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Thursday, August 29, 2013

50 miles faster

August 25th marked Dixie's 3rd 50 mile race this season. She truly was bigger, better, faster, and more prepared than any other race we have been to.  
Before heading to the race, we stopped off at a friends to help her prepare for her first 30 mile AERC ride and then loaded up in the trailer. Georgia is getting shoes on here, and stood perfectly quiet while the farrier banged away. Dixie and Georgia first met as 'wild ones' in my trailer February 2012. Yes, they were both Extreme Mustang Makeover selections! Obviously, we kept our horses after the competition (how could I have ever parted with my Dixie?!) and it was pretty cute to see them hop in the trailer together. 

After a few hours, we arrived and set up. Stories from riders that day came in "So beautiful, but SO HARD!" and "that was a TRUE 50!!!!" were heard often. Some rides do not actually measure up to the actual mileage they claim, but this one did! And hills, oh the hills. I thought we better get to bed right after the ride meeting so we were fresh in the morning!

The race started in a grassy meadow. I had recently switched Dixie to a hackamore at the suggestion of a woman who had done some accupressure work on her. Not having raced in one yet, I was hoping things would go smoothly. Once we took a few jittery laps around the meadow, she seemed to settle in. As the race began, we started near the front 10 or so riders. 

Immediately, you could tell they front runners were going to let their horses roll out some energy. I wanted to hold Dixie back and "save some horse" for later (we did have 50 miles!!!) so I started to let some distance between us go. Another woman, Cathy and her horse Baron were doing the same. 

Within the first 1/8th of a mile we had found a perfect match for our horses. 

Part of the race is certainly covering distance as quickly and safely as your horse will allow, but another part if just the sheer enjoyment of the ride. As we started talking, the trail seemed to melt away as we told each other our life stories. It is kind of like sitting next to a stranger on a plane! 

I was not sure we would be able to ride for the whole race until we came into the first vet check and saw how quickly they 'pulsed down'. If one horse was in much better shape, then one of us would be held back and undoubtedly our riding together would end. First vet check, 2 minute time difference, not bad. We decided to stick together. 2nd vet check, same time! We were rolling at a nice pace and both horses seemed happy. 

Dixie and me smiling for the camera. They tell you to spread out for the pictures, but Baron and Cathy are just in front of us :)

Coming into the finish together at a time of 2:05pm we took 6th and 7th place. We only passed one rider the whole ride. That means we must have 'pulsed down' quicker than other horses at the vet check. If you land in the top ten, you can show for Best Conditioned (BC). 

Dixie and I running the circle. The vet watches to see her movement and look for any signs of lameness. Everyone was clapping and yelling to get us excited, it worked and Dixie really moved out awesome! 

Post ride, Dixie watches as the rest of her competitors come back.

One of the best parts of the ride, was the vet card. At each stop the vet rates each function (hydration, impulsion, gut sounds, etc) with an A, B, C, D. It gives you an idea of how fatigued your horse is. Well, Dancing Dixie got ALL A's the WHOLE RIDE! I was so proud of my 'honor student'.

That was the real clue that not only is she fit to continue, but she is happy and willing. And that is the whole reason I began this crazy endurance journey to begin with! 

Thanks to Cathy and Baron for being such great traveling companions. We hope to see you at our next race! Thank you to the ride managers Cynthia and Forrest for an amazing ride. You can be sure we will be back to the next Mendocino Magic 2014 :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer is Over?!

Summer seemed to fly by so fast this year! I guess that is because we were busy having fun. Since the Tevis, we have had lots happen. I think I will let the pictures do the talking for once ;)

Napa Valley Horseman Mounted Shooting Clinic
Dixie watching all the action before we head in to try the pattern. 
We had a great turn out and a LOT of talent!

Dixie and I at Skyline for a nice training ride

Cross training in dressage

Great ride to Oakville Grocery with friends

Dixie and Merlin relaxing at lunch

Anthony and Capi seem to have made some progress ;)

The new fences being put in at Napa Horsemans

Dixie and Licorice playing in one of the pastures. Yahooo!

Our next big adventure is coming up and I will blog about it soon (promise!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Tevis

July 20-21 2013

The Tevis is known as the hardest endurance race in the United States. 100 miles in 24 hours from Tahoe to Auburn. 

Last year, I witnessed it as my first introduction to what 'endurance riding' was.  After seeing the physical work, heat, and risk I was was hooked. I still probably couldn't tell you why. 

Jennifer and Jenni coming into the check point

Fast forward to this year and (if you have been reading my blogs) you know my mustang Dixie and I have competed in some AERC events. We began last year when she was 4 with LD (Limited Distance) 25-30 mile rides. 2013 brought on the 50 mile competitions. She has 2 under her belt now.

Dixie's first 50 mile AERC ride

When it came time again for the Tevis ride, it was exciting to be asked to crew again for good friends Jennifer Waitte and Jenni Smith. Anthony and I headed to Auburn to help set up camp and prepare for the next 24 hours. 

If you followed the race, you would find many exciting stories, including both of our riders:

Jenni Smith's story was featured on Equisearch. Read it here.

Jennifer Waite's story was featured on the EasyCare blog. Read it here.

At this point, you may start to think our riders did fairly well to both be featured on websites (hint hint).

the girls!

Well, if you are still reading this far then I will tell you they did. But that is not really the story I can share with you. I wasn't out on the trail riding, I was crewing. Along with quite a few other dedicated individuals, we were committed to making our riders and their horses as well fueled and prepared to continue trucking through the wilderness to cross the finish line. 

With the help of technology, we were able to follow our riders through the race. Most of the dozen or so check points did not allow crew to be present. So, when they checked in with the vet, they had someone there to record the time they passed through and pass the info along to an app. We all became quite obsessed with the 'refresh' button seeing when and where our riders would show up. 

The few check points we were able to be at are always fairly chaotic. People are everywhere trying to find a spot for their rider, set up mini-camp, and then take care of horse and rider. If you are not there early to stake a spot, you are not going to have an easy time finding a spot once the riders come in. The phrase 'hurry up and wait' was a pretty accurate way to describe the event. 

Once our riders came in, we started to take the horses saddles off and cooling them down with water. The riders were given food, water, and a chair. It is so important to keep the muscles warm, so the horses don't cramp up. This meant walking the horse every 10 minutes during the 1 hour hold time. We took 2 people so one could walk the other horse while the other held food. Talk about multi tasking. These horses are no rookies. They had already competed in three 75 mile competitions and came in the top every time. They were used to the routine and quietly went along with everything. 

As they left, we hooted and hollered to cheer them on along with the rest of the crowd. We cleaned up the mini camp and headed to the next stop. And then back to 'hurry up and wait'. 

As darkness crept in, we could see (on our app) that our riders were in the top and that meant they would not be taking the full 24 hours to complete. The race starts at 5am and riders have until 5am the next day to finish. 

We waited with the crowd at the finish line. And waited. It was a little after 10pm. All of a sudden everyone started to cheer and make noise, everyone was squinting to see who it could be... 

a deer walking on the trail. 

False alarm. 

 It was so exciting, that any little movement sparked people to think the riders were arriving. Finally, first place flew in at a canter. It was Rusty, from EasyCare. We waited a little longer and then saw Jenni and Jennifer coming in together... 2nd and 3rd! We were so thrilled, the horses had gotten separated by 5 minutes at the last vet check, so we all assumed the 2 horse difference may not have been made up.

Seeing the 2 come into together was such a great feeling. The finishing rate for this race is less than 50%!

Now you may think that once the race is over the story ends, but really it was just getting started for us.
Again, we took the saddle off and start cleaning the horses. Since they finished in the top ten, they are eligible for the Haggin Cup (best conditioned award). 

This meant cleaning the horses, tack, and you thought because they finished at a decent hour sleep? Nope. In order to keep the horses muscles from getting tight we had to wake up every hour to walk them. Thank goodness it was not every 10 minutes! Fortunately all the dedicated crew worked together, so I only was up every other hour. 

Jenni and Stella showing for the Haggin Cup.

Like I mentioned, I still don't know why working so hard, being exhausted, sweaty, and tired is so much fun. But it is! The Tevis is once of my favorite experiences. Once it was all over, we headed home buzzing about our exciting weekend. It was hard to believe that it was only 24 hours. 

Thanks to Jennifer and Jenni for letting us crew for you. It was an unforgettable experience for everyone!