Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Turning Point

The other day I was riding Quick, we were by ourselves on a trail that we know well. Quick was being slightly spooky, giving everything a good eyeball or two. We moseyed along, not in too much of a hurry at the moment having just started out and it was rather hot out. We got to the cross roads, we could go either direction, it didn't matter much to me being a loop so I let Quick decide. He chose to go to the right, probably because if  you go that way you can get home in less than 5 miles! We went off up the hill.

Quick picked a a nice canter. My stirrups were a little long for two pointing, but I got my bum out of the saddle. I was distracted by the fact that I had just gotten him to leg yield over at a canter to avoid a blackberry bush that threatened to claw us and asked to go back the direction we just came, and he did! Then...

Quick hit the brakes, exiting stage right from where we had been. I ended up on his neck, feeling that this was happening in slow motion. I didn't loose my stirrups, but I was square on his neck, hugging his neck. He came to a halt (by the way this has happened within the span of maybe a few seconds) and I am still on his neck. Before I even start to right myself Quick lifted his head HIGHER. He didn't drop a shoulder, drop his neck, try to evade me getting righted in the saddle or just continue what he was doing regardless if I am where I am supposed to be or not. He LIFTED HIS NECK UP. I righted myself and sat there rather speechless. He was still a little frazzled from the attack of the wood, so I patted his neck and asked him to move on.

I rode the whole ride in the same kind of stunned feeling. We found a new feather to commemorate this occasion. 

Viva Quick

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quick goes Quickly

I am nothing but thrilled at how well Quick did at the ANCER/ Fireworks 50 ride. He showed me what he is capable of and more. With each ride this little horse gets better and better. He is most definitely an endurance horse, hands down. I barely recognize the horse I am riding, he has come so far in such a short time.
This whole experience was a lot of firsts for the little spotted horse. His first California ride, his first long long haul and his first solo haul to an endurance ride. He hauled well, we got a late start because of some technical issues, but were bound for California!
Quick had the trailer to himself! And a buffet!

Paula Rasler, Kathleen Jepsom, and Molly Farkas

We spent the night at the Woodland Stallion Station, a beautiful facility with a lot of nice people. And we were on our way the next morning. Just as we got onto Hwy 17 we heard about a major accident that had occurred and it was either get off and take another route or wait it out. With how hot it was getting Molly took us down Hwy 9, which isn't much of a highway, more of a twisty turny road with lots of construction on it. Molly is a darn good driver, is all I can say.
Pretty Sunset!

We got to Santa Cruz and were one of only a few rigs there camping over Thursday night. Quick wasn't super happy about not having another horse around him. Apparently I am not a happy person when I get woken up at 3am by mules launching out of their trailer. But Quick was happy to have someone next to him.
Ride camp started to fill up, and Quick and I went out to check out the trails. We rode down the single track, over the stream and up the other side, then turned around and came back up the trail. After crossing the stream again on the way back, I asked Quick for some speed, just in case I needed to know how fast we could take this. Turns out Quick is quite handy! He took it at a canter. We met Julie and Gem close to ride camp, she said they were going out towards the river and I joined them. Gem is a really pretty dark bay with white and dark spots on her rump and not tail! She shows her TB heritage in being lighter in build. A really nice mare. I was surprised by the lack of ribbons on the trail, it was Friday and the trail wasn't marked?! I am used to rides where the trails were well marked and marked long before the Friday before the ride. Heck, Quick and I have helped mark trails, and remark trails after the Elk and or cows feasted on the ribbons. Quick wanted absolutely nothing to do with going slow and was a beast trying to get him to walk slowly, which is usually his MO. No Quick knew he had a job to do!
Quick making sure we have everything in the out check box

We vetted in, somehow managing to not wait in line forever. There was supposed to be over 60 entries in both the LD and the 50. That is a lot of horses! We walked around and met the other Appys. River, Eowyn, and Kiki and their respective owners, Becky, Becky and Jacob. The others were more of the build you tend to see with a lot of Appys, a bit heavier and built downhill. I couldn't rule any of these horses out, they all had more experience than Quick and I did! Jacob asked me if Quick was fast, my response was 'We will find out!'

All of the Appys!! Photo by Doug Smith

Photo by Doug Smith

 The next morning I was up before my alarm, fed Quick and got myself ready to go. It wasn't as misty and drizzly as it had been the day before, and Quick was the only horse wearing a rump rug. I tacked him up, sporting his blue American Trail Gear and I looked like I was in the wrong sport in my skull cap and eventing vest. And yes, I was sorely tempted to school the small XC course that they had set up, I think Paula would have KILLED me if I had!
Paula snapped this of us waiting.

I warmed Quick up, a lite walk trot canter both directions, he was really responsive. Listening to me for transitions within gaits and to different gaits. We went and milled about, waiting for the start. Quick was quiet, far different from the horse I rode at our first 50 together last year! Their was no head in the air, eyes bulging out, back dropped and running for his little life. The horses converged into a singlefile line at the start, it was a controlled start. It was amazing to see 60+ horses snaking down the trail into the ravine and up the other side. I had put Quick towards the front. After seeing a horse kick out in front of us before we even left ride camp, I was glad Quick gets along with everyone. I wouldn't have been able to do that had I been riding a horse like the Dragon, she was very protective of her space at endurance rides!

Snaking down to the creek

When the control ended I let Quick go. We settled into a nice pace, we passed a few horses and were passed. I remember watching a grey in front of us with its legs flying at the trot, it made me wonder if Quick's legs flung about like that. I don't know, I've never really ridden behind him. By the time we made it to the river we had positioned ourselves in the top 5. It wasn't long after that that we ended up behind a rider in pink on a nice bay gelding. Little did I know it was Heather Reynolds! Quick settled in behind them and off we went.

Crossing the river Photo by Bill Gore Photography

The ride manager had mentioned this ride has a history of sabotage, and we found out the hard way. At this point there was one rider in front of Heather and we were right behind her. The ribbons had been moved across the path, sending us the wrong way. We ended up in a parking lot. Heather's GPS said we ended up going 2 miles out of the way, and then 2 miles back the way we came. Quick ate up the single track, he was flying at the trot and cruising around corners. We ran into another group of riders and told them the bad news. Heather had Hadeia moving, she was out to make up time! The ribbons were now where they should have been and we went the correct direction. We were catching and passing groups of riders right and left. They were all kind and let us pass! Quick didn't want to slow down when we caught up to them. It was time to see what the spots was made of!

Quick going quickly Photo by Bill Gore Photography

 We passed the trot by vet check and off onto the yellow loop. The trail here was wider and more open, through the tall grasses heading out towards the sea. We cantered and hand galloped a lot of this loop, I hardly remember any of it. Quick settled in behind Hadeia. I questioned myself a number of times if I had conditioned Quick well enough to be able to keep up this pace.

Photo by Doug Smith

Photo by Doug Smith

It was less than a mile before the vet check that Quick was tired. Unfortunately when he slowed down, and Hadeia got too far ahead of him, he would hurry to catch up. I knew we were coming in hot, and instead of fighting him and risking keeping his heart rate up that way, I asked him to stay with Heather and Hadeia. Quick tanked up at the water at the check.
Coming into the vet check Photo by Doug Smith

This was where my inexperience really bit us in the behind. It took me 20 minutes to get Quick's heart rate down and a good piddle on his part. He was tired. The vet check was a bit of a mess, horses everywhere. Crews weren't allowed out and there was supposed to be plenty of hay and kids to help. Quick picked at his food. Hadeia had pulsed right down and Heather left 15 minutes before us.
I was watching the clock and when the other Appys were leaving. Becky and Eowyn left about 10 minutes before us and Jacob and Kiki left 3 minutes before us.
And then I got lost again. The darn blue arrow was pointing in the wrong direction. At least I wasn't the only one. We looked at the map and then turned around. I sent Quick on at a good clip. We met Becky and River who had also gone the wrong direction! Once on the correct trail I made Quick go out in front, there was no way I was letting Becky in front of us! He actually didn't have a problem with it, I think he only spooked once. We led for a good deal of the way down towards the ocean. The sea breeze was nice, keeping the temps down. I was wary of the next blue arrow, but it did lead us in the right direction. We ended up getting passed by a chestnut, Rose at the big water trough, and followed her and her rider (whose name I forget!). The Enchanted forest was pretty, much like the forests here in the Willamette Valley, but with Redwoods instead of Doug Firs. There were a couple mountain bikers that we let pass. There is no way you would get me to ride down that hill on a bike; roots rocks, trees and all. I would wipe out no questions asked. We left Becky at a stream crossing, both the chestnut and Quick weren't interested in the water, while we were waiting for the others Quick was attacked by either bugs or the stinging nettle that attacked me! Dang it hurt! Becky said we were fine to leave since Quick was dancing around and about to have a mini meltdown.
Look the ocean!

Quick was starting to really recover, we were taking this loop much much slower. There was one section on the private property trails that surprised me, it was a short steep scramble. But it was obviously a freshly cut trail and the footing was loose and there was a big rock right smack dab in the middle of it. Nothing that the spots couldn't handle! But I felt bad for the new riders who had to tackle this. It would have made me think twice two years ago. My girth had gotten loose and my saddle sliding back, I ended up jumping off as we were walking, loosening the girth, adjusting the saddle and tightening it up. Another rider on a chestnut was with us at the time, she had crazy colored tights and snidely remarked about how she wished she could do that. The rider on Rose, stopped to let me get on while the crazy tights lady flew off at a trot! We kept doing this obnoxious leap frog with her, trying to lose her, only to have her catch us. We spied Jacob at a water tank, and he was just leaving as we came up to it a few minutes later. (which surprised me!) Quick drank up and we were off Appy hunting. We passed Jacob before the check, Quick had spied a grey horse and he was going to catch them!
Quick took 10 minutes to pulse down this time, again my inexperience playing a role. I should have stripped his tack. Quick ate someone else's mash, beet pulp and oats. There was just scraps of hay left, and he nibble on those after finishing the beet pulp. I left his chow that he didn't want to eat out so someone could help themselves. Someone else's dinner is always better!!

Headed out on the last 9 miles back to camp Photo by Lucie Hess

Quick was not too enthusiastic on heading out again. He knew we were headed home but he wanted to go at his pace. We were passed by a different chestnut horse and that was the motivation Quick needed! He had recovered nicely from his morning breeze. I don't know if I had pushed him here would we have caught Becky and Eowyn, but having a healthy horse at the end of the ride is more important to me than a placing or ribbon. Plus I didn't want to get lost AGAIN. On the way in we were passing a bunch of mountain bikes, good thing to note that they do not bother Quick one bit. Most were really nice, but one flew in behind us and almost cause the chestnut to dump his ride.

Jacob in front of us Photo by Doug Smith

We weren't long before the road going downhill when Jacob flew past us at a flying trot, his saddle flipped up in the back and I swore he was going over the little mare's head. I said goodbye to the gal I was riding with a sent Quick out after Kiki and let him just follow her. The chestnut ended up catching up to us, seems he is a bit like Quick, don't leave me behind!! Jacob had jumped off and was running with the mare down to the river. Somehow the chestnut was in front at the crossing with us behind, Jacob tried to cut us off but there was a big rock on the bottom that he couldn't get over. On the other bank I said goodbye to the chestnut, again and sent Quick up the hill. It was pretty much all up hill from there. I didn't see Jacob after that. Kiki was pretty tired, and a much heavier of a built mare more stocky where Quick looks more like an arab with an appy rump, spots and all.
Quick knew we were almost done, he attacked the hills, and true to form at the top would break to a walk. The chestnut caught up with us again and we rode most of the way in together. We got sucked into a group (a grey arab!! Wonder why!) going up the sand steps. The footing was deep and it was a series of banks going up the hill. Quick attacked it, maybe he might have an eventing career? There was the black saddlebred we had seen high tailing it around back at camp on thursday night and once again the lady in crazy tights.
At the observation tower there was a horse waterer, they had to press the lever to get the water. The chestnut had a bigger nose so he was able to get the water. Quick would look at him and try but only get a few slurps because he has a tiny nose and couldn't get it to work. Finally he had had enough. Quick got sucked into the group of riders ahead of us again and I said goodbye to the chestnut again, she didn't want him running through this section of the trail. Quick was ready to go again and I didn't hold him back. He leapt the stream, leaving me way behind (I think all the jumping we have done paid off on his part... questionable on mine). And we were after, you would never guess, a grey arab!
Paula snapped another of us at the the final vet check

We finished at 2:45 in 18th place. We were the 2nd place Appy!
Photo by Doug Smith

The ANCER part of the ride was a lot of fun, the Appy people were really nice and gave out nice shirts and ribbons! (I had to get something for riding 50 miles, since we didn't get completion awards for the Fireworks ride itself) I would totally do the ANCER ride again, it is nice to see people who are enthusiastic about their breed of choice. And why not? Quick is one hell of an Appy.

Quick sporting his American Trail Gear
his ANCER ribbon

The answer to Jacob's question: Quick is a fast horse.

Viva Quick