Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 3

As we quickly but carefully crossed the highway, it started to hail. Thanks again to the volunteer that acted as our crossing guard. Cars and trucks are not expecting to see horses on the highway, but especially in that kind of weather. We headed on up the trail for the next 8 mile leg. This part of the trail seemed to have more rocks and deep mud which made for slow going at first. I noticed a horseshoe in the mud and was so grateful Calico was barefoot. Then the rain stopped and we rounded the turn that mark the farthest distance from base-camp. Calico picked up on it right away, and I could feel her energy shift when she sensed we were headed back. We really started trotting and the trail got better and the rain stopped. At one point Robin noticed a rattlesnake, and Cali and I trotted right past it. Cali had been veering up on the shoulder to get to drier footing and I kept trying to steer her back to the trail. We just happened to be down on the trail at that moment; otherwise, we could have easily stepped right on it. Soon we were passing under the train trestle and a man came toward us to ask for our rider numbers. We let the horses drink from the stock tank and gobble hay. Calico decided this was a good place to stay forever. This time, even when Maggie started to walk off, she chose to stay and eat. The nice man said the vet check was just four miles away, so I let her grab a few more bites, then we trotted on and on. Selina had just call me on my cell before our brief stop, so it was very exciting knowing that she and Justin would be waiting for us when we got to the 2nd vet check. Here, the horse would have to meet their pulse criteria, then we would have a thirty minute hold before we were allowed to continue. Or should I say, before we were forced to continue. Just kidding. We walked in the last half mile or so. It took a few minutes for my horse to pulse down again; I just loosened her cinch and walked her around, let her drink and eat. Melissa Ribley DVM, kindly scrounged up some halters for us, so the horses could eat more easily. She also suggested, I might try putting my rider card in a plastic baggie next time. Standing around on a windy hill for half an hour made me realize how wet I was. It was freezing. Selina and Justin brought gatorade, peanut butter and banana sandwiches and dry socks. I had water sloshing around in one shoe, the other was bone dry. I remember that it was very hard to sit down and take my boots off and then get up again. I was aching all over. I let Selina hold my horse while I located the port-a-potty. Sweet relief. Then it was Robin's turn. I didn't notice or care, but she was gone for a while. When she finally returned she was laughing hysterically. Funny, I didn't remember seeing a big, cheap bottle of wine in the john, but something had her going. Oh yeah, she was wearing really tight, soaking wet Wranglers. She couldn't pull them down; and when she finally did, she couldn't pull them up again. She said she nearly screamed for help. 'HELP, I can't get my pants off, and I need to pee like a race-horse.' I was having trouble getting my horse bridled again. She was busy devouring some poor 100 miler's carrot cake; a lovely feed pan filled with grain mash with carrots stuck all over it like candles. I kept trying to pull her away, but she's a little stronger than I am. It was really hard mounting again, and saying goodbye to Selina. I knew she'd be at the finish. Once we started down the trail, I started warming up. I was glad to be off that cold, windy hill, and back on the trail. We crossed the highway again. Now we were trotting and cantering a lot. Calico felt so strong and refreshed. Her mane had completely dried out. It was cleaner than it had been all season, so beautiful. I felt proud of her. Toward the end of the ride, we slowed on the down hills, and I was able to get some video.

I knew we should go faster, but every step downhill was painful on my hips, and my left calf was bruised. When we were about two miles out, some 65 milers started passing us. That really messed with my mind. I started thinking that I had slowed us down so much that we weren't going to make the cut-off time. Calico wanted to do her extended trot and I started fighting with her. I'm not proud of the way I acted. I think so many different emotions were hitting me at once, along with physical pain and exhaustion. As always, Robin coached me through it. We walk the last half mile across the "finish". In endurance, the finish is a funny thing; I guess anti-climatic. My emotional outburst the mile before was my climax. I cry, what can I say. This is what I've been wanting to achieve with this horse since the first time I saw her in March of 2006. I didn't own her, and then I had a baby. When we got to the end, someone said, good job, you're done. This is not a spectator sport, no cheering, no crowds. I didn't even notice that someone else had taken her pulse. I was waiting my turn at the water trough. I loosened her cinch. Then Robin said, you want to ride in, there was still 500 yards to the fairgrounds, "Nope, I'll walk". She just laughed. We still had to go do our final vet check. When we got into the fairgrounds, I looked around for Selina. She and Justin were asleep in their truck. No cheering, no crowds. I got my horse unsaddled. You can see what was left of my rider card. The only printing left was my ride number, 308. We headed for the last vet check and the trot out.

1 comment:

  1. That's great! Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like quite the experience. Glad you were able to see it through to the end and I hope it's just the beginning for you and Calico.