Friday, June 27, 2003

Pine Tree 50: Impressions from a Rookie Rider with a Rookie Horse - Sharon Kenney

Hello all,

I'd like to thank Tom and Kathy for a very smooth introduction to Endurance riding.

As some of you may recall, my horse (Zephyr) is a 7yo RMH/Arab. We have done several CTRs - two 25s (Hidden Brook and the Northeast Morab) and the Acadia 50. Pine Tree was my first Endurance ride. I wasn't sure I should stay in the 50, because Zephyr and I haven't trained much in the heat, but I decided to go for it because I'd made arrangements with a couple of women who also wanted to ride really slow.

I hooked up with my ride partners, Margaret Farnham and Lory Walsh, and we rode out after the front runners had already left. The start was much different than I've gotten used to - I'm accustomed to leaving two at a time, and being passed occasionally. Zephyr was jazzed, and tried to gallop, but I held him to a slow (bouncy!) canter to match the horses trotting around us down the two-track. Eventually the pack spread out a bit, but we ended up playing leapfrog with some other folks for a while. The three of us had decided to go faster than our intended average speed while the air was cool, so the pace, for me, was fast.

Zephyr was eager and happy, as was I. The first 15 miles went pretty quick. At some point, Margaret and I stopped to water the horses at a crew area, and Lory went on without us. When we arrived at the first hold, which was 30 minutes, I suddenly realized that I had no idea where my stuff was. I had no crew, so I'd put my hold bag in Irving McNaughton's truck and promptly forgotten what it looked like. I finally found it - Terry (sp?) saw me panicking and muttering, and asked me if she had my things! I said yes and she showed me where they were. It was then that I realized several things. One: it is extremely difficult to unsaddle a horse while you are holding it, especially if you have a breastplate and a heart monitor (which you're not used to using). Two: Once the girth is undone on one side, the horse will be perfectly happy to unsaddle ITSELF by dumping the entire thing off the other side onto the ground, in his effort to reach his neighbor's beet pulp. Three: Heart monitors are a pain in the butt to deal with when you're trying to extricate a horse from its tack while it is trying to eat his neighbor's beet pulp.

Finally, I untangled his legs and removed his bridle. He had his rope halter underneath, so I unclipped my sponge-on-a-leash (note to self: include extra un-leashed sponge in the hold bag) and dunked it in my neighbor's sponging water. Hey, it was the only water around. :p He'd been pulsing around 64 when I rode in, so I headed over to do my P&Rs. He pulsed in at 48, and his CRIs were 48/48. He got all A's. I returned to my stuff, gave him some beet pulp (which he didn't eat) and some carrots, which he sucked down like... well, like carrots, actually. I reset his front left Easy Boot (he's barefoot and booted all around) because it was twisting slightly. Before I knew it, it was time to saddle up. Needless to say, it was even harder to do than unsaddling had been - ended up begging someone to hold him for me. Margaret and I rode out about 6 minutes after my out-time (9 minutes after hers). Zephyr, who has never been unsaddled at a hold, was exceedingly confused. He told me in no uncertain terms that he was very unhappy at this nasty turn of events! We walked for a while, while I waited for his heart rate to normalize again.

The second 15 miles went a bit slower, and it wasn't just because Zephyr had slowed down. The time took longer to pass. I was getting hungry, since I hadn't had any time to eat at the hold, so I ate a granola bar out of my saddle pack. At some point, we reached a crew area and there was only one crew person left. Yes, that's right, Irving's crew person, Terry, was the last one there. (For those of you who don't know Irving - he usually finishes last.) She let our horses have some water, and we were about to ride off when Margaret looked back and spotted Irving coming over the hill towards us. We agreed to continue on, but at a walk so Irving could catch up. When he did, we proceeded to walk/trot to the next hold. When we trotted, we picked a medium pace because Irving's horse doesn't trot as big as either Zephyr or Promise. Irving, as some of you are lucky enough to know, is an absolute riot. Between him and Margaret, on the sections that we walked, I heard enough Endurance history to confuse me for months. (I'm new enough that I've never heard of 80% of the people or rides they mentioned. There was a lot of smiling and nodding on my part!)

We walked into the second hold, at the same location as the first, to find only a few other horses. One was just leaving, one had been pulled, and one was being treated. I unsaddled him a bit more gracefully this time (as in, the saddle landed where I put it, not where he dumped it), sponged him once, and went for P&Rs. He was at 48 again. CRIs were 52/48. A's on everything again, too. Margaret and I moved our stuff into some shade and I was thrilled to be able to tie Zephyr to a tree while I sponged him, used the Porta-Potty, and then ate the sandwich I'd somehow thought to put in my hold cooler with my 4 extra water bottles. Since I still had 4 full bottles, I stuck the last 2 into the middle pouch on my saddle pack. The first two loops had been drier than I'd expected, and I planned to use the extra two bottles to wet him down now and then.

We got back on the trail about 6 minutes late, again. I don't know how that happened, honestly, because the tree had made it easier to handle everything. Irving had waited an extra 12 minutes for us - his out time was 3 minutes before Margaret's, and 6 minutes before mine... and we left 6 minutes after my out time. He gave me a lecture at some point during that third loop, about how if my horse was pulsing down as we went through the "in" gate (he was) I should go straight to P&R before removing the saddle.

I had a "holy shit" moment when he told me that.

I said, you mean I can pulse in with the saddle on, and remove it between P&Rs and vet? He said sure. Wow. That would have been nice to know! Lessons learned... and learned well!!!!

The third loop repeated a portion of the second loop, and HAD to have been more than 15 miles. You know when you're in your car, and you drive the same route twice, and it seems faster the second time? Well, it doesn't work that way on horseback. At least not when you're doing your first 50. Part of the reason, though, was that Zephyr was not going along in the normal pulse range. It was higher than it should have been, even accounting for the heat, so we were walking a lot. And honestly, the other two horses didn't want to trot any more than Zephyr did. Margaret wanted to keep Promise's gut moving (he hadn't been eating at the holds) so we stopped and grazed a lot. Irving started complaining that we had to pick up the pace because he wanted to be at the last hold by 3:30pm. We picked up that nice easy trot again. At some point, we came upon 3 people walking their horses. Two of them were 30-milers who were overtime and who were taking a grass break. The other was Pam, a 50-miler who was just getting back on her Kentucky Mountain Horse. She had been leaving the second hold as we arrived. We ended up riding with Pam for the last 5 miles of this loop; unfortunately for Irving, Pam's horse had 3 speeds... walk, fast, and hell-bent-for-leather. Irving ended up cantering a lot... at least I assume he did... I don't know for certain because Zephyr was happily shoving his nose up Pam's gelding's butt. Oh well, at least he wasn't poking along anymore! All four horses had found new energy that no one knew they had.

When we arrived back at the fairgrounds for our last (20 min) hold, I went right over to the buckets I'd set next to the barn earlier. There was a row of people standing along the half-wall of the barn, leaning on the wall and looking out. I sponged Zephyr quickly and looked at my HRM. It said 60, but I didn't know if that was its last reading before I moved out of range, or the current one reading. I hoped it was current, and went right to P&Rs. He squeaked in with a 64 after a moment or two. He got B's on gait, impulsion, and attitude, and A's on the rest. CRI of 64/60. We went back to the buckets, and some of the people in the barn talked to me as I sponged him. Don't remember what we talked about. One of the guys noticed Zephyr wasn't drinking while I sponged, so he came out of the barn and held a bucket up for him to drink from. He made a joke about how at this stage in the game, even horses didn't want to have to do anything for themselves. ;) I hadn't removed the bridle because it was such a short hold, and the guy mentioned that Zephyr wasn't able to drink very well with the bit in his mouth. I looked closer, and sure enough, even though he was sucking hard, he wasn't getting much down his throat. My helper pulled his bridle off and Zephyr stuck his whole head in the bucket and drank about 3 gallons. Good boy. The peanut gallery (I mean that in a nice way!) asked if I'd been e-lyting him, and I said yes I had been, but that at the first hold I hadn't because he hadn't been drinking. They suggested that I e-lyte him now that he'd had a good drink. I couldn't, because the other syringe was in my hold bag. "Where is your hold bag?" "In Irving's truck." "Well, I will hold your horse. Go get the syringe - you have to e-lyte him now." (Gotcha, yes sir, will do!!) When I got back, the helpful guy had walked Zephyr out of the commotion and was feeding him some hay. Hey y'all, whoever you were, THANKS!! Later, I'd tried to find the guy who'd been so helpful, but couldn't. If you're reading this, please consider yourself thanked thricefold. :)

Zephyr was pretty bummed about having to ride out again on the last 5 miles, but since his saddle hadn't been removed this time, I think he kind of expected it. His pulse was still higher than usual, and I was kind of worried. He was hanging over 100 even when we were walking. Which we did a lot of on this loop, by the way! I hoped he was just tired and hot... I squirted water on his neck whenever he dried off, but eventually the bottles came up empty even though I had stopped drinking, myself, in order to leave the water for him.

When we rode back onto the fairgrounds' property, I made sure I wasn't last. I didn't want the turtle award! I think it was Pam, then me, then Margaret (all close together) and finally Irving about 50 feet behind.

I noticed that Margaret and Irving stopped and sponged at the barn, without removing their saddles, but I knew I had a better chance of getting Zephyr under 60 if he was nekkid. So with Steph in tow (friend who had finished the 30 with her hubby Bill), I headed up to my trailer (pulse of about 80 at this point) and stripped him down. It was then that I saw it. The strap of his right hind Easy Boot had slipped up over his heel, and rubbed him raw!! I took the rest of the boots off first, then tried to get that last one off, but Bill ended up having to cut the strap with surgical scissors. As soon as the boots were off, Steph checked his pulse with a handheld and he had dropped to 44 or so. I rinsed his heel off with cool water, grabbed him and headed for P&Rs.

His pulse was nice and low, and he got all A's except for B's on guts and skin tenting. The CRI was good - 52/52 I think? He was perfectly sound.

I took him back to the trailer, set him up with hay, water, and beet pulp, and quickly grabbed some dinner to bring to the awards, which were in 10 minutes.

Somehow, I ended up with the Turtle Award after all. (For those who were there, THAT'S why I looked so confused... I'd been told that the Turtle Award went to the last person across the finish line, and so I had made sure I wasn't last!) But that's OK, it's a very nice turtle statue that someday when I have a garden, I will be happy to display there.

Again - thanks to Tom and Kathy for a great first experience; and thanks to everyone who answered my questions or helped me out. :) Y'all are a great bunch of folks... one of the reasons I chose this sport.

Happy Trails!
Sharon Kenney & Zephyr's Elegant Gift

Thursday, June 26, 2003

First 50! - Karen Bratcher

My horse Bender and I just completed our first 50 miler! Kootenai Classic, near Libby, Montana. I am so proud of my pony :-) I doubt if I would have completed the ride in time if a new friend had not let me ride with her. It's amazing how much you have to trot even to make the max time. Mary has done a number of 50's but is bringing along a new horse this year. We got along well and so did our horses, and took turns pulling each other along :-) She thinks it's hysterical that I just laugh like a hyena every time my silly horse spooks and I end up on his neck :-D She's used to seeing people cuss at and beat on their horses for spooking. Heck I think my horse does it just to check if I'm still awake up there. I came close to falling off three times I think. She has a whopping bruise on one calf from a humungous sideways leap her horse did, that she was barely able to hang on from! Damn crazy Ay-rabs, gotta love 'em, wouldn't ride anything else!

There were only three loops -- 16, 24 (!) and then 10 miles with a 45 minute hold after the first loop and an hour after the second. There were some stiff climbs but a lot of relatively flat areas and gradual elevation changes too. A SlimFast shake made a nourishing breakfast that didn't have to be gagged down. I didn't eat or drink enough myself on the trail, I did suck down a quart of water and human electrolyte drinks at the holds and on the last short loop I forced myself to drink a quart as we went, so I was fairly well rehydrated by the time we were done. PBJ sandwich at the first hold, a Clif Bar on the second loop and another SlimFast on the second hold. It was damned hot, around 90. The horses started drinking well on the second loop and kept well hydrated til the end, and of course we e-lyted them at the holds as well as before and after the ride. We tried to let them graze as much as possible on the second and third loops. I got off and jogged on some of the steeper downhills. Mary's coworker Chris came to crew and it was SO nice to have her, and Mary's husband, graze and sponge the horses while we just rested on the holds.

Bender was pretty tired on the last loop but still going willingly. The vet commented favorably on his impulsion. He hadn't eaten as much as he should and so didn't get good vet marks for gut sounds, but everything else was all A's. He ate nonstop after the ride, he is just a little nervous in camp and during the first half of the ride, and has to learn to take care of himself better. He gets this week off to recuperate, and is eating steadily out in the pasture.

We finished with only 20 minutes to spare, of course we were the last ones in. Started at 6:30am, finished at 6:10pm. Some people act like you should come in way earlier than the max time. If so, then why do they allow 12 hours to complete? Our vet cards didn't even get to the manager so we weren't announced as finishers until we stood up and said HEY!

At the potluck I made up for not eating much during the day by snarfing down two plates of food :-D Mary made fun of me for that, of course she's slim and eats like a bird! I even stayed up til 10:00pm, but then slept like the dead til morning :-)

I won't say it was easy, but it was not as hard as I thought it would be. Funny, but I was more tired during the first half of the ride... the second half, I felt much more energetic. Of course I was tired and sore at the end, but I felt I could easily have ridden more. I am only minorly stiff and sore today, I have hurt much worse than this on shorter distances and/or doing other activities (for example, walking the local full 26.2 mile marathon last year, and hiking to the summit of the South Sister in Oregon). I did seem to overstress a tendon (?? I don't know anatomy very well) just below the back of one knee. It felt like I was getting a cramp that never really materialized. It's swollen back there but only painful if I press it. Also got a couple of swollen bruises from where parts of the saddle were rubbing on one calf, I will have to pad or otherwise fix that part. That really hurt the first loop and I was wondering how I'd get through the day, but it didn't hurt as much when we set out again.

I have no more AERC rides scheduled for us to do this year -- I decided I will not be going to the multi-day in southern Idaho, I have used up too many vacation days going to other rides. There is one ride that falls on my long weekend in October, in Washington, I may get to.

All in all a nice experience and I'm just thrilled to have been able to complete :-)

Karen Bratcher
Athol, Idaho

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Impossible Dreams - First 100 - Maggie Mieske

(or When Pigs Fly): MY FIRST 100

I have decided that fifties are fun and hundreds are hell. Well, sort of. I DID get to see TWICE as much trail as I do on a fifty. Hmmm... and I got to push my body and my mind to limits that border on torture. But I DID FINISH my first 100.

At our first ride, I had decided NO WAY could I do the Grand Island 100 THIS year. The next weekend, I started thinking MAYBE. Then I just started thinking (bad thing for me to do, just ask Nelson!). Every year I set some goals and many of them get pushed off to "someday" or "next year". I had heard through the Grand Island ride management grape vine that this might be the last year for the 100 (good hook, don't ya think?). So, maybe next year wouldn't get here. At least not for doing the Grand Island 100. I held off my final decision to see how the weather would hold and how my knee was doing (remember I hurt it while "extreme" bowling!). And how Malik looked and felt. I discussed it with him. He was game. He always is but I "know" when he's all bravado and when he's all business. He was serious about it. So I got out my crappy looking old helmet and started getting it addition to using stickers on it that declared TEAM MAGGIE N MALIK, it also said 100 MILES OR BUST on the back! :) And YEE HA on the front. (Jenny's said TEAM JEN N MAX , FOUR MORE MILES on the back and HOT DAWG on the front!). I also had stickers of the sun, moon, stars, planets and flowers ALL OVER it. Looked brand new when I was done!! At this point, it was all but a done deal!

We began our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Wednesday and stayed overnight at the home/farm of our friends, Paul and Sara Matthews. Sara is also a fellow distance rider and we rode part of the Grand Island 50 with her last year. Nelson did a little work there and nearby (gotta earn those ride fees!) and the next morning we packed up and headed out. Max and Malik had the benefit of some wonderful green grass grazing overnight and we started their slurries early in the day. After a quick lunch at the bridge with my niece and her family, we had a couple more hours to go to arrive in Rapid River. For those of you not familiar with the "bridge", I am referring to the Mackinaw Bridge, a 5 mile suspension bridge that connects the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. It's a good thing that Nelson drives! I often wonder if the horses look out their little window and think "Oh, shit!" or something similar. I know I do!

We arrived late afternoon and found ourselves a nice little spot to camp with lots of downed wood for a campfire (gotta have a campfire!) and a nice grassy area for the boys. We also had to save tent room for the "Water Boy", Jenny's Uncle Daniel who was coming from Illinois up through Wisconsin to help Nelson crew on Saturday. I knew on Thursday that we would indeed do the 100 on Saturday... the weather was PERFECT. The horses were PERFECT. My knee was PERFECTLY awful but I'm tough, right? What does Angie McGhee say? If you're gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough! Well, I'm a PERFECT example of BOTH. :)

We had a wonderful time settling in and having that extra day to relax...the horses relax, too. They eat and drink well, they sleep and ENJOY themselves. I know it's not always possible to get to a ride early but I have found that our best rides are the rides where the horses have had lots of time to relax. We have several "relaxed" photos of Malik sleeping....I caught him snoring once and twitching in his dreams. He will even let out this funny little whinny when he dreams. Absolutely hilarious!!! (Pay attention...this has significance later in my story!).

Where to begin with the story of a hundred miles? With the first step? The first mile? The first vet check? I don't know. I received advice from EVERYBODY who had ever done 100 miles as soon as they knew I was for sure taking the plunge. So I'll start with that. Actually, I'll start with the advice that stuck with me and actually got used! Some advice was the same from several people and some was unique. Can't be sure to credit everyone with THEIR specific advice but you'll know who you are....

RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE. I set a "hopeful" goal of 12-13 hours of ride time figuring that should get us in before dark. However, I did prepare myself for the possibility of being out there in the dark and the wee hours. But the reminder to ride my own ride came from everybody and was the BEST advice of all, in my opinion.

POSITIVE THINKING. Though this was put many different ways to me, I knew we needed to keep ourselves "UP" mentally. For ourselves and our horses. Nelson and Daniel did a good job of cheering us AND the horses on....nothing like hearing that whooping and hollering ahead when you are worn and tired and trying hard not to feel discouraged.

FRESH CLOTHES. Though I always try to remember DRY clothes in case we get wet, the advice to bring FRESH clothes was a life saver. Like an idiot I chose a T-shirt I hadn't worn in a long time (now I remember WHY). It chafed the underside of my arm RAW. I couldn't figure it out. Seems it was the seam (hahaha!). I tried zinc oxide and then when that didn't help, remembered my Wal Mart bag (yes, I am a redneck of sorts!) in the truck with a fresh change of clothes!!!! Another T-shirt!! Solved the problem IMMEDIATELY!! DUH!!! Oh, and the deodorant I had with my clothes made me feel much better, too.



Basically, I saw the sun rise and I saw the sun set and everything in between....I identified at least 10 different Michigan wildflowers (yes, I keep a book in the horse for birds and snakes, too). I listened to orioles and blue jays and crows and mourning doves and even a whipporwill at dusk. Our trip north showed us the true beauty of Michigan in the spring with carpets of trilliums and spring beauties spilling out of the forests right up to the highways. Well, it continued right on into those forests on the trails with even MORE flowers. We also saw the yellows of trout lilies, downy yellow violets and marsh marigolds in wetter places. We even noticed some partridge berries during some slower terrain and a few dutchman's britches. I do love Michigan in the spring.

Our first ten miles was gravel road. Not a welcome beginning to some but I understand that it is not easy putting on a ride of ANY length and I was happy for the opportunity to be able to do this ride even if it meant starting out on ten miles of gravel. After only about 3 or 4 miles of "discussing" the ride strategy with Malik (he forgot about it being 100 miles, I guess), he settled into a nice working trot with an occasional comfy canter which was perfect for my knee. I really wasn't sure how long it would hold out or IF it would hold out but I had found my bottle of Vicodin (which I thought I had forgotten at home) the night before so I was in fine shape! I did start off with some queasiness at about ten miles (normal for me and a Vicodin) and some Gatorade fixed that quick and I was never queasy again through the whole ride.

Our first vet check was at 15 miles. I discovered to my surprise that we weren't far behind the front runners though I really was not concerned with that. Malik and Max both pulsed down beautifully, Malik in spite of several mares making eyes at him...well, you know what I mean. He is a hunk after all!! And buff, too. This check went GREAT. Horses ate and drank everything in sight. Everything with the check went smoothly. And then we were off to the next check which was at 35 miles. For a fifty miler used to vet checks anywhere from 10-15 miles regularly, this added distance was a challenge. It wasn't too bad this first part because we were loping along so easily and quickly, marvelling at nature, feeling good, full of energy yet. That 20 miles flew by fast.

The 35 mile vet check was terrible....too many horses, not enough vets and too many rude people who have no idea what waiting in a line means. Basically, the only way to be sure to get your CRI done 15 minutes before your out time was if you were willing to be a jerk and basically run over anyone in your way. We are not that kind of people. So we were out SEVERAL minutes late from this check as were several other riders. I guess in the whole scheme of things, it's not a big deal but as I realized later in the day, sometimes that extra ten minutes is the difference between dusk and BLACK night. I do not fault ride management as much as I do human nature and people caught up in the heat of the moment. I think a good portion of the 35 fifties entered and all of the 16 100 milers were clustered in this small campground with one pit toilet. But we were still "up" and feeling great and it was going to take more than a late start out of a check to get me down! Even Malik's C on guts didn't concern me as he had pooped AND peed and was still scarfing EVERYTHING he could get his mouth on!!

Our 3rd check was at 58 miles...23 miles from the last check. We had never ridden that far without a check before. The good thing was that this was all new trail for us. We had never ridden this portion before. It was beautiful...breathtaking views of lakes and mountains in the distance...ok, they aren't mountains to you guys out west, but to us flatlanders (or trolls as we are sometimes referred to...think about it), they are pretty big and just "pretty" anyway. With the occasional Vicodin to keep me comfortable, the knee wasn't that much of an issue though I was concerned I might be compensating in my riding trying to protect it. Sure enough, at 58 miles the vet noticed a "wobble" in Malik's right hind (it was my left knee bothering me). We talked about it, I explained about my knee which she felt explained the wobble and when we brought him back later in the check, she said it was fine then. She also noticed some "lumps" as she was examining his hindquarters and was quite surprised to find this mellow fellow was a stallion. They were all fussing over him as he stood there, almost falling asleep while he was examined. In fact, the vet rubbed his gums for him when she checked his cap refill and he stood there with his lips open as if wishing she would do it again. What a silly horse! He still had gut sounds of a C though he had been eating everything in sight including what green grass we found here and there along the trail. He stopped eating partway through at this check and we took a walk together. He needed to pee and then he was fine and went back to eating. His gut sounds improved. I thought at this check that he acted as if he'd like to roll but he didn't. He did look around a LOT as if looking for his camp and his this point, 58 miles was the longest he'd ever worked in his life. We saddled up, trotted out and were off with a whoop and a holler to go back the way we had come.

That 23 miles again felt like an eternity but the horses were still so strong, cantering up hills, trotting BIG trots. We continued to stop for grass and Malik was acting a little gassy from time to time but still trotting and cantering like a trooper. At this point, we had been running 9th and 10th for most of the ride. We had been averaging 9-10 miles an hour which we felt was efficient...not pushing but not lollygagging either. Nelson and Daniel were meeting us everywhere they could along the road. We had started to slow down before this next check and Nelson was getting annoyed about was at this point that I left a pit stop and suddenly burst into tears. Not that he had been that mean to me but I think the day had taken its toll and I was entering into that "zone"....after a few tears and then a few bad words about men and some commiserating with Jenny, I was better and ready to get to that check for some more Glucerna (chocolate) and Gatorade (Lime Ice is my favorite). What a combination, huh?

The horses cantered into the 4th check and pulsed right down. I was sent to the truck to eat and drink and stay out of the way. Nelson returned with Malik, took off his tack and presented him with a nice slurry. Malik simply laid down and put his muzzle on the ground. THIS immediately had people scurrying...a horse is down! I wasn't immediately alarmed....Malik does enjoy his naps. But when you have someone telling you your horse is in big trouble and you need the vet NOW, it does tend to disturb you. Nelson was certain he was just being lazy and we should just get him up and continue on our way. I didn't want to pull but that was a distinct possibility. So, we agreed to consult the vets (mind you, he had just COME from the vets who had examined him and found him to be fine). We presented him again and asked for another once over plus a CRI. They could find nothing physically wrong with him except that he wanted to LAY DOWN and have a NAP!!!! SO DID I!! And so, we let him lay down for a snooze...the vets gathered, photos were taken, all who were present gathered to see this sight as if they had never seen a horse taking a NAP. I do believe the bugger even SNORED!!! I was so embarrassed. I will never live this down!! Jenny chose to continue on with her uncle crewing for her. Nelson stayed with me and the few things we could think of at first (though we thought of all HORSE things, not Maggie things). Friends and fellow distance riders, Jeanie Miller and Pam Rosendall (who manages the Hopkins Creek ride) generously offered to stay and crew for us if we continued on so Nelson could go fetch the "Maggie" things. (Thanks to those riders picking up their buckets who gave him a ride back to camp!) And continue on we did....I gave Malik about an hour or so for his nap. He started to wake up and though he was comfortable laying down was suddenly ravenous, eating all the grass he could reach plus what people were picking and hand feeding to him PLUS his rubber tub full of slurry and carrots and apples. Finally, I made him get up. And put the saddle on him. Jeanie held him for me and gave him a brief lecture about taking care of ME now. Malik gave me the dirtiest look I have ever seen a horse give their beloved owner...I was not beloved at that moment. I offered him a treat of dandelions (a favorite) and he couldn't spit them out fast enough!!! He was MAD at me. But we saddled up and continued down the trail....ONLY 22 more miles to go and we could complete though our top ten was blown by then.

Jeanie and Pam said they would meet me about 3 miles down the trail. That wasn't too far! :) Malik resigned himself to the fact that we were continuing on and picked up a slow and easy trot. He was stopping to poop a lot which I wasn't all that unhappy about...I would prefer he be able to poop and pee without a problem! But he insisted on stopping for EVERY poop...they were small but frequent. I knew there were two more riders yet behind me and wondered when they would catch me. They had gone slow throughout the ride but I thought they might push now to get in before dark. I figured even if I had to WALK that last 22 miles, I would still make it before 6 a.m. and I still had one more 30 minute check 12 miles from camp. The mile markers went by MADDENINGLY slow!!! Every time I thought for SURE this time I must be about 3 miles out, I had only gone another mile. About 45 minutes out, the last two riders blasted up on me. I had heard them talking and laughing behind me but didn't realize they were coming that fast. The girl in the lead hollered out that she was passing on the left AND she was on a STALLION. I hollered back that so was I and she said something like "Oh, shit" and passed anyway almost forcing me off the single track. Malik trotted steadily on and ignored their rudeness. The other girl hollered SHE was passing now (at least she slowed down a bit first) and that SHE was on a MARE. Yeah, so what? Anyway, a few hundred yards up the trail we came out on the road and there were our pit crews waiting for us. A lot of sense THAT all made! Fair warning to future blasters. Please do not TELL me you are going to pass. Please ASK. Let me get OFF the trail FIRST. I'm happy to let you by. And it isn't necessary to try and intimidate me with the "I'm riding a stallion" line (never did see any equipment on that horse!). I am a nice person but I am not going to let people endanger me or my horse and if it were any other horse besides Malik, it could have been a bad scene!

And so we were all off and Malik gallantly started cantering after them. They were not going to be caught and I finally asked him to trot again which he was quite thankful for. A steady trot will get us a lot farther when we are tired than a blistering gallop! He listened and so we continued mile upon maddening mile. We only had about 7 more miles to the vet check after that but I thought it felt like 70! Jeanie and Pam met us again, cheering us on and encouraging our weary minds and souls and refreshing our bodies with water. Malik always perks right up when he gets that drink and a slosh bottle splashed on his neck, even if he's not "hot". They met us one more time before the check and Nelson was there with them. He had made it back with some Maggie supplies. Like another Vicodin, a long sleeved shirt and more bug spray (did I mention the bugs are horrendous in the Upper Peninsula this time of year???). And GLOW STICKS. Though I still thought I could make it before it was too dark, I wanted to be prepared!

Malik started to canter. He alternated cantering and trotting the rest of the way into camp and when he heard Nelson and our friends hollering for us and cheering us on, he cantered on in. It was 10:09 p.m. Oh, how I wish it had not been too dark for a photo!!!! It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I almost cried! Our friend and ride manager of the Little Manistee and Tin Cup Springs rides, Becke Grams took Malik for me so I could dismount...I am happy to report that I did not FALL off or get my foot stuck or anything else embarrassing like that. If it had been light out and everybody could have seen, I would have. But it was dark so my agility at this point went unnoticed! Jeanie hugged me, Nelson hugged me and I heard congratulations all around. I wanted to stay with my horse and started walking with Becke to the vet in area but finally gave up (that sand is awful to walk in when you're NOT tired!) and caught a ride in the truck with Nelson. Malik pulsed in at 58 and trotted out just fine for completion. (It wasn't easy with his FIFTH leg sticking out there!!! Go figure!!). We weren't top ten anymore so did not get any more of an evaluation than that. Fortunately, I know my horse and knew he was fine and just needed a rest but I hope if there are other riders out there who are not sure, that they will ask the vet for help if they need it. I was surprised that with all the concern surrounding Malik's nap that the vet wasn't more meticulous in her examination at the end. I am sure there are people out there who think I should have pulled and was crazy for continuing on. But I can say with confidence that I know my horse like I know no other. He is my soul mate. If I had thought for one second that he was in REAL trouble, I would have pulled without even consulting the vets! I had several people tell me later that either their horse or someone they knew had a horse who would take naps at vet checks when they were tired. So I am not alone. Maybe I should start a support group for us. It's really quite a sad state of affairs!!

Max whinnied happily when he saw Malik come back to camp and came over to nuzzle him over the fence. Malik laid back his ears and bit him on the neck. I do believe he was disgusted and mad at Max for leaving him out there! It was quite funny. They did later make up but not until Malik had a good roll and a nap. We blanketed both horses for the night. It was chilly out and still freezes at night up there. But they looked great and spent a relaxed quiet night next to each other. We woke up the next morning to the sound of Malik trumpeting his supremacy to the horses warming up for the 25 miler. He came off the trailer at home hollering his head off for his mares and telling them all he had WON the Grand Island 100 (he is a famous liar!) and was so busy bouncing around and misbehaving that I dispensed with his liniment rub and turned him out. He went bucking, kicking and rearing over to the mares' fence, prancing and doing all kinds of pirouettes.

We did take home a ribbon for 2nd heavyweight (UMECRA divisions) and even though there were only two heavyweights, I don't care!! We placed 12th in 12 hours and 39 minutes. Unfortunately the two girls who had blasted up on me after the 78 mile check got turned around at the spot that almost sent ME in the wrong direction. They came in from another direction, I guess. At least I wasn't LAST! :) In retrospect, I believe Malik tried to go right (the WRONG way) follwing the scent of those 2 horses. Definitely something to think about!!!

In spite of the pain and fatigue, the bugs and a few rude riders, we had a GREAT time. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet some Ridecampers (Margie Burton from Kansas was one!). Also met Joyce Mocilan...someone I have e-mailed with but never had the pleasure to meet. We actually rode part of the trail together. She was doing a demonstraton ride for the Pan Ams. She is a VERY NICE lady and the very best example of an experienced rider encouraging newbies and showing them a good time. I do believe she finished very strong in the top ten and I hope her demonstration ride was a resounding success! Also loved meeting the Mielke's, Bonnie and Bob. What neat people....we have the same viewpoints about taking care of our horses and how we feel about them. We all agreed that it is desirable and possible to compete in the big rides without having to hurt your horse. I LIKE these folks!!! Nelson spent a good deal of time snooping around everybody's trucks and trailers to see what ingenious things they come up with for making life easier at rides. He got some good ideas, too!!!


Liberty Run - April Johnson

I had been packing on and off for days. I'd been thinking and planning this ride for a very long time it seemed. I was about to take my 9 year old Arabian gelding, Tanna, to Fort Gordon near Augusta, GA, for his very first endurance ride. He successfully completed a Limited Distance (LD) ride of 25 miles in April. That was his second LD, the first having been 2 and a half years ago with his previous owner. Last month, he finished strong, pulling and ready to go for many more miles, so Liberty Run was going to be his chance to go for 50 miles.
I also was going for my first endurance completion. I had ridden Tanna in April and also had ridden 2 LDs four years ago on my previous horse. But never had I attempted a 50. The moment of truth was coming.
After I got home from work, my husband, Daniel, and I loaded up Serts, a horse owned by my best friend that I have the pleasure of taking care of. Serts was not going to be attending this ride. He is a great horse and I would love to do some LD rides on him at some point, but with our small 2 horse trailer, we need the extra stall to pack stuff into. So we took Serts to a good friend, Judy, and left him in her capable care for the long weekend. We used to board Serts and Tanna with her, so she knows Serts well.
We were planning to leave out very early Friday morning, but after returning to the house, Daniel and I decided to leave on Thursday and overnight near Chattanooga at his parents' house.
So I spent a couple of hours packing with more intensely. Then fell into bed to sleep and dream of the upcoming ride.

I got up early to prepare for work, then decided I would work from home. I have an hour commute each way, so decided we could get going 2 hours earlier if I would just work from home and skip the driving. I cleared it with my boss and started down to business. It was hard to concentrate, but at 2 PM, I was finally done and turned off my laptop and started last minute preparations to leave.
At 3:40 PM, we were headed out our driveway. A stop for gas and to drop something off for a coworker, and then we were on the road.
We made good time, and arrived in the little town where Daniel and I both lived for years and where his parents still live. We stopped off at our favorite restaurant and picked up some sandwiches to take with us to Mom and Dad's for our dinner.
We settled Tanna in a small 10' x 10' pen. We had hoped to make it bigger, but there was just no more room. Oh, well, better than tying him to the trailer.
We went in and visited for quite awhile, waiting for Daniel's sister and brother-in-law to appear from town. Then we visited some more! Finally, I begged off and went to our camper to bed. There was a room all ready for us in the house, but I felt better being right next to Tanna and the dog, Serena, in case there was a problem overnight. Besides, we were self-sufficient. I usually read a bit before dropping off to sleep, but I read only a page and a half before going to sleep. I don't even remember turning off the light. Wow, if I'm this tired now...

I had hoped to wake early enough on Friday to saddle Tanna for a ride around my old haunts. I learned to ride in this tiny town and knew all the trails for miles around. I had (over)trained my first horse for endurance here before I sold him after only 2 LD rides. I had spent many happy hours roaming around with my best friend (Serts' owner) when we were teenagers, her riding Serts, me riding whichever horse I could beg, borrow, or steal. I really wanted to introduce Tanna to some of my trails and spend some time reminiscing about those carefree days. But unfortunately, it was after 8 EDT before I woke up. No time for a ride.
So I took Tanna and Serena for a leisurely walk along the sidewalk, past the graveyard where my uncle is buried and my grandparents will one day be buried. Past the field where I rode for the first time in a year after a bad accident and was so scared that my thigh muscles were cramping and I was scared out of my mind that I would fall off the small pony I was put on for my first ride back. Past the house where I spent nights keeping a crotchety old woman company for $20/night because I desperately needed the money in my college years. Near to the high school that I spent 2 years staring out the windows to the horses across the street, counting the minutes to rush out to ride one of them. Down the sidewalk that I once dragged 50 lbs of feed through 2 and a half feet of snow to the horses across from my high school because their owners couldn't get out to feed them. I also turned down the street that I used to live on for 6 years. In sight of my in-laws' house. My house no longer there, just a tiny, empty lot, but memories aplenty.
Good thing I didn't go more than 2/10s of a mile down the road! Many more memories just along that stretch and more ranging out further. One of these days, Daniel and I are going to have to take the horses to Collegedale and just ride all around.
After returning to the house, Daniel and I went into the house to eat warmed-over pizza for breakfast. Yummy. :-) Then we asked Mom to take us to the little specialty grocery store in town to get some vegetarian meat substitutes and some sandwiches for our trip to Augusta. She happily obliged and dropped us off while she went to get my sister-in-law and nephew to be able to see us before we took off again.
Back at the house, we introduced my 2 and a half year old nephew, David, to Tanna. He was interested until he saw how big Tanna is. Tanna's small. 14.1 on tip-toe. Maybe 14.1 1/2 if he's levitating. But to a little boy, he's huge. So I left Tanna in his pen to convince David that he was ok. We fed carrots to Tanna and David squealed with excitement every time Tanna bit off a chunk. He'd grab a carrot and want to feed it to Tanna, but his courage would fail him before he could get close enough for Tanna to get the carrot. So he'd give it to his mom to feed. Finally, Tanna had enough carrots and turned his nose up them. David lost interest and his mom took him in the house while Daniel and I packed up the trailer again.
I grabbed a syringe and electrolyted Tanna, explaining to Mom why. She is used to horses, but doesn't ride. I bragged on how well Tanna loads and he didn't disappoint me. I pointed him to the trailer and he jumped in with gusto. Good boy!
After we left town, we stopped in a nearby small town at a bank to get some cash and then at the tack/feed store I used to frequent all the time when I lived there. I was worried about the amount of beet pulp we had brought. I was afraid it wouldn't be enough, so we stopped to get some. I was pleasantly surprised to see they now stock the shredded beet pulp instead of pellets. They used to have pellets only, but that was YEARS ago. Trish, one of the owners chatted with me a minute or two. "Got a horse doin' poorly?" she asked me after I told them what I wanted. "Nope," I said proudly, almost busting, "gottan endurance horse!" She asked after Serts and was pleased to hear he is sleek and healthy.
I followed Daniel out to the trailer and held the gate while he tossed the bag of pulp in the trailer beside Tanna. Unfortunately, we forgot to warn Tanna and he went crazy. Kicked out with both barrels and tried to bolt then kicked when he couldn't bolt. I tried to calm him from where I was, holding the door, but Tanna wasn't paying attention. He wanted AWAY from that crackling bag that was about to kill him. So I had Daniel move so I didn't have to hold the door and rushed to Tanna's head. I talked to him and patted him. He was shaking like a leaf and still quite uneasy, but definitely was calmer with me there. Daniel was trying to get the bag settled. Finally he did. Whew. Poor boy. But he wasn't getting out of the trailer. I wasn't about to unload him and let him get the idea that if he pitched a huge fit, he'd get out. So I patted him a few more times and we headed out.
Off to Augusta! My plea for directions had been answered, so we were confident of where we were going. We had the GPS units pointed to the right gate to enter at Fort Gordon, but we just wanted to be sure we had directions for after entering the base. Thanks to Angie and those that answered privately with directions. :-)
After an hour and a half, we stopped at a Wal-mart to pick up all those things one has to get. Daniel was worried about our "new" truck's battery, so we invested in a good battery and a set of long jumper cables. We didn't stop to install it, but it came in handy a couple of times when the truck wouldn't start. We just used the new battery and jumper cables to jump the truck. Self-sufficient.
We breezed into Atlanta and onto I-285 without a bit of trouble. Then a few miles onto I-285, brake lights. Knew it was too good to be true that we'd be able to breeze through Atlanta on the Friday before Memorial Day. It took a long time to get to I-20 and the traffic was still backed up. We had a carbon monoxide detector in the trailer with Tanna and we could hear it going off through the camera speaker. It would quit when we could move at 25+ mph for longer than a minute or two, then start up again. Gotta do something about that.
Finally, the traffic cleared and we were moving again. After we got a bit out of Atlanta, I looked on the GPS for the next rest area. We stopped there and unloaded Tanna and the dog for some exercise, grass, and water. We tried to get Tanna to eat beet pulp, but he ignored it and the water for the most part and went after the sparse grass. Since he didn't drink, I didn't electrolyte him again. After 15 or 20 minutes, we loaded up and moved out again.
Finally, we were approaching Fort Gordon. We pulled up to the check. They looked at our licenses, looked all around the truck and trailer, gave Tanna a few scratches and sent us on. The turns were well marked, I didn't even need those directions after all!
We pulled into camp. WOW! LOTS of people. Wow. Where to park! We drove up through the camp, looking and discussing. Finally we came to the end of the road and needed to circle around what we found out was the restaurant. Unfortunately, the ride meeting was taking place, with people blocking the circle. There was just enough room for us to camp right near where we were, but we were told we couldn't park there. Something about too many horses near the restaurant or something. Ok. So Daniel turned the rig around and we headed back the way we came. We went all the way out to the main road to turn around and try again.
We were planning to head further into camp, but we spotted some empty space behind some other trailers. It looked a little muddy but we tried it anyway. Uh, no. We got stuck. We sat in the truck for a few minutes looking at each other. Now what! We were both tired and were so glad to be in camp, but now we were stuck. So we got out of the truck. A helpful camper nearby suggested we go try to find somebody to help us get out.
So we headed up the road. We spotted Roger Rittenhouse and chatted with him for a minute before continuing towards the restaurant. Then I saw Susan Reid. Susan bought a horse from Judy last year and had Malak (the horse she bought) there at Liberty Run for a 25 miler. May looked great, even though I did't have a chance to go over and see her right away. In fact, our paths didn't cross again. :-( But Malak looked awesome and I saw her after her ride from a distance and she was napping, but looked good still.
When we reached the restaurant, we were told that lots of people were stuck and couldn't we just camp where we'd gotten stuck? I tried to explain that there was standing water and mud and I didn't want my horse standing in that all weekend. I must not have done a very good job because Daniel and I were the only ones concerned. Sigh.
"Come in and get some food." We declined. After all, we had paid for meals for SATURDAY night, not FRIDAY night and we weren't going to eat somebody else's food, and/or pay more. Besides, we had to get back and figure out what to do while there was still a little light left. Little did I know that that WAS the meal we paid for. :-( They'd had to move the meal to Friday night because the restaurant opened for Saturday. So I didn't get my rider meal. :-( And Daniel didn't get the extra meal that we paid for. :-( But nobody explained that to me. I found out the next afternoon when I was standing in line to vet in.
We walked the 1/4 mile back to where we'd gotten stuck. Daniel was determined and told me to stand back. He got into the truck and gunned the motor, willing that truck to unstick itself. The tires spun, throwing mud high on the trailer. They spun some more and then caught and started moving, to my surprise and delight. The truck dragged the trailer about 50 or 100 feet before Daniel shut it off. Self-sufficient.
Doesn't sound like a lot, but it moved us out of the standing water. There was a perfect place for Tanna that was a bit muddy, but on higher ground that would dry if it wouldn't rain anymore. And there was no standing water where we were to put Tanna.
Wearily, we set up camp. Daniel got the panels off the top of the trailer and set up a 400 square feet pen for Tanna. I added hay, beet pulp, and water. We ran a line for the dog and snapped her lead to it.
Finally this day was over.

I slept fairly well. It wasn't too hot at night and since I was tired from the day before, I slept soundly. I certainly was glad I had Sabbath to rest, though. I couldn't have imagined trying to do a 50 after that traveling and the being stuck ordeal.
We're going to have to be more careful about where we park in the future. Yeah, yeah, 4x4 would have been nice, but we needed a dually and dually 4x4s are more expensive. We were lucky to be able to get the dually at an affordable price. So we just have to be careful in the future.
I listened to the horses coming and going for about an hour before getting up to get Tanna's breakfast. Wow, only 8 AM. Thought it'd be later. I went outside and fixed his feed. I stood around offering him carrots and watching the horses. From where we parked, we could see the horses leaving camp, then taking off down the trail parallel to the camp road. Finally, after about 45 minutes, I gave Tanna the beet pulp and went back into the camper.
We spent the morning leisurely getting our own breakfast, loading up a cart with empty water containers and hiking the 1/4 one way to fill them up, checking my email (laptop and cell phone), walking the dog around, and asking when I could check in for Sunday's ride.
Around 1 PM or so, I decided to saddle up and take Tanna for a look at the starting stretch of the ride (which was also the last stretch for all riders). I used his Tacky Tack pad instead of his woolback pad, which I was saving for the 50. I also used a new girth I'd just gotten. A very soft neoprene girth. I think this new girth will become my standard girth, but since I'd never used it on a training ride, I wasn't about to try it on his first 50. I was sticking with what had worked so far.
I was wearing light stretch cotton Dockers and decided not to change into riding tights. After all, I was just going out for 45 minutes or so for a mostly walking ride. Hah. I guess Tanna didn't get the message when I told him that.
He was totally full of himself, but controllable. We wandered to the start of the trail and I asked him to pick up an easy trot. He did, shaking his head, asking for more rein to go faster. No way. I could feel my dockers already rubbing the insides of my knees. I had him walk for awhile, then let him canter out, stretching. He loved it. Ears up, alert, happy. We turned back to go back to camp after 2 miles. My knees were killing me already. I really should have taken the time to change into riding tights. I had seen a few riders that were in the race, headed back towards camp. Tanna was ok with them passing him, although he asked to turn around and follow them, he was ok.
As I headed back, I was overtaken by a pair of racers going into camp. Tanna pitched an absolute fit when I pulled him to the side of the trail to let them pass unobstructed and then wouldn't let him chase them. I turned him up an unmarked trail while I pulled my gloves on. I sure didn't need to rip up my hands like my knees were being ripped up. When we got back on the trail, I let him pick up a trot to get rid of some of the excess energy. He wasn't thrilled with that slow speed, but he liked it better than walking.
I spotted another two riders heading back to camp. Tanna started to pitch another fit, so I jumped off and moved him off trail while they passed. Today would not be a good day to die. I hand-walked him up the trail for a few minutes before I felt he was safe enough to remount. Then I let him trot until we came into sight of them. They were at the finish line, getting their time written on their vet cards. Daniel was hanging out at the finish line talking to the volunteers that gave out the time to the riders. Together we headed into camp near the vet check instead of going all the way back to our trailer. I walked Tanna through some scary camp stuff. He did nicely and settled down after a few minutes.
We went back to the trailer and unsaddled him, sponged him off, getting the muddy, sweat off from around his saddle and girth areas. Then we took him up to get checked in and vetted in. I gave my name to Vicki, the ride manager, and she asked for Tanna's paperwork. I stared at her blankly for a minute and then said, "OH, his coggins and health certificate." Arg. I'd left it at the camper! Sigh. "I'll be back." So we did the 1/2 mile round trip to get the papers.
After getting my vet card, we weighed Tanna on a scales set up near the vet check area. 752 pounds. I really thought he weighed more than that! Guess not. We went through to vet in. Stan Eichelberger was the vet for my vet in. I think the only thing he said to me was "Here's your ticket to ride." Well, at least we vetted in ok. I was hoping for a bit more encouragement or something considering this was my first 50 and Tanna's first 50 and I'd said it was a first for both of us.
At the ride meeting, there was some confusion about the last loop for the 50s and 2-day 100s. First loop was the orange loop. 15 miles. Then back to camp for a vet check and a 40 minute hold. Second loop was the purple loop. A different 15 miles, then back to camp for an hour hold. Third loop was the yellow loop. A 10 mile loop to be done twice. After doing the first 10 miles, a rider was to come back to the vet check, pulse down to 60 and then could go back out again. There was some confusion about who to go to for the pulse down. On Saturday, several people went to Nancy Gooch, the timer, and got their pulse down, and went. That was what was understood, but at Saturday night's ride meeting, Stan said no, the riders were to go to the VET. The VET would check the pulse and then have the horse trotted out to check gait. THEN they could go. And any riders that did it differently did it wrong. Ok, so we'll remember that.
We got back to our camper and Daniel worked on the GPS units I'd be taking with me. Two GPS units. The Geko that would be strapped to my upper left arm and the Garmin V that would be in a padded cell phone case on my hip pack's belt.
I laid out everything I could think of that I would need in the morning. Saddle, pad, girth, heart rate monitor (HRM), aloe gel for the HRM electrodes to get them working first thing in the morning, desitin for the backs of his heels to protect them from sand and water rubbing, brush, breast collar, 2 1-liter bottles (one with water, one with weak gatorade), fly spray, fly lotion, and then all my stuff.
We set the alarm for 4:15 EDT. Start time was 6:15 AM.

I was awake before the alarm went off. I even got up about 3:30 to give Tanna more food. Sometime after the ride meeting, Tanna decided he was going to have to work and he'd better eat everything he could find. So all night he'd been slurping up his very wet beet pulp/grain mix. My neighbor, Betsy, said SHE even heard him in the night. Oh, well, at least he was getting water in him!
I crawled back in bed until the alarm went off, then got up and got myself ready for a ride. I ate a couple of meatless hot dogs (no buns or anything) and a small bowl of oatmeal, accompanied by a Chicken Chase cup full of hot chocolate with a scoop of capuccino mix for a jolt. (BTW, a Chicken Chase cup is a cup that we got at the Chicken Chase ride last month!)
We walked Tanna up to the scales. Man, he tanked up!!! 784 pounds! He gained 32 pounds overnight. Good gracious.
Back at the camper, Daniel and I teamed up to ready Tanna for his ride. We both worked on the saddle. Then I spread desitin on his heels. Then I held the light while Daniel took Red Kote (a red oil medication) to spray paint Tanna's ride number on his butt. I never did see any livestock markers around the check in area, so we had to make do with what we had. I'll have to buy a marker and put it with my stuff I guess. Somehow, I thought that was provided at rides. Daniel painted a very nice "54" on Tanna's butt. Looked good to me.
Then time to get my helmet and the GPS units on. After getting the antenna wires straight and the helmet strap buckled, I was all ready to mount up. Then I remembered I needed to change my shoes. Sigh. So off I go to put my boots on. My tennis shoes can slide through the holes in the cages on my easy ride stirrups. Kinda defeats the purpose of safety cages.
There, this time I was ready. I lamented to Daniel that Laura Tichenor hadn't been able to come along and help me out on my first 50. I really would have liked her company on this ride, but I mounted up, ready to do it on my own. Self-sufficient.
I just hoped Tanna wouldn't go ballistic and throw me. I really hoped that the 2 years I have had him, working on our bond and his brain would be enough to keep him from losing his mind and exploding because I wouldn't let him run full out for 50 miles...Well, at least try to. He can't do that. I'd have to rate him and that wouldn't be easy.
I slid the bit into Tanna's mouth (oh, yes, a bit. A hackamore works just fine in training, but the line of control is very thin at a ride, so I've decided we'll use a French link snaffle during competition at least until he proves he is safe enough for the hackamore.). As I was working on the bit, Daniel was fiddling with the GPS on my arm. I kept moving and he made an impatient noise. I said, "I move with him, you move with me. I'm not bothered by what you're doing, just do it while I move." So that's what we did. Fine tuning our timing and working together.
Finally, ready to mount up. Daniel held the reins to keep Tanna from circling, like he usually does when I mount. Up I went. Whew, no explosion. Sometimes he'll go to bucking as soon as I mount up. I went and gave our ride number (54) to Vicki and asked how long until the start. 3 minutes. Ok. I'm not going to be around when all the horses take off. Something like 36 started the 50 on Sunday. So Daniel walked beside me while I took Tanna back up to the vet check area and offered him water at the large round trough there. No go, but that reminded me we needed electrolytes. I'd forgotten to give them to him. We went back to the camper. I really didn't want to try mounting again, so Daniel dropped the bit and gave Tanna the e-lytes. He clipped the bit back on the sidepull and off I went. We were about 15-20 minutes after the start of the other riders.
I got on the trail and walked for a bit. I noticed two riders were starting behind me. I had been certain I'd be the very last! I picked up a slow trot, fully expecting the two riders to pass me soon, dreading the explosion from my horse if they cantered past because I wasn't about to let him go fast in the beginning, seeing as how that was the reason we started late. The riders didn't pass me. Tanna sped up to a medium trot. They still didn't pass me. Hmmm. Ok. Maybe they're going to go slow, too! Maybe I could ride with them.
After a mile or so, we were moving at a good fast trot, but not an extended one yet. The other two riders had closed the distance between us, but weren't passing. Before we'd made the first turn, I'd introduced myself and they had done the same. Jamie Ginter from GA and Kim Williams from FL. Jamie was riding a 10 yo mare, Wiggles, coming back from a series of freak accidents. Kim was riding a mare on, I think, the mare's first 50.
They were very nice and we were all going about the same speed, so I stayed with them. I was glad for the company and the fact that Tanna was still controllable! I thought they might leave me at the first vet check, but I had been most worried about the first loop, so even if they did, I'd be happy just having the company for the first loop.
When we reached the first water, Kim's horse (sorry, I totally forgot the mare's name!) dunked her head in the trough and slung her head around. It was very funny! Tanna kinda looked at her and then half-heartedly tried to copy her before taking a long drink. Good BOY!!! Then to further my joy with him, he stretched out right there and peed. What a good boy.
We continued on at a good trot. Slowing down to a walk through the deep sand. We were making decent time, though. We offered the horses water at all the opportunities on that loop, I think. I ranged back and forth. Sometimes riding just in front, sometimes riding behind the mares. Kim told me that her mare is off the track and didn't like it when Tanna was too far in front. She was ok if Tanna was just in front, but got too strong when Tanna pulled away. So I tried to watch that and stay close.
I also watched Wiggles. She'd been known to kick, and even though Jamie thought it was probably related to her being in heat at the time she kicked, Jamie was still concerned and didn't want Tanna hurt. I appreciated that and tried to watch where my horse was. We had no incidents with that the whole ride, so that was good.
After a water stop, Kim suggested we stop and electrolyte our horses. I foolishly tried to electrolyte from the saddle. Haha! Got it ALL over Tanna's nose! Fortunately, I had set the plunger to stop at 10 cc, so I had another 10 cc. I jumped off and administered the rest the way I usually do. Tanna looked silly with it on his nose. I didn't wash it off, but I probably should have. He has a bald spot on his nose now. Anybody know if Lyte-now e-lytes will take the hair off? That's the only thing I can think of. Either that or he rubbed his nose raw trying to get the e-lytes off, but I don't know when he would have done that since I was on him or with him the entire day and by the end of our day, his nose was bald.
For my on-the-trail electrolytes, I had decided to use single dose (26 cc) tubes of Lyte-now. So I ordered some tubes from Jeffers in plenty of time to get them for the ride. But they were on back order. I did get the 2 3-dose (80 cc) tubes that I had ordered. So I gathered my strongid wormer tubes that I had kept back and filled several of them with 20 cc of Lyte-now from the larger tubes. I had an empty 80 cc syringe from Chicken Chase and then 2 more from filling the smaller syringes. I intended to use those empty syringes to administer Summer Games electrolytes mixed with applesauce.
Since I only put 20 cc of Lyte-now in the empty wormer tubes the plunger was partially in, so I didn't have to worry about the plunger working itself out. That's one concern I have with full tubes because I had that happen to one of my 80 cc syringes. Something put pressure on the plunger from the side and it popped out of the syringe. Could have been a mess, but wasn't because the tube was wedged on its tip in a bucket of other stuff, but in my cantle bag...
I know 26 cc is usually the dosage, but Tanna is quite small, only 750 pounds, so I figure a 20 cc dose is good for him. Certainly was this weekend. He drank a lot most of the day! I was extremely proud of him.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah, stopped for e-lyting. Poor Jamie was having a hard time with Wiggles. The mare didn't want that syringe anywhere near her! Finally, though, she was forced to submit and we were off again.
When we got near camp, I saw my husband and happily waved at him. I told him I had to go up to the timer to get my in time and I'd meet him at our camper. He agreed and we parted again. I got my time marked on my vet card and hand-walked Tanna the short distance to our camper. I checked his pulse. 56 beats per minute. Wow, down already. Okey dokey. Daniel got there and took over Tanna while I went in the camper to use our porta-potty. I had drunk almost 2 liters of fluid on that loop. By the time I got back out of the camper, my wonderful husband had Tanna stripped of his saddle and had sponged him down really well. I grabbed a bag of carrots and we headed toward the vet check 1/4 mile away. I almost forgot my vet card and had to run in and get it out of my hip pack. Whew! I'm glad I didn't forget that!!!
Tanna wasn't one bit interested in food. He ate maybe one carrot or two from me. I was a little worried. I wanted him to eat! He hadn't eaten much at the Chicken Chase vet check either, but that was only a 25 mile ride. This was FIFTY! He had to go all day and if he didn't eat, he'd never make it. He had no idea he was going all day, though.
We weighed Tanna before taking him to the pulse takers. 750 pounds. WOW! He lost 32 pounds since the start of the ride! What a loss! I was getting quite an education. I figure most of the 30 pounds was water weight that he had gained overnight anyway. He just peed and sweated it out. I wasn't too worried since he had weighed in at 752 the day before...before he began to tank up. I'm glad I weighed him before he tanked up and after, otherwise, I might have been worried. But I wasn't too much. Only if he lost that much after every loop!
Tanna was right at 60 beats per minute when we got him to the pulse takers. "Time on 54!" my pulse taker yelled. "Pulse time on 54," Nancy echoed. "9:08." I thanked them both and we moved through the caution tape-marked vet lines. I saw Kim and Jamie with their horses and helpers in front of me. Tanna pretty much ignored my carrot offerings. He wanted the wisps of hay trampled in the mud from horses before him. Silly goof. Nothing there, eat a carrot. No way. So I stood in line with him and scratched his ears and face.
We had Kathy Eichelberger for our vet this time. She asked how he was doing. I told her he was drinking a lot and trying to eat leaves from trees and would grab grass when he saw it. She gave us a B on guts and A on the rest. She was pleasant and helpful. I wasn't too concerned about his guts. I hoped he'd eat when he got back to the camper, though. He had to have some food to keep going all day. Even though we were going slow. From the start time to our pulse time (when our 40 minute hold started) was almost 3 hours. Just over a 5 mph speed. Course, we started 20 minutes late.
We got back to the trailer and we turned Tanna into his pen with his beet pulp slop, hay and water. I grabbed some food while Daniel refilled my water and gatorade bottles, checked my GPS batteries, and listened to me babble about the ride so far. Tanna peed and only nibbled at his food. He'd eat a little hay, a little beet pulp. He didn't go near the water. I wasn't concerned since he was drinking well on the trail.
By the time we got back to the trailer after waiting in line for the vet and walking back to our camper, our 40 minute hold time was more than half gone. With 7 minutes or so left, Daniel and I started retacking Tanna. We took awhile trying to figure out what was up with the breast collar and finally got that straightened out, dumping the saddle off and then replacing it in the process! I tightened the girth and realized I'd forgotten to place the HRM electrodes. Argh! Loosen girth, lift saddle, place electrode. Agh.
I don't want to go back out, I complained. I can't even resaddle my horse! I'm tired, the inside of my knees are raw from riding in those stupid pants yesterday and this isn't helping. Tanna's not eating and he's gonna drop dead from lack of food and I don't wanna go back out! Daniel patiently continued to saddle Tanna while patronizing me and telling me it's ok, and not as bad as I was making it out to be. Finally, I said, ok, fine, I'll keep going.
Whew. Daniel e-lyted Tanna while I disappeared into the trailer to get my helmet, GPS units, and hip pack. As I was in there, I heard Jamie and Kim calling for me. I answered, but I'm not sure they heard me because I was in my trailer.
I rushed out and Daniel held Tanna again while I quickly mounted. Tanna was jumping around like he was going to buck me off. Something had to be wrong. That's when he bucks...when something's wrong. Something as little as a flapping nylon strap from my cantle bag. Daniel spotted it. The saddle pad was slipped way to the right. Argh. I jumped off, loosened girth, replaced pad, tightened girth, remounted. Tanna wasn't doing his "I'm gonna buck if you don't fix that" dance. That must've been the problem. Ok, kiss hubby, off I go.
We trotted quickly to the out timer. I called my number out to them and they waved me on. Daniel had told me, go out to the road, turn left, then take the next dirt road to the right. Ok, I came to the dirt road, but didn't see any purple ribbons! AGH! I asked the closest onlooker if this was the start of the purple loop. Didn't know. I called to another group. Yeah, yeah, that's it.
I took off at a canter to catch Jamie and Kim before they got too far ahead of me. I really wanted to stay with them. I watched for ribbons, and began to panic. There were STILL NO RIBBONS. Here I was out on a ride, dead last place, trying to catch my riding buddies, and I was cantering down the wrong trail. Finally I spotted a purple ribbon. Whew. But it was awhile before I saw another ribbon so I started to panic again and thought I had imagined the first ribbon. When I finally started seeing ribbons more regularly, I breathed easier.
I caught up with Jamie and Kim after awhile. They must've really been moving. Of course, they also had a few minutes on me since I'd had to stop and fix my pad. We did some more cantering on this loop. The road was wide and boring. There was some sand that we had to slow down and walk through. I cantered beside Kim and her mare for a good distance. Tanna would pull, but not too hard. He was going strong and felt great. Still drank good. We gave the horses opportunities to eat along the way when we could.
At our e-lyte break, I was able to pee behind a bush (not much of a bush, I'm becoming more like you, Laura). I wasn't too worried because we were the last ones and I didn't expect any guys to come up on us. I also finished a tube of nuts I'd started at camp and had put in my waist band and forgotten about. And Tanna's saddle pad had slid again, so I fixed it better this time. I was still mounted and ready to go before poor Jamie got that silly mare to take her e-lytes.
Off we went again. We were moving about the same average speed we had before. That loop seemed longer to me. It wasn't. The first and second loops were pretty much the same length, but the second one seemed longer. It even took about the same amount of time (if you discount our late start). I was glad to see the road we'd come in on. Just a mile or two to camp. We trotted and cantered in.
As I gave my number to the in timer, Daniel appeared. I dropped Tanna's bit and passed the reins (now attached to the halter ring) to Daniel. Back to the trailer to repeat our first vet check procedure. I went into the camper and Daniel stripped Tanna and sponged him off. He was again down to 58 or so before the saddle came off.
I grabbed the carrots and a hay bag to go up to the vet check. I slung the hay over my back and Tanna took an immediate interest. All the way to the pulse area, he grabbed hay from the hay bag. I was very pleased! He was eating with gusto. We got up to the vet area and Daniel used the community hose to spray Tanna down really well. Tanna continued to grab hay from the bag on my back even while being hosed down. I scraped the water off him to keep the water from insulating and heating him up again. He felt cool to my touch. We went and weighed him. 748 pounds. Only lost 2 pounds that loop. Good!
Then we went to get his pulse taken to get the start of our hold time. Due to a miscalculation earlier in the day, this hold was only 40 minutes instead of an hour. Man, I was looking forward to that 1 hour hold! Might have even been able to get a nap in or even just sit down for a minute (gasp). The other 20 minutes of hold time would be taken at our pulse check after the next 10 mile loop. Ok, that would work for me, too. I was wanting to take some time then. This would just make sure Jamie and Kim would have to take that time, too.
While waiting for the vet, Tanna continued to eat. He ate and ate. If I got too far away from him (Daniel was holding him), he'd give me the eye until I got back in range and he'd grab another bite. I was SO glad he was chowing down. I guess he thought he was done and could eat or he thought, she's crazy, I'd best eat while I can. We'd already gone longer than we'd ever gone before. 27 miles was the longest ride we'd ever done up to now. (He did do a 30 mile LD with Dee Fortner before I got him, though.)
I got Stan as the vet this time. He said to give him some sloppy food. Sure, thing, doc, soon as we get back to the trailer. That was about the only thing he said this time. I was so pleased Tanna was eating anything, I didn't even mind too much that the vet didn't say much else. Tanna got all As, but a B- on guts. But I was sure that would be ok, since he had decided he needed to eat.
He ate about 3/4 of the way back to the trailer. Partway back, he decided those carrots looked really yummy and started nosing the bag until Daniel alerted me and told me to give him some carrots. Finally, he decided he'd had enough hay and carrots, and walked calmly back to the trailer. As soon as Daniel turned him into his pen, though, he headed for the hay hanging on his pen. Chomp, chomp. I climbed into the camper and I could hear him slurping at his beet pulp. YES! Crunch, that must've been a carrot. Chomp, slurp, crunch. Tanna had gotten serious about this food thing.
He quit eating after awhile and looked VERY surprised when Daniel brought the saddle again. You could almost see his thoughts. I just DID my ride! What do you THINK you're doing? I laughed at him. See, I TOLD you you'd be out all day, I chided. Daniel also laughed at him. He lowered his head and just waited as we finished attaching everything.
I ran back into the camper to pee again. I'd drunk 2 liters on the second loop and another 20 oz or so during the hold. While I was in there, I heard Daniel talking to Jamie or Kim. I thought I heard one of them wasn't continuing on. Hmmm. Wonder what happened.
I mounted up and headed for Jamie, who was waiting on Wiggles. I gave my number to the timer and we headed across the bridge toward the 10 mile yellow loop that we would do twice. Turns out Kim's mare had a bad CRI, so was asked to come back for a recheck. Jamie and I would continue on alone while Kim decided whether or not to push her mare or just quit for the day.
We chatted as we trotted along. We caught up with a lady riding a horse named Jim. She (didn't catch the lady's name) was on her second time around the 10 mile loop. She'd be almost done. We informed her we were just starting our first time on that loop and were the last riders. We were planning on tying for the turtle award. She was going a bit slower than us, so we left her after awhile.
We alternated trotting and walking, giving the horses some breathers. Tanna was a bit confused that I was still riding him, but responded well when asked to trot. About a mile or so before the water troughs on that loop, several riders passed us up. Again, on their second loop, almost done with their ride. I envied them! But my horse was re-engergized by their passing and pulled on me, asking, insisting to go faster to catch them. No way! Settle down, goof, we still have to do this loop again! Tanna shook his head with impatience and I kept squeezing and pulling back. Wow, he's strong.
Finally, the horses got out of earshot and eye-sight and Tanna settled a little. We slowed to a walk when we reached the water. There had been a spotter out there taking numbers to be sure nobody cut trail, but nobody was there that late. No matter, we still did the trail right. :-) The riders that had passed us earlier were just finishing at the water trough and took off just before we reached them. Tanna wasn't sure about them leaving, but decided that water did look good. He stuck his head in the trough and sucked down lots of water. Good boy. Still drinking well. Jamie and I took a few minutes, letting the other riders pull away from us and sponging our horses good. It was the hottest part of the day and we still had another loop to do. Tanna still acted freaky a few times seeing that blue sponge arise out of the trash can. "That blue water monster is BACK!!"
After a few minutes, we started out again. We passed another place to get water, but since both horses had just drank and been sponged well, as well as there were already other riders blocking the way. So we continued on. Shortly after that, we caught up with a friend of Jamie's that wasn't looking so good. She was flushed and listless and admitted she didn't feel well at all. I was told her name, but forget now. We were about 3.5 miles from camp I guess. The lady was on her last loop. Jamie didn't want to leave her and I agreed. We had plenty of time to complete our ride, even with having another loop to do. We gave her food and water and Jamie gave her some little hard candies to suck on. The lady kept saying she didn't want to hold us up, but Jamie was adamant about not leaving her on her own. I also agreed and didn't want to go on either. Besides, if something DID happen there would need to be two of us anyway. One to stay with her and one to race into camp to get help. But the candy seemed to help and the lady made it in just fine. We left her at the finish line because she could go ahead and cut down to the vet check and we still had to finish our loop and go up to the timers.
I jumped off Tanna and let Daniel have him and we walked directly to the vet without untacking and called out asking for a pulse down. A different vet (can't remember her name) that had vetted on Saturday and rode on Sunday, took the pulse, watched Tanna trot up and back, and said, "yep, you're clear to go on." Jamie was also up there for her pulse down. Then we spent a few minutes trying to figure out who exactly would write on our cards our pulse down time and the time to go out since there was a 20 minute hold after the pulse down. Finally we got Nancy to do it and were able to head back to our trailer.
I seriously didn't want to go out again, but I did anyway. I'd hate myself for stopping so close to the end. We'd already done 40 miles and he was good to go out again. Besides, if I didn't go out, Jamie would have to do that last 10 miles alone and I didn't want to do that to her. Daniel just ignored my saying stuff about quitting and checked my GPS while I gulped down more peanuts. A few minutes later, I tightened Tanna's girth, mounted up, and we headed off on our last 10 miles.
At the timers, we gave our numbers and our out time. 3:32, I told them as I reached for my vet card. "Never mind the card, we believe you." Go on. The big clock next to them said 3:41. Late out, but still plenty of time. 2 and a half hours to do 10 miles. No problem.
I had been having major problems all day with my stirrups being too long. I had no way to shorten them, so had tried putting them on the fenders backwards (well, stirrups are on backwards to start with). But I just couldn't keep my stirrups that way, so not long after starting the loop, I had to stop and put them back the way I had them for the first 40 miles. The pain wasn't pleasant, but at least I could keep my stirrups. Since my stirrups were too long, I spent a lot of time on my toes, trying desperately to keep off Tanna's back and post properly. Hard to do on my toes and painful to boot. I spent part of that last loop clutching the pommel to help my balance. I admired Jamie's ability to post and keep her hands off her pommel. Oh, well. Gotta get those stirrups fixed. I need to burn another set of holes so I can have them shorter. Or rip the fenders out altogether, replace them with 2 inch stirrup leathers (can you get 2 inch leathers?), shorten the top bars on my stirrups, and cover the leathers with fleece to keep them from pinching. That way I can make them short for my short little legs and they'd be able to be adjustable. For training rides, my longer stirrups are just fine. It's just that Tanna's fast trot and his power trot are very hard to ride with the long stirrups. And riding longer, of course, just enhances the problem.
We did the rest of the loop alternating trotting and walking. The horses would draft off each other, then tire and we'd let them walk and grab bamboo or whatever from along the trail, then repeat. We did that all the way around, talking and falling silent by turn. Sometimes I would even close my eyes and "sleep" for a bit. Tanna kept trotting right along. What a boring loop. :-)
Finally, we hit the road to the finish line. Whooohooo! We were ALMOST THERE! Less than a half mile to go. We trotted in, Tanna occasionally breaking into a canter. We approached the finish line together, side by side. We didn't see the finish line timer! Where were they? They'd better be there. And sure enough, Nancy was there waiting for us a little past the finish line. I saw Daniel standing beside Nancy's truck with his camera. I raised my hand and waved happily. WhooooHOOOOO, I yelled! Tanna started. I don't usually yell from his back. I was so proud of my boy I could bust!!
Finish time was 5:21 for a total ride time of 9 hours 26 minutes. Then to get him to the vet. We had 60 minutes to show up for the vet. I walked Tanna to our camp site, stopped him and waited for a minute. Contemplating having to dismount. I knew it would hurt. And it did, but I did get off. It was only fair to Tanna to get off him after having gone 50 miles. :-) We stripped his saddle for the last time. I dropped my helmet and the GPS units and went in the camper to pee and change my boots for more comfortable shoes.
We wandered up to the vet check area. We saw Kathy and she asked if we needed a vet for a vet out. I said, yeah, but that we were in no hurry, we wanted to spray Tanna off first. We sprayed Tanna for a good long time, giving him a good massaging shower. He likes his showers. Kathy took her horse to the scales and weighed him. We weighed Tanna after she was done. 746 pounds. Not bad. Not bad at all. Only 6 pounds lighter than the day before when we had vetted him in.
I held Kathy's horse while she checked my horse (only fair, you see) and Nina Murphy scribed for her. He vetted out ok, but he was a bit tired. Got mark downs for gait and impulsion and a B for guts again.
But he DID finish. Jamie and I tied for SECOND to last place. Argh. Jim Holland and Flinn Anderson (I think) tied for last place. How'd they sneak behind us? :-) So now I'm an endurance rider and Tanna is an endurance horse! Sadly, I didn't get a T-shirt for my accomplishment, but Daniel says I can get to make me one of my very own! LOL.
We had some mild trouble getting home. We had a tire start to peel, so had to limp into a place to get 2 new tires. But we got into town early enough to drop Tanna off at home and go straight to get Serts.
We had a few problems and I'm sore some, but not as much as I thought I'd be. I am on ibprofen every 4 hours, though. :-) But at least I can function. Tanna looks great! Running around in his pasture. Not sore. He had a couple of sores on his mouth though, from the bit. I was pulling at him way too much. Not sure how to fix that. Have to think on that for awhile.
We did decide to skip the OD 25. Too long of a drive for only a 25.
Tanna is going to get some weeks of well-deserved rest. Serts will be getting some riding now to keep me in shape. :-)
I had a great time, overall. I have such a feeling of accomplishment. I couldn't have done it without Daniel. He was great! Supportive, helpful, and jumped right in there and worked like an experienced crew. I also couldn't have done it without Jamie and Kim. I really enjoyed riding with them and wish Kim could have completed with us rather than pull. The two of them showed me how to get a horse through a 50 miler. Tanna and Wiggles worked well together. Can't wait for the next ride. Thanks to Vicki, the vets, and all the volunteers that put on Liberty Run. And a big thanks to my little 750 pound, 14.1 Arabian gelding. He's a sweetie.
To finish is to win and boy, did we win!!!

Nashville, TN