Sunday, May 25, 2003

2003 Little Manistee Memorial - Maggie Mieske

May 10 & 11, 2003

The Little Manistee Memorial Ride in Luther is a special ride for is also the trail for Tin Cups Springs and I have done this trail at every ride that Jay and Becke Grams have had here since I started distance riding (about 350 miles total!). I love this trail and my horses love this trail and I have made some very special friends at this ride. And I make new ones every year! There are just no people in the world like distance people!!! Whether they ride endurance or comp, they know about "going the distance" and continue to make me feel welcome and support my efforts at passing it on!

In keeping with a typical Michigan spring weather pattern, we experienced one of those rides that went from a typical July day for heat and humidity (esp. humidity) on Saturday to typical April thunderstorms and pouring rain that night to typical October winds and blustery showers throughout the day on Sunday!

Since we had a good ride at White River, I decided to let Malik decide how the ride would go. We started out with the front runners and fell back to being a few minutes behind with a few others halfway through the first loop. It was cool and foggy but comfortable when we started at 7:00 a.m. but the humidity got uncomfortable as the sun came out and it got pretty muggy. Nelson soon took over custody of my sweatshirt! I opted to sweat it out in my sleeveless T-shirt (which my arms suffered for through the day from whipping branches, a few thorn trees, sunburn and such). We did the first loop (about 12 1/2 miles) in just under an hour and actually ended up coming in to the first check with the front runners. Malik was eager and excited and it took us 8 minutes to come down. That hurt. But he peed and had ALL A's and the vet was pleased so I was pleased. He ate like a pig but refused to drink...not unusual. He often doesn't drink until the halfway point. We were out with Gene and Shelley Dake from this check and I had the opportunity to ride behind them into the halfway check in camp. Gene and Shelley often ride together and they have a system that works...let's just say, when you have the chance at a ride to see them work and ride together, take notice and pay attention. You'll learn something!

Malik was still doing well at the halfway check, all A's again though not drinking. We had a 50 minute hold and took advantage of it. We were both feeling really good. The Dakes left out 3 minutes ahead of us. We left camp at an easy canter and alternated that with a strong working trot. He was feeling good but maybe not as motivated as before and he drank very little during the check. We passed some comp riders a couple of miles out. We were going a little slower than the first time on this loop. What concerned me was that he had started panting so hard....he often breathes hard and sometimes it's a mixture of scenting the air (maybe he knows exactly who is ahead of him and how far?) and working hard but this time, it was PANTING which he has never done. We took extra time to cool him with slosh bottles when Nelson and Mary (my MUCH older sister) met us at pit stops. He sipped a bit of water. After the first pit stop, I sensed he was needing to pee again (same dilemma last weekend!) and he continued to pant hard. He was moving fine at a trot and a canter so except for allowing the occasional "slow down and move a bit off the trail in case he has to pee" strategy, we continued to move along at a decent clip. He finally drank fairly well at a pit stop and I let Nelson electrolyte him there, too. About two miles from the vet check, he stopped on his own (not at my suggestion) and peed and peed and peed. He walked off a few steps, put his ears forward and to the tune of "Grandma's Feather Bed", we took off at a canter. I had a new horse! And yes, I SANG to my horse in an effort to motivate him...I figured if nothing else, he might just want to go faster to get away from it or get back to camp faster! Nelson met us once more at the road before the vet check and as he drove off after pitting us, Malik took off after the van at a full gallop. He was feeling good again. No more panting either. But we had lost too much time and were WAY behind the front runners. The Dakes had even made up the time and were within a couple of minutes of the front runners by this point. I talked to Dr. Steve Halstead at the vet check about the panting and not drinking as he usually does but he did an extra thorough check on him and Malik still had all As with the exception of a B+ for impulsion. His skin tenting was great and he recovered quickly at this check. MAJOR POINT OF INTEREST: I shudder to think what our ride might have been like if I hadn't used Susan's advice about tanking up on wet beet pulp and hay on the Thursday before the ride. Current research indicates that many horses start rides already dehydrated. I will NEVER, EVER sacrifice the extra time and effort it takes to feed him continuously all day long on Thursday with lots of beet pulp and wet hay as well along with his apples and carrots...I think this also starts getting him psyched up and prepared mentally...he is so used to the routine since this is our 4th season doing it this way! Read Susan's articles and take heed. Malik could have been in major trouble if he had been dehydrated. He never got below an A- on hydration during the ride. THANKS SUSAN!!

Anyway, he ate and drank like a pro at the 3rd check and this time, our view from our "spot" allowed us to see the riders a little ways over as they finished the 4 mile loop that comes around and behind the check on the way back to camp...he watched all the horses with much interest and when it was time to saddle up, he was itching to go out there and find those horses, he didn't care that we were an hour behind!! The last loop was awesome and I was very proud and happy to be a part of this team... I let Malik teach me again how to let him guide ME. Though I try to watch and warn him of tricky spots with rocks and roots, etc., I also sometimes simply let the reins lay loose in my hands and tell him to take me through it and there are some nasty tricky spots on this trail with deep, deep sand and some downhill with washouts and rocks and roots that in the past, I have always walked through. But when I ask him to be careful and get us through, he does....every ride I gain more and more confidence in my ability and in my horse. He is an amazing creature. We are now going faster and stronger than ever together. It's such a rush! He knows how to break into a canter at just the right place going downhill before he hits the bottom and we start going first it scared the crap out of me but he is very adept at it and knows exactly what he's doing. I didn't teach him that though I read about it in one of Lew Hollander's books. In fact, in a couple of attempts at guiding (foolish human that I am), I was at fault for causing a fumble. In a couple of tricky spots in particular where the trail virtually diverges into two paths, he knew EXACTLY which direction to go in (I did, too though...I was just testing him!). And in trying to correct my posture during one of his cantering surges, I caused him to lose momentum and stumble a bit. He recovered in spite of his stupid human! He is an amazing horse. Sorry to keep repeating myself. I worry that I am not going to be able to ride him to his potential but I'm going to give it my best shot!!

Anyway, to make a long story short, we finished our ride in just over 5 hours and in 8th place (51 minutes behind Wendy Peterson who was first to finish and Linda Hamrick who was 2nd...Wendy gallantly came back to help Linda after Linda's horse spooked about two miles from the finish and she came off...aren't endurance riders wonderful??). I think our official time will be 5:14. I find that very respectable and am pleased with how our ride turned out. Malik vetted out with all As. In spite of being so far behind in time, we were only 10 points from Best Condition which went to Shelley Dake and Count Chaska. And they are pros with great vet scores...that's one thing I am always impressed by-the great vet scores both Gene and Shelley get with their horses and I aspire to that myself, not because I want Best Condition (well, yes, I do) but because high vet scores should be a top priority OVER fast times. Being able to combine the two takes some strategy and experience and KNOWING your horse and your TEAM. I continue to work on all of that.

I'd also like to mention that 5 riders braved this quirky Michigan weather and rode out in grey skies and gusty winds for the 25 mile Limited Distance ride on Sunday. Tom Peterson was first to pulse down and won Best Condition. A brand new rider (this is his first endurance format ride and second distance ride) named Scott something or other was 2nd. I made sure he got a GLDRA newsletter and schedule and some other distance riding information. Apparently SOMEBODY had been talking about me at Brighton because he already knew who I was (hmmm, who might that be, JEANIE MILLER????). But it's always fun meeting new riders and helping get them all fired up! I apologize that I can't for the life of me remember the other riders though I remember that Lauri Williams was 5th...the other two riders were juniors.

I LEARNED a lot at this ride...the panting scared me and I knew Malik had to pee. But he was not tired or overstressed and there is a difference. Had it been a vet I didn't know, I might have questioned my vet scores. But Steve has vetted Malik at rides every year since we started and even when we voiced concern and he double checked, Malik was fine and looked great. Steve doesn't tell you your horse is doing great if he isn't. I learned to also trust my own instinct and to let my horse guide me. I read a lot of ride stories and I know there are a lot of riders and horses out there with major issues to overcome both for themselves and their horses and I feel lucky to have Malik. We have a long journey ahead of us and boy, do I look forward to enjoying every minute!!

Speaking of journeys and life and all...Jenny did not ride this weekend. It was prom night. She could have gone out with friends and done typical teen activities for prom weekend but she actually SAID she would rather be there helping out. She volunteered as time keeper at the outcheck. She got dressed and ate a little bit at our potluck and we took pictures and oohed and aahed over her dress and her corsage...she cleans up pretty good!! :) The neat thing about it all was that she wasn't all caught up in looking perfect ("if they don't like how I look, they can kiss my ***" is what she said) and so though she was beautiful in her prom dress, her confidence and self assurance was what shone through and added the most to her beauty. I attribute a lot of that to this sport, her horse and the people she has come to know through it. And she was home by midnight, too.

Many thanks to the folks who came out and helped including Jenny, my sister, Mary and Nelson and Ridecamper KAREN Casemier who has never even done a ride yet but took a whole weekend and came out and put up with all of us...I, of course, in fine form, nodded when she introduced herself (thinking all along this is the new vet that one of our clients had told us about and realized I recognized the name from somewhere but not which person it should belong to!!) and basically, was I embarrassed later when I got it all figured out. And I kept trying to call her Susan. Duh! DIMR, right??? I hate to claim Distance Induced Mental Retardation, especially BEFORE the ride, but it's the only excuse I have!!! In any case, Becke Grams was very pleased with the volunteer help this year. She almost cancelled the ride but the volunteers saved the day!

We also welcomed out of state riders Wendy Mancini and Pat Oliva. I think they are BOTH ridecampers. It was a pleasure to meet both of them!

It was also great to see Shannon Weston at the ride...she is the one of the former managers of the Bear River Ride and helped me immensely last year when I took over the Wolverine. Her help was invaluable. I know she has had some major life changes this year but I am so relieved and happy that distance riding did not get left out of the equation. I'm trying to convince her to ride a couple of fifties with me on Max, Jenny's horse. Even though Malik and I had a good ride, it just isn't the same riding alone (whine, whine). And Max and Malik are a special team. We brought Mykal, Malik's half brother this weekend so Nelson could show off his driving horse...Malik was NOT impressed at this unwelcome interloper. He tolerated his presence (with about 6 feet of space between their pens) and mostly just turned his back to him after giving him the "look" that said "I'll come over there and kick your butt if you don't behave!". Malik and Max usually spend time scratching each other's withers and nipping at each other's faces...their favorite activities when they're not on the trail! I think Malik really missed that. I know a horse should be able to "go it alone" but I don't feel there is any shame in riding as a team...if it's more fun for the people, it has to be more fun for the horses!

And so ride season seems to have begun in earnest for us here in Michigan and God willing and the creek don't rise, we are hoping to make it to Grand Island with definite plans to do 50 miles (and an occasional fleeting notion that I really could and should do the 100). Actually, it's not the creek I have to worry about but the TRUCK and transportation issues that plague us every year. :) We are still waiting for the diagnosis from our mechanic and this weekend borrowed a friend's truck to haul to LMMR as it's only 30 or 40 minutes away. It all worked out and we are especially determined this year. I really feel this is Malik's year to shine, actually the first of many years, I hope. Yee ha!!! Here's to miles of smiles for everyone!!

Maggie and the awesome Mashallah AlMalik

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Neversweats 25 Mile - Crysta Turnage

My horse, CT’s Sinatra (so named because he’s a paint-cross gelding with two blue eyes), and I enjoyed the beautiful weather and gracious hospitality of our hosts this weekend at the Land of the Neversweats Ride. He and I were going for a completion on the 25 LD on Saturday, or second ride ever. I’ve only had him since February of this year and we’ve been slowly conditioning and getting ready for rides.

I left Reno on Friday around 2:30 and arrived in camp around 5 pm. Not bad for 100 miles in an old truck that’s getting a new engine this weekend! Pre-ride vetting was supposed to be happening between 4 and 7 pm. I was met at the gate to the Nucking Futz Ranch (yes, that is the correct name) by a helpful volunteer who directed me on where to park and let me know that they were going to provide dinner to all the riders on Friday night at no charge as well! I got my gelding unloaded and camp all set up. He had handled the trip very well and although eager to check things out, he was behaving himself very nicely. Spending the entire day tied to the trailer at the Washoe Ride two weeks ago while I volunteered and scribed for the vet was the BEST thing I could have done for him. He is starting to take all this traveling and excitement at rides very much in stride. Not bad for a 5 year old that hadn’t been out much before I bought him.

Dinner was excellent but due to a sudden illness by one vet and an emergency with our other, Dr. McCartney didn’t arrive to start pre-ride vet in until almost 7 pm. Everyone lined up and patiently waited while she checked each horse. This ride was hosting a 25 on both Sat and Sun, a 55 on Sat and Sun, and a 2-day 105 mile ride. After vetting was completed we had our pre-ride meeting in the dark around 8:30 or so. Dr. McCartney warned us to take very good care of our horses tomorrow, there were 63 horses and only one vet, which meant that if she had to treat a horse, then they may have to stop the ride. They staggered the start of the 55 and 25 so that she could attend the away check that the 55’s had around the 20 mile mark (I’m not exactly sure on that mileage). The 55’s would start at 7 am and the 25’s would have a leisurely morning and start at 10 am. I turned off my alarm clock (there was NO WAY I was going to sleep that late) and finally crawled into bed around 9:45 pm.

I slept a lot better than I expected in the truck cab. It's just long enough I could stretch out. My biggest problem was the full moon was SO bright it was shining in the windshield and right into my eyes. So I slept with my head under the covers for a while. =) I need to get a windshield shade. The other windows are tinted really dark and you can't see in. I woke up when they made the rounds honking the horn at 6 am…. What to do for the next 4 hours??? I got up and gave my horse his breakfast and then crawled back into my sleeping bag and read my book for a while. Sat around and watched the 55’s get ready to go. Finally it was time for me to start saddling my horse and before I knew it, it was 10 am and they yelled, “Trails Open!”

There were 11 of us entered in the 25 mile ride. We all left at a nice leisurely walk and after a few 100 yards, took up a nice working trot. Sinatra was feeling good and behaving himself very well. We were soon passed by a lady on a big Morgan gelding who was traveling much faster than I wanted to that day (she ended up winning the ride). After about 6 miles, our little group (as in all 11 of us) ran into Dave Cootware going the opposite direction. He was the front-runner in the 55 and was kind enough to let us know we had all missed the turn about a mile back. So we all turned around and back-tracked, oh well, at least when EVERYONE misses it, it makes things fun and very fair! That was the ONLY section of trail that was not clearly marked that day.

Sinatra was doing great on pacing. I love this horse! We ride and train by ourselves quite often so he’s not very attached and will let me know when he wants to speed up or slow down, regardless of what the horses in front of him are doing. Today was the first time he felt a little “racy” with me but he was still very easy to rate and control. He’s just starting to understand that endurance is a lot of fun and it’s even more enjoyable in company! We did a lot of trotting with intermittent walking where it was rocky or he needed a break. I ended up riding the first 10 miles or so with a really nice man by the name of Heinrich (I believe) from Napa on a dark gray 6 year old Arab. The trail was really nice, with a lot of single track and jeep roads. There was some rock but you could just slow down and walk through it. There was also some deep sand, but we have sand we train in at home so Sinatra didn’t mind. There were some rolling hills and great views of the surrounding valley. Not a tree in sight though, unless it was hooked to someone’s sprinkler system! This is the N. CA desert after all, only a few miles from the NV border.

After a short but really steep hill, I got off to adjust my girth and didn’t really see Heinrich again (he ended up finishing 5th). So I rode the last 10 miles back into camp with a lady from Red Bluff (sorry, I’m absolutely HORRIBLE with names!). Our two horses were pretty evenly matched and we enjoyed taking turns leading and following. About ½ mile from the finish, she and another couple behind us decided to walk their horses in. Sinatra had been having great recoveries all day and was happily trotting along at about 100 on my heart rate monitor so I let him cruise on in. I walked him the last 100 yards and by the time we go to the In Timer, he was at 70. I jumped off, grabbed my vet card, got my time, and walked him around the corner to the P & R where he pulsed in at 56. Good boy! At our first ride, vetcheck was so exciting that it took him about 5 minutes to get used to everything and come down, even though he was walking in at 70 at that time as well.

Since we had an hour hold at this point (20 miles) I walked him back to the trailer to untack. He drank a BUNCH of water (he always does) and dove into his beet pulp mash (soaked Manna Equine Senior w/ electrolytes). I made myself a sandwich and let him eat. When he was done with his mash, I took him over to get vetted. He received all A’s except for a B on capillary refills and his pulse after his CRI was 40! Wow! This horse is doing awesome!

We went back to the trailer and hung out until I thought it was time to go. I saddled up and walked over to the Out Timer to discover I had hit it right on the nose and it was exactly time for me to leave. So I got on and started on the orange 5 mile loop. This loop was REALLY rock, lots of loose shale and big river rock in a dried out wash. Sinatra and I were taking it slow and easy (he was doing his “slug horse” walk) and the couple who was behind us right before the first vet check came up. I followed them for about 3 of the 5 miles and then trotted towards the finish as they walked their horses in. Again, Sinatra was just happily cruising along on a loose rein, choosing his pace, at a nice 100 bpm on the heart monitor. Suddenly, about 100 yards from the finish line…. There was a HORSE-EATING DONKEY!!! At least Sinatra thought so. He stopped, snorted and then plowed through the sagebrush in an effort to get away from the donkey, who was calmly standing by the fence on the OTHER side of the road! Silly horse! Oh well, there went my low heart rate and two finishing positions as Sinatra shot up to 130 on the monitor and took a little while to settle down. He finally pulsed in at 54 about 3 minutes after the donkey episode, still a very fair recovery. But the couple ended up passing me at the finish and I was 8th out of 11th.

I took Sinatra back to the trailer and gave him some carrots and an apple. I untacked and sponged him off. We then walked back to get our completion check. He was all A’s this time with a CRI of 40 again. I was so proud of my guy! He did AWESOME this ride! I weighed him after the ride and he only lost 9 pounds! From 833 to 824, he stands about 14.3 with his shoes on. =)

At the awards that night, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that we won the Horse of Excellence Award!!! It’s a beautiful sheepskin rug (the kind with the really long fleece). My 10 month old son loves to lay on it but I have it on the back of our sofa so he can’t get it too dirty. My thanks to Ride Manager Rosalee Bradley and all the volunteers and sponsors for this ride. EVERY rider in the top-10 for every ride that weekend got their choice of a nice prize and top finishers in their weight division also got a bottle of fly spray (I was also top Featherweight). The food and hospitality were absolutely fantastic and very much appreciated! I will definitely be back next year, hopefully to ride the 55!

Things I learned on this trip:

1. Food: I made some of that box Pasta Salad and added cut up ham pieces and some peas. It was GREAT cold for a Friday night dinner and snack after the ride. They also were providing potato soup and rolls on Friday night for dinner for free. It was excellent but I did not do it justice. I had oatmeal for breakfast, I just sat and read my book and forced it down a little at a time (I have a nervous stomach and cannot eat before a ride). I did eat two packages. I had a tuna w/cheese sandwich for lunch. It was good cause I made it with a lot of mayo and relish (and GARLIC, yum) so was plenty moist and went down easy. Sinatra was SURE that he wanted some, even though I told him horses don't like tuna, but he persuaded me into giving him my last bite (mostly bread crust) and he agreed with me, horses DON'T like tuna! =) I drank a TON out on the trail. I filled my big water bottles (about 32 oz) with 1/2 Poweraid and 1/2 water and drank one whole one before our 15 mile hold. I drank the last bottle on my last 10 miles of trail and drank an additional 16-20 oz or so at the vetcheck back in camp. I had to PEE when I got into camp for the check and again when we were done, so that's really good for me! Dinner was plentiful and good. Pork roast with applesauce, rolls, potato or macaroni salad, corn, coleslaw, and a TON of desserts. I skipped dessert too, I just can't handle a bunch of sugar after something like that. The applesauce was plain out of the jar but tasted SO good!

2. Check that your water tank doesn't leak BEFORE you fill it up. Someone at my barn was being helpful and put in a 90 degree elbow for me so my on/off valve was below my built in holder and it leaked (slowly, luckily) where the valve connected to the elbow. I was thankful I had bought one of those BIG muck buckets cause I put it under to catch the drips and it was more than 1/2 full when I got there and had sloshed out some. So my water that should have lasted me all weekend was gone by Friday night. Luckily I had bought water bottles for me and my big bucket and my 5 gal bucket were full so I didn't have a problem and they had water troughs close by.

3. I LOVE my big muck bucket. I filled it up when I got there and ended up dumping about 1/3 when we left Sat evening. Sinatra drank out of it some and I used it to fill smaller buckets to sponge him off with. But I need to buy a little net like for a fish tank to clean off the hay that blows in there.

4. Train horse to wear shipping boots. Sinatra had a FIT when I put one on his right back leg on Thursday night so we made the trip without. He did look awfully cute in his fly mask that he wears in the trailer to protect his eyes from flying hay bits. And he LOVED his polar-fleece cooler on Friday night (it was pretty cold and windy).

5. Husbands are great at helping you clean and wash the horse trailer, but they look at you kind of funny when you try to explain how your water tank got filled up ALL the way before you noticed it leaked and then created a 1/2" of mud in your tack room.... Husbands can also pull out those rubber mats much better than wives can! =)

I had a GREAT ride and a nice trip and am really looking forward to the ride in two weeks at Silver Springs, NV hosted by the NEDA club. Hope to see you there!

Crysta and Sinatra (who definitely stands out in the crowd!)

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Synergist Ride - Elaine D. Parker

I decided on the second loop of the Synergist last Saturday that I was definitely going to die. Not later and not of old age. I was going to die just as quickly as I got back to camp. That way Garry, my SO, best friend, bestest ever crew and farrier, would be there for Weeble's sake and I could die knowing he'd be cared for. Also, that way I wouldn't have to go back out for the last and longest loop.

I didn't die and I did go back out. Reluctantly and thinking that I was insane, I wasn't having fun and I really needed to visit a psychiatrist and find out what form of insanity I had and if there was hope for a cure if I made it back. It was long, it was hot, it was humid and it was dry. Humid and dry? Yep, the Synergist was held in the Withlacoochee forest. Basic Florida sandhill country. I don't know the correct geological name or the correct designation of the type of forest. I just know we native Floridians call them the sandhills, pine flatlands, scrub barrens, blackjack country, etc. Not flattering, but accurate. They're the forest that grew up on what used to be (millions of years ago) coastal dunes. There's water, but it's deep and you have to get it from wells. I don't know the area that well and there may be some streams or standing water, but I didn't see any. No natural water on the trail equals a dry ride. And on a humid day that got up to ninety it could have been dangerous.

The loops were long and the distances between water was far longer than I've ever had to go on a ride before. But then, this was only my 4th fifty so that didn't really signify. I do know that during the ride I was griping along with every one else about the paucity of water. The huge concrete water troughs in two spots were permanent tanks left over probably from the years of cattle ranging there. The one other trough away from camp was located at the Tillis Hills campground that we passed during the last loop. All of those were blessed by everyone when we met them.

Guess what? Not once did my horse or the ones at the water spots when I was there turn up their noses and/or play guessing games with the riders about whether or not they were going to drink. MY horse stuck his head in the trough and sucked and sucked and sucked. No nudging and irritating the other heads that were in there (they weren't paying any attention to what horse was drinking next to them, they just wanted to drink). He was dead serious about drinking RIGHT NOW!! AND his gut sounds were as good or better than usual? HUH? But the water was way apart and not only he, but I got extremely thirsty between them. Course when we got there we really tanked up.

In retroflection I'm glad that the last vet check was the only one that was an away check. I have to admit, once I got somewhat re-hydrated (I had made the mistake of taking only full strength GatorAid and I was suffering some stomach cramps and nausea by the time I got to the last check where the human water was available - my fault and a real learning experience) I decided that it was a beautiful spot. I believe that it was originally the old Perryman homestead, though no habitation ruins were there, but it was in a small hammock (in the sandhills that's an island of reasonably rich soil) and the grass was lush and plentiful. Weeble ate and ate until he finally got enough of it to allow me to insist he eat some of the beet pulp mix Garry had packed in a baggie for my cantle pack. He then promptly went back to eating grass. When we got the okay to go we still lingered for a few minutes and they still wanted to eat even as we rode off. Weeble kept reaching down for just one more bite and Nikki, Inta's horse, had so much grass in his mouth as we walked out of the vet check that he looked like he had a green beard.

If it weren't for my riding partners, Teresa and Inta, I would have made the mistake of walking too much for the last few miles. It wasn't until Teresa reminded me of what time it was and that we only had about two hours (and tired horses) for the last eight or nine miles that I realized we could come in overtime if we didn't pick up the pace. Thankfully it had cooled off somewhat and the horses perked right up and trotted home.

The ride camp itself was spacious and well set up. There were water troughs and FOUR water hoses for our use. Two of which were right by the vet check for our convenience. These hoses were very fortuitous for me as Weeble got a rope burn Friday afternoon just after we got there. Immediate hosing and the availability of that running water enabled us to deal with it and still complete the ride. Dr. Doug Shearer checked him for me right after it happened. Said to wait a couple of hours and see how it did and then he'd let me know whether or not he felt I should even vet in. I attended the clinic John had offered and Doug okayed Weeble to vet in afterward. He never did swell (hosing) and though the pastern was stingy to the touch (you could tell he didn't care for us putting ointment on it) he never was sore.

We came into the final vet check with a pulse of 57 hit 48 by the time the vet checked him and the CRI was 52. All other parameters were A's. Not bad for what I perceived as a stressful day. John DiPietra, the ride manager, was a funny and very generous person. He gave away one of his Synergist saddles (nope I didn't win it) and was very free with advice on balanced riding. He was also very complimentary about the quality of riding from all of the participants that he was seeing.

It was a tough, tough ride for me. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the riders felt that it was tough. It was hot and we all got really thirsty. BUT there were no treatments for horses. The riders all did a very good job of taking care of their horses. When I was thinking about this ride Sunday I decided that we're a little spoiled and I was ashamed of myself for griping. The concept of endurance is to meet the trail that you have that day and ride it that day, bringing your horse and yourself home safely and soundly. No matter what it is that makes a ride more difficult than what you're used to, finishing the ride is what matters. I'm proud of my little guy. He did a great job, he brought me home safely and he's perky and in good condition.

What more than that can you ask of any ride? Good camping, pleasant volunteers, a great ride dinner (best salad I've seen at a ride) and the satisfaction of finishing a hard ride. I know that I earned this t-shirt. This ride was not easy. It was very satisfying to be able to say, we done it!!

Elaine D. Parker
AERC - M19651

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Purple Passion - Tom Noll


On the last week in April, the Purple Passion Endurance Ride was held in the Eagle Foothills northwest of Boise Idaho. Why it is called Purple Passion, I don't know. Perhaps it is the purple wildflowers that bloom in SW Idaho around this time of year, or perhaps it is the skin color one sometimes sees after riding in the cold and the rain.

Pam Haynes amiably manages the ride and offers 75 miles, 50 miles, 25 miles, and a trail ride on trails and roads through private land. Purple is the ride theme and Karen Steenhoff even went so far as to appear in a stunning purple quilted outfit with purple hair winning the Passionate about Purple award. Various outer layers covered my purple clothes due to the weather.

I chose the 50-mile ride for Frank and myself (Frank is my horse). Purple Passion was our second ride of the season. Even though we have been riding all through the winter, there are many miles and trails between now and November. Fifty miles seemed to be the correct distance.

It rained during the night and I saddled up under cloudy skies. The 50 started at 7 AM and around 6:30 it started to rain. By the 7:00 start it was sleet and rain. I pulled up the hood on my jacket and wished that I hadn't left my thicker water-resistant bike tights at home. We started up the trail near the end of the pack at a nice quick walk with two fellow riders from the PNER Outlaw Team, Regina Rose and Linda Black. I don't know too much about endurance organizations, but the Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders have a team competition where team members' points are totaled at the end of the season. There are various rules regarding teams and points, and it was an honor to be asked to join a local SW Idaho team called the "Outlaws" earlier this year.

The trail was muddy and gritty and there were horses ahead of us on the trail. Frank can be a competitive horse and we worked our way up to Outlaw Beth Bivens. Beth and I rode together for the first loop. Frank has a nice quick trot whereas Beth's horse Niles prefers to canter. Frank likes to canter as well, and when he hears Niles canter then Frank gets the idea and wants to canter too. At the canter, the speed can rapidly increase. So I spent most of the first loop signaling Frank to slow down and Frank spent most of the first loop signaling me to go faster. For nearly the entire loop there was another rider about a quarter-mile ahead and Frank desperately wanted to catch that horse.

The weather had cleared when we started the second loop. Beth mentioned that she was going to take a more relaxed pace so Frank and I headed off up the trail alone. After a few miles of riding alone, we came up to Linda Voigt and her horse Carlos at a water tank. Carlos and Frank made their greetings and then began to work together as they traveled along the trail. The trail goes through sage-covered rolling hills and on one hill we rode beside a young bald eagle flying in the wind at our level. Eventually the trail leads back to camp for the second vet check and hold.

The weather looked questionable for the start of the third loop so I put on my jacket. It was pleasantly warm when the sun was out, but I knew that the weather could change quickly. Frank was somewhat slow leaving camp but we saw Linda and Carlos just ahead on the trail and Frank was loosened up and ready to go when we caught up to them. We loped along the ridgeline and then headed down to the creek. Up along the creek bed it began to rain and in a few miles we were in a full-on snowstorm with rain and graupel (graupel is small snow pellets for y'all down south). We were riding up and down muddy hills and into the wind and snow (just like the old cowboy song - Lighting and thunder and it's pouring down rain, my golldarn slicker's in the wagon again...). I noticed that Frank's heart rate was higher than usual on the hills. It is hard work running up hills in the mud. Eventually the storm passed and we made our way back to the creek and then to the ridgeline and trails near camp.

We came out of the hills and onto the nice sandy road leading back up to camp. Frank wanted to move so we cantered on in towards camp. Frank was more relaxed after having traveled nearly 50 miles so I thought it was an ideal time to practice flying lead changes. We cantered up the road doing a lead change every quarter mile or so. As we neared the finish line I asked Linda if she wanted to tie at the finish but she graciously hung back one length while I finished.

At the Purple Passion, there are riders doing the 75 and 25 on many of the same trails as the 50-mile ride and there are often riders ahead of you and behind you on the trail. Until the finish, I had never checked our place in the field of riders. There was some hootin' and hollerin' as we approached the finish line and we were surprised to learn that we finished first and second in the 50 (to be completely honest, the weather discouraged some very good riders from starting, and two riders ahead of us missed a turn and had to repeat a section of trail). The weather cleared in the afternoon after the ride and we enjoyed a nice potluck dinner with the other riders, the ride managers, and the ride veterinarians, all of us relaxing in the sunshine.

Frank is quite a horse. We went out and did an even quick 50 at a nice pace and finished first.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho

White River Ride Spring 2003 - Maggie Mieske

The first ride for us this season. Thank God winter seems to have given us a reprieve! In spite of ever present problems with hauling to rides, we made it to the ride site, confident that the impending arrival of Jenny's uncle (the genius mechanic) would solve the funny noises in our truck's engine.

Max and Malik immediately settled into the routine. These guys are getting to be pros. They know about eating and drinking and hanging loose. I LOVE it! They both vetted in with As. Malik, as always, must be entertaining. This weekend, he met up again with Rae Birr as his vet and I do believe he kept looking over at Steve Halstead (vetting comp across the way) wondering why Steve wasn't vetting him! He does seem to have a liking for Steve. Except for dancing a bit for Rae, he behaved within reason and gave her the proper "airs above the ground" performance for which he is famous in order to impress her. I am sure she was duly impressed until he tripped over his feet just as he made it back to her from our trot out! How embarrassing! To make matters worse, as we walked away, Max suddenly stopped directly in front of Malik and absentmindedly, almost as if he were being obliging, Malik halfheartedly started to mount him (didn't make it, of course) and then backed off with a silly look on his face. I don't know if he was embarrassed or not, but I sure was! Everyone had a good laugh!!! (And no, he wasn't even dropped or anything...I think he was daydreaming!).

Anyway, Friday night got COLD. There was ICE on the waters in the morning. I had trouble sleeping and finally got up at 4:30 and tried to rekindle the fire with no luck. So, I bundled up under the canopy in a lawn chair and admired the stars, remembering the meteor showers I try to enjoy every summer. Just as I was thinking it was too much to ask to see even one shooting star, one streaked across the sky in a blaze of glory. AMEN! As ridecamp started to stir and the birds started to announce the coming day, we all got up and got ready for the day and the ride. Our only goal at this ride was to complete....I had two things really that I wished to achieve. White River had been my first 50 in 1998 and it took me a loooooong time so I hoped to improve that time (which I didn't think would be hard since I was riding Malik and in MUCH better physical condition than I was then...I also have stopped smoking since then). It was also Malik's first 50 in 2000 and his first pull. Back then, his hindquarters just weren't ready for that sand then! So, we both had something we needed to accomplish.

We tacked up and warmed up with some walking and trotting and a little prancing. As Malik settled down, we finally checked in and simply were able to stand around at the start line and wait. It is wonderful to be able to do that. I enjoyed it immensely and even bragged a little bit to some of those around me. Big mistake. We didn't have a problem waiting there not even when the hot foot riders took off at the start. As we started walking toward the trail, Malik became Mr. Parade Horse doing his elegant canter almost in place only circling a bit this time and almost, almost acted like maybe he might just climb a tree if I didn't let him go. However, I was not going to allow any out of control behavior and we went off to the side and discussed it momentarily. I won. Kind of. So we TROTTED off down the trail. Good compromise.

The horses had no problem with the first 15 miles though I was still trying to slow down the pace (my stomach was not agreeing with me that morning). Nelson and Uncle Daniel were faithful in their pit crewing though the horses really had no interest in water yet. The first check was total chaos...I don't remember there being that many horses at White River when I have been there and horses were crowded around the vet in area. Rae had reduced the pulse parameters to 64 bpm to slow down some of those riders. When we presented Malik, he was at 68 (he had been down under 60 but the horses literally crowding around must have been too much excitement for him). So we had to wait. As we did, riders who came in behind us came up and went around INTO the vetting area, ignoring what might have been a line. We eventually got our pulses taken and wasted much time...had I been a front runner and vying for top ten, I would have been quite upset but our goals were more modest this time. In this case, "don't sweat the small stuff".

Horses ate and drank like champs in camp during our hold and off we went for our 10 mile loop at an easy canter. Malik finally settled into his huge trot and my stomach settled down and life was more efficient. The day warmed up. Uncle Daniel quickly settled into his slave labor role as the "water boy" (keep in mind "Uncle Daniel" is about 30 something) and was a fast learner. What he hasn't learned is that there ARE paybacks for those who get their riders wet at pit stops.

The second vet check was much less eventful than the first. The front runners were really running hard but far enough ahead of us to not cause any congestion at the check. Now all we had to do was do it all over again. The hour hold seemed almost too long and I wondered how I'd get back into it but I did and was surprised at how easy it was to mount up and go again.

We slowed down on the 15 mile loop this time...the first ride of the season is a rude awakening! We are never as ready as we hope we are!! I had also been sick with a nasty cough the week before and my lungs were complaining and causing some wonderful coughing spasms from time to time. We were also more careful because the more horses that go over this trail, the looser and deeper the sand gets and it seems to be 40 miles in sand that in the past has been Max's and Malik's nemesis and they had both been a little tight at the 2nd check.

We made it through the 3rd check with flying colors, improving all their scores. Only ten more miles to go!!! Our hold went by quickly. We took off at a gallop out of the last check (psych out tactics really...not for the competition but for ourselves and our horses!). We settled into a trot but it was not "the" trot. Malik had to pee. I know this "I gotta go" trot. I tried all of our usual little tricks to induce him to pee. He had peed previously in the ride so it wasn't like it was a vital thing but it's hard to ride a trot that feels like your horse is trying to cross his legs! I knew he wasn't tired (maybe some but not THAT tired). We decided to canter. That was much more comfortable, for both of us it seemed though my cough was making breathing difficult at times. Whenever we trotted, it was THAT trot so we would canter again (after trying the tricks again). Both horses were still interested in spooking at stupid stuff so I didn't feel even one bit sorry for him!!! This is the first time my "tricks" to encourage him to pee didn't work.

They were quite glad to turn onto that last 2 or 3 miles of trail where they stop for a drink and cool their feet in a little stream and their energy surged even more as they knew camp was ahead. I watched the two of them drink side by side, playing their little tricks on each other, dripping water on each other's necks and rubbing their heads (a wild, vicious Arabian stallion and his little gelding buddy) and realized what a TEAM they are. What we achieved we achieved TOGETHER and TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE (T.E.A.M.). I remembered enjoying the wild cherry trees in bloom and the marsh marigolds in all the wet places. Blue violets and the beginnings of what will soon be forest ferns and trillium lillies. Little, itty bitty leaves the size of my pinky fingernail and miniature purple buds waiting to burst into lilacs in a few weeks. The little kids who run out to the road to see the "horseys". The rushing water through the culverts washing away the last of winter's surplus. The smell of the woods. The warm sun on our faces, the blue of the sky. I will miss Jenny when she leaves for college and I am experiencing some serious doubts about our ride season (or most of the ride season anyway) without Jenny and Max. Not that we can't ride alone...we have, can and will. But for me, as much as it thrills me to charge up the hills and fly around the trees and through the forests and splash through streams (or LEAP across them as it suits Malik), none of the possible awards for this sport....not first to finish, not Best Condition, not ANYthing can equal the rewards I have reaped sharing this sport with my daughter who is also my best friend even if she doesn't think so.

And so, we FINISHED and in that respect, we WON. I really have no idea what our placing was (NOT top ten) and I don't even care. We finished in 5 hours and 49 minutes ride time and I am happy with that. Next weekend is Jenny's prom...she is going to volunteer at the Little Manistee Memorial Ride. Malik and I will go it alone there. Oh, and did Malik really have to pee? Well, after we finished, we went back to camp to untack and let the horses take a breather before vetting out. On the way to see Rae for the last time, Malik stopped and peed one lake, two ponds and a couple of decent puddles! Figures!!

I do know THIS...I am NOT ready for the Grand Island 100 this month. It's too early in the season. I am not going to set us up to fail. I am going to wait until the end of the season and perhaps if fate is kind, our truck will see us through to Spook Run. I will, in the meantime, have the opportunity to ride the Shore to Shore (that should really test my mettle!) and by the end of the season, Malik and I will both be in better shape, mentally and physically and perhaps by then I will have recovered from my empty nest syndrome. Oh, and I will by then be back in college myself, finishing my teaching degree! Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me in my 100 mile endeavor...I have not given up, I have postponed. It is still my goal for this year to try a 100 miler so keep it coming!! :)

In closing, I must remember to thank our pit crew, Nelson and Daniel. Yeah, maybe we could do it without them on a ride like this with all the checks in camp but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun! THANK YOU, guys. And I must say, I enjoyed banter with our guest timer, Mike Caudill (regretfully did not get to meet Connie! Darn it!). Never did get to say Hey to Mary and her mighty Morgan either. I'm sure I'll see them all again somewhere soon!!! And many thanks to the vets, Wayne and the multitude of volunteers that I know it takes to put on a ride. I am so happy and glad that I have a whole season full of rides to look forward to!!!


P.S. The truck will live to haul another day. It's off to the mechanic for some TLC and inspection to pinpoint the problem, but genius mechanic doesn't seem terribly concerned about its fate.