Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grizzly Mountain Endurance Ride

Finally, our first endurance ride was upon us!  We packed and packed and packed, and then determined we were ready.  I'd asked to get off work at noon, and sometime prior to that, I'd realized that I left my bag full of clothes at home.  Oops.  So I had to run home (opposite direction from Shar's) and do a couple other errands first, but got to Shar's by 1:30-ish.

We loaded up the rest of the gear, gathered up the horses, she trimmed Flash's bridle path, then we loaded the horses and put some hay into the trailer behind them, and we were OFF.  Well, except that Shar called me when we were barely out of her driveway to ask me to grab her purse out of her other car.  Ha!  Glad I wasn't the only one forgetting crucial items.  At first I couldn't find it, and had her rather worried when I called her and she walked me through all the places it could be and it wasn't in any of them, but then I finally found it, basically right where she said it would be in her car but hiding rather well.  So I met her at the grocery store, and we were finally actually on our way to ride camp.

We parked next to the other boarders at Shar's house, Holly and Graham.  They'd already set up their corral/camp, so they actually helped us get the corral panels off the side of Shar's trailer, which was really nice--those suckers are heavy!

Speaking of helpful, Holly also went to register before we were ready to and brought back extra forms, so we were able to fill them out first, saving some time.  We took the horses up and got in the vet line.  It was pretty long, but there were two vets so it was moving pretty quickly.

Shar and I took turns registering for the ride (turn in a form with rider info, horse info, and signed release, get a vet card with our names and assigned rider #) while the other held both horses.  Boy, they're such a handful, what with standing quietly together.

Here's my first official vet card:

My name, Arya's name, and the ride name, right there in official pencil.  :-)  

We were riding the 10-mile ride, which meant we were assigned a letter instead of a number.  Each distance has a different numbering sequence so other riders and the vets, etc., can tell at a glance which distance you're riding.  As 10-mile riders, we are the lowest on the totem pole.  Our ride doesn't "count" (doesn't go in the record books), so it's polite for us to yield to longer-distance riders at the vet checks.  Similarly, it's polite for riders who are done riding and waiting for their final vet check (horses have to be "fit to continue" even when you're actually done) to yield to riders who still have further to go, as the clock keeps ticking even during mandatory hold times, meaning riders want to leave as soon as the hold time is over, yet the hold time begins once the horse is pulsed down, before the vet check, so the time they spend waiting for the vet is time they could be resting/eating/drinking/going potty instead.

Anyway, we each registered and got our vet card, then soon enough, we were at the front of the vet line.  Here's how she did on the vet in:

Pulse was 48.  Lower is better here, and 48 isn't GREAT, but isn't bad, either, considering this was her first experience with ride camp.  I hope to see lower numbers on vet-in in the future, but we'll see.

Mucus membranes, jugular refill, and skin tenting were all As.  This is checking her hydration, and we'd only just come from home, plus we allowed the horses to drink just before vetting in, so this is good but not unexpected.  The capillary refill is measured in seconds it takes for her gums to turn pink again after having a thumb pressed against them to blanch them.  One second is good.

Gut sounds are listened to in four quadrants (upper and lower on each side), and she is a voracious eater, so got all As.  Anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers are all to check for muscle soreness and/or fatigue, and she's had nearly a week off, so of course got As.

Tack galls and wounds are checking for injuries, rubs, etc., and she had none so got zeros.  This isn't necessarily a disqualification, especially if there are well-healed scars.  Of course, if you have pre-existing injuries, you'd want to point them out to the vet so they aren't counted against you at later vet checks.  If injuries or rubs do happen during the ride, they wouldn't necessarily disqualify you either, depending on where they're located and how severe they were.

Anyway, she got A- for gait and impulsion.  Considering I couldn't even get her to trot beside me on the lead a few months ago, and that we hadn't practiced enough, this was actually pretty good for us.  She doesn't have the peppiest, snappiest trot on a good day, so as long as she's not lame, I'm happy.  She did get an A for attitude, though, so I guess the vet felt she was happy enough to be there.  :-)

We took the horses back to our campsite and settled them in with some sloppy mash for calories, hydration, and electrolytes.  Horses are NOT dainty eaters:

I started to braid Arya's mane (in addition to looking pretty, it helps cool the horse to not have a shaggy mane hanging on one side of the neck, preventing evaporation--braiding opens it up to let the sweat evaporate from that side as well as the other), then Holly and Graham said they were going out for a practice ride.  I'd been wanting to do that so Arya could get some exposure to all the excitement and also see the beginning of the trail, so I jumped at the chance to ride with some buddies she and I knew, and tacked her up.

I was really nervous, but tried not to let Arya know that.  :-)  We stopped by a water tank to let the horses drink (or rather, to show them that they were going to need to drink strange water from various types of tanks throughout the next day).  Around this point, Arya started realizing that Flash wasn't with us, and we ALWAYS ride with Flash.  She whinnied for him--that's always weird, and it was my first time being on her when she whinnied.  She also decided that might be a good time to head back to camp, but when Graham and Holly headed toward the trail on Emma and Ace, Arya decided it wouldn't be so bad to follow them.

We followed the ribbons out of camp, to where they made a hard right turn and crossed a dirt road and a ditch right next to the corner of a pasture with a cow, a dog, and a couple goats in it.  The horses were a bit concerned about these strange creatures, but we made it past them and continued down the trail.  Not too far, though, and we realized it was 6:30, and rumor was that the ride meeting would start around 7:00.  So we turned around, and once Emma realized we were headed home and she was now in the back instead of the lead, she started jigging.  Graham kept her under control fairly well, but Arya was getting a little antsy having an antsy horse behind her, and I was getting VERY antsy since that's what we think led to the two bucking incidents we've had.  So I asked if Holly wouldn't mind being the filling in the sandwich between Emma and Arya, providing a bit of a buffer.  Everything went well and we made it back safely.

In the meantime, the saddle fitter I'd worked with online only up to this point messaged me that she was in camp and I should come find her.  So I messaged back to ask where she was, and it took a while but I finally found her.  Surprisingly, she said the saddle I'm using is actually a pretty good fit.  She recommended removing a little bit of the (admittedly VERY generous) padding from the right side, as that shoulder of Arya's is bigger.  She even did the surgery for me.  How nice!  By this point, the ride meeting had already started, so rather than take Arya back to camp (FAR end from the ride meeting) and back to the meeting, I just headed there with her and stood in the back and let her graze.  Her whinnying for Flash may have been a little bit disrupting, though.  Oops.

At the end of the ride meeting, we announced a little "Green Bean" party at our campsite.  Green Beans are basically anyone new to endurance, with a horse new to endurance, or "new at heart," or experienced and willing to share wisdom with the newbies.  So basically, open to anyone willing to share knowledge and a love of horses.  It was fun to meet people we "knew" from Facebook and put faces to names and hear people's plans for the next day.  But soon it was dark, the party was dwindling, and it was time to head to bed.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, Holly called me outside to see the sunrise.  The cell phone photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was kind of like when a harvest moon is rising, and it looks all huge and red on the horizon, except it was the sun.

I finished braiding Arya's mane and did Flash's, too.  Originally, we thought the 10-mile ride would start at least 30, if not 60, minutes later than the 30-mile ride, but it turns out since the two head in opposite directions on separate trails, they went ahead and had them just 10 minutes apart.  I'd figured that I'd be able to help Shar get ready, then focus on getting myself and Arya ready, but instead all four of us got ready together and mounted up at the same time and headed for the trailhead.  Shar and Holly were running a little late for their start time, but that was okay because they didn't want to start right in the beginning with all the front runners anyway, plus then Graham and I were ready to head on down the trail at the same time.

As we started down the trail, we could see up ahead of us, at the right turn, that there was a large group of horses, probably ten or so, who were all having some excitement at the sight of the cow, dog, and goats.  There was dancing and prancing.  Right about then, a couple riders came up behind us and asked to pass.  Graham and I were in no hurry, especially with the chaos up ahead, so we pulled off the trail and let them pass.  Then the guy's horse started freaking out, either at the cow or the other amped-up horses, or something.  The horse was bucking and spinning.  The guy ended up getting off and hand-walking the horse, so of course we got back ahead of them again.

In the meantime, the large group had made it past the right turn, but then turned left and headed DOWN the road instead of ACROSS it.  I hollered that they were not on the trail, but they couldn't hear or didn't listen or something.  So Graham and I took Emma and Arya toward the cow of death.  They were a little skittish, but we made it past.  By that point, the big group had realized they were going the wrong way and had turned around and come back, and were right behind us.  Plus the guy with the spazzy horse was right with us, on foot.  Great, so now we're all in one big, spazzy group.  We walked out ahead of them for a bit, then let them pass us and get ahead of us.

Graham on Emma ahead of Arya's ears and pretty braided mane.

At first it seemed like the trail might be kind of boring, just winding around the sagebrush, but it eventually got prettier and it turned out to be rather varied around the 10-mile loop.  The majority of the group got out ahead of us enough we weren't following right behind them anymore, and we picked up a couple other riders that wanted to join our slower-paced group.  One was a first-time endurance rider on her mare's third trail ride EVER.  The other gal was also riding a mare, so we realized we had four mares, three women, and Graham.  He was a good sport, surrounded by all those females.

At one point, the woman with the really green mare was riding beside Graham on Emma, and must've gotten a little bit too close, as Emma kicked her.  She got the woman's ankle a little bit, and really scared the horse, as she freaked out a bit and dislodged her rider, who ended up falling off.  Luckily, she wasn't badly hurt and got right back on.  A little while later, the other woman wanted to help her horse learn that she wouldn't die by being in the back and that she couldn't just jig along the trail freaking out the whole time, so she said she'd like us to go on and leave her behind to ride alone.

Overall, it was a really great ride.  We rode through open sagebrush, juniper trees, meadows, and a really pretty forest.  The trail varied from sandy to rocky to nice packed dirt.  The views included mountains and seeing camp intermittently throughout the ride.

The experiences included being passed by faster riders a few times.  Arya didn't love that.  I always knew we were being approached by her ears turning back (they were usually forward if we were in front, or relaxed if we were following a buddy) and her body tensing.  We would pull off the trail and attempt to face the riders passing us as they went by (rather than keeping her but toward them).  Then we'd get back on the trail and have to keep the horses focused while the others rode away from us.  I learned that trotting while the others were still in sight wasn't the best idea--Arya wanted to catch up to them.  Duh.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist.  :-)

What was funny was that the pair with the spazzy horse at the beginning of the ride passed us about halfway through the loop.  Except this time the woman was on the spazzy horse and the man was on the other horse.  We thought it was weird that they were passing us, considering they'd passed us early on in the ride (twice--right at the beginning when the horse was bucking and spazzing, then again shortly later after he mounted back up after walking on foot a while).  Then a couple miles later, they passed us AGAIN.  This time we asked why/how, and they'd taken a wrong turn.  A couple times.  A little bit later, they were still in view, when we had a confusing moment.  The ribbons are ALWAYS supposed to be on your right.  We were following the green loop, but green, blue, and pink were mainly the same loop, with blue and pink each doing some extra mileage by veering away from the green loop for a mile or two then rejoining it a bit later.  So we had to carefully watch the ribbons to make sure there was green included in the colors.  In this pretty meadow-ish area, there was a caution ribbon (warns of a turn or other situation ahead), but we couldn't see a turn.  Ahead, there was a ribbon in a bush, but it was on the left.  That's not right.  (Ha!  I'm so punny!)  The couple with the spazzy horse were directly ahead of us, but by this point we obviously knew that just because they were going that direction didn't mean we should.  :-)  I volunteered to ride in that direction to look for another ribbon to see if it was the right trail, while the others looked around near the caution ribbon.  Sure enough, the ribbons I was seeing were only blue and were only on the left, so it was where the blue trail came back from one of its extra loops to rejoin the green trail, obviously.  The others found the trail--it veered off from the trail we'd been on at nearly a backwards angle, like a switchback.  So we turned around and headed off down the correct trail while the other couple continued on down the wrong trail, backwards no less.

Strangely, they never did pass us a fifth time, but we did see them back at the vet check, and apparently they tired of the spazzy horse (or making wrong turns?) and beelined back to camp instead of following the correct trail.  Heh.

We trotted a few sections, but between all the green horses and not wanting them to think we could just run and run at a ride, the terrain, and the people passing us, we ended up walking a LOT.  It took us nearly three hours to make the loop.  When we got close to camp, Graham got off to walk Emma in, and I did the same, even though clearly their heart rates were going to be fine.  In fact, their heart rates were SO fine that "my" pulser couldn't find Arya's heartbeat at all at first, and it took four pulsers to finally find Emma's heartbeat.  But both were under the 60 beats per minute requirement, so we were officially "pulsed in," and just had the vet check to go.

Here are Arya's scores:

She got As on mucous membrane, jugular refill, and skin tenting, but it took two seconds for her capillaries to refill.  Not sure if the C means she was also graded as a C (on an A to F scale) or what.  As on anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers, which is great.  No tack galls or wounds.  And she got As on gait, impulsion, and attitude this time.  So even if the capillary refill is a C, she was judged "fit to continue" and officially "completed" the 10-mile ride.  Which doesn't count for anything, so isn't really official, but whatever.  We did it, and she was in good health and attitude.

Graham and I took Emma and Arya back to camp and gave them some mash as their reward while we waited for Shar and Holly to come back.  Arya really enjoys slurping up her mash!

When Holly and Shar got back, Graham and I did we could to help them.  As their time to depart got close, I started tacking up.  My plan has always been to join them on the second loop (if ride management allowed), so I could log 20 miles and see how prepared we were for a 25 in two weeks.  However, I'd been having some digestive issues and had used the outhouse three times since returning from the first loop, plus they were planning to maintain a pretty fast pace, so at the last minute, I ended up deciding not to go.  So I guess we're just going to jump up to 25 miles in one fell swoop.  Oh well.  That's how most people do it, and there's always going to be a first time.

It took us nearly three hours to do the 10-mile loop, but they completed it in under two hours.

Triumphant return!

Flash still had some of his slop left over from "lunch," and he dug right into it.  We'd put Emma into the corral with Arya (since otherwise they were both alone), and Flash was on the outside of the corral so he could have his mash and alfalfa hay all to himself.  Emma was VERY interested in Flash's mash, though.  She kept trying to sneak a bite through the bars of the corral, but flash kept chasing her off:

She started to learn that her opportunity was when flash took a moment to swallow and lick his lips--she'd dive in and lick the edges of the bucket, since she couldn't actually reach the slop inside.  Silly horses.

The humans also got fed and hydrated, then we decided to start packing up and head home.  We got all the stuff loaded up, then the corral panels (again with Graham's help--thanks so much!), then the horses.  We all caravanned back to Shar's place, put the horses away, watched them roll then frolic (clearly not as exhausted as their humans), and unloaded some of the stuff.  Then we ordered pizza, Graham and Holly shared some salad they'd brought, and we all had a nice dinner together to cap off a wonderful ride.  Graham and Holly went back to the ride camp to attend the awards, and learned that they finished 20th and 21st.  Woo hoo!  Four happy riders, four happy and healthy horses among us--can't ask for better than that!

Next step--attempting 25 miles at the Still Memorial Ride, not far from (and even sharing a couple miles of trail with) Grizzly.  I'm so proud of Arya for what we've learned together so far, and ready to achieve another goal with her.

1 comment:

  1. You may have already figured this out (or I could be totally wrong!), but I think the capillary refill is < 2 instead of C2. I believe the person meant that refill took under 2 seconds.