Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Celebrating is Downright Dangerous and Fun



Note from Merri: I'm still trying to catch up from my last trip to the NAETC, from riding in our Owyhee Canyonlands ride, wandhile getting ready to go to Tevis (while watching the weather!).

Meanwhile, guest blogger Connie has stopped by to give her impressions of our Owyhee Canyonlands ride together.



Wednesday October 5 2011

I appreciate Merri letting me be a guest writer. I am not just a day guest; we go way back, say 1988, when Merri and I worked for Ben Harris at Longacres racetrack. She groomed and I was an exercise rider. She said the hardest part of her job was legging me up on horses.*


We exchanged skills, passions, and interests over the years. I trained her to drive a horse carriage in Seattle, which she took over when I went on vacation. I also got her a job doing Northern Spotted owl monitoring.

And I will be forever grateful to her for inviting me out to Owyhee 4 years ago. She said there was a 5-day endurance ride, and Steph probably would have some extra horses for me to ride.

By this time, I hadn't hardly been riding since I walked away from the racetrack in 2001, burned out. I dreamed of horses. I would see them in pastures as I drove by and it was like seeing a long lost friend. After doing 2 amazing rides in Vanuatu, I vowed I would put more energy into having horses in my life again. Merri's invitation was a sign.

I showed up and I did ride. I did my first 50 mile ride on Merri's beloved Jose, and I rode Mac as well, and I did 2 LD's on Finneas, who won my heart - with his aggressive, bossy, forward attitude. He reminded me of the Thoroughbreds I galloped, and besides being a grandson of The Black Stallion (which everyone is tired of hearing about except me), he also has Thoroughbred blood.


So Merri got me here, and the rest is history. I bought 40 acres further up the creek, underground tunnels and all. It is a very warm, creative, energetic, lively space to be in the Owyhees. And the vast open spaces we are blessed with, we can walk out our doors and ride for miles and miles and miles in any direction. And that leads me up to the past 5 days.

Merri, Steph, Carol and I - the Creek Girls - all planned to try and ride all 5 days on our horses, 50 miles each day. I had never ridden 3 50's in a row. Merri is way ahead of me in miles and Steph even more, but it's not a competition. It's about doing what you love and enjoying doing it, however that plays out - trail riding, LDs, 50s or 100's.


Phinneas had never done more than 2 50's in a row; same for Jose, same for Carol's horse August. Rhett's last 5 days in a row was in 1998! - although he has over 5000 miles.

Carol, Merri and I finished Day 1 and 2 together. Unfortunately, Carol and August had to end the quest for not feeling well. Day 3, Merri and I set out alone and finished.

On Day 4, Merri and I had sightings of Steph and Rhett (how can you miss that tail), and Amanda and Batman - and they joined us in the fun. Jose and Phinneas and Rhett and Batman zipped along together along the snake-like irrigation canal, a smooth fast ride up to the Sinker Reservoir. It all looked to me like Mongolia, though I've never been there. We rode through lower Sinker Canyon together, then split up after the vet check, and we all finished. That made 4 days in a row for me, Merri, and Steph.


Day 5 - Merri and Jose, and me and Phinneas went out together. We shared a few miles with 5-day team Nance and Jasbo, and another 5-day team Karen and Thunder, but mostly it was just us 2 Creek Girls and our horses. By this day we knew we would finish; we knew our horses were still strong and energetic, and we were getting more giddy the closer we got to home.

Then I had this great idea!

I like doing handstands in beautiful places, to celebrate life - places like the Taj Mahal, Macchu Picchu, high passes in Nepal, Mt Rainier. I convinced Merri too, because this was no small feat our horses had (almost) accomplished.

Merri said she 'couldn't do handstands,' and I said 'of course you can.'

Our trail took us up this narrow knife ridge that climbs out of Hart Creek. The perfect spot for a handstand - because it's mostly downhill now to the finish from here. Down below, there is a beautiful view of what we just rode through. It is a bit narrow though. It may be a tricky landing coming off a handstand.

Well we gave it our best, much to the horror and shock of our horses. I went first, because it was my idea, and I have the most experience with such things. And yes, not to brag, I have to say I performed a fairly good handstand, legs fairly upright and together.**


However, my landing went amiss somehow, not a desired follow up, in fact a bit dismal. And Merri of course documented it all, so I have to fess up. That is the problem with riding with Merri, for better or worse you may find yourself the subject or a bit player in her blog.



But turn around is fair play. And after seeing my performance, I'm sure Merri was intimidated,*** or she was right, she can't do handstands.****


And I'm here to say, as she is accusing me, I DID NOT MISS THE SHOT.***** She did give a gallant effort, twice, and her legs never made it more than 3/4 of the way up, or together, but nor did she fall in a body heap.



But these minor details are really not important. We're not at the Olympics, we did it, our secret celebration with our horses, close to the end of Day 5, on the narrow ridge about Hart Creek Canyon.

And that is what life is about sometimes, just showing up, doing your best, giving it your all. We did, and especially our horses did.

Back at the finish line, upon our vet completions, there were cheers, hugs, and congratulations all around. Steph and Rhett were waiting, already finished, and Carol was there too. The Creek Girls and their steeds - All for One and One for All.

*Merri's note: Linda thinks it's hard too, as she shoves Connie into the saddle on Day 5 of the Owyhee Canyonlands!
**Merri's note: And I timed it perfectly with the camera!
***Merri's note: Not!
****Merri's note: Definitely can't!
*****Merri's note: That is debatable!

11 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your post. Looks like fun!!

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  2. Ah, Merri! You had better be prepared to move over! Connie did a great job - I read her account with tears too! What fun you all had! It's my goal on my new guy! Those horses are awesome!!

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  3. You guys are just silly. :) So what breeds are your main endurance horses? They don't look like straight arabians, but they sure get the job done.

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  4. I'd be curious to know what kind of horses you all ride as well. What a fun time you had!

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  5. Liz and Margaret, most all of our horses are full or part Arabians. John has a Shagya mare (she's the one who injured her leg on barbed wire); Connie's horse is part half Arabian and part Thoroughbred and appaloosa. Krusty the retired old guy is half Orlov trotter, half Arabian/Thoroughbred. Batman is half Arabian half paint. Jose, Rhett, Mac and Tex are full Arabians.

    In general, Arabians just do best at endurance because that's what they've done for thousands of years.

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  6. Very cool ladies. Really enjoyed your yarn Connie. I love seeing pics of Owyhee I need to come back soon. Nice seeing you at NAETC Merri. kat

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  7. Congratulations Merri and Connie!! I'm very proud of you and your ponies!! I miss you both...can't wait until the time I come back to the States and you guys take me out into the Canyonlands. Well written Connie!

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  8. Great story Connie! Go Creek Girls!!!!

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  9. Great story Connie but I liked the name "The Bates Creek Girls club", seems more fitting......

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  10. Laughing and feeling the joy... Great story about the things I love most... Horses, wilderness and great friendship. Thanks for sharing!

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