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37th Annual Fire Mountain Endurance & Introductory Ride


Day 1

Day 2

Baylor/Gore Photo

Jan 16, 2016
by Nick Warhol

I have 12,000 endurance miles, My Donnie has 5,945 endurance miles, and yet the Fire Mountain 50 held on January 16th, 2016 was the most profound ride in my time together with my horse. For those who don't know, 2015 was a very bad year for Judy and me. The whole story is ten pages long, but the short version is that we unknowingly fed our horses hay for over a year that contained a toxic weed called common groundsel. On May 9th, 2015, it killed our new 8 year old mare, Spice, and made the rest of the herd very sick. We were about a week from losing Wabi, but he made a miraculous recovery due to the 6 months of medications we administered to him and the rest of the horses, including Donnie. The rest of the herd survived, including Warpaint, Wabi, Color, and of course Donnie. Donnie was less affected than the others, but it gave me the scare of my life as the toxic poison worked through his system. Thanks to medicine, and UC Davis, he made it and has recovered. I put him back to work on November first, and his first endurance ride back would be the fire mountain ride.

The ride is held in down the So Cal desert in Ridgecrest, and is hosted by the Valley Riders horse club. Last year and this year the ride was managed by my good buddy Gretchen Montgomery, who lives there in the winter, and in Bridgeport in the summer. I rode one day at the ride in January 2015, which made Donnie and me a decade team. He did two more rides until April, when the hay disaster struck, and I could not ride him for 7 months, assuming he survived. (Man, that's still so hard to say) The ride camp is a couple of blocks from Gretchen's house, so she graciously gave me a room for the 4 nights, and built a pipe fence pen for my horse in her yard. I never even went in my camper! It was like doing an endurance ride from a hotel. Thanks G!

I went down a couple of days early this year to help Gretchen with the ride a little, and to give Donnie plenty of hang around time after the 8 hour trailer ride. Help a little? My job was to bring my dirt bike and go out on Thursday and help mark the trail in the desert. The nice, wet desert. 60 degrees, sun shine, no wind- these ride managers don't realize that I'd PAY to go out and ride the bike in conditions like that. What fun! I hung ribbons, put chalk down, and went over the trail in both directions to be sure it was well marked for the horses. Six hours of bliss on the bike went by too fast, so we took the horses out for a 90 minute ride. Me, Gretchen, Peggy Miller riding Jackie Bumgardner's horse Zane, and good old buddy Merri Melde, who is down in the desert for a few weeks with Steph hanging at Jackies house. Merri rode Gretchen's horse Coquette, since she was planning on riding her in the 50 on day one with us. We had a nice ride up in the hills, with Donnie feeling absolutely perfect, but on the way back through town, Coquette got a little excited and bucked and reared a bit, enough to unsettle Merri a little. She stayed on and dealt with it fine, but its still spooky. Thursday night I bought my hosts dinner at a local Mexican place that had a beer so large it was comical. On Friday I spent the day with Gretchen's husband Mike putting the water out on the trail for the horses. Let me tell you, every rider who ever rode a ride owes thanks to these guys who do this thankless task. It was slow going hauling six 150 gallon tanks out into the middle of nowhere and filling them with water. (Mike also went back out and refilled them on Saturday night for the second day.) On Friday afternoon Merri and I collected the horses from the hotel and vetted in; I then moved the rig over to the camp so I could crew from it during the ride. Coquette was acting up a little, and as a result Merri elected to sit out the ride and remain in camp and play her banjo. (You should hear her and Gretchen jam on banjos- those guys are getting good!)...

Read more here: http://stories.endurance.net/2016/01/fire-mountain-50-comeback-ride-of.html

The annual Fire Mt ride is fast approaching. The endurance ride is scheduled for January 16-17, 2016. Both days offer a 50 mile ride or a 30 mile ride. Valley Riders is also offering an introductory 15 mile loop for anyone interested in endurance. Sign up early for a $20 discount. Entry forms are available at Aerc.org.

Base Camp: Base C amp opens at 11:00am on Friday, January 15 , 20 16 . It is locate d at the corner of San Bernardino Rd (aka County Line Rd) and Springer St.(double electrical pole line along the road), southeast of Ridgecrest, California. It is the site of the Valley Riders Equestrian Center and is currently undeveloped so camping is pr imitive (no electricity). There are accommodations, grocery stores and gas close by. Potable water will be provided. Porta Potties will be available. Base camp is at 2,500 feet .

Trailers are available for rent , go to hidesert trailerrntls.com . Their winter location is less than ½ mile from base camp and they set up in advance .

Horse pens are available for rent. $10 per night.

Check In: Pre - Veterinary check - in will be on Friday, January 15 , 20 16 from 3: 00 PM to 6:00 PM at Base Camp. All horses should be checked in and numbered by Friday evening. Riders who will be late, please call 775 - 376 - 6318 to set up a check - in time. Office op ens at 1 :00 PM.

Ride Meeting/Start Times: The pre - ride meeting will be he ld at Base Camp at 6:00 PM. All riders must start within 30 minutes after their designated start time – 6:30 AM for 50 - m iler; 7:00 AM for 30 - miler and 9 :00 AM for the introductory ride. (Subject to change at the ride meeting.)

The Trail: Riders will trav el on trails and dirt roads in the foothills of Rademacher Mountains southeast of Ridgecrest with all loops starting and ending at base camp. Hay will be provided at all vet checks and at some water stops. This trail is considered moderate and considered g ood for beginners with some mild climbs offering a great view of the Indian Wells Valley. You will be riding on Bureau of Land Management trails. NO SMOKING ON THE TRAIL.

Awards, Food and Fees: Ride Dinner will be approximatel y 5:00 - 7:00 PM Saturday and from 4 to 7 PM Sunday. Awards will be presented at base camp after d inner for the 30 and 50 milers. A ll riders completing will receive a completion a ward . Awards will be presented to top ten , first place in each weight category , 1 st junior , and BC for 5 0 and 30 milers . Entry fee includes the ride, vet exams, AERC fees, drug test fees, BLM land use fees, water and hay for the horses during the ride, awards and rider’s dinner. Extra dinners for crews or family will be available for $12.

Ride Rules: This is an AERC sanctioned ride and all rules will be enforced. See AERC rules at aerc.org 1. Juniors must wear an ASTM/SEI approved helmet.
2. There will be no ties.
3. The same horse and rider must pass all control points and stay on the marked trail in order to qual ify for awards and completion credit.
4. Any top ten finishers of the 50 or 30 mile ride who want to be considered for Best Condition must present their horse for the Best Condition examination within the time frame announced by the head vet.
5. Loose dogs in ca mp may result in rider disqualification. Please ensure your dogs are on a leash or kept within your rig.
6. Any abusive behavior or violation of any rule by a rider or associated crew will be subject to disciplinary action (i.e., disqualification and/or being asked to leave by ride management or a vet).
7. All horses must meet a pulse of 6 0 beats per minute within thirty minutes of crossing the finish line in order to meet Fit To Continue criteria and remain eligible for completion or placing.
8. Riders are respon sible for keeping track of their vet cards.
9. A $20 fee will be added when entering ride on or after January 15 2016.

INTRODUCTORY RIDE: (will be discussed at the pre - ride meeting – Saturday only )
1. Pre - ride and post ride vet checks are required for com pletion.
2. This is not a race and no timings or placings will be given, just completion awards.
3. No AERC membership fee is required for the 15 mile introductory ride.
4. Juniors can ride for the same nominal fee but must wear an ASTM helmet whenever mounted and be accompanied at all times by their adult sponsor.
5. Dinner is included will the introductory ride

2015 Fire Mountain: Confessions of a First Time Ride Manager

Friday January 23 2015
by Merri Melde

Not too many ‘Green Bean’ Ride Managers have jumped head-first into managing an established 2-day endurance ride, where everybody already has a certain level of expectations. But then, most people aren’t Gretchen Montgomery. A long-time endurance rider based in the Pacific South region with over 8400 miles, and newly-minted Decade Team with her horse Definetly Spice (formerly known somewhat affectionately as “Bitchy Spice”), the effervescent, personable high achiever is not one to turn away from a challenge.

Gretchen's many years of volunteering at the Eastern High Sierra Classic, Fire Mountain, Washoe, and Virginia City 100 rides, alternately as trail marker, vet secretary, finish line timer, and pulse-taker, built the foundation and confidence for stepping up into her new role as Ride Manager. "I’ve really wanted to take over the Eastern High Sierra Classic (in Bridgeport, California, in late summer) because that’s my home territory, and Jackie (Bumgardner) is ready to pass it on after 29 years, and I wanted that ride to continue," Gretchen explains. "And in the meantime, the Fire Mountain Ride Manager (Valerie Rogers) wanted to give the Fire Mountain ride up, but that’s been a long-standing ride too. So since they needed a Ride Manager this year, I volunteered.” The Fire Mountain ride takes place outside of Ridgecrest, California, in the Mojave Desert, where Gretchen spends her winters.

Recently retired from 25 years with the state of California, Gretchen’s previous job of Office Services Supervisor for the California Highway Patrol in Bridgeport brought her organizational skills into play as she was kept uber-busy with last minute on-line entries to avoid late fees, last minute entries at the ride venue (where no internet was available), checking AERC registrations, keeping track of 114 riders over 2 distances and 2 days, making changes for riders wanting to switch horses, or switch distances, or switch horses and distances, running back and forth to fill in as a vet secretary, checking on the in- and out-timers, helping with P & R’s, doing general maintenance, helping the ham radio volunteers to find an injured horse on trail, and playing the banjo. Playing the banjo? ... “I was a little crazy!” Gretchen laughs.

Managing the ride was made easier by excellent and numerous volunteers, particularly the Valley Riders club, a group of varied horse people from the area established in the 1960's. "This particular ride has soooo many volunteers, and I didn’t have to worry about the trail being marked, because there was already somebody in charge of that. I didn’t have to worry about setting out water, because somebody was already in charge of that. I didn’t even have to worry about the food, because one of the members of Valley Riders was all about cooking, and our facility has an actual kitchen right here at basecamp. So this was really good for my first time managing a ride - since this was the 36th year, people know what they're doing..."

Read more here.