One Hundred Miles More
Ah, endurance. Was there ever an equestrian event for which you had to be more prepared for anything to happen?
Ironman and I hadn’t even left for the 2010 Owyhee Canyonlands 5-Day when surprising (and distressing) bits of news began filtering our way. Via Facebook, we learned that the week had started with two accidents, both involving very experienced horsemen: Bob Stellar’s arm was broken when a horse he was attempting to lead across a creek leaped into him, and Brian Malkoske was Life Flighted out of ridecamp after being bucked off a new horse he’d never ridden before. Recoveries, particularly Brian’s, will be long and difficult, but the endurance community pulled together to take care of their horses, dogs, spouses, lodging, and eventual travel back home.
The adventures continued early Tuesday afternoon. As Ironman and I traversed the last, bumpy stretch of road to ridecamp with Consolation and Acey in tow, a rider who was clearly finishing up her last loop of the day’s 50-miler flagged us down. It turned out to be Steph Teeter, asking us to pass on a message that a rider was on foot after losing her horse in the desert. Ironman, who was driving separately, offered to go collect the rider while I carried on camp with the horses.
I’d set up one panel corral and was just started on the other when Ironman arrived. He’d found the rider, safe and hydrated thanks to a bottle of water Steph had dropped on the trail for her to find, but there was no sign of the horse. Its saddle was discovered a while later by John Teeter, who was tracking the horse on a four-wheeler, but the drama didn’t end until evening when Ironman, the ride manager, and the horse’s owner finally located the mare — safe and sound — in a distant neighbor’s corral.
Well, I thought, if bad things come in threes, everyone should be safe now, right?
At the evening ride meeting, I kicked back with a glass of wine to clap for friends who had ridden that day. Imagine my surprise when it was announced that “Tamara Baysinger and Aaruba Sunsette” had completed the 50! A moment of confused hilarity ensued as I explained that not only had I just arrived that day, but Aaruba wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity.
My first (real) race day began at 5:30 the next morning, with Ironman holding a light so I could slip Consolation’s feet into her Gloves. All went on perfectly except the right front, which hadn’t been fitting properly since Consolation’s hooves underwent significant (and positive) remodeling after our 50 at Old Selam. I fussed and worried, but there was nothing to be done about the slight gap at the front of the boot. A few wraps of athletic tape would have helped, but I didn’t have any on hand. I resolved to keep a careful eye on both the boot and our footing.
Challenge number two arrived in the form of Consolation’s behavior upon being asked to leave Acey. She hasn’t displayed buddy sourness in years — not since way back in her groundwork days. This time, though, she managed to embarrass me thoroughly by hollering for Acey not only at the start, but for the first few miles out on the trail! She didn’t balk, but her frantic neighing was disrespectful and annoying enough. I’ll have to put some thought into how to work on that, since she doesn’t do it at home.
The rest of the ride went swimmingly, despite an alarming loosening of Consolation’s hind Gloves as they apparently expanded in the heat. I rode the whole day with Amanda Washington and Karen Bumgarner, and was pleased to discover that Consolation had more speed and enthusiasm to offer than ever before. In fact, I spent much of the ride actively holding her in. What a change! I suspect that something (probably her feet) was bothering her earlier in the year; also, she seems to have discovered that competition is fun.
The day grew quite hot, especially for the horses that had already put a good start on their winter coats. The temperature rose to nearly ninety degrees by the time we came in for a mid-pack finish. Consolation vetted through just fine, but worried me over the next hour as she moped sleepily about her pen, apparently fine but disinterested in food. A quick once-over by my favorite vet proved reassuring; she was simply hot and tired, not colicky or dehydrated, and began eating as soon as the sun went down.
By Friday morning, Consolation looked well-rested and ready for another trip down the trail. I booted her up alone this time, since Ironman had to leave ridecamp in favor of earning a paycheck. (Fortunately, he was able to stick around long enough on Thursday to help me install Powerstraps on Consolation’s boots, thereby resolving the fitting issues.)
We rode most of our miles alone, which gave me an opportunity to evaluate Consolation’s pacing progress without benefit of trail buddies. I had to hold her in! Hard! For most of the day! I appreciated her newfound speed, despite the hard work of restraining her from working above her fitness level. (Be careful what you wish for, eh?)
Like Wednesday’s ride, Friday’s featured two, long loops with only one hold between. The morning trail wound through Sinker Canyon, a narrow oasis scented green with flora. We splashed in and out of the creek for several miles, mostly walking due to rocky terrain.
Halfway through the canyon, we encountered a mass of feathers, sans bird, in the middle of the trail. Consolation snuffled it suspiciously, stepped daintily across, then exploded upward in the most elegant capriole you could care to see. It was glorious — and hilarious. I must have looked like a complete idiot, rolling around in my saddle, laughing to the lonesome trees.
Late that afternoon, back on the high desert plains, another rider and I trotted a couple miles off trail before realizing that we’d accidentally followed the lime-yellow ribbons instead of the lime-green ones. Oops! Our poor mares had to haul us back up a steep slope and back to the right trail before we could trot the last eight miles or so into camp. Consolation finished strong (albeit with her usual A- on attitude) despite the extra miles. This time, she dove right into her pile of hay and didn’t come out until the next morning.
That’s it! We had a wonderful time, as always, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for decent weather at the end of this month. I’d really like to do another hundred miles at Hallowed Weenies…
Stay tuned for photos. Ironman got some good ones.