Endurance Riding

Jun 21 2012

2 Days + 95 Miles = Hat Creek Hustle

Published by under Endurance Riding

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There is always that one horse in ride camp that loves to put on a show. Well, this time, it was Asali. On Saturday morning, as I was leading her out to the start of our first 50-miler of the weekend, Asali began rearing, head tossing, and bucking circles around me. Suddenly, she had turned into a rodeo pony! It was so impressive that more than one rider commented on her performance. Asali was pitching a fit because we were leaving her buddy, Gambler, a thoroughbred gelding, behind. My girlfriend, Ashley, and her horse, Gambler, had joined us for the weekend to take part in the camping experience. Ashley had also entered Gambler in the 10-mile fun ride on Saturday, as well as the 15-mile fun ride on Sunday.

endurance-ridingendurance-ridingI decided to follow my friend, Teresa, and her friend, Dawn, out to the start on Saturday morning. Asali knew Teresa’s two horses and she eventually calmed down. We rode the first 4 miles with Teresa and Dawn before taking off on our own and completing the first 10-mile loop in an hour and a half.

endurance-riding

Copyright Gore/Baylor Photography

During that beautiful 10-mile loop, I realized I had begun chaffing in some very sensitive areas. So, during our 30-minute hold back at camp, I adjusted my stirrups, making them shorter so I would be able to get up out of the saddle easier. Once back out on the trail for our second loop (25 miles), we rode with Willi, a gentleman from Germany and his Missouri Fox Trotter gelding, Ro. It was not long before I realized the shorter stirrups were not going to work out, but we were moving at a good clip and I did not want to ruin our momentum or ask Willi to stop and wait a moment, so I ignored the pain in my right shin. Finally, the pain became unbearable, so I yelled out that we needed to stop and Willi waited while I put my stirrups back down to their original length. Soon after this, a woman from Tennessee, on her Tennessee Walking Horse, joined our little group of two. All three horses matched pace well and we continued down the trail together, enjoying eachother’s company.

endurance-ridingAt some point during this loop, we came upon two pie plates, marking which direction we were to go. Well, we misread the pie plates and we ended up heading in the wrong direction. This mistake cost all of us our placings (we were somewhere in the top of the middle of the pack) and we ended up doing 2 additional miles of trail (which may not seem like a big deal, but when you are already doing 50 miles, you don’t want any extra mileage on top of that).

Despite our mistake, the three of us committed to finishing the ride – and we stuck together until the end. We hit the finish line after the last 15-mile loop at 5:20 pm. Ashley was there waiting, with camera in hand, and as I walked Asali in for our final vet check, I was filled with relief and pride.

endurance-ridingThat evening, as I was getting ready for the awards dinner, I realized that my right shin was severely swollen and red. My left ankle was also bothering me, as I had been putting more weight in my left stirrup to save my right leg. I began to worry if I was going to make it through the next day’s ride. I iced my shin, took some ibuprofen, and then before bed, gave myself a liniment rub.

On Sunday morning, I awoke at 6 am, determined to work through the pain. I saddled up Asali, who looked great. I was excited to ride with Ashley – everyone was doing the same first 15-mile loop and because we were all given the same out time, Ashley and I were able to ride together. Willi and Ro joined us as well, but a few times, we left them in the dust when Asali and Gambler decided to race. We had a great time on the first 15 miles and it was an absolutely gorgeous trail – snow capped mountains in the distance, a rushing creek, and green grass by our sides. We also went through a portion of narrow trail that was hugged on either side by towering pine trees, their branches reaching out, causing us to duck through their maze.

endurance-riding

Copyright Gore/Baylor Photography

endurance-riding

Copyright Gore/Baylor Photography

When we made it back to camp, a hot breakfast awaited us. Ashley untacked Gambler, for they were done for the day. Asali and I vetted in and then relaxed for the remainder of our hour hold. When we headed back out, we once again rode with Willi and Ro.

The next 25 mile loop was extremely tough. Willi and I missed our first turn (the ribbons had actually fallen off the tree and were on the ground) and ended up about 2 miles off-track AGAIN. When we got back on track, we were on a boring forest service road which seemed to never end. It was hot – worse than the day before and although there was shade, there was also a lot of sun. I was feeling the pain in both my right shin and my left ankle and I couldn’t wait for the ride to be over. The horses were tiring out on us, so we walked most of this loop. Willi and I did not exchange many words, but I was happy I was not alone. We were in last place and I was starting to lose it in the heat, with my pain. I remember thinking, “I can’t lose it in front of a stranger,” and it was that thought that kept me sane. When we finally arrived at the highway crossing for the second time, we knew we were headed back to camp – finally! The volunteers offered us cold water, held our horses for us so we could briefly take a break, and I dunked my helmet in the cold water trough.

We started to move out a bit on the last leg of the journey, stopping only a few times to let the horses graze on what little grass was on the trail. When we finally made it to the vet check and our last hold, I was miserable. Teresa and Ashley came to my rescue – taking over care of my horse. Teresa held Asali for me while I ate the amazing cheese sandwich she had made me. She untacked my horse, sponged her, and fed her. Ashley brought me water and helped Teresa with Asali. I sat down in the rocks, determined not to move until our hold was up. Asali dove into her grain mash as if she had never eaten before. We had a hard time getting her face out of the food just to listen to her pulse for a minute. She finally pulsed down to 60 and remained there, but since she usually pulses down faster and lower, I was left feeling a little concerned. She was okay, but she was definitely getting tired.

endurance-ridingWhen the vet did a comprehensive check of Asali, we discovered she was extremely back sore. It was then that I realized I had been riding unbalanced all day – all because of the pain I was in. I knew I had ridden unbalanced the day before too, which contributed to the soreness she was experiencing now. While we passed the vet check (back soreness is not cause for a pull), I knew I could not put the saddle back on her – nor could I ask her to carry me the last 10 miles. So, I ditched the saddle for a bareback pad, determined to hand-walk my horse as much of the 10 miles as I could. I told Willi and Ro they could go on ahead without us if they wished, and they did. We left the vet check about 6 or 7 minutes behind them.

As Asali and I headed back out for our last loop, she was reluctant to go. She did follow me, but she was hanging her head low and had her ears back. I talked to her a lot, trying to encourage both of us to “just keep swimming.” I even sung the song in Dory’s voice! But after 2 and 1\2 miles, I stopped and looked at Asali. I put my forehead against hers, closed my eyes, and just took a moment to gather my thoughts. I felt myself breathing with her and I knew that my horse would follow me all the way to the finish. I knew she wouldn’t give up on me, but I decided at that moment that I couldn’t ask any more of her. Asali had already carried me 90 miles and I wanted to finish with a great looking horse, rather than making it to the finish with a horse who just looked okay. I turned her around, and handwalked her the 2 and 1\2 miles back to camp. I walked up to Dr. Jerry Long and Dr. Rob Lydon and told them I was taking a rider option out of the ride. It wasn’t about the finish anymore – my job was to take care of my horse. Dr. Long gave me a hug and Dr. Lydon tipped his hat off to me. Then Dr. Long vetted my horse – she had a pulse of 48, so even though we didn’t “finish,” we did finish – and we finished strong! That 5 miles of walking had actually improved my own soreness and Asali looked much brighter when we got back to camp. She finally peed for me, she ate, drank, and rolled in the dirt, and I gave her a liniment rub, some bute paste for pain, and iced her legs before we settled in for bed.

On Monday morning, Ashley and I awoke to a horse galloping straight towards our tent – a horse had gotten loose in ride camp, and luckily, Teresa caught the mare before she ran through our camp. Ashley and I decided after all the excitement, it was time to pack up and go home. We broke down camp, took the horses for a walk down to the creek, and then loaded them up in the trailer. Asali had recovered beautifully and her back soreness was minimal; she did not look like a horse who had just covered 95 miles in the last two days. I drove away from Hat Creek Hustle without a question that next time, Asali and I will conquer the entire 100 miles!

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “2 Days + 95 Miles = Hat Creek Hustle”

  1. Maria Northcutton 22 Jun 2012 at 5:28 am

    Well done! I like your attitude and that you´re putting your horse´s well being first! Interesting to read about your adventures.
    Maria
    Maria Northcutt recently posted..Play Time, Magic and Ground work

  2. Linda Straub Boisaon 22 Jun 2012 at 6:47 am

    Beautifully written, as always. I teared up a little when I was reading the part where you put your forehead on Asali’s and breathed together and then decided to R.O. out. You are a GREAT horse person! I hope someone learns from your example. 🙂

  3. Carol Baileyon 22 Jun 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, Jaya, what a weekend…… sorry for all the mishaps, but like you said, the 2 of you “finished” strong! Bravo! xoxoxox

  4. Dianna Chapekon 22 Jun 2012 at 7:49 pm

    You did good by Asali & made the right decision. There will always be more trails but there is only one Asali. 🙂

  5. JayaMaeon 23 Jun 2012 at 9:59 am

    Linda, thank you. I am so glad we met back at that first ride of mine. I consider you and Teresa both to be good friends and mentors – thank you both for all your help, horse advice, and support. 🙂

    And to Maria, Carol, and Dianna: I appreciate your comments. Dianna, I am thrilled to report that Asali did not throw a single Renegade boot during the 95 miles we rode! Thank you for trimming her before the ride.

  6. Ann Byrnson 24 Jun 2012 at 12:38 am

    Great story about your great little horse. I’m glad you brought her back to camp and let her rest. She will definitely go the full 100 miles next time!

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