After our fun ride at Run for the Gold, my husband and I were eager to do a real endurance ride. Although technically 25 miles is an LD (limited distance) and not an endurance ride, I think of 25 as being endurance. We scoured the calendar and tried to reconcile our desire to do a ride with other shows and non-horse events we had planned. Unfortunately, the closest rides had been cancelled so we were left with either driving a long ways or not doing anything until August or September. We chose to drive.
The funny thing about google maps is that there’s no way to factor in the different speed limits for trailers. We can’t go above 55 on the highways and we go much slower on windy, back-country roads with or without reduced speed limits. So I knew we weren’t going to get there at 2:24, but I was hoping for maybe 4:00. The drive wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t fun, but we’ve done worse. Luckily, the ride was on Sunday, so we could wait to leave on Saturday and miss the majority of traffic. Unfortunately, it was really, really hot. I felt like I was dying every time I stepped out of the truck. Hell, I was hot in the truck with the A/C on. The ponies had windows opened and we stopped to offer carrots and water, but they were a bit sweaty and wanted off.
We ended up getting there around 4:30 and then the parking fun began. This was a two day ride so the majority of people had arrived the day (or more) before. We checked in with the ride manager and she said there might be spots down at the bottom. So my husband got out to walk down there and check while I stayed with the trailer. Because Nilla will kick/scramble and injure herself in the trailer over rough terrain, I’ve learned it’s best to unload her and walk her through ride camp while my husband parks. As I was standing with her waiting for my husband to come back, another trailer pulled in. The ride manager told me I needed to move our truck, so I took Nilla over to a tree and tied her there. Then, as I am trying to back the truck and trailer up to pull it over to the side, I hear the ride manager screaming at me that I can’t tie my mule there. So I stop the truck and get out to get Nilla and she’s yelling at me that I need to move my truck. OMG, I cannot do both at the same time. I do not like driving the trailer to begin with. I especially hate trying to park it. And trying to do it all while being yelled at is even more stressful.
Anyway, my husband finally returned and there were no spots in the back, so we ended up pulling a U-turn and parking right by the entrance. There was a bit of shade and we were close-ish to the vet and very close to a water tank. Good enough for me.
We gave the horses a bit of time to eat and drink and relax before vetting in. Nilla was clearly stressed though as she vetted in with 3 Bs and 1 A for gut sounds and a pulse of 40. Her resting pulse is usually in the low 30s/high 20s so this was unusual for her. In hind site, I should have fed them their beet pulp before vetting. I am guessing that all the trailering and her stress regarding trailering are giving her ulcers. She already gets a bunch of preventative stuff, but I’m going to have to suck it up and get the expensive stuff and treat them.
The ride meeting was also a pot-luck and announcement of that day’s awards, although some of the 75 milers were still out on the trail. We brought our chicken chili which was a hit. I took a bowl for myself and put it at my chair before getting in line and it was gone by the time we got to the table. The ride meeting was great and the map was really easy to read. I figured we were well set-up for the next day. So we went back to the trailer to mess with our tack.
When’s the best time to duct-tape your tack?
B. If you insist on doing this ill-advised thing, at least do it a few days in advance so you can test it
C. As the sun is setting in ride camp the night before a 25 mile ride
After making my stirrup-turners, I knew I need to tape the fenders to one side of the stirrup, to keep the stirrup from moving. However, I realized after I got to ride camp, that I couldn’t remember which side I wanted them on. Did I want them taped to the outside of the stirrup or the inside? As it was rapidly getting dark, I couldn’t do a ride to check. I did hop on Nilla to put my feet in the stirrups and check. Because we were parked right by the entrance, this confused the timers who were waiting for 75 mile riders. They saw a rider and started cheering. I had to yell down that it was just me. I know, I know, I’m awesome at mounting and standing still, but sill, the applause was superfluous.
I ended up guessing that I wanted them taped to the inside so I did that. Then I had a piece of spare halter fleece that I cut in half and slipped over the fender straps to protect my ankles from the stirrup-turner post.
The ponies were fed and we climbed in to the truck to try to sleep. I don’t sleep well the night before a ride and I’m not sure how many hours of actual sleep I got, but the 4:30 alarm was not appreciated. We fed the ponies and then ourselves before we set about tacking up and getting our stuff on. The 50s, 25s, and fun-riders were all going out at 6am on the same loop, so my plan was to leave around 6:15 after the rush. We ended up getting on and heading out at 6:10 as there were a bunch of other people waiting around for a slow start and the speedy riders had already taken off. The first loop was the 10 mile blue loop and it was lovely. The majority of the ride was through shaded forest on single tracks or decommissioned forest roads. Most of the footing was soft and the ups and downs were mostly well graded. One section of the first loop was a 1 mile stretch along a gravel road. It was an out and back and at the end was the photographer. The views were amazing.
We got our photos taken with the gorgeous Shasta and Lassen mountain ranges behind us and then hit up the water tub before turning around and heading back. Once we got off the ridge, the rest of the ride was through nice, shaded forest. The shade was welcome too, because it was hot. The temperature in town was 93 and the ride manager claimed it was 10 degrees cooler at camp, but I don’t believe that because we were only 3 miles from town. Both the horses were sweaty. Eugene was a freight train though. He just trucked along with no desire to stop.
Nilla, however, was dragging. I really had to urge her to keep going. As usual, she didn’t want to drink either. When we got back to camp after the first loop for the vet check, we walked the last 1/2 mile or so and I even got off and walked her the last 1/4 mile. When we went to get pulsed, she was too high. This mule is usually at 40. I have trotted her into vet checks and she’s been at 40. She has never not pulsed in right away. After a few minutes of the P&R volunteer trying different stethoscopes because she said she was having a hard time hearing, we got a 60 and officially checked in. I sponged her while she ignored water and then took her to the vet to express my concern.
I told the vet that, while I know 60 is totally fine for normal horses, it’s unusual for her. He checked her out and she was all As on the various hydration scores and 3 Bs and an A for gut sounds. He said she was trotting out with energy and ears pricked. He asked me how long I’d had mules and I said I’d had her for a little over 2 years. And he reminded me that mules will stop when they can’t do any more. If she were done, she’d let me know. Which is something I know, but I need to have a little more faith in her. It was good to have the reminder. Eugene pulsed in shortly after Nilla and had similar vet scores, so we went back to the trailer for beet pulp mashes and to refill water bottles.
Nilla ate some of her beet pulp and then ignored it while staring longingly at Eugene’s. Since they were the same, I swapped their buckets and she ate his. He couldn’t have cared less. I do not understand her. I took this time to reverse my duct-tape job as it turns out I wanted them taped the other side.
It took us 1:40 to do the 10 mile loop. With pulsing down and starting late, our out time after the 1/2 hour hold was 8:25. Since the ponies were still eating their beet pulp, we didn’t end up leaving until about 8:30. We had until 12:00 to finish, so I wasn’t in a rush. There are 6 hours to finish a 25 mile ride. Some rides have 30 minute holds, some have an hour. Because this one had 30 minutes, we had 5.5 hours to go 25 miles. My husband somehow got this confused and thought we had 5.5 hours total and needed to be back at 11:30. And he would proceed to drive me insane on the next loop wanting to get back earlier than I wanted. I wanted to turtle because the prizes were given in reverse order of finish and there was one prize I really wanted to win. I didn’t realize his confusion about the time until we were almost back so we hustled a bit through the 2nd (orange) loop.
As we were descending a hill on a single-track shortly after leaving on the orange loop Nilla threw a huge fit. She was bucking and kicking and I had to jump off her, which was difficult I was wearing an air vest and trying to simultaneously un-click it, stop her from bolting, and do an emergency dismount. I finally got off and she was furiously swishing her tail and kicking with her one leg. I think she might have been stung by a bee. We walked on for a bit before I re-mounted and then came across a water bucket and sponging tub shortly after. I sponged her legs down, but couldn’t find any evidence of a sting. A few riders and other horses were stung by bees on this ride and apparently they had sprayed a nest the previous day, so bee sting was my best guess.
The second loop was very different from the first. We went through a lot of different environments. At some points, we were in big, grassy fields dotted with oaks, and at others, we were in lush, overgrown forest along a creek. The well-shaded tree parts were great. The exposed ridges and hills sucked. It was just so hot. I’m really glad I finally got an air vest as I think I would have had heat-stroke with the Airowear. It was so hot, that one rider did have heat-stroke and passed out though she was okay in the end.
At one point on the ride, we came around a turn and there was a tent set up with a voluntee who asked if we’d like to have our horses sponged. Um, yes please. She also offered bottled water, which I gratefully took and gulped down the entire bottle while standing there. Not only was the sponging very nice of her, but it was great experience for Eugene who is still scared of strange people. Nilla even drank at this stop. After downing a water and sponging, we headed off. At the next water tub there were coolers filled with fruit, water, and iced teas. There was even watermelon. I ate some, gave some to my husband, and tried to give some to Nilla’s since she still wasn’t drinking much. She normally loves watermelon, but wouldn’t eat it so I was chasing her backwards across the clearing with the watermelon telling her to “put it in your face.” Shockingly, this didn’t help. My husband was pestering me to get back on so we could get going so I quit trying to stuff watermelon into the mule and took an iced tea. It was cold and sugary and lemony and, at that moment, it was basically the best thing I had ever tasted. I absolutely love how well this ride was set up.
After that, it was a short (2ish miles) back to the finish. Nilla did have another tail-swishing incident – thankfully without the bucking this time – at the same spot going back so I really do think there were bees there, but the rest of the return was easy and shady. We arrived back at the finish a little after 11:00. I can’t remember now, but I think my pulse time might have been 11:10?
And it turns out we were in 7th and 8th place. Now, this was a bit of a hack as there were only 16 people doing the 25 mile ride. There is no way that our slow pace would ever come in top ten in a more populated ride. Actually, Eugene probably could, but Nilla couldn’t. She’s just too slow. Nonetheless, we were in the top 10 and did we want to show for BC (best condition)? Umm, yeah!
I figured there was no way we could win, but why turn down an experience. First though, we had to get weighed. I pulled Nilla’s tack while the nice volunteer held her and weighed me with my tack. Now, I’m well aware that I could stand to lose some weight, but I’m generally pretty content with my body. However, I’m not so body positive that I enjoy being weighed. Especially not by strangers who then shout my weight across the vet-check area to the record taker. That was not so awesome. Thankfully, since the weight includes my saddle, it was slightly removed from being completely personal and I didn’t need to die of embarrassment right then and there. Seriously, if you think it’s not fun being a heavier rider just because you have to wear white breeches, take up endurance where they weigh you in public.
After getting weighed, we had a bit of time before needing to do the vet check so I took Nilla back to the trailer to put all her tack away and then took her over to eat grass while I sponged and scraped and sponged and scraped and sprayed her down with alcohol. My efforts were not helped by Nilla insisting on rolling in the red dirt at ride camp.
This red dirt was really the bane of our existence at this ride. It was so bad the water looked like this when I was trying to sponge her:
It was also all over my legs, and my clothes, and pretty much everything we own. I am going to have to pull everything out of the truck and wash it.
Anyway, back to the vetting. We gave the ponies as much time as allowed to eat grass and be sponged before vetting in. I think this really helped. I watched the person who came in after us show for BC as soon as she arrived. Go give your horse some time to eat and relax before vetting. I think the combination of time to eat grass after the ride and my shoving carrots in her mouth constantly on the ride helped as her vet scores were all A’s. Her CRI was 36/40. The vet said she was moving great, her gut sounds were not only As, but really loud, and she looked really good.
I still figured we wouldn’t win BC because we were so far behind the first place rider. The way BC scored is a vet scores can make up to 500 points. Then the difference in time between the first ride and each subsequent rider is subtracted from that score. So even if Nilla got a 500 on vet score, she would have a net score of 430, because she was 70 minutes behind the first horse. Weight is also factored in. The difference between each rider and the weight of the heaviest rider is calculated at 50% and subtracted from the score. So if the heaviest rider was 200 and an individual was 150, the lighter rider would lose 25 points in their BC score. I think my weight probably helped me here because I imagine we were at the high end of weight.
I figured we wouldn’t win BC, but I was happy to have the vet tell me she looked so good. With her acting so sluggish and weird all day, I really liked knowing she was in such great shape. We returned them to the trailer and Nilla proceeded to lay down for a nap. After I took this picture I threw some of her hay next to her and she was content to lay down and eat for a while.
We unhooked the truck so that my husband could go into town and get gas and he came back with treats since town was so close. A Chai Tea Latte Frappachino while camping? This is my kind of endurance ride.
We wandered over to the ride photographer to get our pictures. Another bonus to this ride was having cell service in camp. I was able to pay by paypal (since we forgot cash) while standing there. We also talked to the ride photographer for a bit as she’s a big mule fan and she showed us pictures of her baby Haflinger mule – so cute!
The awards ceremony was a bit shorter than the previous days with no potluck and no next day’s ride to go over. One of the cool things this ride does is a prize “raffle.” There was a table covered in prizes and riders got to pick their prize as they were called up. Two day riders went first and then first place. Then the riders in reverse order of finish so turtle got first pick. This is why I had wanted to turtle. Some of the prizes were really cool. There were these gorgeous custom ceramic bowls with the ride name on them that I really wanted to win. There were also buckets, bags of feed, books, flashlights, an pocket knives. We ended up getting a throw blanket and a towel. Not as cool as the bowl, but still cool. I really liked the raffle prize way of doing things.
Then the vet came up to announce high vet score and BCs. Now, if I’m 100% honest, I was hoping I’d win. Because I’m incredibly competitive and have this need to win things. Even things that aren’t competitions. Like who drove the furthest. Or who can be the most annoying. I’m good at that one. Oh wait, where were we? Right… winning BC. Given that Nilla is so slow, we will probably never be in top 10 again and even have the chance to show for BC. So I wanted to win, but I figured I had no chance with being as far behind as we were.
As you all know from my earlier post, Nilla won. I was really shocked. And really, really happy. After struggling with her hocks for so long and having her literally break her leg kicking it through the trailer door, to come back and win BC at a real endurance ride (not a fun ride) is something I never thought we could do. I went to thank the judge after the ceremony and he told me he didn’t think we’d win either since we were 70 minutes behind, but Nilla’s vet scores were just that much higher. He emphasized just how great she looked.
And the prize is awesome. I got a $50 gift certificate to Hought Endurance Tack. They were at the ride and I spoke to them about making me custom breeching out of beta biothane so that I don’t have to keep doing endurance in leather. I’m also really excited about the engraved tag. I don’t know what to do with it though. Any thoughts?
Despite the heat, my husband and I really enjoyed this ride. It was very well marked – I never felt lost or needed my map. There was lots of water on trail and the trails were well shaded and with great footing. The snacks and drinks were an added bonus. The vet and ride photographer were great. The ride manager was very friendly and did a great job of running the ride. I would love to go back again next year. This ride is also part of a set of rides hosted by the same group. If we can handle the drive, hopefully we’ll get to another one sometime.
I’m still waiting on digital copies of the ride photos, so these are scans of the prints. The scans aren’t the best, but the pictures are great. I’m really glad I finally got some pictures of us riding together. All pictures were purchased and used with purchase.