After a successful day AND a night LD (total:50 miles) at Bandit Springs in July , Kenny enjoyed his usual 2 weeks off plus another while I traveled on a really fun 10 day trip to Maine with my mom and nephew to visit more family. I had a lovely time, squeezed in a horseback ride, and ate as much lobster as possible, then returned to yet another excessive run of California heat (105+ for days) which meant not a lot of riding: a total of 63 miles on Kenny, mostly un-marking local endurance trail, in the 7 weeks from back-to-work to the Chamberlain Creek ride. Kenny is estimated to be 12 years old, lives in pasture barefoot year round, and he has now had almost 2 years of endurance conditioning after an initial base of light trail work. My does it show come a cool September ride morning…
I will get to the ride story soon, I promise, but first some ruminations in gratitude. (Pre-Chamberlain creek) I have had the privilege to go to 5 different endurance rides in 4 different states for a total of 335 completed AERC miles and one 100 mile Rider Option pull so far this season–all trailer-pooling!! I’ve ridden 5 different horses for 3 different owners (4 completions, 1 RO) , as well as my own (all completions), and I just feel blessed. I am a back of the pack rider that was converted to AERC as a teenager, admires decade teams and 100 milers, and likes to “get my moneys worth” out of the trail, but endurance has been a struggle for me these last years as I’ve tried to find the right partner. It’s wicked cliche but I have learned so much and met so many of the people that have made this year so much fun; what is even cooler is that a lot of the fun has been with people that I’ve known for almost decades and over decades now. As a reflective 30 year old, having old (I’m not talking age here), good friends is a sort of new and wonderful feeling, if you know what I mean.SO. Due to the above mentioned awesomeness, Chamberlain Creek became the first ride that I had trailered to on my own in over a year! I found myself entirely sure of what I needed to pack and do, but also a LOT more nervous than I had been in a while. I have gotten pretty efficient about tossing my kit (1 tote of camping gear/food/random essentials, 1 bag clothes/toiletries, pillow/bedroll, tack and helmet if catch riding–all of that plus basically the same list over again, if for Kenny) into someone else’s trailer and hitting the road, but I have also had some pretty epic travel shenanigans, so I was anxious to cover all possible bases for the solo jaunt. Due to the wonders of technology and old friends, after a clear chiro check for Kenny and last minute organizing for me, I entered Chamberlain Creek a few days before the ride via Facebook Messenger (A) . I generally try to be more prompt than that but..life. I Hoof Armor’d Kenny, baked a double batch of chocolate chop cookies, threw together my Oh Shit Kit, and away we went! The old friend mentioned above was the long standing Ride Manager herself; you see Chamberlain Creek was the first AERC ride that I ever attended, at 14 years old and sponsored by the lovely lady that had sold me my first horse and then taken me under her wing. I had been back to Chamberlain 4 more times after that over the years, completing the LD 3 more times on various non-Arabs and Rider Optioning the 50 in 2013 on my Rushcreek (during the back diagnosis saga) . To top it off, I had sold the RM a nice Rushcreek filly last year 🙂 Also at this ride were my former boss, my first horse shoer and his wife who co-sponsored me through that first-ever LD back when, buddies that I started in the sport that I hadn’t seen in ages, and many other friends from various stages of my growing up. After an uneventful drive Friday morning, ride camp arrival 30 minutes before my noon goal, and a zesty pre-ride on Kenny, my mom even visited ride camp and brought me my favorite calzone! ❤ Half of the cookie batch went to the RM and the rest to my buddies. Vetting in mostly went well, with his usual great trot out, a good pulse and grades but when the vet went to check Kenny’s mucus membranes Kenny took great offense and hurled his head upwards and sideways, with the vet grimly hanging on. I apologized while smiling through gritted teeth and grabbing pinchfuls of Kenny’s neck skin and promising to practice this at home. To be honest, he’d never done that before, but I’m pretty sure we were already operating in a two strike zone considering I’d brought him alone to ride camp (rude) and had turned around on our pre-ride before he was ready (stupid human).
I socialized everywhere Friday pm, slept cozily in the back seat of my Dodge (tested that set up on the Lassen trip), and got up way too early Saturday morning to do the pre planned things (feed horse more, wrestle on front Gloves) plus all the things that I had forgotten to do Friday because I was too busy chatting with folks! Which was mostly just load water and carrots in my saddle packs and apply the second coat of Hoof Armor to Kenny’s hinds. Once again on this ride I got a lot of questions about Hoof Armor because Kenny was barefoot about 85% of the ride on hilly hard packed road, gravel, etc. The main misconception about it seems to be that it will immediately help ouchy horses be sounder. It generally won’t, in that it’s not a boot or shoe, it’s a quick-set epoxy coating so in the words of the HA inventor, “think of it more like a moccasin,” in that it keeps from wearing the healthy conditioned barefoot hoof off over distance but one could still feel a sharp stone, for example. It will however promote hoof health used over time as it possesses antibacterial qualities. In the lessons learned department, having already sent out my crew bag Friday pm, I should have sent my HA kit along with a friend’s crew to the one main vet check that we frequented twice. It would have been prudent to reapply the HA to his fronts which only had one coat at the 35 mile one hour hold, but at that point I didn’t realize how much fully barefoot time we would be doing as I had my mind set on using front Gloves. Never bank on your own plan when you ride a pony!
As indicated in the caption above, Kenny was his usual slow starter in that we left for the start which was a mile from camp (as was the finish, but those miles were included in the ride mileage) at a reasonable extended walk and took to a forward jog behind buddies once we hit the dirt road. He wasn’t perturbed to let the larger and faster horses pull ahead and I’ve learned my lesson on letting other’s set my horse’s pace so we just sort of jogged along at 7ish miles an hour while I fiddled with my Pandora music app and took a few photos. Around mile 6 a friend passed on her businesslike CMK mare and suddenly Kenny decided She was the ONE, and it was on like Donkey Kong. I haven’t had a fight like that since riding my truly Blazun Haat Sheza’s dam Desire in endurance in 2012. Kenny was pretty reasonable traveling with the mare but the natural ebb and flow and leap frog effect of multiple attempted back-of-the-packers kicked in, including waiting for another rider who’d been left by friends to successfully mount her horse, and with constant rolling uphills and downhills we didn’t achieve any sort of status quo at all on Loop 1. A creek crossing plus some steep ups and my rookie mistake of not taping his front Gloves all coupled for a twisted boot on his wonky RF, and if any of you haven’t had the pleasure of trying to correct an Easyboot on a raging maniac on a hilly course, well, may you continue to be so lucky. I had been there done that with Desire in 2012 and hoped to never use Easyboots again but with the perfect application (tight, power-strapped, taped, etc) they have been working on Kenny’s fronts this season when used in competition. Let me hammer the point home: Do the Essential Things, No Matter What. K tape your ankle like you usually do, add that extra coat of Hoof Armor your gut says is prudent, and tape your effin boots even though it sucks. Ahem, anyway.
After the boot twisted a second time and I had to liberally “stroke” Kenny in the chest with said boot to keep him off my toes, I called it and pulled both Gloves. He had a coat of Hoof Armor on the fronts, the footing hadn’t been anything worse than he’d done on barefoot Ld’s and training recently, and while I had Mueller tape in my saddle bag, there was no way I was going to successfully tape and re-boot while alone with this tiny madman. You know that you’re battling a fit and feisty horse for true miles when some tiny desperate part of you hopes that the vet pulls you for something minor at the check just so it will Stop. We zipped past the photographer barefoot with boots riding passenger, both drenched in sweat and righteous indignation and pulsed right into Vet Check 1 at 60 BPM.
Neither of us had really eaten, drunk, or peed since his Turbo had kicked in early on so I was a bit flustered at VC 1 and he had some B’s on his gut sounds and hydration indicators but otherwise looked great (40 BPM at vet!) after 20 hilly miles. He chowed while I shoveled grimy salt tablets and apple sauce down my throat and in no time our 15 minute hold was up and we were outward bound. A friend and crewing husband figure handed me a foil wrapped chicken and cheese wrap and a crisp apple just before I left for Loop 2 and I will be thanking him in the afterlife for that as they were super delicious and revitalizing. I almost dropped the apple multiple times managing an expectant, friend hunting, but entirely more sedate Kenny, but managed to eat enough to feel good again and think that maybe this hadn’t been a terrible idea after all.
The course was relentlessly hilly but I had some pony brain back and things briefly improved even further when we caught up to long time riding buddies E and C who we’d let go early in the morning. Then we learned that E was on foot because her horse was NQR and she ended up turning back to RO before too long (he’s ok!). C was riding E’s mule Red who Kenny loves and rides with at home, so Kenny was quite reasonable for the rest of Loop 2 and C and I chatted our way into Vet Check 2 where Kenny was at 52 BPM in 4 minutes. He vetted through with all A’s and only a B on one gut quadrant as he’d drunk well on trail Loop 2 and I had resolved to cram more carrots in his gullet–plus ride management had a lovely water stop with hay at the top of the gnarliest hill!
Unfortunately our mule buddy unexpectedly got pulled Lame at VC 2 and with great paranoia and no Hoof Armor on scene I asked Easyboot-savvy E to tape and apply Kenny’s front Gloves for my solo journey out on Loop 3. I refilled waters and snacks (though should have grabbed more carrots), happily accepted a PBJ from E’s crewing husband, and headed out solo on a fairly willing Kenny. It was yet another big hill with an eventual long descent with nasty footing, and everyone agreed it was smart to boot up. Everyone except for Kenny, who went about 1/2 a mile up the hill while he could still see another horse trotting ahead, then stopped dead when he lost sight of the horse and decided he’d Just Rather Not. He used to do this while wearing Renegades and I had already heard him forging with the front Gloves, driving himself from behind up the hill as he does, so I suspected he was both pissed about leaving friends alone AND wearing the boots. Something had to go and it wasn’t me so once again I pulled the Gloves and we cruised up the hill and through the 43 mile Vet Check in nearly last place. He had a VC pulse of 48 BPM, A’s, and some B’s on hydration/ gut sound parameters which confirms for me that Kenny operates on the same Eat and Drink a Little, Often system that I do to feel our best, so I will always be sure to carry lots of carrots and a baggie of grain. I did this time, but not enough for a ride out of camp all day! Ride management had once again thoughtfully provided hay and mash at VC3 though and Kenny partook while I chatted with more old friends and made ready to head out solo yet again for the final 7 miles. It was a long, rolling descent that I remembered and the footing was pavementy/gravel/rocky road so I decided to both hike the majority of it and have another go at booting Kenny for that bit more protection. It was the worst footing of the day and he was finally showing signs of being tired so with the human mostly on foot he deigned to wear the Gloves for the final few miles (which I will admit felt looonnnnnnggggg) and strolled into the very quiet Finish at 5:51 PM with just over an hour to spare 😀 There were plenty of vets and no other riders around so Kenny slurped down some water and had a fun and thorough final Exam resulting in an overall A (once again, some Bs on hydration/gut sounds) and one tired and happy rider!
I hiked the mile back to camp as a moving, singing, hay dispenser for Kenny and was happy to see all my friends back safely, too. Dinner was delicious tri-tip and our completion awards were our ride photos! I hit the hay early that night with a good book and woke early but let someone else be the first That Guy that starts mucking around making an early a.m. ruckus. Still, I was on the road with a refreshed and snarky Kenny pony by 7:30 a.m. and rolled into a much warmer-than-ridecamp barnyard after another mercifully uneventful trip. A warm bath, fly spray, and a big mash and Kenny was free to be all Kenny again. I think he is feeling good! Did I mention that he’s a tad snarky?
That was a tough 50 and I plan to give Kenny plenty of time off after it, while also setting my eye on continuing to build toward some higher mileage goals next year! He is proving himself to handle the 50 mile distance well and is a total hoot to be around, so I’m just going to go slow, enjoy what I have, and dream. Happy trails for now!