Monday, March 24, 2003

2003 Rides of March - Pat Super

I have just returned from riding my first endurance ride in Nevada. First let me say that it was well worth the drive from Southern Oregon. This was the first time the ride has been offered and except for one fault (at least some of the riders felt this way) it was an exceptional ride in every way. There could certainly have more water sets. The first water was at 15 miles. Thank goodness the weather was cool. Ride management was open to suggestions regarding this and I am certain that next year, this will be corrected.

The staging area was at a large arena grounds with a couple of good sized arenas, large round pen, picnic area and gazebo where the awards ceremony was held (while a sumptuous meal was served). Strangest staging area and start of ride that I have ever experienced. All of the rides I have ridden before have started on trail far from residential areas. The arena grounds is tucked smack dab in the middle of a suburban housing tract. Most of these houses have some acreage around them and most show signs of owning horses, with corals and out buildings so the location of the arena grounds is a great facility for this community. The ride started right down a paved street and then turned onto a sandy track which led across sagebrush open land into the surrounding foothills. Although there were over 110 riders on the 50 mile and I think over 40 on the 30, it did not feel frantic or the trails crowded. In fact, even from the first couple of miles at the start, one saw very few riders as the terrain helped to separate riders rather quickly.

I had heard it said that this would be a fairly easy ride and a good one to start off the endurance season but I think some riders were sorely surprised to find that this was indeed a fairly challenging ride. Early into the ride, the single tract trail took us on a fairly long, rather steep climb which found some riders off and walking their horses while others fairly easily trotted the entire climb. Since our training and conditioning trails are very similar to this climb, my training buddy and I found that our horses were not overly taxed, thank goodness. The thing that concerned me most was the prevalence of sand on the trails. It was great footing with barely any rock but trotting in sometimes deep sand with horses who are not conditioned in the sand caused me to go a lot more slowly than the topography would have dictated. Although much of the ride was in open high desert, and at times one could see riders far in the distance, most of the time, it was difficult to find where the trail led or if riders were approaching because of the lay of the land. There were dips and gulleys and short very steep rises. In fact although short, some of the rises were as steep as anything I have ridden and were a lot of fun. One aspect of much of the trail that I did not enjoy was the washboard like dips that often went on for very long distances. Not easy on the horse's legs and hopefully riders rode with this recognition. ( think this may have been caused by the abundance of off road bikes that have made a maze of criss crossed trails throughout this area. In fact there were many that could be seen in the distance but when they were encountered, they were really courteous and pulled off the trails and shut off their motors).

The first vet check at 15 miles was also the first available water. But it was manned with a lot of volunteers and there was great hay set out in small piles, each with accompanying apples and carrots. There was also plenty of cold water bottles and soft drinks and sandwiches for the riders. This ride had four vets so there was never a wait for vetting or p&r. We lucked out with the weather and the rains of the previous days having subsided and both days were dry, although it began to rain as we pulled out and headed for home on Sunday morning. Saturday morning was rather warm, and the sun promised to shine, which it did off and on. By late morning, however the winds commenced and blew unrelentingly the rest of the day. So the second vet check (which was in the same location as the first) was quite cool and very windy and on the open plains, this made keeping the blankets on the horses somewhat problematic for some.

From the second vet check back to camp was a 15 mile romp. There were sections of trail that begged cantering for long distances and as there were no major climbs (although quite a few short, very steep ones), my horse felt fresh and strong. I did not know that we were back until quite suddenly, we rounded a bend and there, 50 yards ahead was the finish line. Although this ride was quite fun and one that I hope to do again next year, for me, personally, it was made difficult because for some strange reason, my ankle began to hurt excruciatingly so after we left the last vet check. I could only trot or canter for short times and then had to bring my horse back to a walk so that I could regain my balance and shake my leg to get feeling back into my ankle. I could not imagine what caused this. At one point when I had jumped down from my horse, I had twisted my ankle but not so that it did not recover a few seconds later. Then, my saddle for some reason, began to list to one side (the side with the sore ankle) and try as I might, I could not center it. I hopped off a couple of times to adjust it and in fact once had cinched it so tight that when I checked it again, my poor horse had wrinkled skin under the cinch which had luckily not begun to gall. It was a bummer not being able to enjoy such wonderful trail with a strong horse but such is this sport. It was a bummer to be walking my horse when riders breezed past me. Oooooh the pain of it all.

The bottom line is that if you are anywhere near this ride or can get to it next year, you had better register early and plan on arriving early in the day to claim a spot for your rig because this is a ride that is only going to grow in popularity. My hat goes off to the ride managers and anyone having anything to do with this ride. It was GREAT! And the vets were some of the friendliest, helpful and efficient that I have seen.

If anyone was at this ride and knows the name of a man who became my new hero, please give him a well deserved pat on the back. About five or so miles into the ride, we saw a woman who had obviously been separated from her horse walking some of the trails trying to track her horse. We can all imagine how she must have been feeling. Then about 15 minutes later, we saw a rider who looked like a modern day cowboy riding a great looking horse and leading another, fully tacked. This man had obviously given up his position with what were probably the front runners to return a wayward horse to his worried owner. I asked his name and above the wind could only hear his first...Richard, I think. If you are reading, Richard, thanks a million for epitomizing the spirit of good sportsmanship and just plain caring.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Ride Story: FHA CTR - Teri Hunter

CTR 100,60, 40.

This is not an endurance ride Scott but it is a Competitive ride with lots of history. I am also not a good rider, a computer person so it most likely will be direct to the point.

Ride Manager - Becky Siler. What a wonderful job. I did not ride but I have many friends that were riding and drove up Saturday to help out and support them. Arrived in time to get to the last vet check (10 miles to go) out of camp. Helped set up water buckets for everyone. Vets and Volunteers started to show up. Everyone was set up and ready to go before the first horse arrived. This was the second day of the 100 or the first day for 40 and 60's. Format was Friday 40, Saturday 40, Sunday 20. Riders coming in and did the horses look great. 5 horses were pulled out of 47 for that day that left out. From what I heard from the riders there was plenty of water out on the trail with beautiful scenery through the Ocala Forest in Florida. Open spaces, wooded, palemetto, and lets not forget the sand. Lots of Sand. The volunteers did a great job refilling water buckets and handing out gator ade and water to those arriving. Refilling water bottles and such. Off the trail they went and from the looks of where they were headed into it looked beautiful. Wish I was riding, but then again I am glad I was not. It has been unconditionally hot this time of year for Florida with temps in the mid to high 80's and humid as ever.

One rider pulled at that vet check and trailered back home. After talking to her after the ride she said that her horse gets hot easily and this is always a problem with him. She did a wonderful job of taking care of her beautiful walker. Such a nice person and happy with what he had accomplished. Alot of the 40 mile riders usually only do 25 miles, so for them to test themselves and their horses especially in the hot, humid and deep sand they all seemed very proud of their accomplishments.

Back at home camp, riders were coming in for their finish. All horses looked exceptional and really looked well taken care of for this leg of the ride. You can tell because everyone was coming in with a BIG smile on their faces. As each rider or group of riders came trotting by everyone clapped for their accomplishments. This seemed to help pump the riders and the horses up.

Vets and Volunteers worked hard to keep to their schedule of events that was extremely detailed on the brochure that was handed out. Many activities were involved with this ride not just the ride. They had a social hour, a raffle drawing of tons of prizes. The Distance Depot was there for riders to purchase items of NEED. We always need something. I picked up a jug of Perform n Win myself.

As I was sitting there watching my favorite riders go through vetting watching intently how their horses were moving I noticed the vet. I don't know his name but he seemed very concerned with each rider and that they knew everything about the horse and how they were doing. He treated each one as if they were the only rider there. I am sorry for not knowing the name. He really deserves a lot of credit.

Awards were scheduled at 6 and were right on time. Boy those volunteers sure worked fast to calculate everyone's scores. I don't remember everyone who took home an award. They were actually very beautiful. The ones I do remember is Ramsey took home Grand Champion, her daughter took home second place junior. Caren Stauffer took home Best Trail Horse. Everyone seemed really happy.

At 7:00 pm they had entertainment at the Rocking Horse Stables where the ride was held. Wonderful exhibitions by different types of riding. First they had America the Beautiful playing with a reining horse doing his thing with the American Flag. Brought tears to my eyes. If they would have played Anchors Away I would have been a blubbering idiot (because I have 2 in the Navy). Then we all stood for the National Anthem with the American Flat in plain view in the center of the ring. After that we saw performances by the Citrus County Mounted Patrol and their drill team. What magnificent animals. Classical Dressage performance by an International Rider. What the killer was is he used an Arabian. What a beautiful performance. Flying lead changes with every step. Piaffe's, Passage, Extended Trot, Half Pass, Side Pass just beautiful. Then the reining horse came back with another performance with sliding stops, wow! and more. There was also a funny spot in the show. The announcer said that he was a International know famous trainer. Then he announced his name. I looked at my friends and said "I never heard of him". Lynette Burks said she thought it was going to be funny. She was right on the money. We laughed and laughed. I have never seen things done with a horse like that. That performance ended the show. We all went back to our trailers and either partied for those that were finished or went to bed for those that were riding the 20 miles for their 60 mile or 100 mile ride the next day.

Hopefully someone that stayed for the Sunday ride or who rode the ride will post more info. This is not just a ride it is a BIG event with lots of history. If you ever get a chance and would like to ride this one, look for it next year. It is usually booked up so keep watching for the next ride. Ride info can be found at click on FHA.