Ride Story: Prescott Chaparral: Day Two and A New Horse

We wrapped Day One with another successful 50 for me and Rocco, and after he was fed, watered, and wrapped, it was on to prepping for Day Two.

Gina had gotten her truck straightened out and had shown up in camp sometime while Steph and I were out on our second loop. She had in tow with her Uno, her Kiger Mustang gelding with a handful of endurance rides and a unique personality, and Liberty, a half-Shagya/half-Arab mare who would be my ride. Gina had been telling stories on this mare to me for some time now, including her propensity for escaping and apparently being immune to hot-tape fences.

Hmmm…this could be one tough mare.

But you know what? I love tough mares. I’ve spent the last 16 years around one, haven’t I? And yes, they might be more complicated, sometimes more frustrating, and definitely more of a challenge…but I get them. They’re not for everyone…but I love my mares.

Anyways, I was prepared for the fact she could be pushy and dominant, and our first meeting had me giving her a very clear definition of “personal space” when she attempted to body block me.

I’ve spent 16 years being pushed around by a pony. Do these horses honestly think they can be much worse???

With that settled, she vetted in beautifully, checking in with a pulse of 40 even with horses milling around the area, bawling cows behind her, strong wind blowing things over and around…oh, and did I mention this was only her second ride and the last ride she had done was this same one two years ago? Oh, yeah, and she’s really still just a baby, especially by slow-maturing Shagya standards…she’s only 7.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to pre-ride, but I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of getting on her the next day. Some horses just give you good vibes, y’know, and I’d been reassured by multiple sources who know the horse that she doesn’t buck or rear, and really doesn’t spook at much.

That afternoon and evening, I managed to:

  • fit Liberty for boots (she had excellent hooves and has been barefoot her whole life but paranoid me was more comfortable being fully-booted) 
  • try my saddle on her (she’s a tank) 
  • get dinner (ribs! excellent!!!) 
  • go to the ride meeting (23rd place on Rocco on Day One and a t-shirt for completion)  
  • pack the crew bag 
  • try to poison Liberty (according to her) with electrolytes (really, another one who hates syringes???)
  • shower (yay for friends [Gina] with living quarters)
Morning (5AM…ugh) rolled around way too fast, and I started with Battle of the Breakfast, Day Two. I did a bit better this morning when I discovered cottage cheese went down quite well, plus another yogurt smoothie, a banana-applesauce, and coffee.
I was quite pleased with Liberty’s lack of young-horse-wiggliness when tacking up — I didn’t even bother to properly tie her (she was on her hi-tie) until after she was tacked up.
Liberty is definitely a Pretty Girl.
Doesn’t she look good in the orange?

That mane!!! I thought about braiding it, but kind of ran out of time. Fortunately, although it’s long, it’s silky and not really thick. And she’s also pretty much shed out except for a little bit on her back and belly.

Liberty and Uno sharing a hay net.

Getting on a brand-new horse for the first time is always a bit fraught…in this case, it went off without a hitch. She stood politely next to the mounting block (a necessity: she’s a true 15.1 with no withers) and stood quietly while I got myself sorted out, then proceeded to still stand quietly while Uno did his Uno thing (circle-circle-circle-circle around the mounting block) before eventually deciding to cooperate. (He’s a Kiger Mustang. He does everything on his own time in his own mind.)

The start was another controlled start, but both the 50s and the LDs started at the same time. We split off onto separate trails within half a mile, but there were still probably 60+ horses all starting at the same time. We drifted out towards the back of the pack, but it was definitely a slow start.
Remember that part back on Day One where I mentioned that seeing the “scary” stuff the day before really benefited? Well, these two could have used the same benefit. :) It probably took us about 10 minutes to get past the camp vicinity, since we had to gawp at:
  • large rocks
  • tree full of fluttering ride ribbons
  • dead farm shack
  • dead farm equipment
  • other horses freaking out
I also wanted a slower start to give Liberty a chance to get used to me…and me to her. I could already tell she was going to be a smooth ride; her slow dance-mini prance past the (scary, already-creaking-and-groaning) windmill had shown me that much. We finally got out to the main road and picked up a trot.
Oooooh, this mare is a nice mover.
She’s smooth, light in the face, doesn’t pull, and actually responds to requests like, “Let’s not trot downhill on the hard-pack-topped-with-loose-DG [decomposed granite]-road.” I really like her trot: enough loft and elasticity that she’s easy to post and two-point, but doesn’t beat you up.
Camera out within the first few miles.
Liking this ear view.

She’s also really, really solid, especially for a baby. She was perfectly happy to lead, and although she peeked at thing (big rocks, dead logs, lurking cows), she rarely stopped, preferring to veer around and keep trotting. She also didn’t quite get “follow the trail” at first, and I had to actively ride her through the narrow, twisty single-track…for about the first quarter of the ride, after which point, she had it figured out.

The way the trail was run, the 30s and 50s shared some trail, then the 50s would break off and do a loop, then come back on shared trail…all throughout the day. Which meant as tail-end 30s, we were getting passed by the front-running 50s, pretty much most of the day. And she handled it so well. She is a dominant  mare, which means she has a space bubble…and one heck of a bitch-mare face…but she never acted on it. 
She also hit the first water trough at roughly 3.5 miles into the ride and started drinking. Yes!!!
Liberty and I lead for pretty much the first 9 miles, through single-track, open roads, across cow pastures, more road, then down into a large wash that made a long, slow uphill climb that kept going deeper and deeper into an ever-narrowing canyon. And finally, her baby-horse brain said, “Enough, I need a break.” So we put Uno in front and she was more than happy to follow him.
Still leading.
Smiling Gina and Uno.
Miles 10-12 were a bit of a “wall” for them…a large, wide-open road that lead to a gravel pit mine of some sorts, totally exposed to the sun and getting a bit warm. Talk about “death trudge.” I didn’t know two horses of their sizes (Uno is every bit of 15hh) could actually walk that slow. And then I pulled up the GPS track when I got home and realized it was also part of the section of trail that ended up climbing almost 1000′ in roughly four miles.
Death trudge excused.
We also met the terrifying photographer and had to be coaxed by her…so much for high-action shots. :)
The next few miles of trail into the vet check was a ton of fun…technical single-track that went up, down, around, and every which way, and it was there Liberty displayed one of the most hilarious quirks I’ve seen a horse pull: a temper tantrum when she trips. Seriously. She would take a minor misstep/trip, then shake her head and thrown in this bouncy hop-thing…I can’t even call it a crowhop because it involves more front hooves than hinds, but it’s like she’s stomping up and down on the ground that dared to get in her way.
We walked the road down into the vet check and she was already down by the time we pulsed in. (And ravenous. The alfalfa at our feet didn’t stand a chance.) I was happy with how she vetted: Mostly As, with a couple of Bs, but still very bright-eyed, perky, and happy to trot out.
She and Uno demolished a flake of alfalfa, grazed on whatever was growing underfoot, and nibbled on some bermuda grass before settling in to snooze for the rest of the hour hold.
Vet check snooze-fest!

You know I’ve got it together when I’m actually saying, “I wish the check had been shorter.” Really. I didn’t spend half of it trying to get my horse to stay in one place (either I or Gina held her for about the first 15 minutes, then I dropped my reins on top of the crew bag and there she stayed), so could actually dig in the crew bag, hit the porta-potty, replace water bottles, and eat.

Food tally: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tapioca pudding. I’d also downed two water bottles and a sports drink by the time we got to the check, plus a granola bar. My shoulders appreciated not wearing the Camelbak like I did on Day One. And on the way back to camp, I slurped another banana-applesauce, plus another bottle of water and sports drink.
The trail out from the vet check was awesome. It was a technical, twisting, little-up-but-mostly-down ATV track and boy did we make time on it. I was seriously impressed with Liberty’s ability to handle herself on technical trail while moving at a good trot. Waaay fun. She was still happy to let Uno lead at this point, and he is one handy little Mustang, especially on technical going, and I was even more impressed that even with him in front, she was still paying attention to the trail and slowing down when necessary versus fighting to tailgate. 
There was no wasting time, especially on this last 12-mile stretch home. They drank at all of the water tanks/troughs, and we gave them a couple of grazing breaks, but we were very aware of the clock and had to make time when we could. Liberty was also willing to lead again, so we were trading off sections, breaking them down into smaller mileage so as not to overwhelm the baby-horse brain.
We pretty much trotted into camp, then hand-walked the short section through camp to where they were pulsing  and by the time they drank, she was down to 56…and we finished with a whole 14 minutes to spare! Which is pretty much how I wanted it: No racing, not pushing the young horse too hard, and still having bright eyes and good vet scores at the end…which she did.
And then we went back to the trailer where she proceeded to continue work on her excavation project:
Does it make me a bad horsey-mommy that I had to take a
photo before disciplining her?
Oh, the attitude! Note the tongue sticking out.
And as pretty as she is, this is such an unflattering photo.
She looks so much prettier in person.

That was the work of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon-evening. Exhausted, that one. Not.

Suspect she was: 1) not pleased with confinement (she does bust out of hot tape corrals); 2) wanting her buddy next to her, not on the other side of the trailer; 3) wanting attention.
Still, digging to China was her worst indiscretion all weekend.
I can see why someone coined LD the “Luxury Distance.” It was kind of nice to finish up mid-afternoon and have a chance to get another shower (!), sort everything out for the next day (still anticipating riding Day Three at this point), grab dinner, and go to the ride meeting. (15th place; mesh mangers for completion awards…too cool!)
However, the plans changed one final time. After unwrapping Hadji’s legs, Steph noticed he had a puffy front leg, and while the swelling went down after doing a few walking laps, it was decided he wasn’t going to go out on Day Three. I had the option of taking Rocco out, but I declined. I had two awesome rides and was perfectly fine with calling it good at that point. It had only been Rocco’s second 50, and while he probably  could have handled it, especially if we went slow, I didn’t feel like pushing it, especially on someone else’s horse. So we packed up and headed home Monday morning.
Even with all of the changes of plans, I had an awesome weekend! Two great rides on two great horses, a chance to see and socialize with friends, beautiful trails, and an excellently managed ride. This was the third year for the Prescott Chaparral ride, and the first year I managed to make it to the ride…and you can bet I’ll be back for next year!!!
That wraps up our in-state rides until the fall, so I have no clue what’s next on the schedule. We shall see…

8 thoughts on “Ride Story: Prescott Chaparral: Day Two and A New Horse

  1. Talking to Steph the day after and it looks like more of an irritation than anything. He interferes on his fronts pretty bad sometimes and he'd whacked himself good enough that he ripped through his old interference boots, and she thinks the new ones she put on him irritated him because she found a rash on his pink skin around the area.

  2. What a great weekend! Liberty is very lovely, even when digging a hole to China. Orange is perfect on bay horses! It sounds like she is coming along just right, and you got to show her some of the way, fun!

  3. I love your definition of LD! This was Tom's first time doing three days of LD's. He said the same thing-lots of time to putter around and re-organize stuff…and take a nap. He said the ride was great, but next year will hopefully, be back to the 50's.

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