In which we start out swimming and end up trotting to the finish line

What the heck, why not sign up for the 75-miler?

Patty encouraged me to do the longest distance at the new April Daze ride,
because my horse does NOT do well with the heat/humidity we will encounter
at rides later in the year.  Okay, then.

Especially since, this year, I have a goal:  I want Fiddle to win the United States Trotting Association "Endurance Standardbred of the Year" award.  I know all about this award, mostly because I was the person who proposed it to the USTA several years ago.  

It's not like the competition is enormous.  There are 139 Standardbreds and 17 half-Standies currently registered with the American Endurance Ride Conference.  8 of them competed last year, and four of those are in my region.  One of them is Fiddle's brother Hector! 

Three standardbreds at the vet-in!  (L-to-R):
Syd and Kandi, Bunny and Heather, Fiddle and Aarene
Mine is the ginormous one, sigh.

But since the award was started, I've had (in series): a young horse, a low budget, and a broken body.  For the last two years, my friend Heather and her horse Bunny have won it.  And now Susan Garlinghouse has a new Standie filly that she will be bringing along as her good fellow John Henry starts to wind down a bit.  

The competition is heating up.  I'd better get busy!

To prepare, I figured I should do a night ride with Fiddle before the event.  That was a Good Idea.

American Trail Gear made this purple breastcollar with
attachment points for glowsticks.  Very pretty!
The Bad Idea on my part happened when we had to reschedule the farrier to that Saturday afternoon, a mere four hours before Duana and I were going to go out and mark / ride a night loop at our usual training trail.

Fee has VERY tender feet following a new set of shoes.
I aborted the night-training ride before we went 4/10ths of a mile.
Fee's feet recovered just fine (they always do, and my lovely new farrier has some new ideas to alleviate this problem in the future), but not soon enough to reschedule a practice.

So, that would be a thing:  riding at night for the first time on unfamiliar trails at a ride.  Not ideal, but it is what it is.

On the road.  Photo by M. Bretherton

We did organize a caravan over to the ride on Wednesday before the event, rather than Thursday or Friday.  That was a Good Idea, and it went just fine.

Sunrise over a mostly-empty ridecamp.
Although I love sleeping in late when I'm home, at camp I always wake up early.

Arriving an extra day early gave Fiddle plenty of time to relax and recover from the trip, and gave me plenty of time to look around and help ride management a bit.

Balsamroot flowers are common in camp and
on the trails

Pretty floofy dogs are pretty and floofy

Gail, Monica, Sue and I went out to spot-check the trail and scout for
good photo locations.

Riverside Park isn't nearly as huge as the ride sites we often use, so the maps
are complicated and the trail loops intertwine a lot

We discovered that several miles of trail ribbons had been sabotaged
a few days before the ride.  Sue (left) re-rode the trail on her bike and
marked it again.

We also posted signs at the trailheads, asking that ribbons be left in place.
There were a few more sabotaged spots, but most of the ribbons stayed up.

Sue wasn't taking chances, though:  she bought many colors of biodegradable
paint, and marked arrows and splots on the ground and on the trees to guide riders.

 Since most of the trails had been marked by ride management on bicycles and quads, we offered to check the visibility and usability of trail markings from the saddle.

Monica borrowed "Bongo" from Sue and Dennis Summers.
He's a very cool horse!
 We put up a few extra ribbons, and enjoyed a few hours of orientation time.

Bongo didn't have "tripod skills" until Monica rode him!

Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the rest of our peeps started rolling in.

Mealtimes at the Pirate+Fish camp are a big deal.  We are good at eating.
Roo is a good eating assistant.

Fee had been sort of a twit while riding out with Mama and Bongo ("My friends!  I can't be more than 2 strides away from my friends!") on Thursday morning.  We separated from them several times, but I still wasn't satisfied with her ability to keep her marble in place.

So, we went out solo on Friday morning.

Photo by M. Bretherton


"Separation issues?  I don't have separation issues.
What are you talking about?"

While we were out, more trail tweaking was taking place.

Adding a sign: "If you can read this, you're going the wrong way!" 

When we arrived back in camp, visitors came to see us!

My dad is on a roadtrip while Mom gallivants around
Paris for a few weeks

My elder niece lives nearby these days

We had a lovely lunch, and then the weather moved in, cold and wet.  My muggle family members scampered away to Starbucks and a movie.

Family photo

The rest of us got ready for ride day.

Mixing up electrolytes
We didn't end up using nearly as much as we planned,
because the weather was much cooler than forecast.

Endurance 101/New Rider Briefing.  Patty demonstrates the vet check
with volunteer "pony" Roo.

And then:  bedtime.
Canine Thermal Unit keeps the bed warm

Early on Saturday morning, we hit the trail!

"Follow me!  I have glowsticks!" said Andie at the start line.
She had accidentally cracked her glowsticks while tacking up.
She's way ahead of Kathy and me in this picture.

The weather turned dismal early in the day.  This was perfect for the horses, especially the hard-to-keep-cool Dragon, but a little discouraging for the riders.

We went through several changes of raingear during the event,
and we all returned home with enormous bags of wet gear!

As you might expect, Patty had an awesome answer to dreadful weather.  She had some elderly boxes of heat wraps (like chemical handwarmers, but designed to be wrapped around to keep back muscles and kidneys warm) and broke them out for me.

Each wrap supposedly stays warm for 8 hours--
mine lasted for at least twelve hours.  In the constant drizzle, this
made the difference between "miserable" and "not cold at all, thank you."

The trail was beautiful!

The first loop was 20 miles.  Lots of balsamroot...and rocks.
Photo by M. Bretherton

Alongside the river

Every time we returned to camp, we wrapped up the horses to keep their muscles warm.

"Feed me, Santa!"
Super-Crew Santa's secret weapon:  feeding Fiddle hay makes her pee
(and brings down her pulse)

Periodically, the sun would come out for an hour.

On the plateau.  photo by M. Bretherton

And then, clouds and rain would move in again.

Getting dressed...again.
Long raincoat, polarfleece scarf, rain chinks...

More sabotage:  we were supposed to take a "token" from each place on the
trail to prove we'd been there, but somebody took all the tokens.
We took pictures of the place, instead.

We did collect a few tokens (colored pipe cleaners) before
they disappeared.  I also kept track of my loops by writing
the colors of each one on my arm.

Finally, it was time to go out in the dark.

Fiddle couldn't believe that I put her saddle back on after 50 miles.  But she went along with my idiocy, and followed her new friends out of camp, just like she'd followed them all day.

N.B.D. again.  Huh.

"Follow me!  I haz GLOWSTIX and BELLZ!"

Riding through the dark was pretty awesome.  I was taking mental notes of the sensations of riding at night (it's been more than 8 years since I've gone further than 50 miles in a day!) to add into a new story I'm writing.  Things look and sound and smell different in the dark.

We were on the short version of a loop we'd done twice already, so the horses sort of knew the way...of course, they knew the long way.  We wanted to be sure we took the short version!

There was also a bad stretch of trail (steep downhill, big rocks) that we wanted to get past before we couldn't see it, and we did that pretty easily.  

Because the sun sets around 8pm this time of year (with ambient light remaining until about 8:30pm), we only did about 5 or 6 miles in true darkness.  

Fiddle was able to lead, follow, and take tail almost all day.  She also trotted alongside both Sadie and Pearl, horses she had not met before ride morning, and that is a BIG DEAL for her.  She slashed her tail and showed her back shoes to a couple of yabbos who ran up her red-tailed butt during the day, but she didn't actually kick anybody.  Progress.  

I really wish people would pay attention to the ribbon though.  One of the riders came to me after and apologized profusely.  I told him I hadn't meant to yell at him, but I really wanted him to not die.  So, there's that.

I was a little wobbly at the 65-mile vet check, but Patty re-hydrated me with water and coconut water, and she also made me eat a yam.  Who knew?  

The "yam-worshipping" picture
I was much more coherent and stable after 75 miles than I was at 65 miles.

We crossed the finish line a few minutes before 10pm, with a ride time of about 14 hours.  Fee and I simultaneously top-tenned and finished turtle.  There were only 6 riders in the 75-mile distance.  The three front-runners finished more than an hour before our little group.

All A's at the finish line

The sun didn't come out until after the awards were finished on Sunday
morning.  Luna is an excellent lap-warmer!

Today (Tuesday), my back is sore from a place where I pinched a nerve.  Chiro treatment this morning helped with that, and I have a massage scheduled for tomorrow.  

I also have some small chafed spots, mostly in places where I missed with the Chamois Butt'r.

My calf muscles, usually painfully swollen and tight from truck disease, are doing better because I "rolled" them when I got home.  Most people use a foam roller to fix this issue; I find that a soup can, a rolling pin, or a clean tennis ball that Roo hasn't claimed yet will do the same thing.

The Dragon was Very Mellow after her long effort.  She moved out soundly, but her right rear foot was a tad warmer than the others and she was Very Tired the morning after the ride but her legs were cold and tight.  She was also a bit stiff in the rear end when she got off the trailer at home.  

Today, she is still mellow and moving normally.  She bit a goat when she walked into the pasture this morning, so obviously she figures that life is back to normal (but she still gets at least a week of pasture rest before returning to work!)

If you'd like to see more of Monica's beautiful photos from the ride and from around camp, her galleries are online HERE.    
(If you go there, seek out the picture of the little girl and her fabulous grey pony.  Full of the adorbs!)


  1. Gonna try this for a third time! (I hope I'm not triple commenting)

    But.... but why a yam?!?!

  2. Love the photos - almost like riding with you! Well Done! Hope you get the award!

  3. What a great ride and write up! Thanks for the helpful hints too- I have to show that backwarmer trick to a friend!

  4. So proud of you stepping up to a 75, Aarene! Great job and good for Fiddle!!

  5. Great photos. Personally, I love the canine thermal units. They make winter riding possible.

    1. Luna is the BEST Canine Thermal Unit evah.

  6. Congrats! My favorite photo might be the up on the plateau one, where Fee looks enormous and you are tiny and you both look happy.

    1. You know, her hugeness shows up more (to me) in photos. In real life, I use my whole body to boss her whole body, and rarely consider the disparity in our sizes.

      I do the same thing with people....

  7. Congratulations! Sounds like you had an awesome ride and did a bunch of GOOD things. I think I might have withered and died in the weather you had, but those large keep warm patches sound like a great idea!

  8. Wow. 75! I love the way you write The Story of The Ride. I feel like I'm there, which is completely awesome. Hudson says Fee looks lovely in Glow Sticks. He's pretty sure bells are dangerous she positive they are fun?

    1. I noticed in the photos that the glow sticks totally "go" with my T-shirt. Let's pretend I planned that.

      Tell Hudson that the sleigh bells alert bicyclists and other trail bears. At some times of year, the bells are de rigour.


Post a Comment

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.

Popular posts from this blog

In which we take (metaphoric) coals to Newcastle by boat and barge

In which it's that time again: we're headed for Sawmill Flats to build trails