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Renegrade, the Almost UnRendevous[long]

Ok, so there was this endurance ride, my riding friends said it was a tough
ride, and I know that everything is relative, and I thought, how tough could
it be?

The Renegade is awesome.  More hills than an Everest expedition, and almost
as high.  We all wore oxygen bottles on the uphill portions, including the
horses (thanks to the ride management, they took the bottles down for us).
The average uphill was about 12 miles long at a 60 degree slope and there
were at least 10 of them on the 50 miler.  Yeh, I know, the math is screwy,
but this is horse math, it doesn't have to make sense.

Several of us started about 5 minutes after the main pack left, allowed us
to settle into a strong trot up the first hill.  We crested that, went  down
and then up the next hill.  This was single track that was climbing a 45
degree slope, and then it crested onto a fireroad.  The last 10 feet of the
single track leading to the road was a very steep, loose dirt and rock
Nick tried to get up it, got to the top, lost his footing and started
sliding down.  I turned him to get his front legs back under him and away we
went DOWN the slope straight for a large tree.  Do you remember the downhill
gallop scene in Man From Snowy River?  This was the Man From Elmo's
Mortuary...I honestly don't know what stopped us, but our motion ended with
Nick's head about 4" from the tree trunk.

My legs were clamped so tight around his belly that my feet were touching.
I got him turned around, and this time, we did a lunge/canter up that slope
and got on top of the fire road where we promptly encountered a "Jeep
Rodeo".  Yup, them boys and girls grab their jeepmobiles and have a hard day
driving up them fireroads and trails...we passed about 20 of 'em on our
trail, all pulled over, fixing somone's broken muffler bearing.

Then Linda-Catherine's horse lost a shoe, fortunately had a EasyBoot, and we
continued on to the first vet check where she pulled her horse, felt he had
a stone bruise or something.  That left me all alone in the middle of
nowwhere with 35 miles to go and no pace car.  Nick and I left the vet
check, Nick was definitely not motivated to be out there by himself, when
fate shined its first light on us - Linda and Dick from Oregon swung past
and I joined them.

Four wrong turns and 10 miles later, Linda's horse stumbles and she goes
flying, landing in the ditch alongside the road.  She's in a lot of pain,
heard a crunch when she landed, she thinks it's her collar bone or shoulder.
As Dick is helping her sit up, she says with a perfectly straight face, "Are
you going to call a helicopter for me?", at which we all laugh, what a great
attitude.  She eventually gets up, decides to walk to the vet check, Dick
rides off at speed to the vet check to get a vehicle up there.

There's nothing left for me to  do at that point, so I take off, completely
distracted by the previous event, and completely miss a MAJOR trail turn
(which turned down the hillside), instead continuing to follow the fireroad
for a couple hundred miles, which put me near Kansas City, I reckon.  Just
by pure fate (again), a family on a picnic outting was coming up the road in
a van, I told them about the injured rider, would they mind picking her up
and taking her to the vet check, I would follow and walk her horse back.

They didn't mind at all,  so I turned around, heavy sigh when I realized how
far I had to backtrack, and eventually met the van and Linda just as Sue
Summers, Karma, and another woman whose name I do not know came on the
scene, I'll call her the Z Woman.  Z Woman decided that Linda's horse would
learn to pony and that was that.   And it did in very short order, as the
four of us started down the trail and lo, there were three huge ribbons
hanging in the tree that I had completely missed, not 100 yards from the

We turned down the trail, and in the course of the next 7 miles, took 4 more
wrong turns.  I was happily bringing up the rear, blindly following the
leaders, drafting off of their airstream.  That is, until we came upon a "T"
intersection, complete with a pie plate sign, hanging upside down that said,
"Stay on road to Vet Check", with an arrow pointing to the right.

Clueless wonder that I am, I walked right up to the sign and read it upside
down, and didn't put the arrow being upside down as an additional piece of
useful information.  We all took off to the right, which fortunately ended a
mile and a half later with a dead end and no ribbons in sight.  My comment a
few minutes earlier of, "Gee, has anyone seen a ribbon in a while?", had
been answered with, "She said that on the roads, she wasn't marking much",
although I now believe there is a difference between "not much marking" and
"no markings in a hundred mile radius".

We turned around, laughed at the upside sign, and continued on.  These three
women were a hoot, they talked about everything, most of which I couldn't
hear because Nick's trot isn't quite as fast as they were traveling, so we
were usually a few yards back.  The stuff I did hear was very funny, what a
great way to make those last 630 miles go by.

Z Woman did an amazing job with that ponied horse, although I'm sure her
hand and arm were tired from it.  We came into Vet check 2 (also an away
from camp  check), everyone passed, did our hold, then left, and rode as a
group all the way back to camp and the finish line, taking only 2 or 3 more
wrong turns.

Mind you, it wasn't the fault of the ride management, as a lot of ribbons
had been eaten by elk and/or were on the ground, AND, with a trail that
tough, we were watching the ground more than usual...or talking more than

We all completed, happy and sound, I was tired and very pleased that Nick
was sound.  We'd been fighting an off and on tendon problem all year, and
I'd given instructions to the vets to be extra careful when checking his
gaits.  Today, Nick's trotout was perfect, he's a little tired but no
swelling, heat, or lameness.  Major relief.

This is one spectacular ride, and I feel very fortunate not only to have
participated in it, but also to have had such good riding partners
throughout the ride.  And the times of the winning riders put things into
perspective - on the 50, the winning time was about 5 hours, which is
incredible, and Dennis Summers placing first and BC in the 75 in about 8
hours(?) gives me a new respect for the level of conditioning that some
of the riders are achieving, both with themselves and their mounts. (I was
19th and about 9 hours in the 50).

A number of people mentioned that they use the Renegade course to condition
for the Tevis, and I can see why.  I'll be looking forward to this one for a
long, long time.

Mike Sofen
Seattle, WA

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