A few weeks ago, I had the very great pleasure of attending the Washoe Valley two day ride in Reno, Nevada. This is truly one of my favorite rides and one that holds a lot of sentimental value. This marked the 9th year I have done this ride and the 8th year for Fancy and I. In 2000, this was the last ride I attended with my old friend Mac before he was retired. The following year, it was the first 50 mile ride that I attended with Fancy. This year marked the 10th year that Fancy and I have shared trail together. Interestingly, I have only done this ride in May one other time, as her second ride. This year was a particularly beautiful year for the Washoe Valley. We had some early rain that had the desert peach, bitterbrush, mule ears, paintbrush and lupine along with many more wildflowers that I don’t know the names of in full bloom. The desert was really alive.
We rode the first day with our good trail buddies Renee and The Bite. Fancy and Bite make a bit of an odd couple to look at (he a tad lacking in stature but big on personality and go; she of the legs that go on and on with a personality that can at times be lacking). The morning was perfect and crisp. We climbed up the first big hill letting the horses move out calmly. About five miles past the first water stop, we saw the telltale sign of a rider with a situation – rider bent down holding up her horse’s right front foot. As we approached, we asked if she was OK, she said “Yes and no. The gaiter came off my boot and I can’t get it to stay on”. She had not packed a spare because she had never lost a hoof boot. This is where you get to use your imagination and insert the hero theme song. Renee and I are both Team Easyboot members and never leave home without spares. So Team Easyboot to the rescue, good boot on in a jiffy and all three of us riding off, discussing the need to remember to tighten your loose screws before heading out on an endurance ride. Literally and figuratively!
I always tighten the screws when I take new boots out of the box the first time. Sometimes I even remember to dab a bit of loctite on them but after that I tend to never think about them again – at least until Dave Rabe is at my trailer and starts inspecting my boots and invariably tightens things up. Another great thing this year – Dave is back! He was helping out all day and looked great. I'm so glad he will be back with us on the trails again very soon.
The rest of the day was uneventful. A very well paced and enjoyable day on the trail with good riding buddies. The finish awards were handmade pottery made by another local friend Debbie Anderson; very nice awards, unique, beautiful and very useful.
So now the story begins to change as around 1:30 AM Sunday, I awoke to the very distinct sound of rain on the roof. I jumped up out of bed to get rain sheets on the girls and check the weather – EGADS, possible rain all day. I have done this ride in torrential downpour previously with Fancy and we slid down one steep area on our sides (only her amazing athleticism kept her from sliding down on top of me, scary). To say I was a bit worried about going out in the rain is an understatement but this is endurance. We were a few minutes late starting but we trotted by Gina Hall at the start with smiles. Fancy set out like she was on a mission. Before long we were at the photographers and I could feel her building up - she broke into her dreamy canter right on cue. Talk about a horse having a good time. She passed by a few more intrepid true endurance riders on her way to her most favorite of all ride photographers, Bill Gore. I swear she poses for him.
After about seven miles it seemed that Fancy was more inclined to treat this as a “trot between bites of wet green grass” ride so I took out her bit and that is how we spent the next 43 miles – bitless, eating, drinking, trotting and cantering. We spent the day in our own bubble it seems, never really seeing those in front or those behind except from a distance. It was like riding in a dream. It drizzled rain off and on all day but it never seemed to matter. It was one of those days where you are riding as one and everything clicks.
Fretting over the mud and slipping was not anything we had to worry about. We never slipped once and in all the slipping, sliding hoof marks we saw, none of them were bare or booted prints. Fancy was in Easyboot Glue On’s all around. They all stayed on and we had no issues. This is a really tough rocky ride and a true test for boots. Besides being just plain rocky, there are also steep up/downs and on day two – wet, muddy trail.
Like all good dreams the ride did come to an end and at the finish we were told that we were top ten. Wow! That does not happen very often for us. In fact, it was only our 8th top ten in ten years. We headed into camp, stripped off tack and headed to the final vet check. Fancy finished all A’s and the best CRI of the weekend. As it was starting to rain again I elected not to show for BC but in hind sight it would have been nice to see how she scored. After all, this was her second day; she is now 17 years old, has nearly 3,000 competitive miles and has been my dream partner for ten years. All of this accomplished barefoot and wearing Easyboots.