We had a great time and really enjoyed each day of the ride! I decided at nearly the last minute to go. I had been hemming and hawing over it for some time as I really wanted to go, but then also was weighing going to do Tevis again.
In the end, I decided that I wanted to ride both of my horses and that I’d have a greater chance of riding each horse 100 miles at City of Rocks over going to Tevis where I’d have a 50/50 chance of riding one horse 100 miles. Plus the ride looked like it was in nice country that reminded me a lot of Fort Schellbourne.
The trip to camp was almost 600 miles for me. When I got there, I found the instructions from endurance.net took me to a campground rather than to ridecamp.
Fortunately I was able to call my husband who looked up Steph’s # and by some miracle was able to reach her and find out that the instructions were indeed wrong and that I was only a mile and a half from where I should be. I was one of the first ones to get to camp, that’s why I had trouble finding camp on my own. A day later and I would have seen enough rigs that I probably would have been able to figure it out on my own. They were able to put up more signs, ribbons and arrows and update the website so others would be able to get to camp without the detour.
I had a day and a half to let the horses rest before the ride started. I like to give them at least a day to rest after they have hauled a long distance. It was hot in camp. I was able to get a pretty good spot on an overgrown RV pad (camp was in an old RV park) with the trailer facing so that it provided shade to the horses in the afternoon when it would be the hottest part of the day. As it turned out, the ground temperature in the sun where my horses were reached 135 degrees. In the shade, it was in the 90’s. It is amazing that the difference in ground temp was consistently 40 degrees different between the sun and shade.
Chief and Bo were doing a great job taking care of themselves. I walked them every couple of hours and each time they drank well from the large water tanks in camp. I also had been feeding them soaked mashes made from Elk Grove Stable Mix with salt added and they loved that. You never know when hot weather may cause a horse to go off feed so I was really happy to see my horses eating and drinking so well in spite of the conditions.
I saved a spot for Dave Rabe who was coming from the Shamrock ride in Wyoming with three horses. He made it to camp late Monday so his horses would have a full day to rest. He got into camp just as an afternoon thundershower started. We hid out under my awning until the storm broke then I helped him get his panels and camp set up and his horses unloaded.
It was nice to have some rest time before the ride started. I made sure that I drank well and stayed hydrated. I got my crewbag together and planned ahead as best I could for riding the next four days. The more I can do ahead of time, the easier it is to get through the ride once it starts. It is a lot of work taking care of two horses by myself. I hauled over several buckets of water, saving my own 200 gallons that I brought with me to use once the ride started (it all got used!). I knew that once the ride got going I wouldn’t have as much time or the energy to haul a lot of water. I also made up a few baggies of feed for the vet checks, and got my feed mashes together for feeding after I finished.
We were now all set for the 6 a.m. start the next morning for the first day of the ride. I had stopped looking up the weather as each time I looked the temperature was going up!
Dave Rabe said he’d be happy to ride with me since he was taking White Cloud–who likes to follow, and Chief likes to lead. I told him to make sure I started with my sponge and scoop on my saddle. I sure didn’t want to head out on a hot ride where we were out of camp all day and not be totally prepared! I also put my Cool Medics vest out so that I wouldn’t forget that.
In the morning I left totally prepared. I had my cooling vest on, my big helmet visor, a sponge, scoop, and also a baggie of feed for the horse. My crewbag was packed and ready to go. All I had to do in the morning was make my sandwich and then put the bag into the trailer going to the out vet check. Each day of the ride had one out vet check. My kind of ride!
We let the first group of horses head out in the morning and followed behind. The first part of the ride was mainly flat with decent footing so we were able to move out pretty good. We knew we had better keep moving so that we’d be able to slow down when it got hot and we started climbing. We made pretty good time and got to lunch even earlier than we thought we could. Lunch was at a place called Bread Loaves, which was right next to some really tall rocks that rock climbers were climbing up. Along the way we had been passing all sorts of really cool rock formations. It was fun to come up with ideas for what each of the rocks could be – such as a gorilla, a bullfrog, an armadillo or a bird. Some of the rocks had names such as elephant, nematode or tea kettle.
The scenery everywhere on the ride was great! We rode on the Oregon Emigrant trail. One sign said that 20,000 wagon had gone through that route with over 100,000 people and that in 1848 from that spot we would have been in Oregon looking out over Mexico. I also rode Granite Chief over Granite Pass.
Pulse criteria was 64, and our horses had no trouble meeting criteria right away without needing to cool them down first. I didn’t think that Chief would have any trouble as most rides we do have a lower pulse criteria than that. After getting our in-time we vetted through asap. Chief and White Cloud both ate well and had a good hour break.
The next part of the ride consisted of more climbing on some really gorgeous singletrack trails (like you see in the first photo above). There was a lot of grass of various varieties along the entire trail. The horses all had their favorites and grazed well as we went along. Every chance we had to trot we did, and then we walked where there were any long climbs, getting off to lead down anything steep.
The thing that struck me the most was how well maintained all of the trails were. There were no washouts or branches to knock us off of our horses as we rode along. It was nice to be able to be able to devote my attention to simply enjoying the scenery and the country. This was a great place to have an endurance ride! What great luck that they found this place!
At the farthest point of the ride this day at the end of a long climb, there was a nice cool self-filling cattle trough. We spent several minutes there cooling the horses and letting them eat. I fed Chief a baggie of Strategy here. Then, we led back down the hill. The horses recovered well and were grazing all the way down the mountain.
The first day overall went really well. We vetted through at the finish at around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. I then brought Bo over to vet him in for the next day. Now it was time to get everything done and ready for the next day!
The start was confusing as we saw several riders miss the left turn immediately out of camp. They kept going straight and then did eventually turn and find the trail. Dave and I were concerned that something may have changed, though the ribbons were clearly the correct color and side so we followed them. We were right and glad to find out later that what we did was correct!
This mornings trail went over to a place called Castle Rocks which is nearly all singletrack trails around more great rock formations. There was also a creek which we utilized by cooling the horses down well. It was already getting hot for us by 9 a.m. in the morning. We again tried to move out the best we could before it got hot.
Fortunately there was plenty of water on the trail and we were told to use it to keep the horses cooled down. I also kept my vest wet so that I stayed cool. After riding through Castle Rocks we had more flat to trot on and was able to make some good time moving out before starting to head up for the climbs.
It turned out that it got up to 102 that day. As we climbed up and up on the biggest climb of the ride we found a great spot near the top that had shade, green grass and water. We stopped and spent about 20 minutes there letting the horses eat, cool down and rest. At first they just nibbled at the grass halfheartedly. After about five minutes they started to eat with more enthusiasm and as time went on they were aggressively eating grass under the cool shade of the trees. It was a nice break and really shows how it’s not just how you ride but how you take the opportunity when it presents itself to give your horse a break and some down time.
When I got into lunch Bo was one of very few horses to have an A on gut sound and a CRI that dropped. This is why I like ride with a single hour hold vet check. It allows me to decide when and where the best place is to give my horse a break, when the opportunity arises and when it is best for the horse.
We finished the 2nd day with a fairly similar time to the first day. The first days ride had around 7,000′ of elevation and the second day it was around 9,000′. Both rides were challenging though certainly doable. What made them difficult was the heat. We knew that Steph is experienced enough not to put together a ride that was going to be ridiculously hard, and she did a great job. I am usually leary of doing first time rides, but this one was going off very well and RM was doing a really fantastic job all the way around!
Dinners were included each night which started around 6 p.m. That gave us time to get cleaned up and head over to eat and then stay for the awards. There are hot spring pools a mile or two away that many went to each day. I would have liked to have gone but since I was by myself and had two horses to take care of and manage I didn’t want to leave them. There is just too much to do and with the heat conditions I knew it was important for me to be there to walk them regularly as it keeps them drinking and eating well and to keep a close eye on them.
Riding in the heat for two days was tiring. I felt pretty good though because I was drinking lots of Propel (I add the powder to my water), Emergen-C and water.
On the third morning, my alarm didn’t go off!! As it turned out, Dave Rabe over-slept as did a few other riders! Dave got up at 5:25 and then knocked on my door a few minutes later! I looked at my cell phone and had only about 16 minutes till the start. Yikes!
I quickly got dressed, fed the horses (they are fed at night so really just need re-supplied), made my sandwich for lunch and packed baggies of horse feed and ran down to put it into my crewbag that was still in the crew trailer.
Then back again to throw Chief’s Renegades on and tack him up. I grabbed my water bottles, sponge, scoop, cooling vest and helmet. Mounted and we were off – right at 6 just after the first group of riders. It was like getting ready in fast-forward! Makes you appreciate those mornings when you can leisurely get ready. Whew!
The last thing I did before heading out of camp was clip Bo to the high-line so he could move around all day. Fortunately I had already filled up a lot of water so didn’t have to do anything more than to put out some soaked stable mix and add a few flakes of hay into the porta-grazers. I guess it was probably a good thing that I got that extra sleep as I probably needed it after riding in the heat for two days.
The third day started out with cloud-cover and a bit of a breeze. It felt much cooler! The ride went well and at lunch we picked up a young girl who ride the rest of the way with us after her mother pulled. We had a great ride though didn’t quite get the instructions on where to turn around (Steph changed the trail) and did a few extra miles. We didn’t really mind as we still finished at around 4:30 and had a great day, the horses did well and we got to see some pretty country. I thought the trail we did that day was just about perfect and thought the other riders probably got short changed <g>.
The fourth day seemed to come all too fast. That’s how multidays are, you get going day after day after day and then suddenly it’s nearly over! The weather report was predicting heavy thunderstorms with lightning in the afternoon so the trail was changed for us to do the mountain climb in the morning and the flat parts in the afternoon. That worked out well. It was still warm, in the 80’s and humid by the time we started heading up the mountain that a.m..
We took our time and again pulled off under the shade of the trees where the cool water tank was and let the horses eat. Bo ate an entire gallon baggie of Strategy and grazed on grass (he did share some with White Cloud). This helped the hoses to cool out as they were really heating up and getting hot due to the climb and the humidity.
We arrived at lunch at what seemed to be fairly early but that was because the afternoon loop was going to be much longer. The clouds were dark and menacing so we knew that we should get a move on and did when the trail leveled out. We even did some cantering a few times, one time racing with Merri who was on her quad out on the trail checking things and taking photos.
After reaching the farthest point on the afternoon loop it started to rain on us. At least we had made it that far before getting wet and having to go through mud. The rain was really coming down hard and soon there was lightning striking around us.
All was well until a loud cracking thunder erupted right above us. Dave’s horse bolted and got super wound up, which was no good in the mud as he was all bunched up and slipping all about. Bo seemed to handle it well though when the wind was driving the rain sideways and coming down to heavy he couldn’t see he tried to turn against it and then wasn’t doing a good job of watching where he was going.
We were fortunately able to maneuver through the mud safely and make it down to the last water and then onto the gravel road where we trotted the rest of the way in to camp.
Due to the heavy storm, the vetting had backed up both for BC judging and completions. After waiting for several minutes we decided to go to our trailers and come back a half an hour or forty minutes later. By that time the line had gone down and we were able to get our final completion check done.
I was really thrilled to have made all four days and to have been able to ride each horse 100 miles. They did great even in the heat and adverse conditions. The ride was easily doable for anybody willing to take time to cool their horses and give them a break now and then when needed to keep them cooled down and eating well. There was more than plenty of water on the trail as well as grass and they even supplied hay in the vet checks.
Dave and I let our horses rest for about three hours after finishing the last day before heading back to Wells, NV. That worked out well as all of our horses were so happy to be where it was cooler and they had large corrals to roll and run about in. They were all very frisky! We stayed there for 9 or 10 hours letting the horses rest until driving the rest of the way home on Sunday.
I don’t know how many riders rode all of the days on more than one horse besides myself. Dave’s horse White Cloud was one of three horses to ride all four days of the ride. Awards were painted ceramic tiles with the name of each days ride on them. Nice!
I tried to take a lot of photos. I love that my Garmin GPS is waterproof and takes photos so I was able to get photos even when it rained.
All in all, I think that I made the right choice going to this ride as it was a lot of FUN and my horses both had a great time riding on new trails. City of Rocks is a great place for a multiday ride and was certainly worth driving 600 miles for. btw, they tell us that it was unseasonably hot this year. Hopefully next time this ride will have more milder temps.
Here is an album of all of the photos that I took on the trip: