Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lucky 13

Friday the 13th dawned misty & humid - and with the stench of skunk hovering in the thick air.  My big dog Killian got a direct hit, and I was already on the road to get our gear situated in Jodi's rig, ready to head out.  I felt terrible, but I had to leave Kristi & Christine to deal with the stinky boy.

Gesa & Paco swung in to pick up Red, and take the boys over to Jodi's to meet up with her.   In the 7 miles or so between her place & Red's barn, Gesa's tailgate had sprung open, smashing into the crank on the hitch and pretty much destroying the tailgate.  So far, a great start to Friday the 13th!

We got to the little town of Frazee, MN mid-afternoon and settled in for a great weekend at Thistle Down Run.  All our buddies from North Dakota rolled in with their rigs, and we lined up all in a row.  I haven't been to this ride for the past couple of years due to scheduling conflicts.  It is the only Minnesota ride run exclusively on private property.  Camping is in several pasture areas, and the ultimate luxury - no dragging manure around in a sled!  All we have to do is scatter it.

our trailers all lined up
We registered for our rides on Saturday - we were all riding in the 25 mile Limited Distance division - and were given a black embroidered cap as a memorial to the previous landowner host, affectionately known to one and all as "The Cowboy."  He passed away last year, and his daughter provided the hats to all riders as a way to remember her dad and how much he loved having the ride on his land.

We got the horses vetted in - lucky number 13 on Red's butt, organized all our ride gear to be ready for our early morning wake-up (I'm NOT a morning person!), attended the rider's meeting (complete with visual aids for trail marking: orange = out, yellow/blue combination = in for both loops), and enjoyed a potluck supper with our buddy group. Dogs Salma (Australian Shepherd), Ben (Golden Retriever), and Ellie (Springer Spaniel) did their best sad puppy dog eyes impressions and scored a few tidbits. We crawled into bed and lay awake listening to DeAnne's mare Bella and Jutta's gelding Gandolph nickering & carrying on like a couple of hormone-laden teenagers.  The markedly strange thing about this is that Bella is spayed, and Gandolph is a gelding, so there should be no hormones!  They eventually had to put the two in separate pens so we could all get some sleep.

Gandolph & Bella before they were separated - looking all peaceful here, but it was just an act! As soon as sun went down, their relationship started heating up...
Gesa & I planned a late exit from camp, as Red has always been hyper at the start of a ride and we wanted Paco to have a calm start at his first LD.  Our plan worked beautifully as we exited camp about 10 minutes after trail opened, and were able to walk out on a loose rein.  This is the first time that Red has ever walked out of camp on a loose rein at the start! We both chose to start the ride barefoot, with our hoof boots waiting at camp if we felt we needed them.  The beginning of the ride skirts the edges of a large hayfield, and I knew the grass would be wet & slippery at dawn - I have had issues in the past with boot traction on wet grass, so we didn't want to chance it.  Also, I didn't want to catch sight of horses ahead of us at the start, hoping to keep Red from doing his freight train act and pulling my arms off; we succeeded on both counts - no slipping on the wet grass and calm, happy horses heading out on trail!  We ducked into the woods pretty quickly, and the rest of the first loop consisted of mostly single track trail in the woods with some logging roads and a little bit of distance along the grassy hill beside Hwy 10.  It was a beautiful and challenging trail with lots of twists and turns - we had to stay alert not to miss any ribbons! Red & I occasionally had minor disagreements about which way to go, resulting in a few near-misses with tree trunks, but managed to stay on track.  Silly boy thinks he knows where we're going, but last time I checked he wasn't too good at telling the orange ribbons from the yellow ones!

Gesa & Paco at the very beginning of Loop 1

The view along the highway
Heading up the powerline
The week prior to the ride had been incredibly hot and humid, so we were relieved to wake Saturday to much less humidity, a nice light breeze, and a forecasted high in the 70s.  Perfect riding weather! Both Gesa & I rode with heart rate monitors to keep an eye on the boys - those heart rates sure climbed on some of those hills! It wasn't a trail that lent itself to hitting a steady pace, so we had many gait and pace changes throughout the loop, but their heart rates remained within their normal ranges.  We appreciated that extra level of information to ensure that the new horse who had never travelled this distance before and the veteran who might not be in as good a shape as he thought he was were doing just fine.  I carried my sponge and used it at water stops, since Red is more heavily muscled than Rhio and it shows in his pulse-downs.  I expect him to take about 5 minutes to get to criteria, whereas Rhio is usually down as soon as we've walked from the timer to our buckets.  We hadn't practiced with the sponge in a while, and he acted like an old pro - not at all concerned about it dropping into the water next to his head or being drawn back up to my hand dangling in the air.  These are skills that Rhio needs more work on! It was really great to be riding my old pro again.

Because we'd come in off Loop 1 a little bunched up with other riders, we spent a few extra minutes on our hold, letting DeAnne & Jutta get out on trail ahead of us enough that we wouldn't be right on their tails the entire loop.  I much prefer to ride in a pair and stay in a little window of space on the trail so we're not getting jammed up with larger groups of riders.  Our strategy worked, and although we caught sight of them several times, we were never close enough for our horses to try to surge ahead to catch them.  Loop 2 was positively delightful - circling and crossing cattle pastures, hayfields, and cow paths in the woods.  Again the woodsy trails were full of twisty-turny fun, and the views across the rolling hills of the pastures & fields were lovely.  One section crossing a field looked like a slalom course weaving between monstrous chest-high thistle bushes (you don't need to wonder where they came up with the name Thistle Down Run!) - Red & I didn't always assume we were following the same path around the prickly plants and I'm pretty sure we lost major style points on our execution!  But we managed to cross unscathed and continue on to a tasty mud puddle for a slurp, when, lo! What's that black thing in the woods?  It's a BULL!  He didn't seem to mind our presence at all, but he sure was a big guy - and only about 10 yards off the trail.

The main water stop on this loop is a stock tank with a float valve and a squeaking pump that comes on when the water level drops.  The boys were pretty interested in this moving, noisy thing, but Red dove in to drink the water anyway, keeping a watchful eye on it.  Paco was a little more suspicious, but did decide it was safe enough to drink.  We got to visit the tank twice - the first time through the pump was already running, and the second time it was quiet.  We were glad it didn't turn itself on while we were there - that might have just been too much.
The scary pump - you can see the water flowing into the tank on the left hand side. The whole thing was squeaking and the vertical pieces were moving up & down.

Thirsty but keeping a close eye on the scary pump
We came out of the trees for the last time to see Henry, ride photographer extraordinaire, stationed on his ATV to snap our photos.  Yay!  I love to have photos of my horses in competition, and I was especially pleased that Gesa would have photos of her & Paco at their very first 25 miler.

Photo courtesy of Henry Gruber.

Photo courtesy of Henry Gruber.
We came in, pulsed down, vetted out, and we were done!  Our actual trail time according to my GPS was 3 1/2 hours total - our official ride time will be about 25 or 30 minutes more than that because we left late on both loops.  Neither of us had worried at all about our time or placing - our goal was a fun, safe ride within the abilities of our horses, and we achieved that!
Gesa & Paco after completing their first 25 miler!
We spent the afternoon eating, drinking, and being merry with friends new & old.  Everyone in our group completed their rides, and had a great time.  We let our horses relax & eat, occasionally taking them out for a stroll to keep them from stiffening up, until potluck & awards rolled around.  At potluck, Gesa & I both won door prizes (Chapstick!), gathered our completion awards (I chose a MnDRA pint glass to round out my set of 4, Gesa chose a MnDRA t-shirt), and cheered for our fellow riders.  It started to rain, and the wind picked up, so we put rain sheets on the boys, filled their hay & water for the night, and crawled, both exhausted and exhilarated, into our beds for the night.

The boys relaxing after the ride. Red likes to eat a little, then have a nice nap before continuing to eat.
Yummy!  Knee-deep alfalfa to munch!
The gang relaxing.
Photo courtesy of Henry Gruber.
Door prize winners (I'm in the plaid shirt & Gesa is next to me in the denim shirt).
Photo courtesy of Henry Gruber.
Sunday morning dawned early again for a few of our group who were riding again - Jodi, Jutta, and Missy (who'd rolled in about 1:30am Friday night and chose to ride Sunday instead of Saturday) - but I slept in and happily roused well after the sun was up.  Of course, the first thing I do is check my pony - only to discover he's covered in hives!  Luckily his rain sheet and thick mane kept the hives restricted to his neck, chest, and thin strips of his thighs not covered by the sheet.  Poor Red!  I have no idea what kind of insects they were, and none of the other horses had reacted, but my boy looked awful and was pretty itchy.  We walked & hand grazed the boys, then started packing up while Jodi & Rana were completing their weekend with another first place finish - go girls!

Oh, poor boy!
Scratching his itchy neck.
The ride home was uneventful, we made our traditional Dairy Queen stop (mint oreo blizzard for me!), and poor Paco whinnied forlornly as he & Gesa drove away and Red enjoyed a long drink and a good roll in the pasture.

It was a fabulous weekend.  I was thrilled to ride Red again in competition, and despite his hives, he clearly thoroughly enjoyed himself.  Gesa & Paco did great at their first ride and I'm pretty sure I've got her hooked on the sport.

Thistle Down Run 2010

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! Those hives look awful. I really sympathize with the poor guy. I'm always the one who gets bitten up, too! : P
    I like that Chapstick was the door prize--that's really something everyone can use. : )