|Gassing up before we hit the road.|
Upon arrival at St. Croix Falls, WI, we found a convenient spot to camp in the large field behind Wolf's Creek Bar, ride camp for the weekend, and unloaded the horses so they could gorge on the lush grass. Oh, they were happy! We set up electric pens for them, popped up the camper, and hauled some water for the vet check and camp. After vetting in, we got things ready for the morning and walked the horses a bit before the ride meeting. Dawn was doing her first ever ride - a 25 mile competitive. Rhio and I were attempting the 75 miler. I almost backed out, seeing the forecast for ride day to be nearly as hot as Friday (close to 90 - we haven't had anything above 70, and only a day or two of that, even - neither Rhio nor I is acclimated to the heat yet at all) and for thunderstorms to pop up in the afternoon. But, I really thought this would be an ideal first 75, as the trails are moderate and the footing is pretty good. Also, the first loop had an outcheck, so we wouldn't have to leave "home" so many times over the course of the day.
After ride meeting, we went up to the bar to have a late dinner. Bedtime around 10 pm made for my 4 am wake up to come pretty darn quickly. Though, I hardly sleep the night before a ride anyway, so it didn't much matter. The pop-up pick up camper was very comfortable, and plenty of windows caught the breeze to make for pleasant sleeping. I'm not sure what time it was that I was woken by raised voices - of course my first thought was loose horses, but in a moment I realized that it was actually a bar fight. Oh boy. I didn't hear any sirens, nor any gunshots, so I guess it was resolved without too much violence.
I woke up before my alarm, got dressed, and crept out of the camper with breakfast in tow. Kelso barely opened an eyelid at me, refusing to get up. That dog does like his creature comforts, and getting up pre-dawn isn't one of them, apparently. I got Rhio his morning beet pulp mash, gave Secret some hay and carrots, and set about getting ready. I never have *quite* enough time (didn't get his mane braided Friday night, so had to do that in the morning) and so was just mounting and walking down to the timer tent about a minute after the rest of the 75s started (5:30 am). There were 6 of us, and being a little late suited me just fine. Rhio couldn't see the horses in front of us, and we left camp quietly. About a half mile from camp we cross a small creek - we would cross this creek 8 times over the course of our 75 miles.
|Crossing the creek for the first time, 5:30 am.|
|Slurping up beet pulp mash at the out check.|
|I didn't do a good job of taking trail pics; this is the only spot I did, on loop 2.|
|Sponging with Candy and Windsor, heading back to camp off loop 2.|
|Sarah was so hot she got off in the stream.|
|50 miles done, and getting ready to head out on loop 4.|
|Yep, another stream crossing.|
About halfway through this last loop, the thunder began to roll. Uh oh. It was still a ways off, and I tried to pick up our pace a bit, but Rhio was really hungry by now and insisted on stopping at every patch of good grass. I couldn't really refuse him, so we made steady, though kind of slow, progress. It was feeling pretty dark by now, with the clouds, although it was only about 7 pm and we had a couple hours of daylight left on a clear day. Just as we approached the 2 mile marker, the first rain drops fell, and quickly became a downpour. Out of nowhere, the winds kicked up, the lightning began to dance, and the thunder cracked overhead. YIKES! Rhio turned his rump to the onslaught and planted his feet. We were both drenched in seconds. I was not going to win this battle of wills from the saddle, so I dismounted and started leading him. I knew we couldn't stop because we would both get chilled, for one, and camp with food and shelter was less than 2 miles ahead. Rhio didn't know this, though, and was sure his plan of waiting it out was much superior to my crazy plan to continue down the trail. I was sure we were going to get hit by lightning or struck by a falling tree, and started running with Rhio in tow. I barely noticed how tired my legs were, to be honest, as the storm was a mighty powerful motivator. We reached the stream 1/2 mile from camp, and Rhio flat out refused to cross. As testament to how much rain we'd gotten in just a few minutes, the water was really rushing and the depth had already come up. I plunged straight in, hoping he'd follow, but he didn't. I stood in the middle of the stream (I really couldn't get any wetter) and pleaded with my boy to follow me. It felt like it took a really long time for him to decide to cross, though I'm sure in reality it was only a moment. We continued on up the trail, emerging from the woods in that funky twilight light of a thunderstorm, with rain still pelting down, and saw 2 figures emerge from somewhere dry, I presume. I actually have no idea where they were hiding, but they brought blankets and I could have kissed them. Thank you Lynn (ride manager) and Linda for meeting us at the finish with blankets for us both. Rhio, in typical horse fashion, spooked at the scary blanket monsters, but then let me cover him up so he wouldn't get chilled and cramp before we could trot out. I wrapped up as well (I hadn't even noticed that I was cold, but I was) and we led Rhio over to the tent by the vet area. A brief attempt to get him to enter the tent failed, and Dr. Dean vetted him through right there outside the tent in the pouring rain. His pulse was 12. We trotted into the rain (yes, he did trot - though reluctantly) and got our completion. I am pretty sure this was our first true test of endurance - and we passed! Heat, bugs, deep sand, rain, wind, a raging thunderstorm, and 75 miles, in about 11 hours of saddle time (official time will be more due to the extra time I took in camp at a couple holds) and about 14 hours of clock time, with the last 25 miles done completely solo. I can't express how proud I am of us both, but especially of my little horse Rhio. It was a tougher 75 than I'd planned, and we still conquered!
We got back to the trailer and found a couple flakes of Rachel's fabulous hay, which Rhio had so loved at the out check all those hours previous, waiting for him by his water bucket. He dove in with gusto (thank you Rachel!) and I made up a mash for him while someone (Linda? I'm not sure, actually) helped untack and get him settled for a bit. I left him at the trailer, still covered in the warm blankets we'd been wrapped in upon finishing, so I could see him out the camper window. I peeled off my wet clothes, climbed into dry ones, and sat so I could see him out the window while I ate a ham sandwich, polished off most of the rest of my half gallon of chocolate milk, and probably babbled somewhat incoherently to Dawn about the day. About 45 minutes later, the rain let up and we went out to check Rhio. He was great, having eaten all the hay and most of his mash, and was warm under the blankets. I cleaned up his legs and, by the light of Dawn's headlamp, applied poultice and wraps. I switched him to his rain sheet for the night, and we walked both horses. He was grazing like crazy and moving easily. Snuggled into their pens for the night with oodles of hay, both horses seemed content despite the rain. And rain it did - all night long. We were snug and mostly dry in the camper (damp from bringing wet things in with us, and wet Kelso sharing my bed) and I slept well. No bar fights this night, and a more reasonable wake-up time of 5 am so that I could take care of Rhio in the morning before vetting started at 6 am. Yes, indeed, I was vetting the ride on Sunday...glutton for punishment that I am.
I rolled out of bed feeling remarkably well the next morning, and Rhio seemed well also. I unwrapped his legs and took him for a walk - he was a little pokey walking around camp - then made him up another mash before stepping into vet duties for the day. Beckie the equine massage therapist (and new distance rider) came in the morning, and Rhio was her first patient. I wasn't able to stay to watch his massage, but he obviously quite enjoyed it. She said he wouldn't let her leave his pen when she was through, and a little bit later I caught him curled up napping. The right side of his neck was stiff (a chronic issue for him and probably unrelated to the ride, actually) and he had a little soreness around his girth. Otherwise, she didn't find any issues!
|Napping after his massage.|
Monday morning, after a nice long sleep-in (I'd taken the day off), I headed out to the barn to check on my boy. He looked amazing, was totally sound, sassy, and begging to be allowed to eat lawn grass. Of course I let him, but this time with my hand on his lead rope. I pulled up a lawn chair and sat admiring him while he munched, until Gesa came home and we tacked up for a ride. Yes, you read that right - on Monday afternoon I wanted nothing more than to get on a horse! I took Red and used the bareback pad, and we did a nice slow walking trail ride - Gimi's second ever trail ride in his young life. He was a champ, and Red was a good babysitter. It felt great to ride, and loosened me up. I have one rub on my left calf, and my hips and ribs were a little sore, but otherwise I feel great.
|"Got anything for me?" (on Monday at home)|
|Yummy lawn grass! (on Monday at home)|