Yes, I am now a real-life, bonafide, endurance rider! Galen and I completed our first ever 50 mile endurance ride on Saturday at the Milwaukee Railroad Ride in Ellensburg, WA. This was a very nice introduction to endurance in many ways; it is only 2 1/2 hours from my house, the trail is pretty flat and has mostly decent footing, although there were sections with BIG rocks, the weather couldn't have been better and I had several friends around to cheer me on.
Wendy and I pulled in around 3 pm on Friday afternoon and got our camp set up in record time. Jennifer and David LeBlanc pulled in a bit later and set up next to us. We shared a lovely dinner that night and went to bed early. The battery in my camper gave out around 3-4 am AGAIN, so I think both Wendy and I were up from about that time, as it was COLD out. Our start time was 6 am, so we were tacked up and ready to head out. We waited a bit to let everyone leave, as I really wanted Galen to settle down and quit trying to catch every single horse. Well, our first five miles was very much go forward a bit, turn around and walk back towards camp until he settled. We got some lovely practice on half-pass, shoulder-in and leg-yielding too! But, he finally settled in and Wendy and Allie were very patient with us. Our first loop included going through a 2000 foot long railroad tunnel. There was the option to go around, but heck, that would be boring! We both got off and led the horses, especially after I started getting disoriented in the dark while riding after about 10 seconds. So, we went throught the tunnel, which was very dark and lit only by glow sticks and a small flashlight Wendy had in her saddlepack. No big deal, really. We continued on to our first out vet check at 19 miles, where we caught up to quite a few people, as both our horses pulsed down right after coming in. But, we weren't there to race, but to have a great (and long) trail ride. We got a little bit of food into the horses, although Galen was still very much wanting to catch all those horses and didn't want to eat or drink. Allie had no such problems. Allie had been a little footsore from the rocks and Wendy was able to get the use of 3 easyboots, thanks to some very accomodating riders at the out vet check! Allie had already had one boot on, and after she was fully booted over her shoes, she was much happier. Thank goodness for helpful people and we'll always pack easyboots on our saddles from now on.
We headed out with one person behind us, and at the halfway point, Galen finally started drinking. Good thing, as I was getting just a tad worried about it and there was no other water before we got back to camp. We enjoyed going along the trail, walking through the 'cuts' where the rocks were big and rolling. The tunnel wasn't nearly as scary this time, as the afternoon sun was shining through most of it and there was only a small portion that was very dark.
I had been rather worried about how I would do on this long of a ride, and it was very interesting to see how I felt throughout the ride. I've never ridden any horse this long in one sitting before, so there were some things I will definately change for my next 50. At about 15 miles, my right stirrup leather started killing my calf. After the out vet check at 19 miles, the left stirrup leather bothered my calf so I didn't notice the right anymore. Definately need sheepskin over the leathers, cause my chaps just weren't enough for the job. Then, on the last loop, both those pains faded when my hind end started complaining. I've always been sort of a 'princess and the pea' with my saddle and boy oh boy, was I a 'princess' on Saturday. After our 45 minute hold in camp after the second 19 mile loop, I got on Galen and almost screamed, as all those little aches roared to life. But, amazing how a few miles can either dull your senses or you warm up enough that it's not so bad. I decided I definately need to do more ab crunches, as my poor abs were telling me they were being abused and I have to say that there will be LOTS more padding on the saddle seat for my next 50. There were consequences, although I do have a Cashel seat saver AND a sheepskin seat saver on the saddle seat. It just wasn't enough. Galen was a bit tired by now and would have been just fine with stopping at 38 miles. But, he didn't complain too loudly for our last 12 miles, and we went very slowly, mainly walking, with some trotting just to break up the boredom. We got chatting with the other contender for the 'Turtle' award, who was a very nice lady. We three hit the mid-way point of the last loop together, so those people who were signing our cards (this loop was a 'there and back' loop also) could go home, which I think made them quite happy. We got back to camp around 5 pm, and Wendy came in last, although Galen did not pulse down right away, so although she came in last, they pulsed down first, so we got the "Turtle" award. He was tired, but got through his vet check with almost all A's, and I believe one B for gut sounds. That was ok with me though, as he drank very well the last 2 loops and was eating everything he could see. I had to pull him away from food for his final vet. So, it wasn't too much for him, but we will definately stay very slow for quite some time and try to collect those "Turtles" and I will try to stay with the easier rides on fairly flat ground. In the meantime, I think I'll start doing some crunches and I am definately going to work on a better saddle padding system!
We decided to head home Saturday night, as I had to run to the airport the next morning, and made it home around 9:30 pm. It was a long, but satisfying day and I can now say, with all honesty and more than a little pride, "I'm an endurance rider".