Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The last Western Mojave xpride (Road to Tevis #88) - Jessica Black

JessicaEBlack.org - Full Story

by Jessica Black
March 9, 2023

Last Thursday I hurried home from my morning lecture at Bakersfield College so I could load my horses in the trailer and head to what would turn out to be the last Western Mojave xpride. We’d had a week of rain and snow, and Hwy 58 had been closed, but it was open by the time I got home. Everything was muddy. My horses had to slosh through a big mud puddle to get into the trailer. I had to put the truck in 4WD just to pull it out of its current living quarters in our old arena. It would be nice to be in the (comparatively) dry environment of the desert.

Thursday: arrival

I got to ride camp at the Trona Valley Golf course shortly after 4pm. There were not a lot of rigs, so it was easy to park where Jazz and Fantazia would be able to see other horses all the time. (Important because one stays at the trailer while I ride the other!) It was a relatively warm, sunny, and still afternoon. The lack of wind meant I’d be able to light a camp fire and cook my tritip… and besides, too much wind is crazy-making. It can be one of the downsides of the desert, relentless wind. Pre-ride

Right after setting up hay and water, I saddled Jazz and used him to pony Fantazia for a pre-ride. Usually I do it the other way around, but I had ridden Fantazia Sunday. Jazz had not been worked for nearly two weeks. And he’s on the edge of fat whereas Fantazia is far too thin. Jazz is getting a Western saddle on shorter rides, and I used one for the pre-ride. The weight is good exercise and it gives me greater stability when he pulls one of his monster spooks. It’s a challenge to ride a big spook while ponying another horse! The additional weight was especially good because I didn’t have a lot of time to ride...

Read the rest here:

Friday, February 24, 2023

2023 Twenty Mule Team - Alexandra Collier


February 21 2023
by Alexandra Collier

A recap of 20 Mule Team 100 for me and Halo (it’s going to be a long one- I either write very little or a lot ): I grew up doing very fast go-go-go training rides with someone who I came to find out later, rode faster than most. Despite the fast training rides, I will mention that the only official endurance ride I went to with her, we came in close to last (37th place) with her very green freshly started 5 year old horse. The long, slow, seemingly endless 9 hours and 41 minutes seemed endless to me as a 13 year old. Still, it didn’t deter me from loving the sport any less. My bum just began to hurt after about 20 miles and I no longer wanted to feel the impact on the saddle when trotting. But this was how it was done— we didn’t canter because it was more comfortable for us; we trotted because it’s what is most methodical for long distance riding. I will say, for the sake of my bum, I have fantasized lightly about what it would be like to canter an entire ride. I also have these strange made up rules, ex: I almost feel “guilty” for cantering because it’s not THE method or I feel like it’s “wrong.” I am never judging anyone else for doing that but the perception of cantering being faster which means as a catch rider, being seen cantering could imply “overriding” someone’s horse. And that’s what I strive not to do. I do care a lot about the horse and what someone thinks/feels about how I am caring for and treating their horse.

That being said, I don’t think I ever knew what Halo was capable of. At Huasna, the vet scored him highly on “Impulsion” (as most do) at the end of his ride and said “that’s a 100 mile horse.” I took it lightly as I have severe trust issues and in the back of my mind I’m like “yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. Otherwise I believe everyone is just blowing smoke up my arse.” Every opportunity I got with Halo, I rode less rather than more. I chose 25s before 50s, I chose single days before multi-days, I chose 50 miles day 1 & 25 miles day 2, then I chose 2-day multi-day 50s rather than 3-day multi day 50s. You get the picture. Looking back, I think he was always ready for higher mileage and multidays. It’s like this is what he was meant for physically. I don’t regret my conservative gradual approach as I’d rather be safer than not. I aim for middle of the pack and completion. Our delays accumulate from our lagging at the start of rides, out-times leaving camp, and how he behaves at vet checks.

We finished the 20 Mule Team 100, leaving between 6:05-6:10am and coming in almost exactly 21 hours later at 3:05am give or take. We were grooving for the first 25 miles, Halo was content and happy to have his temporary girlfriend Montana Babe with him ridden by Jacqueline Davis. He wasn’t pulling or amped up, just head down ready to work. We arrive at vet check 1, Halo pulsed down immediately, Montana Babe shortly after. We go to vet in and Montana Babe is tight in the hind end. After a second assessment by the vet, we find out we have to continue on without our partners for the day. This was going to occur anyways at the 60 mile mark anyways, but I was bummed it happened so soon. What this means? My day gets a bit more difficult.

Halo is improving with leaving camp alone. At a different ride, we once stood in the same spot for over an hour having words as I pointed him forward, asking him to go that direction and he refused. He said he only wanted to walk backwards towards all of his other friends at camp. After we left Tj & Montana Babe behind, I knew that meant leading Halo out by foot and then mounting him about 1/4 mile out on trail and asking him to go forward. We had much better success than other times so for this I was immensely happy. He moves well alone surprisingly, but our next challenge was what happens when we catch someone? Because with his big trot and how fit he is, we will catch the rider in front of us. Not everyone wants a horse to tag along with them. The problem for us is that once we catch another horse, we haven’t yet tackled moving past another horse in the same direction. We can split from another horse in another direction, but we cannot pass them (yet).

I was mentally prepared not to inconvenience another rider on loop 2 and self-sacrifice or do what I needed to do in order to give another rider space. We soon approached Jerry Wittenauer who coincidentally expressed to me earlier that him and his horse Carlos usually ride alone. I have also witnessed this as I have seen him in passing at Grand Canyon & Fire Mountain— we are usually leap frogging one another. I quickly jumped off and start dragging my horse because I already know the embarrassing scene that was about to occur. I assured Jerry I will gladly be on my way, just please ignore the episode that Halo and I are about to have. Well we didn’t quite tackle that obstacle in full yet as Jerry was very generous and kind to let us ride along with him and Carlos. We finished that 25 mile loop and then the remaining 10 miles back to camp for Jerry and Carlos to complete their 60 miles while Halo and I were to continue on to our remaining 40 miles.

Camp... dreadful camp. This is a huge obstacle for us. I will be honest and say that I really admire the out vet checks rather than the ones back at camp. If it was another horse I was riding, I may feel differently. Halo was big mad after 60 miles. Tired, no. What he wanted was to be soul tied to Carlos, his new buddy horse, for the rest of his life, but it was Carlos & Jerry’s time to complete and turn in for the evening. I handed him over to Tj because you know, she was helping me crew. He wanted to remind the vets of how freely they should give him an A for impulsion.

Even after bringing over his temporary girlfriend, he insisted on going back to the trailer and getting some munchies and settling in. Our vet-in time was delayed about 30 minutes, who really knows but it felt like eternity. I was experiencing some gut-wrenching anxiety, will they allow us to continue? My internal thoughts were—

1. I mean it’s completely understandable if they tell me I cannot continue, I’m ready to take that loss (trying to convince myself I wouldn’t be devastated and envisioning the moment where they break the news- would I cry? Would I pretend it was ok? Would it be okay? Would I be sad/mad of would I be at peace?, playing the scenarios through my head).

2. But on the other hand this is my first 100 and I would really like to finish. I mean this is IT. This is our PLAN. We have worked so hard for this.

3. I mean maybe I’m not deserving of it this time. Maybe this is a lesson. Maybe Halo isn’t cut out for this at all.

Anxiously waiting for the vet check to be over. We got the green light to continue. The pendulum swung our way. I was grateful to say the least.

Headed out on loop 3 for 25 miles, I was ready to walk him out for as long as needed and hop up on his back when I felt the time was right. I saw another rider going out at the same time as me whose horse kind of did the “I don’t want to leave either” dance and her crew helped escort them out down the road. I expressed to this rider that my horse really likes riding with other horses and she said the same for hers. I felt very reassured that I wasn’t being an inconvenience to them. She informed me that she was headed out for the 4th loop of the 100 as I was headed out for the 3rd and we would be along the same trail for quite some time.

I had the pleasure of riding with Susie Kramer for about 7.5/8 miles and we chatted about a variety of endurance topics. It was very nice to have such a kind and personable rider to allow me to tag along with for a good chunk of our 25 mile loop. I kindly warned her that when we split ways, my horse and I may come to a complete stand still and we may be having some words, but please do not worry. This was and is part of our process, we will be just fine. She said it may be the same for her and her horse as well.

We parted ways and wished each other a wonderful end of the ride and a completion to each other. And then it would be Halo and I alone in the dark for the next 17 miles. I turned my light on and we were off. Halo did a side eye for the next hour looking off into the distance believing he would see Susie and her horse and I kept telling him ”There is NO ONE there. Unfortunately it is just you and me. YOU and ME. I’m not sure when you’re going to start wrapping your head around that, but if we are going to keep doing these rides together, you’re going to have to accept that sooner or later. I get you safely back to camp EVERY time.” And yes, these words and phrases get said out loud to him whether he is listening or not.

I came up to a road crossing and was reassured when I heard a familiar voice and realized it was Kaity Cummins waiting for her long time friend Ashley Wingert. She told me they were walking and probably about 30 mins ahead. I was sure at some point we would catch up to them.

We trotted endlessly for quite some time. I was getting super sleepy and my depth perception and peripherals were not doing well. The contrast between my headlight and the darkness of the desert had my eyesight constantly adjusting. I would see a light off in the distance— is it a glow stick marking the trail? Is that a car? Is it far away? I convinced myself it had to be a car and as I came up on it, it was a light overlooking a camp sight. I was wayyy off. At that point, I started wishing for an energy drink or a cup of coffee or some DayQuil to smack me in the face. Finally, I saw what look like a wheel spinning green fluorescent light. Oh no, this is not good. I really am losing it. I knew my depth perception was super skewed and as I kept getting closer, the object didn’t appear to be getting closer. I got that weird angst feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. Is someone messing with me? Oh lord, please brain stop doing this to me. I called out to try to calm myself “Hello?” Please please please someone respond.

No response.

Oh I’m totally screwed. I’ve completely gone bonkers or some clown is going to emerge from the green glowing lights and Halo’s going to spook, I’m going to die. Shoot… I mean yeah we are both going to die. We kept walking and a minute or two or three passed? Whose tracking time anyways? I called out again and with the sound of a woman’s voice my panicking brain was able to peel away the fear and ground itself back to reality to form the silouhette of a black horse ahead. It was Ashley who had responded to my calls. With my delirium, I had lost hope of catching Kaity’s friend and the thought had disappeared from my mind. The rotating green lights I saw were just reflectors on her horses rump rug.

I knew I had no hope of getting Halo to pass Ashley and her mare and at that point, I was too tired for an argument with him. We walked (or jigged) the last 10 miles of loop 3 since Halo is incapable of walking with another horse. #Fearofabandonment

We came into the vet check and vetted immediately after crossing the line. After walking for so long, Halo’s pulse was down. I wasn’t sure where my crew was, but I went back to the trailer to swing the door open “Ayo, you crewing or sleeping?!” I probably seemed bothered but I know it’s difficult for me to alert a crew of my ETA. With the gloves, the jigs, the phone too big for my hands, lack of service, lack of battery, difficult to put back in pocket— I try to only fidget with the GPS because this is most applicable in the moment. Am I lost? In the middle of the desert in the middle of the night? Yeah, GPS most important. Loop 3 was the hardest loop for me mentally— exhaustion hit, we split from another horse, on my own with my GPS, complete darkness & light sensitivity, some hills that seemed to drag at exactly the wrong time.

The 30 minute hold zoomed by. Tj asked if I wanted to lay down and close my eyes, I said no I’m okay. I stared with admiration at the pictures I bought earlier in the day from the photographer to remember why I do this sport. I drank the rest of an energy drink and took some DayQuil to give me the pep in my step to last the final 15 miles.

Before I knew it, we were back on the trail. I thought the other rider we came in with had already gone back out, but it was just us. I was looking forward to Halo and I spending 15 miles alone in the dark for the final loop. This was the final stretch, the final mental and physical push and I needed him and I to do this together- alone. Not because I’m selfish or didn’t want to ride with anyone, but because that’s what him and I needed as a team. We needed to grow together for those remaining 15 miles together.

He lagged for about 9 miles until we made some random right turn shorty after we saw Kaity at another road crossing. He realized we were finally headed back to camp and picked up his pace. I felt like I could exhale a bit. But then I panicked… what if something happened? That ONE time he trips on a rock or something spooks him and he dumps me and leaves me out there. You know, the mind wanders. I almost missed the turn back to camp as we started to descend for the final 4 miles. I passed the turn and my gut alerted me to check my gps. Sure enough we were a few steps past our missed turn. I turned my light off because it was inhibiting my ability to pick out the little details of the purple glow sticks. I panicked for another 3/4 mile convincing myself I was on the wrong trail and my GPS is a liar until I was reassured with another purple glow stick. Man, those last 3 miles really drag. With our light off, I played it safe and we walked. I had forgotten what the footing of this area looked like and was paranoid we would encounter a rock or uneven terrain, as Halo is known to stumble on things. Specifically when he is focused on something like getting back to camp. At this point I was still combatting the reality that Halo and I were really about to cross the finish line of our first 100 mile ride together. My mind was playing those tricks on me, the kind where it’s like pinch me is this real? But instead it was the obsessive staring at the GPS to make sure everything was *precisely* on track. I could not let myself cross that finish line with a DQ for something as minor as getting lost in the last 2 miles. No, no, no. Once we hit the road, we trotted. I had been here many times before, and he had been here a few himself. Once we made our final left turn, we walked. We approached he finish line and I heard Tj, ”Alex is that you?” We crossed the finish line.

Tj took Halo from me. The vets told me my job here was down. Halo pulsed down immediately and he trotted out with a whole lot left in his tank. I heard those words, ”Congratulations on your completion, you came in 10th place.” I am not sure which part shocked me more, the completion or the top 10. As we walked back to the trailer, Halo trotted like he was ready to do another loop. I heard from Tj earlier he was bucking around the arena earlier today and being his usual destructive self. He forgot he had just spent 21 hours carrying me across the high desert.

20 Mule Team was an amazing ride and experience for me and Halo. Thank you to TJ Davis, Jacob Rainer, ride management, the vets, volunteers, all of the other riders that come together to make this ride happen. I remember being a young girl, a teenager, and even early in my 20s and believing completing a 100 mile ride would never happen until I one day had my own horse and even then a 100 miler horse is rare. The idea seemed so far off.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Gore/Baylor Photography

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

2023 Land of the Sun Ride - Kandace Contreras

February 6 2023 by Kandace French Contreras

One of my favorite Endurance Rides and I love Boyd Ranch. It’s such a great venue. I was excited to ride back-to-back 30 mile rides Saturday and Sunday.

Catherine Peterson and I arrived Friday and checked in Yankee, Frosty and Scarlett for Sabrina Liska, who was arriving later. All the horses looked fab and Yankee was his normal rocket. Yankee is barefoot and wears boots on the front but abhors ANYTHING on his back legs for any period of time so he’s bare in the back. (I have a past dislocated hip and helicopter ride to show for it) But he’s worn his rear hooves down to nothing so it was boot the backs or don’t play. I told him he had to deal with it. I applied plenty of Mueller tape, boots and duct tape and felt good about our ride.

Saturday was perfect. All three ponies loved and acted fantastic. Scarlett led the way all day. Yankee was more manageable being behind Scarlett and Frosty was, well, just Frosty ❤️ Always perfect. The terrain was challenging. Lots of rocks and miles of deep sand. The ponies trotted, gaited and cantered along beautifully. Strong and powerful. Yankee wasn’t drinking like I knew he needed but was otherwise a powerhouse. And he was tolerable of the rear boots.

About 4 miles from the finish of the 1st loop, Frosty pulled off one of his front composite shoes. 😬 Bad news since has has very thin soles. But Cathy nurses him through the rocky trail and we got through the 1st loop. All three horses vetted right in and went to the trailer where the ate like monsters! Catherine fit Frosty with a spare boot and off we went for our last loop!

Frosty held his own but Cathy could tell he was tender in the rocks even with a boot. We had the opportunity to canter in the sand but had to ease through the rocks and took our time, averaging about 5.4 mph. We knew it would be close to cut off but we should make it in time. Better a sound horse late than a lame horse on time, we were doing great and still having a great ride on Crocket’s Crested Loop, enjoying our horses, each other and the spectacular scenery.

With only 1 mile left to the finish, with Yankee in the rear, we hopped up a little, sandy embankment when Yankee decided he’d had enough! He launched, bucked hard twice and threw out his back legs in every effort to rid himself of the back boots! Luckily my buds heard the ruckus and pulled up as I was getting my Asshole under control, checking my wet pants, and congratulating myself for not lawn darting. Yankee managed to break all the tape and duct tape on one boot and we were close to the finish so I hopped off, pulled that boot, cut the other boots off, and we were back in business. Free of his torturous constraints, Yankee was on fire and pulled on me all the way back to camp!

We made time with 15 mins to spare, all three equines pulsed down quickly and we all vetted out with healthy, happy horses. ❤️

Doc Anderson expressed some concern over Frosty bruising the foot with the missing shoe if he went out again the next day but we’d already elected to pull him from Sunday’s race. Yankee still looked fantastic but he literally had no rear hoof to spare and had made his feelings about rear boots abundantly clear. So I opted, reluctantly, to pull from Sunday rather than risk laming him. All three horses went back to the trailer and ate and drank like champions. It was a win for us and slight bummer to not go again Sunday. But we counted our many blessings.

The awards and pot luck were a blast that night. We even had a guest speaker, Robert Long! Robert, at 70-year-old became the oldest winner of the Mongol Derby, a endurance race of more than 600 miles across the Mongolian Steppe! I was fascinated and could have talked to him for hours.

The cherry on top was finding out Yankee and I won the coveted “Turtle Award”! I was elated. For me, it wasn’t an award for being the last healthy horse to cross the finish in time, but recognition for persevering, as a team, with my friends, on a tough course, overcoming a lot of challenges, and not giving in. We got it done. πŸ‘

Thank you to all the ride management, volunteers and staff at Land of the Sun and Boyd’s Ranch. You aren’t just putting on a ride. You are making memories.

Friday, February 03, 2023

2023 Hokey Pokey - Maria Phillips

January 30 2023
by Maria Phillips
photo by Harrison Phillips

Now that I have posted the ride photos from the Hokey Pokey, I can finally share my own ride pics and give a run down on my return to distance riding after a 4 year hiatus.

I haven't done a 50 in 6 years and I haven't done a 25 in 4 years. (Primarily due to retiring my 50 mile paso mare and spending years finding two young replacements and then growing afore mentioned replacements.) This past weekend was my very much anticipated return to the sport. It would be my first ride in 4 years, my first ride since my mastectomy and my debilitating Meniere's diagnosis (a balance destroying inner ear disorder that damages hearing and the vestibular system...permanently).

This was also the debut ride for my 7yr old buckskin paso mare Zorra. She was saddle broke at 5 and was lightly ridden up until last summer. She started her long slow distance conditioning in earnest during the worst of the summer heat. We walked and walked and walked. 15 to 30 miles a week walking...All summer. In the fall I was happy with her base level of LSD and started slowly working on her cardio fitness. She was still doing 15-30 miles a week but I carefully started increasing her avg speed. By January we were doing 18-20 mile rides at an avg speed of 5.5 to 6mph. Not setting any speed records but enough to finish within time cut offs. It was then time to start winding down on conditioning and letting her rest before her first 25 on the 28th.

Her rest period also coincide with when I was having my peak Meniere's flare up and spent many days very dizzy or having a complete vestibular melt down and puking in buckets for hours until my heavy hitting medication sedated me enough to sleep through it. I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to race this season at all.

Then the Monday before the ride, I became terribly ill with the world's worst man cold. Two covid tests said I wasn't dying but choking on gallons of head snot combined with my constantly wobbly inner ear was less than ideal. There was absolutely no way I could ride in a race. I was ready to send my husband to the race to shoot it without me and scratch my horse.

But luckily I made a fast recovery by Wed evening. (I attribute this fast healing to my adorable plethora of chicks that arrived in the mail and cheered me immensely).

That left just one day to pack my horse trailer for the trip. I hate packing my trailer, especially on the heels of Near Death By Snot. But my ever loving husband came to the rescue and took the brunt of all the heavy lifting for me.

We both arrived to the ride around 1pm Friday, me in the truck and trailer and my husband in his car. We got parked, Zorra set up on the high tie and tucked in with mash, hay and water and then ran out on trail to find some shoot locations for him. (Thanks again Shelley Scott-Jones for the trail maps and all the help!) After settling on shoot locations it was back to camp for the vet in. Harrison took care of camera duties while I vetted in Zorra. She behaved beautifully for the vets and scored well on her card. The rest of the evening was spent stuffing my horse full of mash, setting things up for the holds the next day and fraternizing with my good buddies Lindsay and Ed. Harrison left to go home to take care of our animals and would return in the morning at 8am.

The next morning all was well at the start. I left about 15 minutes after everyone else on foot leading Zorra who was slightly excited. After about 100 yards I got back on because I'm a hobbit who's not designed for walking. Also, I'm not a peasant. I ride the horse that I pay for.

Zorra was forward but rate-able for the first 4 miles. We got our photos taken and then everything afterwards was smooth sailing on a loose rein. Which was a good thing because it was then that I realized that I had forgotten to zip up my sports bra compression cooker before I mounted up. I was wearing three long sleeve shirts, a fat scarf, a large fluffy jacket and a Hit Air vest. Extricating my boobage and bra zipper from that 6 layer clothing cake was no small task and I was grateful that we had started so late and no one was around to see me rifling and fumbling through half my wardrobe. After that was sorted we did a few more miles and I suddenly became aware that I had made yet another wardrobe mistake. My tried and tested long distance safe pantaloons were no longer safe. They were rapidly becoming a cheese grater. I think this might have been because I was wearing two pairs of riding tights and the additional layers were causing some unanticipated movement in my basement closet. But if any of you remember my story from Yellow Hammer 2016..... Chapstick to the rescue. Zorra was a saint and just maintained her 6mph shuffle while I stuffed the reins in my mouth and slathered what needed to be slathered in a blissful layer of Riding Warehouse brand chapstick.

Eventually after I had sorted myself out, we passed 4 horses in two groups of 2 and she behaved beautifully for that too. We kept going until we sailed through our first loop averaging a steady 6mph speed, nailing our training speed perfectly. Our first hold was also no issue. She wasn't a fan of her elecrolyte tubes but she took them anyways and did a good job of eating her wet mash soup and hay.

Our second loop was the last 10 miles. We did a steady 6mph average again and met some other horses on the two way part of the trail which she also tolerated very well. I had a moment of worry when the first two horses came around a turn at a canter and I thought that she might have a flash back to when the herd of horses charged her. I called out a slightly nervous "Helloooo!" and they immediately dropped to a trot and asked if a trot was ok or if they should walk. Zorra said a trot was fine, thanks for asking.

Thus far I had spent the entire day not drunk, not dizzy, tipsy or off kilter. It was absolutely a wonderful day for both my medical issues and my horse's behavior. I couldn't have asked for either to be better. I felt like a normal human being for once and my green, first time endurance horse was acting like calm cool and collected pro at this endurance thing. It was such a joyous thing to ride in a race and not have my arms pulled off or worry about my horse riding so fast she'd crash headlong into the treatment vet on the way into camp. We arrived back to camp and made it to the final vet check quickly since she pulsed down well. But that is where my perfect day ended. She was all A's except for gait. She was tight behind. I spent the rest of the hold forcefully massaging a buckskin horse butt.... to no avail. She was better but still not "fit to continue".

It was a bummer that my first pull happened at my come back ride after so many set backs and years of preparation. But it's still a win in my book. My new prospect went the distance, she ate, drank, and camped well. She blew me away with how cool headed she was on trail and I had my very first loose rein race. I couldn't be prouder of her...and proud of myself too. It hasn't been a walk in the park with my balance and hearing issues. I struggle with feeling handicapped by these debilitating and unpredictable attacks. But this weekend I was just a normal rider and I was able to go the distance too. So we'll just try again next time. I don't think I did anything "wrong" to cause the tight butt muscles. She was electrolyted well and I'm confident on her fitness level and the pace we rode (we turtled). It might just have been bad luck, or maybe it was more road riding than she was used to, or the cold morning air (she did wear a rump rug for 5 miles). Either way, I'll play around with her elytes a bit and increase her levels of a few key muscle elytes and see where that gets us next time.

I want to give a special thanks to Lindsay and Ed who helped me at the vet checks and did their best to help us earn a completion. They both have been great mentors and friends over the years.

And another special thank you to my husband for being so incredibly supportive in all aspects of my life but especially this expensive, time consuming and exhausting horse hobby of mine. He graciously filled in for me as ride photographer for this ride so I could actually ride. I would not be able to afford to return to competition without his help behind the camera.

And of course one final thank you to all the folks who spared their own time, effort (and probably sanity) to put on this ride. None of us could do it without ya'll!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

On winning an endurance ride (Road to Tevis # 83) - Jessica Black

JessicaEBlack.org - Full story

by Jessica Black
January 25, 2023

When I found myself wanting to delve into the doubts and second-guessing that happen when I’m riding in front at the end of my last blog post, I realized I needed to write a separate post on winning an endurance ride. What makes it possible to win? What kinds of things determine whether your horse comes in first, fifth, fifteenth, or twenty-fifth?

When you know your horse can win, if all goes well

Before the second day of the Fire Mountain Pioneer ride, I texted someone who had asked about the ride:

“I do 55 miles with Jazz tomorrow, all out in the desert. If he doesn’t kill me, he could win. He put on quite a spectacle today when we vetted in. Whistling, snorting, rearing, prancing.”

The next day I texted that we had indeed won. The reply?

“Congratulations! When you said you could win yesterday, I figured you probably would.”

My response?

“I knew I had enough horse to win. I had to ride for it though...”

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Fire Mountain 3 day ride, January 13/15, 2023 - Nick Warhol

Fire Mountain 3 day ride

January 13/15, 2023 by Nick Warhol

The annual Fire Mountain ride in Ridgecrest, Ca, was a different animal this year. For those of you who know (and love) the desert, you know it can be fickle. Sometimes very fickle. Sometimes REALLY fickle! In the summer, it’s pretty straightforward: it’s just hot. The winter, however, can give you any weather there is. It can range from 70 degrees and sunny in the dead of winter, to, well, like it was for part of the ride week.

California has been blessed/suffering with crazy rain this winter, which is a good thing, and really sucks at the same time. we have had about a foot of rain so far at home this year. I got a break in the rain to drive my dirt bike, Sorsha, and Ines’s horse Rayos down to Ridgecrest on Sunday a week before the ride. It was a beautiful, pleasant, calm drive down. Monday morning did not help as the rain started. It was light to mild, and no wind, so Brian and I spent the day in the side by side marking the trail. We got about 35 miles done, which was good, but we were very wet and very cold for a long time. Tuesday hit with a vengeance! Big wind, pouring rain, and a thunder clap that was so close it shook the big metal cover at the arena enough to scare me. This was not weather to go out and mark trail, so we switched to the truck and tried to do water troughs. That mostly worked until we were driving up a wash/road that had water coming down it. This is not safe! We got most of the water troughs out, but the intense rain and wind pretty much killed the day. It was serious rain: flash-flood caliber rain. The weather broke Tuesday night and the rain slowed down, so we got started again on Wednesday. The first thing we noticed was the rain had of course wiped out the chalk arrows on the ground. 35 miles of arrows gone! Great! We had 70 more miles to mark. We got about 60 done, but the sun was setting as we finished in the freezing cold. Lucky for me “Sandwash” Ali Woodward and her husband Dan came with the dirt bikes to help. They spent Thursday riding and re-chalking the 35 miles we had done before the big rain. I went back out on the bike and finished up the remaining 15 miles or so and checked part of the trail we did on Wednesday. I also had to go put up all the road crossing signs as well as some key trail split signs. I was not able to switch to horse rider until Thursday afternoon when Ines and I went for our pre-ride ride on the horses.

On Friday morning, for day one, the desert was our friend. Perfect weather- low in the low 40s, highs in the high 50s. Bright sun, zero breeze, perfect, wet desert. It was just glorious! The riders who got to ride Friday had a real treat. I rode Sorsha along with Ines on the fifty to sixth place. The conditions were stunning! The Tuesday rain floods had wiped the desert clean, and all the slop had soaked in. The roads with the huge bumps and ruts were as flat as a freeway with perfect footing. You can’t buy footing this good. There was so much water out there that we did not really need a single trough. It was a perfect day with one exception- my lower left leg hurt. It’s one of my same old injuries that I just deal with, but this was different. It hurt a lot while riding, and I could barely get off the horse without collapsing to the ground. When this happens, I usually get off and walk it off, which usually helps, but I could not really walk. I could not trot the horse in the vet checks either. At the end of the fifty I could barely walk. Okay, Okay, my body was telling me something. I limped around that evening and knew I was not riding Saturday to the Pinnacles. I opted to sit it out and help with the ride. Which turned out to be a good thing, sort of. Saturday morning was pretty nice. The forecast called for some light rain in the afternoon, but nothing serious like on Tuesday. The ride was special- it was going to the Trona Pinnacles which has never been done in a ride before. The 25 ended right there and the riders were trailed back, while it was the lunch stop for the 55-mile riders. I went out to the away vet check to help out. All the LD and 55’s came through on their way out, in nice weather and all in good spirits. It was a little breezy, and overcast, and a little cold, but not too bad, and certainly good riding weather. I left around 2 pm to get back to camp so I could go out on the trail backwards in the side by side to hang glow bars on the last 13 miles or so of the trail for the 55s. It was on the way back in the car that it started. The wind picked up, the sky got dark, the temperature dropped, and the rain started. Lightly at first, but then it started coming down. The hard stuff, with about 40 degrees and 30 plus MPH of wind. It was MISERABLE in the side by side as I went backwards on the trail. I was soaked, cold, freezing, but kept thinking about those riders out there. Yeah. I came across the leader, Jessica Black, at about 4pm and it was almost dark. She said she was so ready for this to be over. I could not agree more. Lori Olsen came by in second on Fargo- she said it was hell. They were slogging through water in the desert! Rachael Muira came by next and said it was ugly! The next group was Carolyn Hock and her group of three. All were walking through the slop in the howling, 30 MPH wind with the rain coming down sideways, in 40 degrees, with wind chill factor, by the way, is 18 degrees Fahrenheit! I said hi, how are you, etc, etc, and there was silence. Carolyn said, and I quote, “this is endurance!” You got that right, Carolyn.

I made it back to the vet check just before dark, where I immediately got into Gretchen’s truck and turned on the heater up high. Those riders out there were not getting that luxury! After a while I got out as Ines, Ali, and Vanessa arrived. They were soaked, freezing, and in good spirits, but did not want to hang around. The vets wisely shortened the hold to “Get out of here!” so the horses would not have to stand around in that freezing slop. All of the blankets everyone brought were soaked. We hung around until the last of the riders on the 55 arrived as it was getting dark. We got them through and back into the miserable conditions. It’s a good thing I put up the glow bars! Brian drove the side by side back a while ago, so I happily drove the warm truck back to camp and tried to continue to dry out by the fire, under the big metal awning, in the pouring rain. The riders were trickling in and were really, really glad to be done. I got a call from Lynn Marks, who finished in 11th place, that they were at one intersection that was missing a glow bar and it took them a while to figure it out. I donned the wet jacket and hopped back in to the side by side and went back out there to fix it. Sure enough, there was a turn split that if you went left it was wrong, and the correct way had the glow bar too far down the trail. I missed that one having marked it going backwards. I fixed it and kept going a bit and finally ran into the last group of riders who were just trudging down the river that used to be a road. They thanked me for being out there to help them. I said you guys are the tough ones. The roads were washes with water running down them, and there was standing water everywhere. I finally got turned around and had a hard time seeing due to how hard it was raining. I crossed a wash that crossed the trail that was not there on my way up. This is nuts. I stopped and called Gretchen and Brian and suggested we best cancel the third day. It was insane out here, and we could not guarantee the trail was safe for the next day. The decision was made to cancel day three since the rain was supposed to let up, but it was also supposed to be light all day today. I got back to camp just before the final riders made it in. I don’t remember a hot shower ever feeling that good.

Congratulations to the 20 riders who finished the 55 in some of the worst horse-riding conditions I have ever seen in the desert. The riders had to slog through a mile and a half of an alkali road that went from soft, perfect footing, to paste that the poor horses sunk into. That cost everyone an hour or more. Not one of those guys pulled a rider option out at the last vet check in the miserable conditions. They all soldered on to the finish. I’m listing them all here, and am also sending them each a special “I survived the 2023 Fire Mountain Pinnacles ride from hell!” award. They earned it.

Most everyone enjoyed the new ride, and the reviews were great for the Pinnacles. Until all hell broke loose with the weather for those guys on the 55. The trailering back the horses from the finish worked out well, no one got lost, and my 3-mile section of virgin trail was pretty cool. The Ride With GPS demo/trial worked well on Friday- Ines and I used it and I was quite happy with how it worked. Several people tried it and gave me positive feedback. I’ll continue to support it going forward. Of course it was not very valuable on Saturday. You could not hear the voice cues from the wind. And who in their right mind is going to pull out their phone when they are freezing in the pouring rain? It would be a valuable aid in the event of getting lost.

Also, a special congratulations to Molly Farkas. Can you believe she survived this 55-mile ride from hell to become the newest Century club rider? She’s 80 and her horse is 20. There are no words for this accomplishment. Hat’s off, Molly. You are amazing.

PS: I FINALLY went to the doctor this week and it looks like I have a pretty bad shin splint in my lower left leg. Figures, but I deserve it for being a guy and ignoring it for a couple of years. I’ll be off the horse till spring, but will certainly be at 20 Mule Team helping. It better not rain, or I’ll probably hang out in a hotel!

PSS: While taking the trail down on Sunday I found lots of trail damage, all the chalk arrows were of course gone, and the trail spilt signs were down. I was bummed about having to cancel the night before, but not the day after. There is always next year!

1. Jessica Black
2. Lori Oleson
3. Rachel Miura
4. Mary Becraft
5. Rachell Hamby
6. Carolyn Hock
7. Alyse Yeargen
8. Vanessa Erickson
9. Ali Woodward
10. Ines Hofman-Kanna
11. Lynn Marks
12. Berit Meyer
13. Alex Collier
14. Valerie Jacques
15. Molly Farkas
16. Callie Thornburgh
17. Marci Cunningham
18. Seth Murray
19. Rafe Pery
20. Angela Murray

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Lead-Follow @ McDowell 75, Nov 2022 - Ashley Wingert

GoPony.me - Full Story

November 28, 2022 / Ashley Wingert

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up a ride season than how this ride ultimately went. A few weeks ahead, I had waffled back and forth on if I should go for the 75-miler or 100-miler. The impatient part of my brain really wanted to try the 100-miler, but the reasons for doing so were not plentiful, and there were far more reasons to curb my enthusiasm and do the 75-miler. The overriding reason being that Liberty has never done anything longer than a 1-day 50, and we haven’t done any back-to-back rides, and ultimately, my gut was telling me that doubling her distance in one go would be too much. Or if we pulled it off, it might not be pretty…and what I’ve learned with this horse is every time I’ve tried to bite off too much or gotten too ahead of myself, it’s turned around and bitten us.

To that end, I entered the 75, and as the ride approached, I found myself getting really excited about it. Hard to know specifically why, but I felt probably the most excitement for this ride than I have any other ride this season. Probably the biggest question mark and misgiving I had (aside from the general “I hope we don’t find a rock with our name on it, nothing goes wrong, etc” pre-ride worries, since I’ve learned to never ever take it for granted that I’m going to finish a ride) was how the night portion would go.

A couple weeks prior, we had done a mini-clinic on night riding…and she was rather awful once it got dark. Very amped up and jigging (riding our “home” trails and leading a group of riders who were new to riding in the dark, and she thought we could be going a lot faster than the pace we had set), flinging her head around at bit pressure, and legitimately terrified of the glow lights I had put out. Like, stop and stare at the green glowing lights, snort, try to whirl or bolt past them, trembling, shying…it was a side of her I had never seen displayed before. And I kind of ran out of time to do any further practice with the notion. So I was hoping that having significant mileage under her girth on ride day (I anticipated probably being able to make it at least 60 miles or so before I lost the light) would settle her, or at least make her reactions not so dramatic...

Read more here:

Friday, November 18, 2022

Second place and Best Condition: Jazz’s first 50 (Road to Tevis 78) - Jessica Black

JessicaEBlack.org - Full Story

by Jessica Black
November 16, 2022

As my brother pointed out, being too busy to ride worked out great. Jazz was second place and best condition at his first 50 this weekend. Unlike his first LD, 30 miles at the Bill Thornburgh ride two weeks prior (read about it here: Jazz’s first LD), this ride tired him out. Hopefully he will now have a more realistic understanding of his job!

Friday’s pre-ride(s)

The horses….

As I had at the Bill Thornburgh ride, I took both Fantazia and Jazz. This is a mixed bag for Jazz. On the one hand, he is no doubt happier at the trailer with company, and it’s nice to pony him for a bit. On the other, he hates being separated, and makes a fuss during vetting and while we ride alone. For Fantazia, it’s torture. She hates being left at the trailer. She expects to do endurance, so she’s anxious, and then she doesn’t. Of course, she would also be unhappy at home without Jazz. And she’d drive my mother crazy whinneying.

I take both in part because I don’t want my parents to stress. But I also do it because I want to be able to ride both of them as soon as Fantazia is fit enough. I want her to learn that going to a ride doesn’t mean competing. I want them both to learn to wait patiently at the trailer. Also, this lets me condition Fantazia away from home...

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Wednesday, November 09, 2022

One Heck of a Halloween Hillbillie - Merri Melde

TheEquestrianVagabond.com - Full Story

November 8 2022

I lean forward, as still as possible in the saddle, talking to my horse as he flies along, telling him what a Good Boy he is, how strong and powerful and phenomenal he is, how lucky I am to have him, how lucky I am that he willingly and happily carries me so swiftly over these trails. One of his ears flicks back to listen to me, then flicks back forward as he rockets forward, devouring the trail, focused on his mission of flying through the desert.

A preface to this story: Hillbillie Willie looooooooooooves DWA Barack, his pasture mate. Barack likes Willie - maybe a little love returned, but Willie loooooooves Barack. They can easily go to rides without each other, but when they go to rides together, things can get complicated if/when they don’t ride together.

I wasn’t sure what Hillbillie Willie and I were going to do at the 3-day Owyhee Halloween ride, the last one of the season. A 50 and some LDs (25 milers)? All LDs? At this ride last year, after Willie finished his 50, he gas colicked and was on IVs till midnight. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I have been forever since paranoid. Over his 5-year endurance career, he’s completed 26 50-mile rides for 1065 miles and never had a metabolic problem until last Halloween, but now I always ride him with a heart monitor and watch him like a hawk from the start to the end of the rides. And always worry...

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Saturday, October 08, 2022

2022 Autumn Sun/Distance Nationals 100 - Marlene Moss

by Marlene Moss
October 5 2022

So a little (lot) more detail on our Autumn Sun Pioneer Endurance Rides 100 mile ride - and a pic or two. Stace and I spent the 10 days prior to this competition in Spain, riding horses on the Camino el Cid and I'll do more posts on that soon. We planned our return flights to get home in time to sleep 6 hours, get up, pack the trailer, load Topper and Alamo and head to Gooding ID.

I'd originally planned to ride Hank, but our relationship wasn't good enough for a tough ride (ie one with lots of rocks with my head's name on them!) and then I found out there was a Shagya division for the AHA Distance Nationals. So I signed up Alamo even though when he did that ride 4 years ago I swore I'd never take him back there, even if I went back! The footing is technical and Alamo was a total clutz. Since then he's had lots of chiro (limited hip movement had him collapsed in the shoulders) and hock injections (silly boy decided to have a 3" growth spurt all in his legs at age 7, if I'd known, I wouldn't have been competing him before that) and just before this ride, the vet suggested coffin joint injections. This was definitely getting beyond my comfort zone on whether I should be competing him at all, let alone a 100. But since he's been trying to unweight his hocks making his fronts sore, it really was a necessary thing no matter what, just for his comfort. What a difference!

We also had front pads under his shoes and did pour in pads on his hinds. So lots of things to both help his body and help him connect his body to his brain.

Alamo mostly doesn't care about the trail, he likes to wander, so riding in the dark has been a challenge and he was nervous at the start so we started with Topper in the front. This always causes some tense moments between me and Stace because Topper is hard to control at the start, but I didn't want to loose the end of the ride by energy wastage at the start. Topper got us through a couple groups of riders to our window and then we put Alamo up front.

He did awesome with my headlamp, a first for me and him, even through some cows which normally terrify him. Then we just let the miles roll by.

Most of this was on really nice roads (who says that? ha, when the alternative is rocks!) But they were really nice roads and Alamo has a steady 9-10mph trot when the footing is good.

Very early in the ride Stace noted that his tights with silicone patches were wearing holes in his legs, so we knew there might be some difficulty there. But we rolled into the out check at 36 miles (probably the extra mile came from a change to avoid some of the cows) in pretty good shape. Except for Stace, he was in pain from the hole in his leg and his core was getting a workout trying to protect it.

Alamo was head down eating the entire hold. He loves the oat float we take out (Topper doesn't), either wet or dry even coated in salt. We didn't syringe electrolytes since they both do well without, but I had some just in case. Alamo had excellent gut sounds and had ate and drank at every opportunity.

I know Stace was sore but he was trying very hard to make sure he wasn't the reason I didn't complete another 100! I was 0 for 5. So he sucked it up for the next 25 miles which was very, very technical. We'd been over part of that loop at the start of the 100 the year before, but it was dark so I didn't know how tough it was - although then it was uphill so easier than downhill in the light (when our opinions matter more than the horse's, heehee). So it was a slow loop though the warmest part of the day, but it wasn't really that hot. I never sweated, but poor Alamo already has a winter coat and was a dusty, crusty mess!

I told Stace I would be totally fine if he needed to pull. I had no doubts I could ride Alamo at this ride in the dark, alone if needed. I know he didn't want to pull, but at some point you realize that riding poorly isn't helping you or your horse so he did the right thing.

This worked out because David Lewis and Joslyn Terry had heat issues so were hanging out longer at the hold so we hooked up so there'd be someone to dial 911 if either of them ran into further trouble. David was riding the amazing Alexander Hamilton and they helped us make some pretty good time on the 22 mile loop back to camp even though it was still tough on David.

Alamo took over the lead through twilight and continued without a headlamp since the half moon helped us perfectly. We moved out when we could, but kept it careful over the 3 miles of rocky downhill since David was so quiet I was worried and of course I'm always overly sensitive to Alamo on rocks.

Sadly David was pulled because his horse was a little stressed with the rest of his buddies leaving on the last loop as we came in for our last hold. Jos and I left on the last 16 mile loop. Back up the 3 miles of climb and rocks, then I led down the steeper hills until we got back to trottable surface. By then Jos was really tired. I gave her my last Jolly Rancher and a Hammer Gel and we started swapping stories and entertaining each other and soon she was wide awake (and a bit cold!)

It was a slow loop since what goes up must come down and there were either rock or shadows that looks like rocks, but we trotted where we could and finished with strong horses pulling at 9-10mph when we got back to the good road. I was so thrilled with Alamo, his second attempt, but first completion and he was so competent all day both with footing and taking care of himself metabolically.

No question this is a challenging ride, but it's supposed to be, right?! It's unfortunate we couldn't see the cool hoodoo canyon, but that just wouldn't have worked to get the 100 mile route and not something you'd do in the dark!

We finished and I'm doubly proud that it was Alamo for my first 100 mile completion and that we did it on a ride that I love which proved that we've overcome a lot. Bonus was that we were the only Shagya team so got all the swag! Here's some pics other people took, first two by Merri Melde and one demonstrating while we'll never be on the cover of Endurance News!

2022 Distance Horse National Championship 100 - David Lewis

by David Lewis
October 5 2022

It's a good thing that my horse (Matay) doesn't have Facebook so he can tell that I was cheating on him! This was by far the most brutal ride I've ever done.

I don't know what made this ride so difficult, but out of 29 starters, only 16 finished (55%).

I was not originally planning on going to the Distance Nationals at Autumn Sun because my horse had the equivalent of a tendon sheath sprain from Old Selam. Not a serious injury, but some time off and rehab are needed before doing another ride. Alexandra looked to move up from doing LDs and double her distance to attempt a 50 at the AHA 50-mile National Championship. Of course, I had to go to Nationals to crew for her, and then Stevie said she had an available horse to ride! The legendary Alexander Hamilton! This horse is a Tevis finisher and one that Becky Osborne would never shut up about. Now I didn't have an excuse to not make an attempt at my first 100-mile race.

I was so nervous I barely slept at all before the ride. It was like piling on all the nervousness from every ride I've ever done and bottled it up into a single night and the 3:50am alarm jolted me awake for what felt like 8 hours too soon.

The start time was 5:30am, which meant the first nearly 2 hours we'd be riding in pitch black darkness. I used to ride in the dark frequently, but it was a new experience to be doing it for this long at an endurance ride with only the occasional glow stick to guide your way and know that you're still on the trail. The stars were so clear above your head and I'd find myself making out constellations and making rapid wishes upon the shooting stars. The far-off city lights from the valley never seemed to go away until sunrise.

Getting on Alexander for the first time, I could tell within a few seconds that this horse has some amazing dressage training in his background, training that would come in handy throughout our ride and part of what made him the most incredible horse I've ever ridden, and by far one of the easiest horses to ride. His body control made you feel like you could Piaffe down the trail if you really wanted to. I had to resist the urge frequently.

Our group of 5 horses had green glow sticks that Stevie attached to our breast collars that made us look like a train of aliens flying down the trail. Even though we started in a field of 30 riders, nobody spoke a word. The darkness gave you an almost spiritual feeling that you didn't want to break by speaking. The darkness riding was so much fun, even being blinded by Stace Moss's 40,000 lumens headlamp riding a quarter mile behind us, which we just *had* to give him crap about. The miles flew by quickly.

One of the biggest challenges to riding this ride in the dark was not accidentally riding over a cattle guard. You had to make assumptions to avoid plowing right through a cattle guard since you couldn't see them, then the heard of untold hundreds of cattle who you could only make out as black blobs bumbling out of the way in front of you.

The sunrise brought conversations back that typically accompany a group of riders on a long endurance ride, and we all started to get to know each other. Stevie, our fearless leader, riding Sparta. Stevie owns Intergalactic Equine and these amazing five horses that we were riding, she leases out these horses to people like me looking to do something so crazy like riding a 100-mile race or competing at Tevis. These horses are second to none in their conditioning and rideability.

Courtney was riding Hero and the only rider (that I'm aware of) who has completed the Mongol Derby, the Race of the Wild Coast, top-10 Tevis completion, and the Goucho Derby. She's an incredible athlete and rider. Carmen, riding Chuck Norris, has completed Tevis twice and was not only an excellent rider herself, and an absolute joy to chat with, but seemingly had an entire pharmacy in her backpack. Something that would come in handy later. Then Joselyn, our junior and daughter of our vet, Dr. Cassee Terry, was riding her second 100 on big-boy Sonic and one of the toughest riders I know. Our group apparently looked like a centipede weaving down the trail. The lead horse would weave around the rocks and instinctively the other horses would follow in identical footsteps.

Our game plan was to just ride to completion, we weren't going to be racing today because there was such a full field of top-level riders on the trail and there appeared to be little to no chance of us getting anywhere near the top 10. It was going to be a long day in the saddle.

The first loop was longer than it stated on our GPS tracks and we rolled into the first vet check at 36 miles after about 6 hours with sound and very ravenous horses. Stevie did the majority of the crewing for us feeding the horses, handling the tack, and giving us motivational speeches. What does she not do?! Just to remind me that I was doing an endurance ride, Chuck Norris, probably kicking at a fly, roundhouse kicked me in the shin, which was fortunately padded by my half-chaps, and then not 60 seconds later, Alexander thought my finger was a carrot to snap in half while trying to grab a giant bite of alfalfa.

Back on the trail again and around mile 40, something went wrong in my stomach. Started getting light-headed and nauseous. Stevie would ask how everyone was doing and I'm thinking to myself, I don't know if I've ever felt worse on a ride. 20 miles to go before the next vet check and this loop would prove to be the most challenging with the hellish rock fields that we had to walk over. The next vet check couldn't come soon enough and with every mile, the nausea was getting worse. I stopped drinking my electrolytes because it felt like the last thing I wanted to put into my stomach, I think this made things worse.

At the 60-mile vet check, I was half-hoping something was going to be up with the horses so I'd have an excuse to pull, but I would have no such luck as Alexander was as strong and mighty as ever and made it obvious that he was more than ready to keep going. Me and Joselyn, on the other hand, were about to faint and vomit from heat exhaustion. I'm so thankful for everyone at the out vet check area especially Layne Lewis and Cassie who soaked jackets in cold water and put them on us and force-fed us nausea meds and Hammer fuel and electrolyte Gels.

Stevie came over and said "Before you make a decision on if you want to pull, think of how hard past-you has worked to get to this point and think of future you who will remember the decision you made today to complete this ride or to quit. But present you is fleeting and you won't remember how sick you were today." Well, there was no way I could quit now! Stace rubbed a hole into his leg riding Topper and so that left Marlene and her Shagya-Arab, Alamo, to do the remaining 40 miles by themselves. This was perfect, we could spend an extra hour at the vet check recovering and go out with them on the 3rd loop back to the 84-mile vet check back at camp. We'd be riding through Sunset into the dark, so we dawned the headlamps and headed out an hour after Stevie, Courtney, and Carmen left.

Alexander knows his place in the herd of 5: "I gotta be second!" he would insist throughout the ride. But now it was time for him to lead and lead he did so well, throwing out a "wait for me!" whinny every 5 minutes for 23 miles. This horse was a frickin' powerhouse on this loop, while I wanted to just fall off and pass out on the ground because I was convinced I'd somehow feel better that way, he kept on trucking as if we were still on mile 3.

As the ride progressed, I found out that time is not the only thing that feels subjective. Distance does as well. Every mile started to feel like 5 or 6 miles and it seemed to take forever for the miles to melt away, no matter how fast we traveled.

After 19 miles of leading, I was still so sick and tired, and having taken a break to lie down, knew that relief wouldn't come until we got into camp. Now that it was dark, Alamo took the lead while I set Alexander in behind and just rode with my eyes closed while concentrating on my breathing. Maybe this way I could feel somewhat rested, I thought, as the night turned the heat exhaustion into vertigo.

We made our way down the last 2 miles of steep downhill into camp at 9pm and walked down the road at the exact same time that Alexander's buddies were all leaving camp on their 4th and final loop. Well, Alex was NOT happy about this!! "Wait for me!" he continued to plead. Alexandra met me at camp and handed me some meds and said "Go sit down, we've got your horse" and Sonic pulsed down immediately, followed by Alamo. But Alexander stressed about his now-gone herd-mates. He was so strong, eating, drinking, moving, and pulling people around camp. This horse was so far from done.

While I watched sat in a chair, shivering and covered in a blanket that Jessica Huber brought over, waiting for my horse to pulse down, Jeremy Reynolds brought over a jar of pickle juice and said, "Here, drink this. This will settle your stomach and get you through the ride." Never thought about it, but I actually liked it! Jeremy went over to check on how they were doing trying to get Alex's pulse down, but I could tell something was wrong. I never heard them call out my number saying he pulsed down.

Alexander was like a truck with an unwavering engine and a bottomless gas tank. Yet looking off into the dark hills watching his buddies all leave, nobody could get his pulse down to 60 in the allotted time, so we were forced to end our ride there after 84 miles.

Joselyn and I had talked about taking a nap before going out on the final loop, and at first, I was relieved to not go out, and then so disappointed because of how close we came and how able we were to still go on and finish. It would have been so hard but so worth it.

Marlene on Alamo and Joselyn on Sonic went on to finish their ride, and what an amazing job they did.

Even though Alexander didn't pulse down, that horse was so far from being done. He pushed the pace for all of the 84 miles even if he was supposed to be in second. He wanted to push the pace as often as he could.

I stopped taking photos and videos by the second loop because it took so much effort to battle nausea, plus there was never anything different to take a photo of, the views and terrain on this ride never changed. It looked the same from mile 1 all the way through mile 84. The ride itself wasn't particularly hard, but somehow was also the hardest ride I've ever done, and Ride With GPS saved us at least 12 times from missing turns and getting off trail like so many other riders had, and that turned out to be a huge advantage as the other three, Stevie, Carmen, and Courtney were able to place in the top 10!! Most riders we passed had their phones out trying to follow the GPS tracks to avoid getting off the trail. Don't underestimate the necessity of RideWithGPS, and this ride has given me new material for the talk Stace and I will give at the PNER convention about how it helps keep you on the trail, but also can confuse you if you don't know how to use it. -- And then to everyone trying to follow the loops on their phones, it's a great idea to get a really good GPS watch.

I'm so grateful to so many people who helped out with such an undertaking, from my beautiful wife in her sexy red curly hair, the ride management, Stevie, Diane Seaby Stevens' amazing Crazy Legs tights that kept me comfortable beyond any other tights I've worn, to Jessica Isbrecht's partner, Byron, who made me a pair of hot tacos and walked them to my trailer at the end of our 84 miles. Those were the best damn tacos I've ever had.

Now, 2 days later as I reflect on this ride, I feel hungry. Like a super bowl loser. You're desperate to get back to training in the off-season to get back here and get that elusive win.

84 miles was not enough, and I didn't get the T-shirt award for finishing, yet 30 miles further than I've ever ridden and Alexander was awesome. Not that I had any doubt, given Becky's constant bubbling about how amazing he is.

I'm still after a buckle.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

2022 Old Selam - Merri Melde

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
September 7 2022

You’re seriously missing out on one of the best rides in the Northwest region if you haven’t been to Old Selam Pioneer in southern Idaho.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Here’s what Haggin Cup winner Lindsay Fisher, aboard Haggin Cup winner Monk said:

“Old Selam Endurance Ride in Idaho City is a must!!! It is rare to find a mountain ride with incredible views and a light sandy footing!!!”

Lindsay rode with her daughter Hailey (Lindsay rode Monk on day 2), for Hailey’s first multi-day ride aboard Starlight, and she got Best Condition Junior both days!

Marlene Moss said, “The footing is generally awesome and there probably isn't a better marked trail in the country.”

Darlene Anderson said, “The trails are beyond incredible. The views are to die for, the trail markings this year were A-mazing!”

Alex Lewis said, “David and I had a blast on the beautiful trails, that were perfectly marked, and the views were outstanding!! Idaho City has GORGEOUS countryside to ride through!! If you haven't been to this ride, you MUST go next year! The folks that put on the ride are generous and kind, the camp is fantastic, and the ride itself has great footing and is beautiful!”

The old logging roads and cross-country trails wind through 1860’s gold mining country in the Boise Forest between the old mining towns of Idaho City and Centerville. The name Old Selam comes from a workhorse from the Old Idaho State Penitentiary in 1901 that 2 different prisoners used to escape on. The first prisoner was caught and Old Selam went back to work in the prison. The second prisoner took off on Old Selam 6 days later. The prisoner was never found, but according to some reports, Old Selam was found 6 months later near Swan Falls. He probably didn’t have to go back to work in the prison!

Since 1979, the Southwest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders have attempted to re-trace the trails used by Old Selam in his two escape attempts. Ridecamp and the trails have shifted over the years around the area, but since 2017 have been along the old dredged Henry Creek. Maybe Old Selam galloped past our campsite 116 years ago!

The 3-day ride is a club ride for our local SWITnDR (Southwest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders) group, and so many members (and some non-members) donate so much of their time to put this ride together, donating the Ridecamp site, clearing trails, marking then unmarking trails, putting out water, checking and double checking things. Matt and Veronica Stanley took over as ride managers this year for the first time and did a super job.

It can be hot this time of year, and while the afternoons baked this year, the mornings were cool and invigorating. There’s nothing better than trotting along a gently-sloping, winding sandy logging road on a quiet green forest ridge trail.

You won’t find a better organized or a better marked Endurance trail, and you won’t find better footing than Old Selam.

There were 43 starters on Day 1 (both distances), 29 on Day 2, and 32 on Day 3, with only 11 pulls all weekend, most of them Rider Options.

Three horse and rider teams finished all 3 day of the Limited Distance 25s, and 3 horse and rider teams finished all 155 miles of the Endurance distance.

A few lucky Endurance riders got to see a few moose on trails, and maybe the ghost of Old Selam watched through the trees as riders passed over the trails, and dreamed of the escapes he made so long ago.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Big Horn 100 2022 - Kelly Stoneburner

July 26 2022

Our trip started with a lay over with Steve Hugus and Isabelle Farmer who helped us get much needed rest and fed us delicious food as we were still pretty worn out from Tevis. We got to see their wonderful horses including their adorable foals who Cassidy especially enjoyed scratching and loving on. Isabelle gave Cassidy some lessons on her very talented upper level Parelli horses and Cassidy soaked up her knowledge and teaching skills! 
We met Kay Ickes at base camp- she drove 14hrs to come crew and be a part of the ride! 
The ride started at 4am. Jesse and I decided we would make the most of the flat lands in the cool early morning and both mares felt calm and relaxed and navigated the trail in the dark with ease. We met our crew before heading up into the mountains and both horses were eager to get going. We took it easy over the next part as the climbing starts and doesn’t stop! The views on this section are not easily captured with words as this is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Jesse did all of the steep up hills on foot to be sure to save Bonnie’s energy. 
Coming into the first vet check we started to worry that Bonnie wasn’t eating with her normal gusto. Jesse convinced me to go ahead and he would hand walk Bonnie the rest of the way. I didn’t like to leave them but the mares were being very independent and this allowed me to get Reckless vet checked then help with Bonnie when they arrived. Bonnie passed the vet check but Jesse felt like something wasn’t right so he rider optioned. This impresses me more than winning or finishing any ride- putting your horse first! He said that on their walk to the trailer Bonnie clearly started to feel better and started eating ravenously. We think she had a little tummy upset but thanks to Jesse taking care of her like he did she will have lots of rides ahead of her! 
One rider left the vet check well ahead of us but Reckless left on a mission to catch up. I loved getting to ride right by where Jesse and I exchanged wedding vows one year prior up on a bluff overlooking the trail. We caught up to Jennifer Kaplan and her amazing gelding and we ended up riding the rest of the day together becoming fast friends and being thankful we didn’t have to do the long lake loop and trek down the mountain solo. 
Our horses just felt great and ate up the miles as the day progressed. It was so fun to have crew at each check as Reckless is such a big girl she takes some extra work and ice to cool her down! I felt very spoiled and pretty confused when I was told to go sit down and eat something as my crew had it under control.
As we headed out on the third loop- the very long lake loop- I realized that Reckless was missing a hind shoe. She stood perfectly still while I booted that foot. I noticed her other hind shoe was twisted as I had started the ride with shoes that were a little old and she had sheared the nails right in half on both hinds. In true endurnace fashion all decisions have pros and cons. I had chosen to keep shoes that were a little older to let her have extra long feet which she greatly appreciated on all the rock never taking a questionable step all day but now I was paying the price as I only had one boot on the foot that lost the shoe and a shoe half falling off. Jennifer helped keep eyes on my situation planning to tell me when the shoe fell off so I could keep it and nail it back on at the next check- this was gonna be a long loop of worrying. Coming up a long climb to the road I saw our truck and crew!!! I could not have been more thankful. While Reckless ate and drank I nailed the twisted shoe back into place and we were headed down the trail in confidence with a tight shoe in just a few minutes! 
At the last vet check Reckless was so hungry she ate huge bites and enjoyed lots of attention before we headed off on the last loop with both horses looking strong and happy. We had been leap frogging with two other riders and were fully expecting to see them again and swore many times we saw headlights right behind us once the dark settled in. I have never seen a single mile of that loop in the daylight and it turns out it was actually quite beautiful. The horses were happy to get water at Trappers creek and then we saw our crew one last time who even had hot coffee for us! We headed to the finish ready to be done with that long last stretch working as a team to spot glow sticks and stay on trail. 
We crossed the finish line and decided to tie for first which felt so good as we really did ride the majority of the ride as a team. 
Much to my surprise Reckless won best condition- this was definitely because of the hard work of my mom, Cassidy, and Kay who took the absolutel best care of her all day- thank you! 
Reckless has quite the story which deserves a little mention. CJ Wise and Derek Wise trusted me with her four years ago when they ended up with her because she had failed as a dressage horse and terrified her previous owners. We immediately named her Reckless after the heroic Sgt. Reckless from the Korean War. Reckless proved to be a challenge- she was so sweet and willing but would be overtaken by moments of “psycho” where my biggest challenge was just keeping her feet on the ground as she would stand straight up or throw huge bucks that were no joke. Loving her new job as an endurnace horse she proved to be very athletic and capable except when it came to pulsing. She would get anxious and worked up at the vet checks and we got pulled several times for not pulsing down if there was too much going on around her. I almost gave up on her as an endurnace horse. Nick Kohut and William McCullough you two were instrumental at Ft. Howes and Spanish Peaks for your incredible patience and kind way with her and I believe that you both had a huge hand in her mentally figuring things out and helping her become a real endurnace horse. I can’t thank either of you enough. 
For anyone who has not attended the Big Horn it is truly one of the most amazing rides and you should come. This ride means so much to me and Jesse that we exchanged our wedding vows right off the trail.
This year was in memorial to Jeanette Tolman as she poured her heart and soul into this special ride during her lifetime. Her family did an amazing job and gave her a wonderful tribute by beautifully putting on this ride. I will be forever grateful I got the privilege to ride this year and could not be more thankful for my family and could not be more thrilled with Reckless.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Tevis 2022 - Annette McGyver

by Annette McGyver

Tevis 2022: it’s a long one, We did ALL the things. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I saw somewhere on Facebook that if somebody doesn't think they're going to finish Tevis then they're wasting their money when they go. I don't know if this is true or not. I do know that I filled out my application as soon as entries opened and I planned on riding Johnny and I certainly planned on finishing. But then the gremlins struck and now I'm rehabbing Johnny. My friend Terry offered a horse to ride; I was still “in”. I previously took Rupert through the canyons and on a few other sections of the trail.

We had a great time, we started out by ourselves and he was a rock star through that fast start, (it sure seemed fast this year). It was a bit of a stressful ride through granite chief. We got stuck in a Congo line of 31 horses with a bad whiplash effect. (In hindsight I should have pulled off and let them all leave). As it turns out my friends caught me at Lyon’s ridge. I was happy to ride with them into red star. But when we got there, we were up against the clock; he was a little dehydrated and hanging at 72 but eating and drinking just fine, peeing and pooping as well. He got pumped up with an optional IV. We got Rupert settled in at Foresthill.

Time to rally and wait for our riders at Michigan bluff. I was refilling everyone's drinks and cooling anyones horses that needed it. Our riders were chasing cutoffs all day and gave it up at Foresthill, leaving just one of our group of four gaited horses out there. Scott had it in the bag, his horse looked good and strong!

Unfortunately he slipped off the trail just after Cal 2. We’ve all had a foot slip off and scramble back on, makes your heart skip a beat. Not this time, it was a pretty sharp drop off and they went over, tumbling down 15 or 20 feet to a couple of trees. The duff was deep and the soil was loose and it was just impossible to get back up again. It was pitch black. (*I will never ride these cliffs without a green or red headlamp again)

By the time I heard this was happening, they already had a team working on it but they needed some more manpower and equipment. I was told it’s best to get a horse settled and wait until daylight to attempt extraction, now I see why. Unfortunately he was not in a good spot for waiting. The team was amazing and the rider is one of the best horseman I know. He stayed in there working with the team for hours until the horse was back on solid ground. Wow, it sure takes a long time to shimmy a horse down 100 feet to the next switchback. The amazing rescue team got it done! On the hike out It took all of us to carry everything out. I couldn’t walk by his saddle there on the side of the trail, I am surprised I managed it!

I’m so sorry that this was his tevis experience - it was a crazy year and as I thank my crew for my ride (thank you), I have to show some love for the ride management, net control, horse rescue personnel, veterinarians, volunteers, SOS, and I don’t even know who I don’t know. The trackers were very useful for locating off trail horses and the enormous team of people involved in the background of this ride is overwhelming.

An honorary mention for Lucy Chaplin Trumbull , she did not start as her horse was NQR. She rallies like no other and jumped to join my crew. So glad she did as they are from out of town and it was awesome to have Lucy there. Thanks Laura Matthews!! Once I was pulled, she assisted in the live webcast, then helped locate horses that were off trail. Her extensive knowledge of the trail and access points is really unbelievable! 

Forgive me if I missed anybody, I don’t always know if I should name names either, there are a lot of people involved in a lot of aspects of this ride I was previously unaware of

And….Eddie (the horse) is looking good, heading home now. Now I can cry about it

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Great Britain: Golden Horseshoe Ride May 20-22nd 2022 by Jo Chisholm

EGB.myclubhouse.co.uk - Full Story

GOLDEN HORSESHOE RIDE MAY 20-22ND 2022 by Jo Chisholm

The Golden Horseshoe Ride has been a large part of my life over that last 25 years – from competing in many of the different classes from the 2-day 80km to the ultimate endurance test of the 2 day 160k class, and to being part of the organisational team from 2017 to 2022, this being our final year. However, next year the mantle is being handed over to a new team headed up by Shelly Bates and Maggie Pattinson. We are very pleased that someone has stepped up to take on this iconic ride as it is a part of the history of endurance in this county, and indeed is amongst the few endurance rides globally that many in the equestrian world have heard of.

This year, sadly, there were no entries in the top class of the 160km/2-day Golden Horseshoe and only three in the Exmoor Stag 120 km/2 day and two in the Exmoor Fox class 80km/1 day. The main entries were spread over the more popular Exmoor Hind class 80km/2 day and the single day 40 km and 24k classes. The lower-than-normal numbers are probably due to various factors taking their toll – the last two years have meant that many riders have not kept their horses up to full competition fitness and also the cost of fuel may restrict many to local rides rather than travelling further afield. It was clearly demonstrated that Exmoor demands the fittest and best prepared horses and riders, with the ‘introductory’ novice classes seeing a higher attrition rate than the higher mileage classes, where more experienced combinations were competing. The conditions were just about perfect with Exmoor having had a reasonably quiet winter and so, apart from the usual areas that tend to stay spongy, the moorland still had plenty of grass cover with firm going and the tracks had not been washed out. The weather was also kind to us during the weekend with just the right amount of sunshine...

Read more here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

2022 Old Dominion - Todd Hezeau

by Todd Hezeau

Okie dokie.

I know I I have not written on here in a long time but some have asked for a report of the National Championships at the Old Dominion so since I have minimally gotten back on Cr$pbook as a lurker, I figured I could oblige, so here it goes.

It was a tough ride! There ya go… just kidding.

We left on Monday and traveled over 2 days utilizing shorter days over a period of time rather than longer days of travel which the shorter travel times between destinations is better IMO. So we overnighted in Jackson TN the first night, Bulls Gap the second day, where I glued Wynd’s boots on the next morning inside the protection of the barn and arrived in camp on Wednesday late afternoon. Wynd traveled well and arriving Wednesday allowed her to rehydrate and eat.

On Thursday we were awoken early to the sound of Reveille playing on the PA that is set up all along the edge of ride camp which is a long pasture with a road down the middle at I think around 5a. Apparently it is tradition to play reveille before the ride start and then followed by what is called the “bubble” song, which sounds like a bad ring tone that you will never get out of your head once you hear it. We went back to sleep but got up around 8a because we were to travel to Cass WV to ride the Cass scenic railroad which is an old logging railroad that utilizes geared locomotives to pull and push you 11 miles to the third highest point in the Alegany mountains. Being a rail fan, (I secretly love trains, in particular geared locomotives), I was like a kid in a candy store and took many pictures and videos.

We barely made it in time as the drive across the mountains to get there was intimidating to say the least. Roads were steep and curvy and we got lost on the way back so we were late getting back to Wynd. She had plenty of hay and fortunately the folks watching her filled up her water. Thank you to Christo and his wife (the people whom put on the Alabama Yellowhammer ride and owners of Dinklemann Arabians) whom we befriended. Talked with them quite a bit and man, I could listen to him and his wife for hours!!!

Anyway, we awoke to Reveille again on Friday and again went back to sleep. We met Tim Worden and his wife, Lara, Thursday evening, whom I had been conversing with on FB getting information about the ride which was very helpful and we went out for a small trek Friday morning before vet in to get an idea of the ride and make sure all was well with tack and such. Eventually I went to fetch our rider card and vetted Wynd in around 3p where the vet said one quad of her guts were quiet which concerned me so I really watched her and checked them before we went to bed and they were loud and gurgling so she was good to go.

We finished getting things together since all the holds were out of camp and Kathy, my amazing crew person was doing all of the crewing task on her own! By herself! Lara said she would be happy to let Kathy follow her to the holds since Tim and I planned on riding together. It was interesting that they have the the PA lined up parallel to road in ride camp, we did not have to walk the distance, which we were pretty far away from the meeting tent, so we just stayed at the trailer and listened to the meeting from there! We went to bed about 8p and awoke to rain around midnight. I fed Wynd the evening meal, she had her rain sheet on as the temp was rather chilly that evening.

I awoke around 3:45a as ride start was 5:30a. I obviously was not paying attention or with my hearing didn’t comprehend, that start was at 5:30. I heard 5:15 so we were early to check in. Anyway, we tacked up in the rain and the ride commenced at 5:30. It was planned that Tim and I would ride together but he was late at the start so we started with everyone else. I did not wish to wait because from everything I learned about this ride, there is a lot of walking involved because of the rocks and time is everything so we just moved forward and did not wait.

We were with probably 8-10 other horses durning the start which went off down the road. It was raining, not hard but steady. We turned off into the woods about 1/2 mile down the road from the start. The trail was muddy in places and we eventually came to our first climb which is about a 1300’ elevation gain. It had some rocks, particularly along the ridge that we rode along once at the top which consisted of some thin, vertical rocks sticking out of the ground about 2 to 4 inches and although a few horses passed us trotting along this, I opted to walk her as she was tripping on them because of the fact they were hard to see.

We started our descent to the first vet check which was down a gravel road for most of the way, some of which was steep. We made it to Bird Haven and Kathy was there waiting on us. Mind you she was our only crew person throughout this entire ordeal. She crewed this ride by herself and without her Wynd and I would have never made it! Wynd vetted through without a hitch and ate well durning the hold. To show how hydrated we were, I had to stop and pee 3 times during that segment and she did also! She has learned that when I pee she can too!

That hold was 40 minutes and we left back out on time and went back up the road we came till it broke off into the woods. All this time I was wondering, “where are all the rocks?” All I have heard about this ride is how bad the rocks were and on that first segment I saw nothing worse than what we encounter on rides here in Texas or elsewhere.

Well, once we broke off the road and started our second climb, I was not disappointed in the rocks. They came in abundance and never ended after that. Yes, this ride has ROCKS and plenty of them. Lots of walking in the segment of the ride. Rocks were everywhere!

We eventually came to the 2nd VC at Laurel Run. This VC, crew was not allowed but the volunteers at this ride did not disappoint. There was feed and hay bountiful for the horses and they had water, P&B sandwiches, granola bars and plenty of other snacks for the riders! You were very much catered to. They had thought they lost my bag, of which I did not pack one for that hold, and the head volunteer was a bit upset that they lost it till I told him that I never had one sent.

Again, Wynd pulsed in quickly and ate great at this hold. It was 45 minutes and off we went down the road and back up the mountain and although this climb was steep it was pretty much all road and she trotted the relatively flat parts and walked the steep sections. When we got to the top of the climb she was ready to rock again.

We came to a trough and caught up to two other riders there of which we wound up getting stuck behind for a good while. The trail in this part was rocky but not terrible as there were places to move but nowhere to pass at it was very narrow and the ladies we were behind elected to walk the entire section. Finally came to a part where we could pass and pass she did. She lost a boot almost to the end of this segment combining into the 3rd VC and there was a bridge crossing a creek, which she does not like crossing but fortunately we had caught up to another rider and so long another horse goes across the bridge, she will, other wiser I have to hand walk her. The bridge was surprisingly slippery and she panicked a bit on the footing, which is where I think the boot came off, not the rocks… LOL.

Kathy was waiting for us again and someone we had been talking about the night before,Aubrey Hager, former central region rider, who helped Kathy and us while waiting her sister came in off of trail. I replaced her boot before we came into the P&R. Again, she vetted through pretty quick and had great scores and ate and drank well. On a side note, we had been having some issues with gut scores at some prior rides, so I did some research and had a recommendation of adding magnesium to her elytes, which we did at the 75 out at the Grasslands. Her appetite and gut scores dramatically improved so we utilized the same remedy at this ride with very good results.

Soothes hold was 50 minutes and we set out after we were released. From this point on the trail was a little easier with the big climbs out of the way but not the rocks so much.We had been lucky all day as themes had been low and they continued to be that way, never really getting out of the 70’s. I have heard that this ride can have some relatively high temps along with the high humidity that we were already experiencing.

This trail was no different in the case of the rocks. There were plenty to go around but there were sections of road and flat areas where you could move out and she did. We acquired another rider a little after leaving and rode with there and her horse for the rest of the ride. This lady had completed this ride 4 times now and although her horse was a yo-yo horse, meaning he would speed up and slow down, Wynd figured out real quick that she could keep her normal pace and not have to do the same thing. She is so smart!

This section would be particularly long from what I was told. We had a 10min gate and go where once your horse reached criteria, they would let you go 10 minutes. Both horses seemed ravenous and ate very well and as we were getting released to go, the ladies I was behind earlier had caught back up to us but never saw them again. Wynd and the other lady’s horse were eating everything at this point. Any grass they came to they would want to eat and move along.

I was told to get ready for the Mail Trail. How the hell anyone delivered mail up this trail is beyond me. I was also told that this was the trail they cleared rocks off of and I was assured by the lady we were riding with that this was a lot better than it has been in the past. That was nice. This trail was a NEFT trail, (Never ending f$cking trail) and every ride has one. It is also the point in the ride where you start questioning your sanity.

We made it to the Little Sluice courtesy stop, it’s not a hold but they have volunteers there that have water, snack, hay feed. We stopped for a bit and let the horses eat and drink. It was only 4 miles to the next hold, the Big92 VC.

Kathy and Aubrey were there waiting on us and had everything ready! Again, as it had been through the whole ride so far, she pulsed and vetted in quickly and ate just as well. This hold I believe was 40 minutes and we left on time with our guide person. The next hold was 7+ miles away and were 70+ miles through the ride and she was moving out very well, even with all the climbs and rocks and soon to be mud, Wynd felt great and was doing very well so far.

This section is about half road and half through the woods. The rocks seemed to diminish to an extent which made going easy but being dark we walked a bit more through the woods. We came to Laurel Run VC which was the 5th VC and a 30 minute hold. Kathy passed us earlier going down the road and meet us there and had some major help from the ever helpful volunteer named Ryan, whom helped us earlier in the day at the same VC. He was awesome, carrying everything from the truck to the hold and even parked the truck!

Again she ate and drank, but this time it was getting a chilly so I did not remove her saddle. The vet at the vet check was very impressed with her recoveries, 52/52 and this hold had a pretty steep incline in the trot out coming back to the vet. She was like that all day. He gave her a compliment.

So we were off after our time. Next VC was 13+ miles and was mostly road although we had some hills to climb with, you guessed it, rock! At this point it was dark and couldn’t really see anything as her glow sticks on her breast collar lit up the trail, we made it to Bird Haven and VC 6, the last hold, which was only 20 minutes.

Wynd had picked up the pace a bit as she knew we were headed back, especially in her walks as our guides horse was a bit of a slow walker so she led a little for periods of time. Left her saddle on for this VC as well and the vet gave her another compliment for 52/48 CRI. She ate and ate the either time we were there. We had 6 miles to go!!!!!

We left the hold across the pasture we entered and loped out of the VC! When the trail turned into the woods, we had to walk. The mud combined with the rocks made things a bit slow but she had a pretty go pace at a walk. We reached the road leading to camp and both horses took off at a fast trot and as we got to the lights we picked up a lope.

Now since this woman we were riding with lead pretty much the entire time we road together, I wasn’t going to go blow past her at the finish but Wynd had other ideas. We broke into a light lope and then she, without warning, bolted into a gallop with many people footing and cheering! I was not ready for that but I guess she was done… lol.100 miles of that terrain and she does that. Wow!

We walked down the vet check as Kathy went to get the wagon. I pulled her saddle and we walked to the vet. She was trying to eat everything. We got to the vet and she gave us another compliment on her CRI which was 48/48. Her P&R pulse was 40! She never had a CRI above 60 all day. Yes, she did a 100 miles.

She trotted out sound and all of her other parameters were great! We completed, 8th out of 32 starters! I cannot be any more proud of my little girl! She was strong all day, ate and drank well all day. She performed fabulously!

We brought her back to the trailer and took care of her legs and such and went to bed. We were exhausted. The next morning we awoke for BC showing. I made the mistake of not putting a heater on her and trotting her out in her collar which caused her head to be up in the air but she looked good. She flinched a bit when palpated near the knee on the LF and had a rub between her heel bulbs on the RF which she lost the boot on and reacted to that so her BC scores were not the greatest but I don’t care! She did fabulous.

I cannot convey the appreciation I have for Kathy and all she did for us. If it were not for her, we would have never completed this ride. She did everything by herself! Load, unload, reload again, Drive, unload, carry, lather, rinse, repeat as all of the VC’s were out of camp… She is the super crew and I am very luck to have someone even remotely willing to this for us! I did try and get her some help but, in the end was unable to secure anyone. She did have a bit of help from Audrey and I am extremely appreciative of that.

Since I have ridden the the big 3 now, of which I have only completed one and attempted another numerous times to no avail, which we shall be going back to kick it's ass, I have had time to think about It and I have rated them in order of difficulty. This is my opinion with the experiences I have had at each ride so take as you may.

Big Horn IMO is the most difficult It terms of climbs and sheer daunting remoteness. There is no one, other than maybe another rider, and I mean no one, between each of the holds and it is 20 miles between each hold. The elevation change is majorly drastic. When I did it the ride changed a bit but from the first hold to the second was a 4000'+ change. The canyons we had to climb were straight up and down with no switch backs.

OD would be #2. They are not kidding about the rocks at this ride, they are brutal. Lots of walking. You don't have the elevation like the other two but the climbs are long and add the rocks, well, there ya go. There was one rider I heard of that lost 3 shoes after the second section. We lost one glue on so I consider that pretty lucky. Look at the picture of her boot and the wear the rocks caused. And we were lucky with the temps as it never got out of the 60's. Maybe reached 70ΒΊ. The humidity was in play though and from what I have been told, these temps are not the normal temps for this ride. I can imaging what it would be like if the temps were in the 90's with the humidity!

#3 unfortunately Is the ride in California. Yes, it can get hot, but with no humidity It is very tolerable and yes the canyons are a tough part of this ride but in all honesty, the toughest part of this ride is the logistics! So, mind you this is my opinion from the experience I had at all three rides!