Death Valley Encounter XP 2016

I was incredibly fortunate to end my 2016 calendar year, and start my 2017 AERC season, adventuring through Death Valley with good friends and borrowed horses. I rode all 4 days of the event, something I’ve never done before, and rode a different horse each day. It was an incredible adventure that I hope to do some justice to with a bit of summation, as there’s many things to say and pictures to share.

Travel and a Day in Camp, 12/26& 27

We left early the morning after Christmas–we being myself and my gear, hopping aboard childhood schoolmate Elicia’s rig, along with new buddy Jo. Elicia brought her Arabian Kenlyn Amir, one of Mark Montgomery’s Mustangs, her mini horse companion Jellybean, and Jo’s amazing Morgan mare Beetle.

It was a happily uneventful drive and we pulled into a relatively empty ride camp just after dark. Mark and the rest of his Mustangs rolled in later that evening but as we hadn’t entirely sorted out my sleeping quarters to that point I spent the first night on my cot in the cozy christmas light-decked tent of a kind new acquaintance, Lora, and her cutest-ever dog. The tight community feel at these XP rides truly cannot be overstated!


the Tuesday sun rises over Mark’s herd of picketed Mustangs, in front of the Trona stacks

As usual, having “a whole extra day!” in camp quickly seemed like not enough time, as everyone settled in, Mustangs were clipped, and we got through our two sets of pre rides getting all the necessary steeds legs stretched. It’s a singularly interesting experience to be at a ride you’ve never been to, sleeping you’re not sure where, riding a number of new horses, in saddles you have not yet decided on. I’m fairly certain a number of Endurance Tenets were broken (don’t try something new at a ride? Pshhhh!!)¬†throughout this saga but hey, that’s adventuring!


I’m an epic overheater, so settled on the back of E’s horse trailer as my bunk spot–and was never cold! Not recommended for people with normal internal thermostats ūüėČ


Silver Bullet enjoys the morning rays

Day 1 50 miler, 12/28

  • Horse: MM Whiskey, Mustang Gelding, 2nd Endurance ride
  • Saddle: Free n Easy¬†
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G Shoes (nailed)

I spent all of 6 miles a few weeks previously on Whiskey prior to mounting up for the 7 a.m. start of the Day 1 50 miler. My impression was that he was a good natured,lanky fellow who hasn’t entirely grown into himself, not hugely forward, concerned about his own bodily needs, and game to follow the herd. That proved to be pretty accurate throughout the day, as just like my Morgan pony Kenny, it took Whiskey about 5 miles to commit to the notion that we really doing this thing. He whinnied his way through the first few miles, but wasn’t *that* perturbed as he stopped of his own accord to pee, while whinnying, as E and Jo trotted away! Once committed, Whiskey made his way along at his own pace, not walking or trotting as fast as the other steeds but not falling too far behind nor worrying about the gaps that sometimes opened between us. All of Mark’s Mustangs go in mechanical hackamores, so I had brought a halter, headstall, and reins of my own and it worked well on all my Mustang mounts of the week (though Whiskey was notedly the most polite in it ūüėČ ). I was riding in Elicia’s Free n Easy panel saddle with knee rolls Days 1,2, and 3 that put me in a very nice English position, and happily that stayed comfortable each day that I used it. Whiskey in particular isn’t the cleanest with his feet but did well through the rocky and increasingly mountainous footing, though I did have to stop 5 times that day to pick large rocks out that had plugged the holes in his Easycare Shoes, causing him discomfort. All the Mustangs wore NGs and they seem like a good (if a bit clunky) hoof care option, though I would be tempted to pour/plug the holes if I were to ever use them.


Having a blast on Whiskey, photo by Elicia

In what would become a pattern for us throughout the next 4 days, we were all a bit convinced that we were stranded out here to die of starvation and¬†surely that glint over there is the big red trailer?! by the time the 25 mile lunch vet check rolled around. The horses actually didn’t flag at all, but the riders may have done a bit of whinging ūüėČ


blessed hot dogs and snacks at 25 miles! Flawless vet throughs for all, too

We left lunch must refreshed and with the bug in our ear that we had some good footing ahead, and a mountain range to climb back over after that. Forth steeds!!

Whiskey got stronger throughout the day and he and the other horses flew through the good footing and then soldiered back over the mountain at a walk with no issue, while the riders rediscovered some grins near sunset with the assistance of a wee flask of Rumchata. Once back in the ride camp side of the valley we missed a left turn in the dark having a leg stretching trot down a wide road but thanks to the XP GPS tracks system, E navigated us back on track in no time and we finished the day with happy healthy horses at 5.45 pm.


MM Whiskey, Day 1 50 miler, photo by Steve Bradley

Day 2 50 Miler, 12/29

  • Horse: MM Hershey, Mustang gelding, 1st Endurance ride
  • Saddle: Free N Easy
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G Shoe (nailed)

I had the same short pre ride on Hershey that I had had on Whiskey, and he was already my favorite of the group. Short, square, sensible, smooth, forward, huge walk, takes great care of himself, goes anywhere in the pack. My early impression held as this boy took to the front of our little group of 3 at the start, ready to GO but never out of line. I forgot my camera for the first half of the ride which was unfortunate, as it was a really beautiful scenic climb and descent (we did the same trail but in reverse the next day when I had my camera though!). I didn’t have any of the rock in the shoe issues I’d had the day before and had a lot of fun on Hershey!

We whined before lunch, perked up after, and finished at 5:45 with happy healthy horses again–consistency folks!


MM Hershey, Day 2 50, photo by Steve Bradley

Day 3 LD, 12/30

  • Horse: Kenlyn Amir, 10 yr old Arabian gelding with 1,000+ miles, owned by Elicia
  • Saddle: Free N Easy
  • Hoof Protection: Steel Shoes with Easyboot Gloves over the front shoes¬†(Day 1 had revealed Amir a bit sensitive soled to the rocks in steel alone, so Gloves were procured and worked over the steel fabulously for rest of the ride)

Friday found Elicia on a very green Mustang, with myself on her trusty Arabian “Sir Bouncy McTripFace,” Kenlyn Amir, and an Alaskan guest on faithful Whiskey. The weather had started to change a bit with a mild threat of rain, which made for gorgeous skies and bit more of a nip to the air where previous days saw us comfortably in the 50s. As the LD and first loop of the 50 were the same, we rode with or ahead of Dave Rabe the whole time which made for a fun morning!


Kenlyn Amir, Day 3 LD, photo by Steve Bradley


Day 3 LD, photo by Steve Bradley

I found Amir to be much bouncier and harder on my now-100 mile deep body than the Mustangs had been and the green Mustang saw fit to suddenly and randomly launch E into a fortunately soft spot in the desert near the end, so we weren’t exactly sad to Complete the LD and therefore the riding day at just after noon on day 3. We stuffed our faces, tucked the numerous ponies in, and E took a well earned nap while I made some rounds socializing and helping folks with Renegades (oh the ribbings I got for wearing my Renegade vest all week on non-Renegade clad horses!).

Day 4 50, 12/31

  • Horse: MM Cody, Mustang gelding, 1000+ Miles
  • Saddle: Pandora
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G ¬†(nailed)

Day 4 was loops around the Valley with no mountain climb, and found superwoman Elicia on yet another green mustang, this time a not long tamed fellow who’d only been handled or ridden by Mark himself. He was the Mustang we’d hauled and Elicia had ridden him a few times but still, and considering the day before–much much respect, woman! Jo was back with us rocking her 4th 50 in a row on her tireless Morgan mare Beetle, and I was on Day 1 and 2 tied-for-winner MM Cody, ¬†a big mostly well mannered fellow who did test my arm strength at speed once or twice ūüėČ We all pretty well felt like shit for the first 25 miles, featuring Jo retching in the bushes, me queasily eating a carrot I’d packed for Cody and contemplating cutting off my underwear, and Elicia using *choice* words of love any time the green Mustang had a naughty thought.

Lunch improved things immensely again, as did actually cutting off my underwear, and with the addition of Pandora tunes to go with the rock hard Pandora saddle I was riding, we had a pretty good, if occasionally whiny and often giddy finish to our fourth day in a row of riding.


Day 4, photo by Steve Bradley

With the lack of serious climbs we made it to the Finish in daylight this time! Cody had a small inconsistent something in his gait at the end of Day 4 but Completed and was totally right by morning, and all told E and I went 175 miles and Jo went 200. What a ride!

That night there was a final delicious meal, fabulous live music, pool, and general good times til midnight for New Years Eve–and not a one of us 3 in the rig made it past 10 pm. Jobs well done, rest earned, and Happy New Year!!!


Final morning in ride camp, farewell Trona stacks!

NEXT TIME: Things I did Right To Stay Healthy and Alive..


Year End 2016

I’ve really been¬†enjoying my horses lately. That seems like such a silly simple statement, is it even worth writing about? I’m pretty certain that it is, because it feels like I’ve spent the last 4 years struggling, and searching, with some enjoyment sprinkled in. Though I did my first LD ride as a teenager (2002) and was immediately hooked, my first season of true endurance (50+ mile rides) didn’t happen until a decade later. After weaning and reconditioning through fall and winter 2011, Sheza’s dam, Desire, and I reeled off 7 50s in 2012, facing a little adversity along the way, but overall having a really great time and planting the notion in my head that that was how endurance went: conditioning of course, but then almost a ride a month, and lots of fun.

After completing her last 50 in fine form that fall, an inconsistent and subtle hind end lameness came up with Desire, leading us down a winding path of diagnostics, an attempt with hock injections, and an ultimate decision the next spring to retire her from endurance altogether, after that one season together. She was 18 at retirement.


Desire, now 20,  having soup in the storm yesterday. She has a forever retirement home here

And thus began the journey: what’s next, when your “perfect” plan (ride Desire through her late teens/early 20s as her daughter, the next gen ride, grew up) gets thrown out the window?

First of all, there is the saintly buddy, the critter that may or may not be a competition horse, and in my case isn’t, but that is those most crucial of things: reliable and kind. I speak here of course of Blaze, my dear round 14hh bay fellow, of uncertain age (estimated in his mid 20s now) and ancestry, mined up from Craigslist all those many years ago–and the furry shoulder whereupon I always end up laying my head, in joy or frustration.


There’s never been any question that Blaze was going anywhere but he isn’t an endurance candidate either, and so I’ve been on *quite* the search the last few years, from buying a proven well bred 100 miler (fail!) to driving a few states to pick up a free project known to buck (adventurous fail!). All of those stories are contained here in the archives, but I’d like to speak to the present.

The present finds me with 2 aged permanent residents, Desire’s daughter who is a very spicy now-5 year old, and the “newest” addition, now here just over a year actually: crookshanks Kenny, a Morgan pony once bought off of the meat truck.¬†Despite completing a tough 25 miler with me this spring, Kenny isn’t a very likely endurance candidate and I had myself already decided that was probably the case by late summer, due to lameness and other frustrating times.

I caught myself looking at For Sale ads again last month, and then, comically, being a little proud that I was staying off the Free/Project pages. I also immediately began to stress again, already diagnosing my unbought next horse with my next failure. Catching myself in that cycle, I called horse puckey on the whole thing and went out to look at the lovely creatures that I was already blessed with. I looked, I scratched, I spoiled, and then I just got them out, as the beloved and quirky creatures they are, working with¬†and for each as was appropriate. 6-10 mile fun rides with friends, some trotting and cantering, increasing time on my own two feet, for Blaze. 5-15 mile ponying rides/hikes with Sheza, round pen work, mounting and dismounting and desensitizing–and recognizing my own weaknesses in training (fear of the move-off after mounting) and asking for help as needed (trainer bound in spring, local friends helping til then, and not addressing it myself unless I can work through it, so as to not encourage crap behavior by chickening out at inopportune moments). Sheza is my most promising endurance prospect, and also realistically where almost all of my current risk is and should be invested; I’ve now flailed about long enough that she’s approaching an age to really go to work, and as a truly Haat character all the physical and mental work I can invest for and with her is absolutely worth it.

And Kenny? Kenny,as I say over and over, is just so Kenny, very much full of pony-tude, very much not an Arab in many ways. And so why not apply that to the notion of Kenny doing endurance, eh? I wrote him off after a slow LD and possibly quite explainable lameness this spring–and that after only about 6 months conditioning an adult but un-legged up and heavier boned little guy. Lately I’ve been riding Kenny with buddies for various purposes, but the most fun being un-marking endurance trail, where we ended up riding over 10 miles and slow burning Kenny really warmed up and had plenty of sassafras left after 15, leaving an admittedly greener Arab plodding behind. I have noticed in the past that Kenny takes about 5 miles to commit to the notion that we’re going riding, and only gets better as the miles continue. He also has a lot more gas in his tank in cold weather. Perhaps against all odds, and ever paranoid that lameness will pop up again, I’ve started to ponder putting Kenny in a cold 50 miler. He’s had a year of LSD, with some hiccups, so I’m thinking about continuing/bumping up to 15-20 mile rides as weather allows, acknowledging he probably needs more conditioning work than the Arabs I’m used to; if things continue to go well over winter, maybe a return visit to Cuyama XP next March. He¬†eats, poops, pees, and drinks unashamedly, and has been enthusiastic and even competitive on his last few rides with his old buddy Apache, plus paces well with the friend I would trailer-pool/ride Cuyama with. I was stuck on the notion that my endurance horse had to enjoy training solo, which Kenny simply doesn’t, but frankly I don’t particularly enjoy training solo anymore either, and can schedule to ride with buddies fairly reliably at this point.

I can certainly¬†never predict what horses and life will throw at me next, but at the moment I’m just really enjoying my quirky herd and looking forward to coming adventures, on both 2 legs and 4, in the new year.



Autumn Catch Up

Many doings in the time since I last posted, here’s a mostly photo catch up..

I adventured on a friend’s mare in beautiful country

We had a great pumpkin patch this year…the Littles approved

the weather started to get perfect for riding at Lake Oroville

..and sunset rides are even better

Apache healed well and was restarted again here by a friend–and then he dumped her, too. So he headed back to his successful summer home, for good.


Sheza had a month+ in pasture as we were both a bit fed up with each other after a dramatic summer. Here, she and her 20 year old dam, Desire, put on a show!


The best call I made in a while regarding Sheza was actually thanks to my husband. He suggested her Snarky Highness might find herself fitting back into her britches if her living situation were to change, namely: remove mommy Desire. I rotate pastures and groups fairly often, but Sheza, Desire, and the mini horse had been together for most of the year at that point, and sure enough moving the mini and Desire across the way next to Kenny prompted massive Sheza tantrums–and then a much, much humbler Sheza, who might actually like her humans after all.

Kenny and I went on a fun birthday group ride with many different breeds



I visited family on the coast over Halloween, went for a ride with my new SIL, who is an old friend, and thoroughly enjoyed myself



I crewed the Amazing Melinda through her first 100 mile RUN completion, which involved staying up for 30+ hours, and meeting a really cool and supportive community


Sheza re-entered the work force as the pon-eed to Kenny’s pon-ier. Kenny’s unflappable nature and complete lack of desire for or respect for personal space make him the perfect foil to Sheza’s snorty self; she literally bounces off of him without garnering an ear flick in response


Blaze and I went riding with Apache and his new mom this past week, things are going great!


I also got a nice email from Scrappy’s owner a week or two ago, who has had him for a year now and is greatly enjoying him.

Around here, hairy steeds and stellar weather with winter on it’s heels calls for warm baths, salty mashes, and pony appreciation between rides. Kenny got some extra love from a friend’s daughter, while Sheza basked gloriously.


There’s lots of adulty things to complain about, too, like seemingly insane election results, health and how age affects it, a seemingly endless list of household and outdoor items in need of repair, pointless drama in a number of areas–but there’s also clean washed cool-at-last beautiful nature, beloved animals who need me, and a select few humans I enjoy. Onward, with redheads!


Sheza and Kenny, November 2016


September! ..?…!

There is perhaps no cliche more true than “time flies,” with the accompanying notion that every year goes by progressively faster as you age. Yes, yes they do. I find myself now in the month of September¬†simultaneously enthused for the cooler weather, mind blown it’s already this month–and, upon any real reflection, totally exhausted and ready for it to be a new year. The year so far has been may I say¬†mired in “learning experiences.” From¬†multiple herd member¬†lameness to absurd Sheza drama to health issues on the home front, 2016 has been kind of a stinker. But here’s another irritatingly accurate cliche for you, one that I used to struggle and flail against, and ultimately have¬†grudgingly¬†embraced:


And so here follows the latest record of¬†the shenanigans of RHE herd. It is not bloodless, because’s 2016?


Winter hay supplies are a definite Happy Moment..except when the herd realized it was low sugar grass ūüėČ

Because she’s Sheza, her shenanigans cannot be encapsulated in merely a sentence fragment. There are many theories on what will cause a horse to not do something unwise again, and I’m pretty sure 5 years into Sheza’s life I have heard them all in attempts to explain her…Shezaness.¬†Once they’re discouraged/feel pain/learn/think/age they won’t do it again, or something. Meantime, Sheza rocks unpredictable pull backs, including once in hand, just after the photo below. Only, pulling back suddenly in hand means you flip entirely backwards and up on your feet, as there’s nothing solid to pull against.



I am constantly warring in my head with the amount of strain put on mind and body considering age, how to warm up and cool down a complete spazz who goes from pasture zero to galloping hero, etc. And then you have her doing backwards somersaults and tearing up legs on her own accord. Let’s just say I have my horse chiropractor on speed dial and my vet supplies are full. Also, I continue to believe that the more she sees at a younger age the better, so despite growing voices in my head questioning the wisdom of riding this red beast, we continue to sally forth.

A few weekends ago, we went to a Pirate Treasure Hunt ride and believe you me, I was prepared to just hike her in hand if necessary.


where in the woods are we?

Fortunately Kenny’s former mom, the fearless T, joined me with her much more reliably-minded home raised chestnut, a 5 year old Morgan; not only did I ride Sheza but T did as well for good measure! It went really well, with spooky flags, randos cantering at us around blind corners, and a last minute pull back at the trailer when Tera touched Sheza’s halter *eyeroll.* Sheza leaped forward again almost immediately of her own accord, for what that’s worth.

Another theory I’ve heard lately is that 5 is the worst year behavior wise, equivalent to extreme teenagerdom, and I can’t argue that last bit, anyway.¬†Sheza for sure does better with a liberty arena warm up before whatever she’s doing, some space to move where she can unleash her size and speed and attitude before she’s expected to think. Moving from the round pen to the arena was a positive choice¬†for her as well, the round pen is just too small for her explosiveness.


Kenny and Sheza on arena work duty


work one sassafras while the other waits


oh, hello brain


Sheza at the tree of patience watching Kenny and I work

We’ve had a couple of really fun brain and butt building (read: slow and steady) rides with N and her TWH mare Josey, some mare faces occur but not many and they both have nice stretchy walks. Both girls are getting great about EDPP, and N throws some good stuff at Sheza like only sharing snacks if Sheza will reach into the scary plastic bag for them.

Meanwhile in gelding land, aside from his arena work outs, Kenny did a few ponying workouts with Blaze to stay loose, and then we all went jumping!

There’s a very nice riding facility not too far from us called Camelot Equestrian Park that has been working diligently over the years to build up their grounds and reputation. I had been a few years ago to a gymkhana before they became more official events and since then they’ve beefed up an impressive cross country course and have multiple jumping arenas, a dressage court, wash racks and bathroom facilities, and boarding. T brought a friend and I brought Kenny, Blaze, and N to ride Blaze, and we had a great afternoon!

It was a great day doing something different and Kenny is quite a fun jumper once I got up the confidence to really go for it. There will more of that in our future for sure! Unfortunately on the drive home that night I hit one of the many gnarly bumps in our tiny 2 lane country road to home, at 20 mph mind you. The next morning I noticed a tire tilted at an alarming angle and through some investigations I have learned that I have torsion axles on my horse trailer, I bent the torsion bar, and because such a set up of is all of a piece, I need a whole new trailer axle. The list of 2016 Surprise Expenses is rather absurd at this point, but okay then, that’s the next thing on it. I may or may not have my rig back in time for Chamberlain Creek LD where I am supposed to escort N and Josey on Josey’s¬†first ride, but I’m pretty sure I can hitch Blaze and I a ride.

And just because Apache hadn’t had had enough fun this summer, I woke up yesterday morning (with a head cold! yay!) to this:


Mind you, we don’t have barbed wire and he was in the safest no-climb fenced recovery paddock. *HEADDESK* ¬†I still haven’t decided whether he tried to go over or under or through it.¬†This horse..sigh.¬†¬†Fortunately I still have salve left from his last genius escapade, and he’s fairly sound (since again,¬†still recovering from last thing). He’s the type to be a total nutter once released from stall rest so we went off that as soon as possible..but that clearly doesn’t keep this one out of trouble.

So yes..”learning experiences.” Many. Exhaustingly many. At least things will soon be entirely less sweaty, as we now enjoy our very first week of temperatures below 90 degrees in months. And there is always beauty, and a whole lot to be grateful for.

The Summer of Lameness

When last I left you, Sheza¬†had self-lamed¬†¬†and was on antibiotics and healing duty. That was after Kenny had mysteriously gone lame and sort-of been diagnosed (not for lack of trying..)¬†overloading his wonky right front medial heel–but there was also passing sole soreness in both his fronts that never entirely added up. So Kenny was on pasture duty¬†as well,¬†to grow back hoof and let me come up with Plan Z after the vet’s recommended “Chop the heel off and try to force-level Kenny¬†while telling me that’s not what he’s¬†doing” shoeing plan utterly failed.

Kenny wonky R US..RF unevenness exaggerated after the vet recommended shoeing

Since then, Sheza’s leg has healed completely and cleanly. She’s a butt high brat with a malevolent mare face, and ready to return to work.


After almost 2 months off regrowing hoof with the thought that upright wonky Kenny needed his upright wonky feet, more than both the farrier and myself before him had left him..Kenny is now moving better than ever.¬†Mostly because¬†when it was time for a trim again I reached out to a barefoot trimmer acquaintance of mine who I had an inkling was and turns out definitely is far more skilled than I; turns out he lives nearby and is quite generous with his knowledge, so I’m really excited about his influence on my herd’s hooves and my own trimming in the near future.


’round the home trails with Kenny

He also put together late april/early May quick onset and resolving sole soreness/lameness in a Welsh pony/Morgan on pasture and grassy alfalfa as a very possible IR episode/issue. Apparently Welsh and Morgan breeds are both disposed to issues of this kind; I¬†sort of know about insulin resistance, sugar sensitives, etc, in the way that I sort of knew about leg wrapping, but hadn’t actually had to really comprehensively deal with it, until…

Remember how Apache was away at summer camp being massively enjoyed, riding the Tevis trail, and just generally progressing in life? Wellll…then he found hidden barbed wire in his boarding pasture and despite superficial scratches, came up extra lame. I brought him home as soon as I was notified,¬†3 weeks ago now, and after having the vet out he ended up on 10 days of twice daily antibiotics, leg rewraps every other day, and full stall rest. He was dismally lame at the walk for the first couple of weeks and I did an epic amount of cursing learning how to functionally wrap legs for the first time.


first there was the many-layer-finished-with-elastikon versions

then there was the traditional standing wrap versions..many..and swearing..

Once his pastern was healed clean enough to image and he was suddenly, happily, coming much sounder last week, it was time for a reassessment so I hauled him down to the clinic yesterday for a pastern ultrasound.


keeping an eye on things in the clinic breezeway after being weighed at 850 lbs

In the doc’s own words after examination: “You got lucky!” No tendon damage was revealed on the ultrasound, though there is still some inflammation in the tendon sheath. Movement and loosening and gradual restrengthening of the area was recommended going forward, with an 12 hr on/12 hr off option on leg wraps, which translates here at the moment to: Surpass on the pastern, leg wraps, and paddock time at last this morning!


Meanwhile, just for funsies, my pasture retired mare Desire, dam of wild child Sheza, came up extremely lame one morning last week. I know things aren’t right if Desire isn’t first and loudest for a meal and sure enough on that morning she was hopping, abscess or broken leg lame. Fortunately I was kind of familiar with this cold hose, Bute, leg wrap, stall rest thing¬†lately¬†so she got added to the list!


what my last few weeks have looked like, in varying horse colors

I got Desire booked in to the clinic with Apache yesterday afternoon if needed but she had come quite a bit sounder and less swollen by the a.m. There’s no sign of outright injury¬†or abscess relief for answers of course, but considering her improvement and existing status as pasture-retired-for-questionable-hind-end-soundness, I decided to just keep on the home treatment path I’m on with her.

Today is her 20th birthday. It’s always a bummer to be laid up on your birthday but her stall is bedded deep, the barn fans are on, and her cool mash was delivered promptly. It could be worse indeed, mare. Here’s a look back on some of our exploits over the years ‚̧

I think that about catches us up on the ridiculous shenanigans of late. I’ve certainly never had 4 totally different lameness issues in my herd before, nor multiple lame horses in the barn at the same time..but times like these remind me of¬†something a ride vet once said after a pull that I was dismally bummed about..”If it ain’t happened to you yet, you just ain’t been doing it long enough.” Okay then. Onward!

a great year in the garden..giant pumpkin anyone?

Tevis 2016: THINK PINK!

This was my fifth consecutive year crewing Tevis–and my favorite. If you immediately imagine 24+ hours of dirt, sweat, pain (blood? check!), excitement, hope, and inspiration, you are correct. If you were topping that imaginary scenario with a Completion and Buckle, sorry, that wasn’t the case. In fact, with a 28 mile Metabolic pull at Red Star, my rider made it the shortest of either her (she made it 55 miles in 2012) or my (I’ve crewed 3/4 buckles previously, the 1 non buckle being a Finish line pull) experiences.

Why on god’s green earth would a short ride and metabolic pull be your favorite experience, you whisper, perhaps horrified?

Because the heart of this sport of endurance besides the amazing partnerships with our horses are the great people we come to know and the true endurance it takes just to get to these starting lines. To have a great ride and finish is a true accomplishment–as is¬†to do all that, *not finish,* and keep trucking undaunted,¬†in it’s own right. Tevis has a completion rate of +/- 50% every year, no matter what–that’s a whole lot of technically qualified teams getting pulled despite their best efforts. No matter the end result, it’s no small thing just to be among the Vetted-in at Robie Park on Friday of Tevis weekend.


My rider this year was my good buddy T, daily commiseration/celebration friend and source of Kenny the Morgany fella. We’ve been riding buddies for years now but originally made contact at a coastal ride when I was pointing out to a friend how snazzy T looked¬†all¬†in hot pink on her fancy footed grey Arabian mare, Niki. This mare can do flying lead changes¬†darn near in place and is just generally an solid but incredibly nimble–and in that instance persistent and tireless–critter who T handled with aplomb. It’s worth mentioning that T chose Niki out of a field as an unbroke 10 year old and has done all the training and conditioning work herself. In that instance years ago, I had to congratulate T¬†on the style¬†with which she dressed and¬†handled Niki, and it was one of those random small moments at a ride that results in a recognition of light in another and a great friendship,¬†one of the best parts about this sport in my opinion. T and I both have had and will continue to have things to learn from and teach to each other, and T always inspires me to keep being tireless and bold. In fact if I may be so bold, I feel like T is a sister, and that is the excitement that Crew Chiefing for her this year brought to the table for me. And my crew-fellows? Her parents, two really fun, interesting, and supportive people that I thoroughly enjoy.


T’s official entrant photo, credit Kristin Ojala

Because we were on track for maximum awesome feels, fellow blogger, Renegader, and booted-Tevis buckle-holder¬†Melinda made time to glue on our Renegade Hoof boots for us, even after things went mildly sideways with the first plan and we ended up rescheduling and needing her to drive farther the next day with her cute babe along. That’s friendship, folks! Does it get better? It does–because Renegade¬†¬†did some special run glue-on boots for Tevis and T got hot pink!! THANK YOU RENEGADE!


There was swearing and a few 3 person deep YOUBESTNOTMOVEMARE moments, but then there was mare resignation (see above!), the gluing got done, and it was off to Robie Park for the girls!


Enjoying part of her crew, T’s dad


Friday went smoothly; I made it to Robie about 12:30 as usual, tracked T down easily thanks to the strangely strong cell reception, and she vetted in with flying colors and impressed remarks from the vets on Niki’s relaxed but forward trot.



They even had pink chalk for her number!


Here we are! (yours truly on the far left)


credit Lisa Chadwick/Boots n Bloomers Photography

With the Robinson Flat gear collected, parents moving the rig to Foresthill in the a.m., and T vetted, packed, and feeling good, I headed back to my usual Tevis shower-and-pretend-to-sleep spot, Auburn’s Motel 6. I was awake before the 3:30 alarm and headed for Sailors flat¬†to get an early spot in line for the ¬†6 a.m. pilot car-led caravan up to Robinson Flat. I make it a point to be there at the crack of dawn always¬†so that I get a good crewing spot *and* my vehicle is parked up near the top for easy exit, as opposed to arriving later, parking¬†down at Sailors¬†and taking the shuttle up to the check itself.

I did promise blood right? Yeah, there was a bit. In the rush of gear dumping on the escorted drive through Robinson itself I managed to smoosh my already Apache-smooshed finger in my truck door. AND keep chatting cheerily with a volunteer and drive out of there like nothing had happened. Fortunately I’d packed quite a nice medical kit and added it to T’s¬†Robinson bag!

set up at Robinson bright & early

By quarter to 7 I was settled in and ready for T, who wouldn’t arrive for hours yet. I filled the time visiting with familiar faces and obsessively refreshing the GPS and webcast trackers as usual. Her parents staged the rig at Foresthill and joined me before long, clearly recognizable in our fabulous hot pink crew shirts a friend of T’s made; they reported that she and the mare had eaten well and had a fairly smooth start that morning and she seemed to be making good time. We went over our plan to crew her into Robinson and settled down feeling good about things.


thanks for the pic Funder ūüėÄ

Only, we all started to notice that her status wasn’t refreshing to any point past Red Star. And then the message from T arrived: “Pulled at Red Star.” ¬†OH. Huh. Well…Shit. It’s always like an ice water bath to hear that your rider is pulled at Tevis, yep, I can confirm that now after the second round. The first thought¬†is of course¬†Is Everyone Okay???? As soon as we were¬†reassured that Niki and T were¬†okay, we scrabbled for details as we cleaned up our Robinson area and made the short walk back to my handily parked rig. A quick ride down the narrow cliffy road, dropping T’s parents at their car parked at Sailors, and on to Foresthill where the crew guide claimed all riders pulled at or before Robinson Flat would be taken.

The details began to filter in as we waited. Niki had an apparent mild tie up after a great start and relatively good behavior (so no wild boingity cramp causing shenanigans) for the early miles. She consumed and expelled phenomenally leading up to and starting the ride¬†but needed to pee at a stop previous to Red Star,¬†got distracted, and didn’t. ¬†At Red Star she pulsed in, then her pulse spiked and soon after she got quivery in the hindquarters and peed slightly tea colored. She was given fluids and peed clear some time after that, all the while cheerfully hoovering up all available resources. The quarter tremors decreased throughout the afternoon and after finally arriving at the fairgrounds (not Foresthill as indicated) Niki was checked clear, returned for another clear recheck an hour later, and finally settled back at her trailer in the fairgrounds for the night, looking good and hungry as ever.


We have various theories and strategies for what happened and what to do differently. Niki was in heat and the head vet mentioned a barn full of metabolic mares so the inevitable hormone question crops up. We are also theorizing about electrolytes, pre ride protocol (how much leg stretch/Finish line etc riding or not to do that week before ride start), and just generally how to come back and do better. Niki looks great, loves the job, and brings an enthusiastic but businesslike attitude to the table that makes her a pleasure to crew and cheer for. T handled her second Tevis pull like a complete pro which is part of what made the bittersweet ending to the experience so great. With¬†grace and honesty¬†she handled what happened, celebrated her own better preparation in dealing with the heat, and made plans for next year the very same day that her dreams for the buckle were trodden underfoot–again. May we all be so bold and true!

T and Niki conquer iconic Cougar Rock

credit Gore/Baylor