April 4 2022
The wind howled and the dust blew, but the Owyhee Tough Sucker 50-miler was a breeze for Hillbillie Willie
What to do with Hillbillie Willie at the Owyhee Tough Sucker, first ride of the season? Right after he completed the 50 at the Owyhee Halloween ride last November he gas colicked, and that was after he had felt super strong and phenomenal all day. I made changes in his feed and electrolyte program this spring, and he was fit enough to do 50 miles at Tough Sucker; and at the last minute decided to try him on the 50.
He also went without pads for the first time, since his feet toughened up nicely over the winter, and since Tough Sucker isn’t too rocky,. I did put Hoof Armor on his feet before the ride, though the tubes were so old I didn’t get much out of them and I’m not sure they both mixed up the right concoction.
Despite the wind, which became rather awful in the afternoon, and despite the dust, which we all ate and absorbed, (and oooooh I felt for all the volunteers in camp!) Willie was his normal super strong and forward powerful self. Always preferring a higher gear, happy to follow or lead. He rode with his buddies Jack and Deb, and (former herd-mate) Smokey and Nance. Flash and Jackie joined us for the first loop but Jackie opted not to do loop 2.
The only kink in our well-laid ride plans was lunch time, when his camp-mate and bromance buddy DWA Barack was still out on trail, so Willie wasn’t interested in eating his normal grain, or hay. I hauled him and his food across camp to hang with his trail pals, but he still wasn’t interested in eating. When Barack got in for lunch, I carted Willie and his food back to our campsite, and he started nibbling - but would only eat alfalfa. He wasn’t interested in any of the different mixtures of grain I’d prepared for him. Was he feeling OK? Of course I worried, but the heart rate monitor I had on him went as low as 39 at one point, so I knew nothing was wrong. Just to be sure, I had Dr Jake listen to his gut sounds before we went out on loop 2, but they sounded great at the time.
Back out on trail we battled the wind and dust on the ridges, stopping for good green grass (!) in places in the valleys. Willie dunked half his head in every water trough on loop 2 and inhaled water like a camel. That’s music to an Endurance rider’s ears.
Willie finished in 6:57, with all A’s, and a good appetite. He cared much more about his food at the finish than he did his Bro Barack, but when Barack got back to camp Willie was ecstatic. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome of a tired but happy horse at the finish! (P.S., I was tired too!)
*photos by my sister Judy, who ate dust in camp all day!