In which Fiddle completes her first fifty-miler and is "fit as a fiddle"!

At this ride last year, Fiddle completed the 25-miler, her first distance event, and was convinced that she had gone as far as it was possible to go.
This year, I entered her in the 50-miler, her first endurance ride.

There is an eternal debate among riders about the status of Limited Distance rides, which less than 50 miles--usually between 25 and 35, but AERC rules are clear: an endurance ride is 50 miles or longer. I consider events shorter than 50 miles to be good practice for the real thing.

Truthfully, in the back of my mind, I consider everything "practice" because my eventual goal with Fiddle is 100-milers. And if I'm being really truthful, I'll admit that even the 100-mile rides I want to do will be practice for the ride I've wanted to do since I learned that it existed: Tevis.

We aren't nearly ready for Tevis yet, obviously. But at Home on the Range this year, we got some good "practice" at going FAR.

Fee was an absolute MONSTER at the vet-in on Friday night: she wouldn't stand still, she was trying to drag me and the vet all over creation, she hollered and stomped--all because Hana was back in our camp (about 20 yards from the vetcheck) screaming and spinning. I had taken Fiddle out for a "warm-up lap" of about 10 miles. I should have done 20.

Fiddle and Hana don't even like each other that much, but Hana had a lot of energy and figured she'd use some, and Fee got sucked right in to the hollering and carrying on. I finally excused myself from the vet line and took Fiddle out into the field where she did about 50 longing circles and some basic in-hand obedience until she finally reconnected her brain tissue. Then, she walked back to the vetcheck on a loose line and stood properly for the vet. Argh. Not an auspicious beginning!

With this bad behavior to warn me, I was in the saddle 45 minutes before the start on Saturday morning. Fee was as mad as a bag of wet snakes, and we practiced our dressage: collecting, stretching, bending, circles while Hana carried on the hysteria in her corral. Other riders commented how great Fiddle looked as we worked in the big field, but I know it was just because she had too damn much energy and I wanted to get her back to a point of compliance before we crossed the start line!

Finally, the start. She was under control, but she KNEW (she thought she knew) what the day's agenda looked like and she was READY (heh heh heh, she didn't know how ready) for action.

As last year, she wanted to kick every horse that came within her self-established body-bubble (about 50 feet!) so we were alone most of the day. When we passed people or allowed people to pass, I took her wa-a-a-a-a-ay off-trail to do it. We did that at this ride last year, so she knew what to do.

Fiddle and I leapfrogged all day with various horses and riders.

Dory's horse Spot was originally entered in the 75, and fit to win the thing...and the weekend before the ride, Spot tumbled down a sidehill. It took a fair amount of chiropractic work to put Humpty together again, and Dory decided that the better part of discretion would be to drop down to the 50-miler and slow down enough to sponsor her niece's first endurance ride.

Spot was mad-as-hell that she wasn't allowed to Go Fast, and didn't appreciate dragging the junior (even though they train together all the time). Nikki and Boogie got pulled at 25 miles, so Spot got to go FASTER. They finished 12th, I think, which is pretty good considering the slow 25 at the beginning of the ride!

At the vetcheck, Fiddle just wanted to nap and snack. Hana wanted to be a pain in the patoot. You can see in the photo how thrilled Fee is about that idea.

At the end of 25 miles, Fiddle figured she knew the next step: she had done her event, and now I'd pull tack and feed her some extra-lovely stuff.

Well, she got plenty of food, but she was very surprised that the saddle stayed on. And then I got back on! That was just so wrong.

When it was time to leave camp, she couldn't believe it. You stupid woman, I've already done my 25 miles. I'm not leaving. You are soooooo wrong!

She wasn't tired. Rather: she was convinced that I had made a mistake, and if she refused to leave then I would realize the error of my ways and take off the saddle.

We ended up leaving camp backwards. That's right: she walked in reverse the entire length of the driveway out to the trail. In front of God and everybody, she walked backwards. It was a nice walk--no rearing or bad behavior. But, backwards.

I waved.

What else could I do?

Once we were on the trail, she went forward without protest...until we got to the 2-mile stretch of wide, flat, boring road.  Fiddle has no enthusiasm for this kind of terrain, and her trot got slower and slo-o-o-o-w-w-w-er.  I clocked her trotting at 4.5 mph right before I started singing.

After 2 miles of the Road That Never Ends, we were out on a new section of trail.  We leapfrogged with my friend Chuck and his daughter Terry, who were doing the 75-miler.  Chuck has a perfectly good standardbred at home, but he's training his mustang Blazer for Tevis this year.  Paisley (the standie) is his back-up Tevis horse.  I think he's got it backwards!

Chuck and Terry were ahead of me when we got to the water tank and waved to Mike who was filling it up again for us!
The course was fabulously beautiful all day, but my favorite was the "blue loop" (marked in blue ribbons).  Here's a little video so you can enjoy it too:

The local farmers are paid to disc up and plant 3 native species of grass...and then let it grow for at least 3 years.  This is a good deal for the environment as well as the farmers.
On the last 5-mile stretch of trail, Fee still had plenty of "trot-on" left, but we weren't racing.  I figured we were in the middle of the pack someplace, so there was no point in rushing back to the vet check.

Instead, we walked down the hill to the vetcheck, and listened to the birds.
My friend Michelle snapped these pictures of Fiddle and me at the finish line:

 Much more mellow.  No more mad!
One of Fee's (many) eccentricities:  when presented with a heap of hay, she will take several mouthfuls and then pee.  Since I know that, it's part of my pulsing-down strategy.  I don't even call for a pulser until she's had some food and peed--it brings her heartrate down really fast!
 After the snack, the beverage.  And then...
off to see the vet!
Her scores during the day:
A and A- on everything except gut sounds (B's), which is normal.

And the startline and finishline scores:

 Whew!  Fiddle's first fifty is finished, and she's fit as a fiddle!  Hooray!

Life is good.


  1. I love it! Could just "see" you leaving in reverse! :-) Can just imagine too -- all the lounging it took to quiet her down! Good job Aarene! You used some of your pocket full of training tactics to get the job done! I'm sure plenty of cookies too :-) Way to Ride!

  2. That is awesome! I love the pics and video!!! :-)

    I love the backwards walking thing...oh how I love mares! :-)

  3. That's hard work backing out of camp. You'd think she'd figure that out and take the easy way. LOL

    Sounds like you had a great day.

  4. Well done! You are now an endurance rider ;-)

    I have a question, do you have any tres up there? lol

  5. @Everyone: thanks for the congrats, it's been a long and eventful road to get this mare this far...but it's also been a lot of fun!

    re: backing up
    Fiddle *hates* to reverse, so it's my "correction method" of choice...if she knows I will ask her to walk backwards, she usually will do what I ask. Sometimes it takes a bit of convincing. Clearly, this time she was sure that I was wrong on the whole "go out and do more trail" issue! I thought that she would concede more quickly, but she is a Stubborn Standie, after all! I wonder if we can get extra points for doing distance backwards, hmmmm.

    @txtrigger: I've done endurance on other horses...but now *Fiddle* is a real endurance horse. (hurray!)

    Also, Washington State has plenty of trees...but we keep most of them on the west (wet) side so they will stay fresh. The east (dry) side of the state has very few. On this ride, I saw ten or twenty trees (total), mostly growing around the landowners' houses!

  6. I remember driving from Idaho heading west across 90 many years ago, and how interesting the terrain and such was as it changed. From desert, to seeing miles of crops, to finally getting more and more trees etc. Love seeing ride pix, as it is always fun to see what folks ride in. That is why I try to always have pix on my ride reports

  7. In case anyone wondered about the white circles in the grass, visible in the videos; those are not tiny crop circles. They're lime circles around what Gregg Beckley refers to as the "residences of indigenous personnel". Badger holes!

  8. Congratulations on Fiddle's first 50!
    That is such a beautiful ride, I really enjoyed that blue and white loop, great views.
    It was nice to visit with you at the awards- I had to jet back to the trailer due to some problems with doors blowing open and such in that wicked wind/rain storm- so who won the drink contest this year?

  9. Congratulations!! And what amazing landscapes you rode through... love the bit about the wild grasses.

  10. Congrats!!! I am so, so, so happy for you! Laughed at the leaving camp backwards. Ozzy was so insulted about the third loop at his first fifty... it was quite a battle. Here's to a great ride season!

  11. Hana looks amazingly clean and dry - was she just visiting this year? I don't think Fiddle approves of your song; her ears looked MAD!

    What a great story! I'm so happy for you both.


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