2010 Sandhills Moonlight Ride
I seem to always start these ride stories with the effects of the weather…usually; I am dreading rain and all it entails with camping and riding. So once again, it is the weather that leads off this story. However, rain was not the issue at all. In fact it would have been a welcome occurrence. It did rain the day before the ride, and it was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat. We could have done without the lightening, but even that didn’t bother us over much.
The weather issue this time was, IT WAS HOT! Not just hot but so muggy we and the horses were always wet with sweat. Thank goodness we had an electric hookup so we could run the AC day and night. I normally don’t like AC. Don’t like the noise; don’t like the way I get too cold and achy, but not this time. That cold air felt like ice when we went inside in our wet cloths.
The drive took a bit longer than we calculated, but the real aggravation was the *lack of markings for the campsite. Not a good thing when hot and tired and the horses are dripping standing in the trailer while we try to find the campsite. Thanks to Greg hiking down the road to ‘see’ where we were to turn in, we finally pulled in. I crushed my truck bed, once again. I will soon have a flat bed by default… We were the first there, so took some time to get ourselves set up with a great elec. hook up and water! Yea! We just vegetated the next day and watched the early arrivals come in.
Friday evening before the ride day/evening, we Ducks took a bit of a walkabout on the horses after the slight cooling effects of the rain. Noways was on the muscle but did walk without jigging. But, boy he was in forward mode and was going at least 5mph, maybe 6, at a walk/march! Buzz, Greg’s mount was a good boy, taking in the sights, but nicely behaving. Poppy, Paige’s borrowed mount was as usual, a good boy, but he can walk awfully slow when he wants too. We went out the finish and rode it backwards a mile or so and turned around and came back the same way. Trail seemed to be marked very well, which made us happy for sure. None of us had done JD’s ride, so we were a bit anxious, as we hadn’t done a night ride either. But the moon was really bright during the night, so it looked to be a fun experience.
Ride day heated up right away, it hit 90 degrees well before noon. Standing in line to vet in, in the sun was not fun. Only one vet to take care of all the horses… (The other vet got held up because of a traffic accident).
*Three vets would have been kept busy for this ride, as there were 51 riders in the 50 and I think around 25 in the LD. So, it was slow and HOT going. But, we managed, as usual. In endurance, patience is a virtue which I find lacking in myself too often. All Ducks looked good!
Ride meeting was short and to the point. Good! Mainly, “take the first loop easy, it is hot!” Good point! “But the temps will drop with the sun.” Sure hope so…
Paige got us a couple of pieces of Pizza ~ good for her, bad for me…I even took the pepperonis off, which I love, however, I would be tasting that pizza for many hours later, argh. Eating before a ride is never good for me. Fortunately, Paige can and does.
It felt very odd to be getting things ready for a ride to start at 7 PM instead of AM. We were all dripping with sweat, and the horses were already panting. At the start, the temps were near or beyond 100 degrees with the sun bearing down. We had two loops to be done twice. Loop 1, Loop 1, 11.5 miles, Loop 2, Loop 2, 13.5 miles. I wanted to ride with Paige and Poppy. Poppy hadn’t done a 50 in a year, so we needed to go at a moderate pace. And, I wanted to experience our first night ride together. Unfortunately, Noways resists a moderate pace vigorously until I am exhausted. I had forgotten how vigorously he can do this. So, along we went, Poppy trotting happily along, with Noways breathing up his butt, chin in chest at a canter…whew…My head was splitting, and all my ‘whoa’ muscles were being used at the max. Throw in the reused taste of pizza coming up my throat, and the usual confusion of horses in the mid pack; passing horses (Noways passion in life) and being passed, (Noways strong objections). My own breath blowing back on my face felt like a furnace blast. I can’t recall being any hotter.
Evidently we were able to hold the horses down to a moderate pace, because it took us 1.5 hours to finish this loop. As it turned out, the only way we could give Poppy a rest, was for me to hold Noways to walk. We walked a lot! Poppy would drop back, and then trot up, over and over while Noways did his power walk. Argh… We were looking forward to the sun going down.
Mary Lynn was attempting to crew for all three of us. She had her hands full for sure. We had finally let Greg go ahead of us on the first loop. Noways is ‘always’ in competition and Buzz was triggering his race brain, so we hoped to help that with Greg going ahead of us and letting ML get Buzz taken care of us before we came in. Of course it didn’t work that well, but we all managed just fine, or as fine as hot horses, hot riders, slow recoveries, slow vet check (even with two vets). Poppy usually recovers real fast, but this time we were waiting on him. A lot of water *(which had gotten too warm) on him and he was hanging in the 70’s. When he got down into the 60’s we walked over to the in timer (who was sitting at the Pulse box), and cooled some more. Once again Poppy was slow to get down. But finally he did. We had to do a lot of waiting here. When we finally got close to the vet, she decided to ‘pause’ so as to get a truck situated with lights on the trot outs…*WHAT! We had 6 min.s left of our 40 min. hold. All of it taken at the vet line! We met one of our past ‘ride angels’ here. Foster Olsen, who had held back at the Pyramid ride a couple of years ago, so Paige would have a sponsor to finish. He was waiting for a recheck. No telling how long he had been waiting. We finally got vetted through. Both horses looked good and Poppy was now at 48 bpm, so we felt ok. We were just HOT.
We gave the horses some time to chow on some wet alfalfa cubes and saddled up again, now in the dark. *Now is not a good time to have black tack…but we eventually managed and got the green glow lights on their breast collars. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more the green lights glow than the red.
Both horses felt really good, it was still quite hot, but the boys were eager to get going, so once we got to the sand road, we let them get along. Noways was still cantering on a heavy hand, but Poppy was trotting along nicely. We caught up with Greg, who was riding with another gal, but he tucked in behind us and again we Ducks were sailing along in the hot night. It was really beautiful with the moon shining down on us, lighting our way. We cantered and trotted along with the tall pine shadows slashing the trail. I find night riding, at speed much like floating above the ground. Again, Poppy was not showing us he could keep up that pace, so again we went back to the walk so he could recover, then trot on. Again, Noways was pulling, and again we let Greg and Buzz go on so to make for a ‘wee bit’ more peaceful ride for us. Again, my head was bursting, and my stomach was revolting. It was taking every ounce of strength to hold Noways. He was just not settling in at that pace at all. In desperation, Paige would reach over and hold Noways’ by the halter so I could rest my arms…she suggested I put his string back on his halter, and I vowed to do so. (Noways will relax, when I can hold his halter and not his bit when he gets in this mode. His early race training will be with him always (bracing against the bit.))
Again we did this repeat loop in 1.5 hours. Poppy recovered a little faster this time. ML had dumped the water and refreshed it with cooler water. THANK YOU! Still, Poppy was slow to get his pulse down, but we checked through this time without much waiting. There were already a few RO pulls, and we were getting spread out.
This time we let the horses eat their usual beet pulp and grain with elytes. And this time instead of Perform and Win with applesauce, I gave them some Lyte Now before leaving and it did seem to perk Poppy up some. Neither horse would drink on the trail, but tanked up at the trailer. Not unusual for Noways, but Poppy is usually a good drinker. Poppy was just not his usual self, which was worrisome indeed.
This time we were on new trail and it was just beautiful! We actually had a couple of ‘hills’! And the open sand roads glowed in the moonlight. The glow lights were in abundance, and JD was cruizin’ the roadways looking out for us. Poor guy even got stuck and had to be pulled out of a ditch…The only concern as far as the trails were the ATVs out enjoying the night with us. They were ‘mostly’ considerate. It did get a bit worrisome when we were on the berm of a highway and they came screaming close by…but our boys just kept on keeping on, bless them. I am constantly in awe of what these great, big hearted creatures will do for us.
It felt like it was taking way too long to get this loop done. Poppy was flagging again, and we had to do a lot of walking. Paige was getting really tired of pushing a tired horse, even at a walk. He would fall way back, so I’d have to turn Noways around to face her to wait as he didn’t want to trot to catch up. We finally got to the road than led back to camp. Only about 1.5 miles to go. We discussed our option of pulling. I was not feeling a bit better and Poppy was exhausted. Going out and doing this loop again was looking grim. Paige agreed with a near shout! YES! The heat had taken its toll. Paige got off and walked the last half mile in. We cooled the horses, took them to the vet. and let the timer know we were pulling. The timer gave me an ice cold rag to put on my neck…ahhhh did that feel good! Cooled me down some, but that awful headache and rolling stomach would not go away. Noways checked through great, but Poppy had a C on guts and looked done in, time to call it a night.
Greg was still in it though, and went out and finished that last loop! WaHoo! At least one Duck got it done. And he was 15th on Buzz’s first fifty!
A nice cool shower, a big slice of salty watermelon had me feeling much better. I must figure a way to stay hydrated…I would have failed a pinch test for sure.
Once Paige got her shower she passed out for the remainder of the night/morning and didn’t move until 9 the next morning.
I watched the horses for a while as they chowed down, and sat with ML for a bit as she waited for Greg to finish. Then I crashed. I awoke several times to watch the horses from my window. They stood, shoulder to shoulder in the moonlight and rested. I imagine I can hear their brains working. Noways ~ “When is she ever going to let me go! We could have finished in the time it took us to do just three loops!” Poppy ~ “You fool! Because I am smarter than you, we only had to do three loops!”
A couple of days later, when my brain had had time to cool off, and my stomach settled down, and I was remembering the ride with a clearer head, there were several mistakes that I could have easily corrected if I had been THINKING!
1. We were trying to get everything ready ahead of time, but some things are better left until the last minute. IE ~ don’t fill the sponging and drinking water when it is that hot. The water will heat up too. Duh…
2. Do not try something, even a little thing, new on a ride! How many times have we heard that one? My long hair was really bothering me, so I had Paige do a French braid which then made my helmet a wee bit tighter than usual, but not bad…..BAD ENOUGH!! My helmet was a vise, a hot vise…did I think to take it down?…no, I left it in that braid until my shower that night…….DUH…
3. If I am going to ride with a slower rider, I have to take up weight training for my arms, pulls for my shoulders and back, lots of sit ups for my abs, lots of squats for my thighs and calves. For my painful feet and clinched jaw ~ Novocain…