For years now, I’ve been tormented by the annual reports from Aarene Storms, as she and her beautiful mare Fiddle tackle the John Wayne Ride. This ride follows the Palouse to Cascades Trail in Eastern Washington, moving to a new camp each night and riding all day. I’ve been fascinated and eager to get back out to this region after my very first endurance ride, Home on the Range, several years ago. I love riding in the big open, being able to see for miles and miles, a totally different feeling from our green, drippy, closed in forests of the wet side. I skipped it last year as Tarma and I were still too new of a partnership, and I wanted a better rig to do the trip with, something more comfortable for myself and my horse.
Welp, now the more comfortable and capable rig is here, and I’m starting to put a plan together to tackle a portion of the ride this May. I don’t have enough PTO to tackle the whole thing with everything else I want to do this year, but I think we can attempt half of it. My goal for next year will be to chase the white scarf; folks who complete the whole ride end to end join the White Scarf Club! However, a ride this complex has a lot of moving pieces, some all participants share and some unique to me.
The first and biggest hurdle is arranging child care. Kade’s still a tad too young to get himself off to school and back, which means he’s also too young to sit in the rig while I ride through the hinterlands all day. I can pay a decent rate, so if you know of anyone who can pitch in before and after school for a week in May, please toss them my way! This includes Benny as well, as he’s too young to sit in the rig all day (see a theme?) and he’d have to be on leash on the trail itself and I’m not sure I’m up for that for 10-25 miles a day.
Once child care is sorted and I can actually go, then I have to journey proof the rig, or rather finish doing so. The truck is pretty solid thankfully, and the trailer is still brand new. I’m always futzing with the dressing room, but I know I have enough space to camp comfortably, and plenty of room for supplies for myself and Tarma. I still need to procure a larger water tank, as I’d prefer a lay down one for the truck bed versus one that takes up space in the dressing room. With the lower divider in place, plus the side load ramp, I have tons of room for extra gear and horse feed.
The next biggest question is containment. I’m equally split and still conflicted over this question. I have a nice, heavy duty set of panels I purchased from a friend, which gave Tarma tons of room on a trip last summer. However, they kind of take two people to set up and are a bit of a pain in the ass, plus they take up so much space. They aren’t terrible for a stay in place for a few nights trip, but to set up and take down twice a day would be a bit much (though this is where I remind myself if Tarma can carry me for hours a day, I can take a few extra minutes and set up a comfortable enclosure for her). My second main option for this trip specifically, as high lines are kinda out, is a Hi Tie or Spring Tie system. This is a bar that swings out from the side of the trailer with a tie hanging down, which allows the horse to move in a big circle and if they are smart and careful, they can even lay down. It’s super easy to set up and tear down, which speaks to my heart if I’m contemplating moving camp daily. The biggest downfall to this option is protection; I have a fertile mare who does flirt on occasion, and the panels go a long way to dissuading any other horse in camp from having a party with her.
The next highest stakes question is a bit easier to figure out. Tarma is currently barefoot, and I have a panel of boots to choose from, currently Renegades, Scoots and Flex Boots. However, popping four boots on and off every day will get old, plus can lead to rubs from sand and smaller gravel found on this former rail bed trail, so I’m researching glue on shoes with pads. I’ve already asked my farrier if he can put a pair on for me and show me how to do so, and I can have extras in case she looses one along the way. Glue-ons will avoid the pitfalls of steel and nail shoes, namely nail holes and the damage from her ripping one off.
The main training consideration I have is figuring out how to get Tarma used to being tied to a random thing and left, for up to an hour or more while camp moves forward and the horses get left behind. She’s respectful of pressure and doesn’t pull back, but she can have an attitude occasionally, though it’s usually limited to loud mare ears and pawing. It’s also been on my list to introduce her to hobbles, though I have a feeling she’ll be like my trainer’s horses who figure out how to canter in hobbles like it’s no big thing.
Once the biggest hurdles are dealt with, only everything else remains, though those are less stressful for me. Packing up and moving camp each day doesn’t phase me, nor riding day after day or handling any unexpected issues, such as an episode of choke, a check engine light on the truck, a flat tire, or one of a million things that can go wrong on such a trip. The worst possible thing that could happen on a trip has happened to me, and while it was awful in every single way, my fingers are crossed that I’ve learned enough to avoid lightning striking twice. This is part of a guided ride, so while I’ll do all I can to be prepared to handle myself and my horse as well as other folks, there will be people to lean on if needed. And it’s not like I can get lost!
I already accept that I will get all the way out there, set up a neat little camp, get Tarma snuggled in for the night, only to discover I’ve forgotten one critical item, usually a tooth brush or a pillow. It’s my trip tradition that I always leave one item behind, nothing that makes or breaks the trip (usually, see last summer when I forgot Benny’s dog food!) but enough to remind me that next time, I WILL use the beautiful checklists I spent hours crafting. Bring on the trail!