Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cooley Ranch Endurance Ride

You may remember that Ellie came to me with an Endurance background, which I detailed in From Endurance Horse to Hunter, but what do Endurance riders actually look like? What do they do?

I found out on Saturday when I volunteered with a coworker to help at the Cooley Ranch Endurance Ride.

Little J (as I so professionally call her at work) and I arrived at Lake Sonoma around 7:30am and were shuttled to the vet check a few miles from the base camp (which looked like an abandoned town with trailers and tents akimbo). By this time the 50 mile riders and the 25 mile riders (Limited Distance) had already left camp at 6am and 7am respectively.

Riders are required to stop in at the vet check- once for the LD riders and twice for the 50 mile riders and they must remain at the vet checkpoint for a minimum of 1 hour. With 60 riders total the action was just getting started as the LD riders were coming in for their stop.

The entire goal of the vet check is rest and recovery for the horse. As the riders enter (often dismounted to help the heartbeat start to come down) they give their number to a volunteer who writes down their time on a card which is taken to P&R (Pulse and Recovery). Horses have 30 minutes from entering the camp to resume a heartbeat of 60 or below. So as I, "the runner," ran cards over to P&R, the riders immediately took horses over to water buckets and sponged down (careful to avoid muscles and cramping), and often untacked.

Once they left P&R they went on to the vet check which looked at a whole litany of things including gut sounds and soundness at a jog. Once the horse was cleared they had an hour for some R&R- in addition to hay many riders would make watery mashes to encourage hydration.

There is a final vet at the end of the ride and out of the top 10 riders the winner is determined by the "best conditioned" horse. Two horses were pulled from the race and taken back to camp (lameness and pulse) but outside of that there were no health issues!

I thought both the riders apparel and horses tack were super interesting. In many cases the riders wore sneakers as the hills can be so steep they are dismounting and running alongside the horse. Little J was telling me on the way home that there's a hill in Tevis that's so steep that riders will "tail-" meaning the horse walks in front and the rider walks behind holding their tail to stay upright.
Some great matching outfits! Brightly colored bridles! Horse "Sneakers" instead of steel shoes! Mighty comfy looking saddles (might give the CWD a run for its money)!

The vast majority of horses present were Arabians but there was one Morgan, a few Mustangs (the horse that won the 50 was a Mustang), and one lone Warmblood. Some of the riders traveled in packs of two or three- but plenty tackled the trail alone!

Everyone gathers at the end of the day for awards and a giant dinner (we had fried chicken) before retiring back to their campsites, perhaps resting for another race the next day!
The most adorable roached mane! This poor gal missed a turn in her 25 mile ride and ended back up at the vet check! 

Heading back out on the trail!

Vet camp- mandatory resting for horse and human

Jogging for the vet

P&R station: Little J  is getting ready to take a pulse. Little J is riding this Bay horse, Stella, in Tevis this year

I REALLY liked this rider's style! And she finished top 10! Side note: riders put red ribbons in tails even if the horses don't kick so they don't get run up on by another racer

Everything must match! I love this discipline already! 

Heading towards the vet

Tack close up. Hard to tell but these horses have boots glued to their hooves

The winner of the 50 mile race and his mustang! Love!

Finish line!

Vet check back in camp

Final Jog


  1. So cool! I've always wanted to be involved in an endurance race... all these pictures aggravate that desire! ;)

  2. Wow what a different world! So not my thing but interesting to read about and see :)

  3. Long distance is a lot of fun!

  4. This is on my bucket list for sure! Out of curiousity...were most horses barefoot or shod?