The Spotted Wonder and all her gear and sundry were loaded into the great steel monolith that is my home away from home, and off we go first down State Route 50 only to hit miles and miles of road construction, finally to 65 south to find more road construction and lanes so narrow that there was little to no margin of error or you were going to be scraping up against a semi trailer. When the white knuckles started and the pavement was pulling the trailer this way and that because it wasn't actually the highway, but the shoulder they'd patch together to make another lane, I said screw this...I'm taking a detour. So I exited off the interstate and got onto a secondary road which was a happy accident, as I have a much lower stress travel route, and it actually cut time off the drive. We rolled into ride camp without incident, unloaded, and set up camp.
I'm gonna act like a pasture potato and see what happens.
Good turn out for Spook Run
Vet card in hand...oh boy!Friday's ride was in full swing by then, with the LD's mostly finished and the 50 milers still at it. So I trotted on down the ride manager and got myself signed in and again broke into sweat with my heart doing a tap-dance in my chest. Can't remember when I have felt so stressed out! We were given a number for Journey's hip for the very first time. #63
Then it was time to get in line and wait for some of the 50 mile riders to get vetted in and then have my turn getting Journey vetted in for the next day. All went well with that until I pointed out a boil just behind her jaw that we'd been treating for a week. The vet's antenna went straight up because of where it was located, and I showed him the spot on her belly that we'd already healed up. I thought he was going to boot her right then and there. I know he was thinking strangles which she is vaccinated against. But it was a boil, not a massive swelling ready to erupt at the jawline, and is healed now as I post this up. But it was a nail biting moment for sure. The vet gave her all A's, handed me my card and sent me on my way. LSEGH (long suffering endurance granny husband) drove up and took photos for me, and assisted with some things and then went on his way.
Journey vetting in.
I wanted to find and touch base with a few of my facebook friends while I was there. Managed to find Staci Collins who rode her arabian to a second place finish with best condition in the LD, and Lucie Hess who's horse had a bad day and ended up in the ER after a three mile ride (everyone is okay...maybe stiff, bruised, and sore). I met Jacob Cukjati from Auburn California who brought our neighbor horse a big foundation appaloosa stallion Apache Red Arrow.
Apache Red ArrowThe Appaloosa National Championship endurance ride was being held in conjuction with Spook run. Jeffery D. Hartman would go on to win the Appaloosa National ride on his horse Bombay Ghazi Khan.
Next stop was the ride meeting. We got our maps and general ride instructions, where to go, where not to go which is all pretty much Greek on a trail you've never ridden before. But I did make a lot of notes on our map just in case...back to the trailer, tucked Journey in for the night, fired up the buddy heater, and started freezing my butt off. 10 PM became midnight. Journey started coughing, and coughing, and coughing. I'm thinking crap, crap, freakin' crap! She'd settle down, and then she'd start again. At 3 AM I had the light bulb moment that she was eating alfalfa. Alfalfa can be dusty. I go out and wet all of her hay. Journey gives me a snarky look but goes on eating. The coughing stops completely. But I'm worried. So worried that I slept none at all. At 5 AM I'm thinking that I'm going to need to call my husband and tell him that I have indeed met my nemesis once again, only it will be a "did not start" this time. Feeling sick over it I lay on my bunk asking the giant why question. WHY? Not wanting to throw in the towel but perhaps needing too, I decided to tack her up, take her for a short spin, find a vet and seek advice. We did some trotting, no cough. So I rode up to the vetting area, got lucky and a vet was there taking care of late-comers. I explained what was going on, how I handled it, but that I needed assurance that I wasn't riding a sick horse. He offered to check her over. Thank you GOD. He said she was fine, but obviously has some allergies to dusty things or something in that particular cutting of hay. I was so relieved, and so very very tired. I'd been up for twenty-four hours and had not started the ride yet. We would get to start if nothing else.
Horses started migrating to the barely daylight start at 8 AM. As more and more started milling around, trotting out and warming up, Journey started to get antsy. A woman on another Appaloosa came trotting straight at us and Journey freaked, started scrambling and wanting to buck. After a few one-rein stops she settled back down, but the situation wasn't looking good for a start with the group. We hung back and left with a pair of riders who didn't seem in too big of a hurry. Journey was still a little agitated but I tucked her in behind the slowest horse which was moving out at about 10 mph and let her settle in. When we got to the first hill climb (which was soon) I introduced myself and asked if my riding back there was going to bother their ride. Little did I know that I'd just found myself a wonderful pair of ride buddies, Mollie Krumlaw-Smith (2014) President of OAATS, who was riding with a junior who was doing her first 50 mile ride. Mollie was bringing along a horse that had healed from an injury, and maybe its first 50 mile ride as well. So two first time riders, and two horses that had never done a 50. But if I were going to hand pick someone to ride it with, I could not possibly have done better. She is a veteran endurance rider, nice person, and she had "magic jelly beans." When you've gone without sleep as long as I had those caffeine laden concoctions go down good. Off we go out on the first loop which was just over 23 miles so says GARMIN. Mollie was setting a pace that the Spotted Wonder honestly had never reached in training. Trotting speed was 10 mph plus. The hills though were continuous and we had to walk those so the hustle was a necessity. That first loop taught me a lot about endurance pace. The Spotted Wonder is going to have to start stepping it up a notch in training. We rode over hill after hill after hill, through the area that was ravaged by an F4 tornado just a couple years back. It looked like someone had thrown the trees like pick up sticks...at least what trees were left. The hilltops offered views for miles and miles, beautiful vistas of fall foliage. Many miles were on graveled service roads and black topped roads, and we would encounter our first mishap about then. Mollie's horse suddenly started head bobbing on the return route of loop #1. She assesses the situation and the six inch deep mud has loosened the nails on a front shoe which is found later on the blacktop. She rides the horse along the shoulders of the roads and asks me if I can ride with the junior if the horse is not fit to go back out, to which I agree. The arabians kind of pulled Journey along for a good part of that first loop, we make it back, and hit the pulse gate.
Some tanking up on food, water, and other necessities and we were ready to hit the trail for loop two which was 20 miles and afford beautiful high point lake views. Mollie was able to get a farrier to set a new shoe on her horse, and our little mis-matched trio hit the road again. At this point heading away from camp the LD arabians decided there was something wrong with this picture, shouldn't we be done?
So the Spotted Wonder would set the pace (albeit slow) for the away portions of trail when the geldings weren't feeling inspired. When we were pointed back to camp the geldings knew it and picked up a nice trot and we'd let them lead. Many more miles of rock, hill, pavement, and mud, mud, mud and we make it back to camp and pulse down, and go to vet in. Her trot out sucked, sound, but uninspired. Journey got a B there on mucous membrane, she wasn't drinking as well as I would have liked. I halved her electrolyte dosage thinking it would be fine since it was cool and breezy and but I under estimated the furry coats. The vet said I have one word for you, water. She didn't want to drink during the hold, but I have taught her to drink from a water bottle, so figured I had nothing to lose at this point, and she started sucking it down from a water bottle. She also ate some wet mash. I'm thinking only 9 more miles to go, three hours to do it in, we are going back out. The last loop was not quite as hilly, and the ponies were getting kind of over it. She never stopped trotting, and picked it up every time I asked. We adults both forgot to grab our night gear. I had a small flashlight in my pack but that was it. More road riding, and every one of us had on dark colors. We need to beat dark. Journey set the pace for the last loop until the last mile or two. Those geldings had ride camp on their radar and they hit the ground running. We followed a short ways behind and all hit the in-timer on the same time. Nothing left to do but get through that final vet-in. B on mucous membrane (but improved he said), B on gut sounds, and does Spotted Wonder never cease an A on impulsion.
My little dream of doing an endurance ride started back in 1985. A lot of life got in the way in between. Nothing came easy to me in this sport. Not my health, not my budget, not my horse, or any of the trappings. I worked hard at it, through three horses. My husband supported me in this sport when I was trying, failing, crying, tee'd off or ready to just give up. He believed in me, as did others. Thank you Barb Walke and the wonderful quarter horse George who helped me get to my very first distance ride. Thank you Christine Eickleberry for mentoring me in the beginning. Thank you Patti Stedman for giving me the nudge that endurance could be what my heart wanted it to be when I no longer believed. Thank you Diane Connolly for giving me problem solving solutions these past few months. Thank you Renegade Hoof Boots for finding a booting solution for The Spotted Wonder. Thank you Chris Martin for helping me to understand the importance of hill climbing and super compensation. Thanks too Mollie Krumlaw-Smith for sharing the ride. But more than anything, thank you little spotted horse, you have the heart of lion...I am humbled, and tearful every time I think of what you did for me. You are one tough little Appaloosa.
It was not the Tevis. But it was "my" Tevis. My long seated dream to complete a 50 mile endurance ride. Ten feet tall doesn't even describe it. We did it, journey complete.