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,