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Longstreet's Charge -- First Ride, Part 2 (LONG)



April Lee adlee@bigfoot.com
Sorry, gang, this wouldn't go through for some reason, so I'm posting as guest.

To quote Paul Harvey "And now, the rest of the story."

..continued from Part 1.

So, after Carla finished saddling up Baru, we headed for the start line.  It was 15 min before start time.  I walked up and down the road for a few minutes to get Apache comfortable with all the horses around, took a few comments about riding bareback, then settled behind a car parked off the side.  Carla and another rider were "hiding."  Karen, the other rider, was on a big Appaloosa. Pretty horse with a huge white blaze and black markings on either side of it.

When the ride started, Karen, Carla, and I let most of the others go ahead, then pulled into traffic.  We all settled into a nice trot and everybody was doing pretty well.  Apache started fighting me, so we dropped back a little and I moved him to the right side of the trail to get him thinking about his footing (there was a sharp drop-off to my right).  After he started listening to me again, I allowed him into his fast, extended trot.  We could walk later!  :)  We cantered up some of the steeper parts and I moved past a few riders.  As I passed, I heard several gasps and "Oh, my, I couldn't do that!" or something similar.  I'm almost positive it had to do with no saddle <g>.

Karen and Carla were definitely ahead of me, but not too far, and asked me how I was doing.  We were doing fine except for a rock that slammed into my cheek bone off another horse's hooves.  I should mention that about the first mile or so of the ride was uphill, s-curves, gravel road.  About when the gravel road dropped to go downhill, most of the riders were ahead of Apache and me.  We dropped to a walk for the steeper downhill parts, but Apache was furious that I was keeping him back.  We probably didn't save any of his energy during that descent, but we did save his front legs from the beating of trotting downhill.  When it leveled out, I sent him back into a trot.  I passed Carla, only because her water bottle fell out of something and she had to stop and get it.  We started into the mine trail, a lovely shaded, wooded trail with fairly good footing (for Pigeon Mtn) and plenty of places to trot or even canter if that was desired.  I kept Apache in his trot and he chose to speed right through.  We caught up with two riders going up past the first mine.  The trail went up and around several mines.  If we had cut through the mines, the trail would have been fairly straight and somewhat level.  But I didn't see anybody taking any short cuts.  Angie had warned at the ride meeting that any cutters would be buried in a cave-in.  Apparently the entrances were boobie-trapped to collapse the cave.

As I followed the horses in front of me, 4 more came up behind me.  One person passed me after riding my horse's rear end for a little while.  Carla was the next in line, and she did the same thing.  I was glad to get them out from behind us.  Apache was getting more and more uncontrollable and I was having a hard time keeping him from running himself out in the first 5 miles.  I got left behind as the group took off up the pocket loop.  By the time we reached the northern pocket loop, there were no horses in sight.  Apache whinnied a couple of times, then dejectedly started up the trail.  We were at the rockiest part of the ascent and it would have been much better for both of us if we'd had some company.

About 3/4 of the way up that section of trail, another rider came up behind us and followed us for the rest of the way up to the end of the rockiness.  I had thought that having another horse along would perk Apache up, but he was still a little off.  Not lame, just not happy about being where he was.  When we got out of the rocks onto a nice, wide, sandy trail,  we played leap-frog with the other rider for awhile and Apache seemed to like that game.  He perked up and started acting better for about 20 minutes.  When some other riders came up from behind, our leap-frogger took off with them.  I didn't like how they were riding, so I held back.  Apache was doing some crazy stunts and almost got rid of me twice while we were with them.  In retrospect, I probably should have stayed with them, but hind-sight is 20/20.

Apache was fighting me like mad.  He wouldn't settle into a decent trot, but kept changing his speed.  I'd change it to what I wanted, and he'd change it right back.  He weaved all over the trail.  He was sweaty and I was sweaty and we were definitely not in sync.  Not the team that we were supposed to be.  I finally slid off and walked for awhile.  My blood sugar was dangerously low and I thought I might pass out.  I ate a Kudos bar and drank water, breathing deeply to try to calm myself down.  I glanced at my watch and pulled out the map.

After awhile it became apparent that I was way off of my schedule.  I had planned on reaching the vet check by 10 am (2.5 hours after start), vet right through, have my 30 min hold and be off to the bottom to be there by 1 pm, having 30 min to vet in for my completion.  It was close to 10 and we were nowhere near the vet check.  About 2-3 miles out, I realize now, but I thought it was more like 5 or 6.  I got really dejected and just stopped.  I sat down and contemplated why in the h--l I thought I could do this and why I had wasted my time and money to come and not even finish.  Apache usually gets sympathetic when I get depressed, but this time he couldn't have cared less.  He didn't even look at me.

I finally decided I had to at least get to vet check and tried to find a way to get back on Apache (no stirrups, remember?).  I tried a small dip in the trail, but Apache moved off.  He didn't want me back on. I finally found some logs and mounted, but he was no better for me than  he had been before, and I was worse.  I could feel my sweat-laden jeans rubbing my legs raw.  I was depressed about not making it at all, and we were alone.  Every other rider had passed us, as far as I remember.

As I neared the vet check, I started seeing other riders.  25 milers headed out of vet check, 50 milers heading who knows where.  I was walking again and still not very optimistic.  Some riders tried to speak to me, but I was on the verge of tears born of disappointment and failure and didn't speak back unless it was only one syllable.  Carla passed me on her way out and tried to engage me in conversation, but I kept my head down and kept walking.

I found our crew and dropped all the stuff from my waist.  I started to get food for Apache, but Lisa had taken his pulse and sent me to vet in.  So I did.  52 pulse.  Well, sure, we'd done nothing but walk for a long time and the last mile, I was even off him.  It should have been even lower, but hey, there were mares around.  He received 2 Bs this time.  In gut, no surprise, and in skin.  He was dehydrated a tad.  I knew that already, too.  He refused to drink on the way up.  Even in Bear Lake that was a little ways out of vet camp.  And Angie assured everybody at the ride meeting that every horse would drink out of Bear Lake.  Well, he didn't.  I did get him in it up past his belly and sponged him off really well, but no drinking.

After vetting in, I ate my sandwich, and gave Apache his electrolytes.  Good thing I had a paste tube (thanks to Carla, I defnitely owe her one).  He was not going to eat his beet pulp laced with powdered electrolytes.  He drank Pao's water and tried to eat Pao's alfalfa, but wouldn't drink his water or eat his food.  I'd forgotten to send hay up, but I doubt he would have eaten it.  Karen was there with her Appy.  They'd gotten pulled due to a torn up frog.  As I rested and ate, and Apache rolled, I decided maybe I would try to go and finish anyway.  The best part about the vet check was the Mountain Dew that Andy gave me.  What a sweet guy.  Just what I needed to get my blood sugar back into the range of sane people.  We were ready to go out when our hold was up.

About 1/2 mile down the trail, horses PP and QQ caught up to me.  Boy, that made me feel better, too.   At least 2 other 25 milers that were as "late" as I was getting to the vet check.  I let them pass, and as I did, I determined to stay with them no matter what.  Apache did better with other horses in front of him and I didn't want a fight like we had on the way up.  Besides, my pace was too slow anyway, and I was hoping these riders were more experienced than I and I could learn something.  Two more horses (U and V, my camp neighbors) caught up with us and passed all three of us.  We just fell into a line.  5 horses right in a row headed down the mountain.

I stayed with them all the way down.  It about killed me a few times, but we just kept going.  The jeans were rubbing skin off, I could feel it and I was in some serious pain.  But I gritted my teeth and kept at it.  Apache seemed to be doing great.  By the time we reached the end of the mine trail, we had passed several groups of riders.  That was fun!  :)  There was only 2 miles or so left in the ride and I knew I would make it.  I let the group move up further along the gravel road that we had reached, as I needed to reattach my sponge that I had used at the last water hole.  After everything was in place, we took off after them.  We caught them after a short canter and I pulled Apache to the rear of the group of 5 and set him at a trot.  He wanted none of that and trotted energetically past the first 2 horses.  I wanted to stay behind the leaders of our group, but Pache trotted right past them as well.  So off we went.  I felt really bad about the next passing I did.  I'd tried to warn people about passing them, but one group was spread out over the road (intentionally maybe?).  I passed one rider and made for a rather large hole in between two others, but I guess they didn't hear me ask for passage because all the sudden there was no gap and we squeezed through anyway.  I think I made them mad.  It would have made me mad.  I apologized to them when they caught up with me at the 50 miler finish line (we had another mile to go).

I got down into camp and made for our buckets that Andy had set out.  I didn't see our crew (just TJ in the truck, moving off somewhere), so I sponged Apache off, noted gratefully that he drank, and started toward my trailer to get my stethescope to check his pulse.  And who did I see but Andy, walking toward me, carrying my baseball cap and wearing a stethescope.  What a sweet guy!  He took Apache's pulse while I traded my helmet for the cap.  Apache was down, so we vetted in right away.  Pulse of 60.  He didn't want to trot out for the vet, but fortunately it was just a lameness check and NOT a full vet check, no points taken off because he didn't want to trot.  He did finally trot enough for her to see he wasn't lame and she signed our card, completed.  Time of 5:26.  I have no idea what position I came in at.  Carla came in 17th (almost top-tenned, but it's another long story).

I left camp at 3 pm or so.  Long before the awards meeting and before supper.  All I could think about was getting back home and putting Apache in his pasture with plenty of room to stretch out and I wanted a cold shower and a sappy movie.  I left my address with Carla and she offered to send my completion award to me.  Nice people.  :)

I parked my trailer at the pasture just so I wouldn't have to deal with backing it into my driveway (it's really hard to do sometimes).  I came home and took a real shower (what a blessing!), lay around and watched a movie until I fell asleep a little before 8 pm.  I didn't even unpack the truck.  Most of my junk is still out there.  I was sore yesterday, but surprisingly, I'm better today.  My shoulders are sore and my right knee has localized swelling, but other than that, I'm doing ok.  I think I have some bruising on my legs, but I'm almost positive it's from wearing those darn jeans all day.  I think I'll try something other than jeans next time.

Apache came through it great.  He didn't want to eat last night.  All he wanted was to head for his pals, so I let him.  I got up at the crack of dawn to go feed him and check on him.  He's rehydrated nicely.  His back isn't sore, his butt muscles weren't sore. His legs were fine, his feet were pretty good.  His frogs did get a little beat up, but not bad.  His soles were perfect.  He was in a bad mood this morning, but I'm not sure why...maybe because I messed with him while he was eating...he hates that.

I'll give him a break and lots of food for the next couple of days, then start planning our next trip.

Can't wait to hear ride results.  There were 44 that started the 25 miler and 39 that started the 50 miler.  I'm still formulating my entire opinion about my first ride.  I have nothing negative to say about ride management (Angie would kill me if I did).  The trails were well marked and easy to follow, even for a rookie.  I stood in line only very briefly for vet checks.  Can't say anything about prizes or placing or the food, but maybe next ride, I'll stay for the whole experience.

April & Apache (the "AA" team)
Chattanooga, TN

PS.  I wonder if I can get the "number" AA for all my 25 miler rides?  :)  LOL


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