ridecamp@endurance.net: [endurance] My Tevis experience (VERY long story)

[endurance] My Tevis experience (VERY long story)

LONG JUDY (long.judy@smtpgateway.centigram.com)
Thu, 01 Aug 96 13:48:18 PST

Well, I started writing this tale on Monday morning when I had expected
(hoped) to be resting up after a Tevis completion. It didn't work out
the way I hoped.

Nick and I arrived at Robie Park on Thursday evening around 5:00 pm
without incident. It was hot in Auburn but Truckee was tolerable.
There didn't seem to be too many rigs at Robie. Nick found a good
place to park where the truck would be set up for a quick getaway on
Saturday morning. He set up Warpaint's corral and got the beast
settled in. Robie Park is pretty, heavily wooded, and very dusty.
Warpaint wandered in his corral raising large amounts of red dust. He
thought it was great stuff to roll in and in a short period of time he
no longer had a white blanket with spots, he was a roan. I cleaned
him up and took him out for a short ride. He felt good and although
there was a small chip of hoof that looked like it might come off the
left front, it held up.

On Friday morning our friend Karen Schwartz and her gelding Christagon
arrived, having spent the previous day riding the end of the trail and
spending the night at the fairgrounds. She reported that the weather
was extremely warm in Auburn. We picked up our rider packets right at
10:00 am and went back to the trailers to get our horses ready for
check in.

Karen vetted through OK, but I had some problems. Warpaint took some
bad steps circling to the left and I ended up having to run him in
circles many times for the vets to evaluate. They decided that he was
an intermittent grade 1 and would let him start. I had to decide if I
wanted to start at all. Nick had videotaped the vet check, so I
reviewed the tape and lunged my horse on a better surface. I took him
for a longer ride and did a lot of trotting. He felt very normal and
very good to me, so I decided that we would start. The arena that the
vetting was done in was slightly sloped and was covered with straw.
This made for some strange footing.

I never did check out the vendors but Nick did some shopping. We
bought a corral from the Horsing Around people at the convention in
Reno this year and have been very happy with it. They had a new
gimmick to add to it -- an awning! We decided to get one and the guy
who sells them came down and helped Nick set it up. It looked great
and provided much needed shade for Warpaint. There was a camera crew
from National Geographic wandering around the vendor area and the ride
meeting. There were some interesting moments at the ride meeting when
the trail was being described and the camera crew was revolving around
the speaker. Talk about being in your face! The world's largest
furry house slipper (or something that looked like it) was wrapped
around a microphone, and the guy with the microphone floated around
behind the guy with the camera. I can't wait to see this on TV.

Saturday morning I choked down some cheerios and got my horse ready so
Nick could leave for the highway 89 crossing at Squaw Valley. Karen
and I mounted up and quickly lost each other in the dark. The pack of
riders waiting to start lined up the road. After a few minutes I
discovered that Karen was right next to me. All those striped tights
and helmets look the same in the dark! After some minutes of waiting,
we were off on a controlled start for the first couple of miles. My
starts are never really too controlled and this one wasn't an
exception. Warpaint gets very excited and wants to run full out. Over
the years he has improved, but I still end up having to hang on his
face. If I give him any rein he wants to bolt. We didn't have too
many arguments over cantering and on the whole he wasn't too bad. I
could get him to trot but I had a lot of trouble keeping his speed
down. We moved along through the crowd. I lost Karen after a couple
of miles.

It was pretty light by the time we got to the highway 89 crossing and
Nick was there with the rest of the crew. He later told me we were
about 8 minutes behind the first riders. Warpaint sped along the trail
to the road that goes to Squaw. Here is where our problems began. You
ride along the road and there is a fairly small dirt shoulder. I was
having problems controlling Warpaint's speed. We came to a turn onto a
bicycle path too fast and instead of going straight across it to the
dirt, we turned and skidded out on the paved trail. Warpaint went way
down in the back but regained his footing. He took a few off steps but
then felt OK and was still wanting to hurry off. I was shaken up but
we hadn't hit the ground. A side note here is that there was a woman
who felt it necessary to make a mean comment to me after we slipped.
As she passed she said in a nasty tone "That happened because you were
going too fast". I found this very upsetting. Emotions and tempers run
high at the beginning of a race. I don't try to do stupid things on
purpose and no one needs that kind of stuff said to them, especially
when worrying about the condition of your horse. So remember if you're
tempted to say something like this, just don't!

We were just a short distance from the base of Squaw, so I rode on
through the parking lot to the water. Karen Schwartz's crew person
Carolyn Schultz was there to hold my horse while I tried to get him to
drink and dumped some water on him. Warpaint seemed to be OK, just
very excited. I did notice some skin missing from the inside of
Warpaint's right rear leg. Carolyn gave me some encouraging words, so
I hoped for the best and mounted up. We proceeded up what is known as
the Mountain Run ski out at Squaw Valley. It's interesting to ride up a
trail that you have skied (sp?) down before. We worked our way up to
the part of the trail I was dreading.

Once you go over the top where the monument is, the trail gets skinny
and tough. My horse was still in a big hurry so I didn't really get to
enjoy a lot of the beautiful scenery because I was too busy trying to
keep him from killing us on the rocks or crashing into the horse in
front of us. Warpaint is not known as one of those horses that takes
care of himself. He's more of the kamikaze type. The horse in front of
us for most of that part of trail behaved well although he thought about
belting us one many times. I did notice a lot of Mule's ears
wildflowers but that was because they were right next to the trail. (I
also saw a couple of real mules too). This wasn't a situation where you
could sight-see. I knew this part of the trail was going to be tough
but I had forgotten just how hard it is. Narrow, rocky, running water,
up and down, and packed with horses. The guy in front of me did a
spectacular limbo as he got caught under a tree branch. He was laid
flat against his horse's back but managed to stay on. Later on in this
same crowd, one horse put his left rear foot into a wet rocky hole and
almost left it behind. We were surprised to see that his shoe stayed
on. There were a few spots where Warpaint stopped to drink which was
encouraging but scary. It was really hard to let the horse drink and
let riders by at the same time. A few miles into this the trail got a
little wider and a lot dustier. The horses were spread out in groups so
it was easier to get away from a crowd and ride alone for a few minutes.
I was able to let the faster groups go by. I also realized by this
time that Karen had probably pulled because I didn't see her pass me.
Warpaint was getting easier to deal with and felt pretty good so we
just trucked along. I recognized the part of the trail that led up to
Cougar Rock. When we arrived there, I stopped to look and decide what
I was going to do (this year there was a trail around Cougar Rock).
Cougar Rock looks worse than it really is but it is definitely no piece
of cake. When you look at it, you see a rock that looks 25-30 feet
high with white arrows painted on it. The arrows seem to point
straight up the face of the rock. You don't really see how to get up
it until you are committed. There was a couple of people at the
bottom. I turned to them and said "this is where I decide whether I'm
smart or I'm stupid". I then opted for stupid (on purpose this time)
and went over Cougar Rock. Warpaint stumbled on the first leap but
quickly recovered and scrambled up the rock. When we were over it, I
got off and looked at his knees. They looked a little ruffled but
nothing serious. I got back on and started down the trail. About a
1/8 mile later he took a couple of off steps on the right front. I
immediately got off and saw that we had lost a shoe. I struggled with
him to get an easyboot on and started to look around for the shoe. I
thought it might be close, but as it turned out, another rider told me
it was back on Cougar Rock. So I went back, got my shoe, and started
back down the trail.

Somewhere after Cougar Rock and before Lyon ridge I noticed my heart
monitor had a very high reading, 225. A few minutes later it read 63.
I thought that the electrode had been pulled out, so I figured I would
wait and check it at Lyon Ridge. We came to Lyon Ridge and passed the
trot-by, so I was encouraged that Warpaint might be doing OK. We
stopped, he drank, and I discovered that the wire on the HRM was broken,
not just pulled out. I started to wonder if we were jinxed. There was
a guy at this check who had lost his horse and was asking if anyone had
seen it. I've been through that and it stinks. I felt pretty bad for
him. I don't know if the horse has been found or not. This also gave
me some perspective on my situation. It wasn't as bad as his.

So we kept on moving from Lyon Ridge to Red Star Ridge with me looking
down at his right front foot every so often to make sure the easyboot
was still on. The trail got better but Warpaint started to feel a
little uneven in back to me. We were going pretty slow. Teresa Cross
and Jamie Kerr came along. I told them what had happened on my ride so
far and asked what they thought about how he was moving in back. Jamie
noticed that Warpaint didn't have a left rear shoe. Now I was starting
to get depressed. I had another easyboot, not exactly the right size
but it was going to have to do. Jamie held Warpaint while I put the
boot on (putting a rear boot on a horse that doesn't like to stand still
is a challenge). We went on in to Red Star Ridge, where Warpaint drank
a ton. At least that part was encouraging. I heard the volunteers at
the stop saying that there were only 7 more riders coming. I knew I had
been going slow but I didn't realize I was that far back. It was about
10:15 when I left and Robinson Flat was 7 miles away. We would trot,
then check to see that both easyboots were still on, then trot a little.
It was here that I was pretty sure that something was bothering Warpaint
in the back end. His trot felt more side to side than it normally does
on his most comfortable diagonal. The other diagonal was definitely
more side to side than normal. I started to think about pulling him at
Robinson. If something didn't feel right this early on, it wasn't going
to get better later on.

Nick had gotten word from Teresa and Jamie that I was coming in without
2 shoes, so he arranged for the farrier to put them back on. I saw Nick
coming out to meet me on the road, armed with another easyboot and duct
tape. We walked in, got our in time (11:30 am) and went to the crew
area. My great crew went to work, stripping Warpaint's tack and cooling
him down. They sat me down, listened to my tales of the trail, and fed
me delicious cantaloupe. I also heard the news that Karen Schwarz had
turned back after a couple of miles into the start because she thought
her horse might be tying up. Warpaint was ready to go to the P&R area
in about 10 minutes, which is pretty good for him. We went to the vet,
Mitch Benson, who listened to a summary of our ride. The initial exam
went OK, but then we had the fateful trot out. I asked Nick to do it
so I could watch. Both the vet and I let out one of those "oh,
doesn't look good" sighs. Warpaint was off on the right rear. Mitch
said he would have one of the other vets look at him and let us go
crew for a while to see if it was going to get better. We would then
have the other vet check him again and see if he would pass. While we
waited a few minutes for the other vet, Nick kept Warpaint moving.
When we trotted him out again, he looked a little worse. That was the
end of our ride.

While we waited for Nick to retrieve the truck from Michigan Bluff and
the trailer from Foresthill, we watched the rest of the activity at
Robinson as riders were heading out. Warpaint relaxed and ate well.
He didn't get any worse which made me feel a little better, and he
didn't seem tired. I talked to Pat Frederickson who had pulled at
Robinson. It turned out that her horse went down on the bike path and
did the same thing that Warpaint did, scraped up leg and all. I saw a
couple of horses being treated with IV fluids. There was an area with
a couple of trees grouped together and there were ropes up high around
the outside of the trees. They had IV bags hanging from the ropes down
to the horses. The horses all looked pretty nonchalant about it.

So I commiserated with my crew, talked about "next year" and about how
I had forgotten just how tough that trail is. I had mixed feelings
because physically it felt good to stop, but emotionally it was very
disappointing to stop. I was thinking about the other riders while we
drove home, wishing I was still on the trail and knowing if I was on
the trail I'd be wishing I was done!

It's Thursday now. I'm still thinking about the ride. I can't believe
it, but I'm thinking about doing Tevis again next year. My horse is
sore but is improving each day. His front end came through the ride
very well, lost shoe and all. I still don't know what makes me want to
do endurance, but I do know that's what I'd like to keep doing. Maybe
it's some form of rider's dementia. In any case, that's the saga of my
1996 Tevis. Here's hoping my 1997 ride will have a happier story!

Judy Long and Nachi Sunshine (Warpaint)
Hayward, Ca.