I actually signed up for the ride the same morning that I entered the Horse Trials. Which was the same day I discovered Nilla was lame. With the lameness (mostly) resolved, I was excited to get to do the ride. I packed up the truck and trailer Friday morning and headed out to the ride around noon. This was a local ride at Coyote Lake Harvey Bear, so I got there a little before 1pm. I got the ride maps via email before the ride and knew I’d actually ridden almost all of the trails before. Of course, it’s a pretty small park so I’ve ride almost all of the trails in the park.
The parking situation was tight, which is why I wanted to arrive early. I’m not good at parking the trailer and didn’t want to have to pull into a tight spot later on. As it was, I had to have the guy parked next to me help me back the trailer into my spot. Nonetheless, we had a good spot: close to but not next to the water and porta-potty. We were also right across the aisle from our ride buddy, Fig.
I let Nilla relax while I ate chips and read my book with the dogs. It was hot, but not too bad in the shade. Our farrier was the ride farrier, and I had arranged in advance with him to have him nail on easy shoes. I like staying barefoot, but I am tired of struggling with boots. The shoes were pretty cheap and I didn’t have to glue them on. Win-win to my mind.
Then I plugged my new clippers in and shaved the beast. Thankfully Nilla is awesome about shaving. I didn’t have anything to tie her to, so I was just holding her lead rope and clipping her at the same time. She didn’t care at all. I love, love, love, the new clippers. I got such a nice shave done. I did a trace clip for now, but will probably fully shave her for the winter.
We vetted in with all As. I was worried as Nilla’s one hock is still pretty stiff, but nothing was noted at the trot-out.
This ride was really lacking in frills. There was no dinner Friday night so my husband stopped at a deli on the way to the ride and got dinner for us. We went over to the ride meeting at 7pm. This meeting was pretty chaotic with a lot of people chatting while the announcers were trying to talk. There was also a lot of confusion regarding the trail markings. I just sort of zoned out since I knew where I was going, but I might have been concerned otherwise.
Start time for the 25s was 7am. I tried to go to bed early, but really could not fall sleep and never did get much sleep. 6am came way too early and it was still dark out since sunrise was at 7:03. We were also encased in fog in the morning. We fed the mule, had breakfast, tacked up, and got on around 7. I didn’t want to be at the start line with the front runners so I wasn’t racing out. Fig and I walked over and left the start around 7:05.
The morning was really cool. We started off in the clouds and then rode up out of them and then back in and out of them a few times. There were spots where the clouds were drifting like smoke across the trail.
Most of this ride is through open grass hills and the trail zig-zags back and forth so you can often see horses in front of and behind you even when they’re far away. Fig’s horse, Fetti, is a seasoned endurance horse and she was pretty convinced we should be racing to catch up to all those horses or get away from the ones behind us. Nilla was interested, but she wasn’t trying to race. So we acted sort of like babysitters to Fetti, keeping her behind us.
|Riding in the fog|
Luckily, Fetti was a seasoned gate opener, so she got to open all the gates for us. And there were a lot of gates.
Riding up above the clouds was also really cool.
We only had one slight incident in a section of single track where a 50 miler who somehow ended up behind us came racing by. Nilla, I think maybe feeding off of Fetti’s energy got really upset by this. Then two 25 milers wanted to pass and Nilla had a temper tantrum. She refused to move off to the side and then when then passed, she popped up slightly like she was considering rearing. She got yelled at for that and settled a bit, but I was not happy with this behavior.
We carried on and got to a section of fire road before the vet check. Fig and I both did our base-line two-point times for 2pointober. We were both complaining that the due date was Monday and we were both only planning to ride once between the announcement on Wednesday and Monday so we were going to have to do it on the trail. My treeless doesn’t really allow for a great two-point position, so it was more like standing upright, but I made a firm commitment to no mane holding. I’ve gotten much higher times in the past, but I was always holding mane. I don’t pull on the mane or rest my hands on the neck the whole time I’m in two-point, but I do use the mane as a crutch if the horse takes an awkward step and I would otherwise get tossed onto my butt. But I feel like that’s cheating. I want to be able to stay up using just my muscles so that I can then rely on those muscles to give me an independent seat. All this means, my starting time was a miserable 1:25. I did manage this without holding the mane, while holding a cell phone and crop and reins and having my mule spook at deer .
Shortly after doing our two-points, we passed the ride photographer (pictures to come) and then we came in to the vet-check. We got in to the vet check at 9:44. My GPS said 15 miles at this point, though it should have been about 13 by the map. She vetted through with all OK. This was just a 30 minute hold, but my husband had driven out to help us. Since Nilla refuses to drink, I have to trick her into it. So he brought beet pulp and made it into total soup for her. She ate this before moving on to hay while I ate my pb&j and drank a soda.
The time flew by and then we were getting on and heading back out on the trail. While the vet check was sunny, we did manage to hit a small cloud bank before climbing the massive hill following the vet check. We could see the valley still full of clouds beneath us.
After we climbed the hill, the next section was a little hard for Nilla to trot because it was slightly down hill and very open for diving off. Nilla still considers staying on the trail to be optional and going downhill is not her forte so we walked a lot. It was only 10 miles to the finish, so we were doing really well on time and didn’t need to rush.
As we were riding along, I noticed that the moon was out. Which was a weird thing to see at 11am. It was really pretty, but one of those things that looks cool in real life, but looks tiny in a picture. Shortly after pointing out the moon to Fig, I saw a tarantula crossing the trail. I stopped to take a picture of it and Fig and I carried on a conversation about how it was really hard to get a picture because it looked so small. Turns out she was talking about the moon and I was talking about the tarantula. I found this hilarious. I might have been a little delirious at this point.
|you can see the moon here too|
After we passed the tarantula we reached another one of those sections where we could see people in the distance who were still pretty far away. I don’t have great vision at a distance though so I couldn’t tell what was going on, but there were 3 people on the ground and one horse without a rider. We had to keep riding to find out what was going on. We eventually passed the rider who was leading her horse going out on the 50 miler loop. She had stopped to check on the other 2 people we had seen. She was calling in to base camp to say those two had fallen off and their horses were loose.
We rode on and came across the two fallen riders who were trudging forward along the trail. The one rider had a bloody nose and the other was 80 years old. This was not a great situation because even though they were up and walking, they were miles from the end and it was hot out at this point. I stopped and took the top off my water bottle to let the man drink some. Their water had all gone off with the horses. Luckily, Fig had an extra water bottle so we left that with them and headed off to see if we could find the horses. Even with our view, we couldn’t see them.
Eventually, we found another 25 miler who had caught the two horses. They had been running a fenceline down the hill from the trail. Fig took the two escapees and I walked Nilla and Fetti along as we walked about .75 miles back to return the two horses. As we hopped back on, the man who had caught the two, found his horse to be lame. He thought he might have tweaked something climbing down the hill off trail to catch the horses. He was a local rider and took a short-cut back to the camp to pull. We carried on and Nilla suddenly came up lame as well. I hopped off and checked her hoofs, but didn’t see any rocks. We trotted again and she worked out of it, but there was a slight hesitation.
We carried on mostly walking, but picking up trot in the easiest spots. All morning and at vet check, we had been solidly mid-pack, but in returning the horses, we had placed ourselves pretty much last. We needed to be back and pulsed in by 1pm, and it was now 12pm. So we shuffled along. We even saw the two fallen riders at one point trotting along a far ridge. We also passed a Sheriff’s truck heading out along the ranch road to go check on the fallen riders.
After that, we stopped at a cattle water trough where Nilla finally drank. It only took 25 miles to get her thirsty. After that, Fetti wanted to run back in so she had to be put back behind Nilla who was quite content to saunter along at a nice walk. The water trough was only about .3 miles from the finish line so we were done shortly. We walked in at pulse so we finished around 12:38.
Nilla proceeded to drink a lot from the water trough at the finish line too. Then we took her back to the trailer where she started stuffing her face with hay and we could sponge her off and spray her down with alcohol. Then we took her over to vet. She got Bs for most things until it came to trotting out. It was her hock. The vet I was seeing pulled the second vet in for a second opinion and I was pretty sure I was getting pulled. I explained to the vets that she had her hocks injected and that that one hock wouldn’t take all of the ccs of injection. They did some circles with her and she actually looked more sound on the circle, so they concluded it was just the hock. They let me have the completion, but told me to give her some bute and talk to my vet about getting the hock fixed.
We completed! We finally finished our first 25 mile ride. Nilla was an excellent mule. I’m very impressed with her behavior and her general, happy demeanor. She was a great little endurance mule.
Big shout out to Fig. It would have been a miserable ride for Nilla without a buddy and I certainly would have hated getting off to open gates all the time. It was also fun to have a friend to talk to as we went along. I know for a lot of people, endurance is a solo sport, but I like having someone along for the ride.
4.44 mph average speed
2870 ft of elevation gain