Saturday September 11 2021
All three 50-mile days at Old Selam Pioneer on Hillbillie Willie: that was my long-range goal this year. What with my healing shoulder and other commitments, and only one 50 under Willie’s girth at City of Rocks more than three months earlier, it was a flexible goal. Three days would be super. Two would be awesome. Heck, I’d be ecstatic to ride and complete one day with Willie and both of us come out of it unscathed.
It just so happens Old Selam has become one of my top three favorite endurance rides. I miss the forest and mountains, the smell of the pine and fir in the early morning dawn. And the FOOTING, my God, the footing, is unequaled in any ride I’ve done anywhere in the country. 95% of the ride is soft, rock-free dirt. It is a tough ride - there is a lot of climbing and descending, but there’s so much good ground you can move out on over all the loops.
It’s one of Willie’s favorite rides too, for the cool mornings, and the ‘slop’ at the vet checks (rice bran and oats and carrots and apples in a soupy mix), and the GRASS, ohmigosh, the grass. And he loooooves those partially overgrown old winding logging roads, flying around those blind corners eager to discover what, or which 4-legged thing, might pop up. (Fortunately, we have yet to meet a moose or bear suddenly and up close.)
It’s Willie’s fifth season of Endurance. He’s come *such* a long way from racehorse to Endurance horse. I’ve worked hard on making him into an Endurance horse that I like: one that starts out calmly, is controllable in any situation, one that doesn’t run up other horses’ butts (like I’m sure he did while racing), one that doesn’t pull pull pull, one that doesn’t go down the trail with his head up in the air and his back arched.
At Old Selam we teamed up with Willie’s bromance herd-mate DWA Barack for the first time. The pace was a little slower than Willie is used to, and it was a little faster than Barack is used to. On Day 1 Connie and I both got good human workouts managing our horses (like when one got too far behind or couldn’t see Bro around the corner, or when one climbed a hill faster than the other).
Willie’s a flat-lander horse. Hills are hard for him. Over the years he’s built up decent hind end muscles, but while he can power trot up gentle inclines and declines, steep climbs and descents are just not easy. But in the ride he tackled them with gusto, particularly when Barack was easily climbing ahead of him.
We all finished in a ride time of 8:45, fit to continue, and we were all whooped at the end of the day.
Debbie Grose pic
*I* sure didn’t feel like doing Day 2, and Willie was tired enough and didn’t need to do Day 2, so we skipped it. The original goal wasn’t that important! My fabulous horse was more important. We both enjoyed the day off, eating and hydrating a lot, taking a long walk and grazing on the abundant and varied grasses that Willie craves now that he’s a desert horse.
Day 3 we saddled up again and our boys worked so much better together! Willie would trot along slower, or faster on a loose rein (just responding to my legs or seat cues) with his neck bowed, eyeballing Barack beside him. We could space out further, get out of sight, then catch up and pass without either of them getting worried.
Willie tends to take a ride so seriously, no dilly dallying around, but Barack showed him on this ride that it’s just fine to stop now and then to graze, and how to grab grass and munch on the go. And we girls ate a lot of refreshing Otter Pops from the ice chest at one of the water troughs (another reason this is a favorite ride of mine, nothing better than frozen Otter Pops in the middle of a hard hot day!)
Crockett Dumas pic
We completed Day 3 in 8:49, and, can you say a finish pulse of 48 (both days!)?
I’m sooooooooo proud of my Standardbred Hillbillie Willie!
Thank you Steve Bradley for the awesome ride pix!