Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 Grand Canyon II


The Grand Canyon ride this year has been split into two, 3 day pioneer rides. In the past, it was a single, 5 day pioneer ride. The grand experiment for the 2018 season by XP Rides has been to turn all previous 5 day rides into two 3 day rides with a rest day in between. So far, I’m liking it.

On the rest day, Wednesday, I headed into the Grand Canyon North Rim National Park. Entry was $35, but with access to the internet at the Lodge, an excellent restaurant with a view over the rim *and* offering gluten free pancakes on the breakfast menu, plus a place to shower and do laundry, it was well worth it.

North Rim from the lodge
After I’d gotten my shower and done my laundry, I got ice and coffee and headed back to camp. When I went to put the ice and coffee in the camper, I discovered I couldn’t get the door open. I decided it was something I should deal with in camp, so headed back.

Once back at camp, I tried again to open the camper and was utterly unsuccessful. Using the key made no difference, either. Thinking I might have better luck from the inside, I got the step ladder out of the trailer and crawled in through the camper window.

It turned out being inside just meant I couldn’t get out rather than not being able to get in.

I tried removing the door knob, as the problem was clearly the latch not moving. This did not make things better and I had to call out for help.

Rebecca Florio helped me with the doorknob, putting the piece I’d knocked out back in place. Despite some effort, it made no difference and I was still stuck. She went off to find more help, coming back with some tools from Steve Bradley. After we’d worked at it awhile without success, Rebecca headed off to see if she could find Tom. In the meantime, Steve headed over with yet more tools and with a good deal of prying and cursing, we were able to get the latch out of the door frame. 


Now I had an open door. Fortunately we did not ruin it in the process. I was able to put the door handle (sans latching mechanism) back in the door and use the dead bolt to latch it.

DC had another catch rider for day 4, so I took her and Hoss to vet in for the next day. Hoss would be going on another fun ride. He was starting to look quite good. Still, I wanted to be gentle with him and me both so opted for the easy thing.


I talked about ride strategy with the new catch rider and sent them off in the morning. It turned out DC went quite a lot faster in the first half of the ride than she had any right to, and the rider allowed this. At 10 minutes in the vet check, her heart rate was still high, although once it started to drop she recovered quickly. They took the second half a little slower, losing yet another boot (5 glue on boots lost in 3 days of LDs, that’s gotta be some kind of record) and having to stop to put on a replacement. 
They finished in 5th place. It was clear DC had gone more quickly than she should have. She still had a higher-than-usual heart rate a few hours later, so we opted to take the 5th day off.

As for Hoss and me, we headed out the other way toward the East Rim. We had a lovely little ride, ultimately going 17 miles and using one of the nifty features of my GPS, which allows me to pick a waypoint and have it point me in that direction. We’d made a difficult climb up a hill and I wasn’t a fan of the idea of going back down it, so we headed along until we came to a road. I knew there was a road to the East Rim, so I knew we had something we could follow back to camp. Once we hit the road, I found a waypoint near camp and asked the GPS to get us there. It was a beautiful ride, though abrasive. By the time we got back to camp his hind shoes were nearly worn through.

The long road back to camp!
I decided to ride DC myself the last day. When I took her to vet in, the vet pulled me aside to talk about what had happened with the catch rider. It turned out I didn’t quite get the whole story. DC had come into the vet check in a full body sweat and shaking. The vet told the rider it was probably adrenaline and they needed to slow way down. Unfortunately slowing down as the vet intended did not happen, as shown by the 5th place finish.

Now, I do have to take some responsibility for my horse getting overridden. When we’d talked about ride strategy, I had said the rider would need to hold DC back. What I did not make clear was I meant that as an instruction, not advice. I’ll take my lumps for being unclear in my instructions. I had spent Friday quite concerned about DC. giving her electrolytes and food to get her back into riding shape. She was clearly much more tired than she should have been for going 35 miles.

We had a good ride on Day 6. DC was quiet chargy, having been allowed to set her own pace a couple of days earlier. It took some doing on my part to hold her back and keep her together. She developed a girth gall on one side. I was able to move the girth off of it by tightening the rear billets on her saddle more than the front ones.

East Rim
It was a long go to the vet check, solidly 19 miles, but we rode along the east rim of the Grand Canyon. I got a few pictures, when I could get a hand off the reins to take them.

At the vet check, I got off and walked in and realized DC had lost her right hind boot. Again. She was still wearing the Glove on her left front. After a bit, I realized the boot on her right front was mostly gone. The sole and rear of the boot had come off. Now she was missing two boots.

If losing 5 boots in 3 rides wasn’t a record, 7 in 4 has to be.

The remaining miles back to camp were primarily on gravel roads. Oh, boy. DC was not happy about walking. Mostly, she jigged. All the way back to camp. I was so beat up I couldn’t walk her in. Fortunately she managed to pull off a halfway decent trot out at camp and got a completion.
On Saturday, I headed back in to the North Rim to do my laundry, get a shower, and have a nice breakfast. It was simply gorgeous staring out the picture windows into the canyon.

North Rim
When I got back to camp, I packed up, hooked up, and we started on the way home, stopping in Las Vegas for dinner with my daughter and son in law.

North Rim Lodge, from the Rim
I have to say, the double pioneer thing works very well. It seemed like there was a good turn out for
all six days, and it made for a nice breather to have a day off. I do hope the format continues.

2018 Grand Canyon XP Ride I


Some set-up is called for in this post, as a great deal happened in the months between Montana de Oro and Grand Canyon.

As alluded to in the previous post, I underwent surgery on June 27. Early in the year, I had seen my orthopedic surgeon and, having decided injections were not effective, elected to go ahead with a second hip replacement. I had hoped to have the surgery by mid-March, to be recovered in time for the births of foals and to continue my ride year. This was not to be. The hospital was under renovation, and operating rooms were short. In the meantime, I continued with life as much as possible with a deteriorating hip.

I finally got the call to schedule the surgery, plus the pre-op class and final appointment with the surgeon. After jumping through all the hoops, I met with the surgeon, who told me he wanted to do arthroscopic surgery and repair my hip. This was fantastic news, while at the same time being quite frustrating. I had gone through the physical and dental clearance and had the class, all of which could have been skipped had he offered arthroscopic surgery in the first place. While pleased, I could also have cheerfully choked the life out of him.

Under the knife I went. It’s a one-day surgery, so once I recovered from anesthesia, I got to go home. I opted to rent a Game Ready ice and compression device, as I can’t take much in the way of anti-inflammatories, and the one I can take is not allowed post-surgery.

When I did wake up, I realized immediately the surgery had worked. By the time I got home, I felt really good. I never took one narcotic pain killer. I used the Game Ready mostly as a precaution against inflammation. I spent the 3 weeks of limited weight bearing pretending to be lame.

Once I was off weight bearing precautions, I started riding Hoss in the arena bareback. I started out at 3 times per week and felt very good about my balance before I started riding in our saddle again. The first time I put the saddle on, we went to the arena and really had a poor ride. I’d gotten so far as cantering a little bareback, so I was surprised when he was being difficult about it under saddle. 

When I took the saddle off, I quickly realized why.

Two giant dry spots, one on each side, demonstrated his saddle no longer fit.

This is the saddle we’ve done 7 years and 3,000 competition miles in. To say I was surprised is an understatement.

The next time we rode, I threw that saddle on him without a pad, and it was quite clear it’s not a fit. Fortunately, Demon’s Tucker western saddle is a good fit. So, with 3 weeks to go before a multi-day ride, I have a horse with a new-to-him saddle.

I was noodling on Facebook one day and saw a post from a person looking for a catch ride for Grand Canyon. I thought, well, why not, DC can be ready for LDs in plenty of time, and it’d be nice to get her some extra miles. Sarah Walton and I arranged to meet and for her to ride DC the first 3 days of the ride.

In the remaining 3 weeks, I needed to get some miles on Hoss to have him ready to do much of anything. So of course, when I brought him out for a ride on August 7th, he had blown a huge abscess out of the outside heel of his right hind foot. It was sore on palpation, and it bled if I looked at it too hard. I removed the shoe, trimmed out what I could to relieve the abscess, and put him in a small pen to start recovering. It would be another 2 days before I could put the shoe back on, and another week before the spot wasn’t sore to the touch. With just a week to go before the ride, he was going to be just as fit as he was and no fitter for the ride.

I got everything ready and packed to go. We left on the 23rd, the ride starting on the 26th. I wanted to arrive in camp by early afternoon on the 24th. Knowing the AC in the truck is not reliable, I wanted to cross the desert in the late afternoon or early morning.

Before loading up, I glued DC’s boots on. It was her very last set of Gloves. Never having had a problem with glue – and having attended more Vettec clinics than I can count – I was unconcerned about a lack of back-ups.

We were on the road by 6pm and had an uneventful drive to camp and arrived by midday Friday.


While unloading and setting up the horses, I noticed an unusual number of yellow jackets. The little bastards have always been a problem at this ride, just not in camp, historically. When I retired to the camper, I made sure to close the screen door in an effort to reduce the odds of one coming in.

Within two hours, I had killed three of the bastards. I’m very allergic to them. I’ve been under immunotherapy for 6 years and my odds of a serious reaction are quite low, but I’m not exactly eager to test the effectiveness of the treatment. Eventually I had to go ahead and close the door to keep them out.

Sarah arrived on Saturday afternoon. After sitting and chatting and getting acquainted, we headed out for a little pre-ride. We were having such a good time talking and riding, by the time I thought to look at my watch we’d been out for an hour and a half! Ultimately we were riding for over 3 hours. We got back to camp, untacked, attended the ride meeting, and vetted our horses in.

By morning, it was clear I was not in any shape to be riding. Besides, during our pre-ride, Hoss had looked not quite right on the opposite front from his abscessed hoof, and his heart rate half an hour after we’d come back was higher than I would expect.

While I was eating my breakfast, I glanced out the camper window and noticed DC’s left hind foot did not look right. She’d lost her boot in the night! I’d brought glue and spare glue on boots, but I didn’t have glue tips. I was able to get one from Dave Rabe and glued a spare boot on.

I sent Sarah and DC down the trail, having walked with them until we were out of camp and they were allowed to trot. I knew DC would never be able to walk through camp, and I also wanted to be sure Sarah was safely on.

Walking back into camp, I stopped to talk with another person. We were standing there chatting amiably when a yellowjacket started hovering about. By this point I was already getting a little paranoid about the things. It seemed whenever I stopped one would be nearby. No one else seemed to be having this problem. Just me. It was like they were hunting me. Me specifically. Like they could sense I was allergic to them and they were on a mission to get me. Well, while I’m standing there chatting, and thought that asshole had left, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my right ring finger. Sure enough, I was stung. I swear the little bastard was laughing maniacally as it flew away.

It was clear I wasn’t having a serious reaction immediately, but damn it hurt anyway. I headed back to camp and took a Benadryl and stayed in the camper while I made sure I wasn’t going to react seriously. It was clear within an hour or two I was going to be OK. I had numbness and tingling in the tips of my right ring and pinky fingers, itching on the back of my hand, and cramping in my forearm muscles, but nothing more than that. It mostly passed within two hours.

Hoss hanging out in camp
Before being stung, I had volunteered to help out, so I dragged my chair over to man the finish line. As I’m sitting there, watching horses come in, I overhear someone talking about finding a glue on boot. I’m thinking, uh-oh. The person brought the boot to where I was sitting and sure enough. It was one of DC’s front boots. At this point I’m thinking, well, she’s coming back on the trailer. There’s no way she can manage this with a boot off. After another little while, another rider shows up and hands me DC’s other front boot. Definitely, she’s coming back in the trailer.

Then, lo and behold, here comes my little mare, tail and ears high, looking just as pleased with herself as she can be. They got into camp and Sarah hopped down. I took DC’s heartrate and she was at a cool 52. Didn’t hardly look like she’d done anything at all. When Sarah trotted her out, she looked great.

Later I examined her feet and discovered they did not look appreciably different than they had when I’d glued her boots on.

Sarah explained she had been so worried about the hind boots she hadn’t really checked the fronts much. Besides, when she did try to see the fronts, DC decided she meant “go faster” and would start cantering. It wasn’t until they arrived in the vet check that the loss was noticed. Sarah asked for advice and after being given 3 affirmatives to continue, she did so, just staying at a slower pace. She hooked up with another rider and they came in together at the end. Had Sarah known the boots had come off within the first 5 miles of the ride, she would never have continued on. It’s a good thing she didn’t know.

Now I had a horse with no front hoof protection. I asked around a bit and came up empty on getting her another pair of boots to borrow. We decided instead to do the intro ride. I was still thinking I shouldn’t go super far, and worried a bit about the still exposed part of Hoss’s back foot.

During the night, I decided to try taping DC’s front boots on. In the morning, I did just that, not expecting them to stay on through even a casual ride. But, it was worth a try.

DC and Sarah

We followed the route the Duck described, and had some nice long trot sessions. Those boots stayed put. I still didn’t think they’d stay on for anything more strenuous, and figured in terms of sanctioned distances, her ride week was over.

Sarah and I decided to walk over to Steve Bradley’s trailer to look at her pictures from the previous day. He got three very nice shots of them, and Sarah bought them all. At this point she was not expecting to ride more than an intro ride, and said as much.

After we were done with Steve, we headed back to camp to find Dave Rabe with a handful of hoof boots. He had dug around and come up with a pair of glue ons and a Glove in DC’s size. Now, really, she’s a 00.5 on the front. Most days she can even wear a 00 on the front. She’s been going in 0s and when I talked to Dave that was the number I’d mentioned.

We broke out all the equipment, wrestled the taped on boots off, and started gluing new boots on. At one point I allowed as she could really wear a 00.5, and Dave asked why I hadn’t said so. I allowed as I figured he probably wouldn’t have that size. He went back to his trailer and came back with a 00.5. I said that shows what I get for thinking.

The glue took extra time setting up due to the humidity here, but the boots went on well. Sarah and I went and put in our cards for the third day, she for a 25, and me for another intro ride. We vetted the horses in and attended the ride meeting. The 25s would not start until 9am, making for a rather leisurely morning.

We took our time getting everyone ready in the morning, and I sent Sarah and DC off at the appointed time. DC looked quiet and willing at the start. I understand she became insistent and fast in short order. They had a very nice ride, for the most part, and I was glad I’d warned Sarah about DC’s terror of cattle. A calf wandered into the vet check while they were there, and DC was quite convinced it was going to eat her. One of the previous riders leaving the vet check chased it out, which was just as well as Sarah might have had a time trying to get DC past it.

In the meantime, I saddled Hoss up and we headed out for a leisurely 10-mile ride, going out along the power line until we had gone 5 miles and turning back. It turned out we were on the return path for the sanctioned rides, and two riders caught up to use moving at a good clip. This of course blew Hoss’s mind, and we spent the last mile or so having a fight about trying to race the other horses.


We had just gotten our tack off and I’d put Hoss back on his stake line when Sarah and DC returned from their ride. DC looked like she hadn’t left camp that morning. She’d lost the last of the boots I’d glued on before leaving and Sarah had managed to get the size 0 Glove to stay on that hind foot. DC made her displeasure over the gaiter known anytime they stopped, kicking that hind foot. At the end Sarah simply removed it rather than have a fight about the kicking. They completed the 25 in just less than 3.5 hours.

Sarah had to leave for California that night, so I made sure she got her completion awards before she left. DC watched her packing up, and I swear that horse was trying to figure out how to fold herself up and hide in the trunk of Sarah’s car.



Wednesday was the rest, and thus makes for an excellent break point for a blog.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Montana de Oro 50, June 2, 2018


Nothing quite like the last minute to get my thoughts written out. Here I am, sitting in camp for the Grand Canyon ride, and I realized I hadn’t done the blog for Montana de Oro. And if I didn’t get it done, the next 6 days of riding would very likely push a lot out of my mind before I got around to it. 

So, here I am.

I decided to take Demon to Montana de Oro due to the cancellation of our local Descanso ride. 

Coming up on surgery scheduled for June 27th, I wanted to squeeze in as many miles as I possibly could before going under the knife.

We managed to leave by about 8am on Friday. It was only about 350 miles, so seven hours drive time.

Except no.

Because of the area we had to drive through, there was delay after delay. Halfway there I seriously considered turning around and going home. By the time we got to ride camp I had decided this would be the first and last time I did this ride.

The camp is very tight and most horses stay in camp corrals. Because Demon is a stallion, he had to stay tied to the trailer, which is not a problem. Really, I prefer to keep my horses super close to me rather than in a corral. The biggest issue was finding a place to park my rig where he could stand tied to the trailer. We had arrived fairly late by the time all was said and done, so there was little parking available. I did manage to back it in next to the restroom, with the tack room door just accessible, and removing both Demon and his hay from the horse box before finishing.

In our little parking spot, standing in his feed pan

In the morning, I wrestled Demon’s tack out of the tack room, and got him groomed and tacked and his boots put on. This was his first ride with his new Scoot Boots on his front feet. We’d done perhaps 12.5 miles in them up until this point. We did test them at all gaits and I was feeling quite confident in them.

While waiting at the start, Demon was tense but well behaved. Rather than walk around, we stood carefully to the side while other horses pranced and walked around. At one point, a gray mare swung her tail right under Demon’s nose. He did not so much as prick his ears. Truly, he’s a great horse.


After we got chugging down the trail, Demon really wanted to run and keep up with everyone. I knew he wasn’t as fit as I would want him to be for how challenging this ride was, so I held him back quite a bit.

The single track helped keep Demon’s pace settled, but he wasn’t really in the groove when we got to the vet check at about 12 miles. So, as I led him in, he wanted to yell and call and be silly the whole way. He pulsed down within a few minutes, but it was longer than I’m used to seeing with him. However, considering he has mostly done 1 vet check rides and gone much further before a vet check, I wasn’t particularly concerned. He did not eat as well as I’m used to seeing, but again, he hadn’t gone very far per his own experience, so I wasn’t alarmed.

At the first vet check, wanting to watch everyone else
We left the vet check at a better pace than we’d come in. Sometimes these rides with 3 vet checks are good for separating horse groups and getting any given horse to chill. I let him take much longer getting back to camp for the second vet check than we’d taken getting to the first, making up for how quickly we’d done those first miles.

We were chugging up a steep climb when I started hearing a strange clinking sound. Eventually I was able to identify it. The center ring in his girth had ripped loose, and it was swinging on the end of his breast collar. When we got to the top of the hill, I pulled him off to the side and got off. As other horses continued on down the trail, I removed the ring, turned the girth around, and reattached his breast collar. I found a rock of sufficient height and got back on.

At the second vet check, Demon pulsed down much more quickly than at the first. He ate and drank well at the trailer and was raring to go by the time I hopped back on.

As we were preparing to leave camp, I realized I didn’t have my helmet. So I hopped off to lead back and retrieve it. One of the volunteers very kindly offered to hold Demon while I went back to the camper. I handed him off and got my helmet. When I got back, I discovered Demon had been feasting on carrots while the volunteer told him how handsome he was. I daresay that was his favorite part of the ride.

The start of the 2nd loop involves heading out for about two miles and passing right back by camp. While we were out, I realized I didn’t have my trail map or vet card. I must have left them in my camper.


We caught up with another pair of horses, one of whom was getting very unhappy about the stallion behind her. We passed them and trucked back to camp as quickly as we could to retrieve our map and card.

We trotted into camp and I got off and found the map and card. I got back on, and just as we were preparing to leave, our camp neighbor stopped us, saying something didn’t look right. I hopped back off and she was right.

The front left billet was gone from his saddle.

I stood there staring at this and realized quickly it was far too risky to continue with only 3 billets. The chances of saddle slippage or another billet failing were just too great to take.

While I was thinking this, our neighbor was rummaging through her trailer. Out she comes with a strap which I was able to rig up to reasonably work in place of the proper billet. I thanked her profusely and off we went to hit the beach.

When we got to the trail to the beach, Demon became tense. Evidently, despite living for a couple of years merely a mile from the beach, he’s never been there. Ultimately I had to lead him down to the beach proper so we could finish our ride. He wanted nothing to do with that funny-smelling water. Well, we both feel the same about the beach, so I can’t complain too much, but we did have to get through it. At least we didn’t have to go *in* the water, just by it.

Quite dubious about the funny smelling water
While we were on the beach, another rider caught up to us and we ended up spending the rest of the ride with Phyllis and George. We were both doing about the same pace and the horses got along so it worked out.

On the beach, not even thinking about sticking a toe in that weird water
At the third vet check, Demon again pulsed down quickly and tucked into his hay and water, while George took a little time. This was okay with me. I didn’t mind spending extra time in the vet check, and neither did Demon.

Back on the trail, we kept our pace up as much as possible. Toward the end, we had to really start speeding up as we were pushing the cut off. We once again caught up to the little mare who was so upset by Demon, so we slowed down in order to let her get away from us a bit. While I know I am not responsible for the behavior of other horses, I appreciate the difficulty of dealing with a horse who’s having a problem. If I can help ease someone else’s difficulty, I’ll do my best to do so.


We crossed the finish line with 15 or 20 minutes to spare. Demon again pulsed down easily and I took him to the trailer to untack quickly. Unfortunately when we left, George started getting upset and Phyllis’ husband came over to ask me to bring Demon back. I grabbed a handful of hay and brought Demon back over to hang out with George.

After George pulsed down, we vetted both horses through and took them back to their respective trailers. I was super happy with how Demon finished. He did well, even though he was more tired at the end than he usually is.

Before the ride meeting, the ride manager came up to me and told me someone had told her we hadn’t gone to the beach. Well, of course we had, and I had 10 pounds of beach in my boot to prove it, plus the “between the ears” pictures I’d taken. That was more than enough to satisfy the ride manager, indeed, just insisting we had was enough.

I can only assume someone who knew we’d been ahead of them when we passed camp didn’t realize they’d passed us while we were fixing tack and thought we must have cut trail.

After all of this, I found myself thinking, the next time we do this ride, we’re leaving Thursday before the ride!

I did, eventually, figure out what must have happened to that billet which went missing. It was put together in a manner which would allow it to come undone, especially if it were being interfered with by stirrup fenders. Being on a western saddle, it was quite easy. Now, I put them on the saddle the same way they came to me from the manufacturer. However, I do feel it was an assembly error rather than a design flaw. I still use the same sort of billets, put together the other way around, and don't fear the same issue reoccurring.



Friday, April 6, 2018

Eastern Mojave Scenic

Before we left, I brought DC up and glued a set of boots on her. She has been without shoes all around since some time in January. I'd taken her hinds off with the intention of resetting them, only to find I was out of the nails for her shoes. Oops. And by the time this ride came around, I hadn't acquired more. But, at Death Valley, Dave Rabe had given me a full set of size 00 EasyBoot glue-ons. I already had a pair of 0s for her fronts. So I went ahead and did a full set of glue ons for this ride.

We had an uneventful drive to camp and found a decent place to park where I could put Hoss out on his stake. It was even still daylight when we arrived. It seems no matter how early I leave for a ride, I cannot seem to get there until the last minute. I even miss ride meetings for driving late. So it's extra nice when I can manage to arrive at a reasonable hour.

With DC having had trouble in the past with rides, I decided I'd ride Hoss the first day so she could settle in. She does fine by herself in camp, other than not eating anything other than hay, and I hoped by leaving her she would have time to recover and rehydrate from the drive.

Day 1

In the morning I got Hoss saddled up and we got out on trail. It was a nice day, not cold and not hot. While it was chilly, I was able to leave my jacket at camp rather than have to deal with it during the day.

Hoss was extra happy to hit the trail and behaved pretty well. It shouldn't be surprising after 4,000+ miles. I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter how many miles a horse has done, one can never be sure what horse they've brought until they're on the trail.

We chugged along on our own for the first several miles, then hooked up with Cathy Bartusek and her new horse. So we spent the rest of the day with them.


Hoss was happy to have company, although we went slower than we would normally on our own. Cathy was doing her second 50 on this new horse, and wanted to take it slower than she would with an experienced horse. Since Hoss likes to have company, I was OK with taking things slower than usual.

After a lovely day, we pulled in to camp as the sun set. I was starting to feel pretty worn out, and was contemplating not entering the next day. Indeed, I fully intended to leave my name out of the box when I went to the ride meeting.


So imagine my surprise when I put a card in. I figured, what the hell, I might feel better in the morning, and putting in the card wasn't a commitment. I'd still have to put my "morning card" in to complete my entry.

After the ride meeting, I staggered back to the camper, finished dinner, checked on the horses, and fell into bed by 8pm. Normally I set up my saddle with water bottles and such the night before, but I was just too done in. I figured if I went, I'd have plenty of time to get it done in the morning.

Day 2

I elected to do an LD with DC. Her last two 50s did not go super well, one ending in a tie up and the other with a punctured hoof. As a result she hasn't had the conditioning she really ought to have. Besides, she really wants to be a top ten horse, and if that's what she wants to do, she's going to need to do some top tens at shorter distances before she does it in 50s. She's already top tenned a couple of 50s, even has a 1st, but I don't feel like I've prepared her adequately for the job. Not to mention, I'm not ready to be riding 50s in the top ten!

Surprisingly, I felt fairly good in the morning. There was a bit of pep talking to get out of bed. I was only riding the LD. I'd have plenty of time to nap after we got back. We weren't doing much. I can do this!

Coffee helped.

DC still needed to be vetted in, so had to hustle to get everything together and hit the trail without being too far behind. And I needed to get her to the vet before the vet crew left for the morning.

I got out of the camper and fed horses first, before starting my breakfast and getting dressed for the day. Although I'd gotten up with enough time, I still had gotten up later than I usually would. So I went for efficiency in preparations. I got the coffee on and fed. Started breakfast and got dressed. Filled my water bottles. Made sure I had the right map and rider card.

I had plenty of time when I got DC and brought her around to saddle up. DC has always been a nervy sort, and this morning was no different. She trembled while I got her ready, flinching at any sudden movement. She wanted to run off at any opportunity. Still, she was able to contain herself enough to get her saddle on and cinched up.

When we arrived at the vet to check in, DC was trembling so badly the vet couldn't get an accurate heart rate on her. Couldn't hear her heart at all. I hadn't been able to get a pulse because of the trembling. The vet and I both felt fairly confident she was fine, in spite of the excitement, and we headed off to the start.

Possibly the most bizarre feature with DC is this super excited trembling business. As soon as I pulled her up alongside the mounting block, she quit. She put her head down and got to work. The trembling absolutely vanished. Now, this is not to say she went forward at exactly the speed I asked, or that she never tried to get her way. No, of course she wanted to bolt from time to time, and being the competitive soul she is, she wanted very much to run until she was way out in front of everyone ever. Despite that, she was controllable, and she put a great deal of energy into keeping herself in check.
Look at those ears, checking to see if anyone is catching up.
The first several miles of the ride went fairly well. Other than wanting to charge ahead whenever she saw horses gaining on her, she was consistent and did a good job. Well, she still hasn't quite gotten the hang of following trail. A single track seems to derail her ability to figure out where she's supposed to go. I had to keep a good direct rein on her on single track lest we trot off into the desert.

I was keeping DC back as much as possible, shooting for a 6mph average and not to get into racing. DC, of course, wanted to race. We had quite a discussion coming out of the Ord Corral and going up the hill, her wishing to run as fast as she could and me telling her she needed to walk. I had finally gotten a few real walk steps out of her just as we came to the photographer. So I asked for a trot.

What I got was a dead runaway.

I had two choices. Fight like hell and get her back to a walk, or ride it out. I chose ride it out. It's always best to pick one's battles, and I decided this was not the hill I wanted to die on. Later when I told the photographer I'd been riding a runaway, he was surprised. From his perspective she appeared to be well under control. Looks can really be deceiving!

We arrived at the vet check in good time. Rather than go to pulse in right away (there was a line of riders preparing to vet and leave, and only Dave there to do both jobs) I took her into the corral for a drink. I dropped her bit and led her down to the water.

While she was having a drink, I gave her a quick look over. She had blood covering her right shoulder. Not long before, while trotting on single track, we had disagreed about which side of a small Joshua tree to go around, and she ended up running into it. The result was a bloody mess. I rinsed it as best I could, realizing for all the blood it was superficial. Then we pulsed in and had our rest time.

On the way back to camp, DC was less enthusiastic. Watching other horses leave without her seemed to take some of the stuffing out of her. So we alternated trotting and walking, and made our way back to camp at a decent pace. We managed to hit a 6mph average.

On our way back to vet out at camp, we snuck past Hoss, who appeared to be having a nap sprawled out on his side in the dirt. I learned later he'd heard us and tried to leap up, only to catch himself on his line and get stuck. Debra Freiberg very kindly helped him, only to have him thank her by whacking her with his head trying to find DC. Yup. Hoss is just like that sometimes.

After vetting out and stripping DC and getting both horses fed, I retreated to the camper for a well earned nap. This LD thing could spoil me. Getting back to camp with so much daylight left and time to relax is really nice.

Day 3

After the ride meeting the prior evening, Cheri Briscoe asked if I was riding Hoss, and allowed as she'd like to buddy up with us for the day. I allowed as Hoss and I would not mind doing so. So in the morning, as I finished saddling and was getting on, Cheri and her younger stallion, Elendil ("L") arrived to join us on the way out of camp.

Not only does Hoss like having company, he is a very calming and steady presence for other horses on trail. Cheri was happy to have Hoss alongside L for the day.

 L turns out to have a bigger trot than Echo did, or Hoss does. Usually, when paired with a horse who's faster than him, Hoss will continue to chug along at his regular rate, confident he'll catch up when the other guy slows down. Today he was not having it. He was absolutely going to keep up with L. So while we'd usually be going at about 7mph, he's pulling along at 9mph. It was a good trot, though, reasonably smooth - as smooth as Hoss gets, anyway - and it didn't feel like he was particularly overworking. In the end I just had to let him keep it up. I knew with Cheri's riding style we'd still end up averaging about 5mph, so ultimately it would amount to the same as usual.

Hanging out at the vet check
At the vet check, we had a nice lunch and good rest. The horses were fine together. Of course, the other guy's food always looks better.

Hole in the Rock
We set out after lunch to finish the second half of the ride. Most of the trek back is fairly level, with a final climb to Halloran Summit, and a gradual 7 mile decline back to camp. We finished nicely, with a just under 10 hour 50.

Day 4

DC was up again, so as Hoss and I came in from Day 3, we picked her up and took her to vet in while Hoss vetted out. It certainly was easier than trying to take her by herself.

In the morning, she was once again fidgety and anxious and trembling. Got her saddled and ready and we made our way to the trail.

DC was a little less difficult to handle this day. It may partly have been due to a smaller entry in the ride, giving her fewer other horses to worry about. I set out to have a faster day, aiming for a 6.25mph average.

 We headed out of camp and kept a nice clip going. DC was happy to get out and feel like she was essentially alone on the trail. She's odd in that she generally prefers to be by herself, but once she feels like she knows another horse she'll happily go along in company as well.

One of the mine camps
I knew we were getting close to the vet check when we started going through the old mine camps, so I started pulling her back some. Our average was also a little high on the GPS, so I just waned to cool her heels a bit. Unfortunately right about then another rider started catching us, and she just wasn't having it. Once she even broke into a gallop to try to leave them behind.

Approaching the vet check, we had to pass through a wash with some gnarly rocks. It was tough to navigate, as the trail is really recut every year, so I was relying on ribbons. With DC worried about another horse catching up, I had to be quick.

We got to the bottom a rock slough, and I could see a ribbon at the top. I was sitting there thinking that couldn't possibly be the way we were meant to go, when DC decided it must be, or I wouldn't be looking up that way!

We got about halfway up before DC got stuck and started to fall. While she was scrambling, I tried to bail off to get out of her way. At some point my knee got bashed into a rock. Before I could get off, DC got her feet back under her, picked me up, and backed out of the slough. We stood there shaking for a minute, and she thought she'd give it another go. I managed to stop her and, having now found the marked route, got her going the direction we were supposed to go.

Once we were up on solid ground, I hopped off to have a look. DC had several small scrapes, and one big wound over her left hind fetlock. She was bleeding but not super profusely. I led her down to the hold, sure she was going to be lame by the time we were done.

It was quite windy, and although I had very carefully taken my crew bag to restock, I'd forgotten to put the horse cooler in it. So all I had to cover DC with was my jacket. I tossed it over her hips to help keep her at least a little warm. She was OK, not really shivering, but still a little amped up after the spill. Her heart rate recovered quickly and we settled in to wait. A crew person who's rider had already been through kindly loaned us a cooler, allowing me to have my jacket back.

While we were resting, I realized my knee had been gouged open on whatever rock I struck it against. It was bleeding quite profusely. Remarkably, my tights had not been damaged. There were no bandages in the trailer, so I had to hope the wound wouldn't bleed enough to fill my boot.

After we'd been in for 20 minutes, I took DC to the vet, sure she'd be lame by this time. Imagine my - and the vet's! - surprise when she trotted sound!

I could have waited for a ride back to camp, rather than continue on. On another day I might have. We had about 10 miles to go to camp. It was cold and windy. DC was trotting sound. I knew the wound on her fetlock was going to give her trouble sooner or later. It was going to be hours waiting in the vet check until we could hitch a ride to camp. I felt it was better for her to go on. We'd just slow way down.

We left the vet check and alternated walking a trotting our way down toward camp. DC preferred to trot than walk, so I allowed her some trotting.

Out of the vet check back toward camp
The rider who'd nearly caught us up before the vet check did finally catch us, and we ended up riding on in together. Our horses seemed to make friends and got along. DC was significantly faster than the other horse, so when we trotted we'd leave them behind. One advantage was DC would slow down if she left the other horse too far behind, allowing me to keep her to a slower rate.

We walked a good deal of the way, until we were passed up by another horse. DC did not take kindly to this, and it was very tough to keep her to a walk. In fact, it was far more likely to to her harm if I didn't let her move out. So, for a couple of miles, we did just that. We slowed back down when we got close to camp, but DC still couldn't do less than a jig. At least she was able to jig without also having me hauling back on the reins. She couldn't quite walk, but I had a loose rein anyway.

When we got back to camp, I stopped at the trailer to strip DC's saddle and grabbed Hoss. There was really little to be gained by leaving him there, yelling about DC while I tried to get her vetted out. By the time we trotted for the vet, DC was indeed very mildly off. We got our completion, and I took her back to the trailer to doctor her up as best I could.


DC's banged up leg
We left for home in the morning. By then DC was once again fairly sound, although the wound was painful to the touch and bled any time she moved. We were home not long after noon and the horses were able to relax in their pens.

The glue-ons I put on DC worked extremely well. They stayed on for the entire ride and it took me some time to pry them off a couple days later.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Seriously

Every once in a while, I hear from some friend who's taken up distance riding with a non-Arab horse they've been told, "If you want to be serious about endurance, you have to get an Arab."

Now, my first thought is always, what, exactly, does the person making this statement mean by "serious?"

As a rider whose first endurance horse is a mustang, who has now logged over 4,000 miles, I think I take endurance pretty seriously.

Maybe those who make this statement mean a "serious" endurance rider aims for a lot of top ten finishes, or first place, or best condition awards. I can't know. No one has ever made this statement in my presence for me to ask. I suppose it would take quite a bit of courage to suggest to me Hoss and I are not "serious" about endurance.

Hoss, being super serious about endurance. Photo credit Steve Bradley
When one looks at the horses who are consistently finishing and getting firsts, top tens, and BCs, that population is very definitely majority Arabians and half-Arabians. The problem is, that's really not how to look at it when deciding if your particular non-Arabian horse has a decent chance of "making it" as an endurance horse.

If one were to look at the percentages, one will find the vast majority are Arabians. The next most common group is half-Arabians and grade Arabians. It drops off significantly from there. So of course, the highest percentage of wins, BCs, and top tens, go to Arabians. Even the highest percentage of finishes go to Arabians.

For a true sense of how the non-Arabian horse one has chosen is statistically likely to do well in endurance, one must look solely at other horses of the same or similar breeding and how they do in terms of percentages of completions, top tens, first place, and BCs.

But when we get right down to brass tacks, what it means to be a "serious" distance rider is very personal. There are so many different ways to succeed in this sport, to say one can only be "serious" with an Arabian for a partner is ridiculous on its face.

Just completing a few rides is enough to consider oneself "serious."

It's a very personal question. What are your goals as an endurance rider? If you're serious about those goals, congratulations. You're a serious endurance rider.

Fire Mountain, Day 2, 50 miles

Come Sunday morning, both Demon and I were still feeling our first day's ride. So I went ahead and saddled up and got Demon moving, lunging in both directions to get his blood flowing and verify his soundness to start. I had some misgivings about going, to which I probably should have listened. My left hip was giving me fits and I could barely walk fast enough to keep up with Demon without limping.

Rather than use the previous day's vetting out as the start vetting for horses doing both days, we had to present to the vets for a trot-out before being confirmed to start. I waited until fairly late to do this, as I wanted to get it done and hit the trail without hanging around for an extended period.

The trails for day 2 are the same as day 1, just ridden in the opposite direction. Demon has never been a super fan of repeat trail, but he's learned to appreciate it at least a little bit. Doing it the other direction is nice, as it still feels like new trail even though you've already seen it.

Once more over the rise, from a slightly different angle
We headed out and had a good calm start. It took us longer to finish the first loop the second day than the first. I just had to keep slowing him down because of that stupid hip.

We came into the first vet check about 10am. Once again he vetted with flying colors. I gave him plenty to eat and made sure he drank well during the hold before we headed back out for the second loop.

Tucked in, dunking his hay for combination eating and drinking.
Given the previous day's poor gut sounds, I allowed Demon to eat more at the water stops this time. And we were going even slower than we had on the first loop. That hip is really not my friend these days. We ended up coming in for the second vet check about 1:30pm, an hour later than the day before.

Coming up the rise before dropping back to camp on Loop 2
This is where that FEI thing starts to bug me.

On day one, as I was waiting to vet, another AERC rider was going around and around with the vets about getting a pulse and going to the trailer before vetting in later. It took some doing and she eventually got her way.

In light of the previous day's gut sounds issue, I wanted to pulse in and take Demon to the trailer and vet in after he'd had a chance to eat for half an hour or so. So I walked him in to the pulse box and announced my intention.

And it got circular.

The vet told me, well, vets are taking pulses, so we'll just vet you at the same time. Here, let me help you with your saddle.

I said no, I want to go to my trailer and vet later. AERC rules allow that.

Once again, vets are taking pulses, so we'll vet you at the same time.

I don't want to do that.

This goes on for several minutes before I stalk back out with Demon to unsaddle him, having the vet shouting they'll help with the saddle. My husband was outside the arena. I'd rather have him help, thanks.

So I come back in and go through the process. Since I'd been letting him eat Demon had good gut sounds. The vet then said he was a little off, and I swear I heard left front. I was told to bring him back, tack off, about 10 minutes before our hold time was over. So as I led him off, I got him trotting beside me enough to see how he was, and he was sound. I didn't bother to look at his hind. I felt good about his soundness.

At the appointed time, I brought him back, and the vet declared his lameness was worse. I was flabbergasted. I'd been watching him and because I heard left front, was only paying attention to his front end.

Turned out either there had been a misstatement earlier, or it had been his left hind all along.

Someone else trotted him for me, and the vet proceeded to explain how to see hind end lameness. I had to cut the vet off. I've been shoeing horses for 20 years, I can spot a lameness at a distance in 3 steps, I know what I'm looking at, and after the earlier incident with the pulsing thing I was already short tempered.

So we were pulled. At which point the vet proceeded to throw a pity party. I really did not need the "gee that sucks!" statements and just walked away at this point.

The worst part is, this vet is a person I really like. I admire and respect this person. To feel I was being manipulated by this person was really, really unpleasant. And the pity party bit was downright insulting.

It was still early enough in the day to get home at a reasonable hour, so we decided to pack it up and go home. Demon had plenty of time to eat and drink before we were ready to load him up. He was obviously lame at this point but bearing weight fine while standing and walking so I felt fine about taking him home. Besides, I knew he'd rest better in his pen next to his buddy than tied to the trailer for another night.

We arrived home about 10pm, got Demon in his pen and gave him a bran mash with bute which he did not eat. I took him out Monday morning expecting to figure out exactly why he was lame only to have him trot alongside the golf cart perfectly sound. No heat, no swelling, nothing to give an indication of why he was so off on Sunday. I pulled his shoes since he's done competing until I recover from hip replacement surgery in March. Not so much as a nick to suggest he had been footsore. I am doomed to never know exactly why Demon was lame that day. At least he shook it off quickly. I'm sure whatever it was, my hip not cooperating set it up.

Fire Mountain, Day 1, 50 Miles

I harbor a certain degree of nostalgia for the Fire Mountain ride.

Way back in 2004, it was the very first ride I attended. My daughter and I conditioned up our horses. With my husband, we packed up a tent and camping gear, the horses, and ourselves in my shoeing pickup and a two horse straight load trailer and off we went. It was so cold, we ended up dragging in every extra horse blanket we could find. None of us slept well.

And we had a really excellent time.

So I like to head back when my schedule allows. I made it in 2016, and it was Demon's first 50.

When it became clear I would be able to attend this year, I decided I'd take Demon and get a few more miles on him.

I'm trying very hard to get 50s on all three horses before I have my hip replacement in mid-March. It's going 1/3 well. Demon has finished 200 miles, within 6 weeks. He was burning it up. But Hoss came down sick at Death Valley, and DC had punctured a foot at Git R Done and just was not quite ready to do a ride yet. So Demon has endurance miles, Hoss and DC are still hoping to get theirs in.

Fire Mountain this year was a co-sanctioned FEI event. Git R Done in October was one as well. Every time I attend a ride co-sanctioned with FEI, I remember why I generally dislike them. They tend to be highly regimented and it behooves even AERC only riders to operate more by FEI rules than by AERC rules.

Taking Demon this year felt good. I like the trails and the people are pretty nice. Camp is very nice, too, with plenty of water easy to get to. It's what I like to call a local ride - defined as any ride within the state of California and less than 300 miles from home.

We arrived in camp fairly late on Friday, although we still had enough daylight to set up camp, pick up my packet, and get vetted in. It's quite amusing watching the volunteers numbering horses realize there is no color of Magic Marker which will show up effectively on a black horse. Demon is not super accustomed to this practice, having accomplished much of his endurance career so far at Duck rides where numbering just isn't done, but he handled it well. He does very much love feeling like the center of attention.

In the morning, I took my time about saddling up. I wanted to let the hot-shoes leave and be well gone before Demon and I headed out. With FEI riders there as well, I knew there would be a larger than usual population of riders who were going fast. I wanted Demon to have a relatively slow day and not to get hung up with the leaders.

Watching the other horses leaving, wondering why he can't go with them!
We finally headed out. Demon was very good and solid for me, despite announcing his presence
every now and again. I did slow him down quite a bit for the deeper sand, as we don't have much of that at home. Still we managed the first loop a little faster than I had hoped for. We got back to camp at right about 9:30am.

Coming over the rise headed back toward camp
Got to the vet area, pulsed and vetted fine, went to the trailer for rest and food. This was a 30 minute hold. I had started a timer on my watch when his pulse was announced so I wouldn't miss my time. I have a habit of doing that.

When our time was up, I got Demon's bit back in his mouth and we headed back out for loop two.

I thought I had understood the manager to say the second loop was 20 miles, so imagine my surprise when we were coming back into camp at 12:30. I later realized she'd meant the third loop was 20 miles.

The hour hold vet check required tack off, so I had my husband meet me before the gate and help me with Demon's saddle. We ride with a very chunky Tucker western saddle, complete with pommel bags and water bottles. It's a PITA to get on and off regularly and I definitely did not want to set it in the dirt if I didn't have to. While we were unsaddling him Demon was hoovering up all the hay within reach.

The vet who examined Demon commented his gut sounds were low. I have not yet taken Demon to a ride where we vetted before allowing him to rest and eat, so I really couldn't say anyone had said he had low gut sounds in the past. Still, he would have been eating if I hadn't dragged him off the hay, so I was unconcerned about low gut sounds. The vet told me to bring him back just before we left for a recheck and kept our card.

*Sigh.* Yep, sometimes these FEI vets are a little .... odd. It's hard to imagine many AERC vets doing the same, and had we been doing it our normal way we wouldn't even have vetted at that point anyway.

So I took Demon to the trailer. My husband had hauled the saddle to the trailer so we didn't have to deal with it.

At the trailer Demon ate like ... well ... a demon. I gave him a serving of Outlast as a precaution, although I doubt it was necessary. Once we were coming down to the wire on our hold time I put his saddle back on and took him back to the vets, where he was immediately declared to be normal and fit to continue.

Headed up away from camp
The last 20 mile loop is a long uphill pull before coming back down to camp. Demon wanted to catch up to horses in front of us, but I wanted him to go more carefully so I kept him back until we got to more even ground. We had a couple of good trot and canter sessions, and had a really good time trotting down the hill back toward camp. We finished at just about 4:30pm, with plenty of light to spare. We were both tired and happy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Purina Feed Greatness Challenge, Week 4



Time once again for observations and musings on the Purina Outlast product and what we're seeing in the horses we're feeding it to.

Since it has been four weeks, I took out the weight tape and measured all 3 of the endurance horses again. I have to say, I was surprised -- floored may be more appropriate -- by the result.

Hoss has gained right around 20-25 pounds on the tape. I wasn't super surprised by this, as when I girthed him up today, he'd lost yet another notch on his girth. So I was expecting him to show a gain.

Yes, Hoss got a much needed clipping, and he's sticking his tongue out at the camera

Demon has also gained about 20-25 pounds. This really did surprise me. Yesterday, I noticed I could see ribs on him at the right angle. Since he's always lost some weight after an endurance ride, this seemed about normal. So when the weight tape brought him in at 875, I was truly surprised. I did feel along his ribs, and they're not super easy to feel. I don't know why I could see them yesterday.

Doing his very best to look good for his picture

DC gained about 10 pounds. Considering the tape already at her at 850 before, I should hope she hadn't gained much. Being also the smallest, she should have the smallest total gains. Still, I was surprised to see she had changed at all.

DC is by Demon. It's astonishing how similar they look

It should be noted all the original weights were taken about a week after we started the challenge, so these gains all occurred in 3 weeks. I wouldn't change any of them in terms of where they are on the body condition score. Hoss is a 6, DC is a 6, Demon is a 5.

I did finally get an email from Purina. Here's the meat of what they ask:

Have you seen these changes in your horse?
  • Difference in hair coat condition
  • Boost in overall bloom and health
  • Continued optimal intake due to palatability


OK, let's take these in order.

"Difference in hair coat condition"

Honestly, not really. They look and feel about the same to me, other than Hoss has started blowing coat. Beth, however, swears they all look better, especially DC. I just don't see it. Besides, with it being shedding season, they're growing new coat so of course it's different. Hard to pin that one on feed.

"Boost in overall bloom and health"

OK, wait, what?

What does this even mean?

This "change" is so vague as to be meaningless. I don't even know what "bloom" means when speaking of horses. They don't have flowers. As to health, well, they're healthy as ever.

"Continued optimal intake due to palatability"

Honestly, why they included this as a "change" escapes me. Yep, they're eating it. Hasn't changed since day 1. I suspect this is included to round out the magic 3 we humans tend to like so much.

All of the expected changes are vague and invite subjectivity in observation. How much change in any of these criteria is seen is purely in the eye of the beholder. Witness the difference in how Beth and I perceive the coat conditions of my horses. It puts ideas into one's head, and encourages seeing change even if it isn't really there.

Amira, the unhandled mare, continues to improve. Now I'm noticing she's level-headed all the time, rather than in the immediate time after a feeding. She's still pretty calm and relaxed in the mornings when it's been over 12 hours since she had a serving of the Outlast. So it's either showing better effects over the long term, or because it allows her to relax she's learning to stay that way in the absence of the product's effects. She's even sort of approaching me, the big meanie who forced her into a trailer and drove her 2,000 miles. Now, the only way we'd know for sure if the Outlast is responsible for these changes would be to take her off it and see what happens. Not likely to happen, especially with a horse who needs so much work and help.

We're continuing to see changes. At this point, we'll very likely continue to keep Outlast in the barn. It does seem to be helping, even if I find the vagueness of their expected changes frustrating.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Death Valley Encounter, Day 4: Nadeau Springs

Hoss now doing quite well, I felt it was safe to leave him alone for several hours while Demon and I rode. The vet check was back in camp, and Cheri Briscoe was parked next to us, so I knew he'd be well looked after.

Since it was New Year's Eve, I had gotten party hats and head bands. I taped a party hat on Demon's crown piece and a head band on my helmet. We were ready to party!

Not feeling super amused by the party hat
This day is pretty flat through the desert without the extreme climbs and drops of the previous days. It's not as picturesque as previous days, but there are some spectacular views of the valley as the trail rises up away from camp. It's also a little repetitive, as the second loop is the same as the first loop with some bits cut out.

The first loop went quite well. I had to pull Demon down to a walk for some of the uphill stuff. Between wanting to make sure I had enough horse for the afternoon and my hip starting to burn, I made quite a few gait changes.

Heading up the hill from camp
The first loop took us close to the Nadeau Spring, where we had to get a question. In this case, "What was the color of Emperor Hirohito's horse?" I have no idea. I didn't even know the guy had a horse. But that's not the point of the question, more that you know it and it proves you didn't cut trail.

Coming back toward camp goes through a sandy wash. It isn't as deep as some other places, but it was easier to have Demon walk the whole thing than go back and forth between walking and trotting at irregular intervals. It's pretty there, anyway, so going slow and appreciating it is nice.

Looking toward Great Falls
We made it back to the Stockwell Mine Road, which heads back to camp. Except we had to go the other way and loop back a couple of miles on other roads. When we got to the turn, Demon was chugging along so fast I missed the notes on the pie plate. I got him pulled up and took out my GPS to find we were off track. He was mildly annoyed when I made him head the other way, away from camp, but trotted along amiably enough.

We finished the first loop and had our hour hold. I looked at my watch when we arrived and promptly forgot what time it was, which I didn't realize until I was sitting in my camper, looking at my watch, and contemplating if it was time to leave again or not. Was it 11:15 when we came in, or 11:25? Maybe 11:05? I don't know. Regardless, we didn't leave camp until 12:30, by the time we passed the vet inspection and got back on trail.

Demon was feeling particularly good. Maybe the extra time in camp did him good. He kept up a good pace, not really wanting to slow down. I did make him walk some of the longer uphill, just on general principles.

He was going so well, I didn't want to interrupt his groove. So rather than slow him down when my hip started hurting, I took a two point position, grabbed mane, and hung on. We did slow for particularly rocky sections, and when going through the wash the second time around.

Heading back toward camp
The only thing worse than getting super close to camp then turning away is doing so twice. We got back to the Stockwell Mine Road, and Demon was utterly convinced this time we should be going straight back to camp from there. It took some convincing on my part to get him going. It helped two horses were not far ahead of us, so he decided I couldn't be entirely stupid if they were going that way, too. Still, this time he was much more annoyed than the first time around. Once we reached the point of heading generally back toward camp, though, he eagerly picked up the trot, and we finished the second loop in just about 3 hours, not counting our extra time in camp.




Happy New Year, Ya'll