Wild West Ride
And The Many Shades of Green
Beautiful base camp after our completion.
I love this ride for many reasons:
1. The basecamp is located at Skillman Campground, which is a horse camp. There are a few corrals available, and if you want to pay extra money for one and sign up early enough, you can reserve one. I have done this the last few years.
2. The ride management, vets, volunteers, ride photographers, and everything else are A+.
3. The trails are lovely (mostly), and the scenery is outstanding. The location of the ride, on the Western side of the Sierra, is so green and lush, especially at this time of the year. The pine trees are very tall, and then there all the different levels and colors of the other greenery, as well as many flowering bushes and trees. There is also a babbling brook here and there. Much of the trails are in the shade.
Rio and I had a fantastic ride day on Friday, for the most part.
When we arrived at Skillman campground on Thursday afternoon and found our reserved corral, Peter noticed that the back of the truck and camper as well as the horse trailer were badly spattered with oil. He looked under the truck and realized that the oil plug had blown. For the entire time of our stay, Peter was very distressed about how he was going to arrange to fix the problem (without any cell service where we were as well). As usual, Peter was able to fix the problem, but man oh man, was he stressed out. I pretty much tried to not talk to him or dare ask for his help with the bad mood (understandably) that he was in.
The 55 mile ride started at 7 a.m. with 53 riders. We started in the top 10 only because I know that the first section of this trail, after the first few miles, is single track. I did not want to get behind anyone going slow. Rio is awesome at technical, single track trail. We cruised through it.
We finished the first 25 mile loop in 9th or 10th place, and Rio pulsed down to 56 and vetted out great back at ride camp with a one hour lunch hold. Rio ate great and drank well. Pete had taken the camper off the truck and went into town to see about getting it fixed before the ride started.
When we left for the second/final loop, there was no one in front of us or behind us. Rio is so great at going out alone. His impulsion, gait, and attitude were right on.
The second loop was not marked as best as it could of been, at least in my opinion. When we crossed the highway, I went the wrong way for about 7 minutes until I realized I was not on the correct trail. 15 minutes later, we were back on the right trail, but now there were 3 riders in sight behind me. They did not catch up to us until the water trough, and since Rio was now finally drinking a lot, I did not rush off. We all left together. Me and one of the other riders went a faster pace and took turns leading until we got to the steeper downhill section that goes to the second vet check. Rio is not a good downhill horse, especially on steeper down hills; his strength is UP hills. On this section, it was not a steep downhill, but the footing was bad. It was on the old freeway and with the old asphalt and pine needles, Rio was slipping at a walk. So, we walked this section. Many horses passed us. I would guess between 5 and 8. It was not my goal to try and top 10 this ride. I was just riding my ride with the goal of pacing my horse appropriately and enjoying the beautiful day riding my horse in such a spectacular place.
Vet check 2 is in a green, lush meadow. After vetting Rio through with even better vet scores then the first vet check, with Rio having a pulse of 48 and better hydration, we enjoyed our 30 minute hold. Rio drank well and gobbled down the green grass.
We left for home with someone in front of us, who we caught up with and rode with for some time. I did not ask to pass because she was not riding any faster than I would of been going if I was in front. Another rider caught up to us, and she did not want to pass either. At some point, I did ask to pass when safe, and Rio did his awesome uphill turbo trot, with no one in front of us. We caught up to 2 riders on a section of single track, but with plenty of safe space to pull over. I asked if I could pass when safe, and instead, they sped up. I was having to hold Rio back as they were not going the same pace as he was. I rode behind them for a minute or two a bit confused, and then I asked again if I could pass when safe. These two riders were awesome and had great sportsmanship. When I repeated my request, the front rider said that she thought that I had asked if they could speed up. We had a laugh. I would never ask someone to speed up, and they would of pulled over for others to pass when safe to do so if asked. We both agreed that neither of us were that rude of a rider. It was just a lack of communication. They pulled to the side, and Rio and I went on our way, passing a few more horses. Rio passed his last vet check, and then we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Peter was able to take the truck to Auburn on Friday to get the problem with the truck fixed and then come back to enjoy our night together at the campground.
I am finalizing this blog a week after our race. Friday, June 26, 2015. I have taken Rio out on 4 easy trail rides this week. In my experience, since Rio lives in a paddock, it works best to either take him out on the trail for 1 to 5 miles at a walk in hand or in the saddle at a walk/trot a few days a week after a race. It is good for his mind, muscles, and other body systems. It's best that all of us living beings move our bodies. Sometimes fast, other times slow. Moving helps everything flow better. Whatever pace you go.
I signed Rio and I up for Tevis after our successful finish. At this point, whether we finish or not, I feel confident that he is ready, at least to start this very challenging course. This will be our 4th start with 3 successful completions.