In which we go to an endurance ride, and weather cooperates

I was desperately afraid that the weekend would be soggy (like the last two weeks have been), especially when I realized that I'd left my best rain jacket at home.

I got lucky.
Actually, a lot of us got lucky at this ride. The weather behaved
and the scenery on the trail was fabulous!
(Mount Rainier, seen from the Snoey Memorial Trail).

Lisa took pictures while Fiddle vetted in. I had no idea how small I appear to be when I'm standing beside Gigantor. She's so big that her ears don't even fit in the picture! Gigantor in motion.

The trotting lanes are marked with trick-or-treat buckets! That made me laugh.

We went out for a "shakedown" ride on Friday afternoon. We did the 7.5 mile loop that would be the final loop for the 50 milers during the ride. When I got back, I checked the fine print on the map: 7.5 miles, 1100 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

That short loop was hard enough to get Fiddle's mind focussed on the task at hand, but I wouldn't want to do it after climbing (and descending) nearly 3,000 feet twice on prior loops. It's not often I'm happy to ride a short distance instead of a long one, but for this ride, 25 miles was plenty.

Fiddle definitely needed a "focus ride" before the actual event. Her behavior on Friday was just awful--she was snappy, and kept trying to kick people and horses. What?!?!!! She had suddenly backslid into bad behaviors I haven't seen for more than a year???

Jim helped me figure it out:

Lisa knows nothing about horses. She had very little experience with animals prior to coming here 3 weeks ago, and had no experience with anything larger than a lapdog. Despite our warnings (and the language barrier doesn't help), when Fee pinned her ears or picked up a back foot, Lisa thought that the mare needed to be soothed and comforted.

Fiddle is a "give her an inch and she'll take 10 miles" mare.

She pinned her ears at Lisa and Lisa didn't call her on the bad behavior, so Fee figured that maybe the entire social structure had changed and perhaps she had moved up the totem pole. Argh.

Go figure, the social structure hasn't changed. Fiddle still isn't allowed to pin the ears, or shoot those back feet around...but it took 25 miles of active practice to remind her that the rules are still in place. She was much better behaved (and much more relaxed!) by the first vetcheck, but I've gone back to practicing her "submission exercises" several times each day so that she gets the idea reinforced.

Oh, and I think I'll sign Lisa up for some horse-handling and riding lessons with Dory next month. Even if Lisa has no intentions of riding endurance, she is (obviously) going to need some basic instructions and safety stuff!
This bridge is part of the common trail about a mile from camp. The ride managers went out on their trail and spread gravel on all the bridges! That's a ton of work...but it makes a huge difference on wood bridges over the creeks and swamps.

Ride morning was bright and shiny, as only a freshly-washed autumn day in the Upper Swampland can be.As usual, Fiddle and I leapfrogged different groups of riders for the first leg of the ride.
On the stretch of trail returning to camp, though, we actually rode with a couple of people. Julie B has been riding endurance for 18 years, and she had lots of great stories from the "old days". She said that the old endurance rides were a lot like this one: tough, technical trails, and the challenge to all riders was to strategize the terrain to optimize the strength of the individual horse. She also said that they called those old rides "the full-meal deal" because you got your entry money's worth, and a lot of people took the entire allowed time to finish a ride.

This ride had a fair number of overtime riders, because it was so complex. Fiddle and I finished 11th (!!!!!) out of 38 starters, and we only had about 25 minutes left before the cutoff time.

I thought we were near the tail end, actually--and I was glad to be riding my Gigantor, because the Toad could never have done that kind of trail quickly enough. He "lost his brain" if he ever exceeded 7 mph, so on rides when we had to slow down for difficult terrain, it was hard to make up time when the footing was good. Since Fiddle doesn't lose her brain when she speeds up, we could fly along the logging roads and take our time in the mud.


She surely is a joy to ride.

Back in camp, we were happy that our friend Gail did her first ride in 7 years and finished with 10 minutes to spare. She rides all the time, because she manages the Renegade Rendezvous, but it's always hard for her to get away and compete. She was tired at the finish line, so her husband Mike and her horse Destry towed her from the vetcheck back to their rig.

Fiddle wasn't the only standardbred on the trail, either!!! (I get pretty happy to see other standies, obviously)Not only was Fee's (half-) brother Hector at the ride, Hector's (full-) sister Tahuya Ransom was also there, competing in her very first LD. There were two other standies in camp as well. Hooray!

When we got back to our rig, Fiddle was unconcerned by the intruder in her beetpulp pan.

This banana slug isn't very big by local Swampland standards. We only really worry about slugs when they block the road and high-center the small cars. Folks with 4 wheel drive trucks don't usually worry at all.

I was delighted to hang out after the ride with Jim and his Evil Twin, PNER Prez Paul Latiolais. We all did the Trailmaster class together back in 2006, along with Gail and a few other hardy souls, and we've been riding (and drinking) together ever since.

The kids (and dogs) hung out with us toobut they were drinking Mountain Dew. The caffeine got them through several hours of working around camp for us and for the ride managers. Don't you love adults who help make kids tired?

I do, I really do!

The kids weren't the only oneswho got tired out by a long day in ridecamp. Life. It's good. (snore!)


  1. That looks like a great ride! I love the ridecamp and of course the scenery. Funna funna!! Good to have tired kids and dogs.

  2. Glad to hear you guys did well at Elbe, my friends gave it rave reviews as well.
    I've been told I HAVE to go next year and I certainly hope to be able to!
    Fiddle looks so fit, I'm really envious, my mare is already getting hairy and a little plump (but we don't talke about that:)
    Love the pic of the tired pirate puppy at the end.
    Karen W.

  3. Sounds like a great day! You and Fiddle seem to do very well with 'Full Meal Deal" rides. But I am always amazed at how tall she is compared to you. How on earth do you mount without popping your hips out of joint?!

    How long has Lisa been handling Fiddle? Is it possible for a well trained horse to fall back and forget her manners so quickly?

    When you said that Lisa should have called her on the pinned ears, what should she have done?

    Also, what sort of "submission exercises" do you do with Fiddle?

    I was almost drooling at the end of this post....a cold beer after a long ride. Is there anything better?


  4. Yay! Big congrats on finishing. It looks like a lovely fun ride. And wow, Fee really is Gigantor, isn't she??

    Lisa inadvertently reinforcing Fiddle's bad behavior is the exact same thing I fear with G and Dixie. She might be all laid back and confident and calm, but she's still always looking for that edge. Fortunately, my husband has no interest in handling any horse ever, so it's not too hard for me to manage. I hope Lisa learns to speak horse soon!


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