Tuesday, July 27, 2004

NASTR 50 - Lessons Learned - Crysta Turnage

Aaron Turnage

The NASTR 50 would be my horse Sinatra's and I third
attempt at a 50-miler this season. We had
successfully completed 135 miles of LD and one 50 in
the 2003 season of our first year of endurance riding.
Due to saddle-fit issues, and money and time
constraints, we had not done a 50 since July upon
starting the year. So far we had 35 miles at Rides of
March before a pull for lameness (slight muscle pull)
and had successfully completed 50 miles at the Upham's wonderful High Desert Classic I in April. Sinatra had done wonderfully at this ride and finished with plenty of energy and time to spare. NASTR would be our next attempt at getting a 50 under our belt.

One of my biggest problems is often trying to do too
many things at once. What that usually means is that
only one or two things are done well and everything
else gets sort of half-assed. In this case, I think
the care and time I usually devote to RIDER
preparation prior to a ride was sorely neglected.
There was a big Western States Horse Expo in
Sacramento the weekend of the ride. I live in Reno
and my mom lives in central California, we made plans
to meet Thursday night and go to the Expo in
Sacramento, which is about a 2-hour drive for both of
us. I worked a full day Thursday and it was after 7
pm by the time we were checked into our hotel room in Sacramento. We had a late dinner at the nearby mall
(hamburgers) and then stayed up WAY to late talking
and planning what we wanted to see the next day.

Sleep was restless and not very good being in a
strange bed. I couldn't get the right temperature and
woke up feeling tired. Not a great start to what I
knew was going to be a long day. We had breakfast in
the coffee shop and then went to the Horse Expo.
Abbreviated version was the Expo was WONDERFUL but I
was dehydrated and full of junk food as I left at 7 pm
to begin my 2-hour drive home. Luckily my mom was
headed to her sister's house in Nevada City and was
following me up the I-80 because about 5 miles before
Auburn, my Blazer started smoking REALLY bad! I
pulled off the road and there was a big puddle of oil
that had been blown out of my exhaust pipe, never a
good sign. So we called AAA and waited for about an
hour and a half before the tow truck driver showed up.
The tow truck driver was really nice and crawled
around under my car with a flashlight. As luck would
have it, the oil drain plug had come loose and that is
where the oil was coming from. Since I had pulled
over shortly after it had started smoking, the oil
level was fine and I was able to drive home with no
more problems. Unfortunately, instead of being home
around 9 pm as I had planned, it was now 12:30. = (

4:00 rolled around way too soon. The NASTR ride was
being held in Palomino Valley, less than half an hour
from my barn, so I had the luxury of trailering out
that morning. The ride started at 6:00 and I had
mistakenly believed that 2 hours would give me plenty
of time. Since I had gotten home late the night
before, I made a quick lunch for myself and darted out
the door. At stop at the gas station provided fuel
for the truck and drinks for me. Off to the barn, a 5
minute drive, and the challenge of hooking up the
trailer in the dark, by myself. That took MUCH longer
than expected and I grabbed Sinatra and off we went,
already a quarter till 6.

Sinatra ate the whole way in the trailer and at the
ride site while I saddled. He had been grained and
received his soaked mashes with electrolytes from the
trainers while I was gone the last two nights, so I
didn't worry about that at least. I quickly saddled
and went to the registration trailer. I signed in,
received my rider packet, and vetted through. All of
the other 50's had left by then; it was 6:30, a full
half hour after the official start time, by the time I
was mounted and heading out. = (

Poor Sinatra, he didn't know if he was in a ride or
not. He thought he was when we got to camp, but now
we were out on the trail by ourselves, with no one in
sight. He was being pretty sluggish, not wanting to
walk out and trotting really slow. I took advantage
of the pace to study my ride map. We had a 28-mile
loop with a quick trot-by at 20 miles, before
returning to camp for an hour hold. Then it was a
17-mile loop with a 15 minute hold before that last
5-miles that essentially went "around the block" from
ridecamp. This first loop was supposed to be pretty
difficult with a long climb in the first half. So
Sinatra and I trudged along, me pushing him at times
in order to maintain a 6 to 7 mph pace. And we started
to climb...

Slowly at first, just a gentle slope, but it kept on
going, and going, and going. Soon we were in a
canyon, following a little natural stream headed the
opposite direction. After several miles (about 10-12
miles in maybe) we came to a spring-fed watering
trough. Sinatra took a long drink and I sponged him.
Then the hill took a turn for the worse and was
virtually straight up for the next mile and a half or
so. Once to the top we were rewarded with beautiful
views of the surrounding valleys (hey, I can ALMOST
see my house from here!). We were at the highest
point for miles around and it was spectacular. We
started to drop slightly and followed the single-track
trail along through the canyons on top of the ridge.
In one of these canyons, a flicker of movement high
and to my right caught my eye. It was a mustang herd!

The stallion was either black or a really dark bay
and he had at least three mares with him. He started trumpeting down to us (that really loud snort they do) and Sinatra just STOPPED! NO, stupid horse, GO! He had his neck stretched to it fullest and was locked on the stallion, who was clearly agitated and running back and forth several yards in front of his mares. I was kicking Sinatra only to be rewarded with one small step, then another, still not paying attention to me.
GREAT, just what I need is a horse fight in the middle
of nowhere with no one coming behind to save me if
something went wrong. Sinatra then made matters worse
by trumpeting back at the stallion, challenging him.
That's when I lost it and started screaming at him and
slapping him with my hand on his neck as hard as I
could. It was enough to get his attention and he
promptly trotted out of there, with QUITE the spring
in his step!

This was what I needed all along, finally a horse with
some energy and forward impulsion. We easily trotted
the next couple of miles (with Sinatra and I both
checking over our shoulders every so often) until we
met up with a couple that were just getting ready to
leave a water trough. They politely asked if they
could leave and I said yes. Asked if they had seen
the mustangs and they had with no issues, luckily
since they were both riding mares, one of which WAS a
mustang. They left and I got off and took a few
minutes for Sinatra to drink and be sponged. Got his
head back on me and not the other horses (Oh Mom! Now
we have someone to chase!) and started down the trail.

This next section was single-track that ran along
side of the mountain, often with a steep drop off.
Good training for Tevis (a future dream of mine). I
didn't mind the heights and Sinatra is very sure
footed. We followed this little trail for a while
through some small up and down little hills and then
started our descent. YUCK! Steep, nasty, loose,
shale footing. I was off walking and would slide down
until I hit the end of my reins/leadrope. Sinatra's
job was to eat weeds and act as my anchor until I came
to a stop. Then he would slide down behind me as I
took off again until he stopped to grab another bite.
We looked like a dysfunctional slinky I'm sure but it
worked. It took a LONG time to get down this hill but
with the footing I just didn't want to ride it.

At the bottom was what would have been our trot-by.
Instead there was a friendly volunteer with a trailer
for those who rider optioned and a water tank but no
vets. She was with two riders who had pulled and they
were happy to hear I was last and no one was behind
me. Sinatra took a good long drink and then we
started the unseemingly long trot on the hard packed
dirt road to camp. We had to ride through the swarms
of Mormon cricket covering the road and I took
perverse pleasure in hoping Sinatra would squish many
of them as we went. We had to ride past a farmhouse
with lush green pastures and Sinatra was very nervous
and anxious the entire time. Alligators in the grass

The trail diverted into the sage again and a hidden
little creek for another drink. This was a nice
little section and it was good to be off the road
again. Finally we caught up to the couple in front of
us again, Peter and Kari, two vets from the Redding
area if I remember correctly. Their Mustang mare was
pretty tired and they were going to Rider Option so
were walking in the last 3 miles or so to the check.
I SHOULD have gone on ahead but stayed with them, both
Sinatra and I finally glad for the company.

I reached camp again at 12:50, a full six hours and
then some since I had left. WOW! But, at least I was
nearly 30-miles done and I know the last 5 are all
flat, so how bad can the rest be right? Went to the
trailer and pulled tack. Let Sinatra eat a little as
I sponged him and then went to vet through. He was
50/44 on his CRI and had all A's except for a B on
muc. Membranes and Gut Sounds. We went back to the
trailer and I tried to care for myself. By this time,
the lack of sleep and fluids was really starting to
catch up to me. I was dying for some protein but
could hardly eat. I forced myself to eat half of my
turkey sandwich and drink 32 oz of water. I had been
drinking half-Gatorade and half-water on the trail but
still felt dehydrated. I tried to just rest and let
my stomach settle, by now I was feeling pretty sick.
But my horse was fine so after our hold I was saddled
up and headed back out.

The vet couple had both pulled at the lunch stop,
Rider Option, but I was excited to find out I was
heading out on the same loop as some of the top-ten on
the 75-mile ride that was being held in conjunction
with this. I know all of these people, Mayeroff's,
Dave Rabe, Nicole Woodson, so had a great time.
Sinatra had pretty much just poked along for the first
half so I felt like I had a fresh horse under me as we
left camp. He was so full of himself, that going down
a hill several miles out he proceeded to try to buck
me off because I was holding him back from the horses
in front of him that were already down the hill and
heading off. I stayed with him (Yeah for me!) and got
him settled again but he was pulling hard to go and
loving the faster pace. When we finally got to the
first water stop, all the horses drank well and ate
the hay that was set out for them. The Mayeroff's
left but I stayed behind to ride with Dave and Nicole,
who were going to go a little slower. We had a great
time and set off on another big climb.

On Rides of March, we had ridden this same trail but
instead of making us go up and over the big microwave
hill, they kindly led us around. Not so at the NASTR
ride (this is supposed to be a good conditioning ride
for Tevis, Hal Hall won and got BC on the 75). Up and
up and up we went yet again. It was so nice to be
riding with someone though and Dave and Nicole were
setting a great pace except for several long stops
since Nicole was starting to not feel so well either.
We finally made it to the top and hiked down the
gently sloping other side, Sinatra was eating
everything in sight as we went. Down to the bottom
and the next water stop, by now it is after 4 pm and
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to make it.
I have about 7 miles back to camp, a 15-minute hold,
and then 5 more miles to do in slightly less than 2
hours. No big deal some might say, but I have a young
horse, in only his second season, and by this time I
was thoroughly TRASHED.

We watered the horses and then I left off by myself on
the "short-cut" for the 50's since the 75's had a few
extra miles tacked on to this loop. I tried to get
Sinatra to lope some so I could relax some of my
muscles, but he his a trotting horse by nature and
takes more work to make lope. We cruised along
towards the next water and I thought there were
actually some horses in front of us. Sinatra was
being spooky about some dirt bikes and stuff since we
were by ourselves again (horse-eating fences and such)
so this section was actually what probably put me over
the edge. By the time we got to the water, I could
see that there were two riders up the trail. We set
off to catch them. As I got closer, they started to
trot. I wanted to yell, "I'm only a 50!" in case they
were the front-runners on the 75. I didn't want them
to think I was racing for a placing. Eventually I
caught up to them and realized they were riding the 50
as well!

They could not have been more surprised. They were
sure they were the last ones out. We started talking
and I was VERY pleased to meet Gretchen and Merri from Bridgeport. In fact, this is the same Merri that went to Egypt earlier this year and whose stories I eagerly awaited reading in Ridecamp! We all decided that time was against us at this point and to just walk in from here. There is not sense in racing two young horses (Gretchen and mine), plus Raffiq felt off to Merri.
So we happily chatted our way back to camp, arriving
at 6:05 pm, five minutes after the cut-off with a hold
and 5-miles that would not be accomplished today.
Although I'm disappointed I'm now 2 for 4 in my
50-miler attempts, I certainly can't blame this one on
anyone by myself. I started late, I took my time when
I should have paced better, and I didn't take care of
myself and was hindering my horse. Sinatra vetted out
great at the finish, 50/50 CRI and all A's, I had a
TON of horse left. I am happy with my decision not to
push him once I realized I would have had to really
rush. I certainly don't condition at those speeds yet
(10 mph for several miles) that would have been
necessary in order to finish the ride. It would not
have been fair to ask that after already traversing
40+ miles of difficult trail.

So, chalk this one up to lessons learned. At least I
know we'll be better prepared next time. Our next
ride will be in September, wish us luck at our 5th
attempt! Hopefully we'll have 150 miles to our credit
soon. =)

Crysta and CT's Sinatra

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Vermont 100 - The Whole Story - Bill Rice

Well since you asked...here's the whole story.

For those of you that do not know me, let me preface this tome with a little background. Two years ago I was a happy Ultrarunner who thought my wife's horses were very nice and yes I would feed them if she couldn't but who otherwise did not have a lot of use for a horse. Then while taking a little stroll through the hills of Vermont lo and behold here come horses riding the same course as I was running and surprise the riders and horses were also having fun. Well I finished that little stroll in the woods, went home and informed my wife that I had finally found a use for a horse, that you could wear running clothes, that I wanted to learn how to ride and needed to buy myself some horses and that I was going back to Vermont to ride the course.

My wife is the most wonderful person on this planet and has to be one of the most understanding people I know, but even she was not quite prepared for that announcement. After the shock had subsided and she realized that like many of my crazy undertakings, I was serious about this she wholeheartedly agreed to help me. I of course had no idea what I was in for, I mean after all you get on the horse and ride, just like running they say go, you put one foot in front of the other for 100 miles and someone tells you to stop and you fall down, moan in pain and proclaim how much fun it all is! Needless to say it was not quite that simple...first I had to learn how to ride...a painful endeavor if there ever was one. Then I had to buy a horse, again my gratitude to my wife for knowing which horse I really needed, instead of which horse I thought I needed! Then the riding had to proceed...enter here the numerous and wonderful people of CTR/Endurance...how can I thank you all for what you have given? Irving, Tom, Kathy, Janet, Sharon, Traci, Liz the list goes on and on. Not only did you all suffer from my numerous questions, laugh at my feeble attempts to stay on the horse, but you encouraged and supported and realized that I had a goal and was committed.

So two short years later here I was back on the ground in Vermont, surrounded by all my running friends (who while insane...figured I was really insane for being on a horse). Along side were Kathy, Liz on Darby and a host of others I have had the pleasure of meeting over the last two years and most importantly of all, my beautiful wife smiling and wishing me a good ride! Trails open and Liz and I were off, not dead last but definitely back of the pack...a nice leisurely start and a good beginning. The sun was painting the eastern sky and the birds were singing, the horses were having so much fun, I think I was the only one worried...after all 100 miles is a 100 miles. Soon enough the lady's horse in front of me tripped and over the reins she went..no harm and she jumped right back on, both Liz and I were impressed to say the least. Away she sped...and we too picked up the pace a little as our first fly by was at 10 miles and we only had 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there.

Now one good thing about running a course is you get to know it REAL well, I mean in intimate detail. So I was able to describe to Liz when we could go fast and where the runner's aid stations would be and how soon we would catch the runners (they get a one hour head start). And right on the predictions we came to the aid stations and caught the back of the pack runners. We also came to the second runner's station at mile 10.1 and looked everywhere for the fly by. Oh no, we missed it or did we and where in the heck is it if not at 10 miles? Keep going, but if we do we will cross the river and then will be at 12.7 miles and time was running out...we had planned to take at least 1 hour and 30 minutes and had only 15 minutes to spare. Time to go a little faster Summer you magnificent goober! By the aid station and around the bend, there is Stephanie smiling and waving and yes the fly by but at mile 13 not 10, still made 1 hour and 45 minutes but wow!

Eat Summer, drink Summer, have an electrolyte Summer, we are outta' here...first hold still down the road but now the time was going to work in our favor providing the mileage was right (and it was). We continued to trot up the hills and down. Liz and Darby were having fun and Summer and I continued our dance with them. So many runners and all having fun and telling me to give them a lift and what was I doing up on that horse...you runners are so awesome, how well I remember the climb that just keeps going up and the drive to keep moving...somehow on Summer it was surreal and yet so real. Hey Liz just up here we get to a clear cut be sure and look back over your shoulder...what a view...fantastic, and yes that is Mt. Ascutney...we will be down there later today. Into the first hold and both Summer and Darby sail though...cleared back on trail. Yippee we get to pass the runners again. How is it going all? Yep good day, life is good, yes I love my horse and no you cannot be towed :-) River coming up, take the ford but Liz, we go slow by the next aid station (the famous chocolate chip runners station). Hi, I know we are not runners but will you kindly share a couple of your cookies with us riders? You will, my thanks to you all! Yum yum were they good...of course the photographer is just ahead and both Liz and I had a mouth full of cookies when he said smile!

On to the second hold, the miles are starting to add up and the day is getting hotter and more humid, but right on schedule there it is and so is Steph...what a joy to see her smiling face and know Summer was going to be taken care of so well. Once again Summer and Darby sail through...how can one ever thank the vets and volunteers enough? Back on course and now the famous back loop out of Camp 10 Bear and the also famous climb from hell, two actually, first it is Agony Hill (Summer agreed) and then the real climb from hell it just never ends! But yes it does end after all and the view back over one's shoulder is worth the price of admission! Third hold coming up...pulse is good, but Doug our good vet says, that horse is going a little funny, come back when you are tacked up. Time to panic..is Summer off or is he being Summer (this boy travels funny for sure). Tack up and trot down and back...here's your card, Summer has all A's for metabolics is eating and drinking and peeing up a storm so you can proceed. Back down to 10 Bear then up the gulch from hell (I always hated that climb when afoot especially since it was always dark when afoot). Finally the top and Liz comments on the beautiful home on the right...told her I had never seen it in the daylight before! Into the hold and Summer does well. Meg Sleeper gives Summer a good going over and clears us onward...yippee 70 miles gone and even though we are in last place Liz and I can proceed. Ah the best laid plans of mice and men! Poor Liz is not feeling well and pulls herself...Summer and Darby look at each other and nod, Liz's health is more important. Well Summer looks like it is going to be you and me. Say what? You crazy human all the other horses are gone, it is getting dark and why are you putting on running shoes? Lani and Kathy, Summer says next time please wait or at least leave your horses behind! Steph looks at me and says, well you have been here before, you know what you have to do your horse knows what he has to do so go out and do it! Got it!

Out of the hold and the daylight is fading fast. Good some runners ahead we are still on course and still moving. Soon enough it is dark, and I mean DARK. Now everyone told me to not blind the horse, so I put a couple glow sticks on his breast collar and they are blinding me. I was using my red LED but that was just about worthless. Guess I will trust the horse even more. And so the miles were slipping by. Look Summer another glow stick ahead lets go that way and yes those are runners do not run over them. Kept getting nice comments...wow a horse, haven't seen one of those for hours...thanks! Keep moving, what is that noise? Screeching...the hair is standing up on the back of my neck and Summer is saying no damn way! Come on buddy lets go, it won't hurt us...I still do not know what was up in those trees nor do I want to! More screeching only this time it is a peacock...go back to sleep it is only Summer and I. Another pit stop and there is Steph, still smiling and still crewing...we both owe her so much! Eat up Summer miles to go before we sleep. About 7 miles to next and final hold, okay be there in a while. Back into the darkness and once again all alone, no runners, no horses just Summer and I. Down behind Rojeks house and all of sudden we are crashing through the woods. Whoa Summer, what is going on? I am turning on my light I need to see what is the problem...holy moly they have jumps set up out here...good boy I am glad you went around that instead of over it! Guess I will leave the light on for a while! Lets go! The miles continue to pass, thank goodness for runners aid stations as they have mile markers and good food too! Shouldn't be too far to the hold, couple of miles time to run big guy so on the ground I go and don't you know, at this point I am faster than Summer. Crazy humans he thinks! We jog right to the hold, surprise no other horses but he vets immediately...trot a little funny, what's that? Major pee...oh he had to pee, great color, you been on foot? Yep. Doug says we are both fit to continue see you at the end. Thanks. Okay Steph, only 12 miles to go, can you meet us one more time? Good we are off. Ride a ways then back on my feet too..need to climb these darn hills faster and without my weight he can.

Time starts to drag and we are all alone, haven't seen a runner in an hour. Summer starts to question his rider's mentality...you must be going the wrong way, there is no one out here. How about this farm they have horses, we can stop here! Finally two runners coming, look Summer lets follow them. Okay Dad! Not to worry runners we are going to drag off of you for a while, Summer needs a guide dog! Pace actually picks up as they are shooting for sub 24 hours running and we only have a few miles to go. Up ahead Steph's smiling face once again! Tom is there too...what a great group they all are. Eat up Summer, 4.7 miles to go. Steph meet us at the end and skip the last pit crew stop we are coming home! Two more runners racing the 4 AM time cutoff for 24 hours. Nice guys, one older than the other. He is tired, very tired, Summer is getting excited as we had ridden part of this course on Friday. The runner keeps asking how are we doing? I tell him he can do it, get in front of the horse and keep moving, we have to climb Blood Hill (twice actually) and then the final shoot. 3:45 AM how far he says, I tell him he can make it but he needs to push and push hard...I know the struggle going on...he has been running for 23 hours and 45 minutes, his brain is screaming go, go, go, and his body is yelling make it stop please! I get off the horse and start chasing them on foot...Summer says huh?

Down the final shoot, there is the finish line. Damn 4:06 AM, he finished but missed the cutoff (a plaque not a buckle)...but such is the life of an ultra runner or rider! He comes over as I am untacking Summer and shakes my hand and says thanks for letting him go first and for the wonderful horse pushing him onward. Our pleasure I reply. Steph takes my vet card and goes into the almost empty tent and announces 106 arriving! Nick and Meg are waiting, pins and needles time. Is Summer okay, is he a little stiff, I know damn well he is tired, but he has been so magnificent what else can I say. Meg and Nick confer and Meg turns to me and says Completion. What? Completion! Yahoo, a big hug from Meg a handshake from Nick, Lani comes in and gives us all bear hugs. I hug Summer and Steph. It is over, we had done it! What can one say? As we headed up the hill it was getting light in the east once again. The runners were still coming in and the world was good. A quick nap and then up again to make sure Summer was okay...feed me he said, so I did! Awards ceremony...everyone keeps asking did you make it! The smile alone told the story! Sue calls out the 50 mile finishers and then gets to the 100s. Yep Turbo Turtle for sure..we paid for 24 hours and by golly we got 24 hours. Art King shakes my hand and his head...Sue shakes my hand as do countless others...it is like a dream. I sit back down holding that buckle in my hand and can't stop smiling...guess I need to buy a belt! Kathy gets her buckle too! So many are there, Irving, Tom, Kathy, Steph and so many others.

Sorry this is so long but it had to be told. If I did not make it clear from the beginning I owe so much to my wonderful wife Stephanie and to my fabulous horse Summer (thanks Nancy and Julie for selling him to me). Dreams and goals are such a part of a persons life and the ability to go after one's dreams are so important. My thanks to any and all that shared our journey, we will see you on the trails for sure.

And if you are wondering, yes it is much easier to run 100 miles (maybe physically tougher) than it is to ride 100 miles, but I must say riding a wonderful horse is pretty close to bliss!

Bill and Summer

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

2004 Big Horn 100 - Tom Noll

Before the Big Horn 100, Tom VanGelder gave some advice for finishing the 100, "Spend your horse like I spend my money - a little bit at a time." The Big Horn 100 is a unique ride consisting of a single loop through the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming. It is classic endurance with four vet checks spread over the 100 miles of trail. The trail is tough and the ride attracts some rough riders and tough horses.

The Big Horn 100 is not a ride for everyone. Do not plan to show up to the Big Horn 100 without a crew or a clue, and a plan to take advantage of others for personalized guide service, personalized pacing, and personalized crewing. And, if you are the kind of person who can do those things, and then abandon your partner to cut and run for the finish at the first sign of hardship when your partner's help is no longer needed for your own selfish purposes, then be prepared for your trail partner to question your character after dragging your sorry ass through 100 miles of Big Horn trails.

The Big Horn 100 is reported to be the oldest sanctioned 100-mile ride in the AERC. A handful of people put on the ride and the ridecamp is graciously hosted at the Flitner Trapper Creek Ranch. The trail goes from the shale badlands to alpine meadows on trails from graded roads to primitive wilderness tracks. It is one of the few 100s where the 24-hour cutoff is a true concern. Like last year, my brother Willi and his wife, Alice came up from Colorado to crew for me and enjoy the atmosphere of the ride. No one could ask for a more pleasant and capable crew.

About a dozen 100-mile riders and about a dozen 50-mile riders started in darkness at four in the morning. The big bear hung low in the northern sky over the sandstone cliffs and occasional shooting stars streaked through the blackness. Tom VanGelder again mentioned those magic words "The trail is open" and we were led on a controlled start through the ranch property and on to the badlands.

The morning was pitch black and we trusted our horses to carry us safely through the darkness across the shale badlands. Sunrise found us at the 25-mile vet check outside of another magnificent ranch near Hudson Falls. This year, the ride management and the vets decided to try something different for the 25-mile ride. There was only one entrant in the 25, a tough lady from Fort Collins, Colorado on a big ranch horse. She was lucky enough to ride through the canyons from Hudson Falls to Antelope Butte on probably the toughest and most scenic LD ride sanctioned by the AERC in 2004. She started her ride with us at Hudson Falls and she went on to finish the LD at Antelope Butte in style.

At Hudson Falls, we were held briefly to allow Bud and Kathy Arnold and the rest of the Wyoming riders to catch up and guide us through the next section of the trail. The weather has been difficult this year, and the Big Horn 100 has a very small staff, so it was not possible to mark the entire trail prior to the ride. It was an honor, and one of the highlights of the trip, to ride through the canyons with Bud, Kathy, and the rest of the Wyoming riders. It was true old-time endurance with rough riders, tough horses, a cow dog tagging along for style, and wilderness trails. A person could not ask for better companions on the trail and some of the images from that portion of the ride will stay in my mind for a long time. Sitting here at my computer, I wish I were back out on the Big Horn trail with those enjoyable and trail-savvy characters.

After the canyons and alpine meadows, we made our way to the Antelope Butte ski area for the 50-mile hold. This was to be our only hour-long hold so I took advantage of the time to let Frank (my horse) rest. He was alert but hungry and we let him graze while watching the drama of the 50-mile ride finish.

Beyond Antelope Butte there are still 50 miles of trail including the wilderness section of the Adelaide Trail. The sky was dark and the thunder was rolling, so I packed a turtleneck and a shell as well as rump rug in case we got into a spell of cold rain and hail. The good weather held for us and we made our way through the deadfall and around the snags on the Adelaide Trail. Some people complain about the difficulty of the Big Horn trails and point out that if the trails were not so tough, perhaps there would be greater participation in the ride. No doubt that is true, but it is the Big Horn 100 and the Big Horn 100 is not a ride for sissies.

After the Adelaide Trail section we came to the alpine lakes and Boulder Basin. I glimpsed the shadowy figure of a large gray canine silently disappear into the trees. Was it a coyote or a wolf? The image was too fleeting to know for sure.

Again, because of the difficulty of travel this year and the small staff, this section of the trail somehow remained unmarked. My horse and I remembered the trail from last year and I consulted the maps and my GPS where I might have had questions. We were the front-runners at this point so there were no tracks to guide us. I became concerned about the other riders, and I got off to set trail markers at certain key junctions. My partner chose to stay mounted on his horse while I set the trail markers. I later heard that Sue Horn and Jocelyn Stott followed our tracks and trail signs. I imagined them getting off their horses and tracking us like the Pinkertons in the Butch Cassidy movie. Perhaps Butch and Sundance should have walked their horses backwards to add to the confusion.

The top of the ride is nearly 10,000 feet at Boulder Basin and from the top of the ride you can look far back to the north and see the alpine meadows near Antelope Butte in the distance. At the top of Boulder Basin we again picked up the marked trail and continued on down to the last hold at Jack Creek. Jack Creek is one of my favorite holds. Doug VanGelder cooks burgers and two of the veterinarians caught trout for the supper. Leaving Jack Creek is bittersweet because you know there are no more stops and these are the last miles of the Big Horn trail.

We saddled up and left Jack Creek to continue on down the trail. Just as we left, Sue and Jocelyn rode into the vet check. It was good to see that they made it safely and quickly through the unmarked section in Boulder Basin.

My horse had been completely sound physically and metabolically throughout the entire ride. He was pulsed down on arrival at each vet check and received nearly all As on the vet card. But, at about 90 miles I thought I felt something off with his gait. It wasn't constant and it wasn't very noticeable, he could still canter up hills, but I felt that something was amiss. I got off and checked, but there were no stones in the hoof. Still, I thought that something might be awry. I thought about the AERC motto and I thought about the AERC finish criteria. The goal is to finish with a sound horse - everything else is secondary. My horse, Frank has done a lot for me and we have a formed a partnership on the trails. Even though we had ridden 90 miles, I thought, "I've run 100s, certainly I can walk these last 10 miles." I looked at my watch and realized that I had nearly 8 hours to complete the last 10 miles. The person who I had guided over 90 miles of unfamiliar Big Horn trails and waited for patiently while he and his horse took extra time to pulse down and recover at the vet checks saw his opportunity, feigned concern, and raced off for the finish while I led my horse in those last few miles. That was the last I saw of him until well after sunrise the next morning in camp. The words of Robert Service came back to my mind, "A promise made is a debt unpaid and the trail has its own stern code."

Sue Horne and Jocelyn Stott passed me on the way in. They asked if all was well. I explained that my horse might be slightly off. Jocelyn mentioned that she thought that his gait looked fine and she encouraged me onward. Those two rode an excellent and savvy ride, and Jocelyn Stott received BC in the 100. They are both classy riders who would make wonderful trail companions.

Just before 11:00, I was the fourth to finish the Big Horn 100. About 100 feet before the finish, I remounted and Frank carried me across the finish like the true horse that he is. He trotted out fine at the finish and we received our completion. Perhaps I could have ridden him those last ten miles, but to me, no first-place finish is worth that risk.

Later that night, three members of the Johnson family as well as their friend Charlotte became the final ones to finish the Big Horn 100. The Johnson family is an endurance legend and they showed their style at the Big Horn 100. Joyce Anderson led them through the tough sections but unfortunately, Joyce had to pull at Jack Creek because of a possible broken ankle. Joyce is another tough rider and she rode many a hard mile with that bad ankle.

The Big Horn 100 is a very special ride hosted by a few special people. As I said earlier, the Big Horn 100 is not a ride for everyone. If you expect ride amenities and concierge service, then there are other rides. But, if you want to ride classic endurance on some of the most beautiful and tough trails in the Rocky Mountain west, the Big Horn 100 might be your ride. On the right day on the right year, the Big Horn 100 could probably be ridden cavalry style by someone with true wilderness trail savvy, but it is a good idea to arrange your own support well before the ride.

On my way home I thought about something that happened last year. Last year my wife, Leslie and I stopped at a roadside rest area in Wyoming. As usual, we opened the trailer to let the horses look around. A woman and her two kids came up to the trailer to see the horses. She asked about our trip and I talked about the Big Horn 100. She then explained how she had moved from New York to Colorado and such. In the middle of her conversation, she stopped talking, looked me square in the eye, and said with real emotion in her voice, "You are living my childhood dream." I am so lucky.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho

Thursday, July 08, 2004

2004 Mariposa Ride Story - Lynda Fenneman

I drove 7 hours up over the Grapevine , and on up to Fresno, turning right toward Yosemite, up and down steep winding 2-lane black top roads, with the horse trailer in tow...on Thurs... to camp out and do a 50 mile Endurance Ride on Sat. I just got home last evening from the" Mariposa Run for the Gold." Endurance Ride, on the Western side of the Sierras...in gold country, in the foot hills, above the rolling, oak studded hills and up in the pine forest...dense, and lush with under brush, big tall juniper trees (green mossy stumps of tremendous girthed old growth trees) beautiful, delicate dog woods, some kind of very tall spindly Oak (Black or water?), wild berry brambles...and we saw a bear! I got so excited and yelling...I scared it away. I was trying desperately to get a better look...and it took off. Good thing. Funny how Fear was not a factor ...my immediate response was to get a better look, to somehow share in its being here, in nature, free and doing its natural thing. People I told afterwards got all wigged out and were "concerned." Only then did I remember the danger aspect of bears. I'm more apprehensive about thuggey looking characters in gas stations than I am bears and mountain lions. (When I got home I found out that a mountain lion had mauled a woman hiker in the Sequoias..., which is not very far from where we were.) I reasoned: I'm safe... I'm riding a mule...?

We had a terrific ride, started out last (32nd), waiting until all the "racing-types were well out in front. We trotted down pine needle covered old logging roads, with the forest canopy high above, the sun darted thru in long raking flashes out of the dark shadows like waves of a magic wand. Chelse drove and I lookey-looed. We were going pretty fast. She was "hot to trot" Jacqy was worried we were going too fast (earlier, I had said we were going to "take it easy", but Chelse wanted to go...so we did. We passed many riders, the arabs had a hard time keeping up with her charging up hill and zooming down hills. She has a competitive spirit and knows the game. Sometimes she cares passionately...sometimes only about what she wants and is neither shy nor subtle.

She bonded" to Penny and liked having her right behind her for moral support. We got to the first Vet Check, 15 miles out, averaging over 9 mph, up and over hill and dale. Penny got "pulled" for lameness and we had to continue on alone. This is a problem. Chelse is very loyal to her friends and reluctant to leave. I found another rider who came in with us and was willing to help me get her back on the trail. A pleasant young woman from Palmdale (Alexa) riding her mothers nice gray gelding just off the race track.

Chelse vetted thru just fine, as she didn't know Penny wasn't going on with her yet. She ate and drank. A helpful volunteer refilled my water bottle. We rested our allotted 15 minutes and took off. Poor Chelse was so distressed when she discovered Penny was staying behind. She called mournfully and didn't want to go. I had the new mechanical hackamore on her and didn't know how well I would be able to handle her in dire circumstances, but she went, calling, but she went with her new friend and me. Soon she forgot and we trotted off thru the piney woods again, up and up and up. Saw all kinds of trees and flowers that I didn't recognize. Charming little brooks with hatches of millions of lady bugs., twisting single track trails thru the bushes and low hanging branches, with trees so tall and dense you couldn't tell where you were...until you popped out on top a ridge and looked out across the tops of the sierras...and so quiet! Nothing but bug and bird sounds, many of which I didn't recognize, but I did see a glorious Western Tananger...he looked over dressed for the forest...too flashy. We had to stop on a steep single track trail for a Western Diamond Backed Rattler to slither into a hole...and as we passed by his tail was still on the trail and his "business end" was disappearing into the hole. He only shook his tail once and took off.

Alexa and I took turns leading. Chelse did the downhills faster. Tthe gray horse did the flats fast like a race horse should. We worked like a team. Chelse was able to drink (with her new hackamore on) from the streams and watering tanks ride management provided along the trail at various points. We were still averaging about 9 mph until we got to the steep uphill grades and we walked most of those, but at a pretty good pace.

The lunch stop was back at base camp. Penny was back in her stall and I wondered about how to get Chelse back out on the trail again. We would have to trick her somehow. I pondered how to do this while I ate dusty food, drank too much cold cranberry juice and did our vet business with the saddle off. After re-saddling and re-organizing and ready to go...Jacqy led Penny off thru the crowd of horses and trailers...out of sight. When I was sure the coast was clear...we took off. It worked. We hooked up with Alexa and the gray horse again. Chelse thought Penny must be out there ahead of her somewhere.

We go out past the pond and up the other direction into the mountains to see what we could see and maybe find Penny. I get stomach cramps.

We arrived at another vet check high up in the forest somewhere, did our trotting thing, got hay and water, I got to go to the "bathroom" behind the big pine tree, and we set off again. We had figured that we were about last, but it was determined that we were in the middle somewhere.

In the afternoon, both animules hit the doldrums and got pokey. I decided to let Chelse grab bites of native grass and flowers and bushes. That perked her up. She has learned to snatch a bite and move on. She can keep up a good pace and not fall down. As we made our way down the mountain like this. Alexa and I got off and walked to relieve our butts and knees. It wasn't too hot and it was a pleasant thing to do. We were all alone up there. No other riders, no hikers, bicyclists or any motorized vehicles of any kind. Quiet. Mysterious bird calls. Insects busily buzzing. Chelse munching and clip clopping along. The grasses were strange to me, but she seemed to recognize them, from past experience or prior life?

About 5 miles from the finish another rider intersected us coming from the wrong direction---having missed the turn and gone miles out of her way. She got in between us on a single track trail and Chelse came alive with the new energy of the additional horse. She was very activated. The new rider requested permission to pass and informed me that she was riding a stallion. So that explained the new energy. I couldn't help but notice...the cheeky stud had his wiener out, flapping, flappetty, flap, flap against his belly, back and forth!. It was an awesome site and Chelse was mightly impressed. They flew down the trail at a rapid pace. Chelse thought a nano second, and galloped off in hot pursuit. "Wait! Come back! I didn't know you were a real guy, I think I love you." But, he went too fast too far and she worried about her new friend left behind and gave up the chase. I never even tried to stop her she was so smooth and efficient in handling the stick and stone terrain ... I just let her go. If she wanted to gallop at the end of 50 miles...good for her. I was glad she felt so good.

We were headed toward her new home at a fast clip, she could now see and hear Penny calling. There are myriad gopher holes hidden in the grassy pasture, so... I tried to keep her at a nice walk to the finish line. Being overly excited and not watching where she was going anymore, down she went on both knees... five feet from the finish line. Didn't unsettle me at all, I just sat back and let her right herself and we were off again, over the finish line. I could hardly wait to get to the porta potty and she was anxious to get back to her private dust wallow and her beloved Penny, apparently having now forgotten about her nice gray horse friend.

The portable corrals were just the right size for a good one-side-at-a-time roll, sending up billowing clouds of black powdery dust with her tail, from the hole she had dug in the nice carpet of grass down to the black silty dirt below... and when she shook off, flapping her ears...flump, flump,flump, flump... she was so happy I couldn't conceive of trying to stop her.

I ate some dusty tuna salad, drank some dusty cranberry juice and decided that cleaning her up before the final vet in was going to be more trouble than it was worth... stirring up more dust and she would probably roll again and we weren't going to be showing for best condition anyway. We came in 13th We had one hour before going back to see the vets again. She ate, drank and rolled. I sat in a dusty chair watching and wondering about how tired I was. I wasn't. ..fifty miles in 10 hours in the mountains and I'm not tired? She is so smooth and easy...I'm still wondering why more people don't use mules for endurance. Yes, she is a bit pushy sometimes, but I think it's worth the effort.

She wouldn't trot out for me at the final vet in. She can walk as fast as I can run and just wouldn't, no need. The vet wanted to try his hand. He didn't get her to trot, but he did get to experience how strong she was "...doesn't feel like a horse, her neck is sooo strong." We passed the final test, but not with flying colors. I should have told the vets about the recent disappointing love affaire. She wasn't too tired to trot, she was just disappointed she let him get away.

The first horses came in more than 2 hours ahead of us. How do they do that?. I heard 4 of the first 10 horses were pulled ( not "fit to continue.") That is way to risky for me... too fast to see anything. The only point then is to Win, and that is competition... willing to go faster than anyone else (no matter if they have good sense or not.) Going fast is a rush, apparently addictive and possibly clouds sound judgment.

I try to keep perspective. I worry about hurting her legs. I worry about frying her brain...trying to stay within her limits, not asking her to do more than she can. I want her to think she can do anything. She has such tremendous potential, is so athletic, smart, graceful, beautiful, and strong that I feel obligated to take care of those capabilities to the best of my abilities. That is a big responsibility. So many "experts" have opinions about what I should do with her, and they don't necessarily agree...so I have to ferret out what is appropriate for us...and I'm not a mule person or a horse person...per se...I'm just me...seeking the Truth.??? I think about Reason and Caution ahead of time, so when I get to a "situation" I will hopefully remember to use it.

Susan's mother Susan and who calls her Rose was camped right next to us. Her mother Mae S. was the recipient of the first Partners Award. All three generations have ridden Endurance Rides together. Unfortunately Susan's horse was "off" and didn't get to start. That's what we have the veterinarians for, to help protect our various animules on this adventure. They can spot a potential lameness and prevent a major problem from occurring out on the trail somewhere far from help.

The vets initially determined that Penny (who has an "odd" way of traveling, throwing her feet and legs all which-a-way) was "off" behind. Jacqy's "presentation", I thought, looked a little sloppy and perhaps contributed to their decision. After some discussion, the vets agreed to let her come back later and try again. We got a lunge line and whip and worked on circles to the right and left. The horse wasn't "head bobbing" or showing signs of lameness...that we could see and was doing better circles. So, Jacqy took her back and showed her again. The vets agreed that she looked better, and still not entirely convinced, reluctantly consented to let her start the ride. That was good news: Chelse likes to have her buddy with her. Mules seem to bond stronger than most horses.

A nice BBQ dinner was held at the main ranch house, across the road, in an apple orchard. We sat on the grass and chatted with other riders, re-counting events of the day, swapping stories." Chelse chasing the stallion" was a hit. A computer glitch caused a delay in figuring out the ride results and handing out awards...so, we had to wait a long time. No one seemed to mind. It was a merry crowd. Lots of dogs and screaming children (why do they do that?)

Some people are fascinated and impressed with the mule. Don, who rode behind us and couldn't catch us on the last half, commented on her great trot and business like attitude. He helped me get her bridle on at the East Mojave ride...so, he has seen her "un-professional" side too. She was jumping up and down and throwing her big ole' head around, having a nasty tantrum fit, and I was having a heck of a time. It was 20+ degrees and starting to rain and all the other horses were milling around and I couldn't get her bridle on...so, he came over and to help a short lady with her (now) tall mule.

Tthere is always someone to help when trouble strikes. I have personally experienced and heard of many more acts of kindness in this loose-knit, diverse, independent group of riders. I saw a horse get tangled in his rope while tied up too long at his trailer, with buckets strewn around, and a dog tied up too near by. Untangled him and woke up the owner who had driven from San Diego in the night and was dead tired, sacked out inside the trailer. Was glad to have helped. Anyone would have, you can almost count on it, but you shouldn't.

Melody and Jonathon and kids were across the way in a big motor home, gray horse over there with another big rig, mule and donkey people down there, Don back there somewhere, trucks and trailers, people and horses, kids and dogs...with plenty of room for all. The water tank was parked in front of us...right in the middle of camp. We got see everyone that came to the well to fill water buckets, drink, socialize and/or play in the water. Young girls dipped their long hair in the big bucket (mine) and slung their wet hair at one another, screaming and running around like chickens or wet hens.

Base camp was on the Circle 9 Ranch... apple orchards, cow pastures, dense forests, fish stocked pond, dam, ancient log cabin out buildings, barns, and a little stream running right behind our camp. Bushy tailed handsome coyotes stalked the gophers making holes in the grassy meadow behind us, dragon flies flew low above the grasses and the violet green swallows swooped in loops up high in the day time; the bats took their place in the cold brisk night when the stars were so bright from horizon to horizon, a barn owl squawked and the Great Horned Owl called as the bats echo-located their insect prey, the coyotes howled a higher pitch than the ones I know. There was profound silence behind these sounds and the Milky Way looked like a magic carpet you could walk across to...Heaven?

This influenced the decision to stay over an extra day and explore more of the area. We had come a day early and explored some of the trails around the ranch... seeing the dog wood trees with their bright chartreuse leaves and odd looking seed pods, the tall Junipers, a bear, Foxgloves, orange columbines, Pines and big leafed Oaks, Maples... and the brambling, stickery berry bush patches (good bear habitat.)

Camp is difficult to keep organized. I start out with good intentions and it soon looks like someone stirred it up with a big stick. Stuff everywhere and dirty too, (Chelse's rolling propensity.) I forgot the fuel for the 2-burner stove, but found some for the one-burner, and found a collapsible back-packing grill that made it more efficient. Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I cooked in Cliff's old Boy Scout cookware set, perfect for stacking pots on top of lids and cooking vertically instead of horizontally, I made stew, toast, pasta all at the same time on one burner...and it was a treat to sit and eat under the starry sky and chat over the days events. Chelse entertained us curling her lips and making faces for carrots, rolling and agitating at Penny who sometimes ignored her and sometimes showed her teeth in distain. We were kept busy fetching carrots and running from the dust clouds. I wondered "what the rich folks were doing?"

The cell phone didn't work in this valley and we should inform our loved ones (and boss) of our recent decision to linger. Jacqy is elected to drive the truck to a mountain resort "convenience" store down the road a few miles. She called her husband who called her boss and my husband.

I stay in camp and keep an eye on the animules and decide to take some kind of bath...a primative French Renoir-"Lady at her Toilette" type bath, standing in Chelse's slop bucket, in the back of the trailer, in the now practically deserted camp, with a view of the meadow and forest. Best bath I ever had. The dirtier you are the better you feel even if you aren't the cleanest. I was covered in Chelse's dust and my sweat, my hands were filthy black, my nails were blacker, my hair felt un-familiar and I probably stank! I know Jacqy did, but we were having a grand time. Again, I wondered what the rich folks were doing now? I poured sun warmed water over my head and purred with pleasure.

I let Chelse out to explore the now, almost empty, large golden grassy meadow and pasture leading down to the pond and locked gate. She milled around pleasantly, sniffing and eating and checking back in at her camp periodically, Only once did she venture outside the entrance and that was to go to the watering hole and get a drink and come right back.

One other group stayed over on Sunday. They had a mule with them that was as stubborn as Chelse when they tried to get it to go out on the trail alone. It twisted and turned and balked (just like Chelse)...and then trots off ... pretty as you please, (just like Chelse.) I saw myself when Chelse gets... "other ideas," from a spectators point-of-view. I felt somewhat vindicated and somewhat embarrassed at the humorous aspects of this vision.

I talked mule-talk with Harold who has had mules for 30+ years. His wife just did her first 50 miles ride on a horse. She "...doesn't care for mules." It takes all kinds.

We packed a little lunch and went out to explore the other end of the pasture, with the pond. We lay on our backs on the grassy bank, in the sun ... watching fish jump, dragon flies flit and a black Phoebe swoop out , catch a bug and back to it's branch...over and over. A solitary coot swam around calling its strange call. It's soo peaceful and quiet here, even if there was a bear roaming around right up there in those trees yesterday.

We didn't start packing up camp until morning since we didn't need to leave before 10, so we just enjoyed the evening. Again, bats ecolocated. The Barn Owl barked and the Great Horned owl whoed. And, somebody ate all the mosquitos that should have been emanating from the little stream right behind us.

In my cozy sleeping quarters in my trailer, by flashlight, I'm reading Clinton's new book (I happened to be in Costco the day it came out...and there it was.) I would vote for him for "Sexiest Man in America" from the cover photo alone. I don't think Mick Jagger is sexy anymore. The book is surprisingly interesting, Southern in style and attitude. A simple, but brilliant man, with similar southern roots as I. More disadvantages. Different circumstances. Different paths. A nerdy fat boy, picked on by bullies learns important lessons dealing with adversity on the way to the White House (handy social skills.) Skills we all need to get to where we are each going.

He quoted Abraham Lincoln: "I'll get myself prepared and see how far I can go..." (something like that.) That has always been my motto. He became President, an impossible dream. How far can I get? Where do I want to go? What will I endure to get there? What does it matter? As long as the trip is fun.

Lynda Fenneman

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Circumstances - Randy Winter

I wrote this many years ago, mostly for myself, as a response to a particularly volatile ride season. Reading some of the present threads I thought maybe this might be a good time to share these thoughts.

Conflict and confusion at any competitive event are inevitable. How the participants deal with it is the issue. Any ride I have ridden or crewed has always had unique circumstances to deal with. I do not treat this as a problem of endurance rides but as the essence of being an endurance rider (or crew). Keeping our integrity in the face of circumstances and figuring our way through them is what ultimately allows us to be successful. Maybe even what makes endurance riding so intriguing to many of us?

We may have criticism with the way a particular ride manager does things but at present we do not have a cookie cutter format at all rides nationwide. The reality is that now people with little or no personal monetary goals manage events, they use volunteers whenever possible to run the events and we win little more than accomplishing personal desires. Each ride¹s uniqueness is what brings us back or not. And the decision to say not is as important to recognize as the decision to enjoy again.

Three areas where I have witnessed riders (myself included) struggling with the circumstances of a ride are: with fairness in the heat of competition, the beginner experiencing the unknown and the experienced rider with uncommon, to them, situations. When you find yourself in one of these situations if your idea is to immediately blame others for the circumstances, I think, you may be compromising your chance to be successful in the long run. Immediate, retaliatory and inflammatory actions may compromise the ride for others presently or in the future, besides it being no fun for anyone unless you get off on that kind of thing. The bottom line is that no matter what we want to accomplish with our riding we will always be confronted by circumstances and we will all ride under those same circumstances. If you can be in tune with the uniqueness of a ride and all those involved including volunteers, other riders, ride management, even the land and community where the ride is held, I believe, we all have a better chance of being on the road to Happy Trails.

The "you's" in this are meant to be me, not directed at anyone else.

Had a great time over the 4th at the Shamrock Ride in Wyoming. The lightning was all the fireworks we experienced or needed. Biggest turnout for the ride in it's fifteenth year. Thanks Susie Schomburg et al. for another great experience.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Teach your Horse to Tail - Jim Holland

Tailing is a very useful tool on technical rides where there are a lot of climbs. It’s basically a form of “driving” and is a combination of two basic things you should teach your horse.

Ground manners – Your horse will need to stand quietly in line at Vet Checks and for the Vet to examine him

Handling - Your horse will need to become accustomed to being poked and prodded and handled all over…EVERY part of his body.

The handling with regard to tailing requires that you get him used to having his butt handled. One of the Vet Parameters is “anal tone”. You may also need to use a crupper some day. It’s always good to associate something you want him to do with something pleasurable. All horses like to be “scratched”….mine will even point out a place for me! He can’t reach his tail, which is why you see them backed up to a post or barn scratching. If you scratch gently around the side of his tail and dock, he will raise his tail in pleasure. When he does, continue to scratch all around, underneath, and around his anus. Palpate his anus gently and stick your finger inside. (Use a rubber glove if this bothers you) You need to work on this because he will sometimes get a thermometer in there at rides. Put a little “Show Sheen” or “Cowboy Magic” on his tail and brush it out. While you are doing that, lean back and gently tug on his tail, increasing the pull until you can rock him backward without any response. If you have a crupper, put it under his tail while you are scratching and tug forward gently. Take it out and put it back on until he ignores it. Do all this gradually, always going back to scratching and brushing. Practice every day until this becomes part of his routine. Eventually he will relax and look forward to having you scratch, brush, and play with his tail.

While you’re there, it’s also worthwhile to part the hair on his tail with a small comb and look for ticks and “crusties” that would indicate that you need to shampoo his tail with something like “Selsun Blue”.

By the way, for those of you who rode Old Dominion. We got 8 ticks out of Magic’s tail and one off his neck right under his mane. You might want to check……

The ground manners part assumes your horse will lead properly….that is, walk AND trot along beside you with his head even with your shoulder, stopping when you stop, and backing up when you do. Once you have done this, you are now ready to teach tailing.

Don’t TEACH tailing on hills. Teach it on a level wide road, like a dirt road or FS road. Do it at a time when there are no flies so he won’t need his tail! The objective is to teach your horse that you want him to “go first”. Since you have taught him to walk along with his head even with your shoulder, stopping when you stop and backing up when you back up, he must now learn a “variation” on this. You will need “tailing” reins. There are basically two types. A long loop rein (I like the 6 foot yacht rope) or a shorter rein with a “tailing string” in the middle that you can slide out to the end to lengthen the rein.

I teach a “go forward” cue, which I also use to teach a horse to load on a trailer. Without going into to great detail here, basically I teach him that if I face his left side with the lead line in my left hand and raise my arm and point at his hip, (initially this is a tap high on the hip with a dressage whip) he will “go forward”….onto a trailer, a scale, over a log, etc. For tailing, with the off rein disconnected and in my left hand, I ask him to “go forward”, but instead of standing still, I move off with him about even with the saddle as he goes by. If he stops, I “kiss” rapidly and ask him to “go forward” again or tap him lightly just behind the stirrup where your heel would normally be. He will quickly understand that you want him to continue to walk. Practice this until he will walk off as soon as you raise your arm and “kiss”. Now gradually slide backward a little at a time paying out the rein with your left hand and your right hand on the saddle or the horse until you can walk along with your hand on his butt. If you do this too quickly, the horse will tend to turn to the left and circle back to you. If he does, walk forward, push his neck away from you and then drop back again until he “gets it”. At this point, you will need to flip the rein up over the saddle to support it and prevent any rein pressure on the left side. Note that the action of flipping the rein up over the saddle is the same motion as raising your arm for the “go forward” cue. Soon he will “anticipate” and walk off as soon as you dismount and flip the rein up over the saddle with your right hand. Continue to slide back until you can walk along with his tail in your right hand….no pull at this point. Scratch and play with his tail just like you did when you taught him to have his tail handled. When he is comfortable with this, slide back behind him with the rein over his butt, hold his tail and gently and lean back. You are now TAILING! I like to grip the tail with both hands with the rein still in my palm….just bundle it with the tail. It’s easier to keep your balance with both hands on rocky trail.

Move on to some gentle hills and then steeper ones. After a while, you and your horse will get “on the same page”. When you come to a hill, he will “expect” the tailing and continue to walk as you roll out of the saddle, disconnect the rein, toss it over the saddle and grab his tail as he comes by. Late in a ride, my guys will stop and ask me to get off on hills when they get tired!

As an advanced exercise, I teach tailing at a trot. The cue is a light slap on the butt with my hand and a “kiss”.

Try it….it takes a little work, but its fun to do and fun to teach.

Good Luck!

Jim, Sun of Dimanche+, and Mahada Magic

2004 Hoosier Daddy - April

My adventure started, like all adventures, before the actual trip. Last Sunday, I saddled up Tanna for a brisk ride in the uncommonly cool morning. After mounting, he bucked hard and long, putting large bruises on my inner thighs. Then I couldn't stay on any longer so off I flew into the gravel driveway, landing largely on my right shin. Tanna was still bucking like a maniac so I yelled at him to stop and he did. Well, I couldn't let him get away with bucking me off, so I removed his crupper (thinking it was a problem), lunged him, and had several false starts before leading him away from his pasture mate (penned in the back pasture) to mount up. We completed our training ride with no further issues (although my leg was swelling beautifully).

I spent the next 3 days icing my leg and keeping it elevated when possible. I was afraid the injury would keep me from going to Hoosier Daddy. I refused to go to the doctor for fear she would tell me to stay home and not ride.

Finally I was able to decide I could pack and go to Hoosier Daddy as the swelling was minimal.

Friday morning, we loaded up in the rain and were away from home by 11 AM. After about 2 or 3 hours of travel, Tanna began to eat his hay and managed to eat about half of it before we arrived at ridecamp.

As we neared the camp, we began to see signs for Hoosier Daddy. Part of the approach is a somewhat steep hill and pie plates on the side of the road encouraged "I think I can, I think I can." Hehehe. Our first glimpse of the camp made my jaw drop. A trailer city greeted us. A LOT of trailers. Many, many. Way more than I had expected. When we pulled into camp, we were greeted cheerily by Edie Keesee, one of the ride managers. She was also talking about the huge turnout. We were pointed to our reserved camp site and Edie helped guide our trailer into place before disappearing on her next errand.

We spent some time discussing our options for putting up Tanna's metal corral around the hitching post that went with our campsite. Tanna does not do well tied to anything solid. He needs to be in a metal corral or picketed. If he can reach something solid, he will slip his halter. Anyway, so after awhile, Daniel put up the corral and I put hay and water out for Tanna.

Then we went a-lookin'. Ride headquarters was under a large pavilion. The vet check area was set up across the gravel driveway and at the end of one of the barns was the shower area. Showers. Very nice! :-) We greeted Diane Fruth, who was doing the check-in for the Saturday horses. Since I wasn't riding until Sunday she bade me to come back the next day.

We wandered back towards our trailer and stopped by Teddy Lancaster's Running Bear trailer to buy some syringes for a friend. While there we chatted with Teddy for awhile until my eye caught some weird horse boots I had never seen before. Bosana boots. Made of heavy rubber, they were cut down and looked like they wouldn't stay on a hoof. How would these things stay on? Teddy was happy to give me a brochure and explain the concept to me. Apparently, there is a recessed portion of the hoof in the heel where the back of the shoe slides into to keep the boots on. These are not a shoe replacement. More like a shoe pad replacement. Weird. Teddy invited me to bring Tanna back the next day for her to practice putting the boots on. Ok, sure. We were game to be guinea pigs. They just looked so intriguing.

Daniel and I went back to our trailer and finished setting up our camp, met Nancy Cox, our next trailer neighbor, and fiddled around until time for the ride meeting. Even though I wasn't riding until Sunday, ride meetings are fun to see who's there and to get a preview of what I would be doing on Sunday. Especially since this was the first ever Hoosier Daddy Ride. Whoo-hoo!

We were a smidgeon late, but quickly sat down and I took notes on the maps that I had gotten earlier from the registration table. Pulse 64 everywhere, except the finish for the 25s the pulse was 60. Holds of 40 minutes (I thought) and CRIs would be taken.

The vets were introduced. Mike Habel, Rae Ann Mayer and a new-to-endurance vet, Tamara Marheine. Thank you to all 3 for vetting this ride!

Jerry Fruth was the trail Boss (yes, capital B) and explained the trail markings. Every bit of the 50 was marked in orange ribbons and every bit of the 25 was marked in pink ribbons. Those were just for comforting the rider that they were on the right trail. The real directions were on pie plates everywhere. Just follow the street, uh, trail signs. And there were big Xs on pie plates on trails that we were not to go down. It sounded like a neat idea, but trying to follow the map seemed a bit confusing to me. But I shrugged it off because I would get to hear it all again at the next ride meeting.

There were tons of riders! Over 125 horses would hit the trail on Saturday between the 50 mile endurance riders, the 25 mile AERC riders and the 25 mile competitive riders. What a mass of horse flesh! I was glad I was waiting to ride until Sunday, when hopefully the traffic would be lighter.

After the ride meeting, everybody filed up to the table to get their trail permits. We were to keep them on us when we were on the trail. I chatted with a friend I'd met on a previous ride for quite awhile while Daniel wandered off, then came back to get me.

Daniel and I had an electric site, but unfortunately, we were unable to use our electricity because we didn't have a converter from the big 30 amp plug to our "regular" extension cords. We asked around and finally Terry England had one we could borrow. She was parked just a few trailers down from us. We were grateful for the loan since we hadn't even thought that the plugs might be different! Another thing to get from Wal-mart before our next ride! That plug allowed us to have biscuits and gravy for breakfast the next morning as I'd brought along a small toaster oven. Those were very yummy! Thanks, Terry! :-)

We headed for our camper and got Tanna out for a walk around camp. There was plenty of grass, so we let Tanna eat for awhile while wandering around. Finally, I gave him plenty of food, hay, and water and disappeared into our camper for bed.

The next morning I was awake at 5 AM. A bit irritated that I couldn't sleep later, I pulled on a jacket and went to take Tanna for a walk. Everything looked foggy and hazy as I tried to see without my contacts. Daniel was still sleeping and I didn't want to wake him by banging around to get my contacts and I had left my glasses at home. I let Tanna graze for a long time and watched the camp wake up and begin preparations for ride day.

I then returned to my camp and settled Tanna in with some beet pulp and I settled into a chair with my laptop and my cell phone to attempt to get my email. Daniel stayed asleep and the horses started passing up and down the road to warm up. I still did not have my contacts on and I try hard not to squint so I was largely oblivious to who was actually passing our camp. If you passed me and expected me to greet you, I probably couldn't SEE you! :-) Tanna nickered once at some horse, so he must have recognized somebody.

After awhile, the camp grew quieter and I knew the 50 milers had left on their first loop. I packed up my laptop and headed for the showers. Ah, how nice to have a hot shower on a cool morning! I knew I would look forward to a shower after my ride the next day.

After having a leisurely breakfast with Daniel, we headed to Teddy's trailer to play with the Bosana boots. Tanna was pretty good except he kept wanting to bow for Teddy when she picked up his foot! I had been playing around with him earlier and I guess he thought he was still being asked to bow. I laughed at him and told him to cut it out. Teddy measured his front feet and we chose a boot size based on the chart in the boot brochure. Tanna was right on the edge of the sizes, so we went with the larger size. Teddy easily slipped the boots on. A success for her first time putting the boots on! :-)

Tanna stumbled the first couple of steps and then had no more trouble with them. Teddy suggested I head out on the trail to try them out. Daniel and I walked and trotted Tanna up and down the gravel road for a little bit and then I went to get ready for a ride.

When I mounted, Tanna gave his bucking signs and I was rather scared of him, not wanting to repeat the previous week's injuries. I dismounted and adjusted the bridle and checked for anything unusual. I saw nothing, so remounted. Tanna still acted idiotic, so Daniel led him around until I felt comfortable enough and we took off. Once we got started Tanna stopped his threats and continued on happily.

Tanna and I headed out the way the 50s would come in for the finish. I was planning a 9 hour ride time (excluding holds) for Sunday and knew that after that long, Tanna and I would welcome recognizing where we were and that we were close to "home." We walked, trotted and cantered our way along the trail having fun. I periodically checked to be sure I still had the Bosana boots and went out about 2 miles. When I turned around, I noticed that one of the boots had come off. So I walked back the way we'd come looking. I finally found the thing in the middle of a muddy bog. Ugh. I dismounted and retrieved the boot. I scraped off some of the worst of the mud and clipped it with a caribinger to the back of my saddle. Then we continued back down the trail. After just a few minutes, the OTHER boot came off. Grr. So I backtracked until I found it lying at the edge of a muddy bog. I repeated the process of scraping mud and clipping the boot to my saddle. Unfortunately, I didn't do a great job of clipping the boot and it jumped up and smacked me at every trot stride, leaving my tights muddy.

I managed to ignore the boots and continued on. When we got out on the gravel road where the finish line was, I leaned over Tanna's neck and sent him flying towards the finish line. Unfortunately, during the time I'd been on trail, the finish timers had arrived to be sure and catch the first 50 milers coming in from their ride. Tanna and I were unprepared for the sight of them, so we spooked hard to the left. Fortunately, there was a clearing and a trail to the left, so I was able to get Tanna back under control before we hit any trees. I circled back to the timers as they were calling out for my number. I smiled and told them I was just practicing for tomorrow and apologized for making them think I'd come in first. Then I sent Tanna back down the trail and came back at the finish line at a fast pace and kept my leg on him to keep him on the trail. Mission accomplished, I headed back to camp with the muddy boots.

I unsaddled Tanna and put him in his corral to eat, drink and be merry. And I settled down with a bucket of water and a scrub brush to clean up the Bosana boots. They were going back to Teddy immediately. I figured we should have chosen the smaller size. It took quite awhile to get the sticky, clinging mud from the boots. I managed to get most of it off and then Daniel and I headed to Teddy's trailer to return the boots. She urged us to bring Tanna back and we'd try a different size boot.

So we brought Tanna back and this time we chose a size 00 boot rather than a size 1. Teddy sprayed silicone spray on the boots to make them go on easier and these boots looked like they would fit much better. We discovered that the side to side measurement on these boots, at least for Tanna, was much less important than the toe to heel measurement.

I expressed my reluctance to try the boots on the actual ride. I wasn't concerned very much about rubbing, I didn't see much of how they could rub (although, there is always a way!), but I was more worried about having to keep track of boots when I wasn't sure they would stay on. So I took the boots with me and I will try them out over the next few weeks to see how they handle. I won't be riding Tanna for about 2 weeks, but he will be getting some round pen and back-to-the-basics ground manners refresher courses and I will likely put the boots on for those sessions to see how he handles them. If, IF I like the way the boots fit, I might try using them for a loop or two at Summer Breeze. We shall see. (www.bosanaboot.com for those interested in looking at them.)

I turned Tanna back into his pen, leaving the boots on his feet. Daniel and I figured it couldn't hurt to leave them on him in the pen. If he managed to remove them just wandering around, I definitely wouldn't want to ride in them anyway!

We ate lunch and then I laid down to take a nap. After waking up, I went out to check on when I could register for the ride. 4 PM. I had a little bit of time so I fiddled with tack and killed time before going to check in. I got my ride card in short order and returned to get Tanna for his vet in. I had to remove the Bosana boots and after a few minutes of contemplation and consulting the boot brochure, the boots were off with little effort. Hmm. Hope they stay on during riding! :-)

Tanna and I headed to the vet in. Daniel was napping, so I was on my own for a bit. Tanna was not happy about the caution tape that was strung to mark the vet area. I guess he can read and was worried there was something to be cautious about. I teased him and chatted with the lady in line behind me. When it was my turn, I chatted with Dr. Mike and trotted my horse out. He vetted in with all As and I led him back to the trailer.

I double-checked my tack and did some work on my saddle. Then I got Tanna some food and braided his mane while he ate and grazed. Finally, Daniel woke up and we ate quickly and went to the awards/dinner/ride meeting. We didn't eat with the others because this ride had the meal as an extra cost (which I like as we don't often eat the ride meals being vegetarian and it means I'm not paying for food I don't eat).

With so many riders, the awards took a very long time. I don't remember the exact numbers, but the completion rate was high. Over 90%. It was almost dark before we made our way back to our trailer. Daniel and I took Tanna out for another grazing walk before going to bed. I set my alarm to 1 AM and went to sleep.

Sometime during the night, I woke up and looked at my clock. It was 2 AM. I had slept through the alarm? Nope, the alarm had messed up and didn't go off. Oh, well, still plenty of time to feed Tanna. I had only planned to get up and give him more beet pulp, but while the feed was soaking, I decided to walk him around to graze. An hour later, I crawled back into bed, with Tanna full of grass and munching beet pulp.

At 5 AM, I was up again, this time "for real." I dressed quickly and headed out to saddle Tanna. As I was brushing and prepping him, I saw Ed Kidd heading toward me with a lead rope in his hand. He informed me his horse had escaped overnight and I expressed sympathy. It was hard to believe Merlin would go anywhere on his own with so many horses and so much grass around. But Ed said he'd been all over camp and didn't find him.

I continued to saddle my horse and Daniel ended up going with Ed in his truck to see if Merlin was down the road somewhere.

Start time was 6:30 AM and I was in the saddle by 6:15. Now a huge thanks goes out to Susan Vuturo here for helping me mount my bucking bronco. Since Daniel was out with Ed, I expressed to Susan (who was parked right next to me), my reservations and fears about getting on Tanna unaided. She immediately volunteered to lead him around by a lead rope after I mounted and help keep him under control until I felt ready to handle him. It only took a minute or two and I was comfortable with Tanna enough to go off on our warm-up. Usually if Tanna is going to explode into a bucking fit, it is within the first 2 minutes of mounting.

I warmed Tanna up back and forth on the road, chatting with other starters and crooning to Tanna to keep him calm. I was planning to go out with the pack, but somewhat in the back of the pack. Since Tanna had been doing so well at starts, I thought we could start with the pack. WRONG! Tanna did ok, but was being fidgety right at the start. As we passed the lake where the photographer was taking pictures, I was sure the picture would be horrible as Tanna and I discussed our speed options. (The picture turned out great and I bought it later.)

To avoid about 3/10 of a mile on pavement at the start, the Keesees had obtained permission to route the start through a new trail that I think is private property. The trail had been broken through on Friday morning, but was in good shape. Single track. I was about 13th or 14th in line of about 20 riders. I was doing my level best to keep Tanna off the mare in front of us. For some reason, he thinks if he is more than 6 inches behind the horse in front of him, he is losing.

I thought I was doing fairly well at keeping him back. He thought I was keeping him too far back and took advantage of an imbalance on my part to buck me off. Not sure what he thought that was going to accomplish as he didn't even run anywhere. I rolled under him and he managed to keep from stepping on me and I just jumped up and grabbed the reins. The riders behind me thoughtfully stopped and gave me words of encouragement as I remounted on my shaky legs. We took off again as soon as I was mounted and again with the fighting to keep him off the mare. Sheesh. I hadn't come 1/2 mile and I was ready to go back!

When the trail opened up, I was sure he would pitch another fit. Thankfully, he did not. We were still fighting, but no more bucking for the day. Whew!

After awhile I found myself in a group of 5 horses. We were trotting and cantering by turns. Well, the horses in front were mostly trotting that I saw, but Tanna and another mare were cantering more. We were booking right along. About 45 minutes into the ride, I figured we'd had enough of going that fast, so kept an eye out for a good place to pull off and get off Tanna. After another 5 minutes or so, I saw the perfect place and hopped off. The rider in front of me called back to make sure I was ok (as she had seen me fall off earlier) and I called to her that we were going to go slower.

I took a pit stop and tried to get Tanna to eat as I walked along on the ground. Uh, no. No, no, no. He wasn't interested at ALL. He ate about 2 bites and that was it. I was frustrated and after 15 or 20 minutes, finally tossed the food (rather than try to get it back in ziplock bags) and stuffed the collapsible bucket back into the pommel bag. I remounted and we took off at a good trot.

We spent the remainder of the loop pretty much by ourselves until about a mile or so out. There were other horses in sight sometimes, but mostly not. We caught up with the young mare Tanna had been trying to tail-gate when he threw me and rode in with them to the vet check.

The first loop was 18 miles. We did that loop in 2 hours 11 minutes. 8.25 mph. Faster than I would have liked, but I really didn't feel like Tanna was taxed or worn out. Daniel met us at the vet check and Tanna pulsed down in 3 minutes. His CRI was 56/48 and received a B- on guts, an A- on skin tenting, and a B+ on jug refill, As on the rest.

We immediately headed to our trailer not far away and I noticed Ed Kidd's truck was gone. His horse had been found fairly close to the camp at a neighbor's. I decided to leave the saddle on during the 40 minute hold, although I should have at least straightened the saddle pad. It was still under the saddle all around, but a bit crooked, but I didn't notice that until after being on the 2nd loop for awhile. We sponged and Tanna ate 3 or 4 apples and a few wisps of hay. A few bites of beet pulp. Nothing to get excited about and he didn't want to drink anything. He'd drank about 3 or 4 sips on the trail, but nothing like I wanted out of him. I think he thought he was done.

I was energized and bounced around during the vet check and only sat for the last few minutes. I gave Tanna some electrolytes and switched his bit for his hackamore. Daniel helped me mount and made sure Tanna would behave himself and off we went.

My plan was still to do a 9 hour ride time for this ride. Which meant we were going to slow W-A-Y down. The second loop was 16.5 miles, so I figured I could do the loop in 3.5 hours. We moseyed on down the trail alone. Tanna was doing well. Strong, confident, happy. He did not drink, though. I was irritated and worried that he would not drink. I tried at most of the water opportunities, but he wasn't interested.

At one point we saw a couple riders headed back towards camp. I thought they were going the wrong direction, but they weren't! I had gotten my loops mixed up in my head and forgot which loop I was on. Goofy, April. I mean, I knew I was on the 2nd loop and I had been following the trail signs for the 2nd loop, but the map layout I had in my head was for the 3rd loop!

Shortly after we saw the riders, I passed an intersection that confused me. I was going straight, but a trail T-ed into the trail I was on. I was not sure if I should go straight or turn. So I pulled out my handy map of loop 2 and puzzled over it for a minute or two. I finally decided to make the turn and after I did so, I noticed a pie plate stapled flat to the top of a stump pointing for me to turn. Ok, so at least I made the right decision! I remounted and turned down the trail.

We continued to meander down the trail until I decided it was time for a pit stop for me. I hopped off and led Tanna a bit into the woods. We both took care of business and returned to the trail before a pair of riders I could hear coming from the opposite direction were in sight. We continued at a leisurely pace and I was getting quite concerned that Tanna was not drinking. It was well after 25 miles at this point and he should have been drinking long before now. But he still refused water. Even good water that looked like I might drink it, much less him.

When the trail looped back around to our pit stop place, I again stopped for a pit stop and checked Tanna's gut sounds. Not dead, but not the best either. I spent several minutes trying to get him to drink and sponging him off. I began to despair and decided we should probably pull at the next vet check. Tanna can take 15-20 miles to start drinking, but it had been at least 28 or 29 miles and he was not drinking and that bothered me very much. His attitude was good, his step was brisk, he was alert, his heart rate was normal. But his guts were a little quiet and he was not drinking.

We continued on and I began to earnestly look for grass for Tanna to eat. At this point, I don't remember if we found grass first or what, but around noon or so (5.5 hours after the start), Tanna and I were trotting along at a steady, but slow pace. I was day-dreaming and letting the reins dangle. Tanna glanced at a nasty looking lake to our left and kept trucking on. But not 100 feet down the trail, he stopped dead in his tracks and eagerly sucked up nastier stinky water from a hoof-print in the mud. I said, ok, fine, if you're going to drink yucky water, at least choose the BEST yucky water! And the source with the most water.

So I gathered the reins and urged him back to the lake. He did not want to go down the steep bank and we had a discussion about that. He backed up in response to my asking him to move forward, so I immediately changed my tactic and asked him to back down the trail. Tanna thought that was fine...until he ran into a tree. Then he decided I won and we'd go down the bank to the lake. As soon as he got his head down, he drank and drank and drank and drank some more. I could have cried from relief.

I checked his back legs to be sure his run-in with the tree hadn't hurt him and then we walked down the trail for a little bit to let the water settle in his stomach.

We came out where there was some grass and I hand-walked Tanna and kept asking him to eat grass until he saw some other riders leaving out on their 3rd loop. After that, asking him to eat was just a waste of time, so I mounted up and continued into camp.

We did that 16.5 mile loop in 3 hours 20 minutes (4.9 mph). Much closer to my estimation than our first loop had been. He, of course, pulsed down quickly and we vetted in. His CRI was again 56/48. His score was about the same as the first vet check except his attitude and impulsion were down.

Daniel and I took him back to the trailer and he ate quite well. He ripped into his hay and ate a bit of beet pulp and drank more water. Whew. I wasn't going to pull him if he was going to eat and drink like that. We could get through the last 15.5 miles. He ate for about 40 minutes of the hour long hold. I had thought both holds were 40 minutes, but thankfully, the second hold was 1 hour. I sure wish he'd eat like that on the 1st hold!

My second mistake (the first being starting with the pack instead of after it) was not electrolyting Tanna like I should have. I usually electrolyte before the start, at each vet check and at least once in the middle of each loop. Well, I had decided to not electrolyte during the loops. I think if I had, he would have drunk more sooner. Because he did drink a few sips on the first loop, I would have been ok to electrolyte him. I deviated from our routine to see how it would go and it didn't go well. So for the 3rd loop, I went out armed with 2 oz of EnduraMax and applesauce mixed in a syringe.

We took our time about the 3rd loop, too. There was a rider behind me still to leave the vet check and I thought she wasn't far behind. So I dilly-dallied a bit, hoping she would catch me and we could ride together. I stopped often to let Tanna graze and offered water. He drank within 45 minutes of leaving camp and I electrolyted him an hour after being out. After awhile, I decided that the rider just wasn't coming, so I became more dogged in our pace, but still allowing plenty of time for grazing when there was grass.

Around 4 PM, my MP3 player crashed to the ground during a dismount and no amount of coaxing could entice it to come back on. I had been listening to it for all of the 2nd and 3rd loops. But, since it was dead, I removed it from my belt and stuffed it into my pommel bag and continued on.

I began to get bored and Tanna and I both perked up when we reached the part of the trail we had pre-ridden the day before. Less than 2 miles to the finish! I glanced at my watch and realized that we were on target to do our 9 hour ride time after all. We trotted onto the gravel road and I toyed with the idea of cantering in for the finish, but nixed that idea when I saw Dr. Mike's van headed towards me. He got out of the van and clapped as I finished our ride.

I was the last rider out and he had come to be sure I didn't feel left out since the timers were not there. He gave me my ride time. 5:05 PM. Taking out the holds, that gave me 8 hours 55 minutes ride time. Heheh. Pretty close to my 9 hour goal after all!

I trotted Tanna out to the pavement and then dismounted and led him to our camp. I stripped him and sponged him off really well before continuing on to vet out. His impulsion and attitude and guts were still about the same, but his jugular refill had improven all the way to an A. The vet cautioned me about his guts and I agreed, saying Tanna would get plenty of food and he would probably eat it. I hadn't been happy with his eating and drinking, but was sure he'd be fine.

Daniel and I returned Tanna to his pen and went to look at the pictures taken. There were 3 nice ones of us (and two pretty bad ones when I was off-balance and fighting with Tanna near the beginning). So we bought the 3 nice ones and I got my t-shirt completion award.

All the vet cards were being kept and would be mailed out later. However, I like to have my vet card to analyze after the ride, so Daniel got his camera and took pictures of each side of my vet card for me to look at later. Solved that problem quite quickly. :-)

Still dressed in my ride clothes, I got Tanna from his pen and Daniel and I took him for a stroll. There were not nearly as many people in camp. Most everybody had left during the course of the day. I normally didn't go into the primitive camping area simply because there was lots of grass in the main campground, but we decided to wander through the primitive field for awhile.

As we were passing one trailer, I heard somebody call out to me. It was Eva de Paulis! She and Roger were sitting in front of their trailer passing the time and Daniel and I sat and visited with them for quite awhile while Tanna ate grass around us. Kinda sad when you have to travel 6 hours to visit with friends that live an hour away! LOL. Eva had come in first and I had come in last. We had a great visit, but eventually had to take our leave. I still hadn't had a shower, changed my clothes or had my supper yet and it was getting dark. Tanna had gotten a good lot of grass while we chatted.

The next morning, we loaded up and headed back home. We returned Terry's electricity converter and thanked her. She responded by giving me some horse cookies that my horse likes. I will have to figure out where to get some of those! :-) Thank you, again, Terry! Email me so I can find out how to get more! :-)

What an absolutely great place! The temperatures were awesome! Upper 70s, maybe lower 80s on Sunday, and low humidity. The bugs got Tanna and me while we were out later on Sunday afternoon, but not too bad. The camp ground was nice. Barns (with stalls a bit on the small side, but sufficient), electric and water at the camp sites, a hot shower, friendly owners. The ride management was great! Edie and Ken Keesee handled the huge turnout well and were very sweet the entire time, even though they must have been dead tired from all the work. The trail markings were great. I love pie plate directions. And I especially like the big X plates to keep me from going down the wrong trail. Short of roping off trails I shouldn't go down, it doesn't get much easier than that! I only had to consult my maps twice the entire time and never once got lost. The trails were very nice. Great footing. Some short stretches of gravel road. Water along the trail. Most of the trail was in the shade, which was very nice for me being out in the hottest part of the day. Just great. I will definitely have this one on my calendar for next year. Thanks to all the volunteers that helped put this ride on. Thanks to the vets, Dr. Habel, Dr. Mayer, and Dr. Marheine. And a big thanks to the Keesees. I had a great time!

Nashville, TN