In November of 2015 I traded a pair of Renegade Hoof Boots for a crooked legged 14.1 hh Chestnut gelding named Kenny. He was 11ish years old and is a Morgan/Welsh Pony we think. It’s not entirely known, as he was bought literally off of the slaughter truck some years and a few homes ago; what’s undeniable is the magnitude of attitude packed into his little red frame, the smoothness of his gaits, and the high quantity of laughs that he has brought to my life nearly every day since.
We’ve changed bits and saddles, been through steel and various trim, boot, and vet incarnations, been on Ulcer meds, and ridden a lot of miles both snarking at and enjoying each other.
Last April we completed an LD at the Whiskeytown Chaser and this March we tackled our first 50 at Rides of March in Nevada. I had never been to the ride and was still half convinced Kenny’s wonky front legs were going to fall off partway through, but if you aren’t a little nervous you aren’t doing something awesome, right?!
The final step in little Kenny’s prep for his endurance debut was a smashing clip job done last weekend by his former owner and our great buddy (and my trailer host for this ride!), T. We had clipped Kenny last spring and it seemed to help him a lot, as he’s heavily muscled despite his short stature and has excessive
yak Morgan hair. The weather for this ride turned out to be quite interesting overall, but on both Arab and Morgan we were happy that we had clipped as it allowed them to dry quickly from both their and the skies exertions.
T picked us up Friday morning and we were all in good spirits, the horses looked good–and we went all of ten miles before an intermittent ominous WHOMPWHOMP noise started to cut off our conversation and cause nervous smiles and half hearted dismissals.
Maybe there’s mud in the tires/undercarriage from recent 4 wheeling…
yeah, sounds good!
If you caught my story of my first 100 Mile attempt from last month, you may be empathetic to the amount of NO EFFING WAY a DTN (Disturbing Truck Noise) this soon into this trip caused me. We did in fact pull over, peer under the truck, pronounce it a Truck with Intact Tires and Bits We Think, and continued on our way feeling worse and worse–until I glanced over my shoulder while under way and saw the grooming tote in the truck bed heaving itself up and around in an intermittent mini vortex behind the gooseneck hitch. WHOMPWHOMP.
Thank you horsey jesus
From there, smooth sailing and possibly a year or two returned to my life span! After two recent long hauls, the border crossing jaunt to the Red Rock Road area north of Reno felt gloriously brief and we had arranged ourselves in ride camp by early afternoon.
One of the major perks of my snarky little pony is the ease of being with him, hauling with him, camping with him. Sure he lets you know his opinions, flips over unsecured (and sometimes secured) containers, and has put me through it dialing in his comfort for endurance just so, but he loads right up every time, eats in the trailer, eats as soon as his rope hits the side of the trailer, takes care of his bodily functions unashamedly, and loves to drink. He’s also kind of cuddly despite himself on the ground and always pops right up into his Trot outs. If you don’t intensely value all of these characteristics, you haven’t ridden/owned a problem child yet.
One really nice feature of this ride was how friendly the ride management, volunteers, and vets were. They were all accessible and encouraging, information was clear, and the atmosphere was great throughout the weekend, despite the challenges that inevitably arise. Vetting in and the ride meeting on Friday evening were uneventful and time seemed to have flown by as usual as we finalized our saddle pack contents and made warm mashes for the steeds past sunset by T’s sweet rig lights.
Things have been going too smoothly right? Ready for a rookie mistake curve ball? Good. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I’ve been through it sorting out foot wear for Kenny, as his narrow fronted, toed out conformation and over-striding way of going made my usual strap-on Renegade answer not quite adequate, though he did quite well in Renegade Glue-ons. Not wanting to have to glue for every event, I recently sucked it up and went back to the dreaded Easyboot Glove with some friends’ help and after a successful high speed, deep mud, hilly test ride I had brought the 4 power-strapped Gloves to ROM as his preferred foot wear. The literal fact that they are essentially thin rubber gloves give him some protection without bulk, and since he has Yak skin I don’t have to worry about gaiter rubs like I have in the past. Of course, I didn’t actually try wedging these cursed things onto Kenny myself after our final test ride where my Easyboot saavy friends had applied them, as time was too short to get another ride in and I’ve used Gloves in the past and can be over confident at inconvenient times. If you heard excessive profanity involving the name “Kenny,” accompanied by the hollow Thwack of a clog hitting absurdly tight boots on Saturday morning in ride camp, I apologize. With much sweat and disbelief I did manage to wedge his 0.5 Gloves on the front, with the LF taped as in the experiment–but there was absolutely no way I could get the hind Gloves on. My buddies had done it, but it wasn’t happening for T or I that morning and not certain just how good the promised good footing really was, I threw T’s conveniently correctly sized Renegades onto his hind hooves and off we went…
Another fun feature of this ride was my former project horse Apache attending his own first 50 miler with his momma E, my trailer host for December’s Death Valley Adventures. Unfortunately she had an adventurous arrival to camp this time and then got the full effect of Apache’s flank sensitivity on ride morning when a split girth he wasn’t used to caused a bucking episode. Tough bird that she is, she was already back in the saddle grinning about it when she reported it near the start, and we ended up leap frogging with them throughout the day.
Kenny and T’s mare Niki rated well together last year at the LD and we regularly train together, so it was a lot of comfortable fun setting out down the endurance trail together again. Our steeds were entirely reasonable in the early miles, with me once again thanking E, this time for the ported Pelham bit that she had lent me recently that has been the breakthrough for Kenny and I on being able to communicate lightly. I got Kenny as an adult Morgan pony cross and one that had been through green riders’ hands at times at that, so in the wrong head gear he’ll happily pull/take death spirals to stop. The Pelham allows me to ride with mostly no contact, and a light sponge at the reins is all it takes when needed.
The trail was all sand all day, great footing as promised. We had snacks for humans and horses and we partook of them along the way, with the horses drinking well at each of the plentiful water stops. We only missed one turn the entire ride, early on when we hadn’t realized their more gradual spread of three ribbons indicating a turn versus the tight cluster we were accustomed to. Once we had that clear, the trail was very easy to follow! A trail note, before grandly proclaiming how great your tack works, i.e. Man I love how my Saddle/pad stay in place without an Excessively tight girth–look down at your self and make sure that your saddle pad isn’t making a bid for freedom out the back of the saddle because you never actually did re-check your girth. 🙂
We cruised back into Camp for Vet Check 1 after 20 miles with happy steeds, both pulsing right through after our quarter mile or so walk in. Kenny had one C on one gut quadrant but otherwise all A’s and his pulse was lower yet after his trot out. So far so good!
I’m still not great at getting out of holds on time, and it’s something that I always aim to be better at. Still, T and I had inhaled some stellar burritos my husband had made and sent, shed trash/repacked carrots and waters in our packs, electrolyted humans and horses, and were back on trail for the 15 mile second loop in what seemed like no time. While there had been intermittent wind in ride camp/on trail, it wasn’t until midway through the second loop that the weather took a literally darker turn, with some ominous clouds gathering overhead.About halfway through the second loop I was leaning towards taking off Kenny’s hind boots. The footing had been nearly flawless throughout and he usually conditions completely barefoot–something I both had and hadn’t accounted for when making my last minute decision to throw on Renegades that morning. IF I had a boot issue, he’d be fine barefoot; but also, while they aren’t excessively heavy, they certainly add weight to each hoof, and extrapolated over 50 miles plus the non stop sand, there’s clearly room for extra/over muscle use. I can’t claim my thought process was actually that linear while on trail, more of a gut notion, Hey I should Take those Unnecessary Hind Boots Off, and I mentally decided I would at the next hold. Kenny, being a smart alec, promptly flipped his left hind boot off, prompting me to pull over and remove them both there and then.
We were traveling in a small group with some other riders around that time when the rain began in earnest, despite my skipping Make It Rain on my Pandora every time it had tried to play that day. Out came jackets and it was a rather grim faced TrotTrot on out of the valley crossing and back up towards mutual trail and camp. The steeds had chomped through all their carrots again at that point and were ready for something more substantial; T and I were looking forward to our hour hold for some good grub (and dry gloves) as well.
The 35 mile one hour hold went quite smoothly as well! We pulsed right in again, vetted through with even better pulses and grades, and both horses tucked into their hay back at the trailer. T and I swapped out our outer layers and gloves, restocked packs, and grazed steadily out of the coolers (i.e. PBJ, salami, cheese, bananas,oranges,nuts,etc) while the ponies stole a nap.
Leaving ride camp for the third time on the final loop Kenny felt a little stiff in the hind end; with the cold wind/rain and after he took a lovely clear pee just outside ride camp, it seemed most likely that he needed to warm up again, and we strode back out into the desert behind T’s lovely mare in pink. In a mile or less Kenny felt loose and cheerful again, and we cruised along until a cutoff led us to a very long and deep sanded descent, which we humans hoofed alongside our horses, popping hay cubes and treats into their mouths every once in a while. We felt like we were the only ones out there at this point which is always a uniquely titillating endurance experience–and I was glad that I glanced over my shoulder at the bottom of the hill before enacting a plan of dropping trou for a pee, as a group of riders were suddenly right behind and then passing us.We had a great time cantering along a short repeat flat section with great footing; Kenny travels fabulously with great hind end impulsion, especially at the canter, a gait that we have conditioned in. Since removing his hind boots about 30 miles in he felt extra powerful and I never had to lay a leg on him, which is saying something for what started as a very ornery pony. It took Kenny a solid calendar year to believe anything I said, and ever since and the farther we ride, the more we connect and work together as a unit instead of fighting each other. He’s a very challenging and rewarding little critter!
With daylight in the sky and over an hour on the ride clock we claimed our beer from the troughs a mile out from ride camp and enjoyed our brews and tunes and great horses all the way to the Finish line. We may in fact have been too leisurely about it, as when we vetted in and trotted out T’s mare went flawlessly but I heard the vet mention a hitch in Kenny’s gait, Left hind, and he even trotted Kenny out for me so that I could see–which I could. It wasn’t major and we were given our completion; I was shell shocked to see anything as he’d felt so good on trail. All other parameters were great and Kenny cheerfully tucked into his hay and mash back at the trailer with his first 50 Mile Completion while I had a mini pity party for myself and contemplated what may have gone wrong.
There were a few things to add up: his apparent stiffness leaving the hour hold that he worked out of, and likely back into as we had our leisurely walk to the Finish, caused by both moving out in pure sand for 50 miles with no sand training, and adding Hoof boot weight to his hinds when he wasn’t accustomed to it. Feeling his tight hamstrings and the two knots on his left side haunch particularly, paired with his cool tight legs, great looking hooves, and otherwise cheerful attitude, we figured that he had muscle soreness that he’d likely work out of in a day or two. Should I have tried on/figured out the hind Gloves myself beforehand? For sure. Should I have stripped the heavier Renegades sooner? Probably. Learn by doing, errr, screwing up, I suppose!Both horses consumed and expelled most expediently overnight and enjoyed their walk in the morning, drinking deeply at the cow trough we passed on our stroll. We had an uneventful (and paperwork checked) journey home over the border back to CA and despite my conviction that Kenny would get out of the trailer looking stiff and terrible, he trotted out into his pasture, rolled vigorously, and looked quite sound. A faint step here or there, but already working out of it. I pulled him again to give him another Sore No More slathered haunch massage and much to my surprise he trotted right to me to be caught! Kenny can’t be accused of that on an average trail ride day. I do think he enjoyed himself! Doesn’t he look smug? 🙂 I think that we have some more miles and dialing in to do (glaring at you, Gloves) but I also think that my unlikely little crook legged pony and I have some more endurance ahead of us,too! 😀