The Cooley Ranch Ride June 12, 13, 2010 certainly turned out to be all it was promised to be. Beautiful rugged country, “challenging” hills, lots of water and wonderful food, wine and companionship. The property is approximately 20,000 acres in Sonoma County with a lot of history.
I’m new to the sport of endurance riding, having done hunters and jumpers most of my life. I’ve always enjoyed trail riding and had an interest in distance riding so purchased a gaited horse a couple of years ago and decided to give it a try. The Cooley Ranch Rides were my second and third ride and I rode the LD both days. I had entered the ride early as there were limited entries. However, I ended up winning my entry in a contest generously offered by EasyCare. So, that was a pretty cool thing! We completed both days with good scores, had good fun and learned a lot.
We arrived at ride camp Friday afternoon, set up camp and got vetted in. That evening we were greeted by Cynthia Ariosta and Forrest Tancer, the ride managers, two very nice people who made sure all was running smoothly and everyone was happy. There was a potluck and wine testing provided by a local winery. That evenings riders’ meeting stressed keeping our horses well-hydrated and describing the trail. The ride time was moved up half an hour due to the expected warm weather.
Saturday morning we began the ride at 6:30 and climbed the first of many hills. I rode most of the day with my friend, Magali, on her Friesian. My horse is a big champagne-colored Tennessee Walker so Magalia and I make quite a pair on our ‘different’ horses. The views greeting us at the top were beautiful and you could look back down into ride camp. There was a lot of natural water along the way, old barns and some new vineyard development. The vet check was at a spot with a lovely old barn, old orchard, food and water for the horse, and sandwiches and drinks for the riders. Once we left the vet check we traveled through a couple of ranch sites and up and down more big hills. We finished the ride and relaxed back in camp.
That evening we were treated to an absolutely delicious meal of paella provided by a local caterer who specializes in that dish. I overheard one rider say that he had been in the sport for 35 years and had never seen a meal like that. We enjoyed a wine tasting that evening as well. At that evening’s meeting, hydration and taking it easy was again stressed by head vet Jamie Kerr, DVM. As a newbie, I really appreciated the care and education provided by the veterinarians.
Sunday’s ride turned out to be sanctioned as a 30-miler and we left at 6:30 that day as well. The trail went out the same way as the prior day, but we went through a different part of the ranch property throughout the day and had some nice shade through the redwoods. After the vet check the trail was down in the river for a long time, which was really nice. I rode about half this ride alone having enjoyed part of the right with Magali and then later with a very nice gentleman by the name of Jerry. He and I took it easy through the river (got lost a little bit when we missed a flag) and then went on to finish up some long, hot hills. It was hotter on Sunday and with more miles, being lost in the river was not a bad place to be. Cherokee and I finished toward the end of he pack and as my goal was to go slow and complete the ride, I was happy. That evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal of grilled chicken and delicious salads provided by another local caterer. There was more wine and much celebration.
The prizes for the ride were very nice. Completion awards were a very useful fabric bucket on Saturday and polo wraps on Sunday. We were all sporting and using the scoop buckets on Sunday. EasyCare donated a HiTie, two complete sets of Easyboot Gloves, several pairs of E-Z Ride Stirrups and lots of other goodies. Seems like we all went home with something.
There was an excellent group of veterinarians there to check our horses and educate the riders. The volunteers were awesome and always helpful. The photographer, Bill Gore, of Gore/Baylor Photography took great pictures and knew just the right places to be on the trail both days. The trails were well marked and the footing was good. Forrest had run the cat over a lot of it which made it nice. Cynthia and Forrest are also the ride managers for the up-coming Mendocino Magic Ride. I would love to go, but can’t this year. You can bet I will return to Cooley Ranch next year and also try for the Mendocino ride. I don’t have much to compare to, being new to the sport, but the Tancer Management team really put on a good ride.
I would also like to thank EasyCare for providing all the great prizes. The riders appreciated the useful awards. I enjoyed seeing the support for junior riders and the overall good sportsmanship exhibited by everyone involved.
I’m looking forward to next year’s Cooley Ranch Rides again and encourage any riders who enjoy the challenge of hills with beautiful views and great management to come join the fun.
Maybe I’ll see you on the trail,