Gold Rush Shuffle 2017 & Season Wrap up

I’m a person of gut feelings and mild superstitions. Ignore either, particularly the first, at your peril I have found. It’s an interesting mix when paired with goals and ambition; it becomes a delicate balancing act–I’m doing it!!  Look out world! Wait..is this niggling feeling paranoia or the trusty ole gut kicking in? Hmm…hmmm.

You see, I was just outside the AERC season-end points in my weight division and the last ride of the season, the Gold Rush Shuffle 3 day, takes place 45 minutes from my house. I’ve never been national year end anything, except frustrated and hopeful, and honestly I don’t really give two figs about point standings or placings, generally. It was just so close this season, after a personally unprecedented AERC tour of 4 states and a streak of catch riding had my annual mileage the highest it had been in 5 years. So close. Yet far enough, as others with the same notion would no doubt be attending the three day ride, surely bumping me out if I didn’t go.

Take Kenny!  you say. Welllll…I suppose it’s timely now to ‘fess up my long term goal for my small, snarky, crooked legged amigo. I’ve got my eye on the purported extremely-rocky-but-great-time Virginia City 100 Miler next September, and as such I have a tentative training/ride schedule for him all lined out. It definitely does not include a flattish ride in terrible-if-it-rains footing on trails I’ve ridden til I’m cross eyed for the last 10 years, in pursuit of an egotistical goal. After all, Kenny for sure gives zero shits if I make it into the points. Actually he might give one, on my boot, for funsies. But you get my drift.

I had an option to ride Mustangs again for Mark but I had an abundance of stress going on in daily life and when offered Chief, a local friend’s Pintabian gelding I’ve known as long as the trails who’s first LD I put on him 5 years ago, I went for the better known option. Catch riding has natural adrenaline already built in for me with my history of kissing dirt and low grade PTSD and I find adding more nerves and uncertainty to the situation rarely does you favors with an equine partner. I felt good about Chief and I could still keep Kenny on his VC100 schedule. I packed my truck with my Catch Riding Essentials (I’m writing a post on that, btw), set up my cozy bed in the back seat–and set off into rain.

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well, we’ll give er a shot…the weather cleared, and my steed looked good

Thursday was Thanksgiving of course so I had enjoyed a turkey dinner at home with the husband before setting off and after a little ride camp visiting, vetting in my steed (A’s), and packing my saddle packs, I headed to bed for a good turkey coma pretty quickly.

I hadn’t set foot in Chief’s stirrup since his first LD 5 years ago but I knew he was a good boy and his owner J had been keeping him tuned up. Soon enough it was 6 am (6:30 start), the stirrups went up a hole, I settled in, and Chief and I were off to figure each other out again. He was forward but reasonable, his worst trait being his enthusiastic hollering for his stable mate, who obliged by yelling back. We did some laps around the dirt roads below camp, warming up, not wanting to be by the front runners but not looking to be buried too deep either. Chief had breezed through the hilly Chamberlain Creek 50 miler hours faster than Kenny and I the month before and these were his non technical home trails so I planned to maintain decorum but not hold him back beyond reason.

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early a.m. Day 1 50

Chief quickly impressed me. He took to a steady jog when asked, took one or two No Reallys but then slowed to walk on the descents and muddy bits–and his hill attack, phew! He dropped his nose to the ground, rounded his topline, and powered at 4 mph+ uphill at the walk, rarely trying to break to a trot. I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my life and in this year and that was one of the more impressive attributes I’ve experienced the benefits of. As other horses jigged or trotted, Chief effortlessly passed at a power walk. He also had buttercream trot-canter transitions, in both directions. He had been a good solid prospect 5 years ago but now he felt polished and powerful.  If I could name any detriment to Chief’s potential, it would be how hard his hooves hit the ground, he was smooth and comfortable but not light on his feet, something that rings warning bells in me ever since retiring my mare Desire at 18. She was a ground pounder like no other and arthritis came fast for her. You know how it is, once you’ve had a horse with an issue in an area, it is a paranoia strobe light for you while riding all others. Anyway, J had told me that Chief probably wouldn’t drink for the first 15 miles or so and I had packed carrots and other goodies so we cruised along in our own pocket, snacking, enjoying the day.

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getting er done, Day 1 50

Riding a reasonably behaved horse put me in the position of being other’s brakes and steering a few times throughout the weekend and I can only encourage those that find themselves in that position to ask if it’s okay as you almost crash into the horse in front of you, and thank those who did…

The first Loop was 25 miles (he drank at mile 17, good call Mom) and brought us back into ride camp, right up a steep hill, which served to amp up Chief in a couple of ways. For one, these are his home grounds so he knows exactly what and where ride camp is. Also, he knows his stable mate is possibly there–OMG NEIGH!!! And finally, a steep hill does great things for bringing down heart rate..err. J had told me that Chief’s metabolics were not his strongest point, i.e. he’s a large horse who needs cooling and smart riding, he wasn’t clipped (hindsight 20/20), and it was sunnyish and humid, so she met me out with a cart to strip his tack. We tried to protect our ear drums from his hollering (stablemate was gone on LD at that point) as we hosed his front end and legs off in camp, and he was pulsed down in 5 minutes. We decided to take him back to the trailer to eat and drink and relax in a bit before vetting then took a peppy Chief over for a check of mostly A’s, with a couple Bs on hydration indicators.

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peppy chief heading to vetting/Loop 2/CFW Lake

Loop two was even flatter and we made good time cruising along still in our pocket. Chief was in his element and drinking deeply when offered at that point. I did forget to repack carrots at the lunch hold, it really is such a great gut/parameter bump to keep feeding those little quarters into the slot as you ride, or stop for grazing breaks. Some of the second loop skirted Camp Far West lake itself and there were a few spots that showed the lake levels had clearly risen in the last day or two, as the paint markings occasionally disappeared into mostly shallow water then visibly resumed farther along the shore. I knew the lake shores to be muddy and deceptive so I skirted all of these, but witnessed a particularly deep “crossing” from afar: three riders approached the newly underwater area and leaped into it with seeming abandon, somehow seahorsing it across intact, though all that attempted it that day weren’t so lucky. It was quite a sight. The ride manager encouraged everyone that night to skirt such issues should they come upon them again.

I wanted to pulse right through at the Finish and was enjoying the evening so we meandered in the last couple of miles, I hopped off to handwalk the last half mile, and we came in to a 56 BPM and A Overall finish. J’s other horse completed the Day 1 LD and showed for BC to round out a good day. My Day 1 completed card was my vet-in for Day 2’s 55 miler and after mashes and dinner plates all around it was most definitely bedtime again.

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Day 1 50: completed, credit Baylor/Gore Photography

Day 2 found Chief just as eager as Day 1 and I’d resolved not to head over into the start area chaos so early this time, so I mounted more like 6:15 and warmed up on the far side, heading for the start once the trail was open. It was another sublime NorCal winter morning and Chief and I settled in with our Pandora tunes softly playing for a slightly slower day on trail. It was Day 2, 55 miles were to hand,  and steady was the name of the game more than ever.

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early Day 2, 55 miler

After some eyebrow raising encounters in miles 1 and 2, 4ish miles in a polite and friendly rider approached us from behind, under control, and asked if I minded if we cruised along together. I had no objections, my caveat always being as long as the horses are rating well, and we proceeded to ride almost the entire first loop together, chatting amiably. It was nice to have some company after flying solo Day 1 and the horses rated well together until we were almost back to camp when the larger more forward mare riding her first day naturally forged ahead. Chief was definitely quieter 20 miles deep into Day 2 but got back to yelling as we approached Ride camp for the 25 mile vet check. He pulsed right in and I settled him in to eat and drink for a bit again as we had done successfully the day before. I snorfed down some delicious turkey wraps from Chief’s crewing parents then headed over to vet in.

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Day 2, 55 miler, Loop 1

If you haven’t seen that thoughtful look on a vet’s face after returning from your trot out before, well, I hope it never comes to pass, but it probably will. It’s not an Oh Hell No look, it’s a Hmm, Did I see Something? look, and it was on Dr. Jamie Kerr’s face after Chief’s trot out halfway-ish through day 2. He said that he thought he might see something in the front end and he was going to have another vet take a look after we finished the rest of the vetting. As Chief’s otherwise great scores came in, I felt a tiny flash of but the points.., then my better self kicked in and even as I trotted again for two vets, I knew I was Rider Optioning if I wasn’t pulled. Chief had history of a front leg injury a couple of years ago and though in the moment I couldn’t even remember which front leg it was, “front” was enough for me. There was absolutely no way I was going to risk a horse for a silly human goal. Dr. Kerr gave me the Okay to continue after re-check but I went with the R.O–L and put a peppy and yelling Chief back in his pen, job well done for the weekend.

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Chief post RO, he was pretty sure he could go catch his buddy

Doing the right thing doesn’t always taste great but it’s the flavor of life for me, or so I try to make it. Chief went home sound and happy, J’s other horse finished the Day 2 LD in style with her aboard, showing for BC again, and overall it was a really enjoyable weekend. The points goal will retire quietly to it’s shadowy grave, here are the stats that really matter to me in the end:

My 2017 AERC:

*355 miles completed AERC 50/55s: 7/8 completed, 1 Rider Option

*80 LD Miles, 3/3 completed

*1st 100 Miler attempt: Rider Option–HLD (Hella Lost in the Dark)

*7 horses ridden for 5 owners, 4 different breeds,  zero hard pulls

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credit Steve Bradley/David Honan Photography/Cassidy Rae Photography/Gore&Baylor Photography

Thank you to all the owners who trusted me with their equine partners, to all the great horses that carried me, and to everyone else–see you next season!!

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Goodbye dear Friend

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On Monday, November 27th, I said goodbye to my best friend of many years. Blaze came home for my 22nd birthday and my god, the trails we traveled, the smiles he brought, the growth I went through with my chunky bay amigo at my side. From cow sorting to gymkhana to AERC rides, kid’s first rides, elders re-rides..Blaze was a saint, one of the truly good ones. After a decline in recent months, he had a morning in the sun eating alfalfa and apples and now he rests in peace here at home.

Blaze

1992-11/27/2017

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Blaze and Angel, two friends gone on ahead now 

The Kenny Chronicles: Chamberlain Creek 50 miler 2017

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…

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Kenny back to work..unmarking trail, snacks with buddies, snarky naps..

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.

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a fabulous weekend truck camping in Lassen Volcanic National Park with my buddy and her adrenaline junky tot! Complete with auto shenanigans..

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!

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clean tack, Oh shit Kit(+bananas), awesome fall weather, Neapolitan hay bag, Hoof Armor–CHECK!

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.

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lovely morning drive/Kenny briefly thinks he sees a friend/my changing&feed room/napssss

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pre riding/mom visit/camp/what you get if you don’t walk Kenny when he wants

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).

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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!

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First Loop, slow Kenny says goodbye friends then Snarky Kenny awakes and hell breaks loose/feigned innocent at Vet check 1, 20 miles

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.

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*And he did it hiiiiis waaaaay*  Pro Photos by Baylor/Gore Photography

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!

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Loop 2/found Friends/lost one/had fun/Vet check 2 at 36 miles

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!

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Loop 3 alone/smiling after boots came off and Kenny moved again/VC 3/Well placed signage/FINISHED!

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24th out of 26 on this ride, 6/6 completions for Kenny 🙂

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?

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When you return a Kenny to the wilds but haven’t delivered his Victory Mash

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kenny Chronicles: Bandit Springs Multiday 2017

In what seemed like no time at all after our May Mt. Adams adventures, Kenny and I found ourselves back at travel buddy T’s last Wednesday evening for another endurance undertaking; this time we were Oregon bound with a night LD and maybe more on the agenda. T was bringing Rex, her home raised 6 year old chestnut Morgan gelding and another friend in OR was planning to join us at the ride with her chestnut Morgan gelding, so it was set to be a very entertaining chestnut Morgany good time.

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Kenny not amused by the human/Kenny very amused by messing with T’s boarder gelding, pooping along the fence line was particularly offensive and therefore beloved of Kenny

Before we even left the driveway on Thursday morning a tire pressure check by T’s dad revealed that the passenger rear LQ tire was holding 0 PSI–ruh roh! He gave us a refresher on tire changing putting the spare on, with the fabulous ramp we pack that make PITA jacks unnecessary–which was fortunate considering the adventures yet to come! Horses, gear, and ice made their way on board, plus an air-up of the suspect 0 PSI tire, and eventually we were on the road. We had smooth travels for about 200 miles and were making good headway in Oregon when a passing car staring at us caused us to critically re-evaluate mirror contents and I caught sight of the passenger front LQ tire waving at us, totally blown. We didn’t feel or hear a thing, but there it was, so we pulled over on the side of Hwy 97 with semis blowing past us and got to work. We quickly found that the open bottomed tire changing ramp sunk into the deep gravel alongside the road; after not producing a chunk of wood adequate to fashion a bottom and prevent sinking, we settled for scraping the gravel away down to hard pack for both the ramp and to make space for the tire application. The tire now on was the one that had been at 0 that morning, and  sure enough it turned out to not be holding air reliably after re-inflation, so we googled our way to the next Pilot station for fuel, Fix a Flat, and air, then made our way another 40 miles to a Les Schwab in La Pine for the one new appropriately sized trailer tire they had to sell us.  The geldings hopped out in the busy tire bay with wide eyes but got right to their self care, sucking down water buckets and enjoying the grass and shade out back while the trailer got the first of it’s new shoes for the weekend. Here we committed a fairly significant error, as it would have been entirely logical and our men folk reminded us to get the leaky spare we’d had to put on to get there patched. We didn’t. And it bit us in the bum later!

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tire shenanigans..

It was evening but still daylight when we pulled into ride camp outside Prineville, directed in with clear signage and impressed by the grass in all directions despite the heat. Ride literature had cautioned that camping would be snug and with attention to keeping our horses to the inside of a fenced area due to wild Mustangs who had caused some trouble at the ride the year before, but we still found accommodations quite roomy compared to California ride camps. The boys couldn’t wait to get their graze on and all walks for the weekend were punctuated with much green consumption. T and I have a solid camp routine down and before long we were all settled in for the night, marveling at the high bright moon and eager to be riding under it the next night.

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Morgans rocking self care/Ride camp at last!

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cozy steeds/great moon/Rex pose/saddle pose off

By Friday morning our buddy who had also been inbound Thursday hadn’t appeared. We had last heard she had some sort of brake sticking issue and we were concerned but were also cell service-less and knew she was self sufficient, so we saddled up mid morning and headed out to check out the trails. The footing was immediately very friendly and the boys moved out cheerfully–so cheerfully that while cantering across what I found out later is known to some as Concussion Meadow, I let Kenny choose his path and he veered snappily off to the right with his usual Let’s Do Something My Way attitude ever to hoof. I rolled with it until he was well off track, then began circling him back towards T’s progress–whereupon he hunched his little back and started bucking! Fortunately he wasn’t rodeo quality and is short, so I managed to step off, surprised, still holding the reins which caused him to dramatically zip backwards in a half rear, thrashing his head. I released the reins, he stopped and blinked at me casually. I remounted, swatted him between the ears, and on we went, with nary another issue all weekend. Ponies, man.

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pre riding

There were some truly dusty spots on trail but overall they were shady and beautiful with some really fun winding dirt single track and nothing rough to speak of so T and I rode our geldings barefoot with Hoof Armor for the events. Both of our horses train barefoot on rough terrain at home; Hoof Armor provides a protective coating against excessive wear while promoting hoof health with antibacterial qualities, but will not provide cushion for horses accustomed to shoes/boots. The hoof has to be conditioned just like the body, so just like a horse in pasture has some fitness but not a lot, a horse barefoot in pasture has some hoof toughness but not necessarily a lot. It requires time under saddle, barefoot, to get the body and hoof to a level of competition, and it is certainly easier to have tough hooves and use Hoof Armor in dry climates, though HA can be applied with aid of a heat gun if necessary.

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T applies Hoof Armor to the boys after Friday afternoon vet in

Not long after we returned from our pre ride we saw people start to rush the boundary fence we had parked near, flags in hand. A ripple of excitement accompanied by WHOOPWHOOPS had us looking hard across the meadow and sure enough, the Mustang stallions were coming! A shiny healthy looking herd of 3 bachelors which caused T and I to tourist out enthusiastically while the locals drove them off most effectively with a quad. Last year one of the stallions had come into ride camp and gotten a corral panel stuck over his neck, freeing a horse and running off into the night with the panel on. He was tracked and the panel removed, but against such potential trouble the ride officials were very diligent on protecting camp all weekend.

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Morgany nap time/Mustang stallion shenanigans

Our buddy H rolled in to camp after the Mustang show, her brake issue addressed, and Friday afternoon saw us vetted in, numbered, Hoof Armor’ed, and off to a 5 pm ride meeting for a 7 pm start. This was the first time that Bandit Springs held a night LD ride and it was so well received that they have decided to add it to their annual schedule. There were close to 20 riders and we all received glow necklaces to wear, which was really fun and helpful for following buddies later that night!

The first loop of the evening was 10 miles of good fun, mostly stellar forest footing that we moved out on, cruising back into camp around 9:30, where Kenny pulsed and vetted right through and got down to eating. All three of the Morgans took stellar care of themselves throughout the weekend and the vet remarked that our group had some of the loudest gut sounds that she heard.

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Ready for/riding the Night LD

Heading back out for the 15 mile loop it was getting near dark and a huge, stunning moon was rising.  Our glow necklaces and my friends’ neon green/yellow tack made for some track-ability and it was an utter adrenaline ride getting that loop done out in the dark! I’ve done some night riding here and there, including a lonely desert wander at 20 Mule team this year, but not enough for it to be anything less than disorienting, exciting, and occasionally seeming like a bad idea. My allergies had been in overdrive since arrival at ride camp and my stomach was decidedly not my friend after dark but I kept forcing down micro amounts of water and food and mostly just enjoyed the heck out of that night loop. We were redirected at one point to take a road back to mutual trail as they didn’t have enough glow sticks for us to safely navigate a meadow crossing, but the redirect was clear and we found our way quite nicely back to trail we recognized from earlier. The final miles back to camp found us whooping in hysterical laughter as the horses trotted UPDOWN through stomach churning whoop de whoops in darker spots of the forest and we vetted out at 12:30 am with happy horses and satisfied humans who also kinda felt like crap. To Bed!!

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good morning ride camp

I’d entertained various notions of what I would do after completing the Friday night LD, i.e. ride the next day or ride some distance Sunday. After falling into bed at 1:30 am Saturday and waking feeling pretty rough, Saturday was off the table for sure. We pretty much ate and napped and ate and napped all day, and I tried all my tricks to get rid of the nagging sinus headache that was coupling with that time of the month to make me feel like utter dog crap. Finally around ride meeting time Saturday evening H gave me 600 mg of ibuprofen and in thirty minutes I was reborn. H and T were both planning on the Sunday LD and we had to leave for California after riding; part of me felt that I *should* ride the Sunday 50 since he’s been doing 50s this season, but in the end I decided that what I should do was have fun. After feeling rotten that day and with another hot day forecast the next, I opted for the LD again. It was the same course as the night LD but with the loops reversed, so we knew we could get it done and in fact planned to get it done a little faster, in the name of conditioning and getting on the road as needed. T and I took the boys for a final longer walk Saturday evening but were retrieved by the four wheeler patrol who said the stallions weren’t far away, so we hustled back to camp inside the fenced area under the rising moon.

We got to use the same vet card for both days and vetted in with a trot by Sunday morning, heading out on the loop that had been our dark time excursion Friday. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t near as steep or rocky as it had sounded/felt riding it in the dark, and zipped our way through the 15 mile loop efficiently.

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Bliss ❤  Credit Cassidy Rae Photography

Vet checks went smoothly for the group and we all scarfed PBnJ’s during the half hour hold before heading out onto the second loop that we knew had even better footing.

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Sunday LD

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Kenny stepping out on Sunday’s ride, credit Cassidy Rae Photography

It was warm and dusty on trail by that point but the water troughs were plentiful, grazing was always available, and our Morgans ate, drank, pooped, and peed their way along to three Top 10 finishes in a field of 19 (Kenny was 5th 🙂 ). It felt like great conditioning to move out at speed more than I would on a 50 and with more sustained trotting than I generally manage training at home and with a vet card full of A’s and pulses lower at the Finishes, I was very happy with Kenny’s efforts–the rest of the gang all rocked it, too!

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The Morgan gang having a blast, Bandit Springs ’17, credit Cassidy Rae Photography

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Weekend Vet Card and a sweet completion award

T and I collected our sweet completion/Top 10 awards (a ratchet/screw driver set, vet card neck ditty, and the flask with the ride name on it, in Kenny’s colors!) and had camp broken down in no time; our first stop was Prineville’s Taco Bell where burritos were calling our name and we knew could check in with cell service for the first time in days. And oh boy, was cell service a revelation. My phone immediately blew up with messages as I learned that on Friday afternoon a 5,000 acre fire had broken out less than 5 miles from my house, with my rig left at T’s up north, leaving my husband home alone with one rig, 4 1/4 horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and us the last house outside the mandatory evacuation zone. As I frantically caught up with my Inbox and online I learned that multiple friends had rushed to my husband’s aid with trucks and horse trailers, and he had had all animals loaded and ready to evacuate in 25 minutes. Fortunately the fire had turned from us and he hadn’t had to leave, but he’d done a dry run loading all animals and my tack(!), and good people had been there at his back. The gratitude that I feel towards all who came and checked in can’t entirely be expressed, but I hope that it is understood.

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The Wall Fire breaking out behind our house/Ashes that rained down

Meanwhile, our own rig adventures weren’t done yet! We had made it back to our old friend La Pine when T stated that she could see an LQ tire on the driver side waving at us this time. Not again!! Fortunately we immediately spotted and pulled into a small market with a big parking lot and one tree casting shade, and began our now-familiar tire changing dance. Except remember that we hadn’t fixed that leaking spare on Thursday. And now it was Sunday so everything was closed. With the option of fix-a-flatting and limping air to air on the table, we gave USRider a shot, hoping they would bring us out a tire as other’s had reported they would. After much phone time, T was informed that the only person available was three hours out and would only patch the leaking spare. Unimpressed, we went for the fix a flat and limp air to air method for a few nerve wracking 40 mile increments, but ultimately the tire was holding less and less air, daylight was fading, and faced with a long airless stretch of road we pressed the Adulting Now button in favor of parking in T’s family friend’s driveway for the night and starting over at the tire store Monday morning. The noise of the highway and train couldn’t compete with the annoying clatter that was two Morgans tied next to each other that night, but getting off the road was the right call despite our disturbed sleep!

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Further tire & and camping shenanigans/the reward at the end of the rainbow

Klamath Falls Les Schwab claimed much of our time and T’s money on Monday but by afternoon we were rolling with a total of 5 tires purchased in as many days, the four on the LQ now a higher rated 14 ply in hopes of not repeating these shenanigans any time soon. Our Morgan passengers were stoically making their way through the endless stops, drinking bucketed water any time it was offered and munching their way through packed hay bags. Our favorite burger stop in Worden just before the California border filled our bellies, water buckets, and fuel tank, and at last we rolled into T’s to collect my truck Monday evening. The gear and horse transfer was as efficient as two exhausted grubby endurance riders can huck things and Kenny and I made it home a little before midnight after encountering some road closures due to the fire. PHEW!

After six days on the road in the heat, 2 barefoot LDs, and a few breakdowns, Kenny was his same old Kenny self back home, trotting snarkily out of pasture in hand for a bath and looking pretty good if I do say so myself! 😀

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Kenny’s Hooves after Bandit Springs barefoot with Hoof Armor (top: Fronts, Bottom: Rears)

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the man himself ❤

 

Up next in our Never Been To/Completed This Ride Before Tour: Chamberlain Creek 50 miler, West Region, September! 😀

The Kenny Chronicles: Mt Adams 55 Miler, 2017

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! 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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ride camp

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!

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A: “yay, ride camp!!” K:”So much judgement.”

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/ 

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pre riding: shade/sn*w!/Mt. Adams in ride camp

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!

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kits packed/vetted in/evening walkies

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!

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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.

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Fuel stop! photo by David Honan Photography

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vet check 1, hungry & not too concerned his buddy is back at the rig and to be left

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!

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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!

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snow/sunny and rainy road/tanking up/Finished pony all aglow

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!

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Coming like a little red freight train! Photo by David Honan Photography

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the morning after, au naturale

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.

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final Washington view/happy steed at home/Hind hoof after 55 miles w/ Hoof Armor

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!

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Up next in our Never Been To This Ride Before Tour: Bandit Springs, July, Oregon! 😀

Redirect

Some of you may have noticed that my blog and profile no longer reflect Renegade Hoof Boot Dealer status. That is a choice that I have recently made when faced with news from Renegade that despite my years of enthusiastic and honest representation my recent use of a competitor’s product on Kenny, my wonky built pony that I’ve spent two years trying to dial in for endurance comfort, made me ineligible to work an Expo event as a Renegade Representative as previously arranged. It’s incredibly disappointing that seeking answers for the performance happiness of a challenging conformed horse and sharing my results honestly evoked such a response from a company that I have believed in for years. As a consumer, I find someone who has run the gamut of options and still strongly prefers one product over others to be most persuasive, however it seem that sentiment is unshared here.
Renegades are a valuable (and my preferred) tool in a barefooter’s arsenal, but my allegiance always lies first and foremost with my horses, and the truth. No one product will work for every single horse. May we always be so lucky as to have so many options out there available!

Please redirect any further Renegade inquiries to the company: support@renegadehoofboots.com