My husband and I debated for quite a while about doing the Fun Ride (15 miles) or the LD (25 miles) at Run For The Gold this year. We did the fun ride last year and planned to come back and do the LD this year. However, Eugene had never been to anything like an endurance ride. We weren’t sure how he’d handle vetting or other horses passing him on the trail or even how well he’d do at ride camp.
When’s the best time to find out if your green broke Mustang will handle being high-tied overnight?
A. Practice at home in advance
B. Try it at an overnight camping trip with pens available as a back up
C. Try it for the first time at ride camp in a giant field filled with 50+ trailers and horses
Given all the mental challenges he’d be facing, we finally decided to just do the fun ride. I tried to convince my husband we could just go ride for 15 miles at home or go camping somewhere and not pay for an AERC ride, but he wanted Eugene to experience all the sights and sounds of the ride and the vetting. Which was a fair point.
My husband had to work so we didn’t hit the road until about 1pm, but thankfully there was very little traffic so we got to the ride a little before 5pm. The ride camp was almost full already, but we snagged a good spot at the far end. It was a long walk to the food/meetings/vet, but this way Eugene was less exposed to the foot and car traffic the closer horses had to deal with.
I had one of those weird feelings for the whole drive where I was convinced we were missing something. But I had triple checked helmets, food, saddles, bridles, etc. Well it turns out I had forget to pack the straps for the HiTies. So not only were we tying Eugene overnight for the first time, we had to do it with regular lead ropes and not the nice elastic, adjustable ties designed to go with the HiTies. Thankfully, they both tied very nicely all weekend and didn’t break themselves, the trailer, or any halters/lead ropes.
I went up and checked in and got our paperwork and then we took the ponies up to get vetted in. Eugene’s is still really spooky about strange people. We keep buying scary toys for him and he’s getting much more relaxed about things like that, but strange people are still terrifying. So the vet check was pretty scary. My husband explained to the vet that he was a newly broke Mustang and had never been to a ride before. Her comment was that she could tell from his eyes. Which she was nice enough to not say were totally crazed. Nilla was totally nonplussed by the whole thing and was mostly just annoyed any time the vet wanted her head to not be in the grass.
Both ponies vetted in with all A’s. We were going to return to the trailer, but we finally found the ride farrier. My husband had gone looking for him earlier, but he hadn’t been at his truck and no one knew where he was. When we finished vetting, we found him eating dinner and asked if he could nail EasyShoes onto Eugene. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought the shoes up with us so I walked all the way back to the trailer (it’s like a 5 minute walk each way) to get them. I tried tying Nilla up to leave her there and she literally sat down and then proceeded to rear in place while sitting. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve taken her to rides and shows by herself before so I was unprepared for this level of craziness, but apparently if Eugene was there, she needed to be with him. I had to untie her and bring her all the way back to stand around while Eugene got shod.
When’s the best way to shoe a green broke Mustang that has never been shod before and is terrified of strangers?
A. At home with your regular farrier sometime in advance of a ride
B. If you have to wait until the ride at least do it back at the trailer or in a remote corner of camp
C. Just stand him in the middle of the vet check area and where everyone is eating dinner.
He was wide eyed and braced, but I was seriously impressed with how he handled it. The ride farrier had never actually seen the nail on EasyShoes and didn’t feel comfortable doing them, but a friend of our farrier who is also a farrier was at the ride and he agreed to tack them on for us. What a great guy! He also went on to both sponsor a junior and win BC in the LD the next day. And that’s how Eugene ended up with brand new EasyShoes on the night before the ride.
We finally got to put the ponies away at the trailer with their mashes and hay and go get our own dinners. We caught the tail end of the new rider meeting which we attended last year and then the ride meeting started. I haven’t been to a lot of rides, but I really do like the way this ride is run. The ride manager is hilarious and a great, no nonsense sort of person. She went over the trails and the markings and then rules for the day. It was really an overload of information as this is the most well-marked ride I’ve ever been on. But we also listened intently and then headed off to bed.
The other nice thing about being at the far end of the field was this great view of sunset. After watching the sun set, I climbed in to the truck to read for a bit and then it started getting a lot colder than I thought it was going to be so we decided to blanket the horses.
What’s the best way to blanket your green broke Mustang for the first time ever?
A. Slowly introduce the concept at home in the arena with room for him to move around and get used to the feel/noise of the blanket
B. If you have to do it at the ride, present the blanket during daylight with one person holding him – so he’s not hard-tied – and the other blanketing him
C. Approach him in the dark with headlamps on so you look like aliens and then try to convince him the flappy blanket you’re trying to tie to his body is not going to kill him
Surprisingly we actually got the blanket on him without breaking anything/anyone. We finally got to sleep with the plan to get up at 6am to give the ponies and us plenty of time to be ready for the 8am start. We had time to give the ponies their hay and mash, eat bagels and cream cheese, get dressed, tack up, and head over.
We did not want to be part of the rush of horses going out, but we did want Eugene to see some of the action, so we walked over to the bridge out of camp right at 8. There were 4 horses out in the field just leaving as we walked up. There was also another woman standing around the timer area like us. We mounted up and walked out slowly probably around 8:10.
The next challenge was getting past the ride photographer. She was in the field right at the beginning of the ride and was very visible from a distance. Eugene was eyeing her, but carrying on until she clicked the shutter and then he was suddenly 10 feet sideways into the high grass. My husband somehow stuck that sideways teleportation and I made Nilla lead on past to get past the photographer although even with Nilla leading, Eugene needed a lot of back and forth and persuasion to go past.
We finally hit the trail and then remembered to start the GPS. Eugene was freaking out about every cut log so I actually had to take my husband’s phone from him to start the tracker. Due to the delay, the track is about .5 miles short. It’s essentially the same ride as last year except the lollipop at the end was the other direction last year.
About 2 miles in we saw the first 50 miler heading back to base camp from the 1st loop. They started at 6am, so he was on track to do 25 miles including a gate and go stop in less than 2.5 hours. He went on to get not only 1st place, but also BC so his horse was fit! A horse coming towards Eugene was terrifying though. Thankfully we were on a wide logging road at this point and could move far over.
After the 50 miler, we passed the trot-by vet check. The vet was sitting in a truck on the side of the road. This was terrifying. Then we passed some more 50 milers going the other direction. Which were terrifying. Everything was terrifying to Eugene.
I have say, this is the most well marked ride I’ve ever been on. There are ribbons everywhere. And every turn has pie plates with writing and arrows on them. And most wrong turns are marked off with lines of flour across the trail. There are also flour arrows in some places. As we were coming up on a turn after the vet check we saw another fun rider far in front of us stopped at a junction. There were like 20 ribbons on the left hand trail as it was both in an out and both yellow and pink loop. The right hand trail had absolutely no ribbons on it. The rider stopped, pulled out her map, looked at it, put it away and then proceeded to go right. We were too far away to tell her without screaming so we just watched her go. Thankfully the trail she took connected to our, she just went an extra distance and ended up behind us. But I’m pretty sure she would be totally lost at any other ride.
This ride is really nice. Most of the trail is wide logging or jeep roads. And it’s really well shaded. When we weren’t faced with scary things, Eugene was loving it. He was just trucking along annoyed anytime we made him stop. Unless we were stopping at the frequent water stops. Then he was happy to play.
We carried on through the gorgeous shady trees. At one point we were passed by the fun rider who had been waiting at the timer with us in the morning. She was on a TWH who was just flying along. We also rode for a bit with a 50 miler who was turtling along on his TWH. He wasn’t going that slow (about to finish the 25 in 4.5 hours) but as we neared base camp, there were a lot of front runner heading back out the the 2nd loop after their 1 hour holds and he was still finishing the first. His horse was really cute though: a big, black and white TWH. I told my husband I think I want my next horse to be another TWH. I just really like their mentality. Plus the gaiting. I have not heard great things about the TWH mules, so I don’t know how I’ll combine my mule and TWH obsessions.
My husbanded managed to take zero pictures of me on this loop so you’ll have to wait for the pro photos. I absolutely loved this photographer last year so I’m really looking forward to seeing her pictures this year.
As we approached base camp, I was telling my husband he needed to remember to unclip his vest before dismounting as we didn’t want the air vest to go off by accident and waste a canister (and probably terrify Eugene with the noise). When we got to the photographer, I lead past and Eugene was less bothered by her being on the other side of the trail.
When is it most likely that you’ll fall off at your Mustang’s first ever endurance ride?
A. When your mustang teleports 10 feet sideways at the ride photographer
B. During some of the technical trail sections with steep hills or drop-offs
C. When you’re walking calmly across a flat field less than 50 yards from the end timers
We made it past the photographer and then past the little pie plate saying start/finish, but the actual timers were another 50 yards across the field. As we were walking along, Eugene tripped in a hole and face-planted going all the way down to his knees . And my husband rolled right off over his neck activating his vest. I was yelling at my husband to praise Eugene as it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t spooked or done anything wrong and he didn’t even spook at the vest going off. He’s probably never had anyone fall off before and I didn’t want him to get upset.
The blue tent through the gate is the timers. So that’s how my husband managed to fall off at the absolute end of the ride. It’s the equivalent of making it through a jumping round and then falling off while walking out of the arena. He was totally fine though. He actually loved the vest and said it made it feel like falling onto a cushion. He’s fallen in the Airowear before and said it helps, but the fall still hurts. This was nice in comparison. Unfortunately, the damned canisters cost $25 a pop so that was a pretty pricey fall.
We clocked in at 10:38 (which was great considering we didn’t actually start at 8), so we managed the 15 miles in about 2.5 hours. As we checked in, I started to walk Nilla over to a pulse taker and the volunteers were telling us to go get them sponged and strip their tack and let them drink. I figured she was pulsed down, but whatever, I wasn’t in a race, so I took her over to get a drink. I did not strip or sponge her though as I wanted to do that at the trailer. My husband took Eugene over to the vet for pulsing and he was at 66. The pulse criteria was supposed to be 60 for everyone except for 68 for the 50 milers at finish. Well, the vet was confused and thought everyone could be at 68 for finish and said Eugene was done. And we tried telling her otherwise, but the ride manager came by and told us not to argue with the vet. Okay…
I asked for a pulse on Nilla and she was at 44. So yeah, I think I could have just walked her straight to the pulsers. We took the ponies back to the trailer to strip tack and sponge them and then walked back to do the vet check. There was mass confusion as the vet doing Eugene’s check was saying he shouldn’t have been considered finished at 66. The ride manager was there so we explained what happened and she confirmed. The other vet doing checks said since he was doing the fun ride she didn’t care if his pulse was at 80 if he was eating and happy. Which he was. His pulse was also down by this point.
One thing I was really excited about what that they were doing Best Condition for the fun ride. The ride manager said she didn’t want to do a first place prize since any idiot could run their horses for 15 miles. She wanted to reward BC. I told my husband in advance that I hoped we could win as the prize was a vial of gold. Get it? Run For The Gold! They gave these out to the top 10 riders last year and I really wanted one. Anyway, there were only 8 fun ride entrants so I was saying we had a 1 in 8 chance of winning and my husband said, no, between the two of us we have a 1 in 4 chance. Sweet!
For the BC contest, we got to do a full BC vet check complete with CRI. Nilla was all As except B for cap refill. Her start pulse for her CRI was 48, which was actually a bit higher than it was at the finish, but I think she was worried about Eugene trotting off at that moment. So we trotted out and back for the CRI and her second pulse was 36. 36! The vet’s comment was “I checked it twice because I didn’t believe it.” The mule is an endurance machine. Eugene was also all As except for cap refill, but my husband didn’t remember what his CRI was. Eugene’s pulse was down from the finish though.
As we left the vet check, Nilla felt that she needed to roll again. She’d already done so about 5 times, but this nice soft hay field was just too tempting so down she went. And then she decided it was nice down there and maybe she could just stay down there and eat some hay.
She is the most ridiculous mule ever.
Since this post is already super long, I’m going to cut it off here, but stay tuned for the next post where we decide to go back out for another 10 miles and find out how the BC contest went.
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