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Oakland Hills 50, 1999

Judy Long posting for Nick Warhol (for a few more weeks)

Oakland Hills 50, 1999

Or, How NOT to behave on a single track trail.

The long time tradition of the Oakland Hills ride took place on Saturday
June 26th this year.  It was a memorable ride for me, to say the least.
Since Shatta is still up on blocks in the garage due to his suspensory
injury,  I was lucky enough to ride my wife Judy's Wonder Appy Warpaint in
our second ride together.   We had a blast at the Castle Rock 50 a few weeks
ago, finishing in great shape after a really fun ride.  The Oakland Hills
ride would be my last ride before attempting Tevis on the App.  He's 2 for 3
at Tevis- I want to make it 3 for 4.

The ride is managed by the ever-capable ride manager Laura Fend, along with
her husband, some guy named Larry, or Barry, or Harry- maybe it's Chet.  No,
Gary, that's right.   Yeah- Gary Fend.  The guy who is solely responsible
for me getting totally lost in an endurance ride, thus bequeathing me with
the nick-name "Wrong Way Warhol."  I've never missed a turn in my life, and
thanks to Gary, I get lost one little, tiny time, and now I have a legacy.
Oh well- I'll get even with him someday.

Gary made it clear that he had used a lot of ribbon to mark the course, just
so I wouldn't get lost.  The ride was indeed well marked, with one human
exception.   We started out in nice cool weather up the long, gradual climb
from Bort Meadow towards Redwood park.  I rode with my endurance riding
buddy Sally Abe and her spunky little Arabian gelding Ahkiba.  Spunky little
horse?  I sort of consider him a beginner but he is really coming along.  He
has done 6 or 7 fifties now, I think, and has developed into a strong,
reliable horse.  Sally's plan is to do a few more fifties, and attempt her
first 100 down at 20 mule team in February.   I know he misses his friend
Shatta but boogies along regardless.   Joining us was Kathy Webster on the
red horse Alaarm, or better known as Alaarm clock.  He was a strong
son-of-a-gun at the start and was telling Kathy he wouldn't be back here
with the slow folks for long.   We trotted along up the ridge, down the
other side, across Redwood road, and up the Golden Spike single track trail
where a spotter directed us to the right.   Except the trail was supposed to
go to the left.  Uh oh.  We were in about 30th place or so as we trucked
along the narrow single track trail in a long string of horses. The War Pony
was jamming and feeling great.   Suddenly we stopped!  There was a long
bottleneck of horses on the trail.  We heard shouting coming from up near
the front of the line of horses.  "Turn around!  This is the wrong way!"
"We can't turn around!"   "This is the wrong way!  Turn around!"  "What?"
"Will someone please move? Move!!!"     The problem was that the first
thirty or so horses came to an arrow that was pointing backwards on the
trail.  They realized the entire pack was going the wrong direction on this
tight trail.  In their excitement they forgot, or didn't realize, or
something, that there were about 60 horses right behind them facing the way
they had just come.   They tried to turn around, but not every one would, or
could.  There was no way to see around the tight turns, all we could do was
to try and get people to calm down.  I actually turned around at one point,
as did Sally, but had to turn around again.  It was really frustrating,
since no one seemed to be able to take any control of the situation, but due
to the physical location of the horses no one could.  Ron Waltenspeil tried

(Ron) "Everyone up there, just keep going!!  Let's get off this trail!"
(leader's voices) "No, it's the wrong way!  Turn around! Go back!!"
(Ron) We can't!!  There are 60 horses back here.  This trail is to narrow to
mess around.  Go forward!!"
(Leader's) "NO!!  It's the wrong way!  Turn around!!!  We need to turn
around!!  There's an arrow here!!"
(Ron) Listen up!  This is dangerous!  Just get going!  We'll figure this out
when we get somewhere safe!"
(Leaders)  No!!  Turn around!!

There are now horses trying to turn around, in both directions, all over the
place on this really narrow trail with a really steep drop off to the
downside.  Warpaint isn't helping.  He doesn't stand still anyway, and on
this tight trail he's moving too much.  The scene is ugly.  People shouting,
yelling, turning around, bumping into each other,  no one seems to be
listening to anyone.  Total confusion.

(Ron)  Listen, Dammit!!  Get going forward! This is not safe!  We'll all be
lost together and then we can sort it out.  Move!! We are going to loose a

Just as he says this Warpaint takes a big step sideways and plunges off the
side of the trail.  CRASH!  Down we go, rolling down the very steep
hillside.  I actually sort of stepped off and rolled only once, but the Appy
was on his way down the canyon with Gravity doing it's part.  I jumped down
the hill after the horse much to the surprise of Sally.  "I'm fine," I
shouted,  "I'm going after him!"  Down I went, slipping and crashing down
the steep hillside, trying to keep Warpaint in sight.

The line of riders suddenly got very quiet.  Some people got off their
horses.  Ron saw what happened.
"Okay!  We lost a horse down the hill.  GET GOING, NOW!"  That did it.  The
word spread forward that I had gone over.  Everyone started moving forward
down the trail.  People kept shouting after me, asking if I could see him,
was I okay?  I just kept crashing down this bank, thankful it wasn't a
cliff.  Try as I might, I couldn't keep up with the horse.  He bulldogged
his way down the steep bank while I kept falling down, through trees, bushes
and shrubs.   I had no problem following his trail since he was mashing all
the plants flat as he made his way down.   Who knows what I went through, I
just know I kept falling down because I could not stay on my feet and move

We finally reached the bottom of the ravine where the hill started to
flatten out.  I saw a creek bed to the right but the horse tracks I was
following said he didn't go that way.  I started to run through the shrubs
and caught a glimpse of him as he hit the paved road at the bottom and took
off trotting up the road.  Great!  The road that leads to Oakland.   I had
visions of a Kenworth with a spotted horse plastered on the front.  Damn!
This isn't even my horse!   I hit the road and took off running, fast.  I
sprinted a half-mile or so until I had to slow down.  I came to a fork in
the road.  Double Damn!  Which way?  I was panting like a dog as I stopped
to ponder what to do.  Just then up drives Gary in his car.  He sees me
standing there in the road, panting, with no horse.  I just KNEW he wanted
to say something about being lost, but when he saw the look on my face he
just said "What happened?"   I told him I took a dive and lost the horse.  I
sent him down the right fork in the car while I took off again on foot to
the left.  Not too far later I saw a parking area, and lo and behold, there
were the horses coming down the hill from the single track trail I just fell
off.  The parking area was the first vet check, but we were about 10 miles
early since we were riding the course backwards at this point.  Well, at
least everyone was but me since I took my "short cut."  In the confusion as
I ran up I saw someone leading a horse.  Hey, that's him!  He had run into
the check.  And who should be leading him, but Judy!   She had a worried
sort of look on her face that changed to bewilderment as she saw me come
sprinting up, huffing and puffing.  Her first thought was "Why is he in
first place?"  since WP had hit the check before any of the other horses.
He trots fast by himself, especially on a paved road.  Only problem was: no
rider!  Amazingly enough, just as I got my hands on his reins and swung back
up into the saddle, here comes Sally and Kathy.   They look at me like
they'd seen a ghost- I hadn't even lost a place!

Thank goodness Gary and Laura can think quickly.  They just sent everyone
back out on the trail backwards to complete the loop in the other direction,
then back to this check in about 10 miles.  This way the leaders were still
the leaders.  Off we went, with me pulling sticks, twigs, and general
shrubbery out of my clothes.   We climbed a hill and began trotting again on
a wide road.  But the War Pony was off in the back.  Big time.  I hopped off
and jogged him.  He seemed okay.  I got back on and trotted.  Nope- he was
struggling in the rear end.  Bummer.  I broke Judy's horse.  I sent Sally on
her way and started to lead the horse on down the trail to towards the
check.   Everyone and their mother passed me and gave me their condolences
as I walked along.   Or tried to walk along.  Warpaint has about the worst
ground manners of any horse alive, especially when excited.  He was excited,
too, as all those horses kept going past.  He kept smashing into me, pushing
me all over the trail.  I had about enough of that and picked up a stick.
I'd poke him in the side when he moved into me- the stick broke.  Okay-
bigger stick.  Broken again.  Hmmmm.  I grabbed a hunk about the size of my
thumb and used it for a while until he broke it.  Okay- enough.  I picked up
a nice redwood branch about three feet long and the diameter of a small
baseball bat.  That one worked.  We had a "swell" manners lesson as we
walked for over an hour to the check.  Man, what a pain in the ass.  As
superb as he is under saddle, he really stinks on the ground.  He began to
respond to my "bat."  Wouldn't you?   I guess some people saw me carrying it
into the check as I walked in and got quite a chuckle.  It was for my own
self preservation!.

We crossed the stream and walked into the camp from the other direction,
cutting the course by a few hundred feet.   I assumed I was done for the
day.  The check was about deserted when Steve the vet came to look at the
horse.  I trotted WP- he was perfect.  Circles, no problem.  Out and back
five times- he looked perfect.  Steve said he looks fine.  Where's the
saddle?  We tacked him up in record time as Steve told me just take it easy
to lunch and let me see him again.   Judy told Steve that WP has had a cramp
episode in the past a couple of times that he walks out of.   I headed out
of the check in about 100th place out of 105 starters, all by my self, with
no horses in sight.

Not for long.  Here's where this horse comes alive.  Judy has always said he
goes real well by himself.   I spent what could have been the neatest 5 or 6
miles of my riding life after we left that check.  Warpaint turned into a
machine and just started trucking, powerful, smooth, strong, solid- It was
really something.  You just let him go and he sails along through the
forest.  We began catching riders quickly- Warpaint would just dispatch them
and sail on.  We were talking it easy- he worked his way past about 20
horses or so on the way to lunch.

Into the check- he recovered fine and looked great for Steve.  Okay!  I was
still way in back but now had no problems.   After a nice lunch break we got
him ready for the second 25 miles. All of my friends had left lunch before
me.  I thought I might catch a few before the finish since he felt so good.
Understatement!  We left lunch with Warpaint on his endurance mission.  His
mission: catch and pass horses.   We did.  This was our last conditioning
ride before Tevis, so I did want to let him extend a bit.  We spent the rest
of the ride catching and passing people, most of who had seen us or heard
that we fell down the mountain in the morning.  We just trotted along, fast
and smooth, passing everyone we came to.   We came up on internet buddies
Kathy and Jennifer- Hi guys, see ya!  They disappeared in our dust.  This
nutty horse isn't even working hard!   Along the big lake- passed five more.
There's our friend Carolyn on Echo- hi, and bye!  We caught up to Sally and
rode along with her, until she and the lady she was riding with didn't want
to keep up with the flying App.   On to the last check at 40 miles- here's
where the Arabs come in handy.  We walked in for a long way, had a big
drink, and spent his usual 10 to 15 minutes getting him down.  He always
comes down, it just takes a while.   Sally came in with Ahkiba- they
recovered in 2 minutes and left the check before us.  I miss Shatta!    But
Warpaint wasn't worried- we left the check after looking great for Steve and
motored along.  We caught Sally again and then rode the last 10 miles or so
together.  We finished in 28th and 29th place at about 2:30 pm.

Like I said before- now I know why Judy hasn't dumped this horse.  On the
ground you'd probably shoot him if possible.  Up in the saddle like today
there isn't enough money to get him from under me.  What a trip.  What a
Jeckyl and Hyde.   What a horse.   Next stop- Tevis.

The lessons to be learned are three:

1-      Don't let the frenzy of a ride and the excitement of being in front
cloud your judgement regarding safety.  For all that happened I was lucky.
Think about the safety of the other riders when you get into a situation
that calls for some decision making.  No ride is worth winning if a horse or
rider were lost.

2-      When on a single track trail- keep moving, even if it's wrong.  If I
had my chance I promise you I would have let anyone go on ahead of me rather
than taking my untimely detour.

3-      When someone experienced like Ron Waltenspiel is telling you
something, LISTEN!  The man has a lot of experience in this sport.  He knew
what was wrong, he was trying to solve the problem, he knew what could
happen, and it did.   Thanks, Ron.

Nick Warhol

Hayward, Ca.

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