Gold Country 50
This write-up kind of got away from me and ran *really* long, so if you aren't interested in every excruciating detail of Zini's first 50, I'll cut to the chase and tell you: we did the ride and we finished.
The main reason for my excitement is that it has been several years since I conditioned and trained my own horse for 50s - and that ended in tears with Mouse and a pulled-suspensory at Lake Sonoma. Despite rehab efforts and giving her over a year off, she is now on her second pulled suspensory (same leg, different spot) and is probably destined to never really do any useful work again. Provo, my older endurance horse who I battled through eight 50s with, is also creaky and is suffering from a case of "pick a leg, any leg" when it comes to deciding why he is off. I was rapidly coming to the fatalistic conclusion that any horse I owned was immediately going to go lame, so I might as well just accept it and give up endurance riding.
Enter Zini, who is actually my husband, Patrick's, horse. Luckily for me, he's currently involved in distance mountain biking so doesn't have much time for riding, so I'm very grateful to him for letting me steal Zini from him.
For the epic story, read on...
Zini on CA-Loop during
So Wednesday morning, I'm standing in the shower musing over how on Monday Jamie Kerr said he thought Zini was ready for a slow 50 - after seeing how she coped with three days of pre-Tevis trail riding with friends.
Strangely, I'd had my reservations about going on that trip. Because of Zini's disintegrating feet I'd only ridden her a few times during the previous two months and knew most of the other horses would be Tevis-ready and way above our level of conditioning. With that in mind, I was prepared to pull out at any time and walk out.
On day 1 we took a quick jaunt from Foresthill to Michigan Bluff and back, and when we got to the top of the canyon, I looked at Zini dripping sweat and opted to take it easy and sent the others on to MB without us and hand-walked her back down Volcano Canyon and back up to Foresthill. As it turns out, saving her that first day meant that she performed way above my expectations for the next two 18-mile days - coping well with the trail and the heat, travelling with a low pulse and pulsing down quickly, eating and drinking and not really showing any signs of tiredness. Hmmm.
The Gold Country Ride is organized by my local endurance club and the ridecamp is only 30 minutes from home. I've done the 30 twice before - once as my first ever distance ride with Provo in 1998, and once with Mouse in 2002. During the fall I train on those trails, so I know the 30 mile area fairly well and knew that the second 20-mile loop was on mostly level Bottlehill Road. Having fore-knowledge of the trails would help me in pacing, as I'd know what was coming up. The ride is a figure of 8 so would be coming back to camp and I figured if Zini didn't look good after the first 30 miles, I could easily pull her. In addition, we were having unseasonably cool July weather in the 80s. It was perfect.
So on Wednesday afternoon, I emailed the ride secretary to ask if I could still join the ride and sign up on Friday. She wrote me back a laughing note saying the ride was full as of July 1st and if I wanted her to put me down, I'd be 42nd on the waiting list.
Awk. So much for that plan.
Friday afternoon rolled around and I decided to drive over to Dru Barner ridecamp to hang out with friends and socialize. And I decided to drop by the sign-up table and see if the waiting list was any more sane. The ride secretary looked harassed and said that yes, they had had some pulls during vetting in and some people weren't coming, but there were at least five people on the waiting list who were present in camp, so it didn't look promising.
Hoping for the best, I phoned Patrick anyway and asked if he could rinse Zini off and stick her in a stall - at least she'd be clean and dried off before the temperatures cooled off. But I wasn't really thinking there was much chance of getting in the ride.
Around 8 pm, I went back again and after some negotiating between ride management and the head vet, Bob Morgan, and various discussions about forestry permits and such, I got the go-ahead that I was in - by the skin of my teeth. Yay! Phoned Patrick again and asked him to shuttle Zini over, which he very kindly did and they appeared around 9:30. She looked a little confused, but happy enough when I stuck a pan of electrolyted beet pulp in front of her.
At midnight I was trying to quietly clonk through my trailer to pack up my saddle and get feed pans mixed up for the following day, put on Zini's EZ boots (at which point I noticed she had a case of scratches on her heels <awk>) and was missing a patch of hair on her back from where she'd got pine sap on her the previous weekend <awk again>. And I had to set up the trailer for Chili Dog to languish in while we were out riding.
The other glitch was that because of our late arrival, we had to vet-in at 5:15 the next morning and I didn't have any kind of alarm clock with me <grimace>. Luckily a friend was camped nearby and offered to give me a wake up call at 5 am. As it turned out, I woke up every hour for the next five, so the wake up call wasn't necessary.
Tacking up 45 minutes before everyone else has its benefits, and Zini actually stood still for saddling (kinda). She vetted through nicely and even congenially agreed to trot out for me.
The previous day I'd arranged to ride with Judy Long and her appy Color, who we'd ridden with for Zini's first 30 at DVE back in December. Judy wanted to ride really slowly after Color had tripped and scraped up his knees at Mariposa a couple of weeks before, so that was fine by me.
We actually started only about five minutes after the rush at 6:05, and "ambled" down the trail (well, Color ambled, Zini sort of gaity-scuttled). We were joined by another friend, Dori Johnson who hadn't been riding for several months due to some health problems so her horse, Handy, was quite cheerful as well. Zini was doing a relatively good job of keeping her enthusiasm under control and I only felt like I might be dumped once when I pulled over to let some other riders past.
Despite saying that she's lousy at pacing, Judy does a great job of keeping us from getting too zoomy. She wanted Color to be calm and settled, so we walked a good part of the first few miles, trotting occasionally and then having to walk again when Zini set a bad example and started to jump around.
Handy wasn't really settling with our slow pace, so when Gail Hought went past with a junior in tow, Dori opted to go on with them to see if he'd settle with more trotting. Sadly for her, this tactic didn't work any better and at lunch he was pulled for having a weird up-n-down pulse.
We dismounted for the trot-by at five miles and tiptoed across the slippery pavement and then slouched along the gravel road for the next few miles. Every now and again, we'd try and trot and then there'd be a downhill and Judy would get fretful and we'd walk again. Shortly after getting on again after the slippery pavement, the 30 milers began to zoom past us (they started 30 minutes after the 50s). I decided this would be a great opportunity to try negative splits (as it turned out, it looks like we rode the second half of the ride at the same speed, which I don't understand, since it felt like we were going much faster).
Here we are at around ten miles in. Notice the way I'm smiling cheerfully - as opposed to looking completely exhausted and wrung out, as I used to with Provo by this point.
Gravel road turned to dirt road, which in turn transitioned into nice footing singletrack. Most of the trails in the woods around here go up and down, up and down [repeat]. It was nice to know the trail, because it meant that when we came to the first crowded horse-drinking creek (horses could only access it in twos and some poor horse apparently got kicked here in the melée), I knew that the ride-provided water trough was only a mile or so further along.
The flip side of “knowing the trail” was that they moved the vet check from its location the last time I rode the ride, so we came up off the trail to an empty clearing. Oops. The area has also been logged recently. Thankfully, they aren't clear-cutting, but just opening and thinning the forest. The results make for an airy feel, but meant half the time I had to try and guess where we were because everything looked different.
Some of the trail around that part is multi-use and the dirt bikes had left deep narrow ruts from riding during the winter. These ruts meant that we'd trot for ten feet, then walk (for fear of tripping), then trot another ten feet. Sometimes it was hard to convince the horses that walking was a good idea, so a few times we stumbled through some rough sections, which was alarming (more about paying for that, later). I also managed to get poked in the eye by a tree branch at one point <sigh>.
Going up a hill from the steel bridge (which we clomped across at the back of about a half-dozen horses - none of which seemed terribly concerned by the metal noises), during one of my regular “still there?” EZ boot checks, I noticed that Zini’s right latch had popped up, so got off to snap it shut. Got back on, only to come around the next corner to the “Vet Check - ¼ mile” sign. ...get off again...
Zini was down to 60 within a minute of arrival (9:05?), but the vet check was *crowded*. We were so far at the back that it seems like most of the 30s had already passed us and were already in. There was a really long line for the vet, but the ground was strewn with hay and the horses had waitresses bringing around bran mashes laced with carrots and apples. Zini thought that was pretty good and she nosed through the feed, seeking out the "good stuff". Later, the rider-waitresses appeared, bearing trays of cookies, mini doughnuts, bite-sized brownies, red vines, grapes, carrots, celery, etc. Talk about service!
Standing in line, Zini did her standard defensive "I must sneer at everyone to show them that I'm not a wimp, lest they think I am", and true to form in the process she managed to piss off everyone and everything around her. I've never met a horse who has such a capacity to annoy those in her immediate vicinity just by pulling faces.
Zini and Color were standing facing each other, munching on goodies, with Judy and I standing at their heads between them. The next thing I know, Zini sneers at Color one too many times, and sweet, mild-mannered Color finally decided he'd had enough and *lunged* at her, whip fast. I never saw the teeth, just the flying front feet and then Judy was standing there with a hole in her arm from where Color'd missed Zini completely and bitten Judy. We were so stunned for a second, we just stood there gawping. And then Judy let Color know of the strategic mistake he'd made. Oops.
The rest of the vet check went without incident after we kept the two horses out of eyeshot of each other. Zini was wearing her standard red ribbon on her tail but she was well behaved in that department and never thought about threatening anyone - so at least we're making headway in that defensive behaviour. I'm working on the sneering at home, but the only way to get her better around strange horses - unfortunately - is to expose her to strange horses. Not much fun, but hopefully she'll improve with time once she realises that everyone else shares nicely and other horses aren't out to 'get' her. She's still very much a baby in some respects, although mature in others that you forget how young she is.
I think her HR was 44 by the time we got to the vet and she once again trotted out agreeably. Having learnt my lesson, I'm now ready with my popper in case she decides she doesn't fancy trotting. By this time, our 30 minute out-time had long come and gone, but we paused at the "drinks table" for Judy to refill her water bottle with green gatorade and for me to glug a paper cup of the stuff. I didn't realise it would be so cold, so it didn't go down-in-one in quite the way I'd planned. We finally got out at ~9:55 and left the vet check feeling much refreshed.
The Darling Ridge Vet Check rocks!
The next part of the trail was more open and we were able to make up some time. Some of this was because Judy foolishly let me lead and Zini remembered the trail from conditioning rides earlier in the year, so set a faster pace. Finally Judy called from behind "You know we're going quite fast, right?". Judging Zini's speed can be hard because she's so smooth to ride, but the canter-strides she was throwing in now and again should have been the giveaway, eh?
Shortly, we came across Doug and Barbara White looking lost. Doug and Barbara had come into the vet-check behind us, but they somehow picked the faster line and got out ahead of us. When we caught them up, they were concerned by a bunch of trail-marking ribbons on the ground and wanted to make sure we were on the right track. Again, knowing the trail, I was able to reassure them we were. That said, at the next intersection, Zini took a sharp left (towards where we normally park the trailer) while the ride route actually went sharp right. So much for that.
We hopped off the horses for the long rutted downhill trail to Rock Creek, which dumped us out on Rock Creek Road where club member Jon Saunders was waiting for us with more coolers full of cold drinks. We glugged some water and talked to Jon about his recent excitement when his horse Rocky managed to fall off the Tevis trail up near Auburn and fall into a creek bed, slicing up his hock in the process. Thank goodness neither he nor Jon were more badly hurt. Hope he gets better soon, Jon!
From Rock Creek, the trail climbs up a couple of really steep, you'd-better-make-sure-your-breast-collar-works climbs (the same climbs that Mouse thought she'd die on three years previously. Unbeknownst to me then, she was brewing a torn suspensory, so in retrospect, I can hardly blame her), up to a downed oak tree that was totally blocking the trail necessitating a short detour through the undergrowth, and back out at the top of Rock Creek Road. Once again, this area is almost unrecognisable from earlier in the year because of the extensive logging and dirt road upgrading they've been doing. For one awful moment, I thought they'd obliterated the single-track in from there behind Camp Virner, which is one of the more fun trails around, but thankfully it's still there, twisting and winding through the trees.
Finally, we were back at Wentworth Springs Road and scuttled on the twisty-turny up-n-down trail in to Dru Barner, insisting that the pones walk the last half mile or so, so they would pulse down quickly when we got in. Quickly was an understatement: we got in at 12:00 and the horses pulsed down to 60 by 12:01.
(The year I did the GC30 with Mouse - after staggering up the long climb, she was suddenly filled with excitement and cantered animatedly after a horse she could see ahead of us. Thrilled by this display of enthusiasm so late in the ride - it was only her second 30 - I foolishly let her do it, and she then took 29½ minutes to pulse down at the finish <awk>).
By a stroke of luck, because my trailer had arrived so late the previous night, the Dru Barner valet parkers had had me park right by the entrance (actually, the only space left in camp), so I was able to have Zini eating, tack off, and attend to Chili Dog within minutes of arrival, which really helped since I was there on my own. Chili was happy to see us and it looked like she'd spent a contented morning in the trailer, snoozing near the back door where the breeze was blowing in underneath.
After rinsing off the worst of the crud, I let Zini eat her sloppy pan of beetpulp laced with LMF and electrolytes for fifteen minutes and when she moved on to her hay, I grabbed her hay bag and we made our way to the vet. When rinsing her legs, I was dismayed to see that she had numerous small chunks taken out of the insides below the knees. She tends to travel pretty cleanly so I hadn't thought to put splint boots on her, but the rough rutted trail evidently took its toll on her - especially as she was wearing wide EZ boots - and she really could have used them :(
At the vet she pulsed in at an astounding 36 (you've got to watch those excitable national show horses! <grin>). We trotted out without the vet having any comment, which worried me slightly and, sure enough, after she'd finished the rest of her check (Zini got As on mostly everything else), the vet asked me to trot out again. Zini is by no means stoic as I've discovered in the past, and the cuts on her legs were showing up ever so slightly in her gait. I explained my plan to completely slather her legs in Desitin and put splint boots on for the rest of the ride and the vet let us go with the warning to keep an eye on her.
Although she'd been eating quite well, Zini also only got a B on gut sounds. I have to think that this is more related to not drinking terribly well (having to sneer at other horses, rather than actually getting around to drinking at water troughs). She shows up as well-hydrated, but I wonder how much of the skin pinch test is actually showing her healthy young collagen-filled skin from only being 7 yrs old, rather than true good hydration.
Back to the trailer we went and I tied her in front of her hay bag. At this point, I was pretty sure she thought she was done. Afterall, we'd ridden a decent distance, come back to the trailer, had our tack taken off and been fed. She was probably lining up to spend the rest of the afternoon napping in the shade. I found a can of Ensure to glug (my "meal substitute" at rides - it's easy to "prepare" and goes down well without too much rebellion from the stomach) and sat down to keep an eye on her and keep an eye on the time. Judy and I vowed to be out on time (1:01), but I opted to leave Zini completely alone until the last minute so she'd get a chance to completely relax.
At ten minutes to one, I got out the saddle pad. Zini gave me a dirty look. I plopped the saddle on, but cinched it really loosely. Desitin was applied in a thick glop onto each leg and Provo's bestest non-rubbing splint boots put over the top. When I went to grab the bridle, Zini gave me an even dirtier look and shoved her nose into the now nearly-empty hay bag to prevent me getting access to her mouth. Poor Zini.
I eventually talked her into having her bridle put on, at which point Judy and Color arrived, together with a new riding partner, Merri Melde and Spice. Spice's buddy had been pulled, so she wanted some friends to ride with.
We got out of the lunch hold only a few minutes late, which was good for us. Getting the three horses actually moving was another matter, as they all wanted to hide behind each other and no-one wanted to lead. Finally, Beacon-Butt Color was put in front and Zini and Spice cheerfully followed.
After a mile or so, I actually got Zini out in front and got her to trot... that is, until the first front-runner came along, going the opposite direction, having nearly finished her 20 mile loop. Zini stopped dead and looked at the horse going the other way with a "Huh?" expression. After some convincing, and having Color catch up, I got her moving again, only to come across the next front-runner around the next corner. At this point, I think Zini became convinced I was an idiot going the wrong way on the trail, because she was a lot harder to get going. Once again, we had to rely on Beacon-Butt to follow.
Luckily, the trail segued off Bottlehill Road and the two-way traffic and onto a short newly-cut singletrack through the woods, so at least we didn't have to argue with the horses the entire way.
At five miles, we came across Stuart Porter and his helper at their Deluxe-Watering Hole. Stuart had set up two or three water troughs with horse water, a water-trough with soaking alfalfa, and they had the standard-for-this-ride coolers full of cold drinks for the riders. They even offered a horse-washing service, which meant we didn't even have to get off the horses - they just scooped copious amounts of water on them, including back-leg rinsing, which Zini didn't think was such a funny joke. She only took a few short sips of water at the trough. <frown>
Merri, and I shared half a blue gatorade, the remains of which was handed off to Judy to add to her mix of green and red gatorade on her saddle, and we proceeded on our way. After another mile or so, the trail opened out to beautiful views over the Georgetown Divide and you could see practically all the way to the airport, where we were headed. It seemed a long way away. The strangest thing at this point, was that although we were right out in the open (this is about the only stretch in full-sun of the entire ride), the first cloud I've seen in the sky for weeks semi-obscured the sun from us, so it wasn't beating down, unrelenting. Odd.
We met more riders coming the other way, and by this time Zini was resigned to my stupidity and I was able (with a certain amount of peddling) to keep her trotting. We met my farrier, Ted Goppert going the other way, as well as Katie Azevedo and Shrimp who'd driven down from Arcata to get to the ride.
Merri entertained us with owl hoots to see if she could raise any territorial responses, but didn't have any takers (although her hoots were so realistic that a couple of times, trotting out in front, I thought they were the real thing). We also came across a large gopher snake sunning himself in the middle of the road. Attempts to get him off trail by throwing bits of scotch broom at him failed, so finally Judy (on the tallest horse) got off and tweaked him on the tail enough to get him off the road and away from certain smooshed-ness. We decided if we went overtime we should plead humanitarian grounds for our slowness.
It seemed like we trotted incessantly and soon enough, we came down to shady Canyon Creek and some much appreciated sponging. Zini still didn't really drink (...and she thinks *I'm* stupid?) which was a little concerning. We consulted the time and found out it was 3 pm... Judy thought it would take us 45 minutes to climb the steep trail up to the airport from there, but in the event it only took us 25 minutes - which was just as well because there was a cut-off of 3:30 that we didn't even know about <awk>.
Despite the fact I could feel she was tired, judging from Zini's sudden willingness to go forward, I would guess that she could detect that the trail was looping around back towards camp. She not-only led the way up the hill, she also zoomed quite enthusiastically, pausing only on the really steep parts to catch her breath. Woo. Good job that pony.
At the “Vet Check - ¼ mile” sign we climbed off again and led them in. After a few minutes of trudging as fast as we could, we passed a rider going the other way who brightly announced to us "You're nearly at the *second* “Vet Check - ¼ mile” sign..."
And sure enough, just to keep us entertained (not), there was a second “Vet Check - ¼ mile” sign just around the next corner. More trudging and suddenly there was the Georgetown Airport vet check. I'd heard about this check in the past, but never actually seen it. It was really nice - positioned under big shade trees, with a nice breeze blowing in, a front-row view across the airport to the ridgetops, and a pond for wading in, should you feel the need. Once again, there was the standard smorgasboard of people food (cookies, melon, carrots, celery... etc), water troughs, even a hose if your horse needed cooling off, horse hay, an entire trough filled with mash and carrots/apples (this Zini wasn't allowed near because Color and Spice were in there being good horses and she would have just spoilt their happy time).
Despite the climb to get there, all three horses still pulsed down within a few minutes, so that was a relief. The vet was Adrienne Brouwer who is my normal horse vet in Auburn. She's just come off maternity leave and has the cutest baby ever (no really! I'm not even a baby person!), so we paused to admire the latest baby pictures. Adrienne was getting ready to give Zini a "B" on impulsion until we turned for the return trot and she gaily ran alongside me, so she got an A for that, as well as everything else, I believe - except she was still low on gut sounds (eating well, but still not really drinking properly).
We spent the rest of the 30 minute hold scarfing down water melon (me), hay and carrots (Zini), and cookies (Spice). It seems that the people smorgasboard was well-liked by the horses, as I heard tales of several horses having to be beaten off it.
When we left the check, on time, at 3:55, we only had a little over two hours to complete the ride. At the ride meeting the previous evening, we'd been warned that although the first 30 mile loop might be a "short" 30 miles, the second 20 mile loop was definitely a "long" 20 miles, so we weren't clear if we had 10 or 12 miles still left to go - reports varied. Included in this was the newly-cut, vertical, loose-footing singletrack from the airport down to the road, and the climb from Canyon Creek back up to the ridge and Bottlehill Road.
We got off and "jogged" down the first steep trail - well, jogged for about 100 yrds, at which point Zini tripped over a stump and the trail took a dive towards the center of the earth - after that we just kind of slithered down. The dirt road at the bottom was still going downhill, but we trotted a good bit of it anyway, against our better judgement (scary), only slowing where it was really rutted. I could feel small stones rattling around in my shoes from the on-foot slither down the hill.
At the creek, we paused to sponge/scoop again, and of course frustratingly (because we were low on time) Zini picked this moment to suddenly start drinking really well - and drank and drank and drank. So we sat there in the creek, being bitten by mosquitos as big as birds while Zini had her fill. Hurray for her. Would that she could have timed it a little different. We crossed the creek twice more after that, and Zini had to drink well at each one. Good pony. <grrr>
At the steel bridge, having been instructed to avoid walking on it (it looks a lot like a cattleguard, so it didn't take much prompting to keep off it), we had to squeeze past a guy sitting in a jeep with with both doors open, parked right at the creek entrance. I don't know how many horses had had to squeeze around him, but he evidently didn't get the hint.
Then we were on the dirt road climb back up to Bottlehill Road. Mindful of having let Zini trot too hard at the last ride we'd done and have her poop out on me after the ride, I watched her HRM carefully and tried to keep her below 140, since we were trotting uphill for an extended period of time. Poor Zini, she did really good but I'm sure it wasn't much fun.
At one point we heard motorcycles, and around the corner came two lads on mini-bikes. The lad in front either had no brakes, or little brain because he seemed unable to grasp the concept that Spice, third in line, was freaking out and about to flip over the side of the ravine next to the road. Luckily Zini, in front, is getting much better about traffic and just jumped around a little. Further behind us was Janine Esler riding a young horse in his first 50, together with Forrest Tancer and veteran Airborne. I could hear the m/c continue around the corner to shouts of "SLOW DOWN!!". Thank goodness no-one got in a real wreck, but I'm not clear why the lad didn't stop. The second lad, with big eyes, said "I'm going to turn my engine off, ok?" which was much appreciated.
Finally we reached the road where the trail levels off and were able to trot well without feeling like we were overdoing it on the horses. After several miles of this, Judy suddenly said to me "Lucy! Zini's got a huge rock in her back foot! You have to get off!" and sure enough, she had a 1½" x 1" pointy-sided rock wedged in there. It had already smooshed part of her frog and I have no doubt she would have gone lame from it had we gone any great distance. I couldn't feel it in there while trotting along, so I am so thankful to Judy for her eagle eyes and saving us from a certain end-of-ride pull for lameness. It really brought home to me how easily our day could be ruined.
Trotting along the dirt road, inner thigh tendons starting to whine persistently, I also tried not to think about the small rock that had wedged itself firmly between my little toe and my shoe, or the one that had come to rest under the ball of my foot - so I was more than a little relieved to get back to Stuart Porter's Deluxe Water Stop, hand Zini to his young helper with the instructions to try and get her to drink, while I took both shoes off and removed the rocks from them. Apparently Zini ate some of the soaking alfalfa, but we only stayed long enough for me to perform my shoe removal before setting off again.
Janine and Forrest overtook us here, and after that, for the rest of the ride they led, Judy and Merri rode in the back and Zini sped up and slowed down, spending time with both groups. Judy and I did some gallumpfing-cantering on one flat stretch just for fun and I think both horses enjoyed using some different muscles for a short while.
Trotting along the last few miles, I caught sight of Zini and my shadow and it brought tears to my eyes - her with her head up, ears pricked, trotting cheerfully along. Every time I tried to slow her, she'd root her nose to yank the reins out of my hands to go faster.
Just as we turned onto the final short, singletrack detour off Bottlehill Road, I noticed once again that the latch on her EZ boot had come loose. I spent a few seconds arguing with myself about how it would "be OK and stay on", but finally got off, knowing that if I didn't, the boot was guaranteed to come off and she'd be lame at the finish in a mere two miles hence. I don't mind getting off the horse, it's just that I ride with a relatively loose cinch which, although fine for riding, usually won't stand up to being mounted on, especially when the horse is well-sweated up, so I always have to find a handy bank/tree stump/rock to launch myself off of (5'2" riders don't reach the stirrups that easily).
I was puzzled as to why the latch on this boot kept popping open (three times, total). It didn't feel as tight as it had when I first started putting it on. When I was inspecting the boots the next day, I finally found out why - the cable had gotten mis-routed and was on a looser setting than it was supposed to be - hence not being vice-like tight. Obvious, but not at the time.
Along the detour, we were trotting on our own. Now and again we'd glimpse Janine and Forrest through the trees ahead, and behind us, I could hear Color whinnying for his long-lost Zini-friend (evidently the morning's attempted yomping forgotten).
We rejoined the road for the final time and finally came upon the finish line, which despite the late hour, still had a cheering section. Judy had guessed we'd finish at 5:45, Merri guessed at 5:50, and fatalistic-me had decided we'd go overtime. In reality, we finished at 5:45, with a whole 15 minutes to spare. <grin>
My friend Dana who had been riding sweep with the SOS Riders for the first time earlier in the day, was at the finish and helped me clean Zini up. She was ravenous, eating sloppy beet pulp and hay as quickly as she could - but bright eyed and not standing staring into space, which would indicate we'd overdone it. At the final vet check the splint boots and copious amounts of Desitin evidently had done the trick, as she was sound as a sound thing (her legs looked a lot better than they had at lunch), and passed the check with flying colours. The scratches on her heels, now covered with dirt-encrusted Desitin never got any worse, and the pine-sap hole in her back looked the same as when we'd started.
For a first 50, she actually looked better than she had after the previous 30 miler at Square Nail in March, and I was proud as I could possibly be at her good attitude and desire to go. She was definitely fit to continue.
Good job, Zini!
The post-ride meal was still going strong and the tri-tip was delicious (I don't particularly like tri-tip, and it was delicious). Many thanks to all the members of Gold Country club who once again put on a first class ride.
I let Zini hang out for about three hours, eating, drinking and resting, and then drove her, very slowly, home, so she could spend the night moseying in her paddock and telling lies to Provo and Mouse about how she'd won the ride. All she really wanted to do was roll and roll.