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/
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Saturday April 23 2016
Well, it didn't all go quite as planned. Layne Simmons and her husband Phil, and family, and friends, put a lot of work as a new ride manager into reviving the retired/passed on Eagle Canyon (formerly Eagle Extreme) ride north of Eagle, Idaho. Every ride manager knows, and most endurance riders know, at least an inkling of all the work she did planning, interacting with generous land owners who let us ride on their property, measuring and marking trail, arranging volunteers, preparing food and awards.
Everything was all ready for the April 23 ride.
And then the weather happened.
Five of us Owyhee'uns from up the Crick headed to Eagle on Friday, with lots of clothes packed for the predicted rain and wind that would probably hit. No problem, we've ridden in rain and wind before. Junior Sarah flew in at the last minute from Seattle to ride her horse Dessie with Aunt Connie and DWA Saruq. Carol brought August; Steph would be riding Smokey, and she gave me the honors (pressure??!!) of riding Jose Viola, who is sitting on 3,985 miles. Completing this 50 would vault him over the 4000-mile mark. No pressure, really, for me and The Raven. Jose is an easy dream ride.
We all vetted in Friday under intermittently dark waves of clouds, but it never rained. We all hoped it would just hold off. We couldn't get cell reception to check with NOAA again, so, no worries. We got things ready for the morning, and put blankets on the horses, just in case. I laid out my rain clothes for the morning. No problem.
It did start raining during the night. It rained and rained, and the only time it stopped raining, it dumped. By the time we got up to get ready for the 8 AM start, it was still raining, cold, starting to blow, and horses were all shivering wet chickens under their blankets.
It wasn't the cold and wind for this Ice Princess that made me not want to ride. It wasn't the wet fuzzy-seated saddle my butt would sit in, because that would warm up and dry out soon enough. There were plenty of other factors to think about. We drove all this way, and of course we should ride. We are tough endurance riders, so of course we should ride. We are experienced endurance riders, so of course we should ride. Our horses are fit, of course we should ride. If we backed out, that would be a blow to Layne and all the work she did for the ride.
All of this factored in, but ultimately it was the footing I was worried about. I've ridden in mud, and I'd just as soon avoid it. It just takes one slip, and your horse can be done.
But we weren't the only ones considering not riding. A lot of people crowded into Layne's trailer in the morning, discussing options. She could delay the start an hour - though that wouldn't change the trails at all. She could, by the rules, delay the start for 24 hours. But while that would give the trails time to dry out with the big winds coming, that wouldn't help her numbers any, since most people had to leave at the end of the day or by Sunday morning anyway.
We felt really bad for Layne, after all the work she did, but in the end, for us, we felt it was in the best interest of our horses not to ride. There are more rides. Jose is not in a hurry to get his 4000 miles. August is getting older. Smokey is still young, with plenty of miles ahead of her.
Sarah was bound and determined to ride no matter what, so she and aunt Connie went out on the 50, prepared to take it as slowly as necessary, while Steph and Carol and I played cards (Hate Your Neighbor) in the trailer, visited with the other people hanging around camp, and waited for Sarah and Connie to come in off their first 25-mile loop.
They took over 5 hours for that loop, having to negotiate some slick hills and boggy spots carefully, but so far so good. They'd continue onward. Carol stayed to wait for them, while Steph and I packed up and hauled Jose and Smokey and August home, to wait for another day, another ride.
Things don't always work out as you plan in endurance, but we felt confident we made the right decision for us.
15 riders started the 50, with 9 finishing. Lynne Frederickson won on Tezero's Taconite, with ride manager Layne finishing with her in 2nd on Royal Image, perhaps a slight consolation for the weather. Tamara Basinger and HHR Jammazon finished 3rd and got Best Condition, their second in a row. Three riders at or near the front at the halfway point pulled (one Rider Option and two Lame), and one was sadly lame at the finish. A couple of others pulled as Rider Option.
9 riders started the 25, with 7 finishing. Jill Haunold on Penny's Isabella finished first and got Best Condition.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Monday, April 11, 2016
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
April 2 2016
For the first time in recorded history, winners of the glorious* Idaho Owyhee Tough Sucker endurance rides of 25 and 50 miles were awarded 4WD vehicles. Linda Kluge and Ted won the grueling** 25-mile ride and Best Condition, and Tamara Baysinger and HMR Jammazon won the grueling** 50-mile ride and Best Condition.
The Top 5 finishers in each distance also received 4WD vehicles - though there was some horse trading going on, when a few were not present to receive their great awards, and another lady not in the Top 5 had a grandchild who really wanted a 4WD.
The fierce competitors were well-dressed, including Mike Cobbley in bright blue and black Crazy Legs tights, which I complimented as we passed each other on the trail. (This must be the only sport where you can go up to a guy and say, "Hay, I really like your tights," and he says, "Hay, thanks" without either of you thinking the other is totally weird.)
Attendees, including top officials of Belesemo Arabians and Drinkers of the Wind Arabians, were duly impressed as they witnessed the competitiveness and best-dressedness of these illustrious competitive endurance riders and their handsome steeds.
After being awarded her 25-mile 4WD vehicle and precious Championship prizes (a pretty horsie plate and a Tough Sucker coffee mug), Champion rider Linda gave a speech. "I got Ted into shape by dragging a mule behind us up and down these hills. In this ride, he didn't have to drag a mule." He finished the 25 miles in 3:46.***
"He didn't have to drag his Ass," a helpful rider contributed.
Jammer outraced a couple of racing mules. The Mule Gals showed up and kept on Champion rider Tamara's tail for the first loop, but she and Jammer gained some time on them in the vet check, and they had loop 2 to themselves, finishing in 5:51***.
Catherine Lee, a Junior on the mule Irish, finished second nearly an hour later. Her mule partner, ridden by Trinity Jackson riding Out of Idaho, didn't pulse down in time for a completion. Tamara's later comment was, "Two triumphs today: Jammer won first place and Best Condition at Tough Sucker and I only missed a couple spots with the sunscreen. Win-win."
Finishing in 8th place, Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar achieved illustrious Decade Team status. Congrats! You might remember that duo as 2013 Heavyweight 100-mile National Champions, or 2011 National Best Condition winners (with 12 BCs). Lee rode and finished with his wife Naomi Preston, who, as a busy Eagle City Councilwoman and owner of Eagle's Wild West Bakery and Espresso (only The Best Cafe in Idaho), got to ride for the first time in forever, on JAC Redtail, aka Buddy. "Felt GREAT!" she said.
This of course unfolded way ahead of me and Dudley on the 50. We rode with Connie and Phinneas (a bundle of Muscle who tugged on Connie the whole way even though he's 18 years old now) and Junior Sarah on Dessie.
Regina had kept The Dude on his Tough Love Diet while I was away down south for much of the winter, so I have her to thank for having only the task of getting Dudley in shape for the Tough Sucker, and not getting him in shape AND losing weight.
While Dudley has clearly lost a gazillion pounds and looks almost like a totally normal horse now (he just carries a bit of neck crest as a trophy of his by-gone Fat Days), Robert the vet still called him a "7 - Fleshy." We all pshawed that and proclaimed Dudley a "6 - Moderately Fleshy", because he has worked so hard over the years, he deserves it. Robert did concede that Dudley was not the fattest horse at the ride, which was not always the case!
It was a superb day in the Owyhee desert - blue skies, cool enough, a little breeze when it warmed up later in the day, and grass galore on the trail. Any horse could get at least a "B" on gut sounds if they stopped to snack now and then. Dudley's biggest goal in an endurance ride is to get "A" on his gut sounds. He did get all A's on his 4 gut quadrants after the first loop, and finished with B's in all 4. Dudley recognizes there is room for improvement on his gut sounds and is willing to diligently work on that.
Loop 1 took riders toward the Snake River into the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. After an hour vet check in camp, Loop 2 headed south and west alongside and then above Hart Creek on some of our most scenic trails.
All 17 riders finished the 25, and 23 of 24 riders finished the 50. "This historic Tough Sucker event saw a wide participation of the elite riders in the world of endurance, or at least the elite riders of Idaho and Oregon and thereabouts," said some official, "but the high level and determination by the riders reflects their eagerness to compete strongly to win the trophies."
"Oh, and the other best part of the weekend, besides the great riding and horses and trails was the evening jamming with the Pickett Crick Ramblers. They are truly spectacular to behold*."
*they are, really!
**they aren't, really
***not really races, you see