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..

A Very Different Ride Story - Karla Watson

This is not your typical ride story....I won't give you a long, drawn out play by play of the day. But its an interesting one....
This was only my 2nd ride this year. I have been conditioning about 9 mos but for certain circumstances and a few fires in Oregon, I finally got to 2 rides. My first was Klickatat and I got lost 5 miles before finish line of the 25 miler. We did finish though but not a great experience getting lost.
This weekend I went to Alpine Ride up in Washington. I must say this is a VERY BEAUTIFUL PLACE and a MUST for anyone who can get there. We wanted to stay for a month it was so beautiful.
I did a slow 50 with my riding buddy and we were doing very well until mile 6 when my horse starting limping. I was very upset to say the least. I decided to not go back the way we came (basecamp) which was all downhill, so instead I went to outcheck which was fairly even. While walking my horse (off my horse) about 6 miles or so I was feeling pretty low and sad and upset. My horse was limping and started getting worse as we got closer to vet check. I started thinking that this sport was not for me. I had a hurt horse and a ride that I had driven 7 hours to attend that I barely started. I thought about my lame horse (who I adore), all the hours I put in conditioning, all the money I spent, all the saddles I have been thru and how stupid it all seemed to me at that moment. I was walking for miles and miles with not a rider in sight and decided then and there to end this sport and possibly sell my horse and get back to my life before this horse and endurance thing had gotten the best of me.
So my horse got back to camp. The vets thought it was a bad shoeing job in front (I used a new shoer who was terrible) and his tendon was swollen from it. The angles in front did not match at all. I am not a shoeing expert, but I am learning. I then started with ice wraps.
My friend was finishing the 50 (slowly) and there I was for hours feeling very low and sorry for myself. So I went over to volunteer at camp vetcheck. They didn't really need me but asked me to stay and hang out and watch. They had heard my story about my day and knew I was a novice at this sport. So I sat and watched riders coming and going all day (about 6 hours or more--I lost count). I saw the front runners coming in for the 50 and all the excitement and intensity on their faces. I watched vets doing CRIs for BC and heard things I never would of seen looking at those horses. I saw people coming in after riding a 5 hour 25 miler and how happy they were to finish. The vets were congratulating them and their faces were beaming! I saw AMAZING horses coming and going. I saw metabolic problems and lameness issues and how it was treated and cared for. I saw a vet take off during a slow period and check on a horse out in the campsite he was worried about and saw the look on his face. I saw riders saying to vets how they couldn't go on but their horses could and they didn't think they could make that last loop of their 75. The vets encouraged them and cheered them to go on even though they looked like they could hardly walk. I met the two nicest vets (Gene (can't remember last name)--super nice vet with smile on face all day and Sarah Metcalf--super nice too). I saw riders coming into camp in last place on the 50 and they acted like they had won the race!! Everyone was cheering them on.
I started to feel quite different about this sport.....
......then there was the chili feed, the raffle prizes. Then they raffled off this 4 yr old Arabian gelding that was really quite a nice prospect. And guess what??? I WON THIS HORSE!!! No kidding!! I was sitting there telling my friend that maybe I should just be a trail rider and I was having the worst year and everything and they called my name!! So I won the grand prize and was treated the rest of the weekend like I had won the 100 miler or something!!!
Later that night after the shock took effect and I had a LARGE white Russian (hey we were celebrating), my friend and I went out at 11:30pm in the dark at the finish line to wait for the last four 75 milers to complete. They had until midnight. All of a sudden 3 glowing lights came into view from really far away and slowly made their way up to the finish. They had glow sticks on and it was so beautiful.
They were thrilled to have us cheering them in. They had been out since 6am and looked very tired and very thrilled. The last rider came in 10 minutes later and was having problems getting her horse to pulse down. We all sat (with only minutes to spare) getting this horse relaxed and on the edge hoping he came down in time to get her completion. He did with only about 3 minutes to spare and we all cheered her!
I knew at that moment I had to stay in this sport. I was still hooked.....the atmosphere, the people, the AMAZING horses and the perseverance.
Gene had said that endurance riders come in all sizes, ages and backgrounds but they all have one thing in common---they all have strong personalities and are tough. They are not wimps.
What a great day. I now have another horse and an experience I really wanted to share with ridecamp and especially to all you new riders to this wonderful sport.

Karla Watson Portland, Oregon

Bear Valley Springs - another tough PS endurance ride - Mike Maul

I first met ride manager Cheri Briscoe at the Old Warriors Water Hunt ride in April. I was telling her how difficult that ride was - and she replied - just come to my ride in the fall to do another real test of endurance. Her ride - Bear Valley Springs - in the third week of September - is certainly another test of endurance in the PS region.
The ride is held in the mountains near Tehachapi starting in a gated equestrian community named Bear Valley Springs about 2 hours northeast of Los Angeles. It's nearly 25,000 acres in size with the mountain ringed community encompassing a broad grassland valley, upland meadows and hills with majestic oak, high mountains with tall pine forests and an extensive wilderness area. The ride goes from turf farms and fields of carrots to foothills with sage and oak to the high mountains with pines.
Our ridecamp is in the 42 acre Equestrian Center with stables, corrals, paddocks, training ring, rodeo ring, and a camping area. It's home to the BVS Horseman's Association, the Buckaroo Club, the Bear Valley Springs Dressage Society, and the White Wolf Vaulters Club. There's approximately 50 miles of dedicated equestrian trails that cover the valleys, foothills, canyons, and the high country. Our camp is at 4000 feet with the surrounding mountains reaching almost 8000 feet. There's a full moon with the mountains and camp brightly lit in the night. Early in the evening the moon comes up a dark orange and larger than you know it really is. After dark I can see lights from a few houses on the peaks overlooking our camp.
The ride starts for the 50 milers(47) at 6:15 AM and for the 30 milers(33) at 7. It's a short controlled start taking us by the painted penguins out into the rolling foothills to work off the excess energy that all of our horses seem to have at the start. Then it's into flat areas along the lake and community streets finally going up into the mountains with a lot of single track into the first vetcheck. The first loop with one vetcheck is 30 miles coming back into our basecamp for the lunch check. It's warmer in the foothills and the valley with areas of warm - then cold air as we get further into the foothills. You can smell the sage as you move along the singletrack just as you can smell the pines when we get up in the high mountains.
Riding along the high trails and looking down into the valley - it almost seems like a view from a plane. You see green irrigated fields along with the normal brown of the area, homes, cars, the park and the lake all spread out over the valley to the distant mountains. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. Volunteers are at all the road crossing and there are bridle paths all through the community. The marks of a community that's very equestrian oriented are easy to see - trail signs everywhere and even wood beam crossings for many of the concrete home driveways so that horses will not slip on the transition from dirt trail to driveway. And there's almost no rocks on the trails - even the single track in the high mountains. There are large boulders along the trails usually but just soft dirt and dust in the trail.
The 30 miles go by fast and even though there's a significant amount of climb - my horse and I are thinking - this is not as difficult as the Water Hunt we did together in April. We ride along the ridges and past some of the homes that were visible from the camp last night as lonely spots of light. There's even green watered lawns up on the top of the ridges. There's some nice downhill back into camp where you can get off and give your horse a break. The lunch hold is 50 minutes and goes by too quickly. The ride vets are Beasom, Hewett, and Billingsly with all the checks going smoothly.
The next loop is 20 miles with a 20 minute hold and a 10 minute stop just 5 miles from the finish. It uses some of the same trails we had in the morning but will go up to almost 6500 ft with one very tough 3/4 mile climb. There's lots of switchbacks in the climbs with water at all the right spots. The planned trail was rerouted on Friday to avoid large numbers of yellow jacket nests. The morning 30 miles had taken about 4:30 and the next 20 takes about the same. There's a 6 mile section uphill that takes 2:30 all by itself. It's the longest 6 miles I've ever done. My horse and I revise our views that this is a lot easier than the Water Hunt.
The loop has a nice high mountain spring in the shade that we get to pass twice. >From the high trails - we can see the lake, the golf course, and the vet checks. On the way up - we pass a home with a little girl out on the deck who calls out to us and our horses. Little girls everywhere seem to love our horses. At the finish we're greeted by Cheri with ice cold orange juice for the riders.
There are awards for everyone - oldest horse, farthest distance, youngest rider and horse(a nine year old girl on her first and her horses first 50) - and especially the "Golden Buns" award. The Golden Buns award is judged by all the female volunteers and awarded to the best looking male in tights in the 50. Buns in Training awards go to the LD male riders. Ernie Lohman does well in this award as well as in the regular endurance. First and BC in the 50 is Suzy Kelley riding Linda Morelli's young gelding Falling Leaf in about 6 hours. Carol Miller is second and Ernie Lohman third. Three riders have come from Arizona - some in the 50 and some in the LD. It's a long distance but it's still too hot in Arizona for rides. Of the 47 starting in the 50 - 38 are finishers. All 33 of the LD starters finish. The last 50s crossed the finish line with just seconds to spare - and neither was John or Trilby.
Going home - I see reminders of 9/11. In at least three different areas - I see bright reflecting silver shapes that turn out to be many mothballed airline jets - small ones all the way up to huge 747s. Full flights are an illusion as there are just fewer flights now and air travel has never returned to pre 9/11 levels. Other sights along the way are characteristic of California - vast wind farms for electric generation and a huge auto junkyard named Ecology Auto Parts. I don't think there's another state in the nation where ecology would be linked to junked cars...
This has been an excellent ride and one that I never realized was there. I've made many trips to Ridgecrest from the Bay area for rides and passed within just a few miles of Bear Valley Springs without knowing about the excellent riding that was there. The three things that characterize this ride for me are - it's certainly a test of endurance, the views out over the valley, and no rocks on a high mountain trail.
Cheri - a very nice ride - and next time - perhaps I will get to see your DR Thunder Bask +/ - the highest mileage stallion in AERC records with over 14,000 miles.

2002 Virginia City 100 - Nick Warhol

Tougher than Tevis?
And oh, what a moon!

This year was the 35th running of the Virginia City 100, making it one of the oldest endurance rides anywhere. Virginia City is in Nevada, about 30 miles south east of Reno, way up in the mountains at about 6000 feet. It’s an old western mining town that was huge in the silver mining days of old. It’s also where Hoss, Adam, and Little Joe used to frequent, to get drunk at the saloon, after their Pa hollered at them. Today the town is a tourist place that caters to visitors from all over, even endurance riders. The NASTR (Nevada All State trail riders) group has been around a long time and puts on the 100-mile event each year. There’s no fifty or LD ride here, just the 100. Ride manager Connie Creech, who is just about the nicest person anywhere, does a terrific job of putting on this big event. These NASTR people really do it right; it shows in the overall quality of the ride. This was my first attempt at the VC100, and guess who I got to ride? Yep, Zayante again. This old codger has propelled me through 450 miles so far this year with no pulls, including the Washoe 100 in April, held just down the highway. He’s looking good, and ripped through the Eastern High Sierra Classic a few weeks ago, so away we go! My riding partners were Jackie Bumgardner (his owner) who rode her great mare Holly, along with Merri Melde on Jackie’s horse Raffiq, a spunky seven year old Arabian gelding. (who’s for sale, buy the way. Raffiq, not Merri.)
This would be Merri’s first attempt at a 100, as well as Raffiq’s. Base camp for the ride was located right in the middle of town, just a block from the main drag. It was sort of neat, being right in the middle of town, at least the day before the ride. The ride meeting was held in a place called the depot, a huge warehouse sort of thing that had been converted to a dance hall, complete with a piano. Connie and head vet Susan McCartney educated everyone on the ride, then turned the ride meeting over to the Calcutta guys. The who? Hey, this is Nevada! They have this tradition of holding a little lottery sort of thing on this ride. I was a little fuzzy on the gambling concept, even though I grew up in Nevada, but it works sort of like this: for each weight division in the ride, people bid on all the riders, hoping to pick who they think will finish first, second, or third in their division. The highest bidder gets that rider, the pot is all the money taken in for that weight division. They pay out money for win, place, and show based on some strange formula. We were outside listening to the madness going on in there, it sounded like a lot of fun. I thought it was cool when someone put in a bid on me! Our sleeping arrangements were the back of Jackie’s horse trailer, since the camper was left at home in favor of the speedier car, since Jackie was hauling the horses. And speaking of speedy cars, the Ferrari Club of North America was in town, having rented the main highway out of Virginia City to the south. They were holding a timed race up the mountain in some of the neatest cars in the world. The cops just shut down the road, and let the racing begin! You can do anything in Nevada with enough money. It was music to my ears when the Ferrari 512 Boxer in complete race trim came flying up the twisty highway at full tilt, its V-12 screaming out a glorious melody. The Maranalo’s, the Modena’s, the Testarosa’s, what a treat!
Oh yes, the ride. Sleeping Friday night was very difficult due to the whoop-em-up party bands playing in the clubs on Main Street. Quality? Bad. But unfortunately, very loud. And then there was Zayante on that stupid skyhook. Don’t get me wrong, that skyhook is a great way to tie a horse. Ever tried to sleep a foot from one, with a horse eating all night? Every movement of the horse’s head resulted in a loud squeak. It got so bad that Judy finally got up in the middle of the night and tied him to the trailer. Then there was that damn mosquito. No West Nile Virus for me, thank you, he had to die. It was a long, long, sleepless night- Oh camper, where art though? 3:30 in the morning is just way to early to get up for anything. Get up? Who slept? I was very groggy while tacking up and preparing to head out at 5:00 am. The start line was right on the main street downtown, just like in an old western. (The old west didn’t have many fudge shops and paved roads, though.) We started out with a controlled start to the edge of town and took off trotting on nice dirt roads. A little single-track trail led up out of the valley, then dumped us out on long, straight, flat dirt roads across the desert. Okay, so where’s the rocks everyone always talks about on this ride? Heck, this was easy! (you see where this is going, right?) We were on nice dirt roads that led us around the valley, then through some housing neighborhoods. Still nice roads. We turned off and headed out across the desert on yet another road, this one just peppered with some rocks. Laura Fend, Brenda Benkley, and Karen Bottiani passed us up as we turned onto another road, this one had some rocks on it. Still not too bad, you could trot, but carefully. We were at mile fifteen or so when we turned up another climb, now the rocks were coming out into the morning sun, hanging out on the road like lizards basking in the warmth. A long climb took us up to the top of the big grade, where we started down a long road. Jackie had gone on ahead a little, Merri and I hopped off and led the horses down the hill. The long hill. The very long hill. It was a 45 minute walk the way down to the valley floor, with some nice rocks near the bottom. We ended up in a town, where we trotted along the roads to the first vet check at 25 miles, right behind a mini-mart. Very handy! Bathrooms, cold Gatorade, cokes, but alas, no Taco Bell. Judy (mine) and Gary Fend were there crewing for us, a very appreciated service. It was the first of three one-hour holds, that seemed like a lot, maybe they know things we don’t. It was a nice break, however, we left refreshed and happy.
I sort of figured that when we walked down that grade, we would have to go back up. One of those principles of the universe and Endurance riding axioms, you know. And we did, right up this thing called Bailey Canyon. It really was a neat trail, all single track, through trees and canyons, but it was almost all rocks. It went a long way up the mountain, we just walked the whole thing. Okay, I’m starting to see the rocks now. It took over an hour to get up that thing due to all those rocks. I was happy to hear from Judy Reens that the leaders walked this thing as well. Spectacular trail, just all rock. Once at the top, the rocks stopped, but the climbing didn’t. Up and up some more, then a huge down hill, all the way to the Washoe lake basin. When I mention these climbs and downhills, these are not hills we are going over, but whole mountains. Right at the bottom of the valley there was a house whose owner let the ride go right through his property. The owner was out there at the water trough he supplied, with a huge platter of home made Oatmeal with cranberry cookies. Oh yeah, they were good. What a great guy. We crossed the highway and got onto the fantastic single-track trail that led over to the Washoe Lake campground. It is sandy, flat, twisty, really fun trail that goes a couple of miles through the sagebrush. Zayante was spooking at everything for some reason, it was reported that lots of horses were. Bad spirits, maybe? Judy and Gary were at the camp for us with a nice snack for horses and riders.
We rested a while, then attacked the huge climb. All the way back up that mountain, in the heat of the day, straight up for a few miles, with the SOB’ s smack in the middle. For those who don’t know, the SOB’s (yes, that’s what it stands for) are this set of three hills that are incredibly steep, rocky, and generally annoying. You go straight down, then straight back up for a couple hundred yards or so. These suckers are steep, but I liked doing them in this direction better, and doing them in daylight was a whole lot easier than is was at the Washoe ride. I led Zay down, and then up the first, and biggest SOB on foot, making it a slight SOB for him, and a true SOB for me. Once we passed these stupid hills, we trotted along a moderately rocky road for a few more miles to a great rest and water stop, just under the summit at the reservoir. Lots of goodies for riders and horses; the horses were drinking an unbelievable amount of water all day. (Actually, so was I.) That’s certainly a good thing out here. Five miles of trotting on a decent road led us back to Virginia City, where we had to go right through the paved streets in town to the base camp. Tourists were looking at us a little strangely, and when you tell them we are doing a one-day, 100 mile ride, they just say, “Yeah, right! Can we rent horses, too?”
Fifty-two miles down, another hour hold. I ate as much food as I could find, the horses were doing the same thing. It was around 3 in the afternoon and was pretty warm, but thank goodness it wasn’t unbearably hot. If you tried to do this ride in July it would be pretty ugly. Zayante looked very good, in fact he felt really good all day to that point. (except for all the spooking, the turkey) Holly was her usual great self, but the surprise of the day was Raffiq. This guy was a metabolic monster. Susan was very impressed with how good he looked. Hugh Vanderford was still going well, it was his horse’s first 100. After our quick hour, we left camp for the second loop and headed South along the highway where the race cars were blasting up the road. The next few miles were walking only, it was slow going down a rocky canyon. We finally hit some roads and started making up time. We wound all the way out of the valley, over towards Carson City, where we picked up the Washoe 100 trail. After a nice water stop, we hung the right turn back up the long valley again, more climbing. This was trottable, but was still a lot of work. At the top we had to do a couple miles of steep climbing that we walked, all the way to that Reservoir water stop again. We spent more time here, since the horses were famished. The sun was just setting as we headed back out, faced now with one of the longest climbs in the ride. It was walk/trot on the roads due to the hills and rocks, but it took a long time to get to the top. About halfway up the climb, it looked like a fire was burning on the horizon. It was the moon coming up, burning dark orange as it lifted above the mountains. It was absolutely unbelievable how bright that moon was. Every rider was babbling about it- you really could have ridden in sunglasses when that baby was high in the sky. We passed up Virginia City; we were way, way, up above it on the top of the mountain range, and then kept going north. Here’s where it started getting tougher- lots of up and down, rocky, with not a lot of places to trot. It was more slow going through the tough terrain in the dark. The moon was like a spotlight, though, helping immensely. Dave Rabe had marked the trail, it was done as well as any I have ever seen. Speaking of Dave, he rode and finished the ride, just a few days after flipping his ATV while out marking the trail. He was climbing up one of those SOB’s and just looped out over backwards. Did I say those hills were steep? He has an edema on his side that looked like a huge, blue tattoo. After endless up and down climbs, the trail finally headed back down, way down, to the highway crossing. More and more walking. We made it back to t he base camp at about 9:30 pm, 77 miles down, 23 to go. That third hour hold was feeling pretty nice at this point. All three horses were great, Zayante feels the same as he did at the start. The spooking stopped completely once the sun went down. Maybe he’s really an owl? Once again, Judy was there for us, doing everything we needed. It was a very nice rest. Poor Laura was pulled here for lameness. Drat! She toughed out those first two nasty loops and would not be able to do the easier third. I would have fallen asleep except for the fact I kept eating.
That hour went fast- we were back on the trail once again at 10:40, 23 miles to go. Jackie said the third loop used to be tougher, (she has finished 10 VC100’s) but they eased it up a little in recent years. (Thank you NASTR) It was indeed easier- we got treated to some nice roads that let us trot for a half hour or so at a time. Wow- thinking back, there were not many spots like that on the entire ride so far. The moon was so bright it was almost like daytime. We rode a long way down the valley, all the way to the end where we found an incredible sandstone formation that rimmed the valley. Boy, I sure hope we don’t have to climb that! No, we got to walk through some of the cool formations, then headed back. After some more nice trotting, we hit the last vet check at mile 92. It was all lit up in the middle of nowhere, like Francisco’s at Tevis. The ride workers there were great, giving us blankets, drinks, mashes for the horses, just great service. We vetted through and headed out on time, it was now about 1:30 in the morning, and only 8 relatively easy miles to go. It was here I noticed how sleepy I was. While trotting, or walking off the horse, I was fine, but while walking on horseback, my eyelids were drooping big time. I’d heard that Trilby has been known to sleep on the horse, it just might have been possible. We headed back out, trotting along in the moonlight, not talking much, just moving up the road towards camp. 2:15 am and we are back across the highway. Off Zayante one more time for the downhill walk, and at 2:40 or so we crossed the finish line. Connie was the only one there, she ran to wake up Susan to vet us out. All three made it just fine! We chatted for a minute about how neat the ride was, but I had to get some sleep. Judy had everything all laid out for us, we just put the beasts up and went to bed. All three horses were eating like crazy for the next few hours, but at that point I could have slept through a train wreck.
The awards breakfast was at a casino in town, Connie and crew gave out the awards and completions. There were 61 starters, 50 finishers, Zay and I came in 23rd. That was the highest completion rate ever in the ride, I think they said. My award will be a belt buckle with Zayante’s name engraved on the back. That one will go in the trophy case. Tom Johnston won and got BC, (you ought to see the size of those perpetual trophies!) Judy Reenes got 5th on Benji, and a four and a half year old junior finished on a horse that was really old, someone said 28 years? Wow! Makes the grumpy old Zayante look like a baby. Zay got quite a round of applause when Connie mentioned that he now has 10,520 miles. Hugh finished, as did Brenda and Karen. The Calcutta payout was fun- I’m going to have to try that next year. Yeah, I’ll come back. I like tough rides, but I’m spoiled, because the right horse makes tough rides easy.
Nick Warhol
Hayward, Ca

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Why We Do Endurance - Laura Hayes

I happen to read this at a point where, returning from a very enjoyable, albeit snowy, training ride, I have made myself a cup of coffee and am feeling very mellow.
This is why I do endurance (20 years now) and how I explain it to the 'locals' who think I just go out there and 'ram around':
I have shown horses since I could sit up straight. When I was a kid, I thought that was the most perfect place on earth. At 21, someone challenged me to do a distance ride on my Arab show horse. After training for months, I found that this was the closest I had ever been to a horse- he was happier than he had ever been, and I was more relaxed. After that ride, except for one summer where I campaigned an open jumper for someone, I never went back to the show ring.
Riding my horse for hours through the beautiful forests and hills around here has given me an inner confidence and a serene, very happy outlook on life. I am sure there are many people who can express this better than I can, but I know that when I took several years off to pursue a career, there was a big whole in my life. Getting on a horse and traveling the countryside - just he and I, has filled that void- having a goal to reach (putting on several thousand endurance miles) has been the icing on the cake
In endurance there are no subjective calls. You have to care for your teammate and meet requirements that are concrete and obvious- no one can manipulate them and no one can imagine them. It doesn't matter if you have an $1800 saddle or a $100 saddle- you do not have a better chance of reaching perimeters! How fast you go has to do with how close to the edge of those requirements you wish to get, or can get.
You can do endurance slow and have achievable goals that are as important to you as if your goals were to come in first, and NO one, I mean NO ONE, will tell you that you are not worthy, or didn't do your best, or were less than perfect - there are no extra 'points off' for doing it your way, as long as you met the veterinary requirements. If your goal was to finish 50 or 100 miles with a happy, healthy horse, then you have won. If you set out to make a winner and you do two years of LSD during competition, then you have won.
In endurance you can set your own goals and not always be judged - and I am not necessarily comparing this sport to other horse sports, but comparing it to life. In a high profile, high pressure career, I was being constantly judged. There were 'performance reviews' and annual charts and figures of my performance, always being judged by someone. In endurance it is me and my horse against the trail that day- 'win or lose' is in my mind. I have won rides and felt bad that I didn't do things quite right, and I have come in second to last and been exhilarated.
Love this sport.
Laura Hayes NE AERC #

Why I Do Endurance - Carla Lawson

What sport allows you to dress like a clown, ride like a banshee, pee in the woods, think that beet pulp is the next best thing to sliced bread even if your horse thinks you are an idiot for not serving proper "SHOW" horse food which tastes a hell of alot better. What sport can you litterally get off look like you are in a drunken stupor and have a cop pull you over later for weaving or slow driving and give you a breathelizer test and you not register because you Haven't been drinking yet you have ice in the back with a few cases of beer since you were the only one going to the store to get ice for your horse. (whups I told on myslef didn't I?)
What sport can you compete in that also includes kids to compete right along with you? What sport has the fittest horses? I mean how many of them top notch 3 day eventer can do this? And they GET THREE DAYS!!! Course I do it for the money... Yeah right! I do this because I love it. I get a rush like a drug in the veins! I do this because if I don't my insurance would go high because I would need some therapy. Course in I haven't in the last year and 1/2 because of commitments but I get to in five more months. Was going to get a fix in November but I had to cancel for grandmothers funeral (was the least I could do). But I am in bad need of a fix...Going thru withdrawl is hard.
I don't know what will happen to Steph, Angie, Merryben, or heaven help us Trilby when they can't get on the horse to ride. I am sure when old age catches up (will take a very long time) that they will have some bad withdrawls. I think Angie will crew for her great grandkids, Steph will just go off on the trail one day and won't be heard from. Trilby will just go off into that great big purple heaven in the sky. Merryben, will probably start her own magazine..titled Endurance the quest for the perfect ride. Why do I do endurance.. The question really is why do I not!
Carla (oh its nice out...I feel a training ride coming on!)
PS for Howard, Howard will go while slurping a beer from a blow to the head while riding Danceline thru a redwood forest.

Why We Do Endurance - Karen Sullivan

It's a struggle for me too, with kids activities, and husband only home weekends. My kids and I have mainly only gotten to do LD rides, I have only done 5 50's.....but I am hooked as far as it being an activity I want to do.
First, I love to ride this a teenager and in my 20's, trotting and cantering up in the hills. I love to be on a horse that wants to move out. Until I discovered Endurance, I just didn't now there were people out there that rode a whole lot faster than me!
I am totally drawn by all the information out there and advances in knowledge about feeding and tack and electrolyting. It's a sport that requires more care and knowledge of whats best for the horse, than appearances! Due to constant reasearch, articles and books by researchers and competitors, and through actual riding; I am taking better care of my horses.
It's an opporutnity to go new places, ride into areas and parts of the state I would not typically go to.I love seeing different parts of California.
It's been a positive experience for my kids, fostering hard work and responsibility, encouraging good sportmanship and putitng their partner (the horse) first (over their feelings and tiredness). My daughter has had to make several tough decisions regarding not racing another junior and pulling her horse when it wasn't exactly 100% She made the right decision both times! I think this sport has been good for my self confidence.
As for me, I have met a group of people I find, for the most part, smart, caring and opposed to some of the horse yahoo's in my county. I have met great friends I hope to carry through the rest of my life.
The riding and activity level has encouraged me, and kept me fit. I find i ride better and more balanced, and have more confidence, when my own body is fit.
It's personally, a feeling of accomplishment to get one of my horses through a 50 in good shape; shows I have prepared and conditioned well, and ridden my horse sensibly.
And last, it provides a GOAL...I guess I am still goal oriented. It gets me out on the horses on those days I would prefer to be a slug...and once I am out on my horse on that cold, dreary day, I am sure glad I did it!The goal of a spring endurance ride keeps me out there in the winter, working some of the young horses.

Why I Do Endurance - Jolynn Maynard

First to Jan Stevens, I to, am way more tired at the end of a day working cows than doing a 50. I think it is the slow, slow work of working cows or driving cows anyway. Each summer I help push 900 pairs 18 miles over a big mountain (start at 5500 fit and climb to 8000-9000 feet). Much of this is single file and believe me when we are done I am exhausted. Now a LD ride is actually fun and a walk in the park any more.
I have been riding almost daily for 46 years. As a teenager, riding in the hills and showing. As an adult training horses, competing in barrels in rodeos. Then 3 years ago my daughter was training a little Arab for someone (who is now a good friend) and was going to put him in a LD ride. I decided to get a AQHA gelding ready and go just for the fun of it. Only did 25 miles, got lost, rode in a barrel saddle in Wranglers (you weren't going to catch me in tights) but finished. Couldn't even hardly get in the horse trailer to put things away. At the awards that evening a free entry to the Mt Charleston Challenge was given to me and I went and was I hooked. I have always been very competitive and I was ready for a change. I had owned an Arab or two over the years and always thought that I would go back to them once I quit rodeo. All my quarter horses are sold, and I own 4 Arab geldings, have ridden in competition about 1200 miles, practice conditioning probably 5000 miles, and driven 68,000 miles.
For me it is the physical challenge of preparing my horses and I, the competition, meeting new people, seeing neat places and being so close to my horses. I too, love to watch them come running from the bottom of the pasture when I call them or watch them play. I do love my Arabs. If it doesn't kill me off then it definitely keeps me young and active.