Fort Howes Endurance Ride, Ashland, Montana, 2013

Sorry, no pictures, just one really short video with no horses in it!

I had planned on doing either the 35 or 50 at Fort Howes. It was a team ride but it’s very informal and management will hook you up with a team if you need one. I had met a couple of ladies at the Canyon Ferry ride about a month earlier who had said they were looking for a fourth team member for the 25 so I agreed to do that instead. We later exchanged some brief messages but didn’t hear back from them as planned for caravanning to the ride, so went on my way.  It was a 250 mile trip through some pretty remote areas, but I made it to the ride uneventfully. My team-mates, however, never showed up. I found out later that they’d had some vehicle trouble on the way and apparently ended up in a bit of a scary situation without a safe place to leave their horses, but they did get home.

At the ride I arranged with Jan Stevens, the Ride Manager, to join a team. I never ended up seeing who my team members were other than a quick hand-raise across the room – I should have made more of an effort! We had an excellent dinner of tri-tip steak cooked on a big grill, along with all the fixins. And in what apparently is typical Fort Howes fashion, a big ole rain / lightening storm, which is unfortunately my only video or image from this ride, but for more you can check out my 2010 story.

At dinner I met Niki from Wyoming who told us her story of finishing the infamous Big Horn with 5 minutes to spare. There are an awful lot of folks in this world that are sooo much braver than me. I think I’m still too much of a weenie to do that ride or Tevis (even if I had the right horse), but never say never. I’m writing this story a year later, just after the 2014 Bridger Trail ride in Wyoming. Niki was there too, riding the 50. A month before Bridger Trail, ride she’d been bucked off twice in the same conditioning ride, the first time landing on a log and breaking at least one rib, and the second buck-off resulting in fractured vertebrae – but only slightly fractured according to her. Maybe it’s just me, but there is nothing “slightly” about fractured vertebrae!

Unlike our first year at Fort Howes in 2010, Rosie behaved like a champ at the trailer, didn’t stomp me, and I was able to start the ride in the morning free of gruesome-looking injuries, with no need for beer, drugs or ice packs. We started with everyone else but keeping space around us. We continued on at a brisk but relaxed pace with quite a bit of cantering, slowing down for muddy areas. We came to an uphill and I kept Rosie reasonably under control, but she still bound up the hill a bit, something we continue to work on. The last time I rode Fort Howes I almost ended up bouncing right off the back of her as she attacked the hill with giant leaps. This time was much better at least. Eventually I caught up to what turned out to be (unbeknownst to me at the time) a pack of four front runners.  We cruised on towards the vet check when all of a sudden one of the guys came off and it took him a while to catch his horse, re-situate his tack, and get back on. I’m not sure of the etiquette here, I think I could have gone on to come into the first check first, as I’d shared gate duties and such and wasn’t “drafting” but I decided to wait even after he caught his horse. It was my first time doing a ride with company, and I was having a blast with these nice folks.

The five of us came in together. I had started to detect something just before we came in, and indeed Rosie was a little off at the check. It was very slight, but definitely not just a tight muscle, something else was going on. The vet said go feed and water her and come back for a recheck. I did, and it was slightly more visible by this point. The vet said I could try to go on carefully, but we took a Rider Option pull. I ended up being glad we pulled because it turned out to be a tweaked rear ankle, which I figured out later must have been when she went hopping up that hill which was also a bit muddy. That had been quite a bit earlier in the ride and was just starting to bother her. Other than that, Rosie felt awesome, still pulsed right down, and was full of energy. I got pretty discouraged as it was yet another “fail” on our record books. The ankle was fine in a few days.

What I didn’t know then was, aside from the ankle, she was starting to develop a right front hoof issue, which would become apparent several weeks later (see my CentreFit shoe post). She was limping because of the slight sprain, but now I think it was her RF too.

Looking back, other than the slight annoyance of yet another blemish on my record, the feelings I’m left with from that day is: my horse felt great, we were just cruising along, we got to ride with others and still stay in control, we did a pretty good job conditioning, and we had a fun 15 mile ride through some beautiful terrain. Rosie came out of it all OK and over all it’s a good memory. It would have been a little better had we finished, but in hindsight it’s all good!

The drive, however, was not so good. I got a flat on my trailer – again – on the way home just a few miles from camp. (If you follow my blog you’ll know I also had a flat leaving the Canyon Ferry ride a month earlier). Another nice guy helped change it.  Then I had to make the 5 hour drive home alone just hoping not to get another flat as I’d used my only spare and there was not a tire shop to be found in almost 200 miles. By the time I’d get to Billings, they’d all be closed. I made it home with no further issues (other than stopping to check my tires every 10 miles – paranoia. The next day I discovered ANOTHER flat that happened overnight in my driveway, or maybe on my 3 mile gravel road.  That one turned out to be a screw in the tire. Because I’m writing this a year later, I’m able to report that I also had flats on my next two trips, to a poker ride and an obstacle competition, both only 25 miles away. Again guys stopped right away to help. Which is nice when you’re alone and have a horse that should really be out of the trailer for changing the tire. That was 5 flats in 4 trips. I figure I’ve met my quota for the next couple of years. I’m also thinking to carry two spares.

Every time I get a flat, when the tire comes apart it mangles my aluminum trailer fenders. So not only am I shelling out as much money in tires as entry fees, my husband has to pull the fenders off and try to hammer these big pieces of aluminum back into shape. Sometimes we wonder whether “trading up” from the indestructable stock trailer was a good idea. I’ve been upgrading my tires but I also need a bit better luck. I rode with a newbie to an endurance ride in Wyoming just last week and we had a flat on HER truck leaving the ride!

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