Friday, May 23, 2014

Mt. Adams Endurance Ride, May 17, 2014

This was my 'come-back' ride after several years of surgeries and depression (at my slow recovery from said surgeries) .  I've been doing conditioning rides, although not nearly as many as usual and not nearly as long.

For newcomers to my blog, here it is in a nutshell:  breast cancer surgery in 2011 led to not much conditioning for the 2012 ride season. 4 rides (teeth gritting, pill popping after tearing a tendon in the first ride of the season) in 2012 with each ride being more and more painful on my ankle with the torn tendon.  I did top ten most of them though...figured faster was better.  At the last ride of the year that I did, where I had to walk my (very disgusted) horse the last 10 miles because my ankle hurt so badly, I decided to try surgery (and we still top tenned).  Surgery in August-September of 2012, VERY slow recovery.  I'm afraid I expected to have 6 weeks of PT and recovery and then be back to full power.  Ha.  Silly me.  I didn't compete at all in 2013 because I could only ride about an hour before the pain was pretty bad.  So, I volunteered. 

I have been upping my 'game' over the winter and had gotten up to almost a 3 hour ride without too much whining, so I decided that Mt. Adams was it!  My comeback ride!  Except, unless you are totally flying, you can't even do an LD in 3 hours...

So, I adjusted my attitude and decided that if I could mentor a newbie or two, I could justify (to myself, no one else cared) doing a, gasp, Trail Ride.  I'm afraid I've always been a little 'above' the trail ride, thinking there was no reason to do anything less than an LD.  I kept repeating (in a bit of a whiney voice)  "But I've done 50s!".  I'm pretty sure there was a bunch of self-pity there. Well, the old gray mare just ain't what she used to be.  So, I firmly tamped that down and hauled to Mt. Adams with my friend Monica.  She decided to come on the trail ride too, mostly to make sure I was ok. 

We drove down  and got talking so much we missed the first bridge over the Columbia and had to go over the one between Hood River and White Salmon.  I HATE this bridge.  I'm not much for heights anyway and have actually smashed my truck side mirror on an oncoming truck's mirror on this bridge a few years back, so I have reason.  I did make it over the bridge and no one actually honked at me...going 15 miles an hour is probably not the way to make friends.  I also halted in the middle of the bridge when a big truck came at us.  I think I did breathe somewhere along it...but I won't guarantee it.  One lady in an oncoming car did point vigorously at me to move over to the edge of the bridge - I think I was pretty close to the center line.

Anyway, we made it to the lovely camp with plenty of time to spare, vetted in, etc and met up with our friend Keiko, who was doing her first endurance ride ever with her mare Cady.  We went for a nice few mile ride on Friday and both Galen and Danny were great.  Cady was a bit jazzed, but settled by the end.

Next morning, the very civilized start time of 9 am.  Hmmm, this is definitely in the Trail Ride's favor.  We got Keiko and Cady and left after pretty much everyone was gone.  Cady and Keiko were a bit nervous, so we went back and forth a bit and then Keiko got off and walked for a while until a big hill convinced her to remount.  We sandwiched them between Galen (in front) and Danny behind, which seemed to help Cady.  We walked along, singing silly songs and getting relationship updates.  After a bit, we asked if we could trot 20 steps and then walk.  We did this for a while until it was boring and then started trotting the easier parts (no ducking low branches, no downhills, etc).  By now, Keiko was starting to enjoy herself, as she and Cady had both relaxed.  We made it clear that we wouldn't do anything more (ok, maybe just a touch more) than she was comfortable with, which I think really helped her.  We had the whole day to enjoy the beautiful Ghost loop and if it took the whole day, so be it. 

(I do have a ride photo, but for some reason, my computer refuses to load it, so you just need to imagine the lovely scenery and Galen's orange butt)

We did spend a little time going back to find a boot, but we found it quickly.  We finished around 12:30 or so, but that was fine.  This was a 13 mile loop, and my ankle still felt pretty good.  This was the longest mileage AND time I have done since June of 2012.   I have been working on changing the way I ride - much more sitting trot; thank goodness for the Teke glide, much more muscle instead of letting my ankles absorb so much.  It's very different from how I've ridden before, but Galen seems ok with it, so I'll call it good.

I ended with thinking that I could probably do more mileage, but I was kind of glad I didn't have to.  Once the horses were taken care of, I cracked a beer, took some more Advil and socialized.  Hmmm, another plus in the Trail Ride's favor...more time for beer.  Anyway, we are planning on heading to Klickitat, where I might ride a 2 day LD.  It could be a new thing - the weenie version of the 2 day 100.  If that goes well, maybe I'll be up to an LD before the end of the ride season. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


This was my first international flight and (except for Canada and Nogales, Mexico) my first trip outside the US.  I had a pretty good idea what to expect from talking to people that had been there.  I packed extra food for those days we didn’t get to eat until 2 or 3 (although it turns out I didn’t need it), all sorts of remedies, books, etc.  I will say that we were really very well taken care of. 

 Jas and I travelled together, which was quite nice, especially when we were the only English speakers around.  We started our first day on a bus…we thought we were heading to a horse exhibition, but we weren’t quite sure.  There was also a bus heading off to look at gaslines or something.  We got on the correct one though and were dropped at Exhibition Palace.  We had no idea what to do or where to go, so we winged it.  I’m pretty sure we got exhibitor’s badges and we wandered all over the hall while vendors were setting up.  There were lovely paintings, tack, exercise equipment, beautiful rugs and many other things.

Jas and I in front of the trick riders on the first day.

We did get to see the trick riders perform, along with their famous dancing Teke.
  Every year he can stay on his hind legs longer and longer.  We saw him several times.

We had our first lunch that day at the hall.  Every lunch and dinner after this was very similar, with lots of food and plenty of fresh vegtables. Every table we sat at had fizzy orange soda and cola drinks that a young server would rush up and fill your glass with.

And it was gorgeous to look at too!

We started meeting some of the other attendees; it was great to finally meet many people that I had only talked to on the internet.  There were also quite a few non-Teke folks along, some were artisans, some were related to connected people, some were giving speeches. It was great fun to network like crazy.
Naomi and Michelle (who were a blast!) sitting with Jenny at lunch one day.

Friday, our second day, there was the endurance race.  We were bussed out to the start of it and left.  We watched the horses leave and then…nothing.  We were left in the stands so we went exploring.  We visited the stables across the way (and were NOT allowed in the barns), took photos of youngsters, wandered around looking for a bathroom (they had potty busses, but I wasn’t that desperate) and then I went down and watched the dancing.  Almost every place we went had some sort of music and dancing, all in beautiful Turkmen costumes.  Several of our group danced here. I wasn’t quite so brave though and it was already getting hot.
Singing and dancing in between the loops at the endurance ride.  Several of our party joined in. 

The riders (maybe half that started) came in for the vet check.  It was very different than what you would see in the US, I think most horses wouldn’t have passed our vet checks.  My favorite horse was the lone mare competing.  I think she did finish.

 'My' mare heading out on the second loop.

 Before the start of the ride.  The white yurts were (we think) for the real VIPs - we were put in stands and left to our own devices.
The mare at the vet check in the middle of the ride.  Their idea of a vet check was VERY interesting.

After the endurance race, we were bussed back to the Exhibition Palace and given lunch.  Then it was speech time.  Jas and I snuck out and walked back to the hotel, admiring the amazingly clean streets and blinding white buildings.
 Some of the lovely onion domes on buildings in downtown Ashgabat.  All the cars we saw were very clean also - we heard that tickets were given out for dirty cars.  Glad they don't do that here!

I had to take a photo of the Miras, as I bred a colt that I named Miras.  (from my Chaihana dictionary, it means "inheritance").  There was also a building called 'Arzuw' and I have a gelding named that (wishes and dreams). I thought I had taken a photo of that too...but I can't find it.

Saturday was out to the Akhalteke Equestrian Complex, where we were to
listen to speeches and be part of a ribbon cutting ceremony.  We had to get up at 3:30 am to make the 5 am bus. Once we got there,we all wandered off to look at horses – most definitely not the same level of care we do here!  And then we paid for that by standing in the hot sun in front of TV cameras while many speeches were given. At least one young Turkmen lady was overcome with heat exhaustion while we stood there and many of us were wishing they would hurry up and open the doors.
See all the TV cameras?  My feet were so hot and I really wanted to take off my shoes, but I happened to be in the front I didn't. Last thing I needed was to be on national TV with my socks showing.

Some mares and foals at one of the places we went.  No shade, no obvious food and no poop.  Very different than what we do.

We were then served another lovely meal and taken back to the hotel.  One evening (not sure which one now) we went to the Russian Bazaar along with several other attendees.  We ended up going twice and it was a feast for the senses – lovely smells and beautiful displays.  I got to do a little bit of haggling, so I felt I’d had the whole ‘experience’.

Sunday was Race Day.  We got up at 3:30 am again to make the 5 am bus and were in our seats at the race course by 7 am.  We did get watch the sunrise.

Some of us did get to see the ground breaking ceremony (got us out of our seats!) and passed some very decorated camels that made the rather long walk very worthwhile.

When we got back to our seats, they started serving wine and cognac, which went just fine on empty stomachs.  Pretty soon people were helping themselves to the food and drink in the VIP section ahead of us. Soon, we had trick riders, drill teams, beauty contests and the President riding in an exhibition race.

Libations in the stands.  No food (except for what we brought in our purses), but wine, cognac and vodka.  This is Naomi and Michelle.

There were drill riders on the track to keep us entertained.  I think (from what my next seat neighbor told me), there were riders from Turkmenistan, Turkey and ?.  Of course, I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about, but it made for an interesting backdrop to the races.

There were 7 races and the horses looked to be in good flesh and reasonably well trained.  There were a few close finishes and then the top three jockeys in each race got presented cars.

 One of the horses in the 'Beauty Contest' that was going on before the races.  They all came out several times in jewelry, traditional dress and then just bare.

 Fancy dress at the races.  Most of us weren't quite this fancy, but her hat was very fun.

We saw this little girl several times.  She was part of the dancing with the trick riders (I'd assume she is a trick rider's child) and she was so cute that I had to take some photos of her.  The women danced while the men did their trick riding around them.  I'm sure there was significance to the dancing, but we didn't have a clue, except to know that it was very lovely.

I didn’t take many photos of the actual races, as I thought other stuff was way more interesting. 

Anyway, after lunch, back to the hotel.

We did a few things, but the whole trip sort of flowed together. Monday we made another trip to the Russian Bazaar and then went on a long bus ride with some of the jockeys from the races and a TV crew.  We were promised that we could see the President’s horses, but instead got to see several statues (up close) in front of the TV cameras. 
We were promised horses on this bus ride...just not that they were golden statues!

By the time we got to the stables, they had been closed for ½ hour!  So, we found a bathroom, walked on the fancy track surface (very nice) and talked and talked with our new friends.  We made it back to the hotel, got to eat one more time and then headed for the airport and home.  All in all, it was a marvelous week.  Many of the attendees are heading to the Chinese Celebration of the Horse, starring Jackie Chan, the 12th through the 14th of May.  Several of our members are planning on going, so perhaps the next newsletter will have a report on that!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Back from Turkmenistan

Yes, I'm back.  It was a whirlwind week of firsts - first international travel (which I could easily get used to - wine! food! free movies! more legroom!), first trip to Turkmenistan, first in person meeting with many internet friends, first Russian get the drift.

I won't write up the entire trip right now, as I'm still playing catch up with all the stuff piled on my desk and barn work.  My family (mainly Callie and Zach) did a great job in my absence, but there is still plenty for me to do.

I took many photos, and will get to those sooner or later.

What I came away from the week with:

1. The Turkmen people seem to be extremely nice and VERY patient.
2. Bring your own toilet paper.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
4. Their horse management is way behind ours, but they are working on it.
5. Being on a paid for trip is lots of fun, mostly.  They do expect some photo ops though. (I was on their national TV at least once and probably more).  But, I looked good, so it was just fine.
6. Bargaining in the bazaar was lots of fun. 
7. They drive like maniacs.  I had to sit in the back of the bus after making the mistake of sitting in the front seat, only once.  I almost mashed my foot through the floor helping the driver brake.  I also assume that my gasps weren't doing any good as nothing changed.

There was plenty more, that I will write about soon.  Now I need to get back to my other duties!