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Owyhee Rangelands 25/50 Day One

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Sunday May 27 2007

Owyhee Rangelands I: in the 25 miler, 15 starters and 12 finishers; in the 50 miler, 32 starters and 27 finishers.

The day started out cool and began warming up, until a big Idaho breeze kicked in after noon, which in Owyhee county usually means big dusty whirlwinds whipping through the canyon. And they did, kicking dust in waves through base camp.

Today?s 50 mile loop took horses and riders up on the desert flats and into the canyons south of base camp, on 3 loops. The finish line was moved a bit, to accommodate a killdeer who?d built a nest right by the road the horses were finishing on yesterday ? several rider?s horses were spooked at the end of the 100 miler, in the daylight and the dark, when the killdeer flew up at them. Killdeer lay their eggs right on the ground. If you approach the nest fast, like on a horse, the bird will fly at your horse and get the appropriate response from him. If you walk up slowly, the killdeer will walk away from the nest, fluttering its wings as if it were injured, to get your attention on her, away from her eggs. I bet that killdeer will choose a different spot for her nest next year!

On loops two and three, just outside of base camp, the trail led up a narrow wash and up over the crest of the hill ? 10 yards of it quite steep, and I hiked out to catch the horses going up with my camera. I was lurking on the opposite steep hill, clinging to my perch by a narrow seat scratched out of the dirt above a sagebrush. Some riders saw me, some didn?t. I was careful not to slip or roll any rocks down, because I would have slid quite a ways to the bottom and scared some horses off to Nevada!

Back in camp, head veterinarian Robert Washington had a hard day. After vetting a hundred mile ride the day before, he had two more 50-mile days of vetting to get through. And in the afternoon, just about the same time someone called for help for a horse going down with a bizarre tie-up distress, Robert got kicked in the knee by a horse he was vetting, one that he?d looked at several times before and that had never indicated he?d kick. People didn?t know who to run to first, the vet laying on the ground or the horse laying on the ground. Robert was able to get up and hobble around the rest of the day. The mare was more of a puzzle, especially because her son did the same thing. They?d both done an easy limited distance ride, finishing fine several hours earlier, and would seem fine, then would go down in distress, then return to appearing normal. Robert said he?d never seen anything like it. They were both hauled to a clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

Christoph Schork won the ride again in just over 5 hours, on another horse, Double Zell. Mell Hare finished second right with him on another of Christoph?s horses, DWA Sabku. Christoph brought a trailer-load for the ride. They were just 4 minutes ahead of Anthony Davis on Sweet Dependence.

Now, having been in New Zealand and Australia where strapping is taken very seriously, here we pretty much just call it cooling down your horse. There?s no line-up of 10 buckets and sponges and scrapers per horse, with 4 or 5 people waiting to douse the horse and scrape it and throw ice-cold towels on and check its heart-rate with a hand-held monitor. No, there was just a water trough and a few barrels to drink from (or jump in yourself, if you got too hot), and the riders carried their own sponges. There was a garden hose if you really wanted it, too. Of course this wasn?t a championship ride, but 5 hours for this ride wasn?t a plodding pace. When Christoph and Mell came in to the vet checks, they just got off their horses, took them to water, and while they drank, they sponged their horses? necks. The horses cooled off without all the fuss, and vetted through.

Today?s finishers included Nance Worman on her other horse Jazzbo, (who was a maniac the first loop), and the ever popular Frank with Tom Noll. One lady at the awards said, ?Nobody refers to Tom anymore, they just say Frank!? Tony and Diane Dann, who managed the ride for Steph yesterday, finished the 50 on two of their horses, Eternel Tax Man and Lou?s Lucky Strike. I had the pleasure of riding Strike with them on Thursday. He?s a big, lovely, calm National Show Horse, smooth as silk and fun to ride.

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