In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

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.

Photo by Amanda Washington

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.


18 responses

  1. tomandbuster

    Hey, what did you do with my drop-down window?! 🙂 🙂

    I was slowly working my way up to now from the start by using the drop-down menu with dates. I’m only up to July 2008 and it’s gone!

    Do I just need to do “Older post, older post, older post” until I get where I need to be? I can do that if necessary, it’s just a little inconvenient to get to where I left off.

    I’m thinking that getting caught up chronologically makes more sense than by topic because I can get a better idea of how each horse got to be where he/she is now.

    Thanks for the terrific writing!

    October 7, 2010 at 12:19 am

    • LOL Sorry Tom! I put it back, just for you! 😀

      October 7, 2010 at 6:21 am

  2. tomandbuster

    Yay! Thanks so much. Back to taking time to read that I should probably spend working. 🙂 It’s so interesting, though!!!!

    I’m definitely going to at least find an opportunity to do some crewing for an endurance team sometime. There is an event just 15 miles from my house.

    I also want to do a leg or two of the Chief Joseph ride someday. I’m sure I could lease an appaloosa from someone so that I would be allowed to join.

    I’ve been aware of the Nez Perce’s magnificent and tragic journey for many years and it touched my heart. I’ve also seen some of the appaloosas that come from the “Barb side of the family”. They look nothing like their great big, Quarter Horse – infused cousins.

    I’ll be interested to hear more about “From Where the Sun Now Stands” someday.

    October 7, 2010 at 8:42 am

    • No problem! I need to win the lottery so I can go on that long ride…I still plan to ride the whole Nez Perce Trail some day.

      October 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

  3. One of my biggest fears if I were to ever try endurance (or CTR’s) would be to part with my horse and loose him/her. I am glad both horse and rider in this situation were ok.

    Consolation does sound like she is really getting into endurance riding 🙂

    I imagine if I were a horse that I, too, would find endurance much more appealing than being a show horse going around in circles in an arena (no offense meant to people who show — but the thought puts me to sleep).

    Thanks again for sharing your ride story. I enjoy reading and learning from the experiences of all endurance riders. Someday maybe I will get a chance to go for it myself! 🙂

    October 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

    • I hope you do get to try it someday! Don’t worry TOO much — runaway horses happen, but not terribly frequently. 🙂

      October 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

  4. tomandbuster

    I have to admit, Carol and Griffin, that’s been a fear of mine that has held me back in doing the things I originally dreamed of with my horse.

    I can handle coming off, even if I am in need of medical assistance that doesn’t happen to be nearby. But I know that Buster will head home, and cross roads doing so, or get saddle and bridle all hung up on trees in the woods. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but that’s really why we haven’t headed out on our own. We’ve done a ton of trail riding, but always with others who I know understand that I would rather have them go after my horse than worry about me.

    I always thought that I would have the presence of mind to be able to tend to my horse somehow before he got away from me. But I had a serious fall one time that resulted in a bunch of broken ribs. I can tell you that there wasn’t any awareness of anything except the pain for about 30 seconds. I was utterly incapacitated and not able to be of assistance to anybody or anything.

    Not trying to be a downer here, just articulating a deeply-seated fear of mine as well. Perhaps Barby Girl has some advice for us on these matters.

    Maybe it just comes down to being willing to take some risks in life. But I’ve done all that (sky diving, bungee jumping, hang gliding, etc.). It’s taking my horse with me that stopped me in my tracks (no pun intended).

    October 7, 2010 at 11:10 am

    • I wish I had a good answer for that one! I agree that it’s one thing to choose risk for yourself, and quite another to ask an equine partner to participate in risks he doesn’t fully understand. But then, everything we can do with horses involves risk to their health and safety — from stalling or pasturing to lunging or jumping or trail riding, even to turning them loose in the wild. It seems to me that the best things we can do are 1) continually work on our riding skills to minimize the liklihood of a fall; 2) pay attention to our surroundings and remember to think like a horse; 3) Use the right tack for the sport at hand, 4) enforce positive relationships with our horses to increase the chance that they’ll stay with us in case of a fall; 5) train our horses to come to a unique call — which may or may not help in a crisis, but won’t hurt to try!

      Anybody else got some ideas? Help us out here!

      October 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

  5. tomandbuster

    Very good points, Barbey Girl. By the way, how do you prefer to be addressed in comments?

    Really, most of this is just me. Horses take as least as many risks (probably a lot more) just living on their own in the wild. And the likelihood of of such an incident resulting in injury is low. But it has caused me to keep my horse in a safe environment and take my kayak or backback when I go into the wilderness.

    It’s probably good that I’m not a parent (of humans) as well. I’d probably be over-protective even though I am so grateful that my parents weren’t that way with me and allowed me to take reasonable risks and make my share of mistakes.

    Some horses stay no matter what, of course. But it seems to be more of a characteristic of a particular horse than a breed. I’m bonded very nicely with Buster, but he’ll still “Meet me back at the barn.” 🙂

    What about mules? I’m sure there are some mules that compete in endurance. Are they typically better about staying around?

    Also, I always thought that endurance riders got way spread out, but it sounds like you can ride right along with friends if you wish. If there were a few people together, one could trail the free horse while the other helped the rider.

    I did my serious competing with about a decade of motocross. I’m really just happy to be outside riding now and would be just as pleased with a 20th place finish as I would with 2nd or 3rd as long as it was a good performance for me and my horse. It looks like this is possible in endurance riding. I may be doing it someday yet!

    October 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    • LOL Call me whatever you like — Tamara or BarbeyGirl is fine. (My only worry about BarbeyGirl is that people will think I consider myself rather highly, when it’s actually all about the Barb horses!)

      Intersting question about mules — I have very little experience with them, and no idea of the answer. Anyone? Anyone?

      On endurance rides, common to ride alone OR in a group. Lots of people prefer to ride with friends, or happen to meet up with others on the trail who happen to be moving at the same pace. Others like to go it alone for a number of reasons, from personality to pace to the horse’s training needs.

      You’re dead on about the value of just enjoying the miles in endurance, rather than riding to win. The majority of participants are in it for fun, and the horse’s longevity, rather than for placing. As the AERC says, to finish is to win!

      October 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

  6. Michele Unsworth

    Thank-you Tamara. I enjoyed the story, photos and the poem. Michele

    October 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

  7. Mary

    Tamara, Please tell me about your horses diet during trsining and on the ride, I would like to be able togive my horse the best nutrition that I can while conditioninghim, he seems to loose weight in th winter even with the best hay I can buy. Any tips will be appreciated. Thanks Mary and Sunny Simon

    October 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    • Hi Mary,

      Hmmm…I don’t think Consolation’s diet will be of much help to you, since she is a very easy keeper and only gets hay (alfalfa/grass mix) at home. At rides, I offer her beet pulp with a few oats or a bit of senior feed in it, mostly for variety and moisture. When she’s in heavy work, I sometimes feed her just enough beet pulp to mix with a flax-based vitamin mix from Performance Equine. Earlier this spring, when I gave her a few pounds of oats per day to boost energy, she tied up after a post-race, 2-week holiday. OOPS! Oats probably weren’t the best choice of fuel for her (endurance horses need slower-burning fuel — think fat instead of carbohydrate), and she seems to be more sensitive to carbohydrate than some other horses.

      Aaruba, on the other hand…he was more like your horse sounds. Not an easy keeper by any means, and always a struggle to keep weight on during conditioning and winter. I gave him free-choice hay, plus a few pounds each of soaked beet pulp and senior feed daily. Plus a cup of vegetable oil. Plus vitamins. STILL had problems with his weight. Well, it turned out that he had ulcers. 😦 That, in addition to whatever intestinal issue he has the causes major colics periodically, probably had a lot to do with his poor nutrient absorption and resultant difficulty in maintaining weight.

      Have you tried something like senior feed and additional fat in your boy’s diet? I haven’t tried them personally, but I hear the powdered animal fat products work very well for horses and are less prone to rancidity than are the liquid fats.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm

  8. Mary

    Thanks Tamara, I do beleive I will try the beet pulp. I have tried other feeds like the senior and safe choice with the higher fat contents but with no results. I have a hard time with giving “animal fat” to my herbivore horse although my vet said that somehow they use it, but it just seems wrong to me. Also I have to stick to a grain that has some magnesium in it as he can be nervous at times. I enjoy your stories,and feel the kindred spirits. Thanks, Mary

    October 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

    • You’re very welcome — I hope it helps! I’d love to know what results you get from the beet pulp (and anything else you try). If you do end up going with beet pulp long term, you might try to locate a source to buy it in bulk. Near here, there’s a sugar beet processing plant where you can buy shreds or pellets for $60/ton instead of paying about $10 per 50 lb bag at the feed store.

      October 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

  9. where did you take that photo of the Oreana population sign?????????

    when i first came to visit about 4 years ago, a neighbor had hand-written a sign that said just that (which I took a picture of, and consequently lost)… he was obviously mimicking this one.

    where/when did you take it???

    October 28, 2010 at 8:41 am

    • Ironman took it — I think it was up in Ketchum/Sun Valley, but I’m not sure. Hang on…I’ll ask…

      October 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

      • Ok, here you go: he found it in a book of photos called Idaho Discovered by Kirk Anderson. 🙂

        October 28, 2010 at 9:04 am

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