Still Prineville Trails Weekend
April 29 2022
For our second endurance ride, Heather and I had discussed
and decided on the Still Prineville multi-day ride in April. Heather wanted to
attempt two days of consecutive riding and while I was not 100% sold on the
idea, I was open to giving it a shot. Dean was planning to ride all three days
and take multiple horses so we figured I would again haul Amira but probably
also bring Amelia home with me since Dean would stay an extra day and Heather
and I did not plan to take Monday off work.
Shortly before the ride Dean had back pain and was not
feeling up to riding so he canceled on going altogether but was so kind to loan
me a set of panels so that I would not have to tie to the trailer. We went over
Wednesday evening to pick up the panels and thankfully they fit in the back of
the pickup without removing the canopy!
With everything up in the air as to if we were going or not,
it was a bit of a mad scramble to get packed up Wednesday night and Thursday
Another thing that factored into my indecisiveness about
going to the ride was Sinwaan. On Saturday morning before the ride he choked,
and the vet that came out worked tirelessly to get him tubed and cleared out,
it was rough going there for an hour+ and I wasn’t sure if he would make it. I
was worried about him being alone for four days and the Fleischers were happy
to have him back to horse-sit him while I was away.
We were able to leave town before 10 am and made it to Biggs
Junction by 12 pm. Here the road went from an easy interstate to up-a-mountain
highway. I had looked at elevation in advance and determined the total climbing
to this ride was more than going to Flatlands, there is a mountain on this
route - Grizzly Mountain? (3569’) - with a 15-50% grade that is bigger than
Snoqualmie. I was a little worried about
that, especially with hauling two horses in the trailer. I took advantage of
the slow lane on the uphill and at times let the pace slow to 40-45 mph to not
stress the truck out too much. We made it to ride camp by 3 pm with no
difficulty and saw some pretty neat views and clouds that looked suspiciously
of rain. The weather prediction was to be nice Friday and Sunday but rain on
We unloaded the horses and then unhooked the truck so we
could pull it forward and remove the panels. We set up camp and then got
registered and vetted in and decided to do a pre-ride. The trails looked great
and were marked well with all colors of ribbons. After all that we had dinner,
and later attended the ride meeting.
This ride didn’t have the Ride With GPS routes set up
properly. It sounded like some of the older ones from years past would work but
they might be the wrong direction, or there may be some changes and as the
trail names were rattled off I lost track of what they were talking about since
I had never done this ride before. Other than Flatlands I never had the option
to ride with GPS, so it sounded just like the olden days where you just follow
your ribbons and pay attention. The ride meeting itself seemed a little bizarre,
but I was not concerned since between Heather and myself I figured we would do
We periodically took the horses out to stretch their legs
and graze. The start time was 8 on Friday so we would have plenty of time in
the morning to get ready. It got dark around 8:30 so that is when we all went
Friday morning was shaping up to be a nice day. I mixed up
electrolytes in applesauce this time since Amira seemed to like that better at
home. Heather helped me dose her with a syringe and we made some progress on
her taking it a little easier this time with not so many head nodding avoidance
attempts. I tacked her up and decided to use hind boots to protect her
fetlocks. She had clipped herself at home cantering around with Ellie a couple
days prior. I mounted up and walked her around and she was feeling excited. She
is not out of control, but she is learning what ride camp is about and eager to
get going. We again waited around in camp until it seemed everyone who was
tacked up had left and then we headed out with Heather on foot leading Amelia
for the first ½ mile or so.
First, we rode the “Short Red” loop of about 13 miles. It
took us out of camp and out around a bit before coming back past camp towards
the plains of sagebrush. Occasionally there would be a gate with a person
standing there to watch over it, so we didn’t have to dismount to get through it.
I was sure to thank them! After riding a bit we saw a vehicle parked across the
two-track trail to point us to the plains and the short cut area which was not
really an established trail, and Amira decided to jump some brush instead of
plowing through it like Amelia did ahead of her. That was a surprise! We weaved
around the sage brush and watched for ribbons, and finally we reached a water tank
but the horses did not really want to drink much so we continued on the more
established trail. That took us up and around to a section of fencing with
cattle on the other side. There had been a group of 4 riders here that we could
see from a distance, and they moved on before we got there.
When we arrived, we saw that we had to dismount and open and
close a section of fencing (gate). Thankfully, Heather was willing to do that
as I have trouble getting back on without a mounting block. Amira was not too
sure of the gate, she thought that looked pretty sketchy and “what is that COW
over there staring at me?” After a minute or two of asking she finally walked through,
and Heather closed it up behind us. We walked a bit to let the horses settle
and to allow the riders ahead of us to create a bigger gap.
As we went along the scenery got prettier and I could see a snowcapped
mountain ahead of us. I tried to take a photo with my phone, and I dropped it.
Uh oh! Stop! Well now I had to get off and fetch my dusty phone. I took a photo
of Heather posed while I was on the ground. Luckily, I was able to mount up
with Amira standing in the trench of our trail. Hooray! At one point we had a
horse coming at us which did not seem right. The lady said she went the wrong
way and had already done 8 miles, and someone had told her to finish the loop
in the wrong direction for a completion (not a placing). I told her the ribbons
should be on her right in the future.
We had amazing weather and came back into camp a little
sooner than we expected. We hopped off and loosened our girths and made our way
to the pulsers. It looked like there was only one person doing pulsing, so I
took Amira to the water to let her drink while I waited our turn. Once Heather
was down, I went back over to get a pulse and ended up with a vet and he went
ahead and did the whole thing for us. We were able to do our trot out and vet
through quickly and had good scores.
Our hold was only 30 minutes today and it went by in a
flash. Amira was not really excited about eating her hay, so I gave her soaked
grain and then had Ellie lead her around so she could graze on grass while I
ate my granola bar and banana, and downed a Gatorade.
There were lots of little holes in the ground around camp
and we discovered they were home to little ground squirrels the size of a
hamster. I do not know their official species but a local called them “whistle
pigs” as they have a piercing whistle to communicate. Ellie had passed the time
by observing and photographing them and had them all named and accounted for by
the time our ride was over. They were sure cute!
Our second loop was the “Blue” loop of about 12 miles. We
headed out the same way, Heather on foot leading and me riding at the walk
until we were about a ½ mile out. This loop was my favorite of the two, it had
a lot of mountain terrain with climbing and the views were so pretty and the
scenery kept changing. Lots of established single and double track trails. We
saw little yellow flowers and later little purple flowers. Lots of stumps, some
were burned, and the horses had a second look at those. We led part of the loop
and Amira had good energy once she thought we were headed back towards camp. On
a particularly long climb we were just trotting along, and we overtook an
Appaloosa that had been ahead of us. It was his first ride, and he was really
doing well. At some point the same lady going the wrong direction on the last
loop also passed by us going the wrong direction again, but this time she said,
“I am going the wrong way, but I am not lost this time!”
What goes up must come down, and the downhill was a little
rocky and we maintained a slow trot although I really need to work on this as
it became obvious to me that I was not riding very well. The sheepskin on my
saddle is very comfortable but it tends to throw me forward which is not
helpful on a downhill. Each time I would think I should probably ask Heather to
slow to a walk, the terrain would flatten out a little and we would just keep
There was an ancient orchard with a sign “Julius and Sarah
McCon Orchard”, and the photographer and friends were hanging out at that spot
to capture us as we came through. At first the horses were not too sure about
this party in the middle of nowhere, but we kept them going at a trot for the
most part and I am hoping for a decent photo.
Just when I started getting tired and wondering how much
farther, there was ride camp in view, and it gave me a renewed energy. We were
still at least a mile out but it was a welcome sight. Once we got there we
untacked right away and led the horses over to the pulsers. Amira did not have
any trouble this time pulsing down, her new low was 46. She scored decently,
As+Bs other than gut sounds which I expected for this picky mare.
Huzzah! Completion number two in the books! Another point
for her towards her Achievement award.
After the ride I was keeping an eye on her and she is not a
voracious eater like I would want to see. She kind of nibbles at her hay and
mostly stands around and watches the camp activity. She will graze decently well
if led around on a halter near Amelia so that is what I ended up doing a lot
of, or enlisted Ellie to help me, just to keep her eating and her gut moving.
She does like her Triple Crown senior grain I have her on now to try and
prevent her from losing any more weight, so I gave her that every couple of
hours soaked as well.
This weekend ride had multiple things happening which I was
not aware of until we got there. They had a trail challenge Friday evening,
which was an 11-mile route which led people past multiple obstacles, all of
which you may encounter on a real trail. The lady in charge of that stressed
the education portion of the obstacle, wanting people to come away with more
information on how to properly approach and pass things like llamas, or a pack
string of horses. I learned a lot just
observing her tack up her pack string and hearing her discuss how the people
judging would score the riders. I would have liked to have tried that with Amira,
but she was tired, and we were done for the day after our 25 miles.
Since the ride is a benefit for Mustangs, they had a couple
of rescue horses there for adoption as well.
At the awards meeting we found out that we placed 20th
out of 22. We had passed the one Appaloosa, and the gal going the wrong way only
got a completion, not a placement, although her ride time was probably better
than ours. Apparently, this was her second ride ever and she did not have a
good mentor yet, but Darlene announced they were going to help her out and get
her going properly in the sport for next time. Heather said our actual time riding was about
4 hr 25 min which is only 5 min slower than Flatlands, only this ride had a lot
of climbing so I was happy about that.
The awards on Friday night were wine glasses with the ride
logo on them. It was a nice glass, but I was worried about breaking it so when
they announced on Saturday night that they had some leftover prizes from previous
years I was delighted to trade my wine glass for a drinking (pint?) glass.
Years ago, I got a glass this style from a ride and it was my favorite until it
broke in the sink, so I am glad to have a replacement.
Heather and I discussed the next days ride throughout the afternoon
and evening. Initially I was worried about Amira not eating and taking good
enough care of herself to attempt another day, but by evening she was behaving
normally, EDPPMF. I had used rear boots on her to prevent more injury and she
did have a raw spot on her one fetlock from her previous injury, so we talked
about how to wrap that to prevent it from getting worse. We were a little
concerned about the weather because the prediction of rain had us worried about
footing on the trails – the locals said it can get really bad, really fast.
The Saturday ride had a vet check out on the trail, so we
decided to pack a bag in advance to be ready in case we decided to ride. Bags
had to be in a pile by “6 am or sooner” so we decided to get up at 5 am, walk
the trail and decide by 5:30 am.
At 5 am the trails were great. There were no issues. It was
overcast but so far so good. I entered for the ride and Heather and I shared her
out-bag and had it ready to go. The out times were earlier today, probably so
they would not have to staff the out check for as long, and the 75s had
canceled, so the 50s left at 6:30 am and the 25s left at 7 am.
Since I was up early it was not too bad preparing for the
ride. I had used vet wrap on her one hind that had the injury and was about to
tack her up when I checked her back for soreness. She flinched and I called
Heather over to check her out. It was clear to us both that she was sore and
not going to pass a vet exam so there was no point in putting on a saddle. I
did not recall checking her back the following day after our Flatlands ride, so
I was not sure if this was a new issue due to the elevation changes. (I usually
just give a horse the week off after an LD anyway) Heather decided to head out
alone and I wished her a good ride!
Since I was back in camp, I decided to ask the ride vet
about the back soreness. Dr Cassee was available, and she said she would start
by looking at the tack. It could be a fit issue. It could also be a rider
issue, and I am not too proud to say that is entirely possible, I know I was
not riding great on the downhills. I made it a priority to get in touch with a
saddle fitter once we got home.
Amira was not thrilled about being left behind, but she was
not overly anxious. She enjoyed grazing and walking around camp with me while
the weather held out. At the start of the day, I thought we got lucky as it was
not raining! Heather texted me at 9:48 to say her out time from the hold would
be 9:58 and things were going great. Just as she was leaving the hold it
started raining. I put Amira’s blanket back on to help keep her dry and I
crawled into the truck with Ellie. The rain was light at first but then it
really started pouring! I started to not feel so bad about being back in camp,
nice and dry with an iPad and the Office to watch with Ellie. We watched a
couple of episodes and then took a nap.
It eventually stopped raining and we took Amira for another
walk around camp to graze and stretch her legs. I realized with a start time of
7 am, Heather would need to be done by 2 pm for her completion. So, I went over
near the finish line to keep an eye out for her. I saw a lot of horses coming
in and vetting through, some were 50s who then headed back out.
At about 1:50 I saw Heather. I was thrilled she was back in
time, since I was certain it was not easy out on that trail in the downpour!
She untacked and got her horse pulsed down and vetted through just in time for
her completion. I was very happy for her and proud that she met her goal of
riding 50 miles this weekend.
Heather got Amelia cleaned up and fed and then ate some food
herself and we chatted about her experience out on the trail. She said today’s
ride had even more elevation changes, was a much tougher trail and the rain
made it that much worse. She had gotten off and jogged for probably 3 miles and
really concentrated the second half of the ride on moving at the safest speed
possible to reach her goal. It got windy and we moved our chairs to the back of
the trailer to stay comfortable but at one point we heard the horses fussing a
bit and we looked out and her shade canopy had blown away! Thankfully, it blew
over to an empty spot in the field, and not into any horses. Three other ladies
ran over to help us disassemble it and put it away.
At some point a horse broke free of their panel containment
system and ran around camp and up the road and over the hill before finally
coming back into camp where it was caught a little while later. She was tied to
the trailer the rest of the weekend.
On Saturday I was most excited about the taco truck that had
been advertised. I looked up their menu online ahead of time and was happy to
see three vegetarian options! One was a spicy mushroom taco, another sauteed
vegetables and the third was a green chili and cheese. Ellie and I were first
in line to place our orders at 5 pm and all three were very good! What a treat
to have hot food prepared for us out in the wilderness.
Awards were around 7 pm and by then it was last call on
tacos, Ellie and I decided we could eat a couple more, so we happily munched on
those during the ride meeting and awards for Saturday’s riders. We discovered
during the LD results that someone somehow squeaked in behind Heather so she
was not the tail-ender (turtle). There wasn’t a prize, so it didn’t really
The top ten riders got cutting boards with the ride logo burned
into them and they had more wine glasses and pint glasses and a t-shirt or two
from a previous year. They announced the trail riders results and Darlene on
her stallion Rock had placed 2nd in that. The trail riding prizes were
neat backpacks full of goodies!
After taking the horses for a last walk that evening, we
called it a night around 8:45 pm.
Sunday morning it was time to pack up and head out. Heather
and Ellie and I all worked together to organize and repack our things. We rolled
out of camp at 8:45 am. Since they had more things happening on Sunday there were
still trucks and trailers coming in and the road was not wide enough for 2-way
traffic. We pulled over for a while to let some trailers past and then a few
people on horseback went trotting by us, using that section of road as trail
for their endurance ride that day. The weather looked much better for them
Headed home I was worried about the mountains but it was
easier going back then it had been coming in. After crawling up the inclines at
40-45 again, we cruised down the big hill into Biggs at 50 mph without needing
to use the brakes. We fueled up and I was going to get Subway but their
computer system had just gone down so they couldn’t sell me a sandwich. Oh
Made it home safe and sound. We dropped off Heather’s horse
Amelia and then took Amira home. I went back to get Sinwaan and the horses were
glad to be reunited. Sinwaan had done great at the Fleischers and enjoyed his
visit with his old friends Midge and Cloud from over the fence.