September 17th dawned cool and a little cloudy after being cold and windy the night before. Perfect for riding.
Nicole, me and Chad slept in her family’s RV trailer with a slide and a furnace. The horses slept outside with blankets on. We rode them up the day before.
We had to get up at 6am cause we missed vetting in (the pre-ride vet check) after riding up the day before and had to have the horses checked at 6:30. Good to go.
Back at camp, we ate breakfast and I fed Chad, then we got dressed and tacked up in time to be at the start about 10 minutes before 8.
We paused for a picture as the front crowd headed out.
Then we were off. Slowly at first.
But as soon as the horses saw the others cantering off ahead, they turned on the adrenaline and didn’t slow down for about an hour (Banner was trotting so fast that Sonny had to canter to keep up). In that time, we passed about 10 competitors and followed a group of 6 (doing a much quicker pace than we were used to) for about half an hour until our bodies compelled us to take a breather. We let the horses eat and we drank some water and Nicole switched her half chaps to the right legs (hee hee). There were voices on the trail behind us so we took that as our cue and left them in our dust.
There was a water trough on the trail and we stopped at that until a group of 4 or 5 riders appeared. To crowded…we were outta there. Part of the trail was familiar…we had ridden it 3 weeks before on our little practice ride and noticed the ribbons. Turns out it was for our ride and we knew the next section of trail. It came out by the cattleguard on the main road. We crossed the road and took the next trail off and stopped for another little snack and juice break.
By “break”, I mean, try to keep the horse standing while you unzip the bag behind the saddle and pry out a juice box and try to open it with one hand, then drink it fast as you ride up the trail.
We didn’t want anyone to pass us, you see. Though one person did. We didn’t feel like making the horses trot up the long rocky hill we were on to stay ahead of her. Cause we were trying to eat chocolate covered granola bars and drink apple juice from juice boxes.
That last uphill stretch was much shorter than I remembered it being from a previous ride and we were elated to be finished the first loop (15 miles) earlier than we thought with a time of 1hr 47 min.
Everyone has a mandatory 45 minute hold after the first loop. We stripped the tack off the horses and took them back to our site so we could rest and so I could feed Chad. Then we had to get back and have the horses vet-checked before the next loop.
Sonny was pulled because he was lame in the front. We found a small cut on his heel.
This is what Nicole thought of it.
I was feeling sad that Sonny was pulled and I’d have to do the next loop by myself, when I checked my vet card and the time and realized I had 3 minutes left on my hold. I think we had Banner tacked up in 2 minutes cause I had enough time ride over to the table where they told me I had 45 seconds left.
This is me leaving for the second loop, which was 9 miles. The two horses in the background were getting checked by the vets.
That loop was sooo pretty! Picture straight grassy roads with towering pine trees and ferns on the sides. We followed a creek for part of it and I passed a couple people stopping to water their horses. I didn’t stop. Banner was on a roll doing his flying trot and I was concentrating on holding my bladder in (I did give birth to a baby just 5 months earlier). Then we were climbing, but slowly. The trail switchbacked a lot so it was easy enough that we cantered for the majority of it. Near the top Banner was getting tired and slowed down to a trot with some walking. Then we were on the top of a ridge overlooking a canyon, with the Connector going up the hillside way across the valley. We were on that section of trail for the first loop too, but we were so intent on keeping the horses at a reasonable pace and keeping our butts in the saddle that we didn’t have much time to appreciate the view. There was only about 2 to 3 miles left and Banner was pretty tired, so we walked when the trail all but disappeared save for the ribbons. It was rocky too. I passed 6 people on that loop and only one person passed me (whom I didn’t pass before). Banner perked up and trotted again when he saw how close we were to camp. We finished that loop in 1 hr 30 minutes. His pulse was down below 60 bpm as soon as we got there again, so our time for the whole ride was 3 hrs 17 minutes (the hold in the middle of the ride doesn’t start until the horse’s pulse is below 60 bpm).
Here’s me and Banner at the end.
I let him cool down and brushed him a bit before his final vet check. He had a very mild lameness, more like soreness in his front feet but not enough to pull him. So we completed! We came in 18th out of 26 riders who completed. The ones who came in first did it in 2 hrs 30 minutes. Just 45 minutes ahead of me.
Banner thought the vets were crazy.
Crazy not to pull him at the first check so he could hang out in camp instead!
No, he did amazing. He was using the elusive gear that he only uses at an actual competition. He uses it when it counts. But that’s Banner. Very good at taking care of himself and not overdoing it.
Sadie had fun too.
This is a typical rig endurance riders use. Truck with camper and trailer. Some use living quarters horse trailers (nice!) and some use diesel pushers and horse trailers (nicer!). Some use tents (been there, done that).
We could do the camper thing for a while I think. Then upgrade to a LQ horse trailer. Like maybe in 30 years.
One like this maybe.
PS. We rested for a few hours in the RV, then rode the horses home. We walked the whole way so it took over an hour and a half.
PSS. I wasn’t sore like I was dreading I would be! Both Nicole and I were ready to do another one about 3 days later! We would have gone for a good ride the next weekend, but Sonny had a rock stuck in his foot and he was limping bad for a couple days. He’s better now. And now it rains every day.
PSSS. All photos were taken by Darryl.