Monday, 7 June 2010

Owyhee Fandango - Riding Drag

Fandango website -

Saturday was a blur. The trail was two big loops for the 50's and two smaller loops for the LD's, with all the holds in camp. Much easier, and there was plenty of help (thanks!!!) so I spent the morning getting the results and registrations in order, and then drove out to check the new location of our farthest vet check on the 100 and 80 mile trail.

Rick and Carol (Lost Juniper Ranch) had already been to the Sierra del Rio Ranch vetcheck dropping off the portapotty (thanks!) as they made their rounds setting out and filling up water tanks. They do all of the water sets for the Owyhee rides now, its an incredible help, and relief to know that it will be done to perfection. The ranch vetcheck was ready to go. Those guys are amazing - they've been letting us invade this amazing historic ranch since the 2004 Abu Dhabi Arabian Nights - always welcome, fun, friendly - they set out tanks for us, open a huge pasture so horses can graze during their hold. Very special.

So I drove out to Celebration Park - perched along the Snake River at the north end of Guffy Bridge, this is Idaho's first Archeological Park. Many amenities and improvements - boat launch to the river, restrooms, water hydrants, picnic tables, well maintained trails down to some ancient boulders with petroglyph carvings. I drove up and walked around and found one of the park guys - explained what we were up to - and he said 'sure, no problem'. wow! we could set up water, horses, etc wherever we wanted. the only condition was to clean up the poop. Great news - I was prepared to set up at the end of the access road to stay out of the way of the park, but they actually welcomed us - people and horses alike. woohoo! So I marked all the turns on the way back to basecamp - checked the mileages - and we were set.

Back at camp, things were winding down. I was able to put the results together, do some new registrations till Bev got back from riding and taking care of her horse to help me out. Make up maps for Sunday, get awards together, have dinner, riding meeting, set up all the vetcheck volunteers, gear, etc to take out for the next day. John was back from his California trip, and Regina would be able to help during the ride - so things were looking good for help. And so many people and rigs and stuff to organize. do the start list for the next day and in bed by midnight!

I was pretty buzzed and awake though, millions of ride manager thoughts rattling around in my head. I planned to ride drag on the 80 and stay behind everybody until they made it back to camp - to keep an eye on horses and riders and be there if there were any problems with the trail - especially the technical section with boulders and tight trail before getting to the bridge crossing. I finally fell asleep around 1am, alarm set for 4:30, up an at 'em.

Lots of early activity - riders and horses warming up, loading gear into the vetcheck rigs, rider gear, tables, chairs, timing stuff, lunches, bug spray, etc etc. Thing were looking good. John set off on the quad to pre-ride the trail in front of the riders, the 80's and 100's started, the rigs were loaded and ready to go, and it was time to start rounding up my horse and stuff for the day and vet card... uh oh! In the craziness of the previous day and night I totally forgot to vet my horse in :) Fortunately Robert hadn't left for the ranch yet and I gave myself a card and number and got him vetted in - just in time!

I finally set off after everybody had departed for the ranch vetcheck and before the 60 milers were scheduled to start. Just me and Jaziret on the trail, a perfect morning - sunny and fresh and really beautiful. Just as I was headed down the road Merri came driving behind me - Naomi's horse had tied up and she was out at the highway crossing needing a ride back to camp. So we dispatched Rick and Carol with the pokemon trailer to go get her. She was still waiting at the highway crossing radio checkpoint - disappointed but cheerful. bummer.

I arrived at the ranch about 10 minutes after the last arrivals - Trish and Carrie - both doing the first 80 mile distance for both them and their horses. They were taking it easy! Everything was running smoothly at the ranch, no pulls. I set off shortly after Trish and Carrie and tried to stay behind them, tho my horse thought it was a dumb idea. I finally caught up with them as we dropped down to the river, and we just rode together from then on - Jaziret is a great lead horse and he helped set a nice steady pace. It was actually a lot of fun riding with them - the horses did very well together and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery along the river.

The russian olive and black locust trees were blooming - the air was sweet with their scent. Tons of grass, wildflowers, the river was a bright blue - sunshine, warm but not hot. just perfect! Until we got to the boulders :)

I've ridden lots of terrain like this before, it's no big deal to me - but Carrie and Trish were not thrilled. We got through it - lots of 'I'm not happy about this' commentary, but they did fine. Just plugged their horses right behind Jaziret and followed his lead. The trick to this kind of technical trail is to trust the horse to find the best way - they have four good legs and generally know how to use them better than we do. If the horse isn't rushing and the rider isn't confusing it with too many instructions, then it's no big deal. One thing about Trish and Carrie - they always keep a good sense of humor and sporting spirit. They were VERY glad to have a guide though!

It was absolutely spectacular along this stretch of trail - green and lush, the river was sparkling blue, sections of rapids, dozens of white pelicans perched on rocks, skimming the surface. Geese, ducks, and quite a few weekend campers too! We would our way out of the technical trail and dropped down to the water set where another group of ham radio folks were set up. They had installed an extra tower so they could communicate with the radios over at Celebration park - I wanted to make sure that if there were any problems getting through the boulders we could get a quick solution. They greeted us with water bottles, and a smile and a 'boy, there were some unhappy riders about those boulders' .. that was my first uh-oh sinking feeling. 'yes, one of the horses fell, some riders said it was fine, some said it was dangerous' ... uh-oh.

We had another 3 or 4 miles to the vetcheck, I wasn't looking forward to it as much as before. We crossed the bridge (I love this bridge) and walked over to the park. Warm, sunny, busy, well-run, nice set-up, lots of people showed up to help - it was really nice there...but there were three pulls for lameness! oh crap. And while I was there during the one hour hold there was yet another pull. A few of them were very minor, but the riders decided at the suggestion of vet Michael Peterson, to go ahead and withdraw rather than ride back across the boulders, 25 miles to the ranch vetcheck, and too risky if there was a problem that might be aggravated by more work and miles. There were five lameness pulls out of the 24 riders that made it to the park. Four in the 100, and one in the 80. And that was pretty much it for the day - one more 100 mile pull back at the ranch. It was not a horrendous completion rate for a 100 mile ride - 16 starters, 10 finishers. 7 out of 8 finishers in the 80. But it sure was horrible at that vetcheck.

We finished our hold and set back out for the boulders. This time it was no big deal for anybody, even Trish and Carrie said it wasn't that bad. It was still pretty riding back up the river, but I was not in such a euphoric mood! We made pretty slow progress back to the ranch, letting the horses graze along the trail quite a bit. Alternating walking and trotting. It was still nice riding with Trish and Carrie - the horses were doing well - good spirits, still moving nicely.

Back to the ranch, a nice long hold, pasture to graze the horses on. Everything was getting packed up there, ready to be gone as soon as we were. The horses were feeling the heat, but still looking good. 15 miles back to camp. what time is it? will we finish before dark?? No problem - it cooled down quite a bit as the evening approached. The horses came in looking fine - a bit hot and tired, but easy completions.

The last of the 100 milers were out on the trail, some had finished, no more pulls! Pretty mellow in camp, dinner going out back, volunteers running the show, the vets were getting pretty tired but hanging in there. John was heading out to put glowsticks on the trail for the night riders. These 100's are a lot of work!! And I was totally whooped. Exhausted mentally and physically. We didn't get the awards done that night, many riders picked up their stuff and went home and everybody else was too busy or gone. I totally crashed around 11pm. Tried to stay up for the 100's but simply couldn't keep my eyes open or my brain awake. I fell asleep with my clothes on and that was that. THANK THE GODS FOR THE VOLUNTEERS who stayed up to the end. And Robert Washington who stayed up to vet the last riders. (and played guitar around the campfire with our fiddle playing friend Andy from New Hampshire). And thanks to the radio guys who compiled the results all day and keep communications open. They are all worth their weight in gold!

I had set my alarm for 6am (knowing I'd never wake up without it) so I could put the results together and get organized for awards. We had a nice buffet breakfast and awards in the morning - quite a few stayed around. It was all a bit of a blur for me, but we got it done! I really really enjoyed the ride this year. First time in a long time that it wasn't FEI (which I will never do again) - and it was so much more relaxed and enjoyable. I was able to do better trails (less fret about fast courses and technical stuff and officials and all that stuff) and the riders were just a wonderful group! It was tons of work, but all work I enjoy.

Today (or maybe tomorrow) I'll go back to the river and pull ribbons. Most of the trail is already cleared - Tom cleared the Whiskey Traverse, Andy and Pati have been exploring the Owyhee country on the quad and pulling ribbons, Merri and Karen and Connie have been pulling ribbons from the cross country trail. I did all south trails yesterday. Result are done, some awards left to mail, some cleanup left to do... and then. aaahhh... summer.


Gallery of photos from the ride -

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