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