Saturday, September 19, 2020

Big South Fork 100 - Mollie Quiroz

Big South Fork 100

Now that I’m finally recovered from the excitement that was Big South Fork 100, I’m finally able to sit down and do my write up. From the start this ride was a challenge. I teamed up with Romeo owned by Tina Davidson Cochran for the 100. This was the first time I met Romeo but I went into the ride having confidence in this horse’s ability to finish a 100 because he had previously finished all three 100 mile rides he had done before.

Saturday morning around 6AM I went out to start getting him ready for the day ahead of us. We racked up, I lunges him around to get all the silly out and Tina and I hopped on. We started the ride in the front group and Romeo did so well the first loop, including multiple river crossings with one that we were almost swimming in. We came into the vet check and he passed with flying colors.

We did our hold and headed back out again for our second loop. This loop was much flatter and Romeo did really well in all the sand and rocks we had to traverse across. We can into the vet check where I noticed Romeo was acting a little strange.

We passed our vet check but I kept a close eye on him. About 10 miles into our loop, Tina and I made the decision to split up. The horses needed to go different paces and trying to go together would probably end up doing them more harm than good. Tina went off ahead and I jumped off Romeo to walk him and make sure he wasn’t going to do anything silly. We walked for about a mile and half and I jumped back on and we continued on our way at a much slower pace. We took it easy coming into a crew stop where we stayed for about 30 minutes and I just let him eat, drink, and cool off. We didn’t leave until he was completely cool and starting to get restless from not doing anything.

We left to do the couple remaining miles back to our 54 mile vet check at camp. Romeo and I came in and the vets agreed he was doing MUCH better but still not perfect but he was getting there.

I set off again for my next loop and just walked him for a little bit to make sure nothing would go wrong with him. He was very good and ate and drank on trail. We were trotting along a long gravel road when Romeo and I both got spooked at the sight of a bear right in front of us on the trail Romeo did not appreciate me telling him to go past this bear after it left but he ended up racing past at a very fast spee we came to a long down hill so I jumped off and ran/walked down with him.

At this point it wasn’t dark enough for my headlamp but it was too dark to see trail markings. The ribbons were dark red so we ended missing a turn and doing an extra couple miles. We turned back and found a couple horses going the right way and tagged along with them. We can into another crew point and at that point I was still worried about Romeo so I decided to walk most of the remaining 4 miles in. The last 2 miles I jumped off and walked in. Apparently that was all Romeo needed because after that, he was back to normal! He was performing like he normally does!! The vets passed him with flying colors and we were cleared to set out again.

There had been a lot of lightning in the sky so I put my raincoat on and got on the horse. At that moment, the sky decided to bless us and sent buckets of water down on us all Within the three minutes it took me to get to the trail, the water had taken over and Romeo and I pretty much walked the next 7 miles. I couldn’t see more than 2 inches in front of my face and Romeo kept wanting to turn his head away from the rain. we eventually made it through the longest 7 miles I’ve ever ridden and went on for the next 10 miles of our loop.

Luckily the rain stopped and Romeo and I made our way down a long hill. I ended up walking him down the hill and through the bogs and when we came to flat ground I jumped back on and off we went. We would see a light and just trot to catch it and we just kept passing little lights as we continued on the trail. We came around a corner where I met a rider who was needing to rider option but was having trouble making the remaining 4 miles into camp. I got her horse going and we walked most of the way together. Once we were almost there I took off to let her crew know what was happening so they could help.

Romeo was AMAZING at his 90 mile vet check and we were off for our final loop. They ended up moving the finish line into camp so they gave us a little more time to do the extra trail. Romeo and I had a little over 2 hours to get our 10 miles done.

And we did it! We went through all the single track and spiderwebs and spooky things in the bushes. We got onto the road that led into camp and Romeo just wanted to take off. I let him go and off we went, cantering our way back. At this point, it was daylight out. It was nearing 7am, 24 hours after our start. We crossed the actual finish line before cut off and came into camp at 7:10AM. We vetted him through and got our completion!! We came in dead last in 5th place. I couldn’t be prouder of this little horse and how he recovered as the day went on. We aren’t sure what happened to make him feel so off but he’s back to normal now and we couldn’t be happier! Big thank you to all who worked to put this ride on and make it happen! This ride was my 7th 100 mile completion and I was so happy to get to finish!

Another BIG thanks to Tina for letting me take Romeo through and trusting me to take care of him once we split up! I’m so happy he was able to get his 4th 100 mile completion and still has a 100% completion rate for his 100 mile rides!

Massive thanks to Jody Buttram for making me go back out again and again even though I was wet, bruised, blistered and miserable! It was worth it the next morning and I’m very happy I finished!!

Another big thanks to Lisa Rushing for helping out and making sure Romeo was all set up the day before and crewing through night after your 50 mile ride in the day!

This was not a ride I will ever forget and I can’t wait to come back again! Now it’s onto the next 100 miler

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

First Milestones - Ashley Wingert

GoPony.me - Full Story

August 30, 2020 / Ashley Wingert

It’s been a month and 5 days since Liberty come home. In that time, I’ve put a dozen or so miles on her in the arena, with 7 or 8 rides, plus some non-riding groundwork days, the idea being to make sure we had a solid foundation and all the critical buttons installed and functioning before hitting the trail.

Today, though, I was ready to hit the trail. It was my “birthday gift to myself” — to finally head out and start putting our trail miles on as a team, hopefully the start of what will be many more...

Read more here:
https://gopony.me/2020/08/30/first-milestones/

Shifting into the Next Chapter - Liz Stout

Liz-Stout blog - Full Story

Let's just rip this band aid right off shall we?

I have decided to retire Q from competitive endurance.

It's a decision I've been pondering for over a year. My downtime due to COVID-19 has only helped solidify it for me.

Repeated comments about Q's way of going have made ride vettings feel a lot more like Russian Roulette than a routine double-check of the horse's condition. Fortunately (and very gratefully!), I received an absolute wealth of information about how to help resolve Q's gait at last year's Biltmore 50. It was eye-opening and amazing to learn so much about how I can help my favorite little mare. I worked through much of what those wonderful vets recommended for me and had hoped to give things a go for No Frills this past April, but then - as we all damn well know - the pandemic struck, life changed, and endurance competitions were put on pause...

Read more here:
https://liz-stout.blogspot.com/2020/08/shifting-into-next-chapter.html

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Summertime Blues Endurance Ride: Mackenzie's First 50 - Jessica Isbrecht

Summertime Blues Endurance Ride, La Grande, Oregon

Mackenzie's First 50

by Jessica Isbrecht
8/22/20

The sun was just starting to brighten the sky when I woke at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Byron wished me a happy birthday. Then, rolled over and went back to sleep. I fed the horses and myself, chugged some water and a few electrolyte pills. Tacking up and last minute checks went quickly since hoof boots were already on and glued in place.

Twenty horses started the 50 mile ride at 7 am. I managed to choose a good starting position, just behind the front runners and just ahead of the slower folks. We rode with other horses for a bit but eventually found a nice bubble of solitude. We actually spent most of the day alone and that was wonderful.

Everything was going swimmingly until about halfway through the "creek trail" when Mackenzie stumbled coming through a whoop-dee-doo (large bump in the track used as a jump by ATVs/bikes). She fell to her knees and I thought we were going to roll. Luckily, she recovered and kept right on going. She was sound at the vet check so we went out on loop two after an hour break.

At first she thought I was crazy for leaving camp since we'd already gone 25 miles (her longest distance to date) but once we got going she was all business. I merely had to cluck and she'd happily pick up a trot and go on the buckle. I knew we were in the top ten and I started fantasizing about showing for Best Condition. Well, don't count your chickens before they hatch Woman!

We trotted around a bend in the forest service road and were surprised to see it rutted up with deep tire tracks. I steered her into the rut but she decided to climb up onto the high ground. As she stepped uphill out of the rut, the tiny gravel bits rolled between her hoof boots and the hard packed dirt. Her legs slipped out from under her and we both hit the ground on our right sides. It all happened so fast! I heard my vertebrae crack as my shoulder and head landed and I felt my right leg and hip hit hard. I managed to scramble to my feet and grab her reins just as she was standing up. We were both dazed. I looked her over for injuries (only a few abrasions) and held my breath as I asked her to walk forward. No limp. Thank goodness!

So, we started walking. I pulled my phone out of my thigh pocket and found the screen shattered. It still worked so I pulled up the ride map and tried to make sense of where I was and where the nearest pick up point might be. I spent a long time trying to decide if I should quit and call to be evacuated, or keep going the last 15 miles. I trotted her in hand and she looked sound but I still wasn't sure what to do. Would it be wrong to keep going? Was I asking too much, even if I hiked the rest of the way with her?

My friend Karen caught up to us a little while later. I asked her to watch and tell me if Mackenzie looked sound at the trot. She told me she looked fine and I should definitely not pull.

I hiked a few miles and remounted when I felt certain that she was indeed okay. We then proceeded to walk the rest of the way to the finish, maybe trotting a quarter mile of it.

I held my breath during the final examination and made a quick birthday wish just before the trot-out. All was well and we passed! I was so relieved. I shed a few tears on my way back to our trailer where I spoiled her with a feast while I cleaned and dressed her wounds and poulticed her legs.

Later, at the awards it was confirmed that we placed 7th with a time of 8:38. Everyone sang Happy Birthday and I ended up winning a pair of Renegade Hoof Boots. It was a wonderful day.

Mackenzie tackled her first 50 (which was not an easy one) at 16 years old, survived not one, but two, potentially catastrophic accidents, and still looked like she could've gone out again the next morning. To say that I'm proud of her is an understatement.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

2020 Big Horn 100 - Nancy Sluys

by Nancy Sluys 

August 1 2020

Since the beginning of my experiences with endurance and competitive trail riding I have had a dream of riding out west at one of the iconic buckle rides. Of course Tevis is high up there on the list but the one that has always caught my interest has been the Big Horn 100 in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming for its rugged and remote nature. This past winter I got it in my head that this was going to be the year because it was the 50th anniversary of the ride and I knew it would be extra special. They had an offer that if you paid the entire entry in the month of February you would get the buckle included with no extra charge so I went ahead and entered so that I would have a concrete goal to work towards. My mount was going to be my mule, Danny (Jet’s Danny Herlong), who was becoming my main endurance animal and this would be his first 100 miler. The ride was to be the second weekend in July so it fit perfectly into our busy summer schedule.

Then the Corona Virus hit and the world was all turned upside down. I watched the status of the ride hoping it wouldn’t get cancelled. When the date got moved to the weekend of August 1st I was doubtful that we were going to be able to make it because our niece was getting married the following weekend in Northern Vermont and I just could not see a way that we could get from one place to the other in time without killing ourselves and we certainly would not want to take a chance in missing the wedding. Then, with the Covid situation not improving, the wedding was postponed to next year. The pathway to the ride opened before us and we took it.

Bill and I decided to make a vacation of it since we were fully self contained in our living quarters horse (mule) trailer and social distancing would be easy while camping along the way. The first stop would be my sister Diana’s place in Arvada, Colorado and it took us three days to get there with stops in Evansville, Indiana and Salina, Kansas. Diana’s mini ranch backs up to a green space area so I was able to get Danny out on the trail so he could start adapting to the western environment.

After a couple of days rest in Colorado we headed up to Cody, Wyoming for a few more days of acclimating and sightseeing before heading to Shell, where the ride camp was, on a ranch in a field called the Beef Slide because of a steep hill they drive the cattle down. The camp was hot and dusty but the atmosphere was electric. With most rides being cancelled because of Corona Virus, people had come from near and far to the 50th annual Big Horn 100. The rider numbers swelled to more than twice the normal size, giving the ride manager a challenge. The scenery was breathtaking with red rock formations and distant mountains in every direction.

Friday I took a ride to let Danny see the last couple of miles before the finish so he would know where he was when he got near. We got all vetted in and everything was good to go. The weed free hay we purchased from the ride was beautiful and green and Danny spent the night knee deep in it. He was fueling up for the day ahead although he couldn’t know the extent of the distance since this was to be his first 100 mile ride. My husband, Bill, and Gina Hagis, my best riding buddy from Virginia, were going to be our crew. The start time was 4am and would come too soon.

I felt like Danny would do better if I had someone to ride out with at the start so I asked Joni Burden (from Alabama in the Southeast region) if she minded if I tagged along her and her friend Laura, who was riding Joni’s extra horse. Joni’s mother, Jody Buttram, had bred Danny and his dam’ was the sister of both of Joni’s horses so it just seemed fitting to ride together. We met up just before the start and rode out in the pitch dark, following red LED lights along the trail. I left my headlamp off except where necessary and my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, although it was a little disconcerting trotting through the dark over footing that I was unfamiliar with. I just trusted my mule and trotted on! The blackness morphed into sunrise about 5:30 with some beautiful color. We came up on one of the many gates, 38 total, that we would have to open and close. Laura jumped off and opened it as we thanked her and promised to get the next one. Most of the gates are barbed wire with a post attached that you have to fit into loops on the gate post and many were tricky and took some muscle.

The first 21 miles were through the desert and fairly flat, gradually rising in elevation. Danny was feeling good and settled into a brisk trot. There were a lot of horses around us but Danny didn’t pay them any mind. I lost Joni and Laura for a while but they caught back up and we rode into the first vet check at Beaver Creek together. Danny’s pulse came down right away and we were good to go according to the vet. Danny settled in and ate well. There were no crews allowed at this check but lots of hay and water was provided.

The 19 mile second leg of the ride starts out on a dirt road that climbs the mountain, curving out and in revealing ever higher views of the valley below. In this segment between vet checks 1 & 2 the elevation changes from around 5000 feet to almost 10000 feet. Much of the trail was in the sun which was becoming stronger and the heat started to build. The road became a track which became a narrow trail as it travelled in and out of several canyons, some rocky, some grassy. We rode through incredible fields of wildflowers with so many species I couldn’t count. As we gained elevation I recognized miniature versions of common wildflowers that were stunted, due to the high altitude. The riders were starting to spread out and we had some trail to ourselves for a while before passing a big group in a creek. The trail rose more sharply before arriving at the second vet check at Horse Creek just as a quick shower mixed with ice pellets came through cooling things off considerably. I was starting to feel the altitude and became breathless from walking around. I rested and rehydrated while my fabulous crew took care of Danny.

We left Horse Creek at a canter as we had to make the 3:00pm cut off time at hwy. 14 which would be at 50 miles. The going had been slow coming into Horse Creek as the temperature was unusually hot for the mountains but now we had some dirt road to move out on. By this time Danny had taken up position behind the two mares as they were acting pretty bitchy to him if he tried to pass or got in between them so I got real used to seeing those two round grey butts bobbing ahead of us! We pushed pretty hard until we arrived at hwy. 14 with 30 minutes to spare. The trail after that is a blur to me as the altitude was making me lightheaded and a little disoriented. I just remember lots of climbing and changing scenery. Every time you came around a bend a different scene would greet you, it was just amazing! Incredible rock formations, vast meadows filled with wildflowers, virgin groves of pine and spruce, mountain views, it was all just breathtaking (even without the high altitude!). The going was slow and rocky but the vistas were awesome. Sometimes we would come to a meadow and could pick up the pace but then we would have to stop and graze because the grass was too good and Danny and the girls were getting hungry. There was so much good grass on the trail and Danny would snatch mouthfuls without even stopping!

By the time we came into the Battle Creek Vet Check at 63 miles I was hitting my low point. I was getting altitude sick and was feeling nauseous and dizzy, I couldn’t eat anything at all. Then I remembered the gift my sister had given me as we were leaving her place in Colorado which was a small oxygen inhaler, just in case I needed it. I took several hits of the oxygen and started feeling a bit better. I put it in my pack for later and mounted up and rode off. I was feeling that Danny was being affected by the altitude too as he had slowed from his normal pace. He was still forward but had adjusted his overall pace a bit slower to conserve energy. Mules are famous for taking good care of themselves to I figured that’s what he was doing. I told Joni and Laura not to worry if I dropped back because I had to take care of Danny and do the pace he was comfortable with and I didn’t want to hold them up.

This segment deviated from the big loop and was an out and back with a lollypop in the middle. Right off the bat Danny was telling me we were going the wrong way because he had already pictured in his mind where camp was and we were going in the opposite direction. He hesitated and kept looking back but I urged him on forward trying to convince him that we were going the right way. After a while as the sun was setting we started down a section called Shag Nasty. It was nothing but rocks and boulders for several miles and was very technical. Actually it reminded me a lot of the high country near Mount Rogers in Virginia, our home trails. Danny put his mind to work and negotiated the tricky terrain as only a mule can do. He skipped through the rocks and started picking up speed as the trail made a turn and he knew he was headed back to the vet check. We circled a beautiful reservoir before returning to the dirt road that would take us back to Battle Creek. Once on the road Danny picked up an easy trot and we made pretty good time back to the vet check. By now my condition had improved in the cool night air and we both were getting our second wind.

Gina and Bill were relieved to see me looking better and we all had confidence that the team would finish the ride as we had only one more leg to go. There was come confusion leaving the vet check and I was misdirected down the road the crews were leaving on. After a short while I knew there was something wrong so turned back and asked for clarification and was sent up a hill towards a distant green light. I was a little frustrated as I didn’t have time to waste and the detour had cost be at least 15 minutes. There was also some confusion as to whether the trail back to camp was 13 or 16 miles so I was a little uncertain as I headed out to find the proper trail. About 15 minutes later my headlamp died and I searched my bags for a flashlight. I couldn’t find it even though I knew it was there somewhere. Luckily the full moon was rising over the mountain, providing enough light to see my way well enough. I was all alone in the night and had no one to help open the gates, which had become harder and harder to operate as fatigue set in. The moonlight started playing tricks on me turning rocks into buffalo and other strange creatures. A small band of antelope crossed the trail in front of us and at one time Danny stopped and alerted as we passed two coyotes watching us pass from the hillside nearby. The night was scary and magical all at the same time! The last leg seemed to take forever as we descended for an eternity. The last big obstacle was the slick rock section which seemed to go on for miles, even though it was maybe only a half of a mile long. By now clouds had covered the moon and I was having a hard time seeing so I used the flashlight on my iPhone to see the difficult footing when needed. Slabs of slick rock lay all over the trail and we had to pick our way finding purchase along the edges but sometimes the rock would cover the whole trail and was very slippery and treacherous. At first I tried to get off and lead Danny, as that is what those riding horses had suggested, but I almost rolled my ankle so I thought it safer to get back in the saddle. Mules are so sure footed, I put my trust in Danny and hoped for the best. When he would get to a slick section he would baby step his way down and never slipped one time.

At this point I knew we were running late and I was becoming worried that we would not make it back in time. As soon as we were past the slick rock section I put my leg on Danny and he moved right off without hesitation, feeling the pull of camp. After a few turns we came to the section we had ridden the day before and Danny quickened his pace as he recognized the trail and knew we were almost back to the trailer. As we came off the mountain and hit the flat ground he broke into a canter and I had tears in my eyes as I recognized his strength and will to move forward after almost 100 tough miles, he felt as fresh as if he was just on a Sunday outing! My anxiety was high as the clock ticked away but I finally saw the lights of the finish line and glanced at my watch. It was a bit after 4:00 am, over 24 hours since we started the ride and I knew we were not going to make it on time. As I crossed the finish line, a little less than 10 minutes late, the ride manager called out that she was going to see about allowing a completion only which would at least make our hard fought miles count. At that time I really didn’t care, I was so proud of my mule for finishing what felt like the hardest and most beautiful ride I’ve ever done and bringing me back safely. I knew in my heart what we had done and how great my mule was and I will hold that thought forever in my mind and heart!

It was to my great relief that the completion only status was upheld and the mileage for this great challenge would now count on our record. Many thanks go out to all the folks who helped make this challenge possible, Cindy Collins (ride manager), my crew, Bill and Gina and all the many volunteers who gave their time to allow us to have such a great adventure!!

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