Submitted by Tami Rougeau, Team Easyboot 2012 Member
It's been two weeks since I was last in the lovely state of Idaho. As I sit here at the Boise airport looking out over the mountains I can't believe it was just two weeks since the most amazing of rides. Since I have not written much this year for various reasons this one might be a bit long. I only hope I can do the ride justice. The trail to Fandango was a long one. This ride has held a prominent spot on my bucket list for the last several years. Every year I would plan and then a deployment, hurt horse or EHV would come along and smash my well laid plans. Perseverance paid off and boy was it worth it.
May and me showing off our hoof boots at 20 Mule Team. Photo by Lucy Trumbull.
The story actually begins back in February at the 20 Mule Team 100. Although I wrote a story about this adventure I never got around to posting it. Suffice it to say it was a great 65 mile training ride and I learned a great deal. The hole in my plan for the year became apparent and I knew I had to work on it. What I really wanted was to get another 100 mile ride on May before August but with the schedule the way it laid out I was not sure how this was going to happen. We went to the Nevada Derby ride and each of the mares got a lovely 50 mile ride. Well, that might be a stretch as far as May goes anyway. My day on her was anything but lovely as she pulled on me and acted snotty all day. It was not fun and I was hurting at the end of the first day. Fancy gave me a lovely day two and that sort of made up for it. But there was an ever growing doubt about whether or not I had set a realistic goal for May this year.
Lucy Trumbull and me at Nevada Derby. Gloves all around! Photo Bill Gore.
Fast forward to May (the month not the horse, although there is a bit of poetic reality in this comment) and we set off for a weekend of fun riding at Forest Hill and the Tevis Fun Ride. Fun it was! The week prior I decided to glue boots on May. We had been fighting a strange case of scratches since three days after Derby (April 25). We were three plus weeks into topical treatment and she was responding well but considering her history I was taking no chances. The only problem with this plan was that Fandango was the following weekend and I really did not have time to remove the boots, clean them and reapply them before leaving for Idaho. Having left boots on for a couple of weeks before I was not terribly worried but my good friends from Easycare reminded me that it really was not recommended. Oh well, I am just about as stubborn as my mares so on went the boots.
May got a good trim on Monday, 14 May and I glued on her boots on Wednesday 16 May. To say that the gluing was non standard would be another understatement. We had the most bizarre weather that day. I had pretty much decided to put off the gluing and come up with a different plan when the weather seemed to break up. The wind died down a bit and the rain stopped so I went for it. All my supplies were already layed out and prepped from the day before and May's feet were clean. This would be my first experience with using Sikaflex (the new Goober Glue). It is indeed exactly the same as GG. I put the Sika in the boots first as it takes such a long time to set up and the Adhere is so fast. The temps were cooler which was a good thing and I was able to get two boots on without changing tips on the Adhere. I am not that fast, it just was not setting up quickly. Before going to the back feet I let the front set up. It seemed to take forever and it got really hot, way hotter than I have ever experienced but not so hot that it bothered May. Then the temps leaped up by at least 10 degrees while I got the back ones on, waiting for the Adhere to set up again. While I was waiting the weather shifted again. Not exactly perfect gluing conditions. The wind intermittently picked up and although I was sheltered at the side of the trailer small bits of sand did get on the glue. To top it off, in my hurry I had not cross hatched the hooves. By this time I am thinking that I have just wasted my time and products as there is no way these boots are going to stay on. Oh well, too late to cry about it now, will just have to hope it works out and deal with what happens when it happens. Did I mention that I was washing May's legs twice a day, treating scratches on one leg and praying that none popped up on the other three? Good thing I had plenty of gloves I would probably need them, drat.
Tevis Fun Ride. No shortage of creek crossings to test my glue job. With Renee Robinson. Photo by Lucy Trumbull.
Friday morning came along and off May and I headed over to Forest Hill to the Fun Ride (understatement). I met up with Lucy Trumbull and Renee Robinson. After shuttling up to Devil's Thumb in the trailer we then proceeded to ride back to Forest Hill. I just love this trail, its beauty is just indescribable. We had a lovely ride complete with loads of water crossing. When we arrived back to Forrest Hill our friends Connie Creech and Gina Hall had arrived and had a lovely ride themselves. To top it all off Leslie Spitzer and her mom Lynda Taxera brought in the best pizza in the world for dinner! After a nice evening of socializing (and washing legs don't forget) I went out to check my little brown mare and assess the likelihood of the boots staying on the next day. Amazingly enough all four boots were solidly in place. Wow! We all had a perfectly perfect boot day.
On Saturday we headed out to ride from Forest Hill to Drivers Flat after shuttling trailers. Leslie was running a bit behind but wanted to ride faster so we knew she would catch us. What a great day! Gina, Connie, Lucy, Renee and I enjoyed a great day trundling steadily along what can be a scary bit of trail for some folks. At one point I think Lucy asked me to take photos and I told her that I could not think about anything except forward (yes, I am not a fan of heights and there are a lot of them here) but maybe when we got in the trees. I think she may have been a tad disappointed but she was a great friend and did not chastise me too much. Lots of water crossing and dipping on this day as well. Leslie caught up with us in the last few miles and we got to ride in together. Another fantastic day with great friends, great trail, great views and great horses. May really stepped up and acted like a big horse all day, I was so proud. Another day down with all four boots firmly attached to the feet. The Tevis group hosted a wonderful meal complete with live music. They also had a raffle and Renee even won the coveted Tevis Entry! Now she has to ride!
So we get through the weekend with boots attached, Monday dawns and my plans to get a tune up ride on Fancy in preparation for doing the 100 mile day at Fandango quickly fade away in the business of life. That afternoon Leslie brought down her most excellent of all (gelding) horses, Eagle, to stay at my place till we left for Idaho. I love this horse! Yet another understatement. It was at some point this day it occurred to me that I should change my plans and ride Fancy on the first 50, see how she did and play day 2 by ear and then plan on putting May in the 100. Leslie gave the consummate experienced endurance rider advice "go with your gut". Thanks. May's boots were still firmly attached even after 35 tough miles and 5 days of leg washing. Fancy just wants to go somewhere and do something. She fell in love (understatement) with Eagle in a way I have never witnessed in all my years of mare horse ownership. Rockett was also very interested in this wonderful visitor who played bitey face expertly.
Leslie came back on Wednesday and we made our trek to Idaho. It took about an hour longer than we had planned probably due to stopping for supplies and to let the horses out but it was all good. The only sad thing was arriving at the Teeter Ranch in the dark. I was so bummed to not be able to see it all and orient myself. Oh well, nothing to do about that but walk up to the house and say hello. Steph and John were up to welcome us and show us up the road to where we were to park. Kevin had said that we needed to be careful on the road as there was turn that needed to be taken wide in order to make it (in my mind this meant that we would fall to certain death down a bottomless crevasse). Steph showed us up the road and around the death curve (in reality....yeah do the math, we all survived and my nails were intact) where we were met by Kevin Myers, Rusty Toth, Garrett Ford and Gene Limlaw. Talk about a welcome party! Steph let us put the ponies in pens since no one else was in yet - are you getting the idea of the hospitality you get up here in Idaho? Kevin took Garrett's dare and requested to park my rig - he did a good job and only killed it a couple of times. Just kidding, it was very nice to have someone with night vision and a knowledge of the field to help out after nine hours of driving. Ponies settled in and we had a nice social hour (or two).
Ridecamp from one of the inbound trails. Very spacious and accomodating.
Thursday we woke up and set to settling in for the long weekend. We met new friends Katrin Levermann from Canada (but she is really German) and her daughter Katya. What great ladies, we would spend a lot of time with them over the next few days. Pens rearranged, trailer reparked and properly nested, ponies cleaned up and greetings made to friends old and new. What a nice day. We were joined in our little circle by Amanda and Robert Washington. Amanda arrived along with the rain and assured us that this was just a passing storm and that we would have a lovely weekend. She was planning to ride the next day on her might steed Breve. Kevin and Rusty put on a most excellent barefoot and booting clinic that afternoon. It was soooooo cool (understatement of all understatements) to see these guys in action, up close and get to ask questions. I learned a ton. Rusty handed out a sketch of proper foot trimming which should probably be posted to the world. It is by far the easiest to understand that I have seen and really put a lot together for me. Thanks Dudes! Garrett also debuted the new boot/shoe that he would compete in this weekend. Can't wait to see these things in action!
A lovely reception followed in the gathering area (thank you Easycare!) along with dinner served by a local business Blue Canoe. Steph gave the briefing for the next days 50 mile ride along with a weather report that was cheerfully optimistic. Another bit of socializing after yet another bit of leg washing and getting Fancy's Gloves on and we were in bed. At the last minute I decided to just put Gloves on and not use Sika. Please don't let me regret this plan.....
Friday morning we were aroused by the sound of rain on the trailer roof. Really???? Tacking up in the rain is not my favorite part of endurance. It is also not Fancy's favorite and she was quick to relay her displeasure to me. But she is one tough mare, seriously the toughest horse I have ever owned, she is tough and focused. We were very happy to be starting out the ride with my friend from Sunriver and fellow Team Easybooter, Karen Bumgarner who was also in Gloves. The sun broke out soon after we started and we had a lovely day. Into the first vet check and big surprise! we were met by crew! Woohoo! There was Leslie, Kevin, Rusty and Amanda (who had decided not to ride in the wet that day)! What a treat! They had even set up a space apart from the rest which was nice since Fancy is not exactly a social mare. This was such a huge, special treat. Thanks guys! Off with the rain pants for what looked to be a lovely day. Fancy was really feeling her oats and we had to depart our friends shortly after the vet check. We proceeded to have probably the best day together on this magical trail. I dropped her bit and put her in the side pull and she just moved out with the biggest mare horse smile ever.
Along the hills, down to Crazy Lady Mine and back up to the vet check. This place is amazing! Yes, it did rain off and on all day but more off than on and the footing was great.
During a break in the weather on day one.
Fancy was strong and forward all day and we ended up finishing 11th in 7 hours and 22 minutes. Not bad for all the sightseeing we did. What a great day! Fancy's boots all stayed on nicely. I took them off to make sure there was nothing in them and that her feet looked good then reapplied tape and boots. I was so happy with her. The only downer was that my knee locked up and I had a bit of a hitch in my giddyup. At one point Kevin asked me why I was lame...cuz I am broken, drat! But a bit of walking around and socializing and it was OK. We would go out again tomorrow.
Once again we awoke to the sound of rain. Fancy and I discussed it and decided that we really were tough enough to take this on so off we went along with our new friend Katarin riding John's horse Mac also in Gloves. It was a soggy wet mess all day. Fancy is such a professional she just took each step as it came, moved when she could and took good care all day. She is the most amazing horse I have ever owned and I have tremendous respect for her. The trail was a slippery mess and there were so many times that I wished I had my Grips on instead of Gloves. In the end the Gloves really did well and we did not do nearly the slipping that we could have.
Katrin on Day 2, smiling through the wet. Thanks for a fun day.
Not as many photos on day 2 but still a fun and lovely day. Katarin and I shared a few laughs and it was good to have someone to share the trail with. The sun would peek out for short periods and that really helped keep the mood up. Then it would start raining again but we were on our way home so it was just a matter of moving forward. At some point I realized that I was really shivering pretty violently and it was bothering Fancy. She wanted to move out so bad but the footing would not let her, any opportunity she would trot and make me post but it would only last a few steps. Then the shivering stopped and I started to feel very peaceful and warm - DRAT! Keen awareness that I was not OK. Checked the GPS just as the batteries died and we had about 5 miles left. I had to move about and Fancy knew it too. She was very tolerant of me moving my arms and legs as she walked as fast as she could in the muck. Shortly before the finish we hit the actual road and Fancy moved, made me post and got me home in much better shape than I had been just shortly before. Leslie was at the finish, glory! and really helped me to get vetted quickly and take care of Fancy. Hot water and a hot shower was the ticket. Once again, Fancy took care of me and we got through in 16th place in 7 hours and 35 minutes.
Soggy boots for all of us! Notice all the Bare prints?
We took care of the ponies and attended the ride meeting for the next days 100 mile ride. May vetted in well but that evening lost her first boot while at the trailer spinning around and having a fit because I had taken Fancy to vet. Great! is this a sign of things to come? So after dinner and a great fundraiser drawing I decided to replace that missing boot. It had been raining pretty much steady for two days and May had been standing in it the whole time. Her foot was wet and the likelihood of anything drying out was slim. After talking to Kevin and Rusty I decided to just go for putting on a Glove. They very kindly loaned me their heat gun to dry out the foot and I took May over to the driest area I could find. Of course she proceeded to have a total melt down being separated from Fancy and would not stand. To say I was frustrated is yet another in a long line of understatements. Support and understanding came in the way only endurance riders can provide. Despite my desire to "win" Kevin went to get Fancy, May settled down and we got the foot taped. Of course her boot that had fit perfectly was....too big????really????WT???? Get a smaller boot and I can't get it, at my wits end Kevin again steps in and takes the boot and mallet...it fit just fine. Loads of reassurance from Kevin and Rusty and the realization that I needed to be done and we headed back to the trailer and I settled in the mares once again. Thanks to all!
So I had this idea that May needed to get into a nice 8 mph pace and she would do just fine. Remember back to my earlier comment about "speed ahead to May"? Well this is where that epiphany comes back. Come morning it is was drizzling a bit once again. Really? can I do this again? Yes, and this naughty little brown mare needed to go. So still a bit miffed from her antics the evening prior I decide that I am going to ride away from the trailer and that she would behave like I know she can. May decides at this point to put on another show of bad attitude, great. Thankfully Robert was still at their trailer and came over to hold her for me. So I get on and she begins to dance in place, great. Robert just takes her halter and leads her away from the trailer to the start. Great, I am being lead like some sort of pony club neophyte on a silly little brown mare that I think can go 100 miles. Of course I have to finally admit that this psychotic brown mare is 12 years old, has 1,100 miles and this would possibly be her third 100. I am going to just have to figure out how to manage her in these difficult situations.
Thank you Robert for getting us to the start. So horses start leaving and miraculously May decides it is time to get down to business. Leslie and Amanda are at the start and we all head out together at a nice steady pace. Figuring that May will drop back soon I just keep tagging along in the rear. Eagle decides that he needs to roll a bit faster and Leslie goes ahead (did I mention that Leslie is one tough chic? Riding a hundred in a borrowed saddle that she had never ridden in before, yes she is that tough). It was short-lived as Eagle showed that he was indeed ready to go and Leslie demonstrated some seriously great riding skill and we were soon a trio again. May decided that Amanda's horse Nero (aka the Unicorn) was the love of her life and the pace for the day was set. We came into the first check with me thinking that May would begin to slow and hold back. Nope, pulsed in immediately and Robert even had a nice word for my naughty mare. Amanda had a very good laugh at my desire to set an 8 mph pace as May seemed to be really happy at 10 - her desired "sweet spot" as Amanda put it - with long bursts at 12. So all you hot shoes at this point are amazed that this is considered "fast" but for some of us who live in the 5-6 range it really is.
Unicorn feet flyin'! Amanda's Nero setting the pace for the day in fine form.
Next leg includes several miles of Oregon trail complete with wagon wheel tracks. Amanda is a great guide and points out everything, even taking the camera for a bit so I have some evidence that I actually did this ride. Then down to the Snake river and the famous petroglyphs. It was a great day then we come up to the boulders that I had somehow forgotten about. How on earth is the horse who has spent the last two days trying to kill me going to get me through this? Like a pro, thats how. Suddenly her brain settled down between her ears and she showed some serious athletic ability, navigating the treacherous boulders like they were nothing. Proud and amazed does not begin to describe the feeling. Across the trestle bridge and into the vet check still with all boots intact. Really! We all vet through quick and fine and set to resting and enjoying the scenery. Celebration Park is a nice little park on the Snake River. Turns out it was built by Eagle Scouts. Pretty cool.
Nero reading the petroglyphs for us. With Amanda and Leslie.
On this ride you basically go 40 miles out and then back to camp. Some folks might think that this would be boring. It was not! Seeing it all from a different angle it all looked different and it gave me a second chance to get photos that I had missed the first time through. Going through the boulders was no less scary the second time - especially where it looked like you were going right off into the river if you did not make that hidden right turn. We left a bit of shin on a couple of those rocks. At this point I was also wondering when those boots would start coming off but they were on there good!
Into the next vet check all is well and the temperature is heading up. All the layers we wore all day needed to stay behind but there were still some dark clouds out there on the horizon. We made our way back to camp for the last vet check. For Amanda this was the end as she was doing the 80 mile ride. Third place for her, way to go to another Team Easybooter! Leslie and I would be heading out on the last loop together now that our ponies had settled down and were happy to go along together. This is usually the point in a 100 when I am adding glow bars and head lamp but on this day it was still plenty early and we only had 20 miles to go so Leslie and I set off to see the last 20 miles of the 2012 Fandango.
Cantering along as the sun sets. Perfect!
The miles passed quickly even though the horses were happy to take in the scenery and munch the trail grass. At 9:45 that evening our ride came to an end. Leslie (yes, yet another Teameasybooter), riding in her borrowed saddle, oh so tough finished 5th and May and I in 6th. How exciting to finish as the sun set. That has never happened to me before and I have to say I pretty well liked it. To top it off those boots that had been on for 11 days were still firmly attached and the one glove that we put on the night before was on tight as well.
I still can't believe it all worked out so well. A total of two hundred wonderful miles in this beautiful place. Two days of riding and another hundred miles on Fancy in Gloves and a successful hundred on May in three Glue-Ons that had been on for 11 days and one glove. The first two days of wet icky muck and the last day on some of the best footing ever. May once again proved herself and most of my doubts were erased. It was sure all worth the wait to get to this great ride. The boots did great all weekend and there were loads of successes. Congratulations to all. But I think the best part of this adventure was all the friends who were there to share it . Thanks to Steph and all her gang for putting on such a first class beautiful ride.
Me, Rusty, Leslie, Kevin and Amanda just before we all hit the road. Great friends are what make this sport so much fun.
Tami Rougeau and the Fabulous Mares Fancy and May