Sunday, October 22, 2006

High Desert II, Nevada

Sunday October 22 2006

Checklist for a 2-day endurance ride: helmet, chaps, bags o’ clothes (several changes of tights, Tshirts, long underwear, rain gear, jackets, underwear, socks for any kind of weather), sleeping bag(s), pillow(s), raven.
Arrival at ride camp Friday night: set up high ties on trailer for 2 horses, hay bags, water. Take horses out on short warm-up ride. Prepare and eat dinner. Grain horses. Go to ride meeting, visit with friends. It’s dark and chilly. Blanket horses, take them on a walk through camp, refill their hay bags and water for the night. Get our things ready for tomorrow: snacks, water bottles, clothes laid out, raven in saddle bag, set alarms for 5 AM, (UGH!), crash.

Alarms ring at 5 AM – UGH! Bodies don’t move from out of warm sleeping nests till 5:15. It is very cold outside (someone later said 16*). Hard to leave warmth of nice trailer, but horses are hungry and ride start time of 7 AM is steadily approaching. Refill hay bags, break ice in water buckets. Prepare horses’ grain, mixed with hot water from the kettle. Feed the horses, go back in trailer to re-warm up and force breakfast down. Take horses on a walk through camp in the cold morning darkness, as are many other riders – get the circulation in those horse legs going after a night of standing tied to the trailer. Shooting stars are everywhere – I see at least a dozen, without even trying. Saddle horses, throw a blanket back over them until we are ready to ride off. Make sure I’ve got everything: helmet, bandana to keep ears warm, chaps, butt pack, water, gloves, raven in my saddle bag. Do I wear an extra coat, a 4th layer? I foolishly opt not to, thinking I will be hot enough that I will have to take it off in 15 minutes, and especially so that I match, with my red and black tights, chaps and new jacket, and I stay pretty damn frozen for a good 45 minutes, and am never warm enough to peel that 3rd color coordinated layer off (Boy do I look good!)(though my horse and I did not completely color coordinate). The starting line is 15 minutes from camp; everybody walks there, horses blowing smoke from their noses, people huddled down into their layers.
7 AM start down the desert trail. Spice does not buck under Gretchen, and Raffiq only pulls hard on me the first 5 minutes – we’ve started in back of the fast and exciting front-runners. First loop is 30 miles (takes us about 5 hours), then an hour vet check back in camp, and the second loop is 20 miles, all winding in and around Ft Churchill State Park, a part of it along the Pony Express Trail, along the Carson River Valley lined with huge graceful old cottonwoods, the yellow leaves in the middle of their striking fall color change. It’s not a particularly hard ride, no huge hills, and only one long sandy wash, but it’s a true 50 mile ride – it’s LONG.
We’re finally done at 5 PM, tired like the horses, as if we’d been 9 hours in the saddle – which we were.
Not much time to kick back and relax (other than a Dr. Pepper) when we get back. We unsaddle, brush the horses while they eat hay, and mix their grain. Take them to the vet check for the finish exams: we both get completions, but Raffiq’s feet are a bit ouchy; I won’t ride him tomorrow. Get back to the trailer, grain the horses and throw light blankets on them. Refill hay bags and water. It’s time for the ride dinner (BBQ! Chile rellenos! Chili!) and the day’s gossip: one guy got tossed off, broke his shoulder and ribs; the gal that parked by us at 2 AM had broken down on Highway 50, then missed the turn to ride camp and got stuck in sand, unloaded her horse to get unstuck and he scraped up his legs, and her friend hauled another horse for her to ride for tomorrow; one guy and his horse fell into the Carson River during our long after-lunch river crossing when his horse got dizzy. Then it’s back to the trailer just before dark to bandage 8 legs. Back to the ride meeting, then back to the trailer. Take the horses on a leg-stretching walk through camp, change their blankets for heavier ones, refill hay bags one more time. Go inside and get ready for tomorrow, then crash.
Camp is dead quiet tonight: dead tired sleeping horses and humans.

Even though I’m not riding, I resist the terrible urge to stay in my cozy sleeping nest, and get up at 5:15 AM anyway (UGH!) to help Gretchen and Spice get ready – Raffiq must be fed too. It’s butt cold outside again, and they will start off their ride with the long frigid river crossing. We go through the morning routine of feeding and walking the horses, going in the trailer to warm up. I’m disappointed I’m not riding, but then, it’s awful cold out, and my warm bed hasn’t been made yet…
I lead Gretchen and Spice up to the start where Spice instantly bonds with some other buddies. I watch the river crossing – Spice has no problem following everybody, but one wild horse refuses the muddy slope down to the river and dumps his rider and runs through camp. The horse is caught and the rider, who will get stitches later for his split chin, gets back on and tries and tries to get his wild horse to go into the river. I can’t watch anymore because I don’t like to see accidents. (He never got the horse in the water; he instead rode the 30-mile limited distance ride starting at 8 AM.)
I go back to the trailer where Raffiq the Drama Queen spends the next 10 hours screaming for Spice. I crawl back in bed for an hour because I’m chilled to the bone, but Raffiq’s screaming doesn’t allow for much peaceful slumber.
It’s a gorgeous day for a ride, although it’s nice enough if you have to sit in camp too. Raffiq quiets down when Spice comes back into camp for lunch at 10:30, then starts his screaming when she goes back out on her 2nd 30-mile loop. I take Raffiq on several walks through camp, stopping each time at a soft sandy spot to roll.
Gretchen and Spice complete their ride at 4:30. We grab a ride dinner, load up the horses, and are back home in 2 hours.
Great way to pass a weekend!

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