Tuesday, August 31, 2010

VA Highlands, 2010


This was our third year to do this ride. We enjoyed it so much the first two times, why not do it again? Don and Nicki do a superb job of managing and their many volunteers are the best. Everyone, management, volunteers and competitors seem to be having a good time the whole weekend! And, the trails are tough but beautiful, the perfect challenge. So this ride was on the list of must dos.

Our team of Lucky Ducks have not had the best of luck this year getting to the rides and finishing a team. This time there were four of us though, so surely we could do it. Mary Lynn and Greg took their two boys, Buzz and Wiley. Myself and Brenda teamed up with our boys, Elite and Noways, and drove down to the beautiful ride site right on the New River. We got lucky and got a good camp spot. Afternoon shade for the horses and not too far from the Vet check. We’ve gotten so good at parking our rigs that our awnings were perfectly aligned. LOL

It was a bit hot getting registered and checked in but we all were done well before dinner time which was pot luck…a great way to start the fun! Someone else’s food always tastes so good. Then the ride meeting, which Don always makes interesting. There were to be 60 something in the 55, and 20 something in the 30. We were ready!

It was nice to have Brenda ride down with me and share camp duties. I missed my granddaughter, Paige, but Brenda sure kept the conversation lively. We got everything ready for ride day and tucked the boys in for the night. Noways was very pleased to have a buddy this time and settled down without pouting like he did at the Ride Between the Rivers. He pouted so much that he did not eat or drink like he should have, and I decided to pull him at that ride. The ride before that was Sand Hills, where I got too ill with the heat to finish that one, so I was a bit nervous about what would happen tomorrow. But, so far all was good.

Mary Lynn, Greg and I are doing the 55 mile ride and Brenda is doing the 30 miler. We start at 7 AM and Brenda is going out at 8 AM. As usual at these big rides there are a lot of horses warming up before start time. I keep Noways close to his buddies doing circles and flexing left and right to remind him that I am the captain of this ship. He is excited, but well behaved. I am glad as always to finally be in the saddle. That time from 2:30 AM to ride time is the worst for me…ah to sleep through to feed time would be heaven. But, that seldom happens, so I have thought of every possible scenario by the time I rise to feed. I had some bad luck on this ride last year, lost two shoes, and got knocked off with a grape vine, but we had a great ride. Surely this time would be much luckier.

Finally the trail is open and I tuck in just after the first bunch and trot along the road bed that Don always warns us of the steep drop off. We are to only pass on the drop off side if we must. I don’t care for heights, but this is so much wider than the trails that we train on that it is just beautiful rather than scary. The first few miles are single track through a wild creek and up a switchback. Noways is a bit on the muscle but behaving still. I’m pleased. Greg catches up to me here and we ride on. This is when I discover I’ve left my waist pack on the table back at the trailer. The one with the map, vet card and trail snacks and pills to keep those snacks down and headache/body aches at bay. Argh…it was to be the first of many rider errors…But, at the time, only an inconvenience for me and the poor person that would have to give me a replacement card…Eventually we do some passing and some pass us. Noways likes the former and dislikes the latter. In 45 minutes we are at the road crossing which is 6.1 miles. Good going! The leaders are way gone, riding very fast.  It is 15.4 miles to the first Vet Check, so almost to the halfway point of this loop. More uphill with rocks and sand then it is canter, trot, canter, and gallop along as riders try to get situated out. We end up riding behind a couple of gals, Roxanne and Krista; we are going along really well when we make a left. Greg says, wasn’t’ there a sign back there? Unfortunately I shrug, because there are still plenty of orange ribbons thinking the new color tied at the ends are for the next day too, and we then come up on a spotter at a road crossing, so think we are good….No, not good! after going along a while longer we come out at the wrong Vet Check. The one for tomorrow…Roxanne is so disgusted with herself that she gets off to rest her horse and let him drink. We three turn back and high tail it back as fast as the trail will allow. I am really not happy with myself at this point for making such a classic mistake…always look at the markings yourself!!! When Greg questioned it, we should have stopped and turned back to check it out before continuing on. After the ride, we find out that that wrong turn put six plus more miles on our horses. Argh….and it is only the first loop. Missed another turn off of a gravel road and again put another mile on our boys…Goodness it was going to be one of those rides. Then to add to the frustration, Noways throws a shoe! I see it roll off beside the trail, but when I went back, I couldn’t find it. We were close to the VC so continued on. We figured we lost a good 45 minutes blundering around but finally climbed that steep hill up to the Vet Check.

This is a gorgeous place at the top of the world! How lucky are Don and Nicki to live in such a beautiful place? I am amazed at Noways ducking his head in the provided water trough and tanking up! Thank goodness. Nancy G. gives me a replacement card; Thank You! And Susan K. makes a insightful comment ~ “it’s the veterans that always mess up”…Yes, I am needing my granddaughter to sponsor me on this day…

It is a great trail, but without a crew it is really hard to set up at the away VCs. I was really dreading it and thought and thought of someone I could recruit for our crew. Fortunately, Diane Doll’s husband is crewing for her so we had put on desperate faces and asked if he would get our stuff to the crew area so our ‘stuff’ would at least be in one spot. Robby not only did that for us, but filled our water buckets…Thank You Robby!

I strip off Noways, splash some water on him and head for the pulse area. He is hungry and snatches at the provided hay while we wait and I call to the farrier that I will need him soon. Fortunately Noways trots sound and actually has good gut sounds and hydration pinch test…New elytes must be working?

We get a new shoe and pad back on (Thank you, Guy!) and hurry back to our crew area. We had thought that the way we ride that no more than two of us would be at the VC at a time, but as it turned out, we all four were there at the same time. Which is actually good, since we can hold each others horses while we do this and that. Lots of this and that it seems…I get no rest at these away VCs. But, my boy is eating and drinking like a champ! I am so pleased!

Mary Lynn goes times first on the long middle loop of 24 miles, then Greg and I. Brenda will go back to camp to finish her thirty miles from here. We are to go about 12 miles to a 15 min. hold and circle back to this same VC.

We do well, although Noways is still on the muscle and thinks he must pass everyone up down, around, he does not care as long as he is speeding along…this boy wears me out with his boundless energy. We go up an endless hard climb, and still he wants to steam along… Finally we get to the hold and I discover he has lost the other front shoe! This is exactly what happened last year, when we were doing so well…and had to fight with an Easyboot all the way back to the VC…argh. This time I had a Renegade. At least the putting it on would be easier. I find that the Velcro fails though so wasn’t too happy with the prospect of reapplying it over and over for the 12 + miles to go. I had gotten separated from Greg at this point, and left out of the hold with Krista. Our horses traveled well together and since we seemed to be in a nice pocket, Noways gave me a break and settled into a nice pace. The Renegade lasted for 6 miles…not bad, but once the Velcro fails it is hard to get to hold…and it didn’t. My horse is 15.3, and although I am tall, my legs and arms don’t work like they used to (too many bad falls) getting back on him is a real challenge. He will stand still, unless he is in competition…he is in competition now…after a few times of my getting off and struggling back on, I tell Krista to go on since she is loosing too much time waiting on me. But, when she leaves, Noways is impossible and I give up on the boot and climb back on. I had hoped to walk, but Noways would have none of it…so we catch up to Krista and make it back to the gravel road that goes to the VC. He gets tender here , so I decide to get off and lead him in with the boot on…Noways is really not happy now and refuses to stand still, much less pick up his foot. We exchange some 'unhappy' words. But I finally get the darn boot on but can’t get my body back up on his back. My legs are spent…Then Greg comes along and I’m able to get my red hot horse to stand long enough for me to crawl on once again…We definitely are not happy with each other.

Again I call for the farrier and discover that he has also lost a back shoe…gosh I will be lucky if he trots sound. And again we will have to pull with only the last loop to do. He is a bit off so the Vet says to come back after his shoes are done…I beg a young man that is talking to the farrier to trot my horse for me and he thankfully agrees. My legs are not operational and I’m so hot I can’t stand upright. Again back to the vet and he trots sound with just a bit of offness…with a B on gait we head back to our crew area. I am so hot and thirsty I down a bottle of cold water and a cup of orange sections. Mary Lynn has some Aleve, so I swallow that. Noways is happily eating and drinking. Such an improvement! Unfortunately we’ve spent half of our hold time at the farrier. Greg and I are out at about the same time, but I opt to stay for a few minutes more so Noways can eat, I can sit down for a minute and Mary Lynn can apply some Glide to her raw leg…ouch…I am in no hurry since were are now only wanting to finish…which was my main goal anyway.

Again we take off and Noways actually walks, such a pleasure to sit in the saddle relaxed. Of course it does not last as a rider blasts by us going down that step hill. Noways protests my holding him back and starts to buck…argh. So I turn him up hill and start back up just to piss him off. He gets his brain back and we jig on down the hill to the nice water tank, but he doesn’t want to even look at that…there is a horse to catch! The other rider is going fast so we don’t see her again and I’m hoping to hold Noways in a pocket by himself, but we eventually get caught by Don himself who is checking some misplaced markings…good, the last thing I need now is to go off trail again…and Roxanne catches us too, so we three get along down the trail together until Don peels off and we and Roxanne go ahead. We stick together until we get to the long up hill gravel road. We canter for a while, but slow to a trot while Roxanne canters on up…whew tough horse. Of course Noways thinks he can to, but I refuse to let him. We catch up to Greg and Buzz here and I hope to stick to him, but again, Noways will have none of it. He takes a big drink at the tank at the top of the hill, and then is on the go again. More up hill, but a nice trail. Then down the long rocky hill we had climbed that morning. Noways is still misbehaving, so since we are alone and have plenty of time we do some training. Look at my left knee, look at my right knee, circle, circle…he gets better but still wants to jig if I go on a loose rein. We finally get to the road crossing and know we have only 6 more miles to home. I let him go since we will be slowing again on the switch backs. Noways is so happy to fly home! We finally make it down the switch backs with just a bit of head tossing and threatening to buck, cross the rocky creek and he is sure we are going the wrong way for a bit until we get to the road bed that has the cliffs. I let him go as fast as he wishes now. He picks his big trot and with ears forward we make short work of that road and into the finish! There is a moment when I look down and see our shadow following along side of us. How beautiful it is to see his head and ears up and tail flying as we finish a tough 55 miles…well, more like 60 plus! And he still is full of energy…I manage a tired smile.

YE HAW we got it done… I’m always so glad to see Nancy… And Noways give out a call to his buddy who waits for him at the trailer.

We are in 30th place.

Brenda has finished a couple of hours ago and has freshened up and jumps in to help me with my guy…that was such a treat!! Thank you Brenda! Noways ducks his head in the sponge bucket and sucks it dry…salt, dirt and all. Then off to the final VC. I’ve never been pulled at the end, but the possibility is always there, lurking. Brenda agrees to trot him out for me. He skips right into it and looks really good! It is so nice to watch your horse’s trot out. The vet asked why she had put a B on gait as he was super sound now. Nice! I had to remind her of his shoe problem at the last VC.

Now Noways can roll in his pen and catch up the gossip with is friend Elite, while we wait for Greg and Mary Lynn. Both come on in as tired as I am. Again, Brenda does a trot out for Mary Lynn’s horse, Wiley and we all have finished!! Brenda and Elite even managed a Top Ten!! Wa Hoo! And Quack, Quack!! The Lucky Ducks may not have been all that lucky this day, but we got it done and finally have a team finish.

Greg and Mary Lynn have some business to do the next day so we all decide to stay over another day and rest and go home on Sunday. What a good choice. We did lots of resting and took the horses to the New River to cool those legs and ours…what a nice time we had of it.

Looking forward to next year!

PS that Fire Dept.  can really cook!!

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