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