Gold Country 50 2015: The Sparky Files

I felt quite a bit less of a mess leaving for this ride. No doubt a combination of having now been through a multiday with Spark so I had some clue what to expect, and the weather being gloriously cool, instead of endlessly 105 like before Wild West. In fact the weather felt so glorious it decided to dump very real rain on Sparky and I as we prepped to leaved leave. Cue shivering horse! We can fix that..

11748581_869335632536_916460847_nIt’s a now very familiar route, out past Auburn and Cool to Georgetown and we arrived in cool skies early enough to score a swanky corral. We were settled in with our rider packet by 2:30.


sweet digs!


Friends started to arrive, then as I was tacking up for a pre ride I heard sirens and it was soon reported that a man driving while on a cell phone had hit and flipped a horse trailer nearby. The horse was taken to the vet and all ended up being okay, But wow. Could be any of us, at any moment.

pre-ride stroll


Sparky vetted in with all As and a 40s pulse. He had about a dime sized patch of hair that rubbed off under his saddle pad on our last shake out ride (where he was moving like a cheeky rocket fueled 3 legged camel), but had not been sore or perturbed by it at all, so I had resolved to nurse it through with slicking/powdering agents, making sure the vet noted it ahead of time. Spark was in pro mode for that bit, eating and drinking everything around and settling in next to a corral neighbor.

settled in, I discovered Sheza’s new cooler is the only thing big enough for him


If nothing else went quite according to plan in this ride, let me say that the camping part definitely did. Pulled in, had a corral, gave the horse hay and water and that was that. No tent? no tarps? I still can’t get over it, and with the cozy pre-made gooseneck bed and Sparky stashed in a corral overnight– the 5 am alarm was actually needed, shocking!

ride morning gelding derp!


You may notice this post is slightly short on fabulous photos, and that can be attributed to one: shady camp lighting and two: riding a rocket pony. Getting a bit caught up in the last of the pack leaving camp early on, this is all I saw of the first 12 miles:


The morning loop was out to the airport for a 12 mile check, 30 minute hold, then back to camp. That first 24 miles had some pretty legitimate challenges, from a downhill start to plenty of gradual climbs but also some short but VERY steep ups or downs, so much so that I was clinging up like a monkey then had to reposition my saddle  a few times, ever worried about that little hairless spot. Still, we zoomed into a humid feeling 12 mile check pouring sweat, with Spark at 72 bpm. Except in another minute he was 54 and then his CRI was 44/46 and all As. He wouldn’t drink yet but he ate the entire hold.


Some borrowed baby powder assuaged my concern on the hairless spot, some kindly provided delicious fruit calmed me down a bit, and off we went back for camp, briefly joining another rider but getting left in the dust by that mare’s crazy uphill talent. I don’t ride to hold Sparky back but my compromise is always travel in such a way that we both stay vertical and okay. I didn’t entirely win that bit in the end, but mostly..

a brief moment of walking..


Spark started drinking at about 18 miles and never stopped from there on. He vetted through great again at the 24 mile mark, with the hairless spot not at all irritated and grades groovy.By this point I was a bit sore in the neck and shoulders from the nonstop, errr,  enthusiastic way of going, so here’s a quick shout out for Icy Hot Pain Relieving Cream. I don’t remember buying it but clearly I did, and it’s great stuff. (By the way, looking for something to link to there, I saw there’s No Mess Applicator options, which might be good. Since I live doused in sunscreen it just another sort of goo to be covered in.)

24 mile check, As, 40 pulses, already ate a mash and on to hay


About half of the 2nd 25 mile loop I called Aurora’s Glorious Revenge. This was where the horse who jammed through 2 LDs recently and had just jammed through 24 miles–thought he was done. And wasn’t. And had to leave camp again. Through the scary trees. Alone. BUAHAHAHAHAHA. I admit to savoring it a little.


 We did some good flying on the easier parts of that second loop, had to do a fair bit of walking on narrow trail or awkward bits (you just can’t pilot a 15.1 hand spooky dork through narrow trails quite as handily). The ride photographer was out there literally hiding in the trees, so he may have gotten some exciting shots of us spooking intensely. Eventually, we got to the 40 mile vet check. By that point, somehow, we were 2nd to last again (that’s where we finished both days at WW). I can only conclude that leaving late, being a few minute late to leave stops, and not wanting to die=turtle finish, because that’s all I seem to manage despite it seeming like we were flying where appropriate. Not to suggest I don’t like being a turtle, but I do feel like it’s a looong time to be out there. We’ll get out vet cards back but I figure it took us at least 9 hours.

Anyhoo, by management mile 40, I was properly tired, as you can see by lack of photos. He vetted through still in the 40s CRIs,  one B on gut sounds but otherwise As. He was enthusiastically scarfing mash and hay the whole time I sat there contemplating things. Like bed.   Finally, our 30 minute hold was up and we headed out for the final miles back to camp.

We swung along at exactly the same extremely enthusiastic power trot he’d had that morning, or so it felt. I was really tired of the management side of riding him but I was pretty sure that i was finishing on a very strong and good to go horse which is a nice feeling, especially on a friend’s horse that hasn’t done a 50 in a few years.

Then, a mile from the finish, as we power trotted uphill and around a bend–there was a rider on foot, barely moving. Sparky went from 12 mph uphill drive to 0 in an instant, and his grandly high set giraffe neck went directly up and into my face. Hard.  I remember swearing, crying, and and swearing some more as Sparky slammed on the brakes a half mile from the finish at the photographer sitting silently on the ground.@#($&!!!!!!!!!!!!  My memory of the finish is barely seeing straight to get a time card, stumbling back to my trailer, then eventually standing there in a daze holding my cards and horse lead rope but unsure I could actually jog without passing out. Fortunately Diane and John Stevens swooped him up and vetted him out for me, THANK YOU GUYS. Spark vetted out great with good grades, I do think he earned a B on impulsion but god help us, I know he left his A game on the trail, and my face.

He ate, I napped a bit with a bag of ice on my face. Then, after feeling better post vomiting, and  contemplating the daylight left I couldn’t take it how close I was to home and asked a friend to back my rig out as my bell was still properly rung, loaded up a willing Sparky, and made it home just after dark.


So, we got it done. He looks great this morning and is clearly an endurance beast. I’m…tired.

Wild Wild West 2015: The Sparky Files

I was kind of a hot mess come time to leave Thursday morning.  I have a tendency to persevere, which is great, until I’m tired and suddenly experience the whiplash of changes made. My last ride was Mojave Day 1 50 this past February on Scrappy, still in the fix-the-intermittently-sore-back war, with my faithful crew dog Georgia, in my good Ole Miley straight load. As I was leaving for Wild West I suddenly realized, as it were, that I was leaving an ailing Georgia, in a new to me rig ,with a horse that wasn’t mine…and I wondered what I was doing. That may sound overly dramatic or emotional to some, but if so then you haven’t invested years of thought and love into something and failed, over and over again. And then tried again.

So!  I shelved examining what I was doing until I was actually seated in the shade in ride camp next to a munching horse. My husband was kind enough to make the short drive up to camp to help us get settled but  I still felt nervous as all get out on arrival. I suppose that was somewhat emotional turmoil, plus a little physical anxiety from not knowing much about Sparky except that he’s large, opinionated, and known to buck at ride starts–but then he was quite reasonably doing his job of the moment (EDPP, be sensible at the trailer, repeat) so buck up Ole girl, my mental Marshall said. Don’t borrow trouble, it’ll find you again soon enough.

1-20150618_115900I was dead set on getting Sparky out for a pre ride Thursday and turns out that was wise since I discovered after the trim I’d done a few days before he was really more of a size 0 boot than the red 1s I’d used on him last. That’s why we bring the goods, eh! Why not start a multi day in boots he’s never worn 🙂

Sparky pre ride, his name is apt..


He got salted mashes, no electrolytes. DrankDrankDrank all weekend. PHEW!


vetted in in 40s, all As, 2 gut quadrants Bs throughout the whole weekend, BCS 5


a small thursday evening ride meeting


ermm, don’t quite have big enough blankets for this one!


We had a camping neighbor the first 2 nights and Spark or the mare would call when the other left, but nothing obnoxious. When that gal left we were pretty well on our own for close horse buddies but aside from calling to all the chestnuts that passed (and his soon to be buddy Confetti), he was a good solo camper. Another PHEW!


Camping with my gooseneck was glorious with the exception of a couple of the trailer rattling sounds that prompted high speed exits from sleep up, out of bed, down the tack trunk and out the door before I was awake, shod, or bespectacled. I definitely banged myself up more on the trailer than the horse. Phew? I think so! I totally failed at the photo of my cool shower set up, but basically I slapped removable magnet fishing rod holders like these (thanks husband!) on the roof of my trailer in the horse area, set a strung shower rod/curtain up on there, and had a perfect shower stall. The trusty Coleman Instant Hot Water heater then gets set on top of my $5 pickle-turned-water barrel, pump into barrel, and viola, private shower so hot I said Ouch!

Day 1 LD, 30 miler, went great! We marched out of camp on a loose rein and soon paired up with a mule; there were some stern words between riders and their respective mounts but nothing untoward and we finished the 18 mile loop in about 2 hours flat. Spark had a good drink and ate the carrots I had on board, pooped and peed, and came into the 30 minute hold at 52 bpm and As.

1-20150619_075714 18 miles in 2 hrs, 50% non blurry pics, I’ll take it 😉1-20150619_094126

He slammed down a salted mash, carrots, hay, I gobbled a tuna packet, and we headed back out alone for a much slower loop. We did nearly the entire 2nd loop alone and marched along eyeballing shadows, I did some hand walking and again didn’t bring enough carrots, and he continued to tank up water like a trooper. The one time I let my managing guard down he bee bopped sideways at a wooden No Biker log/sign thing on the ground, which ejected me but I landed on my feet, mounted from the sign thingy, and on we merrily rode. LOL. It came to me early on that riding Sparky is like riding an octopus with the attitude of a teenage boy, and my trail companions of the weekend and a few who know him seem to agree it’s apt. A very talented and athletic octopus at that!

fun and varied terrain and views on Day 1




1-20150619_111125      thumbs up for great trail marking!1-20150619_114523

A few miles out we came upon and finished with boot buddy M on Haflinger Confetti, her friend, and the mule. We finished 2nd to last, 47 bpm, A’s all around except for the same B gut quadrant. He was still spooking at upside down saddles as we headed for the trailer and was marching around and bright eyed through the evening– So we got another LD vet card and said let’s do it again!

Sparky was happy to see another tail out there in the wilderness


post ride, same horse as pre, hah!


day 1 WW 2015, credit Baylor/Gore


working on building those meaty cheeks 😉


much bigger ride meeting Friday night


bright eyed for Day 2


heading out with ride partners M and Confetti




After perfect boots  day 1, my last minute Oh, Hey, I need to use smaller hind boots realization bit me once on Day 2, on the stream crossing+steep uphill combo, where Sparky just slid right out of his hind boots. I popped them back on and that was the only issue for me all weekend. I consider that fair since those boots were last minute untested change up, and I actually think I’ll pop him into hind Vipers as the fronts performed so flawlessly. Hind Vipers also passed the challenging Confetti’s testing for Day 2, which was great to see.

lunch vet check, same pulse and grades as before, tanking up


I LOVE this picture!! Blogger and Renegade booter power!!



fun trails after lunch

Day 2 WW 2015, credit Baylor/gore


We cruised into another nearly last place finish with time to spare and the same great grades and that was that! Sparky looked exactly the same from the minute I pulled him from the field Thursday am to returning him there this morning. While it was a bit tiring to ride, it was pretty impressive and rather thrilling to ride such a clearly gifted and enthusiastic athlete! I am proud of us both and grateful to Sparky’s mom C for this opportunity.

post ride, Day 2


muahaha, I was a bit tired from his enthusiasm at the time..

then Mel shared this photo of those emotions swapped, LOL!


A well earned celebratory roll!


There’s rumors of a nearby 50 coming up next..

Wild West Bound

Phew, it’s been a good if hectic start to the month! Here’s some catching up on the last few weeks:

more Sheza work after she flattened me


we got chickens! 10 lovely home hatched bantams. Thanks Ponyhill!


grand dame Georgia is hanging in there, her weenie pups love her


we’ve had some wild weather..rain and HEAT and rainbows


Rory is bigger than ever..


since this photo I separated the orange (Apache) and the banana (Spark)

to redistribute some weight…


 and Spark is looking good! A solid hot 10 miles last Friday



good boy! 


my matchy power is on the rise again..he’s got 4 red Renegades too!


That about brings us to up to date, now prepping to leave for Wild Wild West ride this Thursday a.m.  This will be my second year tucking into the cozy quarters of Wild West ride camp, and I am very much looking forward to it. It’s the maiden voyage for my new-to-me ’90s Morgan built 2 horse gooseneck and I’ve spent a little time this week, amongst trim and boot appointments, mom visiting, and my husband being abroad on a very exciting business trip–dialing the trailer in.

tack box for storage/step/seat in one!                                                                  stove & kitchen

                                                                                                                                                buckets/hoof boots  

    11426812_863900694196_629190887_n     11349915_863899491606_734979031_n

looking down from bed (before I added tote/chair)


cozy quarters!

Lots of battery operated fans on board for this weekend


The husband flies in tomorrow and I leave for the ride Thursday am! Happy travels and trails and stay hydrated everyone!