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:

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:
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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Another Late Update on our Tevis Preparations

Ok, first I have to apologize for not publishing this in a timely manner like I had promised.  So much for promising to do that!  Again, I have been extremely busy holding every aspect of my life together while keeping Sweetie in shape with weekly rides, trimming her hooves, etc.

First I want to report on Sue's big accident that happened in the middle of May on a training ride.  Luckily we were only about a mile from the house when it happened.  Sue was ahead of me on Raven about 20 feet, and he was wearing the same hoof boots he wore on American River.  For some reason he tripped on them going downhill on a two track road and Sue pitched forward hard and threw them both down.  At first I couldn't even see Sue, she was hidden behind Raven who lay on his side with his feet pointed uphill.  I raced over and leaped off, finding her on her back facing downhill with one leg pinned under him.  Both she and Raven were laying there groaning.  I asked Sue if she was alright, but she was unresponsive, just laying there groaning.  I tried pulling her leg out with no luck.  I kept asking her if she could breathe, etc. but still no response.  I started shoving on Raven who was also laying there unresponsive and groaning.  He couldn't get his feet under him to get up, as they were pointed uphill.  I thought, this is like a scene from "War Horse"!!

I wasn't sure what to do.  I asked Sue again if she was OK, did she need water, because she was clammy and looked flushed.  I sprinkled a little water on her face as she was laying in the blazing sun and squirted some in her mouth, and she seem to be able to drink, but was still unresponsive.  Up the trail about a hundred yards was a house, but I didn't want to leave Sue in case Raven got up, beccause he would step all over her in the process, most likely.  I continued to shove on Raven with adrenaline fueled strength, saying, "come on Raven, get up!!"  Finally he started trying to get his legs under him and rose up partway, only to come down again, now pinning my foot!  I thought, now we're really f***ed!!  We all lay there like we'd just been shelled on the battlefield, out in the sun, helpless.

I started trying to pull my foot out with all my strength, praying this time with each pull, six in all, until my foot was finally extricated.  Then I started shoving on Raven again, yelling "come on Raven, MOVE!!" and finally he rose up and got up all the way.  It had been about 20 minutes in all, I estimate, that Sue was pinned.  I sat her up immediately and asked if her leg was alright, was it broken, did it feel OK?  She thought it was OK.  Then I saw her phone in the side pocket of the leg that was pinned.  The outline of the phone in the pocket was all torn, and I pulled it out and it lit up, thank God.   I asked Sue, "Who should we call?"  Someone needed to come get her, and she just said, "I don't know..."

I started scrolling down her contact list and found a familiar name in the general vicinity and called it.  It was Alexis, The Hay Lady who's Standardbred mare was boarded at Sue's.  She wasn't there and I left a message stating our plight.  I scrolled some more and found another horse friend in the neighborhood and got her husband on the phone.  When I explained what was going on, he said she wasn't home, but the next door neighbor couple was there and were horse people and could help.  I got the wife on the phone and explained where we were.  She said they could come and get her but were going to call the paramedics first to meet them at Sue's house.  Sue protested, saying, "No, I don't have insurance."  At this point I don't think she realized how injured she was.  She called them and arrived a short time later up the hill from us.

While we were waiting I helped Sue get to her feet using a stirrup on Sweetie's saddle to pull her up with.  She started her series of "what happened?" questions, six in all, immediately forgetting everything and asking me again.  She held on to Sweetie's breast collar and we inched up the hill.  Our rescuers arrived and helped her the rest of the way and into the car.  Sweetie had just grazed patiently the whole time I struggled with Sue and Raven and I didn't even need to hold on to her.  I got on her and ponied Raven back to the house.  He was still somewhat subdued after his fall.  I think he clocked himself good.

When I arrived at the house, the neighbors were out looky-looing as there was not only a paramedic van, but  also two fire engines for good measure.  One paramedic asked me details of how long ago it happened, etc. while another strapped her to a board.  They asked her what day it was and she said she didn't know.  I knew she had a good concussion, having experienced a few myself.  She was going to be transported down the road to a heliport to be airlifted down to Roseville, as there is no trauma center at the Auburn Hospital.  I was surprised to hear this considering all the extreme sports that go on in this area.  Auburn has been designated the Endurance Capitol of the World, not just for riding, but for all endurance sports, like mountain biking, kayaking the wild rivers, ultra running, etc. so you would think the hospital would be equipped to handle the kind of accidents that might happen.

I decided I still needed to get my weekly ride in, since there wasn't anything wrong with Sweetie and I, so I put up Raven and thanked our rescuers and exchanged phone numbers. They looked at me kinda funny as I rode off.  There wasn't anything else I could do now except fret and worry, so I thought I might as well get my ride in so the day wouldn't be a total loss.  I rode about 3 hours and came back.  My cell phone didn't get reception out there so I couldn't check on what Sue's condition was.  I put Sweetie up and came in the house, finding it very hot, needing windows opened and fans going to cool it off for the two dogs that were inside.  I filled their water and let them out to pee.  I fed the horses and then walked up and down the road to see if I could get any reception.  I finally gave up and came back.  I was about to get in my truck and drive to where my phone would work when Sue and Alexis, the Hay Lady drove in.  That was fast, I thought, considering that Roseville is about 40 miles away, about half of it on windy roads.

Sue seemed OK and complained that they had cut off her good riding tights and sent her home in scrubs.  Her leg was bruised but OK, she had a concussion but her  x-rays were negative.  I was relieved to see her get out of the car in one piece and not have to stay in the hospital while we figured out how to take care of all her animals.   I drove home and crashed.  The next day I was sore all over from my efforts and my knee was a little swollen where I had wrenched it pulling my foot out from under Raven.  I put ice and arnica on it.  A week later it started getting worse instead of better, so I made an appointment to go to the Dr. and get a knee brace.  Knee injuries can be dicey, and I didn't want to have problems with it during Tevis.  It healed fine and hasn't given me any more problems.

Sue, on the other hand, has had to have her leg drained twice and has to keep a compression wrap on it.  She doesn't seem to have any residual effects from the concussion that I know of, though.  I know I have felt like I had a brain bruise for a month, especially after the last one, that split my helmet all the way through after getting dumped hard off a runaway horse onto a gravel road.  That Tipperary helmet saved my butt.  It could have been a fracture.  So much for the perils of horsebackriding.

Next blog will have the details of the Wild West Ride where we did two days in a row of 50's and did great. Also all the last minute preparations, including taking some out of state riders down some sections that we will be riding in the dark so they and both their horses will know it.  Stay tuned!  I'll get it in within the next few days before we leave for the starting line on Thursday the 2nd of August.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Approaching Finish Line at
American River 50

Wow folks, it's been almost two months since my last entry!  Sorry to keep you hanging!  So much for reporting on the American River Ride!  This shows how hard it is to keep your life together while preparing for Tevis.  Its a juggling act, let me tell you.  It certainly is not anywhere as easy as it was back in the eighties and nineties when I was young.  Also the crappy economy is not helping.  But everything is going well with only a few small glitches.

So much has happened in two months.  First, I'll fill you in on how drag riding the American River Ride went. This is the oldest 50 miler in the country.  It started in the 60's.  It used to start down in Sacramento at the Cal Expo State Fairgrounds, then later up in the town of Folsom, the home of the Folsom Prison of the Johnny Cash song.  We had to travel down a bunch of pavement for the first couple of miles due to the trail being paved for bikes, and it got old.  So this year we started on the shores of Folsom Lake and travelled up the shoreline until it narrowed into the American River, North Fork.  It was a crowded ridecamp, but it was nice.  We got there kinda late, just in time for briefing, and managed to find a slot for the rig.

I made as many preparations as possible that evening, not being a morning person.  I put on her EZ boot Gloves and wrapped her pasterns with vet wrap under the gaiters in case they rubbed.  I had used the front ones only once, and the back ones not at all.  It was a bit risky, but they fit well.  Sue was going to try to do the whole 50, but ride management told her she could have a 25 completion if she chose to stop.  She brought along her friend Stephen, and he was a godsend.  He helped a lot with everything.  I don't know what we would have done without him, as we had to get up before dawn and be at the starting line at 5:30, otherwise known as getting up at damn dark thirty.  Usually you only do this for hundreds.  I did not do well with it, needing my beauty sleep before a ride.

It still took us a while to get ready and we got to the starting line at 5:55.  We got started, and after a short time I noticed the boots in front twisting.  I got off and straightened them and we got on our way.  I guess there were a lot of late starters because we had lots of company on the trail.  We went past a lot of nice houses near the lake and passed a group of tom turkeys having a display-off, with their feathers all fanned out and posing and strutting.  Then we saw a semi-tame coyote who let us pass withing ten feet of him as he strolled along.

The trail climbed gradually up to Auburn with the water to the right of us the whole way.  Most of it was one lane and very nice.  The twenty five mile point was the Tevis Cup finish line, and Sue decided her ankle was giving out and chose to stop there.  I took a one hour lunch break after trotting Sweetie out for the vet.  She chose to roll in the grass while waiting her turn, something she loves to do.  She rolls back and forth with gusto.  After her vet check she spotted a cute little grey mule mare and turned and had a lot to say to it.  She was doing her stud act again.  I said, "No!  We don't have time for this Miss Macho!" and had to drag her away.  The vet, Melissa Ribley, was laughing as were a few others.

When it came time for me to leave the vet check and start down the backwards Tevis Trail, she at first refused to leave her buddy Raven.  She spun around and around and I had to whack her with the end of the reins a few times before she finally relented and started down the trail.  A few miles down, there was the eventual winner coming towards me, having already completed his second 25 mile loop.  It was Mark Montgomery and his Pinto Mustang, Chief.  Not too far behind was a young man on an Arab.  Among the top ten riders that I passed were two Mules, who Sweetie was now obsessed with, and while ignoring all the horses, she had something to say to both of them when they passed, in her deep stud voice.  I told Sue later that maybe she should breed her to a Jack so she could have her own mule.

I ended out doing almost the entire second 25 miles alone, and kinda slow.  To get credit for completing the miles as drag rider, Melissa told me I had to do it faster than I did the first half.  I found out later, when the second drag rider finally caught up with me, that this wasn't really true.  Drag riders aren't under the same time constraints as the entrants to get credit for a completion, as we have to handle emergencies, etc.  I was glad to hear that as I was about an hour late at the finish. I finished at 6:45.  It was a long day.
Crossing Finish Line

The barbeque was over and no one thought to save anything for me!  I scraped together some food from the cooler.  The boots stayed on fine, but with all the rocks, and her feet still being a bit soft from all the April rain, she was a little footsore at the end, but otherwise had all A's and B's on her vet scores.  So it was good conditioning for Tevis. long, slow distance.

Finish line vet check with Melissa Ribley, DVM

I was sore for three days!  I need to get in better shape!  Sweetie's weight looked good after this, so at least she was getting in shape.  Two weeks later on Mother's Day, Sue got into an accident while riding with me on a hot day.  This time it wasn't a simple fall, and I spent 20 minutes trying to extricate her out from under her horse where she was pinned after he took a bad trip and fell hard.  More about this on the next blog!  And this time I'll publish it in a timely manner!  I promise!  Also I'll be reporting on finishing two days in a row of fifties at the Wild West Ride in Nevada City.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Retackling the Tevis Part 4 at Long Last!

Well, its been 6 weeks or so since I updated my blog!  Time flies when you get busy.  I was dealing with truck issues, etc.   It also rained a lot in April but I managed to get my weekly rides in.  Some of the one track trails became little rivers washing lots of rocks to the surface and making the going rough.  One day I came down the Maine Bar Trail, a steep downhill to the river near Poverty Bar, the Tevis river crossing site, and it was just awful to negotiate.  Sweetie's feet were tender due to all the moisture and she chose to track down the sides of the trails instead of in the middle where all the rocks were.  She was doing crazy stuff on the banks of the trail but never took a false step.  She is so surefooted.  I meant to warn people on the Tevis Google site to avoid that trail but never got around to it.  That would be a really rough trail to maintain due to the steepness, but at least its not part of the Tevis trail.

The above is the two of us going down to
 the river March 21st towards Cherokee Bar.  

I wished I had tried to cross the river back in March when it was so low at Poverty Bar, because a week later it finally started raining and it filled up fast.  It won't be crossable again until June.  There were little waterfalls gushing all over the place along the middle fork canyon.  I've been doing a lot of riding alone since Sue gets busy and can't always make it.  This is good practice for Sweetie, it builds her confidence.  She tries to spin around and go home for the first mile or so, then gets over it.

This is also the same day down at the emerald green river.  

I knew we were going to have a wet Spring.  I'm glad I got in so many good rides when it was dry.  The few times I got rained on I didn't really have the greatest rain jacket, and one more hour of rain would have soaked me.  One day I even borrowed Sue's good jacket and it kept me nice and dry except when I had to jump off to answer the call of nature and experienced rainfall on my butt for the first time.

We are not giving Sweetie much more than hay, she does get some pelleted grain mix, and we are still trying to figure out what grain to feed in the long run.  It turns out horses shouldn't get much grain.  The only grain they get in nature is what is on the grass stalks they eat.  They are not really built to digest large amounts of concentrated grains the way we feed them.  We found one grain with a beet pulp base, but Sue said she already fed beet pulp at rides and didn't want to double up on it.  I like the high fat grains made for high performance.  One brand has served me well through the years, so we're going to try that.  Luckily, Sweetie is a very easy keeper and we don't have to feed much.  

This is coming up from the river April 14th

Same day, in front of a little waterfall at Cherokee Bar

I have been limping a GMC S15 pickup back and forth through the 6 mile windy canyon road, an 84 mile total round trip to Sue's for the past couple of months.  I was told by my mechanic that it was about to throw a rod.  He said not to even drive it once over there and back.  I asked how I could buy some time and he recommended oil conditioner to replace one quart of oil, this really thick stuff that coats all the parts.  It served me well, because he it held up for two months.  Along the way, one of my back tires gave out, and was not repairable.  I declined to buy a new one and only had one of those small mini spare tires.  I actually drove on that bicycle tire for several weeks.  Then I thought the master brake cylinder was going out, but I only needed brake fluid.  I pleaded with my truck to not die on me yet.  I changed the oil, kept putting in conditioner, etc.  

I had it for sale on Craigslist, along with my F150 that blew a head gasket last year and has been parked ever since.  Then someone contacted me and offered to fix my gasket for only $250 using this new technology with liquid ceramic.  He not only did that, but flushed out my radiator, which was a rusty dirty mess and all clogged.  It didn't make sense, because I had replaced it only two years before I parked it and didn't do a lot of dusty roads or anything.  I figured out that my old mechanic had taken a used one from his junk yard next door.  I'm turning him into the Bureau of Auto Repair.  Its why it blew in the first place!  I'd heard rumors that he did that but didn't believe them.

So then I sold the GMC for $350 to a guy who was turning two of them into one.  They're apparently hard to find and weren't out for very long.  It had 240,000 miles on it!  He drove it off, all cockeyed (the truck , not him) with the tiny tire.  So then I registered and insured the Ford and now have a good running truck.  But with the horrendous gas prices I can't afford to drive it and want another 6 banger.  So it's for sale too.  Its an '87 302 EFI current on registration and smog.  It has 178,000 miles on it which is nothing for a Ford truck.  You can't kill 'em with a stick.  It gets 15 mpg.  I'm asking $1,700.  Has newer tires in front and a longbed with a bedliner.  Its 2WD automatic, regular cab.  Spread the word.

A few weeks ago we had a funny incident with Sweetie.  We got back from a ride and the little Standardbred mare that Sue has been boarding for someone was apparently in heat.  We, or at least Sue knew this because Sweetie started acting all studdy as soon as she walked up.  She sounds just like a stallion, deep voice and all.  I joked and said, "I didn't know you were a lesbian Sweetie!" and Sue said, "more like a bull dyke!  I once found her bleeding out her nose because she had tried to mount a mare and got kicked in the face!"  Well, at least that means she's a lead mare type, which is good for competition.

Oh, we had another bear incident too.  A couple of weeks ago we were going up a new trail north up the river canyon towards Georgetown.  It had spectacular views, especially of Rucky Chucky, a huge bolder stacked waterfall on the river that was just roaring.  The river rafters, needless to say, have to portage around it.  Then I passed some young hikers, one with a bag of Doritos which Sweetie tried to check out.  We came to a waterfall and creek crossing and Sweetie suddenly spun around.  I made her go back around and coaxed her over the creek.  She was really hesitant, and I wondered if a bear had been drinking there recently.  Sure enough, a few hundred feet later, there he was ambling up the trail ahead of us.  Not a very a big one.  It didn't seem to know we were there.  We stopped and watched it till it disappeared around the bend.  I said, "We've gone far enough down this trail today!" and turned around.  The way he was going we would've caught up with him and it wouldn't have been nice on the side of the canyon if Sweetie and the bear both freaked.

Next blog will have the exciting details of dragging the American River 50!  Plus pictures!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Re-Tackling the Tevis Part 3

Yesterday Sweetie and I saw a bear!!  We were getting a ride in before the storm hit that's supposed to go all week.  We had gone down to Cherokee Bar on the Middle Fork, right across from the Tevis trail as it runs between Francisco's and Poverty Bar.  We had climbed almost all the way back up the canyon when Sweetie decided to take a side trail that turned out to be a shortcut over to the French Trail from the Robie Trail.  She apparently knows these trails better than me.  Suddenly she halted and went into high alert position, neck straight up, ears forward.  I craned to look ahead at what she was looking at.  All I could see were branches swaying about 100' up the hill.  I told her, "come on, it's just the wind, let's go!"  She stood her ground.  I looked again and realized there was something moving up there.  It was the rear view of a medium sized bear straddling two branches!  "Ok!" I said, "We're turning around now!"  and we headed back down and continued up the original trail.

After a short distance we came to the French Trail turnoff and I realized we were now heading straight for where the bear was!  Needless to say, Sweetie was very hesitant.  I listened for rustling noises, and sure enough, we heard them and stopped and waited for them to fade into the distance.  I looked down and saw fresh, still wet bear scat!  It looked like the bear had been eating some kind of dark purple berry.  I don't know what the bear was doing up in the tree, but it was gone now.  All the way up the French Trail Sweetie was on the lookout, checking out every large object we passed as a potential bear, boulders, logs, everything.  Hey, she's no fool, she has the Mustang defense mechanisms going for her.

She never panicked, I never felt her heartbeat through the saddle, but I would've liked to see what her pulse reading was while she was looking at that bear.  Unfortunately, I had the monitor all hooked up but had left the watch receiver at home.    About a month ago, riding with Sue, Raven was on a mission to explore new trails, and tried to turn off every side trail we came to.  Suddenly he took off down a game trail, dragging Sue through branches in the process, and disappearing into the woods with Sue yelling all the way.  Sweetie tried her best to follow him, but I was damned if I was going to let her do that, so she spun around and started to panic.  It was then that I felt her heart pounding through my treeless Sport Saddle.  I hate it when they do that!  I talked her down and did my best to calm her until finally Sue got Raven turned around and came back.  One of these days I'll get a heart monitor reading of that pounding-through-the-saddle heartbeat.

A week ago on a Sunday, Sue and I set out for ride, and not twenty minutes into it, Raven sideswiped a branchy tree and scraped Sue right off.  She fell hard on her side right in front of him and hit her un-helmeted head on a rock!  I yelled, "Are you alright?" and Sue said yes, but when I jumped off and went over to her, all she was concerned about was where her iphone was.  It was a couple of feet away on the trail and I handed it to her.  She had road rash on her upper arm but was otherwise OK.  She got back on and decided to go a different way at the next intersection, cutting her ride short and telling me to do as long a ride as I wanted.  She still went and rode for two hours.  I told her she needed to start wearing a helmet.

I continued on alone after fighting with Sweetie to keep her from following Raven.  We went all the way down the French Trail and then took the Robie Trail in a southwesterly direction.  When I got near the creek crossing I started hearing singing.  It turned out to be a big group of Japanese tourists marching along with walking sticks and singing in Japanese.  They pulled over to let me pass and the last one saluted me.  I saluted back.  They cracked me up.  The two Mounted Assistance Unit riders I caught up with a few minutes later felt the same way.  

Eventually I met up with the Dead Truck Trail, which really does have an old 40's truck down the side of a ravine.  How it got there I don't know.  The trail must have been much wider many moons ago.    I continued towards Poverty Bar, the Tevis Trail crossing.  There was recent trail work there by the Tevis Trail work crew and it was much wider and not rutted anymore, thanks to the trail machine provided by Echo Valley Feed.

Soon I reached the spot where the Quarry vet check is, and there were a lot of hikers and riders in the picnic area there.  The weather was great, in the 60's and spring-like.  I chatted with a couple who were also on barefoot horses, one of which was a BLM Mustang like Sweetie.  He was wearing a fancy tooled breastcollar that said "Mustang".  There's a lot of pride in gentling and training a horse that was formerly wild.  

I can't wait to start training my own BLM Mustang, Taqi.  He's about four and a half now, give or take, and I've had him for 3 years.   He's well halter broke, I can touch him all over and trim his feet.  He's from a special herd known as the Sulphur Mustang, from the Mountain Home Range in Southwestern Utah.  They are almost 100% pure original Spanish Conquistador horse due to being in an isolated area.  They were discovered in the late eighties and were DNA'd because they had unique characteristics.  They come in various shades of dun with zebra striped legs.  They are descendants of  escapees of horses stolen by Indians from the Spanish missions in Southern California and driven up the Santa Fe Trail.  They are genetically identical to an ancient breed called the Sorraia that still runs wild in Portugal and used to be in Spain as well.  They are the predecessors of the Andalusian and the Lusitano, were used as war horses in ancient times, and are known for their bravery.  The picture below was taken last summer.  

My Future Tevis Mount

Taqi is in fact, fearless and quickly dominated his two pasture buddies as soon as he was turned out with them, even though they were 3 times his age.  They both had patches of hair missing all over for the first two weeks, and Taqi was left unscathed.   In a few years he will be my next Tevis horse.  He is a silver grulla with black points.  He has zebra stripes all the way up his front legs and on his hocks, a dorsal stripe and a black mane with blonde streaks.  He is very unique.  I may mess with people who ask what kind of horse he is and say he is half zebra.   

Sulphur's Nataqua

There are more pictures of him on my Facebook page.  I hope to have him under saddle this summer.  If things go really well he might be ready for a limited distance ride in the fall.  We'll see.  That's probably wishful thinking.  First I have to get him moved up to where I'm living in Penn Valley, once the horse set up is finished in a couple of months.   He's only 13.3, but they are late bloomers.  He seems like such a midget when I visit him after riding Sweetie.  

Two Tevis's ago I spotted another Sulphur Mustang at the Foresthill check.  It was a red dun mare named Lakota that was also only 13.3 and ridden by Victoria Saitta of Southern California.  The mare looked great, but unfortunately was pulled at the Quarry for lameness about 8 miles from the finish.  I looked up her record and was very pleased to see she was a consistent top tenner on fifties, with a couple of best conditions.  I hope Taqi does as well.  It shows you that size isn't everything.