American River Classic II
My Half Ass 50- Or Was it 25 on a Mule?
April 18, 2015
I was very anxious to get the riding season started at this event.  Feeling ambitious, I signed Jake and I up for the 50 AND the Barselou Cup (50 miles with no crew).  We had had some pretty successful training sessions in the fall/winter leading up to the ride and I was feeling confident!  In the fall we had battled some lameness issues but after the Gold Rush Shuffle and lots of patrolling in Auburn I was sure Jake could handle the 50 and I was soooo ready to earn miles toward the Tevis requirement (our goal for ~2015-16).

    Friday, before check in, I decided to do a patrol ride from the Auburn Overlook to No-Hands Bridge and back to warm Jake up and allow Chance and Kendra to get their groove on before the ride on Saturday.  I met Kendra earlier in the year when she became an officer in my newly found Trail Riders at UC Davis.  She brought our friend's horse Chance along to drag ride the 25.  While our ride was nice and we met some very friendly people, Jake was moving a little funny by the end.  I couldn't quite put a finger on it but thought maybe he was sore from having freshly trimmed hooves.  We loaded up and headed over to the camp ground in Folsom.

    To my relief, I was able to snag a parking spot on the dirt this year.  I was not going to deal with the asphalt this time around.  I got myself checked in, the horses set up, and headed for the vet in.  At this point I was not sure we would be able to start in the morning, but since I had already paid for the vet to look Jake over, I took him to check in.

    Unfortunately, Jake was not allowed to participate in the ride.  He was very lame by the time we did a trot out for the judge.  He was stiff in the hind end- not a good sign.  The vets informed me that I should have a specialist exam him, though I was very suspicious that it was his arthritis acting up again....  Time to call our regular vet.

    After turning in my vet card, a few tears, and a call to my vet I considered packing up and going home.  But Chance was there and ready to go and I couldn't let Kendra down.

    Not too long after, the ride secretary found me to inform me that a, and I quote "sexy man" had a mule I could ride.  She was  the sweetest thing ever and was really doing her best to cheer me up and find me an animal to ride the next day.  While I appreciated her intentions, there is just something special about riding your own horse that you have spent hours with training and bonding.  But, her enthusiasm prevailed and a little bit of it rubbed off on me.  I decided it wouldn't hurt to talk to this man and find out what he was looking for and willing to offer.

    We approached a tall, dark haired man that was fairly good looking as the lady had described.  His name was Brian and he had a driving/packing mule (draft horse mother and Mammoth father) that he was offering for the 25.  It was going to be her first 25.  I wasn't too keen on the idea, but thought I might as well try it anyways because I had nothing to lose.  I am not usually that adventurous or willing to hop on an unfamiliar beast, but something told me I should try it just this once.  Brian and I agreed on this exchange and I was told to find them pulling into the parking lot in the morning.  Meanwhile, Jake was a very polite camper and enjoyed his watermelon and hi-tie.

    Morning came and I met my mount.  She was MASSIVE.  Her name was Squaw and she had the biggest ears I have ever seen!  We got on and waited at the starting line.  I was to ride with Brian and his friend on their other two mules.  I couldn't get over how larger Squaw's ears were.  Sitting there at the starting line I could feel some of the same nervous energy arising in Squaw that I feel like Jake.  Almost like an engine revving up for a big race.

    Off we went and I was into my first ride on a mule!  Mules don't feel quite the same as a horse.  I felt smaller, more calculated steps.  The three of us started off on a good clip and the mules were moving out steady and strong.  Most of the ride we rode at a trot and did some leap frog with a few of the 50 milers.  The lupine were in full bloom and the sunrise over Folsom Lake was just beautiful.  Squaw behaved pretty well and ran like a steady machine.  Along the way I got to see many friendly faces including Sarah and Journey at the vet check.

    We finished the ride in the top 10!  I could not believe it.  Squaw was doing really great the whole day, but things changed at the final vet check.  She was having issues pulsing down and got separated from her buddies.  She threw a fit when she realized this and bulldozed me over!  I felt so embarrassed in front of so many other horsemen, but what's a girl to do when a massive creature tries to free herself and return to her buddies?

    Though I wish I could have rode my man Jake, I still had a blast on the mule.  It was definitely a ride I will never forget.  It was a relief to reunite with Jake at the finish line and I was very thankful that my supportive boyfriend Dylan was there and able to move him and my trailer to our end point.  Thank you, Dylan!!!

Jake update:  After the ride our wonderful vet, Dr. V came and examined him.  Just as I had suspected, it was his arthritis and we treated him with more injections.  He is on his way to recovery now.

**Pictures and GPS link to follow**

Gold Rush Shuffle
What people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can.” -Henry David Thoreau
November 29, 2014
I am delighted to announce that Jake and I have finally completed our first 50 together!  This is another huge milestone that I am so glad I got to experience with him.

    It all started on a cool overcast day.  Rain was in the forecast for the weekend, but I decided to go anyways and try what we could.  My family came with me for support and we arrived at camp late Friday afternoon.  After getting Jake settled, I lunged him for a bit and then took him to check in.  He was so well behaved for the vet I was very proud of him.  Sometimes I get anxious about the vet checks but time after time, Jake proves to me that I have nothing to worry about.  Other than a slightly sore back (which I credit to his tangle with the pipes in his run earlier in the week), he passed the vet check with all A's.
    Once Jake was all settled in for the evening, my mom and I explored the camp ground and visited the vendors.  That is still something I find so fun at the AERC rides!  It felt great to be all checked in and have time to relax before the ride.  Later, I just so happened to run into Donna Stidolph whom I knew from NATRC.  We got talking and agreed to try riding together since we both came alone and it was her first 50 with her horse Sunny, and my first with Jake.  Then it was time to get dinner.  My mom and I had both purchased meal tickets and I was so glad because they served chili and nothing is better than warm, tasty food on a cold night.  While we were in line for food, I noticed that Potato Richardson was in front of me.  I had only talked to him briefly before, but I had heard so much about him and his endurance accomplishments.  I got the courage to formally introduce myself and we discussed the possibility of him coming to talk to the endurance/trail club that I have been working on establishing  at UCD.  My mom was so shocked that I had already initiated conversations with multiple people that night.  I guess you can say that I have evolved a little bit from the junior rider I once was that hardly talked at events.

    And then it was time for bed.  I dressed Jake in his waterproof blanket and was so thankful that my mom got our bed made up in the back of the car so I could just crawl right in.  Of course my dog Collin helped too by warming everything up for us.  Lights were out by eight and I was looking forward to sleep.  That's when the rain started.  It began with a light rain, but all through the night there were periods of serious downpour.  It kept me up and nervous about what it was doing to the footing.  While the conservation biologist inside of me was thrilled that we were finally getting rain in California, the rider in me was not too happy.

    In the early morning I had a bad dream that Jake was left out in the rain without a rain sheet on.  I woke up and decided to check how he was doing.  Low and behold, the rain had soaked right through his sheet.  I elected to take it off because I figured it was just keeping him more cold and wet.  At that point, the slippery ground had me worried.  I considered pulling but two things kept me there, the fact that I had already promised Donna a riding partner and the fact the Jake refused to get in the trailer.  He meant business and was not leaving until we did what we came to do.  That was the very first time he refused to get in a trailer, and it turned out to be something I am now very thankful for.

    We crossed the starting line at 6:34am and began our long journey down the trail.  It was so remarkable as the rain seemed to clear out just for us.  The cloud cover provided for excellent riding weather and the footing was not as bad as I had imagined.  Donna and I began talking and I was enjoying her company more and more as we went.  Being NATRC riders, I felt we had a lot in common, and our horses were pretty compatible.  Our goal was to finish the ride.  Time was not of importance, other than to finish in the 12 hours allotted and our horses were the number one priority.  I always find it easier to ride with someone who shares similar goals, and so for that, I was so ecstatic to have Donna at my side.

    Our first loop before lunch was 38 miles.  We had some gorgeous views of Camp Far West and even bordered the Beale Air Force Base for a while.  One of my favorite aspects of these different rides are the astounding views that always come with them.  At this ride we were surrounded by oak woodlands, rolling hills, lake beds, and what looked like some vernal pools that I would love to check out again in the spring.  We had one out and back where we had to snatch a coin out of a basket hanging in a tree.  Little things like that make the rides fun!

    Time seriously flies when you are having fun.  Before we knew it, we were at the first vet check.  Both of the horses were fantastic and it served as a nice potty break for them.  There we were told it was only seven miles to camp and off we went, thrilled to be in close proximity to camp and our lunches.  Upon our arrival at camp, I felt like we were almost famous.  We were greeted by paparazzi (aka my family) videotaping and taking our photos.  Ride photos are among favorites so I really appreciated that my family was there to document for me.

    Our in camp vet check went super smooth and a short half hour later we were back out on the trail.  Lunch was shortened due to the brisk weather on account of the horses' health.  I felt a sense of relief as we set out with only 12 more miles to go as I knew Jake and I were set up to have a successful day.  We had wonderful riding partners, we were refueled, and were in good health.  It was as if nothing could stop us now!

    After lunch Jake seemed to have put his walking pants on.  He was moving out so fast we practically walked the whole second loop.  I love that walk of his, it feels as if he is just as determined to finish a ride as I am and like we are floating over the ground.  I always feel bad though for getting so far ahead of whom ever we might be riding with, but hey, I'm not going to punish him for walking like a gentlemen at a good clip.

    Along the way I had a blast exchanging stories with Donna and comparing and contrasting rides we have done in the past.  I love hearing how people got into horseback riding and endurance.  Everyone has a unique story that shapes the way they ride and what discipline they ride and I think it is so cool to learn.  We shared some laughs and overall, I really enjoyed myself.

    A short while later we were surprised to be back at camp already!  Had that really been 50 miles?  It seemed comical to me that two first time 50'ers were looking for more miles, but we were!  The roughly eight hours I spent in the saddle could not have made for a better first real endurance ride.  I am glad I was able to share that moment with Jake, Donna, and Sunny and hope that we will be crossing more 50 mile markers with them soon.  I felt such a rush and so proud of my horse when we checked out and had yet another clean vet check.

    I'd like to end with a shout out to my family for helping to make this ride go so smooth and stress free.  I am so glad you guys were there to support me and encourage me to remember the basis on which the foundation of my equestrian career has been built.  You couldn't have picked a better ride to come up for and I appreciate all of the hours of driving and sitting in the rain you all did for me.  Jake really enjoyed his first night on his very own hi-tie as well!  Such a wonderful early Christmas gift!!!  Thanks again, and I love you all.

*No GPS data for this ride.
But even better than that, check out another point of view from Donna Stidolph here!

Cache Creek Ridge
The Land of the Lost Booties
May 10, 2014
And then we were off to our second ride a mere two weeks later! You could probably say that we were hooked on the sport already! This time was easier because we knew what to pack (or rather not pack in some cases..) I found out quickly that over-packing is just as harmful as under-packing. This time my back survived carrying less unnecessary equipment and I didn't end up with a squashed lunch! It is amazing how much I learn at every ride.

    The drive up to Cowboy Camp was beautiful once we got out of Woodland. All of the native flowers were in bloom and Cache Creek was flowing. The temperature was much nicer than expected and I was excited for the weekend ahead! As we pulled into camp I could not believe all of the trailers that were already there! I think the only other time I had seen so many ‘horse people’ camped out like that was during the 2007 fire storm evacuations in San Diego. Even so, we were able to find a pretty perfect campsite. Right between the check in, vet check, and vendors. VENDORS!!! It was a pleasant surprise to find endurance vendors at the ride! Elsewhere they seem to be hard to find! That really got Lisa and I excited. Rule #1: If you are ever in a time crunch, or have made plans later in the day, DO NOT accompany us on a horse shopping trip… you will not make it to those things, haha! We did everything from browse tack, try on all the riding pants, and Lisa even had Kingsley fitted for a saddle! Another fun fact I learned was that one of the other vendors, The Australian Connection, is local! I know where I will be shopping in the near future... When we were introduced to Crazy Legs Tights, the only obvious thing to do was to custom order some flashy pants! I can’t wait until we have those all set and ready to go.

    Back to the ponies, both had wonderful vet ins with A’s all around! Couldn't have been happier with them. An EZ-up next to us even blew over while the vet was checking them out and neither batted an eye. Even I had a bigger spook! Shortly after that Lisa and I took the boys for a brief ride. And boy did that fire them up!!! Sometimes I think Jake, or Hot Midnight rather, enjoys the sport more than I do (is that possible?) as he seems to never run out of energy at these things! The boys appeared to have red hot fire ants in their pants as they wiggled and jiggled excitedly out on the trail. It was quite the relief when they calmed down as soon as we reached camp.

    After a night of briefings, more shopping, and tent camping, our 25 mile journey began! We had a controlled start through the rocky creek bed and the boys were well behaved. All was well until we got caught behind a jumble of horses and a fallen rider! I felt so bad and had no idea what to do! I checked my phone for cell service while others helped the poor fallen soul and yet others took her horse back to camp and shouted up the canyon for help. Once that was sorted out, we passed on and started to pick up speed.

    That was when Jake’s darn booties started giving me grief! Throughout the ride I could not keep them on to save my life! I tried everything I had from vet wrap to duct tape and NOTHING wanted to keep his Easyboot Gloves on. After about eight miles I decided to give it a rest and let Jake ride barefoot as we were eating up enormous amounts of time fiddling around every time a booty popped off. It was definitely not an ideal situation, but sometimes you have to just go with the flow. I was very thankful that the ride had pretty decent footing. I am still going to blame the silty river muck for it though because when I got that stuff on my hands it was extremely slippery and I know it was all over his hooves. Plus, we haven’t had booty problems before. It made me feel better that a few dozen more people were also having booty problems and that I wasn't just doing something wrong! Cache Creek could easily be renamed “The Land of the Lost Booties” as I saw them everywhere! (Rarely any that were still usable).

    Despite the booty problems, the ride was awesome! The vet check was put together very well and Jake munched on some alfalfa and mash while I snacked on some sandwiches they provided. It was very relaxing there and Jake was able to pulse down almost immediately. Other than some soreness in the feet, Jake passed his vet check with flying colors and we were off again! The second half went by in a flash and we enjoyed some good sections of moving out and even saw a snake! The ride was gorgeous. We rode through a thick Chaparral as well as some Oak Woodland- two plant communities I really enjoy and have been learning about in my California Plant Communities class at UC Davis.

    Before we knew it, we were at the finish! Jake got so excited and had to gallop in (though it was nicely controlled, I’ll give him that!) and we went straight to the final vet out. Again, Jake was able to pulse down right away and we got A’s all around! I was sooo proud of him. I could never recover like that let alone run for that many miles! Finishing with a sound and happy horse is the best feeling in the world. It is just such a huge sense of accomplishment and I am really able to feel the strong bond between my horse and I. We let the boys celebrate over some juicy watermelon as we cooled them down. Overall we finished 43/66.

    I would definitely do the Cache Creek Ridge ride again and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it yet! I had a blast and management was on top of their game! They had everything from clear organization, to wonderful perks, to awesome volunteers, down to a delicious dinner at the end. I couldn't imagine a more fun filled weekend with some awesome people and of course, my noble steed.

To see our ride, please visit: Jake's Cache Creek Ridge 2014

**Picture to Follow Soon**

American River Classic!
"Endurance Virgins No Longer!"
April 26, 2014
Wow, our first AERC ride was quite interesting! I wasn't really sure what to expect though I assumed NATRC rides would be similar in many ways. Lisa and I had been preparing for this ride for a while now and I was very anxious and nervous at the same time.
    The Friday check in had me frazzled! I realized I had no idea what the rules were and that I didn't recognize a single soul that I could consult! I was feeling uneasy. Thank goodness I have a horse who is calm and seems to think he knows what he is doing. It helped me to see how relaxed and unfazed he was by it all. Nevertheless, we faced some challenges that evening. I rushed to camp straight from my class which was held at the Beale Air Force Base that day. It was weird to meet my horse at a ride.. but kind of comical. As I arrived I could not believe that they had really had Lisa park the trailer on asphalt. Do people really camp on that stuff?? I can barely stand on it for a few minutes without my joints feeling stiff so I can only imagine what it does to the ponies.

    Then it was off to the vet in. Was I supposed to put on his booties? Take a lunge line? Lisa and I decided just to take the boys without both and see what was up. I learned very fast that the vet was not impressed by our lack of booties or knowledge of how AERC works. I was kind of in shock because in all of my years in NATRC, I have never had a judge talk to me in that way. Now I know how to piss off an AERC vet, and lets hope it doesn't happen again!!!

    A few other things happened that I won't mention here, but at that point I was sooo ready to pull from the ride. Thank you to all of you who encouraged me to move forward, and Lisa for finding us a small patch of grass to move the trailer to. I am so glad I stuck it out because Saturday turned out to be a blast!

    It was up and at it early the next day! I wish I had a picture of Lisa and I trying to get out of our sleeping bags because it was just hilarious. Jake already had his game face on and was ready to move! Our goal for the day was simply to finish.

    Then we were off! The start was very calm and easy going. Jake has come so far in that aspect since I first purchased him. It has been quite the relief that I can now start the ride on a cool collected guy rather than the bucking bronco he once was. Once we were about two miles out, everyone seemed to clump on the trail and Jake forgot his little brain for a few minutes. He tends to be very competitive, not that that is an excuse! I often tell people that his alter ego Hot Midnight comes out in the first few miles of the ride and that is what we saw. I am always grateful when the Jakers returns. Jakers is much calmer and will take care of me on the trail.

   Mid-ride was just a blast! The ponies were great and there was beautiful scenery to take in. The weather was ideal for riding too! We did a lot of fast pace moving when the terrain allowed and my GPS watch recorded us at about 14.4 mph at our top speed. That stretch felt like we were flying and I imagine Jake enjoyed it too, as he was the one who chose that speed. Before we knew it, we were already half way at the Rattlesnake Bar P&R! It was nice to get in a stretch and allow the boys to have some food and water.

    It seemed like only a short distance later we were already at the finish line! Jake and I finished 19th and Lisa and Kingsley finished 20th out of 33. Not bad for our first ride! But I was really impressed with Jake after the ride. When we did our final vet check, he had pulsed down to 40 bpm! I was told that was the lowest they had seen at the ride so I was impressed with my (old-ish) man. He looked like he was ready to keep going too :)

    After the ride it seemed like most of the people there were ready to be friends. Before the ride, everyone seemed so focused that they didn't really have time to chat. I met some really nice people afterwards. I know I felt more relaxed after the ride so I am sure they did too. Lisa's wonderful parents were nice enough to be our "crew" and drive both of our vehicles from the starting line at Granite Bay up to the Overlook for us in Auburn. They are the sweetest people and it was nice to have their support! Then after a short nap in the back of my car, awards, and a yummy dinner, it was finally time for us all to go home. And boy did sleep feel good after that ride!

To see our ride, please visit: Jake's American River Classic 2014