Well last night I could not sleep at all. At first I attributed it to nerves and excitement but it soon became clear to me that I was cold, very cold. We do not have sleeping bags, the air mattress was deflating and my blankets, even the extra ones we had brought were just not doing the job. Levi had been asleep and bundled up when I went to bed but he woke up at some point (I had no concept of time all weekend, no watch other than Lara) and climbed into bed with me. I did my best to keep him warm but he hates the covers over his head and the only way I could stay warm at all was by tucking the blankets under my feet and along the sides and over my head. Levi went back to sleep pretty soon but he was also restless, and worrying about him kept me awake. At one point I heard thundering hooves that sounded awful close to my head and I thought it was my imagination, maybe I had finally fallen asleep and was dreaming (?) until I heard a woman yell "LOOSE HORSES! LOOSE HORSES!" Yikes! Lara told me later they had been very close to our tent, running all around and finally were caught. We were curious as to what system they had been contained in.
So then finally after a VERY LONG and sleepless night, I heard Lara's alarm go off about 5:30 am. I fed Levi and got up and partially dressed (I have never been so glad to put on jodpurs) but left my sweatshirt on as it was still pretty cold. I went down and used the bathroom, came back and brushed my (chattering) teeth and ate breakfast (choked down a little granola). I put on my team shirt with a fuzzy jacket over top. At 6 am the 75 milers rode by our camp on the gravel road and I ran to get my camera. I am embarrased to admit this but I started tearing up. I was so overcome with emotion and so blown away that I had finally made it. Not even on the ride yet but already teary. [This photo is of David LeBlanc who placed first (his first 1st)]. Lara let me know when it was time to go get the horses. We brought them up with their hay bags and got them some fresh water and they looked pretty good, aside from the fact they had rubbed on each other and messed up some of the grease paint. One of Sinwaan's "#1's" was missing and Rocker had blue all down her leg and on her head.
We got our horses saddled up, heart rate monitors in place, saddlebags checked and water bottles filled. Oh the anticipation! The excitement! The nerves!! I had to visit the bathroom again. By this time the 50 milers are going by but I can't watch them because I am too busy getting ready, their start time was only 30 min before ours. (Later we saw a photo the Pro Photographer had taken of a young stallion rearing up and twisting in the air. His rider barely had her foot in the stirrup but was managing to stay on) WOW. It was neat seeing them all go past us. Some were trotting, some walking, some single and some in pairs or groups. A select few were cantering or giving their riders some trouble.
By the time we got all ready to head to the start (also the vet check area) we noticed some of the 25 milers starting out. We were late. Half way to the start I realized (to my horror) that I had forgotten to put Sinwaan's boots on. DANGIT! We had to turn around and go back to the trailer to get them. Rocker was making Lara nervous, she could sense how on edge she was, I guess we people weren't the only ones amped up. We made it down to the start just as the last people were heading out. I dismounted and quickly put on his boots. I think it was Dory who held my horse for me and Patty in pink held up a front foot so he couldn't give me trouble with the hinds. I got them on in record time. Someone asked me "Have you ridden in those boots before?" Silly me, I thought she was asking about MY boots (sneakers). I said "I ride in these all the time!" and they said "NO, the HORSE'S BOOTS." "Oh yes, him, a few times, he will be fine." After a few token funny steps for laughs, he settled in and they had us pose for the Photographer to record the event, the start of our first ride. Off we went!
If memory serves (and it usually doesn't) we walked up the gravel road, past camp, and to the first left turn at the crest. We wanted to give the others a chance to get a good lead on us so Rocker would settle down. She wanted to catch up to everyone. We had two people pass us so I guess we really weren't the last ones out after all. The 10 mile trail was marked with orange and white ribbons. We did a double track easy trail (occasional rock) with a little trotting and we did pass one person. A woman on a grey had dismounted to walk her horse since it was misbehaving. The trail took us to a "neck" with 2-way horse traffic, which went out to a loop. At the intersection of the loop and the neck there was our first water stop. Drinking water only, no sponging. Just as we reached the water, we saw a whole stream of people coming in that had already completed the loop. It was a bit of a mad stuggle for order as far as who should drink when but we did get our turn and Sinwaan was just about to drink when the horse next to him started playing with the pump and then the other horse crowded in and gave him a little attitude so we just backed off and went on our way to start the loop. It was a really nice mostly easy trail and in hindsight we wished we could have moved out more on that one to make up some time. There was one part that was steep with loose rock and it wasn't very long but we dismounted to walk them down anyway. We saw some lakes and I took a photo of one of them. There was a lot of sagebrush and it was really wild scenery, like nothing I have ever seen before. When you would rub up against them you could smell a quick wiff and it was wonderful. We did our loop and this time no one was at the water so Sinwaan had a nice drink.
You could not have asked for nicer weather. It was a PERFECT day. It had warmed up just enough before the start for us to remove our jackets and go out with our team shirts uncovered.
At one point we caught up to a woman named Janelle on a bay Arab who was just beautiful, (in excellent shape for his 24 years) from Pasco.
When we got to what must have been the 8 mi point there was the photographer. She sure took me by surprise, we thought there would have been a sign but we got there before she expected us. After that we missed our turn and wound up back in camp on the wrong road. We backtracked to the last orange/white ribbon we had seen and could see no where to turn from that point. Sinwaan had himself a long pee break and then we cantered back into camp. Lara yelled for someone to help us figure out what the heck was going on. Patty RM came over and explained to us we need to look for THREE ribbons for the turn, and 2 lines of lime on the ground (do not cross the lines!) for a [now left] hand turn. We backtracked AGAIN, with Janelle leading. We had a nice lope then and we finally did find our turn. Janelle had a GPS watch and told us we had gone an extra 3 miles by taking that wrong path twice. That was very frusterating. Lara was freaking out because both water stops had been "no sponging" stops, her heart rate monitor was on the fritz and she was very worried about her mare, who still refused to drink. Poor girl was also suffering from monthly hormones and a bad night on a deflating mattress as well and was in physical pain. At one point (early on) she was so upset I started crying. She was a bit of an emotional wreck out there on the first 10 miles. Somehow we made it, we found our way and pulled back into camp with Janelle.
We walked in at 10:07 and Sinwaan pulsed down to 36 immediately. I led him to the water and he sucked it right down. I sponged him, untacked and took him over to present him for the vets. I should have been paying more attention to Lara & Rocker, because when Sinwaan walked away she got excited and it took her longer to pulse down, but she did it, with an out time just 5 minutes behind ours. Sinwaan again scored all A's on his card (a second pulse of 40 after his trot-out with A- in Tenting and Impulsion). Rocker did well also and scored an A- on Tenting. Lara was fretting because her mare STILL wasn't drinking any water and she was worried that she wouldn't and was unsure if she should continue on with her. 13 miles is one thing, adding another 15 to that with no water is not a risk she wanted to take. (This horse is a loaner). Lara was in a very bad way physically and mentally and I was worried about both of them.
We led the horses up to camp and put water and food in front of them and went to the tent to feed ourselves. Sinwaan ate some hay and took a nap. I think at this point Rocker ate a few apple pieces. Lara went and sat in her tent for awhile and I went and ate another hotdog. I wasn't that hungry still, it was only about 10:30 am. I had forgotten sunscreen and meant to do that but still never got around to it. The 50 minute hold time went by in the blink of an eye. Initially we were thinking that would be way too long but for us this time around it was just right. By the time we walked from the vet area to camp, ate and walked the horses back down and tacked them back up we had used more than the 50 min. Lara took some pills and decided to continue on. Walking on the way back to the vet station, Rocker pulled Lara over to a water tub. She drank and drank and we were both so relieved! The mare WOULD take care of herself. (Phew!) We tacked up and headed out, I don't remember the time but it was after 11 am.
The 15 miles was even better than the 10 (er, 13 lol). Lara's pain pills had kicked in so she was in a better frame of mind, she didn't have the stress of her mare not drinking water, and had decided to just turn the HR monitor off since it wasn't accurate anyway. We had a lovely ride together on the 15. The first little nub was easy going and we trotted most of it.
It was, however, a very technical trail. We had the impression from the flier for the ride that it would be an easy flat ride with good footing. A lot of the trail did have very good footing but there were a number of places that I never would have ridden by choice on my own. Lots of rocky sections that we had to walk through, sage brush areas that had tight little twisty trails we also had to walk through and a few steep inclines with a lot of rock where we had to get off and walk the horses down. The rock was smooth and in some places sharp and we worried about the horses slipping or losing a shoe but we made it through ok. A few of the places I took one look at and said "You have got to be kidding me! We have to go down THAT?!" But, it was fun, it was very challenging, and it gave us a real taste of what the word technical means!
In the sage brush Sinwaan would walk right over the top or rub up against many of them, I think by then he was getting itchy. One time trotting up a hill Rocker got too close and I felt his rump come up and he landed a good thump of a kick on her chest. That was a little unexpected and scary. I was glad Rocker took it and not Lara. Not long after that he started hopping around and kicking his feet out and I got off and took off his boots and shook them out and checked his legs, I think he was getting itchy under there as well. I ended up having to do that three times on the 15 mile ride. I sure hope Matt (farrier) can help me get his feet balanced again soon so I don't have to use the boots, they did their job but sure took a beating. I think Sinwaan would prefer not to have to wear them also.
This time there was a water stop or two with no sponging but a mile later there was a box spring where we could sponge so we took advantage of that. The water stops were well spaced, Sinwaan drank at most of them. The trail was well marked and we paid more attention this time looking for turns and ribbons. We trotted a lot coming up the last hill towards the water stop. I was keeping an eye on Sinwaan's HR and it was pretty stable at 120-130s. The last 2 miles into town were on the gravel road. Lara was in pain again and didn't want to trot but after the horses had a good cool-down walk we let them have a nice hand-gallop. Rocker could see camp and wanted to race in but Sinwaan is really good about pacing himself and I had to push him a little to keep up at the canter.
We walked the last mile in and crossing the finish line I started tearing up again! I could have cried, I was so happy and proud of my horse. It was really neat because everyone at the vet check cheered for us and Patty said "I am sure glad to see you girls!" I called for "PULSE!" as soon as his HR hit 60. He pulsed down to 60 at 2:32. Two minutes over time!! GROAN! Rocker took a little longer again but she pulsed down six minutes over time. Sigh. I could have cried. Not because we were two minutes late, but because we actually made it. And could have made it with plenty of time to spare without that 3 mile mistake we made early on. In this situation your mind just starts racing over all the things you could have saved time on. If only...
We went over to complete our last vet check and Sinwaan scored one B on Gut Sounds. An A- on Cap. Refill, Skin Tenting, Muscle Tone, Impulsion and Overall Impression. He scored an A on Muc. Membrane, Jugular Refill, Anal Tone, Back/Withers, Gait and Attitude. Yeah!
I had such a super ride, I wish it could have been a little better (less painful and stressful) for Lara though. I am extremely proud of my horse, he really knows how to take care of himself by drinking and pacing himself. He was so well mannered out there the whole time, he doesn't give me trouble when he sees a horse out ahead of him.
After our completion we took the horses back up to the trailer. Sinwaan just took a nap. We discussed leaving early (tonight instead of tomorrow) and Levi finally fell asleep on Matt's chest for his nap so Lara and I walked down to the vet area to get some food. Our entry to the ride provided us with a nice meal at the end put on by some 4-H'ers. They had garden burgers for us and we were able to set up our buns with all the trimmings, we also had chips and a brownie included in our meal. It never tasted so good! Lemonade came with the meal but I would rather just have water, so I bought some green tea and water and gave them a little donation. When Lara and I were done eating we found the photographer and she was printing out photos already in her camper. We sat and visited with her for awhile and then got some prints of what she had taken of us. I went back out to get Matt's burger for him so it would be hot and walked that back to camp. He wanted to know what had taken so long, he said we were gone for 2 hours. He had gotten a lot of stuff packed up already. The horses were still taking a nap and I was glad to see them resting up before the trip home.
We got packed and loaded up and headed out just about 8 pm. Lara and I were both a little sad about missing the awards meeting, but if we stayed we would have been too late getting home. As it was we didn't get Rocker home until about 12:30 am, Sinwaan in his pasture a little after 1 am and Matt and I to bed about 2 am.
Thank you to my wonderful husband for driving and taking all the awesome photos of our experience. I was so impressed that he did it all with a manual focus lens while managing our son. Thanks to Lara for taking us all to the ride and for being a good riding partner (such a trooper!). I have to thank Patty Peck for managing this ride, we will definately return next year if it is offered again. I thought it was really well run and well marked. The vets were all wonderful and the other riders we had contact with were very friendly and oh so helpful and excited for us newbies. It was a FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE, and I learned more than I ever imagined was possible. We are definately hooked and looking forward to the next ride!