Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Bighorn Trail - Cindy Collins

Cindy Collins

OK. I've tried to be quiet, but it just isn't in me. I have to share a
little of my love of this trail. The Big Horn 100 predates the AERC. It
has been run continuously since 1971. It is a single loop 100 mile trail.

It was twice the site of the Race of Champions. It starts out of Shell,
WY at ~4,000 ft. The first 25 miles rise gradually out of the desert to
the base of the mountains. The sunrise over the desert floor takes your
breath away. Purple, orange, rose, and every shade of brown and tan
appear in the rocks. You cross beautiful, clear, cold streams of water.
Then you begin the spectacular climb 5,000 ft. through a series of five
canyons with running streams. As you climb, the views of the valley floor
spread out below you and you see the mountain ranges in the distance...the
Beartooths, the Absarokas, the Pryors and the Wind Rivers. Wild flowers
of every imaginable color spread out over the Big Horn trails once you get
to the top. Pictures really can't do them justice. Once on top of this
plateau, you see the big snowcapped peaks of the BigHorns, especially
Cloud Peak, and you ride toward those distant shrines. At the half way
point of Antelope Butte, you just think that it can't get any more
beautiful. But, you are wrong.

The trail leads out of the mid way point
on to the Adelaide trail and the Cloud Peak wilderness area. The quaking
aspen trees, streams, flowers, and views continue to be awe inspiring.
Now you climb up a narrow, single track trail to Adelaide Lake. The lake
is a jewel surrounded by alpine meadows, streams, and spectacular rock
formations. As you continue to climb through Boulder Basin, you look back
over your shoulder to see both Adelaide Lake and Shell Reservoir sparkling
below you, surrounded by mountains. You reach the high point of the ride,
almost 11,000 ft. and see the entire BigHorn basin of Wyoming spread out
below you.

Then you begin the descent toward Jack Creek and your final
rest before the long trail back down to Shell over the Black Mt. road. If
you are "my" speed, you get to watch another amazing sunset as you descend
through more wild flowers and mountain meadows toward the desert floor.
The stars in the Wyoming sky look like you could reach up and touch them.
You see a few scattered pinpoints of light below that show you really
aren't totally alone in this magnificent place. As you make your final
drop onto the red desert floor and head toward the few vehicle lights
awaiting the end of your journey, you know that you and your horse have
accomplished something magical that no one can ever take away from you.
You won't have a stadium of cheering volunteers, but the people there will
care about you as an individual because you will be one of a very small
number of riders they worried about all day long.

I have completed the Big Horn 100 seven times. I have helped with the
ride in a variety of jobs since 1981. I have faced the "agony" of defeat
on it more times than I care to recall. It fills my dreams and my heart.
Some day, I hope my ashes are spread over it. Most of all, I love every
inch of it. It represents endurance riding to me, and all of the brave
horses that have carried me over it. I can close my eyes and feel them
under me. I can see the faces and hear the voices of my many dear friends
who have shared these trails with me. I can lean down and smell the
greatness in the mane of horses like Khalil. Joe let me take him on a
conditioning ride on a portion of the trail. I can see ROC winners
racing, literally, for those last few yards after traveling this grueling
trail. I can see "old timers" racing across a wooden, no side rails,
bridge over Shell creek, making a 90 degrees turn on a single track off
that bridge at a full gallop into the finish line at the camp. I am
humbled by their horses' hearts.

Tevis probably has 500 volunteers. It is a magnificent trail. I've
ridden all but 5 miles of it and I totally understand its mystique.
However, I truly believe that the BigHorn is the most beautiful trail in
the world. We're lucky if we have 20 volunteers we can count on. You do
have to be much more independent and pioneer-like for the Big Horn. But,
I do believe it is worth all the hardships and heartaches just to see it
one time in your life. Please come ride with us. We'll do our very best
to make it a memorable experience. Cindy

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hallelujah! Movin' on up! - Jim Holland

Jim Holland

After some discussion, I had finally convinced Joan that we should try the 75 at Hallelujah. (She's more concerned about Sunny and Magic than she is about me) We arrived in early afternoon and found a big crowd already there. Driving down the access road, magically there was a spot open - somebody had left! Close to the Vet area, great spot for a corral. Good omen! We jumped right in there and set up camp. didn't even have to unhook the trailer.

Later that afternoon with everything set up, I had just settled in with a Mike's Hard Lemon and the newspaper, enjoying a beautiful fall afternoon. It looked good for a ride with NO RAIN! Every ride we have attended this year it has rained before, after, or during the ride. My trailer tires are green from mildew! Joan had taken Magic for a walk to find some grass.

I was about half asleep when Joan showed up with a dozen or so junior girls. It seems that they came along, met Magic and she showed them the "gimme a kiss" trick. They wanted to see his other tricks. Magic loves people and was pleased to have a big crowd. He said "No, I don't want to do 75 miles", "Yes, I'm ready to go home", picked up my hat when I dropped it, and 'took a bow'. Then he schmoozed all over the girls, kissed 'em all, scratched on 'em, and just went into 'big dog' mode. I think some of them would have spent the night in the corral with him! During the ride, they kept checking with Joan to see how he was doing. Some of them showed up at his final Vet Check. I even got a "high five" from one of the girls when he finished!! J One of the girl's Mom said "I been hearing about this 'trick horse' all day!"

The ride was a little 'different' from what I was used to in the SE. There were 4 loops, the 50's and 75's starting on one color, the 25's and 100's on another. The 75's and 100's would not have a Vet Check after the first 15 miles. just a 10 minute hold, then a Vet Check after the next loop of 10 miles. We will have done 25 miles at the first Vet Check. I like an early Vet Check to sort things out, get my horse calmed down, and regroup. But this worked just as well. Magic got to relax for a few minutes, get a drink, and get a bite or two and I got a chance to regroup. An hour hold at 40 miles. all other holds at 30 minutes. The order of the loops was taped on all the Porta Potty doors and in the rider package. Kewl! After all this had been explained at the rider meeting, there came a voice from the back "What loop do we start on?" Hmmm - either this guy was constipated, dehydrated, and hadn't read his rider packet or he was using the woods! J This got a chuckle from the crowd.

10 entries in the 75 - was hoping for more. L

I really wanted someone to ride with. Tim Worden and I had discussed it, but at the last minute, he decided his horse was not up to 75. would stay with the 50. Rats! We camped next to Nancy Walker from Pennsylvania, who had a cute little mare that Magic liked. After some discussion, we decided to ride together.

Got up to feed Magic a slurry at midnight and check his hay and water. low clouds, not quite a full moon.

A controlled start at dawn - 7:00AM. Since we were starting with the 50's, Nancy and I hung out and let 'em all go on, then fell in behind. The 50's turned off about ? mile down the trail and we continued on. At about 5 miles, Nancy pulled up because her little mare just ADR - "Ain't Doing Right". Seemed to be cramping in the rear. Dang! Nancy decided to hoof it back to camp. Looks like it's going to be just me 'n Magic the rest of the day.

1.5 hours on the first 15 mile loop - little too fast, but OK - Magic didn't drink at all on the trail, but ate his slurry and took a good drink just as we were leaving the 10 minute hold. Back after the 10 mile loop at 10:18 - 8 miles/hr. Still just a little fast, but acceptable. Dumped the saddle, washed off the sand and went immediately to the Vet...pulse at 56. Perfect Vet score - all A's.

Out at 10:55 on the next loop - 15 miles. arrival at 12:51 - perfect pace! Magic is drinking well now. Dumped the saddle, straight to the Vet, pulse at 50. Another perfect Vet score - all A's. An hour hold here. Magic drank well and is HUNGRY! Wolfed down his beet pulp slurry - so we made him another one. Ate that one as well, then moved on to the hay for a few minutes, cocked a back leg and took a nap! What a guy!

Out at 1:59 for another 10 mile loop, arrived at 3:18. pace is good. Pulse is 52...Vet scores again perfect - all A's.

25 miles to go. Last 15 mile loop, out at 3:55 - done this loop before. Magic is dragging a little with no company, but about halfway through the loop, he realizes he is headed for camp and picks it up. Arrived at 6:02. pace still good - right at two hours for 15 miles. Again straight to the Vet. pulse at 61 - highest of the day so far, but the sand is deep on this loop. They are serving dinner, so Joan does the trot out while I grab a plate of pork barbecue and some wonderful desert. Otis gives me a "thumbs up" from the Vet area. again straight A's...can he hold this for the rest of the ride?

10 miles to go - Otis asks "Are you OK?" He isn't worried about Magic! Out on the last 10 miles at dusk. moon is rising, but lots of shadows and dark in the trees. After about 5 miles, can't see anything but the glow sticks, so trusting Magic now, who is still holding a nice steady trot. He knows this trail and handles it well, slowing for the downhills and sand, picking it up on the flat, getting stronger. He slows as the lights of camp come into sight and I dismount and lead him into camp. Checked with the in timer and head for the trailer. Drop the saddle, and don't even bother with a pulse check. At the P/R, his pulse is the lowest of the day. 47. When the Vet checks him after the trot out, it is 44! Again straight A's. a perfect day. Ten riders started, 9 finished - we were 7th. Joan and I were hugging Magic we were so proud of him - 75 miles with a perfect Vet score - better than a win!

Got Magic clean and his blanket on and crashed for the night. Joan got up at midnight, fed Magic and took him for a walk just as the last 100 miler (Sandy Thompson) was coming in. About 6:30AM, heard the patter of rain on the trailer roof. Bounced out of bed to get all the 'stuff' under the awning. Dang, just can't get away from this rain! The 75 and 100 milers huddled under the tent for awards Sunday morning. Don't remember much about placings. Debra Foti won the 50.

Looking forward to doing the 100 at Goethe.

I really enjoyed this ride. My thanks to Lucie Hancock, Patricia Jackson, and the rest of the staff.. We enjoyed it a lot and hope to be back next year. The trail was marking was excellent - if you got lost on this ride you were not paying attention!

The vets were great! An international crew in addition to Otis Schmitt - they really liked Magic, although they were somewhat surprised when I showed up for the trot out in a neck rope. (I could probably do the trot out in nothing with Magic! ) He does a 'purty' trot on my shoulder.

When I was out on the trail, Joan was "volunteering" as a timer and crewing for other riders. Couldn't have done it without her!

Jim, Sun of Dimanche+, and Mahada Magic

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

First Ride Experience - Shawnee Urano

Shawnee Urano

Well, it finally happened! This weekend I rode in my very first Endurance Ride at the Colorado Horse Park Challenge. I did the 25 miler with my experienced enthusiastic Arab mare. The weather was beautiful (the thunderstorms were a little coolish), the facility was really nice for both people and horses (my guys got to stay in a panel paddock together, my husband and I were able to use the showers!), the trail was incredibly well marked (woohoo!), the ride itself was pretty easy (granted I have nothing to judge it by), the ride management were all incredibly helpful and friendly, the awards meal was yummy, the prizes offered were top-notch, and most of all, the people that we met were so very nice! (A big change from a lot of the show circuit people that we meet.)

We started off our weekend on Friday by going to the CAHC Fall Arabian Show in Denver, our ponies showed in the over fences classes (Musik outdid herself yet again!) and the Sport Horse classes, then we drove up to Parker. Dave and I fumbled our way around to figure out where we needed to be, and after she had some time to relax, eat, and drink, we took Musik over to be checked in by the vet. She did great at the vet-in and then we wandered back to our "camp" area. On our travels we met Bruce, Amber, and Louise Burton (hi guys!) who answered questions and shared their knowledge with us, and reassured me that I really wouldn't need to refer to the map that we were given at the Rider Meeting. Bruce also helped answer Dave's questions about what he needed to do as my Crew Guy, and helped Dave to feel at ease with his new job.

The morning of the event came pretty early (we had gotten up at 3.30 AM Friday morning to make it to the Arab show), but I was so excited I bounced out of my sleeping bag quickly. I had made lists of things I wanted Dave to bring for Musik, as well as what he should bring for me, at our vet check. We had everything gathered up, ready to go, and then it was time to get Musik "dressed". The bridle and breastcollar that I had ordered from Hought ( had come in early enough for me to try it out at home (I remembered everyone's advice!), so I was able to use that on our ride. She looked pretty sharp in her purple and black! :-) She must have watched the 50 milers go out on their ride, because she totally knew what was up. She had done the endurance bit with a previous owner in 2000, and I think she must have remembered everything, and how much fun she had. She would hardly hold still for me to tack her up, and then getting on was challenging since she kept walking off....

We had a controlled start (hahahhahaha) to get going, and then we were off! I was hoping to be off like a herd of turtles, since it was our first and I wasn't sure how to pace her or anything like that. My biggest fear was that we would get pulled at one of our vet checks and/or she would wear herself out. My goal was to finish, to complete. Musik had other goals in mind. I figured we would start out at or near the end of the group, and trot for quite a while to get our bearings, enjoy the ride, etc. We ended up cantering a good deal of the first half of the ride, passing groups of people, trying to slow down (that would be me), and then passing more. I had no idea where we were in relation to the leaders, and I was just concerned about trying to get my pony to listen a little bit better in the midst of her excitement. I didn't know if it would be okay for her to gallop on, but I figured that if I didn't know, then it was a better idea to try to stay a little slower paced. I approached another group of riders, and the rider in the front of that group called back to let me know it was okay for me to pass if I wanted to. I really didn't want to (thinking it wouldn't be a good thing for her to do), so I hollered back that even though my mare wanted to, I didn't. He told me it was fine with him if I stayed where I was and rode with him and his group, which was a huge relief to me. So I did.

We get to talking and introduce ourselves, and I find I am riding with Stace and Marlene Moss (hi guys!), who were incredibly kind and gracious to share their knowledge, friendship, advice, and experience with me, and let me ride the entire ride along with them! There were about 6 or 7 of us that all rode together, and we all had a great time. (okay, I know I did!) Stace opened almost every single gate for us, Marlene was wonderful to hold my horse for me while I tried to prevent my bladder from exploding (okay, dehydration has to be the key here....), and we all talked about all kinds of things, and enjoyed each other's company and horses.
(to be continued)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Long X Ride - Sybil Soulsby

Sybil Soulsby

I sat tired and dirty at the Canadian Customs post at Westhope whilst the enthusiastic border guard carefully read the label on a bag of horse food. I thought how ironic it was that the only time I had ever won anything that it would be confiscated.

I did not set out to win, I had come down to the Long X, one of my favourite rides, simply to have a good time doing the Limited Distance and enjoy myself, I had even brought some beer with me as socialising was a big part of my weekend plans.

The Long X is one of my favourite rides for many reasons. I think the main reason is the scenery and challenge of the course. As you approach the ride you travel over endless prairie and the first time I went I thought, "Oh no, miles of flat and empty land." However you turn a corner and like Alice entering Wonderland you go down, down and still down to the Little Missouri river through a spectacular stripy canyon, over a bridge if you come from the East, and turn into the campsite which has a good road and ample room for even the biggest rigs and plenty of them, with lots of water provided by the management in big troughs.

On the Saturday, Long X I, I had the privilege of riding Kan Kan's Jazz, a horse belonging to Jutta Schmidt, one of the ride managers. We had coasted round, late for all our start and out times and managed a surprise 5th place which had earned us a nice brush and tube of Quest and a T shirt. The Customs official had been quite interested in the Quest as well.

I learned a very valuable lesson too. I now know that my heart rate monitor picks up the signal from my analogue watch much better than from the horse. His heart rate was exactly 60 forever and we finally gave up and took him to the pulse lanes where it turned out to be 44, the same as his check in pulse. Feeling pretty silly, I gave him a good lunch and continued coasting round.

On the Sunday, Long X II, I had started almost on time, this time with Kasheyn's Glory, aka Harley, who belongs to ride manager DeAnne Knapp. Harley had achieved a great 2nd place finish the previous day and my plan was just to coast around and keep him safe. Can you spot the theme here? I pretty much coast around all of my rides, usually with new or old friends, chatting away and just being temporarily free from all the commitments, deadlines and workload that my normal life entails. Which is why our win was so unlikely.

Harley was in great form and I found some very nice people to ride and chat with. We seemed to fly round, Harley really trotting out, pulsing down quickly (with the watch removed) and he ate very well before his exit CRI and we set off again. He was still in excellent form and we came back in first and pulsed down in good time, especially given the heat that had been building through the middle of the day, well ahead of our nearest competition. Harley was barefoot, which delighted me as I ride my own horse barefoot.

As I had to return to Canada before the border closed I privately accepted my first place and surprise of all surprises, the Best Condition Award. This is an award I do not usually have much chance at, weighing 165lbs with tack. I felt just like a child at Christmas time and made off with a car full of loot still somewhat overwhelmed and over excited. Never did I give the border guards a thought.

All the way home, which is a 6 hour journey, I thought about the weekend which I had enjoyed so much.

I thought about the huge pile of prizes and sponsorships which Jutta had obtained from various companies, especially from Watford City businesses and Fort Dodge who had even sponsored the T shirts and Dr Joe Baber DVM as well as all the Quest. A big thank you to all those entities which have given so generously and supported this ride.

Every person who completed received a lot of stuff and it took ride manager Danna Nechiporenko quite some time to give it all out at the dinner supported by 4 H and awards presentation on the Saturday night. We also celebrated someone's birthday.

I thought about how much I enjoyed the competent and experienced Vet team. It makes a big difference in a ride to have confidence in the Vets, not just their ability, but their impartiality and concern for the horses and the top level experience that Dr Anne Christopherson brings to this ride makes it a class event.

I thought about the age range, from 9 to 73 and hoped that I would be sound enough at 73 to ride and that my own kids would come with me when they were 9. I definitely will bring them to the Long X. I want them to see the stripy canyons, to ride along the challenging switchback trails up and down those huge canyons on fit ponies and to look from the top out across the canyon to the prairie and down far below to the Little Missouri. This is a real misnomer, it's very wide and long. I also want them to see all the native wild animals I saw. Eileen Hart visiting from New Zealand said that she had even seen Big Horn sheep near camp in the days leading up to the ride.

With these happy thoughts and a combination of tiredness and elation I entered the border post with 10 minutes to spare. Worried that I had all the necessary documents I never thought about all the goodies. "What have you got? Any alcohol or tobacco?"

Well I still had most of the beer (which must mean I never stopped talking long enough to drink it). Not enough to cause concern. However the horse food took some explaining. Fortunately for me after a 20 minute search in the fading light he announced that to his relief I could keep it. His relief? What about my relief? At the bottom of the list of ingredients was a list in bold type of what it did NOT contain and this was the crux of the matter. It must be good stuff! We also had to do this with the Quest and I wondered about the T shirts, some of which I had bought to support the Maah Dah Hey Trail, and the Carousel tights and the bag and brushes I had also won. Apparently they were not interesting to Canadian Customs.

Wanting to get home which was still an hour away, I was greatly relieved that he did not want a closer examination of my camping stuff, probably because it was all jammed in with the laundry bag. Apparently horses don't smell lovely to everyone. He was not remotely impressed that I had actually won something which was disappointing.

I have come home again with some very happy memories of one of my favourite rides, old acquaintances renewed and new ones made and quite unexpectedly a car full of "customs approved" prizes.

Sybil Soulsby

Monday, August 09, 2004

Tevis- Home Again - Becky Siler

Becky Siler

Well what can I say? I arrived home at 1:30 am this morning after dropping George off with Ed in Lake City and Roxanne and Shar-Po off in Micanopy. It was really difficult to give George up. He's a strong & independent horse, and at times he can seem indifferent to your attentions, but that is all part of what makes him so tough.

WOW, is all I can really say. I'm somewhat drained from the trip, but overall, my experience was absolutely wonderful, and the memories will last a lifetime for sure...I journaled every day from two weeks prior to the trip, so very soon I will write a memoir tale of Tevis using excerpts from my journal.

Everyone was so wonderful to us both before, during and after our trip. We met nice folks all across these great United States; from mechanics to waitresses, to gas station attendants, to the veterinarian who stitched Shar-Po, to AERC members whom we'd never met who put us and our horses up at their home in Cheyenne, Wy this week.

Staying at Pete DeCarlie and Judy Houle's place in Pilot Hill, CA was the best though. Our horses arrived in time to rest and recuperate, and they entered into the Tevis ride refreshed and ready to tackle the tough trail ahead. We had the pleasure of camping near Steve and Dinah Rojek, and Tuesday evening before Tevis Roxanne and I hosted the most wonderful steak cookout which was the perfect precursor to the ride.

My good friend Rachel Carr Aschmeyer came from San Francisco to be my personal crew, as she's the lady who got me into distance riding 24 years ago! She truly was my salvation during the event. She doted on me like a mother hen, and when George and I rounded that last bend into the Auburn fairgrounds and I heard her "owl" call that we had used in the woods 24 years ago, I just about died with elation that we had done it! It was then that I heard Rachel, Kathi, Ed and Jackie screaming and hollering, and all my woes from being sick to my stomach during the long night ride through the canyons disappeared.

The Tevis was everything I had dreamed, studied and expected it to be and more. The challenges of getting there and home paled in comparison to the wonderful experiences I had.
I will never ride a horse the same again. From the high country in the Granite Chief Wilderness with it's horrible boulders and rock strewn footing, to tackling Cougar Rock, the ride gave me confidence beyond belief. I used to dream of riding Tevis, but was scared with all my being to go over Cougar Rock. Not so now- just put your faith in God and a good horse's footing, and you can do anything.
The beauty of Tevis is in-comparable to anything I've ever experienced on a horse before. The breath-taking views and high mountain country is extroidonary! When Mac Greely, (a free-lance journalist who has followed my story for some time now), approached me at Robinson Flat with a microphone for an interview, I remember shouting to him as we walked to the vet check; "gorgeous, the most incredible territory I've ever seen"! And it was true- I will never forget that feeling of being there.
No enchantment can ever compare to trotting a good horse through the night while leading a string of a dozen horses along a canyon cliff trail with your moon shadow cast on the sheer rock wall only inches from your shoulder...George and I were about the only ones without glow sticks, and I never took my flashlight out of my pack even one single time. He boldly led the way for two hours as we picked our way to Francisco's vet check. Even when I was so sick to my stomach that I could hardly mount up at Lower Quarry ninety-four miles out, he patiently waited while volunteers held my stirrup and fed him hay on our way out of the check.

As I crossed no-hands bridge, I cried as I knew we might actually accomplish this crazy adventure I had set out upon sixteen months ago. I even met and got to ride a very short while with my hero Julie Suhr who actually remembered me by name at the pre-ride briefing the night before. Her book was my final inspiration to just "go for it".

I want to thank the whole southeast region for their support, and especially my hubby who really cares nothing about endurance, but patiently feeds my horses when I'm gone and supports my cause without complaint. I also want to thank my good friends Ed and Kathi Kilpatrick for loaning me their incredible mustang Gorgeous George.
Also, my riding partners Anitra Peterson and Maris Ramsey who rode and trained with me the most and put up with all my crazy notions about Tevis for a long time. I'd like to thank Dinah Rojek for all the coaching she gave me especially in the early months while I was trying to get my horse Miles ready. Our truck driver Gerry Ryan hauled Roxanne's trailer with his new F-350 all the way from Iowa to CA. Since I'm sure my truck would have never made it, we couldn't have done the trip without him.
I also need to include my veterinarian Donna Woelfel for all she does for me & my horses and for lending me her ear on many occasions. Also my farrier Trish Williams who can shoe a horse as good or better than any man I know and who can take a horse she's never seen before and shoe him for Tevis with only two prior settings eight weeks before the ride.

I want to extend my heartfelt empathy to Roxanne for not being able to finish on Shar-Po. She was a real trooper throughout everything, and she and I learned to travel together pretty good for being such total opposites!

I will chronicle my adventures with excerpts from my journal in the near future. I had heard in the weeks prior to Tevis from reliable sources that there were bets on my head that I'd never even make it to Tevis much less finish...My CTR background and perfect pacing is what really got me through Tevis, not necessarily endurance,

So just remember always: "If you can dream it, you can do it, but it takes people to make that dream a reality" (Walt Disney)

Becky Siler

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Tevis Bound - Evelyn Hartman

Evelyn Hartman

Ten years ago when I first started my business I had no idea what or who an Endurance or CTR rider was, nor did the Tevis mean anything to me.
I went to many horse shows selling the things I made. My first encounter with an Endurance rider was when I met Becky Hackworth at one of the shows where her daughters were showing. That chance meeting led to my now almost famous (grin) Trottin' Bra...see website for complete story, and an explanation of what Endurance and CTR was. At about this same time Elfta Hilzman, whom I had known for some time began riding Endurance.
Both Elfta and Becky encouraged me to go to the rides and sell my clothing. The first ride I went to was the Warner Springs Ride put on by Terry Wooly-Howe. I was so well received and everyone liked my things that I decided to go to more rides.

Over time I kept hearing about "the Tevis". Always mentioned with such a reverence, mystic and awe of being someday able to ride in it.
Fast forward to 2004. We decided that we would go to the Tevis as vendors. There was much preparation to be done. Riders and their horses spend literally years training for this one special day. This year made even more special as it was the 50th anniversary and a beautiful buckle was to be given to those that completed.
We had gotten a trailer and had been pulling it to the rides but due to a back injury Pat was often very uncomfortable with this arrangement. I had been thinking about getting a motorhome so that he would have a place to go inside and rest rather than sitting in a chair all day. Oh, but how to do it financially was another matter.

In December of 03 a very good friend of ours passed away. He was a very large man and he had bought a motorhome and had many modifications done to it for his comfort. Long story short we decided to buy it from his widow in late June 04.
Unbeknownst to us a "friend" that had been helping her and helping himself had sabotaged a number of things on it in order to tell her they didn't work and get it for little money. We spent almost $2000.00 on it before we even left San Diego and because of these repairs we didn't even have time to take it out on the road. It is a small 23 ft. one and with careful thought and planning I was able to get all my inventory and my booth set up in it with room for us and the two dogs.

We left San Diego on Monday morning, the 26th. I had been running on adrenalin and frazzled nerves trying to get everything packed that we might need for the trip. As with the horse and rider teams, going to the Tevis, much thought must go into the adventure, especially when you are traveling long distances to get there.
Shortly after we stared the dash air conditioning quit working. Now any other time of the year this would not have mattered, but coming across the High Desert and the San Joaquin Valley in mattered. Complicating things was the tremendous engine heat coming from the cowling (doghorse). Hot weather outside and even hotter heat coming off the engine inside made for a sweltering ride. I had at the last minute grabbed a little item called a "Misty Mate" that sprays a fine mist. This proved to be a godsend, using it to wet us all down, kept us from becoming toast.

Pat had planned our trip, where we would stay each night, that is before we started. We soon found out that the gas tank overflow recovery tube had a leak in it thus limiting how much gas we could put in it making it necessary to stop for gas more often.
We stayed in the KOA campgrounds in Lost Hills, just outside of Bakersfield on Monday night. The campground in Auburn was where we stayed on Tuesday night. Wednesday was a very exciting day for me.....that night we would be at the Tevis.
We headed for Truckee to get the last of our groceries and stock up on ice. When we left the store parking lot my heart was singing.....only a few more miles and we would be there. I was so looking forward to seeing all of you, making new friends and renewing others.
We followed the directions printed off the Tevis website and turned off on Mt. Watson Rd. and started up the hill. Got about 2 miles up the hill and the engine vapor locked causing us to loose all power, brakes, power steering, everything. Nothing but the incredible driving skills of Pat, who has been a Professional Truck Driver all of his life, saved us from a horrible crash. As luck would have it, the grace of God, or our Guardian Angel, he was able to steer the motorhome onto a small gravel area at the side of the road.

When we finally came to a stop our hearts were in our throats with fear and disbelief at what had just happened. What to do now? Pat opened the hood to let the engine cool off although the gauges weren't reading hot.
We sat there for over an hour trying to think of what to do. I got out and walked aways up the hill and could see that it just kept curving and going up. We got it started again and decided to try it one more time. Got only half as far as the first time and the same thing happened only this time there was a car coming up behind us and one coming very fast down the hill at us. We were both screaming, STOP, STOP, as Pat once again managed to maneuver us back to the wide spot down the hill. Neither of the cars stopped.
We sat some more. Beautiful setting, blue skies, warm breeze, orange butterflies flitting all around us, but for our situation a very frightful place to be. One man stopped, nothing he could do...didn't even know what Tevis was.

We got the motorhome started again and managed to turn it around so we were facing down hill. 2 men with a horse trailer, going to Tevis stopped, said to go back down into Truckee if we could get there. Didn't get their names but thanks to who ever they were just for stopping when others didn't. A local stopped, having talked to the two men in the blue Dodge truck with the two horse trailer and said the same thing about going back into Truckee, he couldn't help as he had wife and 3 big dogs in his little car.
We took a chance and started for Truckee, all downhill and got to a service station. Checked the transmission and the fluid was OK. Both the mechanic and Pat believed it to be a vapor lock which could have caused the gas tank to implode.

We started for Reno, as there were no places in Truckee that could help, all down hill. On the way up we had hit a chuck hole in the dark and the front end bottomed out, just made for a bumpy ride but something had happened when we rolled back down the hill and now the ride was terrible.
We went to the KOA campground at the Reno Hilton and spent Wednesday night there. Started calling and looking for a repair place...finally found Reno Sparks RV and Auto Repair. We can recommend them highly as they took really good care of us during the time we were there. We had them fix the gas tank, and found we needed a new spring that had broken and new shocks as one of them was broken also.
Pat had told me that we would go back and get to Tevis on Thursday but when the transmission start acting up and slipping like crazy on the way back to the campground it then become my need to explain to him that I was no longer thinking of being there so that he would take on no guilt for us not getting there.
We had borrowed the money from Pat's Aunt to fix the shocks, spring and the gas tank but now what do we do?????? We just sat and stared at each other, fear choking off our voices. I already had people waiting to get their items from me at Tevis but that didn't help the money situation now. I come from a very small family and only have one brother in AR that I haven't seen for 17 years, my children and parents are gone. Pat's Aunt was his only source and that had already been used.

The business of, Just for "horsin-round", started 10 years ago and in that time I have made many lasting friends, some I even consider as family. There are several whom I have been privileged to have been let into their lives during divorce, rebirth of personality, deaths, and severe medical problems. I feel very touched that I could encourage and uplift them just by being available and listening, that they wanted my presence in their lives at such trying times and that they gained some comfort from me. It was to one of these friends that I now turned to in my time of need.
It wasn't till I heard Lee Vallone Beveridge's voice on the phone that I cried...till now I had shed no tears...numbness, disbelief and fear had kept my words and tears under tight control. Now the flood gates opened at her response to my tail of woe. Her answer.....".Are you and Pat Ok?....then the monies the easy part...sure". The relief and draining away of tensions...there are no words to describe our gratitude.

Now begins the next repair process. The parts had to be ordered (transmission, radiator, water pump) and would be in on Monday....long weekend at the KOA with nowhere to go, one didn't come in so we stayed at their lot (Reno Sparks RV) and they gave us power for the motorhome. A new radiator was ordered and when it came in was too big, so the old one had to be sent out for recoring. We will spend another night here in their lot and hopefully be able to start for home Thursday morning.
"Home", that place seems such a great distance away in both mileage and in attainability. It is now 7 days since we broke down. I am feeling like Alice and falling down the rabbit hole, a step on the other side of the door that leads to the Twilight Zone, hoping to wake up and find out this is just a nighttime nightmare instead of a daytime one.
The physical and mental toll is great. The waiting, waiting with nothing to do. We, most of our lives, live with someone, work with others and have things happen in our daily lives that we can talk about to others. When you do nothing and see no one and there is nothing new to say.....this lack is weighing heavy on both of us.
Oh goody, the owner just gave us the morning paper to read. On
Thursday last week the crank for the TV antenna fell out of the ceiling so we can't even watch TV. Pat is a consummate TV watcher.....can you imagine the withdrawals he is going through?????

Pat and I are both HAM Radio operators (w6pea/w6ome) and there are two radios in this motorhome. One VHF and UHF bands and the other radio is HF bands. There is an electrical problem with the HF rig and he was unable to get it to tune the screw driver antenna. The VHF/UHF rig works fine but were unable to program local repeaters as Pat had forgotten his repeater directory at home. Our means of communications was very small. If he had been able to get the radios to work he could have been talking all day instead of fuming.
I brought 5 books with me and they have long been read. I bought a small crossword book and it is almost finished. I am writing this saga when my emotions will let me as my pen won't hardly write for some of these statements.

Our dogs, Keaton and Lenny, have been just wonderful during all of this mess. The oldest one (Keaton) got real sick with separation anxiety the last time we boarded him so we brought both of them with us. At times things would have been so much easier and less stressful, no walking the dog for one, if they hadn't been with us but as animal lovers and those that bond with four-legged creatures, I know you understand when I say they have brought us many times of levity and distraction that have helped turn our minds away from our reality.
We have been here in Reno 3 times for the convention, while here we never got a chance to explore the city as we needed to get back to our regular jobs. Reno this time stayed unexplored also. The campground is on the Reno Hilton's property and they do have a shuttle service to and from. We used it twice to get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants.The repair shop is in an industrial complex and at 5:00 everyone leaves, no stores, no restaurants, no one here but us....kind of scary. We are about 6 long blocks from the Hilton and no shuttle service.

Patience at this these times is sorely tested, waiting on others, a feeling of helplessness. For Pat, this is driving him crazy. He is also a Diabetic and stress causes his Blood Sugar Readings to go wild. I try to fix correct meals for him but we are running out of food and money to buy it.
There are a lot of recriminations....should have done this, should have done that. Knowing the repairs are literally costing us more than we paid for the motorhome in the first place and that our debt will take forever to be paid off. Wanting something to make your life more comfortable and having it turn out this way, makes for a very bitter pill to swallow.

I am by no means complaining, just explaining our situation. I keep seeing in my minds eye that tee-shirt with the "No Whining" logo on it. Real hard not to invite everyone to my pity party but I know we will get through this, just need to be patient, remember not to explode, knowing there are those worse off than we.
Last night I got to looking through my kit bag just for something to do. Low and behold I found us some goodies. A hand held poker game and a hand held Yatzee game. The poker game had been my daughter's and she played it while at the rides with me for something to do. After she passed away I found it among her things and put it in my kit bag, taking it out several times to play but soon putting it back as it made me sad, knowing it had belonged to her. The Yatzee game I had bought at the store one day and only played one time.
Finding these two items has been like a breath of fresh air and a lifting of our spirits. Something to do, bringing laughter, lite cursing ( you know the kind I mean) and something else to focus on rather than just staring out the windows at nothing. Conversation again, gentle voices, making decisions together as to what numbers we should play.
When we went to the Hilton to get something to eat it felt strange to be in a Casino and not have any money to play. So here we are now playing games of chance with no money.

Knowing Tevis has come and gone is frustrating as I have no idea who won and of those that completed were any of them my clients? I tell my clients that I will never ride the trails with them but if you know me and are wearing something I have made then my sprit rides with you.
Bobbie Lieberman wrote a great article about the outfitting of a horse and rider for the Tevis. It came out on the 27th of July in the LA Times Outdoor Section. My tights were featured along with the other items used. Nowhere while traveling on the 27th did we find a copy of the Times. I have paid for several copies and have them on hold for me when I get home. We told everybody and his brother about the article and they are saving it for us. Pat's Aunt said she had a dozen of them as her neighbors saved them for her. Getting so close to Tevis and not being able to see the article has been hard to deal with. Can go to Tevis next the article when I get's dealing with the here and now that has me "chomping at the bit and more than a little jiggy". Grin.

Oh, oh, how good it is to be moving again. We left Reno at 1:30 Thursday afternoon. The people at Reno Sparks RV did really good for us, costing us much less than we had figured.
Now we exchanged one stress for another...will the repairs they made get us home? We are fighting such terrible winds, even signs saying no high profile vehicles or trucks next 9 miles......what to do? Trucks are passing us like crazy going in our direction so we just follow. Nowhere on our drive do we not fight the winds.
For the most part our journey home (love that word) will be going down hill but must still pull some major grades. The country side looks different than when we travel here for the convention. Hills and mountains that were covered with snow, majestic and awesome, are now just big hills and mountains, dull and ugly without their coats of winter snow. We saw many areas that had been ravaged with fires. Encouraged by the new green growth ringing the black sticks pointing to the skies.

Several grades give us fits as we go slower and slower up them. I keep repeating to myself the Little Engine That Could's confident refrain.......I think I can, I think I can, then down the other side with big sighs of relief and then repeat again with the next grade.
We stopped in Bishop to get some groceries and then continue on to Coso Junction, just north of Ridgecrest, to spend the night at the rest stop. I slept for 7 hours without waking up from dreams of rolling back down that road. When we left this morning I waved at Mike and Sue Benson and Jackie Baumgartner....strange to be driving by and not stopping for a ride.
Not getting to Tevis this year has been a disappointment for me but I didn't realize how much Pat wanted to go also. After we had rolled down the hill the second time we each just sat there staring out the side windows. All of a sudden Pat pounded his fist on the steering wheel and said, "I'm so sorry, Evelyn, I really wanted to get you to Tevis this year, I am so sorry. Don't worry I'll get us home somehow."

In the 16 years we have been together (Aug.9 1988) Pat has always been my hero. He was been through this ordeal and I have every confidence that he will be in our future.
I know very little about cars and their needs so for me there was very little help or suggestions I could offer. Doing what was asked, keeping us fed, doing everything that I could to keep us comfortable while Pat saw to getting our motorhome repaired and on our way became my job. For Pat having to depend on others to do something he knows how to do but is physically incapable of doing is.....well you know what I mean.

Oh look the sign just said it's only 80 miles to San Diego. Yeah!!!! About another 2 hours and we will put this thing back in the storage lot. No more listening for every little noise and wondering what is causing it. I packed really well and nothing has fallen or come down while moving...pat, pat, on the back. Once your trust in a vehicle has been tested its hard to not to be leery of each and every new sound.
In August, Reno and surrounding cities go wild with "Hot August Nights", a salute to all things from the 50's and 60's, old cars and Elvis especially. While staying at the KOA we saw many rigs either towing old cars or trailers with the cars inside them. The Hilton puts on a big car show. We even got to see "Big Foot" being let out of its trailer on its "Little Feet".......tractor tires. What a funny site...that big truck up in the air on itty, bitty tires. We could see the big feet still in the trailer, filling it from floor to ceiling.

Leaving Reno and driving south we were treated to the site of many, many old cars being driven to their respective shows. Many brought back memories of the cars that our grandparents, parents, and we drove....some I know we will never see again.
Oh my, just drove south of Escondido and came around a curve and got hit with the most wonderful cool ocean breeze, can see the fog bank off the coast of San Diego. We just might make it. Close my eyes and let the breeze blow over me as the jets from Miramar fly over head.
Just a few more miles to the storage lot, transfer only necessities to the truck and fire it up. A mile and a half later, open my front door. Driving through my town I am wondering ...did last week really happen? Reality will convince me soon enough with phone bills, gas bills and money to be repaid to 2 very wonderful people that helped tremendously in our time of need.

Slept in my own bed last night, felt wonderful. Now I must start plowing through our emails..over 3000 of them....notices of bounced ones so if you have emailed me last week please do so again.
Congratulations to whoever won and to those that completed the Tevis this year. Just know that those of you that didn't complete for whatever reason and those of you that didn't get to go for whatever reason.....try, try again...I plan on it.
One bonus to this adventures is that I lost 11 lbs but am NOT endorsing this diet!
That's my story......and I'm stickin' to it....big grin!

Evelyn and Pat

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Tevis That Was Not Meant To Be - Darcy Bean

Darcy Bean

What an adventure! Jim, Rhett (the horse) and I arrived at Gold Country Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening before the ride. We settled into a nice spot put Rhett in his stall and basically played tourist for the next few days. We hiked around the Old Town, went to the museums, ate at nice restaurants, panned for gold and hung out at the river, it was so nice! I did ride down to No Hands from the fairgrounds so Rhett would remember where his new home was on Wednesday. About a month ago I rode the last 30 miles from Forest Hill to the finish and loved it. We were blessed with cool weather!

On Thursday night we got ready for the move up to Robie Park. We left at 7am Friday with my new friend, Steve Elliott and his horse and gear. About ten miles from Auburn up Donner Pass, steam starts pouring out of the truck and luckily I have 2 mechanics and lots of water with me! They figure there is a bad leak in the intake manifold and we proceed to limp the truck, trailer and horses off the busy freeway. We found a garage but they were too busy-wouldn't even take a bribe! So Steve was a mechanic in Auburn, he called all the places and finally found one that could fix the truck "in a few hours" and had the parts. We had to leave the trailer, horses and Jim and limp it in to another garage. Then we got a ride to Steves truck and trailer to pick up the horses and take them back to the fairgrounds to rest. We would have taken Steves truck and trailer but he didn't think it would make it up the grade into Robie Park!

I leave lots of messages with people going to Robie from the fairgrounds wiith my cell phone, we ARE coming, don't give away our places! And the ride secretary called me back from his cell phone about 4pm, they are saving our places and the vets will wait for us until 8pm! Of course, we will miss the important pre-ride meeting and check in. Oh well.

Then we have to wait at the fairgrounds for hours without our trailer and stuff but the horses are resting comfortably and eating, we were stressed. I was ready to bag it at that late point in time.

They finally had the intake manifold gasket replaced at 5:30 pm, we pick up the trailer and back to the fairgrounds to pick the horses. In the 15 minutes it took to load the horses someone had gone around and locked all the entrances to the fairgrounds!! We were stuck at the finish line! I had a few choice words to say at that time! We finally got out and back on Donner Pass at 6pm Friday night. YIKES!

We made it into Robie at 8:30pm just as the vets were leaving! We got vetted thru alright in the dark but missed out on all the free junk that the UAE boys brought for the riders. Oh well. Now we had to get all out stuff ready and set up camp in the dark, there wasn't even time to eat. Get up at 3:30 to get to the starting line in time, we were there about 4:30am

They had the starters split out in 3 groups front runners, middle packers, and finishers. I thought starting at the front of the middle of the pack would be good, WRONG!!! Everyone took off at a gallop when they let us thru, it seemed like hundreds of horses were passing Rhett, who started to lose it immediately. I kept thinking how can they be starting a tough hundred miler at a dead gallop up and down these hills-knowing what we still had to do!

Rhett went bezerk started cantering in place and throwing his head pulling so hard his mouth is starting to bleed! I kept trying to keep him in control and did a fairly good job. I think everyone in the ride had passed us at that point! We trotted up Squaw seeing several bad accidents and almost having one myself as we had to go around a loose horse that tried to push us off one of the bypass trails on Squaw, SCARY! But way worse was to come when we get to Granite Chief, Rhett was running on total adrenaline now and not listening to anything! He was totally chargy and I tried to get off and walk him but he was just trying to run over the top of me. I got back on and he would just scramble thru the granite slabs slipping every which way not caring about anything but hauling ass! He fell 3 or 4 times I couldn't keep track. He was terrible and so dangerous! I was trying everything to calm him down but nothing was working, I thought he was going to kill me out there! Since there was no line at Cougar Rock we went over and he did fine, that was nothing compared to the slipping on the boulders in the bogs in the "Mine Field"! We had to trot thru at Lyons and he was looking good the only blood I saw was in his mouth which was turning to mincemeat at this time! I saw riders without horses , I saw a horse go completely over backwards on a cliff with a rider on it! I thought she would be dead! I think she was the one they lifeflighted out.

Too many horses and riders with 245 starts! He pulsed down at Red Star and looked good. The road is great going into Robinson from there. I took it easy still trying to get Rhett under control and be down to 60 when we got into Robinson. We didn't get in until 11:30am! Then he didn't pulse down as fast as he should have but trotted sound and his CRI was up at the trot out 60/72 not good! Then Jamie Kerr noticed an edema on his side. I told him how many times Rhett had fallen and he said maybe he had broken a rib or something!! And to do a recheck. Rhett was eating and drinking fine. But his pulse was not dropping fast enough! He was still 60 in a half an hour. It was not hot but the edema went away. He could have been in pain from his mouth. I asked Jamie what I should do and he said he would not continue. Jim was happy about that, he was so worried when I was late coming into Robinson. He kept hearing about all the accidents thinking one of them was me!

So we had fun watching the race the rest of the day and of course Rhett was fine as he had only gone 36 miles. What an adventure!

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'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/ 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 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 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 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 Summer off or is he being Summer (this boy travels funny for sure). Tack up and trot down and'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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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, 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, 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