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, frontwards...my 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 horsedesigns.com 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!!!