Sunday, December 29, 2002

Another Perspective on Tie-ups - Barb McGann

I started endurance riding in 1971 in Utah, and even though I have never really left the sport, I have just under 4,000 miles. Why so little? Part of the answer is just life, but most of it is an epic battle with horses tying up.

My endurance career started in Utah, with Jacque Jewkes as my mentor and Elene Bonine (Mom) as my coach, pit crew and resident “horse expert”. We did fairly well in the beginning; just trailing Jacque around guaranteed you’d be in the top five! I campaigned our Arabian stallion, Cyam, to the Mountain Region Champion Stallion. Then came the 80’s and my personal life turned upside down. We moved to Idaho pursuing employment, I went back to school to finish my degree, and in the middle of all that, my grandmother and dad were both on their last legs, requiring home nursing from Mom. We still had the stallion and mares, and now we had 2 yr olds, 3 yr olds, 4 yr olds that all needed training and riding, so I was riding, but not in competition.
Finally, in the early 90’s, life began to settle down. I had a good job, Mom had retired…it was time to get serious about endurance again. We had two beautiful ½ Arab, ½ Saddlebred brothers, both close to 16 hands and perfect conformation, lots of bone, fit the “three circles”, deep girthed, and just gorgeous! Cyrex was 5 and his full brother, Cyrox was 4. Our good friend, Andrea Day, broke both of them for us and put the first couple of endurance starts on them. Rex was my favorite and since he was the oldest, I put the most time in him, and just brought Rox along slowly.

This was the beginning of 8 years of heartbreak and frustration with tieing up. Rex and Rox both started tieing up the first year. They would do fine in the spring conditioning, but once the year really got rolling and they got in better and better shape, Wham, they would start. This was early onset type, if it was going to happen, it did so in the first two or three miles. If we got past that, we were OK.
Over the next several years, we went through the entire gamut of tie-up advice. We changed our feed – NO grain, grass hay, VIT E, Se. We ran literally hundreds of blood tests. I have tests from 2 days before the ride, day of the ride, day after the ride, 5 days after, 10 days after on both horses! The blood showed that their ca/mg ration was high, as was their ca/phos ratio. We adjusted diets, fed extra magnesium, supplemented phosphorus. Nothing helped. Some rides we would top ten, then the next one, we’d tie up in the first 3 miles. We adjusted riding schedules..I was religious about riding every other day, no matter what. Nothing helped. It started to get very discouraging - right along, we had had people telling us that it was because they were Saddlebreds and tall, big horses weren’t suited for endurance. Our common sense told us that this was nonsense…Rex had a light floating trot averaging about 15 mph that he could do all day long, wonderful recoveries, and a “get out of my way, I’m going down the trail” attitude. Finally after trying everything we could think of, or were told to do for 4 years, we reached the end of our rope. We quit our beloved bred and raised arab/saddlebreds and I went out and bought 2 purebred Arabian mares – One 14.2 hands and one 15 hands. Since I am 6’3”, they seemed a bit small for me, but if there was any truth to the “too big” theory, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

We brought these two mares along VERY slowly, entering LD’s the first year and a couple of LD’s and a couple of 50’s the second. They seemed to be doing fine, and I was heartened. Then, we started getting serious and they started tieing up! Now, I’m totally frustrated. It couldn’t be the bloodlines or size, so we’re back to the management issue, but what could it be?? You just can’t believe how careful we were with everything – feeding, training schedules, supplements. The pattern was still the same as with the big boys. They would start out the year in training and conditioning just fine, go through the first couple of rides fine and then in early summer start tieing up – not every ride, but enough to give me about a 50% completion rate. I got so good at detecting tie up that many times when I would lead the horse back to camp, the vet would say, “This horse isn’t tied up – look at her, prancing and pulling the lead, no cramps” But the blood test would show it.

Just about the time that I was ready to give up on endurance forever, we found an answer – our WATER. We had read an article in EQUUS about horses in Sweden that were tieing up and water was the cause. We thought that was ridiculous, but by this time, we had nothing to lose to check it. We took a water sample down to the local state lab. It came back that our water was thousands of times higher in Ca than it should have been!! All this time, no matter what we fed or didn’t feed, every time they took a drink, they were ingesting high levels of calcium. And what’s worse, come late spring, early summer, they were now grazing on grass irrigated with that water! As they got fitter and fitter as the season wore on, their calcium intake would increase.
What bothers me most is that in all that time, talking to everyone we could think of; consulting with numerous veterinarians, no one ever mentioned water as being a possibility. We strayed close to it in our puzzling – we would say to each other, “Why didn’t we ever have any problems when we endurance rode in Utah – all of this has started since we moved to Idaho?” Still, we continued to think it had to be a management issue, and not an environment issue. It breaks my heart to think that I wasted 4 horses before we finally stumbled across the right answer. (For the record, all 4 are still healthy and being used for pleasure riding/lessons/driving and broodmare uses, but will never be able to do endurance).

The cure was fairly simple – a high capacity water softener system on our domestic water lines, and making the pastures off-limits to the endurance horses once the irrigation season starts. We have now had four endurance horses going off our place for the last 4 years – Andrea Days’ horse “Zinger” ridden by Dot Wiggins; Dot’s mare, Chris; my new Arab (15.3 hands), Chancey YW; and the last of our homegrown foals, Lynn (Arab/Saddlebred). They are all doing fine – no signs of tie up anywhere! We are still careful – we sent hay samples to Susan G. and balanced our ca/mg with extra supplements, feed Ese, limit grain and alfalfa. We try to ride regularly or, if we’re going to give them some time off, we make sure it is 2 weeks. I think I will probably be paranoid about tie up for the rest of my life, but for now we seem to be OK.

My purpose in writing this is twofold – (1) If you’re having troubles with tie up, you might want to check your water. Even mildly high levels in water will contribute to the problem. (2) When I see people on ridecamp making judgements about someone based on their completion/pull records, I cringe…Based on just my pull records, I must look like either a stupid, na├»ve idiot or a cruel, careless over-rider, when the truth is that 2 long-time (over 100 years between the two of us) experienced horsewomen were completely stumped and always chose to pull when in doubt rather than hurt the horses and yet we love the sport so much that it wasn’t acceptable to give up!

Barb McGann, AERC # 840

Thursday, December 12, 2002

2002 Silver State, Thanksgiving Weekend - Karen Chaton

One of the great things about this ride being over Thanksgiving weekend is that it lets you look back over the previous year and think of all the things that you have to be Thankful for. On the 9-hour drive to Jean, Nevada this year I thought of all of those things. Weaver and Rocky, I am sure, don't realize how much I appreciate them, nor do they understand all of the great and wonderful experiences that they have given me. I can shut my eyes (not while I'm driving tho), and think back to any of the various places we have been over the last year and I am magically transformed to that moment. I remember sponsoring a junior on her first 100, while she slept with her arms around Rocky's neck in the last couple of miles to the finish. I remember Weaver drinking out of the Snake River, and of the blisters he put on my hands trying to slow him down after leaving the vet check on the last day at that ride. I remember the how the air smelled from the soft rain and Weaver's warm breath on my neck when I got off to get a gate. Everything I think of makes me smile. I am truly Thankful this Thanksgiving.
As time goes on I think I have learned to appreciate each ride a lot more. I am not in any hurry to finish, because then it is over. I rode with John Bass on the first day, and we finished last. We had the most amazing ride. There was a storm, and the sky filled the desert with the most incredible colors. The contrast between the brown desert and the rainbow of colors in the sky is something that is just so special to get to experience. The weather was just perfect - no wind, it didn't rain and we were comfortable. As John and I went over the Rocky Pass for what may well be the last time anybody rides over it on an endurance ride, I collected one of the trail markers to keep as a souvenir. We were in last place---the first time we went thru Rocky Pass we were getting lapped by the front runners. The second time thru was pretty peaceful! As I was leading Weaver down the steepest part of the pass, he stopped and turned his head, letting me know that we were getting too far ahead of John and Boomer. I looked back and saw that John was indeed quite a ways back, he looked like he was trying out for a role in Night of the Living Dead, or the Mummy, by how he was moving . This gave me more opportunity to snap photos of the spectacular colors. The days are short, so we rode the last couple of miles in the dark. Lights from the Nevada Landing casino blinded us and so we just let the horses find the way. They knew better than we did where the trail went. This day's trail does a loop back into the same camp. We finished at 5:30, went to the ride meeting at 6:00 then headed over to the casino to eat dinner. What a day!
On the second day we ride point to point, from Jean out to Blue Diamond. I really like this trail because it is so much fun to ride. The trail winds and dips and turns and goes up and down. I was sponsoring Heather, a junior, and her horse Marc. Heather's older sister Miranda was moving my rig and Rocky for me to Blue Diamond. I rode Weaver and waited for most everybody to start and leave camp until we left. This resulted in a nice easy relaxed day. On some of the last rides Weaver has become really difficult when he doesn't get to go at a pace that he wants. I much prefer to avoid that kind of situation. Anybody who thinks a young horse is difficult at the start---an experienced *strong* and opinionated horse isn't a whole lot easier! :+D On this day, same as the one before, I often felt as if I was riding a ballet - as the horse just glided thru the trail with such ease and grace. I feel so safe and secure on Weaver, he has never fallen with me and he loves following those narrow single-track trails with as much enthusiasm as ever. We did get rained on a little bit this day, but the temperature was warm and it was nice. The night before it rained for hours. Weaver's neck and head had been wet for a full day and he was still in a good mood. Ordinarily, he hates bad weather. But, this was just rain, no wind, and warm -so he was pretty content. Because it was warm, humid and raining - the horses just never did dry. My Gore-Tex raingear kept me dry and warm, and Weaver had a polar fleece rump rug. The rain from the night before made the desert even more beautiful than ever. The barrel cactus were vivid red in color, the moss had turned bright turquoise and green and the Joshua trees stood out against the brown earth in their new shiny green colors. Add to this the colored rocks as we head up towards Cave Canyon and the clouds in the sky and you've got nearly every color imaginable. Heather decided to pull at the lunch stop, so I continued on and rode the rest of the day with Tracy and her stallion Dragon. The trail markings had been tampered with, but we managed to find our way without too much trouble. It was about 3:30 when we finished--7:00 a.m. starts. RM provided a really nice hot dinner to us that night (the other nights we had the casino restaurants to choose from), and completion awards were polar fleece throws.
On the third day I rode Rocky. This day was the 1st ride day of the new ride season. We started last and stayed behind Trilby for several miles out. I spent a lot of time working on getting him to walk and trying to keep him calm and from getting too wound up. Knowing he'd already spent 2 days not being ridden to get wound up (he hates being not-rode!) He likes to try and use every excuse in the book to break into a gallop. I found that morning, the only two gears Rocky had were "neutral" - which is when he was standing still and "faster", which is what he tried to achieve no matter what gait we were in. It went something like this: (from the horses perspective) "I want to gallop, if I can't gallop, I will trip. When I trip I will save myself by going into a gallop. If you try and control my speed I will run thru a cholla cactus". Yet, I never got mad at him, instead I talked to him and patiently kept working with him until he understood. When I started to feel him responding to my leg aids and he was staying in a trot, I let him go a little more. When he tried to get going too fast we would go back to a walk. During the lunch vet check he probably tossed his head up in the air at least 100 times -all the while eating, drinking, peeing on his food, and dragging me around. Apparently Chill Out wasn't in Rocky's vocabulary on this day. He gets like this sometimes. After lunch I let him go a little more and that made him really happy, though I still had to bring him down to a walk if he saw riders ahead. This was a great training day for us, because at the end of it I felt that I had accomplished something. We still have a long way to go. I still don't know how many cholla cactuses we knocked into.
Well, all three days went by too fast. Just like that, it is over. The casino is there, and we ate dinner in it one last time. It is nice to have good friends. We had a great time, talking about the magic we have from riding our horses on such a fun trail. I will miss this ride. Weaver and Rocky, between them, have completed the last 21 days, or - 7 years - of Silver State. We've had a lot of great times here, and will really miss this trail. It is a real treasure! Thanks to LVDR, Claire, Fred, Peggy and all of their wonderful helpers on all of their hard work. We really appreciate you. :-)
& Weaver
& Rocky .....looking forward to wherever we end up next year :-)

Basic Advice for Newbies - Angie McGhee

One thing that helped me was to find a place where I could measure off one mile that I could travel at a good pace. That allowed me to learn what a 7mph trot felt like (takes 8.5 min. to trot) or a 10 mph (which takes 6). That made it easier for me to understand the training articles I was reading. Unless it's on a toll road, it's free.
You need to know not to skimp on your farrier. Skimp anywhere else, but not there. It's hard for me to imagine that before doing endurance there was a time when I was young and very foolish that I had the farrier put shoes on, then called him when they fell off. >shudder< If you're riding that horse a lot you can't leave them on there after that angle gets off. Different horses grow at different rates...and the same horse grows different in summer & winter. 6 weeks is average for my horses though. This will cost you plenty.
Keep a saddle log. It doesn't cost you anything but will help you set goals and stick to them. Having a training buddy will help you to drag it on out of bed on those really cold mornings since you are both trying to show the other how tough you are and refuse to back out of riding.
Control your enthusiasm. If you've joined the endurance community you have made a life choice. It's a long term commitment. You have the rest of your life to meet your goals and this game is one of those that has a lot of squares that when you land on them say "return to the "GO" and start over". The slow way is the fast way. Take your time. Sure, 2 years is a long time to get a horse started, but 6 months and start over, six months and start over, six months and start over... takes a lot longer. Enjoy the journey. Learn everything you can as you come up. Winning is not the goal... that may be the last part of the goal, but it's *not* the whole thing and if you aren't careful you'll forget to enjoy the other 95% of the sport.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the people in the back aren't "that good" at this sport. I can point out quite a few people riding at the back of the pack now who were the BIG hot shoes when I was getting started. These are people who made very good horses, ran up front, and when the horses slowed down they decided to stick to that horse and do what he could do *now* instead of trading him for another. Others are past winners who are starting new horses slowly. They'll be the big hot shoes in a couple of years. You can learn a lot from them and they'll enjoy helping you out. They don't charge anything.
If you see a campfire, go to it. Stay late. Listen. Meet everyone. They're free.
Never say "this horse never gets tired". Even though we said it when we were getting started and will forgive you if you do. Forgive us if we smile though. We're remembering when we said it and thinking how dumb that sounds now.
You may not be an expert on saddles, but you can watch *dilligently* for any sign of rubbing of the elbows or girth area. Do not feel that you don't have time to let any small wound heal. Believe me. You have time. If you have a regular western saddle, you can move the girth back by running the cinch down to the girth, then coming up and tying it at the back ring. Go ahead and remove those rear girth straps. Doesn't cost a thing.
You ALWAYS have time to stop and adjust your tack. Do not ride through the pain. Fix it now. Lengthening your stirrups a notch will save you money you would spend on Advil.
Don't drink carbonated drinks during a race. They blow up when you shake them...even after they're inside you. :-P Puking them up is a waste of money.
Look at your horse's expression. Is he having fun? If he looks dull, give him time off and back off. Believe me...YOU HAVE TIME. Time is not money...spend it freely.
A stethoscope is handy. Learn to use it so you can volunteer as a pulse taker at rides. It's like reading other people's mail, very informative. They don't pay you, but they don't charge you either. Learn your horse's resting pulse and check recoveries. In the beginning, it may be fun to borrow a heart monitor so that the training articles will mean more to you. However, other than to find out, "yes, we were trotting along at 121" etc. it was of little use to me. I've owned two. Very seldom use one. I agree with Laura, I'll take the "feel" and expression every time over a number. If they come up with a gut sound monitor, I'll use that. That seems to be the hardest for me to "feel". The "feel" method is free, unless you consider time money, in which case you have to make an investment to get it.
I *wish* I could have gone to equitation clinics. I think getting ourselves in shape and learning how to use our bodies with the least tension is the number one thing we need, but the one we're most likely to skip. I want dressage lessons but they're expensive. My daughter is taking now and I eavesdrop. Pain is NOT gain.
I think the number one thing a newbie needs is patience, drive, (you have to balance those two) and an obsession with the comfort of their horse. You can't buy that in a box. If you're saying, "But I'm 42 now...if I do 2 years of LSD on this horse I'll be 44!" All I've got to say is, "How does 44 and starting over *again* sound?"

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Carolina ride (my first!) - Deb Ambrose

As I can now walk almost normally, (not including going down stairs), here's my story about the Carolina ride.
I've had my Arab Appaloosa, Kaylypso (Lippy) for about 2 years, after 25 horseless years, always thinking I wanted to do endurance. The past year, after some pretty steady, three-times a week training rides, I thought we could make 30 miles together.
First surprise: Even those at the back of the pack, where I started, rode A LOT faster than what my sedate training pace had been. I expected the front runners to set the trail on fire (and they DID), but everyone's just goin' down the trail trot was much faster than the one Lippy and I did in training. So we teamed up with a real nice guy Steve and his pretty bay for the first 16 miles, a little walk, a lotta trot, and some canter. We walked into the check, my non-horsey husband provided water, beet pulp and moral support, and Lippy came down to 48 right away. We got all A's, and I left the check late after letting him eat. At least I tried to leave the check. Saddle back on? Head out of camp? Lippy was pretty surprised and disgruntled. Horses were coming in the opposite direction, back into camp. For those who saw us struggling and offered cheerful encouragement, thank you very much. A hundred miler came along (happily in the same direction we were trying to go), and said, come on with us. Lois, I think. Thank you Lois! Off we went, around a lake, and skirting some cotton fields. After a few miles, I got Lippy back to a walk for a breather, and watched Lois sail off into the woods. I hoped we could do this on our own, and sure enough, he agreed to keep our medium trot for the next 7 or 8 miles. Then out onto some paved road shoulder for several miles. It was a windy day, sunny and bright. A few hundred milers passed us, very polite and friendly, and finally we re-entered the woods for the last 5 miles or so. A couple of other people caught us up and we cantered a little bit more, crossed some more huge cotton fields in the wind, and came into the last wooded part for the finish. Lippy was not even too bugged out when the front runners in the 50 came by in the last mile or so.
I wish I could have found everyone who encouraged and helped us along the way to thank. My husband took pictures of us at the finish, and I have this idiot grin from ear to ear. I was proud of my little guy, and happy he finished happy and hungry. I think we were 40th out of 60 starters and 45 or so finishers.
I've been lurking on RideCamp since the beginning, and enjoyed all your expertise. Thanks, hope to see some more folks at the Sandhills ride in March.
Deb Ambrose & Lippy
Aberdeen, NC

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Jose Dante - Tom Sites

I walked into this tack shop out of the blue. I lived in the city and just found it interesting to visit and look and smell the leather. The clerk asked me if i was buying or selling...i was just looking i said. After looking arround i was ready to leave and this clerk said.."i have a friend who is trying to sell a horse". I took the name and # and went back to my city haunts in Arlington, Va and had this dream of a dancing horse. I called the # and went to look at Dante. She told me the story of Joe a horse she outbid the meat man on at 175$.
She wanted to sell him for $250. "Can i ride him" i asked. Sure, she said. I rode my first horse in 20 years or so and he was a whirlwind. I said. "Sure" but i have to find a place to keep him. Finding a field board place off Route 7 outside a metropolis called Washington DC i took my new horse who i thought was more than a i called him Jose Dante. He was a handful and i had to get a trainer to help me with him. She worked for the CIA and did training on the side. She sold me a weather beaten English Saddle for 15$ that i cleaned and oiled to go along w/ the Western Saddle i purchased when i bought Jose. I'll never forget when she hit me with her crop when i didn't do as she thought i should do. Those lessons were over. Jose and i were on our own w/ 2 saddles.
This was the fall of 1973 in the city with my horse. I was a single young man and brought this friend Lisa to ride and see my new horse. I got on and asked Lisa to come on. Jose bucks us both off and when i went to get him he chased us both over the fence. Jose only did what he wanted to do. When he ran me down from a dead walk and ran out into the traffic on Route 7 i knew my time in the city was spent.
We moved to Luray, Virginia in the fall of 1974 not really knowing what i was going to do but i was on a quest with this dancing horse. Out in the country Jose felt free. We rode to my 8 track to Bruce Springsteens "Born to Run" and we rode and we rode. But you had to hang on cause Jose only stopped when HE wanted too. We had a few tumbles, one w/ Gandolf, the Great Dane/Labrador Retriever and all 3 of us went into this slow motion roll.
Living in the country and being free and no worries i lusted for adventure. The Great American Horse Race came along in 1976 and we went. A duffle bag of clothes, a foot locker of horse stuff, a small bag of toiletries and writing material and Jose and me and only enough money to get into the race. The entry fee was 500$ and i had 659$. There are so many to thank for getting us to the start. Lois Fortune Ireland for the money, my Mother for her support and all those that helped us along. Me and Jose had never been on a camping trip outside Luray. We had never been to a horse event. We were as green as spring grass. We knew we were in the Sport of Kings but had the audacity to not even care, cause we were on a grand adventure.
Coast to Coast in '76'. There are so many stories to tell on that adventure that that is another story. But, we finished. And being in Califorina for 2 days i was ready to come home and took the first ride that came along to Illinois. That was closer than Ca. While there Ted Allegrias' sponsor said he'd take us home if we paid the gas. Luray Bound and Home and Glad. Jose and i were mild celebrities here in Luray for a while but life and everything took me back to gardening and making a living and only riding on the weekends.
1977 came and by then i knew what Endurance was and i had to go to the Old Dominion. I had no truck or trailer in 76 and didn't have one in 77 either but we got there. We finished w/ 15 minutes to spare, the toughest ride i had ever done. 78 i took a break and came back with training and ready to tackle that OD in 79. It was a killer day the OD is known for, but we improved our time and came in at 4:30 w/ 30 minutes to spare.
Jose is dead now and i remember him so fondly. It was only much later i found his tongue had been practically cut off by a bit and thats why he was a runaway. Oh Jose Man, you were a good first horse. tom sites

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Coso Junction Jam - Mike Maul

The weekend of Nov. 9 started off with rain throughout California - much needed rain but not what you want for a ride weekend. Los Angeles had a record 1.84 inches for the day which allowed the reopening of the national forests for other rides. In the case of the PS Coso Junction ride - put on by Sue and Mike Benson with Head Vet Dr. Fred Beasom - it rained Friday and during the night but the 2 days of the ride were clear but very windy the first and excellent the second.
Ridecamp is at the Coso Junction rest area 24 miles north of Ridgecrest on Highway 395 and has an unusual setting for a ridecamp. There's a small store and a Taco Bell next door for those not wanting the standard dinner at ridecamp. The camp is at 3300 ft with the trail reaching 4800 ft above the South Haiwee reservoir. We're in a valley surrounded by mountains that we can't see because of the rain. Wind shakes the trailer throughout the evening and night with starlit skies alternating with rain and clouds.
Saturday dawns clear overhead but with dark rain on each horizon. Attendance is down due to riders thinking about rain. It turns out to be good riding the first day with 35 starting the 50 and 8 starting the 30 mile LD. The trails are a combination of single track, jeep trails, and cross country over desert administrated by the BLM and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The weather makes this day of the ride interesting - it's sun, very windy in spots, quiet in others, and rain out of a sunny sky all mixed together. The flat desert is our start - then up into gently rounded foothills - followed by jumbles of rocks covering the hills - through saddle areas - by a working pumice quarry and back into basecamp.
It's windy - really windy - at times. When we are heading into the wind - it feels like you are climbing a hill even though it's flat. When the wind is coming from the side - all the horses out in front of me turn into weathervanes. All the tails are streaming out parallel to the ground and indicating the wind direction. The gusts reached 65 mph according to the weather reports. In one spot - we could hear a noise approaching like a freight train - then a blast of wind hit - then the gust raced on by with the noise so localized that you could track it's progress over the desert as it left us. In other sheltered spots - nothing but the sounds of our horses hooves disturbed the silence of the desert.
The occasional rain came down as little pellets driven hard by the wind but in a sunny sky. In some sections of our country - rain and sun together are called "the devil beating his wife". A web lookup says the 'The devil beating his wife', which originated in Hungary, is actually only one of many proverbs that describe rain and sunshine happening at the same time. Some of the others include "foxes are on a marriage parade," "witches are doing their wash," and "a tailor is going to hell". However it's described - the weather is interesting and different on our ride.
The rain in the distance provides spectacular rainbows stretching across the foothills to the distant mountains - sometimes with a faint second one outside the first. We can see easily across the desert and the bright jackets of red, yellow, green, and blue on riders ahead form another rainbow of colors beneath the one arching into the sky.
After the ride in camp - the winds picked up again and went on throughout the evening. One of the people at the ride had a Jack Russell puppy in a pet carrier that the wind picked up and sent tumbling down the parking lot with the owner in pursuit. At least it was clear - with deep blue skies overhead and lighter pale blue where the sky met the snowcapped peaks in the distance. At night the half moon sinks toward the mountain peaks and shines brightly thru a cleft before disappearing - leaving us with the sharp bright stars of winter.
The second day of the ride took us out across the desert again headed towards the mountains. We detour around a small lake that 2 days earlier was a dry lake bed with the trail going straight thru. It was a beautiful day with no sign of rain or wind. We crest a sharp climb and below us are two reservoirs reflecting the snow capped mountains in the far distance. It's a absolutely spectacular view out over the valley with the white covered mountains in the background.
This view has a lot of history in it for the people of southern California. We're looking down at the Owens Valley - part of the plot for the 1974 Academy award winning movie "Chinatown" set in the 1930's starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston.
The story backdrop for the movie is that in 1906, Los Angeles went through a scandal known as "The Rape of the Owens Valley." Los Angeles was essentially built on a desert, and as the city started to expand in the early years of this century, water was in short supply Soon enough, a full-fledged drought was in effect. City planners needed to get water from a source other than Los Angeles and the closest body of water they found (besides the Pacific Ocean) was the Owens River, about 250 miles north of the city. Prospectors, politicians and others decided to buy up the rights to the river, and the land outside of L.A. (the San Fernando Valley) and create a lush, green oasis in the valley, meanwhile leaving the city to dry up. They would later propose a bond to the Los Angeles city council to feed the river into the city via aqueduct, in turn selling off the irrigated San Fernando land at enormous profit. Until the bond was passed, the prospectors virtually man-made the drought by pumping excess water from the river out to the ocean, knowing that when the bond passed, they would make a fortune. Taking the water away to LA killed the agricultural community that the Owens valley had then. Today more than 70% of Los Angeles’ water has passed through the Haiwee reservoir. Once the water leaves the reservoir it passes through conduit, tunnel and pipe, never seeing open air and light, all the way to Los Angeles. In the past - and now too - control of water in the west is power and that was a part of what Chinatown was about.
None of this goes through our minds as we jog the long winding muddy downhill into the valley and admire the huge reflection pools for the distant mountains but it's nice to think about it after we're done and about the history we've passed by on this ride. There's an eagle nest somewhere along this downhill but we just focus on staying upright in the muddy terrain.
Of the 35 starting the first day 50 - 29 complete. On the second day - 31 of 36 complete the 50. Seven of 8 on the first day and 10 of 11 complete the second day LD. The first day 50 is won by Ernie Lohman whose horse also took BC. The second day is won by Charlene Lewis Stueve with Lisa Belser in second. A longtime endurance rider says that this would have been her 9,000 mile mark today but she pulls 16 miles out and hand walks her horse in. He just doesn't seem right. The completion awards are very nice for a first time ride - a folding chair for the first day and a folding table for the second day with the ride name and logo as well.
Sue and Mike Benson have put on several rides this year. They put on Fire Mountain earlier in the year with the first time Coso Junction closing out the ride year for them. They've put on an excellent ride with well marked trails, nice volunteers, good vets, and great scenery.
The weather made this a smaller ride than it could have been but hopefully Sue and Mike will be putting it on next year with Mike still out on the trails during the ride on his little motorcycle with the license AERC MC.
A very nice first ride for Coso Junction and I'm assured the pre-ride weather will be better next year. See you then.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Biltmore, or If You Invite Me, I Will Come - Penny Sharp

This was a trip 2 years in the making and ended up to be the vacation of a life time!
Jim Holland invited me 2 years ago to come ride his trails and learn about this sport I have since become addicted to. We share similar training agendas and have emailed back and forth. I just had happened on ridecamp and was very impressed with the collective knowledge of the group. I wanted to learn more and Jim knowing I was a newbie invited me to come learn from him. After alot of convincing he just wasn't being nice and really did want me to come visit; I decided that this would be an ideal vacation for me. Then 9-11 happened at the same time my paint mare was diagnosed with EPM. Sadly I had to cancel the trip.
Fast forward a year, I now own an ay-rab(gulp), have completed one out of control LD (double gulp) and 2 very slow and controlled 50's (whew) and yes I am hooked. I asked Jim if his offer still stands and both he and Joan give me a resounding YES!!! We decide I'll come ride with him for a week then we'll head to Biltmore to do the 55. Unfortunately I had to miss the birthday bash, but arrived in GA the following day.
Let me say, if Jim ever invites you to share his trails DO NOT pass up this opportunity. The trail are awesome, many of which Jim mapped and cleared himself. Now Reno and I are Texas flat-landers and not used to trails that look dubious even to a mountain goat. Several times I found my heart in my throat and Reno's eyes got large when he realized he was going to have to climb these narrow foot paths up the side of a mountain. It was well worth the heart stopping moments to see those spectacular views!!! After being out on the trail that first day for most of the day both Reno and I were tired and slept well that night.
The next day is another pretty day and Jim decides to trailer us to the other side of the mountain so he can show me some more awesome trails. Reno looks good and seems eager to go again. We get to the trail head and saddle up. I notice Reno flinches a little when I brush him but I didn't think anything of it. Saddle him up and mount..his back hollows and he just about sinks to the ground. I hurriedly dismount and we palpate his back...he is major sore. I feel horrid...we have never had back it saddle fit?... am I not getting off his back enough? it many hours of intensive climbing?. We decide it's most likely a combo of all three. We haul back to Jims, turn Reno out, Jim saddles up Magic and we head out with me riding Sunny. How kewl I get to ride the famous endurance wonder horse. What a ride! Riding Sunny on his own trails is like riding my paint Daisy. He has no reason to hurry so he is very laid back and trying to test me by seeing how much I'll let him get away with and grabbing mouthfuls of grass at every opportunity. Jim is constantly reminding me not to let him get away with that. I'm thinking how different he is from the fire-breathing ay-rabs I know. I must say at Biltmore he was all business and wanted to go go go :)
The rest of the week Isabel rained on our plans, but it did give me a chance to see Blue Ridge and the surrounding area...what a quaint little town!
Friday morning it is drizzling as we head out to Biltmore but, halfway there the sun starts peaking out of the clouds, the rain lets up and it looks to be a dry, pretty weekend. Reno's back seems fine, but Jim and I agree to just try for completion. What with Renos back and Sunny having been pulled the last couple of rides they started...ha...famous last words!! We get to Biltmore and my eyes pop out as we go through the gate and pass the manicured grounds...hard to believe there will be an endurance ride here. This is not like any ride I've been to in TX!
Jim and Joan have a very efficient system so I just try to stay out of the way and am constantly asking what I can do to help while they set up and we get ready to vet in. At the vet in I get a very personable, young, and new to endurance vet. All is fine until he checks Reno's back by digging his fingers in. Reno heart and hopes sunk thinking we wouldn't be even starting. The vet voiced his concern but told me if I felt ok about it I could start. Geez..just what I need something to worry about all night, although it did take my mind of of what the trails would be like after all this rain. When both Jim and I ran our hands down Reno's back he was fine, only when u used "cat claws" for hands did he flinch. We had planned on riding a little that evening to stretch the "boys" legs but decided to stay off of Reno until Sat.
Saturday morning dawned clear and crisp. I had been awake up most of the night due to pre-ride jitters and worrying about Reno's back. Jim let me borrow a cachel pad to use on top of my pad to help Reno's back. We're all tacked up and the moment of truth arrives...I gingerly mount from a step reaction...Reno walks off and is anxious to go....whew!!! Biltmore here we come (sound the trumpets)!!! Now I am very careful about keeping my big butt off of Renos back and decide to two point the entire ride. Reno and Sunny are best of buds by now and we head off down the trail to warm up. Sunny knows what is up and is ready to GO...Reno on the other hand is doing his turtle walk and looking for something to eat..that is as long as Sunny is with in sight. Once he lost sight of his newest bestest friend Reno panics and does his pieffe thing. Both horses are very well mannered and calm while everyone is milling around waiting for the start. Once we start Jim has to keep reminding Sunny that he has to stay to the back of the pack..a concept that is foreign to Sunny who usually starts at the front and stays there. Every time a horse passes us you can see Sunny getting frustrated with having to let them pass. Reno is used to this so as long as he can see his "beloved" all is right with the world.
The trails are awesome but, due to the rain parts are slick and there are some deep muddy places. Jim is a firm believer of riding the trail you are on and we do a lot of slow jogging and walking the first loop due to these conditions. Many pass us and we are in the back part of the pack(through no fault of Sunnys!) I get to see the famed Biltmore house on this loop and it takes my breath away! Hard to believe that this was once a private residence.
We come in for our first vet check and Joan is waiting for us. By the time the ride is over she has spoiled me and it will be hard to go back to being crewless! Let me tell you that woman has it together..she knows what Reno and I need before we do! When she wasn't crewing for us she was giving classes on crewing to newbie crews!!! Her upbeat attitude and nurturing nature were a very welcome sight as the ride wore on and I wore out. Both boys pulsed down immediately..I sure loved their heart belt and can see one in my future! Reno's back gets an A but his gut sounds are a C...oh great a new problem to worry about. This is a horse who eats and drinks everything in sight. Both Jim and I were surprised as he was almost sloshing at the beginning of the ride due to all the wet beet pulp he had been eating since wednesday. Sunny gets all A's..Sunny's biggest concern is how he can convince Jim to just let him go.
We head out on the second loop. We are still running it conservatively but the trails are starting to dry up and we are able to pick up the pace. Sunny has an unbelievable trot and Reno has to canter to keep his buddy in sight. Sunny's "I wanna go" attitude has rubbed off on Reno and now Reno is asking to go faster and getting upset when someone passes us. I wonder if I have the only horse that gets more excited as the ride goes on??? We let the guys gallop where the trail allows and this appeases everyone. This loop goes by quickly but my knees are starting to hurt from all the two pointing I'm doing and my feet are starting to get numb. Back into camp to the welcome sight of "mom" Joan. Getting off and walking the last bit to camp has both horses pulsed down by the time we get to Joan. Once again Sunny gets all A's (when's the real ride gonna start dad?)and Reno has a new "concern" (groan). Back is still an A, gut is up to a B, but vet says he's off on his right front. We trot out again..he looks like he's short striding but doesn't really look lame. A closer examination shows a tack gall from his breast collar between his right front leg and chest, where all the skin folds are. We go back and show the vet and it is decided I can continue if I omit the breast collar. Great ..I'm at the hillest ride I have ever been to and now I have to ride without my breast collar. Jim just gives me a wicked little grin and tells me to grab mane and get up out of the saddle when we hit the "hill's".
Off we go on the third loop..trails are dry and we hit a good lick. This suits me just fine knees are killing me (not even the aleive I've been popping seems to help) so the faster we do this loop the sooner I can get back to "mom" Joan . I swear the entire loop was all up one point the girth was closer to Reno's flank than to his front leg...where are those downhills when you need them???...we had to stop so I could reposition the saddle. Sunny is happier now that we have picked up the pace and toward the end of the loop we leapfrog a bit with a gal on a very pretty game little Morgan mare. Finally we are at the last part of the third loop and mercifully I can get off and try to walk Reno back into camp. Here I am teeter-tottering along side of Reno trying to regain my "land legs" and Jim is striding weeble wobble goodness is this man for real, he just celebrated his 60th birthday. He has to stop and wait for me to catch up. I never thought I was sooo out of shape, but then again I've never two pointed for an entire ride...sigh.
Once again the guys are already pulsed down by the time we get to Joan, so we pull tack, sponge off legs and head for the vet. Sunny has all A's..heck he has hardly broken a sweat. Reno is finally all A's with the exception of his breast collar gall. We are deemed fit to continue...well at least Reno We finish out the hold icing Renos "boo-boo" and both horse and humans chowing down.
We saddle more loop to go...9.8 miles...I am sooo sore and tired...I can do this...I refuse to travel all this way only to fail because I'm the weakest link in the mantra is now 9.8 miles. While waiting to time out Jim casually asks Nina where we are in the group. I'm letting Reno eat grass and mentally chanting 9.8 miles when I think hear her say we are 11th and 12th but 10th left out quite awhile ahead of us. I see a gleam in Jim's eye that now matches the one in Sunny's...oh no...I'm in trouble. "you know..we may be able to top ten this." Jim casually mentions to me as we time out at a very brisk trot. "Sure" I say to myself, "and pigs can fly, too". I must confess that a little part of my brain, obviously the part that hadn't registered the pain coursing through my body, was excited about the possibility of top tenning. Shortly into the final loop the game little Morgan mare came trotting past us. Sunny and Jim were ready and stepped up the pace and passed the mare. I was self absorbed with my mantra and since Reno could still see his buddy we fell in behind the Morgan. Sunny was breaking his neck trying to keep looking back to see if Reno was following, so Jim told me to catch up. I did but started sniveling about how tired I was and that I didn't think Reno could keep up. Well Jim turned around and gave me the "look". He didn't say a word, just slowed down Sunny, but that was enough to kick in my guilt mechanism. Man I felt bad but, not bad enough to disappoint this wonderful man who had taken me into his home and shared his knowledge with me. Not only could I not disappoint this man I didn't want to be the limiting factor in my partnership with Reno. Reno was giving me his all...I had no idea what a big heart this horse had until this ride. The gal on the Morgan was ahead of us saying something about her mare being able to run with the Arabs..well I guess this was the straw on the camel's back. I decided to "cowgirl up", stop whining and "just do it".... besides, I think, the faster I do this the faster it will be over!!! I asked Reno for a bigger trot and told Jim that we were ready to follow him and Sunny. Reno was ready, Jim and Sunny were ready so we boggied. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself knowing I was close to top tenning and didn't try. Plus which I knew it would give Jim a licsence to forever more rub it in on how I had wussed out of a top ten.
We kicked in the Ay-rab afterburners and roared down the trail. The pretty Morgan mare was gamely trying to keep up but after a couple of miles at this pace she was huffing and puffing so her trail wise owner pulled her up to finish at a pace more comfortable to her.
A few more miles I heard the huffing and puffing again and assumed the Morgan had caught up to us...then I realized that sound was coming from me... geez,you would have thought I was doing the running the way I was weezing! I was sore, tired and exhausted but boy was it fun going down this trail at what seemed like warp speed to me. We breezed past two people/horses walking down the trail...could one of those be number 10??? Jim looked backed at me with that gleam shining in his eye and asked if I was ok. I managed to huff out YES. His reply was to picked up the pace...yee haw...we were flying!!! I was offically now a passanger and just trying to hang on.
The rest of the loop is a blur to me, but all of a sudden we are passing more horses and Jim says something about the finish line and to get up with him...NOW!!! We surprise this group of riders and they take out after us. I see the finish line and people are standing around cheering. Jim is shouting at me, telling me to ask Reno for all he 's got. Jim pulls up on Sunny as I ask Reno to go faster and keeps Sunny's nose by Renos flank. I know Sunny has to be confused, as this is probably the first time he has been asked to slow down before crossing the finish line!I'm sure Sunny thinks Jim had lost his ever loving mind that
We did it...our first top ten..and on a pretty technical trail at that! As I pass the finish line,I feel like I am going to pass out...I now know where the saying "ride til you puke" comes from. The rest is pretty fuzzy in my mind..I vaguely remembering Jim handing me a margarita and me getting sick after two swallows...then I remember somehow trotting Reno for BC; well Reno trotted, I wobbled...then in between that and waiting for the awards meeting I passed the time calling for my friend RALPH and laying down.
Yes, this vacation was a learning vacation, I learned the benefits of having a mentor. Without Jim's guidance I would have never top tenned, I would have never reached within myself to see what I was made of and I would have never experienced of really being able to say "yes, I gave it my all". I also learned the benefits of riding the trail you are given and riding one loop at a time. I learned I am the limiting factor in my endurance partnership with Reno and am using this information to revamp my conditioning program.
I have had the priveledged of riding breath-taking trails and making life long friends. As Jim, Joan and I were saying our goodbyes I could have sworn Jim was muttering something about OD next year with that same wicked gleam in his eye I have learned to respect and fear at the same time. As my daughter would say, "Nothing good can come from this". I'm driving back to Texas I find my mind wandering to thoughts of getting a treadmill for me...spending more time two-pointing and teaching Reno to tail....
I would like to thank Bob Mangus for putting on this well run ride, All the cheerful volunteers, the vets for being fair while still looking out for the welfare of the horse, Joan for letting me whine and Jim for not letting me whine!
Regards, Penny

Michigan on a Morgan - Mary Coleman

In 1987 Blazing Hawk (my horses sire) had finished the Shore to Shore ride which starts you in Lake Huron and ends you in Lake Michigan. Yes 5 days of 50 miles each day across the state. For some reason this is one ride I always wanted to do. So when I bought Hawk I informed him it's in his genes to one day get me across Michigan. August 10th, 2002 we were loaded and headed to Oscoda, Michigan.M
Prelude: Dust Bowl Camp: We didn't make it to this camp actually called River Road(renamed by me) till 9 p.m. and it looked like everyone in the country had decided to traverse across the state this year. We were a little cramped but set-up in a good selling spot even though a layer of dust settled in every crevice of the trailer. Charles and me decided to go scope out the next camp and to see where the vet checks were held. YIKES now the eye opener I had heard that water was a problem but little did I know that meant there was none! Midwesterners ideas of holds was you pull along a dirt road you're on your own for water etc. This ain't even funny I'm on a Morgan which require 9000 gallons more of H2O to make the pulse especially when its hot! And it's hot; so much for traveling 600 miles northwest to escape the drought and humidity of Pa.
One of my favorite sayings is that even a blind squirrel finds a nut in the woods once in a while. Luckily Cindy Simcox had decided this was her year to attempt S to S. So we came up with a plan her husband Rick was to haul both rigs to the next campsite, set-up the pens for the horses each night and be ready for us when we arrive to get our completion. Charles was to crew for us at the three holds each day on trail. This is when he found out this ain't no vacation. I had both a 50 gallon and a 30 gallon drum for water each would have to be refilled wherever.
Monday Day 1 Body Piercing Day: After 3 miles of this permanently marked trail I decided Michigan trail riders all ride slender, short ponies. Hawks big stride didn't fit in the "ditch" well and my body took a beating from all the overhead branches. The closer to any camp you were the more heavily used the ditch (trail) was and the deeper the sand was. If the trail didn't beat me to death I was on my own dumping water on Hawk and getting soaked myself which means by tomorrow I will be getting rubbed from being drenched. This day was hot and the water was a continual worry for me. We were expecting to finish at 2ish each day but came in closer to 4ish. Then Rick found out 2-5 gallon buckets of water don’t cut it with a Morgan. It’s my turn to fix supper and our husbands wouldn’t go for my taste which would have been Honey Nut Cheerios and M&Ms. So after minimal sleep, constant worry about the heat and 7 hours in the saddle I get to cook! And of course repack the truck for tomorrow. I’m just loving this pioneer thing.
Tuesday Day 2 Tear Down the Wallpaper Maggie We’re Moving Again: We realize this is not just a horse race but a trailer race also as rigs are fired up and hauled out before daybreak to the next camp. Once again the heat is a concern ( I could just kill the weatherman that promised rain and a cool front). Hawk failed the CRI so much I was ready to CRY! I kept telling Barney (yes our AERC President) to give him a break he’s a Morgan. It never worked but give me E for effort. On day 1 I had successfully ridden 9,000 ECTRA miles and ½ way around day 2 was the 1st time I ever relinquished my helmet on a ride. I felt naked but no way was my sore, chafed, hot body going to be able to keep going with the helmet. I was to the point of saying Uncle- 100 Michigan miles was enough for me. C’mon rain.
Wednesday Hawk and Stormy’s (Cindy's horse) Fun-meter Shuts Off: The rain cameth! Overnight we got a good downpour and it rained off and on most of today. Never did I think I’d be so happy to see a puddle. Now we had other problems to deal with i.e. girth sores, interference marks, and just plain bad attitude from the horses. Course ours wasn’t the greatest either; we’d just keep saying shut-up and trot to each other. This was called the long day and we did not finish till 5. Oh what fun! Stay tuned for the exciting end of Michigan on a Morgan
Thursday Day 4 First Time for Everything Day: It was cooler and this was the first day Hawk did not fail the CRI. First day Cindy succumbed to Aleve, first time I ever ate a Whopper (yes Charles has turned into quite the pit-crew) first time we had road riding which meant we were done before 4. And best of all first time we got to eat at a restaurant all week! Complete with flush toilets and telephones we’re almost out of this pioneerism thing.
Friday Day 5 Eye on the Prize: If you complete all 5days eventually you are sent a Shore to Shore jacket embroidered with yours and your horses name. I told Wayne the manager I had my eye on the prize! This was my favorite day the end was in sight, lots of road riding, puddles were still there and the horses seem to sense it was almost over. The 50 ended along side a major highway you received your completion there but in order to be a true pioneer you had to ride 3 miles further into Lake Michigan. The waves were enough to bowl Hawk over but he did reluctantly go in. He didn’t seem to understand water that wouldn’t stand still when he wanted a drink. I swim like a rock and only agreed to go in because I was promised an ice cream cone and it was my birthday what a great present to finish.
Epilogue: Cabela’s Here We Come: Right over the Michigan border is the Wal-mart of the outdoorsmans store. We had promised our husbands they could finally have some vacation fun and spend money on items other than ice, bandaids and Desitin. It was a great feeling sitting in the truck not worrying about changing diagonals. I actually think this was the hardest ride I’ve done- makes Old D look like a cake walk. But what a sense of accomplishment to make it all 5 days with a horse that was none the worse for wear. I’m really not sure what to follow this up with I bet Charles and Hawk can’t wait to find out!

WEC Story - A Groom's Tale - Laura Hayes

The story starts with an offhand comment something akin to "I'll crew for you" and ended with my flying home after ten days in Spain, exhausted, enlightened and really tan.
I was too busy trying to get away from home to be excited about going to Spain. Three business to arrange for, and so many animals you can't count - good thing my husband Mark was staying home, and my son had recently gone to college, or I could not have gotten away.
The plane landed in Madrid from Newark with no hitches. I am obviously not suspect looking, and was waved through security and immigration. Lori Shifflet, Jennifer Sapira and Barbara Horstmeier and myself were to meet at the Madrid airport, which proved to be easier than I had thought, even though we all barely knew each other. We also saw Betty and Steve Baker who were in Spain to crew for the US also. The four of us women caught a taxi to the train station and to meet Pam Koch, Cia's neighbor from PA, and then on the train to Sevilla.
The Spanish countryside from Madrid to Sevilla was interesting - very little color, quite dry, and rows of olive trees everywhere. We occasionally saw horses, but it was not clear what they were eating. The landscape was stark to say the least, and then once in awhile you would see a huge beautiful Hacienda behind rock walls overflowing with beautiful fucsia colored bouganvilla. I ordered my first Cafe con leche at the bar on the train - mmmm, a good way to get one's daily need for caffeine.
Our sleeping arrangements were nice- a small two bedroom apartment each room with two beds, a sleeper sofa in the sitting room and a small equipped kitchen with a clothes washer. We were on the top floor of a five story building, and our balcony overlooked the village square. All of the riders and crew were in this hotel ( am guessing at about 35), while volunteers for the road crews (another 20?) were about 10 minutes away. We were about 40 minutes from the private stable the horses were in, which was very near the ride site of Garapillos. The main venue with the stadiums and stabling for all the other sports, was in the city of Jerez de la Frontera (pronounced Her-eth) and was called Chapin - though I was never clear about why.
The six American horses, Wave, Ali, Shahdon, Finally,Red and Pal, were staying at a private farm with nice indoor stalls, outdoor paddocks, and an area under cover to keep hay, feed and equipment. We were the only international horses at that farm. We assembled there every morning for a meeting, riding, lunch, massages and stretching for the riders and horses, and otherwise caring for the horses. The vets watched each horse trot and the farrier reshod several. Most of the riders were fine tuning equipment and getting a feel for the countryside - riding the loops in pairs. One day we body clipped and I ended up doing much of Wave and Pal - funny since my own horse looked like I chewed his hair off last spring!
The days went fast, and we found very little time for sightseeing. Some afternoons were free and I went to Cadiz one day (where Columbus sailed from) with Jeannie Waldron, Twyla (Val's groom), Dr. Beecher, and his son, Russ. One afternoon was spent at Chapin were I did some shopping in the vendor area (saw Teddy from Running Bear Farm) and watched the Dressage finals with other endurance folks. After the ride I was able to go into Jerez and see the training session for the Riding School there. The Spanish bred Andalusians where beautiful, and the history of the school was amazing.
Most evenings before the ride were spent in the hotel's restaurant and later at night in the open air Mexican restaurant nearby. Margaritas flowed freely and we laughed until we had belly aches (colic?). The locals out did us though, and were frequently just leaving the bars as we were heading out in the morning. Skip Lightfoot did expose his backside - so don't let him tell you he didn't, and I am fairly certain Julie Bullock had alot to do with that. She later walked in the freshly mopped restroom and landed on her back - she was unhurt, but smelled of cleaner of some sort.
Art Prieze was big on meetings, and rightly so, as I think this group was really a team, and it was due in big part to Art's leadership. Most meetings were confidence building exercises or lectures, combined with some silly entertainment such as poems or songs by riders and their crews. I think the best was Steve Rojek's "The Twelve Days Of The World Games" it referred to Twyla not having her correct passport, Dr. Beecher having been 'relieved' of his money, Ali not wanting to go up the ramp into the truck, Jeannie drawing tubes and tubes of blood, not having any hay, and just wanting to sleep, among many other memorable instances. It was performed twice and gained personality as it went along. The Australian bunch were in our hotel also and took and gave much good spirited ribbing.
A day before vet in, we moved the horses to the event stabling - the riders riding over and the crews lugging their stuff in cars. The stables were tidy and clean - rows of portable stalls with tent roofs and nice gravel wash racks all encased by a tall fence and guarded by security. Many of us had been issued picture credentials and had to wear them to get in. I volunteered to sleep at the groom's quarters at the stable which were portable boxes with electric, air and decent bunks with clean sheets and towels. The groom's quarters bathrooms and showers were the nicest facilities I had seen in Spain. There were no phones there, though and I didn't even contact my husband until about day seven - good thing he is not a worrier!

Moving to the actual event stables was the first time we got to look at other country's horses. There were some of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen, and some of the sorriest, though many more of the former than the latter! I was particularly interested in feet and tack - and boy did it run the gamut!! I saw cheap western saddles with horns and many podium saddles and english type saddles. Most horses wore bits as opposed to hackamores like you see in the US.
The Australian, New Zealand and French teams seemed to have the best uniforms and to ride out to train together. It was obvious they were a team, and very professional in looks and action.
The vet in went well, with all horses passing, and it gave us an idea of how the crew and vet areas were to work, as well as the start and finish. The whole vet area was about a mile or so up the hill from the stable, and had been part of the cross country course for the eventers the day before. Everything was brand new and well organized. All the buildings were temporary, including one large complex that belonged to the Sheik from UAE. There was plenty of available water and actual hoses to use while cooling and pulsing down.
The night before the ride we assembled all our crew equipment in our section of a huge tent. I don't have official measurements, but my guess is that it was 140 feet long and 30 feet wide. We got our slice of about 20 feet wide by the width of the tent - so we were crewing 6 horses in a 20x30 area. Holy cow! There were two of those tents.
I offered to sleep in a cot in the crew area that night to avoid theft and tampering, and was the only person up there except for three guys from the UAE who were in their area in the second tent. Jeannie Waldron gave me her USET cell phone in case I had any trouble. About 4 AM after a short but uneventful night, the rain started and came down in buckets. It thundered and lightening for quite awhile, but I managed to run to the porta potty in between rain drops. Then it happened - the infamous cell phone incident. I heard it splash - there was no way I was going to try to retrieve it. The worse part is that USET will most likely send me a bill for it - I heard the deposit on it was $200.
I didn't have a rain jacket or a change of clothes, so I didn't go out to watch the start in an attempt to stay as comfortable and dry as possible - it was to be a long day.
Everyone had a job we had rehearsed several times - mine was to remove Wave's boots on my side, check his shoes all around and start sponging, Barbara was to take the tack and get it prepared to go back out, Alex took Wave's head, Dr Mike Foss from the Pacific Southwest was to do the Pulse, and Jennifer was to sponge and get water. Pam Weidel showed up on the day of the ride, so she was put in charge of caring for Cia and making sure she had dry clothes and food. Later, after he passed the vet, I would make sure he had all he wanted to eat, and Alex would administer electrolytes. I also was available with an extra set of tools John borrowed for me to apply a shoe for any team member if necessary and if John Crandall got backed up- luckily I didn't have to do that, as I felt I had plenty to do and the anxiety was high!
Bev Gray came into the first check with the first group of horses and Cia a few minutes later. Wave took several minutes to pulse down and was passed in the check by Steve Rojek's Finally. Kathy Brunjes' Ali was off at the trot and later it was realized that he had much of the clay type mud packed in his pads - but too late and he was pulled. Kathy was a great sport and stayed to help the other team members. Val and Heather had lost shoes on already iffy feet and were out in the first 25 miles - spirits sank, but we were hopeful that the remaining three members would finish to put the team in the medals.
Larry Kanavy took over with our crew and lent many years of successful experience to the group. He was a calming and clear influence and was most welcome. We got Wave through the next checks with ease but Cia was having some trouble - she appeared to have a painful shin splint and took some Advil while the sports therapist applied ice. The Advil must have upset her stomach, and she then got sick. She is a tough woman, though and did her job and finished with Steve Rojek to cheers and hugs.
Bev had finished about 20th, and Steve and Cia in the 30s. All the horses looked great and passed their final vetting with ease.
I was the only US groom to stay at the stable that night and got up several times to check the horses and walk Wave. I gave out hay and water and rearranged blankets. The US vets showed up at 8AM and were there when the FEI vets came by to release the horses from the ride grounds so they could return to the private stable with the paddocks. Kathy ponied Wave (I was going to walk him, but she saved me!) Sue Greenall rode Finally and ponied Pal, while Red and Shahdon were trailered the couple miles or so over to the stable. All the horses looked great.
With the race over, I had time to reflect on the trip, the World Games, Spain, and my own aspirations in the sport that I have done for over half my life. Suffice to say I would go again in a second in any capacity, and that I am proud to be an American.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Another Odd Story - Lisa Salas

I was finishing up a beautiful ride today on Odd Todd and decided to gallop the last forested road, just because it felt good. Galloping without a care in the world when all of a sudden Todd stopped dead in his tracks and jumped sideways about 15 feet. This was all one movement. You know, that Arab thing.
I had my left arm in a chokehold around his throat and my right hand was sliding ever so slowly down the bridge of his nose. My lips were right up against his right ear so I took this opportunity to use my horse whispering education and whispered, "You son of a &|*@#." Just whispered.
I thought what a shame it would be if the last thing Todd heard was my obscenities while I choked the crap out of him. He is such a sweet horse. Really. Luckily, I stayed on (because of my ample rear, I weeble, but I don't fall off) and I try to have a sense of humor. The "spook" was a flock of wild turkeys. Those silly turkeys! Where are the hunters when you need 'em?
Let me clarify, if I do fall off, I tend to lose my sense of humor. But, thank goodness for cellulite. My personal Skito pad. Helps falls to be virtually painless.
After I loaded him in the trailer, I slid his halter off because it was too big to begin with. I didn't close the divider and as I was putting hay within his reach, he very gently turned around and tippy-toed off the trailer. He is such a little ballerina. He walked about 30 feet from the trailer dropped and rolled. I started looking for cookies to coax him back (remember, he was neck'ed) but before I knew it he was up and walking back with me to the trailer. He hopped back in and started eating his hay. What an Odd horse!
The rest of the day will be a piece of cake. I think I'll cook up some turkey tonight ;}
Lisa Salas, The Odd fARm

20 Mule Team Story - Nick Warhol

Endurance General’s Warning! If you went to this ride and didn’t like it, or don’t like my descriptions, stop reading here and go to and read about a sport that might be more your speed. I liked the ride and had a great time, fair warning.
I had a very busy past couple of weeks! Since the beginning of February, I got a new job, I spent a week in Park City watching the Olympics and skiing, then drove down to Ridgecrest for another shot at the 20MT 100. (By the way, going to the Olympics was one of the neatest things I have done in my life, but that’s another story.) This would be my fifth time at the ride in the medium high desert of So Cal. I would have ridden Zayante the wonder horse, but I got the option of riding Jackie’s mare Holly in the 100-mile ride instead. Zay is sticking to the 50 milers, since he’s getting up there and doesn’t need to do 100’s anymore. Not that he couldn’t, I bet, but its best for him. Before the ride he had 9,905 miles. Merri Melde would be riding him in the 65-mile ride this time. Would he make it to 9,970? Read on.
The trip from the Bay Area to Ridgecrest is about 7.5 hours in my rig, it only took 4 hours and 55 minutes to do in the car. Swoosh! That was fun! And on 14 gallons of gas! (I guess I could haul my horse trailer with the Honda Accord, but the camper might compress the suspension a bit.) The weather was pretty warm for this time of the year, making people nervous about the long hair on most of the horses. The sounds of the clippers buzzed all day at the base camp like a bevy of bizarre bees. On Friday I took Holly out for a warm up ride with Zay and Rafique, another of Jackie’s horses. I enjoyed riding along with Zayante, getting to actually look at him under saddle. We rode from Jackie’s house, up into the hills, and then over to the fairgrounds where the ride base camp was located. Zounds! Look at all the rigs! It had to be a record number of entries. Gary and Laura fend were here to both try the 100 together, that is if Laura could keep Gary from getting lost, or falling into a pond. Believe me, there aren’t many ponds in the desert, but if there was one out there, Gary could find it and fall in. Steph Teeter made a long drive down from Idaho to try the 65-mile ride on one of her huge, wooly Russian horses, but left hubby John at home. Regulars Joyce and Dennis Souza were there again, from way up north. Joyce had her new boy in tow, fresh from winning some days at the 2000 XP ride. There were really a lot of entries, it turned out to be something like 230 in the three rides. I was entered in the FEI 100 mile ride, since Jackie thought that would be good for Holly’s record. This would be Holly’s second attempt at a 100-mile ride, she was pulled in her first attempt for lameness. The FEI riders had a separate vet check in, where the vet inspected all the horse documents, and the officials made sure all the FEI rules were adhered to. The infamous international endurance ace and chef de’quipe ( how in the heck do you spell that?) Teresa Cross was one of the officials and made sure things hummed along smoothly. I duct taped on some stirrup cages, (bought ‘em there), put on my shirt with a collar, (had to bring that), put on my black tights, (had ‘em), and my helmet. (had that, too) Now I was officially FEI compliant. Gary and Laura took pity on the camperless me, feeding me some great spaghetti for dinner on Friday. The ride meeting was huge! I took a moment and presented Ken Cook with a Death Valley sweatshirt as thanks for taking care of our poor, stranded horse Wabi at Death Valley. The shirt said: “Ken Cook, Friend of Wabi.” People will probably ask him what in the world that means for years to come. Just tell them it’s a yoga chant, Ken! Becky Hackworth came up and asked me if I would mind sponsoring her junior daughter, Heather, in the 100-mile ride. Absolutely! I sponsored her last year at Death Valley for a couple of days and had a lot of fun riding with her. She was riding her really nice horse, Tez Mark, for the third time in the 100 down here. On day 3 at the DVE, Heather and I had a trotting contest to see who could trot the furthest, that we had to call a draw when we ran out of places to trot after 55 minutes without stopping.
I slept in the plush accommodations at Jackie’s house and woke up to another nice ride morning. We got tacked up and warmed up the horses for a while, getting started a few minutes after the 6 am start. I wanted to let the pack get ahead of us, since our plan was to just go a nice, steady pace all day and not be in a big hurry. We left camp at the back of the pack and started trotting up the start road. Less than a half mile from the start, there are only 3 horses in front of us. Huh? Heather points to the right, where we see 40 or so horses coming down the road, back towards the trail, going fast. So much for being in back. For a moment there, we were leading the ride! Our horses were good about letting the entire pack pass us, but it got them amped up a bit. By the time we got to Jackie’s house, we were back near the end of the pack again. Whew! What’s this? Here are about 20 horses coming back to the road, again! There was an old arrow on the road that fooled people, so here we were back in the lead again! The entire pack passed us again, but we ended up staying with the riders in the middle of the mob. Mark was pulling on Heather a bit, being the strong boy he is. Holly was being great, with the occasional head toss, telling me she wanted to go faster. She has big, effortless trot that just gobbles up the ground. We climbed up the first range of hills that took us out of the valley and towards highway 395. We crossed the highway and headed down a short road, where the trail turned right, across the soft, open desert on a virgin trail. There were a whole bunch of riders going on up the road, the wrong way. Hmmmm. They didn’t see the arrow, or the chalk line they rode across, or the word “NO” written in chalk where they were riding? Who knows? The half mile or so to the water stop was soft, perfect desert, so we let the horses go and blasted across the landscape. Holly can really blast! After a quick water stop, it was back across the desert, riding with a constant string of horses. We passed a few riders here and there, who were stopped, or walking. We stopped for more water at the trestle, (neither horse drank, but there was water every 7 miles on the ride), and across the open desert for a few miles to the first vet check. It was a pulse and go for the 100’s, so we did just that. Holly was at 48. We vetted and scooted out, heading up the canyon to the wilderness area around the sacred mountain. It was SO much better than last year, where there was snow and mud everywhere up here. The conditions were perfect. We took it real easy in the rough sections, walking through every rock patch and up and down the hills. The ride was going quickly- I was surprised to see we were going a little faster than I went last year. We rode with two other horses for a while, but left them after we did another fast blast down a perfect sandy road for a half-mile or so. We climbed up and down through the hills, passing the old mines and dilapidated shacks, then headed down to the 35-mile lunch stop. It was here that the first riders on the 65 caught us. They started an hour after we did, and had a 15-minute hold at vet 1. Jackie wanted to spread the riders out to avoid congestion in the first two vet checks, her plan worked perfectly. We walked into the lunch camp and pulsed down again, Holly was at 48. Good horse. Mark also came down quickly. We were treated to great crew service by Heather’s sister Miranda. Lunch tasted good, and after our hour hold, we set out down the 6-mile road, trotting the whole thing at our nice, consistent pace. We left the lunch stop in the middle of the pack in the 100 ride, somewhere in the thirties. We passed a couple more horses that were walking while we were trotting. More water, then back into the desert, through a nice, but sometimes rocky section that led back to the water stop at Vet 1. We kept moving, passing a few more riders as we kept going. Holly and Mark were getting along perfectly. They just kept going, and going, ears forward and strong. We were not really going that fast, we just didn’t stop much. We caught and passed a few more riders, but then had a little disaster. On the way to the third vet check, one of Heather’s stirrups fell off. As in bouncing around on the ground, in the sand. This is not good. We stopped, and lucky for us, we were able to find the metal clip thing that holds the stirrup leathers together. We put is back together with some duct tape, and without missing a beat, came into the vet check at 57 miles. Holly was at 48 again, but Mark took a few minutes to recover. We got word that there were quite a few horses being pulled, mostly for lameness. We let them eat during the hold, then continued on, paying attention to the really muggy and humid conditions. Back through town and into the dinner hold at 65 miles. Here comes Joyce Souza out of camp, onto the last loop. We said hi, not realizing at the time that she was leading the ride.
Both horses came right down, but Heather was not feeling so great. I would have never known it, since she never uttered a word of discomfort or complaint. You know the number one endurance rider rule? No Snivelers. Heather wins the award for non-sniveling. (Is that a word?) Becky fed her some food and some kind of coffee drink that perked her back up. I didn’t realize what time it was until we were getting ready to leave. It was 4:45, and we were in 11th and 12th place as we left camp. Wow. I remembered what Teresa said when I told her my ride plan- I was going to just go and ride a steady, easy pace and finish. She said if I did, I’d do just fine, since there would be a lot of attrition. She was right so far; we went from the mid 30s at lunch to 11th and 12th now. It was fun riding out of the dinner hold in the daylight, since I have always left camp as the sun was setting, or down in the past. The horses were very good about going on, although Holly was just positive, absolutely sure, that I had missed the turn to her pasture. It was like riding a magnet for a couple of minutes until we got out of range of Jackie’s house. (She was really good about it, it was just kind of funny) We kept on trotting along, heading east on very nice roads with excellent footing. This is the loop for the 35 mile ride- its an excellent trail for a LD ride. We got to a water stop where we came across Bob Spoor, who was letting his horse Moose rest and eat for a while. I rode with Bob out here last year on Rebecca’s horse Moose- a better pair of meese you’ll never see. We trucked on, still trotting and trotting. The sun began to set as we made the turn to the West, riding through the hills and moon rocks of the desert up on the ridge, above the town. The trail was different this year, and I was positive we would end up way south of the road crossing, but wouldn’t you know it, we popped out of the hills right at the regular spot. Becky was there waiting with cokes and a jacket for Heather. It was getting windy, and the temp was dropping quickly. We came across a rider who was also resting at the water stop, he joined us for a while, but then dropped back as we climbed up the last little range of hills. Now we were in 9th and 10th. It was dark, windy, and getting much colder, but we just kept on trotting through the night. The stars were spectacular, the moon was a little sliver, its sort of surreal riding in the desert at night. Mark took a stumble in a rut and scrambled to stay up, banging Heather’s leg in the process. He was fine after a few steps, and Heather never made a peep, even though she hurt her leg a little in the mishap. We hit the power line road, still trotting and trotting. Back under the trestle, and 3 more miles of trotting to the vet check at 92 miles. It was cold here! Both horses came right down and looked really good, but were incredibly hungry. They were scarfing everything they could eat. Jackie had been concerned about Holly’s eating in the past, but she ate all day like a good hundred-mile horse needs to. We were treated to hot chocolate that really hit the spot. As long as you were riding, it was comfortable, but standing in that wind was chilly. Bad luck hit a rider at mile 92, I think it might have been Becky Hart, who pulled at this check. That put us in 8th and 9th as we left. We crossed the highway for the last time and climbed up the small range that leads to Ridgecrest. The lights from the city make it impossible to see anything at all on the way down the valley towards the town; we just let the horses show us the way down the mountain. Back into town, past Jackie’s house (Holly became the magnetic horse again,) and now it is only 2 miles to the finish. We trotted along down the last road and across the line at 10:10 pm. Becky was there to greet us with blankets for the horses and major congratulations for Heather and Mark. We walked down to camp and found a very happy Jackie, who hugged her special horse Holly. This mare was still bright eyed and very energetic, with lots left in the tank. She’s a superb horse, and was so easy and a pleasure to ride. We vetted for the completion, (Holly was at 48), put the horses up, and went to bed.
Sunday morning brought the nice breakfast and the awards ceremony. My jaw dropped when I saw the official results- there had been three horses pulled at the finish of the 100. I finished in 5th, 3rd in the FEI ride, and first middleweight. Heather was 6th and first Junior going away. We both scored a nice pile of prizes, but the real prize was these two horses that made doing a hundred miles in the desert look easy. It was a perfect ride, and a whole lot of fun in every way. The worst thing that happened to me all day was my poor smashed egg salad sandwich at lunch that I had packed in a Tupperware bin. The Tupperware had stopped tupping, and my sandwich was the poor victim of riding in a crew bag. (the yellow, sloppy, goo tasted just fine, though) Sure it was a little cold at night, but as I told Connie Creech out at the last check, I would not care if I was riding in a monsoon or tornado, as long as I could ride a horse this good.
Joyce Souza won the ride on her new horse, who looked very nice the next morning. Way to go Joyce! And what about Zayante on the 65? He did it! 9,970 miles. He looked great all day, as usual. I took Zay and Holly for a long walk early Sunday morning- they both looked great and would have gladly gone back out. Jackie will be riding Zayante at the Geo Bun Buster ride in the middle of March to go over the 10,000 mile mark. What more can I say about this horse, other than he is simply the best. I sure hope I can be there with the champagne at the finish.
On a final note- on Sunday morning, after the awards presentation, a woman came up to me and asked me a couple of questions about the last loop and riding at night. She then asked me if it was a hassle to have to sponsor a junior in a 100-mile ride, having to pay attention and control them all day and night. I thought about that for a moment, and then said: “Is that what I was doing? No, I was just out riding with a friend.” Thanks, Heather. I’ll ride with you any time, anywhere.
Nick Warhol, Hayward, Ca

Idaho Spuds - Tom Noll

It started in 1999 on the Wasatch 100 between Big Mountain and Lamb's Canyon when I saw some guy cruise on by riding an Arabian endurance horse. That section of Wasatch is pretty tough and that day it was hot. The trail is open so I could see along the ridges, and 40+ miles into the run it is easy to get distracted.
Somewhere along that ridge the endurance rider and the horse trucked on by and as he moved along the ridges I noticed that he dismounted on some of the downhill sections and ran with his horse. He was moving quickly and covering the trail faster than I. It was hot, I was alone, and I assume what I saw was real, but it could have easily been an apparition too. I thought to myself "That looks pretty cool. If I ever get the chance, I want to try that myself."
The next spring we bought a small place with some acreage west of Boise. My wife has worked with horses for some time and always had that interest. One thing led to another and last summer I began working on my riding skills. This past spring Leslie and I began to ride with some members of the local endurance club.
Now we have two endurance horses. The one Leslie rides, Max - the horse formerly known as Prince, has limited trail experience and no endurance experience, and the one that I ride, Frank, has completed four 50s and one 100 with other riders. I don't have much experience, and an experienced horse is better for me. Our plan is to bring the two along together and help Frank transfer some of his knowledge to Max and to myself.
Last Saturday we rode our first AERC sanctioned limited-distance ride in the mountains outside of Idaho City - the Idaho Spuds ride. Our ride consisted of two different loops with a vet check and half-hour hold in camp between the loops. Finishing requires completing the course in six hours or less. Our plan was to ride our own race at an even pace and finish close to six hours. We wanted the two horses to have a positive experience.
Just prior to the morning start we turned around and headed away from the starting line to minimize the high energy and excitement for our two friends. We started out behind everyone else on the first loop at a walk and began to mix in some trotting. The first loop was forest service logging roads with some trail. We took our time and finished in about 2.5 hours. We walked into the vet check, our horses pulsed down upon our arrival, and it was time for the half-hour hold.
With just less than three hours to finish we took off on the second loop. We heard that the second loop was more single-track and a more technical trail. It started off as a good logging road but then we came to a single-track trail on the left that seemed to go straight up the hillside. I had never ridden up anything that steep. I grabbed onto some mane, gave Frank a nudge, and we shot up the trail. After that it was up and down along ridges, around the trees through the forest, over logs, and through the bushes. Frank and I led, and Max and Leslie trucked along behind. The trail was tough and Leslie and I became worried that we might not have enough time to finish. A finish would be nice, but our foremost concern was for Max and Frank have a positive experience. Finish time probably means little to a horse.
We kept moving along at a quick pace. The second loop was where my ultra experience came into play. We had no time to dally and we had to follow a quick even pace trotting where we could and moving quickly elsewhere. We got off and ran, leading the horses, down some of the steeper sections. It was fun but worrisome running down a single track trail with a 1000 pound animal close on your heels. Eventually, we came back to a logging road. I noticed that Leslie had dropped back slightly ("I have a horse so I don't have to run along mountain trails"). When she came to the road, we shared water from my Camelback - is that true love or what?
On the road we trotted along side-by-side. Soon we came to water for the horses and then it was back to the single track. Leslie had Max take the lead and he really began to stretch out. Max became focused on the trail like he was on a mission. He had learned from Frank during the early part of the ride and now Max was all business. We were moving along the trail at a nice steady quick pace switching between walk, trot, and canter depending on the terrain. We passed a USFS fire crew working on a lightning strike and continued along the trail. At one point Max got some branches tangled in his feet. Leslie and Max stopped and he calmly walked out of the tangle. Only a year ago Max was not even saddle trained and running around the pasture snorting, but now he was acting like a seasoned trail horse. Max led all the way to the creek where we came to the road heading back up to camp.
Time was tight and when we hit the road after a short water break, it was time to move. Frank stepped out using his fast extended-trot and Max followed closely alternating between a trot and canter. Again, we got off and walked into camp and pulsed down immediately upon our arrival. We passed through the vet check and recorded a finish with 20 minutes to spare. We ran our race according to our schedule. The two horses acted like seasoned veterans and truly seemed to enjoy themselves, and we are proud of their achievements.
Twenty-five miles is limited distance and there remains a good deal of training and conditioning yet to do, but it all started on a ridge somewhere south of Big Mountain at Wasatch in 1999.
Tom Noll
Boise, Idaho

Out in the Middle of nowhere on the PS Manzanita Ride - Mike Maul

The Manzanita Endurance ride held Oct. 5 in the PS region just along the border with Mexico is out in the middle of nowhere. When you see a road sign saying "next rest stop 60 miles" - you know that you're headed away from civilization. But that said - this ride put on by many time ride manager Terry Woolley Howe turns out to be a lot of fun. Terry's rides always have great amenities, facilities, and scenery.
The ride is located in the Manzanita Horse camp 65 miles east of San Diego on the Campo Indian Reservation with our basecamp at 4000 feet. It's high chaparral country with cool nights and pleasant days this time of the year. The camp is located in a small valley with oak trees surrounding it in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. The setting is that of early "B" western movies and should look familiar. Many movies of the 40's and 50's used the area for filming. There are towering stands of granite rocks, desert trails weaving through chaparral, and a nighttime sky full of millions of stars.
The camp has facilities for RVs and about 90 pipe corrals for our horses. Plus it has showers which seem to really enthuse the women riders. The night is cold before the ride - in the high 30s but warming up to a pleasant temperature during the day. The moon is a small silver crescent shining over the camp before we get up early to get our horses ready for the start.
There's about 80 starters in the 25 mile LD, 71 in the 50 mile ride, about 6 Ride and Tie teams, and a few 15 mile fun riders all under the veterinary supervision of AERC President Barney Fleming, Hugh Hewett, and other vets. The ride is moderate with some hills, sand, single track, dirt roads, and lots of these little tubular cactus called Chola. The start at 6:30 just after sunrise is a nice controlled start leading to the first vet check at a little over 14 miles.
It's well marked everywhere - cute signs on yellow that say things like trail turn ahead, steep slope use low gear, watch for falling rock next to a 10 ton rock balanced on top of another, and big stump behind the next bush. There's a few difficult places - one with a permanent sign saying Crash Crevice - but your biggest hazard is the spiky Chola that can get you or your horse. One finally got me late in the day but apparently my horse was more agile than I was and avoided them all.
The most striking scenery is the huge rock formations. There are towering stands of rock with unusual balancing rocks on top of each other - many tons of rock that you wonder how this happened and why it's still there. Glaciers perhaps ages ago but now it's the desert. Huge rocks cover the hillsides helter skelter as if some giant hand had just tossed them at random over the landscape.
The vet checks have fresh fruit, firm ice cold fruit popsicles, and other treats handed out by the many volunteers. At one place on the road where there's nothing around but sagebrush - there's a stand with a tent for shade set up just for handing out treats to the riders. Terry certainly takes good care of her riders and their horses.
Little eight year old Sarah from an earlier Terry WH ride is here with her father to see and hold the horses again. She remembers my guy from the New Ride in June and leads him around the camp after the ride is over. She's learning to ride and will someday be out there on our rides just like many of those other little girls who grew up and are riding this trail today.
It's just a personal view but men seem to come into horses later in life than the women. Women have wanted horses all their lives and while they may have breaks for college or family usually return to horses. Guys get distracted early in life and miss out on what can happen between you and your horse. At this ride, I see a number of motocross guys in full safety gear. We are polite to each other but I think they are missing out on something important in life.
The stalls are a nice feature at a ride - you don't get the squeak from a trailer tie or the banging of buckets on the side of the trailer all night to keep you awake. But you don't hear the nice quiet sound of the horses munching on hay all night either. And when the water bucket is knocked over in the morning - you don't know if he drank it and tipped it over looking for more - or whether it was tipped over early and he never drank. But for showers - there's no downside at all - they are always great to have.
Terry has an excellent catered awards banquet as always. Her awards ceremonies are always funny with comments such aa "there are 4 Icelandics in the ride now including John Parke and how they are going to replace our Arabs the horse of choice for endurance".
First in the 50 is Shelli Sexton followed by Suzy Kelley(BC on La Petite Dancer) with Ernie Lohman in third. Ernie is riding so much and doing so well that he is 1st and 2nd in the PS heavyweight standings on two different horses this year. 70 of the 80 LD starters complete and 61 of the 70 starters in the 50 mile ride finish. Terry does an AERC BC for the LD ride and also has a broader Best LD Horse award.
Terry - another very nice ride even if it's way out in the middle of "nowhere".

Story From South Africa - With a Smile - Bertus Venter

(I once asked a friend living in South Africa why he’s always smiling during an endurance event. He answered whit a smile and a few weeks later I received this mail.)
A game farm, 20 plus workhorse to choose from, long hours in the saddle doing the usual farm work, 18miles of game fencing to patrol…. Could this be where I changed from being a horse-person to a person using a horse? Things happen and some change and so I was forced to let go of everything I loved so dearly the only way of live known to me.
Seven years is a long time behind a disorientated IT desk, caged by walls and managers that see u as an implement funny how the wheel of live does actually turn…. Driving back through rush-hour traffic too my miniature “replacement” farm outside town, where my Arab X would be waiting to help me chase after lost bits-and-pieces of happy memories. The only comfort that dragged me through the next week and the next….,but for how long will this emptiness last?
The Arab mare was just over 4 years and not excepting any human handling. For some reason I agreed and weekend after weekend I halfheartedly took away some of Shaila’s freedom until she finally felt save enough to start trusting me. After she turned 5 her owner came knocking once more, this time inviting me to their club’s local endurance event. They needed a rider and I had noting planed for the weekend.
It happened that Friday night between 10 and 2. For some reason unknown to me at that time, sleep just couldn’t find me. She was glad to see me and we shared thoughts quietly through the night “Shaila” and me. The 30km went well, she impressed everyone, maybe just a bit too much for the following season she was back at my place, back to stay. They pushed to hard with her training and in the process she damaged a ligament. I deposited the money the following day and by doing so, filled a hole in my sole somewhere.
I knew what a good working horse should look like and based my search on previous experiences. This took longer and harder that I planed. Eleven months later a found what I was looking for, a “replacement”. He was in a hectic condition. The last remaining registered Arab stallion at a has-been stud. Skinny but spirited. It took me over 2 days, 8 stitches and one broken thumb before being able to load him in the horse box. After a nightmare-drive, spending most of the 400 KM-plus in the box we finely arrived back home. It took a while to get rid of the biting, kicking and aggression and finally, I was left with a wonderful friend that rears a lot. I tried everything, from bitless bridles to moderate bits, different saddles, everything, but finally excepted that he just love being flashy. It took 2 long, hard training years and lots of 30km before we entered for his first 80km endurance ride. We took it SLOW and ended up in 14th place with heart rates of 40, 38,42, and 49. I gave him a bit more room on the next 80km and he did even better.
He’s now 13 years and in better shape than ever. Hard as a rock, and more flashy than a 5year old, no wonder Shaila is still “resting” running around with their little colt, trying to get rid of build up energy.
Hope you understand the lengthy pause whenever someone needs to know just exactly why I’m taking part in endurance if they only realize for how long I could keep them busy with my boring story, one that forced me to walk the full circle. To find true happiness on the back of my companion, enjoying the distance that lies ahead. Every hoofbeat forcing a satisfied smile onto my face..