2018 has been a singularly challenging year here at RHE; from interpersonal relations to human and animal and truck injuries to general financial struggles, this year has finally cemented in me that desperate adult notion that “next year will be better!(right?!?!)” In the face of it all I am certainly ever reminded just how good that I do have it, so we’ll just let this short paragraph sum up all the Aw Craps of the year to date and move on to a new ride story, which as per usual is filled with semi ridiculous hi-jinks. Just think how boring my blogs might be if things ever went entirely to plan!
Chamberlain Creek 2018 found Kenny and I in power puff trail duo shape, having ridden most of the summer including quite a bit of endurance ride clearing, marking, and unmarking and exploring the Tevis canyons, while not having actually competed since Death Valley in December due to saddle fit readjustments and the life shenanigans mentioned above.
spring, summer, snacks, n saddles
I have long wanted to attempt the much celebrated Virginia City 100 mile endurance ride that takes place in Nevada in the fall and I had had some notion that Kenny and I would try our hooves at it this year, but with an unorthodox ride season consisting of endless saddle fit adjustments and well, no rides, I revised that grand plan to a September 50 miler on our old home grounds in the Redwoods. We had seemingly muddled our way through Kenny’s latest Goldilocks moment and settled on a wonderfully comfortable Passier English saddle with shimmed Equipedic pad and crupper, Kenny and I had completed Chamberlain 50 in fine style last year, and with bigger goals on the horizon I was interested to see how Kenny handled the hilly 50 miler after a season of trail work versus competition miles.
I was prepped, loaded, and out the gate early last Friday morning feeling like I had things pretty under control, which is generally your first indicator that the endurance gods have settled onto their couches with some refreshments and are about to thoroughly enjoy messing with you. The first snafu was within a half hour of leaving, wherein our usual simple back-road-to-highway access, generally a matter of a few admittedly bumpy miles, turned into a loud, rough, debris-filled 45 minutes praying that my tires survived driving in rubble in a ditch, as a road crew had torn the route down to below pavement without bothering to post a sign at a useful intersection where a trailer might choose another path that that was what you were in for. I had words with a cluster of orange clad fellows standing about, patted myself on the back for hauling Kenny in a fly mask (while regretting not stopping in the Pilot line to close the trailer windows), posted a hopeful Facebook note that that was our Unexpected for the weekend (hah!), and on we rolled.
I quickly became entirely sick of the cheery orange Road Construction signs that popped up like mushrooms after a rain all along my route that day. Oh well, it’s a Friday, California found an absurd road work budget somewhere all of a sudden, c’est la vie, I thought, as my old orange Ford rumbled up the 101 grade towards Willits. Cue truck power ebbing and a cheery red CHECK ENGINE light flashing on as Old Orange shuddered suddenly on the loooonnng uphill. Less calm French (and English) words were uttered as I crammed myself into a sort-of pullout barely large enough for the rig, just before a blind corner that I really didn’t want to break down in the middle of. Once parked, CHECK ENGINE and the troubling symptoms immediately ceased as the “OH SHIT” messages flew from my phone into the atmosphere. For all that my brother and husband helpfully responded quickly, bottom line I was pulled over near the top of a huge grade alone, with zero room to try out my truck’s power, a blind corner in front of me, and no clear further symptoms from the truck. I figured I had to try to to get to a safer spot so with my heart in my throat I eventually reentered the slow lane with my Hazard lights on and crept at 20 mph to the top of the grade…and along the top, picking up speed…and down the other side, with zero issues. Our hive mind diagnostics suggested that fuel put into the truck tanks from the truck bed tank before leaving home may have been watery/dirty, so with fresh fuel on board and no further truck symptoms, Kenny and I voyaged on through Willits and out of cell service toward Chamberlain, hooves crossed.
Without further ado Old Orange delivered us to the lovely shady Chamberlain Creek ride camp around 1 pm Friday and I was quickly comforted in my notions of truck trouble by the fellow who had lost his steering en route to the ride. We were golden compared to that anyway, right?(hah!)
My projected notions of a peaceful weekend away already well disturbed, I tried to shake off the And How Will Driving Home Go worries as I settled Kenny and I in. As I rhapsodized about in last year’s Chamberlain ride story, this was my first ever endurance ride back when I was a junior and it is always a homecoming atmosphere for me which is wonderful. Check in and pre-ride were total non events, aside from Kenny briefly taking up vigorous head shaking on the pre ride that threatened to throw us off balance as he heaved his giant orange ballast about and my truck-roughened nerves yelped What The Hell is This, Guess I better Show the Vet, AHhhh WTFFF–of course, the head shaking stopped after riding and never resumed –vet in 40 BPM, all A’s– just a little Kenny fun!
My sleeping set up this go round was the epic foam mattress from my now-sold Gooseneck trailer crammed like a hot dog bun into the tack room of my Logan, with me as the hot dog filling (only left one necessary saddle rack in, rest of the gear was packed in the truck bed). At 5’4″ tall this set up actually worked quite comfortably, the extra mattress padding the cold steel sides and creating a small “table” space to set my water/book on, with all the tack hooks handily around for glasses and clothes, and I really enjoyed being that close to Kenny, who made sure to check in often and drool on my feet. I was more comfortable in this set up than my previous sleeping in the truck set up, though admittedly if you are tall or get cold easily a tack room probably isn’t going to be your jam.
My family started arriving at ride camp to visit around 5 pm and I had the absolute best time Friday evening hanging out at my camp with my mom, stepdad, brother, and sister in law. I was a bad girl and missed the ride meeting but really, they brought everything from home grown apples to home made fudge to a bag of books to a pizza party! Good food, good books, good people, and my steed, truck troubles forgotten, this was what endurance and life is all about ❤
I didn’t sleep but a few hours Friday night between standard ride weekend adrenaline and my neighbors’ pivoting metal hi tie which allowed their horse to move about more than a fixed hi tie but also made a fantastic metal screeching sound any time the horse moved. All that means is that I was up in plenty of time on Saturday morning to don my headlamp and kit Kenny out in 4 taped Easyboot Gloves which any of you Easyboot users will know requires plenty of time, patience, sports tape, profanity, and a hammer. I am getting better at (Relatively) quickly applying them but I also still think the word Easy being in the company name of such a product is an entirely laughable joke: If you aren’t sweating and cursing to get them on and off, they probably aren’t tight enough for endurance miles. Why 4 boots this time you may ask, well, playing the Kenny comfort game is a fine balance: Narrow set up front so at risk for interference, short coupled and deep striding behind so at risk for forging, topped off with upright Morgany donkey feet that are happiest bare and oh PS aren’t symmetrical, I have been through the gamut of hoof protection for Kenny over endurance distances. The best best option where he is happiest and almost all of his conditioning happens is completely barefoot, with Hoof Armor applied for excessive wear protection. That works pretty well for a lot of footing, sand miles, etc, but Chamberlain Creek 50 miler is both non stop hilly and pretty full of hard footing, with some gravel road sprinkled in. Not ideal for a fully barefoot horse and I didn’t have my shit together to glue on shells which is Kenny’s other most preferred method of travel (no gaiters to interfere) , so opted for our tried and true He Wears Gloves Until He Won’t Tolerate Them, Then They Come Off method. It’s admittedly a bit of a PITA to voluntarily mess with Easyboots during a race but Kenny wants what Kenny wants and he continues to succeed as his demands are met, so obey him I shall!
From here, the ride itself quite happily isn’t a particularly fascinating story. In usual Kenny style he left camp on a loose rein, meandered his way through the first 6 miles clearly not dedicated to the notion of going far, around mile 7 decided he was far enough away from camp that he had better get to work getting back to it (though we would be out of camp all day), and from there we zipped right along through the first 20 mile loop, leap frogging with a few other riders.
At the first hold, 30 minutes, Kenny snorfled through his cereal bags, dissed the expensive hay that I had packed him, and vetted through with his usual lovely metabolics and A grades. My early early morning had left me time to discover an ancient glitter tube in my camping gear so I had bedazzled Kenny’s rump a bit and that stirred up some smiles amongst the vets who also declared him the cutest horse of the day ❤
Loop 2 of the 50 boasts a beast of a hill climb that I remembered well from last year and I was proud of my Easyboot skills as they stayed in place for the hills after a creek crossing; Kenny was not nearly so amused to climb this hill alone as he had been with compadres last year, and we climbed and puffed and climbed our way along in a bit of a doldrums until our previous leap frog associates reappeared and inspired Kenny again. I realized at this point that I had made an error in forgetting to pack carrots in the saddle bag as they are my quarters that I feed into the slot to keep the pony ride going and Kenny’s slightly lower gut scores at Vet Check 2 reflected that he could have used some chomping along the way. I also discovered what else I had forgotten near the end of the loop when, as if hearing my resolve to remove Easyboots at the next hold, Kenny smugly ripped his left front boot neatly in half, knocking himself a nice pink spot on his ankle for good measure. He had done this once before while booted at Death Valley and since then I had been carrying a fetlock boot for the possible occasion but somehow it had migrated from my saddle pack. He wasn’t any the worse for wear and was much more cheerful without the boots (with 2 coats of Hoof Armor already applied) and we vetted into our hour hold at 35 miles in fine shape.
Both Kenny personalities! credit Baylor/Gore photography
The final loop leaves out of the vet check up another solid hill and Kenny resumed trail for Loop 3 with a bit of a sigh and eyeroll, but before long the leap froggers passed us and that was sufficient to inspire us up through Vet Check 3 at the top of the hill and on to the last few miles. Endurance on Kenny is certainly nothing like endurance on Arabians of yore; sure, there are times he’s ripping my arms out and Hi Ho Silvering away, but more often there’s just steady, snarky Kenny, trundling his way along, stopping dead mid trot in a group to poop (watch your knees!), letting horses on out of sight when he has to pee, always game to stop and eat. It’s a very casual and unhurried method of endurance riding and I really do enjoy it as I watch others beebop about trying to regulate more fiery athletes. We have our own challenges due to conformation and we’ll never be fast but boy do I love smoothly riding along listening to quiet tunes, loose reins gathered in a fist, staring up at the trees and appreciating the sky.
strolling into the Finish Line together/hiking back camp
All told I think we finished the 50 miler about 20 minutes faster than last year, in just about the same position in the pack, affirming Kenny’s steady dedication to 9 hr something-minute 50s regardless of preparation or terrain. Consistency, man! Ride dinner was most epic, featuring garlicky pork roasted on site and our ride awards were the professional photos, a nice touch for those of us on a tight budget who always love to both support the photogs and take home tangible memories. Kenny and I both felt good but like we had done our first 50 miler in 9 months and fittingly I was out cold by 7 pm Saturday night, no hi tie could wake me.
….you didn’t think I would merrily end this story on and we had a smooth drive, now did you ????? Of course not! Heeeeeere’s Kenny, judgily parked at his Sunday afternoon side of Highway 20 hang out spot, after our dear old Orange has nearly stranded us on an uphill grade with NO pullouts, and I have made the call to surrender her to a AAA truck while awaiting my husband en route with our one remaining vehicle. I’m fairly certain Kenny would like to trade me in for someone who owns a newer model but dog bless him for being such a cool traveling customer.
What, you broke down again? Good, I went 50 miles yesterday and fancy a nap. Shhh.
Both trucks, the trailer, humans, and horse all made it home the same day in the end, despite being 130 miles from home with a 100 mile towing radius and other good fun. It looks to be a clogged fuel filter and sticky injector diagnosis for old Orange, not the end of the world at 350,000 miles, and in her defense I must point out that the other epic endurance ride truck shenanigans that I have been a part of in the last year or two didn’t actually involve Orange as I am quite circumspect about pushing her to long trips. Kenny did his part as usual and has set us back on track to some larger goals in the coming season so all we can do is save up our hopes and our pennies, wield our mechanic wrenches, and keep on trucking and trotting!