Hwy 36 winding
If you have the time, patience, and a safe rig, Hwy 36 is quite scenic and interesting. Of course on a Friday before an endurance ride I was more like stressed, kinda nervous, and obsessively watching my fuel gauge. So I may have enjoyed the 36 drive a bit more on the way home, after catharsis!
My faithful Bomber treated me to ice cold a/c and all systems go for the whole long, warm, slow 5 hour drive. Bless it’s orange self. Ride camp was easy to find, there were signs and ribbons on the road and the big open field for ride camp with rigs was clearly visible. There were 8 or so rigs already there but the field was quite large and never did fill up. I pulled nose in to the barbed wire near the far end of the field and set up the Arabian Nights tent, hot open field edition:
I checked in and decided to go for a late afternoon ride.
My planned “leg stretcher” ride quickly became an “Holy Shit, we’re really going on/up this?!” ride. From camp it was a 4 mile climb of some few thousand feet to the top of the ridge where the trails took off in various directions, and a few miles of that trail was hand cut by the ride managers this year in preparation for the ride. It was tough riding it, I can only imagine how hard it was to make it! There were steep bits, narrow bits in deep dirt on the side of hills (read: sliding out in the hind end if you’re riding a klutz), vicious fist sized rocky bits and all combinations of the aforementioned–and it felt like it just went on and on! It turns out I was almost to the top and out of the sketchy bits when I decided it, but at that point I concluded I was going to lame my horse before even vetting in and turned around and hand walked her back down to safer ground, my brain buzzing.
The pleasant beginning of the hand cut trail that got technical later on–no photos of the intense footing as I was too busy keeping us both upright and moving forward!
Back down in ride camp, a few more rigs have pulled in
The ride meeting confirmed that was indeed the trail the ride was starting on in the morning, which confirmed my need to be READY to keep the mare and I safe and sound on the parts of the trail like that (and I wasn’t sure how many there were, you know how the imagination soars). Please understand, I am not saying the trail was bad, I’m saying it was challenging, and my particular steed is the absolute polar opposite of sure footed. She is wonderfully forward and businesslike but doesn’t give a thought to whether her hooves are landing on solid ground–or a hole, or a rock, or nothing. Riding her, especially in a ride setting with extra pizzazz, means about 90% of the time spent in eagle eyes mode, staring at the footing and steering.
Evening dinner, or second dinner, who knows, she is always eating
I feel like I’m being watched. Or at least, my chicken is.
There were some friends at the ride to visit with, including my redheaded amigo, A, and her silver stallion that we went to Cuyama XP with. It’s always great to see her and I got to meet her husband and dog pack as well. I chatted for a while and then prepped most of my gear for the morning, sent off my full crew bag, and read for an hour or so in the tent with my Georgia dog warming my toes, before setting a 5:30 alarm and passing out.
5:30 for a 7 am start you say? Ah, but there were showers at camp! I got up and had a wonderful hot shower early Saturday morning; I never feel quite right if I don’t start my day with a shower and to do so before a ride was GREAT. I had left Desire’s saddle pad, girth, and splint boots out to air/dry after our ride Friday pm and never put them away–well they were sopping damp and cold in the dewy morning Saturday so Desire went in Blaze’s green saddle pad, his green splint boots, and the spare mohair girth. Hurrah for extra tack! At least I chose the horses’ colors in a fairly consistent color palette so my matchy-matchy sensibilities weren’t too horrified by the forest green accents 😉
So there we were, Saturday morning, and Desire was booted and saddled, all clean and dry in the cold morning. She was behaving fairly calmly for the start of a ride, minimum dancing for booting and tacking which was a mercy. Then as another horse passed by our rig headed for the start she suddenly did a sideways dance, crammed her right hind hoof and boot into her full water bucket, freaked out when it cracked, kicked the thing 20 ft, and danced all around in the dust until I settled her.
TA DA! My clean, dry horse and tack and saddle were now splashed in ice cold water and mud, and the only Renegade boot I’ve had problems with, that right hind, was now pre-soaked and muddy for the 4 mile climb ahead. Le sigh…
heading off from the start, 10 or so minutes after 7
I think I’m actually glad I rode some of that hill Friday afternoon, as I was mentally prepared for it Saturday morning and guided my stumble bum relatively successfully to the top of the ridge. 2 miles in on a steep, narrow, slippy step the muddy, soaked hind boot slipped sideways and I jumped off to fix it, only noticing a while later that my sunglasses had apparently fallen off in the effort. Well shit, a squinty day ahead. We caught up to a group of 4 riders near the top of the climb and Desire got predictably perky when the group was in sight, but with the exception of one really dumb down-up transition where we almost ate shit, she behaved pretty well keeping our own pace while catching glimpses of them.
The morning was chilly, I had my polar fleece on..at the top of the ridge we finally felt the first warm rays of sunlight
Top of the ridge, A and Alamahn the silver stallion caught up. Cheery as ever
Desire didn’t drink at the first few opportunities and we trotted along some nice dirt roads, a welcome break after the intense early climb. I dismounted at some water troughs to electrolyte her and see if she would stand still long enough to drink, but two trucks of hunters roared up in their big trucks and started quizzing me on the trails so the whole tranquility thing was out the window and drinking did not happen. I did cram a dose of EnduraMax-Plus down her gullet and she in turn had a good, long pee. This is good, I knew drinking was in her future now that she was more comfortable.
Beautiful trees, big gnarly rocks, cool air, a good horse–HAPPINESS!
D hears A and Alamahn coming along down the hill behind us
There was a long, fairly steep hand cut trail descending to the river crossing, and Desire was aware of A and Alamahn some ways behind us the whole way down. A group of 6 riders were in the water when we got there and I was determined that we were going to stop, drink, eat, take a breath. Desire gets so driven and focused, while she is doing what I want her to do pace wise, she can have a hard time just stopping and taking a breath. Shocking for an Arab, right? Harhar. Still, I was determined to get more food into her on this ride, even if it was just handfuls of grass and bits of carrots along the way. She eats well at camp and holds but I wanted her eating more between times, especially since this ride had just one vet hold, about halfway through. I prefer that actually, more than one vet check during the ride gets tedious, but it meant a lot more consistent moving time and fewer chances for her normal eating patterns. I carried a baggie of cut up carrots as usual and would turn her head and cram one in her mouth once in a while, and she was enticed by the grass here and there, especially if I picked and hand fed it to her.
Snacking on the grass, but always watching and listening
There they are! She knew A and Alamahn were coming
Out of the water, up a hill, and away!
After the river crossing we were moving out on some of the most fun trail I have ever ridden on. Perfect footing, shady single track, winding along above the river. Desire put on her power trot and we just flew, I couldn’t help but laugh with delight. We only slowed to cross the “swinging bridge,” there was a sway to it and Desire was a little snorty, but we rode across it no problem.
A and Alamahn, more natural water
We came back out on the dirt road and had a pretty steep few miles climb up to the vet check at 26 miles. I came across more riders on the way up and passed a few, and there was a lot of groaning about How Far and Where Is IT, I don’t blame them as they were on foot and I have been there. My deal with Desire is, haul my ass up most hills (unless she needs assistance, then see Berkeley Hill Death March) and I will walk every down hill that I can. She is quite a good hill horse and prefers to do a slow, steady dog trot uphill over anything else. I do believe she is far too ADD and directionally challenged to Tail properly, but I may be wrong. Of course our hill “deal” resulted in rather a lot of walking on my part on the ride but I was really happy with how my ankle held up, I didn’t roll it at all and it wasn’t as sore as I expected after all that footwork.
The vet check was literally on the shoulder of the dirt road we were climbing. They had sponging buckets and sponges out, a water trough, porta-pottys on a trailer, a truck and horse trailer for pulls (there were only 3 total between the LD and 50), hay, carrots, and people water. It did work out, as everyone was very friendly in the tight quarters, but the trot out space was an up and down hill and I can’t imagine it’s a feasible location for a Vet hold if their ride attendance swells in the future, as I hope it does.
At the hold Desire and 2 other mares engaged in a food swapping munch fest, complete with occasional pinned ears and squealing, but other than that typical behavior I’d say it was quite peaceful for 3 hungry, unacquainted mares. Desire *did* let anyone coming near her current favorite mash know that she would prefer them to Disappear. We vetted through with all As but a slight sore spot on her left side, under the cantle pack. I vowed to do more time on foot and slathered Desitin on the spot before re-saddling.(I know now I should have taken off the damn cantle pack, too!)
After the check we had a pretty significant climb back up a trail we had descended earlier in the day, and then some nice friendly open road to move out on.
Back out on the trail, last climb before a long descent
35ish miles, despite the blessedly shady trails I am missing my sunglasses at this point! *squint*
The start of a long, pretty descent to the riverbed. A nice walk
We walked, with a bit of jogging, to the bottom of the ridge and I knew we were within a few miles of the Finish. I was feeling good, Desire was perky, and my ankle had just started getting sore when we reached the flat, which was good timing.
48ish miles, still watching and listening
The only time I got lost on this ride was in the last mile or so to the Finish, winding through the riverbed. Desire is quite convinced she knows where we are supposed to be going and 98% of the time she is wrong. I swear if you put a marked trail and a goat path off a cliff in front of her, she’d march right for that cliff. Anyhoo the ribbons were there, I just wasn’t seeing them and my mare striding boldly (and briskly) in the wrong direction constantly wasn’t helping. All told we’re talking “lost” for maybe 5 minutes total, but I was kicking myself being so close to the Finish and lost. I heard a few others had some trouble following at that spot too. It sure was beautiful though!
There’s a ribbon and we’re pointed at it! Yes!
The Finish (camp) in sight!
We finished 9th place (mid pack) in 9 hrs 41, minus the hour hold that I stayed a bit late in, I’d say we had about 8 1/2 hrs moving time. I just ran the stopwatch on my phone, no gps or mileage tracking. Desire was bright and fresh to the finish, drank deeply at the trough as we came in and had a little snooze at the trailer before accepting some carrot bribes and munching a little hay.
I cleaned her up and took her back for the final vet check, where she got all As and looked great–except for that sore spot from the cantle pack, which was now more sore. I instantly knew, just knew, that I wouldn’t be riding Day 2. She was bright eyed and bushy tailed, but I couldn’t in good conscience put a saddle on a sore spot and make her climb more hills. The vet showed me a pressure point/stretch to stretch out that spot of her back and said to just check it out and decide whether to ride or not in the morning, and I got some encouraging words from A, but my gut told me No. Of course that evening they decided to change Sunday to an elevator ride, once again tempting me, and Desire was literally trotting circles around me on her night time walk. I was in a mental wrestling match with myself but did the stretches the vet recommended and checked her in with the vets for Day 2 that night, where I was again advised to wait and see. I set the alarm and went to bed but I didn’t prep any gear and after about 20 minutes I got back up, turned off my alarm, and gave myself the Okay to just not ride. We had a great Day 1 and I would rather go home with a happy mare and a completion than push the issue.
Sunday a.m. Desire and Hay Mountain
I collected my ride shirt and crew bag in the very chilly a.m., said some goodbyes, and was packed up and on the road by quarter to 9. It was a solid 5 hour drive home. Desire got in the trailer in the morning in 40-something degrees in a fleece blanket and by the time we were home it was afternoon and 95 degrees, but she hauls like a champ and was happy to be home and devouring yet another giant mash.
Sheza and the mini had an escape adventure early this morning I was told, and they replicated it for me when I was putting Desire away. Because what you REALLY want to do after riding 50 miles and then driving for 5 hours is to herd a squirelly filly and mini back to their pen in 95 degrees *eyeroll*
At least it’s never boring!