In which we ride the fifty and declare spay surgery successful

The Renegade Rendezvous is considered one of the most strenuous endurance rides in the Pacific Northwest region.  

Sometimes called "the Little Tevis," there is nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain in the first 12 miles, and plenty of elevation changes during the rest of the ride.  

On the trail at Renegade Rendezvous

Temperatures on the trail can be extreme, and humidity is sometimes quite high.  The trails are well-marked (if I do say so myself, since Fiddle and I mark a lot of them each year!) despite the ongoing depredation of elk, deer, the wind, and gravity.

Lupin meadow

It's also one of the prettiest trails on the planet, winding through the Naches Wilderness forest of pine, fir, larch, and alder, opening onto broad views of surrounding ridges and mountain peaks.  We didn't get bright blue sky on ride day, so the photos this year aren't as spectacular as they were last year, but it was just as pretty as ever IRL. 
A strained shoulder muscle kept Cowboy Jim from immersing himself in pulsing this year
When we got to the first vetcheck, Jim was there and able to hold the "keys" to my horse while I refilled water bottles and used the portapotty.  Often, he's really busy pulsing horses at vetchecks, but he gorked his shoulder the prior week and needed to not injure it further by messing around with knuckleheaded horses, so he assisted the timers...and helped me!   What luxury.  
The Dragon loves her Cowboy
I prepped for this ride with the assumption that I'd be riding with no crew, since my friends and family were probably going to be working and assisting elsewhere.  However, every time I needed help on ride day, somebody was right there, offering to help me.  Dang, that's nice.
Third loop, sky beginning to clear.
I rode all day with the knowledge that Fiddle was not as physically fit for this ride as she was at the same ride last year--she is only 2 months out of surgery, and had taken nearly a month off.  When we did train post-surgery, we mostly rode with Rocky and therefore only travelled at baby-speed.  
drinking like a Pirate
With all that in mind, I rode 50 miles with one eye pinned pretty tightly to the heart-rate monitor.  The weather was overcast and humid, with sunbreaks at the vetchecks--conditions that can keep my big dark horse HOT and make her even more tired.  We travelled carefully, not letting her heartrate get above 160 bpm very often, and keeping it below 100 whenever possible.  I also carried 2 water bottles just to dump on Fiddle, and I refilled them and dumped them on her again at each water crossing, tank, and puddle.

She paced herself perfectly.  I could almost see the thought bubble above her head, reading:  "I know how long this trail is, and I know exactly how much energy I have in my fuel tank to finish it, and I don't have any energy to waste."  And she didn't waste any, either!

She leapfrogged with a big appy gelding from Montana, whom she didn't "like" but declined to hate.  For Fiddle, that's practically love.  We also periodically traveled near a big grey mare, and the rider reminded me that two years ago our two mares just about got into a battle because they were both so nasty.  This year, they were both concentrating on the trail and not messing around.  Hooray!

Vetcheck in camp, Monica served as hitching post and carrot dispenser.  
In fact, the only time that Fiddle worried about another horse was when we were tailgated on the 3rd loop by a little black gelding and an especially-clueless rider.  Fee pinned her ears and swished her tail as I warned the rider to stay back or pass, but the rider was all "la-la-la" until I pulled off the trail and made her go ahead of us.  What is it about the red ribbon, the slashing tail, and the words "she will kick you" that are vague?  

The guy on the appy just shook his head and thanked me for getting out of the way of the clueless lady. I thought that was very nice of him.
The last loop, above and around camp
Fee was unenthusiastic about leaving camp for the last loop.  She wasn't too tired, she just didn't particularly want to go--she knew this loop intimately, and figured she'd already seen it plenty while marking it.  But she went.  And she kept on going.  She refused to crowd or pass the riders in front of us, although they were going slower than we needed to go, and since it was the final loop and we had a lot of time to spare, I agreed to let her poke along a quarter-mile behind Mona and Sue, never getting too close.  

We finished 14th out of 22 starters
Finish Line, photo by Monica Bretherton
Beginning and ending scores.  She ate her way through the ride.
and she looked awesome all day long.

Back at home, a few photos to illustrate the lack of surgical scar:

July 4, 2012

Surgery site, spay + 8 weeks
Fiddle is still a "dragon":  she is a big, strong, athletic, opinionated mare.  The biggest change I see now is that she is, increasingly, the same dragon every day.  

She is not being tormented by hormone fluctuations.  She doesn't cycle anymore and it doesn't hurt anymore. She doesn't protect her back end as strongly, although she will wear that red tail-ribbon for life, just in case.  

In general, she spends more energy moving down the trail, and less energy fretting--and that is a Very. Good. Thing.  

The surgery isn't cheap, and shouldn't be considered frivolously.  It won't fix problems that are caused by bad training, poor nutrition, inadequate dental or crummy farrier work.  However, in the case of Fiddle, I consider the procedure a huge success.


  1. wow you make a good point. i'm on gov't healthcare and find myself moody monthly. hmmm..

    anyway, 22 starters on the 50? what is wrong? doesn't that seem really low for renegade?


    best thing ever: a horse who knows exactly what 50 miles is, and paces herself accordingly. princess would pace herslelf all day and really rip for the last loop, she knew exactly what she was doing. it was such a thrill, riding a horse who got stronger near the end, after politely walking head down over the start line.

    1. lytha, raspberry leaf (Mare Magic TM) works on human ladies. Just sayin'.

      nearly 50 riders in the LD, but yeah, attendance is low. Lots of the Oregon riders went to Outback (multiday) and/or planning to go to Bandit (2-day). In 2013 or 2014 we will be temporarily kicked out of Sawmill Flats as a ridecamp: it's scheduled to be used as a staging ground for extensive logging in the area :-( The ride will happen, we just aren't sure where yet.

      BEST THING EVER: horse who knows how long the trail is and doesn't waste anything. But next year, I'm considering 75's....(not at Renegade, though).

    2. Go to Oregon next year!!

  2. Fiddle looks absolutely fantastic! I don't think you can tell she ever had surgery at all :-)
    Those trail photos are beautiful. I think I'd be willing to tackle a tough trail to witness that beauty. Hopefully, someday in the future, I will ;-)

  3. Thanks. I'm very proud of my Dragon >g<

  4. Congrats! Sounds like everybody, even Fee, had an awesome time. So happy for yall!

  5. Great "story" & beautiful photos Aarene! Just like being there! Fiddle looks pretty fit - for not having the speed work you would have liked. So happy to hear that the surgery results were all that you'd hoped! Good to see you yesterday too!

  6. There's something so incredibly touchable about Fiddle - maybe not personality-wise, but's like she just oozes health - and WOW, that shine.... She really stands out in a herd.

  7. Good mare!!! Congrats to you both.

  8. This just might be my favorite post yet on the blog. So good to hear she's doing so well and I'm really impressed by the lack of a scar. Yeah for the dragon!


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