January 9 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Monday, October 31, 2016
October 31 2016
Everything was just perfect for the last Owyhee ride of the endurance season: the timing of the weather, the trails, the great Halloween costumes, the horses, the people, the music.
An intimate gathering of endurance friends showed up to ride: 22 in the 25-mile ride, and 14 in the 50.
It rained for a couple of hours Friday night - the exact perfect amount to leave the trails in perfect condition, not slick, not a bit of dust, and packed down just right. The rain stopped at the perfect time during the night so that horses were dry (although very dirty from rolling!) for saddling up. Temperatures during the day hung in the 60's - perfect for horses already haired up for the winter. The perfect fall scenery decorated the ride, with maroon quail bush and bright golden cottonwood trees along the creeks, the Owyhee mountains playing hide-and-seek with rain clouds, and tendrils of fog drifting up some of the drainages throughout the day.
Costumed Hallowed Weenie riders and horses scampered about the Owyhee desert: Wonder Woman on her Wonder Horse, a happy clown, a mother dalmatian and her spotted litter of puppies (the racing mule junior riders!), a black widow spider and its (horse) web, the Sheriff of Naughty-Ham chasing a couple of convicts, a carrot, a pirate, a Power Ranger.
All 22 starters finished the 25 mile ride, with Carrie Johnson and Belesema's Specialty just edging out Simone Mauhl and Boogey for the win in 2:57. Belesema's Specialty won Best Condition. Local crick rider Wonder Woman (Linda Kluge) and her Wonder Horse Ted finished 3rd. Trinity Jackson, the Dalmation Mom, brought a slew of Junior riders (6 of them!) who all finished on their mules. Beth Nicholes, no long a Junior, rode and finished on DWA Zifhaffir in his first ride. They completed with Beth's brother Terrence - substitute jockey for Helen Bonner - on DWA Emigree. Falisha Leon, yet another Junior, rode and finished on Sylvan Sovereign with her grandma Vicci Archer.
12 of 14 finished the 50 mile ride, with Dick Root and OFW Alivia, and Errol Fife and OMR Pristine smoking to the win in 5:48. This is after Dick and Ali started without a breast collar, and the saddle slipped way back going up the steep starting hill, and when Dick went to adjust the saddle, Ali went to bucking, bucked the saddle off, and Dick retrieved his horse and saddle, and ran back to camp on foot with Ali to grab a breast collar. He and Ali got back on trail and caught up with and passed our group before 9 miles was up. OFW Alivia won Best Condition. Sarah Holloway was the only Junior in the 50, riding her horse Noble Desperado with her aunt Connie Holloway on DWA Saruq. Finishing in 6th place on WMA Proclaim (Riley) was Karen Steenhof, who earned her 18,000th AERC endurance mile!
A new little endurance rider took to the trails this ride: 11-year-old Cameron Teeter, who trail rode the famous Jose Viola, with his dad Clay on Krusty, and grandpa John on Sunny.
Friday and Saturday evenings the perfectly delightful sounds of the Bluegrass group Pickett Crick Ramblers (is that our name??) could be heard pounding away into the night. As Tom Noll said, "We've improved a lot in the last 1 1/2 years!" We may not always play in time or in tune, but we have fun.
And that concluded the Owyhee endurance ride season: perfectly good friends, fun, and frivolity.
See you next season!
More photos and results can be seen at:
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
October 11 2016
It was quite the turnout for the 3-day Owyhee Canyonlands October 7-9, 2016. It's been a few years since these Owyhee desert trails have seen over 60 riders on day 1. Riders invaded from California, Washington, Montana, Oregon, and Canada for the event. Weather was almost perfect - a rare little bit of rain a few days before, and temperatures mostly in the 40's at night and mid-70's during the day. There was only one minor disaster, or great success story, depending on how you view it, on Day 1.
A Junior Fund was started at this ride (see Steph's article, "Helping our young riders get involved" in the September Endurance News magazine), to help Juniors with their ride entry fees. Since the majority of us are getting older, golder, less bolder, and starting to crest that ridge where we see many more older folks, older horses, and less miles ahead of us, and fewer younger riders filling the trail behind us, this is a way to help Juniors be able to afford continuing in, or getting started in, the sport. Who else is going to be around to boost us up on our horses 10 years from now when we can't find a mounting block, or we are too old to get out and mark trail and organize endurance rides? Barb McGann donated her free ride entry and veterinarian Robert Washington donated $200 towards the junior gang of kids and mules at this year's ride.
Evenings (well, not Day 2 because we were all tired) were filled with the glorious (?) bluegrass sounds of the Pickett Crick Ramblers (or whatever we call ourselves). The last night we were joined by special guest stars, Canadian Carol Wadey, who progressed from keeping the beat on a table to killing it on a real drum that John Teeter provided, and by singer Naomi Preston (with Carol) belting out the real words, or making some new ones up, to some tunes. The Nicholes kids, who helped cook and volunteer all weekend, provided more singing entertainment into the wee hours of the last night (like 10 PM).
47 started the 55-mile ride on Day 1, with 42 finishing. The Blakeley family from Oregon all started and finished, with dad Wasch, riding RA Ares Bey, just nipping Dick Root and OFW Alivia at the finish in a time of 4:25.
Dean Hoalst, aboard Pay Attention, finished 3rd, in 4:31. That's not unusual, because Dean likes to ride fast. What *is* unusual is that Dean rode the last 37 miles with a broken shoulder or collarbone and some broken ribs*, when his horse bucked him off and piled him onto the ground leaving the first vet check, when Dean wouldn't let him take off as fast as he wanted after the horses ahead of him. We're not sure if the punctured lung came during the buck-off, or during the 37 miles of riding.
After he finished third, and he had somebody trot his horse out for him for Best Condition, he consented to going to the small-town ER. They sent him to the hospital in Boise overnight, over his objections, I heard.
Dean's a bit tougher than I am. I accidentally kicked a table and broke a little toe a couple of days before a 2-day ride once, and I couldn't ride because my tootsie hurt.
Christoph Schork and GE Stars Aflame, and Carla Lakenbrink and Guinness, finished 4th and 5th in 4:36, followed by Sanoma and Barrak and Gabriela Blakeley in 4:50. Wasch's horse got the BC award.
20 started the 30-mile ride, with all finishing. Bill Miller and Raffons Noble Dancer won the ride in 2:57, pulsing down just a few seconds ahead of David Brown and Chipikiri. Carolyn Roberts and Manhattanincident, 5th in a time of 3:19, won Best Condition. Trinity Jackson bought her racing mules and 3 Juniors, finishing mid-pack, with Sydney Jackson and Out of Idaho the first Junior in a time of 3:23.
27 riders started Day 2's 50, with 23 finishing. It was almost a repeat of Day 1's results… minus Dean Hoalst, since he was in the hospital. Wasch Blakeley and RA Ares Bey finished first in 4:21, a few seconds ahead of Dick Root and OFW Alivia, with Christoph Schork, riding Medinah MHF, finishing in a tie for 3rd in 4:27 with Errol Fife and OMR Pristine. Medina MHF got the Best Condition award.
19 of 20 starters finished Day 2's 30-mile ride, with Jill Haunold and her Curly mare Penny's Isabelle winning in a time of 3:07, a few seconds ahead of Elayne Barclay and Merlot's Kwest. 4th place Wade Mauhl, in his first endurance ride aboard the beautiful palomino Quarter horse Sundance (his first endurance ride too), finished in a ride time of 3:10, and got Best Condition.
Day 3's 50 had 26 starters and 23 finishers. Dick Root and OFW Alivia won in a time of 4:40, 9 minutes ahead of Max Merlich and TCF Miles High. Miles won the Best Condition award. Carla Lakenbrink and Guinness finished 3rd in 4:58, with junior Sanoma, and Wasch Blakeley 4th and 5th in 5:38.
Finishing turtle - a 3-peat for all 3 days, was Lynn White and Belesemo Moon. It was Roger's and Lynn's 2nd 3-day ride finish, and Lynn got her 3000 miles.
All 19 starters finished the 25-mile ride on Day 3. David Brown and Chipikiri turned the tables on Bill Miller and Raffons Noble Dancer, in a winning time of 3:06. Chipikiri took the Best Condition award. Barb McGann, volunteer extraordinaire, had a ride day, finishing turtle aboard OSR Niks Happy Spot, in 4:59, riding with Ann Kuck and Dirty Martini.
10 horse/rider partners finished all 3 days/155 miles, with Dick Root and OFW Alivia hanging up the fastest time of 12 hours 50 minutes. Wasch Blakeley and RA Ares Bey were 2nd in 14 hrs 24 minutes. The others were Melissa Coy and SAR Tiki Copper Sky, Jerry Zebrack and BR Jo Tiki De Soi, Becky Vital and CR Dun Debut, Karen Leiman and Frankly Dash O Splash, Karen Bumgarner and Z Summer Thunder, Connie Holloway and DWA Saruq, Junior Sarah Holloway and Noble Desperado, and Lynn White and Roger, the last in at 26 hours 35 minutes.
5 horse/rider partners finished all 3 days/80 limited distances miles, with Maria Kilgo and Belesemo Geronimo fastest in 10 hours 21 minutes. Local crick rider Linda Kluge and Ted were 2nd, followed by Elayne Barclay and Merlot's Kwest, Clarissa Hale and SB Above the Law, and Pam Davenport and The Traveling Man, last in at 12 hours 52 minutes.
Thanks to all the volunteers who came to help, and thanks to the veterinarians Robert Washington and Karen Balch, and to Bill Brown, who came with his wife Linda, and rode Days 1 and 3, and helped vet on Day 2!
More photos and stuff from the ride at:
*I'm not sure what exactly Dean broke but there was definitely breakage.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
August 13 2016
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
It's hard to believe it was only DeWayne Brown's second time to manage an endurance ride, but so it was on August 13th at the 30-50-80-100 Santiam Cascade near Sisters, Oregon.
What was the best part? Hard to choose between:
- lush grass/hay field to camp in, and an eclectic smorgasbord for the horses including yummy alfalfa plants (made me think of wandering a CANDY SHOP and eating whatever I wanted), AND there were no bugs or dust
- a good attendance with old and new friends, including a World Endurance Champion and Hall of Famer and Haggin Cup and Tevis Cup winner (Becky Hart); another couple of Hall of Famers (Joyce Sousa and LV Integrity), a National Champion (Christoph Schork), and another Haggin Cup winner (Barrack Blakeley), and 3 Juniors in the 100, Anya Levermann, Sanoma Blakeley, (riding with Anya's mom Katrin) and Alex Neihaus (riding with grandmother Joyce Sousa)
- extraordinarily well-marked trails
- the best human drinking water idea ever invented, jugs of people water floating in the horse water troughs, which kept the water cool on a hot day
- plenty of horse (and therefore human too!) water on trail, every 5 or 6 miles
- the best water guy(s) who worked 3 or 4 days non-stop for us riders and horses
- numerous volunteers to help you out with anything you needed
- and the extraordinarily competent ride manager who seemed to be everywhere at once taking care of everything before it needed done
Sure, the trails were a bit dusty (it's volcano country, after all) and a bit rocky at places (it's volcano country, after all), and a bit warm (it's summer after all), but it's called endurance riding for a reason! And anyway, I like to say, dusty compared to what? (my Tevis ride? Oh, I think not!) Or, rocky compared to what? (Nevada rides I've done? Nope!) And summer - well, it's my least favorite season anywhere anytime, so let's just leave it at that.
And I must give a great shout out here to Lynn Rigney, my new best endurance friend. How fortunate for me that she came to ride her handsome mustang Adagio VII in the 30, and she saw how HOT FLASHING I was, even in the heat at the Friday ride meeting, and she loaned (then gave) me her Mission Enduracool neck gaiter, (which I have not taken off since), which saved me from passing out from heat during Saturday's ride. Thanks Lynn!
DeWayne's grandfather started the Santiam ride in 1964. His whole family has been a part of this ride, putting it on and riding in it over the decades. DeWayne managed it in 1993, a memorable multi-event (a 50, 75, and 100) that had 227 entries. That was a memorable event for veterinarian Dr Michael Foss, too, due to the unexpected number of entries, but while this year's ride had good attendance, it was a bit less stressful for him and DeWayne than that one!
Basecamp was at the Sisters rodeo grounds outside of Sisters, Oregon. Camp Polk was established in 1865 in the area as a military post because of the Paiute Indian wars. Turns out there really wasn't a Paiute Indian "problem" in the area, and the troops abandoned the camp within a year. Around 1870 Samuel Hindeman homesteaded there and ran the post office. In 1888 the post office was moved 3 miles southwest to the present site of Sisters.
Sisters used to be a sleepy little town until the last decade or so when it exploded into a big tourist attraction, with tourist shops, outdoor opportunities (hiking, biking, climbing, skiing), the Sisters Rodeo (held since 1941), the annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt show (the world's largest outdoor quilt show and quilt sale), and the Sisters Folk Festival. Ridecamp was close enough to the main highway that we heard the busy 24-hour traffic, though Connie tried to convince me that it sounded like camping near the ocean and listening to the waves. (Didn't work the first night.)
Looming above the town, and ridecamp, are the Three Sisters, a complex single volcano of 3 volcanic peaks, all over 10,000 feet (still with a significant amount of snow on them) - North, Middle, and South Sister. USGS tells us, "The Three Sisters region has hosted volcanic eruptions for hundreds of thousands of years, and future eruptions are a certainty. South and Middle Sister are recurrently active over thousands to tens of thousands of years and may either erupt explosively or produce substantial lava domes that could collapse into pyroclastic flows. They could also produce lava flows."
How often and how many places do you get to ride around scenic, certain potential volcanoes?
Pickett Cricksters Steph and Smokey, Connie and DWA Saruq, and substitute jockey me and Dezzie made the journey from Idaho for the 50 mile ride. Connie's niece Sarah couldn't make it to this ride so I rode her horse.
What was fun about the ride was that the loops were arranged so you would meet other riders on other distances throughout the day. If you rode the 50, you could keep tabs on the 30-milers, and on the 17 100-mile riders, and it was easy to cheer them along and high five them as we passed each other. We ran into different groups at different intersections, sponging and cooling at the water troughs, like Canadians Katrin (mom) and Anya Levermann, riding the 100 with Sanoma Blakeley.
The 50's had 3 loops, of 20 miles (and a vet check in camp), 20 miles (and a vet check in camp), and a 10 mile loop back to the finish. Trails and 2-track old logging roads looped through the Ponderosa forest, with glimpses of the Three Sisters and Mt Jefferson along the way. Loops 1 and 2 tracked through the burn responsible for cancelling the ride last year.
And it was a bit dusty, with some rocks underfoot. Some riders rode like bandits, with neckerchiefs over their faces. More than one rider commented after the day's-end shower about how brown the run-off water was!
It got hot after noon, but two saving graces were a thin cloud cover and a good breeze (and splashing humans and horses at the water troughs) which kept us cool enough and moving along.
Jeff Tryens and Cimarron won the 30-mile ride in 3:24, and got Best Condition, with 26 riders finishing.
Barrack Blakeley and OMR Quicksand won the 50 mile ride in 5:44. 31 completed the 50 (around 37 started). Kristen Grace and HCC Elessar, aka "Monster", who finished second 8 minutes behind Barrak, won Best Condition.
Nobody rode the 80, probably figuring if you were going to ride that far, you might as well go another 20 miles and do the 100!
Christoph Schork and GE CCDRUS Star won the 100 in 15:56. They also won Best Condition. The 15-year-old Anglo-Arabian mare now has a record of 23 completions in 24 starts (8 of them wins), 7 Best Condition awards, and 4 out of 4 100-mile completions, including 2 Tevis Cups.
Finishing next, to their happy surprise, were Sanoma Blakeley and the Levermanns. Joyce Sousa and her granddaughter Alex finished in just over 17 hours.
That makes 39 100-mile finishes for LV Integrity (oh, and 89 for Joyce, if you're counting!). All 3 Juniors finished the 100 (Sanoma, Anya, Alex), and Anya and Alex are currently tied for first in the Junior National 100 Mile division with 405 miles.
Front runner Dick Root (riding the little pistol mare OFW Alivia, who won the Mt Adams 100 in May) succumbed to the heat in the late afternoon (Dick did, not the horse), and front runner Kevin Waters and DE Golden Ali were pulled with 1 loop to go with lameness.
Layne Lewis' Royal Immage, aka "Mickey", finished 6th, completing his first 100 mile ride. Becky Vital and CR Dun Debut finished turtle in 18:57, the mare's first 100-mile ride, and Becky's first 100-mile finish, a great accomplishment for both after a bad accident last year put them both out of commission for a while.
DeWayne says he's looking into a different ride camp for next year's Santiam with some different trails. Whether it's the Sisters Rodeo grounds or elsewhere, you can be sure that it'll be a first-class-run event. Come get your endurance on in this long-running endurance ride!
For more info and photos on the ride, see:
And for terrific ride photos from Santiam Cascade, see Jessica Wynne's gallery:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Tuesday June 14 2016
I am referring, of course, to "FIVE THOUSAND" as the F word. (Now, what were you all thinking?)
That's what was on the line for Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar at the 3-day City of Rocks ride June 9-11 in SE Idaho. Of course, the "F" word was not uttered by anyone before 4 PM on Saturday. But that's getting a bit ahead.
For the 5th year, the Oreana Pickett Crick gang hauled everything, including the kitchen sinks (seriously, in the cook trailer), 4 hours away to City of Rocks National Reserve in southeast Idaho, to put on the multi-day City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride. One of those years we did it twice, 6 weeks apart, for the multi-day then the AERC National Championship. We've about got it down now. This time I think collectively we only forgot a bottle of hand lotion and a bar of soap.
This year, honorary Pickett Cricksters Matt and Terrence Nicholes came along as the Super Help. And we will never put on the ride again without them!
Attendance was good, and the weather was good if you consider nobody got caught riding in thunderstorms (except for Connie, who got caught in one AGAIN, on a training ride on Monday before the ride started). It got pretty warm and muggy on day 1, but cloud cover and breezes helped on days 2 and 3.
Day 1's trails headed south into Utah through the little farming community of Yost. Located in a farmed valley below the Raft River mountains, surrounded by many of the old wagon trails that immigrants followed westward in the late 1800s, the first known white settlers in this valley were cowboy and cattleman Charles Yost and farmer Levi Nelson Campbell in 1879. The community officially became Yost in 1890 with the establishment of a post office.
Around 1880 Fannie Marilla Garner Tracy and her 8 children had settled in the area. Descendants of the Tracy family remain in the area; the Tracy General Store in nearby Almo has been in business since 1894 (originally owned and operated by the Harry and William Eames families). It's eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
All 12 starters finished the 35 miler on Day 1, with Lee Ann Clarke and Onyx's Paloma Plata winning the ride and fourth place Carolyn Roberts and Mac taking Best Condition.
Christoph Schork on GE Pistol Annie and Jill Haunold on Solara SS tied for first place in the 55 miler in 5:00 flat, with Solara SS winning Best Condition. 26 of 29 finished the ride.
Day 2's trail took riders through a part of City of Rocks National Reserve, and to and around Castle Rocks State Park.
The racing mules were on hand for the LD, with Jill Hedt and the mule War Eagle winning in 2:58. Trinity Jackson escorted a slew of Junior mule riders to second through sixth places. War Eagle won the Best Condition award. 25 of 26 riders finished.
Jill Haunold and Solara SS won day 2's 50 miler, and the Best Condition award again. 21 of 23 riders completed the ride. The two last place (ribbon-pulling drag) riders fought over Turtle. I lost. Connie and Phinneas won that spot and the coveted turtle award, a handmade turtle pillow donated by Tonya Stroud.
Day 3's trail covered the height and breadth of City of Rocks National Reserve, climbing to Indian Grove at 7500 feet, and following the historic Emigrant and California Trails through the park.
All 24 starters finished the LD, with Kathleen Hite, riding the horse An Instigator FA, edging out the mules to win in 2:42. The slew of mules finished second through sixth again. Three first timers from Mackee, Idaho, finished eighth through tenth, and their horses - an Araloosa, a Quarter Horse, and a gorgeous dark palomino Morgan - were superbly condition and smartly ridden. Lenie Wilkie, riding Trigger, won Best Condition.
There was a 3-way tie for first in the 50 in 5:06, with Christoph Schork (riding Medinah MHF), Julie Muscutt (riding Satin Image AZ), and Errol Fife (riding OMR Pristine). Satin Image AZ won Best Condition. 27 of 29 completed the ride.
And this is where the "F" word comes in. When Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar crossed the finish line in 14th place in a time of 6:15, and passed the vet check, the 18-year-old gelding reached the laudable Five Thousand AERC mile mark.
Only around 300 horses in the sport of endurance have reached the remarkable 5000 mileage plateau; and Fire Mt Malabar has done his with a heavyweight rider. The 18-year-old gelding now has a record of 88 completions in 94 starts over his 10-season career, with 42 endurance Best Condition awards (which is 3rd highest ever).
Malabar is by by Sierra Fadwah +/ , the first stallion to reach 7000 endurance miles, the Jim Jones Award winner in 1983, Reserve National Middleweight Champion in 1988, and 1992 AERC Hall of Fame recipient.
Lee and Malabar earned Decade Team status in the 2016 Tough Sucker, adding to their resume of 2013 Heavyweight 100-mile National Champions, and 2011 National Best Condition winners (with 12 BCs).
You can read a 2013 story on Lee and Malabar here.
There were a number of other happy incidents at this year's City of Rocks ride.
A bit of impromptu music popped up in the evenings, featuring a grand reunion of U3: the Unofficial Unauthorized Uninvited Bluegrass band. We (Steph, Gretchen, me) morphed into the City of RockStars when we were joined by Connie Holloway, Terrence Nicoles, Clay Teeter, Robert Washington, and Anne Perkins and Jerry (a great duo on their own!).
Several newbies completed their first rides, and are candidates for becoming endurance addicts.
Christoph Schork won his 294th and 295th AERC rides (yes, you read that right!).
Eight riders completed all 3 days of the ride (3 in the LDs; 5 in the 50s). Jessica Huber and Channteuse had the fastest overall 3-day LD time of 12:01. In the 50s, Crockett Dumas aboard OT Rasa RSI and Terry Bannister aboard Ferrari had the fastest overall 3-day time of 21:56. Winning the coveted Getaway Horse/overall Best Condition award in the LD was Carolyn Roberts and Mac. Nance Worman and Amirah Khafazeh Bly got it in the 50s.
There were also a few minor casualties during the ride: on Day 1 Ericka from Nevada came off her horse and got a concussion on the first day and spent the night in the hospital; also on day 1 Drin from Montana got heat stroke on the first day (though she was able to complete days 2 and 3); also on day 1 veterinarian Robert Washington did a non-injurious but very humorous face plant in the extra tall green bunch grass while rescuing Drin; the Nicoles boys' motorcycle died; one of our ATVs died (R.I.P.).
But yes, we will probably rise to the occasion yet again to put on the City of Rocks ride.
It "is a must for any one mounted or a foot. Spectacular," Crockett Dumas said. "One of the most spectacular rides Terry Banister and I have ever ridden." And that's saying something, coming from Crockett, a legendary rider with over 41,000 miles of endurance!
Put this Fun, Fabulous, Fantastic, not-to-be-missed ride on your calendar for next year.
More coverage and photos are at
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
May 14 2016
The record would have been reached at the Eagle Canyon ride two weeks ago, but that one turned out to be too muddy for us to ride.
So it was the 55-mile Owyhee River Challenge where Jose Viola (affectionally alternatively known as José, Hose B, The Hoser, Josie, Sneaky Pie Brown, Little Bunny Foo Foo, Mister, or Buster, and formerly known as Joseph Coat of Many Colors [seriously!]) would go for his 4000 mile AERC mark.
Steph gave me the honors of reaching the 4000 miles on this 15-year-old, mostest sway-backedest gelding you've ever seen in an endurance horse. Seeing as his back could become an issue, Steph wanted to retire him when he's on top of his game, and this 4000-mile ride would be his last.
He's carried 11 different riders, and one Raven, over his 10-year career, with only 2 pulls in 85 starts. Jose and I and The Raven share over 2000 miles together. He's one of the most intelligent horses I've ever been around. He's fun and forward and easy to ride and extremely trustworthy - in other words, just the perfect horse, in my opinion. He's just The Best.
The whole Pickett Crick gang came to the ride; Linda and Ted were riding the LD, and Steph/Smokey and Carol/August and me/Jose and Connie/DWA Saruq and Sarah/Dessie came to ride the 55. Start was at 6:30 AM, and we were sure hoping it wasn't going to be as hot and still and muggy as it was on Friday as we vetted in.
The horses were all feeling good and zipped along in the golden sunrise, with cliffs of the Owyhee River canyon behind us. We climbed up to a plateau where we had some good footing, beautiful scenery, and biting gnats that tried to suck the tastiest blood around your ears and hairline.
After a while, Steph and Carol and I caught up with Connie and Sarah and rode with or near them for most of the rest of the ride. Up and down hills and draws we rode on this single big loop ride, making our way to the Owyhee River where we could water our horses. We went beneath a giant aqueduct, that Smokey wanted nothing to do with, and came around a corner to some spectacular rhyolite cliffs where the river did a bend.
Jose has no trouble with water crossings. In fact, he loves water. Any time I'm giving any other horse a bath, he comes up for a hosing. In fact, I can hold the water hose stream still, and he will turn himself in circles to give himself a bath.
But Jose wanted nothing to do with this Owyhee river. In fact he was highly suspicious of the water canals we rode alongside, and he did not like the sight of those tunnels where the water disappeared underground! I had to work on seriously convincing him to go into the river, but he was not taking a drink out of this thing, no sir, no way Jose. We did stop at a safe little water crossing a short distance away where he quenched his thirst.
Back onto some washes and road, hills and more washes and roads, and back alongside a suspicious canal, we came to a fork in the 2-track road, but no trail markings. We knew the vet check was somewhere fairly close up ahead, but there was no indication on which fork in the road to take. For lack of a better choice, we followed the people ahead of us, who were also guessing which way to go, though we were always wondering if we should turn back and go try the other road, to see if there were any ribbon markings on that one.
Turned out we were on the correct one (at least one person ahead of us had taken the wrong turn and went miles out of his way), and we could soon see the vet check below us along the river. We descended the road and crossed a concrete bridge over the river, a miniature Owyhee version of No Hands Bridge without railing, and we had our hour hold vet check at about the halfway point.
Around 8 of us left the vet check and rode more or less together along the upper canal. After a mile or two, Smokey suddenly spooked at something to the right. Steph looked to the right, and saw a ribbon! It turned out to be a trail turn-off that wasn't marked! We were lucky Smokey spooked, because we would have blown by the turn. (Although, in hindsight maybe we were unlucky that we saw this turn.)
We hollered at the 2 riders ahead of us that they missed the turn, but they didn't hear us and kept going. Well, it turned out that everybody in front of us had missed this turn, because there were NO horse tracks on this loop. I am experienced at reading tracks, because I read them all the time for amusement in the desert terrain where I live; and leading the way up this first wash, I could clearly see there were only cow tracks in the wash. Jose and I were covering virgin trail, it appeared. In fact, our group almost turned around several times because there were no other horse tracks, though we did see the occasional trail marking that indicated this indeed must be the correct way.
We lost the trail a couple of times but one of the six of us would luckily find it again. Good thing we were all together because it often took one of the 12 human eyeballs to find a painted rock or piece of baling twine. Sometimes we just had to guess where to go, and we'd eventually luck out and find a marker. When the trail came out onto a dirt road, ALL of us clearly saw that there were ZERO horse hoof prints on this big climb to the power lines. We still kept wondering if we could possibly be on the correct trail, since nobody else had come this way, and since we couldn't find any more markings. One would think this would be easy to mark with an ATV if this were correct. We split up several times looking for ribbons or hoof prints in other directions, but it wasn't until Tamara caught up with us again that she indicated that this was the correct way to be going.
I was with a group of riders with over 50,000 combined miles of endurance experience - including international riders, Hall of Famers, and National Champions, and it was pretty safe to conclude that when there were NO TRACKS, and no horse poop anywhere on our trail, indicating everyone in front of us had gone off trail, and by AERC rules they would either have to come back out and make it up, or at the finish go out and make up the mileage they missed to get a completion, this put us in the lead of the ride, oh my!
Same thing happened to me and Steph at the Eagle ride a couple of years ago - the three riders in the lead went off trail, and that left Steph in me in the front as the leaders, and ultimately the winners of the ride, AND Jose Viola got Best Condition.
Same thing happened to me at one of our Owyhee rides, only it was me who was off trail. A friend and I finished first in the LD, but we had to go back out and do the last little loop correctly, and we lost our placing. It happens. Them's the rules, and that's the luck.
Wasn't it cool that we now had a bit of a chance for that to happen here too, a win and a/or a BC, on Jose's last ride before his retirement!?
But there was no racing amongst ourselves yet to sort out who might be the winner, and anyway the finish line was a long way away. We still needed all our eyeballs to keep on a trail or find trail markings. Sometimes we could trot, other times we had to walk. We still had Tamara to at least tell us what direction we should be riding; and, still riding in front on Jose, I sort of took a mental compass bearing and headed that way. Occasionally I would see a broken branch of something that had once possibly been painted, so I kept heading that direction.
We got to a canal that Jose did not want any part of and he threw in a big spook, which he rarely does. This canal had another one of those black tunnels that sucked the water in a noisy scary whoosh down to Hades, and any intelligent horse in his right mind with a great imagination would be wary of that. I calmed him down enough to get him close to the canal where I dismounted, and after a couple of other horses took a drink, he decided it was safe enough to drink, too.
From there we didn't know where to go because nobody could find any markings, and again Tamara was able to at least tell us what direction to go. We were headed back down to the road below us - the one we had left to go on this flagged loop that everybody else had missed - and as we made our way down to the road, oh my, there were all the hoof prints that were missing from our trail. Every one of those riders had all just stayed on the road, cutting this 2 to 3 mile detour out and doing an easy half mile to this point. How unfortunate, in so many ways. I'm sure none of them knew they missed the turn.
But anyway. Horses were going great, weather was great. Cool, overcast, breezy, threatening rain but not raining, slight chance of thunderstorms, but no lightning or thunder!
And then I said, "Wow, I just felt a big raindrop on my arm!" But as it turned out, it was not a raindrop. It was one of the greatest things ever happened to me on an endurance ride. As we rode onward, Jose zipping along merrily at his happy trot, I happened to catch a glimpse of my arm, upon which there was a big white splotch. Like, a big white splotch with black splotches in it. Whoa! BIRD POOP ON MY ARM!!! WHAT ARE THE ODDS!!!! How lucky was I to be at that exact right place at the exact right time??? And the poop probably even came from a Raven!!!!! That was just the best luck ever.
Our horses clipped right along - all of us, I'm sure, wondering in the back of our minds now who amongst us might win the ride since the others were off trail and we were in front - along single track trails through lush grass and flowers, over 2-track roads, up and down hill and dell, through some scenic mushroom rocks, over more hills and dells, then to the series of big steep hills, down and up, down and up. They were the Owyhee version of the Virginia City 100 SOBs (Sonsabitches), though these were rather pleasantly long and steep, and the weather was pleasantly breezy and cool, unlike in the Virginia City 100 where it's also bloody hot when you hit those short, very steep gnarly hills. The horses grabbed grass as we worked those hills. I jumped off Jose for every downhill but let him have the honor of carrying me up them, since he's the finely tuned athlete, and I am not.
After more hills and miles and pretty scenery, we climbed the last hill which would take us into the vet check. Connie and Sarah were ahead of us and were going to win their first ride. In fact, we 5 Crick People were going to going to have the first Crick Sweep ever! Steph pulled out her camera to record Jose and me and The Raven cross the finish line for his 4000 miles. And in 3rd place to boot! Steph and Carol commented that The Raven and I both had the same happy expression.
The other 7 riders ahead of us who had missed trail and mileage had already finished, and some had shown for BC already, or would be shortly. The ride manager was not in camp but was instead out doing the ride near the back of the pack, and there wasn't a day manager appointed who could address the issue. But we trusted that it would be sorted out correctly, and several of us decided to show for BC.
I waited for Jose's 10 minute CRI to do my completion exam, and when Robert confirmed Jose had finished the ride, we all gave a big cheer, Steph and I shared a hug, and then I gave my most amazing pal Jose a big big hug for all the wonderful miles he's given me over the years. He is just one amazing horse.
And when Jose's CRI came up as 44-48, I knew Jose had a shot at BC! Though my light weight is always what foils me. Well, in all the 3 or 4 times I've ever showed for BC in my career.
Connie and Sarah had never won a ride before. Sarah was thrilled. And since neither they nor I hardly ever show for BC, we had fun with it. Steph showed also, and after we brought our horses back for the hour BC judging, then we remembered we had to weigh in with all our tack. (Like I said, we rarely do this, so almost forgot to weigh in.) So, much to the amusement of the vets and the people at the finish line, we had a Hillbilly Weigh In, where I stole Regina's truck, we loaded up all our tack onto the truck, drove back to the finish line, and weighed in. I could not believe I weighed less than Junior Sarah! My tack sure felt heavy.
In the end, the results of the ride were not changed, even though few people involved were questioned. Which is very disappointing, since my horse/our 6 horses all worked hard in doing all 55 miles of the sanctioned 55 mile ride. Yes, in hindsight now, it is indeed too bad Smokey spooked where she did, and too bad it caused Steph to see that ribbon, because had we also accidentally blown by that extra hard several-mile loop, it ultimately turned out that would have been acceptable. It was rather bittersweet, knowing we had done everything right and yet it felt to me like we were penalized for doing the correct trail and mileage.
Jose did not have a shot at BC and retire in an extra big blaze of glory. However, the day will be forever remembered in that Connie and Sarah had their greatest Un-Win ever! And it was the greatest Crick Un-Sweep ever!
And anyway, it was all about The Hoser. This ride will also be remembered as the day that Jose, this wonderful, smart, fun, funny, incomparable Jose Viola, crossed the AERC plateau of 4000 miles, something less than 500 endurance horses have ever done.
You're the Best Jose, the Best!
More photos at http://www.endurance.net/international/USA/2016OwyheeRiverChallenge/