Friday, July 6, 2012

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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In which we go to camp and get a LOT of help from lots of our friends

When we pulled into camp, we were thrilled to see blueness in the sky above--the forecast was for steady rain through most of the week.   

The SS Illegible

We did get rain while we were there, but rain on the Dry Side ain't like Swampland rain.  There was enough water on the ground that we decided to re-route a few trails, but in general the weather shaped up mid-week and the trails were dry and fine by ride day.

Will and Lisa un-gunked a creek crossing
by removing rotten logs and scraping away mud
Jim's brother Dave came to visit us in camp, and we did what we always do to visitors:  handed him a trail tool and pointed him at the dirt. 
Our motley family/trail crew
Sirie had some time on her hands the week before the ride, so she came out and did a bunch of trail work with the gang.  
Just about to throw ourselves down the steep hill of the Little Fish trail
Jennifer is another frequent flyer with the trail crew.  It's especially handy to have a TALL person around sometimes!
I snapped this picture just before Jennifer took a header off a
 rotten section of this stump.  I didn't take a photo of that part.  Ow.
Ride manager Mike Williams is always the handiest guy with a chainsaw.  This widowmaker tree gave me shivers--and it was clear from the tracks on the trail under it that people had been ducking under it for quite a while.  
Mike removes a hazardous leaner tree

We took it down before running more than 60 riders through there.

Jim and the kids had to drive back to the Wet Side during the week, but Luna and the horses stayed with me in camp.
Luna is always helpful for keeping my feet warm at night in camp!

She wasn't the only dog, of course...

Rosie didn't capture the elk. Jennifer's other dog Surprise found the elk corpse
 in the woods somewhere, and grabbed this leg away from some very feisty ravens!
Halfway through the week, Becky showed up to help!
Trail Princesses.  All they need to complete the outfits are little tiaras.
Becky claims that she didn't work a lick in camp, but I've got photographic proof to the contrary:
"Welcome to ridecamp, Becky.
This tool here is called a McLeod, and we're gonna show you how to use it!"
At the end of the week, the Usual Suspects rolled in.  Patty had planned to ride her young horse Rocky in the trail ride (10 miles), but ride management begged for her to fill in as a ride vet instead 
Dr. Patty and the Usual Suspects (plus Luna)
 in their fancy living quarters horse trailer

so Meagan rode Rocky instead.  She was very kind to do this thing, and she didn't stop smiling for at least 2 days.

Monica came to camp without a horse, but WITH a camera.  Her task for the weekend:  shoot a bunch of pictures to illustrate the Endurance 101 book!

Dennis Summers illustrates a good method for teaching a green horse to cross water
Monica's account of the ride is posted here, along with some of her amazing photos.  She even got a nice one of me and the Dragon at the finish line!  (but that's skipping ahead to the next post, sorry).   
Monica also functioned as a Draconic hitching post/carrot dispenser during a vetcheck
We aren't fussy about getting our friends who "just came to ride" involved with the process of doing ride work.  Duana came to ride Hana on the 10-mile trail ride with Rocky, but we threw her in the back of a truck and put her to work moving water tanks. 
Trained stunt driver and rider on a closed course.  Do not attempt this at home.
Somehow, the folks who do the work seem to have the most fun.  I'm not sure why, but it always happens that way.   
Ride manager Gail Williams and some dirty crew members

And you know?  It's good.