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Rocking the Rides: My Adventure with Sandra-Dee at City of Rocks, Idaho

Sandra- Dee grazing by horse trailer

My first Limited Distance (LD) ride with my mare Sandra-Dee was at The City of Rocks Idaho. It was quite the ride, with lots of steep learning curves and things that I wasn’t quite prepared for. 

I had been steadily conditioning Sandy since early spring to get ready for this ride. Sandy is a Grade Quarter Horse and not exactly the build for endurance so I wanted to make sure that I gave her the best possible chance of completing in good condition while having fun. I’ll talk more about my conditioning routine in a later post, but I do have to say I’m so glad I’ve put as much time into her conditioning as I have!

We pulled into the ride a bit more nervous than my first Endurance Ride. I didn’t have someone to ride with and drag me around to show me exactly where I needed to be and what to do this time. But it ended up being pretty easy to figure it out. 

There were lots of riders and runners coming in, as there was an Ultramarathon being held there as well, so, riders were sharing the trail with runners. It was pretty cool to see some of the runners doing their 50 miles coming in way ahead of the riders - there are some crazy athletes out there!

This was the first time I had camped with Sandy in a place like this with no welded paddocks or specific tie areas, and I was nervous about how she would act. The other times I had camped with her she had…. Not behaved….. 😅. So, I was anxious to see how she would be here. 

To my surprise, she was a perfect angel. She enjoyed watching the horses wander around camp and she didn’t get worked up at all with the craziness of camp. She just watched and chilled - I was thrilled!

trail riding on horseback

The next morning as we were getting ready for the race, I had no clue how I wanted to start. I thought at first that I would wait for the majority of the riders to go before we headed out but she was so relaxed I decided to start with the front of the group. 

Well, she didn’t act anything like I expected, I thought she would fight me to be in front and go too fast, but we had the opposite problem. She was so confused that she kept stopping and staring and it would take us a minute to get going again. So we quickly went to the back of the pack. 😂 But it was nice because I got to focus more on the trail and her vs getting caught up too much in the ride itself. 

This ride was not quite as nice as my previous one, we stayed on dirt roads for the majority of the first loop of the ride which was hard on Sandy and a little boring for me. Luckily we ended up catching up with a group of ladies who let me ride with them for the rest of the loop which helped motivate us both and I soon realized just how fast people go!

I had to pay close attention to Sandy as we picked up pace, but by the end of the first loop I couldn't just focus on me and her. We ran into a bit of a hiccup as one rider came off her horse and another lost her horse. So, we spent the last 2-3 miles trying to catch the loose horse and keep traffic in check. It was a relief that no one was hurt and the loose horse was fairly easily caught when it ran back to camp.

After all that excitement, it was difficult for me to cool Sandy down as we had practiced on my condition rides. Though it took her a bit longer to get her heart rate down and for her to cool off, she did pass her vet check with flying colors. 

trail riding on horseback through sage brush

The second loop was a lot more fun as we were able to go out on trails and see some of the magnificent mountains of rocks. We enjoyed being in the shade of trees while looping through the hills- and it was even better because there were no more crazy hiccups 😉. 

We came in pretty fast after that, and I came away with knew found knowledge from this experience. I realize now that I should have done a better job listening to Sandy. I thought my conditioning had prepared me for what to look for from her, but a ride is a different beast and she didn’t respond at all like I thought she would. I honestly just didn’t know what to do, so, for that last bit of the ride I let her dictate and just waited to see how it turned out. 

It was because I started listening to her that we came into ride camp in 5th place. That being said, Sandy didn’t recover well and took quite a few minutes to pulse down to 60bpm. In that time the rest of the riders came in and pulsed down beautifully so we ended up in last place. Looking back, I would have held Sandy back a bit more on that ride, but at the same time, I’m glad I had that experience to see what she was capable of and how much she would push herself when motivated by other horses and riders. 

Overall, this ride was an experience. If I had only been able to do the first loop I probably wouldn’t go back just because of the amount of road we had to ride on, but the second loop was a lot of fun! 

We ended up finishing 30 miles instead of 25 as well which was also a bit hard on Sandy, but she came home and recovered just fine and I had a plethora of things to add to our conditioning!

The view over a horse's head while trail riding

My biggest takeaways:

  • Your horse is going to be a different creature at the rides!

  • Where they normally rate themselves, they’ll be more motivated to push with other horses or not move at all as the case may be. 

  • Where they normally drink amazingly, they may not want to drink for a while (which makes for a nervous me). 

  • Rides are a lot faster than you think!

  • Be prepared for things to go badly

  • The gals I rode with were very apologetic, but honestly, it’s just life with horses and it doesn’t matter where you come in. Always be willing to throw your goals out the window to help each other. 

  • Come up with a better cooldown strategy for Sandy and help her heart rate come down faster. 

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and learned a little from it! Stay tuned for excerpts from my rides at Old Selam and Autumn Sun Pioneer!

If you haven’t already, you may want to check out my Saddle Up for Success Series where I share the biggest things I’ve learned overall as a newbie to this sport and included links to the supplies I’ve needed to get! Enjoy!

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