Yesterday we attended the North PAC/Oregon 100 near Brothers, OR. It was really a great experience for Tommy. He performed exceptionally well for such a young horse! I was very proud of him.
This was his very first real ride out at a distance event, and it was a very good one for him to start with. The country down near Brothers is non-technical with a lot of wide open flat sandy desert. You can see the whole ride pack in front of you, (and some other people coming up from the back), from a good long distance away. Unlike the forest rides, nobody will come out of the trees and surprise your horse and scare the hell out of them. But, there are other unexpected surprises in store on the desert rides - like giant herds of antelope that dart right by your horses! (Yes, it happened, and people had problems.) But overall it's a really great ride to attend. There are many competitive long distance riders who make this their first 100 mile experience, and it's some awesome terrain for that.
My goal at this ride was to just keep Tommy calm and have a good walking "training" ride. We started the very last behind everybody else at camp, because I wanted him to calmly walk out and not get rattled or nervous about anything. (There's nothing worse than having a young green horse start off on the wrong foot by letting them bounce around at the start of a ride and progressively get worse as they get older....) But as Tommy stood next to me and watched everybody else leave in a cloud of dust, you could just see the wheels working in his head - "Where are they going, and why are they leaving so fast....?" It was comical watching him trying to figure out what was going on.
After everybody else left camp and we headed out down the trail at a relaxed walk, there were some 25 milers (who unfortunately got lost and took the wrong loop), come up from behind us and pass us along the way. Much to my surprise, Tommy handled it very well. I fully expected him to get his adrenaline and blood pressure up and want to trot along behind them after they went by us. But he didn't. We would calmly stop along the shoulder of the trail and I'd let him watch them as they passed us at a speedy trot, and then get back onto the trail at a nice leiusurely walk. It was great. I never felt out of control at any time on him, which was a huge sigh of relief. Sometime you never know what a young green horse will do when they experience high speed trail traffic for the first time....some spook and run off, some buck..,ect. Tommy handled it exceptionally well.
We made it almost half way through the ride before we hit a problem. Unfortunately our ride was cut short due to some large lava rocks. We were walking along just fine when I felt him trip and go down in the hind end. I looked back along the trail to see some huge jagged lava rocks sticking up out of the dust. They had been covered completely up by the sand and trail dust and you really couldn't see them very well at all. We kept walking down the trail, but I could tell that he was a bit off from his back legs tripping. Luckily the vet check was only 2 to 3 miles down the trail, so we kept walking on to it. At the check I got off and told the vet what had happened. Ironically there was another rider that was there who pulled because of the same problem. I trotted Tommy out and he was a bit tender and gimpy, so we stood around and ate some hay and drank some water and waited for awhile. (This was also a very good experience for him, as I wasn't sure how he would handle eating and drinking along the trail....) He ate and drank very well, and he got to see some other people (who unfortunately were lost) come in to the check and leave.
After about 20 minutes passed there wasn't much improvement with his hind end gait, so I opted to call it a day. I usually take not being able to finish a ride very personally and with great disappointment - but there was no need for that here. Tommy had proven to me that he could be a very reliable mount and act calm and relaxed at these rides, and that is all that I could ever have asked for. It was kind-of an act of nature that took us (and some other riders) out, and nobody can plan for these unexpected types of things. But Tommy did very well tempermentally, so I was very happy with him. There is great hope for the future.
A picture that Craig snapped of us as we made our way out of ride camp. I love this flat open terrain. There's lots of room to get off of the trail and work on problems with your horse, if you encounter any. Luckily Tommy never gave me a reason to use the extra space to work on anything, as he was very well behaved. But it was there if we needed it...
A picture of us after the ride, nice and relaxed. I forgot the camera in the truck, so I didn't get any pictures going along the trail. At the Friday night ride meeting Charki the ride manager gave us a bit of green ribbon to put in his tail, so that people wouldn't ride up too close behind us. I know Tommy pretty well, but sometimes young horses will kick out of fear and it will come as a surprise to their riders. The green ribbon was a pre-cautionary measure available to let people know that I was on a new young horse and to keep their distance from us.
At about 1:00 p.m. Craig and I ate hot dogs with Alex Rivas at his trailer, (they were great - thanks Alex!) and we let Tommy rest and munch hay at camp for a few hours. Before we loaded him up into the trailer I trotted him out and he was greatly improved and sound by the time we headed for home. Overall it was a great experience for him, and I have no regrets about the ride. =:)