Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2016 Eagle Canyon

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.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

2016 Tough Sucker

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