Monica Bretherton and I loaded up ‘the boys’, Galen and Arzuw, on Friday morning, for our trip over the pass to Kittitas, WA for the Milwaukee Railroad Ride. This ride is run on the John Wayne Trail, an old railroad grade for the Milwaukee Railroad (for more info, see Monica’s blog at http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/archives/166278.asp for a detailed history). This isn’t necessarily a very interesting ride, as it’s pretty much out and back on the same trail, although ride manager Gail Williams did add a nice lower part to the 3rd loop (our second loop), along a stream and through some fields. There was even a patch of mud to make us Seattleites feel at home. It is a fairly easy trail and makes a nice introduction to endurance. This past weekend though, what made it really an ‘endurance’ ride was the wind. We had gusts up to 100 mph in places and were riding into 60-80 mph gusts with a pretty steady wind when those were quiet. We made jokes about being blown off the trail, and as I felt Galen being blown sideways during some canter strides, I made very sure we weren’t too close to the edge. I don’t think anyone was blown off, but we did notice a few bandannas and other implements that probably flew out of people’s hands.
So, Monica and I did the 25, as this was Monica’s first ride and Ari’s also. Ari did do a trail ride a few years back with my daughter, but that hardly means he was a veteran. We have been conditioning, but my work schedule has made it a weekday thing, after I recover from my very busy weekend (I work swing shift over the weekend). Galen has several years of conditioning and rides under his girth, but we didn’t want to overface either Ari or Monica. We arrived in camp around 1ish on Friday and got camp set up, checked in, vetted the horses in and went for a ride. The wind wasn’t so bad on Friday, and we had a nice 5 or 6 mile warm-up. That night, the wind picked up and we both kept waking up every time the camper started rocking. Monica said it was like being at sea. It didn’t seem to bother the boys much, but they were on the protected side of the trailer. Saturday morning dawned, cold and windy. Our start time was 8 am (yeah, limited distance!) and we went out at the end of the pack. Galen walked out of camp on a loose rein, which I found extremely satisfying, as I’ve spent several years trying to achieve this. In the past, he thought we should roar out of camp, pass everyone and show them all his fine Teke behind. Saturday, he walked like a gentleman, allowed gigging horses a wide berth as we passed those less fortunate. We started trotting probably a half mile outside of camp and then passed bunches of people. I do admit we both were probably more than a bit smug on our well-behaved, smooth ATs, passing gigging, sweating, bouncy arabs and arab crosses. There were also a lot of gaited horses at the ride and some did quite well. We played tag with one mule for quite a while. We came to the tunnel at 4.5 miles and all eastbound traffic went up and over this year. There was another 4.3 miles after this that we trotted and cantered. We made pretty good time on the trip out, averaging 8.8 miles (it took us exactly an hour for the entire outward trip). We made our turnaround and found out why everyone coming towards us was hunched over and looking windblown. Galen thought we should just keep going WITH the wind, forget about heading back. But, we turned into the wind and started our trek back. It was amazing! Over in Western Washington, we’re just not used to wind like this – this would have been a huge storm, with trees coming down, schools closed and barns locked up tight. In Eastern Washington, it was just…spring. Give us Seattle people rain and mud and we’re pretty much ok, but wind! We trotted and did some cantering, but the suspension phase of the canter was a little hairy, as I could feel Galen being pushed over in the air. We also slowed down considerably, averaging about 4.5 miles an hour coming back. Then we came to the tunnel. The tunnel is maybe 300 feet long (I’m guessing) and has some light going Westward. There is about 20 feet that is almost pitch black, so the horses must trust the rider. (Or, maybe they can see way better than us and it’s not pitch black to them). Galen had done the tunnel twice before, so I got off and led. Ari was a bit nervous, but he and Monica came through ok. I know some people ride through it, but when I tried last year, I got so dizzy I almost fell off. Definitely better to walk! We mounted up and headed back to camp, where we were pulsed down when we arrived and vetted through fine. Back to the camper for a hold and lunch for all of us.
Our second loop was the opposite direction and Gail had changed the loop so it was more interesting, with part of it going along the river and through some fields. This made for a nice change and refreshed us all. We came back on the John Wayne trail and had one moment when Galen stepped in a length of wire that stuck around his leg for a stride or two. The actual wire wasn’t the problem, but the weird noise it made dragging along was a bit daunting. But, he listened to me and stopped nicely, and we threw the wire of the trail so some less lucky person didn’t get tangled in it. We did more walking this loop, as both boys weren’t quite as eager to move out anymore. We made it back to camp about 1 pm and were pulsed down coming in. We were amazed to find that we were in the top ten finishers for the 25 and both elected to stand for Best Condition. While I didn’t really think we’d win, it’s an excellent training tool and gives you another vet to look at your horse and comment. So, we did our initial vetting and went back to the trailer to clean them up for the final vetting. I was horrified to see that Galen had rubs on both front pasterns from his Easyboot gaiters, so spent some time getting those looking good. Definitely something to work on for our next rides – no rubs! We went back for our final vetting and the boys were pretty good. The vet did ask if I thought Galen was a bit skinny, so I had to tell him a bit about Akhal-Tekes. Next to an arab or a gaited horse, yes, he’s skinny. But for a fit Teke, not so bad. We finished our vetting and headed back to bed the boys down and have a well-deserved libation. We did think that doing more than the 25 would have been too much definitely for Ari and possibly for Galen at this point. Unfortunately, my working has really cut into our conditioning rides. But, they finished with some reserves and we’ll stick to LDs for at least a while. Probably the entire season for Ari, as he doesn’t have the years of conditioning that Galen does. As for Galen and I, well, we’ll see. A lot depends on if I can get more conditioning in. If not, well, LDs finish nice and early, so we can hang out, drink beer (or wine) and watch the longer distances come and go. More time then to visit and tell people about Tekes!
We came in 9th and 10th (although at the final vetting they said 8th and 9th) and were 7th and 8th (or 6th and 7th?) in the Best Condition. There were about 30 odd people in the 25 and I think there were several pulls. I have to say I was busy looking at my vet card and BC card at that point and didn’t really pay attention.
Now the boys get a few days off to eat. Ari is all for that, but Galen was running laps an hour after we got home.