Dorsey Creek Endurance Ride 2012

The Dorsey Creek ride, in Otto, Wyoming was my second 50-mile ride attempt, after finishing a 50 miler the year before, also in the Wyoming desert. The first loop was 25 miles, second loop 15 and third loop ten miles. I like having the loops longest to shortest like this. I figure if we can finish 25 miles then the next 15 is do-able, and then it’s just another 10. Psychologically that is true, but as anyone whose had a non-completion knows – finishing the first 25 or 40 miles, doesn’t necessarily mean you can do another ten.

This ride is in true big sky country, open flat desert, hardly a rock to be found. The sand is not too deep. You can see for miles and miles and miles… The ride is put on by the same group of folks that put on the Wyoming Pioneer I did the year before. Very low key smaller ride with lots of friendly people. Ridecamp is on a small lake. There are very few trees or any kind of vegetation so this could be a tough ride on a very hot sunny day.

The ride started out great. Rosie was itching to go at the start but she was more sane and controllable than at previous rides. We trotted through the desert, following gas pipelines and ranch roads. Here’s a picture from the beginning of the ride:

And a short video of ridecamp and portions of the ride:

Just as at the Wyoming Pioneer we encountered a herd of sheep with sheepdogs out in the desert. It’s surprising to me that they can scrounge up enough food to survive out there.

The first 25-mile loop was pretty fast. We came in last but still finished in just under three hours. This really surprised me as I felt we were kind of taking it easy, and everyone was so far ahead of us we rarely saw them even in the wide open desert. The next surprise was at the vet check, when the vet found Rosie had a hint of a sore back. I decided at this point that I would always remove my saddle at vet checks even if not required, because had it not been for the vet checking her back I would not have realized anything was brewing. She just seemed a bit tired, but that was nothing unexpected. The soreness was pretty mild though so after consulting with the vet, I decided to try switching saddle pads and continue on. From past experience (see Wyoming Pioneer ride story) I knew I could walk a long way on foot, and if her problem worsened, would do that.

She seemed to be doing pretty well on this loop but did start lagging somewhat closer to the end so I did some walking, and we were the turtle (as usual). A few miles from the end of the loop we came up to the ride manager, leaned back on his ATV, taking a little siesta at a water station. I knew was the last rider so wanted to make sure he knew I’d come by, and not leave him baking in the desert sun. “Hello?” I said. “HELLO?!…. HELLO?!?!” I finally had to shout “WAKE UP!!” and he did. We were at a water tank so he helped pour water on Rosie’s neck and that, and the little rest, really seemed to spark her up. The RM took off on his ATV and Rosie was all of a sudden so spunky she was chasing after him. I knew she was tired so held her back until he got out of sight. It was another three to four miles into camp. It seemed Rosie was feeling pretty good, but I think she was just happy realizing we were almost back at camp.

We did well at the vet check except for when the vet checked her back. He showed me how Rosie was reacting to palpation all along her backbone. He left it up to me, I decided to do a “rider option” pull. It’s important to me that Rosie have fun at every ride. I knew I made the right decision but nevertheless it was disappointing not completing.

With some help from a saddle fitter that happened to be at the ride, I received an education on saddle fit. Rosie is a narrow-on-top thoroughbred, the typical high backbone and withers of a thoroughbred, with strong shoulders. I have always ridden her in Australian saddles, loved the comfort and security of them. had completed both a 35 mile ride and a 50 mile ride in another Australian saddle with no apparent back issues. I had sold that saddle though, because I could see it was too wide and putting pressure on her withers. For Dorsey Creek, I was using a James Saddlery Australian saddle, which I thought was a great fit, and now all of a sudden I had back issues! If you are new to endurance, you may soon discover that a saddle you thought was a perfect match for your horse, may not actually be that once you start doing 50-milers. This saddle had nice thick padding and plenty of wither and spine clearance – or so I thought. I never noticed any issues on 20-mile training rides.

The saddle fitter pointed out that the tree angle I thought was perfect was actually a bit wide. But the bigger problem was the gullet width (the space between the pads along the back bone) was too narrow. So while there was enough clearance vertically above her spine, there was almost none to each side of the spine, so the padding was pressing right along side her backbone from front to back. No wonder she came up sore all along her spine! It was good to know the cause of the sore back but also discouraging, as I had thought this was finally the saddle for us. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find one that worked.

The saddle fitter then mentioned trooper saddles. My husband had bought a trooper saddle a couple of years before, but I had never used it because I preferred the secure feel of my Australian saddles (and, didn’t know I had a saddle fit problem). After Dorsey Creek I started using his trooper saddle. At first I felt very insecure in it, and really missed the “poleys” (kneeblocks) of my Aussie saddles. But I have come to feel more secure in it and like it. I think without the poleys my riding will become more balanced. Most importantly, it has ample gullet width for Rosie and plenty of spine clearance vertically. The longest ride I’ve done in it is 28 miles, with a good back check from the vet, but it still needs to be put through the 50 mile test. More to come on that when I get there!

Here are some more photos I took of camp and of the ride:

The food bus!

Looking very thoroughbredy

Our lakefront campsite

You can see for miles and miles

I believe that is the lake and ridecamp off in the distance and Rosie knows it

No-rock roads are heaven.

An all out gallop is a tempting thought on roads like this!





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