Saturday, June 16, 2001

Pyramid Challenge - Angie McGhee

Just back from Pyramid Challenge at Kentucky Horse Park. What a *different* kind of ride. You know, usually just getting to a ride sight requires some endurance...dirt roads with no names, towns nobody`s heard of...not, "Go up 75 to exit 120 and the Horse Park is on your left. I pictured a tourist attraction, (no I haven`t been there before unfortunately) with a field out back where they`d park us. Well, we came in the gate and the people didn`t know where we should go, they were taking up money for the huge Bluegrass festival that was going on there. We passed by the huge bronze of Man O` War, then we drove by the Saluki dog show and Field Trial, then there was the Hunter Jumper show going on up at the ring on the hill, and the Egyptian Event Arabian Horse Show in the big covered Arena. Talk about a busy place! We camped right by the scoreboard for the Rolex 3-Day Event. The names were still on the board in chalk, right next to the tree where I hooked up my picketline. There was a big lake across the street with 3 big fountains spraying continuously that were lighted at night. Very restful sound. Since Kaboot was due a vacation, and I`d wanted to sponsor my daughter at this ride I had posted on Ridecamp asking if anyone had a horse they wanted ridden. Connie Caudhill of KY sent a note and said to go ahead and pre-enter, she had one I could ride.

Got to the ride late...don`t ask...O.K. it had something to do with waking up Friday morning with a miniature donkey which doesn`t belong to me in my field, scaring my horses to death and spending the morning in pouring rain trying to catch it. Anyway, by the time we got there it was almost time for the ride meeting so I grabbed my horse for the weekend, "Huckelberry Moon" and went down to vet in. I`ll tell you now, if you`re a heavyweight (or not) and looking for a good horse you should go ahead and read this post just to see if you`re interested in this horse! (a pause for a word from our sponsors) The horse was big (to me) and a black bay with a full mane and thick forelock. He`s got a really nice flat strong back and was put together nice, solid built, like Kaboot but with height. Connie said he was sweepstakes nominated and Mike`s wanting to keep him, "but any horse we have is for sale". His trot out was a little enthusiastic, (probably because we`d left his friends on the hill) but after I saw how they bring those stallions in for a halter class at the Egyptian Event I realized it was just a breed characteristic. >g< I was a little concerned that I might have bit off more than I could chew as I led him back up the hill (or he led me). The ride meeting was in the Patron`s Lounge at the big arena and sitting amonst all those big oil paintings of Thoroughbreds you really felt like you were in Kentucky...(as if 400,000,000,000 miles of white board fences hadn`t already given it away)

Had a very short ride the night before. After 14.2 Kaboot Connie`s 6 year old horse felt big, and I wasn`t sure about the control factor on the bosal he wore. We`re talking about 60+ horses starting on a steeplechase racetrack, and traveling through wide open fields all day. Heck, Kaboot would have been a hair raising ride in those conditions. Get him in an open field and you feel like you`ve roped a locomotive.

The vet check was about 1/2 mile from where we camped. If you were walking it you entered a gate onto the steeplechase track, a really wide grassy track with a hedge on the inside rail and black board fence on the outside. It had rolling inclines and was a mile oval. Then you crossed over into the infield which went down into sort of a bowl and up the other side to a huge OLD grove of LARGE trees that put out the coolest shade you can imagine. All shade is NOT equal. The vet check was in that area. On the far side of the track was part of the crosscountry course that is used on the Rolex, etc. The jumps were awesome. When you see those things up close and they`re made literally out of power poles that are bolted together, with huge ditches between them. I honestly cannot imagine...

The ride was nice. Better than I expected when you know you`re going to be on very domesticated farm land at all times. There was quite a mix of traveling around the polo field, up the lanes between the Horse Park barns, around front past the entrance, and then onto a neighboring farm trotting between rows of corn (O.K. we wiped out one row and traveled between the two on either side of it) The trail looked so tame you didn`t realize all the dangers that really were there. For one thing, everybody was falling off. I mean everywhere. All that open space was just mind blowing to these mountain horses and they just got real happy...whole lotta buckin` going on. I for one was very relieved that my borrowed mount let me stay on. :-) Second, there were apparently some old fence rows not that far away from all the nice new fence rows we were riding. Holes would just appear out of nowhere. As we trotted along one section we`d just started to slow down for a turn when I heard a big thump behind me and Amy Whelan was on her horse`s neck. The horse had gone to the knee in a long skinny hole. Thank goodness we were already slowing down. There were quite a few of those. Also, we were riding along the fence lines of lots of fields and the grass was waist high. The second time around after the path had been beat down it was scarey to see what sort of stuff we`d gone over that morning without knowing it was there.

Now the good part. As we headed out for our second loop, we met some 25 milers coming in from their first loop. There were 4 riders, and 8 horses. Seems an entire field of the Horse Park`s rental horses had decided to escape and join the race...FORTY horses! The 4 who`d joined this bunch were very serious about the whole matter and were staying perfectly in line with the horses they were traveling with . They never even glanced at us as we headed the other direction; they were just about a mile from the vet check and I was wondering who was going to crew for them. >g< We went on around the loop and came up on some riders who`d stopped and saw some men from the horse park catching a Percheron who definately was *not* cut out for the sport he`d just tried out. He was one big sweaty panting fellow. His roan racking horse pal didn`t hang around to be caught, he just took off on down the correct trail ahead of us. The men told us we could go on once they`d caught the big guy. We went another 1/2 mile with ol` Roanie setting a good pace and came up on another Park worker blocking the trail with his truck. Several riders surrounded the horse (which did *not* want caught) and James Agnew removed one of his reins and made a loop and finally snared it. Two down, 38 to go. What a place. I could just imagine 38 horses crashing through the Bluegrass festival!

I was having a great time ever since I`d figured out Connie must like me after all because she`d loaned me a heck of a horse. This guy was big and almost black, but had absolutely no trouble coming down to a pulse of 60 faster than Kaboot would have. She said he was raised in Fla. and handled heat well and she wasn`t kidding. Josie`s knee was bothering her and we lost some time on the third loop just getting off and letting her stretch it, but other than that this horse who was only doing his third 50 kept a good 10mph pace most of the ride. Josie just had a while there where we had to walk for her sake. He had a great relaxed canter and would switch leads on his own so I had a much better time circling those big fields than I`d expected. I was a little worried about getting off of him during the loop to give electrolytes, since I`m so short my stirrups are at about eye level when I get on a big horse. But, luckily they`d done some competitive trail on him and he stood still while I pulled my foot up over my head, got my toe in the stirrup and then grabbed his longest braid to pull myself up.

One of the coolest things about the way things were set up was that when you got back to the vet check each time, you trotted by the crew area with anywhere from 1/2 to 1.5 miles to go before you needed to you didn`t slow down yet. On the orange loop you had to go .5 miles past the check traveling on the cross country course, then turn right through a gate onto the steeplechase track and then come back into the vet check. On the pink loop you did the same, but when you got to the check you had to pass it and do another full 1 mile trip around the track. The beauty of that was that for *once* the crew people got to see the horses traveling the way they look on the trail, not the way they look when we ease them into the check and walk in. The view of them cantering along effortlessly was beautiful. I enjoyed watching them go by as I was serving out my hold. The horses seemed to enjoy that perfect mowed grass footing so much they didn`t mind passing the vet check.

Now, for some anecdotes. This has got to be the *strangest* ride story ever. This is how I heard it retold, any mistakes are mine. Seems Lois was running up in the front group, then she was gone. Nobody was quite sure when she dropped back. One rider said he thought she`d decided the pace was too fast and dropped back. Mike Caudhill laughed at that idea and said they should have known better... Lois could have been shot through with an arrow and still wouldn`t have thought any pace was too fast. >g< Seems Lois had come off her horse, hurting her ribs in the process, and the horse had taken off down the pavement. She tracked it a long way by skid marks on pavement. It left the Park, crossed 2 cattle guards and ended up on a Standardbred farm. She came in and asked the workers there if they`d seen her horse. They said, "Yes, and it totally disrupted their schedule". They were palpating mares and very ticked off. They told her she could *not* have her horse back until she helped them finish up...and they were serious! She said some guy who`d been helping them left, and they gave her his job which was holding the mare`s tail. Here`s a woman who`d come off, got hurt ribs, there are search parties out looking for her and the horse and they`re making her hold mare`s tails to be palpated for 40 MINUTES!!!! Poor Lois finally earned her horse back, and was about a loop behind everyone. She was coming in from her first 15 miles as we finished 25 and she was hurt. I figured she`d quit. Ha. She finished the ride. >g<

As I was finishing up my last hold, I heard hoots and hollers and a group of 3 horses & riders passed on the outside crosscountry course with 1.5 miles to go to the finish of their 50. They went up to where you turn on the track and turned in, then two horses & riders, and one horse with an empty saddle came racing down the track. Everyone yelled at the riders in front that the other was down but they either didn`t hear or didn`t care. They went right by the vet check for the first pass, did the full one mile around the track and raced in to the finish with the loose horse right with them. When they stopped he did too. Poor Kay (bad with last names) got her horse back and rode the mile again so she`d get her completion. I told her she`d be legal if she`d just jog it on foot since the horse had already been around, but she didn`t see it that way. >g<

The evening after the ride the Pyramid Society invited any endurance horses who could prove their Egyptian heritage to be ridden in the show ring while they presented the BC awards...ceremonial saddles which were a gift of the Prince of Morocco (I think I got that right). The horses looked good and didn`t act too silly about being indoors until they saw those saddles. Oh boy! No way they wanted anything to do with those things. Just to tell you how overwhelming they were, when they displayed them at our awards later a stray dog was trotting by, suddenly saw the saddles and sort of bristled and went way around them. >g< It would be a real bummer if you figured out that was the only saddle that really fit your horse and you had to compete in it from now on. >eg<

My only regret about the weekend was that we didn`t get a chance to tour the park. As Josie and I came in from our last 10 mile loop, which our horses had cantered most of, it was really cool to cross the road and enter the long gradual climb as we passed jump after jump of the Rolex course, top the hill and do that final lap around the track. What fun.


Angie & Huckelberry Moon (just this once)