Quick still lacks a lot of confidence, and the confidence he has, he draws from me. I noticed this about two weeks before the ride, we had gone to visit Kat and Digger and go riding with them and Paula on Roz. Kat and I switched horses briefly. Quick's eyes nearly popped out of his head and were on me the entire time. He was completely upset that I had gotten on Digger and was no longer riding him. This is the horse I had just been working on a nice sitting trot, engaged, back up, soft light contact going down the trail. As well as a nice canter up a technical hill trail where shifting my weight was all I needed to dance us around trees. Seeing his reaction to Kat getting on him reminded me of just how much growing this horse still has to do. I have been his sole rider since February of last year, and the one who had been putting many miles (spooks included) on him before that.
Quick was already pretty fit coming off of ANCER/Fireworks 50 in July. I had hoped to take him to Bare Bones, but it wasn't in the stars for us, other things got in the way. Paula told me how many miles I needed to put on him each week leading up to this ride, I did approximately 143 miles in the weeks leading up to OR 100, then let him rest for two weeks. I conditioned him harder than I knew I would be riding. OR 100 is a pretty flat ride, especially to the 7,000 ft of elevation change that Fireworks boasted. I pushed Quick hard during our training rides, mentally and physically. We went faster than I planned to ride the 100, instead of short fast work with lots of walking in between, I switched it to long fast rides with minimal walking. This was both for him and myself, I put my stirrups up to allow me to get out of the saddle, getting my knees ready. At the 75 last year, it was my knees that did me in.
On the left, an example of a slightly worn shoe.
And on the right, what was left of one of Quick's shoes.
I was stressing leading up to this ride, we wore through out steel shoes and our usual farrier was having back surgery so he couldn't put new shoes on. I started conditioning Quick in a set of EasyBoots that I had, luckily his hooves and Diesel's are about the same size. I put a lot of miles on those, nearly wearing them out as well. Since I have been trimming Journey's hooves myself, I have become super picky about what I see from different farriers. So finding a new farrier to put shoes on right before this ride was awful. I found a young man who does a really nice job, quite the perfectionist when it comes to his work. There isn't much I could complain about his work.
Quick gave me quite a scare, he got shoes on on Tuesday and when I took him for a ride on Saturday, he was lame. It was intermittent, but there. So Sunday, he got lunged in the arena. No sign of lameness, whatsoever. I think he must have stepped on a rock, that is the only answer I have. He has been sound since and was before.
All of my stress left when we got there. Well I did get horribly nauseous with a bad headache when we got into Bend. It was really all I could do to set up Quick's corral and everything before I crawled into bed with a damp towel over my eyes.
Quick was focused as well. By this time, he knows what coming into Ride Camp means. He trotted out sound and vetted in well. Once I got over my headache, I was also focused.
After we vetted in, we went for a short ride. Quick wanted to go back to camp, but listened well. We trotted and canter a short ways down the trail, all I was checking was his mindset. Then we walked back into camp on a loose rein. We walked around camp a bit, there were a lot of Appy fans there. Apparently Quick has good Appy bloodlines, everyone seemed to really like them. (if you are curious he is on AllBreedPedigree under Viva Sozar)
Quick wanted to go shopping!
It is always right when I fall asleep that my alarm goes off. 4:30 am to feed Quick and get myself something to eat. Quick was eating well. We got everything together and headed over to the start. Quick was really up, I tried to warm him up, but soon gave that up because his head was so high in the air. We milled about quietly waiting for the start. 9 started the 100, 1 on the 75 who then elevated to the 100.
Spookaloosa out by himself!3 riders were out ahead of us, I tried to keep Quick slow, but as I have learned fighting him at the beginning is somewhat pointless, it just wastes energy. After a little bit, I let him go. I never saw the 3 riders in front of me. Becky and Marie were not far behind me, and that is how we staid through the first loop. Quick was going nicely, trotting and cantering most of the loop. We spooked into the outcheck where we just had a trot by. Cassie remarked on his goofiness. Yup, just a Spookaloosa!
Off we went again.
I never really thought I would be riding my first 100 mile ride on Quick and not worried at all about going out by ourselves. Last year, the thought was mildly terrifying only because I knew Quick couldn't handle it. This year we had done majority of our conditioning by ourselves, mentally and physically Quick was in a far different place than he was last year.
Riding into Ride Camp was another show of the Spookaloosa.
“Hey its a gray horse, is that Lois?”
Horse spooks 6 ft sideways to the other side of the road repeatedly.
“Nope, that is Quick.”
We cantered into camp, impressing a couple people that I staid on during those spooks. Quick pulsed down nicely and vetted through. We rested and were ready to go back out again.
The next loop was 20 miles. It was the longest 20 miles of the whole day. I was surprised I had seen a chestnut horse in front of me a couple times. We were more than half way done with that loop when I caught up with them. I saw them long before Quick did. When he finally saw them, we couldn't have been 30 feet from them. His head was up high, expecting that the horse was a mirage.
It was Garbiella Blakely and her horse was a bit stiff and off. I was walking with her for a little bit, when Lois caught up with us.
Desert as far as the eye can see.
Quick took 5 minutes to pulse down at the out check. We vetted through and waited it out. A couple of the riders behind us came in and Lois was off before I was. Off Quick and I went.
It was 16 miles back to Ride Camp, another long 16 miles. It was during the heat of the day and Quick was on a walk a bit and then trot a bit agenda. It wasn't long before Becky and Marie caught up to us. I had been letting Quick save some energy. Quick wanted to follow them. I could tell they really didn't want me tagging along, but even picking up a canter didn't loose us. It made the miles pass quickly. We went up a hill their horses walked and Quick wanted past. So away we went. We stopped at the next water, and when they caught up asked if it was alright to go on ahead. They said it was and we made our way back into camp.
Of course, as we were coming up the last 100 yards into camp, Quick started spooking at every rock, weird shape on the ground etc. So we were cantering in and spooking from side to side. I got some more comments on good riding that Spookaloosa.
When you give up and walk the Spookaloosa into camp...
Photo by Rebecca Vitus
I purposefully waiting until Becky and Marie had gone on ahead, they have way more miles and experience than I do and I was done with the leap frog bit we had been doing. We walked out of camp, and were soon caught by Heather and her nice Standardbred mare Bunny. Bunny is a nice mare, I really liked her build and attitude, very work-man like. We rode together, both of us on our first 100 mile ride. This loop was pretty uneventful. Heather and I got to know each other more and agreed to ride the last two loops together if at all possible. We talked a lot about dressage and training horses, as well as what we have been doing as far as endurance.
Sun setting coming into camp.
Since neither Heather nor I had much experience night riding, it was something to figure out. Just what was working for us. Since it was a late rising moon, and a waning one at that, there was no moonlight to guide our way. We were almost to the canyon trail back into camp, we had just left a barb wire fence to the left of us, and I came up so we were riding side by side. (didn't quite trust him in the dark with the fence to the side)
Did I mention I was riding a Spookaloosa?
Passenger ejection! Flying unscheduled dismount!
And I met the closest sagebrush. Of course I hung on to the reins, but seeing this was my first ejection from the saddle in, oh what, over a year?? (that can't be right) Quick was shocked back into reality. He pulled away.
It scared me half to death, mostly because we had just been discussing lost horses, and those who had not met a kind fate. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed Quick's reins, and hopped back on.
I think it really surprised Heather, she got to see the Spookaloosa in action. Quick got to be a dressage horse again, instead of having a loose rein. Upon our arival back in camp, my flying dismount was undoubtedly caused by not wearing my eventing vest on that loop. (so they say)
Quick's head is in there somewhere.
Rest and return to the trail. Neither horse really wanted to trot at the beginning of the last 16 mile loop. It was getting cold out, they had already done 84 miles and gravitational pull of Ride Camp was taking hold. We walked a lot of it, a good walk but still walking. I tried to get Quick out in front, but every time I did, Bunny would start shying to the side. We decided that it was Quick's rump rug catching the light that was causing it. I could tell when we made the turn for home. Quick picked up pace, and we started doing more trotting. Even with Quick out in front. Glow sticks lighting the way.
We were about 5-6 miles out from camp when Heather started getting dizzy. She got off and I encouraged her to eat something and gave her my other water bottle to drink. She was feeling a little better, and walking on foot a bit when the last two riders caught up with us. They offered to stay, and then thought better of it since they didn't have rump rugs on their horses. Quick wanted to go with them. Part of me did too, to just get it over with. But honestly I couldn't leave Heather there. She was tired, not feeling well and desperately wanted this completion. And her and Bunny had drug Quick around the last two loops. I staid with her, holding Quick back. Once she was up for it she got back on her mare and we walked back into camp. I kept her talking as we walked, watching for familiar landmarks in the dark. I offered my crew to help vet her horse through to get her completion. Her Mom was her crew, and I figured she would need some help taking care of both Bunny and Heather.
It was a long walk back into camp, you could see it for miles, slowly getting closer and closer. It was around 2 am when we walked into camp. Heather collapsed into a chair and Kat vetted her horse through.
I was chastised on my lack of trotting out skills, something that we need to work on for sure. But we made it. Up until the last bit of walking I felt great, knees didn't bother me or anything. But as usual, in the cold my knees froze up on the last bit coming into camp.
Despite that, I felt both Quick and I would be ready to tackle another loop if need be. Quick had great vet scores all day.
Quick's vet card. You can't beat ending your first 100 miles with all As!!
There is nothing I regret or would have done differently on this ride. Nothing. That is pretty big, usually I go through all that I could have done better. It was my second attempt at a 100 mile ride, I had a fit horse, I was a fit rider and we completed. And we helped Heather complete as well. I was probably the rider out there with the least amount of endurance miles, 325 before this ride. I lack the depth of experience many of the other riders have, to know how far and fast I can push my horse. And yet I know Quick really well, his strengths and weaknesses, my own strengths and weaknesses, I can read how physically and mentally Quick is doing and act upon it. I am not out there to ride the spots off of him, bringing him back healthy is more important to me than any placing. I am out there watching, observing, and learning as I am riding. To not pay attention to those riders with more experience than I have is stupid, a waste of a great opportunity.