Broke horse, broke trailer

This weekend I got out to another regional park, Tilden, to ride with a new friend K and her friend E. K is an elegant, classy, former dressage rider who is interested in possibly slumming with us grimy colorful endurance folks, and she’s bringing a green little Arab along on the trails.  E was riding another green Arab, not her usual mount, so we had a long slow afternoon ride.

I’d been planning on meeting them in the park’s parking lot (man, that sentence looks really funny, but I can’t think of any other way to say it without it being really clunky), but it was absolutely packed with cars.  There were like three major kid-and-dog birthday parties and a bunch of random people.  I drove into one lot looking for an exit, realized it dead-ended, and backed out of there like it ain’t no thang.

Side note:  California drivers are just as idiotic as you’ve heard, guys.  I had people DRIVING AROUND ME as I was backing up.  Pugs biting my tires.  Dads leading toddlers straight behind me. Ugh.

But eventually I got turned around, and down the twisty road to the even twisty-er private driveway, and I found a nice pulloff and unloaded my phenomenal horse and got her ready to ride.  I accomplished all of this without any drama.  Because we’re pros.

Isn’t Gino cute?

We headed up to the park, past the miniature steam train and the birthday parties and the dog-walkers. Dixie was all “ain’t no thang” about everything except the horse trough, which she refused to approach. Keepin’ it classy, mare.  We wound our way up into the park, across a few roads and up and down hills, over a little spillway bridge and down the side of a dam.  I finally remembered to take some pics after that.

 Dixie was such a good girl all day.  The green geldings were silly and green, and Dixie didn’t pick up on it at all.  She was just unflappable.  I’m so, so glad I put in the time on her.

Eventually we curved east and started climbing up onto the ridge to head south to the barn.  The footing got a little worse – I hadn’t booted Dixie, and I should have, but we weren’t going fast.

It was a really gorgeous day, maybe in the 70s and sunny.  I know, literally everyone who doesn’t live on the California coast is really jealous, but them’s the breaks – the weather here is awesome.  
We climbed a hardened fire-road for at least a couple of miles.  K, when you can trot up that and have horse left, you’re more than ready!  
There were views from the ridge.  Mt. Diablo to the east:
And San Francisco to the west:
You can’t see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog in the strait, but you can see the city, Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, and the pretty new span of the Bay Bridge.  Yerba Buena is the hill in the Bay; Treasure Island is the flat bit of land just to the right. 
I like that one too.
We looped on back to the barn and I left Dixie at the trailer with a bucket of EGM pellets.  I chatted with K and E as they groomed their horses for a while, then realized that I had to hurry to get home and feed Cersei and the cats.  I trotted back to the trailer, stowed the buckets, yanked the rope off the hi-tie, and loaded Dixie.  Then I threw the stool and lead in the tack room, locked up, and drove away.  
(You probably know where this is going.)
I got up the drive to the road and started for home.  A woman on a horse yelled “your hi-tie is out!” as I passed her.  I yelled “Thanks!”, muttered “fuck,” and pulled over.  
Yeah, I crunched the shit out of the hi-tie.  
The pool noodle betrayed me.  It’s supposed to be nice and visible so I notice the hi-tie’s out before I hit a tree.  However, I will say that it sacrificed itself to save the precious fiberglass.  The hi-tie isn’t even scratched.  
The guys at Barstad & Donitch are gonna fix it for me.  
I’m not embarrassing myself by telling you this just out of some sense of masochism.  (Although I’d love to hear your biggest facepalm I-can’t-believe-I-did-that trailer mishaps!)  I want to talk about the actual stupid mistake I made.  
It wasn’t “driving away with the hi-tie open.”  It was “not having the right mental checklist ready.”  
It’s really important to have an unbreakable routine for a lot of things.  I have a really good one for actually hitching up the trailer, and I won’t let anyone disturb me while I’m running through the steps of hooking up every bit of the trailer to the corresponding bits of the truck.  I have a pretty good one for checking my tack before I untie and mount up.  But I don’t – or I didn’t – have a good one for packing-loading-leaving.  
Everybody seems to have an irrational or quasi-rational phobia about trailering – I can’t back this thing up, or what if the hitch comes off the ball, or what if the safety chains break – something that’s unlikely to happen that you can’t help but double and triple-check.  Mine is that the horse door will come open.  Since Dixie rides loose and backwards (and she rides so well that way I just can’t change it), this would be epically bad.  I triple check the door latch.  Sometimes I don’t make it out of the driveway before I jump out and check it again.  I get fixated on that latch.
And that’s what I did wrong on Sunday.  I made 100% sure that the door was latched, and I wasn’t thinking about anything else, and I didn’t have a mental checklist to run.  
I think it should go like this, every single time no exceptions:
  • stow the tack
  • stow the loose junk, like hoofpicks
  • stow the buckets and haybag
  • tie the horse to the trailer
  • stow the hi-tie
  • stow the stool
  • load the horse
  • stow the lead, lock the tack room
  • check the horse door one last time
  • drive
If I always do that in that order, I won’t have to visit the trailer mechanics nearly so often.  

Broke horse, broke trailer

This weekend I got out to another regional park, Tilden, to ride with a new friend K and her friend E. K is an elegant, classy, former dressage rider who is interested in possibly slumming with us grimy colorful endurance folks, and she’s bringing a green little Arab along on the trails.  E was riding another green Arab, not her usual mount, so we had a long slow afternoon ride.

I’d been planning on meeting them in the park’s parking lot (man, that sentence looks really funny, but I can’t think of any other way to say it without it being really clunky), but it was absolutely packed with cars.  There were like three major kid-and-dog birthday parties and a bunch of random people.  I drove into one lot looking for an exit, realized it dead-ended, and backed out of there like it ain’t no thang.

Side note:  California drivers are just as idiotic as you’ve heard, guys.  I had people DRIVING AROUND ME as I was backing up.  Pugs biting my tires.  Dads leading toddlers straight behind me. Ugh.

But eventually I got turned around, and down the twisty road to the even twisty-er private driveway, and I found a nice pulloff and unloaded my phenomenal horse and got her ready to ride.  I accomplished all of this without any drama.  Because we’re pros.

Isn’t Gino cute?

We headed up to the park, past the miniature steam train and the birthday parties and the dog-walkers. Dixie was all “ain’t no thang” about everything except the horse trough, which she refused to approach. Keepin’ it classy, mare.  We wound our way up into the park, across a few roads and up and down hills, over a little spillway bridge and down the side of a dam.  I finally remembered to take some pics after that.

 Dixie was such a good girl all day.  The green geldings were silly and green, and Dixie didn’t pick up on it at all.  She was just unflappable.  I’m so, so glad I put in the time on her.

Eventually we curved east and started climbing up onto the ridge to head south to the barn.  The footing got a little worse – I hadn’t booted Dixie, and I should have, but we weren’t going fast.

It was a really gorgeous day, maybe in the 70s and sunny.  I know, literally everyone who doesn’t live on the California coast is really jealous, but them’s the breaks – the weather here is awesome.  
We climbed a hardened fire-road for at least a couple of miles.  K, when you can trot up that and have horse left, you’re more than ready!  
There were views from the ridge.  Mt. Diablo to the east:
And San Francisco to the west:
You can’t see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog in the strait, but you can see the city, Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, and the pretty new span of the Bay Bridge.  Yerba Buena is the hill in the Bay; Treasure Island is the flat bit of land just to the right. 
I like that one too.
We looped on back to the barn and I left Dixie at the trailer with a bucket of EGM pellets.  I chatted with K and E as they groomed their horses for a while, then realized that I had to hurry to get home and feed Cersei and the cats.  I trotted back to the trailer, stowed the buckets, yanked the rope off the hi-tie, and loaded Dixie.  Then I threw the stool and lead in the tack room, locked up, and drove away.  
(You probably know where this is going.)
I got up the drive to the road and started for home.  A woman on a horse yelled “your hi-tie is out!” as I passed her.  I yelled “Thanks!”, muttered “fuck,” and pulled over.  
Yeah, I crunched the shit out of the hi-tie.  
The pool noodle betrayed me.  It’s supposed to be nice and visible so I notice the hi-tie’s out before I hit a tree.  However, I will say that it sacrificed itself to save the precious fiberglass.  The hi-tie isn’t even scratched.  
The guys at Barstad & Donitch are gonna fix it for me.  
I’m not embarrassing myself by telling you this just out of some sense of masochism.  (Although I’d love to hear your biggest facepalm I-can’t-believe-I-did-that trailer mishaps!)  I want to talk about the actual stupid mistake I made.  
It wasn’t “driving away with the hi-tie open.”  It was “not having the right mental checklist ready.”  
It’s really important to have an unbreakable routine for a lot of things.  I have a really good one for actually hitching up the trailer, and I won’t let anyone disturb me while I’m running through the steps of hooking up every bit of the trailer to the corresponding bits of the truck.  I have a pretty good one for checking my tack before I untie and mount up.  But I don’t – or I didn’t – have a good one for packing-loading-leaving.  
Everybody seems to have an irrational or quasi-rational phobia about trailering – I can’t back this thing up, or what if the hitch comes off the ball, or what if the safety chains break – something that’s unlikely to happen that you can’t help but double and triple-check.  Mine is that the horse door will come open.  Since Dixie rides loose and backwards (and she rides so well that way I just can’t change it), this would be epically bad.  I triple check the door latch.  Sometimes I don’t make it out of the driveway before I jump out and check it again.  I get fixated on that latch.
And that’s what I did wrong on Sunday.  I made 100% sure that the door was latched, and I wasn’t thinking about anything else, and I didn’t have a mental checklist to run.  
I think it should go like this, every single time no exceptions:
  • stow the tack
  • stow the loose junk, like hoofpicks
  • stow the buckets and haybag
  • tie the horse to the trailer
  • stow the hi-tie
  • stow the stool
  • load the horse
  • stow the lead, lock the tack room
  • check the horse door one last time
  • drive
If I always do that in that order, I won’t have to visit the trailer mechanics nearly so often.  

Dixie 4 eva

I got my Dixie-tattoo started today.  He drew up some art…

 Transferred it…

 Whanged away at me for an hour

 And in another hour, the blackwork was done.  I’ll go back in two weeks for color.  I’m absolutely thrilled with it :)

I can’t wait to bore people with stories of the Great Dixie when I’m 80 and wrinkly and tattooed.

Dixie 4 eva

I got my Dixie-tattoo started today.  He drew up some art…

 Transferred it…

 Whanged away at me for an hour

 And in another hour, the blackwork was done.  I’ll go back in two weeks for color.  I’m absolutely thrilled with it :)

I can’t wait to bore people with stories of the Great Dixie when I’m 80 and wrinkly and tattooed.

2013 Red Rock Rumble – Volunteer

This weekend was the second Red Rock Rumble ride.  Last year I rode the 50 to finish off my 2012 season, and I really wanted to go back this year.  Dixie looks great, and I probably could’ve gotten away with doing the 50 again, but I decided to go volunteer instead.

Last year’s ride was kind of a milestone for me – it’s the first 50 where I sort of felt like I knew what I was doing.  I rode exactly the ride I wanted.  We’d ridden most of the trail before, training out in the area, and I knew where to go fast and where to go slow and where to just hang on and wait for it to be over.  I even coughed up a one-paragraph blurb for the AERC Extra about the volunteers at Red Rock, and this year, I wanted to go give back.  (Also, to go party.)

It always surprises me, how much fun it is to volunteer.  Endurance riding at my level is still extremely exciting – will we finish?  What could possibly go wrong this time?  And when you crew, you’re wrapped up in your team’s finish, and you’re stressing about the same stuff (plus, will I forget the spare girth or the rider’s favorite food or sleep through a check, oh dear!).  But volunteering is easy and fun. Show up on time, do your job, cheer your friends, console the ones who get pulled.

Also, road trips are way easier when you’re not hauling.  I zipped straight over on Friday and had enough time to hit Sierra Trading Post for more ugly flannel.

God I missed ugly flannel.  It’s been a long, long two decades without you in my life.

I also bought some tangerines and some rum, because I hadn’t actually brought any food.  I pretty much threw my sleeping bag, a camp chair, a pen, and a parka in the truck and left town.  I mean, it’s one night, and I don’t even have to ride the next day, what could I possibly need?

I got to camp a little before the vets did, but they showed up pretty quickly and we started vetting riders. I think they had about 60+ entries, 38 in the 50 and the rest in the LD, so it was a pretty good turnout. It’s the same camp as Rides of March.  It’s a cow thing, with the chutes and the pens for gathering up the cows that spend the summer on that range, on a plateau surrounded by gorgeous mountains.  It’s 50/50 that there’s a storm rolling in from the Sierras, but this time the weather was perfect.

I got to vet scribe!  Vet scribing is the best job for newbies, IMHO – after you stare at about a hundred trot-outs, you can see lameness.  Not as well as the vets, and I’m usually fuzzy on which limb, but I can see a bobble in either diagonal pretty reliably now.  One of my challenges in this endurance thing is that I pretty much went from “not a horse person” straight into endurance, so I don’t have years of basic horse experience.  Vet scribing is a great way to see a lot of horses, in all stages of excitement and tiredness.

Harley was there!

Yep, he’s a Friesian!  I rode with him at the 2010 Comstock LD, where I forgot all the rules of LD and cantered in to the finish like a complete idiot and had to stand in the sun for 20 minutes trying to pulse down, lol.

The Nevada Dutch Oven guys were there again, so I had no worries on food.  We had some drinks, some dinner, some more drinks, some ride meeting, and then we had a party.  I usually bail right after the ride meeting, to lay in my sleeping bag worrying and listening to my horse eat hay, but this time I had no horse to worry about so I attended the party.  It was fun, but I can’t tell you about it – what happens in Nevada, stays in Nevada!  😉

The next morning I rolled out of bed at the entirely civilized hour of 5:45.  (Once you get up at 3:40 to saddle a horse, everything else seems quite reasonable.)  I cracked a Red Bull and dragged my comforter over to Susan’s vet truck and we headed out to the away check at 6.  The first hold is at 12 miles or so, which is pretty early but that’s what the trail requires.  It’s 12 miles of easy hills and pretty easy footing, down from the plateau into the valley and over to the base of the Dogskins. The horses have a 15 (45 for the LD) minute hold, and then they do a six mile climb up the mountain, drop down the mountain, cross the valley again, and come back to camp at 30 miles.  It’s a long way if you run into trouble.

We ended up pulling six riders at the first hold, all for intermittent little lamenesses.  That early in the ride, everybody’s still bunched in together, so it was an hour and a half of shivering in the truck, then an hour and a half of working hard in the chilly autumn sun.

 Susan and Jana.

 Rob.

Away check!  Porta potties, muffins and fruit and drinks, hay and carrots and water, and even a mounting block.  What more could anyone need?

After we’d seen all the 50s and about half of the LDs, Susan and I bailed and headed back to base camp.  The day had warmed up, from 26 at dawn to the low 50s, and it was still beautifully clear and pretty calm.

We got back right on time to start vetting the frontrunner 50s.  My replacement showed up after the first rush and I showed her how to scribe – she’s a teenager, riding somebody’s horses, interested in endurance, seemed like a cool kid.  I meant to spend more time with her, because I know how weird it is starting out, but I ended up running around helping out more than playing assistant vet scribe.

My ~particular riders~ this time were Lucy, Jen, and Angela.  Angela pulled RO-L at the first check (another intermittent little lameness, and she decided not to push it), so it was just Lucy and Jen after lunch.  Get it girls!

Sanne came to do the finish line, and I appointed myself assistant finish timer – we took turns wandering off to get food or drinks, sitting in the burned-out desert in camp chairs.

There was a little brush fire in September.  They knocked it down pretty quick, but what did burn happened to be the part of trail closest to camp, and it looks very apocalyptic right now.

My friends all trickled in slowly (or quickly – congrats to the top ten!  Especially you redneck guys riding top-ten in jeans – yall are hardcore!)

Lucy and Jen came in with a comfortable hour to spare, looking great.

Roo was a brave little rockstar!

 Jen waited til she was almost done before she fell off 😉  Somebody snapped a rope gate behind her and spooked her firey Morgan, Willow, and she ate dirt.  But she finished grinning!

Harley the Friesian finished looking great, of course.  My friend Pam (the one I had to trot away from at Tahoe Rim) rode the LD with a friend of hers, and they finished top-ten, and Pam got LD BC!  I’m so happy for her – her horse looked great and she did a wonderful job with him.

I did a little bit to help break down camp, but eventually I had to go.  I was hungry!  The Dutch Oven guys had cooked dinner, but there’s only one proper post-ride food…

Double-double, grilled onions, protein style, well done fries.  In’n’Out Auburn: the official endurance food.

And I zoomed back across California to get home by ten.  It was a blast, and I’ll be back next year!