In which we ride the fifty miler in Central Nowhere, Oregon

"Hey, wanna drive down to the Oregon 100 with me?" 
Gail asked me via FB, and I immediately wrote back:  "YES!"

Newly retired, and with her husband out of town--hopefully catching us a nice
fat elk!--Gail has more time for going to endurance rides
Thursday morning, I drove east over the mountains to Gail and Mike's place near Yakima, and we quickly slid my junk into Gail's trailer before loading up the Dragon and driving south to the ridecamp.

The weather forecast said, "Expect everything."  

"Everything" skies over highway 97

It's a long drive--about 9 hours total from my house to camp.  Fiddle got a grazing break at Gail's while we were transferring gear, and another break at the Cow Canyon rest area.

A chance to wiggle, pee, and walk around

We arrived in camp right at sunset.   This is truly High Desert, with nothing between us and the weather except some pretty colors.

Sunset over camp, Thursday evening

It was COLD on Thursday night--temps in the 20's.  Then warm during the days, up to the mid-80's.  Apparently it rained in camp a few hours before we arrived, but things were dry when we showed up.
Sunrise over camp, Friday morning

By mid-day on Friday, camp begins to fill up with rigs.

Optical illusion haze from the dry airborne dust

Fiddle and I took a quick shake-down ride and then I got everything set up for ride day.

I'm gonna go far tomorrow, I'd better eat lots of carrots today!

Start time for the 50-milers was a leisurely 7 am, but it's not summer any more, and the sun was barely clear of the horizon when we started out the trail.

I took this picture from the saddle as we warmed up for the start.

Ride photographer/fellow blogger Laura Spear shot this as we left camp.

There was a "trot-by" check out of camp at around 17 miles (GPS said 19 miles) which consisted of just trotting a horse out, no pulse taken, no other parameters checked except by request of the rider. 

Most of the trail looked like this

 Then, another 17 miles (GPS said 16 miles) back to camp for the first "real" vetcheck at 35 miles. 

Not much variety for photographs on this trail!

35 miles is a long time without a vet check, so a lot of riders (including me) sent a bag of supplies for horse and rider to the trot-by stop.  Fiddle and I spent about 20 minutes there, with her eating and me swapping out empty water bottles for full ones and generally re-stocking my saddle bags.

More trees?
Yes, more trees.  They call this "the pine forest."

Another Laura Spear photo, taken about 3 miles before the 35-mile vetcheck 

Because my hip is failing fast, I asked people to trot my horse for the vet.  Everybody was so kind!

Sandy and Sierra each trotted the Dragon a couple of times, 
but when they weren't around, total strangers took the rope 
for me. The Dragon behaved perfectly for everyone!

After passing the 35-mile vet check in camp, we had a 60-minute hold.  Fiddle stuffed her face with hay and beetpulp, while I swapped out some gear (don't need a rump-rug anymore, we DO need cold water in my packs!) and ate.

The trailer isn't really tilting.  I'm not sure why this picture looks so crooked!
All the gear is set out and ready to deploy on ride day.

Then, back out on the trail again.

Any change in the scenery was welcome

Another blogger ahead!  Karen and her junior, both riding Appaloosas

A random place in the desert where porta-potties go to die?
We made up all kinds of stories about why these units--and a huge
stack of firewood--would stand out there.

Happily for all of us, Kathy and Pearl joined me and Fiddle for the last 20 miles of the ride.  

Kathy's gear is covered in bling!

Kathy and I rode together (with Andi) at the 75-mile Riverside ride last April, and we had so much fun that we're planning to ride the 75-miler together (with Andi) in October!

Kathy was the one who finally identified the reason that Fiddle sometimes takes weird hops when she walks downhill:  she steps on her own tail!

Cut that thing off!

I banged Fee's tail as soon as we got to the vetcheck.

We finished our ride in about 8 hours--not blisteringly fast, because Kathy and I both decided that we weren't so much riding the 50-miler as much as training for the upcoming 75-miler.

Lots of things went right for this ride:
     *   Despite the lack of heat, dryness, and flat ground to practice on at home, Fiddle managed the hot, dry, flat course very well, and finished with excellent vet scores.

     *   Our electrolyte protocol, which I've tweaked a bit since early April to include more potassium, seems to be working really well, especially on rides that are not overwhelmingly humid.

     *   My pain management protocol, which is continually subject to tweaking, kept me comfortable through the day and in the days following the ride

Over the counter, prescription, homeopathic, and a bit of pharmaceutical
assistance from our Canadian brethren.
     *   Sharing the driving really helped a lot too.  I drove 4 hours to Gail's house on Thursday, and drove another 4 hours from her house to my house on Sunday.  That's a lot easier than driving 9 hours each direction!

     *   The company was good, both in the truck and on the trail.  Fiddle doesn't love Pearl, but she likes Pearl enough to appreciate the company late in the ride.  We joined up with other riders, briefly, earlier in the day, but Fee politely let me know that she preferred to pick her own speed and her own company.

On the drive home, we stopped at De Moss Springs Memorial Park...and guess who we saw there?

Endurance riders!  Tiffany, Dean, Heather and me.

The park is a shady spot with irrigated lawn (the horses found the lawn very tasty) and a newly-installed horse arena, where we took turns letting our horses out to roll and wiggle.

Fiddle shows off her newly-banged tail.
She hardly looks like an endurance horse in the photo, does she?

Once we crossed the Columbia River back into Washington State, we came to the Yakama Reservation, which houses (among other things) several bands of mustangs.  

The herds aren't much managed by the tribe, and an influx of domestic horses "turned loose" on the rez during the last economic downturn adversely affected the amount of grazing available for the horses.

We didn't see any that were really skinny, but considering that they've
spent all summer eating the best graze they will have all year, they
were none too fat.

When I was a kid, I always figured that mustangs spent their days sweeping majestically across the wide open plains.  

I was more than a little disappointed the first time I saw them myself, learning that wild horses do pretty much what domestic horses do all day:  eat, sleep, and swish flies.

These wild horses don't look very wild to me

Back at Gail's house, briefly,  we moved gear back into my rig.

Fiddle and Destry swap gossip while Gail and I moved stuff around

And then:  home!

Fiddle and I are recovering well from the trip to Central Nowhere, and with luck we will finish two more rides this year on our quest for the Standardbred Endurance award.

Here are the standings right now.  Mileage may not be current for all horses, because the AERC isn't able to instantly update the database every time a horse finishes a ride.

Fiddle:  330 miles endurance, 50 LD = 380 miles total
Lista:  300 miles endurance   
I still don't know this horse, and don't know what her schedule will be like for the remainder of the year.  Any readers in the NE region want to chime in?
Bunny:  205 miles endurance
Bunny wasn't feeling quite right at the Oregon 100 ride, and Heather very wisely chose to pull her before they completed.  She may enter one more ride before year's end, but won't be able to overtake us in mileage this season.
Sidney Rain:  180 miles LD
I don't know this horse or rider.  Anyone?
Syd:  55 miles endurance, 55 miles LD = 110 miles total
Syd is new to the game.  She's Bunny's best friend, and another good strong mare.
Cecily G:  100 miles endurance
Cecily didn't finish Tevis this year, but maybe some year?  I hope so.
Hector:  55 miles LD
Hector finished 8th in the LD at Bare Bones in August. Go, Hector!
Lacey:  55 miles LD
A newcomer to the sport, Lacey finished 1st in her second competition in the Mountain region.  Welcome, Lacey!
Shea: 55 miles LD
Shea also finished Bare Bones in August. Such a nice little mare.
Eli:  50 miles endurance
Eli blew an abscess last week, so he didn't get to compete over the weekend.  Feel better, Eli!

Private Time:  25 miles LD
A new horse to the sport, starting out with a nice solid completion at Foxcatcher.
Copper n Gold  25 miles LD
Another new standie in the NE region.  Those folks must be doing something right!

Stay tuned, of course.  The season isn't nearly over yet!


  1. I can't get past the 35 mile loop! Wow... I might have died.

    Still no info on Lista, but my interest is piqued now...

    Congrats on another fabulous ride :)

  2. Didn't know you were going for the Standi Endurance Championship! How cool is that? ! You can do it!

  3. You're awesome. I have more trouble than that doing a 5 mile trail ride.

  4. Aarene, I rode a lip-flapping calm Arab today. Thought of you: )

  5. Hope you and Fiddle are able to pick up the award! No info on Lista, though I am very curious.

  6. What do you mean, "Because my hip is failing fast, I asked people to trot my horse for the vet"... i thought you got that fixed for the better! anyway, congrats on finishing!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

    1. EV: The other hip and I have a date with the surgeon mid-November.


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