Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Vail Lake LD

This was our first "real" ride since my hip replacement. Daniela wasn't quite ready to go straight to a 50, and I'm not a big fan of the 3 vet check 50 anyway, so we decided to do the 25 mile ride.

I took Eclipse home with me on Wednesday morning after Daniela and I had ridden, to make it easier for me to haul him to the ride on Friday. Eclipse and Hoss had a great time together for the following two days, refusing to allow one another to wear a fly mask and dashing about. I came home from choir on Wednesday night to find them laying in the pasture, back to back. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a picture.

On Thursday I saw a request on the local endurance riders' Facebook page looking for a ride for a horse and rider to Vail Lake. The pair were along my route, so I volunteered to pick them up. Thus I met Becky and Dusty.

Friday morning I got the boys loaded up and hit the road. We picked up Becky and Dusty in Escondido, and made ride camp by about noon. Camp set up didn't take long and we took the horses over to vet in.

The boys settled in at camp
I didn't want to leave Hoss or Eclipse alone at the trailer while the other went to be vetted, so I just grabbed both horses' vet cards and took them. When we arrived at the vets, Hoss immediately spotted Fred Beasom. Fred has a habit of offering every horse a bite of carrot, and Hoss remembers this. Hoss practically ran the man over!

Fred was available, and so was Alina, who we met at several Duck rides last year, so Fred vetted Hoss while Alina did the same for Eclipse. I trotted them out together, which worked just fine until Fred yelled, "OK!" Hoss promptly stopped, recognizing this as the cue he was done. Eclipse, on the other hand, cheerfully continued trotting until I had two horses at the extreme ends of my reach.

Daniela arrived in time for the ride meeting, and we all did our best to listen attentively. I had learned that morning that a dear friend's husband (who worked with my sister) was killed on Thursday in a freak motorcycle accident. It being precisely 6 weeks after Julian's death, and a Thursday, I was anything but normal. Seriously, I am considering campaigning to have Thursdays removed from the calendar for good and all.

I never sleep well the night before a ride. I am always listening for the horses. It's a good thing, too. Early in the morning, about 2am, I heard a horse walking about, and it didn't sound quite right. Shortly after I heard it, Hoss started calling. I knew immediately what had happened: Eclipse was loose.

I leapt out of bed and put on my shoes, then went out to retrieve the wayward horse. It was a very dark night, no moon and few stars. I could hear Eclipse walking around, but I couldn't see him. Ultimately we nearly ran into each other, as I couldn't see him but he was pretty sure I should and didn't stop. He was perfectly happy to come to me when I called him. He had slipped his halter. I got him close enough to the trailer and got him tied back up.

Once it was close enough to morning to do so, I fed the horses, including returning Dusty's hay bag to him, which he had managed to unhook from the trailer and fling behind him. Hoss did not eat well, and I realized later it was probably because he's used to being out with the first horses of the day. Eclipse was his usual picky self. I wasn't worried. I had extra tube electrolytes for him, knowing he's like that.

We left reasonably early. Late enough to let the hot shoes get out, and early enough to be ahead of the slowpokes. Both horses were relaxed and eager to go.

It was nice to have a ride with another person. I'm not particularly used to it, but it's not a bad thing to have someone to talk to or even just be with for the duration of the day.

We completed the first 14 miles very quickly, coming in to camp for the first vet check at 9:30, 2 hours and 30 minutes after the start. I was a little addled still, and I initially forgot to take the horses straight to the vet rather than waiting until the end of our hold. We walked back and vetted them through before heading to the trailer to feed them.

On the second loop, a group of riders who had dressed as super heroes (really), caught up to us and we rode with them for a short period before breaking away and getting ahead.

And then the trouble started. At the ride meeting the night before, I had understood the ride manager to say the 50 mile riders stayed on orange, and the 25 mile riders went on yellow. Those aren't her precise words, and honestly I have plenty to say about the notion each loop should have its own individual color, but the result was when we got to an intersection where orange went one way and yellow the other, I naturally assumed we were supposed to stay on yellow.

We got to the parking lot of the pool before I realized my error. There was no way to make the pool parking lot work with the instructions, and I had done the ride once before and recognized something was off. It took me a little while to realize what I had done. We were forced to turn around and retrace about 2 miles of trail to get back on track. What a wonderful way to introduce a newbie to the sport! (Not)

We made it back to where I had gotten us off track, and now we really needed to be on the muscle. As I have told Daniela before, we needed to trot or canter every step we could to make it back in time. Under LD rules, we had to have the horses' heart rates down before cut off time, not just cross the finish line, so we needed a good 15 minutes to be sure we'd get a finish. So we downright hustled.

Coming down the final stretch, we passed the Challenge Ranch kids and skated in to camp at about 12:30. Knowing the heat and the amount of work we had done and the extra miles we had put in, I knew it would take Hoss longer than usual to recover. I got off and promptly got to work sponging him down. Eclipse came down readily. Hoss was just a few minutes behind him.

I had two devices tracking our miles that day. One was my GPS, an older Garmin eTrex, the other the EveryTrail app on my phone. I got wildly different results on mileage. My GPS said 28 miles. EveryTrail said 34. I suspect somewhere in between is the truth. It does point out, however, the vagaries which can exist in our methodologies.

Once we had all had dinner, Daniela headed home, and Becky and I got the camp broken down and loaded the horses. I got every body home, and Hoss and I hit home sometime after dark. He wasn't even tired. He looked like he was wondering when we were going to do the rest of the ride!

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