Saturday, July 29, 2006

Water Horse

Saturday July 29 2006

The Eastern High Sierra Classic endurance ride here in Bridgeport is coming up in 3 weekends. The weekend after that is the Tour de Washoooo near Carson City. Gretchen and I are still aiming for the Virginia City 100 in the middle of September with Raffiq and Spice, so we plan to do both of these rides.

The EHSC is one of the prettiest endurance rides in the West – although in 6 years of endurance riding, I really haven’t met a ride I didn’t like yet. This one has some big climbs and spectacular views from up high of Twin Lakes, and of the impressive Sawtooth ridge, and of beautiful Buckeye Canyon of the eastern Sierras.

Spice and Raffiq will do the 50 mile ride; Buddy will attempt the limited distance (LD) 30 mile ride with Sue. Buddy makes a nice trail horse, but he just isn’t going to make an endurance horse. He’s too heavy-going, not real athletic; he has a slow trot and slower walk. He’s a paint, and looks more like a stout quarter horse than anything Arabian. But he’s fit enough to do the 30 mile ride; the question is: will he cross the creeks?

He’s had some trouble with certain creek crossing upon occasion. And upon those occasions, he’s won – we’ve had to turn around or change routes, because it was at a place where it was just not safe to try to force him across, and the rider had no whip or spurs to help encourage forward motion.

Gretchen put the spurs on last week as we did the second half of the LD ride, which crosses Buckeye Creek twice, once downstream, and a deeper crossing further up the canyon. But Buddy had no troubles then, and she barely had to touch his sides with the spurs, or use the whip. You just never know when he’s going to refuse, or, you just don’t know if he’s fully aware his rider has extra encouragements aboard! You don’t need to beat him with the whip or kick him with the spurs; if he refuses and starts to back up, you just touch him with either, telling him he can’t back up. He can stop, or he can step forward, but he must continue facing the obstacle, and he can’t back up; you let him decide that he wants to cross. That way you aren’t beating him forward, you aren’t making the decision for him.

Today we did the first half of the LD loop, one we’d been avoiding with Buddy, because there is a rushing stream at the top we had to cross, and we were pretty certain it was one that Buddy wasn’t going to like. I rode him today, armed with whip and spurs. We three girls were joined by 3 others; Jennifer was on a 6-year old gelding she’d only had for 6 months, and this was his first ride out in a group. She wasn’t sure whether or not he’d take to big river or rushing creek crossings either.

All went well till we got to the big rushing creek. To cross this one, you have to walk down a short slope and find your way blindly through some willows (Jackie and Gretchen trimmed them back some), and then suddenly there is your rushing 10’ wide creek at your feet. This didn’t bother Star or Spice or Brownie, but it did bother Jennifer’s horse. I kept Buddy back – he had his nose buried in grass – while her horse refused again and again and again to get near the creek. Megan rode Brownie back through the water to us, then she turned Brownie back around, walked back into the creek, and Jennifer moved her horse right in after, his nose on Brownie’s butt. I did the same with Buddy – put his nose right on the gelding’s butt, and without having to touch Buddy with the spurs, he followed them right across, not even jumping or flinching when his feet touched the water.

Gretchen and I have decided he’s just being stubborn about crossing those certain streams – he’s certainly not afraid of them.

Having accomplished that, Buddy is now ready to do the LD in the EHSC in 3 weeks!

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