The shortGriffin completed his first LD. Q carried fellow blogger Austen through her first endurance event. Both of my horses tied for turtle! One of my lesson students completed her first LD also, and much fun was had by our group of 8 riders all day long.
TuesdayNo stranger to how busy and quickly ride camp fills up for this ride, I headed out Tuesday night to stake out my camp and spots for Nicole and Carlos and Dan. It was a wise decision, as I was able to snag my usual spot with plenty of space for our group before ANYONE was present.
Bonus? Someone mowed it for us before we arrived for good on Thursday. =)
ThursdayI worked a half day before heading home to load my car and head out to the barn to finish packing and get the horses loaded.
Lauren, my 12 year old lesson student, was going to meet me at the barn and help out. She hasn't even been riding a year yet, but she's such a natural, does her homework, and was beyond eager to try her hand with endurance, so when my mentor Mary offered up her 24 year old ½-Arabian decade team horse I arranged for Lauren to come to RBTR and ride him.
Lauren was bringing Q and Griffin in when I arrived at the barn. Once they were in, we loaded the trailer the rest of the way, washed them off a bit (scrubbed poop stains from Griffin. Because grey horses.) and then loaded them up uneventfully and headed to Ellamore!
Dan and his daughter Orion were already at camp when we arrived. Orion joined us last year, but didn't compete. This year, Dan had promised her that if she got her horse, Nell, into shape through the summer, she could come try her hand at it. She did a fabulous job doing just that - Nell looked amazing! And so, our group of riders for RBTR would be eight: Lauren on Shiloh, Austen on Q, me on Griffin, Nicole's friend Jess on Lily, Carlos on Gracie, Dan on Butch, Orion on Nell, and Charlie on Dakota. 4 first-time riders, two relatively inexperienced endurance riders, Charlie, who has past experience but it's been several years (though her brother is more active, he just completed Tevis in 14th place), and me. Shiloh had more experience than the entire group put together (>5400 competitive miles) and of the 8 horses, only 1 was full Arab, 2 were half-Arab, and the rest were non-Arabs (TB, RMH, Morgan/QH, Morgan/Stdbd., and then Griffin, who is god-knows-what).
Dan walked over to greet us as I backed in the trailer, informing me he was all setup and ready to throw shoes on Griffin. You see, we'd have done this earlier, in fact, we'd planned to, but Griffin was lame with an abscess (or two?) for about 11 days and didn't come up sound again until July 31. Talk about cutting it close to the ride!
And so, Griffin unloaded in a new-to-him place, walked over to Dan's trailer, and received his first set of shoes in his life as if he'd been doing it for years. The only mishaps were when he drooled (white clover) in Dan's ear and then pooped without ANY warning while Dan worked on his right hind.
|Griffin thinking about sleeping|
|Totally at ease with this new thing|
|Backs? No problem. Q, take notes, please.|
Orion, Dan, Lauren and I chatted on and off through the whole shoeing process. I, for one, was just so grateful to finally be in a place with no cell service for a few days. I'd been increasingly overwhelmed by the world in the days preceding the ride, so it was really nice to be totally away from any technological stimuli.
Lauren's mom picked her up shortly after the shoeing, and Kenai and I headed down to the swimming hole for a time to cool off - while temperatures weren't too bad, the humidity was absurd!
Once I was cooled off, I visited with club members for a bit before heading out to put up a few more signs to help those arriving find ride camp.
I noticed upon my return to camp that I had new neighbors parked to one side of me, so I spent some time visiting with them (turns out it was Daisy Bicking) before Austen showed up.
Austen and the huskies arrived just in time for dinner, and she had prosecco in tow. And thus the evening shenanigans began! We enjoyed dinner with Dan, Orion, my mom, and club members, then headed back to our camp to indulge in grapefruit margaritas (also brought by Austen) while we chatted with Dan and Orion.
Eventually, Dan headed to bed and we ladies stayed up chatting even longer.
At some point, Austen and I decided it would be a brilliant idea to ride the horses. Because what better time to ride than in the middle of the night, drunk? Nevermind the fact that Austen hadn't ridden Q before. It'd be fine! Orion skipped off to get her helmet and horse so she could provide some supervision while Austen and I stuffed our noggins in our helmets and mounted up. Safety first!
We tooled around the field in camp for awhile, giggling all the while. Orion eventually abandoned us, so we gave up the charade and headed back to camp to talk more before I decided I simply could not sit upright and talk any more, so we decided to go to my big tent and talk more. And thus, 2 girls and 3 huskies crammed into a 5 person tent for the night.
FridayI nursed a hangover much of the morning, guzzling electrolytes and BCAAs to try to make up for my poor decision the night before.
Dan wandered over to our camp area as I made Austen and I breakfast and we chatted about random things for awhile until Austen and I ran over to the registration booth so I could pay and get the paperwork for my two taken care of. Afterwards, Austen and I prepped to head out on a 5-mile pre-ride.
The pre-ride went uneventfully minus one incident... You see, we let Lyra come along with us. She'd been darting hither and thither all along, and then we stopped dead in one of the many mud puddles for a moment. Griffin was leading, Q was standing behind and slightly to his right (her head at his flank) and Lyra was to Griffin's left taking a dump. Austen and I were laughing at Lyra because we knew being so close to the horses was making her nervous and she couldn't run away in the moment...because poop. Well, I gave Grif a little leg to urge him on by, and the next thing I know, Austen is lying on her back half-submerged in the mud puddle yelling and kicking her free leg at Q yelling, "GET OFF MY LEG GET OFF MY LEG!"
Best guess, Q saw Lyra suddenly where she hadn't realized she was, teleported to the right, and forgot to mention the plan to Austen. Classic Q spook. Fortunately, the mud was deep and soft and Austen wasn't hurt, her ankle was even spared damage other than some minor swelling! She was however, COVERED in mud. Logically, we walked back to the closest river access point where she promptly dropped down the bank to bathe.
But not before this photo:
|Heading down to the river to bathe|
I apologized profusely, repeatedly, but she assured me she was okay! The rest of the pre-ride went without issue and we spent most of it discussing Q's way of going from Austen's dressage-minded perspective. I gained a LOT of insight into this little horse over the weekend and foresee a lot of homework in my future to help improve her and strengthen her!
Following our ride, we went to the river and swam awhile.
After our swim, Nicole and Carlos arrived and our camp area was a flurry of activity for a bit.
I was distracted much of the afternoon waiting on Lauren's horse to arrive along with a horse that was being dropped off for a friend to pick up later that evening. They finally showed up around 4:30p in a moment when I happened to be wandering around looking (for the 3rd time) and so I darted over to fetch both horses. The give away would stay tied to my trailer for an hour until her new owners arrived, and with Carlos' help, I increased the size of my corral to make a space for Shiloh. (I didn't originally *know* Shiloh would be penned up with us, but it definitely worked out a lot better that he was!)
Sometime around the time Shiloh arrived, but before dinner, Nicole's friend Jess whom I've heard SO much about arrived. Everyone met and mingled for a bit before we headed over to dinner and the ride meeting.
Contrary to past years, the club did not slow cook a whole hog all day this year for Friday night's dinner; instead, they opted to buy pork butt from the same gentleman we typically get the pigs from and have it pre-cooked and brought to camp to serve as sandwiches instead of having to pull the hog and deal with all of that nonsense. It was still delicious, as slow-cooked locally raised meat tends to be.
I admit to not paying much mind at all to the ride meeting. I knew that the blue loop had changed a bit, but I wasn't super concerned about it. Beyond that, I knew criteria would be at 64 with 60 at the finish and knew I knew the yellow loop like the back of my hand. And so, I spent much of the ride chatting with our group and catching up. <3
Following dinner, everyone took the horses on a leg-stretching grass-eating walk for a time before coming back to our camp to talk for a short time. Dom and Mike joined us for a time even! It was really nice to chat with everyone, but ultimately sleep was singing its sweet song and we all left to follow it.
SaturdayI slept well, albeit lightly that night. The camp wake up and Lauren's arrival, both around 5:30a, roused me up for good though.
Once dressed, I putzed around for a bit doing random things as I waited on Austen to rouse herself. Nicole and Co. were already milling about, as were Dan and Co.
Austen and I, with Lauren tagging along, walked over to get some coffee from the registration tent. With a jolt of caffeine in our systems, we sparked to life a little more than we had been, but we still weren't very alert.
As Lauren and Austen had never been to an endurance event prior, I wanted them to see the start of the 50 so they knew what the start of a ride was like (though my plan for everyone was to leave camp after all of the starters for the 30!). Fortunately for all, it was a very, very mellow start. Other than a few horses side-stepping, no one acted out and all walked or trotted calmly out of camp.
After the 50s left, we went back to get our horses ready, though we took our sweet time about it. My head wasn't super focused at all through the process. Lauren kept offering to help and grab this and that, and as much as I appreciated the offers, I just couldn't put to words what I was doing/going to do. After planning and executing the OD 100, a 30 on my "home" course seemed like child's play and I was totally lackadaisical about the entire thing.
Somehow, all three horses, Q, Shiloh, and Griffin, were tacked up and all riders (all 8 of us!) were mounted and ready with time to spare before the start. Despite Dan's urgings, "Let's GO!", I held everyone back away from the start until I was certain most of the 30s had left. Nicole played right into my "make everyone wait" goal, whether purposely or not, I'm uncertain, by taking photos of the group and trying to get our attention.
Photo by Nicole
Photo by Nicole
|Lauren and I...and probably my new favorite photo of Griffin. SMILE! |
Photo by Nicole
Finally, I was satisfied that any potential starting chaos was past, and we headed out on trail at a sedate walk.
We trotted for a little bit, but Griffin threw a bit of a broncing fit (no extreme aerobatics but he was popping up in the front and the back end a lot and squealing). Then I noticed that Lauren's stirrups were incredibly uneven (totally my bad) so we had to stop and fix those at the beginning of the ride. Beyond Griffin's relatively mild antics and Lauren's stirrups though, we didn't have any issues with the start!
Becky Pearman was in the river at the start for photos, and I darted ahead to try to get another epic river photo on Griffin. Without a crop though, Griffin wasn't totally convinced he should canter through the water.
For the next many miles, we'd trade leaders as we went in my efforts to keep us going down the trail at a fair pace with proper etiquette toward other riders. It's kind of nerve-wracking managing so many new riders! Dan and Charlie rode sweep for me the whole time to keep an eye on things. I had Griffin lead as much as I could, let the old pro Shiloh lead with Lauren a fair bit on loop 1, too, and tried letting Carlos lead a fair bit, too, but Carlos was almost always riding too fast for the rest of the group which almost got us in trouble several times. Once Austen and Q settled into their partnership, they led us a fair bit, too, which Q did beautifully at.
The biggest uphill of the first loop was all on a gravel road. The beginning is mild, and so I told everyone we could trot those sections, but we'd be walking in a bit. I don't know what happened exactly, but when we finally reached the steady uphill, almost the entire group took off cantering/galloping. Da fuq?! I think Carlos was in the lead of that charge? All I know is that Dan and I were in the back chatting with other riders and we looked up to see all of them galloping away. Well, Griffin had HAD it at this point and was not possibly going to catch up to them (he was debating why he ever became my horse and why would I possibly bring him to such a ride when he wasn't in as peak condition as he could be), so I told Dan, "Go get them and stop them. Make them walk. Please!" and he and Butch took off to catch and slow our group who was now disappearing around the turn in the road!
|Shiloh and Lauren leading|
|Smiles walking up the hill|
|Few more smiling faces|
|Probably my favorite selfie of the ride.|
|Dan, don't look so scared!|
|Q had been standing squarer a moment before! And look, Nicole! Electrolyting and hackamore swapping!|
|"You mean, there's MORE?"|
I have no issue with going faster like that, it's how I normally ride. But how I normally ride is also on a horse far fitter than nearly any horse in that group, who is proven at multiple mileages, and whom will pulse down quickly and easily at a hold. The group we had on this day was NOT conditioned like that and NOT capable of pulsing in like that at a hold! We needed to ride smart and ride slow if we had any hopes of getting everyone through.
Dan slowed everyone down one-by-one as he passed them, and Griffin and I did a slow trot to catch up with a bit of time. All was well and good, though when we reached the top of the incline where the spotter was, more than a few of the horses were breathing harder than I wanted to see. Fortunately, at my recommendation to hand walk the last tiny incline before reaching the ridgeline where we'd ride for a couple miles, almost everyone dismounted and hand walked the horses to give them a break for a little bit.
Three more spotters, two moonshine stops, and one grazing stop (I was pretty serious about making sure all the horses were doing the best they possibly could be) later, we were coming into camp for the first check and hold. We'd walked the horses for the last 3/4 mile and had dismounted to handwalk them in for the final ¼-mile of that. Thanks to this preparation and careful management, all were very close to being at pulse criteria once we'd stripped tack. With just a little sponging, all were down at or below criteria and went through the vetting.
I can't speak for Dan's horses or Nicole's horses other than to say "they passed the check" but I do know that both Q and Shiloh (½-Arabs) had CRIs in the 40s (48/48 for Q and 48/40 for Shiloh) with all As and the vets asked if either of them was doing anything out there (haha). Griffin and I vetted through with the pickiest vet of the group and he was screaming his head off the whole time. Basically, each time we returned to camp Griffin went into a screaming fury calling for anyone and everyone who might listen. Nevermind that all of his friends were WITH him, he had to talk to the whole camp. -_- So, needless to say, my vetting was a bit nerve wracking. His pulse was 56 when I checked it before the P&R station, 60 at the P&R, 64 when the vet checked it, and his CRI ended up being 64/68. Screaming, screaming, screaming. The vet also called him "off behind" gave him Bs for attitude, impulsion and gait, A- on 3 other criteria, and Bs on all gut sounds. I inquired what I could do to improve all of these scores and was told, "Keep him eating and drinking." Well, he's doing that beautifully, so okay.
The rest of the hold went uneventfully. All horses ate well and drank well and both of mine peed. The latest out time for our group was 11:12a and I think it was more like 11:15a when we all rolled out at a sedate walk once again, only picking up a trot/canter when we passed the photographer at the top of the hill as we left camp.
(Used with purchase.)
The next 3ish miles went pretty uneventfully as we picked our way up the mountain to ride on the ridgeline once more. Carlos was in the lead for this and ended up passing some other riders and leaving our group in the dust for 5-10 minutes before he stopped for us to catch up. Once we caught up, he took off too fast once again which led to Dan screaming from behind, "DUDE SLOW DOWN! TAKE IT EASY!" because he was worried about the group keeping up and Lily in particular as I believe she'd received a lot of Bs during the vetting.
I pushed Griffin to the front after that and wound through the tricky mud puddle section with ease before Griffin told me in no uncertain terms that he. was. done. leading. And so I let Carlos take the lead before, and he was much more cautious about his speed.
We wound along on top of the mountain with minimal issues, Carlos and Austen trading off with the lead for awhile.
I was growing increasingly concerned about Griffin as we went along. Even though he had shoes on, he was mincing his steps really dramatically any time we were on gravel or significant rocks. Dan assured me he saw no reason for Griffin to be so sore when he shod him two days prior. So I tried to ease my mind a bit, but it still bugged me.
When we reached the beginning of the stretch of trail that was new, I dismounted and hand walked Griffin for a time. The trail was pretty laden with gravel bits and I figured he'd rather deal with that without me on board. Eventually, most of the group dismounted to handwalk this section that ended climbing a big incline to a nice grassy section where we let all of the horses graze for a time while we indulged in the first cell service of several days.
To this point, the day had been overcast and very humid with intermittent drizzling rain. The temperature wasn't too bad in the low 80s, but the humidity was oppressive. It made it very difficult for the horses to cool out properly and made me very thankful that the sun wasn't out to make matters even worse! So, taking hills easy and stopping to graze was a really important part of getting the group through.
I checked pulses on all (Dakota was the lowest at 50 with Q and Shiloh also in the 50s and all others in upper 60s) after we grazed for a time and declared that we should walk all of the ups and significant downs, and trot the flat bits for the rest of the ride. We shouldn't have more than 7 miles left, but as I hadn't pre-ridden the new section (I was supposed to map it but Griffin's abscess ruined those plans) I didn't know what was ahead.
All remounted and set out. I rode Griffin for a time, but when we reached what seemed to be another long downhill (rocky) I dismounted to lead him down it.
I was growing increasingly concerned about time and miles at this point. I was more or less "in charge" of everyone all day - keeping the pace, making certain all of the horses were handling things okay, and getting us in and out of checks smoothly. It was a lot! I was ready for it, but it was still a little nerve wracking - especially toward the end when I realized we were going to be cutting things close time-wise. I HATE racing the clock. Hate. It.
In my head, I separated out the horses who were doing great and could handle any pace, those who needed to be coddled a little, and those who really needed to go slow. As I handwalked Griffin, several of our group noted to me that Lily had taken some off steps. It sounded like it could have just been a rock, but hard to tell. She was walking now on tricky footing and seemed okay.
I shared with Austen and Carlos about my plan to split up and how we'd do it if it happened. It had been amazing that we had all been able to ride together to this point, but it wasn't fair for everyone to have to sacrifice their completions for one weak link, y'know? So, point shared, burden off my shoulders a little bit from internalizing it for so long, I realized my right knee was really bugging me and I decided to jog. Griffin easily picked up a trot with me and downward we descended, passing everyone in the group.
I really had a Forrest Gump moment. I just kept run-nig and run-nig and run-nig. It felt good and it made me hopeful that we'd get to a place I recognized on the trail sooner than later so I could better gauge the time and miles to better manage our group. I didn't exactly tell anyone I was going to run for as long as I did, but I ended up running nearly a mile down that damn hill. Griffin trotted happily along and Austen joined me on Q at some point, too.
At a natural flat spot, I waited to see everyone else, told them sorry for running off, but explained that I wanted to find out where we were so I could pace us better. Dan, Charlie, Orion and Lauren were all together and agreed with my reasoning, so I took off again.
Shortly after that though, the trail took a bit of an uphill turn and I said eff that noise. I don't run uphill. So I remounted then waited for the group with Austen who'd continued along with Griffin and I riding Q.
When the group came around the corner, Carlos and Jess were still absent. We waited for a time for them, but I finally had to call it and say, "Let's keep walking." We simply couldn't sacrifice completions for the rest of us and time was really going to be short.
We walked and walked for a time. Charlie and I even dismounted and handwalked Dakota and Griffin awhile more.
We eventually came to Howell Bridge crossing (where I was suspecting we'd come out after a time because nothing else made sense in my mind) and found out that we had 3.5 more miles to camp. Excellent. It was somewhere around 1:45p at this point. We indulged in some beverages (water and otherwise) and waited for 5 minutes for Carlos and Jess before I urged everyone to move on.
|Q still isn't sure about walking through water...|
|Drinking like a boss|
Those remaining 3.5 miles were uneventful and we walked the horses in/dismounted at the same places as before - though I did tell Lauren and Austen to go ahead and ride their horses in. Q and Shiloh were more than capable of pulsing quickly after trotting across the finish.
We all came in around 2:20p and every horse pulsed down pretty quickly. Bonus? Griffin wasn't screaming as badly as before.
Both of my horses and Shiloh vetted through the final check with all As. Griffin's CRI was 56/56 and Q and Shiloh were both (once again) in the 40s. Completions for all!
Orion was unfortunately pulled at the finish for a slight offness of her mare's front left. I could see it later when I trotted her out back at the trailer, but it wasn't very obvious - no worse that Q's offness at the second Laurel Run check of the OD 100! Dan had also been running Butch without hind shoes and he had a somewhat predictable stone bruise that caused him to be pulled at the finish also. Dan's Dakota completed with great scores. (Nell and Butch were fine the next AM.)
As for Jess and Carlos? Well, I'll let them tell their tale over at Nicole's blog.
Following our completions, we settled the critters and changed clothes. Q and Griffin got a watermelon to split between themselves, and I even gave Shiloh a few bites before we took him over to his ride home that was about to leave.
Austen, Lauren and I grabbed our ride photos from Becky before heading down to meet everyone at the swimming hole where we would spend the next hour cooling off and relaxing post-ride. It was so nice to just sit and chat with everyone in the river. Seriously love these people. <3
Following swimming, we went to the awards dinner. Of 66 starters, there were 40 finishers. That humidity was a bitch and the trail isn't the easiest.
|Because it isn't RBTR without ample dogs!|
Photo by Carlos
Austen and I ended up tying for turtle!
|Woo! Also, my shirt matches the turtle ;-)|
Photo by Carlos
It'll be a long while before my horses tie for an award again! How special that we could this time around.
Lauren finished right ahead of us.
Photo by Carlos
Dinner was great, once again, drinks were plentiful, conversations were rich, and laughter was a constant.
Lauren's ride arrived right at the end of dinner, so we got her sent off with words of praise (once again) and then settled in for the night to drink and chat. Per the norm, we had a band (classic rock cover band this year) and bonfire, but we didn't bother walking over to it this year, opting instead to sit near my easy-up and chat.
Except before we could settle in, we had an impromptu hoof clinic with Daisy! Amanda's gelding Elvis was getting a trim and Dan and Nicole and I were interested in geeking out while she did so. But the more and more people wandered over and before we knew it there was a small following gathered around an LED spotlight as Daisy narrated to us why she was doing what she was doing.
I've heard about her clinics for 2 years now, but it was fun to watch her work. 85% of what she did and why was right in line with what I do when I trim my horses. The new-to-me information wasn't anything earth-shattering, but definitely helps pull the bigger picture together and will benefit my trimming skill for sure. Hopefully Dan will get to one of her clinics eventually to pick up some more skills.
Once Elvis' feet were all trimmed up, we settled in to drink and talk for hours. I was definitely the weakest link though and went to bed around 11p. I just couldn't keep my eyes open much longer!!
Sunday and follow-upI slept great and was hesitant to rise on Sunday. But camp needed to be picked up and the car needed packed.
I manged to get everything broken down and packed in record time and in a neater fashion than I've ever done before.
Our whole group was able to roll out of camp around 9:30a to get on with our travels and our days.
It was a really great weekend. I loved meeting Jess, riding with Charlie, and introducing Austen and Lauren to a new sport. (I think they're both a bit addicted now. ;-) )
I don't have any rides planned for awhile, but the training will continue ever onward. I foresee a lot of dressage in my near future for all horses. Griffin and I plan to clinic with Stephen Birchall in a few weeks and Austen has a lot of homework for me to do with Q that I'm excited about! With time and patience, Q will be stronger than ever and Griffin's fitness is finally getting back to a great place. =)