We came, we saw, a virus kicked my ass.
I started feeling a little off on Thursday and I wondered if I was getting sick. But there wasn’t much point in canceling – I was already out the money for the ride entry, plus the health cert and Coggins. And the weather was going to be perfect for once!
Friday I woke up a little snotty and congested, but I headed out anyway. Dixie and I pulled in to ridecamp about 3 and I got camp set up pretty quickly. By the time the sun dipped behind the ridge of mountains to the west, I felt terrible. I checked with ride management – no changes from last year’s trail – and skipped the meeting to go to bed early.
Saturday morning I felt utterly wretched. The low had dipped to freezing overnight and there was a skin of ice on all the water buckets, and the last thing I wanted to do was get on a horse. Especially a really hot fit tall horse. I told myself I’d ride the first loop – twenty miles – then pull, and I found a mounting block and clambered up on the Princess.
Since this is the first ride of the season, my endurance habits are pretty rusty. Somehow, I forgot the crupper entirely. And while I’d remembered to turn on the GPS (which lives strapped to the saddle) before I got on, it wasn’t til I was up on Dixie that I realized it had “blue screened.” Instead of the usual screen, it was displaying about ten lines of impossibly tiny text. My horse was so hot that I couldn’t take a hand off the reins long enough to reboot it for ten miles.
I rode out with L, a guy I’ve seen a lot at NEDA rides, but never deliberately ridden with before. He was on a shaggy grey grade gelding who was just as fired up as Dixie. We kept the horses at a dull roar through the first few miles (down the hills and through the cow trail beside the road), and about halfway across the flats, they finally started to settle down.
The sun came up and I managed to get a hand off the reins long enough to take a few pics. Things were less awful. We went up into the lower parts of these hills, then cut northwest (left) along the hills, then back down into the flat again. I got off and jogged the one long downhill stretch and got back on easily enough.
Dixie was pulling hard for about fifteen miles. At the water at Five Mile she finally drank a bit and settled in to work with me. We came roaring back into camp at just after 10 am. We’d done 20 miles in three hours: faster than I usually ride, and faster than she can sustain forever, but not dangerously fast.
Dixie was almost down immediately. She must’ve been at 62 or something – the P&R guy stayed glued to her barrel while I sternly instructed her to slow her heart down and she came down within a minute. The first vet check was tack-on and she got B’s for mouth stuff (capillary/mucous) and A’s for everything else. I had a 20 minute hold, which isn’t time enough to do anything but pee and put a crupper on.
I still felt pretty good when we headed out for the second loop. The second loop is, I think, the hardest – it’s fifteen miles with a lot of climbing, a lot of descending, and a lot of views. It goes past the tanker, which always scares horses who haven’t seen it before.
But Dixie’s pretty blase about it now.
And here’s where I ran out of juice and decided I’d probably have to pull.
We’d worked our way along that road in the side of the hill and come to a cow tank. It was dry, but I wanted to check Dixie’s saddle and it was a good remounting block, so I slithered off. I yanked her saddle loose, poked her withers a bit, tied the saddle back down, and almost cried when I had to climb up on the edge of the cow tank. My knees hurt so badly! Hell, my everything hurt. I flung myself back on my poor horse and we trudged on. We were halfway through with the loop, so I might as well finish it out and see if I perked up after lunch.
After you work your way along the side of the hills, you follow a canyon down to the little residential community, then (immediately! cruelly! “why did I go down this damn hill if you’re just going to make me go back up it!”) go back up to the plateau where you started. I usually get off and lead down the long canyon, but I knew there’s no good rocks or stumps or even ditches at the bottom. Saturday, I knew if I got off my horse, I wouldn’t be able to get back on. I had to ride endlessly down the canyon, then endlessly up the next canyon over.
All the dolomite had funny messages for Dave Rabe. He’s a hosebag, if you were wondering.
Dixie didn’t do a stellar job of taking care of herself, but I sure wasn’t able to help her. She eventually started drinking, but she didn’t want to eat in camp, and she thrashed her head like an angry metal fan all morning.
I was pretty sure the saddle was bothering her, and I knew that riding poorly down steep hills wasn’t helping the saddle thing. When we finally made it back to camp, I told L I was probably going to pull. Dixie pulsed down right away and I staggered back to my camp to pull her tack. I sat down to catch my breath, but ten minutes of staring at nothing didn’t make me feel any better. The lights were on, but I wasn’t home.
I led Dixie to the vet and told her I thought Dixie was ok but I was done for, and to please check Dixie’s back because I thought the saddle didn’t fit anymore. Karen vetted Dixie out ok (B’s for mouth stuff, I think, and B for muscles) and agreed with me. I thought she’d be sore behind her withers, where that huge bulgy new muscle is, but Dixie was actually only reactive further back. Right where a great clumsy oaf’s weight rests. Poor horse.
We headed back to the truck. I took care of Dixie – god knows how long it took me to do fifteen minutes worth of horse tasks, but eventually she was set up to my satisfaction. I flopped down in the warm truck and soaked up the sun like a lizard. I checked in with my husband, checked on Dixie a few times, and pretty much tried not to move for the rest of the day.
Gotta give a shout-out to L for being such good company! He did finish the ride (and came to check on me Saturday night and Sunday morning). Hopefully we’ll do it again at Washoe and both get our completions!
When I woke up Sunday, I felt quite a bit better. We rolled slowly back over the Sierras. I think she looks quite good after a lovely 35 mile training ride.
The funny thing is that I’m not mad or upset. I tried as hard as I could, within the circumstances. I absolutely gave it my all. My husband thinks that I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not a ~results-oriented~ perfectionist. More of an ~effort-based~ perfectionist. Did I prepare and try to the fullest extent possible? Then I’ve done enough.
Now my poor husband is sick. I have bounced back almost completely – I’m still coughing a bit, but I feel great. My woah-dammit muscles were very sore on Sunday, and my quads were still a little creaky Monday, but as soon as I quit coughing I’m going to resume exercising. Hopefully I can get a different saddle very soon and start logging some miles in it, and we’ll go onwards toward Washoe Valley in May!