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.
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.
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.