Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunriver - The Ride

So, I left off with the riders leaving from the starting "gate."  There isn't really an official starting line.  There is an official start time for each distance, and at or after that time, the riders just give their number to the start timer, who marks down the time on the official log, and they can leave.  The more competitive riders arrive at the start area in advance, and leave at the official ride time all in a pack, at a brisk pace.  Others wait a little longer, go in pairs or alone, and might leave at a more controlled pace.  Each distance has a time limit (counted from the start time of that distance, not the time a given rider leaves), which for the 50s is 12 hours, so there is incentive to leave earlier rather than later, but a few extra minutes might mean the difference between an out-of-control horse in a pack of racers and a much calmer ride with the fast riders already out of sight.

I watched "my" riders take off, then as I was turning to head back to camp, saw a different rider and probably her crew person trying to convince a horse that the race would be FUN.  It seemed to me (and a couple other spectators) that the horse was in pain, not just pissy or anxious, but the rider insisted she'd be fine once they got going.  (I did see her later, and the horse did seem normal, and she assured me she'd been right and the horse did settle in just fine once they started.)

As I was walking back to camp, I saw an acquaintance I met at Grizzly who had just hauled in for the day to ride in the 30-mile ride, and chatted with her for a bit.  Alas, I didn't get any pictures.  I did hear that she and her (recently spayed) mare did complete the 30, though.  Yay!

At camp, I scooped the poop from the pens, put away the horse blankets, filled the hay feeders, cleaned and filled the water buckets, and made sure I had everything I needed to bring to all the vet checks:  both riders' gear and feed, cooler full of water, Gatorade, and snacks for humans, directions to the vet checks, stethoscope (to help with pulsing if I had time), camera, sunscreen, etc. etc. etc.  My entire back seat was full with the four gear bags/bins they had, my trunk was full with my cooler and clothes basket of stuff, and my front seat held my camera, stethoscope, and directions to the vet checks.

I headed off, following a combination of the directions to the first and second vet checks, and arrived at the second vet check before the vets did.  I took my time setting out the gear, adding apple juice to the horse feed, and making sure I had my stethoscope and camera at the ready.  I wandered over to the vet check area and chit chatted with the other volunteers and eventually the vet, until finally someone hollered "horse!" and it all seemed very exciting until we realized there were like four of us to pulse one horse.  :-)  I did eventually pulse a couple of horses, and did just fine at it, in my completely unbiased opinion, while waiting to hear from SweetPea and Hutch that they were on their way to the vet check.

VC2, looking upstream.  The horses, unfortunately, weren't allowed to be in or near the river, so this was the only time I got to enjoy the view.


From the river, looking at the water troughs, mid-meadow rocks, porta-potty, and vet tent.
The rider currently in 1st place on the 50 mile ride as of the 2nd vet check.  She did win it, too, I believe.

Trot out for the vet

 We didn't know what their cell coverage would be like, but the plan was for them to call or text when they thought they were about 30 minutes from the vet check.  That gave me time to finish up anything I might be in the middle of, then start walking up the trail to meet them and take some photos before they hopped off the horses to walk the last little bit into the vet check. 

I got a text at around 10:00 a.m. that they were about 4 miles away.  Hmm...four miles at a walk (i.e. an hour or so) or four miles at a fast trot (20 minutes or so)?  She didn't respond to that question, so I waited a while, then took off down the trail.  I should have used bug spray first, but other than that, it was pleasant.

The mantra of the riders in the 50:  blue and pink; blue and pink; blue and pink

I met a couple of riders and took their photos and talked nice to their horses (but still startled one when I spoke after being silent for like 30 seconds), and waited for SweetPea and Hutch.

The horse in the back is the one that was bucking at the start.  She seems calm enough here, though.

They took longer than I expected--I guess they were walking, but arrived nonetheless.

Could it be?

It looks like Hutch is singin' a song.  All four were in good spirits.

SweetPea and her boy, Flash
I took their photos as they approached, then walked with them to the vet check, pointed them where to go, and fetched horse food and people water.  The hay was a bit away from the vet check area, and the water was further still.  We camped out near the water troughs, and brought a small amount of hay over for the boys to eat.  And EAT they did.  I don't think either of them stopped eating during the entire hour hold, between the mush made from grain and apple juice, the hay (both grass and alfalfa), and the grass growing right there under their feet.  I fetched more water for the humans as necessary, held the horses while they used the facilities and fetched hot dogs (there were some guys there grilling hot dogs for the riders, crew, and volunteers--how awesome is that?), refilled the water bottles they were carrying, and tried to make myself useful.  An hour flew by, so I literally shoved SweetPea into the saddle (we'd joked about me having to so many times, I had to do it, even though she didn't really need me to).

I don't think Leo ever raised his head from grazing position the entire on hour hold.

Somewhere along the line, Leo had been taught that it's not polite to paw.  That didn't rid him of the instinct, though, so while eating (and sometimes when he wasn't, though I didn't see Leo without food in his face very often), he would raise his knee and sometimes swing his foot around in mid-air, without ever actually pawing at the ground.

I raced down the trail to get ahead of them and take some more photos.

After they were off down the trail, I cleaned up all the mess we'd made and started off toward VC3.  They only had 11 miles to ride, and I had to drive at least that many miles, so I was in a bit of a rush to make sure to beat them there and have everything ready again.  Most of the miles were on lovely wide smooth gravel road, then paved road, but the last 3 miles or so were on a hellish dirt road with GIANT holes and ruts.  But I love a challenge, so I tore down the road as fast as I felt I could.

Trust me when I say they looked worse in person.  I heard an SUV lost a headlight because they bonked into the far side of a hole with the front end of their rig!

Right up until I found myself behind a 4x4 going about half the speed I had been going in my Camry.  They did NOT take a hint to let me pass, so I got to watch them attempting to navigate this road.  I've been driving dirt and gravel roads since I had my license (and passengering them long before that), and was dating a guy who was REALLY into off-roading (built a couple of rigs pretty much from scratch), so I'd learned a few things over the years.  Things like judging whether I can clear a rock or need to go around it.  Things like if you can't clear a rock and can't go around it, the best choice is to put your tire(s) right on it so you don't have to clear it with the underside of your vehicle.  Things like when there's a giant rut in the road that you can straddle, and it parallels your path of travel, you don't need to worry about it--you're straddling it and driving as if you didn't have a rut between your tires will work just fine.  Things like which rocks and ruts to slow down for, but that you don't have to hit your brakes for EVERY anomaly in the road.  The people in front of me knew NONE of these things, and I was worried about making it in time, and stuck behind them.

Well, it turns out I did beat the girls to the vet check.  I got the cold water out and set it in the shade near the horse water trough.  I got the feed out, added apple juice, and set it near the hay that was provided.  I got my stethoscope and camera out and brought them with me to sit in the shade.  And I got to sit in the shade for quite a long while.  It turns out they walked nearly all of the 11 miles.  In fact, it was so long that the ride volunteers thought the food and water I'd brought belonged to someone that had come and gone (it was only a 15 minute hold, and my stuff was probably sitting there for an hour or more), and loaded it up into the gear truck, and I had to get it back out.  :-)  The cell service must have been spotty, because I got a text that they were 1/4 mile out, and got up to walk down the trail a bit, and they were arriving.  So I didn't get very good on-trail photos of them arriving.

I think Flash is the only one still rarin' to go at this point.

Flash (SweetPea's horse) vetted through without a hitch, but Leo (Hutch's horse) didn't have any gut sounds.  This CAN be cause for alarm, but is also common in a horse (or human or whatever) that's expending a lot of energy--the digestive system shuts down while you're working.

 So we sponged the horses with cold water and gave them lots of food to eat and digest.  By the end of the 15 minute hold, Leo's gut sounds weren't QUITE there, plus the humans were still hot and weary, so they waited a little extra time.  Leo's gut sounds improved, he passed the vet check, and the ladies doused themselves with cold spring water once more before hitting the trail.

The ride manager had said at the ride meeting that crew would not be able to beat the riders back to camp from VC3, but I was determined to try (plus knew they'd be going relatively slow, since they were so tired), so I BOOKED it down that bumpy road, and got into camp, asked the timer if they'd come in, and they hadn't.  In fact, it was about 20 minutes longer before they showed up.

Could these two girls BE any happier? 

SweetPea trotting Flash out for the final vet check

Hutch was running with VIGOR to get this thing over with!

Tired Leo

Tired Flash, apparently protesting this vintage of water or something

Hmm...is there a beer named after horse drool yet?  If not, there totally should be.

And that brings us through the end of the actual race.  Next, more tired horsie photos in their pens, and the Sunday wrap-up with awards and breaking camp.


  1. Man you sure take nice pictures! ~Jewel

    1. Aw, thanks, J. Having such photogenic and willing subjects helps a lot, too. :-) My favorite photo of the weekend is the one captioned "Could these two girls BE any happier?"--such pure joy on all four of them. (You can click to view it bigger.)