Thursday, October 26, 2023

Best Laid Plans: And Along Came Old Selam Pioneer


Thursday October 26 2023

My plan was to ride a 50 (or two) on Hillbillie Willie at Bandit Springs in Oregon on July 7-9. A busy photo-shooting schedule filled part of July and much of August, and then on a very tight turnaround unpack/repack/pack horse stuff schedule, I planned to ride one or two or three 50s, or at least 25s, at one of our favorite local rides, Old Selam Pioneer on September 1,2, and 3.

But then, along came Covid.

And then came long Covid.

I never made it to Bandit, and I managed only a total of three training rides on Willie before Old Selam, each of which about wiped me out. How was I going to ride a 50! Or even a 25! And squeezed in there right before Old Selam, along came a brutal 36-hour migraine.

And then Willie ended up with a big bite out of his side… right about where the girth would go. The girth might miss it, but probably not.

And then along came Old Selam.

And while about to saddle up for the 25-miler on Day 1, along came a friend’s concussion at the start of Day 1’s 50, so we spent the day at the hospital (followed by well-deserved Starbucks, and pastrami sandwiches and cream pie from the diner in Idaho City for treats).

And then along came a freakazoid horse named Hillbillie Unsettled Willie at Ridecamp, who could not stand to be separated from his Best Bromance Bro Barack any farther than 20 feet. I swear Willie was like a two-year-old who’d never been to a Ridecamp or spent any time by himself before. I just was not interested in riding on Day 2 on my Freakazoid. Everything just seemed so exhausting.

Day 3 was looking like it would be a rainy day. I have no problem with riding in the rain. It’s just *saddling up* in the rain that is un-fun. However, the evening before, Willie was finally settling down and able to act like a normal horse in walking around Ridecamp without Barack in his sight. And no rain the morning of Day 3!

So, I saddled up Willie for the 25-miler.

I never know for sure if I’m going to get a hot ex-racehorse at the start of a ride or not, but this year at each of our (only) two rides so far, Willie had been almost perfect, starting out nice and easy, on a loose rein and not pulling. We didn’t have any agenda at Old Selam - Willie was not that fit, and I sure was not - other than having an easy, fun, smooth, uncomplicated, un-racehorse-y ride - and that’s exactly what I got!

Nobody was racing on this day (many horses had done Day 1 or 2), and it just happened that Willie started out in the lead, because he was near the trailhead start when the trail opened, and nobody else wanted it. And we stayed in the position all day, just cruising along on a loose rein, not too fast, not too slow, just nice and steady. John S followed us all day on his mare Annie, and Willie was happy with the company.

Willie was happiest on the gentle downhill soft logging roads in the middle of loop two, shifting from a big trot to a canter to a pace, gliding around corners, galloping up hills, back to pacing downhills. I let him choose whatever he wanted to do because he was having a lot of fun. (He does like to make decisions and not be told what to do!)

The predicted rain had held up till near the end of our second loop; we got very lucky finishing when we did, because once the rain did start it was heavy and the trails quickly got muddy. Willie pulsed down in just a few minutes for the win, and then the skies let loose.

And best of all, Willie got Best Condition again, and truly by a whisker: he just nudged out DWA Hercules by .05 of a point! How’s that for math!

So in the end, I was pretty wiped out for the next couple of days, but Old Selam was a success all around - Willie had a great ride.

Our last goal is a 50 at this weekend’s Weiser River Trail… though we know how the Best Laid Plans have gone this year. My long-term goal is a Decade Team horse…. Willie and I have not done a 50 yet this year, and this year will make seven years.

But this ride will be another Hillbillie Willie escapade, because he’s going to the ride by himself. I ride him alone all the time, but he has never gone anywhere by himself since he traveled solo from California to Nevada in 2016!

Oooooh it’s going to be an adventure…..

Steve Bradley photo!