Sunday, September 18, 2011

In which I underestimate the weather and lose my shirt, sorta

Ridecamp at the Bare Bones Endurance Ride is a large open field rented from the Evergreen Gun Club.  The field is FLAT (excellent for parking rigs, even the big 'uns) and conveniently located only 10 minutes from the freeway.   However...

...the booking manager at the Gun Club didn't notice (until too late) that the site had been double-booked: for the endurance ride and for
An endurance rider gets a shooting lesson.  Photo by Rhonda Guildford.
a group of blackpowder "mountain man" reinactors.
"Mountain Man Ladies" in costume.  They shoot too!  Photo by Rhonda Guilford.
 To say that life in camp over the weekend was "not quiet and contemplative" is to understate matters rather a lot.  It was loud.  There was gunfire all day, all weekend. Still, endurance riders are a coping sort of people.  We coped with the noise.

Umm, we mostly coped.  I admit that the gunfire noise, plus the noise from Mimsy barking and Hana hollering when I took Fiddle away for her vet-in did induce a minor meltdown.   I really don't handle noise very well, especially when almost all of the disturbance was coming from my own camp, and I felt very responsible and not able to control the chaos.  In cases of emotional meltdown, I gotta recommend the help and support I get from my ridecamp buddies, like Pickles' Fairy DocMother:
 Sky helped a lot too--she got the dogs to stop barking without using duct tape, and she made me a cup of tea.  You just can hardly imagine how much tea can improve a situation, until somebody makes a cup for you.  Whew.

Aside from the noise, life in camp was pretty normal. 

We ate the usual decadent breakfast on Friday morning:
and I walked the dogs around
(they did get it sorted out, eventually)

While Patty worked on the underside of her parents' rig,

When a tire blew, it took out parts of the plumbing.  Dang.
we wandered around camp and talked to our friends, including Karen from Wren Loop, who brought the famous Cartman for his first endurance experience.  They did the 15-mile trail ride, and I'm eager to hear how the big guy did!

Karen wanted to know how to teach the "look away" trick that Fiddle does, because Cartman is pretty food-motivated...

so I showed her! 


"Cartman wanna cookie?"

"Get your nose too close to my hand, and I bonk you."

"Even shifting his eyes away from the cookie is a good first step.  Good boy!"

"NOW you can have the cookie!"
 He's a quick learner, and a nice boy!
Pretty leaves, dry trails.  Cue the ominous music.
 After all that socializing, it was time to hit the trails for a little shakedown.  Just an hour out and an hour back to loosen up some stiff muscles and take a look at the trail.  
 See how nice and dry the trails are in these pictures from Friday?  Yeah.  Well, that didn't stick around.

 Here's a photo from the first loop on Saturday morning:
Welcome to the Swamp.
 We had a light mist as we left camp, but nobody predicted the monsoon of water that dumped on the trails (and the riders) all morning.
 Some of the trail was gravelly-dirt:
gravelly dirt + rain = mud
 but some of it was slick red clay:
red clay + rain = slime and puddles
Sky wanted to know how much riding in these kinds of conditions I've done.  In competition, with this horse?  None at all.  In training?  Tons.  In competitions with other horses?  Tons.  Fiddle is very experienced and good at this nastiness.

Cricket, however, was slipping and sliding through the first leg of the ride.  It was scary and no fun at all for Sky, and she decided to rider-option pull at the 8-mile trot-by.  That was a huge disappointment for her and for me; we had planned to spend the entire day together, and we only spent 2 hours of it, mostly worrying about Cricket.  I think she made the right call, and she was pretty satisfied with her decision.

After Sky dropped out at the trot-by point, she loaned me her chaps.  Those things saved my butt...or at least, they kept my legs from freezing off.  My riding attire in the morning was a cotton t-shirt with a new Helly Hanson raincoat over my usual riding breeches.  You know how "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices"?   Well.  I had some really bad clothing, and much sadness.  The raincoat completely failed--it wasn't even water resistant, despite the manufacturer's claims.  Yeah, I'll be sending THAT back. 

Meantime, I was cold and wet...and all my gear was back in camp, 10 trail-miles away.

Fortunately, Jim met me at the out-check, and loaned me his windstopper-fleece jacket.  After a few moments contemplation of the wet clothing on my body and the options available, I scampered into the portajohn and removed the drenched shirt and "raincoat", and put on Jim's jacket over my bra, then put the chaps (wet, but lined with wool so they kept me warm) over my wet breeches.  While I was swapping dry clothes for wet clothes, Jim vetted Fee through and found a pile of hay for her to cram in her maw.  He is the best crew.

Endurance riders = fashion disasters.  But at least I was warm!  Photo by Rhonda Guilford.
 I was MUCH warmer on the way back to camp.  When I got there, Sky pulsed us in...
 ...and my friend Rhonda took a photo of the amazing outfit!

(I ordered a set of the chaps for myself, BTW--in purple, of course!  They are handmade by a lady here in the Swamplands, and are sold by American Trail Gear.  I don't see them listed on the ATG website, but if you call and talk to Sherri or Diana, ask them about the chaps and tell them I sent you.)

Fee vetted through with flying colors, and then Willy took her back to our camp and stuffed her full of hay, beetpulp and carrots while I made a cup of hot tea (remember, hot tea is restorative!) and some soup and fixed my clothing.

Fortunately, I had a complete change of attire in camp, including clean dry socks, my own windstopper jacket, and dry boots!
An inch of water inside the muddy boot (top); clean dry new boot (bottom)
We had a 15-mile loop after the long vetcheck in camp, on some of the same muddy trail we'd just seen.  But before tackling the hill, I had to convince Fiddle that she needed to leave camp!

Our signature exit strategy:  b a c k w a r d s.
 Hana was in camp.  Food was in camp.  People admiring her were all staying in camp.  Why should she leave?   Finally, I got her pointed forward again.
 The rain had stopped (temporarily), and the gravelly-rock trails were starting to dry out.  Well, they were a little dryer.  Actually, not much dryer.  But my feet were dry, and that makes everything better.

The afternoon trails went faster than the morning trails, partly because the fog had lifted and we could find ribbons more easily.  Also because Fee was completely focused on the task at hand: trot where we could, walk where we must.  She was a rock star all day long.

The cheering crowd (not exaggerating!) at the finish line was absolutely terrific.  My whole family, plus a bunch of Pirates and Fish were there to get Fee and me finished and vetted.  Wow. 
My vet card, only barely legible.
My completion prize was a feed pan, which will be useful.  My tail-end prize will be even more useful: 
 'Cuz let me tell you, all those miles in wet breeches do NOT make for a comfy backside!

After the ride, we all relaxed. 
Mimsy doubles as a laundry tree.

Luna would prefer not to have socks on her head, please.

Pickles Marie Tinydog, only barely awake.
When we got home from camp, we were faced with a trailer full of wet tack, and a camper full of wet clothing.  Sigh.  The laundry will be spinning for a day or two.  And the tack

is all over the house, trying to get dry.

Life in the Swamp.  It's wet.  It's good, though.

8 comments:

  1. Glad to see I'm not the only person with a kitchen full of wet horse tack!
    Thanks again for helping me with Cartman, I see lots of practicing in his future :)

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  2. Long time lurker... I have got to say, I love your posts and your attitude. Nothing gets you down, or at least you figure out a positive way to spin it.

    Life IS good. =)

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  3. Oh yeah. I can totally relate to this post....both the gunshot excitement and the rain that never seems to want to end (yep, even here in the high desert of New Mexico. lol!)

    A few weeks ago I volunteered to do P & R's for an AERC ride up in Santa Fe. It was a lot of fun, but there was shooting out in the National Forest and it rained all night(and almost drowned me in my tent,which apparently isn't as water-proof as I thought. Who knew? Since it has never rained while we've camped in this tent the 50-100 times over the past 15 years we've owned it....hey! It's New Mexico, not the Swamplands!), and then poured cats and dogs on the last half of the 30 and 50 miler's rides. They were drenched! We were all soaked! I felt so bad for them having to head back out after their muddy, wet vet checks, into the growling thunder, pouring rain and cracking lighting. The noises and flashes were making me jump and be nervous. I can't imagine having to ride in it, too. But at least with the pouring rain, the shooting ceased for a while. lol! I have the utmost respect for hard core endurance riders (and their horses) now....well more than I thought I had already after watching and reading about Tevis competitors.

    Oh, and then last weekend, I was up at the same place in Santa Fe for an ACTHA ride, both to ride and to volunteer as a judge. And wouldn't you know it? It rained and poured all night long, and the Forest Service ended up shutting down the entire area to protect the clay roads(which turn into a greasy mess and get deeply rutted) and sensitive environment. So the ride was delayed until noon(and yeah, the shooters were happy to come back and get noisy again, too). The horses were sure challenged at the obstacles, between the greasy mud and the shooting distractions. Aye Yi Yi! What an adventure!

    But you're right, a cup of hot tea is restorative and makes everything all better.

    Very clever, leaving backwards. I've seen a few other riders doing that with their horses now, too. Hey! Whatever works. Perhaps that might also work for folks who are not wanting to leave home to go to work?

    Love those chaps, though they look more like chinks, since they don't go all the way down to the ankles. What kind of leather are they made from? And are they heavy or light?

    ~Lisa

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  4. No, I'm afraid getting wet, cold and yucky is not my thing. Those days, I revert to plan B, whatever that may be.

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  5. My ride direction sheet looked like your ride card. For some unknown reason & actually put my card in a zip-lock!
    Love the trail photos! It really was so beautiful out there - such a shame it rained...
    Do know that we all managed to have fun anyway! :-)

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  6. CG: somebody asked me last week how I keep the house from smelling like wet dog . I find that filling the house with wet horse tack completely negates the dog odor.

    Cat: Oh, there was grumbling on the trail. There was also singing. Endurance is like that.

    Laughing Orca: Yes, rainproof gear is essential! The chaps/chinks are NOT leather, they are gortex lined with wool. I've ordered a pair lined with polarfleece, which works better in the Swamp.

    Leah: Plan B was "ride faster." But the mud precluded that, so I returned to Plan A!

    featherlight: thanks!

    Connie Hoge: EVERYTHING was drenched, wasn't it? But we still had fun.

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  7. I went to Elementary School right down the hill from the Gun Club. And, I dated a guy who lived right by the GC too, when I was in high school. So, you were in my old stomping grounds!

    My HH failed in a torrential downpour back in Oregon, when I was walking my son through the vineyard, to our bus stop, 1/2 a mile away, up slick, snot-like clay to the top of our driveway. Unfortunately, I had my brand new cell phone in my breast pocket and it got soaked through as well. I was very disappointed with the HH, but I'd had it some time by then and couldn't exactly return it.

    I am ever so glad that the Georgia clay has a large portion of sand mixed in, so it's not quit so slippery when wet.

    Congrats on completing!

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