Musings On Getting the Virginia City Ducks in a Row

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Yup, just like that. All lined up and orderly.

Oh, boy. 8 days out from our Virginia City departure day. The plan is to leave early Tuesday morning, overnight in Tonopah, NV, then drive the rest of the way Wednesday. We can’t get into camp until Thursday, so we’ll overnight at Washoe Lake State Park, then head into camp as soon as we’re able to on Thursday. The goal is to allow the horses as much rest and re-hydration time as possible ahead of the ride, since trailering has such an impact on their hydration levels.

One Last Training Ride

We did our last big training ride on Saturday — 15 miles and 2400′ of climbing. Beeba was in a bit of a “snarky mare” mood — not specifically aimed at me, more just the world at large. And honestly, it was good for me to see that side of her as well. I did a lot of eye-rolling, with a few reprimands here and there — her main beef of the day was with her crupper engaging on downhills, which she doesn’t really love even on a good day, and she was being a little more opinionated about expressing her displeasure about it on this particular day. Which basically amounted to some vigorous head tossing. Meh. Bring it, mare. They make martingales for things like that.

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something of a rare sight — rather green desert in the middle of the summer

We rode at Camp Creek, which is northeast of Phoenix outside of the Carefree/Cave Creek area. It’s slightly higher in elevation — 3200′ at the start — and tends to be one of the areas that regularly benefits from our monsoon season, so it’s a bit greener, and a couple degrees cooler.

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can we say “mare!face”? I swear I’ve seen that look before…

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the original mare!face

Am I attracted to a certain equine personality type, or what? As I keep telling Beeba, none of her antics are anything new to me…she’s just a larger, redder version of what I already know.

Sporadic offerings of peppermints (equivalent of quarters in the slot of the mechanical pony) kept her overall pretty happy though, and we had some really fun moments including doing a bit of racing in a sand wash.

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my best description of her is as a throwback to the “tent horse war wares” of old

I feel good about the rides I got on her. It’s unconventional, and certainly not in alignment with My Life Plan I had carefully mapped out for How My 1st 100 Miler Should Be.

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I know I’ve posted this, or something similar before, but it bears repeating

I actually had to internally debate with myself initially on whether this was something I wanted to do or not. “This isn’t what I envisioned. I’m supposed to have a magical story about bringing up my own 100-mile horse from scratch, how we’ve formed a magical bond and relationship over the couple years it took to get to this point, how I did all the work on the horse and turned them into a magical 100-mile unicorn.”

Yes, really.

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But further contemplation brought me around. THIS is my story. OWN it. Just because someone else had something happen in such a way doesn’t mean that’s the path I’m on, or that’s the only way for something to happen. So, embrace it, run with it, and celebrate it.

Ducks in A Row

This week is what I’m looking at as my final prep week — making sure I’ve got all the gear and supplies I need, start gathering stuff up and setting it into the “VC pile” as I think about it, and work through all the random and miscellaneous details (like “figure out how to upload GPS tracks onto GPS watch”).

Earlier this morning, I took care of things like washing out electrolyte syringes and washing my half chaps, which were so crusted with sweat, they were developing an ability to stand up on their own.

My shopping list has included things like glowsticks (spiffy battery-powered ones that turn on-and-off), new trail runners that are still comfortable for riding (all of my pairs of running shoes, and none of them were comfortable for more than 2-3 miles in the saddle), multiple varieties of anti-chafe creams (Body Glide, Chamois Butt’r, Lanacane), and different snacks (chia squeezes, applesauce, Clif Bloks, granola bars, fruit snacks).

I started going through my clothing options over the weekend and setting things aside. The weather is area that I have no clue what to expect. It’s in the mountains, and base camp is 6000′ elevation. Anything can and does happen. Some years, friends have gotten snowed on. Other years, it’s pleasant (or hot) enough to wear a t-shirt or tank top. Fortunately the ride is set up in such a way as to be fairly wardrobe-change-friendly. One 50-mile loop, with stops at 24 and 39 miles, then back into camp, out for another 26-mile loop, and then a final 24-mile loop. I’m basically planning on bringing as much as I can get away with and being prepared for anything.

My packing list is ridiculously impressive. It’ll all get condensed down into several bags/containers, so shouldn’t won’t be as extensive as it appears right now…but in the meantime, it’s an easy way to make sure that all the little things get checked off and make it into the appropriate bag or container.

Although to be honest, this isn’t any different than my normal ride planning. I always make lists and go around with my clipboard and pen, marking all the little check boxes. In this case, there’s a little less planning and packing in that the horse’s stuff — tack, blankets, feed, camp stuff — is all taken care of, but there are still some “extras” I’m furnishing, such as rump rug, sponge/scoop, ice boots, plus all her hoof boots.

I feel pretty organized at this point. There’s a few last-minute things I need to grab — food shopping will be done right before we leave, obviously — but it’s all small stuff, like a “bento box” to store and organize my out-check food.

Maybe this’ll change as we get closer to the ride, but at this point, I fully expected to be a bundle of nerves, and I’m just not. I’m excited, and eager. I feel like I’m going in with a firm grasp on reality: this is a challenging ride, it’s the horse’s first 100, and my first 100. Anything can happen out there. I will do everything within my power to contribute to a successful ride. Ultimately, it’ll be a really fun time, and I’m sure a huge learning experience, any way it goes.

I could probably fill a whole post with different inspirational/motivational quotes at this point, but just a couple of them:

And I will leave you with a bit of twisted endurance rider humor:

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Next Up: 100 Miles

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If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen that the cat was officially out of the bag this morning: my next adventure is the Virginia City 100 endurance ride in two-and-half weeks.

What started out as a promotional sharing of the ride info post on Facebook turned into an offer of an extra horse, no guarantees of a finish, but if I wanted to give it a shot, the horse was available.

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Meeting of the minds: First ride with Beeba

To that end, meet Beeba. She’s a 9-yr-old Arab mare who has been described as “the textbook chestnut mare.”

Now, I know the reputation of chestnut mares…but it really doesn’t faze me. One, I love mares. Two, I’ve spent the past 22 years with a pony mare whose genetic code is greyed-out-chestnut. “Pony” beats “Arab” in the “who can be the worse hellion” department. Additionally, my dad’s first horse was a wonderful chestnut mare. So needless to say, the “red mare” thing wasn’t a turn-off, but instead more of a curiosity and intrigue.

Of course, the whole plan was contingent on: 1) the horse not killing me and 2) her saddle not crippling me. She’s been very challenging to saddle fit, so using her saddle was a non-negotiable point.

Well, no worries on the horse behavior department. She’s a blast to ride, and I think we’ve come to a good understanding between ourselves. She doesn’t like to be micro-managed…but she also does her job and doesn’t need micro-managing. And we’ve done two really good rides with some very active riding and the saddle hasn’t crippled me, so we’re calling it good.

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lovely ears

It’ll be her first 100…and mine. Neither of us have a stellar ride record, so there’s no pressure or expectations. She seems game and honest, though, and I’ve got grit, determination, and the physical ability to get off and run or hike along the way.

I’ve got copious notes about the ride and trail from friends who have ridden it previously, as well as the “driving tour” of town/vet checks/some of the trails after the 2016 AERC Convention. I’ve crewed 10 100-milers. It’s the right opportunity, at the right time, and I’m grabbing it and running with it.

Besides, it’s the 50th Anniversary of VC100. Crewing the 50th Anniversary of Tevis was the first first endurance ride I ever attended, so somehow, riding the 50th of another historic ride seems highly appropriate.

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she’s a champion chow-hound

Horse gear is dialed in, boots are sorted (she will be wearing Renegade Pro-Comp Glue-Ons), and I’m getting my ducks in a row as far as my own clothes/gear/food. I feel excited and eager, and very grateful for this opportunity.

Crewing Tevis 2017: Uh, What Plan Are We On Now?

“Plan? What plan?” would also be applicable. Not to say there wasn’t a plan. There was. It was just very laid back, casual, and a little bit fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. We didn’t even do crew instructions this year. ;)

(Face it, when your entire crew has crewed Tevis multiple times, and one crew member has even ridden the horse to be crewed at a ride, directions are kind of redundant.)

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theme of the year

Initially, Plan A was Fergus — Wonder Pony, Golden Boy, two-time Tevis finisher. But Fergus has been NQR this year, and a final “Go/No-Go” ride determined that this would be a “No Go” year for him.

Thus, Plan B: Roo. Roo, the 50-mile reliable worker bee. Roo, who had tried Tevis in 2009 and made it to 64 miles before deciding he was done playing for the day. He had a base, he had done “spring training” alongside Fergus, and he was well-rested. And Lucy really wanted to be a part of the “snow year” alternate starting location/Duncan Canyon trail.

So, with the above in mind, the “A” goal for Plan B was just get to Robinson Flat. No expectations of finishing, just “get as far as he gets.” Roo is very self-preserving and sensible — when he is done playing for the day, he’ll stop. Robinson Flat was the goal, and any more than that was just bonus points.

So, with all that as background, onwards we go to Auburn…

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this route between Phoenix and Sacramento is getting very familiar

I followed my typical routine of “fly in late Wednesday afternoon, Lucy picks me up at the airport, we go straight to Auburn for the Tevis BBQ.” I even had time to shop at the Tevis Store before the BBQ started. (Irony is: Buying a sweatshirt when it is 100*+ outside. But I needed something warmer for up at the Soda Springs start. I also got a chuckle out of shocking several people by letting them know if was currently hotter in Auburn than it was back home in Phoenix.)

After dinner, we perused through the barns and drooled over ponies (found a couple of them I would have happily handed over $$$ for right then and there), did a quick grocery store run, then headed through the canyon to Tevis Low Camp (Lucy’s).

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an Auburn sunset

I will never get tired of the unique sense of peacefulness and solitude that comes from staying at Low Camp. Although there are neighbors around, the hills and trees combine to create a setting that feels incredibly private and serene. (At least until the dogs start barking and leaping around after squirrels and other wildlife.)

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a Low Camp sunrise

Thursday was Prep Day — I got food going in the morning, making hard-boiled eggs and pasta/egg salad, and figuring out what food needed to go in which cooler. The crew box got packed with all the essentials, horse blankets got swapped around from Fergus’s gigantic ones to Roo’s adorably-petite ones (there’s like an 8-inch height difference between the two…Roo plus his whole crew could fit inside one of Fergus’s blankets), the trailer got cleaned out, and feed and fresh waters all filled up.

Our goal was to get everything packed by early afternoon and then take Fergus and Roo for a leg-stretch ride down the lane before the rest of the crew (Renee and Megan) arrived in the late afternoon to do the final task: glue boots on Roo.

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Golden Boy

We had a fun little jaunt down the lane, as Fergus showed me his full range of gears. (There also may have been an offer of “If you ever don’t feel like riding him at a ride, just let me know…” made.) The one and only time I had ridden Fergus before was when I crewed for Lucy in ’09, and we did a similar pre-ride down the lane. Back then, Fergus had yet to start his endurance career, and mostly he felt large and a bit ungainly. Now, with 8 years of endurance experience under his girth, he felt powerful, balanced, strong, and SO much fun. Bottle that feeling into something a little smaller than 16.2hh, and that’s the ultimate endurance horse.

<wipes drool off keyboard>

Ahem. Moving right along…

Renee and Megan showed up shortly after we got back from our ride (with pizza for dinner), and we commenced with the antics and shenanigans of gluing on boots. Lucy trimmed, I hoof-prepped, Renee glued, and Megan wrangled Roo’s flailing legs. Good team effort, and accomplished with a lot of laughter, fairly minimal mess, no swearing, and the only alcohol consumption was afterwards in celebration.

Roo got to “stand quietly” for the next hour or so for optimal boot set-up while we retreated to the back deck for pizza and beer and to peruse through the rider list.

Since the plan was for me to accompany Lucy to the start, and then drive the rig back down, Renee and Megan would stay in Auburn with the crew car/gear, and proceed directly to Robinson Flat on ride morning, where I would then meet up with them. So the crew car got packed up with crew gear (this was our best year yet in terms of paring stuff down to the essentials and having a pretty easy load to schlep), and half of our team departed to where they’d be staying.

Friday morning saw the packing of the coolers and toting them out to the trailer, throwing necessary clothes in the trailer, giving Roo a hose-off, and then hitting the road. One last stop at the grocery store for some last-minute/would-keep-if-purchased-earlier foodstuffs, then we were well and truly on our way.

The drive to the Soda Springs base camp was quite a bit shorter than the usual haul up to Robie Park, probably only an hour up the highway from Auburn. We had been warned parking would be tight…and that there was no shade…so we weren’t in a huge rush to get there.

Once we did arrive, what we found was a sardine-can madhouse.

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most of ridecamp, crammed into 2 ski-resort parking lots. Robie Park is so spread out, you never get a sense of how many rigs are involved with anywhere from 150-200 riders…until now

Base camp was the Sugar Bowl ski resort. By the time we got there, the two main parking lots were full, and the overflow parking had been packed out. We ended up on a pullout spot off the road above camp, with a few other trailers for company. And it turned out to be a pretty prime spot, especially for navigating out in the morning.

Once we got camp set up (the whole 10 minutes it takes to swing out the Spring Tie, attach/fill buckets, hang hay bag…), we tacked up Roo, then headed down for Lucy to get checked in and then walk over to the vetting area.

Vetting happened to be an almost 2-mile walk down a lovely shaded dirt road to what used to be the old “sheep pens” for sheep grazing in the area. Roo was convinced we were taking him out into the woods all by himself to die, so he would scream and be very happy every time someone would be coming in the opposite direction, heading back to camp after vetting.

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Roo vetted in well (including a “Definitely” comment for “Attitude”), then we took him over to participate in the voluntary research study on gut movement (used ultrasound to look at location/size/movement of parts of the gut).

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pre-ride out to the morning bridge crossing

After that, Lucy wanted to take Roo out to the bridge that would crossed in the morning. It would be part of the controlled start, and they would have spotters there to ensure a controlled crossing…but still a good thing for them to see ahead of time.

It was only about half a mile out from the vetting area, and since there was a lack of immediately available buddy horses, I acted as Roo’s “lead mare” and walked out to the bridge with them and back.

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Full service crew: I cook, I rig drive, I accompany horse/rider on pre-rides. Hire me.

While the tight quarters (and trains passing right next to camp a couple times an hour) made the alternate base camp a bit less desirable than Robie Park (although my hat’s off to the ride committee for being flexible and making the ride happen this year…better an alternate camp/route than no ride at all), the setting around the vetting area was absolutely spectacular.

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that low point of the ‘V’ where the thunderheads are building up is Donner Pass

And then it was back to the trailer, and I got a nice 5-mile hike in for the day. Once back at the trailer, we got Roo settled, then headed down to the ride briefing. Got some socializing in ahead of briefing, listened to the briefing, then headed back to the trailer to make dinner.

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a Soda Springs sunset

While we were eating our pasta/chicken sausage/alfredo sauce (and getting attacked by bird-sized mosquitos), a large flock of geese flew overhead and settled in the nearby pond area…apparently this strafing run was too much for Roo, who proceed to scream and twirl about…never mind all of his neighbors were sleeping/quietly eating. Guess he had to protect them, y’know.

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giving Roo a stern lecture on behavior and how mature Tevis horses don’t twirl about on their high-ties when they should be getting ready for bed

Once the geese settled down, so did Roo (or he actually listened to my lecture?), and I was able to successfully whisk Lucy off to bed. Hahaha, because sleep the night before Tevis is so gonna happen, right?

Because they wanted riders gathered at 4:30 for the start, that was an early wake-up call…even earlier than typical (normal Tevis wakeup is 3:30…wow, a whole 15 minutes more of not-sleep).

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my current alarm line-up on my phone…yes, 3:15AM

Lucy ate breakfast, and Roo got a small mash to nibble on while he got tacked up. I took him for a walk down the road towards the main camp and back to the trailer as a leg stretch, and he was really calm and business-like. He got a quick butt massage back at the trailer, I rounded up his rider, put her on the pony, and then we started walking down towards where the starting pens would assemble.

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Ready to go!

Once we were in the company of other horses. Lucy handed off her extra jacket to me, and I stayed out of the way of the swirling masses and made my way back up to the trailer to pack everything up. Once vehicles were able to leave, our spot proved to be very convenient, as I was able to get out easily with very little waiting time. Camp was only a couple miles off the highway, so in short order, I was cruising down I-80 towards Foresthill.

And then it started raining. Whut??? It was still dark out — which I figured was due to the early hour and the fact we were on the highway so much earlier than usual…which may have been part of it, but the other part was there fact there was a ton of cloud cover at that point. Huh, that’s something different at Tevis.

The rain lasted for part of the drive, but had stopped by the time I reached Auburn and swung back up to Foresthill. A bit of jockeying around, in which I got to test my gooseneck-handling skills, netted me a nice parking space at Foresthill (and not a single scratch, dent, or any indication of driving shenanigans on either truck or trailer, thank you). Timing was such that Renee and Megan were only a few minutes behind me in the crew car, so they waited for me while I parked the rig, grabbed some last-minute items for up at Robinson Flat, and then we bee-lined it up to RF.

We were well within the window of when they would allow vehicles to drive up and drop stuff off within the check, so we made quick work of unloading within the allotted 3-minute window, then while Renee drove the car back down and parked, Megan and I secured a very nice crew spot.

We were there a good 3+ hours before we expected to see Lucy, so had plenty of time to get things set up and then hand around and socialize with friends that we knew. I joke that Tevis is my social life, but it’s largely true — my endurance network is spread out pretty far and wide, with Facebook being the main thing that holds us together on a regular basis, so it’s a treat to actually get to see my friends once a year and get caught up via a non-digital methodology.

I also happened to have one of the better-working phones/networks (AT&T, go figure…) so I was constantly refreshing the webcast and checking the status of the earlier checkpoints. (Trying to remember what it was like crewing Tevis before we had this wonderous near-instant access and technology…hanging out by the old hand-written “leader board” listening to numbers coming in across the radio, holding your breath every time you heard something that might be your rider’s number…nerve-wracking.

Now, between text coverage along the trail and the newscast updates, a crew is able to know when their rider arrived/left the checkpoints, and sometimes even where they’re at along the trail thanks to things like “Find my iPhone” and the SPOT GPS trackers.

We had been there for maybe an hour, and it had gradually been turning from sunny to grey…and then it started raining. Uh? In 2015 it had briefly rained for about half an hour in the morning, causing crews to scuttle for horse blankets to wrap ourselves in, and I hoped this would be a repeat of that — a quick rain, and then done.

Not so much. It ended up raining there all morning. Of course my sweatshirt was in the car…partway down the mountain. And my “just in case” rain jacket I packed? Was sitting in my backpack…down in sunny Foresthill. That was helpful.

Tevis. When in doubt, be prepared for anything.

After the alternate trail start had been announced, there had been some concern that the first third would end up being a lot faster, with horses coming in to Robinson even earlier than usual. So it was a bit of a surprise to hit the anticipated “arrival hour” and have no one showing up. Even more surprising to hit the “normal” arrival hour and still, no horses. The front runners finally came in about an hour off “normal trail” time…apparently the Duncan Canyon section of the trail rode extremely slow as compared to the normal trail. Feedback that I heard was lots of dust, lots of rocks, and more slow and technical.

We hung out around the “in trail” area, watching horses and riders coming in, and I would periodically check the webcast to get updates on Lucy’s status. They were trucking along, best we could tell…but time-wise, it was going to be very, very close.

Every so often we would wander back to the vetting area and watch horses being vetted — always interesting and educational. Very interesting was the high number of horses whose pulses were hanging, or were jumping around, and I directly know at least several people who were ultimately pulled at this point for that reason. Chalk it up to the weird weather? We were all shivering standing around in the rain, but the horses were coming in surprisingly hot, and most needed quite a bit of cooling to get them pulsed down.

As the noon cut-off approached, word got around that the cut-off was being extended to 12:30. There was some miscommunication going around, though. The out-time of 1:30 was not being extended, so some people said they had to be pulsed by 12:30…others said they just had to be in by 12:30, but still leave by 1:30, so if it took longer to pulse, their hold time would be short. Ultimately the latter was how it ended up playing out for the last eight or so people who were in by 12:30 but not pulsed until about 12:35.

Lucy and Roo were part of the last batch to come in, and it was a mad flurry of stripping tack, manage to sling the saddle right into the small puddle that had accumulated in the cart (oops, my bad…), and sloshing as much water on Roo as possible. He’s not quick to pulse even under the best of circumstances, so the fact we were able to get him pulsed down in under 10 minutes, from what I remember, in absolutely non-ideal circumstances was really good.

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vetting at Robinson Flat

Renee went into the vet line with Lucy and Roo, while Megan and I watched. The vet ended up having them trot out twice (not sure what he saw on the first tine?) but ultimately they were passed and good to go. We took horse and rider back up to our prepared crew spot and settled Roo in front of hay and mash. He’s probably the easiest horse ever to crew for — settled him in front of food and he just tucks in and eats his way through the hold, leaving the crew free to take care of things like feeding and cleaning the rider (a wet washcloth or baby wipes are an absolute lifesaver at Robinson Flat…the rider will thank you profusely when they are able to wipe 5+ pounds of trail dirt off their face), re-packing the saddle, and doing adjustments to the doesn’t-want-to-stay-in-place sheepskin saddle cover.

Initially, Lucy wasn’t sure if she was going to go back out — they had made their goal of “get to Robinson” and riding on the time cutoffs was going to be very close. Roo still looked good, and after getting some food/drink into her, Lucy decided to go for it, and just get as far as they could. So we got Roo all tacked up again, and even had her at the out-timer a couple minutes early.

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leaving Robinson Flat

Once they were back out on trail, we got the crew area cleaned up (another pro-tip: pack a tarp to spread out and feed the horse on the tarp…then it’s really easy to bundle the tarp and shake all of the excess hay and mash leavings into a trash bag), everything loaded into the cart, and headed back to the car.

From this point on, we were on a “play it by ear” plan. Since we didn’t know how far Lucy and Roo would get, or if we would be needed at Michigan Bluff and Pieper Junction, we decided to hang out in Foresthill, grab lunch, and follow the webcast. Since it’s only about a 15-minute drive to the parking area for MB/PJ, and then another 10-15 min walk in, there’s plenty of time to wait until you know for sure your rider has passed a certain point and your crew service will be needed before venturing down there.

And then we got a text from Lucy — done for the day. Roo had done really well, but eventually decided he was done playing, so she was hand-walking in to Dusty Corners. Ah, well.  There was a vet there that cleared them and pronounced Roo as “just a bit tired” and they were able to get a trailer ride back to Foresthill.

In the meantime, I hung out on Bath Rd and watched the front-runners come in until Lucy texted she was just a few minutes out from FH.

 

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eventual winners Tennessee Lane and Auli Farwa

If there was a lesson to be learned in all of this, it was: It’s a pain to get pulled at Tevis. On one hand, they do a really good job of accounting for riders/horses, making sure paperwork is filled out, and they know where horses are being taken/reason for the pull/etc. But they also get to a point of being, well, a bit overzealous.

In this case, even though the vet out on trail cleared Roo, they wanted to vet at FH to clear him. And then that vet wanted us to go over to the treatment vet and have them clear him. Which was where the trouble started. When the treatment vet checked him, they were a little concerned because his pulse was at 64. Never mind he had just come off an hour-and-half trailer ride on a very rough, twisty, difficult road. It had been maybe 10 minutes since we walked him across the Mill Site, dumped his tack at the trailer, and walked over to the vetting area. He had only just had a drink back at the trailer. So we asked to give him a few minutes. The gut movement research team was right there as well, so they finished off their study (look at the horse before the ride, then either when they get pulled or at the finish) — gut motility looked excellent. I took Roo over to the troughs and let him get another good drink, and while he munched on hay, I sponged him down. A few minutes later, the vet tech came scuttling over, took his pulse, and when I asked her what he was at, she just walked away, completely ignoring me. She looked to be conferencing with the vet for a few moments, then started coming back towards us, hands full of all the stuff to put in an IV catheter.

Uh, excuse me, on who’s authority? Fortunately Lucy was right there as well, and we both stepped up and blocked her, insisting that we would speak to the vet first. The tech was really aggressive, saying that he needed to be on a IV because his pulse was still between 60-64. The vet came over at this point and said that his pulse was still a little bit high. However, she was not taking the circumstances into account. Roo was still warm, and at this point, he was more pissed off than anything — tired of being sponged, tired of being pulsed on his girth line (which we discovered had some rubbing/irritation starting), tired of being messed with. He just wanted to be left alone. We explained as much to the vet, told her we were taking him back over to his trailer where he could relax, eat, and really settle. And that’s what we did.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating not treating a horse if they need it. On my own horses. if there’s something that is not normal, that horse will be marched right over to the treatment area. If I’m riding someone else’s horse and I feel there’s even a slight issue, I wouldn’t hesitate. My problem in this whole scenario was how it was handled, the rudeness, the complete lack of bedside manner, and an approach that I felt was overly aggressive and designed to take advantage of a tired, possibly distraught rider whose horse has been pulled. This was a rider who knows her horse very well, and the vets were not listening to what the rider had to say.

From a crew perspective, I was glad I was there to back Lucy up — she knew her own mind, and wasn’t in a “mentally wiped out or distraught” state of mind  that was preventing good decisions, but it at least kept the dynamic to two people versus one vet and her bullying tech against one rider. So file that away under potentially useful advice — have a crew person that you trust to be your “advocate”, who is clear-headed enough to analyze a scenario and provide either guidance or support.

Anyway, we took Roo back to the trailer, I made up a bucket of colder water and gave him a full sponge bath, getting all of the trail dust off, put ice boots on his legs, then left him alone to eat. And after being left alone and some peace and quiet, he dropped down to the low 40s. Lucy and I hung out at FH for the next couple of hours — not only to give Roo more recovery time and wait until it got dark/a little cooler to stick him back in the trailer and drive home, we wanted to see people we know come in/lend a hand when needed.

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Foresthill moonrise

Once back home, Roo hopped out of the trailer and moseyed around the barn looking downright perky, so we left him with a full hay bag and stumbled off to the house. Tired as I was, I still couldn’t resist the siren call of the shower first.

Sunday morning we trucked back over to the Fairgrounds to watch the Haggin Cup judging (best condition among the Top Ten horses) and the awards banquet. All those pretty silver buckles at awards…<wistful sigh>

To wrap things up Monday, we went to a really fun little swimming hole down near Placerville. The water was cold, but the air temperature was warm enough that sitting in it felt really good. Nice way to wrap up the trip and enjoy some leisure time in an absolutely stunning setting.

Then it was back home on Tuesday, where it’s then taken me two weeks to get this blog post generated. Ah, well, better than the years it took me a couple of years to re-visit, or the ones that have never gotten blogged about. So, that’s a wrap on Tevis this year…as always, have at it with questions/comments/whatever. Now onward to some other pony adventures coming up in the future…

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Tevis crew collage

Stay tuned for the adventures of crew year #9…this year it’s for Lucy and Plan B — Roo! (Funny how things come full circle — that top right photo in the collage was crewing for Lucy/Roo in 2009, my first time crewing for her.)

Everything about this year has been unpredictable and in flux, so why not the Tevis crew plan as well?

Ride Story: Tevis Educational Ride 2017

One step closer to my Tevis buckle dreams.

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The Tevis Educational Ride has been on my radar for a number of years, for obvious reasons. 1) It’s Tevis-related. 2) Chance to see the trail ahead of time. 3) Chance to be mentored by experienced Tevis finishers and learn appropriate pacing and other ride strategies.

The Ed Ride is held every other year (alternating with the “Fun Ride” which doesn’t cover as much of the trail, and isn’t quite as involved with mentoring/education), and includes two days of riding over basically 2/3 of the trail in a small group (2-3 people/mentor), as well as extra clinics and seminars that are particularly relevant to Tevis. To give an idea of the experience and educational value earned, despite the fact you cover 64 miles over the two days, completing the Ed Ride counts as 150 qualifying miles, for those trying to make their 300 qualifying miles to ride Tevis.

However, it’s a big time and $ commitment, especially if you don’t live in the area, so for those reasons (as well as timing, horse suitability, etc.), I’d never managed to make it to the Ed Ride. Fortunately, over the last few years, I’ve had a number of opportunities to do various and sundry pre-rides on the Tevis trail, usually coinciding with my mostly-annual crewing trips to Tevis.

This year, I was offered a chance to do the Ed Ride. A friend was going up to be an Ed Ride mentor, and had an extra horse she wanted to also have see the trail. I didn’t even have to think about that one at all — count me in for sure!

Fast forward to the Wednesday before the Ed Ride. I flew up to Las Vegas, NV early in the morning, Cathy picked me up from the airport, and we headed back to her place to finish packing and prep work. I met my ride for the weekend, an 8-year-old Al-Marah-bred gelding named Dean. This is his first season of endurance (after flunking out of both reining and dressage training) and he’s done 7 50’s to date, so went into the weekend with a good fitness base and some good seasoning and exposure to the sport (he’s done several XP rides, so technical trail was nothing new to him).

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AM Magestic Dean (AlMarah Mr Dream x Al-Marah HRH Domaine)

We got tack sorted and cleaned, stirrup lengths adjusted, and then glued hind boots on, a process that actually happened with minimal swearing or teeth gnashing.

While both horses have good hooves and tend to wear boots well, both of us opted for the extra insurance of using Renegade Pro-Comp Glue-Ons for the hind boots for the weekend. The canyons on the Tevis trail are a notoriously difficult place to keep boots on, thanks to a combination of climbing, some technical spots, some water crossings, and the amount of sweat that ends up coming off the horses.

Between Cathy, Cathy’s husband, and myself, we got both horses glued in less than an hour, taking into account boot sizing, gathering of materials, and then the actual gluing itself. Not too bad. The process for gluing Renegades isn’t necessarily difficult, per se…it’s just precise, and if the proper steps aren’t followed or followed sufficiently, then the glue job won’t be successful. And spoiler alert: they all stayed on through the whole weekend.

Thursday morning the horses got a quick bath, then we loaded up and were down the road. Because it’s a good 10+ hours between Vegas and Foresthill with a trailer, we had opted to split the drive into two days and overnight in Fallon, NV on the way up.

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driving by Walker Lake

It was a 6-1/2-hour drive on the way up, including one gas stop. Around Hawthorne and up past Walker Lake, we ran into some unexpected clouds/rain, which was a welcome relief and dropped the temperatures down into the 80s.

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settled in at the Churchill County Regional Park/Fallon fairgrounds

They got a chance to do a quick leg stretch in the arena (although were more interested in rolling in the dirt) before we settled them in a pen for the night. For us humans, luxury came in the form of power hookups and water at the campsites…hello, air conditioning and shower! I could very easily get used to this.

Friday morning, we loaded up and were back on the road bright and early after one last leg-stretching session in the arena. While they hadn’t done much the previous evening, they put on quite show in the morning — running, leaping, twirling, the full Arabian routine.

It was about a 4-hour haul through Reno, over Donner Pass, into Auburn, and onto Foresthill (including a fuel stop and stop at the CA/NV border ag station).

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stopped at the ag station. still snow on the mountains!

We pulled into camp at the Foresthill Mill Site (same location as the Foresthill vet check at Tevis) shortly before noon, and there were already at least a dozen rigs there.

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settled in at camp

Once they were settled on their respective Hi-Ties, we went over to check in for the weekend (Cathy as a mentor and myself as a rider), and go lighten our wallets at the Tevis Store. (My most-abused phrase of the weekend any time I would spend $ was “But it’s for a good cause!” as it all benefits the WSTF and the Tevis trail.)

I impulse-bought a couple of Kerrits IceFil items, as I was rapidly cooking in the hot sun and decided that the long-sleeve IceFil shirts were probably my best bet for weekend attire…and since I only had one long-sleeve shirt to bring with me, well, impulse shopping took care of that little problem.

Vetting in started at 3, and I believe we were over there shortly after it started. Fortunately there were patches of shade we were able to stand in while we waited in line.

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We’ll take it. Given he had eaten all night previously, and in the trailer, and all afternoon at camp, I wasn’t too concerned about the couple of B’s on gut sounds.

He even trotted out nicely for me…which he does when he feel like it. However, once the ride starts, his general attitude towards trot-outs is “Can’t Be Bothered.” Can’t complain about his other ground manners, though — stands politely, doesn’t fuss or trod on people, and an angel for vet handling.

Late afternoon the riders all gathered for a meet-n-greet with their chosen mentors. For the first day “long ride” option, there is a entry cap of 20 mentors and 60 riders, keeping the groups a nice, manageable size of 3 riders per mentor. It’s a pretty casual, relaxed affair — the mentors list their names, and the speed they intend to pace at (“fast”, “medium”, or “slow”), and riders can then sign up with their preferred mentor. Obviously since I was traveling with Cathy and riding one of her horses, I was signed up with her. :)

In-between the meet-n-greet and one of the educational seminars, I was called upon for some emergency boot-gluing services for one of the ladies who would be riding with our group. The gaiters of the boots she had been using the previous day had rubbed on her horse, making him sore enough to be off, and she wasn’t sure if she would be able to ride the next day or not. Cathy had extra Renegade glue-ons packed with her, so we offered to glue them on and see if it made a difference.

20 minutes later, front boots were glued, the horse was standing happily, and after a couple hours of letting the glue fully set up, he trotted sound. I made no promises as to how it would hold up, given the fact that, despite helping with doing glue-ons for a number of years now, I had yet to actually tackle an entire glue job on my own.

I guess that’s on-the-job training?

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Spoiler Alert 2: They also stayed on ;)

The evening lecture was from Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, and she gave a really good lecture on feeding and electrolyting, specifically with 100-milers in mind, and some Tevis-specific relevant tips. She is always so generous with her knowledge on some of the Facebook groups, and really knows her stuff in regards to nutrition and performance. She’s also a highly entertaining speaker (bonus points for working in the phrase “take it worth a grain of salt” when discussing electrolytes), and knows how to distill down information into easily-digestible tidbits for us laypeople.

A local taco truck came in and set up shop on-site for Friday meals, and three tacos later, I was quite satisfied during the ride meeting. The ride meeting was pretty straight-forward, covering logistics: we would meet down at the Mill Site entrance at our designated times, load up into shuttle trailers, and be taken up to the start at Mumford Bar trailhead, where we would be dropped off and then ride the 25 miles back to Foresthill along the trail.

A note regarding the Ed Ride trail this year: Due to the absurdly high snowpack levels in the Sierras, the Ed Ride followed a slightly different route. The first canyon (with the “Swinging Bridge” at the bottom) had suffered some trail damage from a mud/rock slide, and while it had been open for the Western States Run last month, it wasn’t safe for horses, and while repairs will be complete by the time Tevis rolls around, an alternate start was designed for the Ed Ride.

Instead of going up to Robinson Flat, we were dropped off at Mumford Bar trailhead, about half an hour drive from Robinson Flat, and rode down Deadwood Road to the Deadwood vet check, bypassing the first canyon entirely. (At this point, I am convinced that I will not actually see the first canyon until I actually ride Tevis.) 

From Deadwood, we picked up the actual trail and took it the rest of the way in to Foresthill. Obviously, this shortened the mileage from the standard 32-mile day to about 25 miles, so for the small handful of people who needed the full mileage of the Ed Ride for their Tevis qualifying miles, they also had an out-and-back segment added on to their route to make up the miles and the descent/climb.

Day Two also experienced some trail alternations. The American River is flowing at a rate that is almost 5x what is ideal/safe for horses to cross — the winter rain/snow and subsequent snowmelt has the river flowing uncontrolled over the Oxbow Reservoir spillway. Because the river is normally dam-controlled and under regulated release, the high point of the water releases normally don’t hit that far downstream at the river crossing point until late afternoon, making it safe to cross in the earlier parts of the day. The dam-controlled aspect is also what allows the river to be held back for the duration of the Tevis ride day, making is safe to cross even in the late night/wee hours of the morning.

Normally the Ed Ride would get to the river and cross it early enough in the day to then continue on in to Auburn. This year, however, we were re-routed after Francisco’s to continue up Driver’s Flat Road (the road that is used to access the Francisco’s vet check) and finish at the Lower Driver’s Flat parking area for an approximately 20-mile day, and then be shuttled back to Foresthill from there.

Friday night was a bit restless, as it usually is for me, interrupted by Dean busting loose from his Hi-Tie at one point. Fortunately he didn’t go anywhere, but that involved having to r-attach his rope to the Hi-Tie.

So when my alarm went off, I was happy to get up and get on with things. Because saddles had already been packed the previous evening, all I had to do was pull on riding clothes, drink my coffee and eat some breakfast, then go tack up.

Cathy’s horses are used to being trailered with their tack on, so that was one less thing to mess with — just walked them down to the meeting area and they hopped right into the trailer, and we were on our way.

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our group: Gayle/Bo, me/Dean, Cathy/Tempest, Liz/Boon

From our drop-off point at Mumford Bar, we mounted up and headed down Foresthill Rd for a little less than a mile to the turnoff on Deadwood Rd. Fortunately it was early enough on a Saturday morning that traffic wasn’t an issue.

In my typical catch-rider fashion, I climbed on Dean for the first time there at the trailhead. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from him…he had done a number of rides already this year, and only a tiny handful of minor indiscretions since Cathy had him…but old habits die hard (for me) and I still have a hard time relaxing and just jumping on board without wondering if the explosion will follow shortly thereafter.

He was just fine, and handled all of the commotion at the trailhead and heading out onto the street without fuss. He did start trying to jig and get really bunched up about 1/4-mile in when Tempest started outwalking him, so rather than get into an argument or have to get too in his mouth, I just jumped off and started hand-walking him down the road until we reached the Deadwood Rd turnoff. Once I climbed back on, we started trotting, and we found a better rhythm from there.

It was about 7 miles down Deadwood Rd to water, and we alternated walking and trotting, switching off and rotating through who was leading. We got passed by several groups — riding a faster pace than we were, but got a later start for shuttling or getting on the trail. No biggie — it was a great place to pass, since it was a dirt road. However, once we had been passed, Dean suggested to me a couple of times that “Wouldn’t you like to catch those horses ahead?” Nope, dude, we’re hanging back and taking it easy today.

We connected up with the actual Tevis trail about 7 miles in, at what would normally be the top of the climb out of the first canyon — the Devil’s Thumb water stop. They had troughs out, so the horses were able to tank up really well, and then we moseyed in the mile +/- into the Deadwood vet check.

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Devil’s Thumb area. The break in the fence on Cathy’s left is where the normal trail comes in.

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single-track trail into Deadwood (sorry, horrible mixed light meant most of my photos aren’t the greatest)

There was quite a back-up for the vet line at Deadwood, so we had some time to let them drink and eat. There was a volunteer there doing courtesy pulses — since I had no idea what to expect, I had her check Dean and she said he was at 68 just coming in.

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waiting in line at Deadwood

Once he got a drink, we did the actual P&R…unfortunately, the pulse taker was just putting ’60’ on the cards if they were at or below criteria, so I don’t know what Dean actually came in at since all pulse taker said was “he’s way down, so as long as they’re down, I’m just putting 60 on the card.” :/ Would have liked the accuracy for information’s sake, but what can you do? <shrug>

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when you’re waiting, you take pictures. this guy just makes me grin.

I took advantage of the downtime to fill my bottles and water pack, and grab some snacks and stuff my face. Practicing efficiency was one of my goals for the weekend, so I felt good about using my time in line well.

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clean-up crew at Deadwood

Dean vetted well, and after everyone in our group was ready to go, we scuttled off down the trail towards El Dorado Canyon.

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in line at Deadwood

There are a couple of exposed areas going down the canyon that make me squeak a bit. Funny enough, I’m actually better about those spots when I can trot through them, but on this day, we ended up walking some of those areas, so I jumped off and lead for a little bit. Dean and I were at the back of our group, so it was more efficient for me to power hike or do some jogging than to be doing the speed up/slow down thing in the saddle.

This trail can really mess with your head in parts. At one point, I swore I was seeing what looked like a little trickle of water/mud across the trail — which there was — that then opened up into a puddle of water that was reflecting the trees and greenery. Ummm, not so much on the puddle part. It was actually open air and really tall trees. That was kind of an “eep” moment for me, and I doubled down on keeping a really strong leg on Dean, reminding him that there was a drop-off there.

It was hot, hot, hot down at the bottom of the canyon, so we only lingered for a brief moment before continuing onward, bemoaning the fact that El Dorado Creek was so difficult to access. However, they had the route detoured to the little creek that is just off the trail a little ways, and we were able to let the horses drink and give them a good sponging.

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climbing up the Michigan Bluff side of El Dorado Canyon

The climb up to Michigan Bluff is long, and hot, and the horses all start thinking you’re a little bit crazy. Fortunately there’s actually a good amount of shade along the way, but being in a canyon, there’s not much air movement, so it gets pretty warm when you’re walking up the climb.

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manzanita tunnel at the top of the canyon

Once you hit the manzanita tunnel, that’s a sign that you’re near the top of the canyon and almost to Michigan Bluff.

On ride day, Michigan Bluff is a water stop only, but for the Ed Ride, they did have a vet check there. All of the horses drank well as we sponged them down, and Dean was at pulse criteria within a couple minutes of coming in and drinking.

There was a line for the vet here as well, so we found some shade and hay and again let them eat.

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Yeah, happy with that.

Rather than get bogged down in another line at the Pieper Junction/Chicken Hawk check, we elected to hang out a few extra minutes and let them eat at MB before moseying out and making our way the couple miles to the next check.

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“Frat Boy” at MB — eating, drinking, chillin’ in the shade

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riding out of Michigan Bluff. An iconic Tevis moment when doing the ride…being there at the Ed Ride was enough to give me chills

The road between MB and PJ/CH is pretty trottable, although I had forgotten that there’s a little climb slipped in there (~400′ in less than a mile, but it’s right before the check, and all the little climbs add up).

Our strategy initially paid off when we reached the check, as there were way fewer people in line ahead of us…unfortunately, while we were pulsed down and standing in line at one of the troughs, a group behind us slipped in to an open trough ahead of us…and then decided that was “their” place in the vet line. Lesson learned: if you’re in the back of the line and people come in behind you, make sure they know you’re the back of the line. Or don’t leave a gap in-between troughs that people can slip into.

If it had been an actual ride, chasing the clock, I would have been more upset, but we weren’t being timed, and we were already out there…what difference was an extra ten minutes going to make, under the circumstances?

Dean was a little lackadaisical in his trot-out, earning him B’s on gait/impulsion/attitude, and for me to quip, “B for ‘Can’t Be Bothered.'”

One out of the check, we collectively as a group decided that we’d like to try a slightly faster pace whenever appropriate for this last canyon, as it was getting pretty warm and we were all about ready to be done for the day.

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down into Volcano Canyon

Volcano Canyon is the “baby” of the three canyons, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in being much rougher and rumblier footing. I last rode this canyon in 2014, and was able to jog-trot a good part of it…this year, we were reduced to a slithering walk on a lot of it.

The Volcano Creek crossing itself was a bit exciting. It’s always pretty rocky and slippery, and this year, Volcano Creek was a lot higher and faster-flowing than normal. Dean and I were in the lead at this point, and when he got to the edge, he decided, “Nope, not happening.” I jumped off as he contemplating back up the uphill single-track with a few drop-off areas, knowing I was probably going to have to get wet in order to get him across. I glanced at a couple of rocks, briefly contemplated rock hopping, concluded my odds of slipping on the rocks and ending up all the way in the creek were probably greater than not, and resigned myself to trudging across.

Yes, ultrarunner is a wimp who doesn’t like getting her feet wet.

Sure enough, the rocks were slippery, and Dean had a few slip-n-slide moments down in the creek, with a quick scramble at the end to get the heck outta there.

The water was cold, but felt really good, and I ended up about mid-calf deep after we cleared the main part of the stream and moved off to the other side to allow more of our group to fit in. This was another great chance to sponge the horses down, and since I was already partially wet, I squeezed several spongefuls of water over my own head/neck.

The last bit of climb out of Volcano Canyon goes by a lot quicker, and then we were at Bath Road. Now that is the part that takes way longer than expected. It’s the road that just keeps going.

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heading up Bath Rd, almost back to Foresthill

Dean was still perfectly happy to keep offering to trot, especially when some of the larger horses would out-walk him, and a few times, I obliged…a few other times, I insisted he needed to work on his “walk out” skills.

And then we were back at Foresthill and the familiar entrance to the Mill Site…a path I’ve traveled a number of times now with crewing. We got the horses pulsed down and while Dean initially was presenting to the pulse person at 64, as soon as dummy here realized I forgot to loosen his girth, his pulse immediately dropped to 56. (How long have I been doing my vet check routine of dismount and immediately loosen girth?)

We dumped off their tack at the trailer, then immediately went over to vet. Dean gave me the most unimpressive trot-out ever (seriously, can’t be bothered), although I guess he still looked perky enough for A’s on his movement scores, and the vet had some useful tips for teaching smart trot-outs.

We discovered he did have a slightly sore girth rub (coincided with the nylon edge of the billet keeper strap), as well as some scrapes and dings on a hind leg from slipping in Volcano Creek, although those were all surface.

Once we were vetted out for the day, it was back to the trailer to clean them up and let them eat, and our riding group hung out in the shade and re-hydrated ourselves until it was time for the BBQ dinner.

They served some delicious grilled chicken and tri-tip, plus salad, watermelon, and garlic sourdough bread. I know I’m pretty easy to feed, especially after a day of riding, but this really hit the spot, and we wrapped up the evening with a Q&A panel of half a dozen experienced Tevis riders answering open forum questions posed to them.

Some interesting tidbits were picked up, but my biggest takeaway from the panel is “you need to figure out what works best for you and your individual horse.” If you get the same/similar enough answer on a subject from half a dozen very experienced people, then it’s likely that is a reliable tidbit to file away as “critical information” for later.

But things like shoes/splint boots/electrolytes are all such personal topics that depend very much on the individual horse and rider, and you can try to emulate a person and everything they do as much as you want, but that isn’t going to guarantee you the same level of success if that particular protocol isn’t appropriate for your horse or you as a rider.

Anyway…after the panel wrapped up, Cathy and I made a quick decision after looking at saddles, Dean’s girth rub, and girth options…since we had each saddle set up for ourselves with our individual packs, etc., and since the saddle Cathy was riding was rigged just slightly different than the one I was riding, rather than switch everything between the saddles, we would keep our saddles and just switch horses. Unconventional, I guess, but it worked.

So Sunday morning saw me crawling out of bed and repeating the same morning routine of riding clothes/coffee/breakfast. I had already filled my water pack and set saddle snacks out, so I just had to stuff bottles and snacks into the pommel pack, put front boots on, tack up, and we were ready to go.

Sunday’s route was a point-to-point of California Loop up Driver’s Flat Rd, at which point we would be shuttled back to Foresthill. I did this exact same route last summer with Lucy and Kaity, and while I had a few “squeaky” moments, overall I was surprised by how “not scary” I found Cal Loop to be. (I’m sure it’ll feel different in the dark, but with my overactive imagination, it’s far better for me to go into a scenario knowing “yep, have already done this trail, we can handle it” than to be wondering just what the heck we’re traversing over.)

I also had the advantage today of being on the experienced horse — Tempest finished Tevis last year, so she knew where we were at as well. From the get-go she felt good, snorting softly as we trotted by the cemetery (another “I see dead people” horse), and striding out through town. Even if she did have to stare suspiciously at the liens in the road and any stop sign/crossing writing on the road.

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“Slow? I don’t wanna go slow.” Theme of the day.

Dean and Cathy initially lead out once we passed through town and hit the trail, but Tempest was in fire-breathing dragon mode (which I’m familiar with thanks to Mimi) and was having way too much fun breathing down the more slow-moving Dean’s back, so I shuffled her to the front at the first appropriate moment and we led the way down Cal Loop.

I wasn’t sure what to expect the second time through — now that I had seen and knew what parts I considered kind of “scary,” would I be looking for them? Would it seem worse? There’s one exposed section with very little “catch vegetation” before Cal 1 that I hadn’t cared for, but for whatever reason, it didn’t even register in my brain this time. We reached Cal 1, and I had a moment of going “wait, we’re at Cal 1 already?”

Now, we did have a “moment” at one of the Dardanelles Creek crossings on the way to Cal 1. There was a very large step-down into a very rocky crossing — hard to find good footing, and the water depth was hard to see. I once again hopped off, this time making it across without getting soaked, but when Tempest went to cross, she slipped and did a very impressive flail/scramble to get through. If it gives you an idea of the degree of scramble, one of her fetlock interference boots ended up inside out and up near her hock.

Lesson learned: try to stay on the horse if at all possible on water crossings. I just wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get her to cross it without a major fight or a ridiculous cross-country leap over it. Hindsight, even the leap probably would have been better.

So much of Cal Loop is so trottable. The footing is good, for the most part, and the grades are gentle enough to allow for some good stretches of continuous trotting. Which Tempest was more than happy to oblige.

Just after Cal 1, we switched it up and put Dean in the front again. Fire-breathing dragon mode activated on Tempest again, and I got some good practice in riding off my core, and using seat and legs to keep her an appropriate distance back versus hanging in her mouth the whole time. We reached a fair-to-middling compromise on the issue.

The section between Cal 1 and Cal 2 was a little longer than I remembered, although fortunately there were some natural springs/creeks flowing for the horses to drink. But we did reach Cal 2, and set off down those switchbacks. I swear, this whole trail flows like a time warp, because the Cal 2 switchbacks were a lot shorter than I remembered.

The Ford’s Bar section — where you climb up, and then climb right back down — was just as nonsensical as I remembered. This area was a part of last year’s Trailhead Fire that burned just a few weeks before Tevis, but some of the greenery is already starting to come back.

The next section, between Ford’s Bar and Sandy Bottom, also had some “exposure” sections I hadn’t been real fond of previously, but I actually felt comfortable enough to trot through a good part of it this time. Tempest is really sure-footed and smooth, so it’s easy to feel really comfortable on her. She tended to “look” at things, especially rocks/logs, but all she would do was tip her head and start a little bit, and I never felt worried about her slipping or stepping off the trail.

Down at Sandy Bottom, we were fortunate enough to find an access point down to the river, so we took several minutes to go down and let the horses drink, and stand in the  water and cool off. After the previous day’s water-crossing episode, I was pretty immune to the whole “I don’t wanna get wet” thing, so tromped right into the river myself, getting knee deep, and using the horse sponge to thoroughly drench my head/neck.

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Cathy with Dean in the foreground; me and my obnoxiously fluorescent sponge (and a sulking Tempest) in the back

Tempest didn’t find the river nearly as amusing as the rest of us. She drank well, but had to be begrudgingly dragged fetlock-deep into the water so I could more easily sponge her. (Also not an amusing trick, per her.)

That was the most refreshing 5-minute break ever, and totally worth the time spent.

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down at Sandy Bottom

From there, it was a couple more miles along the river road to Francisco’s. Normally a check on the ride (an initially supposed to be a check for the Ed Ride), this time the road down to the check was too rutted out to be able to safely get vehicles/volunteers down to that point. They were able to get several troughs, hay, and some people snacks and waters, down to a spot just before Francisco’s, so we had a chance to get more water and let the horses eat for a few minutes before heading up to and through the Francisco’s meadow and up Driver’s Flat Rd.

We passed by the turnoff the trail takes to Poverty Bar — Tempest glanced that way, and then kept peering off to the side as we climbed the road, as if to say “Umm, don’t we go that way?” Nope, not this time. Climb, climb, climb we go, up ~1800′ in ~2 miles. Tempest was a climbing machine — any time I’d offer to let her stop in the shade, she’d brush off the offer and just keep marching.

The Lower Driver’s Flat parking lot was a welcome sight — hay and water for horses, food and cold water for people, and lots of shade to hang out and take a breather for a bit. They made this our finishing point, so when we vetted out, we were done for the day.

I forgot to get a pic of the vet card, but I do remember Tempest vetted out very well (she does a gorgeous in-hand trot-out), and had pulsed down to 52 by the time she was finished drinking.

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hanging out at Driver’s Flat

We hung out around the troughs and in the shade for probably about 10 minutes after we were done, letting the horses eat and drink. At one point, I was sitting on the edge of the trough, and Tempest decided she was so thirsty, she was getting to that trough no matter what…pretty sure she was intent on pushing me in if I hadn’t slid out of the way fast enough. (That would be the side of her that qualifies for “mare ‘tude.”)

Then we moseyed up to the Upper Driver’s Flat parking lot where we were able to shuttle back to Foresthill with a couple of other riders. Got the ponies untacked and cleaned up, and while Cathy worked on packing up the trailer, I worked on removing hind boots.

There are a couple of ways you can go about removing glue-on boots. You can use a flat-head screwdriver and chisel between the hoof wall and boot wall and break the glue bond. You can chop the boot wall off in pieces with hoof nippers. Or you can cut the sole of the boot away and then peel the boot wall off the hoof wall. I opted for the third option.

You do want a horse that stands quietly, as you’re going to be working with a knife. If they don’t stand well, or have a tendency to fidget, maybe use one of the other options. Even with a quiet horse, be careful. It’s still an exposed knife blade. I use a straight edge box cutter, something I can adjust so that only a small amount of the blade is sticking out, just enough to penetrate the thickness of the boot wall. Cut around the outside of the boot, at the point where the boot wall joins the boot sole. Since there’s no glue on the sole of the hoof, once the cut is complete, you can pop the sole of the boot off the hoof. Then grab a corner of the boot wall and start peeling it off the hoof wall.

I had both horses hind boots off in about 15 minutes.

Very pleased with my experience in using glue-ons for the weekend. I love the ease and convenience of using a strap boot for training and the vast majority of rides I do. But for certain scenarios, it is really nice to have the glue-ons as an option.

The afternoon wrapped up with an awards presentation for our completion certificates (pictured at the top), and a giveaway prize raffle. (I actually won an ice pack shoulder wrap thing.) The ultimate prize, of course, was a Tevis entry. Nope, didn’t win the Tevis entry. ;)

Cathy headed out after awards — Tempest is slated to go to Tevis is year, so rather than haul all the way back to Vegas, and then back up to Tevis less than a month later, she found a place outside of Reno to keep the horses and will fly back in ahead of Tevis.

And I headed for Tevis Low Camp (aka Lucy’s, aka my Sierra Foothills home away from home), where I got a shower, pizza, beer, and lots of laughs and great conversation. Monday morning, Lucy deposited me off at the Sacramento airport (seriously, I know this place as well as Phoenix at this point), and I came home to two very happy pups.

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It was an absolutely amazing weekend…ride management and all of the volunteers put on a fantastic ride, I learned a ton, and had a blast. I can’t thank Cathy enough for providing me the opportunity to participate in the Ed Ride weekend, and for sharing her ponies with me.

Next up: Food/Drink/Clothing/Tack/Afterthoughts