This past weekend I completed a goal I'd set for me and my horse Ava at the beginning of the year - a 75 mile ride. She did three 50's in a row back in July, so I figured she was ready.
We had to work out some shoeing issues as her feet changed with different ground here in Oregon vs Colorado, So last week, one final test ride, 20 miles over fairly rocky ground over steep terrain, no problem.
This ride, the Oregon 100, is held near the town of Brothers Oregon - which none of you will have heard of! It's just a speck with a gas station for sale and a diner. This is the high-desert, no trees. Sage brush, rabbit brush - and very few rabbits since we're in a nasty drought.
The ride offered distances of 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles. I'd debated doing the 100, but my horse is close to finishing 10 rides in a row, which gets her an award, so while I wanted to push our boundaries, I didn't want to jump from 50 to 100 all at once.
But we still started at 6am with the 100 mile riders. And for those of you who live farther south - it's still dark at 6am around here! We would have 18 hours to complete, so done by midnight. I was hoping to be done by 10pm, or just maybe, but 8pm and only ride for a few miles in the dark. (They do put glowsticks out for us to follow.)
I started riding with some very experienced riders. We trotted for 18 miles with only a couple short breaks for water troughs. Ava was drinking well and very happy to be going fast. The miles flew by. At 18 miles, we saw a vet to make sure our horses were still moving well, with an optional time to let them rest and eat. I let the other riders go ahead because I didn't want Ava to go fast only because the others were. But she didn't want to eat or drink after being left, so we took off on our own.
Before long we caught up with a couple 100-mile riders and rode with them for the 17 mile trip back to camp. There we had a 45 minute hold after another vet check. I stayed for about an hour to let her eat more, then took off alone again. Ava was very willing, but then we took a direction she didn't want to go and slowed down. A friend riding the 50 caught up to us, so we rode with her for the rest of that 15 mile loop.
Back in camp, we had a 30 minute hold, but I stayed an hour or so and figured out that we were in a window and wouldn't see another rider on the remaining 11 mile loop. I knew my horse wasn't tired, but she wasn't as motivated to go out alone and I was getting a bit sore. But we'd made such good time earlier in the day, we still had a chance to beat the sun.
I ended up getting off and walking for about 3 miles - my horse walks so slow, it's easier to walk myself! But the we turned toward camp at the halfway point, down a shaded ravine and Ava took off. She was ready to get home now! So she finished most of the last half of that loop trotting as fast as she'd started the ride 13 hours earlier.
We trotted into camp to cheers from friends, my husband, and the vets. My husband had started the 50 mile but his horse was acting a little funny (we think from eating waaaay too much the night before) so he pulled him and crewed for me the rest of the day. The sun had just set, but it wasn't dark, so I didn't get to see a single glowstick!
I was very impressed with my little horse. She wasn't tired, ate and drank well all day, didn't have a sore back or legs, and the next morning, she was trotting circles around me. I, on the other hand, wasn't trotting anywhere! I actually wasn't as sore as I thought I'd be, mostly only because I'd done the first 35 miles with my stirrups too far forward. I didn't get any more sore after I moved them back, so lesson learned - pay attention to yourself, not just the horse!
It was a fabulous ride, one I look forward to doing again next year. This time with my husband and on the 100 mile ride. I guess I'll end up in the dark for sure on that one!