Friday, March 21, 2014

Endurance History: 2007 AERC Ride Highlights Part 1 Death Valley Encounter and Why I love XP Rides

 I did a lot of AERC competitions in 2007.  13 starts and 13 finishes, including two 100 mile endurance rides. I will be writing a few posts about my endurance riding experiences from this year.
Part I
12/30/06 Death Valley Encounter 50 (Day 3)
12/31/06 Death Valley Encounter 50 (Day 4)

Part II
2/3/07  Twenty Mule Team 65
2/17/07  Eastern Mojave Scenic Pioneer 50 (Day 1)
2/18/07  Eastern Mojave Scenic Pioneer 50 (Day 2)
3/07  AERC convention in Reno, NV.
3/17/07  Rides of March 50
4/7/07    Square Nail 50
5/12/07 Washoe Valley I 50
5/13/07  Washoe Valley II 50

Part III
 6/07   Tevis Educational Ride
7/28/07  Western States Endurance Ride (Tevis) 100
9/15/07  Virginia City 100
10/20/07 High Desert I 50
10/21/07 High Desert II 50

I have absolutely no photos that I took this year. 

12/30/06 and 12/31/06, Death Valley Encounter 50, days 3 and 4: 
The first time experiencing an XP ride and meeting Dave (the Duck) and Ann Nicholson,
And Why I Love XP Rides.
The Death Valley Encounter is one of the many XP rides put on by Dave Nicholson and his wife, Ann.  They are my favorite managed rides besides Tevis, and a few others. Dave is the head vet and head honcho.  Ann is the manager.  When I first met Dave, I was a little scared.  It was not so much when I did the pre-vet in, but the next day on the first vet check.  This was only my 5th AERC competition, and I was used to the vet cards being filled out with the vets giving my horse a "grade" of A's or B's.  It does not work that way with Dave.  After my first vet check experience with Dave, he commented something like "he's OK",  and that is what is marked on the vet card.  When I left from the lunch hold, I remember commenting to someone that I was worried that my horse was only "OK".  The person reassured me that that response was good/normal.  Your horse with Dave is either going to be "OK", or he's going to say something like, "I've got to talk to you about your horse".  After riding the two days of this ride, I decided that I thought that Dave was OK too. 
Dave is OK, but Ann is great!  She is so personable and positive and helpful and nice!  I have done many XP rides, and after this first ride, Dave and Ann remembered me.  They remembered my name!  They pretty much remember most riders names it seems.  I think when Dave remembers me, he is probably thinking something like, "Jennifer, that rider who rides her horse too fast."

Dave is actually more than OK.  I have learned a lot from him in what he wants XP riders to know and use, which is that we (riders) are responsible for our horses-not the vets, at rides.  Know your horse.  Know the indicators of when you need to slow down, etc.  Dave encourages riders to be better horseman and horsewoman.   I am fortunate to of gotten involved in XP rides with Dave and Ann from the beginning of my AERC endurance education.
Here are some of the reasons why I love XP rides:
1.   I have met most of my favorite AERC riders/friends on these rides.
2.   I especially love that the majority of the rides (that I have done) are one big loop with the vet check/lunch hold half way out.  This is my favorite type of ride, along with point to point.  Some rides come back to base camp for the vet check/lunch hold and then the second loop is different trail, but it is usually not more than 2 loops total with one vet check/lunch hold during the ride. 
3.  The atmosphere is very casual.  There is an emphasis in riding versus racing.  At the starts of the XP rides that I have done, we are all walking!  There are very few pulls on XP rides because most riders are riding conservatively. 
4.   The trails/rides are located in scenic, beautiful, historical places.

I rode the last 2 days of the Death Valley Encounter due to the fact that these were the only days I could ride due to work.  This is one of my favorite rides, and the only reason I have not done it every year since 2006 is either work related, or if my horse was injured.  It is only approximately 3 1/2 hours from where I board my horse in Bishop, CA., and the weather is usually pleasant in D.V. this time of the year (not always!).  There is also a great dinner provided on the last night, which is New Year's Eve, and then the awards for the four day competitors are awarded.  Then the party continues on until midnight to celebrate New Year's Eve for those that want to stay up that late. 

Here are some very good links regarding XP rides:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Endurance History: Our First (2 day) Multi-Day Ride and The Benefits of Post Margarita(s): High Desert I and II. October, 2006

At the end of October, 2006,  I entered and completed my first two day 50 mile endurance rides, the High Desert I and II near Lake Lahaton in Northern Nevada.  In AERC, a true multi-day ride (for awards purposes in the pioneer division)  is 3 or more days of riding.  However, I still consider riding 2 days in a row a multi-day ride-because it is.
I have no photos at all from this ride.  I do have the photos I purchased from the ride photographer, but I don't have a scanner to put them on my computer.  Maybe someday in the future I will get one. 

I will just post a few random photos since a blog without photos is not very interesting. 
OK.  I suppose I should at least keep it related to horses. 
Caartouche with neighbors at his previous summer/fall home.
Anyways, two highlights that come to mind regarding the High Desert I and II rides besides some general stuff.
1)   It was really cold for me camping with the camper shell.
2)   The first time I met and rode with Peggy Davidson and her horse, Dakota.
Prior to entering this ride and deciding if I wanted to ride 2 days, I spoke to my friends/mentors, Dick and Carolyn Dawson.  I wanted to ride 2 days versus 1 day, but I was not sure if my horse was up to it.  Their advise was that if you ride slow, a 2 day endurance ride will make a horse get stronger. 
The ride was at the end of October, and although the daytime temps were fair, the evenings and early mornings were freezing.  It also got dark early and since we were there for 2 nights, there was not a lot for Pete and I to do when the sun went down.  There was a really nice, large, hot campfire for the dinner and ride meeting, but that only lasted so long.  After the ride meeting, Pete and I went and hung out in the front seat of our truck with the motor running for awhile with the heat on.  I slept just fine; warm and cozy in my sleeping bag in the truck shell.
I don't have Peter get up to help me in the mornings, so he continued sleeping while I got up and took care of my horse and myself.  My crew bag, etc. and other organization had all been done the evening before.  I fed Caartouche (Rio).  The water in his water bucket had froze, so I dealt with that and put fresh water in.  We had a portable table set up with our camp stove, etc. on it.  I put some water in the kettle to heat up for my coffee.  I poured some milk in my cereal to eat, but the milk froze.  (I learned  after this that  a good thing to bring to eat for breakfast on cold mornings is instant oatmeal.)  I sat in the front of the truck drinking my nice, hot coffee while Rio ate his breakfast. 
I started tacking up Rio.  I put the saddle on him. When I went to put the breast collar on him, I had to unclasp the lead rope from the halter.  I had taken his halter half way off, but still tied to him because I would not be using it once I put the bridle on him.  Well, the first thing that happened is that the clip on the lead rope was frozen shut.  After fiddling with it for a few minutes, I started getting worried because it was time to start in about 5 minutes.  I went over to the shell and woke up Peter and asked him to come and help me because I was having trouble.  I went back to my horse, and I guess I had not tied the halter well.  He was nowhere in site.  I felt panicked.  Luckily, it only lasted about 10 seconds.  Someone was walking towards me with my horse.  He said, "your horse stopped at the first sign of a carrot".  Whew.  So scary for me. Not just because of my horse's safety, but I have heard of the damage that loose horses can cause to others.  But all was fine.
I really liked this ride.  Very nice, well marked trails with good footing in a historical and beautiful area, great dinners, volunteers, vets,  ride managers, and base camp.  Also, a lot of really nice riders.  On the first day, about mile 10 or so, I ended up riding with a woman, Peggy Davidson, as we were riding similar paces.  I ended up riding the rest of the race that day with her and her horse, Dakota, as well as the following day. 
It was sooo helpful for me riding with an experienced rider.  I learned a lot.  Peggy and her horse had won the AERC National Limited Distance award the previous year.  She explained the controversy regarding  the LD distance versus endurance distance with some AERC members.  Her purpose for riding as many LD rides as she did was to put a good base on him.  And boy did she.  She is one of the few people who compete on only one horse (mostly).  She does a lot of AERC rides, and she rides very conservatively.  She and her horse reached 5000 endurance miles last year!  One of the many great things about Peggy is that she is so open to help educate newbies like me. Plus she is also super fun to ride with.  I learned a lot about the importance of taking good care of our endurance horses as well as good trail etiquette to use while competing, among other things. 
I don't think that Peggy and I had planned to ride together the following day.  It just turned out that way.  The start was gnarly.  We had to cross the river.  It was so deep that we had to follow someone leading who would be leading us through the most shallow part of the river.  The water still came up past the horses bellies. I took my feet out of the stirrups and put them behind me on Rio's back so that they would not get wet.   The most difficult part was getting in the river.  It was a bit of a drop off.  By this time, my horse and I had experience crossing creeks in various conditions, but not with this kind of steepness to enter.  It took some coaxing to get my horse in.  Peggy was a few horses behind me, and when she saw my horse's hesitation she came up to where we were and went in front of us and entered the river.   Once she was safely in, she turned her horse around and waited for us.  This helped my horse.  He went in (hesitantly) and the rest of the river crossing was ok.  Pretty exciting actually.  This is what endurance is all about!
We had a great day and both of our horses finished successfully.  I was not nearly as sore as I was on my first 50, even though I had now rode 100 miles in two days. 
Oh-one more thing I learned.  A margarita or a beer (or both sometimes)  after completing a ride seems to help my body recover somehow.  It also helps to keep moving while I am having my first beverage:  Feeding Rio, organizing, cleaning, and putting away my tack, unpacking and putting stuff away from my crew bag and saddle bags, petting my dog, putting wraps on Rio's legs, walking him every 20 minutes or so, brushing him, etc.  Then I get myself cleaned up and change my clothes and sit down and enjoy my margarita and look and admire my awesome horse (with his mouth constantly in his hay bag chomping down like a good endurance horse-except for breaks to take long gulps of water, then back to the hay bag), who not only carried me on his back for 100 miles in two days, but also seemed to enjoy it as much as I did! 
I should also mention that besides the refreshing beverages, my favorite post ride snacks to eat that help to replenish me are celery and peanut butter, hummus with whole wheat pita bread, orange slices and watermelon.   I am a Very good water drinker, and drink (water) consistently throughout the day.  In warmer months, I ride most of my rides with my camelback on. 
Lastly,  after this ride, Peter decided we should research getting a camper for our truck.  And so the research began. 
So, that was it for our 1st year (starting in 8/06) of AERC competitions: 
1.  Eastern Sierra Classic 30 mile LD (Aug 2006)
2.  Camp Far West 50 (Sept 2006)
3.  High Desert I and II 50's (Oct 2006)


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Endurance History: Our First 50 Mile AERC Competition: Camp Far West. September, 2006.

I live in the West region and most of the AERC competitions that I do are in this region or in the Pacific South region.  

In my previous blog, I wrote about our 1st endurance competition, the Eastern Sierra Classic 30 mile LD, which was in August, 2006.  I was able to ride with an experienced endurance rider/friend, Megan Mulloney.  After that competition, I was mainly on my own as far as having a human riding partner.  Besides my horse, my other very important partner in my endurance journey has been my husband, Peter.  He has gone on every endurance ride with me, doing almost all of the driving (mainly because he does not like how I drive, even though I am not a bad driver) and crewing for me when needed. He now rarely crews for me, unless I am doing a 100 miler, because after my first 2 endurance distance races, I realized that I really did not need him to help me that much on 50 mile races. 

I moved up to the endurance distance of 50 miles the following month.  I entered and completed the 50 mile AERC ride, Camp Far West, in September, 2006.  Most of my ride stories from the past will be on the brief side since they were so long ago.

The only photo I have from our Camp Far West Ride.  
At the finish.

One of the things that I remember about this ride is that since I was riding on my own for the first time, I was afraid of going off trail so I made sure that other riders were always in site.  I did not join other groups; I just made sure I could see them ahead of me. Many riders passed me.   One rider did join me for a while.  About mile 7 or so someone caught up to me, and I asked if she wanted to pass.  She said no, and asked if it was OK for her to ride with us (my horse and I) because she liked the pace I was going.  I said, "of course".  She was a polite rider and gave my horse and I a lot of room.  One thing I learned from my first endurance ride the prior month, and riding with someone else, is that we took turns having our horses leading and following.  I asked the woman riding behind me to let me know if she ever wanted to take a turn leading, but she did not want to.  I just rode my own ride, trotting and taking walking breaks, and she followed my pace.   I now realize that some horses are better at following than leading.  I am fortunate in that my horse is great at leading and following.  He also does well when we are alone with no other horses in site.  I'm sure that this is due to the fact that 99% of our conditioning rides are done alone (except for the first 9 months when I was able to ride with my friend, Megan, and her horse).   I have since learned that horses get to relax a bit more when they are following another horse.  At the first vet check, my horse pulsed down ahead of the lady's horse we rode in with, so I left sooner than her on the next loop.  Still being afraid I would miss a ribbon and get lost, I made sure that I was within seeing distance to the 2 riders in front of me.  However, this only lasted for a few miles.  I had a faster pace then them, and I made the brave decision to pass them and hope that I would not get lost.  I did not.

We finished in fine form with a ride time of 6:50.  I went to the trailer and un-tacked Caartouche and cleaned him up and then took him for his completion check.  He passed just fine with a heart rate of 52. 

It is on this ride that I realized that I did not need Peter to help me crew so much in the future.  Because I was nervous about this being my first 50, I was an awful, demanding, Bitchy rider to my husband/crew.  I asked Peter just now how long did he think that behavior lasted because I thought I got better right away, and he laughed quite loudly.  He said I was definitely better after the first 50 miler, but the demanding behavior lasted for 3 to 4 years (this is my 9th year riding endurance).  One thing that I know that I changed after this ride, and Peter agrees, is that I am now very appreciative of his help.  In those first 3 to 4 years, I never asked him to meet me on an out vet check since I could pack my own crew bag.  However, I did want his help meeting me when I came into vet checks at base camp, as well as helping me to get my horse cleaned up sometimes at the end of a race.  

Now, 9 years later, I do 90% of the crewing myself (except the driving to and from the rides).  When we travel to rides that have access for motorcycling, Peter puts his motorcycle dirt bike either in the first horse stall in the horse trailer or on the rack in front of the truck.  I often won't see him until after I have finished my race.

In any case, I love that Peter goes with me on my competitions.  My dog, Hana, comes too.  (Except for Tevis.) 

Here is a photo of Hana and Peter inside our camper.  I will be writing about the purchase of our camper (March, 2007) in one of  my next blogs.  For the first 8 months, we camped/slept in the back of the truck shell.  I don't have any photos of us camping in the shell while on endurance rides.

A photo of Peter, Hana, and Caartouche on a later AERC ride. 
 After vetting through at the finish, I let my horse eat and drink and rest for a couple hours before heading home.  When I rode the 30 mile LD the previous month, I was hardly sore at all.  After this 50 mile race, I was so sore.  I was even uncomfortable sitting in the passenger seat with the seat as far back as it could go.  I had to crawl in the small back seat of the truck with my dog and lay down.  I can honestly say that that was the most sore I have ever felt.  One thing about doing a lot of endurance riding is that my body got really strong by riding consistently.  For the first 3 years I usually rode at least one endurance ride a month. 
We dropped Caartouche off where I board him, and I turned him out and let him roll before putting him in his paddock.  I checked out all his vitals again.  He had been eating, drinking, peeing and pooping regularly, so I went home feeling confident that he had recovered well. 
Yay-we did it.  OK.  What next?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Endurance History: Our 1st AERC Competition: Eastern Sierra Classic 30 mile Limited Distance

Our First AERC Competition:  Eastern Sierra Classic 30 Mile Limited Distance
Bridgeport, CA. 
August, 2006

In August, 2006, my horse, Caartouche, and I entered and finished our first AERC race, the Eastern Sierra Classic limited distance (30 miles) in Bridgeport, CA, which is practically in my backyard; about one hour drive time from where I live in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

I want to state my opinion regarding why I refer to AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) competitions as races versus rides. (Although I also refer to them as rides sometimes.) There is quite a lot of controversy among AERC members as to whether the competitions are races or rides.  I refer to them as races because of the fact that it is a timed event/competition.  Also, as I stated in my first blog, from my past experiences as a runner in distances from 10k's to marathons, when I entered a running competition (IMO) I am entering a race; not a run.  I am not racing to win because I am not that kind of a runner (fast).  I am a mid packer.  In my endurance competitions, my general finishing position is a front runner in the mid pack.

My first race was excellent.  The difficult part for me was the night before the race.  I had never camped with my horse, and he was tied to the horse trailer right next to a mare that my friend, Megan, would be riding.  These horses knew each other, but had never spent the night next to each other tied to a horse trailer.  I hardly slept.  We (My husband, Peter, and I), were set up comfortably to sleep in the shell of the truck, but I was so nervous I hardly slept.  I kept the back window of the shell open all night and regularly looked out to check on the horses.  They did just fine. 
Since this was my first race, Megan advised that we should wait at least 10 minutes to start, and we did.    Both  of our horses completed the race successfully in a ride time of  5:03.

Unfortunately, I did not take a lot of photos in my first 7 years of endurance riding.  The top reasons I love this ride:
1)  It is less than 45 miles from where I live.
2) VERY beautiful, mountain riding in the Eastern Sierras of California.
3)  The base camp is awesome:  green grass and a creek flowing on the property.
4)  If you do the 50 mile distance, it is 2 loops with different trails (figure 8)  with the lunch stop at basecamp.   The first loop is quite technical, but I like that.  Makes for a good endurance horse and rider team.   
5)   The second loop, which is also the LD loop, is technical in a different way.  It does not have as many rocks/boulders, hill climbs and hill descents as the first loop, but it has more creek crossings, bridges, and gate openings and closings. 
6)   There is good trout fishing.  There is a fishing contest as part of this ride for those not riding.  
7)   It is managed by Jackie Bumgardner and Gretchen Montgomery.  Jackie and Gretchen put on one of the best rides I have attended.  Well marked trails, great volunteers and vets,  nice awards, great dinner, but most importantly, a scenic, beautiful, technically challenging trail.

A few more photos I took.
Our set up

 Tacked up and ready to race
 After nearly 3000 AERC endurance miles, the Eastern Sierra Classic is still one of  my top 3 AERC rides, along with Tevis and the Bryce multi-day rides/races.  It was a great introduction/experience for me to the world of endurance competition and continued horsemanship.