Ride Story: Bill Thornburgh Friends & Family Ride 30 & 25

(Only two months late…)

My 2013 ride season has come full circle. I started the year in January with the Fire Mountain ride on Kaity’s horse Kody. Last weekend (last weekend being the last weekend of October), I did what is likely my last riding ride of the season (since I’m committed to working the McDowell ride next month) on Kody. As in January, our purpose was again companionship and babysitting of “greenie-brain” Ani, Kaity’s up-and-comer.

In between January and now, Kody has done three 100s, including Tevis and Virginia City. Needless to say, I felt very privileged to get to ride Kaity’s Tevis!pony.

I also decided against a repeat of the tire incident from the Fire Mountain trip and elected to fly out to Kaity’s this time. (Turns out this was also more economical than filling my gas guzzler.) I flew out bright and early Tuesday morning on a packed Southwest flight, stuffed my bags in Kaity’s car, and we zoomed back up the hill to her place, with stops along the way for Starbucks, pony food, and girl food. (Did you know you can fit two girls, two suitcases, two sacks of feed and a dozen grocery bags into a four-door Chevy car? Neither did I. But you can.)

Packing and prep went without incident, including being warm enough to give the boys a bath. (“Woe is us,” says Kody and Ani.) We pulled out of Kaity’s mid-morning on Friday with one very stuffed truck and trailer, since apparently packing for two girls + two ponies + two days = a lot of stuff.

The Bill Thornburgh ride is located in Inyokern, about 2-1/2 hours or so from Kaity’s place. That is, if 395 isn’t shut down due to a shooting/police chase in Ridgecrest that detoured us out and around the long way. We did go through Red Rocks State Park, so got some pretty scenery.

Just a small sampling of the pretty. If we didn’t
have Places To Be, I would have loved to explore.

Once we checked in and got our rider packets, we set up camp (weather was nice enough to tent camp this time), then took the boys out for a leg stretcher. Since I’d flown out, I decided against trying to wrangle my own saddle through the airport, instead electing to ride in Kaity’s FreeForm. I’d had a chance to do a couple of short training rides in a FreeForm this summer, and didn’t dislike it as a saddle. And I figured I could put up with almost anything for 25 miles…but it would be nice to know what I was in for by doing a short pre-ride.

Turns out that once you get the stirrup length right and the stirrup position/leg hang right, the FreeForm is wonderful. Not to spoil the ending, but this is the first ride I’ve ever done where I haven’t come off of the weekend with tight, crunchy calves. Two back-to-back days with lots of trotting and I felt fantastic. One of them has definitely been added to my wish list.

Derp faces all around.

Kaity and Ani on our Friday leg-stretcher ride.

We vetted the boys in after our pre-ride, and Kody vetted in “nearly dead” with a pulse of 30(!). We also continued our trend of completely sucking at trot-outs. (At least we provide entertainment, since it was soft sand and I thought I might fall down at least once.) The rest of the afternoon was spent packing the crew bag and hauling it back to the vetting area — camp was about a block and half away from the check-in/vetting area, so we treated it like an “out check” with everything at the check area instead of traipsing back and forth to the trailers.

Per the ride meeting, we would have two loops: Loop one was 11 miles out to the water/number-check/turn-around point, and back on an approximately parallel track into the check for a half-hour hold, then back out for a 9-mile short loop. Vet criteria was 56. It was warm and ponies were woolly, but there was lots of water along the way, with enough to sponge/scoop, and as far as I know, there were no treatments and only a few minor pulls over the two days. And the start time was an incredibly civilized 8AM. 
Every other time, I sleep like the dead. But for whatever reason, the Friday night before a ride is usually more like zombie-apocalypse restless dead, and this Friday was no exception. Not made any easier by the water truck pulling up right outside our tent and re-filling the giant water trough that we had so conveniently parked right next to. Sleep happened, but it didn’t seem like it at the time. I’m also not used to this “sleeping in” concept, so was up before the alarm, slowly pulling on my riding clothes and shivering.

Surprisingly, the typical “Battle of the Breakfast” was not a part of the day’s scheduled programming. I was able to eat a yogurt, a hard-boiled egg, a banana, coffee, and juice without any protest and/or mental trickery.

The boys got festively adorned with Halloween decor all around.

Kody’s witch hat and mane clips
The boys ready to go.

Ani’s pumpkin heads and mane clips
glittery spider on the tail

And us riders didn’t do too bad in the festivity department, either.

Orange in my helmet, tights, and Kody’s boots
Kaity wins (this time) for most orange, an honor (?) usually
taken by myself

Ride start was a very civilized 8AM, IIRC. (I think…I stopped this partway through, and am picking up writing it again two months later.)

dust cloud of the rest of the pack ahead of us

We casually meandered out of camp, pretty much the last ones to leave, and tiptoed past the scary stuff along the road. (The usual suspects: tires, trashcans, other horses, barking dogs.)

And then we were on the trail, and this series of photos shows a pretty good idea of what the next 11 miles to the turnaround point looked like:

turnaround point is a water stop just past those vehicles

Yup…flat, straight, sandy. I was warned ahead of time that the Inyokern rides are “good ones to do with a good riding buddy.” And it’s true. Kaity and I chattered and laughed pretty much non-stop through both days. To me, at least, I found the scenery to be interesting and pretty, since it’s a different desert than my desert. I was on a good horse, the weather was good…and flat, fast trails are their own challenge, since you the rider have to consciously think about things like changing gait, changing positions, and making sure you and your horse don’t get sore from the “sameness” of it.

at the turnaround point…Kody noms alfalfa
while I rummage for something
(probably food)

lava flow — we rode right at the base of it to the turnaround
me-n-Kody, heading back after the turnaround point

Kaity and Ani on the trail back to camp, part of which was an
old railbed trail

baby pistachio trees

heading back into camp for lunch

shabby view, eh?

monitoring the hoover’s food intake at lunch

I don’t remember how long lunch was — 30 minutes, maybe? I just remember thinking, “Ugh, not long enough.” I don’t like having to eat that fast…but whatever. The thing about riding with Kaity is she makes sure I take care of myself — “Are you drinking?” “Are you eating?” “Ash, leave the horse alone and sit down and eat.” Yes, ma’am. So I sat. And I ate. Bologna/cheese sandwich, tapioca pudding, Kern’s nectar.

And then it was time to put bridles on, tighten girths, and head back out. (Yes, I used the big water trough for a mounting block. No, I did not fall in. Yes, this is considered a bloggable accomplishment.)
Loop two was shorter — approximately 8 or 9 miles…whatever made up the balance of mileage after the first loop (22ish miles) to get the distance up to a 30.
And loop two was fun.
It was a lot of single track, which Kody and I lead through at a great, zoomy canter. (Hey, cantering through the desert…I feel almost like a real endurance rider!)
skeeery tire. brave Kody had to lead past it.

more pistachios

the start of the really fun single track

I’ll let the next series of photos speak for itself. This section of the loop was gorgeous, with the Sierras always in sight.

And then we were out on a road that paralleled Hwy 395…

And then turning off onto part of the trail we had pre-ridden the day before…
And then we were done! Both boys pulsed down immediately, giving Kaity and I finishing places of 12th and 13th, respectively. (Out of 18. Started dead last and still made up a few placings.)

(photo actually from Friday pre-ride, but you
get the idea…snorkeling pones)

And then we took advantage of the perks of riding the LD: shower, sit in the sunshine, nibble on snacks. Watch exhausted (uh huh…) ponies nap.

poor 100-mile pone, exhausted after 30 miles…not

Ride dinner was delicious…tri-tip with all the appropriate sides. (Beans, corn on the cob, salads, and a huge dessert table.) Day one completion awards were t-shirts, and Kaity won a Halloween bucket of goodies for “Best Coordinated Horse and Rider”.

Fortunately, I made up for my Friday sleep deficit on Saturday night, and it probably would have taken something running over the tent to actually wake me up.
Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday, food-wise, and Halloween decorations were once again installed on pones. (Except Kody lost one of his little witch hats from his mane somewhere along the way.)
Sunday’s trail headed us out in the vaguely same direction as Saturday — towards the lava flow — but we paralled Hwy 395 for a while before peeling off, doing some loops through the desert, and coming back in the same way.
even more orange today…

Lather, rinse, repeat for lunch…

And then back out on the same loop two as Saturday. More cantering, more views. And because we knew where all the dips and soft spots were, we made better time.

photo by Tony Wilkie

We finished in 12th and 13th again, out of 24 on Sunday’s ride. And Kaity and Ani won the overall LD horse of excellence award for the weekend!

The boys got to snooze in the sunshine while we packed up camp — the wind had really picked up, and predicted to get worse, so we wanted to head back before Hwy 395 got closed due to blowing dust.
We got back to Kaity’s early enough to unload the boys, clean up, then head out for Mexican food and obligatory celebratory margaritas!
 I still had a couple of days to spend at Kaity’s, and we filled the time with things like off-roading with Kaity’s boyfriend KC:

And admiring the high desert mountain weather:

And the general, life-enjoying shenanigans that Kaity and I manage whenever we get together. Woe, as always, that we live in two different states, but glad, as always, that I’ve got such an awesome friend that shares in the craziness of endurance, horses, and life.

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