Monday, January 29, 2018

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.

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