Friday, June 25, 2004

Cooley Ranch Ride & Faith in Horse People - Sandy Holder

This is the ride story that wasn't . . . or better yet, the one that my faith in horse people was renewed. So now that you're probably scratching your heads (unless this has happened to you), I'll share with you 'the rest of the story'.

Wednesday before the ride: Wednesday's are always the greatest day before a ride. I'm always excited about the impending time I'll spend on my horse with an old buddy and meet a couple of new ones. This is also usually the day that I pack the trailer and the Suburban for hauling out to the ride on Friday. Why do I like to pack on Wednesday's? Well, it's because I'm a blonde (oops, that's unfair to the intelligent blondes out there), but I seem to always forget something if I pack on Thursday. Unfortunately the mare I have in my pasture with my boy had a problem and it needed to be 'fixed' before I left (developed scratches again). So, without going to bed way too late, having to pack on Thursday was the only option.

Thursday before the ride: it was a long day at work, with me completely antsy knowing that not only did I have to work all day, but I had a dinner with a client and then needed to go home and pack. Needless to say, in the spirit of not going to bed at midnight, I rescheduled the dinner. . . only to have to work until 7:30 p.m. anyway! Got home, got the things out of the attic, all the food (and then some - never like to run short), all the 'stuff' for two horses and my riding partner into the trailer and to bed . . . at 1 a.m. It's a good thing I have a wonderful daughter who will feed the ponies (horses) when I need help. Turns out that I hadn't even had a chance to load my friend's temporary panels that were being used elsewhere on the property (where a mud slide had taken out the fence). So off to bed with the knowledge that I'd need to get up real early in the a.m. and replace those temporary panels and attach them to the side of my trailer. Sheesh - but I was GOING to A RIDE!~

Friday before the ride: this was the day that 'all good things' were to happen. It seems that for some reason, luck would have it that I would today learn (better yet, be reminded) that there are REALLY great people out there, particularly HORSE PEOPLE!!! Getting out of bed at 5 a.m., I started soaking beet pulp (in 3 months of living on our new 'ranch', everyone is the house, including the non-horsey folks, have learned what soaking beet pulp is all about - but I digress). I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed down to feed my boy some much needed 'sloppy stuff' and pull the temporary panels from the plunging hillside . . . of course it took longer than it was suppose to. . . and then my truck wouldn't start (a really bad sign) but once jumped and a deep sigh, I was off to pick up my riding buddy, Dick Carter (yes, the guy with LOTS of experience, and lots of cowboy poetry - but don't tell him I told you). Needless to say, a fun riding buddy and one I'm continually learning things from. After stopping at Starbucks for some much need 'encouragement' (caffeine), we were as I put it "off to see the Wizard". Two hours later, stuck in traffic, we were half way there. Another hour and with smiles on both our faces, things started to go haywire. It's not ALL the time that a pick up truck pulls beside you and says - to your horror - "your brakes are smoking!" Our smiles froze and turned to frowns after a quick look in the rear view mirror (thank goodness Dick was driving).

YIKES, Oh me or my, that's one of the scariest sights I'd seen in a long time. We slowed, pulled off at the exit and took a right heading for what we thought would be the closest gas station. Another right turn and we were on a side street between a Toyota dealership and Car wash but a big enough area at the end of the short block to quickly and safely unload the ponies (our 2 Ay-rabs) before anything worse happened. Just then, even before we could breathe a sign of relief, we had a NASTY dealership owner come over and start giving us the 'you have to get those horses out of here, they'll ruin my business' litany. Ok Sandy (talking to myself again), Dick needs to handle this one. . . as I sometimes get a bit TOO direct in times of crisis (IMAGINE THAT?!). So I took the boys off the street and onto the shoulder to nibble on some weeds and stand in the shade. Of course, my faith in mankind was strongly rekindled when, much to my surprise, a car wash employee came over asking '. . . agua. . cabillo??' and after finally figuring out just what he was trying to say and acknowledging 'si', the car wash manager brought over a bucket of water for the boys. Wow! There are still wonderful people out there (I just voted them into the 'horsey people' category)!!

WHAT NEXT?!! Well, Dick being Dick, he found some folks in the parts/service area that knew some horse people that might be able to help us. My wonderful boy knocked my Blackberry device (combination PalmPilot/Cell Phone/E-mail device) out of my hands and onto the hard ground (did you hear it break? - course my husband would say it's a good thing, me off the cell phone). Calls to Morningstar Farms from Dick's cell phone (we were in Novato, CA) and although Kevin was busy, he put us in touch with Monte, the gal that runs Willow Tree Stables (none of these folks did I know before our 'need' but they were horse people mind you, and helping out when we needed it). 15 minutes later Monte was pulling up alongside the freeway (we were on the other side of a chain link fence), and tooting her 'we're hear to rescue you' horn. Thank God, somebody I didn't even know was coming to rescue me!! Goodness gracious, I still have goose bumps thinking about how relieved I was. Couple that with an educational call (yes, it says on my card that you DO tow trailers) with MoTow - my endurance motorcycle riding hubby had lovingly added me to his towing coverage - and we were mostly taken care of. I must say though that seeing my Circle J, 2 horse slant load bumper-pulled trailer on the back of a flat bed (a inch of tire on either side hanging over) was definitely . . . shall I say, spooky?! Hmm. . . the thought did cross my mind (of course my horses had already been taken away in another trailer) that if it 'fell off' that maybe I'd get another trailer! (naugh, I like the old one enough). So the horses were off to a nice 100 horse barn (they take good care of horses who need layovers by the way) and the tow truck driver was off to drop off the trailer. Oh, but the Opinionated (Dick says I shouldn't use Nasty), dealership owner had a few more 'instructions' for us before we left. . . . gRRRRR!~~

Still off to see the Wizard (ride camp that is). After checking in with Monte and making sure that the boys were happy (up to their hocks in good oat hay - thanks again Monte) we were off to Ride Camp. What, you say?! Well, HECK YEAH!~ What else are we going to do? Heck I'd actually done ONE ride so far this year (volunteered at one too), and one of my best riding buddies was going to do her first 50 (yes, she did it, even though I wasn't with her). So Dick and I headed to Ride Camp where we were quick to be picked up and taken care of on the volunteer circuit. Marci & Ruth run one heck of a good ride and even offered to return our checks (oops, am I suppose to tell everybody that?!). Actually, I think it was Ruth's ride but Marci was in charge of the volunteers (that be me) and early the next morning, gave me a pretty big clock and efficiently put me at the Out Timers box and Dick was doing P & R's (as he was the only one of us with a watch on). That was fun!!~ All day long I was thinking to myself, 'what are all the little things that people do or I'd like them to do for me at a ride?'. So I fed watermelon rhines to the horses, or alfalfa that had been dropped on the ground, rubbed their faces, talked to the riders, held a stirrup down when they were trying to mount with a loose saddle (I like riding with a relatively loose saddle as well) and/or held them back an extra 10 seconds until it was 'official time'!! Actually rubbing all the horses and pointing folks to the 'mounting block' (a cut log from a tree) or in the right direction was a lot of fun. Most folks don't know me and I don't know them but they were all really great.

We had to leave before the final ones finished (including my buddy) to figure out how to get our boys home. That was disappointing as Ruth and Marci had assured us that they were springing for a really good dinner (heard it was fabulous). After calling all the potential horse trailer rental places and finding out that they wouldn't let us rent (I have a supped up Suburban but its only a 1/2 ton - even though it has great springs, electric brakes, chip, large radiator - ooops, back to the story), we found a gal in Cotati that hires out/hauls horses and didn't charge us too much (what she could/should have) to get them home. I guess Karen understood that having to replace an axle is a bit expensive and was quite . She brought our boys all the way to Gilroy, her and her husband THAT NIGHT (arriving about 9:00 p.m.). Amazing, simply amazing. . . so many things could have turned out far worse and yet we were back home, safe and sound (yeah, we even hauled the trailer home on 3 wheels after having all the remaining bearings greased, packed and brakes checked). But for the grace of God and a lot of wonderful people, it could have been a whole lot worse.

My brain stopped functioning about 11:30 p.m. and I finally called it a night. Dick said something to me about 'functioning' and it literally went right over my head (until the next day!!). Looking back I can only say that when the going got tough, wonderful people stepped up and helped us out . . feed us (thanks again Marci and the other volunteer for that sandwich) and made us feel welcome (Monte, Karen and the car wash guy). My faith, not that it had left me mind you, was really restored!!!~~~

Lessons learned? Semi annual check on the brakes and bearings (they were done a year ago), AND, equally as important, be willing to always help out those in need as you may never know when "it" is going to strike you. . . oh, and yes, I could definitely take some charm school lessons from DICK!~!

Y'all take care now, see you on the trails or on Ridecamp. . .

~Sandy, Tally and the rest of the growing brood!!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Hopkins Creek Ride Story - Maggie Mieske

Saturday, June 19

Hopkins Creek has been dry and hot and nasty since it moved from its original October debut in 1998 to June. But not this year. This year, the weather was perfect. The temperature cooled off and the humidity wasn't too bad either. This trail has been our nemesis at times. Malik and I have both been injured at this ride due to accidents. He with I aboard during his first year out and I aboard my first horse, Jonathan on our first year out. Last year, Malik was lame at the very end of the 50 miles. Two years ago, Jenny finished 50 miles and Max was lame. No completion for either of us those years. This year, a freak accident to Max at Grand Island which caused a minor injury to his RL tendon and to myself earlier in the week (R hamstring, almost the same as Max) changed the entire scenario for all of us. No 50 for Max and no 50 for me. So Jenny and Malik braved the dreaded Hopkins Creek trail. I can't write their ride story. Jenny will have to do that. But I will write MY story about the whole weekend. It was unusual and unusually wonderful at the same time!

We arrived in ride camp on Friday early in the day and were able to find a nice, big spot and save room for the newbies that were coming to camp with us and learn and perhaps ride. We brought along Malik, Max and Malik's daughter, Luna. My sister, Mary arrived shortly after and set up camp with another Malik daughter, Badar. (Perhaps by the end of the summer, his third 4 year old daughter, Steppin, will be ready to hit the trail with Dad and her sisters).

The Pearson family, Burt, Meg, Anna, Brita and Greta joined us with Lisa Oles and her daughter, Lauren. Our friends from the previous weekend riding excursion, Diana and Maddie Anderson also joined us on Saturday. I have to say right up front that I don't usually enjoy camping with kids but this bunch was a blast and I am willing to camp with them anytime. They are the newbies you dream about. The ones that do stuff without asking or are right there not just asking questions but pitching in, too. They brought us firewood and helped pick poop out of the pens and haul water and feed. It was wonderful because my leg was not cooperating with me. All of these people were not just talkers. They heard about distance riding, found out what they had to find out, sought the people who could teach them and followed up by reading, meeting people, volunteering and going to the rides to see what it's all about. I would also like to mention a new family that Jeanie Miller has brought into the fold, the Dennis and Jill Byard family with 3 children, I believe, whose names escape me now. They attended my clinic last month and have been helping at rides all season, learning everything they can and hoping to try the sport sometime soon. Another newbie, Staci Towersey also attended again this year, volunteering on Saturday and riding on Sunday. She attended one of my first clinics a couple of years ago and has been volunteering when she can and this time, rode her first LD ride!! WELCOME TO ALL OF THEM!!! We are delighted to have you join our family! I hope I didn't miss anybody but I think it is wonderful to have so many newbies coming into the sport!!

Anyway, Jenny was coming from Illinois with her uncle John. Uncle Dan, the water boy had business elsewhere so it was Uncle John, the taxi boy to the rescue. (THANKS, Uncle John!!). However, they hadn't shown up by 9 p.m. Or midnight. Or 3 a.m. I was worried but tried not to panic. When the alarm went off at 5 a.m., I told Nelson to go tell ride management that Malik wouldn't be starting and we would have to find a phone and starting making some calls. Well, they HAD arrived about 3:30 a.m. but never let us know!!! Of course, by now, I had hit the snooze a couple of times so it was close to 5:30 and the ride started at 6 a.m. Jenny didn’t waste time and was dressed, saddled up and ready to warm up and head out in plenty of time. I decided to help crew for the first loop and then help out where I could after that.

Crewing is different but it's fun, too. I thought I would hate not being the one riding Malik. I did but I had fun watching Jenny and Malik have fun doing what we usually do together. Nelson knows those trails and where to find his rider. It was a BLAST! I loved it!

Back in camp at the first vet check, Nelson starts getting in a hurry and is all business. He gets quite serious about this job. Uncle John was helping out and my leg was feeling pretty good and I was getting around alright. Until I tripped over a stump and it spasmed on me again. Fortunately, I was close to the back of the van and was able to grab the wipers and hold on until it passed. I ended up having to take some of the drugs the doctor gave me after all and started icing it again right away in case it started to swell. As it turned out, I think it was just a spasm as it improved all day. However, I ended up riding with Nelson for the duration of the day and not helping out at the vet check (sorry, Pam). I probably overdid it but I am glad I didn't miss anything.

To make a long story short, Jenny rode smart. She held back where she thought it was to her advantage and made up ground where she could and blasted past riders who were pushing their horses in an attempt to stay ahead of her. She had PLENTY of horse ALL day. The front runners were going incredibly fast. In fact, the winning time was slightly under 4 hours and the winner did the last ten miles in an average of 19.5 miles an hour. Incredible. Jenny finished 4th in 4 hours and 33 minutes, Malik's fastest time yet. He looked great at the end and his BC score was 744. However, it was 10 or 12 points shy of the winner's BC score.

I am so proud of Jenny and Malik. At the first vet check, when I asked Jenny how it was going, she said "Oh, my God!". I thought Malik had done something to upset her. I asked her to explain. She just said "Oh, my God, it's awesome!". I had to smile. Jenny thinks I am always holding her back. I guess I am because I have not yet let Malik really GO. And even with a time of 4:33, Jenny did not really let Malik GO. I think she has a new appreciation of the sport and of Malik, the horse who always holds her back. J

Sunday, June 20, Father's Day

Today was the Father's Day ride I had waited and planned for and had been so excited about. Malik on the trail with his two daughters! Wow! The culmination of FIVE years of dreaming and scheming and planning and training. It seems like yesterday that we giggled about what short, fat Cherokee would produce if bred to Malik and what he might do to tame that bulk and that head of my sister's TWH mare, Dallas. Imagine our surprise the following year to get a pretty, little, flaxen mane and tail CHESTNUT filly out of grey Cherokee and grey Malik, a BAY filly out of Dallas and a GREY filly out of the black MFT mare we owned at the time. Talk about an assortment! And here we are, at the rides, having done our homework with two of them and finishing up homework on the third who may yet make it to a ride this year. Awesome. Just awesome. Just when I think I have experienced the greatest ride yet, I have another one.

The Oles and Pearson family were not confident about going out and doing 25 miles yet but agreed to let daughter, Brita be sponsored by me and to ride Max, who was ready for 25 but not 50 yet. Bringing him along was an afterthought but am I ever glad we did! Diana and Maddie were game to give it a try and so we tacked up late on Sunday morning and waited for the hot shoes to head out. Right away, there was trouble. Diana's horse, Joey (who Diana describes as the "prima donna"), had about enough of all the excitement and after having a Thoroughbred moment which resulted in his falling down and on top of Diana's ankle, decided to leave camp for other regions. I tried to chase him down and managed to keep him in sight, shouting WHOA, Joey, WHOA! He slowed down and actually stopped and when he saw us coming along, started trotting along again as if he were quite ready to begin now. Uncle John and Lisa Oles came along in the truck and I went back to camp and let them catch him which they did. We finally got started but Joey had broken his bridle so Diana and Maddie insisted we start without them and they would catch up with us down the trail. So, finally at 6:30, we were on our way.

Malik was pretty excited to be on trail with his buddy and one of "his" mares. Mary had gone on ahead at 6:00 with the other riders so it was just the three of us on Max, Malik and Luna. I was happy to be on trail again. I have missed the green of the woods and the smell of ozone in the early morning air. My sweatshirt only lasted about two miles before I tossed it back to Meg Pearson and Nelson as they passed us on their way to the first pit stop. It was chilly but exhilarating.

We encountered Larry Kirk, sports photographer at one of the pit stops and he took some FANTASTIC photos. I hope we see him again soon!! My leg held up quite well, especially when we were moving out at a trot or canter. Walking seemed to make it stiff and it would hurt a bit until we got moving out again. The horses paced well. Max took the lead as he is wont to do and showed Brita what a good endurance horse is like and I do believe showed her a really great time! Brita never whined once. Max gave her one big spook at one point and that girl's butt never left the saddle!!! WOW! I am mightily impressed and sure hope I get to sponsor her again sometime!! I have a hard time remembering her name so she told me I could call her "Bob" which is her nickname at school. The spook gave me the first opportunity to use it when I told her "Good job, BOB!". I won't forget her name again now!

Luna was a wonder. We encountered scores of things she has never dreamed about let alone seen!!! Wooden bridges and running creeks to name the most daunting. Malik and Max showed her the ropes and she went right on with business. What a filly! (I still have trouble thinking of her as a mare…she's a "filly" to me yet). Her only trouble was not wanting to drink. Fortunately, following the advice of Dr. Susan Garlinghouse as I have for the last several years, and having tanked her up all weekend on wet sloppy beet pulp slurries, she was well hydrated and perhaps didn't really need to drink. But she would go into the water and rinse her mouth. She had all As at the first check and slurped up her slurry without complaint or hesitation though she did not drink. Thank God for beet pulp slurries!!!

Heading into the first vet check we caught up with Diana and Maddie. They had gone off trail. Joey wasn't doing so well and it appears banged up his shoulder during his "moment". They followed us into camp and pulled. They wouldn't let Maddie continue on with me for the ten mile loop. She had already gone off trail. L Maddie didn't cry (though I wanted to cry for her) but she gallantly pitched in and helped trot out our horses and crewed with Nelson on the last loop. I look forward to sponsoring Maddie ANY time if her mom isn't able to for awhile. She is a great kid, too and I am sorely disappointed for her and for her mom's rotten luck. Unfortunately, it's all a part of the game and we have all been there at one time or another. Hopefully, they've used up theirs for awhile and will come again another day that will hook them into distance riding forever!! They have the horses that can do it!!

We headed out on the last ten miles. Luna and Brita had never gone this far before. They trucked right along. No complaints from Brita and no refusal or balking from Luna. I am really proud of both of them!

We walked in the last mile to come in with our horses' pulses down. All three horses looked and acted like a million bucks. When we pulsed down, we discovered that Luna was tenth and Mary had also come in top ten on Badar earlier. Maybe not much to some but for two green horses, 4 year olds, I think the experience we had was exactly what LD is about and though neither of them won BC, they "won" and made us proud just in the doing of it. Being able to see their BC scores was a big help. Luna needs to work on drinking (though she still had an A on hydration at the end!) and trotting out and circles and Badar needs to work on syringing into her mouth and getting her capillary refill and mucous membranes checked. Brita needs to come and ride with me again and we need to fix her up with water on the saddle. She didn't much like a fanny pack. Jenny has to toughen up if she thinks she can do 5 fifties in a row at Shore to Shore. J She will. And I have to rethink seriously the rest of my ride season. I can't reinjure that hamstring. The doctor told me I couldn't ride 75 miles (as had been the original plan) and I didn't do that (I only rode 25). But that may be all I can ride this year and I may have to forego Shore to Shore for another year. It galls me and makes me want to cry but Nelson is right. What good does it do me to take such good care of Malik so he can still be going down the trail when he's twenty if I don't take enough good care of myself so I can be the one going down it with him? It bites, that's for sure!

So, Jenny will be on Malik in some of the upcoming rides. Maybe if Max is not ready, she will do all or part of the Shore to Shore on him. Maybe I can do a couple of 25s and still ride into Lake Michigan with Jenny on the Shore to Shore. Maybe I can be ready to ride 50 at Tin Cup Springs and win a third BC in a row there in September. That will all depend on many things. But we will still be at the rides, even Shore to Shore. We have made some wonderful new friends and on a positive note, all those who did not get to go out on the trail or finish, went out and rode part of the ten mile loop including the bluffs that overlook the Au Sable River. Diana hopped on Max and had a jiggle, jiggle ride. After her big Thoroughbred, Joey, riding an Arab must have been a humorous experience for her! But she came back all smiles as they all did. Lisa Oles took her daughter and the other Pearson girls out with them. Brita was quite willing to stay in camp though she never uttered a complaint! Nelson reports to me that he saw her do a little dance when she walked into camp and her family started cheering for her. J Sorry I missed that. But I did get to watch her backside for most of 25 miles and caught an occasional huge grin. That's good enough for me!

P.S. In light of the number of newbies we have had this year, Jim Yell and I have decided that we will have a ten mile novice fun ride/clinic at the Wolverine this year. Jan Kennedy is going to assist us in this and will lead the newbies out on the trail. Nelson will try to fit in a "pit crew" session for those in the family who don't ride but would like to learn and participate with the riders in the family. We have not yet decided if we will do it on Saturday or Sunday. The cost will probably be between $5 and $10 and I promise some cool stuff that newbies will be able to use. Let me know if you are interested or if you know someone who might be!! Juniors and newbies are the future of our sport!!!

Miles of Smiles,
Maggie Mieske

Monday, June 21, 2004

2004 Old Dominion: Stagg's Plan

by Stagg Newman

At Angie's encouragement, this is the first installment of the Old Dominion. This is the preface that I wrote at Jayel Super's urging. The rest of story is told by Super with a little help from Drubin and myself. Note that Super claims he is sharing some of his secrets.

On Friday evening before the Old Dominion I gave a clinic entitled "To Finish a 1-Day 100 is to Really Win" to encourage riders to try 100s. I asserted that there are 4 "P's" that are key to successfully completing one-day 100s. As you will see all of these came into play the next day, some in rather ironic ways.

The Four P’s are: Patience, Practice, Pacing, and Pulse. Will just mention some points related to these that came up during the ride.

Patience is necessary because it takes years to get a horse ready to do tough 100s. Patience is necessary you must go at your horse's pace and not get caught in riding somebody else's pace. The first 50 is just a warm-up for the second 50. Patience is necessary because no 100 will ever go exactly as planned. You must have the patience to deal with it and adjust. .....

Practice is key so that the horse is trained as well as conditioned for whatever is needed. Practice is key so that as much as possible is routine. Then one is better prepared for the unexpected. I had actually planned to practice the finish by trailering to the last check, Liberty Hall, and then trotting and galloping up over the mountain and running down the otherside to the finish so Super would be eager when we arrived at Liberty Hall. However it was raining the day before the ride and we did not want to take the trailer out so I settled for riding from the finish up to the top of the mountain and just down the otherside a little way, turning around and trotting and galloping a short ways to the top and then running down Hickerson Hollow until the last fairly flat part into the finish.

Pacing is critical if you are going to have a strong horse for the second half of the ride. I made the point that a 100 should not be ridden as a competition with other riders but as a test against the trail where one sets a pace based on the toughness of the course, the weather, the capabilities and condition of the horse .... And the pace should be set for each leg of the ride depending on how the ride is going. And no, it's not true that I was trying to convince everybody else to slow way down.

Pulse is key sign of whether the pacing is proper. The horse should be staying well within the aerobic range most of the time. This is one reason I strongly recommend riding with a heart monitor as pulse is the best indication. The other key pulse indicator is time to recover at the vet checks. Unless the weather is hot and humid, in a 100 the time to meet parameters should be just a few minutes throughout most of the checkpoints and the horse's pulse should be way under the parameters by the end of the hold period.

Before the ride Sue Greenall and I agreed to ride together. Sue was riding Charlie, owned by Maggie Price, my mentor and the breeder of my horse Ramegwa Drubin [some of you may have heard me him mention once or twice or ..... :>) ]. I was delighted to ride with Sue as Super is a horse who likes a companion, Sue is superb at pacing, and has a great sense of humor, something very helpful on a 100.

And now a CONFESSION. I did have as a goal that I had shared with very few people. No horse had ever won the Old Dominion 3 times. Super had won the Old Dominion in 1999 and then in 2001 when he finished in under 13 hours and set the course record for the course used from about 1995 to 2001. My goal was for Super to be the first horse to achieve that feat. Super, who has a very healthy Arab ego, told me he could do it and was ready. However to be consistent with what I said above about pacing, the specific goal I set given the good weather was to ride a pace of just over 8 miles an hour except for the really rocky sections such as Habron Gap and Sherman Gap. That would put me on a pace similar to 2001 :>) .

2004 Old Dominion: Super's Story

Jayel Super (owner of Stagg Newman)

The start: I was happy Stagg had arranged for me to ride with Charlie, who is a good guy. We had camped together at the Pan Ams but did not ride together. I told Stagg I did NOT want any of this B.S. of doing 70 miles alone over this rock pile they call the Old Dominion like we did in 1999. I wanted company like in in 2001 only all the way. Since Charlie was to be my buddy for the ride, I decided to be nice early in the ride (well at least relatively nice) and more or less make Stagg think I was listening and willing to go out at a reasonable pace.

Of course at OD we do the first 1/2 mile or so on a paved road behind Henry's pace car. Stagg sings Kum Ba Ya to try to calm me. Boy does he not know how to carry a tune. Calming - Hah! Then we start the climb up Hickerson hollow.

Like usual we were near the front after doing the first 1200 foot climb at a slow but steady pace, in fact slower than usual. When we get to the top of the mountain the course is very inviting to fly down the mountain and I am ready to do that. But Stagg won't let me. He keeps mumbling (he does mumble a lot) about some guy named Matthew MacKay Smith saying "Never hurry, never tarry." So now I no longer even fight him (well not much) while all of these other horses come flying by us thinking they are going to make good time early. So of course most of the horses in the ride passed us before we got to McCoy's Ford (12 miles) out. Of course we always an lose an additional minute or so 'cause Stagg has to pee so often. But's it's fun doing circles around him while he tries to maintain his composure.

Crossing the Shenandoah River is the early morning light is really cool in more ways the one. This year is was cooler than normal cause the water was up to my belly due to the rains! And the milk jugs to mark the crossing had been swept away!! But I was smart enough to get Stagg across the river without getting in trouble unlike the horse who gave its rider a good bath. Then it was my turn to pee in front of the vets at the fly by. Nice color, good volume of course. Most of the other horses were now ahead of Charlie and me.

Charlie and I kept up a good steady pace going up Morgan's Trail (Stagg said Col. Morgan cut that at the direction of G. Washington in case the colonial army had to retreat from the British - I said Col. Morgan cut trails for mules not horses). We passed all of the other horses going up the mountain and across the ridge line as I am pretty good at dancing along the rocks and Charlie stayed right with me. Of course I did not tell Stagg we had passed all of the other horses and he can be clueless at times.

Stagg and Sue came into the first vet check (25 miles) in just under 3 hours. They looked around and asked where all of the other horses were. Charlie and I just laughed as we knew we were leading even though they did not. Sue and Stagg checked our pulses. They should not have bothered. We knew we were already down.

During the check Stagg made his first mistake. He was too busy feeding his face and running his mouth. He did not check the map for the next loop even though I thought I had trained him to always do that. But he's damn hard to train. Cheryl (Stagg's wife and my crew) told Stagg that he went out the way he came in but Stagg asked the out-timer which way to go who pointed to a set of ribbons in the OD color pattern going out in a different direction. I smelled trouble.

We left the first check point the same way we had in prior years and got a couple miles away when Sue said something looked funny. Stagg claimed we were going the back way up to Milford's gap. Then a couple minutes later he said some words that I will not repeat, got out the map and we turned around. It was funny as horses kept coming towards us. Stagg would point in back down the trail from which they came, shout something and they would turn around and follow us. After a couple of miles, Charlie and I had collected all of the horses in the ride and were leading them back to the Vet check like a troop of cavalry horses. Sort of cool in a way but Stagg did not seem to be amused. We had just done an extra 4 to 5 miles (at the OD!). And of course all of the other horses had done less extra mileage as they turned around as we met them heading back into camp. Stagg hollered for the Station Head that they were sending all of the horses out the 75 mile trail, not out the 100 mile trail. Then we headed back up the Massanutten in the right direction.

The rest of the way to the second vet check Charlie and I just cruised along with a couple of other buddies over new trai and some road. I like new trail. This was neat trappy up and down stuff without big rocks but good tough work. We did trot right over a rattlesnake in the road. But a car had already removed any threat from that particular crittur by running over it first.

As we got a few miles from the vet check I saw hoofprints ahead of us which roused my suspicions. When we got to the vet check, there were 4 horses that Charlie and I had passed on the climb up over Milford Gap. Turned out that after coming down from Milford Gap the riders made the guys turn right onto the 75 mile trail in the backwards direction instead of left onto the 100 and 75 going out. Then they picked up the 100 again when it split from the 75 and got ahead of us by cutting off several miles accidentally. Felt really sorry for the chaps as their riders had missed the one critical pie plate. Heard later the riders decided not to make them go back which would have made their ride over 110 miles but rather just ride for completion.

At any rate Charlie and I came into together. Our pulses were down immediately so we went straight to the vets while our buddies took a couple of minutes longer. Then we really chowed down! as we had heard that there Haburn's Gap was a big steep climb.

After this, it seems that we got into the serious rocks. Likely they import them -- no one place on earth could really have so many rocks natively. So Charlie I climbed up the new Habron Gap trail. This new trail is quite a steep climb altho we did trot much of it.

Got exciting when I saw the snake in the trail and no place to go. Stagg said it was only a black racer. Whatever. Charlie kept his cool and we got by.

Maintained steady pace to top, across the knife edge at Jack's notch. Believe they have added rocks since '01 on this trail! So we cruised into Hickory Lane. Again our pulses were down as soon as they took them (this was true at every check point all day since day was cool and we were just cruisin'). About 20 minutes later several of our buddies that we had left at last check point came in.

Just one word for the section from Hickory Lane to Edinburg Gap. BORING. 1 full hour of steay trotting on the long gravel climb up the mountain. Drubin had told me he once saw a bear in the middle of the road. At least that would have added some excitment. Personally preferred the old trail through the valley but heard the ATVs have torn it up too much.

Then Charlie and I did the steep climb out of Edinburg Gap on the ATV Trail to Little Fort. This next section of trail was OK in 2001 but now the ATVs have stripped the top soil so it was really rocky. Met lots of ATVs.

A few miles from Little Fort, my left front shoe came off. As soon as we hit some fresh gravel I let Stagg know by bobbing my head. He said some of those words again. Then got easy boot on. I was then OK and we headed on into Little Fort check. Took us almost two hours from E Gap to Little Fort because of all the rock. Ugh!

Got thru vet check right away even with easy boot on and then had to get shoe put on. No farrier truck at check point which was bummer so we had to walk up hill to meet farrier. Stagg got up tight as we left vet check about 10 minutes after scheduled to do so and other riders had come in. Charlie was nice enought to wait for me. I really like Charlie.

When we left the Little Fort Vet check, I could tell Stagg wanted to move out since the other horses were only about 15 minutes behind. With a new shoe on I felt fine. And since Charlie and I had been taking it easy we were ready to go. So we cruised up the gravel road to the Fort Powell campground. Then lots more rocks where Charlie (actually on orders from Sue) insisted we slow down. Then we cruised down the mountain into Pickett Springs.

V4 to V5 was fastest 10 miles of day (about an hour). Went straight into P&R. Really had to chow down as Sherman's gap was next and 20 minute holds do not give much time for serious eating.

None of our buddies behind us were into the check point when we left.

Sherman's Gap. Ford Passage Creek and start climbing on nice dirt trail with occasional rocks. And then more rocks. And more rocks. And then really steep with more rocks. Stagg took me to Sherman's Gap for training two weeks before my first OD in '99. I told him if he made me do it again he was going to have to scramble over the rocks on foot on the last steep section. And I have made Stagg do that at each of the OD's I have done. Lets him know what I do for him. Charlie was good enough to lead this stretch as I had done most of the leading. Sue calls Charlie a tractor and he just trudges along. Then along the ridge and down the other side. The descent has gotten tougher. I used to dance down beside Stagg on foot. But with mud from the rain and about a 100 horses from the 50 and 75, it was a mess. So we trudged down.

When we finally got to the open road I was ready to roll. So we cruised into McCoy's Ford vet check with Charlie reminding me occasionally to not go too fast. We went straight into the check. 20 minute holds do not give much time for serious chowing down but I did find some nice alfalfa cubes that some horse had left and hoovered them.

McCoy's Ford at nite! Had never crossed the Sheandoah River at nite before but thanks to the extra 5 miles or so we did leaving V1, Charlie and I headed into the river in darkness. They had the 1/4 mile crossing marked with glow sticks in milk bottles. Really cool looking!!!

We trotted up the climb to Limeton and on to Fox Hollow, where the trail was now really well churned up as those 50 and 75 horses had gone through twice. Charlie told me he had lost a shoe in the mud. As soon as we got to the gravel road Sue figured that out. Actually she had asked Stagg if he saw anything earlier but Stagg did not figure it out in the dark (JMO but he's frequently in the dark).

Sue put an easy boot on Charlie. Stagg trotted Charlie for Sue and then vice versa. They decided Charlie was OK. Charlie agreed. We did an easy trot into Liberty Hall, the last vet check and of course went straight in.

As the vet was checking me I looked up and saw 4 of my buddies from earlier in the ride had just come 4 minutes after us. Stagg and Sue did not look pleased.

Well those other horses came into the last vet check just 4 minutes behind Charlie and I. I overheard Stagg discussing with Sue what the plan was. Sue said she had to make sure Charlie finished as she was riding Charlie for Maggie Price, Charlie's owner. And Maggie had come to the OD to see Charlie as well as her human friends. Charlie said Sue was concerned about the shoe Charlie had lost as was Charlie. They did not want to race in with an easy boot. And there was no farrier at the vet check. So Charlie and Sue agreed that Charlie would just "tractor on in".

Aside: Maggie is a dear friend of both Sue and Stagg. My best buddy Drubin was bred and raised by Maggie who sold him to Stagg. Drubin said Stagg claims Maggie taught him much of what he learned about endurance riding but Drubin says he is really the one who trained Stagg. And Maggie, who is fighting cancer, had loaned Charlie to Sue. Sue rode Charlie to a successful finish at the Pan Ams last summer. Charlie told me Sue was riding the OD for Maggie.

I could feel the excitement in Stagg as we left the check point. Charlie and I remained together for a short ways. Then it was time to move. Now all that practice of trotting and galloping up that 2000 foot climb at home paid off. We made good time to the first creek crossing. There I took a good long drink as Stagg had put more of the nasty electrolyte in my mouth at the vet check. Yecch! Twelve times in one ride. Too much. The applesause only helps so much.

Then it was on to the top of the mountain. We got to the top before Stagg realized and would have tripped over the chain across the trail as the way around the chain was not marked by glow sticks and there was a glow stick lined up on the other side that Stagg was focused on. However I was alert and avoided the chain. Now downhill to the Finish.

Stagg hopped off as we crossed the Skyline Drive to run down Hickerson Hollow. I actually could have gotten him down faster in the dark with hin on my back but he likes to think he is helping so I humor him. But he can't see worth a damn in the dark. He was trying to use the light from the glowsticks on my breast collar so he would not affect my night vision. Great for me but not so bright for him. The glow sticks marking the trail were sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left. I could tell but he couldn't. So he headed to the left of a glow stick on the left and went straight into a ditch. I would have given a horse laugh if I wasn't so concerned for him. At any rate we did make it down the Hickerson Hollow with lots of stumbling by Stagg but none by me as I can dance down the trail in the dark. Stagg really is a lousy dancer, just ask Cheryl.

Stagg got on me just before the gravel road past Pete Wilson's and I did my big trot on down the lane. Had to be a bit careful on the paved road but did not hear or see any horse behind. We made the final right turn onto the dirt road, the left turn by the big tree and thru the woods onto the big field. Then I trotted proundly across the field to the finish line that Henry had all lit up. I appreciated all of those folks cheering at 8 minutes before midnite.

Charlie came in about 15 mintues later. Maggie was at the finish line to see both Charlie and I finish! Those other buddies that had come into Liberty Hall were 15 mintues behind Charlie. So we had saved our fastest riding for the last 5 miles in the dark, not knowing of course that the other guys were not chasing us.

As soon as Stagg weighed, we went down to the quadrangle where my vet friend Dr. Art King was. I did my trot out for completion. Then I proudly could say I was the first horse to win the OD three times. I could tell Stagg was pleased.

A bit later Charlie did his trot out for completion. He told me he was a bit sore where he had lost the shoe but determined to complete for Sue and Maggie which he did. Charlie is one tough horse and the only horse that I have ridden with that matched me at every hold on recoveries. I like Charlie and hope to ride with him again.

The last piece of business that nite was the Best Condition trot out at one hour. I felt good and so did a nice big trot as Art likes that. Stagg told me later that I there is a nice silver bowl on his mantle for OD high vet score to go with my Best Condition blanket. I am still waiting for him to serve me dinner in the bowl.

That's it. Am now on summer vacation! To my equine buddies hope to see you after the summer.

So long and happy trails,

Jayel Super.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Happy Newbies Horse and Ride - Dean Conti

Jimmy (he’s the horse) and I are definitely members of the Newbie Division of Endurance Riding. I essentially knew nothing about it until attending the PAC 2003 when I crewed for the Kanavys (a friend of mine, Erwin, has one of their horses). It became obvious to me by the end of the weekend I would have to give this thing a try. So this past weekend I just completed my first ride, a 25 mile LD (BTW it’s fine with me they are not endurance miles), at the Klickitat Trek. So now I would like to make a few observations and ask a bunch of questions. I will then shrink into the background to continue my knowledge absorption. (Or is it adsorption? A little vet help here).

The boring (but possibly necessary) details of our first ride so perhaps someone can answer my questions and make suggestions (and others can learn from my mistakes):

My background is from mountain climbing and backpacking, but the knees are not what they use to be. (Yes, I was one of those dreaded horse-eating pack carriers)! So five years ago our family (wife and two daughters) brought horses into our lives (happily including the 4H thing). The horses are at the house and we have access to a nice 14 mile loop trail from there. Two years ago we purchased a four horse trailer so we could start exploring some of the tremendous trails that are in this area (Seattle). Some of the mountain trails we ride gain 2000 vertical feet in 2 miles of length, so good conditioning just happens (nothing like sitting on the horse at 7000’ in the Alpine Lake Wilderness).

Based on suggestions gleaned from RC, I added faster flat conditioning rides to prepare Jimmy, a registered 15.3H, 12 year old Quarterhorse (he was raced early in his life and is built more like a TB). So after a quick 15 miler warm-up and a few off days we headed down to Mt Adams.

Ride day brought what could arguably be called perfect horse weather. Temperature upper 50’s to lower 60s. A little sun, then mostly cloudy with a little rain but a lot of fine mist (comparable to what the NFL uses on the sidelines for hot games). Overheating was never a problem (except for the riders under their rain coat). So my friend Erwin and I stayed away from the start and let the first group go before starting. We trotted the first 11 mile loop and fortunately our horses were willing to allow others to pass without any (big) problem. We walked into camp and both horses quickly pulsed down. After a little coaxing, Jimmy drank and ate well, but not voraciously.

One strange thing did happen. Erwin’s horse, an Arab, went from dry to white foam on the chest in a matter of a minute or two. We were doing an easy trot on fairly flat ground and with no pressure from another horse (at least the humans didn’t notice any). His horse wasn’t showing any signs of distress and then almost as quickly he dried back out. Did we just miss something that he saw that made him nervous (and could that cause that type of reaction)?

Per plan the second loop was at a faster clip, with a considerable amount of cantering. We ended up in a group of four others (with another QH setting the pace). There were plenty of water crossings and Jimmy drank at about half of them. Everything was going along smoothly until we were doing a fairly fast canter down a slight hill when one of my stirrup leathers came off the saddle and it fell completely off. I’m not a good enough rider to sit what we were doing, so I ended up bear hugging Jimmy’s neck with both arms to stay on, and thus unable to slow him down (even though I still had the rains in my hands) . Fortunately the rider in front of us, Jill, noticed the change in beat and started to slow her horse down (who was not particularly interested in listening since Jimmy didn’t seem to mind my hanging onto his neck and thus was keeping the pressure on). So at a slightly slower canter I bailed off (instead of waiting to fall off), and fortunately we both kept the wheels down as we skidded to a stop. Everyone patiently waited as Jimmy and I ran back up the hill to fetch the errant stirrup.

What more could happen? How about Jimmy loosing a front shoe minutes later (on the same side as the problem stirrup), and not having an EasyBoot (forgot to put the darn thing in the cantle bag). But never fear, Jill again to the rescue! I never saw this wonderful person before she passed me halfway through the second loop. Yet here she was off her horse and offering me her EasyBoot as the other riders continued on. She stayed until it was fitted and then we continued on, reclaiming our positions in the ride. I dismounted and we ran side by side the last couple hundred yards to the finish (if I was the horse, I would have been pulled in an instant). Jimmy needed 10 minutes to pulse down, giving us a 3:12 ride time. He did the drink/eat/poop/pee thing well, so we did a light 10 mile ride the next day before going home.

# 1) The farrier has noticed that Jimmies feet are not growing that fast (and he tends to throw shoes). He has not had any lameness problems (yet), but I am concerned. He wears shoes year round since we ride during the winter. The horses get Eastern Washington timothy hay, Strategy grain and salt supplements year round, and plenty of Western Washington pasture from April to November (mud the rest of the year). What supplements have others used that best helps promote hoof growth?
# 2) I got my Vet and BC cards back and suppose I should be able to learn something about my horse from the pre/post ride deltas and overall score (596). How can I learn from them?
# 3) How different will my horse react when we do a ride on a warmer/hot/humid day?
# 4) How should I work electrolytes into my program as I work up to a 50 miler, and hopefully a 100 miler?
# 5) How much more cautious should I be with Jimmy since he is a Quarterhorse as opposed to an Arab?
# 6) Jimmy lightly clipped the inside of his hind legs (at the fetlock?). What is the best boot/wrap to protect this area (the vet said it was fairly common problem), that won’t cause chafing?

Lessons I learned:
# 1) Stop and help someone if they need it. Your turn needing assistance is just around the corner.
# 2) If you know something is wrong with your equipment, fix it. The stirrup had come off once before. Even though it is coming off because I am not a smooth enough a rider, it needs to be fixed so it CAN NOT fall off.
# 3) Ask questions. Everyone was very polite and informative. All were happy to share regardless of how ridiculous the question. This is good since I knew nothing (and at least now I know very little, which is an improvement).
# 4) Listen to your horse and pay attention to what he is trying to tell you.
# 5) There is nothing like banking through the curves on a nice soft single track trail that wanders through the forest. Just be certain to stay on the same side of the tree as your horse (At least I managed that).
# 6) Find a mentor. Erwin has graciously passed on what he has learned from the Kanavys, which made a big difference for me.
# 7) Have fun!

So we thank EVERYONE on RC for spending their valuable time to share their knowledge and appreciation for this sport and their concern for the welfare of the horse. While the temperature on RC has gotten quite high at times, there is still plenty of wonderful information for us Newbies out here. So please don’t get discouraged and sign off, even if the discussions get a little raucous or personal. Remember that it is the horse that will ultimately bear the cost of an information void.


Dean (with a 2 week old, large AERC# 33370 and sliding back into the shadows)

2004 Old Dominion: All is Well - Cindy Eyler

We didn't get a completion at the Old Dominion 50, but Jack is fine. I, however, get the dunce cap.

We warmed up in the big arena at the 4H Center from 6:00 until the start at 6:30, and Jack was amazingly calm in that increasingly crowded environment. There were about 100 horses in the 50-miler, and by the start time it seemed like most of them were in the ring with us. He immediately wanted to trot rather than walk, of course, but he was willing to do what I asked. It was a controlled start (because the first mile or so is on pavement), and we headed out about 2/3 to 3/4 back in the pack. Nice easy trot, walking in the steep and/or rocky spots, up and over Skyline Drive. It's steeper, though better footing, down the other side, and we had some disagreements about how fast we should be going in the steepest parts. Then, I let him move along with most of the other horses around us. WRONG. TOO FAST. We traveled the rest of that 12.5 mile leg to the Shenandoah River without incident. Except for when tried to act like a TB race horse -- two guys were going along side by side ahead of us, and when we came to an open area and they spread farther apart Jack spurted forward trying to shoot the gap.

The folks around us were not stopping at the few creeks, so there was no way that Jack was going to drink. He usually doesn't drink until we've done about ten miles anyway, after which he inhales water whenever it's available. I sponged him all the way across the Shenandoah (about a quarter-mile) into the first vet check at McCoy's Landing. We had done those first 12.5 miles in 1 1/2 hours. Was I concerned? No. I was so worried about not being overtime that I was thrilled. Dunce!

At the last minute, ride management had had to ban all pit crews at McCoy's because the ground was so soggy that we'd have destroyed what is actually a hay field. I had no stethoscope (wasn't riding with a heart rate monitor), so I asked for a courtesy pulse check and he was at 68 (criteria was 64). Took him back to where our crew bag had been dropped, but all he wanted was to eat a bit of alfalfa hay. Back to P&R about five minutes later and he was at 54. I was thrilled. Passed the vet check with no problems. But, during our 20 minute hold, the only thing he would eat was the remains of someone else's dumped out beetpulp/grain slurry, and there wasn't a lot of that. He did not drink, so I did not electrolyte him (he'd been getting plenty of e-lytes for the preceding 36 hours).

What should I have done at this point? Obviously, we should have stayed after our out-time until he'd drunk well and eaten more. But off we went on the next leg, over the Massanutten. He drank well a couple of miles into this second leg, and I syringed him with e-lytes. But we stayed apace with the folks around us up that friggen mountain. TOO FAST for the incline and the footing. Did I mention the rocks? At one point we were slogging over a section of trail that seemed to have only rocks and no dirt. There was a sheer drop-off on our left, though the trail was nicely wide. I was glad I'd had the farrier use borium-headed nails.

Came into the mid-point vet check at Fitchett's Field two hours later (TOO FAST), and he inhaled water from a trough. Sponged him well and he pulsed at 60. All's fine, right? WRONG. While he had excellent gut sounds, his hydration was not good. Vet said a C on skin tenting and cap re-fill. It was a 30 minute hold, so the vet kept our card and told me to bring him back in 20 minutes or so for a re-check. But during that time, HE WOULD NOT EAT! Not even carrots and apples out of my hand. When he peed, it was a deep golden color instead of the nice pale straw color I'm used to seeing. THAT scared me. Back to the vet. PULLED!

While we waited for transportation to basecamp, Jack finally did begin eating some, and he drank deeply again. Back at our campsite, his pee was again deep gold. But a couple of hours later it was the color I expect to see. He's fine. I'm an idiot.

As it turns out, we did get a completion after all for our 50 miles at the Michaux Madness ride two weeks earlier. Evidently the mileage was somewhat longer than advertised, and we finished in what should have been the allotted time. What irony!!!!


2004 Old Dominion: A Volunteer's Experience - Amanda Perez

Amanda Perez, aka Walkergirl

I cannot imagine putting on a ride like the OD. The managers have their hands full, and I hope they didn't have to go to wrk today!

It is a credit to the management that another poster said 'There wer plenty of volunteers'. At the awards ceremony, they said ony 12 volunteers had commited ahead of time, though they picked up more as people pulled. The management wisely put their efforts into making things go smoothly for the riders. That came at the expense of making things go smoothly for the vets, however. The ended up with more vets, and communications problems meant that Art King, the head vet, often did not know where his vets were. There was also some confusion at some of the vet checks, but this was not too obvious to the riders.

I have volunteered to be a vet scribe and was assigned to work with Joy Watkins. However she ended up getting shang-haied into doing treatments at the base camp (the 4-H center, a wonderful facility), and nobody, including Art King, the head vet (who drive down from Canada) knew where she was. So I ended up playing find-the-vet most of the weekend. Also, better volunteer info could have been provided. My packet did not include a schdule of events, or a map. I was able to get a rider map, which had the trail routes marked, but something similar with the road routes between the vet checks would have made my life easier, as some of the raod signs were easy to miss. In hind-sight, once I lost track of my vet I should have headed back to the office and said 'put me to work'.

I HIGHLY recommend any newbie starting out in the sport volunteer at a ride first, especially if you are, like me, not an experienced camper. I took my one-horse Brenderup trailer and my dog, Tarski Monster. For some dumb reason I actually beleived the weather forcase (raid Friday, clear the rest of the weekend) and packed lots and lots of shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Due to the rain I skipped the tent and slept in my trailer (yes, that was me tucked in beside the shelter where the dinners were served). Being near the bathrooms (REAL ones, not port-potties) was good, but being that close to the finish line did not make for easy sleeping. I think the first 100 milers began rolling in around 3 am.

It was cold booth nights, and I just about froze. I drove to the near by shopping centers to try to find a sweatshirt. Ha! Could only find one light weight long-sleeved shirt. Bought more blankets, and a mattress cover so my borrowed inflatable mattress would'ne get totally filthy with mud. I was not the only one surpirsed by the weather. Many people had no rain-sheets or coolers for their horses. Even horses used to full-time turn out got shileld standign al night in the cold rain, being unable to move around and wram up. I was told this was a factor accounting for the many tie-ups. I saw 5 pulls at the very first vet-check: three due to bad gut sounds and increased pulse int he CRI, one lameness and an injury. The injury pccured when a horse fell in the river (all the milk had washed away during th night). Both horse and rider went completely under, and she horse came up with a prety badly scraped knee. Joy, the vet I was working with, was the designated treatment vet, so I helpd her check th ehorse over. He was shivering and the rider habd no blanket,. Firtunately I had left my tack trunk in my truck, so I lent her my feleece cooler.

I saw LOTS of people putting their jackets and shirts over haunches: lesson learned: always take a rump-rug and have a cooler or blanket in the crew bag! Also, several people had nop buckets to water their horses while waiting for the ambulance wagaon. Joy Watkins kindly loned her stainless steel vet's bucket for people to use and, fortunately, got it back. although crews coudl not drive in to this stop due to muddy raod conditions, management trucked in gear for people, so a bucket coukld have been sent in. Another lesson learned.

The next time I volunteer, I will get involved earlier. I plan to offer to help out with the volunteer coordination and putting together the volunteer info packets. The management could make much better use fo their website and email to distribute info to vets, riders and volunteers BEFORE the event. Had I known where the vet-checks were ahead of time I could have visted them before hand or printed out maps from pa-quest. I also will volunteer myself and my trailer as an abulance. They had only two (I think) trailers doing abulance duty. I also have some friends who are into ham-radio and will ask them about soliciting ham radio clubs for volunteers: more radio operators would have made the head vets' life MUCH easier.

I heard someone say that there were a record number of treatments, don't know if it was true or not. One horse with colic was shipped to Morven Park equine hospital but was fine when it got there and did not need surgery. From what I heard ans saw, it seems the most common complaint was tie-ups. A surprisig number of horses pulled early in the ride, most likely from going too fast, which the cool temperatures made tempting.

All in all it was a good experience, though a wee bit disorganized. Riders in the area really should come out and support this ride: volunteer!!!! I hope I volunteer at the next OD ride, if my schedule permits. And next time I'll have more warm clothing!!!

2004 Old Dominion: A Story - Karen Williams

This weekend I did the 50-mile ride at the Old Dominion. It was my 3rd ride and first 50. My friend (crew) and I arrived at the 4-H center on Thursday (we wanted to get a good parking spot near the shopping). It was blistering hot and by the time we finished setting up camp I think we were both on the verge of heat exhaustion! She had brought a neat little mister and we sat around spraying each other and using her battery operated fan to cool ourselves off. Worked pretty good! Fortunately, we heard a front was coming through and it should be cooling off by ride time.

The "front" arrived on Friday afternoon in the form of rain, rain, rain, rain. Our great parking spot turned into the great dismal swamp. I really felt sorry for the tent campers ... I wonder just how waterpoof those things are. We spent the afternoon keeping things dry, "strategy" planning and chewing our nails. We were told at the ride briefing that no crew would be allowed at the first vet because of the rain, which about put me into a panic. Who would hold my horse when I went to the outhouse????

Saturday morning looked pretty cloudy, so I hauled out my rain gear. Might as well stay dry and warm. Thank goodness it cooled off considerably. They had a controlled start which I watched from a distance. There were about 100 50 milers, so it was quite a crowd. Once they cleared out, I left (with the drag rider right behind me). Actually, she knew me by name because we had ridden together at my first ride back in October. Nice to see a familiar face.

The ride to McCoy's and the first vet check was fairly easy. Long up and long down, across the Shenandoah river. That crossing was pretty awesome. I've only crossed creeks. The river is about a quarter of a mile wide and standing out in the middle of it in waterproof overalls was a photographer. I don't know how she can stand out there all day in the middle of the river taking pictures. Sure wish I had a picture of that! The river was about chest deep on my little 14h horse. I was really worried when we had all that rain and imagined swimming a raging river. At least we didn't see the canoers and kyakers that other people ran into. My horse gamely plowed through the water, his sights on the vet check (and dry land) ahead.

McCoy's vet check actually worked out pretty well despite having no crew. I found the hay I had sent ahead and I carried feed and electrolytes with me. Widget pulsed down immediately, ate and drank. I quickly discovered that I had just completed the easy part of the ride. We left McCoy's and rode through tons of mud churned up by the 100 horses still ahead of me. Where there wasn't mud, there was rock or rock and mud. I ride a gaited horse (Paso Fino) and the places where we could have made time were too soopy to go through at any speed, so we just went at whatever speed we could. We passed a farm where someone had put out two huge water troughs for the horses and had a cooler of water for the riders. How nice!

Then the climbing began. I've never seen so much uphill in my life. We went up and up and up and up, and just when you think you are at the top, you round a corner and there's more up and up. Poor Widget would stop, look up, look back and try to turn around and go downhill instead. I kept telling myself that this is the worst ... after the next vet check, it will be downhill back to McCoy's. Some of the views were just spectacular. You look waaaaaaaaaaaay down and see the Shenandoah river snaking through the valley.

At the next vet check (I can't remember the name) I was so happy to see my crew. They took my horse, got him eating and drinking, got me eating and drinking. No problems getting through the check. I barely remember it! Anyway, I set off happily anticipating the downhill coming up. Wrong! The trail going back was more uphill!!!! Where the heck do they find all these hills. Again we climbed up and up and up over even more rock than before. More spectacular views.

At one point I came to a pie plate that said "Bog" and sure enough, right smack in the middle of the trail was this huge pit of mud. No way around that I could see. I checked very carefully to make sure hoofprints went up on the other side of it and that no ears were sticking out of it. Looked like it hadn't sucked down any horses, so we slogged through -- it was over my horse's knees (he's only 14h). So anyway, I'm looking (and praying) for some downhill - please!! Be careful what you pray for -- the downhill finally appeared and it was scarier than the uphill! No dirt -- just rock. At one point my horse stopped dead in the trail, looked down, and clearly said "No WAY I'm going down that!!" I got off and tried to lead him down, but he refused to budge, which was probably a good thing because if he had gone, he would have most likely landed right on top of me. I got back on and he immediately tried to do a rollback (no room to turn around) and head in the opposite direction. Nope -- I told him, we have to go down there. He finally heaved a huge sigh and plunged down the hill. I spent the next half hour or so praying that his shoes didn't slip. We finally got past the really bad rock into more sucky mud. I didn't think we'd ever make it back to McCoy's. In fact, I was so sure we would be over time that I stopped frequently to let him graze and drink. We finally came into McCoy's (dead last) and to my surprise, they vetted him through, and after our hold sent us on our way! I again met up with my friendly drag rider who led the way back across the Shenandoah.

We had 7 miles to our last vet check and this time I was definitely over time. I was almost to the check when I heard someone call my name. Turning around in the road I saw my truck and my crew -- all loaded up and on their way back to base camp! They were told I was pulled at McCoy's and the ambulance was taking my horse back to camp, so they were leaving. They were pretty shocked to see me coming up the road. Thank goodness we ran into each other. We got Widget watered and fed and checked by the vets. It was only 4 more miles back to the 4-H center and I wanted to ride it rather than be trailered back. He pulsed right down and was deemed fit to continue, so Suzanne (the drag rider and now my best buddy) and I headed back to base camp.

She and I discussed whether we should race to the finish, decided "nah" so we just trotted/gaited in waving our arms, shouting YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!! .... our friends were clapping and cheering ... it was pretty cool. I was an hour or so over time, but we completed 50 miles -- a distance neither myself or my horse has never done before. Widget was tired and had some foot soreness from all the rocks (definitely pads if I ever do this again), but no puffiness, no muscle soreness that I could find. He was out galloping around the field with his buddies after we got home this afternoon.

All in all .. it was a wonderful weekend. If I had planned a trail ride, and it had rained all the previous afternoon and all the previous night I would have said "forget it", rolled over and gone back to sleep. But there I was, so I might as well get up at an ungodly hour and go ride in whatever is out there. I met lots of wonderful people, made some new friends, reconnected with old friends ... Life is good!

Karen Williams Spotsylvania, VA