I already have a 12 hour Cache Creek completion story, but that’s a more typical one, involving heat, endless boot losses, and electrolyte worries. This was the first year that Cache Creek had 2 days of rides and also the first year ever, as far as I could glean, that it misted, rained, and drizzled darn near all weekend. It’s a notoriously hot and hilly ride with generally great footing–generally, but not when you add water! Of course we mortals can do absolutely nothing about the weather except worship the NOAA app and pack everything *and* the kitchen sink because you just never know in these events if you will need shorts or a waterproof parka and it’s really unfortunate if you have neither.
Friday travels, redhead friendly weather anyone?!
As of Cache Creek, I have had sale mare Ellie home 4 weeks and ridden her 3 times. She’s a high drive, forward, impatient mare and an impressively gifted athlete. She is a mare that can drive you crazy if you don’t accept the simple fact that she is who she is. That is not to suggest that I allow shenanigans, I am an endless foot placement and general manners enforcer, however accepting the very nature of the beast allows you to not let it affect you mentally or emotionally, because it’s merely the mare being her. She’s a little spacey, and she wants to go and she always will. There’s so much more to it than that, however. This is an athlete gifted from birth, like one of those 10 years old with mind blowing voices on reality television, she’s born to do it and flourishes in her element. And that is why a horse that moves restlessly and sweats trailering alone, finds herself on her first solo camping trip in ride camp, feeling like this:
Simply put, she loves it. She settled right in, camps phenomenally, eats, drinks, poops,pees, stuffs her head into her bridle, chomps down electrolyte paste and carrots with equal enthusiasm, and eats all night. Like ALL night. She’s a racey greyhound built mare and requires plentiful groceries, but she consumes and expels, yes she does. Many of my horses drink best when walked to troughs intermittently in camp but she drank well from her trailer bucket, too.
I managed zero photos of my vet card this weekend which is incredibly annoying, but things quickly devolved into a drizzly mess and even sharpies were barely writing on what remained of the cards by the end, so there’ll likely be no recovering it. That said, she grazed her way through the vet line, vetted in quite stoically for a movey mare, 40s pulse, one B in a gut quadrant and otherwise As, body score of 5, FIVE PEOPLE, my god I was excited for that as I’ve been pouring groceries to her–“looking great” was to be her vet commentary of the weekend, though it wasn’t entirely that simple.
With the bog and a rainy year in mind, I saddled up with two friends to pre ride Friday afternoon. While pre riding obstacles is totally worth doing and I recommend it, it didn’t actually get me any better behavior ride morning 🙂 Both times we did lots of wiggling and a bit of dramatic thrashing and there may have been some “oohs” and “aahs” from witnesses but we sure as shit *did* ride across that bog and across the creek each time, and after the first strong refusals, quite nicely I must say. Glorious shenanigans like that don’t often afford moments for one handed photo moments, unfortunately!
There were about 103 starters in the 50 from the originally projected 110, one of the biggest fields I’ve been in. The 50 started at 5:30 am and T and I got on trail about 10 minutes late, trying to avoid a group but realistically it’s nearly impossible in a ride that big with open view spaces. We rode the whole ride with my buddy T and her mare Niki that I rode Whiskeytown with, it was her mare’s first 50 and they were fabulous companions as ever. Here’s a fun one T took of climbing into the fog:
It being an especially grey early morning and factoring in the bog excitement and working for the insisted upon non-giraffe mare headset, my first photos came some miles in:
Photo credit Baylor/Gore, T and I climbing! Grey mare power:
The vet checks were all at the bottom of the epic hills which was a great idea for hot weather but didn’t do me a whole lot of good on a fresh intense mare in relatively cool but borderline humid weather. Excitable+humidity=hanging pulse, and it did take Ellie a few minutes at both the 13 mile trot by and the 25 mile vet check to pulse in. I credit that to her fresh intensity and inability to relax in those moments as she pulsed immediately through as the ride continued, doing better each vet check as she calmed down. Her last ride was the Whiskeytown Chaser LD last month which she won, which can set a certain mental expectation in a horse but fortunately this wasn’t the first time I brought a winning mentality mare through a mid pack paced 50. Ellie reminds me strongly of my girl Desire, Sheza’s dam, with two major bonuses: Ellie has dressage background and is far lighter to ride in all ways *and* she’s non spooky. Huge deals there in my opinion!
It had progressed from humidish to light, steady, drenching drizzle by the 25 mile vet check. After stripping tack and convincing Ellie to stand still we pulsed in, then led the mares with handfuls of alfalfa and carrots to the vet checks where we all zipped through nicely with A’s aside from a gut quadrant each.
T and I are both heat stroke risk overheaters, so we weren’t yet totally bummed out by the weather, but wet everything is certainly not the most charming. Soggy sandwiches and hay sprinkled, dye streaking peanut m&ms still taste great after 25 miles though, and the mares rifled through our plentiful hay, mash, and carrot offerings, getting along admirably for two, well, mares.
might as well caption this “my god young lady, do you want a coat?!?!’
T’s 25 mile vet check 🙂
We had made decent time up to that point but as we began to climb back out of the 25 mile 1 hour hold I started to get a Han Solo feeling. The trail had been traveled with 2 way traffic pretty heavily by then and the moisture had been persistent and, well, things had gone to shit. What was great footing dry was now slick clay, uphill, flat, or down. And there’s mostly uphill and down on this ride, by the way. We had a brief period of optimism where things like “surely it will get better up ahead!” were said, but no, no, they didn’t get better.
There’s been much discussion of what type of footwear or lack thereof did the best on this footing and it’s my opinion that a lot of it depends on the horse. I rode with booted, bare, and was on steel myself for the first time in years; I compared notes with lots of others and everyone seemed pretty sure that their option was either the best or the worst. I am quite confident steel did not feel best, it felt quite treacherous at times, but realistically everyone was having a go of the footing, period.
Having accepted the footing was shite and with quite businesslike mares under us, T and I dedicated ourselves to safely traversing the endurance ride we found ourselves in in that moment. It wasn’t what we expected but it was what was delivered and we had the answer for it in horses that gamely climbed hill after hill, slurped at troughs, grabbed bites of grass on the move, pooped and peed as they needed, and just generally kept moving and not killing us in adverse conditions. If that isn’t endurance, what is????
Vet check 3 at mile 38 found us realizing our great lack of foresight, as we had both sent crew bags to the 1 hr hold but neither had sent anything to check 3, where it was decidedly very wet, we were soaked through, and coolers would have been a grand idea for the horses. Fortunately all the vet checks had copious water, hay, mashes, and carrots, and our mares were quite warm from their efforts and happily tucked into the vittles, shivering not a bit. Ellie and I got to vet through with Mel which was really cool and I realized it’s very hard to act professional at all and not devolve into chatty cathy when the vet is your good friend, but I held it together mostly and Ellie got great scores and returned to her grub in a jiffy.
I had clear flashbacks to the cheery reassurance of “only 12 miles to go!” last time I had left Vet check 3 racing the clock in 2012 as we left in the rain this time, but at least it was a fairly familiar 12 miles, and racing the clock is getting to be a familiar feeling for me perhaps? Hah! I was really pretty proud of our mares and ourselves at this point as they gamely strode on, ears up; we got to ride some of the last loop with an old coworker and buddy of mine which was great fun and extra happy timing as I was there to hand off a spare Renny I was carrying when she needed it.
those wild flowers though..
We made the best work we could out of the last miles in, the horses strode quite boldly through the creek and bog, and at soggy last we came into the Finish in camp. Ellie pulsed in immediately, vetted through with 50s pulse, all As, and was happy to dive into her hay back at the rig. We completed near cut off and somewhere in the 50s of 75 finishers.
Everything was thoroughly, sopping wet, but it wasn’t distinctly cold beyond that, so I had a conundrum of a very warm horse but crappy drizzly weather and a definite need to protect used muscles. I settled for a fleece cooler, waterproof sheet, Sore no More on her legs and Equiflex Sleeves, and after dragging me briskly around camp that evening she chomped steadily at her hay bag and noisily drank all through the rainy night.
good morning, can we do it again???
I had to laugh while simultaneously helicoptering my line and checking Ellie back into manners land when I walked her around camp the next morning as her steel shod, eager, even, 4 beat gait turned heads with it’s staccato insistence. “Well she’s on a mission isn’t she” someone said. Yes, she is. She loves this sport, she’s on a mission to get it done, and she does it well.
A couple hour trailer ride home, warm bath, and mountain of food found Ellie trotting out to see her friends with tail flagged, rolling vigorously, then taking a gallop lap before pursuing me like a cutting horse for her mash.
Noelle Le Fey, “Ellie” *AERC #50550 *14.3/15 hh *12 years
310 miles, 2 wins, 0 pulls *registered Sanskrit daughter * dressage background
$5,500 OBO contact Aurora Grohmanfirstname.lastname@example.org