After not doing a ride for roughly 2 years (January 2011), and with somewhat negligible saddle time over the past six months, I survived the Fire Mountain 30 this past weekend. Actually, more than survived: I had a blast!
I got an invitation to come ride from friend Kaity, who is working with a mentally-young greenie this spring. It would be said greenie’s first ride, and would I be interested in coming out to ride her seasoned endurance horse Kody and act as a chaperone/babysitter?
I had to think about that one for all of two seconds. I shoved aside that annoying little voice that reminded me of how little saddle time I’ve had over the past six months, and what time I’ve had has not been high intensity distance training. Shut up, little voice. I capitalized on the fact I am still somewhat young and stretchy, and bounce back quickly. That, and a few Aleve tucked into the saddle pack.
My trip started on Thursday, driving out to Kaity’s house in the Southern California high desert. It’s about a 6-hour drive and it passed uneventfully. (File that away for later.) I-10 isn’t my favorite drive, since it’s 1) boring and 2) a main thoroughfare for big rigs, which aren’t my favorite thing to share the road space with in areas that are only two lanes in each direction. Ah, well. At least I wasn’t hauling a trailer.
Thursday afternoon was spent packing and food shopping, since both Kaity and I view endurance rides as a really good excuse to eat.
Fire Mountain was being held in Ridgecrest, so during the drive up, I got an overview of the rides in the area, and major highlights and landmarks pointed out to me, including areas covered by Death Valley Encounter and 20 Mule Team. (And since the plan is for me to crew 20MT at the end of next month, I got to preview proposed crew spots…in daylight!)
I got really spoiled over this ride weekend with the chance to sleep in luxury: Kaity’s friends had brought their camper for us to stay in. Bathroom, running water, fridge, HEAT!!! That was most excellent and greatly appreciated.
We went out for a pre-ride Friday afternoon, where I got my first riding introduction to Kody. I’ve known and seen photos of this horse since Kaity got him as a fuzzy little baby. He’s 9 this year and has grown up into a really nice horse. Kaity has done a wonderful job of training him and he was an absolute delight to ride all weekend. Soft, responsive, no pull, no spook.
I’m going to try a slightly different approach and go with a picture story this time. Enjoy!
And a shout-out: My tights in the photos were made by my friend Diane Stevens of Crazy Legs Tights. I wrote an earlier initial review on them, but this is the first true ride test I’ve put them through and I couldn’t be more thrilled. A proper review in a separate post to follow.
|Post Friday pre-ride, getting tack all sorted out and ready for the morning.|
|Saturday morning. Kody is definitely more awake and ready to go than me.
Start time was 7AM…for a 30. That was early.
|Heading out on the first loop. Kaity and Ani’s golden halo.
We left at the back of the pack, stayed there all day, and the greenie did very well.
|Rock garden. Or rock nursery, whichever you prefer.
The first loop went through, around, and back through this. Very fun.
|It’s maybe 30 minutes into the first loop and I’m riding along one-handed,
with a loose rein. I think I’m revealing my show ring background in this one.
(And the blue and Renegade orange don’t look half bad together.)
|First climb of the day completed. Kody isn’t sure about this
“follow along behind the greenie” business.
|Obligatory “pause and gawp” at the desert scenery.|
|Long stretch of endless desert. Excellent for speed work.
Just don’t think too hard about the fact the horizon line isn’t getting any closer.
|Looking back the way we came.
Ridecamp is *way* down there at the edge of where civilization begins.
It was a deceptively long, slow, gradual climb to this point.
|It’s not a ride without ear tip pics! Kody has really
cute ears that are very engaged and tuned in to
|Nomming hay at a water stop. Lots of water and alfalfa everywhere at this ride.|
|Kody has a great little downhill “dib-dib-dib” gait.
Pretty sure he’s displaying it here. Really easy to ride
and covers ground without flying too fast.
Heading back in one loop one for our lunch hold.
|Back out again on loop two. The nice trail of the
earlier loop deteriorated somewhat on this loop.
Kody had front boots only, and Ani went 30 miles barefoot.
|Big climb to the top of some mining roads. And what goes up…
must also come down. Lather, rinse, repeat.
|The mine climb. Kody suggested this might be a good place
for a carrot stop. Since he hauled my butt up, who was I
to argue with him?
|And back down the other side. Some really fun twisty canyons
and interesting trails through this section.
|Once through the rough stuff, there were some
sections we were able to make some time.
I had my “quintessential endurance experience” here,
cantering through the desert.
That was the last of the photos of the day: We had to really make time on that second loop and I don’t quite have the art of “speed trotting and cantering on a strange horse while taking photos” down yet.
Day two, Kaity rode Kody on the 50 while I stayed with Ani in camp. Ani got to experience “buddy leaves and comes back” multiple times and he held it together well. Taking him for multiple walks around camp helped.
Sunrise on the Sierras.
Ani is wondering why Kody got to go again.
|Kaity and Kody trot out during their second hold vet check.|
|Kody doing what Kody does best.|
|Heading out on loop three.|
|Finished and looking great!
Another 50 miles in the bag for Kaity and Kody.
Since Ridgecrest is only about an hour and half away from Kaity’s, we did decide to head back to her place that evening. Something about me having to head back on Monday, work the rest of the week, et cetera.