Friday, June 21, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's City of Rocks Endurance Ride: Day 1

June 21 2019

When I saw Deb and Jack (Jackpot Jackson), I knew I wanted Jack as Willie's mentor/riding partner at City of Rocks. Jack is big, big-strided, and steady. I just knew he'd keep Willie calm during the start - which to me is the most important part of an endurance ride. I'm getting too old (and wimpy) to have a hot horse at the start of a ride (ahem Finneas!). Once I get through the first 5 or 10 miles, Willie will calm down... but isn't it nice just have a calm horse from the start!

I sort of stole Deb and Jack from Nance and Fancy and her riding partner, but, this was all about Willie :)

And you know what happened? The start went perfectly. Jack was relaxed and in no hurry. Willie absorbed all that, and he was relaxed, and in no hurry - none of that bouncy-hot-wiggly-jiggly-pacey bone-jarring trot/pace/trot, worrying about catching the competition ahead him.

Even when Mike and Taladega went by us at the start, both of them having a discussion with each other about slowing down and enjoying the scenery, Willie just trotted on, steady and relaxed with his mentor Jack.

The entire day, in fact, was just beautiful, mostly sunny with a lovely afternoon edge-of-a-thunderstorm, and calm steady and smooth! Willie felt great from start to finish, and he finished Day 1 fit and ready to continue on to Day 2!

on Box Top trail, early part of loop one in City of Rocks Nat'l Reserve. It's one of my favorite scenic parts of the park. We're following Deb and Jack, and in front of her is Mike and Dega, who have come to somewhat of an understanding.

This is Kimi Linnell and her Standardbred mare Sego Lily. We got to leapfrog each other a couple times on the way to and in Castle Rocks State Park. Go Standardbreds!

Willie leading the way back home, on the Lathe Trail in CORNR

The incomparable Deb and Jack, catching the edge of that storm that didn't scare me!

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Hillbillie Willie Takes on City of Rocks: Pre-Ride Prep

Sunday June 16 2019

It was Steph who suggested I try riding her horse Hillbillie Willie, the off-the-track Standardbred, in all 3 days of 50's at City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride on June 6-8 near Almo, Idaho. It's takes place in and around City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, and it's the first 'leg' of the Idaho IronHorse 'triple crown', the other 2 being the 3 days of the Top O' The World Pioneer in July near Spencer and the e-day October Autumn Sun near Gooding.

What a great challenge! Willie is only 7; it's only his third year of endurance riding. Could he do three days in a row?

During his first year, he finished 5 out of 6 50-mile rides - his one pull resulted from bruised feet during a ride. That's when we learned that he didn't have real tough feet (is that a Standardbred thing? a racehorse thing? just a Willie thing?) and he needed pads. End of that year he was AERC's high mileage Standardbred, presented by the United States Trotting Association in partnership with the AERC. He also finished 2 back-to-back 50's at the incomparable Moab Pioneer ride at the end of the season.

Willie finished all 3 of his 3 rides last year (one 25, two 50s); this year he'd completed April's Tough Sucker 50 before City of Rocks.

I've spent the last year working on calming and slowing him down, getting him off the bit, collecting, going down the trail with his head lowered and relaxed, and ingraining a steady (not racy) trot. Though I can fake it, I'm always a little nervous at the start of his rides, because I don't want him to get nervous and wound up. It wastes a lot of energy, and it can be rough to ride. At City of Rocks, whether we did 1 or 2 or 3 days, I just wanted him to have calm starts. I wanted one riding partner that could match his big stride and who would be a good mentor, and I hoped he could ride much of it on a loose rein. And I didn't think ahead to doing all 3 days; we just went vet check to vet check.

Pre-Ride highlights:
Willie says hi to his pals and mentors, whom we rode with in this year's Tough Sucker: Cousin Hawk (JAC Winterhawk - 2500 miles and 6 BCs) the gray, and Uncle Mal (Fire Mtn Malabar - 7300 miles and 48 BCs) the bay

Willie meets the famous Dave Rabe (72,000 miles) and his amazing grays, White Cloud (10,000 miles), Rushcreek Okay (8800 miles), and Chey's Cocamoe Joe (6400 miles)

Willie and Jose play in the stinky mud pond, after which I took Willie to vet in and didn't clean him off for Jessica the vet. She loved him anyway.

Willie (r) meets new Standardbred pal Sego and Kimi Linnell!

More photo stories to come, and more ride photos & stories at