Well, we finished…with 7 minutes to spare. It wasn’t *exactly* the ride I was hoping for but we completed nevertheless. Once again, flexibility came into play and if the conditions dictated that we wait an extra 15-20 minutes at holds, then wait we would. We’d been warned at the ride meeting that horses have died at this ride in years gone by, and I wasn’t willing to come close to chancing it, so we took our time and proceeded forwards at Crawly Pace.

Uno’s aptitude to eat and drink at rides has never been great, but he has been getting steadily better each ride we’ve done – practice, practice, practice. It’s confusing, because at home he’s one of my best consumers – always managing to stay a little on the chubby side. But at rides he gets worried that “something” is going to get him. I’m not clear what that “something” is, but he knows it’s out there, just waiting for him to let his guard down – so stopping to drink just isn’t going to happen. Everyone’s seen those nature documentaries where the unsuspecting wildebeest gets grabbed by the leaping crocodile. None of that stuff is going to happen to Uno, nyuh-uh.

So we did the entire first 20+ mile loop on no water. It wouldn’t have been so bad had he not started the ride a little dehydrated – choosing not to drink more than a couple of gallons at the trailer overnight [sigh]. Luckily his ginormous fat reserve came in handy – all those cells storing up water.
* * *

The first loop at Eastern High Sierra Classic is slow and technical with lots of climbing… emphasis on the slow, the technical, and the climbing.

Here we are, only a couple of miles into the ride, climbing, climbing, climbing, combined with clambering over boulders. That’s Kaity and Kody ahead of me. They were the ones who saved the day and got us through the ride (even though it was only Kody’s second 50):

This was the area that I was concerned about pre-ride when selecting my choice of boots for Uno’s funky-flared rear feet. As it turns out, I had no reason to worry – the Glue-ons stayed firmly glued on and still weren’t keen on parting company with his feet on Sunday afternoon when I tried to remove them with two large flathead screwdrivers and a mallet.

To say I was amazed by this would be an understatement. As if by magic…

Thursday evening I got home from work with only an hour of daylight left. Scuttled out to the barn and began prepping Uno’s back feet – meticulously cleaning them with denatured alcohol, carefully removing some little hangnails on the backs of his heels that would prevent the boots from seating properly, applying thrush treatment to his collateral grooves (just in case), and dry fitting the boots to make sure everything was going to go smoothly. By the time I’d inspected the glue, inspected the glue-guns, inspected the feet again, it was definitely dusky.

Then I got to the gluing part – let the fun begin. Remember I’d never used Adhere before [snort].

Friend Leslie (who’d glued earlier that day) had warned me that the Adhere would set up fast in the warm temperatures we’d been having, so I was expecting it. I just wasn’t expecting it to set up *that* fast. First I carefully squooshed out a triangle of Goober Glue into the bottom of the boot to make a nice sole pad, then began applying my neat bead of squiggly toothpaste-thickness Adhere around the top edge of the shell. Once satisfied that it was applied as desired, I entered the stall where the unsuspecting victim was standing and proceed to carefully push the boot on… this was then followed by copious expletives, frantic whacking with the mallet, more expletives, before realising there was no way the boot was going on properly and having to rip it off again.

More expletives.

Then I realised what had happened. The Adhere had set up long before I even got near the horse, so all that happened was the neat beads of (solid) glue were pushed chunkily to the bottom of the boot (hence why it wouldn’t go on) [grrrr].

Faithful helper (husband) didn’t say a word, just looked decidedly uncomfortable and acted like he’d rather be somewhere else – anywhere else – rather than in the barn with me, expletives flying.

(Note to self: next time glue alone. Faithful husbands will not stand for repeat performances.)

I went indoors and fetched a headlight. Then I sat for ten minutes on a bale of hay, regrouping, before going in for a second attempt.

Having established just how quick you have to be with this glue, for the rest of the gluing procedure I squatted next to Uno’s back-end so that I didn’t have to move further than 27″ to get the boot on.

Ta-da! Two boots glued on…

Came indoors a bit sad – not having any conviction that said boots would stay on since I’d been so hopelessly inept for that first boot.

So as usual at the Ride I took four sparesies along on the saddle – and finished the ride with those same four sparsies still in their saddle bags. Carrying extra unnecessary weight is good. It’ll make Uno strong. Yes. All the boots stayed on, despite many water crossings, climbing, scrambling (up and down), and speed trotting along the lakeside road.

* * *

Before you start any endurance ride, it’s important to up your energy level and make sure you have the requisite amount of adrenaline surging through your body.

The trouble is endurance rides start so darn early in the morning – when my particular energy level is almost non-existent. For reasons unknown, we had to start Bridgeport at 6 am which meant stumbling out of bed at 5 am (Uno is installed in front of more-than-he-can-possibly-eat amounts of food overnight, so it isn’t necessary to get up extra-early to give him more). By 5:15, I was sleepily patting and scritching the pone and decided the first thing to do was to put on his front Gloves.

Except they didn’t fit.

As mentioned in past articles, Uno grows toe at the same rate that my truck sucks down diesel when hauling three horses in the mountains – that is to say, faster than a fast thing. I had diligently rasped him ten days previously, but that wasn’t recently enough. Uno doesn’t just grow toe, he grows Spatula Toe. The longer the toe, the more spatula-like it is, so no-way, no-how were those boots going on his front feet.

Out came the HoofJack and the rasp and a few minutes later, after some vigorous, energy-enhancing rasping – voila – boots that fit and a Lucy that is wide awake and ready for the day.

Here we are on top of the first ridge – the temperatures are cool and Uno’s got horses ahead in his sights. We passed several sets of people during this time – a rarity for me – and Uno managed the fastest stop-n-pee I’ve ever seen – by the time I’d jumped off to start the half-mile walk down to the trot-by, he was done and we were off again, leaving poor Kaity in our wake, fumbling with a tack adjustment (sorry Kaity):

Because of Uno’s lack of drinking and our subsequent slow pace, it gave us more time to admire the breathtaking views. I’d like to say that here you can see Uno admiring the view, but he’s actually looking worriedly at a long line of horses below and behind us on the trail on the opposite side of the valley, making sure they aren’t about to “get” him:

This whole section of trail is pretty narrow and continues to climb endlessly, as poor Uno discovered, leading a handful of horses. Uno is not a leader, but he did his best:

Remember the part where I mentioned the trail was technical? Here’s an example of some of the stuff we clambered over. The horses need to be surefooted through this and not fiddle around:

This loop culminates in the most stupendous view of the Sawtooth Mountains:

Back at camp at the end of the loop, I’d hoped that Uno would gobble up everything in sight. Instead, he delicately drank a little, ate a slurpy – not exactly ravenously – and munched on some hay. The only thing he showed real enthusiasm for was the green grass, so we hand-grazed. At this point he was still getting quite good vet scores which surprised me.

Off we went on Loop 2. Like having to eat your vegetables before you get the dessert, this loop starts with a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggg climb that takes about an hour. The horses think it sucks. You think it sucks. It’s hot. It’s dry. There is general desultoriness all round (yes, that *is* a real word – I looked it up).

Here’s Uno not drinking at the trough at the bottom of the long climb – he’d be sorry later. Instead he’s gawping at a 30-mile rider who has just passed us on their way in to the finish. Keeping his mind on the matter at hand is not one of his strong points. Notice Kody in the background, drinking:

So we climbed and climbed and finally, after cresting the top of the mountain, we came across this lovely oasis where we spent about 15 minutes letting the pones munch their fill. The pones thought this was very fine and all spirits were revived for the long downhill to get us to the valley floor:

From here everything got better. On the way off the mountain, hallelujah, Uno decided to drink – 30 miles and 24 hours too late – but at least he got around to it. The whole time he was sucking down water, he would quickly glance up at regular intervals to make sure that crocodile wasn’t creeping through the bushes.

We zipped through the vet check (first time round we weren’t required to stop) and overtook about five riders who’d gotten out ahead of us at lunch because we stayed 15-20 minutes longer so Dopey could eat more, yay. Off we set, down the Valley with Kody out in front setting a great pace. At every creek crossing we sprung our sponges and flung them about on strings – sometimes successfully hitting the water source, sometimes not.

The horses were quite cheerful, even when we took the strange (ribboned, I might add) detour into the small aspen grove and clomped around in there, ducking to avoid branches and wondering why the trail had a multitude of fallen tree stumps lying around like chinese puzzles for the pones to step through.

Once again, the views were wondrous. Here’s Nick Warhol and Don, and Judy Long and Color (the spotted one) who got past us when we took the scenic route:

At the far end of the valley, we crossed a big creek (where we would have gladly spent the rest of the afternoon paddling without too much persuasion) before turning back up the valley towards the vet check. We tried putting Uno in front to give Kody a rest, but he immediately turned slug-like so we abandoned that plan based on the fact we’d never get done in time.

This part of the trail winds through aspen and is extremely entertaining (provided you aren’t travelling at Crawly Pace).

Back at the vet check, once again, Uno gawped at everything around him instead of munching on the nice green grass:

I did finally persuade him to eat a slurpy by pulling out the secret weapon – rice bran. Apparently anything is worth eating provided it contains over 50% of rice bran. Notice the lovely glow to Uno’s coat? Yup… rice bran. But even tucked into that, he was still peering around at all the other horses. I can’t decide if he’s Mr Nosy or Mr Paranoid.

Anyhoo. His lack of drinking earlier in the day finally caught up with him – his vet scores at this point were lousy, necessitating a fit of angst from me, regardless of the fact that he was now eating and drinking just like a grown-up. All we had to do was about six miles back to camp – and we had an hour to do it in. Ack.

So off we went again, Kody leading the way, Uno cheerfully zooming along behind him, quite willing to do big trot (and even pulling out to pace next to him a couple of times), me on top monitoring his every ear twitch to make sure he wasn’t about to drop out from underneath me. In the last half-mile, five riders came up behind us (one cantering – that set poor Uno off again, leaping sideways and jumping about) and passed, putting us firmly in, I believe, last place. Hey ho.

But like I say, we finished. Uno got good scores at the final vet check, he was now (of course) interested in eating everything in sight. And all our boots stayed on. In fact, it was a 100% successful Booting Event for Team Paranoid. Leslie’s four glue-ons stayed on Eagle’s feet even though they zoomed through the whole ride to come in 13th. We are now smug, almost experts, in our gluing skills. Hah.

It wasn’t perhaps one of Uno’s most stellar performances, but hey, we finished – and best of all, I learned a great deal about how to get him hydrated before we even start, how to keep him that way, and just how useful those fat reserves are. 🙂   Hopefully that’ll stand us in good stead for his next excursion – endurance gods willing – Virginia City 100. He seems to have the physical capability – now we just have to see if cunning can overcome his mental shortcomings. Big hugs to that pone.