Introducing Horse C — or We've Come A Long Way

Uno came to us a few years ago. Originally he was supposed to be Patrick's horse but the two didn't mesh well. At that point Uno lacked confidence - not helped by encountering a bear in a tree the very first trail ride we took him on after getting him home - and his unexpected manoeuvers resulted in some air-to-ground interfaces on Patrick's part. Since he wasn't going to work for Patrick and I didn't need a spare horse (having Roo, Hopi-the-Project, and Jackit-the-welsh-pony), we decided to sell Uno on to a home where he would be ridden and appreciated. 'Course, before we could sell him, I had to get him past this lack of confidence and turn him into something useful.

It's worth noting that the first time I rode again after I broke my leg in June 2008 (kicked 40 miles into an endurance ride), Uno was the horse of choice over Roo. Unless frightened, he was solid and easy-going, and at that time a little lazy. He's a big sturdy pinto - about 15:2 (way too tall, as far as I'm concerned) - and squarely-built. He has a leg in each corner and feels like it. He's saddlebred on the top and Oregon CMK endurance breeding on the bottom.

Here's me riding Uno around the yard for the first time in nearly 4 months after breaking my leg. Happy day.

We spent a lot of his early trail-time bopping along behind Fergus' TWH flat-walk which meant Uno developed a superb western-pleasure jog which required no activity on my part - I just sat there admiring the scenery. From there he went through a really lazy stage and I have distinct memories of complaining sadly to a friend about how uninteresting he was to ride. As time progressed, I started to realise that one of his fortes was his steadiness. If you asked him to trot, he would do so - not in a spectacular, breath-takingly speedy manner, but he would neither slow down nor speed up, just go along as the same metronomic speed. And he would *keep* going. Roo tends to rush along, filled with enthusiasm and leapingness, but after a while he will tell you on no uncertain terms that this is hard work and it would be better if we walked now. Not so Uno - he'd just keep going. Later still, we started adding a little speed, asking for "big trot" for short distances - and lo and behold, he was quite capable of keeping up with 16+ hh Fergus' long, effortless trot if requested to do so. I couldn't ride this big trot at all having gotten used to his "going along trot", but it was an interesting tool to add to the mix.

When Uno arrived, he'd already done a few distance rides. During his second 50-miler, he was pulled for lameness and after that was put in pads "just in case". Some of the problem might have been living in the rainy NW - his feet didn't respond well to the wet. At our house he went barefoot and I struggled to figure out what to do with his feet. They were certainly big, but not shaped the same as feet I was used to dealing with. They looked like big shallow dinner plates and I desperately wanted to get them more upright but when inspecting the undersides, all I could really find was lots of heel to remove which was counterintuitive. They also had great protruding bars.

Uno in early 2009 at Cronan Ranch. This was his pudgy-n-lazy stage:


But as a result of his strange feet, Uno has probably had the best footcare of all of our horses. Practically every single time I rode him I'd rasp off toe (and there was always toe to rasp). In the early days he was evidently heel-sore as he'd take funny choppy steps (he has a high-action trot already, so this did not feel good) and if I left his rear feet unbooted he was much less willing to go up hills with any enthusiasm. So we'd do short rides unbooted and for longer outings I'd boot either the fronts or the rears, alternating each ride. As the fall of 2008 progressed and the wet season took hold, it was noticeable that he was more comfortable when housed in dry footing than wet mud - but also correspondingly more explosive to ride if cooped up in a dry pen - as I discovered when the dog spooked him and I ended up dumped in some poison oak.

Over Thanksgiving - just about the time I was really starting to enjoy riding him and get to grips with his idiosyncracies - Uno showed up slightly off at the start of a trail ride. He seemed to warm out of it and then suddenly went three-legged lame after slipping while being hand-walked down a steep muddy hill. Because of the suddeness of this event, I was convinced he had pulled a tendon but three days later realised that I was dealing with a plain ol' foot abscess <relief>.

Mucky paddock, Winter 2009.
Note the placement of the water trough on the wrong side of the fence to prevent Uno clambering into it:

So Uno didn't get to go to Death Valley that Christmas and I once again concentrated on Roo who was going to Tevis in June 2009.

Uno didn't come out of mothballs again until Memorial Day weekend 2009 when he got to go on a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada. I suppose you could have called this trip his proper "debut". The time off had evidently done him good - we spent an excellent weekend riding in the Mokelumne Wilderness with several adventures including dealing with cows, falling over in some rocks, and sinking up to his belly in a bog (he didn't lose his boots, though) - all of which he took cheerfully in his stride and returned with a new-found confidence, pushing in front of Fergus and weaving about on the dirt road to prevent him passing again.

One of my very favorite photos,
Uno Gawping at Cows in the Mokelumne Wilderness, Late Summer 2009 (note I got off for this occasion):


Still admiring the cows. This is before he fell over in the rocks and before we sank him in the bog:


Uno had finally arrived.

In October, we took him to Lake Sonoma 50 with a carefully concocted plan to keep him sandwiched between Patrick riding Fergus and friend Renee riding Brandi Apple to keep him mentally safe. The plan worked perfectly and we had a fun day - the only adventure being getting whopped on the head by a buckeye so hard that I yelped loudly enough to spook Uno off the side of the trail. Hardly his fault.

Lake Sonoma 50 - Uno's debut endurance ride with us - with chaperones Fergus and Brandi Apple behind:
 

In November, I took both Roo and Uno to Desert Gold and rode each horse one 50-miler. This was Uno's first solo outing and he went out in the morning like a grown-up - striding manfully along, eagerly looking ahead of other horses. He degenerated slightly when I slowed him and horses started to come up behind, causing some angst.  Eventually he paired up with a stallion and had a great day. The adventure for this ride was him spooking from a horse startling him from behind (still his biggest impediment to overcome) and him starting to trot like a circus horse. Front-foot inspection revealed that he'd spooked right out of his front boot and ripped the gaiter. Hmm, time to put PowerStraps on those. He finished that loop barefoot and a borrowed Glove got us through the rest of the ride.

In December, he finally got to go to the long-awaited Death Valley Encounter endurance ride. Patrick and I took Fergus, Roo and Uno - all barefoot in Boots - and did five days of 50s between the three of them. This was the first time I felt like I'd pushed Uno (we were riding with Renee's Little Bit who despite being two-foot tall, can out-trot most horses) and he responded beautifully, finishing the ride ever-cheerful and with no adventures to report.

Predictably, in January, he developed another foot abscess almost identical to the one fourteen months before and got a month off. This horse's feet *really* don't like mucky weather.

For 2010 I decided Uno's job would be to fill in only as necessary when scheduling meant I couldn't ride Roo who's main goal was to do the NASTR Triple Crown - NV Derby 50, NASTR 75 and Virginia City 100.

As goes the way of most endurance plans, Roo was slightly off the weekend before the first ride in the series, NV Derby in early April, and since I thought Uno had caused this lameness by stepping on him, it was decided that he would go to the ride in Roo's stead.

This plan was one of my less good ones. Because of the abscess, Uno had done virtually nothing since returning from DVE except for some short trail rides and about 20 miles of ponying off Roo. But the weather forecast was cold (a little too cold as it turned out: we ended up chaining up Leslie's truck and trailer to get over Donner Summit and it snowed during the ride), but I thought would work in our favour and we'd just go and see what happened. We rode slowly with another friend, Tami, finished in the back as usual and, surprise, surprise, Uno looked about the best he ever had at the end of a 50. His main adventure during this outing was twice rolling in my saddle (luckily a treeless saddle) while tied to the trailer during holds.

NV Derby - COLD!                                      Photo: Baylor/Gore


In May, we went to Washoe Valley and did both days of 50s, again finishing in the back with a healthy horse - although he scared me a little when I thought he shut down at lunchtime on Day 2, only to realise that he was just taking a nap (this is the trouble with a new horse - it takes a while to figure out their habits). He didn't manage to roll at the trailer this ride (not for want of trying though - my friend Leslie had to yell at him a couple of times when his knees started to buckle), but did manage to dump me and run off through the sagebrush just about the time I was overcome with impressedness at his attitude leaving camp on his own. He also tried hard to climb into a watertrough - which is another of his 'nifty tricks'.

And finally he did NASTR 75. Remember the Triple Crown Roo was supposed to do? Well, Uno takes a stab at it instead. This feat is definitely rather more than I would usually attempt during a horse's first real year of competition, but I've got nothing to lose (Roo is still off with tendon troubles), so I figured why not.

As with Washoe Valley, we glued on shells for this event. I like to use Goober Glue for its rubbery properties and despite having done several glueing sessions with Roo and Uno, this was the first time I really felt like I understood how the glue interacted with the boots and hoof wall. As a result of this new-found wisdom, I was pretty sure the left front shell wouldn't stay on for the whole ride - and I was correct <grin>. NASTR 75 is a pretty rocky ride and sure enough by Illinois Canyon (a particularly rocky stretch) the left front shell had vanished. I had a little bit of difficulty slapping on the Glove since I'd got his boot fit *perfect* - which meant that this new, stiff Glove didn't want to go on over the wodges of glue on the front of Uno'd hoof, but once I peeled some of the excess off and gave the boot a couple of whacks with a handy rock, we were good to go and finished the rest of the ride with one fancy, yellow-PowerStrapped foot.

Riding again with two good friends Tami and Leslie and their booted pones Fancy and Nugget, we didn't exact blaze down the trail on this ride but on the flip side, Uno got practically all As at every vet check (unenthusiastic trot-outs notwithstanding - "why bother?" seems to be his motto). On the third loop, we spent time letting them graze in a meadow and that cheered them up no-end. The final 15 miles back to camp flew by and at the end of a ride in the dark, Uno was beside himself with excitement. For a horse who is quite lazy at home, this is one of the most fun parts of competing with him - he really comes alive at rides and is always interested in all the proceedings. Despite his excited exuberance, he still managed a ridiculously low CRI (48? I think) and made me cry at the finish because he'd done so well.

So Uno's come a long way. He's still a gawky, clutzy-looking horse with dinner plates for feet, too big, prone to trying to climb into water troughs, and will never take your breath away by his speed (unless he's spooking - in which case you are quite amazed by his athleticism), but he makes me laugh and is turning into the best endurance horse we own. As my friend Renee remarked to me during a conversation this weekend "...yes, but that was when you were still pretending Uno was for sale..." (she also slipped in a "told you so"). And Patrick is always careful to mention his good taste in selecting horses. I guess Uno isn't going anywhere for now.

Compare and contrast: Uno at NV Derby "OMG! What the heck's that??"
versus Uno at NASTR 75 "Ho hum, a photographer..."
What a difference a few miles can make.                            Photos: Baylor/Gore

 

P.S. I'd like to say Uno got a bunch of time off after this ride, but he had one last task to complete before getting a vacation - if he finished NASTR 75 so cheerfully, he was definitely going to have to try Virginia City 100 - and to do that I needed to make sure the he was happy to travel on the trail at night. We'd finished NASTR 75 in the dark, but that was trotting along behind his two best buddies. In order to make sure night-riding wasn't going to cause any problems, we'd have to try the NV Moonshine 50 - a ride that starts at 7 p.m.

Next time: NV Moonshine 50.


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