It’s been radio silence around here for a little bit. Work has been crazy, and I had a few pony plans in the works that I didn’t want to jinx.
The TL;DR version: Confetti and I went north to Cuneo Creek, rode our first 50, and completed in fine spirits.
This really was a “it takes a village” sort of ride. It took three different trailers and four trailer rides (one of which I wasn’t even there for – my boyfriend is thankfully very supportive!) to get Confetti there and back. I could not have even gotten to the ride were it not for the kindness of a semi-local rider who was willing to haul us up and back, someone I’d met only in passing prior to this ride.
I didn’t ride very much the week prior to hauling up. It’s not that I wasn’t planning to ride, but between ride prep and work I simply ran out of time to ride more than a few minutes once or twice. Taper: unintentionally accomplished.
Confetti got her fall ride clip the weekend before we left. It’s been hot here, she’s got a lot of hair, and I know she can be tough to pulse down at checks. I took off more from her neck than I have in years past and feel absolutely no guilt about it. She’ll grow plenty back by the time it gets even remotely cold.
|Clipped pony and tested boots prior to ride.|
I rasped all four feet, with extra focus on the right front, slightly less than a week before the ride. At the ride, she was about six weeks out from her last farrier-trim, if I’m remembering correctly.
I have been saying for how long now that I won’t ride a 50 in my Thorowgood? Well. The Eurolight has still not shown up on my doorstep. Three (fixable) things bothered me at Wild West: the seat wasn’t quite cushy enough, the stirrups had no give and no relief, and the Webbers rubbed my calf just a bit. In the interest of not spending too many fortunes, and being awfully short on time, I ordered new stirrups a week and a half prior to the ride and rigged up my little-used endurance seat cover to go on the dressage saddle. First test: one moderate-speed short ride Saturday after they arrived. Second test: one short but fast ride the Tuesday before we left. At least I rode in it first!
I nearly borrowed stirrup leather covers, but then decided not to risk adding additional bulk under my legs without a really good test. The last time I added leather covers to the Specialized and did a long ride, I flared up my knee. It could be made workable eventually, but whether it would work on the first try felt like too much of a risk.
New helmet was purchased and tested once or twice prior to the ride. New Salamander visor was attached to helmet the night before we hauled north to the ride and completely untested.
At Camp, Pre-Ride
Per usual, Confetti hopped off the trailer and dove for the nearest pile of hay. That’s my pony! We hand-walked around camp, checked in, chatted with folks, and were suitably demoralized by a rider camped near to us who kept reiterating what a tough ride it is and how hard it would be. Folks: this is not how you encourage new riders, new 50 riders, or riders trying to make a comeback to the sport. The attitude was along the lines of ‘you’re going to have an awfully hard time and probably fail, but enjoy the scenery!’ If I did not have several years of successful near-turtle LDs, that would have been super depressing. As it was, it was just mind-boggling and we finally wrote it off as someone a bit crazy.
|Haflingers spend all their time in camp eating.|
I managed to not forget anything important (actually I’m not sure I forgot anything at all), unpacked, settled in, and finally went to put the Renegades on to vet in. Right to left, per usual.. three boots went on well, the left front didn’t fit quite right but with a little adjusting it seemed OK, if not as good as usual. I decided that since it was the boot that always stays on, it would be fine.
Confetti vetted in with all As and a 44 pulse. Good mare! We chatted more with various positive folks, handed off donations for the Valley Fire, and managed to talk my way into riding with Cyd and Bugsy the next day. One of my big concerns with doing a 50 was finding someone else to do a nice, slow, turtle-type ride, and knowing the night before that we found a new friend to ride with at least at the start was incredibly reassuring. I opted not to pre-ride, but lunged her in a few circles to knock off a bit of excess energy. I knew my nerves would just amp her up more and it would take 6-8 miles to make any noticeable difference in her sanity level, something I wasn’t willing to do before a 50.
It was surprisingly and refreshingly uneventful. We started a few minutes after most of the 50-milers (a nice leisurely 7am start!), hand-walked our way out, and convinced Fetti we were just going for a leisurely trail ride. The biggest problem I had was my mounting anxiety flared right back up, I haven’t practiced much lately, and it took a half-mile of hand-walking and a creek crossing before I actually made it up on the pony. Things to work on, indeed. Halfway through the first loop or so, the front left boot came off. I swore, hopped off, retrieved it, and stuck all the parts in the saddlebag. I opted to leave the front right on mostly as an exercise in seeing how long that blasted right boot would remain on the hoof. We moseyed our way through the rest of the first loop, trotting some, walking some, and casually wandered our way into the vet check.
|Singletrack through the trees. Gorgeous, but lighting was tough on the phone.|
|Wider downhill non-forest trail.|
Fetti pulsed down in all of three minutes despite me not walking her in the last half-mile. Good mare! We zipped off to the trailer across camp. I swapped out my water, had some Gatorade and a sandwich, replaced her front left boot with my old spare, vetted the pony through, tacked her up, rushed to the portapotty, and managed to be only five minutes late for my out time. Sorry Cyd! (And thank you Cyd for waiting!!) Things to work on, again. That hour goes by quick, especially with no crew and a trailer all the way across camp.
Loop two started out with some repeat-trail: a most miserable uphill section that we trudged in the truest sense of the word. Poor ponies. Poor humans. Yuck! Eventually it ended, thank goodness, and we got to go downhill on some hardpack road. I thought it was beautiful despite being downhill and hardpack. It also claimed my front left boot – I suspect she overstepped trotting downhill. I’d intentionally put on an old spare that I wouldn’t feel obligated to retrieve, so I consciously chose not to turn around and go looking for it. Farewell, old boot: you served us well. The captivator stayed on and I left it there, knowing it doesn’t bother Fetti, and knowing I didn’t want to have to get back on.
Then uphill some more, and downhill some more, and redwoods, and trees! and it was gorgeous. It would have been quite excellent for photos had we not been behind other riders. I was using both hands to ride and did not have a spare to take photos with. Back up and before we knew it, into the finish.
We walk/trotted our way into the finish and true to form, Confetti wasn’t down yet. Which is fine! She didn’t need to be, I hadn’t handwalked a ways in, it’s the furthest she’s ever gone. We hung out for a minute or two sponging and scooping to see if she’d drop to criteria. Nope. (“Don’t you want me to check?” said one very kind volunteer. Nope, no point wasting their time, I trust my HRM and if the human thinks she’s down when the HRM is still reading upper 70s.. well, it wouldn’t be the first time. But it didn’t need to happen.) Back to the trailer, where she stuck her face in the haybag and I sponged some more, but left tack on entirely so I could see when she dropped. Fig’s personal timing: 13 minutes until she reliably dropped under 60. It was another 10 before we got the ‘official’ time, but since we had 30 minutes total to pulse down, it was very zen and non-stressful.
|More leftover not-our-hay.|
When I took Fetti back across camp to vet, she dragged a bit. She wasn’t done resting and wasn’t sure she wanted to go out again. Even so, she managed to pass the final vet check with just about all As and I could not have been more pleased.
Post-ride, she looked good, felt good, ate well, drank well. She dragged me around camp at a brisk walk after the awards. Per typical form, she even demonstrated how to roll on a line for our trailer-buddy horse. Cuneo has a nifty little spot by a water trough that’s clearly designed as a spot for horses to roll, and she thought it was great.
Post-ride, I did not have a headache. Exciting!
– takeaways from our first 50, things to work on
– Garmin comparison/review
– long vs short rides