Sunday, September 30, 2007

Owyhee Canyonlands - Hart Creek Day Five

Saturday September 9 2007


Day 5 of the Owyhee Canyonlands ride was a day of laughs and cheers and tears - all good.

The morning started out blustery and cold - hard to get out of that warm bed in the morning - but beautiful and sunny. No rain last night down here in the canyon, but a very light powder-dusting of snow on the Owyhee Front Range mountains, with remains of a few storm clouds hanging over.

56 riders, 38 on the 50 and 18 on the 30, braved the cold winds - which lasted throughout the day and could threaten to blow you off your horse on the ridges - bundled in layers of clothing, some of the horses wearing butt blankets, warming up well before the starts.

Connie rode Cap'n again, and I rode Rushcreek Mac again, on the LD. The first loop took us up out of Pickett Creek onto the eastern plateau, along the beautiful Rim Trail overlooking Hart Creek. We hadn't gone more than 5 miles when Mac went ouchie on some rocks, more than once, so I abandoned the trail, turned off and took a shortcut home with him. Being a Nebraska ranch horse all his life, he's been barefoot till he came here - apparently Nebraska does not have rocks. I was bummed to miss the rest of the trail, down along Hart Creek, back up a steep, narrow ridge, and another rim loop trail for loop 2, but I've been lucky enough to see these trails already. Besides, it was just as well for Connie and Cap'n, because Cap'n (aka Deckhand), who always wants to be the boss, was having FITS because Mac, the lowest horse on the totem pole, was allowed to go in FRONT of him for a while. Connie reported later that as soon as we parted ways, Cap'n was the perfect gentleman to ride.

Mac and I had a nice stroll back to camp. He stopped to take in the view a couple of times, one of which was Steph on the 4-wheeler far below on Bates Creek Road, leading a rider-less horse back to camp. Uh-oh. Apparently rider and horse had parted ways up on the rim to the west, and the horse had taken off east a few miles, perhaps thinking he'd head back to his barn in Elko, Nevada. Both horse and rider were unscathed.

13 riders completed the 30, including Connie, and Gretchen Montgomery who accompanied her friend Debbie on her first endurance ride ever, and Bruce Worman, riding Steph's big old great gelding Nature's Khruschev. Krusty is a former international competitor, now semi-retired and a riding horse for Bruce's daughter.

53 riders finished the 50, 9 of them having gone all 5 days. It's quite the accomplishment to ride one horse 4 or 5 days in a row, the horse looking as fit to continue at the finish of the last day as he did at the beginning of the first.

Many people had left ridecamp for home, so they missed out on another good home-cooked meal by the Blue Moon Caterers Deborah and Al, but those people remaining still had a lively time and enjoyable evening.

One of the finishers, Vicki Archer, was especially proud to have completed all 5 days. 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two weeks after finishing up with chemo and radiation, she was here for an Owyhee endurance ride, her husband Jim helping her on and off her horse. Today, getting on and off her horse without help (but with Jim crewing, or riding with her) she celebrated her 5th anniversary of being cancer free, completing one day of an Owyhee ride for every year.

As usual, there were plenty of awards handed out, all finishers getting awards and a hand, and there was Best Condition in the 30's and 50's, highest vet scores, and fastest overall time for the 5-day riders. But there was also a special Vet's Choice award given by Dr Michael Peterson.

He was impressed with all the riders and horses that completed the feat of all 5 days, "but there was one horse and rider that just stood out. If it were ever necessary to grab a horse from someone to escape from the law, I know which one I'd take, and that would be Tom Noll and Frank."

A terrific cheer went up for one of the coolest endurance horses in the Northwest, and one of the most deserving riders to ever put foot in an endurance stirrup. Tom wasn't the only one with tears in his eyes this evening - I expect everybody knows how proud Tom is of his little bay horse. Tom was speechless with the honor and recognition, and we were all just as pleased for the both of them, who do all us endurance riders proud with their ever-optimistic attitudes and admirable accomplishments. Way to go, Frank and Tom.

It Just Don't Get No Better Than This. : )

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