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2010 Land of the Sun
Images by John Teeter

2010 Land of the Sun
Images by John Teeter

2010 Land of the Sun Endurance Ride

Head Veterinarian: Sid Zargas DVM * Rich Kiely DVM * Jim Lytle DVM * JoAnn Naylor DVM
When: February 6, 2010 50 mile ride start time 7:00 a.m. - 25 mile ride start time 8:00 a.m.
Where: Rodeo Grounds, Wickenburg, Arizona
Trail: Consists of two 25 mile loops. For the 50 milers there will be a one hour Vet Check at Base Camp and for the 25 milers there will be a one hour Vet Check at approximately 13 miles out at Vet Check One. Base Camp is the finish line for all riders. The trail is single track and old two-track jeep trails with some short sections in sandy washes and one section of graded dirt road for about 4 miles. The trail will have short up and downs and will go back and forth between all the trail descriptions listed above. There are rocks, so please be forewarned and address this condition to your speed at which you will be riding. Elevation at Base Camp is around 2000 feet and none of the trail will go over 3,200 feet in elevation. Beautiful Sonoran Desert and a view of the town of Wickenburg is visible almost all day long as you ride. There will be water every 3-5 miles. There will also be food for riders and horses at all Vet Checks.

I love an honest trail description, and this one was right on!

So...here's my story - but I've backed up quite a bit to get to this point. Probably more 'regular life' detail than is of interest to the general public..., but sometimes backing up and writing myself from there (a couple months ago) to here (another Arizona ride) helps me keep perspective on this life. So...

It's a wonderful thing to be home (in a relative sense) for days – and months – on end. I haven't travelled overseas since May of '09 since the incredible trip to Patagonia to ride around the Torres del Paine. Last year I rode over 800 miles of endurance rides, on my own horses! I had one of the most enjoyable ride seasons in a long time with my old timer horse Jaziret (veteran of the 2001 XP, as well as multiple FEI rides and a Pan American Championship). He's an awesome horse that still amazes me with his strength and spirit. I'm hoping to reach a goal of 5000 miles with him this year... we're getting close – we shall see!

John and I packed up a bit of home (Sundowner trailer, a few horses, and our laptops) in December and moved down to Scottsdale, Arizona for the winter months. Once again parking ourselves at the home of our friends Kevin Myers and Rusty Toth, once again settling in for a winter of good friends, good food and good trails. And once again Merri stayed in Oreana with the dogs and the other horses and the Owyhee winter which isn't too bad, as long as it snows at least once.

This winter the social activity at GottaGo Ranch has risen to new levels. Brian and Darla Malkoske drove down after Christmas for another winter of sunshine escape from the wet British Columbia coast. Sheri from Moab moved into the house next door to K&R for the winter, bringing more horses and more friends. Charlie, the neighbor to the west lost her husband last year to cancer and has become a constant partner to the dinners and outings. And of course every meal is an occasion for special recipes and favorite wines. And we were treated to a new visitor - Kyle, the 19 year old endurance enthusiast from Maine who spent ten days here riding and riding and riding . Jim and Clydea from across the highway, Steve and Cindy (and now Doug and Linda too) from across the valley...and many more. Winter – which used to be a time of hibernation, has become a time of activity. And this winter it's been even more enjoyable since I'm not constantly jet lagged from all of the international travel.

There are a few changes and transitions for the gang this year. John has taken a position as 'senior scientist' with a startup company People Power which hopes to revolutionize the way people manage their residential power usage and ride the green wave by positioning themselves as part of the initiative to design the world's new 'smart grid' – solving the world's energy production and consumption challenges. Kevin is about to leave a 22 year career in the world of non-profit companies, ballet companies specifically, and embark on a new life as head of marketing and administration with the highly energized company EasyCare Inc, the life work of Garret Ford who started with a clever horse hoof product, the Easyboot, and expanded it into a world wide line of hoof care products, becoming part of the natural hoof care revolution. Kevin will now be attending horse expos and competitions instead of ballets, and managing a vital and growing company instead of answering to large non-profit boards and struggling with the challenge of keeping the arts alive in difficult economic times. And Rusty has moved out of the world of performing as a dancer, and into the world of teaching yoga and ballet.

So jobs and situations have changed, but we're all still stuck with the same hopeless passion for our horses and this crazy endurance riding sport!

John and I have already managed to squeeze in 200 miles of rides this year, starting with a very enjoyable four days of riding outside of Death Valley. We had planned on riding at Wickenburg (Land of the Sun) earlier – but the ride was cancelled during an El Nino onslaught of rain and wind and rain and more rain. For several days it rained in the desert – the washes ran, the rivers swelled, the stately cactus toppled over as the soil became loose and saturated, and the wind gusted to 70mph. A very sad and peculiar sight to see these majestic cactus giants lying crumpled on the ground – like beached whales – it looked so wrong. It was a very amazing storm! So the ride was cancelled and rescheduled for February 6. No problem, I'd still be here (yay!) and John would also be back from his trip to California for PeoplePower stuff, so he'd be able to ride too.

Meanwhile... the horses have been shoeless (no steel) for a month now. I had been remotely considering the possibility of pulling shoes and trying the naked hoof thing for a while – wondering if being around Kevin and Rusty would make a dent in my skepticism. They had converted all of their horses back in June of 09 and I figured if I did decide to try it, at least I would be around friends who had been through the transition and learned the do's and don'ts. And indeed they were so positive about the experience, and confident that they were doing the right thing for their horses that it did tip me over the edge. What the heck – I was in a good environment with sandy soil and not much in the way of rock and mud. I had mentors and I had horses with good feet to start with (no real problems to fix).

We started riding with hoof protection right away. A little bit of actual barefoot riding in the sand washes, but basically it was barefoot in the paddock, and booted on the trail. We had a few issues with getting the size right (tight enough to stay on, but not so tight that the heel bulbs were rubbed or bruised) and some pastern rubbing from web sandy gators, but overall it was pretty non-eventful. At least until the horses were trimmed by a professional for the second time. They had a pretty aggressive trim – a lot of sloughing frog was taken off, some sole was taken off, the bars were cut down – all pretty standard stuff, but maybe too much too soon. We rode them barefoot in the sand wash – they seemed ok - and then it rained all afternoon and evening – and the next morning Jaziret was very tender. Yuck. I put boots on him and he was immediately relieved, we did some trail walking, and then turned them back out. Still moving carefully, but a little better after the walk. As time went on he got better, we did a lot of trail walking with boots, and after a couple weeks seemed fine again.

I have heard from others that there is a tendency to trim the 'barefoot' horse too aggressively. The mustang roll seems to be the accepted shape and trim – rounded walls, recessed quarters, sole and frog bearing much of the weight load. After the trim I thought – wow, those feet are beautiful, they look perfect – but maybe we got there too fast and didn't have adequate sole thickness and density to protect the sensitive tissues. At any rate it was an 'uh oh' phase.

I chose to use glue-on boots for the Wickenburg ride instead of the slip on boots to minimize the chance of loosing a boot and bruising a foot, and to avoid any rubbing issues. I still don't have a lot of experience with the latter and the glue-on's just seemed more worry free. Kevin helped me glue boots on Jaziret and Sunny Friday morning before leaving for the ride. We cleaned the hooves well, and dried them with a heat gun, and then roughed up the wall with a rasp so the glue would hold better. Then applied a soft adhesive and packing to the sole, then lined the boots with an adhesive and quickly stuck them to the hoof. Not a huge deal, but it did seem like a lot of work.

Whew! Then finish packing the trailer (some stuff out, some stuff in – since we're living out of the trailer it's a bit of an organization challenge) and get the horses loaded and hit the road. We got to ride camp in time to set up, vet in, and make it to the ride meeting. This year it was a new ride manager, and some of the old trails had to be abandoned because of a hike in land use fees. So it would be some of the old trail and some new. We'd ridden this ride a few times before – I've always liked it – it has a fair amount of sand wash, and rocky trail, but it's still scenic and fun. This ride would be different... and when the ride manager mentioned that he measured the trail by gps and had to add miles to previous trails because they measured short I figured we'd be in for a longer ride. In my experience the gps miles are 'shorter' and the twistier the trail, the greater the difference between gps measurement and land vehicle measurement. Oh well, it would still be a beautiful ride.

A group of us got together at Clydea's trailer for a potluck – she can always manage to squeeze in a lot of bodies, and we had plenty of food (and wine!) for a fun evening. I met a few more people, we talked about old rides and new rides – maybe just maybe considering doing the 'real' XP again – 2011 – St. Joseph, Missouri, to Virginia City, Nevada. Hmmmm......

Ride morning came and John and I slowly started moving (coffee mostly). A gloomy Kevin came over and joined us for a cup of coffee – he had hurt his back at yoga two days previous, all the bending over to glue the boots on the horses had only aggravated it, and he was hurting too much to ride. Bummer! Both he and his horse had been well prepared for the ride – fit and pumped – but not to be. He'd have to hold out for the next ride – 100 miles at Dynamite Dash.

We finally got the horses saddled up, and on the trail – a little late, but that was ok since we were planning on a slow ride and both Jaziret and Sunny tend to get a little excited at the start. It really was a beautiful ride – the recent rains had caused the cacti to swell, the grass and ground cover was spreading a green carpet, some blooms, the palo verde were verdant, the ocotillo were in leaf and some even had the red flowers blooming at their branch tips. Most of the ride was single track trail – really beautiful riding – rocky and twisty and quite challenging for our horses that hadn't seem many hills lately. But we went slow, and enjoyed the scenery.

The ride consisted of a 25 mile loop out of camp, with a 30 minute hold at a BLM camp half way, then an hour hold back in camp, then go back out and do the 25 mile loop in the opposited direction. It was warm and sunny during the hold back at camp, but by the time we got back out to the BLM camp vetcheck the predicted storm front had moved in with spitting rain and some wind – it didn't last real long, but it was definitely chilly.

The trail was a mix of sand wash, some nice going over granitic sand soil, some 2-track into the foothills where the vegetation was amazingly green and lush (the sonoran desert is not a brown desert! It's actually very green and very prickly) - and a lot of winding single track trail which was beautiful but rocky in places and pretty slow going.

We brought up the back of the pack, finishing with a 9:20 ride time – the last loop from the out vet check was pretty slow, but I figured we had enough time, and was focused on stressing the horses as little as possible. And we did finish - and John got Turtle (it ain't easy) – and we made it back to the trailer just before dark, and just before it started raining in earnest. Dark and rainy and tired horses and tired us, waahh, it's endurance :)

We fed the horses and let them rest for a couple hours, fed ourselves, packed up our home on wheels, and drove out of the rain back to GottaGo Ranch. Everybody was in bed, except Darla who was up preparing an egg/bread/cheese/ham casserole for breakfast the next morning. Happy horses to be turned back out, happy to crawl into bed. It's a good sport!

Land of the Sun 2010