Friday, February 23, 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Fursan Cup Part I - Alex Shampoe

February 20 2024
By Alex Shampoe

I have been waiting to post because I wanted to find more pictures. I realized that these few pictures describe my recent trip to Saudi Arabia for the Fursan Cup (75 miles) perfectly.

The idea started months ago when I made a list of Goal races I wanted to do outside the US in 2024. The Fursan Cup felt so unlikely and yet it was at the top of my list. The race is by invite only (more on that later). I didn’t know how I could get invited, what horse I would ride, who would I stay with, how would I get there… I had so many obstacles it seemed impossible.

In December Anastasia Gia Larue connected me with an Italian stable that I could ride for. I applied for entry to the race on the Italian horse and got Accepted! (2 obstacles down). Then I was informed that the organizing committee would not subsidize transportation expenses. I had to reassess my strategy given the financial risk associated with transporting a horse from Italy, especially in the absence of a guaranteed finish.

Next, I contacted one of my/Val’s friend from Jordan Rashid Kassim . I raced with him on Val’s horses almost a year ago at the Florida McCulleys ride. He asked his friends from Jordan and found me an amazing horse with a spotless record. I entered the race on the Jordan horse!! I got word back that the organizing committee wouldn’t accept any more Jordan horses into the race. (They only accept a certain number of horses from each country). Although I could not enter on a Jordan horse, I later stayed with the Jordan people, Samir Ahmad, Ali Abu Rabie, and Husain Al Jabari the first night while in Saudi. They could not have been more gracious hosts. I felt like part of their group right away and can’t wait to go ride in Jordan!

My search continued. With the help of Cheryl Van Duesen and Nasser AbuQamar I looked through 7+ Saudi horses searching for the horse most likely to complete. Cheryl then connected me with her horse’s owner, and he offered me a great horse Gaston! (Gaston was bred and raised by Morgane Payen’s family. Val and I stayed with Morgane’s family when we took Gilly with Meghan Wert to France in 2023 for the Young Rider Championships. The Endurance World really is small.) I felt like this was a sign and that everything finally was coming together.

I flew to Dubai on Monday February 5 to spend some time with Madiya Al-maktoum and her amazing horses. Wednesday in Dubai I rode 3 times on 2 different horses and then Thursday before my flight to Saudi, I rode a 40k training ride. These rides refreshed my water bottle handling skills while canter/galloping on hot horses in the sand. The race was scheduled for Saturday February 10. On Wednesday February 7, Gaston (my Saudi horse) got kicked. Gaston was out. I was in the Dubai, getting ready to fly to Saudi, with no horse to ride in the race in Saudi.

Getting invited to this race is very completed. Changing horses 36 hours before the start is even more complicated. At that point, you can only change to another horse that is entered into the race. Yes, that means you need to take someone else’s horse, if you want to change horses that late in the game. A serendipitous turn of events transpired when Shannon Thorndyke, a fellow competitor from Canada, graciously facilitated the reassignment of her entry, Power Colours, for my use in the competition. After hours, Shannon and the Canadian Equestrian Foundation (not sure if that is the right name) acted quickly to help me. They removed Shannon’s entry through FEI so “Shannon’s horse” could be freed up for me. USEF was contacted, again after hours to enter me on “Shannon’s horse”. There were frantic phone calls and texts all night long. There were time zone issues. Some miscommunications occurred. Most importantly, Cheryl was at the office of the organizing committee on the venue. She worked with them every step of the way to ensure the changes were going to happen. The organizing committee, committed to Cheryl, yes….. Alex will ride on Saturday. The horse owner was patiently standing outside of the venue for a part of the time, “Shannon’s” horse in hand, waiting for permission to bring the horse onto the venue. Only officially registered horses were allowed on the venue, of course. Where was I you might ask? I was stuck in the airport, working through Visa issues.

Yet….. I was finally entered on Power Colours less than an hour before the cut off on Thursday night.

I was very delayed Thursday night landing in Al Ula, Saudi, because of unforeseen Visa requirements. Big lessons learned is to make sure I fully understand Visa requirements for all my trips going forward. You live and you learn. Now I know for next time! Thankfully a friend of my Jordan friend was patiently waiting for me outside the airport. It was too late to go to the venue so we went straight to where I was staying for the night. That night I stayed with part of the Jordan team who became my cheerleaders for the rest of the weekend. They became my race family and helped me in every way they could. They made the weekend so much fun and less stressful, navigating me through the different cultures and the venue.

Friday morning, the day before race day, I went to the venue for the first time and was in shock. It was huge!! There were at least 4 different stable sections arranged by country to keep all the horses quarantined and safe. They had a huge cafeteria room with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They had so much food my eyes were always bigger than my stomach. I ate soooooo much food. The cooling, vetting, and crewing areas were arranged perfectly. Everything flowed very smoothly. The pre-ride briefing was in a beautiful (I want to say Mexican style but I guess it would be Saudi style) conference room. There were projectors on both sides of the room so everyone could hear and see the information given.

I meet up with Cheryl and we went and saw our horses. Power Colours, my new horse, was one of the most interesting parts of the whole trip. He kept me very entertained. We went for a walk around the Saudi stable and he was nice and relaxed until he saw another horse acting up just over the fence. Power shot straight up into the air and kicked out. Just imagine the Airs Above the Ground tricks. That’s what he did. As soon and I told him to stop he did. We walked calmly around for 10 more minutes. Again, something would startle him and up in the air he went. He never pulled on the line. I never thought he would hurt me. He just would go straight up, kick out a little, then come back down and walk on with me. Guess he just needs to get it out. I was thinking “Man I hope he doesn’t do that under saddle”…. He did.

Cheryl, two great German ladies, and I went out for a pre-ride. All the horses were wild. We were all riding for the same owner. (One of these German ladies would ride with us the next day slow and steady. The other went on to win 9th place!) Power’s regular rider told me that Power would play with me but just don’t let him intimidate me and he will settle. Well, easier said than done. One of the horses had some tack malfunctions and there was a lot of horses all around us. Power tested and tested but by the end of the 5k loop we had figured each other out. At least as much as we were going to. I couldn’t help but think that tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.

While pre-riding I decided I wanted to change my saddle. I brought my reactor panel from home because I was worried about making weight with one of the light saddles they usually use in Saudi. I would much rather use a heavier saddle than a weighted pad. My saddle was fit to my horse at home and Power had a much different back. Thankfully, I had Wendy MacCoubrey on speed dial at probably 5am her time in Canada to FaceTime with me and help me change the saddle. When we first put my saddle on Power, Power was tense and not happy. As we started changing and moving it around his whole body changed. He was licking and chewing, yawning, he was much happier. One of his shoulders was different than the other. A regular saddle would have been very hard to fit on him perfectly. Without my Reactor Panel I don’t believe Power and I would have done so well. He had competed multiple races before with a different saddle, but I think having my saddle just made it that much better for the both of us. I can’t thank Wendy enough for her expert guidance. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Later that day (Friday) we vetted in. Power was a total professional. I guess he decided it was showtime. For dinner that night I went with my Jordan friends Fawzi Kassim and Zein Kassim to a restaurant in Al Ula and walked around town looking though all the shops. We also had Baskin Robins! They are everywhere!

I felt full cultural immersion. I was in Saudi Arabia, with my new friends from Jordan, planning to ride the next day with a new friend from Germany.

I will write about the race in my next post with videos and more pictures.

Sunday after the race I went to watch the 160k race start. I was also looking for a ride to the airport. The owner I rode for the day before (Faisal) was racing the 160k. His spent his entire vet hold trying to find someone that could take me to the airport. By the time he left he had one of his two crew people leave with me so I could get to the airport on time. The whole drive the crew guy (I’m so disappointed I can’t remember is name) and I spent laughing. He did not speak great English, but he was teaching me Arabic while he drove very quickly to the airport. Back to Dubai for one night and then home.

As I reflect upon this experience, I want to thank all the people and countries that helped me. We had Italy, Jordan, UAE, Saudi, Germany, Canada, France, and of course all my loving support back in the US all play a part in my adventure. Especially Valerie Kanavy and her husband Larry who listen, advice and support all of my crazy dreams and ideas.

Without all these people I could not have done this. This is what I love most about traveling. You meet so many different people and experience so many different cultures. My travel bug is even worse now. I can’t wait for future adventures on the global equestrian stage. I can’t wait to meet more people who will become lifelong friends.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Sanoma’s endurance adventures in New Zealand

BlakeleyStables.com - Full Story

February 5 2024
Sanoma Blakeley

New Zealand is somewhere I've always wanted to go. On the big world map hanging above my bed, NZ has a blue pin to indicate my desire to visit. However, this winter it wasn’t just a bucket list place I wished to someday visit, it was more of a “how can I get myself there?”. My really good friend was going to be in NZ for 3 months and she invited me to visit her. I’m always up for an adventure and good time with Addi, so naturally New Zealand was hot on my radar. In November I was deeply involved in my second favorite pastimes (looking for cheap flights) when I came across a REALLY good deal for a flight to New Zealand. I didn’t need to give it a second thought before throwing them in my cart.

Of course, before buying my flight, I did a quick internet search to see if there were any endurance rides in NZ that I could possibly schedule my trip around. My preliminary search showed several endurance rides with 2 different sanctioning organizations and one ride from each organization that would work with the flight deal.

I bought my economy, non-refundable or changeable flight and decided to reach out to these ride organizations and see what kind of adventures we could cook up:). I was quickly offered a horse for both of the rides that were scheduled during the duration of my trip.

I tried to talk Barrak into joining me on this trip and a preliminary google search revealed a incentive for him to come. There was going to be a triathlon there. That and the fact that he only sees the sun 4 hours a day in the winter living in Alaska and New Zealand, being in the southern hemisphere, is in the middle of their summer. Oh, and surfing... that was also on my list of reasons he should come with me. That and just because I love his company when traveling.

Everything came together and I readily accepted Robyn's offered to ride her horse, Makahiwi Titan in the 120km (75mile) Waimeha Mandate Cup on the 4th of February. Robyn was so incredibly hospitable and generous that I could hardly wait for my trip...

Read the rest here:
https://www.blakeleystables.com/post/sanoma-s-endurance-adventures-in-new-zealand

Friday, December 22, 2023

Barefoot in New Mexico 2023 - Valerie Jaques

FurtherAdventuresTeam91 Blog - Full Story

December 21 2023
Valerie Jaques

For Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to try to sneak in one last ride before the end of the AERC ride season.

The results weren't entirely what I was hoping for, but we had a good time anyway.

This was the first time I've ever "trailer pooled" with another rider. What started this was my friend, Alex Collier, who is currently in New Mexico, was also hoping to get in another ride or two. So the initial plan was I would bring Demon and Halo, the horse she has been riding owned by TJ Davis, and we'd meet at the ride. Well, then TJ decided she'd really like to go, too. And there was another rider, Mari, who was hoping to get in another ride or two. So in the end, TJ packed up her 4 horse LQ, loaded Halo and Pazzport, and picked up me, Demon, and Trey.

Trey had done so well at Bill Thornburgh, and was looking so fit, I thought it would be pretty cool for him to complete a 50. This ride was a good choice for a first 50, being largely flat and good footing, so Trey could be expected to do well barefoot (as the ride's name suggests, hoof protection is not especially necessary).

Travel to the ride was a bit more eventful than anticipated, but that's a story for another time. Suffice to say, we persevered! We arrived in camp late morning on the Friday...

Read the rest here:
https://furtheradventuresteam91.blogspot.com/2023/12/barefoot-in-new-mexico-2023.html

Thursday, November 16, 2023

2023 Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of My Way Endurance Ride - Julie Figg

November 15 2023
By Julie Figg

Yes, those are cactus in the background and no, we are not in our usual backyard. Rudy and I travelled to McDowell Mountain for the endurance ride that was put on last weekend.

I've always wanted to participate in this event but since Sprite, my other Appy, gets such a heavy coat, like a wooly mammoth, I never went. Well, situation changed and this year Rudy is mature enough to handle a few more rides so last Thursday we packed up and headed to Phoenix. Overnighted at Summer Sage Stables in Flag, which, BTW, is a fabulous place to stay.

I'd entered the 75 as I wanted to see how Rudy did riding at night. I've done a few night rides and really enjoy the trail in the darkness. It is magical, a little terrifying at times and totally fun. Our goal was not to burn trail but have a nice steady ride and finish.

The ride started at 6 am and there were only 2 other riders in the 75. At this time of the morning It was still 0darkthirty. Since Rudy can sometimes get a bit excited at the start, like moving sideways and getting all silly, I opted to let the other 2 go ahead. Good move as the single track trail was lined with cactus of every sort. I could just imagine the explosion we'd have if we brushed a chola cactus bundle. So with the other 2 out of earshot we trotted out on a nice loose rein.

I was told the first loop can be a bit rocky on the out and back. Yes, they were right however the scene of the sun coming up over the mountains was absolutely beautiful. Since Rudy is not exactly tinker bell we had to take it slow on the rocky section. We finished the first 26 mile loop in exactly 4 hours. Right on track to finish around 8 pm, my goal.

Hold was uneventful, Rudy pulsed in with a 48 and all A's. I knew the challenge would be coming though and it didn't involve trail, it would be the heat. I'd clipped his neck and a bit of his flank but living at 6800 feet and having feet of snow in the winter lends any horse to grow a thick winter coat.

I did not want a metabolic pull, not a cloud in the sky and was pushing 80 degrees so the next loop I rode accordingly. Taking care not to overdo Rudy I sponged at every tank and walked stuff I'd normally trot. Coming into the hold after 24 miles Rudy pulsed in at 44/36! I was surprised the vet Susan took the 2nd pulse after the down and back but she was doing it for everyone. By the look on her face I almost thought something was wrong but when she said, hmm what is 9 times 4 I knew it was the low HR!

Our out time was 4:32 so my plan was to get as many miles in I could before it got dark. Rudy thought otherwise, he is a horse when out in wide open space by himself can get a little unmotivated and poky. The next 9 miles he rode like a slug, I couldn't get him motivated. I knew I had plenty of horse under me but geez! That's ok, I rode the horse I had and at this point I didn't want to upset the apple cart. The sunset was gorgeous and the lights of Phoenix were off in the distance, what a sight! The trail lights looked like small fireflies and without them I'd have been sunk. The small white ribbon of trail was visible enough that I didn't use my flashlight however with its twists and turns Rudy and I spent the time trotting/walking.

At mile 16 or so at the hay and water stop there was a trail volunteer out there with COOKIES! OMG what an inspiration, I thanked her profusely and enjoyed my snack. Rudy chowed down on some beautiful green alfalfa and at this point I knew we could get this ride in the bag.

Onward we went and the next couple of miles were uneventful. Mind you, I'd been hearing coyotes howling in the distance on and off all night but I was surprised to hear them now so close! Little bastards started to follow me, I could tell as their little yippy howls were staying behind me. I've been tracked before by a coyote at my brother in law's place but not by 3 or 4 of them. I finally turned around and screamed at them something not repeatable and shined my bright light their way. This got them off my tail, thankfully! They were probably just curious about what was tromping around in their world in the darkness. I never felt spooked by their presence, it was just weird.

Crossing the road Stephanie DuRoss was there to greet me and offer up hay and water for my pony and encouragement and a snack for me! What a treat! It was great to hear I only had about 4 miles to go! The lights of camp never looked so good! We finished around 9 pm with all A's and a HR of 44.

What a well run ride! The vets were fantastic and the whole event was beyond well run. Loved the dinner on Friday and the ride meeting was the best. Trails were super well marked and water and hay plentiful. Thank you for such a super event, I'll be back! Oh, did the ride in Easyboots, have been using them all year on all my rides, a first. THANKS AGAIN TO ALL THAT PUT THIS RIDE ON, A CLASS EVENT!!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The Maiden Voyage of the S.S.S. Hillbillie Willie - Merri Melde

TheEquestrianVagabond blog - Full Story

November 2 2023
by Merri Melde

Super. Star. Standardbred. Hillbillie Willie takes a solo trip to the Weiser River Trail Halloween ride

The last ride of the season was going to be one big adventure: Willie’s first solo Endurance ride. He hadn’t trailered anywhere by himself since 2016, and he’s always had his bestest buddies with him at any ride he’s traveled to.

Loading, transport, and arrival went remarkably well to Cambridge, Idaho, 2.5 hours away… so, so far so good!

There were a few horses already in camp when we arrived at the fairgrounds, but the best distraction was: grass! Willie is not a voracious eater, but my goodness, he loves him some grass. He doesn’t get much of that living in the Owyhee desert. We spent a while grazing, and then I put him in a fairgrounds pen beside other quiet Endurance horses, and I never heard a peep out of Willie while I set up his pen at Regina’s trailer.

When I moved him to his trailer pen, a few more trailers had arrived, and Willie whinnied now and then, but he never ran his pen with anxiety, so I thought things were looking up. When Melissa and David drove in, I flagged them down to park next to us, as we’d all be riding the 50, and they’d finish before Willie and I did, so he’d always have new buddies close to him.

Due to this and that, I got approximately seven minutes of sleep Friday night, but that wasn’t because of Willie - I only heard a few whinnies out of him during the cold night. But come early morning, when people started bustling about in the dark and horses started waking up, Willie let loose. He whinnied every 30 seconds, for like an hour. When I went out to tie him to the trailer to saddle him up, he was uncharacteristically antsy, wiggling about with big wide eyes. This was the most worked up he’d been at the start of a ride in years, which made me a bit nervous. What was he going to be like mounting, and starting on the trail?...

Read the rest here:
https://theequestrianvagabond.blogspot.com/2023/11/the-maiden-voyage-of-sss-hillbillie.html

Thursday, November 02, 2023

2023 AERC Young Rider National Championship! - Mollie Quiroz

By Mollie Quiroz
November 1 2023

This past weekend was one to remember! I was lucky enough to fly back to Auburn for a few days to compete at Camp Far West in the 75 mile Young Rider National Championship with Mack and ride the 50 the next day with Grit.

After spending the last few weeks helping getting everything organized for the race, I was thrilled for the chance to actually get to ride. Mack’s had a big season this year. He did 2 50s to start our season, came in 10th place at Tevis in a very competitive field, and came in 2nd place in the Virginia City 100 7 weeks later also among a highly competitive field. Since VC in September, Mack has been resting in anticipation for our season finale which was the Young Rider National Championship at Camp Far West.

Although the field was small, we knew it would be a super competitive group and that I would have to ride smart and stick to our plan in order to be successful.

I got on Mack early Saturday morning and got him all warmed up so we’d be ready to go once the trail opened. I started the day with Reyna Mero and we moved along at a brisk pace but had a great time talking and exchanging stories. Our horses went together really well and we had a similar ride strategy. We were a few minutes behind Sanoma, who was in first, when we came into the first vet check.

The horses pulsed and vetted and before we knew it, it was time to head back out. We went out on our second loop and once again had a great time. The horses looked great and felt really good.

We came into the second vet check, pulsed, vetted, and I was able to discuss the rest of my ride plan with Sam during my hold. Once I got cleared to go, we decided that it was time for me to start to make my move. Mack and I’s competitive side had kicked in, especially after a comment about how we would never catch first place. I knew I had a lot of horse left but I was curious to see how Mack would handle the speed increase over the next two loops.

Mack and I took off out of the vet check to chase down Sanoma who was 5 minutes ahead of me. We started passing people doing the 50 and the 30 which only motivated Mack more. A couple miles in we saw Sanoma and the chase was on. We caught her and rode into the next check with her. Mack ended up pulsing one minute ahead of her horse and that was all we needed!

It came time to go out on our last loop and the race was on! Mack never let off the gas and he felt fantastic. We came across the finish line in 1st place, a good ten or so minutes ahead of the next rider. Mack vetted through and we had officially won the Young Rider National Championship! The icing on the cake was finding out later that night that Mack also won High Vet Score and Best Condition by around 200 points!! It was the perfect end to our season.

Sunday morning came early and that meant it was time to go back out for the 50 mile ride with Tierney and Ryan. I got the chance to take Grit for a spin again and had so much fun! I led the girls through the first loop and that was it! I put them in front and they paced us wonderfully through the ride. They worked together when it came to leading and setting the pace. I was so proud of them and amazed at how far they’d come in the last year. The horses looked great and they took great care of them throughout both days.

The three of us took home 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place with Tierney winning the overall Best Condition aware and Ryan winning the Junior Best Condition award. Thank you to Kimberly Ellis and Katie Stilwell Beloberk for trusting me to race with these awesome kids! They are truly incredible!

This weekend and this season would not have been possible without so many amazing people! First a huge thank you to John Brain and Brain Ranch Horseshoeing for keeping Mack’s feet happy all season long! He always felt so amazing and I never had to worry about his shoes!

Also a huge thank you to Dr. Jennifer Elizabeth Mayfield for being the incredible vet that she is. Without her we wouldn’t have been able to get to the bottom of the issues Mack has had in the past and I can’t say enough about how amazing she has been with getting him to where he is now.

Another big thank you to Cara Choy for ensuring that Mack felt his best all season! It all came together this past weekend and we couldn’t have done it without Cara!

We also want to give a big thank you to Specialized Saddles for donating such an amazing award for 1st place! We primarily ride in Specialized and it’s always been a dream to win one and this ride provided me with that opportunity!

Thank you to Shawn and Lisa Bowling and Crater Hill Equestrian for everything they do for us! They not only put on the ride and gave us this chance, but also encouraged us and cheered us on throughout the season and made it all possible!

And my biggest thank you goes to Samantha Ellis for pushing us this season to reach our goals and then some, but also encouraging Mack and I to keep pushing and working endlessly to get to the bottom of any concerns I had about Mack. We couldn’t have this without you and I’m so happy we were able to bring it home

Now Mack gets the next 6 months off to rest and recover and just be a horse. He’s more than earned it!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

2023 Man Against Horse - Virginia Jenkins

by Virginia Jenkins
October 30 2023

Molly and I were looking to squeeze in one more ride this season as we weren't quite ready for it to end. So, off we went to Man Against Horse! I had always heard of this ride, but had never had the opportunity to go. We saw they had belt buckles as completion prizes and sent our entries within the hour.

Flite has been the star of the show this season, but I have been consistently riding Shaw while Flite rested. We did the LD at Buffalo Creek in August and he did so well that I decided to throw him into a 50 for this ride so I could sneak in a first year towards decade. I made this decision with the most ignorant view despite everyone's cautions, "Oh, it won't be that hard. We're from the MOUNTAIN region. Arizona can't have anything on our mountain rides, it'll be a breeze!"

Well. We were humbled. When Arizona says they climb a mountain, they climb a damn mountain. All. The. Way. To. The. Top.

Shaw and Joey started out a little fiery for the first 5 miles or so and then settled into a nice pace. Shaw had that excited face of a toddler and was giving it all he had while still being respectful of my rating.

We got up the first climb pretty easily and thought we had our suspicions confirmed that this wasn't ACTUALLY a hard ride and this must be the mountain they're talking about. At this point, Joey kept acting like he was dying and would stop in the middle of the trail. Shaw led us a ways until Princess Joey could find the will (or force) to continue through his hunger.

We rolled into the first vet check and vetted through easily. I had popped a cable on one of Shaw's hind renegades, but it miraculously didn't budge for about 10 mile so I had to figure out that situation during the 30 minute hold.

Luckily, Cathy had a magic bag full of renegades and loaned me the perfect size. I decided to try to work with the broken boot as long as I could so I wouldn't put much wear on Cathy's boot. Molly had some electrical tape in her bag, so I wrapped it up and put the spare in my bag. It stayed on almost the whole ride until I was foolish enough to take it off not realizing the roll of tape must've fallen out of the saddle bag.

While we were at this first check, a volunteer saw us put our coolers on and said, "If you need those here, you'll definitely need them at the top."

Hahaha, sure. You mean the top of the next "mountain" we'll climb? Should be EASY.

We moseyed on out of the check and this is where Shaw was really confused about what we were doing in the middle of nowhere, so far from the temporary semblance of home that was base camp. Despite, he plodded along behind Joey, our fearless leader.

This road went on FOREVER. The last ride I did was Virginia City and I kept saying, "Why all these ROCKS?"

When they say it's rocky, you should believe them.

We kept thinking that if we were reaaaally going up a mountain, we'd have to start heading up soon since there were only a few miles to the vet check. More proof it wasn't going to be a real mountain. That peak ahead of us isn't feasible. Well, we got to Check 6: The Oasis. Here, they burst our bubble. We asked how far to the vet check and they said, "A couple miles, but you're headed up there." He pointed to the top of the mountain that we had NO idea would really be the trail. We gulped and continued onward.

This part of the trail was absolutely insane. I trailed most of it and at point point Joey was going very fast and Shaw was chasing him, but I couldn't see much of the terrain because I was sprinting over it too fast trying to keep up. Molly later said she closed her eyes during that part 😂

I continued to tail and Molly hiked since Joey is above tailing. We passed a runner and he said, "Only 1000ft to go!" WHAT? We've already climbed so much, how do we still have 1000ft?? On we went.

We swapped positions so Molly could tail off of Shaw and we continued to climb the mountain. I finally couldn't go any further without being a hindrance, so we both mounted up. Up ahead we saw the boulders we were told about. I heard Molly behind me say, "That can't be the trail, right?"

Yup, here we go! Shaw navigated it expertly like he'd been doing endurance for decades. We got to the top and into the next check nicely, but were still in shock because of the literal mountain we climbed and how well our boys did. We left that check with 17 miles (I think) to go and it was pretty uneventful down the mountain. We got to the flat area close to camp at the boys had enough gas to canter in and ask to go faster.

We both finished and earned our fancy buckles. It sure was an accomplishment and I definitely have another talented endurance horse on my hands. I am wildly impressed with him! Can't wait to see where we go next! Thanks for the adventure, Molly!

Saturday, October 14, 2023

2023 Autumn Sun 100 - Julie Bittick

October 10 2023
By Julie Bittick

Last ride of the season

Starting at 5:30 am, self preservation made sure we went out last and did not catch another rider until we had a few miles under our belt. AND when we finally caught up to the first riders ahead of us, Hondo actually stopped, watched them trot away and took the time to pee before moving on….what?!! He also had zero shaking when I was saddling up pre-ride, he knows his job and finally seems completely comfortable in that space!!

Hondo was golden, it’s amazing the transformation over this season. In April I’m pretty sure fellow endurance riders were writing my eulogy when they saw our horrific and totally embarrassing start to the first endurance ride of the season. Now on our last ride of the season, Hondo was as cool as a cucumber. Lots of hard work and putting into practice great advice from some of our top horse men and women finally paid off!

My focus was to just be better than our first 100. So basically don’t get lost (yep almost had a temper tantrum that would put toddlers to shame at Midnight Rider) and I had more trust in Hondo’s fitness and amazing recoveries (so I let him move!)

By mile 80 we finally caught up to the 1st and 2nd position riders, just when I was passing my stirrup leather snapped. OMG what the heck!!

After assuring David and Melissa Laws that all was fine, I started to channel my inner MacGyver. Not holding back any punches here, my inner MacGyver SUCKS! I hade a couple of zip ties and a carabiner. That jimmy rig lasted about 10 steps.

So then I channeled my inner tough girl and decided I would just ride without stirrups. That lasted about 2 miles, muscles screaming and thighs being rubbed raw, decided my inner tough girl sucked!

So then I engaged the brain - do I have cell service? Yes! 1 bar, just enough to call in crew. The amazing crew, there would not be a success story without them!! I was 5 miles from where the trail met the road and somehow @ 10:30pm there were folks more than happy to drop everything and meet me to swap out tack and keep us moving forward. Will never be able to fully repay their kindness!

Back in the grove and moving forward I finally looked up and saw there was a meteor shower on display, the best one was the huge streak across the sky and a large ball of explosion. If I hadn’t realized the meteorological event going on, I would have freaked out thinking a plane had exploded in the sky.

I believe this amazing astronomy event was put on for the 40th birthday of our fearless ride manager and all around beautiful human being, Jessica Huber.

Hondo and I finally made it back to camp by 12:30am and he looked so great! Hondo tied for high vet score with Melissa Laws beautiful grey.

It is an honor to be a partner to this horse!

Thank you to all the volunteers, vets, and crew! There would not be the sport of endurance without you. Merri Melde for the picture credit.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

2023 Quicksilver - Nick Warhol

October 3 2023
by Nick Warhol
photo by Nina Bomar

The Quicksilver ride went off very well this past weekend in San martin, Ca. We had a great turnout, in fact the best in several years with about 21 in the 50, about 49 in the 25, and about 18 fun riders. The weather was perfect all weekend except for, of course, ride day. Wouldn’t you know we would get the first measurable rain in months on Saturday. It wasn’t much, and the cool weather was sure nice, but it was wet enough to get some of the trails a little sticky and slippery in the morning. Brian Reeves and I spent 11 hours on Thursday marking the trail and getting the water on the trail, then on Friday I went back out to finish the marking and check to be sure the cows had not done their usual damage on the signs. They did not; in fact, this is the first time in the many years I have been marking this trail that we did not lose a single sign. We also provided Ride with GPS that a lot of people tried and liked.

I spent a couple of nights at the Kilty-Newburn Hilton in San Martin, where Sorsha got her own plush, private pasture. Thanks Jill and Michael! On Friday night I was going to stay in camp, but I did not have a place to sleep since I did not have my camper, so I got treated to a queen size bed in the Schneider rolling Hilton. I even got to sleep with Pony, Shel’s sweet dog, on my bed. She’s a big one, not a foo-foo dog. I have not slept with a dog on the bed since I was about ten. It was nice! She’s a real sweetheart. Thanks Lisa and Shel! Speaking of dogs, I had to include a picture of Lori Oleson’s new puppy, Jemma, who was taking care of crew duties for Lori. She’s a lab, but what a color! And I thought Podie was a cute puppy!

I started out on the first loop of the 50 in the light rain, riding with Nina Bomar from down south. We rode the whole first loop together and had a nice ride. I thought her horse was a seasoned, experienced guy since he was so good. Turns out it was his third ride! Nice horse. We did have to take it pretty easy in a few spots due to the slippery conditions. I did not have any issues with mud sticking to Sorsha’s shoes since I had the Equi-pack sole guard in there, but her feet kept throwing mud up all over. It hit the bottom of my shoe, which stuck, then it got between the stirrup and my foot. It was a bit slippery there for a while till I stopped and got rid of the mud from my shoes. We had a great loop- we just rode along and made the best of the wet conditions.

Except for the vet check. You may have heard that like in baseball, in endurance riding you can always have something happen that has never happened before. Yep, in my 32 years and 15K miles I have never crashed in a vet check while trotting my horse for the vet. Michael Newburn drove the ambulance trailer up to the vet check; it was parked with the back open at 90 degrees, and pretty close to the vet trot out lanes. I was in the lane closest to the trailer as I trotted Sorsha for the vet. Michael was sitting on a chair inside the back of the trailer, and just as we trotted by, he moved. Sorsha saw that and jumped to her left a bit, which is where I was. She basically body-checked me in mid trot. She trots fast for the vet! I took a real header, hitting the dirt and actually rolling over a couple of times. She just stopped while I picked myself up and tried to brush off the embarrassment. I was the laughingstock of the vet check for a while. I reminded everyone that “we shall never speak of this again!” Thank goodness no one got a video of that one!

Lunch at 25 miles went quickly; I headed back out and hooked up with Lisa Schneider on Shel’s horse Paco. Another great horse! He really moved along nicely. The second loop was great since the mud was gone and the trails were in nice shape. I have not ridden with Lisa for a while, so we just trucked along at a great pace, catching up on family, horses, and of course AERC stuff. We got to the last check at mile 38, and picked up a junior rider named Stella Stilwell, whose mom, Karen, had been pulled. A REAL junior. 8 years old! Lisa took her on in a heartbeat, and let me tell you, this kid is incredible. She rode her horse in front of Lisa and I just about the whole 12 miles to the finish, and she knows how to ride! She actually paces perfectly, much better than a lot of adults I know. She knows when to stop and walk. Oh, and she just happened to have finished the Virginia City 100 a couple of weeks ago. She’s 8! It was a treat to ride with her.

We let Stella come in ahead of us for fifth, I got sixth, and Lisa seventh. Our ride time was just over 8 hours- it was a 24.5 mile LD and a 49 mile 50 this year. The only issue I know of was a woman came off at about mile one and got hurt with a concussion and got taken to the hospital. I don’t know who it was, or the extent of her injuries yet, but She did get a ride back to camp with Juan on my quad, so I think she’s okay. Juan and Rachael went out and found the horse, and Rachael led it back to camp on foot. A long way! Thanks, Rachel!

Nina ended up with BC, which is pretty cool, since it’s a new horse. Sorsha blew through the ride as usual, and hit her 2000 mile mark with her finish. It was a great weekend from my perspective; we got loads of compliments on the ride in general. Thanks to ride manager Jerry Wittenauer and his crew, to Brian for his help with the trail and vet check work, to Jill and Michael for putting up with me and my Big, Brown, Girly Horse, and to Lisa, Shel, and Pony for the great bed on Friday night. The ride will return next year, better than ever, with some changes and improvements. It better be back- it’s the only ride in the Bay Area anymore, unless the fireworks makes a return. That’s so depressing. Next stop: camp far west if all goes according to plan!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

2023 Antelope Island - Dane Berry

September 24 2023
By Dane Berry

It has taken me a while to write this recap, mostly so I could find the words to properly give credit to the amazing veterans, juniors, and everyone else more experienced than me in this sport (which is basically everyone!) who do these rides as a matter of routine. This, my first 50 mile ride was an eye opening, grueling, difficult, amazing, rewarding, and ultimately uplifting experience that has to be lived to truly be understood. I therefore don’t write this post pridefully, but rather in full humility that I truly only succeeded due to support from friends, family, I suppose a little personal insanity, and of course my amazing horse Nico.

Overall, let this preface suffice: I am in awe and respect all of you riders who embark in this sport; I have so much to learn from all of you. Conversely, I can confidently say as probably one of the most inexperienced beginners that just decided to go and attempt a 50-mile ride as my second ever event, that ALL of you looking to get into the sport of endurance CAN DO IT. If I can, you can… Hear me out.

Antelope Island 50-mile endurance Ride, Sept 16 2023 Ride Report

Exactly two years ago, Sept 23rd 2021 was the first time I swung my leg over Nico. It was that first ride that I felt an immediate connection and so I purchased him about a week later. In today's horse buying/selling market, I consider it a miracle that he is the horse I found! I don't recommend to most people doing it how I did it... I had not ridden a horse in about 16 years, and even when I had ridden as a teenager it was very minimal experience with no lessons; just a few odd rides basically. I just loved horses my whole life so I made the plunge and just bought one (as opposed to maybe smarter avenues of pursuing horses, like lessons or leasing!). On top of that, I decided to purchase a fresh trained 8 year old Arabian… A friend of mine retroactively told me that they legitimately thought I was going to die, inexperienced as I was going and buying an Arabian out the gate!

The whole story is too long for here, but know that for two solid years, Nico and I worked hard together to build a bond and develop a relationship. Fast forward to Sat 16 2023, exactly 1 week shy of our two-year anniversary, 5am in the morning. I walked over to Nico’s pen at Antelope Island. I would like to say that we had a special ‘moment’ where he ‘told’ me that he was ready to do this penultimate event… but true to his nature he mostly just ignored me in favor of the fresh hay I had thrown into his pen. Giving him a pat I readied myself for the day.

The first 5 miles are on a smooth, slightly gravely road. This is of note, because I’ll set the stage here for you to understand Nico’s hoof situation. Nico is barefoot and has been for our entire season. Knowing the terrain we would face, I did everything possible to try to get shoeing options worked out before the ride, bought some glue-ons and everything, but it turned out to be impossible. The situation for trying to figure this stuff out leading up to the ride were on my mind persistently and a constant stress. All you need to know, however, is that on ride day all we had was a pair of front scoot boots, my knowledge of the course, and Nico’s amazing mind to protect himself and his hooves (Update FYI – I finally have a farrier coming out this week to help me for the first time all year! This will be game changing for us moving forward).

We conquered these first 5 miles by alternating areas where we could ride just off the road, or when we were on the road I would dismount and we would run together on the ground; anything I could do to save a little pressure on his feet. After these 5 miles, I knew the next solid stretch was amazing trails so I decided to take off the scoot boots; as his movement is much more freed up without them (they fit decently well, but he’s always told me he likes it better without them). We made solid time through the miles but to my chagrin we had lost the boots from my saddle. I have secured them to the saddle previously in training with no mishaps, but in my own human race-brain I must not have attached them adequately enough. I tried to back track to find them but to no avail. We ended up doing the entire rest of the ~45 miles completely barefoot.

Completing the first 15 miles was tough but we managed it by being smart on the hills and taking our time over any rocks, making up time wherever there was good footing. Taking a brief water break back at ride camp (not an official vet hold), we gritted our teeth and headed out on the remaining ~12ish miles to the vet hold at White rock.

While this portion is vastly comprised of amazing hoof-safe trails, Nico still seemed to be struggling to me. It was getting hot, and his impulsion was at an all time low which is rare for him. Every time someone passed us in either direction, he would stop cold, as if they were there to save him. It was interesting, because as opposed to City of Rocks where I had to work a little bit with his ‘race brain’ this whole first segment of the ride I had to overcome the opposite. He seemed unmotivated, hot, and not wanting to go out. I had been monitoring his electrolytes and water intake so I knew that theoretically he should be fine. I also know my horse very well and have definitely put in the time and effort in training, so I was very worried about pushing him too hard especially with my hoof concerns. These 12 miles for me were a matter of grit and a true gut-check, as almost every step I was very worried about him and I was loosing energy myself. My inexperience was definitely showing!

We crawled into the first vet check. I was emotionally exhausted already, as I definitely wasn’t taking in enough elytes and nutrients for myself (yes a huge learning experience). I told my concerns to the ride manager, vet and volunteers. I have to admit that in my mind I was definitely teetering on the decision on whether to pull from the ride. We were going slow enough that we were on the cusp of not making time and in my inexperienced and concerned state I was worried that Nico’s hooves and impulsion couldn’t hold up. Despite my negative internal thoughts I told myself I wouldn’t make a decision until of course the vet check, and if we passed that I would wait the entire hold to refuel myself so I could be in a better state of mind. Transparent honesty to everyone reading this though – I was struggling!

The pulse down and vet check was telling… Nico pulsed down immediately, and passed the vet check with flying colors, not a lame step or hint of soreness. Volunteers and experienced people there commented on how well he was looking. One amazing lady (don’t know her name) mentioned that based off of my comments she figured that maybe he was just slightly sore on the more rocky portions, but probably the main issue was that he was being a little lazy, bored, and needed to strengthen his mental toughness. These, and other expert observations gave me the internal steel I needed. I know I have taken care of him, I know we have trained, I know that he (we) could do this! Overhearing the conversation, a very kind rider that happened to be getting water at the check on their way back home offered me her riding crop, just to give Nico a little encouragement. I decided that we would set out on the next 8 mile loop; and if things looked good, we would make the effort!

Aside: I can’t say how grateful I am for everyone at that hold – Jeff (ride manager), my mother, volunteers, and the vet. They listened to my concerns and acknowledged them. They were non-judgmental of me, and I know they would have supported my decision if I chose to pull. However, even while having amazing support, they also expertly advised me and encouraged me. I’m not sure how they did it, but they pulled off giving me the perfect balance of understanding and ‘push’ that I needed. As a person and an athlete I am extremely hard on myself already, and no one there made me feel weak, embarrassed or any negative emotion. It was a wholly rejuvenating environment and gave me what I needed to continue. I literally couldn’t have done it without them all.

Nico and I set off, and while the crop helped immensely, I only really needed to use it the one time at the start, and all the sudden the entire rest of the ride was completely different. He set off with amazing strength and confidence in each step. We still walked cautiously on rocky portions; but everywhere else there was not a hint of the previous lethargy or lack of impulsion. He was breathing great, and seemed to be growing in strength even though we had already gone over half the ride in the ~80degree heat. We did the 8 mile loop in just about one hour, made up a ton of time and more importantly had found a new determination… we could do it!

After another brief water break, we set off! We ended up riding a portion back with some great riders – Amy and Amanda who were out on two of Jeff’s horses. It was a much needed mental boost for Nico and myself. We stuck with them for about 5-7 miles or so, at which point Nico had made such a mental turn around that he was actually NOW – 80% done with the ride – getting stronger and stronger and even starting to exhibit some ‘race brain’. I pulled him off of the other two horses just to recoup his mind, and once we were ¼ mile off, I let him continue to push strong and open up when he wanted to. He immediately reconnected mentally with me, and we made the entire rest of the way at a trot/canter, Nico never missing a beat and showing amazing strength the whole way home.

We got 8th place, turtle award, finishing in 8:47. We had gone from almost not making time and worried about pulling, to finishing stronger than I thought possible. Nico pulsed down quickly (I think 5-10 minutes max), and vetted out with his CRI being a solid 48/48 and still having no lame steps. Our only health issues at all were on myself, as I ended up throwing up and having a hard time recovering over the next few hours, something I gladly accepted because my horse was safe and sound, and my own inexperienced self can learn how to eat/drink better for next time haha.

TLDR/Summary.

Jeffrey, ride management, volunteers, family, friends, vets, Nikki, Amy, Tanya, Matthew, Merri My Green-Bean Team Heather, Joy, Tennielle (if I didn't tag you doesn't mean I don't appreciate you!): Thank you so much to everyone who made this ride possible and got me through to the end. I literally would not have made it without you.

Veterans and current participants in the sport: I respect you and admire you. From those who do intro rides, LD’s, to 50’s, 100’s and everything else, you (we) are a gritty and amazing group of people and athletes. Pat yourself on the back, because you are pretty cool just by attempting this sport!

Those of you entering the sport – make friends, talk to people, their support and experience are invaluable. Also give back and help those around you! I see often the comment ‘what can I do to get into the sport.’ Some great advice I hear is ‘just go and volunteer’ etc. I have one thing to expound on this excellent advice: Do something that is ONE STEP outside your comfort zone. If your comfort zone is to just stay home and not go at all, then go volunteer at a ride. If your comfort zone is to volunteer, then go and volunteer but also bring your horse to ride camp so you can learn together. If your comfort zone is maybe camping with your horse but you are unsure about the ride, then go and do an intro or LD. If your comfort zone is an LD; don’t be afraid, sign up for a 50 and see what happens! After two years of training, my comfort zone was to make it to that first vet check… yet with those around me and Nico we survived and excelled at that one step beyond my comfort zone, and grew because of it.

Whatever your comfort zone is, or whatever you can achieve know this: I support you whatever level it is!

This is a singularly amazing sport with amazing people. Go to your barn or pasture, give your horse a treat, and start making plans on how you’ll achieve your goals. Nico and I will see you there.

Friday, September 22, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Siri Olson

By Siri Olson
September 19 2023

Each year I try to pick one goal ride. This season VC 100 was on the list. We trained hard, consistently, and did all the things to prepare, beginning in February. The thing about endurance is that it is not an over night process. It is very much a long term commitment.

The ride finally rolled around and plans had been in the making for quite sometime.

We found ourselves rolling into ride camp Thursday before the ride. Its a long drive!! We had some down time and relaxed. The horses settled in great! Friday night was definitely a sleepless night. So sleepless I literally started counting sheep to shut my brain off. My alarm went off and I told my husband that I wasn't sure Troop and I could do this. I was so scared! What was I thinking? Like really, the VC 100?? The toughest ride we have ever attempted and undoubtedly one of the toughest rides in the US. Is Troop ready? Is he really a 100 mile horse? Look at the 100 mile field of riders!! How could we possibly compete here, of all places?? Kevin is always supportive and told me get up and get it done.

I was blessed, honored, and humbled to ride with one of my heroes Max Merlich on his bitch face mare, Layla, on his 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Max!! Congrats on your 100 mile completion.

I was also very honored to ride with badass Tani Bates! She is iconic and tough! Congratulations on Jericho's 1st 100 mile completion! Way to go to the toughest ride ever and knock it out of the park!

Then there's Troop. Yep, we had some A$$ Monkey moments. I mean really, it's not Troop without some antics and attitude. He Trooped through the day as steady as he could be. We both hit a low on those damn SOB's!! Hot, tired, not feeling the greatest. Lack of sleep? Over emotional? Dumb female hormones?? Here's the thing about endurance, the challenge is not always the literal trail. Sometimes it's that connection with your horse and/or with yourself, or just pacing 3 very different horses with different abilities and strengths. Flexibility. Adaptability. I always have a plan A, knowing adjustments will probably be made. For some reason I just couldn't find our steady rhythm. My biggest challenge was quite honestly with myself. I suck at speaking up because I want everyone to be happy and have fun. I don't want to be the spoiler or weak link, especially with my very non-typical endurance horse. I always put those I care about first and foremost, no matter what, even if it means making those adjustments. The first 51 miles was hard!!

We finally made it to the 51 mile vet check and I was not in the best head space. I had been riding with one contact (the other one was tore before I could even get it in that morning), had run out of water, and there was this pain in my shins I had never felt before. I needed hydration, FOOD, and time for my brain to process WTF was going on! I literally felt like I was falling apart and failing, miserably! My amazing husband fed us! Food tasted so good!! I got rid of that damn one contact and opted for glasses. Changed my clothes, panties and all. Grabbed a couple of tylenol. Took some time to just have my own pitty party and shed a few tears, okay, so ALOT!! Pulled up my big girl panties, sucked it up, and changed my plan, perspective, and goals for the ride. It wasn't just about finishing, it was so much more.

We marched out of that vet check like the bad asses we are! We were ready to kick this VC 100's tail! I opted to get off and lead Troop down the big hills in the daylight. He's not a downhill horse, especially those super steep downhills!! We could actually keep up with our Team on the downhills this way. And it helped get my shins feeling better. We knew this loop was going to get dark on us since it was so long. Our crew was so amazing to meet us at the road crossing before camp. Site for sore eyes for sure!!

We were almost back to ride camp when we had an incident on the trail. Could've been so much worse! So thankful it wasn't! We all pulled together made adjustments and got into camp for the 76 mile vet check. All the horses vetted through sound. One more loop, just one more loop.

For whatever reason I somehow thought the last loop was short. When we found out it was closer to 20, it was a bit demoralizing! Especially with all the other challenges throughtout the day (shoes, boots, more boots, ROCKS and more ROCKS, ect). It was time to go and get it done!!

We thought we could make up some time on the last loop. Nope! True to form, there was LOTS of walking!! Rocks, wash outs, boulders, trees, ect...And still the horses were feeling good. Troop pulled on me that entire last loop!! He was ready to go! But the trail kept us in low gear.

We trudged on with one goal in mind and that was to cross the finish line by 4:59 am. As we were creeping closer Max's head lamp died. Then Tani's. Max had a flashlight, but he needed 2 hands on his mare. Mine was still working. I gave Tani my extra headlamp. Mine finally died about 1/2 mile from the finish. As we climbed the last hill we could here our crew woopin'!! I smiled, my heart was full. Max literally stopped a foot before the finish line!! I had stopped behind him and literally pushed Layla across it! We finished at 4:30 am. Now we just needed to vet through. We walked ALOT on that last loop and it got chilly!! Troop is a big muscled boy!! If his muscles cool down, I worry about him stiffening up. It's happened! It was a 2 mile walk back to vetting from the finish line. I prayed silently that I did everything right all day for my big boy. He felt beyond great!! This is that scared thing. Scared of what?? Failure!!! Just need to pass one more test!!

That final trot out was the BEST!! Troop was STRONG and solid. Me, I was tired, mentally and emotionally exhausted!! We finished 44th and took the coveted Turtle award.

Our amazing crew is the absolute best!! Could not have done this ride without them! Thank you Darlene Merlich , Valerie Sharpe Vollbrecht and her Kevin, and my wonderful husband. They kept us going all day!! And documented our day with amazing videos and pictures. I am forever grateful!

Thank you to my most amazing ride partners with badass horses! Congrats on your well earned finish! We all got buckles baby!! Woop! Woop!

Thank you to #NASTR ride management and volunteers! The hospitality was amazing! BTW, I thought I held the record for losing 3 shoes in one ride. Not any more! Max wins with losing all 4 shoes in one ride!! And who knows how many boots!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Alex Lewis

By Alexandra Lewis
September 18 2023

It was a busy day here at VC100! It was SO FUN to see the PNW representing with so many horse and rider teams!!

Marco and I had an amazing first 25 miles with Stevie Delahunt and Carmen Jackson and Mallori Farrell ; horses were feeling fresh and ready to go!! Thanks for the fun this morning ladies!!

Marco had no problem navigating the rock in the dark, something I was worried about but clearly don't need to be! We cruised through the first 16 miles of the ride without a hitch and enjoyed the views and how strong Marco felt!! I was having to do a lot of holding him back, but I knew that was going to be the situation because of how fit he is right now!

As we started walking through someone's property which was where we were routed through, Marco went down in some sand onto both knees, cutting them up, and the right one was pretty bad. I noticed at the vet hold he had lost a glue on boot after I did a boot check at mile 10 or so, which is why I think he went down in the first place.

I doctored him up in under 3 minutes, had the bleeding stopped, liquid bandage on the cuts to keep them from getting dirty, and caught back up to the group. Marco felt strong after, but not 100%, which was concerning this early on in the ride.

I told Marco that I wanted to keep going, but we would stop at the check 25 miles in if he wasn't ok, but he needed to show me how he felt; not more than 1 mile later, he almost went down again on his knees, so I had pretty much made up my decision right then. And this wasn't because of the rock, this happened in areas without rock.

We had some steep grades to go down after that, and Marco wasn't as sure of himself on the downhill, so I stayed on the ground on the descents, and when we got down to flat road he wanted to fly and he felt GREAT on the flat... However this ride is anything but flat!!

Getting into Kivett Lane Vet Check, Marco vetted through with a 44 heart rate, but was every so slightly off, and the vets were super supportive in helping me figure out what to do!! Dr Dan Chapman gave me the option of icing and trotting again, which we did and Marco had improved, but my intuition told me not to go back out.

Dr Dan agreed that Marco's right knee would only get worse over 100 miles, not better, but if we wanted to keep icing and moving along in the ride to see, then we could keep going. To me it felt like staving off the inevitable. Marco was saying his knee was just ever so slightly painful so we better call it. I decided that it would be best if I Rider Optioned so we pulled. I feel really good about this choice, and for me the horses must always come first!

I had a FANTASTIC experience at this ride, it's so laid back, these Nevada Derby Riders know how to put on a great ride!! The trail was crazy rocky just as advertised and I can't wait to come back again to tackle the Virginia City 100!! Crysta Turnage you have to be there next season to ride it with me. Thank you for the wonderfully marked trail, a BEAUTIFUL view from camp, challenging trails, the great volunteers and management, and an epic adventure!!

Marco is all tucked in to his blanket, Simone Mauhl and Karen Gundersen and I are watching the horses come in, and it's been a good day. Thank you to these amazing women for showing up when I needed crew, and for having my back... Your friendships mean the world to me!! I'm grateful for your time this weekend with me, your hard work taking care of us, and the fun we had!!

On to the next adventure!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Virginia Jenkins

September 18 2023
By Virginia Jenkins

Virginia City 100... I can definitely say no one was lying about the rocks. Flite and I took on the historical trail and brought home a completion with a 20:05 ride time.

We started out at 5 am in front of the classic Delta Saloon - what a cool start. After the Virginia City sheriff led 60 horses and riders to the wrong start in his own city, we got on the trail. Flite and I cruised along in the dark through the rocks (and more rocks... and MORE rocks) and into the first vet check at 24 miles. Flite vetted in at 40 and 40 minutes later, we were off on the next loop of 15 miles. This loop had some sections with NO ROCK (crazy, I know), but also had Bailey Canyon where I managed to lose two octos. Thank goodness I had my renegades with me. I popped them on and off we went. We came into the Washoe Park check and Flite once again vetted out fabulously.

Next up was a 12 mile loop. But not just any 12 mile loop. Here, we conquered the SOBs (aptly named, imo). I decided to be a hero and hike up the first and second ones. The first one was seriously straight up and I thought I might die. Flite was rolling his eyes at me as he grabbed a snack while I could barely breathe. Next stop was at Basecamp at 51 miles. Flite looked great for the vet in, but didn't eat as well as he usually does. I really think he thought he was done and could take his time eating. Sorry buddy, we were only halfway!

Off we went on the next 25 mile loop. I had overheard some people saying the first loop back to Basecamp was the hardest, but they were WRONG. This loop took us up and up and up to Mt. Davidson. We reached the top just as we lost light. Many steep and rocky miles down and we arrived back at Basecamp at 76 miles. Flite looked like a million bucks and ate ravenously. We left camp in the dark to finish the last 24 miles. Flite did such a great job in the dark. He carefully picked his path and told me when it wasn't safe. We rode without any lights! I had heard this loop was easier and less rocky. Well, I guess when the rest of the trail is a rock pile, less rocky still means super rocky! It was very slow going in the dark, but we managed to arrive at the 94 mile vet check.

Flite had been feeling great so I confidently trotted him out for the vet. Lame. I was crushed and so confused. I removed his hoof boot and splint boot to see if there was something in there causing an issue. Nope. I took him back for a recheck after the vet finished vetting the pile of riders who arrived behind me and he was *slightly* better. She let us go the six miles into camp and try for a completion. Flite carried me the first couple miles where it was less technical, then I got off and hand walked the rest of the way. It was slow going, but we crossed the finish line at 4:25am.
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It wasn't over with just crossing the finish line though. We still had to pass the final vet check. Holding back tears, I walked him down to the vet area and let the vet know what was going on. He had me trot out and he took a few bad strides before evening out to earn a completion! Holy shit, what a relief! We had done it! This was truly an incredible accomplishment and I am so proud of my Flitey Boy. He never got unmotivated and conquered everything I asked of him. What an absolutely incredible horse.

We met a lot of wonderful people on trail and in canp (Jessica, Pam, Lucy, Annette to name a few) and generally had the best time.

Special thank you to my wonderful crew Gracie and Cressy. They took care of me and Flite so well AND even looked after baby Chile and Kaito while i was riding. I couldn't have done it without their help and support.

Thanks to ride management for putting on a top notch event with great organization and friendly faces. Everyone should ride this legendary ride if they can!

Edited to add that Flite is totally fine! Just a very tired booty from all the trotting downhill on rolling rocks

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The 5-day 255-mile Spanish Peaks Pioneer 2023 - Ann Wicks

By Ann Scott Wicks

Jicarilla Journey. Journ-Journ. Beautiful Girl. All names for my wonderful Mustang mare. I am so lucky to have this amazing horse in my life. She is kind, sensible, and as sure-footed as they come. And this past week, she gave me her all. She never once hesitated when I made the big ask at the SoCo Spanish Peaks endurance ride to try and ride five days in a row: 255 miles of challenging terrain in some of the most beautiful country I have ever ridden.

There are so many moving parts to a successful endurance ride, particularly one over 1,600 miles from home, that just arriving at ride camp with happy, healthy horses is a win. From there, we took it one day at a time. With my traveling companions, Lynne Gilbert and her horse Calvin, our primary goal was to complete the first day’s 50 mile ride. It turned out to be a hotter than expected day, and with the possibility that we might want to ride back-to-back 50’s if all went well, we took it easy and rode as conservatively as the horses would allow; they wanted to move out, and we spent a good bit of the day asking them to take it easy and slow down!

The next day felt a bit more challenging with more demanding trail that included lots of climbs and descents, but again, the scenery was spectacular and we got to ride alongside, and then over, one of the many rock walls that define this landscape. At the start of the ride, we joined up with Kelly Stoneburner and Jesse James, who were planning to ride all five days. It was another successful day due in large part to riding with Kelly and Jesse, who knew the trails so well and paced us accordingly. At day’s end, another completion and our first time doing back-to-back 50’s. This gave us the opportunity to attempt a Pioneer Ride and tackle a third day on trail.

The third and fourth days are a bit of a blur. Each day’s rhythm was defined by all the things that had to happen before, during, and after the ride. The “Hellevator” was a highlight of Day Three - an adrenalin blast out of a canyon up steep switchbacks that had us laughing with relief when we got to the top. After successfully completing the three-day Pioneer, the possibility of attempting to ride all five days loomed large, and with Kelly’s encouragement, I decided to give it a go. Journey was doing great, and to my surprise, I felt great after each day’s ride. I decided I might never have this opportunity again and that I shouldn’t pass it up, so we would at least tackle Day Four. When Tenney announced at the ride meeting that night that she thought the Day Four trail was the most challenging, she wasn’t wrong! The day was made a bit more challenging due to lack of sleep that night: strong winds blew through camp for hours, rocking the trailer and making it difficult to sleep. Then once on trail, there were lots of big climbs up into the highlands among the aspen groves where where the elk tracks lined the trail, only to encounter “Luke’s Limit,” a long, slow, unmounted descent straight down the mountain. The horses took great care of themselves all day, eating along the trail and taking long drinks at the many water tanks. Finally, we arrived back at ride camp after a long, tiring day. Doubts about riding the next day surfaced as my girl was tired, and so was I.

But then the next morning at dawn, this normally reserved mare stepped forward to greet and nuzzle me (and no, I was not holding her feed pan!). Here it was, the morning of the fifth day, and completely unaware that I would again be tacking her up for yet another 50 miles, Journey was affectionate and wanted to be beside me. I got choked up. She was tired. I was tired. But we were both willing to give it a go. And go she did. In my semi brain-dead state, I left her hackamore at the trailer when I went to do the morning trot out for the vets. Oh well, I thought, she’ll be just fine in the rope halter; it was, after all, day five and she had already traveled 205 miles. How wrong I was! Once she was warmed up and we were out on trail, I quickly realized the rope halter was not going to do the trick. I had so much horse under me and she wanted to move out! I never would have believed it was possible to have as strong a horse on day five as I had on day one, but there she was! Needless to say, I grabbed the hackamore at our first hold so that the rest of the ride wouldn’t be a struggle. It was another beautiful day on trail that included the exciting descent of “Pistol Whip” and then lots of long walks and climbs along dusty trails. It was somewhat surreal arriving back at ride camp, and I Ioved that my dog Tripp came running up to greet us as we came off trail. And then during our final vet check, Journey took a step forward and put her face next to mine, her nose against my mouth, our breaths blending as we breathed in sync. I don’t know what she was feeling or thinking at that moment, but for me, it was a perfect ending to an amazing adventure, and I will always treasure the trust she placed in me and the steadfast way she carried me over some truly challenging terrain.

All of this would not have been possible without the generosity, support, encouragement, and trail savvy that Kelly and Jesse so willingly shared with me for over 200+ miles of trail, along with Lynne who jumped in to crew for us on days four and five, Cassidy Miller and Helen Gurina who helped trot Journey out the first two days when I twisted my hip after stepping in a hole, and Rob and Pam Talley Stoneburner who also helped crew for us. Then there were the wonderful vets and all the volunteers, the amazing food truck folks who provided us with great meals, and all the loving support from afar from my husband and daughters. Also, a big shout-out and thank you to Tenney Blouin with SoCo Endurance, and all the private land owners who made this ride possible. But most of all, a big thank you and all the love and devotion in the world to my wonderful Mustang mare, Jicarilla Journey, my beautiful girl.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

2023 Midnight Rider - Connie Holloway

August 14 2023
by Connie Holloway

It’s so nice when your hard work pays off, and I’ve been working hard on both of my horses.With DWA Barack going on our fourth year together. (I am going to write a story about him and our attachment issues. But I think we’re fairly well attached to each other now, somewhere this year, I really started to love this horse.) And DWA Papillon is coming along wonderfully.

We had so much fun at the Mount Adams endurance ride. And that’s why I’m in it I realized more for the fun than anything else and I love challenges. Things you have to work hard for. That put you in all kinds of situations and riding horses in the outdoors because all the elements, various terrain, can be super tricky at times and all the wild stuff that jumps out at you etc. So much is out of your control and it’s all fairly exciting, and throw wind and thunderstorms and that’s interesting. But we had none of that. We had stellar weather.

Speaking of stellar I took DWA Papillon out on the night ride. On Saturday both rides were at night. We did the first 12 mile loop in the daylight and the second time at night. Bobbi does this to give riders an opportunity to take there horse out at nite, normally only hundred mile rides you’re out in the dark! I so love this concept. Also, Christoph gave an excellent talk on riding at night. I learned so much more that was really helpful for me and my horse.

I chose to ride by myself with Pappy as usual and Pappy was a bit anxious and energetic. On the first loop leaving camp I decided to get off him and lead him for a bit, because his action was more up-and-down than forward and he was riled up. He could hear the horses coming in his direction through the woods on the road but not quite see them. I had started him last he didn’t know what to think of it all but I knew he’d settle down. I got on him as soon as I got down to the flat road and he took off at like a 20 mph trot. I did not know he could trot out that fast. !!!!!

He’s got a super good mind snd did settle down after the climbs. I’ve learned this horse really wants to race and go and his bred for it but we’re not doing that now, he still has his training wheels on. I should’ve gotten on him earlier in the day, but it was too hot and I was feeling lazy like Barack so it was a bit of a challenge for both of us at the start ! 

The 2nd Loop was the real gem because you’re repeating the first, only now in the dark and following little green twinkling lights, and sometimes you came to intersections and saw some twinkling blue lights and red lights and purple lights. It was like a fiesta in the forest. These little teeny lights. And my friends know how I like Christmas lights so I was really digging that. And was relishing the night under the stars and the meteor showers peak nite.

Halfway through the loop there was party Central. There was mash, hay and water for the horses, and for us coffee and Baileys, hot chocolate and Bailey’s, or straight Bailey’s, whatever you wanted and cookies. There were more sparkly lights here and friendly trail angels. I had Baileys and coffee to wash the cookie down, thank you very much, while I spoon fed mash to Pappy who is scared of the tub. He is very royal.

Endurance is fairly new for him and all the different shaped water tubs and everything is suspect. He hasn’t figured it all out yet, but he starting to. He was super awesome in the dark moving right out and I loved being by myself with him, he relying on me and me relying on him, that’s how the bond really develops. We saw other horses out there a few times, it would surprise him every time but for the most part we really were all alone other than a little passing here and there.

For the non-riders, you don’t use white lights, it blinds people and the horses. Horses see just as good at night, it’s OK to use a red light which I used often on for me, but not my horse. I really liked it when I had no light on. If you’re lucky enough to ride in a moon, you don’t need anything. Imagine riding in the Moonlight that’s magical too. but I’ll take no moon and meteor showers. Thank you universe !

I didn’t want the ride to end. In fact, I didn’t go to bed till 2 AM because the evening was warm, and the stars were putting on a show. So I hung outside my tent with the horses and Alexstoney. I can’t recall having so much fun as I did on this loop.

And at the finish, I was handed a little cup of champagne, it just doesn’t get any better than that. All the fun people celebrating and helping us. I so appreciate it. I was so pleased and giddy with this night experience! Whenever I do a Limited Distance, I always say I’m only doing an LD. But I think that’s pretty lame. I think they all matter what you do with your horses .I’ve ridden only 4 100 milers so I’ve been out at night, but never by myself. It’s something completely different. and I really loved it.!

I also rode Barack and he was such a good boy in the 50 miler on Friday, he had to go out and leave camp three different times which is hard. Sometimes they think they’re done when they go home, but we had three different loops, and he was a good sport about it. He certainly did some relaxing the next day sunbathing in the pen.

Thank you, Bobbi Walker your husband, Mark, the water, people, the party people all the good people you had to help put on that ride. I love how you give people an opportunity to ride at night even people that will never get to do 100 they can go out and ride at night in an LD or 50. Next year I’m going to do the 50. And thank you Regina Rose of course for bringing me. Always fun. We have a good camp and Kristin and Sara were right next door. Merri Melde for the photos.

It was fun to be back in this area I used to do spotted owl work in Glenwood, which isn’t too far off so I went back that way through many other places I knew and love the whole Klickitat Canyon area. Oh, I forgot to mention that Bobbi gave away coupons for huckleberry milkshakes, and OMG they are the best I’ve ever had. I might have to make several detours in the future. Such a great fun area.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

2023 Tevis and Haggin Cup by Haley Moquin

August 2 2023 by Haley Moquin

For those of you who don’t know PJs (Freaky) story. Here it is. Heather Reynolds had posted PJs breeding on Facebook stating her new horse would be arriving soon. PJ is a grandson of Okba - my favorite bloodline, a son of French Open, who Heather had won Tevis 2014 on. How exciting for her! I was flying to Florida to do the 3 day 100 with the Reynolds and PJ arrived while I was at their farm in Florida. PJ was a 12 year gelding who was apparently 15 hands with a stick and level. It was very clear PJ was not 15 hands. He is 14.2 with shoes on 🤣 obviously this was upsetting so I was like I’ll take him, and we arranged shipping from Florida to Texas.

It was said that PJ was rideable but difficult to mount but he hadn’t been ridden in a few years. He had been hanging out in a 40 acre pasture for 7 years in Colorado. Once he arrived in Texas, i began to work with him. He was perfect to saddle, knew how to round pen, and knew cues with the bit. He was reactive and spooky but he seemed to know what I was asking. About a week of ground work, i attempted to mount PJ. He bolted off before i could even put my foot in the stirrup. Fast forward 60 days, I was finally able to mount PJ. He was great our first ride. We walked in the round pen and I was able to get on and off of him safely. During the 60 days, it seemed that once PJ was over something, he never had a problem with it again. The very next day, I had fed the horses dinner. No one was at the barn but I decided to ride PJ for a second time. I got on him and he moved around a bit but for the most part was fine. We started to walk and he tripped. That completely freaked out him and he began running as fast as he could around the round pen. I couldn’t stop him. When he did stop, if i made a single move, he would run off again. I was stuck on PJ for about an hour and a half. I was crying and panicking, i was stuck on this horse. Not a good feeling. If i touched my phone, he would run off. There was no calling for help. I ended up grabbing onto the round pen panels and letting him bolt from underneath me.

I called my mom and told her i would never ride him again. Something i forgot to mention earlier, PJ was not ever accepting of being held by someone else for mounting and dismounting, he still isn’t to this day. If he feels trapped, he freaks out and bolts off. I attempted to give PJ back to his breeder, who heather had received him from. Heather was wonderful and had offered to pay half of the shipping to get him back to Colorado. His breeder stated that it would be best to euthanize him as he was just too crazy. She had bred him for the track and had him in training from age 3 to 5 and could never get him broke to ride. I tried giving him away to others but no one wanted him, and i do not blame them LOL. I started reaching out to trainers and i kept getting turned down. The trainers were telling me they didn’t know how to train a horse like PJ.

I then reached out to Dan Keen and after i described PJ, he said “bring him to the ranch and i will get him right”. No hesitation and Dan wasn’t worried at all. PJ spent 4 months at Dans. Dan stated that PJ was in the top 10% of most difficult horses he had ever trained. PJ was challenging and one in a million, but he did say that if he had to ride from coast to coast, PJ would be the one to do it. He described PJ as what it felt like to ride 4 horses at once. When i picked PJ up from Dans, Dan told me to ride him every day, get the miles on him, and do not rest him, PJ needed to work. That following October I did my first 50 on PJ. He was amazing. We then decided that we would aim him towards Tevis 2022.

PJ was a challenge every single ride. He was still quick to walk off when I would mount, he was easily bothered by things, he is a horse that all hands and feet need to be inside the ride at all times. I never knew what type of PJ i was going to get. Sometimes he’d stand nicely when i would get on him, sometimes he would spin violently for several minutes and try to run off. PJ was also worse if i mounted him at different places. He is very routine and if he is presented with something different, he would be explosive. In October 2022, i did the Armadillo 100 on him. That morning when I went to get on him, he went bucking and bolting through camp. People were yelling “loose horse”, nope, just me and PJ running through camp. I managed to stay on and we had a great day, we won. The initial mount of the day was PJs biggest issue even after all the training. And if you fell off during that initial mount, he was not rideable for the rest of the day. As I got the endurance miles on him, his behavior did improve.

In 1 year, i rode PJ 430 miles just in endurance rides. Yet, still a challenge all the time. I did not want to give up on PJ as he was freaky talented. He had the best recoveries, takes care of himself, and he can really move down the trail. This past spring, PJ decided he was not broke to ride. This is after 430 miles worth of races, a million training miles, and no long periods of rest. He just went back to his old self and was not safe to ride.

He just was not comfortable with a rider anymore and was honestly dangerous again. I debated giving him away because I am currently in Dental Hygiene school and a broke college kid. Training is expensive and it was such a disappointment that after a year and a half, he was back to being a psycho. Im not afraid to admit that I was scared of him again. I didn’t want to ride him again. I was so over the walking on egg shells to make sure I didn’t scare him in anyway, but it made me sad to give up.

So back to Dans he went. 30 days at Dans and we were back on track. This time Dan had to do some tough love but i was pleasantly surprised when I picked PJ up. Ever since I have picked PJ up, he had stood 100% still during mounting. I have poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into PJ. He is like having a child as I cannot leave for more than 5 days because he can’t handle the rest still to this day. Coming in the top 10 and winning the Haggin Cup at Tevis is a dream come true. My hard work has paid off and PJ is a champion. I always saw the potential in PJ but at times it seemed like it would be easier to just give up. I am so glad I did not.

Dan Keen (his trainer) always said that PJ was a winner and he was right. PJ will more than likely be a challenge for the rest of his life and I will probably never get to go on a long vacation unless I send him to Dans for the period of time, but that is perfectly fine. He gave me the best ride ever this past weekend and I do just love that little power pony so much even on the bad days ❤️ PJ actually stands for Princess Jeremy as that is what I nicknamed Mr Jeremy Reynolds a Few years ago 🤣 since i got PJ from Heather and Jeremy it was awesome and so funny to name him that as an insider. Freaky shortly became another nickname for him as he is a freak. If i wrote about every freaky moment I’ve had in this horse, it would be a million word book.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

2023 Tevis Cup - Mark Montgomery

August 2 2032
by Mark Montgomery

Mark Montgomery and his mustang MM Gus finished in 8th place

Tevis 2023 - almost didn't happen for me this year. My horse Gus came up lame just three days before the ride. I called my crew, and the Tevis office to let them know we were out. My wife Linda DVM couldn't find anything obvious causing the lameness, so she recommended pulling the shoes. Upon doing so, I found that the N/G shoes had cupped, causing sole pressure. I ground out more sole and put the EasyCare Flex shoes on him, which are more ridged than the N/Gs. Gus instantly went from lame to almost 100% sound, but he was still slightly off. His sole was still sore. It's now Wednesday evening. I start calling farmer friends, looking for Vet Tec, to add sole protection. Scotty Mayfield came to the rescue. He had a tube of Vet Tec and the applicator, and he gave me a demonstration on how to apply it. A huge Thank You to Scotty. We are good to go, and back in it. Woody has had great success for years with the EasyCare N/Gs, but Gus is more flat footed, and needs a shoe with more support.

Do to the depth of the snow over the top of the Sierras, this year the ride started at Soda Springs, in the dark, early Saturday morning. The first part of the trail was a long downhill road, starting with pavement, then changing to gravel, then to dirt. My friend from Israel, Ilan Dvir, was riding my mustang Woody. Woody is very competitive, and can be very difficult to ride, but Ilan is an excellent horseman and rider. The plan was to use Gus as a blocker, to slow Woody down. Ilan is also very competitive. They got ahead of Gus and I, and started working their way through all the riders in front of us. We were doing our best to keep them in sight. When we got to the bottom of the canyon I asked a spectator “How many are in front of us?”. He said “Nobody, you’re it”. We climbed to the top of Lyon Ridge, where Todd Barnum and crew were managing the trot by and water stop. While our horses were drinking, I jumped of and gave them their electrolytes that I carried in my backpack, along with some extra shoes, a hammer, and some nails, incase they lost a shoe. We headed out of this stop just as other riders were starting to arrive.

Ilan and Woody were leading the way, and as we approached Cougar Rock, Ilan and Woody were having a disagreement on which way to go, over the Rock, or go around on the bypass trail. Last year I let Woody choose, and he chose the bypass. Ilan won the argument, so over The Rock we went. The ride photographer was not expecting to see riders so soon, and was not quite ready yet, consequently our pictures are a little fuzzy. Sorry Bill, I should have yelled that we were coming.

Woody is known for his big spooks, at high speed, resulting in the rider (usually me) hitting the ground. That’s why I always hold on to my Oh Shit Strap while riding him. We left Cougar Rock with about a ten minute lead on the other riders, with Ilan in the front. As they flew around a blind corner, a man with a camera stood up from behind a bush, causing Woody to spook, a duck and spin, resulting in Ilan falling off. The ridge and the trail was heading West, but Woody took off, heading North, down off the ridge, over an almost vertical 300’ drop, and disappeared into the timber below. I stayed on Gus, at the edge of the cliff, while Ilan climbed down the bank in pursuit. A short time later I hear him yell “Got him”, and they climbed back up to the trail. I asked how he was able to catch him so easily, expecting Woody to run clear to the next vet check at Red Star. He said that he approached him as if he was another horse, bobbing his head, with a non confrontal slouched posture. It worked, and we are back on trail, just as three riders pass us. Ilan and Woody were able to pass, putting them back in 1st place. Gus and I were content to follow the three riders at a more moderate pace, so we came into Red Star in 5th place. I pulled tack, and got water on Gus, and his heart rate was immediately down to criteria. One of my highlights of my ride was looking over and seeing Chuck Stalley hand feeding Woody some hay. With support like that, I knew it was going to be a great day. We left Red Star in 1st place, and came into Robinson Flat fast, with a good lead on second place. At Robinson, Gus pulsed down almost immediately again, so off we go to vet through. Our vet at this stop was Mike Peralez DVM, the head vet for the ride. As he preformed the CRI, Gus’s first pulse was 48. After the trot out and back, Mike checked his pulse again. He looked at me and smiled with amazement, Gus’s pulse was 44. I jokingly said “You better check that Again”. Mike gave us the green light to proceed. Unfortunately, Woody was off at this vet check, and was pulled. Could he have injured himself earlier, running down that embankment, who knows, but he was 100% sound when we trotted him out the next day at the Auburn Fair Grounds.

Gus and I kept a good fast pace heading down the trail, only slowing down for the steep downhills. As we came into the Dusty Corners water stop, a volunteer commented how good Gus looked as she handed me a slice of watermelon and I offered Gus a drink. He was not interested in drinking at that time, and we took off down the trail as we see other riders coming fast into this stop. As we leave, the volunteer yelled “Only 4.9 miles to the next check at Last Chance.” Gus and I were in sync, flying down the single track trail as one body. He was on auto pilot, only slowing to a trot for brief moments when necessary, for our safety. I did take a glance down off the cliff at Pucker Point as we flew by, thinking that it would be the end of us if we went off there. There were fresh bear tracks in the trail, and we were lucky that we didn’t encounter a bear while cantering around those blind corners, on that narrow trail, with a drop off on one side.

We came into Last Chance with a good lead, and Gus looking great. He ate and drank, and vetted through right away, so off we go, heading down into the first canyon. I usually get off and run this section, but my left knee was starting to give me trouble, so I stayed on. In the past, I’ve always taken my horses into the river for a swim below Swinging Bridge. It was still early in the day, it wasn’t hot yet, and Gus didn’t seem hot or tired, so we skipped the river, and across the bridge we go. The climb to Devils Thumb is brutal. I consider it the toughest part of the ride, so when I could start to hear Gus breathing, I would get off and lead him. By the time I got to the top, I was beat. I could hear Greg Kimber and other volunteers offering encouraging words, but I was too exhausted to look up and acknowledge them, we were heading for the water trough, where we were treated with more volunteers with treats and cooling sponges.

Our next vet check is Deadwood, only a mile down the trail. We quickly vetted though, and down into the second canyon we go, at a fast trot, only slowing down for the steep sections. So much work has been done to improve the Tevis trail, and this section was no exception. We felt very safe, as much of the trail has been widened. Seeing all the chainsaw work that had been done was amazing. So many huge dead trees from last year’s fire had been cut out of the way. This will be an ongoing project for years to come, as more dead trees fall.

As we neared the top of Eldorado Canyon, Gus was getting hot, so I jumped off at the last creek crossing before Michigan Bluff, to cool him off. As I was pouring water on him, two riders passed us. I figured that cooling my horse was far more important than maintaining our 1st place position. We left Michigan Bluff and came into the next vet check at Chicken Hawk in third place. Gus pulsed down right away, and we probably could have left Chicken Hawk in the lead, but Gus was finally starting to get an apatite, so we stayed a little longer to let him eat. I lost track of how many riders passed us at this check while Gus was eating. I think that there were about five out areas of us.

Coming up Bath Road was perfect. My crew were amazing. Ilan and his son Rotem met us part way down the road with a gallon jug of ice water. I was pouring it on Gus and drinking it as we trotted up the road to the rest of our crew. I said to my crew“Get Gus straight to the P&R person”, as from past experience, I know his heart rate will be down. He was down right away, and that put us leaving Forest Hill in third place, just four minutes behind first. While at this check, I noticed that he had lost his Vet Tec padding. Luckily, the farier, Joby Souza, was there to apply more.

The next section of trail goes right through downtown Forest Hill, on pavement. We quickly caught and passed the next rider, putting us in second place. Dropping down the switchbacks, I could see the lead rider about a minute ahead of us. We caught her just beforee the Cal 2 water stop, and we led the way down the switchbacks from Cal 2 to the river. We were flying, but we couldn’t out run them. Turns out, it was Jenna and Kong, they are an amazing team. We rode together for a while, trading off the first place position.

About a mile from Franciscos, three other riders caught up to us. They were trotting fast down the road. Gus wanted to go with them, but my knee was done. I could not go that speed any longer. I had to turn Gus in a circle to slow him down to a walk. My knee was swollen, and the skin had worn off where it rubbed on the saddle. We came into Franciscos a couple minutes behind the group of four. Gus pulsed down right away again, but he was breathing hard, and I was exhausted. I could not keep up that pace any longer, and at that point I realized that we weren’t going to win, and resigned to shooting for a Top Ten finish. We stayed a little extra long at this check so we could both get our strength back. I was feeling really overheated at this point and the volunteers were wonderful helping to get me prepared to hit the trail again. Another rider passed us while we were resting in the vet check, putting us in 6th place.

The next section of trail had to be re routed up Drivers Flat Road, a 2 1/2 mile steep climb to the top. As we passed the usual single track trail to the left,, that goes to the river crossing, Gus looked at at me saying “You are going the wrong way, we are supposed to turn here”. He lost his motivation at that point, and we walked all the way to the top. Our crew was waiting for us at the top, a welcome site for sure. They cooled Gus while I rested. Gus remained unmotivated for the next several miles. He knew we had missed a turn, as he had done this ride once before, with a junior rider, Rotem, in 2019. It’s amazing how they remember the trail. While we were jogging down the trail, two other riders caught and passed us, putting us in 8th place. Gus stayed with them for a while but finally let them go. At this point, I was exhausted, and my poor riding form was taking it’s toll on Gus. I was riding with both hands on the pommel of the saddle to help relieve the pressure on my knee, just letting the reins go free on his neck. The new re route of the trail seemed to go on forever. Finally, just before dark, we reached the highway crossing at the Forest Hill bridge, and we were passed by another rider, putting us in 9th place.

The long steep descend down to the confluence of the North and middle forks of the American rivers brought us to the final vet check before the finish line. Gus vetted through right away again, but just as I mounted up to leave, he decides that he wanted to stay and eat hay. Every couple minutes I would suggest that we really need to get going, and he would just keep eating, so I let him, knowing that we would probably be passed by other riders. Finally he had enough hay and we were back on the trail. Just before No Hands Bridge, my crew found me and let me know that two riders were coming up fast behind us. When Gus got to No Hands Bridge, he new where we were, he wasn’t lost any more, and we flew at a fast canter. He had been dogging it for the last couple hours, and now he had a renewed energy. We quickly caught the 8th place rider, putting us in 8th place, but we could hear the other two riders, in the dark, pushing hard to catch us, all the way to the finish line. They crossed the line less than a minute behind us. Gus cantered most of the lap around the track at the stadium. He felt and looked great at the finish, and at the Best Condition showing the next morning. I was in no condition to show him. Thanks Caroline De Bourbon for showing him for BC for me, you did an excellent job.

My crew was great, they could not have done any better. I was spoiled all day. They went above and beyond to be everywhere for me. A huge Thank You to Karen Gardella, Shane Lesher and his wife Angie, Amy Rawlins, Ilan and Rotem Dvir, and my wife Linda DVM, and Mike Shaper for moving my rig from Soda Springs to Auburn.

Chuck Stalley and his crew of volunteers did an amazing job to make this ride happen, from dealing with the mess from the fire last summer, to re routing the trail because the river was too high to cross, to all of the work done to make the trail as safe as possible. The Traill was the best that I’ve seen it - Outstanding job guys. And as always, the vets were great keeping all the horses safe.

A huge Thank You to everyone.

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