It’s been a few weeks since the event but here’s the story of Kenny the crooked wonder pony traveling to Washington to take on his first 55 miler!
Wednesday afternoon of ride week found Kenny and I at our buddy T’s barn for the night so that we could get on the road north in the morning (T being my Kenny source and traveling companion to ROM). Kenny was his usual relaxed, mildly rude self, and as he used to live with T’s herd and we often overnight and ride there currently, he settled right into his stall/paddock next to her Arabian mare, Niki, who would be riding the 100 miler while we did 55. T and I eat the same things and both have allergies so it’s pretty much the most convenient thing ever to travel together; we grocery (and sudafed) shopped together that night, grabbed ice in the morning with quiet steeds on board, and were on the road to Washington by 8 am!
We took the 97 up through Oregon and had smooth travels, with the requisite “Oh crap, should we have fueled up before heading out into these mountains?“, “why didn’t the fancy app show us this (brief) road construction?” , and “Oh crap, did we just wedge the rig somewhere that backing out of may be interesting?” Waffling over pulling into a rest stop halfway through led us to pick the next Large Lot with Grass that Will Work, and it worked just fine. The longer road trip revealed that Kenny hunkers back in the corner of T’s trailer in a rather hilarious but effective traveling stance, and both steeds were happy to stretch, pee, graze, drink, and have some probios and carrots on the stop.
As T drove I’d been reading aloud from a Facebook thread about “the bridge of death/doom,” an upcoming obstacle on our route that apparently some people detour completely to avoid. We were intrigued to see how bad it really was, and received some good advice to pull in the truck mirrors, which we prudently followed.
It was certainly tight and would be much worse in a larger rig, but T guided us smoothly across the narrow bridge and then we were officially in Washington! We had mused that maybe everything would be instantly green once over the border and well–it was. We ooh’ed and aah’ed our way along the final short leg to Mt. Adams Horse Camp in Trout Lake, with signs and ribbons directing us the last few miles in to the largest meadow ride camp that I’ve ever been in. The meadow didn’t even close to fill up over the weekend even with a trail ride, ride n tie, and 25/50/75/100 milers co-sanctioned with FEI going on, and the horses thought that the grass was the best ever.
Lest I ever fail to convey the hilarity that is palling around with a redheaded Morgan/Welsh Pony, here’s a few Kennyisms. Upon arrival, the horses dove into grazing, and who can blame them. We were all for the munching, but also thought stretching their legs was worth doing, so they grazed their way across the meadow and we eventually made it back to the dirt road we’d come in on, intent on a walk-about. Niki, ever the get-er-done Arabian mare, began marching down our chosen path in her businesslike manner. Kenny? He shuffled a few steps, stopped, glared at me, turned his head back toward the delicious meadow, glared at me again, then shuffled on with a sigh at my cheery, “c’mon on then Ken!” Aaaand repeat. Shuffle, stop, glare, sigh, glare, shuffle. He couldn’t have been clearer that the moronic humans had brought him to a delicious far away field and now were walking away from it!
Just one more..You may notice in the smaller right hand photo below that Kenny is on a hi-tie, and then in the following larger be-robed photo that he isn’t. That is because Kenny lost his hi-tie privileges in a record ten minutes after set up. See, I forgot my rip-off safety doo-dad for my non-bungee rope hi-tie unit, borrowed Tera’s hi-tie bungee, merrily attached Kenny to it–and proceeded to watch him test the bungee with progressively more aggressive Ninja pony Neck Flips. Take your average sassy equine neck snake movement and then add the devious intent of a Morgan pony who sees grass all about that he can allllmost reach. You could almost hear the “HiiiYAH!!” as he heaved his neck out and downwards at evasive grass and the bungee streeeeetched. It was really rather impressive and he had such destructive intent about him that soon the hi-tie was declared off limits in the interest of unbroken things. As I filled his water bucket after hard tying him to the trailer I said, “you wouldn’t tip this big old bucket of precious water over, would you now chum?” to which Kenny replied with an ominous BUMP of the tub with his large nose. You can see by the bungee around the orange tub that I believed him. True stories, every one!
We had a peaceful night after our day on the road and it was most luxurious to have all of Friday to relax in ride camp, I can’t recommend leaving a day early enough for a long haul excursion if you can swing it. The horses consumed and expelled gloriously, we applied Hoof Armor to bare feet where needed, went for a morning ride in the lovely springy footing, assembled our gear for ride day, and check and vet-in was still just beginning.
Hoof Armor is a Kevlar based penetrating epoxy with antibacterial qualities that is easily applied to the sole and hoof wall rim with a HA-specific gun. It sets fairly quickly and while not the same as pad or boot protection (i.e. don’t apply it to a horse that’s used to full protection and expect magic), in regularly barefoot horses it helps prevent excessive sole and wall wear as well as promoting a healthy hoof. Kenny regularly trains fully barefoot or with just front boots; he wore Easyboot Gloves on his front hooves and just Hoof Armor on his hinds. http://www.hoofarmor.com/
Check in was casual as you didn’t even have to have entered until Friday in camp, while vetting in was interesting; at an FEI co-sanctioned event and/or ride in a different state you often experience varying protocols/procedure when vetting in and this one was no different. Kenny was numbered first, then had his pulse checked (36!), THEN saw the vet, not an order I had done things in before but apparently the absolute norm in the area (or not), depending on who you asked. Kenny (and Niki) vetted in nicely with all A’s and I must say, I am proud of Kenny’s trot outs these days, just a lift of the rope and off he pops into his stretchy efficient trot! He seemed to love the footing in and around camp and would hop into a trot pretty much any time I was handling him all weekend, quite nice enthusiasm as Kenny truly only shows it when he means it!
T’s mentor and buddy H came to crew for her and we were all up early for T’s departure on the 100, then I whined at experienced H to help me tape and cram the cursed front Easyboot Gloves on for our own departure on the 55. I truly don’t enjoy using Gloves and sometimes have issues on wet training rides even with them power strapped and taped, but so far they have stayed in place at endurance rides and Kenny moves quite happily in them, so c’est la vie!
I had resolved at this ride to be ready sooner, warm up longer, and get out of all holds ON TIME, as well as have a well attached rump rug on-board all day, so in keeping with all that I was aboard Kenny and wandering about the field warming up 15 minutes early, rump rug in place, with only mild jigging from the equine half of the equation. His first two endurance events we camped AND rode with T and Niki so I was pretty intrigued (cough*concerned*cough) how his attitude would be taking on a 55 miler on our own. He had yelled a bit but not been unreasonable when they departed on the 100 and generally seemed quite bright and eager, a two handed ride to be sure, but we had our composure as we took one more walk past camp/crew headed for the Start…only to see H on the phone, shaking her head and mouthing, “She’s out!” T’s day on the 100 miler had ended early with an unfortunate muscle cramp not long after starting. She was transported back to camp and happily the mare is just fine but it was a bit of a confidence blow as Kenny and I headed out!
The trails were beautiful right off the bat, cool, shady, and scenic, with a touch of humidity in the sun but overall quite pleasant. Kenny was quite forward the entire first loop and I quickly began to contemplate strategy as the terrain was shaping up to be pretty mild and the footing excellent, meaning lots of places for sustained moving out versus slowing to ascend/descend as we mostly train. Sustained long trotting is for sure a weakness of mine as our trails and habits tend to the hilly, so I felt that it was important to pace Kenny for the 55 miles ahead. I really tried to work WITH Kenny on this ride, seems a no brainer but with a snarky stubborn pony things can become a battle of wills quickly so it can take some real awareness to keep finding places to let Kenny have something he wanted, as he gave me what I wanted (i.e. thanks for those five steps of walk, have 10 steps of trot! It worked). I balanced that seemingly effective strategy with a resolution to walk any and all up or downhills, even if it was a very shallow slope. We had to get breaks in somewhere and it just wouldn’t do to walk endlessly on the abundant flat, great footing, so walk the shallow ups and downs we did, and I also did the few long downhills on foot alongside, but mostly we just did a lot of smooth moving out. Kenny felt unquestionably stronger than he had at March’s sandy first 50 of the year and shady green forests are my jam, so we were pretty happy campers throughout the ride and cruising back into camp for each check! H and T were kind enough to support and crew for me on our various forays through camp and I’m pretty happy with my self management as far as water consumption, electrolyting with salt capsules and eating small amounts often no matter what my stomach says.
One of the best things about Kenny is his unwavering dedication to himself, as he will not hesitate to (stop to) poop, pee, eat, and drink as he needs. At various points throughout the day we found ourselves briefly with other riders and a few times he coolly stopped to take care of bodily functions or dive off the trail to a shallow stream to imbibe, giving zero shits about the horses leaving him at speed. We got a good rhythm going where I would wave a carrot from the saddle at his peripheral vision, he’d stop and turn to grab a bite, and on we would jog, some good tunes softly playing from the saddle bag. Heaven!
With a 1/4 mile hand-walk in to camp at the end of each loop that always included convincing perky pony not to trot, Kenny pulsed and vetted through beautifully all day and I kept to my resolution of being AT the Out timers ready to mount with five minutes left til my time (versus still being at the trailer as was my previous habit). As a mid to back of the pack rider who doesn’t actually enjoy chasing cut offs, I really can’t afford to waste five or ten minutes being late out of vet checks, especially at a ride with four checks. We encountered snow on the ground and rain in the air on the third of four loops but our steady pacing, snug rump rug, and timely departures made for a really pleasant day on trail and a pony that was STILL trotting in hand as we came around the now-familiar corner to the Finish!
His happy attitude all day, final CRI of 52/48, and general embodiment of Fit to Continue was really thrilling, just really fulfilling and exciting after our bumpy journey getting to know each other since we became a team in November 2015. Over the years I’ve ridden some good horses, but also those who didn’t really enjoy the sport for reasons both anxious and too relaxed, and I’ve felt Kenny finish a 50 when he was just fine but not really ready to go farther–this was so undeniably different, he was so smug and unphased by the farthest distance we’d ever gone, well I guess it’s why we do all this crap to ourselves in the first place, maybe!
We had an uneventful haul home on the 97 on Sunday, managing to utilize the rest stop we’d bypassed on the way up where we randomly encountered some off duty and friendly fellow endurance riders; we rested the horses again and enjoyed a delicious burger just Oregon side of the CA border, and were back at T’s for the night before midnight. A couple hours of easy travel in the morning had Kenny and I back home, and it felt good.
Kenny has since had over two weeks off in pasture, then returned to work with a sure footed 12.5 miles in the hills with his stallion buddy Aqua last week. I really think that against all odds, this crooked legged, charismatic little fella likes endurance!
Up next in our Never Been To This Ride Before Tour: Bandit Springs, July, Oregon! 😀