Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 AERC Ride Season: Wild West Pioneer Ride, Tahoe National Forest

Wild West Endurance Rides
June, 20, 21, 22, 2014
Tahoe National Forest

Cantering Photo Opp
(photo by Gaylor/Bore)
 This is one of my favorite rides that I try to attend every year (when my horse is not rehabbing from an injury).  It is located in the Tahoe National Forest in the Northern part of California near Nevada City and Grass Valley, CA.  The base camp is at Skillman Campground, which is a horse camp!  It is limited to 100 entries because  the campground has limited camping.  There are a few horse corrals at the camp, and if you pay extra and send your entry in early enough, you can get one of the corrals.  I have done this 3 times in the past, including this year.  Normally when I camp with my horse at AERC competitions, I have my horse, Rio, tied to the trailer, so it is nice to pay a little extra for the use of a corral, which is located right next to where I am camping. 
I was signed up to ride 2 of the 3 days, and I had planned on riding 55 miles on Friday and 50 miles on Saturday.  Rio vetted in fine on Thursday evening, and I visited with various friends after the ride meeting.  We were camped next to super nice people, Heather and Steve, and their 3 horses. 
Saturday ended up being a stressful day for me.  We started the ride out fine.  The weather was warm at about 85 degrees, and the first loop was about 30 miles with a one hour lunch hold at base camp before heading out for the last 25 mile loop. Rio had not drank the first loop, which is normal for him.  After pulsing to criteria, I took Rio back to his corral to untack him and let him eat and drink some before taking him through the vet check.  After taking Rio's tack off and cleaning him up a bit, I was waiting to watch how many gulps of water he drank before I went into our camper to get myself cleaned up. Rio was acting strange.  He would look down at the water, but not drink.  He started eating his hay, which was next to his water in a hay bag that was level with his head.  I went and used the restroom, and I asked my husband, Peter, to let me know how much water he drank.  Through the window of the camper, I saw Peter filling up a bucket with water and bringing it up for Rio to drink.  Rio drank and drank and drank from the raised bucket.  When I took Rio to the vet check, he would/could not bend his head down to the ground to eat the hay that was on the ground there while we were waiting in line.  This was not normal for him.  We vetted out just fine, and I took Rio back to finish his lunch for the remaining hold time, and he was still not able to put his head down to the ground.
I started worrying so much that I started feeling sick.  When my hour hold was up, I went and talked to the head vet, Melissa Ribley.  I told her what was going on with Rio, and I advised that  I was going to take an extra hour or two before deciding if I wanted to continue or not.  Rio ate and drank great, but I had to bring the water up to him to drink. 
I decided to Rider Option (RO) out and not continue.  It was a RO because Rio was not lame in any way as far as the vet judging goes, and his metabolics were great as well.  My thoughts were that if my horse can not bend down to drink the rest of the ride without me bringing a bucket of water up for him to drink from, then he could of/most likely would of, developed a metabolic problem.  I do have a collapsible bucket that I could of brought with me on the rest of the ride to use for water, but I just did not feel right taking Rio back out for 25 miles with this very bizarre neck issue that he was experiencing.   
After making that decision, I was able to relax.  I took a shower, drank a beer in the sunshine and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon.  I was scheduled to ride 50 miles the next day, but I had decided that unless Rio's neck problem worked itself out, that I would not ride the next day either.  I went ahead and vetted him in for the next day's ride.  This time the vet was Rob Lydon.  I told him what was going on with my horse and advised that even if Rio's vet check was fine, I would not be riding the next day unless he was able to bend his neck/head to the ground by the next morning.  Rio vetted out fine with all A's, and then Rob asked if he could do a few adjustments on him to see if it would help his neck.  I normally have body work done on Rio, but not as much as I would like to.
Whatever Dr. Lydon did, it helped.  Rio was able to bend his head to drink out of his water bucket as soon as I walked him back to the corral.  The next morning, I got up early to feed Rio his breakfast with the intention of riding that day, but I had decided to have the vet recheck his gait and impulsion before making my final decision.  A's on both.  I tend to over worry.  Since I finally felt good about riding 50 miles with Rio on Saturday, I decided to not worry and enjoy the day, and man,  did I enjoy the day.
(photo by Gaylor/Bore)

The trail that day was spectacular.  Lots of single track that winds around and around, with big pine trees providing shade, and a lush forest floor with ferns and other beautiful greenery.  I normally do not ride with others for that long of a time, but after about 5 miles or so, I ended up riding with Gretchen, who I have known since I started endurance in 2006, and her friend Nick, for the entire ride.  It was a nice change and good company for Rio and I.  Rio and I were going slower than usual (we finished 2 hours later than the last time we rode the same trail 2 years previously), because I was being cautious because of Rio's neck issue the day before.  The 2 vet checks and holds were out of camp, which I prefer, but when we headed for home, Rio knew it.  I think we had about 12 miles or so to go, and I did not let Rio lead.  I put him in the back or the middle of us 3 riders, which he is normally fine with.  Well, not that day, or, that section rather.  I guess his muscle memory was remembering that he had flown home in the past on this section, and he was being totally obnoxious and fighting me to go faster and not looking where he was going, which is what he needed to  focus on because it was a technical, single track, twisty, turney, trail with lots of tree roots sticking out.  I think Rio hit his front hooves on every tree root on the trail.  We got to a water stop about 4 miles before the finish, and after the horses had a drink and we took off, Rio was completely lame on his right front.  I told Gretchen and Nick to go ahead because Rio was so off that I thought I was going to have to walk him home the rest of the way.  They watched Rio trot and could see that he was lame, but they saw that he had lost a shoe.  He must of just lost it, because he was fine until the water stop. 
Nick saved the day by lending us his Easyboot that just happened to fit Rio.  For the first 3 or 4 years, I always brought an Easyboot with me on my rides in case Rio lost a shoe.  In the 9 years of competing in endurance, this was the first shoe Rio had lost.  I will now be taking my Easyboot with me again on all future rides!  Not only did Nick loan me the Easyboot, he put it on Rio for me as well. 
It was a privilege riding with Nick and his horse, Donny, that day.  Nick is one of those A+ endurance horse people who I have heard about.  He is very experienced, knowledgeable and helpful.  I have extra respect for people who ride mainly one horse, since that is my situation, and Donny is the one/main horse that Nick has competed/rode for many years.  They are almost a decade team with many accomplishments.  I hope they get the AERC Pardner's Award some year.  They are a great team.
Once Rio had the Easyboot on, he was sound to continue the last 4 miles.  After finishing, I waited about 20 minutes before taking Rio to the final vet check so that he could eat and drink.  When I wait a while before vetting, Rio always has better gut sounds.  He vetted out with all A's,  accept his trot out, and a heart rate of 48.  He got a B on his trot out because he took a few bad steps on his front right, even though the Easyboot was still on.  I explained to Dr. Lydon what had happened and that I wasn't riding the next day. We received a succesfull completion!
I am not too good at the selfie photo with a horse.  
Not even cleaned up yet after the finish, but I look glowingly happy if you ask me. 
Rio cleaned up and fed etc. first, and then made to pose. 
Rio looks more like a Quarter horse that an Arabian. 
His nice corral at the Wild West Ride.
Our horse camp set up at Skillman Campground.
We had some hiccups on this ride, but overall it was a successful ride weekend.  The one thing that I still do not understand is what caused Rio's neck issue.  He had drank the night before.  Did he sleep on it wrong? Well, whatever it was, luckily, it worked itself out, with the help of Dr. Lydon.

 My shoer was able to come out a few days after we got home and reshoe Rio. 

I highly recommend this ride.  Besides the beautiful area and excellent trails, the ride managers, Melissa and Robert Ribley,  have managed this ride for many years and it is very well organized including great volunteers, vets, well marked trails, potluck dinners, ride photographers, nice completion awards, and even live music!  There is also a really nice catered dinner on the last night. 
Our next AERC competition:  The Western Sates Endurance 100 mile ride/race (Tevis Cup), August 9th, 2014.
Captain Shack!  Michael Shackelford and Miss Independent/Missy.
Successful three day horse and rider team.

Endurance youth at the 2014 Wild West Ride.
Trees at basecamp.  I love this ride!