Sunday, April 20, 2014

Endurance Ride - Grizzly

Yesterday, I went to the Grizzly Mountain endurance ride, to crew for my friend Shar, take photos, and help out wherever I could.  Turns out they had plenty of volunteers, so I didn't do as much helping as Nathan did.

I showed up a little later than planned (after setting my alarm for earlier than on a weekday!), but no biggie.  Helped Shar tack up when I could, and took a couple of photos of both her horses pre-ride.  She would be riding Flash, but her other horse Goodwin was there too, to spend the day hanging out at the trailer and learning that it's not the end of the world when you buddy leaves for a few hours.



Flash, cool as a cucumber.  Been there, done that.

Love how relaxed he is.

We made sure she had everything she would need for the 22+ mile first leg (I know!), and then it was time to mount up.

We headed to the vet check area, also the starting area, and without much fanfare, they were off!

Nice and relaxed, leaving at a walk

Nathan and I settled in to the vet check area with our snacks, water, and camp chairs, to wait for her return, and in the meantime, to help out.  I let the crew there know we were willing and able, but there wasn't much to be done until the first few horses came back in for their vet checks.  Nathan bought a hot breakfast sandwich from the caterers, and hung out in the area making friends with them.  When the first few riders were spotted on the horizon, Nathan was quickly briefed in how to check them in--greet them as they approached camp, ask for their vet cards, and write the "in time" on them.  The in time doesn't count for much, except when certain distances are finishing, because what starts the clock on the mandatory hold time is when the horse's heart rate meets criteria (for this ride, 60 bpm).  I have a stethoscope my mom gave me when I was pregnant with Nathan, so I pulsed a few horses, but there were more pulsers than we ever had riders, so mostly I took pictures.  I took over 200 photos, 48 of which I decided were good enough to keep, but I won't bore you with ALL of them.  Maybe just a few:

One of the two vets checking a horse--they make sure the horse is well-hydrated, digesting their food, and not sore anywhere.  And endurance horse has to be "fit to continue," even after the final leg, or it will be disqualified.  You can ride all the miles but still not "finish" if you horse is pulled at the final vet check.

Part of the exam includes trotting the horse away from and back toward the vet so she can look for lameness.

After the required time has passed since the horse "pulsed down," and the vet check is complete (most people vet right after pulsing down, but you can technically do it whenever you want during the hold time), you check with the timer and she tells you you're free to go.  

After being out on the trail for 3 1/2 hours or so, Shar and Flash returned.

And of course they had to follow the same process:

Vet exam

Trot out

 Not pictured because I was helping her, but the hold time was 45 minutes.  Which goes by pretty fast, especially when the vet check is right in camp so you spend a few minutes walking back to camp and back to the vet check again.  I told Shar to take care of herself while I took care of flash.  She ate, changed pants but then changed them back again when she realized the new ones were too big (nice!), and just rested.  I untacked flash and put a blankie (fleece cooler) on him, and made sure he had lots of nice hay and water.  Oh, and I massaged him a little.  He's spoiled!  Flash was pretty tired and kind of napped the whole break, but soon it was time for Shar to hop back on.  She was worried about how tired and sore she'd be since this is the first ride of the season (and it's a LONG first loop!) but she did great, and so did Flash.  All the preparation clearly paid off.

A friend-of-a-friend and her trail buddy, leaving on another of many loops to complete a 75-mile ride

Shar and her trail buddies leaving on their second and final loop

This loop was only 10 miles, so less than half the distance of the first, but they rode a slower pace and it took them about two hours.  I actually didn't realize it was Shar and her buddies riding up to the finish line because they were trotting.  Finishing the LD (limited distance--anything less than 50 miles) or for any vet check when you're not yet done, your completion time or the start time for the hold is when your horse pulses down, so most people come in at a walk so they will be pulsed down right when they arrive.  However, for those finishing the 50-mile ride (as some were doing around this same time since they start earlier), the completion time is when you cross the finish line, as long as the horse DOES pulse down within an hour, which in all but the rarest cases is no problem.  So people will come in across the finish line much faster in that case.  So when I saw them trotting toward us, I assumed they were 50s coming in from their last loop.  Nope, it's Shar and her trail buddies!  They did it!!

So happy!  They did it!
As you can see from this photo, the clouds had come in and chilled the air down a lot.  What you can't see is the wind that made it even chillier.  So I helped Shar through the final vet check (mostly just holding stuff so she could do all the steps), then went back to her camp area with her and helped settled Flash back into his little corral with his buddy Goodwin, who had really missed him.  They both got hay, grain, and a top-up of their water, as well as a cozy blanket to block out the cold wind.  I was cold and sunburned and tired, so I bid Shar farewell and headed home.

Great job EVERYONE who rode, and congratulations to those who finished.  To finish is to win!

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