TAHC Canyon Ferry Lake Ride 2013

I’m a slacker – I’m writing this almost a year “after the fact” so my perspective (and rememberance of details) may be a bit different than if I’d written this immediately post-ride. But being that 2014’s Canyon Ferry Lake ride is coming up, the timing is right to finally post my ride story from last year.

First, a basic description of ridecamp.  This attractive little camp is off the main highway a couple of miles in some small grass fields along an irrigation ditch. There was plenty of parking but the area was small enough that if this ride gets any bigger I’d want to arrive early to ensure a spot in the main area. Some folks were parked in a separate section up a hill. You can see one trailer there in this photo.

Both parking/camping areas were probably about equally close to the ride start, but I never checked out the other camp area so can’t offer details. Our camp was shady and quite lush for this general area. My horse was able to do a lot of grazing on her pivot tie.

All of these photos were taken by my friend Sally who had come to check out what an endurance ride was like. Sally brought her dog. In this photo, Huck stopped to glare at Rosie while he was playing with a large stick. Huck doesn’t know that horses have no interest in playing with sticks. Just after this photo was taken, he thought Rosie was out to take his stick, barked at her, and she went after him trying to stomp him! I grabbed her in time so a good laugh was had by all – especially Rosie.


The starting area and tent were across a ditch accessible by a ranch road:


From camp, the starting area is at the top of the little hill you see in the top left of the following goofy-faced photo. The water in the tanks at camp was in somewhat short supply (they had an issue getting it delivered) later in the evening, but this was not an issue as I brought my own, and could also easily haul water out of the ditch. I will bring my own again this year just in case.


We vetted in fine. All A’s except a B for attitude. Usually she is dragging me through the trot-out. This time she was less enthusiastic, I think because everyone showed up at the same time and we had to wait around a bit for our turn and she was getting impatient.


Dinner the night before the ride was a potluck, but hadn’t been publicized much so was pretty underwhelming.  Most folks had already eaten and there were three or four items on the table so I just ate what I brought and had a lot of leftovers.  I had also brought some beer and chocolate to share in the evening but by the time I got everything situated, most everyone was in their trailers and to bed early, before it even got dark. Not a party crowd.

I had decided to enter the 25 mile Limited Distance ride due to some past struggles getting my horse through a 50. I wanted to test out my new Haggis Trooper saddle a little more, and wanted to get a little more weight on Rosie before doing a 50.


Here I am checking in before departure. The ride is close to the shore of Canyon Ferry Lake southeast of Helena, MT. The course meanders through ranches in rolling hills so you only see the lake for short stretches. It’s just beyond and below the tree in this photo.


This photo is at the start of the ride. My ride was pretty uneventful (this is a good thing). I started a few minutes late and didn’t really know where I was in the pack or how many riders there were.  The footing is good, mostly over 2-track ranch roads through grass hills. Some rocks but I don’t remember it being a generally rocky ride. There are some climbs and descents (the biggest steepest descent towards the end of the loops), but nothing as long and steep as the Pioneer Cabin ride, also near Helena. Not a lot of trees, and no singletrack that I remember, but the scenery was nice.


Rosie was extremely well behaved and I was able to ride on a loose rein most of the way, passing people here and there. In my typical fashion I went obliviously past a well marked turnoff (marking was abundant the entire way – more about that later) and just as I was realizing I missed something, a couple of riders were yelling for me to turn around, and I continued on with no further issues.

I usually test out every little thing for a while before a ride, but hadn’t yet figured out how I wanted to attach my bags to my new saddle. I had low-techishly attached them with string, and they ended up flopping around and falling off. I had to stop and retie them a couple of times. Everything else stayed in place including my Renegade hoof boots, which I had used for a couple years on the front feet, but this was my first competition using them on the back feet, and they performed perfectly. I vetted through the first vet check with no issues, As and two Bs. I joke with my son, who is not a fan of schoolwork,  that Rosie’s report cards are better than his 🙂

The second loop also went well. More rolling hills. We neither hurried nor tarried, just went a decent comfortable pace, which I pretty much let her choose, because she had been behaving and moving nicely on a loose rein (for a change). I got off and jogged down the big hill near the end, then back on for the last mile or so and trotted into the vet check and pulsed right down.


At the finish Rosie seemed just slightly off. I thought I might have noticed something coming down the last hill but then it went away. The vet put her down for a grade .5 to 1 lame but it was slight and intermittent so we passed the vet check.


Upon returning to our trailer her left hip muscle seemed tight so I massaged it, walked her around a bit, and it seemed to loosen up and get mushy again and all was well – I lunged her and she didn’t seem off any more. She was “PPED” just fine so I had no worries. 


A half hour after I finished the ride I found out we had come in first place! I had had no idea up to that point, didn’t even really think about it, and had thought I wouldn’t bother weighing in for Best Condition with Rosie not being at her very best at the vet check. But someone said I was enough ahead of 2nd that I should at least try for it.

Sally kindly carried my saddle back to the tent for weigh-in. I didn’t get BC but was quite happy to take first when I didn’t feel like I was pushing Rosie hard at all, and every other ride had either been turtle or DNF. Our conditioning had been nothing but hills since we’d moved to the top of a mountain, and Rosie seemed to be very fit. For first place I received a certificate, and because the ride was put on by an Arabian club, a “Top Ten Arabian” patch, which is pretty funny as I ride a thoroughbred:


I usually stay the night but was done before noon with only an 80 mile drive, so I figured since we only did the LD and wasn’t tired, it would be nicer to my horse to head home than to leave her tied to the trailer for another almost 24 hours. So again missing opportunity for socializing, we hung out for a couple of hours to make sure all was good and headed home.

A few miles from the interstate, a third of the way through our trip, I hear SLAP SLAP SLAP SLAP SLAP. A flat tire on my trailer. What was to be the first in a series of flats over the next several trips. In true Montana fashion, a guy stopped within 2 minutes and offered to change my tire. I offered him some money which was refused, and I was on my way.

The next day Rosie still seemed perfect, further seeming to confirm a temporary tight muscle.

I had a look at my GPS tracks and matched it to the ride map. To my horror it looked like I had cut trail! Oh man, there goes my first place! Although I knew it would mean yet another non-complete, I couldn’t live with it, so I contacted the ride organizers. They assured me I did NOT cut trail. What happened was the map did not exactly match the trail they flagged. I followed the flagging as I should have, and did the same trail as everyone else. There had been a fire in the area the previous week, causing them to have to re-route some trail on the 50 mile and I guess the LD too. The trails were so similar that the ride map still worked for navigating the ride. So I was good. Now my tally was 3 out of 6 rides completed – stellar!

I am looking forward to riding this ride again in 2014, but my plan is to do the 50. Over the past year I’ve managed to meet some endurance friends so it will be fun hanging out with them at this ride. Having just finished the Bridger Trail 25 in Wyoming in good time, and with saddle and other issues seeming to be worked out, I’m hoping we are ready for a 50 and can start working on better completion rates.


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  1. youtube down says:

    Wow, Montana is so lovely! Hope it goes well for you at the 50 this year (and take more pics!)

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