Last year was a good one, although we 'did not finish' three of our ten rides. Two of those was RO and the other for lameness. Top of the Rock, a rock had our name on it, Sand Hills, he was fine and feeling really good, but I was struck down by the heat, and at Ride B/w the Rivers, he was in a snit the entire time, from when we left the barn, until we returned home...so I pulled him after 2 of the 3 loops. Would not eat, would not drink, stood at the back of his corral and pouted, so he was getting way too dehydrated and I didn't want to risk doing the last ten miles. Unfortunately, it is recorded as lame..huh?? Should have been, RO M. Anyway, his other rides were good ones indeed.
This year, we arrived in AZ a bit earlier and managed to get to one of the Springdale Romp rides. As it turned out it was the best day of the six to ride. Weather can be a fickle mistress... This was Noways' kind of ride, flat and can see forever... He cantered and galloped the whole way. I think we only walked a bit in a long 3 mile wash with deep sand.And we jogged some of that. Then it was canter, gallop, canter, gallop...hard on my muscles holding one position for so long, but Noways loved it. Lucky for me we paired up with a gal from NM, Marcella H. She was a delight to ride with and kept this old lady from flagging at the end, when all I wanted to do was stop to breathe... To my delight, Noways got 1st and his first BC!! And he looked terrific the next day. Not me though...ouch.
Mary Lynn arrived for her annual visit with me in AZ to ride my new horse (well, mine and Paige's) Titan. Titan, who I was able to wrangle from Genie Stewart-Spears, has been fun to get to know and I had several rides on him before ML arrived, but he is still a newbie to endurance, so we didn't really know what to expect. I had taken him to the Springdale ride along with Noways, simply because no one was at home to care for him. I missed the fun ride I had planned for him, so the Old Pueblo ride would be his first with ML aboard.
Unlike last year, the weather was warm and sunny. Still had wind, and the dust, ah the dust was everywhere, inside and out, in every nook and cranny of every object... But, beautiful country.
I had signed up for the first day with hopes of riding again the next day with ML & Titan. I had my fingers crossed that we would both be able to do as planned. Then at the ride meeting, it was announced that the 50 miler was the 55 miler instead... OK, what's 5 more miles...and the trail was different than the one I did last year...OK not a problem.
ML and friend, (and future endurance rider), Dani were to crew for me, so I had it made, and all the VCs were in camp, so that is a plus for sure.
Ride morning, we left at 7, horses feeling good. Noways was so good! We left with friends Bill Wilson and Earl Baxter for the controlled start. The only difficult obstacles on this ride is the gates.The ones that swing and have easy horse friendly latches are no problem, but oh those wire ranch gaps are another matter. Christoph did the first wire gate then let us go. It was no time until Noways had worked is way to the front pack and we stayed there for the first loop. Noways loves to lead and he was feeling great. I was surprised at how much rock there was though, and was kicking myself for not anticipating that possibility and putting pads on him. I was remembering the trail we used last year, and didn't think I needed the extra protection, but we sure did. We pulsed down first and breezed through the VC with all A's.
I took off a couple of layers of clothes and was good to go out again. Noways had eaten and drank well too. So off we went again and again we ran with the front group, but lost position when a volunteer sent me the wrong way, not too much time lost, at least it wasn't a whole loop like what happened at another last year. I decided to slow down a bit then, as I was getting worried about his tender feet on those rocks. We continued on into camp for the second VC alone. It had heated up some and I wasn't feeling as well as I should have, but again, Noways pulsed down and whizzed through the VC. At the trailer I checked his left front and discovered he'd scalped his bulb and it was really nasty looking. It did cross my mind to pull, but he wasn't too tender on it, so I vowed to slow down over the rocks and nurse him along so as to finish. We were in 4th place and I would be happy with a top ten finish. Mostly I wanted to finish!
Cantered out of camp and could not locate the 3rd loop ribbons...cantered back into camp before going too far and got detailed instructions...LOL, my brain was cooked. Went back out much to Noways chagrin, and finally picked up those pink and white ribbons..whew. That final loop was long....my brain was hot, we were alone, and I had to dismount a few times to open gates...urgh. My horse is tall and my bones are old. But, when we are alone, Noways is very good and stood for me to crawl up. We actually had a good ride all alone, just my horse and me, talking to each other and enjoying the scenery. We slowed way down, walking over the rocks and picking it up when the going was good. My brain was way too hot and I poured water on me as much as in me. Noways drank really well, and was as bright as ever, so we eventually made it back to camp. I was really surprised no one caught up to us, so we were still in 4th position at the finish! I had forgotten to switch on my GPS, so that didn't give me any help as to how near we were to camp, until we picked up the trail in from the first loop. Noways kept an ear turned back though to keep checking...that horse is so funny.
Boy was I hot and tired. Thankfully, Mary Lynn took over for me and did the trot outs and Vetting while I looked on. Again we passed with all A's and no bobbles.
At the awards and ride meeting, we were informed that the next day would be 30 miles instead of 25, much to ML's chagrin...LOL... But, she sucked it up and since I wasn't killed, I and Noways were to go too and get Titan his first ride done with his pal babysitting.
A good nights sleep and we left at the leisurely time of 8:30! Wow, was that nice. No saddling in the cold and dark. Dani was crewing for us today and took my truck to the away VC. So nice! Thank you Dani!!
Titan was really calm, and we left camp dead last. He just got a bit anxious when we were catching up to some riders ahead, but mostly he was in control of himself and happy to be going along with Noways. This trail was the one we rode last year and it was much prettier and much better footing (much to my and Noways relief). Titan didn't care for riders running up his butt, but, most do not. After they got by us on some narrow trail, all was well again and we had a wonderful ride. Noways was his eager self, but much easier to pace today. I so marvel at what our horses can do.
Titan learned to drink out of all sorts of containers, to go calmly by cows, to canter for over a mile at a time, to extend his trot, to pick his way over rocks, to let the vet examine him, to drink with a bunch of horses and even cows at a noisy water tank, to go calmly through narrow gates and to wait on Noways to open and shut them. To believe it is best not to step in his feed pan at the VC, and to eat while the eating was good. To stand by a log so ML could get back on after helping me manhandle the last, tight, heavy, wire gap...geesh...I'm glad we weren't riding alone at that one.
Both horses pulsed down and vetted through without a problem...ye haw, Titan did his first ride and Noways showed how much endurance he has... I think if he hadn't had that scalped bulb he could have done another day...And Titan looked none the worse for wear either. We were 8th and 9th place!!
How fun was that?!
For a slide show of the ride > Thanks to Mary Lynn for all the great photos!
Some interesting data of Noways ride.