Sunday, March 28, 2010

In which we go to a ridecamp near Washtucna, and Fiddle goes Far

It was pouring rain at home on the farm when we loaded up the SS Illegible and headed out the gate, bound for a little town on the Dry Side. About ten miles east of the teeny little town of Washtucna, WA the clans were gathering for the first endurance event of the season: Home on the Range!

It was, by endurance-rider standards, a short drive: about 5.5 hours, including stops for fuel and lunch. Heck, we didn't even leave the state...although I guess if we'd kept going another hour or so, we'd have gotten to Idaho.

When we got to camp, the wind was blowing like crazy, and it was raining lightly. Unlike Wet Side rain, you could actually get pretty wet in the rain falling from the sky...but if you stayed outdoors for about twenty minutes after the rain stopped falling, you'd be dry again.
And in the meantime, there's the rainbow. Right over the trail. I was hoping that the rainbow was a good omen.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and parked next to our friend Ryan, a sort of "adopted grandson" of the ride managers, Gail and Mike Williams. Ryan is an awesome kid, and he really helped Fiddle and me survive our first competition together.

Willy and Ryan helped me set up camp while Jim separated the rig into componant pieces of truck - camper - trailer. Corral panels and food buckets for the horses were organized and then we hoisted the flag: the Pirates had officially arrived in camp!

I decided to take photos of camp during the weekend from the "crows nest" of the Illegible : the roof of the camper! Here's what camp looked like on Thursday evening, about 2 hours before sunset:

This was taken from the same location on Friday afternoon:
Saturday morning, around 7am:
Sunday at noon:
Amazing, isn't it?

So, Thursday night we got camp settled. The wind made things much more complicated--our trash cans were trying to blow away, and there were NO ROCKS to use for ballast! None. Not even little rocks. I finally plunked down the old ammo can that we use as corral panal hardware storage so our trash can didn't fly away. I used duct tape to keep the can liner from blowing away. Amazing stuff, wind.

The wind also blew one of the hatch covers off the camper, which meant Jim had to drive 90 minutes Pasco to get a replacement part. (for those of you who know about Pasco, Jim said he didn't see any vampires, but there were some very werewolf-y folks hanging around the feed store).
The wind wasn't responsible for the break in the plumbing line--that can be attributed to the very few days of freezing weather we had last winter. Alas, the plumbing was not functional, except with a little bit of extra tinkering....But hey. I wasn't going to complain. There was a huge quonset hut nearby with hot/cold water and electricity! Electricity without a generator is a huge luxury for us in camp. We didn't suffer from the lack of plumbing...we just stacked up the dishes and carried them to the "office" to wash!

I got Fiddle all cleaned up before we went to see the vet. Her vet-in scorecard showed all A's. Auspicious.


...but with Hana in camp hollering for her friend to come back, Fiddle was not happy about leaving for our Friday-night "shakedown" ride:She pretty much crow-hopped and spun her way out of camp. I was really worried: was she going to be a complete knucklehead all day during the ride? Would she be horrible at the vetcheck? Ryan offered to longe Hana to keep her busy while we were gone, and that helped a lot.
Once we got out on the trail for the shakedown, Fiddle stopped objecting and went forward nicely. The rain had stopped, the wind was (a little bit) quieter, and the trail was beautiful.
The ride meeting on Friday evening was really crowded! I've never seen this many riders show up for the first ride of the season, but we were all pretty excited to explore these new trails.

Landowner Greg Beckley is trying to convert this region from a dumping ground for trash and criminals into a sustainable recreation ground, where people can hunt and fish and ride and hike and enjoy the beauty of the land. Greg and his crew are a delight. They were wide-eyed at the self-sufficiency of the ride managers and the riders, and they were helpful in every way.
Saturday morning, the 75 milers left as soon as the sun cleared the horizen. At 7am, the 50 milers left camp.

I was in the saddle at 7:15. Fee was hopping around in her corral, and Hana was spinning and hollering. There wasn't a single braincell in camp. I could hardly eat, I was so nervous. My horse can be wonderful, but she is very strongwilled...and very tall. There were NO tree stump on this trail to use for a mounting block, and very few rocks.
My ride strategy was very straightforward: stay on the horse. With a shorter horse (or plenty of available mounting blocks) I would normally hop down sometimes to walk down a steep hill, but that wasn't in the ride plan. If I got down, I might not be able to get back up! Hana was spinning and hollering when we left, so Ryan put her back on the longe line to burn some energy, while I took Fee into the big adjacent field to warm up.
Here's something we did right: for nearly two years, I've been hauling both horses when I go to take a riding lesson, and putting the horse who isn't actually being ridden into a nearby hot-walker. The non-working horse can holler from the walker all she wants...but she's gotta keep walking. Meanwhile, the working horse learns to work while the buddy is hollering. So while Hana was being longed by the patient Ryan, Fiddle and I walked and trotted circles and serpentines. It worked!
We waited for the big group of riders to leave. Then I pointed her down the trail, and off we went. No spinning, no balking. Amazing. We had sunshine and a light breeze all day. Temps in the mid-60's. Perfect!
A lot of riders were concerned about the condition of the trail, because huge armadas of "indigenous personnel" (aka badgers!) busily dig huge holes in the trail. Ride management stomped the holes down as best they could before the ride, but I'm sure the little rodents stayed up late on Friday night to dig more holes before we all came trotting down the trail on Saturday. Nobody was injured in a hole, but three riders did get hurt when their horses did unexpected things. They are all fine, last I heard.
The views on the trail were spectacular.
Believe it or not, Fiddle wasn't a knucklehead at all! She was awesome! She moved forward with her ears up. She did pin those ears at some horses, so I ended up taking her off to the side of the trail when people wanted to pass so nobody would get hurt...and by the end of the day, she started pinning her ears and then taking herself off the trail. Silly mare. We even trotted side-by-side with a nice lady on a tall Thoroughbred mare, and got to visit a bit.
The vetcheck was uneventful. Her gut sounds were a B, which is kind of normal for a horse who had just trotted 15 miles. She was hungry, and I listened to her heart and guts before we left at the end of the check. All good. But: would she leave Hana again?
Ryan said he only longed Hana for a few minutes after I left on the second loop, and Fiddle only balked a little bit. What a contrast from the day before! She hollered when we came into camp, but stood quietly for the vet and did everything I asked calmly and nicely. Hmmmmm.
My mare. Was. Good!!!!!!
We completed our ride in 41st place out of about 65 finishers, in about 4.5 hours--a nice middleing pace for the terrain and the weather conditions.

My friend Lori was the driver of the Ultimate Crew Rig. I think this truck is carrying gear for at least 9 riders.
At the evening meeting/awards, there were a lot of shenanigans, and the Pirate Nation Endurance Team was right in the middle of it.
The Pirates won the drink competition with our fabulous Grog. That makes the second year that we have scuttled the other teams. Hahaha, nobody can compete with RUM!
Our regional organization president Paul Latiolais bears a passing resemblence to my own darling Jim. They insist that they are each other's Evil Twin.
Paul led us in a dedication of the new trail, which included a bizarre ceremony and a horrible baptism sauce: Pirate Rum, mixed with Fish Creek's champagne, and some gumbo from the Gator team. Eeeew. Nobody had to drink it. We just poured it on the start line and yelled "hooray." Whew.

After helping riders all day and then marking the last loop with glowsticks at night, the boys were pretty zonked.
The dogs helped Willy sleep all the way back home to the farm.
Life = Good. Also, my horse = good.
Who knew?

10 comments:

  1. Wow! Sounds like an amazing ride! It is so beautiful there! Happy to hear that Fee did well!!

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  2. Happy you had a wonderful ride!!!~E.G.

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  3. Amazing ride! Amazing mare! Thanks for taking us along. I'm with you on the tall horse problem - my mare is 16.2 and I can't mount from the ground any more.

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  4. Good job! And I love looking at pix from other areas,the trail and also check out the rigs used. Here in TX, I am one of only 2 or maybe 3 truck campers and bumper pull trailers that are used instead of LQ trailers! So common in "the west".

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  5. A good job, and a good time! Nice way to start out the season.
    I was able to mount Kate from the ground (okay a small hillock) on our last ride with the Trail Riders, and was so proud. She's only 15 hands, but so round that I dare not have any "hang time" in the stirrup, for fear the saddle will slide off to the side! I usually use any mounting block/stump/tailgate/stool/etc that I can find, but it's nice to know I can make it up if I HAVE to...

    wv=undiots="Once I was on my way, both Fiddle and Hana settled into being undiots instead of idiots."

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  6. Yay! That sounds like the perfect first ride of the year! Love the flag! :D And what great views!

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  7. I'm so happy for you and Fee. Congrats!!

    Your ride was HUGE and fast! RoM results just went up, and there were only 79 riders in both divisions. And best time on our 30 was 4:19. It's really neat to see pictures of other people's areas! Beautiful country up there.

    Haha, Pasco. I just read those books last month.

    I totally sympathize with your goal of not dismounting. I keep an eye on the terrain to see if there are rocks or ditches, and if there aren't, I don't get off either.

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  8. That wind in eastern WA can really get to one after a while. Can't imagine riding that many hours with the wind howling the whole way.

    Sounnds like you had a great time and looks like maybe endurance in this state is growing. That's good too.

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  9. From my perspective, only the technical issues with the rig kept this from being a perfect Endurance weekend. On the other hand, I believe that one can attribute the near perfect conditions on ride day to the fact that I "manned up" and went to Pasco to get the replacement vent. (I also ran errands for ride management and other riders while there). You just KNOW that had I not replaced the missing vent, cyclonic winds and driving rain would have been the order of the day.

    irbor. An invisibly warm harbor.

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  10. Life=Good, indeed. :) Great post.

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