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Wine Country 50 - and XP!!!

I'm back from another wonderful weekend - this one at the Wine Country
50. As others posted, it was a challenging ride with lots of climbing.
Someone wore an altimeter and clocked 8000 feet of elevation gain for
the 50... I have no clue how close that was, but it felt like 8000 feet.

The trails were well marked, particularly considering how many cut-offs
there were. Jessica did a great job of routing us over lots of fresh
ground throughout the day. I took one (well used!!) wrong turn, and I
heard a few other off trail stories, but most of us got back on trail
easily. I had been told it would be extremely rocky, and there were
stretches with a lot of rock, but I did fine without pads or easy boots.
Much of the footing was excellent, and I walked through the rocks
without losing much time.

I started out slowly (in a rope halter!) with Connie Berto and Sara
Eaton. Sara and I rode ahead after 8 miles while Connie took her time
with her youngster on his first 50. Sara is a wealth of wilderness
information, knows her wild flowers and is a great rider. She works at
Holman Ranch in the Carmel Valley, and rides horses in the mountains
around Monterey for a living - including working the very nice endurance
horses they train and condition for clients... <sigh>... I asked her if
they paid her a fortune, and she broke my heart by chuckling and telling
me it was a great job to have while finishing school. Once again, my
dreams were shattered... ;^)

The scenery was beautiful, many wildflowers and lots of trail wandering
through cool forests and across grassy hills. The grass under the oaks
was tender enough to entice our horses to rest and graze even when
horses trotted by! There were arid canyons with old rock walls that look
like they were built for one on the old Ranchos.... most canyons still
hid creeks, and the wide lush pastures often held ponds and lakes. The
trail started in the park, and circled through several ranches, a
tribute to Jessica's good standing with her neighbors. 

There was one dry stretch after lunch, and it seemed dryer because of
the unexpected heat. We climbed from a creeked canyon floor into an arid
area, and after several hot, dry miles our horses started looking
eagerly for water - up to that point there had been lots of it. When we
rode by a big house with a noisy spanish fountain out front, I really
felt for them! When we did reach water, it was a nice pond, and the rest
of the trail had abundant water. I suspect there may have been water we

The volunteers here were great - especially the 6 or 7 stuck out on the
trail all day, directing riders or taking numbers... that takes a
special kind of dedication! The all-you-can-eat fajitas were delicious,
and the folks cooking them were having a ball. Much of their teasing and
joking was wasted on us - they got tired, hungry grins for all of their
antics - not much more!

There were a few "events"... 

I took Sam with me, and he amused everyone with his attentiveness
outside the porta-potty!!! I guess he's intrigued with the sounds Mom
makes when locked in that smelly little room! He's turned into a great
dog to have along at rides... it gets pretty mushy when I get to the
trailer, though. He stays in the truck, quiet, until invited out, and
then tells me how much he's missed me... even dog-lover Val is sickened
by his whining declarations of love and devotion!!! He's a hoot!

While waiting in the Friday Night vet line, I got kicked - hard - on the
forearm by a claustrophobic horse, and ended up with a contusion that
made me look like Popeye the Sailor. I was lucky, because the kick
missed my elbow by less than an inch. My arm's tender and bruised, but
fine. The owner felt horrible, the horse "isn't a kicker", but it is a
lesson to be aware of the back ends of horses that are agitated or
restless. This horse was milling around a little, nothing unusual, but
not too happy standing still.

There was an accident on the morning loop on a narrow stretch of
trail... I came up immediately afterwards and didn't see it, but the
rider came off (had no choice!) and was momentarily shaken... I guess it
was a dramatic dismount. I knew the guy, and after being told he felt
okay to ride into lunch, I got his horse, ponied it back and followed
into lunch. The rider is okay, just very sore. He pulled at lunch.

Unfortunately, Jessica heard that there was an accident, but she didn't
know who got hurt, how bad, or how they were. I happened to overhear her
talking about it and filled her in. It was a good reminder to keep ride
management posted on outcomes. Better they hear too many times than not

Gav and I rode Castle Rock last weekend then Wine Country this weekend
(rather than the Coe NATRC) to see how Gav would do on back-to-back
tough 50's. I want to ride Swanton (it was Tevis - changed my mind) and
this was a stepping stone to 100's and multi days. He did great. His
final vet card was all A's and a B, and we finished 37 or 38 out of 95
starters. His weight is holding great, and he's getting VERY strong. Had
tons of impulsion all weekend! I beamed when he raced around his pasture
with buddy Kadance when I turned him lose Sunday! He looked so good... I
want to make this last.

Driving home from the ride, I realized that Gavilan had finished his
12th consecutive successful competitive ride! He's 7 years old, and has
done 9 50's, 2 NATRC Opens, and one LD. Many were tough rides or hard
conditions. We've never been pulled... I've followed so much great
advice gotten from so many good riders... it's hard to not rush things,
it's hard to go conservatively and steady, but it's paying off.

My next ride? <Heh!Heh!Heh!> ohhhh boy!!! I was talked into a VERY good
one! The Ft. Schellbourne XP in eastern Nevada in June!!! I am SO
excited I can't stand it!! Fate may get in my way, but I REALLY want to
do one of the Ducks multi-day rides. I spent last night drooling over
the web site in the barn while waiting for a sweet four legged gray
friend to foal....

I'm calling tonight, sending the entry tomorrow.... man oh man, am I
excited. If you've done it and have advice, I'm open to it!

This is turning into a good spring... If I don't stop smiling, my face
is going to cramp!

Happy trails - Linda

  Linda Cowles                  
  Lion Oaks Ranch         
  Gilroy CA

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