her.  The whole area around the troughs had become a regular mud bog, and my running shoes were a nasty mess by the time I left.  At this point I was having doubts as to whether I would make it to the Foresthill one hour stop by cutoff time.  I had spent a total of 38 minutes at this stop.  Charles unfortunately got pulled when his horse cramped up in the hind end and could not join me.

I started down the third canyon, Volcano Canyon, not anywhere has steep, long or deep as the other two.  I was all alone for a change, and I started singing songs to cheer myself up.  I do this when out training alone too.  I think Sweetie likes it.  It was approaching 8 PM and finally starting to cool off.  Cutoff at Foresthill was 8:30 and I hustled along on Sweetie who was luckily starting to perk up with the cooler temperature.  We hit Bath Road, the last stretch to the stop, and a couple of other riders caught up.  People were lining the road now, cheering us on.  Soon I spotted Becca and Sue's daughter Sarah, armed with a pail of water and a sponge, and I instructed them to start sponging her as I walked in, as there was no time to stop.  It was 8:15, and I got off and walked her in to the timers.  I did not like riding this close to cutoff with 30 miles still to go.

Sue's daughter Sarah

Cooling out Sweetie at Foresthill

(notice she hasn't lost an inch of that crest)

Becca sponging Sweetie

while she drinks

Sweetie dropped to criteria quickly this time, and I had Sarah trot her out for the vets.  The vet thought she saw a little bob on her right front but it was inconsistent, so she told me to keep an eye on it.  I saw it too, but think she might have just taken a few misteps.  She does not like to trot for the vets and thinks its a waste of time.  She has to have a good reason to exert herself, like following other horses, running to the barn at feeding time, etc.  I had to really drag her and yell at her at the last couple of stops to get her going, she is so stubborn.  She trotted out much better for Sarah, so I think she just had my number and was taking advantage of how tired I was.  I was cursing myself for not being in better shape aerobically.

We parked her in front of her hay and wet down grain and beet pulp and removed her saddle.  I sat down to eat something but kept jumping up to direct everyone.  Sue came over with some rice and lentils and some blackberry cobbler.  One of the people who had come with Darolyn, Megan, offered to give me a shoulder massage, as she was a massage therapist.  I had a really bad knot in my left shoulder and she really helped it. I had already taken a few ibuprofens for it.  I instructed her where to massage Sweetie too.  I am certified in sports massage for horses, and told her it was the same strokes, just the muscles were bigger.  I showed her where on her hamstrings to work on her, and also on the junction between her neck and shoulder, the muscle that helps pull the front legs forward.  It was a bit tight from all her efforts.

In the midst of all this I was approached by Linda Glazier who was in charge of this stop, asking if I would sponsor a junior for the rest of the ride.  It was a 15 year old boy whose mother had been pulled.  I said sure, that would insure I would have company in the dark.  One year I ended up alone for a couple of hours in the dark in that section, and it was not fun.  The horses get depressed when they end up alone, especially one like Sweetie who needs other horses ahead of her to keep her interested in going.  He introduced himself as J.J.,  and showed me where his crew place was so I could find him when it was time to go.     

By the time it was time to go it was dark.  I had never left this stop so late.  The weather was cloudy and we couldn't see the moon.  It would be very dark going for us.  The light sticks on my breast collar didn't seem to be enough.  I had an LED lamp on my helmet, but usually saved that for emergencies as I didn't want to interfere with my horse's night vision.  We left the out timers and started down Foresthill Road, where crossing guards guided us across in a couple of places on the way towards downtown Foresthill.  There were people out on their front porches still cheering us on at this late hour.  We turned down California Street towards the trail head to the California Loop section.  There were light sticks all along the way to guide us.  We passed a house on the corner where a big party and barbeque was going on, and they all cheered loudly as we passed.  It was a regular Tevis Ride party in our honor.  Nothing much happens in this little town until ride day, so its a big deal.  

We were joined by Jan Conner, one of the ladies from Georgia who I had taken down to the river crossing the week before.  At this point J.J., who was leading, turned on his helmet light as we were traveling down one lane trail in the woods where it was hard to see with the moon behind the clouds.  He seemed to have more horse left then Jan or I, so he was our rabbit.  After awhile we dipped down into a gully and crossed a creek.  We were about 50 feet ahead of Jan, and she suddenly yelled out that she couldn't see where to go.  I looked back and saw her and told her to just aim for the light stick that was at the bottom.  She couldn't seem to see it and it was too narrow and dangerous for me to turn around.  I wasn't sure what to do, when I spotted a bunch of light stick Y shapes coming down the trail uphill from her.  These were light sticks attached to the center of the breast collars, thus forming Y's.  From a distance they look like UFO's.  I yelled that there were other riders coming and to just wait for them and they would get her across.  I never saw her again after that, and it turns out she got pulled at the next stop.

We continued on in the dark with J.J. shining our way.  After awhile we caught up with a couple of riders, one of which told J.J. to turn out his light, that we were not supposed to use white lights, only red ones, hadn't we listened at briefing, and that it was interfering with her horse's ability to see.  We hadn't noticed any change in either of our horses' way of going, and didn't want to turn out that light with no moon visable.  J.J. just turned it sideways a bit so it wouldn't shine on her, but she continued to complain.  Occasionally, J.J. would look back to make sure I was still behind him and the guy who had caught up behind me yelled at him to stop looking back.  Boy, there sure were a lot of cranky people on the trail!  We were all running the ragged edge of cutoff, so it made for a lot of irritability.  

Finally a bunch of riders behind us passed and took off ahead, saying we were going too slow and we weren't going to make cutoff.  There was some disagreement as to what the cutoff to Franciscos was.  The card we got said 1 AM, but other riders said it was really 1:45.  I hoped they were right, or we weren't going to make it!  Finally Franciscos came into view, and the first thing I asked the in timer was, "Did we make cutoff?"  She assured us we had.  It was 1:24.  We spent 20 minutes there cooling out horses, letting them eat some hay and trotting out for the vets.  Sweetie had been very difficult for me to trot out and I was really tired, so I asked if someone could trot her out for me.  One of the vet ladies obliged and trotted her out  and I thanked her.  I needed to conserve what little energy I had left.

J.J. and I took off out of the check right at the cutoff time to arrive, 1:45, and made time at a trot towards the river crossing.  We were soon joined by some other riders, and in no time arrived at Poverty Bar to cross the river.  The crossing was marked with light sticks lying on the bottom, glowing green like something otherworldly.  The river was lower than it was a week ago, due to the floodgates being closed upriver for the ride.  I mentioned that my horse lived only a few miles from here and might try to turn home instead of down the trail.  At the first opportunity to turn home Sweetie ignored it and pressed on.  There were now about six of us trotting along on the two track road towards the next stop at the Old Quarry.  She seemed to prefer to stay with the herd.  At the second junction she did try to turn right instead of left, but relented and kept going in the right direction.

I kept looking at my watch and doing the math in my head to figure out how fast we needed to go to make it to the next stop by cutoff.  We pretty much had to maintain 5 mph., which meant trotting as much as possible.  The average walk is 3-4 mph.  Sweetie led the way for a change, since this was a very familiar section for her.  The lights of the Old Quarry came into view in the short distance, and I knew now that we would make it in on time.  It was a flurry of activity, and I put her in front of a water trough which was full of floating alfalfa hay.  She both drank and slurped up wet hay.  I thought this was a good idea.  It was like that at Franciscos too.  I remember back in '93 getting to that stop with two other riders in 4th, 5th and 6th place, with the usual famished horses, and one of them bolted his hay so fast he started choking.  The other two of us had to leave without him, but he later recovered and continued, but finished out of the top ten.  If that hay had been soaking in the trough it probably wouldn't have choked him.

Sue's neighbor Ann Blankenship, a volunteer, helped sponge Sweetie, who was still running hot.   Her pulse recovered and we trotted out for the vet.  This time she trotted for me a little more willingly.  I think she knew it was almost over.  We had only six miles to go. While I was in the vet area I heard someone say he had lost a shoe and the vet said to go to the farrier to get a new one.  For a horrible second I thought it was J.J. but it was someone else with a horse that looked like his.  I knew we would never make it to the finish on time if we had to take extra time for the farrier.  I doubt that guy made it, J.J. and I turned out to be the last ones to leave the Quarry who made it to the finish on time.

It was now 3:50 and we had an hour and 25 minutes to get across the finish line.  I figured that was plenty of time as long as we trotted all the flats.  There would be some climbing on one lane trail from No Hands Bridge up to Auburn, including The Black Hole of Calcutta, a deep drop with railroad tie steps down to a creek crossing, them back up the other side.  After the flood of '85 it never seemed as deep or dark as my first two rides through it.  I think the flood filled it in a little.  It used to be so dark down there you literally couldn't see your hand in front of your face.  I just hung on and trusted my horse.  Now it wasn't so bad.

J.J. led the way and disappeared around the bend a few times, causing Sweetie to pick up the pace to catch up.  It seemed to take forever to get up the hill after crossing No Hands.  We reached Robie point, site of the old finish line and continued past it.  The finish line this year had been moved about 1/3 mile down the trail to Pacific Avenue, and when we passed the turnoff to the old finish line at the Overlook, Sweetie looked up at it remembering it from the American River Ride, and wondering why we weren't going that way.  I had been pushing the light button on my watch constantly to check the time, and it was now approaching 5 AM!  Where is the finish line??, I kept asking myself.  It was nerve wracking to say the least.

Suddenly the canopy and finish line crew appeared in front of us, and everybody cheered for us.  It was 5:05 and we had made it with 10 minutes to spare!  J.J. asked if I wanted to cross first, but I said no, you go, I'll be tail end.  We grabbed our time cards and headed under the over pass and down the railroad tracks towards the lights of McCann Stadium for our victory pass.  The dim light of the sun approaching the horizon was starting to appear.  Of all my 14 finishes, this was definately the latest.  We dropped down the short hill into the fairgrounds and turned into the stadium.  J.J. picked up a trot and I followed behind.  The announcer, Pete Occalini was still there, having talked all night long for the audience who was now largely absent.  I was so out of it I don't even remember hearing him announce my name.

Getting Congratulations

Eating alfalfa soup after the finish


Sue, Sarah and Becca were there, and Sue was ecstatic.  I got off and led Sweetie towards the water trough where she drank well and ate more floating alfalfa, while we unhooked her tack and took it off.  Sue gave me a big hug.  Becca and Sarah sponged her, and after awhile I decided her pulse was down and led her towards the vet check area accompanied by Sarah who would trot her out for me.  The lady vet from Australia checked her over and asked for a trot.  I watched with baited breath, but she looked fine, just tired.  The vet turned and shook my hand and said congratulations!   Then she said, come back in an hour for a recheck.  This was something new they had added, and I thought it was a good idea, but didn't like the idea of having to wait around.

We didn't have a stall reserved as we were just going to take her home.  So my crew got me a pillow and a horse cooler and I just curled up on the grass next to the stands and fell asleep while Sweetie continued to eat next to the trough.  I think I managed to take off my helmet, but that was it.  It was completely light out when I woke up.  I got up, learned she had done her recheck, and headed for the bathroom and then the rig to head home.  Sweetie was loaded along with my tack, and six of us squeezed into the crew cab for the ride home.  Talk about a long day!  That is the mother of all long days!

Well it looks like Sarah is going to attempt another finish on Sweetie next year.  I am going to be busy getting my little Mustang, Sulphur's Nataqua started under saddle on the way to him hopefully being ready for Tevis 2014 or '15.  He is about 4, possibly 5, though he doesn't look it.  They are late bloomers.  Now that I have the Tevis bug again I am itching to do it again next year, but don't have a mount.  Any riderless Tevis horses out there?  I'm available!  I only have 6 rides to go to get my 2000 mile buckle complete with rubies.

Sweetie and I were featured on the BLM website for being the only Mustang to finish.  Here's the link:  www.blm.gov/ca/news/newsbytes/2012/543.html
There is a nice article with pictures.  I got to be first in line at awards to get my certificate!  That is one advantage to being dead last!  To finish is to win!!  

I am going to continue blogging about the ongoing training of my own Mustang and future Tevis mount Sulphur's Nataqua.  Stay tuned!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Da Blow By Blow

Now that I'm finally fully recovered from my Tevis adventure I will share the blow by blow account, starting with the short ride we took with our campsite neighbors Mary Kay and her daughter down the first 3 miles or so of the trail and back, in the heat of the day on friday, getting back about noon.  I sponged Sweetie off and she promptly rolled in the fine Sierra dirt coating herself well, just in time to go to the vet check-in.  Needless to say, I had to sponge her off again.  The good thing about check-in is we didn't have to lug all our tack over, take it off, dump it on a tarp, trot our horse out, have someone hold him while we picked it all up again and got on a scale to weigh in, then put it all back on the horse.  The ten year weight study they were conducting is finally over I guess.  There used to be a 165 lb. weight requirement for top ten and both cups too, but it was thankfully dropped in 2000.   So no more messing with tack at check-in.
Vet Check-in at Mansfield Arena

Me, Sweetie and Sue Posing for the BLM Guy

It went off without a hitch and we got a goodie bag full of free samples of horse products and a baseball cap with "Tevis Rider" written on it on the way out.  We also got interviewed by the Bureau of Land Management people who manage the wild MuIstang population and were on hand with an information booth in the vendor area.  They were tracking all the BLM Mustangs that were on the ride.  They wanted to know what herd management area she was from (Ravendale, near Susanville in northeastern California) and other details about her.  One of their spokespeople came over to our camp to interview me further for an article on their website and take pictures.

Sue and I and all our campsite mates then settled down for another gourmet dinner cooked expertly on campstoves, and then headed for the ride briefing.  It was held next to an alpine meadow and the Barsaleau Pavillion, named after Dick Barsaleau, the first Tevis Vet and inventor of the modern vet check, as well as a multiple Tevis finisher and cowboy poet.  It was all the usual info, nothing much had changed since the last time I rode in 1999, except for a couple of extra vet checks.  


Tevis Ride Briefing 

Becca, Me and Sue in foreground with Diva, Sue's Brussels Griffon Terrier


I was to be starting in Pen #2, an area where we were to assemble and warm up our horses until getting the go-ahead to start.  Pen #1 was for the faster riders, and you had to apply to get in.  Pen #2 was for the rest of us.  It was right across the dirt road from where we were camped, so it would be very convenient to get to in the dark.  After the briefing I made sure I had everything in my saddle packs that I would need, and assembled my riding outfit so I could wear it to bed.  The 3:30 AM wake up was not going to be easy for me, not being a morning person, and the less I had to do in the morning (if you can call it that) the better.  Like I said before, we really refer to it as "damn dark thirty".  

I finally settled down to bed at about 10:00 in the pop-top camper and tried to fall asleep, which was not easy.  I was way too excited to sleep despite being tired from all the day's activities, but finally dropped off.  In no time at all it seemed, I was being awakened to get ready.  I downed some of my green hemp protein smoothie from the cooler and also sucked down a double caffeine powergel to wake up.  Then I started tacking up Sweetie who was having trouble standing still in her portable corral.  I finally had to tie her to the trailer to get the rest of her tack on and adjusted.  

I got on using the mounting block we brought up, which also had doubled as the stairs into the camper.  Sweetie was raring to go, and I said goodbye to everyone and headed across the road to the warm up pen.  In no time at all it was time to start down the trail behind the control riders.  This start was so much smoother than the last time I started in '99, when we would all just assemble in the clearing around the trail and start out en masse, all 200 or so of us.  Every year at least one person would come off at the start to the shouts of "Heads up!  Loose horse!"  so they devised the current method which seems to work well.  We actually started out at a walk until we got the the spot where the trail split off the dirt road, and picked up a trot.  

In the old days, for my last two or three rides on Shatir in the early 90's, he would work his way up shortly after the start until we were at the very front, and maintain this for about 20 minutes, having delusions of grandeur at a hand gallop.  You could almost tell he was thinking, I'm bad! I'm bad! I'm gonna win!, etc. until he got tired and remembered how far he had to go, and finally thought better of it and slowed down to a saner pace and let the hot shoes pass.  It was fun while it lasted.

Soon we got to the Highway 89 crossing and it was now light out.  We traveled on a one lane trail on the side of the mountain above the valley floor of Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Olympics.  Ahead of me was Karen Chaton, an active blogger who documents practially every ride she does, and she was snapping away with the digital camera that was around her neck.  As a result I got a few extra pictures that she had later posted on Facebook.

Soon we were climbing up towards the top of Emigrant Peak where my old friend Cowman was cheering us on.  He is one of the original runners of the footrace held on the same Western States Trail as Tevis since the 70's.  He and another man, Gordy Ainsley, started running it during the ride to see if they could run it in under 24 hours.  One year Cowman even went over Cougar Rock riding a stick horse.  He wears a buffalo head complete with horns, thus his nickname.  His real name is Ken Shirk.  He is in his late 60's and still enters the run every year.  He made it 20 miles this year, before he got pulled for being overtime.  As you can see in the picture, there is still a patch of dirty snow visable.  

I made good time for the next several miles until I reached the trot-by check at Hodgson's Cabin at the 20 mile mark.  It was 8:00, meaning I had made it in 3 hours at 7 mph.  That was pretty fast!  If I could have maintained that speed for the rest of the ride it could be winning time!  I took a little extra time to get off and go in the woods and answer the call of nature, and when I got back on, all the hot shoes I'd been riding with were gone.  I wanted to slow down anyway.  Eight miles later we reached Cougar Rock.  Sweetie climbed over it without a false step in her usual fashion.  It was much craggier than I remembered it, it had gotten much more worn down in the 13 years since I last traversed it.  

A few miles later I noticed a couple of lost glue-on boots lying on the trail, and then I could swear I heard loose boot rattling noise coming from one of Sweetie's front feet.  I was sure she had a boot about to come off, and thought, Oh no! I'll have to stop and put on one of those EZ Boot Gloves I had packed.  Then I realized the rattling I was hearing was only my pills rattling in the plastic pill box in my pack.  My imagination was running wild.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  

Soon we reached Red Star Ridge, the first full vet check.  It was crowded and Sweetie drank well while I started cooling her out with the scoop.  I asked for a courtesy pulse check and she was a little high, 64, and the criteria was 60.  I put her in front of some hay and continued to put water on her.  I asked for another check and she was still high.  It was getting really crowded with riders, there must have been 60 people in at once, all vying for spots around the water troughs.  She was required to be down in 30 minutes and I was starting to run out of time.  I felt her heartbeat with my hand and was sure she was finally down, but when the   pulse person took it, it was still high.  I decided that her eating was raising it and put her in the shade and started working her ear points with T Touch.  Finally I went up to one of the vets because I only  had 3 minutes left, and he took her pulse and she was finally down, thank God.  I was thinking it might be all over for us at the first check!  I trotted her out and he said she was just a little exhausted.  She got all A's and B's and I told him I would take it easy into the next stop, a one hour hold at Robinson Flat.

I rode for awhile with Lucy Trumbull, who was riding another buckskin horse who looked a lot like Sweetie, a half Arab half Tennessee Walker.  We got to a water trough, but it was almost empty, only a puddle at the bottom.  Then a young woman on another big mare, bigger than Sweetie caught up with me, and she said she was half Arab and half Friesian and weighed 1,300 lbs!  She had Sweetie beat by 200 lbs.  We walked into Robinson Flat together, the two big chunk mares side by side.  

Trotting into Robinson Flat

I was met by Becca, who started sponging Sweetie off as I got off and walked in, grabbing my time card from the timers as I passed.  I told her we needed to really work at getting her pulse down after the trouble I had at the last stop, but by the time we dropped the saddle,  I discovered she was down, thanks to the help I got getting her pulse reading by a lady who happened to be passing by with a hand held digital pulse taker.  By the time I got to the official pulse takers she had dropped to 48!  I was relieved.  She passed her vet check with flying colors and we went to the area Becca had set up.  


She was supposed to have help here, but the second person hadn't shown up.  She went and filled up the water bucket and finished sponging Sweetie off while she ate hay and grain and beet pulp.  I sat down in the chair to relax and ate some of the sandwich I had packed in the crew bag.  In no time at all it was time to start tacking her up again as my hour was almost up.  As I made my last minute preparations to leave, Paul and Molly arrived.  Paul sat down and took off his shirt, putting his cooling vest back on, saying it worked much better on bare skin.  I said I'd have to pass on that and started off for the out timers, thanking Becca for all her help.  

We took off with a bunch of riders for the next leg down a very dusty trail, fine red dirt clouding all around us.  The next stop would be Last Chance, an old gold rush ghost town at the top of Devil's Thumb Canyon.  All that's left of it is an old cabin and a broken down 40's sedan.  It was called that because it was the last chance to get water and supplies before the arduous journey down 32 switchbacks, across the swinging bridge and back up the other side of the canyon.  On the way to Last Chance we took the Pucker Point Trail, with the scariest drop off into a deep abyss of the whole ride.  Not for the faint of heart.

The Abyss at Pucker Point

photo by Karen Chaton

Part Two tomorrow.  Stay tuned.












Monday, August 6, 2012

We Did It!!


Here we are, scaling Cougar Rock on our way to a finish!


Well, we finished, dead last, with only ten minutes to spare on 24 hours!!  Let me tell you, it was nerve wracking at the end!  205 riders started and 98 finished and I was number 98.  It was very hot but with 60% humidity, unusual for this region.  We also had a little rain after dark, complete with lightning flashing on the horizon, which was quite beautiful.  I sponsored a junior rider, 15 year old J.J. Donley for the last 30 miles, whose mother had been pulled.  It turned out to be a win-win because he had more horse left than I did and he ended out being my rabbit.  

Crossing the finish line at 5:05 AM

For most of the ride I had a hard time cooling her out and getting her pulse down to criteria at the no hold stops, where we could leave as soon as we passed the vet check.  A couple of them were down to the wire for getting her pulse down by the required 30 minutes.  I must have spent close to an extra two hours total at these six stops just dousing her with water and checking her pulse.  It was like trying to cool down an overheated Mac Truck.  When I came out of the deep Devil's Thumb Canyon, complete with 32 switchbacks, she was panting like a locomotive.  Those massive muscles are not easy to cool.  

She is not built like a radiator like my little Arab, Shatir who I finished 10 Tevis rides on back in the '80's and '90's.  With him I wished for a hot day because it didn't effect him in the least, and we gained places that way.  I finished higher up in the pack by default, even top tenning a few times.  Not so with Sweetie.  There were times when I didn't think we were going to make it.  I was afraid we were either going to not make pulse criteria in time, or we were going to end up overtime at the next stop.  But we kept plugging and it paid off!  J.J.'s parents and grandparents thanked me profusely for getting him through the ride.  He was a good rider and took good care of his horse, who was an Arab off the track.

The following photos are by fellow rider, Karen Chaton


Riding through Squaw Valley about 6 AM, site of the 1960 Winter 
Olympics, on the way up to the Watson Monument at the top of the peak


Heading up past the ski lifts towards the peak


above photo by Gore Baylor

My old friend "Cowman", the 2nd person ever to run the Tevis on foot at the Watson Monument at the top of the peak, cheering us on

I will post more about the ride later.  I am still so sore, my quad muscles are totally shot!  I can hardly go down the little 3 steps from my bedroom without gripping the wall!  All that posting for the better part of 24 hours took it's toll!  Stay tuned for more on our big adventure.



Friday, August 3, 2012

On Our Way

I am writing this as we travel up Highway 80 in Sue's friend Steven's RV.  I managed to get an internet connection with my 4G stick.  Then it suddenly blipped out when my battery ran out right after I wrote the word connection.  Now I am in camp and plugged into Molly and Paul's generator.  We had an uneventful drive up.  I rode in the RV with Stephen and two of Darolyn's crew, Dave and Page.  Sue, her daughter Sarah, and her friend Becca beat us up there with the rig.  When we arrived they were all set up in a very nice camping spot near the main area with a bunch of Pacific Northwest Region riders.  Sue used to live in that region in Oregon until she moved to her Dad's place near the Tevis trail.  Molly and Paul had a nice area set up with a canopy and lots of chairs and Paul was setting up his big grill to make a cajun dinner for everyone.  Paul is originally from Louisiana.  He made an excellent jambalaya.  A whole bunch of us sat around and drank beer and ate chips and dip until dinner was ready.

Then I took Sweetie for a walk around camp and she dragged me all over neighing like a stud and announcing her arrival.  She gets really fired up when we arrive at a ride.  She did this at Wild West too.  When we got to the main area to check in with the vets at that ride, she started in with her stud neigh and then broke into a canter when I trotted her out for the vet.  When I told him she might be part draft horse he said she moved like a draft.

That night at Wild West it rained, which was expected, and I had a water resistant blanket on her.  I was sleeping on a tarp in the trailer which was open, but it never got cold even though we were at about 4000'.  It wouldn't have been a problem if my neighbors hadn't decided to put their horses back in their trailer.  They proceeded to bang and pound the trailer in protest for a couple of hours.  It kept all of us camped around them up for awhile, but I finally fell back asleep.  I heard later that they could hear it all over camp.

The ride started uneventfully and we got off at a good clip down several miles of two track road that was a little rocky.  I had some nice conversations with a few people along the way.  We got into the 20 mile vet check in only two hours!  We couldn't believe we had averaged 10 miles per hour.  We were making excellent time.  I got off and immediately noticed she was missing a front boot.  My heart sank because I didn't think to pack a spare.  The next thing I knew, a young man walking his horse in handed me my boot that he had just picked up on the way in.  I thanked him profusely.

I parked her in front of her crew bag that was full of hay and poured her grain in the bucket.  I put her boot back on and checked her pulse.  It was hard to find, so I went up to the P&R person and asked for a courtesy check.  She was a little high so I put her back in front of her hay and got some water in my scoop to cool her down.  After about 5 minutes I had her  rechecked and she was down.  I trotted her out and she passed with all A's and B's.  I let her eat some more and soon it was time to leave.  The next section had some one lane trail and I met up with a young woman whose Morgan horse was completely barefoot.  She was one of the two women I had heard about who had gotten permission to try to finish Tevis with no hoof protection.  She had done two seasons of 50's like that on rocky and multiday rides and said she was going to carry boots just in case.  I told her I was rooting for her.  That would be something, and it would make a real good case for going barefoot.

We came back through the same vet check area and passed again with flying colors and left.  I had had more boot problems, including some missing screws and a gaiter coming off, and decided to move the back boots which were newer and had a tighter fit to the front and leave the back ones barefoot for the last 15 miles.  She did fine and we finished at 2:40 after starting at 7:00, just over 6 hours!  We were 29th out of 69 starters.  I was very pleased.  Melissa Ribley did her final check and said "good job!"  I really felt that that proved my conditioning program was on track and working.

Sue came up for the potluck dinner and was also pleased with Sweetie's performance.  The next day I started out at a good clip and did the first 25 mile loop making good time until I noticed both a front boot and a back boot were hanging by their gaiters not far from the trail back into camp.  I got off and just took them off and came in with them tied to my saddle.  Their was a vet check just up the road from my camp.  Sweetie couldn't understand why we weren't just going to the trailer and wouldn't sit still for the P&R person.  She was a little high as a result so I made her sit by the water trough and tried to get her to relax.  She finally came down to criteria and I walked her back to the trailer.  Even though one of my neighbors had lent me some Goober Glue, the boots were not staying on.  I realized that probably the Hoof Armor I had applied a few days earlier made too slick a surface for the Goober Glue to stick to.  I decided to leave the back boots off again and hoped the right front one would stay on.  The rest of the ride was mostly on pine needle lined trail, so I thought she'd be fine.

The trail took us to Bear Valley, with beautiful views on the way down, with lots of switchbacks.  It was an out and back trail, so we had to pull over quite a few times for riders coming back up.  I kept hearing traffic noise that was too loud to be highway 20, and wondered where it was coming from.  Finally at the valley floor I spotted semi trucks way up on the top of the Sierra crest, it was highway 80!  They were on their way down from Donner Pass.  The vet check was in a grassy meadow and the horses got to graze.  So far Sweetie was getting straight A's on her vet scores.  She scored all A's again, and after our hold time was up we climbed back up out of the valley.

I had been riding with Paul, who I had met for the first time at this ride the night before when Sue introduced me.  He was on a very nice Paso Fino gelding.  About 3 miles from the finish he decided to get off and walk the rest of the way in.  I decided to do the same, except I stayed mounted.  I was tired and also thought that after all her efforts, Sweetie deserved a break.  It turned out that was the right thing to do.  At least 15 people passed us on the way in.  I didn't care after her performance the day before.  When I got back to camp and trotted her out for Melissa again she was a little off on her left front.  She said she was going to be generous and give me a completion even though she was grade 2 lame and got a "C" in soundness.  Later I realized I should have taken her boots off before the check, because she had a little rub on her left front heel, which explained the lameness.  I decided I needed to back up her toes more so her boots would fit better.

My first day at Wild West


Sue returned for the barbeque and awards followed by musical entertainment by a local couple who played folk rock on  guitar and mandolin.  Finally I packed up and left and drove the hour and a half back to Sue's.  It was dark when I got there and I unloaded Sweetie, turned her out, transferred my stuff from her truck to mine and drove the hour drive back home.  I was so exhausted when I arrived that I just fell into bed without a shower.  It was midnight.  It had been a successful weekend.

Sunday, Day 2 of Wild West
Having too much fun

Well I better hit the sack, its been a long day.  I can't believe how good the internet reception is way out here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Countdown to Tevis

It's Wednesday night before Tevis.  I'm at Sue's after packing most of the day, everything from my stuff to the horse stuff, the trailer, etc.  I'm sleeping in a Winnebago RV which will be coming up with us for everyone to sleep in as well as the pop-top camper on Sue's truck that will be pulling the trailer.  We have quite an entourage coming up with us to crew.  I don't even know everyone's name yet, I've been so busy.  There are two people from Oregon staying here too, who will be riding, Paul Latoilais (sp?) and Molly Farkas, who rode Tevis way back in '68.  Last Monday we all rode to Poverty Bar, the river crossing site, and the river was low enough for us to practice crossing.  It was up to their bellies and I dipped my feet in to cool them off.  It has been very hot this week but is supposed to cool off  a little on ride day.  Its been in the mid to upper 90's.

Yesterday we went to the Auburn Fairgrounds to get Sweetie's boots glued on by the EZ Boot people.  None other than Jeremy Reynolds, last year's winner, prepared her hooves and glued them on with Garrett Ford's. help. Garrett is the owner of the company and the 2010 Haggin Cup winner for best condition.  Everyone commented on how big Sweetie is.  I am probably one of the shortest people on the ride and somehow ended up on one of the biggest horses.  I gave Sweetie's hooves a once over with the grinder beforehand and she was very uncooperative.  It was approaching 100 degrees  and the sweat was pouring down my face by the time I was done.  I told her she better be good for the other guys, and for the most part she was.  It was a relief to finally have her boots glued on and ready for the ride.  It will be nice not to have to worry about them staying on like the other boots.

Also staying at Sue's is Darolyn Butler, a world class endurance rider from Texas who rides all of her horses barefoot or with boots, depending on the terrain.  She also brought horses for a couple of Australian riders, one of whom  just showed up to share the RV, which sleeps five.  It is getting towards midnight, so I better wind this up for now.  I will report on the details of the Wild West Multiday  Ride on my next installment.  In the meantime, I'll post a picture from the ride.  It was just north of Nevada City, California in the Tahoe National Forest.  The scenery was gorgeous.  More tomorrow.