She was older than I assumed (16 in fact), quiet, respectful, friendly, and a good rider. I literally can not say enough nice things about her. I'd ride with her again in a heartbeat, junior or not.
At a quick conference after the ride meeting, I just told her and her camping buddies, Heather D. and Paige, that I wanted to let the hot-shoes get out of camp before we left. I'd wander over to her trailer before the start and we could leave together and under control. We'd be shooting for 6-7mph and sensible behavior. This felt especially important because this was to be Evita's first competitive distance (I think she said she did the trail ride at Bare Bones before this).
|Flying the pirate flag in camp.|
My plans actually worked. I was up by 6:30, shivering from the icy desert night but wanting to be sure Blue had food in front of him for when the 50s went out. We were camped right on the trail out of camp and I didn't want him to pitch a fit when the thundering herd went by.
|The rare "sleeping on the horse trailer floor" selfie.|
|Looking the other way.|
I shouldn't have worried. My horse is a consummate self-preservationist with a long memory. I am CERTAIN he remembered how far we went at Sunriver, because he was positively lackadaisical at OR100. He wasn't slow on the trail or anything, but he didn't waste any energy on meltdowns in camp before the start. There was plenty of time for both of us to eat and have a good stretch before I mounted up and shambled over to Evita and Heather D.'s trailer.
We had a completely uneventful start. Blue and Evita's horse, Corky, bonded right away and marched out of camp in a line of slow starters.
|From the left: Evita and Corky, Michelle and Chance, me and Blue and Tiia and Jackson. Photo by Kathleen Jepson.|
|Marching out of camp like the wonderful, sensible horse that he is. I really love him. Thanks, Kathleen, for such a great start photo!|
Once we were off the initial single-track and the Blue was reasonably settled, we struck a brisk trot and started passing the slowpokes. We were only a couple miles in when we got to Jessica Anderson's photo spot. The result is that the horse and I both look fresh and eager. Note also that I was already sleeveless at 8:15 in the morning. The day was definitely warming up fast!
|Booking along on a loose rein. Note my western Oregon "tan."|
We left the group and made great time through the whole first loop. We caught up to Karen of Wren Loop at each water stop, but she'd inevitably get ahead again until the next trough. I guess we were going about the same speed, huh?
Before we knew it... and well before 10 a.m., we were back in camp for our 30-minute hold. Someone who had a GPS told us that the loop was a little short. Nevertheless, allowing for our late start, we still did a solid 8 mph. Frankly, Corky had a lot more in him, but Evita held him to a pace that was right on the threshold of Blue's ability. They would be tremendous training partners for us—the kind of training partners that would push Blue to speed up. It's a shame they don't live closer.
I rode most of the last little bit into camp, so Blue took a few minutes to pulse down. The half-hour hold flew by, but neither of us was in a huge hurry to hit the trail again, so we had leisurely potty and snack breaks before mounting up for the second loop.
By then, of course, it was quite a bit warmer and full sun. The footing, which had been well-traveled by then, was softer and deeper than the first loop, but there were fewer hills. Mostly we kept to the same pace as the first loop, except for a mid-loop walking-and-gossip break with Michelle and her greenie, Chance.
|Michelle and a whole lot of desert. I'm pretty sure that next speck in front of her is Karen.|
|Evita and Corky waiting for me and Blue at the top of the hill.|
|Just trottin along.|
Leaving Michelle for the last time, we entered the dustiest, loosest footing of the day. We wallowed through much of it slowly, floundering our way down the hills.
|There just isn't a good way to show how dusty it actually was. Take my word for it.|
|Train robbing selfie.|
Camp was in sight, as were several of the horses in front of us.
But poor Evita was desperate to pee at this point. Even with camp in sight, she really couldn't wait another minute. I had a selfish moment where I wanted to tell her to hold it and tough it out. We were almost in camp; we had a decent chance of placing, according to my mental tally. But good mentoring won out. I turned off my personal racebrain, thinking of all the times I've had to stop awkwardly along the trail myself. Evita was practical enough to know that she needed to put herself and her horse ahead of making a big, impressive top-ten finish her first time out. Good girl!
That out of the way, we got back on the trail and headed into camp. Minutes later, we stripped tack and pulsed down fast for 12th and 13th place. Not too shabby at all.
I think it was especially unshabby because Blue did the whole thing with no hoof protection of any kind. BTW, someone actually stopped me in camp to tell me how good his feet looked. That sure wouldn't have happened last year when he was still in shoes.
Blue vetted through like a champ, but as soon as the pressure was off he dropped the pretense and let me know he was good and tired. I tied him on the shady side of the trailer with a cool, sloppy mash, but he fell asleep without eating it. I was pooped, too. The distance was nothing new but the slight increase of speed certainly caught us off guard. I stayed awake long enough to make sure Blue was just too sleepy for his mash, not colicky. Once he was in his pen moving around and nibbling again, I figured I could take a little break. This break turned into a three-hour marathon nap (have I mentioned before that I barely sleep the night before a ride but sleep hard and heavy as soon as it's over?) that was only interrupted by the hot winds of midafternoon.
|That 90 in the lower right is the temperature... and there was no shade within 40 miles.|
Blue would roll, snooze, eat, snooze, drink, snooze, roll for the rest of the day. Over night, he ate every scrap of hay that was left. I'm glad I saved back some for the trailer ride, because by the end of the weekend, he had eaten literally an entire bale of hay and several pounds of concentrate food.
Sunday morning I was awake bright and early to pack up my camp. I wanted to have everything ready to go as soon as awards were over, and I managed it. :) Blue looked like a million bucks. If anything, he appeared to put on weight through the weekend. A second day might have done him good.
|"Good morning, Mom! Is it time to go race again?"|
|A morning stroll before awards.|
As it was, we had an uneventful drive back.
By late Sunday afternoon, you wouldn't have known we'd even left for the weekend.
|It must have rained while we were gone, because there was even a hint of green grass in the turnout. (Everybody say hi to Torgrim, the newest horse at the barn!)|