Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Big South Fork - April Johnson


Daniel and I started preparing for Big South Fork the weekend before the ride. We drove well into North Carolina to pick up a used horse trailer we found online. This new trailer has a dressing room so all my horse stuff could be put in there, leaving our slide-in camper for people stuff. The drive was quite long, but worth it as we were incredibly pleased with our purchase. Mo

nday, after returning to our home, Daniel spent the afternoon hooking up our horse compartment camera. He also put a decent radio/tape player in our dually truck and started the process of moving the corral panel rack from the old trailer to the new trailer.

I spent the afternoon cleaning the dressing room, scrubbing the feed mangers, introducing the horses to the new WHITE (they're both terrified of white things) trailer, and loading the dressing room with saddles, bridles, hay, water, extra tack, dog stuff, and anything else that we didn't want in the camper.

We both joked that we can't really afford to go to more than 3 or 4 rides a year since we've managed to buy a major item before all 3 rides this season. About 2 weeks before Chicken Chase, we purchased the slide-in camper. Just days before Liberty Run, we purchased a dually truck. And now, just days before Big South Fork, we bought another trailer! These rides are EXPENSIVE! LOL.

During the course of the day, I noticed Tanna had thrown his right front shoe. Agh! He was supposed to keep those shoes for another 2 weeks! I immediately put a call into my new farrier (who had put the shoes on 3 weeks before). I left a message and waited for a call back. I wanted him to come out and replace the shoe before we left for the ride. I knew it was a long shot, but had to try anyway.

Later that evening they called me back and told me they wouldn't be able to get to me since Billy had to go to Chattanooga on Tuesday and at the time we were planning to leave on Wednesday. They had me call a colleague that had also been there to put shoes on my horses. But I couldn't get a time with him since I had to work all day on Tuesday. No problem, I said, I'll just get a farrier at the ride to do it.

Tuesday night, Daniel and I were eating supper when a knock came at the door. We both looked at each other in surprise. We rarely have visitors and even rarely have unexpected visitors. I thought briefly that the horses might have gotten out, but I had brought them up to the pen by the house to eat hay and they were still there.

It was Billy! That dear man had come over to put that shoe back on Tanna's hoof. I quickly caught Tanna and told Daniel to bring a light. "I don't need a light," Billy said, and quickly set to work in the gathering darkness. Billy had that shoe on in short order and checked the other 3 feet to make sure their shoes were on tightly.

I couldn't thank him enough and was so thankful that he'd come out. I'd become more thankful.


We were hoping to leave on Wednesday. Tanna was entered in the 30 miler on Friday, and we like to get to a ride early to allow him to settle in and recover from the trailer ride. However, we both had to work Wednesday and then Daniel still had to finish putting the corral panel rack on the new trailer. We had put a cut-off time of 3 PM. If we couldn't leave by then, we were going to wait until morning. We did not want to get to the camp after dark. 3 PM came and we were not ready, so we relaxed a bit and were ready to go by early evening, leaving a pleasant time of relaxing before going to bed early.


I woke up around 5 AM Thursday morning and began the last minute preparations to leave. There were no major hinderances and we were on the road by 8 AM. We stopped at our local gas station to fill up and grab some breakfast food to eat along the way. I discovered they have wonderful cinnamon rolls. Very gooey and very yummy. :-)

Daniel and I passed the time by listening to an audio book from our local library. The miles seemed to pass slowly, but pleasantly. We were following a storm that had passed through Nashville earlier that day. We hoped the weather for the ride would be better than the weather we'd had in Nashville for the past several days. Rainy, overcast, and MUGGY. Yuck.

At the exit mentioned in the ride directions, we stopped again for gas for our guzzler. We opened the feed doors for the horses to look around and got the dog out of her pen in the dressing room for a breath of fresh air. As Daniel started to pump the gas, the radiator of the truck overflowed. Fortunately, it wasn't a problem. We didn't even need to refill the radiator, as there was still plenty in the overflow container. I offered water to all the animals (all of them declined). Soon we were on our way again.

The sun had come out and the air was pleasantly dry and cooler than we were used to. Very nice indeed.

After awhile, we entered Big South Fork Recreation Area. As we approached the end of the pavement, a volunteer met us and informed us that we might want to check out the fields before parking. The area had had a LOT of rain in the last days, especially overnight, and the fields for camping were quite muddy in some places. Since we have a 2-wheel drive, the possibility of getting stuck was high. We were told we could board our horses at the stalls and camp in the main campground, but we opted to drive on and check out the situation.

We rolled forward, then stopped the truck. We both got out and walked on into the field for smaller rigs. After some walking around, discussing and pondering, we decided to risk pulling into the field. Daniel said the ground underneath seemed solid and if we could stay away from the lowest lying areas, we'd be ok. We picked out a spot next to the Isaacs (the ride managers). We were planning to leave on Saturday, so wanted a clear shot out without having the possibility of getting boxed in.

Walking back to the truck, we unloaded the horses to make the trailer lighter and hopefully less likely to get stuck while Daniel was getting the rig into camping position.

I strolled leisurely after the truck and later was glad I hadn't seen the speed Daniel whipped that truck through the field! I did see the results in the camper and that was enough for me! However, kudos to Daniel, the truck was parked exactly where we'd discussed and we were not stuck! Whoohoo! After being stuck at Liberty Run in May, we were not anxious to repeat that experience!

It was around 12 PM, I think, when we got there. We spent some time setting up the horse pen. Daniel took the 9 panels off the top of the trailer and we discussed how exactly to set up the pen. I was lobbying for using the side of the trailer as one of the barriers for the pen. We had 8 10-foot panels and one 12-foot panel and I wanted to maximize the space for the horses. Especially since I was going to keep them separate.

Serts is a pig. 950 pounds, I found out, from the SERA scales set up near the vet check. And he eats like a pig. Or a horse. I know perfectly well he would eat and eat and I would have no idea if Tanna was having a problem with food. I like to know how much the horses are eating and drinking. Serts was to get very limited beet pulp and limited hay, while Tanna was to get generous beet pulp and unlimited hay. The only way to make sure they got what they needed was to keep them apart.

After awhile, we had a pen up and we turned the horses in together. They would get separated later.

We went up to the check-in tent to get the ride pack and introduce ourselves. Karen knew me instantly (no idea how...maybe it was the Cambodia t-shirt I was wearing?). I told her I was planning to be a vet secretary for the vet-in and when did she want me to come back. She answered, "Come back at 3 and I'll give you a clipboard and a pen."

It was around 1 PM or so, I guess. So we went back to our camp to continue setting up. We keep experimenting with the pen and coming up with new ideas for arranging it. Finally, we ended up with a decent sized pen, using the entire side of the trailer as part of the pen. That turned out to be very handy, because it was the side of the trailer with the door to the dressing room, so it was very handy to dole out hay and beet pulp and the tack was easy to reach without going in and out of the horse pen.

Then I fixed some cold sandwiches while Daniel read the ride packet and we discussed how we wanted to do the away vet-check. Daniel was thinking he would just drive the truck and camper up there and crew for me, but we didn't want to disturb the tarp and the ride info stated that parking at the vet check was limited. We didn't really have a good answer until almost sundown.

After lunch, we also put up a big tarp to give us some shade from the sun. Well, I say we, Daniel did most of the work! LOL. He had disconnected the truck from the trailer and had pulled the truck up, leaving a living space between the camper (on the bed of the truck) and the trailer. So he hooked the tarp on the top of the camper and then across the space to the trailer. Made a nice shade.

I pulled my tennis shoes on (I'd been wearing sandals), asked Daniel to bring Tanna to the vet in at some point during the next 3 hours, and headed off to the check in area to start my volunteering for the day.

When I got to the vet check, I was assigned to work with Otis Schmitt. Fun, fun! Right off, Otis picked up a livestock marker and started drawing big letters and numbers on the nearest horse haunches. For the next 2 and a half hours, we had a good stream of horses to vet in. Most horses were quite frisky. There was a breeze, the humidity was low, and the temperature was very pleasant. After the rain of the past days, the weather was too good to be true.

Some of the horses were very vocal, some were just jumpy. I got to see lots of horses. Most vetted in ok. I only know of one horse that failed the vet check due to lameness. That horse later worked out the lameness and was supposed to start on Saturday's ride. There might have been other horses that weren't allowed to start, but that was the only one I saw. I did get to see a 1200 pound Percheron cross that was entered in the LD. Huge animal!

I also saw a horse that passed the vet check just fine, but he had huge sores on his right heel bulbs due to easy boot rubs. The result of somebody (not the rider) pulling the easy boot strap up too high. The horse was not ouchy, surprisingly!

Daniel brought Tanna to vet in sometime after 5. He also was a little jumpy, but not bad. He was being quite good. He vetted through with all As. Good for him. :-) Daniel went over and weighed him for me. 784 pounds.

I also saw Howard at the vet-in. I knew it was him, due to War Cry calling to his buddies (that were nowhere in sight, btw).

After awhile, the flow of horses to vet in slowed to a crawl and then stopped. Otis left for home, so I laid down my clipboard and returned to my camp. There were still other horses to vet in, but another vet and his secretary took care of that.

I enjoyed my time as a vet secretary. Nice to see all the horses and watch the people and just be part of the action.

After getting back to our camp (a very short walk away), Daniel and I poured water into every available container. The horses' water buckets were filled to overflowing. The dog's bucket was likewise filled. Several servings of beet pulp were started to soaking. We also filled every 1 liter bottle we could find with a weak kool-aid/gatorade mix. Finally, we had emptied all the water we'd brought with us. About 20 gallons worth. Then we took the 5 6-gallon containers up the road 3/10ths of a mile to refill them. I had the dog on her leash and the horses on lead ropes and Daniel pulled the water containers in a garden cart we'd brought with us.

When we got back to camp, Daniel took ratchet straps and divided the horse pen into two pens. Tanna was turned into the one with the trailer side as part of the pen. Serts was in the other end. I threw Serts a flake of hay and filled Tanna's hay net with orchard grass and alfalfa hay. I also gave them beet pulp to get started on.

There was no time for a ride. This would be the first time I hadn't gone for a pre-ride the day before. Course, this was only my 5th ride, but one finds comfort in routine! I thought about double-checking my tack, but nixed that idea. I was certain I had everything. I'd checked and double-checked and rechecked at home. I had all his regular tack tucked into a rubbermaid container. And had spare tack tucked into another one. I had everything.

I pulled out his easy boots and put them in the easy boot bag I bought at the convention in March. I made sure the bag also held a pull-on strap, a screwdriver, and a hoof pick. Then I dropped the bag into the rubbermaid container holding his tack. I'd have to figure out a way to attach it to him in the morning after saddling him.

While waiting for the ride meeting to start, we had a truck and trailer get stuck in front of us while trying to go to another part of the field we were in. Daniel had moved the truck back a bit in order to allow them to pass by us. The pathway in front of our truck was just big enough for a truck to get by, but not a truck and trailer due to the turn radius that was necessary to get into the pathway. So Daniel had backed up a little. The truck and trailer got stuck in front of us.

A neighbor across the field came with a shovel and Daniel provided a tow rope. Another truck came from the other direction. After digging out in front of the stuck tire, the second truck towed out the truck and trailer. Fun, fun.

Soon it was time to head back to the tent for the ride meeting. Daniel and I picked up our camp chairs and wandered over. There was some definite news to be had. Because of the rain, the creek crossing was too high on one of the loops. So the 30 milers would be doing the same trail twice. On the way out, orange ribbons would be on our right. On the way back, the orange ribbons would be on our left. Karen cautioned to pay attention on the way out as they hadn't been able to mark all the turns for the way back. The 50 milers also had some trail changes, but that sounded way too complicated and I pretty much ignored what they were supposed to do to make up for the missed creek crossing. The vet check would be an away vet check, as we already knew. Pulse criteria at the vet checks was 64 beats per minutes. 30 milers, of course, had a 60 beat per minute at the finish. CRIs would be the vet's choice. Tack off at all checks.

One thing that did get my attention was the announcement about the farrier. Karen warned that we would be on our own for farrier work since the arranged farrier wouldn't show up until mid-morning on Friday! How glad I was that Billy had come and put that shoe on! Goodness! I would have still ridden, but would have foamed easy boots on and didn't want that hassle.

After the ride meeting, we headed back to our camp. It started to get dark and we decided that Daniel wouldn't move the camper to come to the vet check after all. He said to go ahead and send my vet check stuff with the vet check truck and he would try to catch a ride with somebody else to the vet check. But in case he didn't make it, my stuff would still be at the check for me.

So I scurried around getting things into the rubbermaid container I dubbed the "vet check box." Pop tarts, apples, carrots, and a few other last minute things in addition to the extra tack, horse first aid kit, and human first aid kit that I already had packed and waiting. I also put a couple of flakes of hay in a hay net. One flake of alfalfa, one flake of orchard grass. We then put the hay net into a kitchen-sized garbage bag. That took a little effort. Then Daniel took a bungie cord and secured the hay garbage bag to the top of the vet check box. I gathered two small buckets, one large bucket, and a wal-mart bag of premeasured beet pulp/grain mixture. Dry. I would pour water in it at the vet check.

By the time we took our stuff to the vet check truck, it was dark and the other vet check stuff had been loaded. Thomas Isaacs, one of the managers, was there and expressed concern that our stuff might get scattered and that would cost me time. I assured him that I was not there to race, it was only my 5th ride and we were just there to have a good time. He commented that was a good attitude and opened the trailer to put our vet check stuff with the others.

Returning to the camper, we tossed more hay for Serts, gave Tanna 2 more small buckets of beet pulp, and retired for the night. We ate some soup that Daniel had heated on our stove. Then I carefully laid out the clothes I was going to wear on the ride. I added a long-sleeved oversized cotton shirt to the pile. I thought it might be chilly in the morning. I set the alarm for 6 AM. Start time was 8 AM, so no need to get up too early!


I didn't sleep very well Thursday night. I kept getting awakened by a horse banging on corral panels. I got up 2 or 3 times to try to keep our guys quiet. Serts was probably noisy, and the horse across the way in corral panels like ours. We'll have to figure out a better way to secure the rachet straps separating Tanna and Serts in their pen. Serts would push on the straps, trying to get to Tanna's hay, and that made some noise.

Tanna was an absolute angel. I love that horse. Well, he did manage to remove his halter. I picked it up off the ground in the middle of the night and put it back on him, wondering how in the world he got that off. That's why I put him in a pen instead of tying. He can untie himself (and his buddies), unclip himself, and now he's learned the trick of removing his halter! I think I'm going to get a neck strap for him. Let's see him get THAT off!

At 6 AM, I hit the snooze and spent the next 5 minutes waking up. Yawn. When the snooze alarm went off, I shut it off and actually got up. It was chilly. We'd needed to get blankets in the middle of the night. Nice change from sticky humid heat!

I lit the propane light in our camper, knowing it would warm the air some, as well as give me light to see. I dressed carefully in my favorite nylon/lycra tights, my microfiber sports bra, dark blue socks (over my tights), and my custom made t-shirt commemorating our Liberty Run accomplishment of our first 50 mile ride. I also pulled a long sleeve man's shirt on. It was chilly and I needed my arms covered!

I'm not quite sure where the time went but by the time the water was boiling for oatmeal, it was 7 AM! My plan was to be saddling Tanna at 7 to be in the saddle by 7:30. I quickly mixed the water into the instant oatmeal bowls and scurried out of the camper. I'd just have to grab a bite of oatmeal while I worked.

We swung one of the panels to close Serts in completely with corral panels, leaving a big gap in Tanna's corral. First thing I did was draw a big blue 'E' on Tanna's haunches on each side. (They only had green and pink at the vet in, but I wanted blue, so did it myself.)

Daniel then accompanied me to the scales to weigh Tanna before saddling him. Tanna got on the scale without a fuss and weighed in a 780 pounds. Hmm, lost 4 pounds overnight. Nothing like his tanking up the night before Liberty Run when he gained 30 pounds!

We went back to the trailer and I tied him next to the dressing room door for easy access. I gave him access to beet pulp, which he ignored as expected. With the gap in the corral fence, it was easy to go from Tanna to the dressing room to the camper and back again. Serts was not happy and paced and pawed and occasionally whinnied. Now one sees the need to completely box him in good. Tanna pretty much ignored him. Hehe.

I pulled the rubbermaid container from under Tanna's saddle. Tanna started to quiver with excitement. I opened it and grabbed his brush. Everything was right at my fingertips. No searching, no misplaced tack. It was absolutely great! I put KY jelly on the heart rate monitor electrode to go under his saddle. I squished it in place, then took my woolback pad and positioned it. Next came the saddle. I saddled him from the off side, since the dressing room door was on that side and I wasn't going to walk around him for no apparent reason. He actually seemed to like that better. Imagine that.

Tanna was still shaking, so I asked Daniel to drap a blanket over his rear end just to make sure he didn't get chilled. It wasn't all that cold, but I wasn't going to take any chances.

Next was his girth. I had planned to use the soft neoprene girth, but at the last minute, I decided I wanted to use the tougher neoprene because it might slide better over his skin. Where was it?? Oh, yeah, in the vet check box. Sigh. I went ahead with the soft girth since the vet check box was already with the vet check trailer.

I attached the girth heart rate monitor electrode. Then came the breast collar. I readjusted the breast collar in a couple of places, then hooked the heart rate monitor leads to the transmitter. After a few seconds, my watch blinked and read "37." Good. Perfectly normal. I've seen him as low as 33 when saddling for a training ride, but 36 or 37 is the norm. (I've also seen him as high as 80s when I hooked up the monitor, but that was only once and it was the first time we'd ridden since our 50 mile ride at Liberty Run. He was majorly excited!)

Daniel put 2 1-liter bottles of weak gatorade/kool-aid in my cantle bag. He also attached my easy boot bag to Tanna's right shoulder on the breast collar. I wasn't sure how Tanna would react to that, but I needed the boots and that was the best place we could find.

I slid his bit into his mouth after trying to warm it a bit. Then I put my hip pack on (carrying a mirad of items one might need on the trail). Then came my helmet. My helmet is very important. Where else can I put my GPS antenna and get that great reception?? Oh, yeah, it might protect my noggin in a fall, too. Multi-functional! :-)

I checked my feet for my riding boots. Yep, there they are...wonder when I put those on? Oh, well, there they are.

I led Tanna into the open field between several trailers and lunged him around me one way. No major spooking. I sent him the other direction. Still ok. Even with the easy boot bag. Excellent. I expected him to be more jumpy considering I hadn't ridden him in 2 weeks.

Daniel held the reins and I swung up into the saddle. After a quick kiss, off I went. I wanted to get on the scales while mounted. So I headed over there. We passed a water trough and I offered water to Tanna. He didn't drink (didn't expect him to, but I offer anyway). But the water reminded me, electrolytes! I hadn't given him any since the night before (when he got 2 doses in his feet). And what's more, I didn't have ANY in my vet check box. Agh! What an oversight! I trotted Tanna back toward our trailer. I met Daniel coming to watch the warm-up and the start and I told him about the electrolytes. He accompanied me back to the camper and went inside to get my 4 tubes of Lyte-now out of the cooler. I tried to put them in the easy boot bag at my hand, but Tanna wouldn't stand still for love or money, so I dismounted. One tube went in the easy boot bag, and 2 more went in the cantle bag. I opted not to give him any before the start.

I remounted and made it over to the scales. Tanna did stand still for the briefest of seconds on the scale, but I couldn't read the readout very well and I promptly forgot whatever it was I thought I'd read. I wasn't anxious to keep trying, so I headed out to the gravel road that separated the two halves of camp for the warmup.

I called to Nancy to get the official time. I checked my watch. I was 40 seconds behind. "Good enough for horseshoes," I said aloud.

I alternately trotted and walked up and down the road away from the start. I checked out the other riders. I recognized several of them from the vet in and a couple from other rides. I smiled and made small talk every now and again.

Then I struck up a conversation with Kelly Haslam from North Carolina. She hadn't introduced herself, but I remembered reading her info from her vet card when she vetted in. She and her daughter, Katie, were planning to ride conservatively and ride the 30 both days.

I started the ride with them and naturally fell behind them in the start. After about half a mile I finally remembered to turn on my GPS! Tanna was fighting, but the single track through the woods was very nice to convince him that he didn't need to try to pass the horses in front of him. I just had to keep him off Zeke, Kelly's horse, in front of me.

Sometime during the first mile or so, Katie got stung by a bee. I said that I had some various medicines in my hip pack and I would be glad to share. They didn't take advantage of that right away, but did at the vet check.

This loop was very nice. Sometimes it was just us three, but then we caught up with 2 horses in front and so there were 5 of us. Then, as we all went up a hill, 3 or 4 other riders came up behind us and passed on the left. I was busy looking behind me and to my right to see the mist hanging in the valley below. Very nice view!

After awhile, it was just 3 of us again and we chatted while trotting along. Tanna would canter some, and I'd insist that he trot up the longer hills. We had several conversations like that! I took the lead and Katie and her horse Lusie (Spelling??...it's a nickname!), would ride to our left and slightly behind for some of the way. Surprisingly, Tanna didn't want to race her, but would just keep trucking with his ears forward and ready to go as fast as I'd let him.

We passed a 50 miler with a radio and I commented on it. Then we passed her and kept going. I was still in the lead. All the sudden, we came out on a gravel road. Where to go?? I pulled up and looked for ribbons. Nothing to the left or right. The radio 50 miler came up and so did the Appaloosa horse from the corral panels across from our camp site. The guy on the appy spotted the ribbons on a trail that parallelled the road. So off we all went. At least the missed turn didn't cost us much time and no milage! LOL. (On the way back, I saw the pie plate with the arrow marking the turn...I just out and out missed it. The mistake the others made was relying on me! LOL)

Shortly after the turn, we came up on Howard Bramhall and War Cry. Howard was off and walking. He said he was ok, so we kept going. A rider ahead of me heard me say Howard and cried, "Was that Howard?" And I said (like I knew), "yep, that's Howard." Hehe. Fun, fun.

Howard caught up with us after awhile and there was some good natured teasing all around. All the sudden we were in a PACK of horses! 10 or more. I threaded Tanna through them and ended up in the lead, losing Katie and Kelly. I keep trotting along at a good pace until I saw the trail turn to the left and no longer parallel the road. I kept Tanna going straight to allow the horses to pass us so I could get with K&K again. Howard started to follow me and I told him not to rely on me. Hehe. That was fun. K&K were at the back and I fell in behind them. What a great time I was having!

All too soon, there was a sign advising to spread out for the second photo op. We did and as soon as the pictures were taken, we were dumped onto a road. Very short distance to the vet check. Riders started dismounting and soon I did, too. As I walked, I dropped the bit out of Tanna's mouth.

A fifty miler commented on how long the 20 miles had seemed. "I didn't go 20 miles," I grinned. "You didn't?" "Nope, I'm a 30 miler." I think she thought I'd skipped trail, or maybe she'd gone the wrong way. But neither was true.

I walked into the timer behind K&K. 9:57 was written on my card. We'd done the 13+ miles in 1 hour 57 minutes. I scanned the crowd for my husband, hoping he'd made it up to crew, but I didn't see him, so started hunting for my vet check stuff. I located the rubbermaid box with the hay bungied to the top. Then I spotted the 2 smaller buckets a little ways down. I headed to get the buckets and saw my 5 gallon bucket very close to the small buckets. When I got up to get it, I saw it was filled with water! Blessings on the ride management for making sure that happened! As I was gathering up my buckets, I was also kept busy trying to keep Tanna out of other's hay. A nearby rider gave me a couple handfuls of her hay for Tanna to occupy himself while I gathered the buckets. I thanked her and moved over to my vet check box.

I poured water into a smaller bucket with beet pulp and grain, then removed Tanna's hay from a plastic bag. Then the box came open and I offered carrots to Tanna. He sniffed the beet pulp, nibbled the hay, and ate a carrot. I turned off my GPS and dropped my helmet, GPS, and hip pack into the box. I also removed my long sleeve shirt and left it in the box. On came a ball cap, then I removed the saddle from Tanna and dropped it on the ground. I checked his HR before I removed the saddle. 59. Good. I sponged the worst of the muddy gunk from his girth area and back, grabbed a bag of carrots, a couple of pop tarts and headed for the vet line.

Truman came and took Tanna's pulse. Took him a minute, but he pulsed in at 49. Time on E, he called. 10:10 was the answer. It'd taken me 13 minutes to locate my stuff, unsaddle, sponge, and get to the pulse down. Not bad, considering I wasn't rushing, racing or anything else.

The weather was gorgeous. Low humidity, probably mid-70s. It was WONDERFUL! I waited in line handing carrots to Tanna as fast as he'd eat them and munching on a pop tart. We were 2nd in line when Tanna stretched out and peed. Good boy. :-) I gave him a piece of my pop tart as a treat.

I got Otis for our vet. Cool. I pointed out a rub on Tanna's withers. He wasn't sore on it, but the hair was gone. There was no swelling or heat or pain, so Otis said it wasn't significant enough to note. I figured it was a resulte of us trotting down hill and the saddle pushing on his withers more than usual. After a trot out and back, I got my vet card back. All As. Tanna looked great.

We went back to our area where Tanna continued to browse his food. I periodically fed him carrots and an apple. After about 20 minutes, Tanna just stood, relaxed, almost asleep. I let him do that for about 10 minutes, then took him over to a water trough to offer water. He hadn't drank more than about 4 sips since the start. He still didn't drink.

On the way back to our stuff, Karen talked to us to make sure we were ok. She asked where my crew was and I said he just must've not made it. She looked concerned, like maybe he'd gotten lost, but I told her he was going to try to get a ride out so he wouldn't have to move our camper and he must not've been able to. I asked her what to do with the beet pulp Tanna wouldn't eat. She said just leave it if I wanted it later. I said I did, but if it was going to make a mess in the trailer, they could just toss it out before putting my bucket in the trailer.

I then headed back to our stuff to saddle up. I saddled him quickly and carefully, using the tougher neoprene girth and storing the soft one in a plastic bag in the vet box.

As I saddled Tanna, I heard the timer yell that "G" and "H" were cleared to leave. I looked up to see K&K ready to head out. I held out my hand meaning I still had to wait (my out time was 6 minutes after theirs). I found out later they thought I only had a minute or so before I'd be out. They went ahead and left.

I secured everything in the vet check box and to the vet check box, dumped the rest of the water, then tied Tanna to a sign to go use the portapotty. I held my breath as had been advised by other riders. When I got out, I gave Tanna some electrolytes. I put Tanna's Little S Hackamore bridle on him and put the sidepull (I use it with a bit) into my vet check box.

I mounted up and headed over to the timer to tell them I was leaving. They said, "yeah, you're clear." "I know, I just wanted to let you know I was headed out." I was 6 minutes late leaving the vet check. No worries. It was a gorgeous day, and I had over 4 hours to get down the mountain and pulsed down. What could be easier?

I headed back down the road the way we'd come. After a minute or two, I noticed I'd forgotten to tight my boot laces. I tried to do it while going down the trail, but gave up after a minute and dismounted. Then I remounted and headed out again.

I leisurely walked Tanna past where we'd gotten our picture taken, then picked up a bit of a trot for awhile. I briefly thought of heading out at a brisk pace to try to catch K&K. But I realized they had a good 15 minutes on me and it'd be hard to make that up. I probably wouldn't catch them (if ever) until pretty close to the end of the trail, so I decided to take things easy and just mosey along like I was out for a Sunday afternoon pleasure ride.

I walked Tanna for awhile again. Looking at the foliage and the sky and relishing the temperature and low humidity. An LD rider came up behind me at a trot. She and I both thought she was going to pass, but her horse thought it would be nice to walk for awhile, so she walked until she was passed me a good bit. She introduced herself, but I totally forgot her name. Anyway, after a minute she looked back and said, "I'm gonna trot." "Ok." So off she trotted. Tanna did some nice side passes for me, since I wanted him to keep going down the trail at a speed of my choosing. If we side pass, ok. :-)

After the horse ahead got out of earshot and eyesight, another 2 horses came up from behind. Both LD riders. One of them I remembered from the vet in. A new horse. First ride. They asked if I was ok. I said, sure, just out enjoying the day, taking it easy. They trotted off and Tanna pitched a bigger fit. More nice side passes. Side pass to the left, turn, side pass to the right. I was in the zone, though, and just enjoyed every minute. Tanna settled back down as they got out of sight. He still thought I was crazy for moseying when there was a race to win!

Pretty soon, we were stopped again. I had drank about a liter of liquid at the vet check and since I wasn't sweating a lot, I needed to get rid of it somehow.

Tanna was certain we'd pick up the pace once I remounted, so danced impatiently while I was trying to mount. Silly boy, we're out for a stroll, not a record breaker.

After a few minutes, Tanna was trotting along slowly and STOPPED on his own accord to guzzle water out of a clear running puddle down the trail. He drank and drank. Good boy! He walked a few steps and drank some more. Excellent! I patted him and told him how good he was.

Our pace back to camp was pretty much the same. We did trot and canter some. When I felt like it, when it was uphill or straight. I made him walk down every single hill and trot up every steep hill. The moderate hills, he walked up. I swear he thought I was nutso! But I was enjoying myself so much! I didn't want the ride to end, so I was making the most of our time out there.

At one point, I stopped him in the trail and pulled out a bag of peanuts and dates in a ziplock bag. I rattled it and Tanna pricked his ears at me. I leaned over and offered him a handful. He took it eagerly. By the time I stopped feeding him, he would bend his head back toward my foot when he heard the rattle. Hehehe. That's a trick Laura told me to do with him and it's working great!

I saw very few people on the trail after the other LD riders passed us. I did see 5 or so 50 milers heading out the other direction. I also saw 4 pleasure riders that I exchanged pleasantries with. I was already walking most of the time, so I didn't have to slow down except once maybe. I also saw a trail marker. I was napping on Tanna, lulling, enjoying the day, when I was surprised to hear them behind me. I turned and she said hi. I smiled and said I was just out enjoying the weather and the ride. She said, "no problem." and trotted off down the trail.

At some point during the ride, I saw a good sized red fox trotting along the trail in front of us. When he heard us, he ran into the woods. I pulled up and watched him watch us. It was absolutely great! After few minutes, the fox ran deeper into the woods and we started off again. Sometime I wouldn't have seen if I'd been trotting or with a group. So nice!

As we approached camp, I saw more 50 milers heading out on their 3rd loop. Tanna was sure we'd speed up now! Well, we did, but only because the trail was in the sun and it was cooler to trot! Most of the trail was shaded. With the weather and the shade, the trail was SO pleasant.

When we came out on the gravel road leading to the vet check a mere 1000 feet away, I dismounted and stood with Tanna in the shade as I checked his HR. 72 or so. I undid part of his breast collar, patted him and headed toward the timers. I passed Howard leading a horse toward the stables. We exchanged a couple of words and I continued on. As I came into view of the timers, Nancy jumped up to get my card and said "there you are!" "Were you waiting on me?" "Well, we were getting a little worried, but others said they'd seen you, so..." "I was just taking it easy and having fun." "Do you want to vet in now?" "Nope, I'll go unsaddle him first." 2 o'clock was written on my vet card. Exactly 6 hours since the start. Now to unsaddle and go back to pulse down. He was probably down, but I was still in my lazy mood and wanted to take my time.

For the next 20 minutes, I unsaddled, sponged, and chattered to Daniel about our ride. What a good time I'd had! And I had to have gotten the turtle position (last) for sure! Otherwise, they wouldn't have been keeping an eye out for me. :-) Tanna pretty much ignored Serts and ate hay while I busied myself preparing for the vet out.

We walked back to vet him out. 2:23 PM was our pulse time with a pulse of 53. He vetted out with mostly As and A-s. Only one B+ in guts. He weighed at 748. He'd lost 32 pounds over the course of the ride.

What a great day! I got Tanna settled in his pen and sat in a chair under our shade talking with Daniel when Katie came by. She hung out for awhile, playing with our dog and chatting. It was fun to have her visit. Then Kelly came with their 2 dogs and we just sat around and talked. What a great time. Very relaxing and nice. After the vet check, they had waited for me a bit, then had picked up their pace, deciding I wasn't coming. They had tied for 6th! Unfortunately, Kelly's saddle didn't fit Zeke very well and they discovered he was back sore at the Best Condition judging.

After awhile, they departed to shower and take care of some things and Daniel and I went into our camper and I made yummy grilled cheese sandwiches. I was STARVED from missing lunch and being on the trail so long. No low blood sugar, just an empty stomach.

Then we headed to the visitor's center to buy ice. That was a good walk that limbered me up, probably helping with any soreness. We took the dog along for company.

After that, I decided I wanted to take Serts on a ride since he'd been cooped up for the whole day. I jumped on him bareback and ponied Tanna. Daniel suggested we take Serts to weigh him. 950 pounds. Needs to slim down! Then I rode out toward the stables, but didn't even get as far as that before heading back. I didn't want to miss the awards.

I met Daniel on the way back and he walked with me to our camper. I made sure Tanna had plenty of food and water, threw some more hay to Serts, and we joined the group around the management tent. Most of them were eating or finishing eating. We set our chairs near K&K and chatted until the awards.

Sure enough, I was the last to come in on the 30 miler. Since they started with 30 milers and started with last place, I was the first to get my award. Completion awards were nice wood picture frames with the BSF ride logo carved into it. I also received a turtle award for coming in last. A tube of Desitin and a pair of padded riding underwear! LOL.

I have no idea who won that ride, but I do remember Betsy Knight won the 50 miler, and came in second for BC. Also, Howard was pulled in the 50. Boy, I'm full of info, huh? ;-)

After the awards, Daniel and I went back to our camper to make preparations to leave the next day. Just as we were going to retire for the night, a truck and trailer coming in for the Saturday ride, got stuck in the field near our camper. So we watched that for awhile. Daniel offered the use of his tow strap if they needed it.

Then Kelly came up with Zeke and said one of the vets had been looking at her horse and her saddle using a thermal imaging digital camera. The vet said her saddle didn't fit well, based on the heat pattern on the saddle after running Zeke around a little with the saddle. She said somebody had suggested to look at an Abetta. I said, "that's what I have." "Really, can I see it?" I dragged out Daniel's saddle because it didn't have all the stuff attached it like mine does. Then she asked if we could put it on Zeke and get the vet to check the fit. Sure. I grabbed my woolback pad and Kelly put the saddle on Zeke, then I cinched him up.

The vet had Kelly run Zeke around a minute, then quickly took the saddle off and took a picture with the camera. Verdict? The Abetta fit Zeke a lot better than the saddle Kelly already had. There was more contact. More contact means the weight and pressure is spread over a wider portion of the back.

It was way cool. The vet let Daniel play with the camera some. That was great!

Finally we headed back to our camper. We went to bed at 10. It had been 2 hours since we'd first said we were going to bed! LOL.


In the morning, I leisurely got up and then glanced out the window at Tanna. I didn't see him, but I did see his corral panel open! I freaked out and jerked open the door. Whew, there was Tanna, just out of sight of the window, still in his pen, standing by Serts. I went outside and pulled the panel back into position. Gonna have to secure that! Daniel said Serts must've walked the panel around by pushing on the ratchet straps in the middle of the night. Good thing Tanna didn't feel like going for a walk!!

We packed up in good time and Daniel pulled the truck and trailer out onto the gravel road before loading the horses to spare them any rough riding through the field if he had to go a bit fast to keep from getting stuck. No problems. The horses loaded well, and we were off.

What a great ride! I had the BEST time! I met some really nice people and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thanks to the ride management and all the volunteers that worked to get this ride on. It was perfect weather, too! Thanks!

Nashville, TN

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