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Outlaw Trail - first endurance experience!

Ok, well, not really endurance as I rode LD, but if any LD can be described
as endurance, I'd cast my vote for Outlaw Trail!

This is a long note, so toss it now if you don't have the time or aren't
interested.  No pics - if you want to see them, check out the note that
Michelle Fink posted last week - I'm in a few of them with my bay mare
Venesza.  Or click here:

So, a little background.  We have been doing NATRC for 2 years.  We had kind
of an easy season, only 3 rides, because I got injured.  But I thought a
multi-day ride would be a good start in the endurance world, slower paced
overall than a one day ride - or more chances to get it right!

My plan was to ride 3 days - maybe MWF, but basically play it by ear, just
not knowing what either I or my mare were prepared for.  I didn't even know
what kind of terrain to expect.  I expected primarily desert - wow, southern
Utah is an incredibly beautiful place!  Was totally surprised by the
mountains above the colorful canyons.

We took 2 days to get there from Colorado Springs (we being my mom and I)
and met Michelle half-way in Moab.  At ridecamp, we found really nice
camping sites - close to the tent so we didn't miss anything, and about 3
feet from a little stream.  The weather was perfect, as it remained the
entire week.

Michelle helped (well, she did most of it) me foam Easy Boots on for the
first time.  My mare is barefoot and I have really good luck keeping boots
on, but figured foaming them on was the way to go.  I did decide to remove
the heel straps as I didn't think that the pressure that gives a striped
indentation on the heel was a good thing for 5 days.

As a little contrast to NATRC, things were a little less organized, but it
didn't really matter, everything was laid back and comfortable.  Everyone -
and I really mean everyone - was so helpful and made sure we got everything
taken care of.  Crockett and Sharon were just wonderful - and Sharon's
parents were right on top of things helping as well.  I think they had
everyone's names down instantly!  We were also very well taken care of by
the vets - I think we all got very personal attention and encouragement as
needed.  Jamie Kerr really helped me get through this ride.

Day 1 - 25 miles
We headed out north of camp with a moderate climb.  There were 11 of us that
started on Monday and Carol and Bob Waugh started us out on the trail.  The
had seen the trail markings so knew what to expect - which brings up another
interesting topic.  The trail marking was great, although interesting and
occasionally amusing.  We had the typical ribbons, white, pink and lime
green, and also spots sprayed on trees, bushes and rocks.  At first I wasn't
sure about the spray paint, but now I really like the idea.  Hunters can't
move them, cows can't eat them and they last pretty good.  But the white
paint on white aspen trunks, pink spray on bushes with red flowers and green
ribbons on aspens with green leaves did keep you on your toes!  We'd miss
trail often, but always find it quickly because there were so many trail

Several of us stuck together for a while, trotting when the rocks allowed
and walking a lot.  My mare loves to go, so eventually I just had to let her
pass rather than fight and ended up a ways ahead of the main group.  I was
catching up quickly to a couple other riders - faster than I wanted
actually.  So I stopped for a while in a nice meadow waiting for the rest of
the group.  When I heard them coming, I started out again and quickly
realized that I had accidentally made a very smart decision.  My mare
(Venesza) loves to climb and climb quickly.  She used to get out of control,
but we have really worked on her hind quarter strength and realization that
she is strong enough to handle hills in a controlled fashion.  This hill was
a doozy - seemed a mile long, quite steep, but good footing.  No where to
really stop though and if we'd caught up with the other riders, we'd have
been right on their tails.

We rested at the top - haha, thought it was the top!  Next we had several
treacherous short climbs that were heavily rocked (see Michelle's pics!)
that brought us up to the top of a cliff.  We were on top of the world -
what a view!  We headed down to the lunch vet check via a stock trail -
about 10 feet wide with lots of big rocks.  We gave the horses a break and
led down that one - glad I practiced with the horse walking behind me!

But we trotted in to camp at the end of the day and vetted out fine.  Jamie
convinced me to ride the next day - Venesza was still too fresh!

Day 2 - 30 miles
We didn't climb the cliff this day, but the terrain was challenging and
beautiful.  Michelle and I started riding with some people who normally do
the 50 mile rides, so we got a good taste of their speed.  That was fun, but
we eventually had to slow back down.  We got lost (our fault) for a little
while and later worried for a while that we'd gotten on the 55 mile trail,
but nope, we were fine.  I got to ride briefly with Trilby after lunch and
as much as I respect her speed, my mare just couldn't do it.  Her slow walk
is 4mph and she'll do 5.2mph at a walk if I'm insistent that she doesn't
trot.  She actually picks her feet up better at a trot, so trotting was
pretty comfortable unless it was real rocky.  I don't know how fast she can
trot - she has a floaty trot that just screams past most cantering horses
and she'd have done that all day if I'd let her.  So I spent lots of time
finding good riding partners that could help us move at a reasonable but
calm speed.

Venesza has another issue - she is very claustrophobic.  She gets very
fearful in close trees and wants to crash forward, so I always tried to be
near other horses when we got in those environments.  That helps her
realized that they're not going to eat her and that there is safe trail
ahead.  She got better - by Thursday, we were leading through some trees and
while I couldn't have asked her to stop and stand in the trees, she did walk

But again, we trotted soundly in to camp and Jamie convinced me I should
ride the next day - as much because he thought we should break our 2-day
ride pattern from NATRC as because she was still raring to go.

Day 3 - 35 miles
Michelle wasn't originally planning to ride on Wednesday, so we were down to
3 riders, myself and 2 girls from California, Lynn and Rose.  Lynn was in
competition for high mileage LD rider.  Rose has an amazing horse that just
seems to know where the trail is.  We had a choice of 30 or 35 miles (get
trailered to a different start point), but since Lynn was going for mileage,
they wanted to do the 35 - and I wasn't going to do anything alone, so I
said I'd go for 35 as well.  Michelle did decide to go as well so the four
of us started bright and early.

We started out making as good of time as we could, knowing it was going to
get tough in the afternoon.  Michelle ended up twisting her hip at one point
and decided to turn back.  That was probably a very tough decision, but the
ride got much tougher in the pm so she did the right thing.

We actually got to make a fair bit of speed in the morning - a nice trail
along a canal and a neat trail along a canyon.  Lunch was a much lower
elevation than we'd been before, so it was hot and I was worried about my
horse drinking.  She seems to do ok, but she doesn't drink as much as the
other horses, which bothers me.  I try to electrolyte when I can - but I'm
also beginning to think I'm worrying too much and over doing it.  My horse
seems to be covered in more salt in her sweat than other horses - any ideas
anyone?  Is it possible that even though I'm only e-lyting when she's drank
that I'm pissing her off or that it's making her not want to drink?

We went over a trail called slick rock in the afternoon.  Truly what you'd
expect riding the Outlaw Trail.  Dry, white canyons, humongous rocks with
trails cut in to them.  We were only behind a few 55 milers initially, but
missed the trail - the marking we missed was a little bush that probably had
some leaves when the pink was sprayed on, but no more.  But luckily several
other 55'ers came along and knew the trail.  We kept up with them over the
technical rock but let them go when we got to a big rocky plateau.  It was
only slightly inclined, but very rocky, so we got off and led - for miles it
seemed.  We and our horses were tired and thirsty and water went quickly.  I
walked along and picked grass for my horse to eat behind my back as we

Earlier in the day I had lost one foamed EZ boot and replaced it with a
spare.  That rocky trail claimed 2 more (luckily someone had caught up with
us bearing one of the replacements that I'd lost without realizing it).  As
it was, we did the last 5 miles or so with just front boots.  We train
barefoot as much as possible and my mare has very tough hoof walls (she
walks very carefully over rocks - one way to slow her down!) so she did just
fine, although I was glad those last few miles weren't as rocky as others.
But one problem with removing the heel straps is that when the foam works
loose, there's nothing else to hold them on - and definitely no chance of
making them useful again during the ride.

It was a very long day and the 3 of us riders had a blast - I think we
starting hallucinating as Rose led us in made up songs to pass the time.
But we were so happy to see camp - we trotted in side by side singing the
Rawhide song, all horses still doing great.

So Jamie says I have to ride the next day.  I said I'd think about it, but
I'd have to come up with boots.  He said he give me the boots if he had to,
if the horse was ready, I'd have to ride.  I spent the night dreaming about
it and kept changing my mind if I could go on.

Day 4 - 30 miles
I got up and Venesza was still looking good - drinking and eating well,
still trotting sound with her ears forward, so off we went with 4 new boots,
no foam.  It was a much easier day, but we did have some boot problems.
Basically, any time we'd turn sharply in the big rocks, the hind boots would
come off.  Once I realized that, we had better luck keeping them on.  I was
starting to envy the people with shoes and pads, even though I know my
mare's feet were a mess with shoes on.  Maybe I'll shoe next year for just
this ride!

But another great day, we had 5 riders, one was a first time rider that had
previously been helping out with lunch.  She was great German lady that
seems to lead a very interesting life - hunting in Alaska, helping out with
the Olympics!  She rode one of Joannie Pappas-White's horses and Joannie
rode again that day too.  She'd ridden earlier in the week, but had to miss
the Wednesday fun.  Joannie's horses can really handle the hills and the
rocky terrain - I was very impressed!

So yet another fun day, but we came into camp a little slower.  Rose's horse
was getting sore, ended up being a shoulder problem, so she and Lynn were
moving carefully.  Heading back to camp was some more of those close trees
and I was in front, so Venesza picked up her speed to get through it, but at
least she walked.  But then she wouldn't pass the tent - silly girl.

Venesza had a sore back that night - I realized that I had pounded her back
as we'd spent a lot a time trying to walk with the horses wanting to trot.
Every time one horse would trot, Venesza would think she was going to miss
out on something and take off too and I'd land on her back.  So we need to
work on her independence and I need to work on my balance.  Everyone said
put some Holey Water on her, so I tried it, but assumed that we were done.
Jamie said just wait and see.

Day 5 - 30 miles
Wow, that Holey Water is something!  Venesza's muscles were loosened up and
significantly reduced reaction to pressure. I still didn't think we should
ride, but I figured I'd see what her reaction was to the saddle.  This horse
lets me know in no uncertain terms when she doesn't want to be saddled
(usually a bite under the arm as I try to put it on).  No problem there.
Well, I figured I get on and if there was any reaction at all, no ride.  No
problem.  Hmm, I'm not getting out of this - well, lets try a trot.  Still
good.  So back to put on boots.

This time I wrapped her hind hooves with 3 wraps of duct tape and then
forced the boots on.  Here's hoping!

Off we went on the reverse of Thursday's ride, so we knew exactly what we
were in for.  I wasn't real thrilled with the amount Venesza had drank that
morning, although she'd drank good at night.  So I had beet pulp with
e-lytes (which she'd quit eating at lunch), Strategy with e-lytes, and
applesauce with e-lytes.  Prepared for anything.  She never drinks before 7
miles or so and today was no different, even though I really hoped she'd
drink earlier.  At the last of a group of creeks, she finally drank, still
not as much as the other horses.

I was making it as easy as I could on her - lead if it was level or downhill
and stay out of the saddle if riding.  My back was killing me, but I wasn't
going to allow her to get any more sore.  At lunch, she was tired.  We'd
come up a long, long hill at a walk.  She very slowly ate, but didn't drink.
I gave her sloppy Strategy with a little e-lytes and then she finally drank
so I gave her more applesauce with e-lytes.  Still eating slowly and I
really debated pulling.  But the last half wasn't that tough and she finally
drank some more.  I knew there were plenty of streams and I knew we would
all be taking it slow.

We came upon some cows and for some reason, my horse woke up.  We still took
it easy since 2 of us were riding horses that had done all 5 days (and
Lynn's horse had actually done another ride right before this one).

Early in the ride, we'd crossed some streams that wild turkeys hung out at
and gathered up some feathers for our helmets.  So the 4 of us riding that
day came back in to camp, trotting yet again, whooping like Indians.  And
her back was actually less sore than it had been in the morning.

I just couldn't believe what my horse had done - 150 miles in 5 days.  That
was quite a jump from our previous accomplishments - I'm looking for a 50

The ride meetings were a laugh riot every night.  Crockett had stories to
tell, Sharon tried to shut him up as she read off completions, Jamie had
quizzes and stuff for us to think about.  But that last night was even
better for the banquet - I now know where the best pizza in the world can be
bought!  Crockett told more stories and passed around Outlaw Trail
memorabilia, Sharon came up with one more award after another.  The "Ladies
of LD" did a little song about how much we appreciated Jamie helping us
through the ride - how many vets are out there holding a stirrup for
mounting and putting on EZ boots?!  It was so much fun - and so neat to put
faces to some of those Ridecamp names and legends.

I highly recommend this ride - just the atmosphere alone is enough.  But the
terrain is incredible, the people were wonderful and I don't think I'll ever
get over the feeling I have thinking about what my mare did for me and the
bonding that we experienced as a result of this ride.  She did get stronger
throughout the ride - even found her heart rate is about 20bpm lower in most
circumstances than I expected (after getting the HRM fixed by Steve Elliot
and finally tightening up the girth enough on Wednesday for accurate

There's so much I haven't written and so many people I should thank - but
all those that helped me, you know who you are and you are much
appreciated - but especially my mom for fixing me dinner and making me eat,
Michelle for talking me in to going, giving me more e-lytes, hollering when
I lost a boot and being a great inspiration on training your horse in the
middle of a ride, Lynn and Rose for giving me so much information, teaching
me how to wrap legs and loaning me wraps, Sharon and Crockett (and all their
helpers) for putting on such a great ride and Jamie Kerr for the
encouragement.  I hope to ride with you all again!

Marlene & Venesza

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