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[RC] [Guest] DVE 2002 Day 3 - Ridecamp Guest

Merri Melde chalkbox89@xxxxxxxxxxx
DVE 2002
by Merri Melde, deputizing for Nick Warhol

       One hundred miles down, one hundred to go! Will we make it? I cant 
ahead to that last day, that last mile; only mile 101, then 102, one by one,
step by careful step.
       I have cracks in my fingers, a sun- and wind-burned face, and this 
I discover an 8 bruise wrapped around my thigh was this from Zayantes
fall? But I am rested, re-fueled, and eager to hit the trail again (though I
admit it is awfully hard to get out of bed).
We get up at 5 AM, walk the horses, feed them, take off their bandages, put
Easy Boots on, eat human breakfast (prepared by Mike), and its time to
saddle and warm up  somehow those 2 hours in the morning are gone and its
time to go.
Day three is a relatively flat ride along the Panamint Valley from Indian
Ranch to Panamint Springs, skirting the foothills of the Panamints to the
east and the Argus Range to the west.
We were ready to trot out for the vet at 7 AM, but had to go back for the
electrolytes we forgot to give the boys. We started out almost 10 minutes
late, but by day 3, many people were still just strolling out for a nice
ride with a bunch of friends on a beautiful, cold, desert morning. Even our
horses, while eager, were content just to stroll along for a while, no
hurries, no worries.
But when Zayante was ready to go, it was time to move along. We had a
gradual uphill climb up a trail to a wash, and kept passing our groups of
friends and stablemates  the same middle-to-back-of-the-pack group wed
been keeping pace with the last 2 days.
We worked our way up along the base of the Panamint foothills, trotting
along on the good footing, slowing down for the rocks. We stopped several
times to adjust/replace Easy Boots. I picked one up someone had lost on the
trail, which Gretchen ended up using after Becky Hackworth borrowed her
At one point my Raven fell out of my saddle bag  my Raven puppet that has
completed every ride with me since I started endurance riding. Fortunately
Gretchen was behind us and saw it, or I would have had to ride this whole
trail backwards till I found it! Next time Im tying it to my saddle bag so
it doesnt fly out.
The LD Vet Check was a water stop for us at around 9 AM (this was I think
the first time Id looked at my watch while riding in 3 days); here Ann K
joined us for the day on her Rough and Ready Red Horse.
Zayante grew happier as we continued on, pulling harder on me than he was
the last 2 days. He knew just where we were headed today, also. On this
stretch we passed Julie Suhr several times, and I swear Zay strutted for
her. Julie and her husband Bob owned Zayante for the first 5 years and 5000
miles of Zays career, and Julie considers him the best endurance horse she
has ever ridden. I just cant imagine why she says that.
The further we went, the stronger Zay pulled, (was this really Day 3 for
him? And I used the sidepull again??) and I finally got off him and  walked
(fast) down the rocky trail to the highway. He of course picked the
less-rocky single path and gave me the rocks to stumble over. Smart horse! A
nice water break was had there; then we headed up another sandy wash west to
the Argus range. I was having a difficult time convincing Zay to take it
easy going through that deep sand. Wed passed Judy on Warpaint, her big
strapping Appaloosa working on his 1000th Death Valley mile with Judy
aboard, several times this morning, and here she tried to ride and talk with
us, but Warpaint, being a not very social horse, took off quickly, leaving
us and Judys words in the dust. That horse has the urge to pass any horse
ahead of him, and a huge trot with which to pull it off.
Sparrow was waiting at the end of this wash with more water; then we headed
back down another wash  Zay pulling hard on me, since he knew lunch was up
ahead  to the Vet Check. Mike once again had the food ready us and for our
horses (were we getting spoiled or what); we worked on wrenching sand-filled
Easy Boots off while they ate, as the rockiest parts of the ride were now
behind us.
We had a leisurely stroll out after lunch, back east across the highway for
a mile, but once we turned north for the final 14 miles to the new base camp
at Panamint Springs, Zayante came alive, or I suppose I should say extremely
enthusiastic. Here, along this sandy road that looked like it must reach to
Canada, once again, I truly appreciated this amazing creature beneath me. If
theres a horse heaven on earth, this was it, and Zayante was in it. He flew
along this stretch at a smart trot, feet like metronomic pistons eating away
the miles; 3 miles, 6 miles, 12 miles, white mane rippling over his white
muscular neck. I no longer had to hold him back, just helped him pick out
the best rock-less path so he didnt have to miss a beat. He motored along,
happy as a clam with his big trot, ears forward, always pricked sharply
forward, grinning from horse ear to ear, never breaking a sweat. Sometimes
Ann and Gretchen and I talked; sometimes we existed alone on our horses
while still in our close group led by the happiest horse on earth, doing the
job he loved more than any horse ever loved his job anywhere, ever.
It was hypnotic, addictive, elative, intoxicating.
Having done this very trail countless times, Zayante knew Panamint Springs
would be emerging into view up on the left, and sure enough, as soon as we
saw it, he saw it, and his head would swivel between the path before him and
Panamint Springs, checking the shrinking mileage, while his stride never
       Finally we reached the end of this endless dirt road where it met the
highway; the horses had a well-deserved drink while we humans about
collapsed from the uninterrupted hour of trotting. The horses were ready to
race on the last 3 miles to the end, but having to ride on the shoulder of a
quite busy highway with cars that didnt see the need to slow down, we took
our time getting in, and let the horses relax (which didnt quite work for
       We passed our final vet check at 4 PM with flying colors: 150 miles 
50 more to go! 15 of 15 finished the LD; 70 finished the 50 with only 1
It was a great treat to finish, and get the horses taken care of  before
dark. Mike had everything set up for the horses, had coffee ready for
Gretchen and a Dr Pepper waiting for me. I had one of the best showers ever,
then had dinner at the Panamint Springs restaurant served by too few harried
waiters waiting on many starving endurance riders. I slipped in with the
water guys Sparrow and Alex, then squeezed in with a group of riders 
strangers when I sat down and friends when I got up.

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