Sunday April 27 2014
It's always somewhat exciting (for lack of a more encompassing word) climbing on a new horse for an endurance ride. I've done it throughout my 15-year endurance addiction, since I've never had my own endurance horse. Some horses are easier than others. And we all know how endurance horses are usually much less animated in a training ride (read: more lazy) than they are in an endurance ride.
I got on Quinn, my Tevis horse, (owned by Nance Worman - she offered him to me 5 days before Tevis), for the first time the Friday afternoon before Tevis for 20 minutes and called it good, and I got on him Saturday and rode him 100 miles. He was an easy ride.
Other horses are a little more exciting. Take Bodie. I'd been riding him on training rides for a couple of months, but last year when I got on him for our first 50-mile ride together, he was a bit wound up. In fact, I quote: "Linda (riding Tex with us) said I was riding 4 different horses. It sure felt like I was riding 4 different horses doing 4 different things at the same time. I did manage to stay on." (My second 50-mile ride on him was great.)
And take Connie's horse Saruq, in yesterday's Tough Sucker II. I rode him once in the arena, and he was easy. I rode him on a training ride, and he was easy. I didn't expect him to be 'easy' on an endurance ride, but, Whoa Nelly!
He used to be a racehorse. He still thinks he's a racehorse. He likes to be in front. We rode with Connie on her other horse Finneas. He's THE GRANDSON OF THE BLACK STALLION, in case any of you have never heard this. And he knows it! And he thinks he has to win every ride (including cattle drives). He insists on being in front.
The start was rather, um, exciting, with 2 hot horses wanting to be in front. We found a little pocket at the start, a little space behind horses in front of us, but that didn't matter at the start of this HORSE RACE!!! (so thought Finneas and Saruq). A whole lotta shenanigans were going on beneath us, and I discovered the gloves I was wearing were not particularly good for gripping reins, something which was very important at that stage in the ride. I thought at one time I might lose Saruq there when he threw his head straight up in air and tried to leap to a gallop… but I managed to keep a hold of him.
The rest of the ride, 49.8 miles of it, took a lot of riding. A Lot Of Riding. Saruq knows how to pull. The harder you pull on him, the harder he'll pull and the faster he likes to go. He can bend his neck like a pretzel and still pull a freight train at 35 mph. When you're on a horse that pulls, you want to do the opposite: don't pull - because he'll just pull harder and go faster. That means really using your legs and weight, a lot, and trying to keep your hands light on the reins. Less pulling but more communicating with the reins, but still taking a good grip on them. Not pulling them, but working them a lot. I couldn't use my grip-less gloves, so the reins did a number on my fingers throughout the day.
Connie says, Look ma, one hand! And note Finneas' ears are going back because Saruq is daring to come up beside him
I'd carried the point n' shoot camera along to take pictures during the ride, like I always do, but it wasn't until 15 miles into the ride, when we were heading up the Hallulujah Rim Trail, that I even thought about taking pictures. I hadn't been able to take both my hands off the steering wheel the whole way. Connie wasn't any help as a photographer either - she had to keep both hands on Finneas' reins. We did snap a few photos as the horses were (momentarily) standing still at the lip of the Hallulujah Trail, just before we got off to walk them down the steep hill back onto the flats. I gave the camera to Steph for loop 2, since she was doing a 1-Hand Ride on Jose.
Me on Saruq - notice he is snarling. That's his racetrack snarl. Curls his lip, wrinkles his nose, and bares his teeth.
One good thing about our horses is that they aren't affected by wind, like some spooky Arabs. Which was a good thing, since we were riding in a hurricane.
I've always wanted to ride inside a Dust Devil and we did just that! One came at us, fast, (like 35 miles an hour, the speed the wind was gusting), while we were trotting along the trail into the wind, a wall of howling whirling brown dust (think: Hidalgo), and Saruq puffed up a bit but didn't know what else to do so he just kept trotting! The Dust Devil slammed into us head-on, then batted us to one side, then flung us to the other, then whapped us from behind as it went on, and we came out trotting the other side, having not missed a beat. I closed my eyes as the Devil passed, and I'm sure Saruq did too!
Our horses were monsters all day, making us work to keep them from going too fast. I think I used every muscle in my body, including my hair follicle muscles, because I feel every one of them today. I'm whooped, muscles are sore, face and eyeballs are windburned, fingers are thrashed, dry-crack cuts in my hands everywhere - I love being an endurance rider!
More photos of the ride (including ones of the second loop, taken by Steph on her pleasant, calm, one-hand ride on Jose) are here.
Top photo: The Raven had a great ride on Saruq!