Friday, January 9, 2015

2015 Death Valley Warm Up, Day 1, 50 Miles

It's been a few years since I went to this ride. I decided pretty close to the last minute to go. We'd finally gotten DC's saddle issues figured out, by dint of finding for her the ugliest, quite possibly oldest existing Abetta Western saddle in existence. It's in reasonably good shape, all things considered, even if it is ugly. And it fits her. It fits her well enough she feels like a new horse under it.

So I decided both horses were going. I dithered a bit about DC's shoes, having noticed her left hind sounded a little off, and ended up taking her in shoes just days shy of six weeks old. I could have gotten her done beforehand, but I just never got around to getting to it. I decided it wasn't such a huge risk not to take.

DC's first "truck stop bran mash"

It was the longest trailer ride DC had ever been on. She got anxious in the trailer after a couple of hours. I stopped at our regular truck stop and unloaded both horses. DC handled it pretty well for it being the first time she'd been off the trailer in an unusual place. We even had a little walk around the dirt parking lot. Both horses ate a sloppy bran mash beside the trailer before we loaded up and finished the drive. DC was quiet the rest of way, aside from flapping her lips in the breeze with her nose stuck out the trailer.

Because I was on my own, and we would have to head home on Sunday, I opted to ride Hoss in the 50 on Saturday and DC in the 25 on Sunday.

Saturday morning, I got Hoss ready and started him warming up. I was a little concerned about leaving DC at the trailer by herself, but I knew enough people would be in camp and she's sensible enough to be safe. Usually I don't do much warming up, but I wanted to monitor DC's behavior before we left.

We made several laps so I could see DC. The first three times, she was still there, decreasingly anxious. Just as the trail was about to open, I peeked over one last time, and she was gone. Lead rope and all. I went trotting on Hoss back toward camp hollering about my loose horse. Another person had found her and was walking her back. Laurie Birch, another rider, kindly offered me the use of her horse's pen while we were gone. I gratefully accepted and hemmed in the silly little mare.

Hoss was of two minds about leaving camp for the first mile or so. Once we were far enough away for him to focus, he got down to work.

We were by ourselves for a time, then were caught up by a group including Laurie and Taz (who Hoss loves) and Joan and Dodge. We trailed along with them for some time. I realized Hoss really has the ability to go faster than this group tends to go, but I also had a feeling he wasn't going to pass them. Rather than set him up to fail, I allowed him to fall behind until he finally let them go. When he did let them go, he was feeling a bit unmotivated and really not interested in getting up the hill. I had to pedal him quite a bit.

Getting to the vet check felt like an insurmountable task until we found ourselves there. Hoss recognized the trailer and the people and cheerfully started hunting for his crew bag. He ate well and even slurped up his bran mash. At this ride, I did not give him any electrolytes other than what he got in his mashes, so no syringes during the ride. This is a pretty big change for him, which I decided to do after he spit out half the syringeful the last time I gave him one. I have decided to trust him to tell me when he needs electrolytes.

After the hold, it was back on the trail. There were a few horses ahead, and Hoss was feeling motivated, so I let him move out. These horses were faster than him, so I had to hold him back a bit, but he was doing very well.

We chugged our way up the big, fat hill, then got to work getting back toward camp. We caught up with, passed, and were caught and passed by the other horses we'd been chasing/riding with since the vet check.

It turned out the other horses were on the LD ride, which meant an interesting little divergence. We got to within a few miles of camp, and the LD riders continued straight while we, on the 50, turned right for an additional four or five miles. Hoss trotted along cheerfully enough, clearly knowing we were close to camp, and thinking that was where we were headed, even if we weren't with the other horses anymore.

Then I asked him to step up onto the double track, and he caught on. This was definitely Not Back To Camp. Oh, he could not possibly have a more cruel and inhumane owner! He dropped to about a 2 mph walk. I know the score when he's in a mood like this. There is no making him go faster. No power on this earth will get him moving until he gets out of the snit. The only option is to simply ride through it. Kicking and urging will just wear me out and get me nowhere.

We went at this snail's pace walk for about a mile before another horse caught and passed us. Now that he wasn't the only horse being forced to walk The Wrong Way, Hoss picked up a desultory trot to sort of keep up. He wouldn't catch up, but he'd get to a respectable distance.

We got to the end point and turned back toward camp. Hoss did not believe at first that we were really, honestly and truly, headed back to camp. After a bit, he realized we must be finally going to the finish and picked up a more respectable pace for the last couple of miles.

I presented Hoss to Alyssa when we arrived, only to have him fail to recover. I knew exactly what was up with that. DC had been hollering to him for some time, and all he could think about was the mare. I went back to camp and got her, and when I re-presented him, he was fine.
Full moon over camp

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