The good thing about a promotion is that you make more money. The bad thing is that you have less time for unpaid effort, like blogging. The good news is that I’ve been keeping up on riding and training. The bad news is that I haven’t written about it. The upshot is that I’m now in for a memory test as I try to tell my Pink Flamingo Classic ride story…
*dream haze effect*
Once upon a time, about a month ago, I loaded Consolation in the trailer. We headed up a winding highway alongside the roaring Payette River, toward the mountain meadow that would serve as base camp for our first attempt at two, back-to-back, 50-mile endurance rides. We left around 9:00 am Friday, hoping to beat the weekend crazies that are all too common along the high-use road to a variety of recreational destinations. As it turned out, construction work slowed everyone down (even the yahoos), and we pulled safely past a herd of pink flamingos and into ride camp around noon.
Many trailers had arrived the day before, but plenty more pulled in throughout the afternoon. The gentleman who claimed the patch of meadow next to mine and Consolation’s, set to ride the Saturday 50 on his Tennesse Walker, turned out to be excellent company. Not only that, but his wife co-owns a new feedstore that popped up near In the Night Farm recently — and the other owner is very involved with raising Blazer horses in the next town over. I haven’t needed to buy any feed yet, but when I do, I’ll stop by their place for a good chat!
Sometime between camp setup and the Dutch oven dinner provided by ride management, a small plane swooped overhead and dumped a load of inflatable flamingos. I wasn’t quick enough to get my camera, but I assure you it was an entertaining sight. Speaking of my camera, I hardy got it out at all over the Pink Flamingo weekend. (Guilt, guilt, guilt!) I offer instead this photo, taken last weekend by Karen Bumgarner during a ride at Snively Hot Springs. The terrain couldn’t have been different from that at Pink, though, where mountain meadows, towering evergreens, and sweeping forest vistas stretched in all directions.
Anyway, the evening before Pink Day One passed quickly enough despite a late start on the ride meeting. I set my alarm for 5:15 am and settled onto my cot in the horse trailer, smiling to the sound of Consolation’s munching as I drifted into sleep.
Come morning, Consolation was peaceful no more. She was cold-backed (normal for her) and jumpy, and could hardly stand still for tacking up. Was I ever grateful to have booted her (with knee-high nylons under the Gloves, to prevent gaiter rubbing over the two days) the night before! Recalling her run-and-buck attempt when I mounted up at Cheap Thrills, I recruited a volunteer to hold her head while I stepped aboard.
I met Karen Bumgarner at her trailer, where we waited for the herd to charge away before approaching the start. Our horses were eager but under control, and a long uphill stretch took some starch out of their britches. It also led to some truly spectacular views of the mountains and lakes. We rode and rode and rode, uphill and down and around. The ride was to be completed in two, 25(ish)-mile loops with an hour’s hold between — not an arrangement I’d tried before, having always been to rides with 3 loops and 2 holds, but one I found quite pleasant.
Sometime on the first loop, we rounded a corner just as two deer leaped across the trail. Consolation slammed on the brakes and I make a quick visit to her neck (oops), but everyone survived. We descended into camp and breezed through the vet check. Consolation ate moderately, as is typical for her at first holds, though I must say I wished I could explain to her that she wouldn’t get a second hold this time! It didn’t matter, though. She and Thunder both grazed well along the trail throughout the second loop, and we completed with all A’s. Halfway done!
Back at my trailer, between chugging coconut water and cracking open a celebratory beer, I noticed that my inner thighs were quite swollen, apparently from rubbing against the wool seat pad I’d put on my Stonewall. Hmm. Sore No More and Advil were all I had to hand, and I used both liberally in the hope that I wouldn’t suffer much the next day.
As it turned out, my bruised thighs were a non-issue. My lower back, on the other hand, was painfully tight on Day Two. I only felt it only when trotting downhill…which would have been okay if there hadn’t been so much downhill to cover! There was nothing to do but suck it up despite the gasping pain, make sure I didn’t sacrifice the support I gave Consolation, and plot how to avoid the problem next time. But man, did it hurt! (A month later, despite regular Feldenkrais work, those muscles still feel a bit tight. Egads.)
Consolation, on the other hand, was fine. She plowed through another pair of long loops without a hitch. The only difference from her usual performance was that she drank earlier and ate more, which made me very happy. Oh yes — she also stopped her marish snarking at Thunder and instead took to hollering for him whenever he left her sight. Upon finishing (again with all A’s — huzzah!), she watched doe-eyed as Karen led him away…and then, another chestnut with a blaze approached from the other direction. Consolation turned her whole head back and forth, one red horse to the other. Which one was Lover Boy??? Ha ha ha.
Anyway, she looked so good that I decided to pack up while she rested for a few hours, and we headed home that night. She stepped off the trailer in fine form, and proceeded to visibly inflate overnight on a buffet of hay and water. Over the next few weeks, she filled out even more. She looks like a bodybuilder now: smooth-muscled, sleek, and powerful. Excess energy fairly rolls off her. We need another hundred miles of trail.
Good thing it’s time for Old Selam.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll set out for a different set of Idaho mountains, where we’ll attempt a repeat performance. Two more days, two more 50’s! And assuming we finish at least 1 day, Consolation will exceed the 500 AERC mile mark. Sure, it’s little milestone, but it’s still kinda cool. 🙂
I do have a plan for mitigating low back pain, by the way: 1) Continue focusing on riding without an arched back. 2) Do Feldenkrais lessons the evening before each ride, including between rides. I am taking my laptop to Old Selam for the express purpose of playing Feldenkaris MP3s. (Yes, I should get an iPod. But I am cheap.) 3) Get off and run more of the downhills. 4) Advil and Sore No More. 5) Vicodin. <– Just kidding. Probably.
Wish us luck!
Tack notes: The saddle fitting issues we were working on earlier in the year have resolved as Consolation filled out. Her latch weave wool pad continues to perform spectacularly. These pads are also gorgeous. You can get one here.
I’ve recently added a thin, No-Wicky pad that Jackie Fenaroli with Stonewall sent my way for testing. The No-Wicky goes between the horse and the wool pad, allowing sweat and dirt to run off rather than soaking into the pad. At first, I wondered if it would be too scratchy, but when thin-skinned Acey consistently performed well under it, I decided to try it with Consolation. Sure enough, she moves beautifully with the No-Wicky/Latch Weave combo.
Meanwhile, we’re still using our beloved Stonewall saddle, roper cinch, Indian bosal from Crazy Ropes, and Easyboot Gloves. If only I could get Acey’s hoofboot situation resolved, I’d be all set for both horses!