Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Purgatory NATRC ride, Durango CO


Left town after a WalMart stop, and headed towards camp. The road in was mostly single lane gravel, and you would have to watch ahead to make sure no one was heading towards you, so you could pull into the small pull outs to allow vehicles to pass. Not a road you would want to meet a horse trailer (or something larger) coming towards you without a close turn out.

Finally arrived at camp mid morning. Lovely setting with views of the mountains, a meadow nearby, and a creek running along the edge of camp. Found a nice spot that had a mound of rocks to one side of me, and a fire pit to the other, so I knew I would not end up with someone else parked right on top of me. Lots of grass to graze Hank on, and he was more than happy to partake of it. Got settled in, and then grabbed my fishing pole to head to the creek to see if I could remember HOW to trout fish, and if there were any trout in the creek. I was told that there was. Found a few spots that were perfect for trout to reside in, and after a couple casts, caught a tiny little trout.

Released it back to grow into something bigger. Not much action, but I did not care. Brought back memories of trout fishing in the Sierras in CA. I do miss that part of living n CA!

Late Thursday, I started to feel crappy, and recognized it as altitude sickness. I had not had it for maybe 20 years. It includes a raging headache, a bit of an upset stomach and sinus issues. I had been drinking plenty of fluids, took my electrolytes, but that was not enough. It was suggested to eat some TUMS, which helped a little, and take regular aspirin to thin the blood a little. I took what drugs I had, and managed to get a nights sleep


Woke up feeling a little better, but still in the funk. Got some real aspirin, kept drinking the water, and finally felt well enough to get some things done. Hank has been acting very cheeky and full of himself, so I knew he really needed to get out and go for a ride. Saddled up and headed out towards one of the big climbs we would be going up on Saturday. I let Hank set the pace, and in the beginning he was taking on the world, marching up the mountain. After about a mile, he decided he should ease off a bit, and walked like a horse who needed to conserve some energy. Rode a couple miles, then headed back down. The trail was one of the prettiest I have ever ridden. HUGE Aspens, green grass, some wild flowers, and the views of the other mountains out in the distance.

Later I found out this was an old Stagecoach trail. Amazing the animals could pull up the mountain, which topped out at over 10,000 feet.

Gave Hank a cleaning up in the creek, and then it was about time to start the ride, and check in with the judges. Normal stuff, and Hank checked in great, and had Zeros on all his metabolics. That would be the baseline they would score from for the rest of the weekend. Trotted sound, and we were ready to go! Hopefully all the time off from the last ride, had the little blip on the tendon become a non issue. At the riders meeting, the vet gave us instructions for the mornings first obstacle. We were to ender the wide creek 1-2 horse lengths, ¼ turn on the forehand to the left, side pass 4 steps, then turn and head on down the trail. But no stopping. He wanted the horse to do a continuous motion from walking, turn, side pass, turn. We would not be given the instructions again, and no practicing in the creek. I still had a bit of that yucky feeling, so went to bed fairly early. Tomorrow we would be riding 25 miles, and climbing up over the 10,000’ elevation mark.


We were not hitting the trail until 8AM, so I had plenty of time to get things ready for riding. Water bottles filled, horse tacked up, my saddle packs prepped, and of course take Thelma for a walk before I left her in camp all day. It was a brisk morning, about 40 degrees, but I knew it would warm up before the day was over. I was third to time out, and Hank was a pretty good boy for the obstacle. Not to anxious, and listened to me. And thankfully he did not second guess what we were doing, and try doing something his mind came up with. He so often wants to share his ideas and opinions on such things. Then on down the trail, to head up the mountain I had ridden a little of yesterday. Along the edge of the mountain is a cabin that had been the stage stop.

We found a nice pocket alone, and did a nice steady walk to the first P&R which would be at over 10,000 feet. After we arrived, I watched Hanks heart rate monitor, and saw he was not dropping as quick as I’d have liked, and finally pulled the saddle to let a little more breeze hit him. But even that was not enough, and he lost his first point of the ride, for a 13 on pulse (13 in 15 seconds). Then we went on to a dirt road for awhile, before we headed down a trail along a creek.

The trees were now mostly pine of some sort, not Aspens. He was moving along, and actually a bit anxious. They had the second P&R after a long downwhill, with a trot across a meadow. This one was better, and he did not lose any points. After the vet checked him, and he again had all zeros, we had to do an off side mount. Thank goodness for a mound of dirt. He stood nice, and I did well, and did not land hard in the saddle or any other thing that the judge might frown upon. We then looped a trail that went up above camp, and then headed in for our lunch.

The ride fed us ALL our meals! After lunch, we had 10 miles to go. A 5 mile trail that went up and back along a very lovely creek.

Again, I was day dreaming of all the fish in there, just waiting for me to catch them. As we got near camp, we saw that one of the novice horses was down on the trail withy colic. Just a reminder it can happen to anyone, in any division. They routed us a bit off the trail, down and up a small hill, and the judges observed us. We timed in, and had another P&R, which Hank lost another point for another 13 pulse. At the end of the day, the vet did a recheck on the horses, and Hank was dehydrated some. I am thinking now, it might have been the combo of the altitude, and the warm weather. Also, while I saw Hank drink well, the streams are pretty cold, so maybe he was just not drinking enough. Altitude has never bothered him before, but we had been above 7000’ since Wednesday.

Another beautiful day, and we were going to be on new trail than we saw from yesterday, with the exception of about 4 miles. Hank was feeling good, and very forward. We had an obstacle of backing around some small bushes, which he did excellent, and then started towards the back side of the Purgatory ski resort, and under some of the ski lift chairs. Then the climb to the first P&R.

Somewhere along through here, Cheri Jeffcoat and I hooked up, and started riding together. Her gaited gelding and Hank got along well, and paced about the same speed. This was the 3rd P&R point Hank would lose, for yet another 13. We were now well over 10,000’ again, which we would stay at for awhile as we rode that section of the mountain. Lots of wonderful views, including one over looking the highway we had driven towards camp, out over the cliffs.

Such beauty. The wildflowers and grasses seemed to change with the different areas, and elevations. While I was a bit frustrated with Hanks P&R’s. the beauty of the ride was so worth the 850 mile drive. Hank hank was feeling good, and cheerful about going down the trail. We had an obstacle of sidepassing over a pole to clip a ribbon on a post.

Hank did it OK, but did a little jump in the middle of it. Now, on to our last P&R, and the highest point of the ride. Finally, he did not lose any points, and we started heading down the mountain. We noticed that just walking and getting back on the horses made us aware of the altitude, and thinner air.

The downhill from the top was done in a shorter distance than the climb up was, and parts were pretty steep. Glad I had a crupper to keep the saddle for putting unnecessary pressure on his withers as we headed down. Then on the home stretch along through meadows and a creek, and we were all done. Got Hank cleaned up, and checked back through, and then we just had to wait for awards. I packed up to leave right away, and go back to my friends place for the night before heading home.

I figured we would end up 5th or so in our class of 6th, but was thrilled when Hank placed 3rd. I placed 1st in Horsemanship, much to my amazement. Everyone in Region 3 was super nice, and friendly again. I am really enjoying the rides there, as they are beautiful, and tough, and the people welcome us like family.

We got to our friends place, and a good nights sleep, then left Monday morning, and drove pretty much straight through, and arrived home Tuesday AM around 4:00. Just did not want to make Hank stand in the trailer for a second day of 100 degree heat. Found some new places to stop along the route, that I can unload, and even tie to the trailer and sleep a bit if I need to. When I got him home, he was about to explode, as he wanted to run across the pasture in the dark, to find the other horses. He is not holding his weight like I would like to see from the travels, but is fit, and his attitude and willingness to go down the trail is really good.

Today, I decided to head to a ride in MO this weekend while hubby is home, and can take care of the critters, and Thelma can stay home. It will sure be different than the ride in CO. So, hope to report when I can!

4 comments: said...

Congrats! nice photos, looks like you had perfect weather. 850 miles - round trip or one way?

Tammy said...

The pictures were awesome as I am sure the whole area was. What a beautiful ride! I'm glad you posted all of them. Are those public trails?

Good luck in MO!

Tammy in TX said...

I just love reading your ride stories and seeing your beautiful pictures! I can only hope that Summer and I can someday be the team that you and Hank are. You two rock!!!

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

Stunning photos. The birches are just wonderous. Or are they Aspens? I always get them mixed up.