Endurance Riding

Mar 28 2013

Cuyama: One Tough Multi-Day Ride

Published by under Endurance Riding

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Cuyama couldn’t come soon enough. For days, weeks before the ride, I had been itching to get back into competition. Training rides are fun, but there is something different about an endurance ride… there is the thrill of the race. And Cuyama would be our first XP Ride — our first three days of back-to-back riding.

We left very early on Thursday morning. I was blessed that my husband, Gary, was willing to drive. I had just finished working three 12-hour night shifts in a row, and after all the packing and preparing I had done, I was exhausted. We hooked up the cabover camper (our first time using it) onto the bed of our new truck and then hitched up the trailer. After an 11-hour haul (this included 4 stops, 2 of which we stopped for an hour each time, unloading the horses and walking them around), we made it to ride camp in New Cuyama, California. Jakob and I didn’t have time for a pre-ride, so we set up camp instead, clipped the horses (with Peggy’s help), and then let them rest.

Friday morning was our first ride. Jakob and I rode the limited distance (or luxury distance, as some like to call it) 30-mile ride. At first, we weren’t impressed with the trail. We started out on a long, dusty, windy trail where the terrain was all the same. But once we got on to the narrow, single track trails, we discovered why people say Cuyama is such a beautiful ride. It’s not covered in forest like we are used to, but the mountains in the distance, the interesting rocks, and the sweet-smelling junipers scattered about makes the terrain much more inviting.

We rode the 30 miles conservatively, especially because Asali had a mild muscle cramp in the beginning, which she eventually worked out. Beauty did really well… she never had a moment where she made me nervous (like she had at both Cache Creek and Gold Country). The weather was on our side and so the horses barely worked up sweats.

On Saturday morning, I crawled out of bed early. This was it… our first endurance ride of the season! Jakob and Beauty stayed behind in ride camp and I went out with my friend, Peggy, and her horse, Fire.

We had an incredible ride! Fire and Asali were freight trains – pulling on our arms if we tried to hold them back. They powered up hills with strength that amazed me. We moved out the entire time, keeping up a consistent pace. And as our horses moved out, and we moved up and down in our saddles, Peggy and I enjoyed each other’s company, sharing stories the entire way. We made it to the finish line somewhere around 6 hours! This was Asali’s fastest time ever and when she finished, she didn’t look like she had just raced. I sure felt it though – my calves were sore and my entire body felt both the miles and the speed, all at once.

endurance riding

endurance riding

Sunday was our last ride. After how well Jakob and Beauty did on Friday, I finally decided they were ready for their first 50. So, we changed our entry from the limited distance ride to the endurance ride and headed out to the start! The first half of the ride, however, turned out to be brutal. There were several steep climbs. I dismounted and tailed Asali up those trails, followed by leading her down. I continued to check in with Jakob and Beauty, worried that the terrain was exhausting Jakob’s horse. At about mile 10, Beauty tripped in a ditch on the side of a ridge, causing Jakob to lose his balance. He fell off, ended up underneath his horse, and Beauty, with nowhere to go but forward, accidentally stepped on him. After some tears, wiping away the blood and some dusting off, however, Jakob was okay. He remounted and we were once again heading down the trail.

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When we made it to the vet check, I was hot, tired, hungry, and thirsty. I was also doubtful of the horses ability to keep going, even though neither horse had shown signs of exhaustion. I told Jakob I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on, but after some rejuvenation, and a pep talk from my husband (“Gregorys don’t quit”), we were back out there in the backcountry, exposed to the elements.

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The second half of the ride was just as long, but I was committed to the trail, and I let everything go and decided to just enjoy the ride. There is a moment of peace that comes during every ride. Being out there in the wilderness, hearing the wind and feeling the sun on my face, with the realization that nobody in the world knows exactly where I am at that moment, is humbling. I sometimes reach a meditative state, rocking to the rhythm of my horse, overlooking land that only God could create.

There wasn’t any better company on Sunday than the company of my son. Hearing Jakob’s dreams and plans for his future, learning about what makes him unique and feel alive, I was flooded with insights. His resilience was inspiring. After Jakob’s fall, he also got scraped up on a gnarly tree. He was able to save a second fall, but this trail was not kind to him, and he knew he needed to be a more diligent rider from that point on.

In the heat of the afternoon, the winding, rocky canyon trail provided some shade. Jakob and I took it slow, enjoying the scenery. This landscape was a change from the vast openness we experienced earlier. We had enjoyed the wide trails as well, where you could see for miles in front of you. Riders in the distance comforted us, confirming that we were on the right track, and riders behind encouraged us to keep moving.

As the afternoon turned to evening and the weather became more forgiving, the horses perked up. They knew they were headed in the direction of camp, and just a few miles before the finish, both horses took off galloping. We had played leap frog with some other riders earlier in the day, but we knew now that we were probably the last ones, racing to the finish, trying to beat the clock. As we turned into the yellow gate, our indication we were almost there, I was flooded with pride. I was proud of myself for pushing past what I thought my limits were, but most of all, I was proud of my son – a young rider who shares a special bond with another creature, a horse named Beauty. The two of them took care of each other all day long, enduring the technicalities of the trail and the exposure of the elements. They both proved to be outstanding athletes and I was impressed and honored to be the one to witness their finish, just 4 minutes before the 12-hour cutoff time.

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Jakob and Beauty looking fantastic as they head for the finish! Declan, Jakob’s younger brother, was up ahead, jumping up and down, with his arms in the air, cheering them on.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Cuyama: One Tough Multi-Day Ride”

  1. Michelle Herreraon 28 Mar 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Excellent ride story about Cuyama XP. (I have done that ride a couple times.) Also great looking photos of you and your son in matching orangish shirts!

    Hope to see you’all at a ride soon.

    Michelle

  2. funderon 29 Mar 2013 at 12:14 am

    I’m so happy for your whole family, Jaya! Great work by Jakob – he’s a tough young man. Loved the ride story.

  3. Ann Byrnson 29 Mar 2013 at 12:55 am

    Wonderful story and pictures! I really like the last one the best, with Jakob and Beauty heading to the finish line. Good job everyone!

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