Submitted by Willi Hoffmann
The 2013 Whiskeytown Chaser AERC ride was an emotional roller coaster. There was concern that the ride would not take place but thankfully Ride Manager Bonnie Sterling, jumped in to rescue the event. Audra Homicz, from the regional CSHA Endurance program, assisted Bonnie with promoting the ride by utilizing Facebook pages to encourage riders to sign up and volunteer. I did not want to see this ride canceled so I immediately volunteered. The Chaser is one of our local rides, and was advertised in 2013 for the first time as a two day ride with new trails and ride camp. It is the first ride of the year in Northern California and many riders look forward to it.
I started to prepare my gear on the Wednesday before the event and decided to take my Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, Little. Two weeks prior to the Chaser, we had participated in the Nevada Derby, where we finished the 50 mile ride on Saturday in Easyboot Glue-Ons. Unfortunately I did not have time to remove these and decided that 2 weeks in dry weather shouldn't cause any harm. My coastal riding buddies Terri and Natalie arrived at the Whiskeytown Chaser ride camp on Thursday around lunch time. They informed me that ride camp was filling up fast and there were only a few spots left. It was amazing how this ride went from near canceled status to a great turnout. I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from EasyCare that afternoon; I had won a free ride entry from the Win/Win program. How exciting - if all the ride volunteers showed up, it would be possible for me to ride one day.
At the rider meeting on Friday, Bonnie told us that more than 100 riders would leave camp on Saturday morning! Bonnie told me that I only had to work on Saturday; she had enough volunteers on Sunday so I would get to have my fun. I left early Saturday morning for my job site at the Horse Camp to do P&R's. I like to do this job and volunteered on some other rides before so it looked like it would be a nice day at work. All the riders were very friendly. There were a lot of "thank you’s" given to the volunteers. A big thank you to all the riders for remembering that rides only happen because people spend their weekend volunteering with the only payment being your "Thank you." The temperature on Saturday was a very hot spring day of 90 degrees. Some of the horses got in trouble with this early hot weather combined with the whopping elevation changes. Other horses went lame. Whiskeytown is well known for some very rocky trails and it was said that there were some flatter trails where you could make up time after the long climbs.
My riding buddy Chris on the rocky trail.
On Sunday, I knew pretty much what to expect and made my plan, as the weather forecast promised even higher temperatures. My pony was more than ready to go in the morning, so I had to hand walk her for the first 15 minutes after the start. Then we started flying down the trails with the goal to make as many miles as possible in the colder morning hours. Little was flying and shifting through her gaits like a six speed Corvette. It didn't take long and we passed the first rider on the Swassy Loop which was a premier on this year’s ride. It is a great single track loop with awesome views down to the valley. We did our 15 minute stop and steamed further up the hill to the first 30 minute check in horse camp. I knew we had made great time and could now enjoy the rest of the day and take it easy. The second loop takes you up the "Hill of Pain". First there were some flat and rocky trails, followed by a long, steep climb and then steep trails drop down back to horse camp for the last one hour hold. Little came in excited as our two trail buddies left us shortly before this hold when I slowed her down. I took it easy before the vet checks because Little is a 16 hand dark bay horse and she needs her time to get settled in the 90+ degree heat. After a couple of minutes, Little met the criteria at our last check and the vet gave us the okay to continue. Little enjoyed her break and after this hold we had eleven mostly downhill miles left to the finish. We walked most of the remaining trail. There was no sense to risk anything after making it so far on a tough ride. We turtled into camp and finished a half hour before the cut off time. I had another great day with my multi-use pony Little, who just rolled over her 19th birthday a couple of days after the ride.
Little at the one hour hold.
Little has worn Easyboots for over three years and I am very happy with them. There was a learning curve with the boots as well for me with some hard times in the beginning, however now I use them for all our daily duties like cattle work, trail cleaning, and endurance riding.