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[RC] [Guest] DVE 2002 Day 4 - Ridecamp Guest

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

The moon is still hanging over the horizon, the stars are still brilliant in
the crisp chilly wind. There are snow rumors up high, and it makes us
shudder to think of having to go through slick snow again.
Today, the last day of my first multi-day ride, I am not so sure Zayante can
go. I feel fine, not a sore spot on my body except for my left little toe,
of all things, but Zay is quite stiff when we walk him and Raffiq around in
the morning. He is so stiff I mentally plan on what Ill mope around doing
all day. But I go through the motions of getting us both ready, in order to
escort Raffiq to the start, and I vow to be grateful weve come this far.
I get on Zayante 20 minutes to 7 AM and Gretchen gets on Raffiq, and we warm
them up good. Suddenly Zay seems to feel as good as I do, wants to complete
this ride as badly as I do, and my hopes start rising. Gretchen and I forget
the electrolytes again, and have to go back to get them. Somebody, we
decided, is going to be in charge of these next time.
       Charlie the vet is watching the horses trot by for the start, and I 
wave at
him, and ride Zayante at a trot over cement, the hardest ground I can find.
Zayante is smooth as glass, and we are okayed to go again.
       14  25 milers and 73  50 milers start out today (14 and 70 will finish).
Quenby joined us at the start and we hooked up for the whole day together.
She rode her gray mustang mare Granite Annie, who packed along part of the
Pacific Crest Trail with Quenby. Annie and Zay did not take a right shine to
each other. There was a lot of flattening of ears at the start.
       We sauntered up the highway a half mile before we turned south up the
Darwin Canyon road. It was a long haul to the top. Zayante was yet again
very perky and hard to convince we should take our time and be careful going
up this hard-packed, sometimes rocky, winding 4-wheel drive road. His excess
energy found its outlet in more jigging today. On top we were rewarded with
a spectacular view in the morning sunlight of the Sand Dunes and Cottonwood
Mountains behind us back down the canyon.
       We hopped off to walk downhill into a wonderful, wide, flat sandy wash 
high canyon walls on both sides. This had to be another of Zays favorite
places in the ride, as he bounced along in front at a smart trot, passing
some more old mines, and many large piles of wild horse or burro poop. A
hard chilly wind hit us in the wash, and blew on us till we got out of the
       Up another slow grade of a hard road, looking behind us on rippled 
bands of
the Argus Range, then we descended to the funky semi-ghost town of Darwin,
with its wonderful sculptures and artwork and mysterious little shrines. The
town was named after Darwin French, who explored here in 1860. Lead and
silver was discovered in 1875, and later gold and copper and zinc was mined.
Alex was waiting here at the LD Vet Check with water and hay.
       From here we headed west 7 miles, up one long sandy hill, the perfect 
of hill Zayante likes to attack, the kind he trains in. All day we were
still overlapping the same people  Sue and Becky, Judy on Warpaint, Rebecca
and Emmaline. Our stablemate Adonis motored on up this hill at a steady
trot, and up, and up, never stopping. Go Adonis! I still had to keep an
anchor hold on Zay to keep him from galloping all the way up; and we trotted
strongly and steadily behind Adonis, and Raffiq and Annie kept right up
I was beginning to really enjoy this  until the wind hit us near the top of
our climb at 5500. Now, I will take anything  snow, rain, sleet, dust 
but I hate the wind. HATE IT. And this was no mere wind, this was like a
hurricane, howling through a wind tunnel. As it smacked me around on Zay, I
became very crabby. You couldnt talk; you couldnt hear anything but the
gale force in your ears; you felt so disconnected from your horse. I wasnt
enjoying any scenery; I wasnt enjoying anything. My howls of rage at the
wind were blown back down my throat. I gritted my teeth, scowled and howled
some more, bowed my head and pulled hard on Zay to keep him from running
flat out through it  he didnt enjoy it either. He gritted his teeth, bowed
his head, cocked it sideways against my anchor hold, just wanting to get
through this and get it over with. We were both SURLY.
       By now wed done around 19 miles, with only about 6 more till lunch; 
but it
was cold and windy and I wasnt even hungry, and it felt like 45 miles, and
I couldnt believe we had 6 more to go before I could get off, and were up
on this beautiful Centennial Flats, and I was tired of this. Whose idea was
it to ride 200 miles in 4 days?? Wah, wah!
       Most welcome stop of the 4 days was at the bottom of that wind tunnel 
Sparrow waited with water, and where wed turn north, with the wind at our
sides. I hopped off Zayante, still extremely irritable, while Judy on
Warpaint said as she rode off, with a completely calm and different
perspective, Well, that was a bit breezy. Breezy, indeed.
       Now, all of a sudden, with a side wind buffeting us off the side of our
horses instead of blasting us in the face, it wasnt so bad after all 
though the jeep road we were on seemed to be a twin of yesterdays road that
went all the way to Canada, with no lunch Vet Check in sight. But after a
few miles we saw it in the wee distance; we began meeting a bunch of front
runners with happy faces; we waved and said hi; we snacked on my great
homemade trail mix. The scenery on the Flats at nearly 5000 was yet again
spectacular: The Argus range was back to our east, and on our west and
running north: the snow-capped Sierras. We thought we could pick out Mt
Whitney in the distance. This was not a darn bad place to be on New Years
Eve, cruising along a high desert through a Joshua tree forest on this
wonderful, powerful horse, going along as strongly as he had 175 miles
       We loped on happily and energetically into lunch, where it was not as 
and windy as wed feared. Mike once again showed up to help us with food and
blanketing the horses. It was only a 30 minute hold, and I had to pull
Zayantes face out of the food. Hes used to eating for 50 minutes and
resting for 10 before we go back out.
       We 3 all passed the Vet Check, and left for our final 25 miles in high
spirits, headed back the same way we came, meeting the last 3 riders,
including purple-clad Trilby on Beau coming in for lunch. Zay continued to
walk, and walk  and walk. I stopped him for a few Kodak moments, and for
the first time in 4 days Zayante didnt object to this waste of time. While
I snapped, hed grab anything he could find to eat  though up here there
was nothing but prickly, tasteless-looking scrub. He didnt want to pick up
a trot, not even when Raffiq and Annie passed him. He pinned his ears at
them, but continued to walk  which worried me greatly. This was not
Zayante. What was wrong with him?? Was he just starving? Just dead tired?
Hit the wall? Had no more fuel to go on? Once again, we forgot to
electrolyte (somebody is going to be designated in charge of this next
time!), and although they get electrolytes with their grain  was that the
problem? We were about 3 miles out of the Vet Check, and I almost turned him
around to go back and pull him.
       Quenby was carrying electrolytes with her, and she offered some. By the
time I got it administered to Zay, half a dozen horses had trotted past us.
I dont know if it was that or the electrolytes, but Zay immediately perked
up, and he barely let me get my feet in the stirrups before he took off, his
usual vivacious self, motoring along, spooking at the dead Joshua trees and
horse-eating boulders (the size of a basketball), sneering at Annie. There
had been some serious ear-pinning and snarling contests between these two
going on all day, neither giving in  I think we found the King and Queen of
       The wind had calmed , just a breeze on our other side. When we stopped 
Sparrows water to head back east, Gretchen took some of Quenbys
electrolytes for Raffiq. When done, she licked the syringe  and take note:
if youve never tried this, dont do it.
       Turning back east for the short climb then long winding downhill through
that formerly windy wash, it was so pleasant and scenic, with the mountains
in front of us and Joshua trees and cholla dotting the bouldered hills on
both sides of us, sunlight and whispy clouds, a lovely ride  although
Gretchens stomach was beginning to bother her.
Zayante set a fast pace down the hill, keeping his eye on War Paints great
white spotted butt ahead of us. I let that big trot roll all the way back to
Darwin because it made him happy and the footing was great. Quenbys heart
monitor on Annie read 98 all the way down.
Not only was there horse water and hay at Darwin, but Alex had chocolate
treats for us. One of the locals was out visiting with everybody. The
chocolate didnt hit the spot with Gretchens churning stomach. She hadnt
had anything unusual for lunch wait, could it have been the electrolytes?
It was slow returning home; we wondered if wed make it back by dark today,
but we didnt care. We just wanted to finish this 4th and final day. We
walked on foot most of the way down to the sandy wash, where Zayante
practically threw me up onto his back.
Again, this obviously being one of his favorite places on the DVE, I turned
Zayante loose to do whatever he wanted. Those white ears pricked forward and
he leaped into his Big Trot, breaking into a canter, and a gallop at times,
eating up the ground, spooking mildly once or twice, but having way too much
fun to interrupt his great romp. I only glanced over my shoulder to make
sure Raffiq and Annie were still behind me; I didnt hear any yelling, so we
joyfully blew out through the entire few miles of wash.
Zay wanted to keep on trotting up the last monster hill, but it was time to
slow down and take it easy the rest of the way. We even turned that last
climb into a training session for Raffiq  Zayante and I ponied him while
Gretchen tailed him. Raffiq didnt care, after 195 miles, what we did with
him, though I doubt he wouldve cared anyway since not much bothers that
steady little horse.
At the top, admiring the beautiful view for the last time this year, we all
hopped off and walked all the way down  fast. With Zayantes Big Walk I
have to half jog and stumble and hang onto him for support; despite
Gretchens growing stomach ache, she and Raffiq did a lot of jogging down
that Zays power walk kept us up with.
Down, down, step by step beside this amazing horse Id ridden and walked
beside for 195 miles, sometimes stepping in rhythm with, sometimes moving on
auto pilot with, legs stepping one after the other, on and on, with 2 goals
in mind: getting to the finish line and starting the next day. Just me and
this horse, taking me up mountains and canyons and valleys Id never see,
with a power and speed I could never attain, this amazing 18  23yo steed,
now approaching his 10,685th career mile.
We 3 finished together, just before dark, and passed the vet check. I got my
wish, completing my first multi-day ride on the best endurance horse I have
ever ridden.
if I had only 1 wish, its that everybody , just once in their life, gets to
ride a horse like this.

Footnote: Mae Chase-Dunn on Benjamin was the overall winner with the fastest
4-day combined time of 22 hrs 44 minutes. Elfta Hilzmans Luna won overall
BC for the ride. 30 horse and rider teams finished the 4-days of riding
together, a record for the DVE and a fine tribute to those who had the luck,
patience, skill, and of course more luck, to do it. Before the ride, Nick
Warhol promised to donate a blanket to the horse and rider partners who
complete the 1K mark at the DVE ride. The first winner of this award: his
wife Judy Long, riding Warpaint, whose big spotted butt we followed most of
the 200 miles.

Merri Melde
Vagabond (but Ridgecrest, CA in the winters)

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