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.
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.
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!
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.|
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.
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|
|Hole in the Rock|
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|
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|
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
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.