Monday, May 4, 2015

NV Derby - 4th-5th April

NV Derby - 4th-5th

Took Fergus and Roo over to Washoe Valley for this ride and planned to ride both days, regardless of weather. I just don't care. Stamping feet. Etc.

Approaching the ride date, the weather began to deteriorate and I concluded that whilst I might be able to get home on Monday morning in the truck, I wasn't comfortable dragging the trailer in snow. Accordingly, Renee kindly offered to house the pones at her house in Reno for the week should it be necessary to leave them in NV. I'd come back the next weekend and fetch them - a PITB, but I really wanted to do the ride.

As it turned out, the weather was fine and clear come Monday morning. I left ridecamp at 8:45, met pft in Auburn to switch the rig-n-pones for a commute car, and was at work and showered* by noon.

(* necessary, given three days of crud accumulation).


The ride went really well. Saturday was the first ride of NASTR Triple Crown (Fergus is "up" this year) and I'd planned to move out a little with him, rather than dawdle and dilly-dally. It "sort of" worked. Biggest problem was dealing with a shrieking Roo at the trailer - and the responding bellows from Fergus.

We rode the first loop with neighbor Becky who we'd trained with a little, so I knew she knew what sort of pace Fergus could do if I let him and wouldn't have to feel guilty (note this happens pretty rarely - the "letting him move out" part). Most of the time I'm super conservative, but I just wanted to see what happens if I let him get on with it.

Wild mustang herd out by American Flat
One interesting section was riding through the crappy rocks under the power lines. Ordinarily I'd insist that he walked these sections, but at one point found ourselves trotting along while realising that we should be walking. I was about to pull him up when I realised he was actually doing a really tidy job of not tripping on the rocks, or standing on them and taking funky, lame-making steps. He did such a nice job on that crappy section that his technical abilities went up in my estimation. Not sure why I thought he was clutzy, when I think back to how well he did in the dark during Tevis last summer, but I'm really starting to trust him not to do something stupid when it comes to travelling at speed over uncertain footing.

Every time we came into camp, Fergus would be bellowing frantically for Roo and I'd have to take him to the trailer and let them breathe in each other's faces for a minute or so before we could proceed to the vet check. Luckily I was parked at the end of the trot lanes, so in Fergus' case, this worked OK - at least I could get a pulse on him, although I did bring Roo along for the first PnR.

Parked at the end of the trot lanes - good and bad.
But main conclusion - excellent spot.

Becky decided to hang back a little for the second loop, so we went out alone. Despite my best efforts I was still nearly 10 mins late leaving the lunch check - just not enough minutes in an hour hold to get Fergus, Roo, and me squared away. This second loop was very intermittent, pace-wise. I've been trying to get more consistent about pacing with Fergus, but it does require the cooperation of said horse, which I didn't have with Mr Misery, out there with no friends, in the desert, alone... He basically bellowed for about 30 miles which was quite dull and I confess to resorting to whacking him with my rommel every time he did it - which made not the slightest bit of difference.

But he did good. We rode on and off with the riders around us, but mostly on our own, trotting along, bellowing.

Windy on top of Sand Hill. Washoe Lake looking pitiful in the background
Biggest excitement was—after promising Gina Hall that I'd appreciate Ophir Grade better—being rewarded with finding a 100-year old oxen shoe just lying there on the path. Saddest moment was realising there was no way I'd be able get back on Fergus if I got off to retrieve it, and so having to disappointingly leave it there (actually secretly scared that it was really just a chunk of rusty metal - which I knew is what it'd turn out to be if I slithered off and then spent the next two miles on foot, looking for a mounting block). And bigger excitement was discovering that Gina and Dave had also spotted it on the trail behind me - and they were off on foot, so picked it up - and after bitter whining during the awards, she gave it to me. Thanks Gina!

Ophir Grade, near where I found my oxen shoe

Oxen shoe!

Coming in on loop 2 across the park, I could tell that Fergus was getting a little tired of continuous trotting and although we stalked a couple of riders on the trail (I look at my watch when they are next to a certain bush or some other landmark, then see how long it take me to get there - thus how far they are in front of me - and later, do it again to see if we're gaining). I opted to ask him to keep trotting, but not to push him. Just as well - turns out the two riders were a loop ahead of us and going in to the finish, while we still had a third loop to complete.

On the last loop - the 6-7 miles around the park, he'd really lost interest and was very miffed at having to leave Roo once again. Again, we were out of the hold 5+ mins late due to having to juggle Roo, Fergus and my needs on the half-hour hold. Hey ho. I tried. More enthusiastic riders passed us (they were in a pair, so their horses were all happy - not all alone and likely to die out there, like Fergus would. least until we turned for home again) and we never caught them - again, I opted to ask him to trot, but not to push it.

All in all, he coped very well with the extra non-dawdle pace. Vet Marcia Smith thought she spotted "something" on his LF at his final trot out. Given his tendency to skip when he goes into the trot, I never know if he's genuinely showing something (and thus should bite my nails and obsess over it)(which you know I am, secretly, anyway), or if they're just seeing that skip. He is a big horse, with a big trot and doesn't show well (unlike horses with more moderated, low-energy gaits) if he loses motivation, so that could also be it. Either way, I immediately pulled his boots (easier said than done - yes, that is my horse standing over there with several yanking/poking instruments sticking out of his footwear and me getting redder in the face from wrestling with them) to make sure that wasn't causing the problem, but no, they seemed fine, with minimum amount of sand in the fronts (the glued ones) and quite a bit more in the backs (non-glue), but seemingly not enough to cause any problem.

Bundled him and Roo into their blankies, spent some time blankly trying to figure out why his Equisleeve socks weren't in the trailer before I flashed to them hanging up "to dry" (for the last six weeks) in the mud room after they came home filthy from 20MT. I ended up putting Uno's purple ones on him - these are the next size down, but went on fine (it even felt like they went on easier than usual? Maybe because I'd taken his boots off) and seemed to not cause any over-compression.

Uno's purple sleevies, Fergus' filthy blanket. Fashionable horse about town.

And our non-dawdle pace paid off, with a 25th place finish out of 70-something riders - admirable, considering how much time I lost not getting out of the holds on time.

Wheee - love riding this horse!

Sunday was Roo's turn.

My morning wasn't quite as relaxed as hoped - probably because I had to spend several hours mucking the elephant horse, but I got Roo's clothes on and was about to get on when I realised guiltily that I hadn't eaten anything. So there I was, doing a speed-stuff of half a banana into my face, when I noticed the clasp on the snap on Roo's zilco halter was broken and sticking out at right angles. Hmm, not good. I assume he rubbed it on the trailer. Decided to try and push it back into place rather than remove bridle, halter, find a new halter and put everything back on. And right as I was frustratedly pushing on the snap without success and thinking I'd have to do that anyway, it popped back into place. On I hopped and we were off, leaving the bellowing Fergus in our wake (clearly, leaving from the opposite side of the trailer from Fergus wasn't the cloaking device I'd hoped it would be).

Apparently I hadn't really planned this out properly, since I hadn't made any arrangements to ride with anyone, which is the kiss of death with Roo. The first part of the ride crosses the park on the wide sandy road. Roo stopped dead before we even got to the number-taker, then spooked at the water trough at the start line, then proceeded to weave drunkenly at the trot for the first half mile. We caught some walking-riders, he didn't look convinced, so we trotted on until we caught the next pair - who turned out to be Dave and Connie! Yay! Good company! And we rode with them for the rest of the day.

Weather coming in over the Sierra from California to the west

At the top of Jumbo Grade

Starting down the long descent

The biggest thing that concerned me riding with them is both their horses have a super-fast walk, while Roo's walk is... well... not fast. Not even medium. We'll call it "slow". So we'd follow along, shuffling-trot at regular intervals to keep up. Then I remembered that Roo had followed Shardonney through much of Virginia City 100 in September - so I knew he could deal with the pace (and this was half the distance).

Connie and Dave's trot-pace was a little slower than Roo thought we ought to be going, so I was having to hang on to him more than was comfortable to stop him tailgaiting, so when we got to the water trough out by American Flat and he was having a "go in front" moment, I let him trot on ahead of them for a mile or so. I knew his gung-ho attitude wouldn't last, but hoped that if I let him move out a little, he'd settle better and I'd be able to ride him on a loose rein as per usual. It worked perfectly - except for the part where him going on ahead upset Shardonney, so she was pulling on poor Connie. Sorry Connie.

With the weather coming in from the west (I was totally overdressed in every item of clothing I'd brought for the weekend - just in case), it had been windy when we started out, but nothing like what hit us as we started to head west again. We got absolutely blasted full-on so hard my sinuses began to hurt from the pressure. My nose ran constantly and any attempt at conversation was a waste of time.

All along this section we saw many small herds of wild mustangs, including one that was standing in the middle of the trail  right in front of us, and went galloping off across the rough ground, leaping boulders as it went. Pretty cool.

Trudging up Goni Rd (remote road that leads up to the cinder pit quarry), I told Connie about how one year there was a guy up there digging in the dirt in a really peculiar way and I was convinced he was burying a body. Connie, in turn, told me the story of her husband having actually found a body up there (someone who'd shot themselves). Euw. Spooky.

Unfortunately, this loop came in from the opposite direction to my trailer, and I foolishly attempted to PnR Roo without first grabbing Fergus. I don't know why I bothered. He was up at 80, yelling at Fergus, who was cheerfully bellowing back from the other side of the trot lanes. Finally I gave up, went and fetched Fergus and had to juggle them both in the PnR area. Pulse now down, the vet secretary and the vet (Rob Lydon, I think?) kindly held Fergus for me while I ran Roo up and down.

Roo munching in lunch in windy camp

Of course, because of our delay, we were now five mins behind Connie and Dave for our out-time, but they kindly agreed to wait for me, letting their horses eat hay at the out-timer. When you're juggling things on your own, you've no idea how little kindnesses like these add up to making the day a fun one, instead of an exercise in frustration. Thanks guys.

Loop 2 sets out along the edge of Washoe Lake - in its current sad state of drought. I was looking back at photos from past years here and it's so sad to see the expanses of dry dusty silt.

Paralleling East Lake Blvd.
(I fell off UNO here one year :)  )

Washoe Puddle :(
Roo managed the climbs admirably (bearing in mind he is not a hill horse by any stretch of the imagination and given the choice, I wouldn't have picked the Cinder Pit day for him. Alas, with Fergus doing Triple Crown this year, he had to do Day 1, and I'm trying to get Roo to 2000 miles, so he had to do "A Day" - whichever one was left over). We got to the top of the Cinder Pit without embarrassing us, although sadly, my yellow sponge went walkabout somewhere on this stretch - all the was left was an empty scissor snap. I think that makes three sponges I've now lost without trace. :(

Coming down the other side, I marvelled at just how fast Dave Rabe can walk on foot. There's no way I could keep up - and I wasn't hanging around. Connie didn't even try and hopped back on Shardonney who has a super-fast walk, so I was having to scuttle to stay ahead of her.

View from just below the Cinder Pit

Dust blowing on the lake, far below
The last loop around the park went without incident - my non-stop trotting abilities are reaching new heights as I can just about go for 6-7 miles now without suffering too badly. Good skills for me and the pones. 

And most amusing was discovering at the finish that we'd top-tenned the ride. Admittedly, there were only 21 or so starters, but it was still fun - a first for Roo and I both. 

Stinking cute as usual
Back at camp, with the weather starting to pile over the Sierra in earnest and it starting to lightly snow, I got Roo's boots off, his sleevies on, large quantities of food installed in front of him and Fergus (I bring many pre-filled hay bags, so just have to keep hanging a fresh one as they empty), big blankies on both, and was out cold by 8:30 p.m. I almost slept for 11 hours straight (can you say "tard"?), except for being woken from a deep stupor at around 10:30 when the side door on the horse-part of the trailer blew open. I don't like to completely latch the doors on the trailer when I'm camping in case I need to make a getaway (have a walk-through door to get into the rear of the trailer) and prefer to have as many exit options as possible - and this one had blown open in the fierce wind. I struggled up, got it bungeed shut from the inside, and after a quick glance at my good, hard-working boys (half-asleep in front of their hay nets), I clambered back into my nest again.

The morning brought bright sunshine, ice on the water buckets, and a wonderful drive back over the Sierra, admiring the fresh snow on the mountain tops. Hard work - but oh, so worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Well done, you! You have such unique and cool steeds and are a rider I hold up as an example of perseverance and success.