Wednesday, September 5, 2018

White River Labor Day Endurance Ride

Phew! What a weekend! I hope I can remember it all but unfortunately due to work constraints I'll be writing this in pieces so I hope it flows well.

I planned to leave Saturday morning. And I did! But... I also definitely slept in later than I intended. To be fair, so did everyone else in the house and we all needed it. I didn't have much left to pack up, thankfully and Gwyn hopped right on the trailer. She knew what was up. I was on the road by 10:30am.
Wheee! Here I go!
It was easy driving until I hit Grand Rapids where the threatening clouds I had been approaching quickly turned into a giant thunderstorm with sheeting rain and near to no visibility. Always my favorite trailer hauling conditions.

Grand Rapids was where I turned north and the rain followed me for a bit before finally subsiding. I did have to stop and grab contact lens solution because that's what I forgot (along with my nice camera). I kept meaning to stop for gas to top up but nothing was both visible from far away with a decent enough time to slow down AND easy to maneuver through.

Anyway, almost 4 hours later I finally got to the campground and first priority was, of course, getting Gwyn's digs set up for the weekend so she could stretch her legs. My new fence panels worked perfectly. Set up as a solo person might be interesting, but I had help from Alicia and her daughter.
Stuffing her face
After that it was set up the tent and get somewhat unpacked for the weekend. My new pop up canopy came and was perfect as a shelter.

Not long after I finished setting up the canopy it began to rain again. Gwyn was entirely unamused that she had to stand in the (warm) rain while I got to shelter beneath the canopy.
Exhibit A: Mare Glare
We did get a cool rainbow over ride camp though! After that I went to check in and realized that I didn't have my up to date coggins with me and hadn't downloaded the digital file to my phone (because it's in my email) There was NO service. No coggins means no competition. Rumor in camp was that you could get service in some spots, so I went a-wandering.

I finally found a sweet spot where I was getting 4G, legit data and quickly pulled up the email and screenshot the coggins while also hoping the signal would hold long enough for it to be downloaded. It worked. All I needed was the accession number and I had my rider card and could go vet in.

The vet really liked Gwyn and wanted to breed her, ahah. She's such an atypical type (heavy bodied and drafty) to see at an endurance ride, we tend to stand out together. Vetting in went really well. Girlfriend was HIGH as a kite and our trot out had some theatrics  as apparently she was really showing off her knee action and on the return trip decided to canter for good measure.

Then it was potluck time. One old dude collapsed (he was okay, just had a blood pressure drop) and had to be taken away by ambulance. The break between eating and while everyone was worrying over him we used to feed the baby squirrels that Alicia was fostering. Then it was back to the rider meeting. The campground had an enclosed hall which was nice to use for the meeting.

There were 25s, 50s, and 100s running on Sunday. The LDs had two loops, one hold of 40 minutes. A 15 mile loop (orange) followed by 10 mile loop (blue). The trail was mostly two track and forest roads in Manistee National Forest with some single track.

Shenanigans ensued with the GIANT carrots Alicia brought. It's not ride camp without shenanigans
I made sure everything was set for the morning, ride time was starting at 7:00am. I set my alarm for 5:30.

At 5:20 a giant boom of thunder and flash of lightning woke me up and the rain just started coming down in sheets. I was in my truck tent and trying to sleep hoping and hoping that the thunder and lightning would pass us by before I had to be on the horse.
I got one of those sequin pillows from costco. It's handy for expressing your feelings in sparkles.
Thankfully because of the storm, both the 50s and 25s were delayed to start so we could actually see the trail. 50s were delayed to 7 and 25s delayed to 7:30. This was fine by me. Alicia and I were joined on trail by the one Comp rider, Sandra, who I've ridden with before. And it was off on the orange loop we went!

First loop, orange, 15 miles

The trail was mostly sand and dirt, with some sand road and minimal pavement. There was lots of water. Gwyn was striding through the large puddles like a pro. I just figured this was good cross country practice, lol

Making faces
Volunteers had placed out lots of water buckets on the trail for the horses to drink since aside from puddles there was no natural water and we were told to stay out of the streams and rivers.
My favorite spots were the replanted pine forests. It just felt so majestic riding through the airy columns with greenery high above us.
It was wet though. So wet. And Rye, Alicia's horse, had a special way of splashing water forward and up onto me. We were all soaked even though it had stopped raining. The trees were still dripping and the branches were not cleared at head height so we were getting drops that were on leaves shaking onto us as we passed.
Gwyn led with enthusiasm for the first seven or so miles and then she wanted a break. It wasn't that she wasn't willing to go on, she was more than willing, she just wanted to mosey and wanted to drop the pace. Sandra didn't want to drop the pace so we dropped to the back and Gwyn was content to keep up with the group back there.

Now, before Sandra had offered to ride with us, I was planning on keeping us at around a 10 mph average pace. It's something I know Gwyn can maintain for hours and that she can do solo.

We were averaging 8-9 and it was definitely wearing Alicia and I out. Sandra was on an Arabian who is a competitive trail ride genetic mutant. As endurance riders, I was planning on being more conservative, holding to the 'to finish is to win and we have plenty of time to finish'.

We had a tack snafu, as Alicia had to readjust her saddle pad, and Sandra needed to remove her now unnecessary rain jacket (as it was heating up and was very humid) which dropped us behind Sandra's ideal window to return for the hold.

She pulsed quicker (remember, Arabian) and then waited for us to be done in our hold before leaving on the second loop.

I am -grateful- that we had her, since she was very familiar with the trails and the one time we missed a turn it cost us maybe a minute of time and not a lot of distance, but I would have preferred slower average pace for Rye (a TWH) and Gwyn.

At the hold I had a mash and electrolytes ready for Gwyn, which she readily ate and since our campsite was close enough to the vet check, we waited out our hold at our camp. I completely changed my clothes to dry undwear, riding tights, shirt and socks. I even switched half chaps. I was wearing mesh cheapo ones from Tractor Supply and they were not protecting my leg from my stirrup leathers. I opted for my leather ones. Both shirts were Kerrits sun shirts, which worked perfectly.

By the second loop, the sun came out! Whee! And with it came a rise in temperature.

Second Loop, Blue, 10 miles

Passing one of the 100 mile riders.

Gwyn felt good coming out of the hold. She was willing to truck on out though she still wasn't gung ho leader like at the beginning. Again, she could have kept up the pace I wanted to have, but I wasn't being a strong enough advocate to tell Sandra to go ahead without us. Ride your own ride, right?

Water sharing
I had opted to not have my saddle bags on this loop to keep the weight of 'stuff' Gwyn had to carry to minimum. This also meant that I didn't have water. Alicia shared her water from her camelbak, lol

There were lots of water stops. Gwyn drank deeply at every one. Good mare. I have to be careful with her because she will bully her way to the water at each stop. We practiced patience and waiting our turn.

Finally, as we were on our return from the lollipop (both loops were lollipops), Rye lost a boot. Alicia hopped off to retrieve it and put it back on. Sandra wanted to keep going and I encouraged her. We would be fine and we could take our time getting back. It was the most fortuitous boot loss ever. We gave both horses a long walk break while discussing the ride your own ride theory.

After that extensive walk break, we picked a trot back up and all of a sudden, I had my horse back. She was peppy, she was eager and she was moving out well. Rye had also perked back up. He wasn't stumbling and dragging his head anymore. We even had some canter on the dirt roads. I was absolutely pleased with the decision to hang back.

Unless my conditioning program changes I cannot ride Gwyn at Arab pace. It's not fair to her or myself. I know we can finish LDs. That's not in doubt. But if I want my horse to be successful and healthy, I need to learn to say 'thank but no thanks' and be a firmer advocate for my ride plan.


Getting her pulse taken, even the P/R people had a hard time hearing her heart beat. It makes me feel better since I can't find it for the life of me.

Gwyn pulsed in well enough and I sponged her off and gave her a liniment bath before letting her nap in the sun.  She was a good girl.
Random shot of my tent organization. 

More storms coming

Sleepy mare who worked hard
That night, more storms rolled in. The clouds came in dark and you could see lightning up high in the clouds. I really didn't want to pack up a wet tent again, so I sprayed the rain fly with waterproofing, let it dry and packed it up and moved my cot into the horse trailer.

It was a good decision, just as I was getting into bed, the skies opened again and let loose a torrent of a storm.

SUPER dark clouds above the tree line. We were concerned about tornadoes, which thankfully were not near us

I think Gwyn was annoyed that I got to be in the trailer while she had to stand in the rain.

We did this barefoot, using just hoof armor. Her feet look great.
The next morning I finished packing up what was left in between breaks from scribing for the vet box. Apparently the guy who runs the timer is quite possessive of his job. It was cool though, I got to do something new! So that was about 4 hours of volunteering for this ride as people were only riding the LD that day and then by 1 pm I was on the road again, heading home.

Gwyn and I were BOTH glad to be home. It's wednesday and I'm still feeling that whole body ache and it's lovely. I can't wait for Metropark Express at the end of the month!


  1. wooo congrats on the completion - glad at least part of the ride was sunny too!! sounds like a great day!

    1. It was really great weather for riding for the time that we had to be in the saddle. I felt bad for the 100 milers. They started and finished in thunderstorms!

  2. I laughed so hard at your fuck rain pillow. LOVE the replanted pine forest. Congrats on your completion! "Ride your own ride" is both the most important and most difficult lesson I ever learned in endurance. Thanks for blogging this out :) I miss distance riding...

    1. It was really hard for me to speak up for myself. Mainly because when I'm out in the middle of the loops I'm trying so fucking hard to just -breathe- (thanks asthma) that I really don't talk much on the trail, especially if we're trotting.

      I felt bad, because it meant that Alicia got to bear the brunt of the socialization with Sandra, who was -very- chatty. But it worked out in the end.

      And seriously, I spent about 5 minutes making sure that message was clear in the sequins, lol. I was determined and felt quite strongly, ahhaha

  3. Congratulations on your completion and ugh yeah who wants to be in a tent in the rain

    1. I spent one weekend last october in pouring rain and lightning and thunder in that tent and while it kept me dry, I strongly regretted not moving into the back of the trailer once it was clear the weather was never going to improve the whole weekend.

      I don't wait it out anymore, lol