Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In which it takes a village to write (and illustrate) an article

In my copious spare time, I write. 

I write this blog, obviously, and in November each year I write a 50,000+ word novel just for "fun" (hey, it rains a lot in November--"fun" is scarce on the ground then!) and I also write articles for library magazines and Endurance News and whatever else seems interesting.

My latest writing production just got published online as a PDF file:  it's an article about Standardbreds (of course) in endurance (of course).

But I didn't do it alone!

Blog reader Dom from the Collection of Madcap Escapades blog, her friend Erin from the Now That's a Trot! blog, Monica from the Horsebytes blog, and several riders and photographers from the Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides contributed material for the article.  (Not all the photos and quotes were included in the finished article--the editor is queen, and we abide by her decisions!) 

So:  thanks for the help, y'all! 

You can view the entire AERC EXTRA edition pdf online here

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which I share all the other goofy photos and stuff from Home on the Range

Luna likes road trips. Road trips are where you gets to be on the couch (truck seat) for lots of hours, and sometimes they give you french fries. And when you get to the place, people say "Oh, what a pretty doggie."

Luna likes being pretty.

Mimsy likes being in the middle of activity. She wants to be a Quad Dog!

Alas, she's afraid of the engine, and the rolling, and the wind. So she sits on the quad when it's parked.

Back in the rig, Jim discovers what happens when you leave an entire box of granulated sugar in the camper for the winter: it turns into a brick. He had to chip sugar out with a screwdriver!

Ryan brought his new standardbred to the ride! Whiskey is going to make a terrific endurance horse.

Ryan did the 25 miler with Whiskey on Saturday, and she did great. Whiskey not only did well on the ride, she had plenty of energy left over to pester Fiddle after the finish line.

I'm sure you can just imagine how popular that was with Miss Grouch Puss!

Whiskey gets to do the 50-miler at the next ride, I think....

We decided that Bailey needed a little "piratin' up." The eyepatch is a nice touch.

Paul (Jim's evil twin, pictured below center) and his horse Pete finished 2,000 miles together at this ride.

That's the most miles ever achieved by a paso fino (although apparently there are some other paso finos that are hot on their heels)!

Lon and the other "drill team girls" came out to volunteer, and they ran an excellent vetcheck. Go Girls!

My former junior left my grand-junior at home with daddy, and brought Pepper out to HOTR to do 50 miles. They look very pretty in their bright orange gear!

Mona Thacker is in her 70's now, and she is one tough cookie. She'd have ridden 100 miles at HOTR if there had been a 100-miler offered. As it is, she only got to ride 75 miles. Here she is at the 50-mile vetcheck, looking fabulous:

Meanwhile, back at the SS Illegible, Jim and I are concocting something amazing

for the annual team beverage competition.

The other teams brought some fabulous drinks, but (as always)


We cheated, of course. We always cheat. We're Pirates. What did you expect?

The first year, the contest was for the "best margarita." We brought rum grog, and won.

The second year, we brought rum grog again, but when I saw who the judges were, I ran back to the rig and added another 5th of rum. I've been drinking with those guys for years--I knew what they'd like. We won again.

This year, the weather forcast was for cold, rainy, and horribleness, so instead of bringing a fruity icy drink like all the other teams, the Pirates brought Hot Chocolate Cannonballs.  We won again. 

MMMmmmMMM. Nothing like hot chocolate + marshmallows + coconut rum on a cold night, don't you think?

Yeah. It was good.

Life is, you know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

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.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In which we finished Home on the Range, but first: a very quiet word

Although the weather for the LD and 50-mile riders at Home on the Range was quite lovely, a wet,  windy, nasty storm front moved in on the late hours of the 75-mile riders.  Even from a Swamplander's perspective, this weather was the kind that makes you thankful for a roof and a bottle of rum.

However, endurance riders being what they are, a bunch of them went out in it to finish their last loops, and tragedy struck:  rider Naomi Preston and her mare Karlady stumbled into a fence.  The horse spooked, dumped Naomi, and ran off into the rain and dark. 

Many folks were out for hours in the worst weather, trying to find the mare, and at daybreak this morning I saw many more folks throwing saddles on their horses to seek the missing one.  It was too late, however:  Karlady's body was found mid-morning, caught in a fence.  I spoke to the ride vet who had the sad task of filling out the AERC paperwork, and he said that it was unclear if the wire fence was the actual cause of death.  The result, however, is the same:  Naomi and her spouse Lee drove home with an empty space in the trailer today. 

It was the kind of thing that could happen to any horse-person at any time, really:  horses often seem hell-bent on glorious self-destruction.  And yet, we tuck our hearts into our saddlebags and mount up.

Naomi herself said something that held my attention:  she said she was glad that, if it had to happen, it happened at a ride, because she was surrounded by friends and family who understand.

I get that. 

I'm told that other regions aren't so close-knit, but the Pacific Northwest region is very much like a very large, somewhat disfunctional family.  We don't always get along, and we probably wouldn't ever agree on the color of an orange, but when a member is in trouble, we understand. 

I'll post my own ride report (we finished Fiddle's first 50-miler!) soon.  In the meantime, perhaps we'll observe a few moments of silence in honor of Naomi and Karlady.

Additional:  a note from Naomi this morning says that Karlady is now buried above the house of the landowners who hosted the ride.  They call it "Karlady Ridge."