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2010 Land of the Sun


2010 Land of the Sun
Images by John Teeter
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2010 Land of the Sun
Images by John Teeter
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2021 Land of the Sun Endurance Ride

2021 Land of the Sun 50 - Nick Warhol

2/27/21
by Nick Warhol

I had one heck of a week! it started with my truck breaking down AGAIN the day before I was supposed to head to Arizona from the bay area for the Land of the sun ride in Wickenburg. I was planning on staying at Brian Reeve’s place on the way down, then he and I were going to Ridgecrest for a day and a half to work on the trail for the upcoming 20 mule team / fire mountain combo ride on April 10th. My transmission failed again on the way back from a local ride with Judy and Donnie on Saturday. Sometimes my luck does work- the tranny was replaced 20 months ago, and the repair had a 2 year warranty. Whew! Its in the shop now getting fixed under warranty, but once its back it will never tow a horse again. Not to mention it was serious luck that it broke before the day before I left for my week-long trip. I called Brian to cancel and he said: “No, use one of my trucks!” He told me to drive down to his place in Squaw Valley, Ca, (not the ski place, the one near Fresno) and leave my car and take his dodge dually home and the trip is on as planned. He and Val have a really nice ranch setup in the hills near King’s Canyon. Their generosity was unbelievable. I got his truck, drove it back home, loaded up and and off to Ridgecrest we went. I spent a half day with him in a side by side and a day on my bike finishing up the trails for the ride. There are several changes since we are doing it the same weekend as the fire mountain ride, and there is a large motorcycle race on saturday that caused some major re-routing. All is good- we have the new routes set, and the changes on the 65-mile loop are VERY good for the horses. (I removed 4 miles of hard, rocky, downhill, boring roads)

Sorsha and I truck pooled to the ride with Gretchen Montgomery and her mare Coquette. It was another 7 hours from ridgecrest to Wickenburg. 15 hours of driving is a bit much for a 50, but there are just no rides yet where I am, and I wanted a 50 before the 100 at 20MT on April 10. I’m not sorry I went at all. I love doing rides in new areas I have not been in yet, and it did not disappoint. Ride camp is at a place called Boyd Ranch at the end of a good quality, eight-mile dirt road from the highway. We arrived on Thursday, giving the horses a full day to recover from the long drive. The ride camp is about perfect- it was deluxe and had everything you might want short of hot showers. We took the girls out for a ride Friday afternoon to get them loosened up, and to introduce Sorsha to the Saguaro cactus. These things are monsters! They grow from the size of a fire hydrant to bigger than a football stadium goal post. She did not seem to care about them, or the six foot high cholla cactus plants, or the massive prickly pear plants the size of cars, but for some reason she did not think much of the barrel cactus. I grew up in the desert, but let me tell you, there was a LOT of cactus in this place.

The weather was cold at night, but during the day it was really nice- cool but not cold, and not hot. My perfect weather is when it’s too cool in the shade for short sleeves, but just right in the sun. The 50 would be run on three loops: 17, 12, and 20 miles, all of which returned to base camp. It seemed a little odd to only have one hold after the second loop, but its good to have the extra time at this ride. The 50 started at 6:30 in the almost light. The first loop started out really neat- single track across the open desert through the rolling hills. The trail was tight- it wound back and forth around bushes (AND CACTUS!) every few feet. It would open up a bit, then get really tight again. you needed a lot of trail marking on trails like this since you are riding from ribbon to ribbon, and they provided! The trail was marked superbly using a lot of ribbon, and the nice bio degradable spray paint arrows on the ground. I came to really appreciate those arrows! The area is pretty rocky everywhere, but was not an issue for us with Sneakers. The single track was really fun, but after a while I noticed that it was getting demanding. It wasn’t like just trotting along at Point Reyes; it took your full attention and concentration on every turn (every 5 feet) to make sure you stayed on trail, and more importantly, steering your horse with your hands and legs to keep them out of the cactus that was everywhere. After a while it felt like a three-hour dressage test! it was fun, but the continued concentration made it relentless. We would get a break every once in a while, but unfortunately the relief was trudging through deep sand washes. I prefer the single track! The ride management said they did it their best to mitigate some of this sand by routing us out of the wash and into the desert next to the wash for relief. Well, it was relief of sorts; it was 18 inches deep in the wash and a foot deep out of the wash. This was the only really tough part of the trail for us, since I don’t train in this stuff. Sorsha has never even been in sand that deep before. We just trudged through it at a walk. I tried to walk some on foot for a bit but it was too deep for me to even make any headway. I was always amazed when people would come trotting by us at speed through this stuff. It’s fine if you are prepared for it, but we were not, so we just took it really easy. It was slow slogging for a couple hours of the ride.

Once out of the sand, we got back into the desert and more single track. Turn, Turn, Turn, concentrate, turn, repeat for an hour. Gayle Penya coined the perfect phrase that described this type of riding- it was hours straight of pole bending, but the poles had spines!

The first loop did end with our real first flat section, a nice hard wash that we trotted on for about a mile and a half. WoW! That felt good to actually move out a little. The loop ended on a weird series of roads and soft wash that ran through ranch property. The trail in went right through base camp to the vet area for a pulse, trot out, and go vet check. The second loop continued with the same type of trails. We found and saw Crockett’s Saguaro, (In one of the pictures) the absolutely bizarre giant cactus that someone had to design. It could not have grown like that! It was pretty cool. We also got to see lots of a plant called an Ocotillo, a yucca I think, that looks like a cactus, and feels like a cactus, but is not. It’s a big, spiny thing that looks like, well, an Ocotillo! (in the pictures) The flowers were just starting to come out. Back into the sand and more single-track pole bending through the cactus. It was about here, around 30 miles, that I found myself thinking something I don’t think I have ever thought in 30 years of riding. “Boy, I’m ready to get off the single track and find a nice dirt road!” Usually it’s quite the opposite!

The hour hold at 30 miles felt good, and the ride provided bag lunches for us. We set out on the last loop of 20 miles and it was actually better in terms of diversity of trail. Yes, there was still plenty of pole bending and deep sand trudging, but we were given a few miles of dirt roads that were quite welcome. We encountered a couple of gold miners on the trail, including one big, scary looking guy who had blocked the trail with his truck, making us ride into the rocks to get around. He had dug a huge hole that looked like a grave next to the trail. Yuck. He was not at all friendly, so we left him to do his thing, what ever it was. There was some nice trail that we could actually trot along at a good clip, and even a real honest-to-god downhill that we could lead down on foot! I realized I had not really been off the horse in about 45 miles. That felt good on the old creaky knees. Some more sand led us to the last road section in the wash and we popped out of the wash at camp and into the finish. Both horses looked great- the Big, Brown, Girly horse’s CRI at the vet out was 40/40, about normal for her.

One thing I miss with the Covid stuff is the awards meeting. It is really nice to know how many horses there were, finishers, who placed where, etc. I have no clue how we finished, other that there were about 37 starters, and we finished with about 9 horses behind us. Pretty specific! I have no idea about pulls. I just heard today that a horse went missing from the ride and as of today (I think) is still missing. I sure hope they find it.

It was a long week with lots of driving, but it was worth it to sample the Arizona desert. It is spectacular country, that’s for sure. My only gripe about the ride was the sand, but other than that it was a fun time. We got the final trail details worked out for the fire mtn / 20 mule team ride coming up in a month, and I got to spend a day on my dirt bike in the desert which is always a plus.

I hope to see everyone at the ride on the weekend of April 10th in Ridgecrest. It will be a great party, that’s for sure! I’ll be riding Sorsha on the 100 for the 4th time here- (she is 2 for 3) Funny- it’s the only 100 she has done so far! We will have to do something about that this year. Championship, Big Horn, Tevis……..

Nick Warhol
Land of the Sun 50, Wickenburg AZ,
West Region


2010 Land of the Sun - Steph Teeter

I love an honest trail description, and this one was right on!

So...here's my story - but I've backed up quite a bit to get to this point. Probably more 'regular life' detail than is of interest to the general public..., but sometimes backing up and writing myself from there (a couple months ago) to here (another Arizona ride) helps me keep perspective on this life. So...

It's a wonderful thing to be home (in a relative sense) for days – and months – on end. I haven't travelled overseas since May of '09 since the incredible trip to Patagonia to ride around the Torres del Paine. Last year I rode over 800 miles of endurance rides, on my own horses! I had one of the most enjoyable ride seasons in a long time with my old timer horse Jaziret (veteran of the 2001 XP, as well as multiple FEI rides and a Pan American Championship). He's an awesome horse that still amazes me with his strength and spirit. I'm hoping to reach a goal of 5000 miles with him this year... we're getting close – we shall see!

John and I packed up a bit of home (Sundowner trailer, a few horses, and our laptops) in December and moved down to Scottsdale, Arizona for the winter months. Once again parking ourselves at the home of our friends Kevin Myers and Rusty Toth, once again settling in for a winter of good friends, good food and good trails. And once again Merri stayed in Oreana with the dogs and the other horses and the Owyhee winter which isn't too bad, as long as it snows at least once.

This winter the social activity at GottaGo Ranch has risen to new levels. Brian and Darla Malkoske drove down after Christmas for another winter of sunshine escape from the wet British Columbia coast. Sheri from Moab moved into the house next door to K&R for the winter, bringing more horses and more friends. Charlie, the neighbor to the west lost her husband last year to cancer and has become a constant partner to the dinners and outings. And of course every meal is an occasion for special recipes and favorite wines. And we were treated to a new visitor - Kyle, the 19 year old endurance enthusiast from Maine who spent ten days here riding and riding and riding . Jim and Clydea from across the highway, Steve and Cindy (and now Doug and Linda too) from across the valley...and many more. Winter – which used to be a time of hibernation, has become a time of activity. And this winter it's been even more enjoyable since I'm not constantly jet lagged from all of the international travel.

There are a few changes and transitions for the gang this year. John has taken a position as 'senior scientist' with a startup company People Power which hopes to revolutionize the way people manage their residential power usage and ride the green wave by positioning themselves as part of the initiative to design the world's new 'smart grid' – solving the world's energy production and consumption challenges. Kevin is about to leave a 22 year career in the world of non-profit companies, ballet companies specifically, and embark on a new life as head of marketing and administration with the highly energized company EasyCare Inc, the life work of Garret Ford who started with a clever horse hoof product, the Easyboot, and expanded it into a world wide line of hoof care products, becoming part of the natural hoof care revolution. Kevin will now be attending horse expos and competitions instead of ballets, and managing a vital and growing company instead of answering to large non-profit boards and struggling with the challenge of keeping the arts alive in difficult economic times. And Rusty has moved out of the world of performing as a dancer, and into the world of teaching yoga and ballet.

So jobs and situations have changed, but we're all still stuck with the same hopeless passion for our horses and this crazy endurance riding sport!

John and I have already managed to squeeze in 200 miles of rides this year, starting with a very enjoyable four days of riding outside of Death Valley. We had planned on riding at Wickenburg (Land of the Sun) earlier – but the ride was cancelled during an El Nino onslaught of rain and wind and rain and more rain. For several days it rained in the desert – the washes ran, the rivers swelled, the stately cactus toppled over as the soil became loose and saturated, and the wind gusted to 70mph. A very sad and peculiar sight to see these majestic cactus giants lying crumpled on the ground – like beached whales – it looked so wrong. It was a very amazing storm! So the ride was cancelled and rescheduled for February 6. No problem, I'd still be here (yay!) and John would also be back from his trip to California for PeoplePower stuff, so he'd be able to ride too.

Meanwhile... the horses have been shoeless (no steel) for a month now. I had been remotely considering the possibility of pulling shoes and trying the naked hoof thing for a while – wondering if being around Kevin and Rusty would make a dent in my skepticism. They had converted all of their horses back in June of 09 and I figured if I did decide to try it, at least I would be around friends who had been through the transition and learned the do's and don'ts. And indeed they were so positive about the experience, and confident that they were doing the right thing for their horses that it did tip me over the edge. What the heck – I was in a good environment with sandy soil and not much in the way of rock and mud. I had mentors and I had horses with good feet to start with (no real problems to fix).

We started riding with hoof protection right away. A little bit of actual barefoot riding in the sand washes, but basically it was barefoot in the paddock, and booted on the trail. We had a few issues with getting the size right (tight enough to stay on, but not so tight that the heel bulbs were rubbed or bruised) and some pastern rubbing from web sandy gators, but overall it was pretty non-eventful. At least until the horses were trimmed by a professional for the second time. They had a pretty aggressive trim – a lot of sloughing frog was taken off, some sole was taken off, the bars were cut down – all pretty standard stuff, but maybe too much too soon. We rode them barefoot in the sand wash – they seemed ok - and then it rained all afternoon and evening – and the next morning Jaziret was very tender. Yuck. I put boots on him and he was immediately relieved, we did some trail walking, and then turned them back out. Still moving carefully, but a little better after the walk. As time went on he got better, we did a lot of trail walking with boots, and after a couple weeks seemed fine again.

I have heard from others that there is a tendency to trim the 'barefoot' horse too aggressively. The mustang roll seems to be the accepted shape and trim – rounded walls, recessed quarters, sole and frog bearing much of the weight load. After the trim I thought – wow, those feet are beautiful, they look perfect – but maybe we got there too fast and didn't have adequate sole thickness and density to protect the sensitive tissues. At any rate it was an 'uh oh' phase.

I chose to use glue-on boots for the Wickenburg ride instead of the slip on boots to minimize the chance of loosing a boot and bruising a foot, and to avoid any rubbing issues. I still don't have a lot of experience with the latter and the glue-on's just seemed more worry free. Kevin helped me glue boots on Jaziret and Sunny Friday morning before leaving for the ride. We cleaned the hooves well, and dried them with a heat gun, and then roughed up the wall with a rasp so the glue would hold better. Then applied a soft adhesive and packing to the sole, then lined the boots with an adhesive and quickly stuck them to the hoof. Not a huge deal, but it did seem like a lot of work.

Whew! Then finish packing the trailer (some stuff out, some stuff in – since we're living out of the trailer it's a bit of an organization challenge) and get the horses loaded and hit the road. We got to ride camp in time to set up, vet in, and make it to the ride meeting. This year it was a new ride manager, and some of the old trails had to be abandoned because of a hike in land use fees. So it would be some of the old trail and some new. We'd ridden this ride a few times before – I've always liked it – it has a fair amount of sand wash, and rocky trail, but it's still scenic and fun. This ride would be different... and when the ride manager mentioned that he measured the trail by gps and had to add miles to previous trails because they measured short I figured we'd be in for a longer ride. In my experience the gps miles are 'shorter' and the twistier the trail, the greater the difference between gps measurement and land vehicle measurement. Oh well, it would still be a beautiful ride.

A group of us got together at Clydea's trailer for a potluck – she can always manage to squeeze in a lot of bodies, and we had plenty of food (and wine!) for a fun evening. I met a few more people, we talked about old rides and new rides – maybe just maybe considering doing the 'real' XP again – 2011 – St. Joseph, Missouri, to Virginia City, Nevada. Hmmmm......

Ride morning came and John and I slowly started moving (coffee mostly). A gloomy Kevin came over and joined us for a cup of coffee – he had hurt his back at yoga two days previous, all the bending over to glue the boots on the horses had only aggravated it, and he was hurting too much to ride. Bummer! Both he and his horse had been well prepared for the ride – fit and pumped – but not to be. He'd have to hold out for the next ride – 100 miles at Dynamite Dash.

We finally got the horses saddled up, and on the trail – a little late, but that was ok since we were planning on a slow ride and both Jaziret and Sunny tend to get a little excited at the start. It really was a beautiful ride – the recent rains had caused the cacti to swell, the grass and ground cover was spreading a green carpet, some blooms, the palo verde were verdant, the ocotillo were in leaf and some even had the red flowers blooming at their branch tips. Most of the ride was single track trail – really beautiful riding – rocky and twisty and quite challenging for our horses that hadn't seem many hills lately. But we went slow, and enjoyed the scenery.

The ride consisted of a 25 mile loop out of camp, with a 30 minute hold at a BLM camp half way, then an hour hold back in camp, then go back out and do the 25 mile loop in the opposited direction. It was warm and sunny during the hold back at camp, but by the time we got back out to the BLM camp vetcheck the predicted storm front had moved in with spitting rain and some wind – it didn't last real long, but it was definitely chilly.

The trail was a mix of sand wash, some nice going over granitic sand soil, some 2-track into the foothills where the vegetation was amazingly green and lush (the sonoran desert is not a brown desert! It's actually very green and very prickly) - and a lot of winding single track trail which was beautiful but rocky in places and pretty slow going.

We brought up the back of the pack, finishing with a 9:20 ride time – the last loop from the out vet check was pretty slow, but I figured we had enough time, and was focused on stressing the horses as little as possible. And we did finish - and John got Turtle (it ain't easy) – and we made it back to the trailer just before dark, and just before it started raining in earnest. Dark and rainy and tired horses and tired us, waahh, it's endurance :)

We fed the horses and let them rest for a couple hours, fed ourselves, packed up our home on wheels, and drove out of the rain back to GottaGo Ranch. Everybody was in bed, except Darla who was up preparing an egg/bread/cheese/ham casserole for breakfast the next morning. Happy horses to be turned back out, happy to crawl into bed. It's a good sport!

Land of the Sun 2010