Ft Lewis Challenge
Oct 1-2, 2022
October found us back in Roy, WA, to round out the season at the very ride where we began it all. I had a little more confidence in going to this ride since I already knew the trails, the elevation was flat, and I had already completed a ride here this year, certainly Amira and I could do it again.
Ride manager Heather had been in touch with me about shooting some video of her trails to help promote the ride for 2023 and I was happy to oblige now that I have gotten better at taking video from horseback. Ellie and I headed over with Amira and pony boy Astro on Thursday around noon. Heather loaned us her portable corrals for both horse and pony and it was quite a treat to be camped out in such style. I had found a small tent the previous week at Goodwill, and some more camping supplies such as an air mattress and more cooking pots so we were better prepared for this last weekend away.
Friday morning Heather took us out on her quad to show us the gravel roads that make up some of the longer loops for the 50 milers and even though I shot most of it (handheld), the footage was so rough it was almost unwatchable. Sadly I will have to give up on that idea for any future rides unless we have more equipment to help smooth out the jarring nature of the quad.
Friday late morning Ellie and I saddled up and rode the 10 mile loop in its entirety, and filmed periodically with my phone to get some footage without the worry of a competition happening at the same time. Ellie was able to set a steady pace with Astro and we ended up finishing the 10 miles within the time frame we would need to do for an actual endurance ride. This gave Ellie confidence and she decided she wanted to enter for the 25 mi ride the following day.
She did not announce this to me however until about 7 minutes until the start time day-of! It was a bit of a mad rush to get her entered, pony vetted through, tacked up, Ellie fed and on the trail. We left only 15 minutes late which I think is quite the achievement!
The weather was just a little cool that morning with a fog settled on ride camp that slowly lifted and burned off as the sun came out and warmed up to the low 80s. The trails were awesome. Mostly single-track through the woods, the scenery is always changing. About 2/3 through the ride Astro spooked sideways at a suspicious moss-covered stump and Ellie fell off, onto some rocks. She was able to continue, although did have some pain from her rough landing.
We spent about 3 hours on the first 15 mile loop and when we came into the vet check the horses pulsed down pretty quickly. Amira pulsed down faster then Astro this time. He typically has a lower heart rate overall but he is a bit out of shape lately. I was surprised to see that while Amira does not eat well in camp, her gut sounds were holding steady at mostly Bs and a C; while the pony who eats everything all the time did not have better scores. This could have also been affected by the fact they were vetted through by different veterinarians.
We didn’t waste any time on our hold. We did pull the tack so the horses could rest and eat comfortably. We also tried to eat a little ourselves. Amira was up to her same issues of refusing any kind of food other than hand-grazing, of which there was not a lot of due to the time of year. I let her rest in her pen and watched her while I took care of myself. Since her gut sounds were acceptable (not great, but not terrible), I had already decided to go back out with her for loop 2 to try for a completion.
Sadly Ellie was not feeling up to more miles. She was very teary about it and upset, but she was visibly shaking and had pain from her fall, and her stomach was bothering her. I hugged her and told her I was so proud of her, even if she hadn’t completed her first endurance ride this weekend, she still did 25 miles between Friday and Saturday’s rides!
I was not thrilled to be riding out alone after our hold. But I was curious to see how Amira would handle it. The first couple of miles was a bit stop and go. Pausing, hesitating, asking if I was making the right decision by leaving her buddy in camp. Eventually I was able to get her going in a steady trot, and thinking I was at the tail end, I just let her set the pace. As I checked my gps I was surprised to see her trucking along at about 8 mph. Then she heard some horses coming up from behind us. She decided at that point that she was all business, and she became a machine. We started eating up the miles and passing other riders! After the photographer at the graveyard she wanted to canter and we came upon another rider who heard us coming and also kicked it up to a canter. We ran along like this a bit and then came to the water stop. After a drink and short bite to eat on the grass, we continued on while the person who was trying to stay ahead of us started visiting with some other people at the water stop.
All told it was a fabulous 10 miles and we got to the end before I even expected it. Amira pulsed down within about 5 minutes and vetted through with no problem, although she did refuse the oat float this time, which she always seemed to love at previous rides.
I kept an eagle eye on her the rest of the afternoon and she just rested in her pen. I took her on a couple walks and she nibbled a bit on the left overs at vet check, and grazed a little on the dead grass but I really wish she had a better appetite at the rides!
At the ride meeting I discovered that I had placed 17th out of 35 riders which was quite a surprise! I did not realize I was mid-pack. That is our best placing so far and I hope we can continue on that trend next year.