Today I trailered out to where Zach boards his horses. It's the exact same ranch where I used to board over 10 years ago, when I was conditioning my first mare to start in endurance. I also worked a dude string that was based out of here, giving rides to people and lessons for children on the weekends. Needless to say I'm pretty familiar with the trails in the area. After debating with myself for quite a bit, I also decided to bring Molly dog, mainly because she was a Cling-on and wouldn't leave my side from the moment I put my "riding clothes" on. =) Met Zach out there, got all tacked and booted up. I've been riding barefoot a lot lately, but since we were planning on a longer ride, over 20 miles, I decided to put regular Easyboots on the fronts and Easyboot Gloves on the rears, mainly because I only have one pair of Gloves right now and Diego will interfere if he has a buckle on a rear boot. LOVE THE GLOVES!!! Need to get some more before our true ride season starts.
Since we have to go along a somewhat busy road where people are going 50+ mph, we all started out on foot and I had Molly on a leash as well. We had no sooner left the gate when there was some shooting up on the hillside behind us. Very loud and very close! All of us jumped and turned to look. There were some kids up there yelling and running around, continuing to shoot off and on. That got everyone nice and excited, wonderful way to start. We continued to lead the horses for almost 2 miles, until we got off the main road and the subsequent side dirt roads. Once in the sandy wash we mounted up and headed out. The plan was to ride into Lemmon Valley where Funder would meet us and then ride back with us, so that we'd all get a nice long conditioning ride in. Diego was pretty goosey to start but settled fairly quickly with just some growling and telling him to "knock it off!" About 2 or 3 miles in, he stopped to drink from a puddle, and kind of slipped in the mud, but recovered just fine and after a quick boot check (all accounted for), we were off and able to start some serious trotting.
Riding out here is pretty much flat dirt/sandy roads. Very easy to just put the horses on auto-pilot and churn out some miles. We did have to stop periodically for quads, dirt bikes, or to pass by people out shooting. Everyone was very courteous. After a bit, I looked down and noticed that both Diego's front boots where missing. =( We turned around and back-tracked to where he had done some sort of exciting leaping maneuver, but no boots to be seen. Poor Molly, when we turned around and continued back, I forgot to call her and alert her to the change of direction, and she didn't notice. After a bit I turned around to check on her and she was hauling ass down the road toward us as fast as she could go, ears back in greyhound mode! LOL! She didn't seem any worse for the wear though and continued to run parallel to us hunting for rabbits and checking stuff out.
It was a beautiful day to be out. Warm with just a long-sleeved t-shirt on and one of my favorite pairs of tights, which are too thick for the summer, but being only thick cotton-blend, too cold for winter temps, so I pretty much only get to wear them in the Spring and Fall. There were a lot of nice big puddles for the horses and Molly to drink out of. I had brought a water bottle for her just in case, but as it was there was a ton of water to drink out of. And pee in. =P Molly has to pee in EVERY puddle!!! She got fairly warm (long black coat) and was laying down in the puddles to cool off as well. The horses, Bo and Diego, paced really well together. They were both very relaxed and forward, moving at an easy 7-8 mph trot. Zach and I were talking about upcoming and past rides. I'll probably sponsor him on some rides this year, if he's willing to ride slow enough to go with me! =) He has been very fortunate to train with and ride with some of the top elite riders in the sport. Talking about finishing 50 mile rides by noon, he was lamenting about how we'll probably do close to a 10-hour ride for our first 50 this season. I had to remind him that his eventual goal was 100-milers, so he might as well learn to suck it up and be in the saddle forever! ;) I also think that for the horses, if they're mentally used to being ridden for long hours, that when you transition up to the longer distances, it's easier for them as well. Zach's a great sport and we had a lot of fun.
Eventually we made it over to LV, after calling Funder and letting her know we were getting close and where we'd meet her. We ran into Dovie and friend Tammy on our way in, and rode over to where the paved road started with them, where we waited for Funder (E) to join us. Once Dixie joined the little group, it was like the race was on!!! All three horses were hyper and ready to go! Two is company, three is a competition. ;) It took a bit before everyone's head was on straight again, and once more we were off at a nice steady trot. We headed back across the valley on slightly different roads (Moonshine Trail this time) and enjoyed less traveled paths. We rode at a pretty steady consistent pace. Only stopped off and on at the puddles to see if anyone wanted a drink, etc. One puddle, Zach and Bo went to ride through and across, and it turns out that it must be a popular mud-bogging puddle because what looked innocuous and only a couple inches deep, ended up going up over Bo's hocks out in the middle! I think we all were quite surprised. Molly though they were lovely and laid down so only her head was above water. =)
A funny thing on the way back, after we had crossed over into Hungry Valley and were headed north toward the cattle corrals, is that E looked over and mentioned that there were 3 or 4 cows hauling ass down the canyon toward us (in a wide wash). As it was, we had finally rediscovered the first of the lost boots, so I hopped off to retrieve it (for those keeping score, Diego did almost 20 miles bare in front, and we had NO issues what so ever with the Gloves). Just after I had attached the boot to my saddle, around the corner came the rest of the entire HERD of cattle! Overall there were probably close to 20 cows or so, all appeared to be a corriente-cross of some sort (the ones with horns like they use for roping). Zach whipped out his phone real quick and got a picture.
Pretty quickly I got back on and we all set off again. Diego was a bit more excited after that. I think we were less than a mile or so down the trail when he suddenly did a full on 360 bucking spin. I thought I was a gonner for a second and then realized that I was still centered, good, and had both legs on firmly. Got him stopped pretty easily and scolded him quite a bit. I'm **so thankful** that I FINALLY HAVE MY CONFIDENCE/MOJO BACK!!!!! It has taken me well over a year to recover from coming off and having my arm broke. I finally feel like I'm back to where I was, and am full capable and able to deal with any and all shit he wants to dish out, both physically, but *more importantly* mentally as well.
Around this point, E decided that if she was going to make it home before dark, she needed to get headed back, so she turned around and left. I was jealous watching Dixie blithely and happily turn around and take off away from her buddies, although E did use the magic word "Home." =) Good mare!
As we were nearing the end of the wash, a lady was out with her Border Collie. The dog was friendly and wanting to play with Molly. Normally Molly LOVES to play with other dogs, but at this point the horses had done over 20 miles and Molly had probably almost doubled that with her extra running around before we left and during the ride. Needless to say, she wasn't very interested. We stopped and talked with the lady, and I asked her if she wanted to grab her dog before we left, and she said "Oh no, she'll come back after just a bit." Or not..... she had to finally get in her car and come get the damn dog, not before Diego tried to kick it at least once. He'll tolerate Molly (and part of why I bring her is for him to get over it), but he's not a dog fan.
We rode the dirt roads this time and only got off to walk along the busy paved road. What seemed to go by pretty quickly in the morning took FOREVER to walk on foot on the way back. But all made it back happy, safe, and sound!
Zach's version of the ride can be found here.
Funder's is here.
Final stats per Zach's GPS:
LOCATION: Big Dog Road to Lemon Valley and back
DURATION: 5 HOUR 7 MINUTES
DISTANCE: 24.02 MILES
WEATHER: 55º F
DETAILS: AVERAGE SPEED=4.7; Average Heart Rate= 95; Ascent=1406 feet; Descent=1397
Pretty darn good. Our average speed has all the walking on foot we did starting out and coming back (probably 4 miles total) as well as the various stops, waiting, etc. I left the front boots off for the remainder of the ride, and pulled the Gloves when we were done. No rubs, no problems, even going in and out of all the puddles, they looked great! This was a great "endurance pace" overall and I'm SO PROUD of how Diego did!