Monday, December 05, 2005

Magic's Story - Tom Paleczny

Tom Paleczny

I sat staring at the clouds and was hoping and praying the rain would come during the awards ceremony at the Coates Creek endurance ride July 31st. I wasn't looking forward to being called up in front of the many other riders that competed that day to accept my 6th place ribbon. My emotions were hard to contain and just thinking about the events of the day brought tears to my eyes. I had just completed the 50 mile ride with my horse Magic and when we crossed the finish line and vetted our completion I couldn't help but say a little prayer, do a "high five" in the air and give both my wife Lesley and my horse Magic a big hug of joy and thanks. After all, who would have imagined that he would be completing a grueling 50 mile ride in the heat of August; up some of the most impressive hills Ontario can throw at any endurance rider. All this! Twelve weeks after undergoing near death colic surgery!

When I got him back to the trailer and settled, I sat down and drifted back to that cold day in April when Lesley and I were faced with some very traumatic decisions to make. The day started off terribly as we drove through a blinding snowstorm on our way to compete at the Aprilfest 50 in the Dufferin forest. A few times we were questioning our sanity as to why any human would go to such length to ride 50 miles in this typical Ontario spring weather. The slush on the roads was so bad that it almost pulled you off into the ditch! Arriving at the ride site we were surprised to see so many courageous people preparing themselves and their horses for the ride.

My riding partner Alison Martin and her horse CH Sheylan were ready for pre-vetting so the four of us proceeded to the P&R area. The weather had changed and it actually became tolerable. We vetted through and everything was perfect...straight A's and Mag seemed excited to get going.

As we warmed up prior to the start I couldn't help but notice that Magic was feeling quite full of himself. He felt strong, fit and eager. Our plan for this day was to get through the first few miles without incident and then settle into a nice steady pace that would see us finish in and around six hours. My goal for the season was to prepare Magic for the Old Dominion 100 in Virginia.

The trails were in good shape considering the weather and it didn't take long for the horses to calm down and focus on the trail. The first few miles went by without incident and we settled into a good steady pace. Neither Ali nor I had any great expectation and both would be very happy to just complete the 50 miles. The horses seemed to be quite happy with the pace so we continued through the first loop.

Coming into the vet check, he pulsed down very quickly and vetted through straight A's and it wasn't long before we got back into the routine after the long winter. Alison and Sheylan vetted through and we were into our hold.

Heading back out onto the second of (4) four loops; both horses were running in great shape. We took advantage of the water stops and we timed ourselves at a minimum of six minutes and we made sure the heart rates were below 60 before heading down the trail. The horses didn't really seem that interested in the water and I think that was due to the cold temperature. Most of the time they would stick their heads up to the trough and take a bit of a sip. This was not unusual for Magic as he normally doesn't drink a lot in the first miles of the competition. Coming into the 2nd vet check, everything was great, even the weather was becoming a little nicer; I think I saw a bit of sun trying to break through. As in the first vet check, he pulsed down quickly and Art King vetted us through and again all A's. Ali and Shey came in behind me and vetted through with no problems; both horses looked great.

Back on trail for the third loop we picked up the pace a bit and the horses were fine with this adjustment in speed. I felt that he was being his typical self when he started his old habit of dropping his head down to ground level almost like a hound on a rabbit trail. He had started this early last year and we couldn't figure out what it was, he seemed to be spooking at the ground as we trotted down trail. I didn't pay a lot of attention to this because it was something he had done many times before; uncomfortable to post to but not a problem to worry about. We now know that this was a sign of something that was brewing inside his small intestine.

We came into the third vet check and again everything was fine; both horses vetted A's and they were eating and drinking normally. We headed out on the final loop and decided to maintain the pace from the third loop. The horses still felt great and he was still finding the stamina to spook at logs, down trees, water puddles, you know all those spooky horse monsters. He started dropping his head even more and it was becoming difficult to deal with. I kept checking everything to try and figure out what it was he was doing. Ali rode behind to see if she could identify any problems; but none were visible. Whatever it was it didn't affect his heart rates or attitude. There were no changes from the first loop other than the horses were more settled. The last five miles of the loop we could feel the horses tiring a bit so we slowed the pace and just enjoyed the moment.

Crossing the finish line I gave him his customary pat on the shoulder and whispered to him "good job"! As we walked over to the vetting area, we offered both horses water. He started to drink and he really tanked-up, I didn't think he would stop. After finishing their drink, we proceeded to the P&R area. He pulsed in at 52 and I was quite pleased and felt we did a great job. Art was finished with the horses ahead of us, so I walked over to him for my final vetting. Art vetted him through and found no problems, everything was fine. He trotted out good, his CRI was good 12/12, gut sounds were pluses in all four quadrants. I was very pleased, Magic finished the ride all A's!

I took him to the trailer, and got him un-tacked and settled. At this point there was nothing out of the ordinary; everything was fine. I was almost soaked to the skin so I went in the trailer to have a hot shower and change into some dry cloths. While in the trailer I could hear a horse pawing at the ground. I looked out and saw it was Magic and he had quite the hole started. My first thought was that he wanted to roll so I called out to Steve to get one of the girls to walk and graze him while I finished changing. At this point approximately an hour and a half had gone by since we completed the ride. I went out of the trailer and the girls told me that he wanted to roll and that he was pawing at the ground. Knowing him and how he loves to roll, I chuckled at the young girls holding him and explained - that's just Magic. Lesley has this uncanny ability of picking up on horse's issues and feelings. She immediately went over to him and looked him over - I could tell by the look on her face that something was terribly wrong. He had signs of a serious colic starting!

I had butterflies in my stomach as I walked him around the field while Lesley ran to get Stan and Art. Every time I stopped walking, he would paw the ground and start getting ready to lie down. In my mind I knew something terrible was wrong and I felt almost helpless. It seemed like eternity for Lesley to return with Stan and Art but it was a relief to see them walking towards me. I felt reassured by their presence and my mind started to think clearer as they examined him. The colic signs started to subside a bit and after they checked him it was confirmed that he had either a mild colic starting or some gas and now we were looking for an explanations as to why this might happen. Both Stan and Art felt that it could have been caused for a number of reason's but we felt one of the main reasons could have been the tanking up of cold water at the final vet check.

Luckily, fellow rider Laura Hayes from New York had some banamine in her trailer of which we gave him about three cc's and then continued the walking around the field. He did settle a bit so it was decided to load and head home.

We arrived home at about 9:00 pm and when we took him off the trailer I checked to see if he had past any manure but he hadn't. I took him into his small turn-out yard and as soon as I took off his halter he dropped to the ground, lay on his back and raised his legs in the air and started moaning. I was absolutely horrified when this happened and I knew we were in serious trouble. Lesley went in the house to call the vet and they decided that we would give him another three cc's of banamine and see if he would settle. We brought him into his stall in the barn, gave the banamine and this time it didn't settle him at all. I started walking him around outside and every time we stopped walking he would paw the ground and attempt to lie down.

At 11:30 pm another call was made to our vet and the need became an emergency! Our vet arrived at 12:00 am and upon tubing Mag, the nightmare got worse. When the tube was inserted completely it filled with reflux, we rushed to get an empty pail and the vet put the end of the tube in the pail and to our shock, it completely filled it. The vet had this look on his face and when I looked up at Lesley and she looked back, we knew that he was near death.

Lesley and I needed to make some quick decisions. The vet asked if surgery was an option; without it Magic would have to be put down. It was now 1:30 am when we loaded him and headed for the London Equine Hospital. By now both Lesley and I were running purely on adrenaline. LEH is about a 90 minute drive and I shouldn't admit to this but we pulled into the parking lot in 50 minutes. Thinking back I don't recall stopping at a stop sign or light the entire trip.

The London Equine Hospital staff are quite amazing people. When we pulled into the parking lot to the entrance behind the building, they were waiting with the doors open. I got Magic off the trailer and lead him into the clinic. He was immediately swarmed by the staff and in no time he had needles, bags and monitors hanging from every conceivable location in his stall. Once all the preliminary stuff was completed, he was given another 6 cc's of Banamine and the tube was again inserted into his belly. This time I expected reflux but was not prepared to watch as bucket after bucket was filled to the top. A total of six gallons was drained from his belly and I think even the vet and his assistants were amazed at the amount. An internal examination was next but there were no conclusive findings. One thing that puzzled the attending vet Dr. Kretzshmar was that Magic's pulse rate was very low. His heart rate was never above 50 and even at the worst of his illness it was at 46. Dr. Kretzschmar indicated that this was very unusual as most horses with the same condition are at about 115 - 120 BPM.

As I mentioned earlier the hospital staff are just the best. Everything they did to him they explained in detail why it was being done. When Dr. Kretzshmar had made his diagnosis he approached Lesley and I and his compassion was truly sincere. We were again faced with an agonizing decision. Dr. Kretzshmar explained in great detail the issues that he felt Magic had going on inside him. I don't think I heard a word he said and as he spoke our eyes welled up in tears - my horse was dieing and there was very little to be done to save the horse and companion that brought so much joy and fun into my life. I gasped as he explained that even with surgery, he at best had only a 10% chance of surviving and if he did survive he would be a pasture patient for the balance of his life. The three choices were given, and again he made sure we had everything we needed to make the right decision including the costs involved. He explained a full colic surgery; what it was; what could be the cause of the colic and the cost of that surgery. We asked that with the full colic surgery if they opened him up and things were bad, that he be put down on the table. He explained another option and that was to basically do exploratory surgery (autopsy on a live horse) and the costs involved. The final choice I did not want to hear - terminate Magic's life! I fell to pieces! Dr. Kretzshmar left Lesley and me to discuss the options. Our decision was to go ahead with the exploratory surgery with instructions to terminate his life if there were serious complications.

A funny thing happened when we went back into the clinic. Just when we thought the world was falling in around us, a light shines. He seemed to settle and he hadn't produced any reflux in almost an hour. I actually got a bit of a chuckle out of the staff when I joked that Magic understood what we were talking about earlier. Between Lesley, I and Dr. Kretzshmar, we decided to post pone the surgery and give him some time to see if this little light was actually a sign of recovery. Lesley and I were exhausted on our feet so we decided to head home to try and get some rest!

Sleep did not come, we were both now up over 32 hours. We were exhausted but our eyes would not close. My mind was so full of guilt and I kept trying to figure out what went wrong. I played the days events over and over again in my mind and questioned whether or not I over rode him at the ride. What did I do to cause him so much hurt?

Lesley and I were on pins and needles as we awaited word from the clinic. Every time the phone rang, we would jump. Finally at 9:00 am Dr. Desjardins called and he delivered some very bad news, Magic was no better and when the banamine wore off he would get very uncomfortable. They had him prepared for the exploratory surgery and they were just getting ready to take him into the OR. We decided that we would go ahead with the exploratory surgery but we confirmed with him that if there were any complications they would put him down on the table; he agreed.

I hung up the phone and started to bring Lesley up to speed on the conversation. In my mind I kept thinking; how can I put my companion through the suffering he must be going through? The words came out of my mouth but I did not hear them. I said to Lesley, we should just put him out of his pain and suffering. We knew from the vet that the likely hood that he would recover were slim to none. We both were very quiet for a moment, Lesley didn't have to say a word, and I knew her answer. I picked up the phone and dialed the number to the hospital. My eyes were wet and I must have dialed the wrong number, I wiped them and then tried again. This time I got the hospital and when I asked for Dr. Cote, the receptionist explained that she was in surgery. I told her who I was and why I was calling. She asked me to hold and when she came back to the line she put me through to Dr Desjardins. Before I could say a word to explain our wishes, he told me to hang on for 10 minutes as they had just opened him up.

In exactly 10 minute the call came, I noted a tone of excitement in Dr. Desjardins voice. He explained to me that they found the problem; fixed it; and in less than ten minutes, he was back in recovery and standing! The words were overwhelming and they echoed through my head! Whether it was the lack of sleep, the bad news, the roller coaster ride, I will never know but I could not hold back the excitement that built up inside me. I dropped the phone and fell to my knees; Magic was going to be okay! Or was he?

Just when you see a glimmer of hope in a bad situation all hope is dashed. Magic wasn't getting better. Dr. Cote the attending vet explained to me on Tuesday morning that it sometimes takes up to 48 hours for the electrical impulses to realize that there is no restriction and to start things working again. She told us that in some cases the impulses never come back and is fatal for the horse. It had been 24 hours post surgery and he was still producing reflux. I started to get concerned when at 32 hours nothing had changed. I got on the phone to Stan Alkemade to get his opinion and he felt that we should wait the full 48 hours before getting concerned.

As time past I got that sick feeling in my gut again. How could this be happening? It was now Wednesday morning and with no word from Dr Cote I knew things were no better. On my way to my office in Niagara Falls, I called the clinic to get an update. Dr. Cote sounded grave and I found myself in the terrible situation of making choices. Although Magic was responding earlier that evening, Dr. Cote was very concerned that another two gallons of reflux was expelled and she was asking how much time and money we want to spend if he was getting no better. It hadn't been a full 48 hours so we decided to give it the day and then assess his condition. Dr. Cote was in surgeries all day so another update wouldn't come until 7:30 pm Wednesday evening.

Lesley and I had tickets to Cavalia in Toronto Wednesday evening and there were no words spoken as we drove to the Distillery District of the Toronto Harbour front. Both of us were totally exhausted and now here we were making another tough decision. We arrived in Toronto in good time so we decided to have dinner before going to the show. My cell phone rings a lot as part of my job and every time it rang we both jumped. It was now 7:00 pm and we were counting down the minutes as we sat sipping on a drink. Our food came but trying to eat was hard, we were both so bewildered! The clocks ticked by 7:30 and still no call from Dr. Cote. Finally at 7:45 my phone rang, it was the London Equine Hospital. I froze; I just couldn't take any more bad news! I handed the phone to Lesley and asked if she could please take the call. It was loud in the restaurant so Lesley stepped around the corner. Seconds turned to minutes as I waited for Lesley to return, the suspense was killing me so I got up and went around the corner just as Lesley was hanging up.

I could tell by Lesley's smile that the news was good. The vets had a meeting after Dr. Cote spoke to me in the morning. They decided as a team to withdraw the tube from him and see if he would stop producing the reflux. The electrical impulses would either start to work again or they wouldn't and it would be over. Lesley told me that Dr. Cote told her that Magic had gone a full nine hours without the tube and there had not been any more reflux. He turned the corner to making a complete recovery.

Magic has had this issue coming on for a number of years and it got progressively more severe. Dr. Cote and Dr. Kretzshmar told us that had we not competed at the Aprilfest ride, we would most likely have found him dead in his paddock and that as long as he was moving forward down trail, things would continue to work. They also explained that with the six gallons of reflux in his belly it was lucky it did not rupture. I can't believe that he was trotting down trail with all that reflux sloshing around inside him. Dr. Ketzschmar figured that the reason he was trotting with his head and neck stretched towards the ground indicated that he basically had in human terms "severe heartburn" for a long time! He apparently had a small lesion on the lining of his small intestine that at some point became infected as debris adhered to its surface. Over time the opening of his stomach gradually stretched to enormous proportion as it tried to compensate for the build up of foreign matter. In-turn this caused the small intestine to enlarge and cause the electric impulses that work the system to weaken. Slowly the impulses would weaken to a point where it just shuts down thus the backing up of the system producing reflux.

I heard a little whinny as I came back from my thoughts; it was Magic standing looking at me over his corral line. It was as if he was saying to me - snap out of it and get me some food; I just carried you over fifty miles and there you sit daydreaming! I rose out of my chair and climbed over the line and gave him a hug! Yes, Magic is back! He is truly a survivor and a tough horse with a lot of heart. I will compete with Magic in many more competitions over the next years, but none will have the memories and significance of the day Magic and I completed the Coates Creek Endurance Ride.

Tom Paleczny

Reame's Magiciann

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Turkey Trot Tale - Nancy Reed

by Nancy Reed

My daughter Danielle will tell you this is her favorite ride to date. She
will also tell you this is the ride that she finally got to let Lyric really
trot, a lot. As a mother and daughter newbie team with 2 young horses I can
say I think we finally rode like endurance riders. And with that I can say,
proudly, all the miles of training finally paid off. And it could not have
happened without Tara, Craig and Danielle Walker-Nollner, showing us how it
is done. I will be forever grateful for their patience, kindness and good
humor both on and off the trail.

First a bit of background in an attempt to keep the players straight. The
scorecard: my daughter, Danielle Gradisher is 13 and rides Lyric, a 7 year
old tank of an Arab mare. Danielle Walker is 12 and has many endurance
miles under her belt and rides a new mare, Bella. Tara rides Boo, a
seasoned gelding. Her husband, Craig rides, a big gray gelding, Shaker. I
ride a 6-year-old half Arab, Jazzi who I have had for one year.

Danielle G. and I have had our fair share of troubles and difficulty on the
endurance learning curve. Lyric can be a very difficult horse and came to
us with behavior issues, saddle issues, bit issues, etc. Danielle G. is,
well, young and neither her nor I knew anything when I got the notion to be
an endurance rider. We were both new to horses and had to start from the
very beginning. I have had injuries too, broke the same foot 2 times in 3
years. I did not have a horse for some time and started Lyric until
Danielle felt safe to ride her. To date we have done more CTR than
endurance and only limited distance at that. I have made many newbie
mistakes such as mixing up CTR and endurance rules. If you look us up on
the AERC site, you will not be impressed. So, for what it is worth my ride
story comes from a newbie point of view. I have so much to learn. And in
that, I take great joy at the small accomplishments made by my daughter or
our horses.

Base camp for the Turkey Trot was a county park with stalls, grass, showers,
hook ups and a covered pavilion. It has one of the easiest access with no
dirt roads and an easy freeway drive. We arrived at base camp before noon
on Friday. Both horses vetted in with all A's except for Lyric who had a B
on gut sounds. What a pleasure to have Dr.Beasom who has the magic touch
with Lyric who in the past has been a total pill at any and all vet checks.
Dr. Beasom made it seem so easy; a little carrot, a little quick look at the
gums, no big deal.

Next, all five of us rode the start and the last few miles of the trail.
Danielle G. was testing a SR Enduro saddle as Lyric had grown out of her
Sharon Saare F tree. The saddle was beautiful, and it fit! Good sweat
pattern, no behavior issues due to pinching. Danielle G. loved it and the
seller agreed to let us use it the following day for the ride.
After a colorful ride meeting and a wonderful potluck dinner, it was early
to bed.
I did not sleep well as it lightly rained several times during the night. I
slept in the cab over section of our RV and the rain sounded like a
downpour. This brought out the worrywart gene I inherited from my
grandmother. I checked on the horses several times, they were very happy
with full hay bags and warm turnout blankets.

The trail was in the scenic Sweetwater River watershed within 10 miles of
the US-Mexico boarder. An amazing mixture of county, state, federal and
private landowners were all talked into giving permission for about 120
riders to trespass. This land is considered to be some of the last
remaining untouched functioning coastal echo systems in southern California.
Coastal chaparral, canyons, riparian, year round creek, a reservoir and even
some antique and not so antique trash made for never ending eye candy.
Rides like this is why I do this sport.

The trail was challenging with lots of hills, rocks, water crossings and an
emu ranch to boot. The footing was a mixture of fire/access roads, new and
established single track and some big granite gravel to spice it up. I had
my husband's Legend C Garmin GPS turned on most of the time and it provided
some interesting data. In the first 4 miles after a short descent we
climbed almost 500 feet, then descended an equal distance. For the next few
miles the trail was relatively flat with water crossings. From here the
climbing was tough, almost a thousand feet in a little over four miles. Our
horses worked hard keeping a steady working trot most of the time. They
were very wet, but due to the cool temperatures the horses were not

In no time we were in the vet check. The criteria was 56 and none of our
horses had any difficulty pulsing down. I remembered to loosen Jazzi's
cinch and not fight with her until after she pulsed down. Lyric was very
good, drinking and not getting upset with the volunteers and their strange
gadgets that they stuck in her side. Jazzi would not drink and was looking
for food, preferably alfalfa. Lots of grass hay was available but no
alfalfa. I was going to be safe from the alfalfa induced Jazzi monster. I
had packed some orchard grass pellets that both Jazzi and Lyric ate. Next
time I need to pack a pan to make a wet mash. The volunteers were wonderful
and so helpful. It was especially nice to have friends hold your horse for
you so you could answer nature's call. I ate a quick ham and dilly roll
sandwich and downed a Gatorade. All of the horses vetted through without a
problem. Lyric again got a B on gut sounds, Jazzi all A's.

Back out on the trail, it was still cool and windy. We had a problem
finding the beginning of the trail back to base camp. Jazzi was reluctant to
move out and I was starting to get upset with worry as she had not drank any
water the entire ride. But, my mental gymnastics were unnecessary as Jazzi
was fine; she just did not want to leave the vet check and all the food.

The trail home got pretty spectacular with a huge downhill down the face a
mountain on new single track. The GPS data is some 600 feet straight down
in 1 mile. Tara, Craig and Danielle G all dismounted and walked most of
this. Danielle W. and I rode it down without incident. The rest of the
ride was relatively flat when compared to the earlier hills. We made
excellent time and took turns leading and in the line up. Lyric got to
really trot out and my GPS clocked her at 14 MPH on the flat about 4 miles
from the finish. Danielle G. was glowing as her little horse out trotted

We made the finish at about 1pm and all five horses easily pulsed down.
Danielle W. came in ahead of Danielle G. by about 3 minutes. The volunteers attempted to put Danielle G in ahead of Danielle W., but Danielle G.
quickly corrected them. I was proud to be her mom and see her true
sportsmanship shine.

After a warm sponge bath, all the horses vetted out without issues. Jazzi
had finally drank at the finish and while being cleaned. Lyric's back was
in wonderful shape from the SR Enduro saddle. Beer and chips, showers and a
bit of a nap for us humans followed.

The dinner was the best I have ever had at a ride; pans and pans of
wonderful, spicy Mexican food. So much food, in fact, volunteers were
handing out quesadillas and taquitos to the hungry people waiting in line.
They served meat and cheese enchiladas, guacamole, carnitas, chili rellenos,
chips, salza, beans, rice and more. No one went away hungry!

Here is what I recall of our group's standings, Danielle W. came in first
junior and 15th overall followed by Tara, Craig, Danielle G. (second junior)
and myself. This is not official and just my recollection after a few beers. We made the ride in 4 hours, well under the allotted time (ride time
only, not including holds). Our horses had lots of gas at the end. Lyric
found a saddle that fit (what a relief) and I did was able to keep up with
the pace.

Much of this was due to the cool weather. I still have a drinking issue
with Jazzi. Jazzi also has developed a habit of loosing momentum after the
vet check. I am not sure how to deal with this. Jazzi has also become much
more sure-footed and self-assured on the trails. Lyric and Danielle G. are
really blossoming and coming into their own as a team.
Danielle W. and Bella are also becoming a team in spite of the short time
they have had each other. Tara and Craig are so seasoned and so
knowledgeable. They make it look so easy. I am so grateful they let us tag

Maybe Danielle, Lyric, Jazzi and I really can do this. Maybe we can become
real endurance riders after all. What a wonderful ride. I cannot thank
everyone enough for this wonderful experience!

Nancy Reed

Lazy J Ranch

Elfin Forest, CA

Bonita Easy Come, Easy Go Turkey Trot - Lee

A great big thank you to the Ride Manager and all the volunteers for putting on this wonderful ride. The trail was challenging with beautiful views in many areas. There was plenty of help at the checks and holds. The criteria was a 56 which many people were concerned about. It worked out well for me and Bravo and I didn't hear anyone that really had a problem meeting criteria. I do not believe that there were any horse's treated which was great given the large field of 75 horses in the 50 and 50 in the 25 (approximately).

The day after Thanksgiving we packed the trailer and headed to the San Diego area to do another 50 miler. Bravo was ready and I was happy to be away from home and work :)

We arrived early on Friday at the Sweetwater Camp Ground (even got a campsite with electric and water) WOOHOO ! The weather was not the best, but surely it would clear for ride day......well, almost. It was damp and cooler then we were used to and I was glad that I put the extra blankets on the bed and in the trailer for the horses.

We set up camp and I even took Bravo for a quick ride to see the area. He was not happy to leave Kaci behind but moved out smartly enough. He was feeling way too good !
We vetted in without incident and received our ride number and packet. Now just had to go to the ride meeting. The Manager, Dave, was quite the character. The ride map was just a tad confusing but I figured I just had to make it from point A to point B, and it was all there on the map - A, B, C, D, E, 1, 2, 3 and 4 (yes literally).

We tucked in for the night as the ride start was 6:30 a.m. I woke, as always, at 1, 2, 3, 4 and then 5 o'clock. Made a quick cup of tea and oatmeal for breakfast and started to tack up. Bravo was still relaxed - hmmmmm is he sick ?? Nah, just saving his energy for the start.

Since Dave was not riding, he lead Kaci to the finish to make it easier on both her and Bravo to separate. Bravo didn't blink and headed down the trail at a smart trot after I gave my number to the check in. After that is was all blowing and pulling, boy was he in a hurry. Things were going along okay until we tried to pass a chestnut that was really giving his rider fits. I asked to pass and when I did this horse started pitching a fit, Bravo took one look at that and said "oh yea, I can do that too"! EEEEKKKKKKK- lucky for him it only took a stern word to get that out of his system, PHEW !

This ride is posted as moderate but I would say it was slightly more to the difficult side. There wasn't much flat trail to make time on - there was lots of rolling hills and some really tough climbs and technical trail. That being said, I made the 13 miles to the first vet check right as scheduled in 1.5 hours, only getting rained on twice. The pulse criteria was 56 and even with the very high humidity, Bravo pulsed down in about 3 minutes. Things were looking good. Bravo didn't really drink at this stop but that is not unusual for him, even at home. He did eat really well. It was a 20 minute hold that seemed like 5 and we were off on the next loop.

The second vet check would be in the same place and Dave was set up to wait out our arrival. The next loop was 25 miles (with two 10 minute holds after pulsing down out on the trail). At the first hold I had just called for P&R when someone turned on a hose that was in a large bucket of water directly behind Bravo. The hose shot up and squirted poor unsuspecting Bravo right in the behind. He was so shocked he almost went over top of me. Needless to say, it took us an extra few minutes to pulse down after that !

Out for a 7-8 mile loop and then back to the same hold spot. This time it was uneventful. Bravo was drinking but not as well as I would have hoped. The humidity was causing him to sweat a lot more then I am accustomed to seeing and in hindsight I should have upped his electrolytes. We left then and the trail back to the vet check was a lot of climbing. We arrived in good time and were at the 38 mile mark. Bravo drank like a camel and buried his head in his food. I hated to disturb him so I covered him with a cooler and let him eat (something I don't usually do - note to self, don't deviate from what you know works). I usually get right in the vet line and vet through just in case the horse stiffens up at the hold. I can then take them back out and loosen them up on the trail. Bravo was so hungry he stood absolutely still for the entire 45 minutes and then I vetted. The vet says she may see something in his left hind - UH OH. I am freaked. I take him back to the truck and massage his leg. He acts like it is bothering him but Bravo can be a priss about being touched. I am torn - do I go back out or do I pull ????????????

The final loop is only 12 miles and I still have 5 1/2 hours to make it. I really don't feel there is much, if anything, wrong with Bravo then perhaps a slight tightness from standing still for so long after all the climbing we just did and being in weather a lot more humid and cooler then we are used to coming from Yuma. I make the decision to continue on (with David's urging), but I decide I will hand walk all the up and down hills and ride him only on the flat sections. I tell Dave not to be worried if it takes me a long time to reach the finish. But I am a paranoid person when it comes to my horse and if Bravo blinks wrong I second guess my decision many times over the time it takes to cover that last 12 mile loop.

I also think that perhaps my electrolyte protocol was off. I am not accustomed to dealing with the humidity. I did participate in the Pride Project so I know that my feeding/electrolytes are right on with this horse for our normal conditions. I decide to give a full dose of electrolytes before leaving the check (which would be a double dose of my usual amount) since he has been drinking nonstop the entire hour. And off we go.....

We get about one mile from camp to the first hill, I hop off and tail up, lead down - not too bad. Back on and off over the next 6 miles and then the killer last climb. I had to stop three times to catch my breath even with tailing. Sheesh that was a BIG hill. It really gives you an appreciation for what these magnificent creatures do for us when you are on foot doing it yourself. We crest the hill and there are two guys sitting at a picnic table (we are close to camp). They ask me if I just walked that entire hill and I couldn't answer for a minute until I caught my breath. When I said yes, they just shook their head ! So what goes up, must go down and very quickly too. I am crapwalking sideways over the erosion ruts when it happens, I lose my footing and skid down on my left side, into the erosion ditch. Bravo is sliding down with his hocks under him and he passes me by. It happens quickly but seems to be going by in slow motion. I have not lost my grip on the reins and as he passes I grab his tail and he pulls me back up on my feet. And yes, I have the bruises to prove it today.

At the bottom of the hill I mount up and we trot the remainder of the course. Everyone is waiting at the finish and are hooting and hollering. I make Bravo walk the slight incline up to the finish, even though he was excited to be done and wanted to trot.

The vet area was right there by the finish and I decide to pulse down and vet through, just in case there is a chance of him tightening up. So I cool him out with some sponging on the neck and check his heart rate - 56. We are at criteria. I pull the saddle right there, cover him with a cooler and go to vet through. I have Dave trot Bravo so I can see, and he looks fine. There is a line but I wait and walk him in circles until it is our time. We have the same vet as at the last check and I worry some more. She remembers us............. She checks his vitals, gut sounds, back, etc. - all As. Now the moment of truth, the trot out.

I know the minute I step off with the lead that he is fine - he surges ahead of me - tail flagging and I have tears in my eyes once again at the beautiful spirit of this horse of mine. I don't even get three steps and she says, YOUR FINE ! He received all As.

Was there a problem - maybe.
Should I have pulled him - maybe. But we are both endurance addicts, this horse and me. We live to ride the trails, sometimes fast and furious, sometime he takes care of me, and sometimes I take care of us. Partnership, pure and simple - no ego for where we place or what we win or don't win. In the end the horse doesn't know where he places, he only knows how he feels.

My best reward was seeing the sparkle in his eye when we returned to the trailer and he hollers up a storm to Kaci and the camp, telling them he is the WINNER (well in my eyes anyway) ;)


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lone Star I - Suzy Ticer

By Suzy Ticer

I have always said that someday in the future I would love to ride my husband's horse Toby. Well at the CT region Lone Star Ride my husband was not able to ride so I finally got my wish (I kept telling myself to remember what you wish for!). Previously, I had only ridden Toby at a very controlled trot or walk on a training ride near home. I did not think I could ride him any faster because he stops on his front legs while doing flying lead changes and if you are not ready for that you will be flying over his head and at age 47, I am very careful about avoiding any injuries. I have only been riding for about 5 years and doing LD rides for 2 years so I do not consider myself a great rider..

Toby is a 15.3 hand 10 year old Anglo-Arab who was born for endurance. He won BC in the LD at his first ride, Old Glory in 2003. He won 2nd place in the Region Limited Distance Best Condition in 2004. He has never finish out of the top ten in LD rides that he has completed and he placed 10th out of 90 horses in his first 50 mile ride at Bluebonnet this past year. He loves to go fast and if he can't go fast he really gets upset, will throw his head around and will stomp and prance like a child until he gets his way.

Lone Star is held the two days after Thanksgiving each year at the Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera, Texas. Thanksgiving is a very busy time at the park with lots of people enjoying the well marked permanent trails, the weather, and their favorite mode of transportation including bikes, horses, and their own two feet.

Thanksgiving day, we packed up and drove the two hours to the ride camp. After John, my husband; Nicole, our 21 year old daughter and I set up our camp, we registered and vetted in the horses. Debbie Allen, the ride manager gave every participant a really nice registration gift, a copy of "Chicken Soup for the Horse Lovers Soul." (If you haven't already read this book have plenty of tissues handy!) All participants were invited to the annual potluck dinner of turkey with all the usual side dishes and deserts. What better way to spend Thanksgiving then with your horses and your riding friends. Debbie then held the ride meeting and gave instructions about courses, hold times and finishing criteria. She reminded everyone that this is a technical trail with lots of rocks and hills and it could be very warm and humid during the ride. She asked that we take care of our horses and our selves and her goal was to not to have any horses or humans treated at the ride. The vets reminded everyone to electrolyte, electrolyte, electrolyte. It is November, but this is Texas!

Friday morning stared off with perfect weather for fall in Texas, low 60's with a forecast of clear skies and possible highs in the 80's by the afternoon. The seventeen 50 milers stared at 7:00 AM and the thirty-four 25s started at 8:00 AM. As I tacked up and mounted Toby, I told everyone that I was not smiling I actually had a grimace of terror that I was going to attempt to ride Toby for a full 25 miles all by myself! John told me that I had to finish in the top 10 to keep Toby's record or I would be walking home. I told him I would do my best just to stay on the horse!

The ride had a slow controlled start for about a mile or so. As soon as the trail was open, Toby took off at a fast trot through the trees. And that was the last time I saw any of the 25 milers until I got back to camp. I am used to riding by myself, but usually it is in the middle of the pack. Toby likes to go out fast at the beginning of the ride and John had told me not to try to hold him back because that's when I would get into trouble. We went about 2 or 3 miles through the trees and along a dry creek bed, then we hit a short stretch of road and a pasture where the park rangers had mowed a very wide trail. Toby just opened it up and off we went flying down the trail, wind whistling past my ears, my eyes watering from the speed, my hat flying off never to be seen again. What a rush! Toby only got smoother the faster we went! We made a brief stop at the first water tank, but Toby was not even interested. So off we go again following the orange course. Up hills, over rocks, crossing dry creek beds, around oak and cedar trees, I did not even have an opportunity to enjoy the great views, we were going so fast.

I lost my stirrups and bounced around on the saddle a couple of times, but I hung on and just kept right on going. I tried to slow him down as we approached a small hill with lots of rocks, but he has not having any of that and proceeded to do one of those awful stops of his. I was thrown forward in the saddle, I grabbed his mane, my left leg came over the saddle, leaving me hanging off the right side with one foot still in the stirrup and hanging onto the reins. Luckily Toby came to a complete stop and I fell the couple of feet to the ground. The only thing I could think of at the time was, "Well that wasn't so bad, and thank goodness no one saw me". Toby just stood there looking at me with an expression on his face that clearly said "What are you doing down there, get back in the saddle so that we can get back on the trail!" which we proceeded to do.

I finished the first loop of 12.3 miles in one hour and 20 minutes about 20 minutes before the next rider. We then had a one-hour hold so both Toby and I ate and loaded up on electrolytes, tacked back up and off we went following the yellow trail. I did have to change into a pair of jeans because I had blown the knee out of my tights during my unscheduled dismount.

I felt much more comfortable and relaxed with Toby after successfully completing the first loop and really enjoyed the rest of the ride. The rest of the park had woken up and were out on the trail by this time so we had to keep our eyes open for hikers, kids fishing in the creeks, parents with kids in strollers, bicycle riders and trail riders. Toby seemed to know that he had to slow down to a walk or slow trot when passing so I did not have do to much work. We did almost run over a mountain bike rider when we came around a blind corner, but Toby stopped on a dime and luckily no one was hurt. We passed lots of trail riders who graciously moved to the side of the trail when they saw us coming. We exchanged "Good Mornings, and what a beautiful day for a ride!" and continued down the well-marked trail.

Toby really showed me what an excellent endurance horse he was on the second loop which had a lot more rocks on the trail including one really good vertical cliff climb. Toby seemed to know just where to place his feet while still maintaining a very fast trot over rocks that other horses would have had to walk over, it was amazing. He read the trail ahead and decided how fast he had to go and I barely had to direct him around the curves, around and under trees, and over dry creek beds. He stopped almost automatically at any water, took a great big drink, splashed himself with water and off we went. He even seems to know the right direction on the trails. We came to a split in the trail, and I thought we should go left, but Toby said "No, Mom, we have to go right here!" and he was correct. I crossed the last large dry creek, and met up with about 7 or 8 trail riders coming the other way, we slowed down, passed them, then took off at a gallop just past the last rider. We again hit the large mowed pasture, and all Toby saw was open freeway. After nearly 20 miles, he just turned up the power and we flew the last couple of miles at full speed. We came to the road leading into camp, and I got off to walk him in the last half of a mile. I stripped the saddle off of him at our camp and vetted in.

We finished the second 13.7 mile loop in one hour and 25 minutes. I have never finished a ride in such a short time. Toby and I went back after 15 minutes and one hour to stand for BC. I even got a hug from the vet when I had completed the final vet check. Needless to say I was ecstatic at finishing the ride in one piece and getting my first 1st place finish. I had to tell everyone!! I was emotionally just flying! I had ridden Toby for 25 miles with no major mishaps, had come in first, and had a great time. Nicole said "Mom's gonna want a faster horse now!" and she was right!

I took Toby back to our camp and gave him a great big meal and hugged him for getting me through a great ride in one piece. Our camp was located near the finish line so I watched all the other 25 and 50 milers as they came into camp. We had plans to drive to Dallas on Saturday, so we took down our tent and packed everything up and waited for the award meeting.

Debbie thanked everyone at the award meeting for having a safe ride with no horses or humans having to be treated. As Debbie was announcing the names of those who had completed the ride successfully, I just kept thinking of what a wonderful day I had getting to ride a really great horse successfully, and winning a first place and first heavy weight rider. But what really made my day was when Debbie announced that Toby had also won Best Conditioned horse! Someone in the crowd jokingly said something about leaving some of the awards for the rest of the riders.

Well I finally got my chance to ride Toby and it was better than I expected! I learned I was a better rider then I had previously thought, Toby is the greatest horse ever (IMHO) and it's great coming in first. Now I can't wait to ride Toby again, maybe I'm even ready for a 50-mile ride!!

Suzy Ticer

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Farewell to Silver State - Karen in Nevada

After something like 25 years (give or take), the Silver State ride
is now history. It's kind of sad, I will really miss the ride. It
was the first multiday ride (3 days) on Weaver and the flag print
bandana that I still wear on my helmet was what we received for
completing all three days. That bandana has done several thousand
more miles since then, I'm going to keep fixing it with duct tape so
it will last forever. I think all of my horses have gotten their
great starts on that ride. First Weaver as his first multiday, then
a couple of years later I rode Rocky two days in a row on that ride
and that is where he finally "got it". He was trying to eat the
cholla by the 2nd day he was so hungry and from that point forward he
became a really good eater! Then Chief came along and got to do a
day of Silver State as his first ever point to point ride. This
year, my newest horse Zenos also got to do two days of the ride
including his first point to point. I am probably really fond of
this ride simply because I have had so many great rides there over the years.

The BLM is closing down some of the trails for 3 years to all
recreation. There was a fire in the Blue Diamond area that they want
to 'reclaim'. It's unlikely that we'll ever get the trails back,
and besides a new cargo airport is going to be built at Jean,
Nevada. Claire hasn't found a new place to move the ride to
yet. :-( The BLM classifies endurance riding as a speed event
because they think we travel at "25 miles per hour".

I really like smaller rides. Especially when you know most of the
riders. This year was great, we had about 35 riders the first day,
which was the 55 mile day. I brought two horses down so that I
could alternate them. I had already vetted Chief in for the first
days ride when Dave Rabe came over and talked me into riding Zenos
instead, he said he'd ride with me. I thought about it and realized
that yeah, it would be good for Z to do more than just a one day
ride, he is definitely ready for it and it'll be great for Chief to
do just one day. I've been trying really hard to cut back on riding
him on every ride, every single day. It's not been easy for me,
since I love riding him so much! So I went ahead and vetted Zenos in
for the 55 mile day. I put Epics on his front feet, so he wouldn't
be walking around camp barefoot on all 4 feet and went over and
vetted him in (it's really rocky there). These end of season rides
are great for all of the point chasers. It is such fun to watch all
of the goings on and see who is doing what and so on. I love it! It
of course is more fun for me, since I'm not riding for points, and
already was far enough ahead in the mileage category to not have to
worry about it.

We started in the back of the pack and when others in front would
stop we stopped and fiddled around. Mostly that was so that Dave's
horse wouldn't pull his arms out trying to catch up with horses in
front. Zenos didn't really seem to care, and it was good experience
for him learning that he can stop and be patient and just watch
horses trotting off ahead of us, or by us. He handled everything
extremely well. We had a great ride into the vet check. There is
only one 'out' vet check on the ride each day, and it's remote. If
something happens to your horse out there, you won't be hauling him
back in a horse trailer. So you keep that in mind and try to be
careful out there. The trail is extremely rocky, moreso this year
because other trail users loosen up the dirt and it blows or floods
away leaving only rocks and hardpacked dirt. There are also lots of
washes so you are constantly going up and down. Zenos handled all of
the footing and terrain changes traveling smoothly and with
grace. At one spot there was a washout that just dropped off, Dave's
horse jumped off it and kept going. Zenos stopped and looked at it
and waited for me to tell him what to do! I was so pleased :). We
made it to the vetcheck, and Z pulsed down to 60 right away and we
went over and vetted. Everything A-ok. So over to find our crewbag
and get fed. I barely got the food out and mixed with water before
the horse had it all gobbled up. I put elytes in each of his baggies
of feed and he ate it all, then tried finishing off some of another
horses food.

We had volunteered to pull ribbons down on part of the next loop
since we were last and that section of trail was only going to be
done on that first day. Luckily Dave brought along a plastic bag --
which we filled up completely stuffed with ribbons on
clothespins! They really way overmarked that trail (lol). That was
also great experience for Z, as he got to stop and let me lean over
to pull off some of the ribbons, and was the only horse :* that
wasn't afraid of the plastic bag filled with ribbons. Once we got
thru there we were able to leave all of the ribbons at the water stop
with the radio guy. We stayed there a few extra minutes to let the
horses eat before heading in. We made up some time there and
finished at about 5, just as it was getting dark. That wasn't too bad
since we had until 7:45 to make it in by. We were last. We
entertained ourselves by reading the big flashing billboard on the
sign in front of the casino as we headed towards it. They had a
special, for $10 you got an hour of dance lessons, 4 hours of dancing
and 2 drinks. I don't know if anybody from the ride went or not, but
we did make it in that night to have prime rib for dinner in the restaurant.

Riding with Dave is a lot of fun, he's always so patient, and so
considerate. He just can't hear real well. We had fun all day
comparing our horses heart rates, then finally at some point I kept
hearing a beep beep beep sound. I asked him if that was his HRM --
and he didn't know, said he couldn't hear it! Sure enough, his
HRM was not attached and was beeping. It kept doing that, so I kept
telling him "there's that bird again". Dave was able to tease me
because my horse was trying to eat orange rocks, and chew on bark on
the joshua trees (now he knows that stuff isn't edible) :P

The next day I rode Chief-- we started out in the back and I got him
thru the first part without him getting too excited. He always wants
to catch whoever is in front, as well as stay ahead of whoever is
behind. Next year I can ride him faster and he won't be mad at me
for making him go so slow. I've been practicing on the last few
rides letting him canter a little bit here and there. We do that a
lot on training rides, but in an actual endurance ride he tends to
want to gallop like his tail is on fire. So we're doing little
stretches where I work on our transitions in a speed that is in
control, and he is getting better and better about it. We soon
started to pass other horses, especially going up the steep climb up
Cave Canyon. He is great on technical trails and goes well over the
big boulders and rocks and doesn't need to stop and take a break, so
up we went up and up and over the top, then down trotting thru the
sand into the vetcheck. We caught up Kathy after lunch and rode with
her into the finish. I really wanted to let Chief go more, but
thought better of it until I have more time to back him off of doing
so many miles in a season, so I kept him at the same pace and we
finished the day with him looking as great as he always does! I was
happy and sad, knowing that he'd just finished an incredible ride
season and sad because it was over and knowing I'd never get to ride
him on that trail again. I think we finished around 13th out of 28.

The third day started out a bit windy. It had blown most of the night
at Blue Diamond. I still planned on riding Zenos. He was handling
everything so well, the day I rode Chief he was trailered to the new
camp and when he got there he spent the day eating and
drinking. Another horse got loose and ran around camp and Z just
stood there calmly and watched. About 3 a.m. I heard a loud
commotion outside, but with the wind I couldn't tell what it was. It
sounded like a horse had gotten into a wreck, or had gotten loose so
I went outside to look. Both of my horses had eaten all of their food
and drank all of their water and they wanted more! So got them all
refilled on their rations and back to bed for another hour or two
before getting up. We started at 6 a.m. I got Zenos boots on,
tacked him up and walked him over to vet. He was fine. yay! I
remember feeling his legs and checking him over and thinking that you
couldn't tell he'd done a ride, that was great. His attitude was
good too, as we headed out. He seemed happy to follow Dave's horse
again and off we went. We had a small creek crossing in the first
few miles, and he calmly walked thru it, yay! I really like how he
stays calm when horses pass or he sees them up ahead. A couple of
times I would pull him back a little and let Dave's horse get farther
up ahead just to see how he'd handle it, and he did fine with
that. I don't want him to get too attached to another horse. On all
three days, neither of my horses had their HR's go above
140. Actually, maybe 133 was the highest they got to climbing the
steep hills. I used the Garmin 301 so it measured the distance,
elevation, HR and all that jazz -- so I can put it on the laptop and
view the graphs. Mostly I use it to keep an eye on my average speed,
and also the speed that we are going at. It's almost scary how much
your average can be thrown off when you stop and fiddle faddle
around, or are pulling ribbons or whatever.

The vetcheck was shortened to a half an hour because of the cold and
wind. That was just long enough for the horses to eat well. They
had sandwiches for us along with chips and drinks and candy. The
last part of the ride went really well, we had more downhill to do
since we were riding back to Jean. Zenos was well mannered when I
led him on foot down Cave Canyon. Then I got on and trotted the wash
part. We didn't have any ribbons to pull today so didn't lose time
there. When we got to the water stop the radio guy told us that we
were 6th and 7th out of 19 riders. We'd been figuring that we were
the 19th riders . Wow, how did that happen? I guess we had been
doing a lot of steady trotting, not fast but we weren't fiddling
around and goofing off either. So we kept on going occasionally
letting the horses canter where the terrain allowed it. What a great
day it was, we had the best time. Since we'd started so early and
had only a half an hour hold, we finished at about 2 o'clock! That
was great, I had plenty of daylight left so the horse could get dried
off and cleaned up. It was sad saying goodbye to everybody. They did
a great job at the ride this year all around. The trail was well
marked, the lunches were awesome and all of the volunteers and vet
were terrific. The group of riders were also all the best. I will
miss Silver State.

Congratulations to all the riders and their horses that met all of
their goals in 2005 and good luck next season!


in NV

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Armadillo Incident - Tamsen Valoir

Armadillo Incident, by Tamsen Valoir

This year's Armadillo ride on October 22 was blessed with gorgeous weather - intensely blue skies and crisp cool autumn air. I was riding DJB Silver Sam - the new Arab I had purchased from Daroyln Butler last October. We were already 10 miles into the first loop and the pace was incredible! I had never ridden him so fast, even in training. I bought Sam because he was a lazy Arab. He was always happy to walk and I had never seen him hurry anywhere, including the 5 or 6 prior rides I had ridden on him. But at Armadillo he was pulling and pretty much setting his own pace, right up there with the front runners. He didn't seem to be working too hard though, and although I wasn't sure the rider could keep it up, I had no doubt that the horse could.

Finally, a group of women pulled over to continue at a slightly slower pace, and I gratefully pulled in behind them. We were nearing the end of the 16 mile loop and stopped to water at Snake Pond. Our first location had a very shallow bank, but on the edge there was little water, only mud, so I suggested that we might have better luck around the side of the pond, where the bank was steeper, but there was water all the way to the edge.

I urged Sam towards the water and he put his front feet in, sniffed the water, but refused to drink. Instead of backing out, he surged forward, and immediately sunk deep into mud and began thrashing and flailing to get free. I fell off onto the shore, quickly set my glasses to the side and went back into the pond to pull him out.

His rein had gotten trapped under one leg, but I snapped the quick-release and pulled it free and then urged him to come out of the pond. He struggled, but was unable to get free and remained quietly stuck, shoulder deep. Another rider, John Ticer, jumped into the pond to drive him out. Sam tried again, but was unable to get any support, and again subsided back into the mud. Yet another rider, Robert Merris, took the reins and the two of them tried to push and pull him out, but although Sam was right on the edge, he couldn't get any support or balance, and to my horror he rolled right over Robert!

Robert insisted he wasn't hurt, but that could have been the adrenalin talking. John told me to get the halter off his horse Toby. It was a sturdy leather halter and he planned to use it to help pull Sam out. As I took off the halter, Jennifer Funk said "it will take a helicopter to get him out!" I looked at her askance, horrified by the thought. Then Jennifer offered John her rope reins. She took off her bridle, using Toby's rein around her horse's neck to hold him, passed her horse to me and took the rope to Robert. While they were arranging the rope and halter, John held Sam's head out of the water - Sam was rapidly tiring of the struggle and would have drowned without John's help.

Meanwhile, Toby began surging down the trail away from camp! I tried desperately to hold the two horses, but with just the rein around Dante's neck, I couldn't succeed, and Toby and Dante eventually pulled free and ran down the trail. Events were rapidly spiraling out of control...

John and Robert tried again and with the added leverage were able to get Sam's front feet on the shore. After another brief rest, they tried again - John driving Sam from the back, and Robert pulling from a safe distance on the rope. Finally Sam broke free and climbed the two foot embankment to solid ground, while Robert fell off the berm on the other side, laughing.

John hugged me - I was clearly traumatized, and told me "Sam is stressed. Take him back to camp." Meanwhile, John and Jennifer headed out to look for their horses.

I tried walking slowly back to camp, but Sam was still keen on racing and was dragging me along the trail, so I climbed back on and made him walk or slow trot the rest of the way. I was teary, and cried anew every time I thought of those two lost horses. It was all my fault!

When I got back to camp, my friend Cindy Kovalchuk was there to greet me, but she should have been on trail! She said her horse Rhett just didn't feel right, so she had pulled out at 5 miles. She asked how I had done, and I immediately burst into sobs, unable to catch my breath even tell her what had happened. As I choked out the story, she shepherded Sam and I through the vet check and Sam got straight A's!

The vet, Denise Easterling, grabbed me by the shoulder and said "Look at me! Take a deep breath." I shuddered some air into my lungs, and she said "Not like that. Breathe deep!" I did a few deep breathes and it helped to calm me. I was still pretty shook up though, and determined to pull from the ride, but everyone said I could certainly do another 10, and not to decide until after my 50 minute hold, and I reluctantly agreed.

I changed my clothes while Cindy got Sam fed and watered. As we sat at our folding table eating some lunch, I told Cindy I couldn't finish the race. "There are two lost horses out there because of me - I can't finish this race, the guilt won't let me." Cindy understands guilt, and immediately gave in. "Come on," she said, "Lets go up to the front and see what we can do to help."

We told the ride secretary Linda Parrish that I was pulling and decided what we should do was go look for the two horses, although the chances of us finding them in 160,000 acres of East Texas woodlands was close to nil. Still, I would feel better if we at least tried.

Just then an ambulance and fire truck sirened into camp. A rider was down past Snake Pond - the same pond I had bogged down in. Bo Parrish, ride manager, climbed in to see if he could direct the ambulance to where the rider was down.

Cindy and I set out up the pink trail in the reverse direction we had run it in the morning. Sam was not in racing mode anymore - he had stiffened up during his hold and was moving only with reluctance. But Rhett was feeling fine and we slow-trotted up the trail. It wasn't too long before we saw John and Jennifer riding towards us. "You found them," we exclaimed excitedly!

But it was not to be. Jennifer was riding John's wife's horse - also a bit off and not racing today - and John was the guy who had found the downed rider and called 911. Now he was riding her horse back to camp! (We later found out that this horse threw John twice - John was definitely the superhero today, and was rewarded with a rescue prize and standing ovation at the awards meeting). John did find Toby's bridle, however, so at least the lost horses were free of entangling reins.

We set off up the trail again, listening to a helicopter zoom in. Obviously the ambulance had not been able to travel on the narrow, soft sand trails through the woods, and they had sent in a helicopter to recover the rider. We later discovered that the rider was Connie Owens, Jennifer's friend, and although she had hurt her shoulder, she would be okay.

We passed the pond and came to a dirt road. We checked about a hundred yards in each direction on the road, but there were no tracks, so we crossed and continued up the trail. The pink trail took a hard turn to the left, but a well packed, truck track continued straight ahead, and was clearly the path of least resistance. There was also a single set of hoof prints heading straight up the road!

We slowed to a walk, studying the ground, and about a hundred yards up - a second set of prints! Now we knew we were on the right track. The horses were off-trail, which is why no other riders had seen them!

Unfortunately, the truck track dead-ended after only 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile and in front of us were three barely visible and unused trails. We chose the central track and proceeded slowly, looking for hoof prints. But the trail was soft sand and covered with leaves and pine needles, and although we thought we saw the occasional disturbance, the sand would not hold a footprint.

Eventually we came to a fork in the trail, and without any clues, took the path straight ahead. But we eventually became discouraged, and I said "Lets go back and check out the left trail, I'm not seeing anything here."

We retraced our steps, but the left trail wasn't a trail at all, just a small clearing, and the right trail was the same. Cindy said "Let's try the central track again," so we set off again. This time we tried the right trail at the fork, and about one hundred yards in, I saw the long swamp grass pointing, as though a pig or deer - or horse - had recently walked through it.

We proceeded slowly. I studied the ground, and Cindy searched through the woods for the horses. Suddenly her heart leapt into her throat. "Is that them? It is! It is them!" We had found the lost horses!

We called John and his wife Suzie to let them know where we were, and then I dismounted, pulled my cowboy hat low over my eyes and gradually meandered towards the horses. After a couple of tries, I caught and haltered Dante and then Toby was willing to allow himself to be caught.

I led them both back up the trail, but missed the turnoff and eventually ended up back on the pink trail. We knew if we kept following it to the left we would eventually get back to the road though. True to form, Toby was pulling me down the trail. I held onto his saddle, but I could barely keep up. After about a mile of this I was starting to sweat!

We watered the horses at a safe pond - they were extremely thirsty. Cindy said "Why don't you ride? We can pony these horses." "Well I'm not sure we can pony Toby..." But we did, and sure enough Toby continued to lead the way, ponying Rhett and Cindy instead of the other way around.

Eventually we got back to the road and met the four runner, driven by Suzie. John and Jennifer gratefully took their horses and ran back to camp, while Cindy and I proceeded at a much more moderate pace. We were so proud of ourselves! I may have lost those horses, but finding them again took away that horrible sick feeling in my stomach. It was a good ride after all and we were both satisfied!

Back in camp we told our stories again and again, hugged, cried, and thanked everyone again. Thank you to all the riders who stopped and waiting for the situation to stabilize before continuing their ride. Thanks to Robert who risked his own life helping Sam. Thanks to John who stayed calm, saved Sam, and then rescued Connie Owens and her horse too! Thanks to Jennifer for the use of her rope reins and for not hollering at me for losing her horse. Thanks the Denise for her calmness and wisdom, and finally big thanks to Cindy, without whom I could not have held it together, nor found the lost horses.

I trained for endurance from 1992 to 1999, and have been racing ever since. I have never in all that time had a dangerous incident, and it really shook my confidence. But as Alfred said to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, "Why do we fall down sir? So we can learn to get back up."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Back From My First 50! - Nat Nelson

by Nat Nelson

Friday morning I got up around 3 am to feed my mare, so she would have a full belly for the long trailer ride to the Paso Del Norte, held at Tee Pee Ranch outside of Columbus, NM. Paso Del Norte is managed by Randy Eiland.

Once my mare finished most of her hay I loaded her up and was on the road by 4 am. I cut my mileage to Tee Pee by 20 miles by cutting through the Indian Reservation which bypassed the Phoenix - and arrived to basecamp with 509 miles on my odometor at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Upon pulling into camp I was welcomed by a freind from a pervious ride - she had helped me get my truck unstuck at the Jaguar Ride. She invited me to come park next to her rig, so I did. We had a blast being nieghbors for the weekend!

I hung Moah's haynet and water bucket, then tied her to the side of the trailer. Then I made her some sloppy beet pulp (pelleted). Once my mare was cared for I set up camp - which consists of a tent cot, with a leapord throw rug (just to class up the place) and a
fold up chair in the back of my stock trailer. Once my chores were done I went visiting
folks around base camp and paid in my entry.

My horse vetted in with all A's a great relief - at her last two rides she had gotten B's and C's in gut sounds. After vetting Moah in I made her another sloppy beet pulp.

Prior to the ride I had solicited for someone to
ride with me on my first 50. Nancy Zehetner gracefully voulenteered. She had attempeted a 50 previously but pulled due to lameness - so we were going for the same goal - to complete our first 50 together!

Things always happen for a reason - and for some reason we were paired to pull this feat together. We hit it off right away and our MARES got along with each other famously!

Our ride started at 7:30 Saturday morning, with our first loop being 16 miles. The loop went cross country on the base of the mountians, so there was some washes and light arroyos. There were three watering
stops on the loop - to my dismay my mare turned her nose up at the green water! Thank goodness she finished both of her beet pulps the night before!!

Nancy and I arrived to the vet check at 9:52 am - both our horses vetted in with all A's. I told the vet that my mare turned her nose up
at the waters on the trail but drank well at the vet check; Barney told my mare she couldn't be picky anymore! We had a 45 minute hold. I
searched out Jene's vet bag, and left a note "I made it thru my 1st vet check, see you back at camp!" and signed it and zipped it into her bag sticking out.

When our 45 minutes were up Nancy and I mounted up and rode over to the out timer. He gave us the go ahead and Randy pointed
us in the right direction. The second loop was 20 miles. My mare felt good, and was
anxious to finish the loop as she thought we would be done. I had to rein her in several times. We loped a bit on the loop, and were weaving in and out of bushes. At one bush my mare insisted on going one way,
and I insisted the other. I thought I won the
discussion, but she verred the opposite way - throwing me forward hanging around her neck! I tweaked my back and my knee as I struggled back into my saddle (which I probaly wouldn't of made if she hadn't ducked back underneath me)- I screamed some obsenity - which Nancy immeadiatly
reined up her horse and said "Hey, I know that distress call!" We both giggled at that

We arrived to our second vet check at 1:31 pm. Both our horses vetted in with all A's. I was happy to report to the vet that my mare drank on the loop! The vet check had another 45 minute hold. My mare was eating doing great, but I wasn't! I started to feel dizzy and grabbed my stool out of my gear bag. Nancy immeadiatly handed me some pinneapple and
asked if I'd like some, and told me to pour some water over my neck. I did what she said and started to feel better. Good thing I was riding with Nancy, because she's a nurse! She shared her protien bar with me
and gave me some lemon-lime EmergenC to put into my water. She really save my butt, because I most certiantly couldn't ride like that!

I was much better by time we left for our thrid and final loop. It was 15 miles and back tracked over about 90% of the first loop. Which was REALLY nice because you knew where you were going! Nancy and I compared
pains we were experiencing - both of our upper rib cages ached, along with our shoulders and inner upper thighs. Her horse, Aieral and mine felt good and still had alot of go in them. We only had 15 more miles to go.

We arrived to basecamp at 4:30 pm! Both to our amazment as we felt we would take the full 12 hours to complete!!! My horse was still a little high in pulse when we finished so vet told me to come back in at little bit. I noticed that Moah had lost a shoe and I fretted that she might favor it. When I took her to her final vet check I worried until the trot back. The vet said "You've completed" and my eyes swelled up with tears and had to turn away real fast and say THANK YOU!


Friday, October 28, 2005


Angie McGhee

Well, none of my friends can believe I've taken this long to tell them about my trip to Arizona but I've been so swamped that I never felt like I had time to do it justice. Finally got on fall break and my brother found out! :-(( Ring, ring, "Hey, heard you're off work. We're over here painting the house for Mama and Daddy and need you to do the trim" Wahhh!

But I'm ready to talk so here tis.

The moral of this story is that whining on Ridecamp can be a good thing. Apparently, I whined and sounded a little down a while back and as a response I got a post from a Dayna Weary saying that she had been conscripted by her husband Bruce to invite me out to Arizona for an endurance ride lest I should fear that I was being invited out by some pervert. I didn't know it at the time but Bruce only wanted to allay my fears in that area until I agreed to come and the airline ticket had been purchased. Then he took a twisted pleasure in suggesting that I might just get off the plane and be met by a person who I would consider the worst possible Ridecamp person to have lured me out there. :-P Ha, ha, very funny. Even after I was convinced he wasn't, he hinted that maybe I wasn't the only person he'd invited. Bruce has a twisted sense of humor.

Normally, I would have felt I couldn't miss school but it just so happened that the very weekend they wanted me to come was the end of my daughter's contract at her dude ranch job in Colorado. That meant either Bill or I had to buy a plane ticket and fly to Albuquerque, NM to meet her and help her drive home. Bruce and Dayna assured me that they could use their Southwest Airlines points to fly me back to Albuquerque after the ride rather than home, so I could justify the trip. I would get to do a ride, and SAVE MONEY!!! Anybody who knows me knows I can't pass up a deal like that.

The flight from Nashville to Phoenix was the most unusual pre-ride day commute I've made. My daughter's stuff had barely fit in the car when she left, so I knew I couldn't fit much in her car for the ride home. First, instead of filling up a truck & trailer with my ride gear, I had to get it all in a backpack. I didn't dare check luggage so I had crammed all my regular clothes and enough books on cassette to get me through a 1400 mile marathon drive home into one carry on suitcase, then had to get my ride clothes into a backpack. Turns out Bruce & Dayna don't wear helmets so I needed to bring my own. goes one helmet, one pair of RIDE TENNIS SHOES, >phew!!< tights, gloves, sponge, etc. Honestly, I was so afraid the security officers searching luggage would open that bag. There's nothing quite like the scent of a pair of shoes that's been in pond water, green manure, etc. etc. Ugh. If they'd lit a fuse I'm sure those shoes would have qualified as a shoe bomb. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it all in so I just told Dayna the way she could recognize me getting off the plane...I'd be the one in the helmet.

I'm not sure why, but it was easy to spot Dayna in the airport. Endurance riders somehow manage to look really fit without looking like aerobics instructors. When I had talked to Dayna on the phone about coming out I asked her were they the type people who would lure me out there just so they could drive off and leave me in the desert. She assured me not, but when she whisked me away in her Lincoln, and phoned Bruce to tell him "The parcel has been collected" I wondered if I'd ever said something on RC that had really offended them. :-P

Dayna and I talked a blue streak for the 2 hour drive to the camp...mostly about raising teenaged girls. It's hard to be scared of a 50 mile ride next to sheer rocky drop offs when you've been facing teenaged girls daily. This would be a picnic.

So...we pull into camp and how are things different from the South? Well, first, you opened a gate to get in camp and closed it behind you. Seems there would be cows that had free roam of camp and the gate needed to keep them in. That was a darned big ranch because we rode about 25 miles before we had to open another gate. Of course, I think it had about as much graze-able forage on it as 2 grassy acres back home. I saw one cow and calf and I think that might be all the land was able to feed. >g<

First I met Bruce. I know everybody has been waiting for me to get on here and describe Bruce to them. Well, if you've seen the National Geographic show about Tevis, picture Boyd with short blonde hair. The more I think about it, the more I think Bruce may have been riding under an assumed name in that video. If so, he has taken riding lessons since then. Since I came up to approximately his ribs I had a feeling the horse I was borrowing would be a big boy. And he was. I was riding Heisman, a big flea bitten Arab with a very impressive record (4000 miles) so I was in good hands.

I had been worried since the invite that they wouldn't have a saddle with holes punched high enough in the stirrup leathers for me. Bruce had told me I'd be riding an Abetta saddle with a fleece seat cover so as soon as I saw the saddle there on the rack I started taking up the stirrups to make sure they'd go up enough for me. I struggled to pull the fenders as far up into the saddle as I could get them, took the stirrups up to the highest notch, buckled on the keepers and then Bruce noticed what I was doing and said, "Ummm...that's my saddle". Oops.

Dayna's motive for the weekend was obvious from our first call. Seems she had just read my EN article where I griped about people in campers running their generators. Her plan was to corrupt me by having me spend the weekend in an air conditioned camper, sleeping on a feather bed and eating hot meals. If they'd had the toilet in their brand new camper hooked up it might have worked, but the walk to the porto-let cleared my head and I think I passed the test since I haven't said a word to Bill about taking out a second mortgage to get something like that for myself. The hard part about sleeping in the camper was that Bruce and I are both chronic "one-upsmanshippers". Every time one of us told the "last story of the night" the other had a better one. You know how it is at a slumber party when you turn out the lights, everybody gets quiet...and you try to stay quiet...and then somebody speaks and it all starts up again? >g< Poor Dayna.

OK, enough trivial stuff. The TERRAIN. I don't think I ever realized Arizona is so mountainous. If you said Arizona I just pictured desert. Nope, it was mountains. BIG mountains. The ground is a dusty, fine dirt with a scattering *everywhere* of loose volcanic rock. You could be trotting along on a flat trail and suddenly there would be a leg breaker type hole...the kind we get when an old dead pine stump underground rots out, but they have no reason for them I could see. They said it had to do with the volcanoes.

The really different thing about out there is that you can see forever. You can see mountains that are a hundred miles away. If I step outside my door at home I can see Lookout Mountain which is maybe 4 miles from me to the East and it rises up to block anything else that direction. Out there you could see a rider on a mountain from far away. Out here a rider is out of sight behind foliage 20 yards ahead. Out there you can see GROUND on distant mountains. There wasn't much that I'd call a tree till you got into the pines higher up the mountains. The "scrub oaks" are wicked little bushes that have *tiny* little miniature oak leaves. The limbs are made of cast iron and it is a *grave* mistake to think you'll just brush one back as you ride by. Bending apparently requires moisture and there isn't any, so it's like snagging your tights on a ragged metal rod. OUCH! They must use cutting torches to clear trails.

The "Man Against Horse" ride is just that. They had a 50 mile endurance horse race, a 50 mile human race, 25 mile LD horse, (don't think they had a people 25) a 12 mile human race and a 12 mile fun ride. This was something else strange to me. There were 18 horses in the 50, and maybe that many runners. Maybe 30 in the LD and over a HUNDRED in the 12 mile fun ride. We seldom have those here, and if they do maybe 5 or 10 show up. I didn't get to see any of the fun riders. They got there after we started and were gone before we came back. I don't know if they had fun or not. By the way, this is the first ride I've been to where the manager complained that antelope had been eating the markers.

If you ever have a chance to do an endurance ride over a course where they're having a human race, I highly recommend it. Boy, do runners get a lot of food! Every five miles or so we'd come up on a table and they'd offer us granola bars, tootsie rolls, M&M's, Gatorade, was crazy. I have never eaten so much at a ride. Next time I'll enter a higher weight division since I'll probably make it at the end. There was a Native American guy whose name I wish I could recall who had won the race and beat the horses for the past 5 years. I saw him but wouldn't have picked him as a favorite. He was sort of the Jayel Super of humans...just incredibly middle of the road. Not too big, not too muscled, just handy. He said he wasn't in good shape this year. Turned out he was still good enough to beat the horses but got beat by a tall Caucasian. I guess I could be happy...Caucasian pride and all, but the Native American was closer to my height so I related more to him. A woman came in third; it was just hard to pick who would make it and who wouldn't. A couple of younger Native American guys whose legs looked *so* ripped gave out around 25 miles. Meanwhile there was a guy who looked like a heavyweight still going (I think he finished) and there was actually a 67 year old man who did the whole 50.

Back to the horses. Bruce was riding his Fox Trotter mare that happens to be slim and gray so you have to look twice to notice it's not an Arab. She had a very "Lemme At 'em" attitude so my job was to stay behind and not challenge her to a race. I kept waiting for the catch with Heisman. He was steady, controllable, sound, and strong! I actually had my camera out on the first loop taking pictures as we started. THAT'S a dependable horse!

I had almost left my sponge at home but decided to take it just in case. What I found were a lot more opportunities to sponge than I expected. Heck, I figure if your horse is drinking out of a green cattle tank nobody's going to complain about a little sponge getting dipped. There was even a puddle or two. Bruce had a little collapsible bucket that he got off and dipped but good ol' Heisman acted like he'd seen leaping sponges all his life and let me do my thing from his back.

Vet checks were different. Out here they're usually in camp and I have an elaborate area set up with a truckload of stuff set out. Their checks were away, which make sense because if you rode within 12 miles of camp all the time you'd never lose sight of it out there. When we came into the check we stood around the water tank and a pulse taker came to us and took the pulses. I looked around and there was no sign of a "vet check area" but there were horses occasionally trotting down a strip of driveway so I guessed somebody down there was a vet. We got our pulses, then instead of going to vet through we stood around at our food that Dayna had set out and let them eat and had a bit ourselves. Finally, when it was almost our out time we went down to the vet and did a trot out. Very casual.

Now lets talk rocks. We have rocks, but we have some dirt under the rocks. They have rocks under their rocks. If I had been in charge of the pace on this ride we'd have had to walk the whole time. I just didn't look down. I figured if Bruce thought it was trotable and Heisman was willing, I'd just mind my own business and take pictures. There was one huge mountain that we had to get to the top of and it involved a narrow switchback trail cut into the side of the mountain. The air was thin and we'd been about 25 miles. There were a couple of 20ish *extremely* fit looking runners who ran out of steam there and were calling it quits. Bruce got off his mare and was tailing up and I was riding along in front turning around taking photos of them. Heisman meanwhile was expertly picking his way over loose rocks and around the switchbacks. I suddenly realized what I was doing and noticed that though there was lots of scrub brush around, there was absolutely nothing capable of slowing your tumble if you took one step off the trail. It would have been a long roll through cactus and boulders to the valley below. >shudder<

The ride itself was a great experience. I finally got to see the West without a freeway in sight, and on a *good* horse. It was fun to see the way the westerners run things and how and why it works for them. I got lucky on the weather, everyone said it was uncommonly pleasant...really warm but not the least bit miserable. The temp didn't feel bad at all to me. I think the South is "bake" and Arizona is "broil". I could feel the heat burning my skin but not inside my head. I did forget the sunblock and chapstick. By Monday my lips looked like one of those westerns where someone has crawled across the desert with cracking lips. I think there were 4 mouth sores. (Dentist appt. 2 days later with new dentist...perfect timing...trying to explain that I *don't* have Herpes type 6).

As we got down off the mountain and traveled along the sandy washes again I was just thinking how impressively sure footed Bruce's western horses were and how I had trusted my life to them trotting those switchbacks...not like Kaboot, who does summersaults on decent footing. As I pondered this I saw Bruce's mare's front hoof hit a soft spot and in slow motion she demonstrated a *perfect* Kaboot tumble. First, Bruce realizes he's riding a short horse with no head, then he has to tuck and roll left as she continues her flip. Boy, I sure was glad she did it in a sandy wash in the valley instead of on the side of that mountain where I'd have had to wait around for him to climb back up if he was still alive. Bruce was bruised but fine.

I finished the ride feeling great. I hopped off my horse, trotted him out for the vets, and suddenly thought I was going to puke. It's hard to look nonchalant when you're blocking the vet line with your hands on your knees hoping you don't puke and let everyone realize how much of the runner's food you scarfed up all day. Also, since I'd finished top 10 I really needed to weigh before losing any weight so I managed to pull tack, and stand on the scales before I handed Dayna the horse and collapsed in a worker's chair. Someone suggested the heat got me but no, it wasn't even particularly hot and there was no humidity. I'd say it was either thin air or all that runner food I ate.

The moment passed, I felt better and enjoyed a great ride meeting with nice awards, then went back to Bruce's house which is the absolute antithesis of mine. I live in a log cabin with wood floors, walls & ceilings (to match the dirt). Bruce's house is white...inside...outside, up and down. My house has stacks of magazines, walls of bookshelves that are full and have more books stacked flat on tops of the rows. My furniture consists of primitive antiques (mostly from my primitive ancestors) His is tastefully sparse... refined, like a decorator magazine. My horses eat along a wood plank fence with the buckets hanging on posts by baler twine. Bruce has 4 large pipe stalls (which he designed) with feeders and automatic time locks on the gates to let them out after they've had enough time alone to finish. I just looked at it all and thought, "It's amazing how much a person can accomplish with no humidity".

I am profoundly grateful for the big adventure Bruce & Dayna gave me. They flew me out, took me into their home, let me ride a wonderful horse on a beautiful trail, drove back and forth to Phoenix to pick me up and deliver me to the airport...and I gave sponge. I'm trying to come up with something better, but so far that's all they got out of it.

I did find out that though Bruce hit SEVEN THOUSAND miles at this ride, he's never done a ride in the east. That gives me an idea...I'm just not sure I can get my house clean enough for company! :-)

Angie McGhee

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Manzanita Ride - Nancy Reed

by Nancy Reed

Daughter Danielle, horses Lyric and Jazzi and I were very excited about the
Manzanita ride. This would be Jazzi's first real endurance ride and this
would be Dani and Lyric's 3rd or 4th 25 miler. Our neighbor Jill and her
beloved RC Lawman were doing the 50. Friends Tara, Craig and their daughter
Danielle were all signed up for the 25. Tara's Danielle (Walker) was taking
her new mare, Bell.

The Elfin RV and the new trailer was just about fully packed Thursday, the
night before. I had my clothes washed and snacks packed. All the water
bottles and the Camelback were found and filled with filtered water. A bale
of hay was secured in the back corner of the trailer by a new set of D rings
waiting the test run. Lyric knew something was up and she started pacing in
her stall with the Friday morning feeding. I kept running the list in my
mind, over and over.

Finally the packing was done and the horses loaded in less than 5 minutes.
At 12:30 pm Friday the Elfin RV's big V10 roared to life and we were on our
way! The RV hummed and the horses were quiet as we snaked up the San Elijo
canyon past the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve where we train. This is
perhaps the most dangerous part of the entire drive as the road is very
narrow and windy with no shoulders and no room for mistakes. The locals
call it "the narrows" and in spite of it's beauty from the hundred year old
coast live oak canopy and murmuring creek, this is no place to day dream
about an endurance ride. I pray for safe passage as we traverse this
section, asking for divine protection in a green gate to hell.

In minutes the danger is passed and we rumble past the smelly chicken ranch
and retired dairy, beacons of a previous life. Soon to be a new horse
community; homes in waiting. With the smell comes cell service. Jill had
somehow managed to get 20 minutes ahead of us and we chatted on the cell
phone about the traffic, food and our horses and kids. We fill the Elfin RV
with gas (oh that hurt!), chatted with a endurance want to be and we are
gliding down the 15 south. as usual Dani has her nose in a book and I am
looking for traffic reports and some traveling music. I settle on Jimmy
Buffet, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time.

We hit the ride camp in a bit before 3 pm. Terry, the ride manager has very
funny signs instructing us to locate our assigned hook up and place in life.
Quickly the horses are unloaded, hay bags and water set out, RV leveled and
plugged in. Time to find friends and vet in. As if directed from a
supernatural power Jill and Tara have set up camp next to each other under a
massive oak. Bobbie and Karl are next to them. We spend time catching up
and all to soon the sun is starting to set and we still need to pre-ride the

A quick tack up and we are exploring the groomed dirt and sand road as it
gently rises toward the scrub covered hills that will test both horse and
rider the next day. Dani and I wonder out load if Lyric and Jazzi remember
the trail from last year. I assume they do remember as both Jazzi and Lyric
are relatively quiet and have dispensed with the silliness they displayed
last year. In what seemed minutes the sunlight is gone and it is time for
the ride meeting.

As with many sacred riding areas, Manzinita has experienced growth that has
blocked trails. Terry is funny when explaining that the start of the ride
is a bit different than last year as the new neighbors have not given
permission for the ride to trespass. I am thankful we will by pass most of
the cows due to the unfriendly new residents. The third loop for the 50 is
new too. I am too hungry to listen and my "mental-pause" infected brain has
shut it self off for the night.

Dinner is a Mexican pot luck affair at Tara's RV. We all get in and chow
down on scrumptious chicken tacos, cheese enchilada casserole, salad and
beer. The two Danielle's are happily reconnecting, Jill is making new
friends and are tummies are happy. Our horses are happily slurping their
beat pulp and electrolyte soup and their hay bags are stuffed full. I only
let my self have a couple of beers. I learned not to drink too much alcohol
at the Descanso CTR earlier in the summer with my neighbor Jaisia. I played
a big price for one too many glasses of wine and I was not going to repeat
that mistake!

Still I am in heaven. The companionship in ride camp is some thing I
cherish. It makes bedtime come way too soon.

At 6:45 I awake the Sleeping Beauty. Dani is a dream in comparison to many
teenagers. She gets up with minimal complaint and starts getting ready.
The camp is relatively quiet even as the 50 milers queue up to take on the
trail. The weather is cooler than yesterday, but will be in the high 80's
with the possibility of humidity and even rain. This is very different from
last year when it was in the 70's to low 80's, dry and cold at night.
I recheck my pack, apply sunscreen and nag Dani to speed it up. At 7:30 we
are ready to complete the last horse preparations and mount up. Somehow it
is 7:50 by the time we make it to the starting line. The camp is way too
quiet and I start wondering just what I missed at the ride meeting when my
brain was turned off.

We are joined by a true gentleman, Pat (sorry, I can not remember your last
name) on an equally kind gray Arab gelding. We attempt to move down the
trail, but Jazzi and Lyric are being naughty, small bucks, failure to
respond to cues, speeding up when asked to slow down. This does not help
Pat's horse at all and within minutes all three of them have shared a
secrete pact to test their respective riders ability to stay seated. We ask
to pass a large group from Challenge Ranch who's leader is having a stern
conversation with his black gaited horse about who is boss. Lyric gets
really silly when she is turned in a circle and some scrubby bushes rub her
belly. Dani is getting mad. I have my hands full with Jazzi who thinks she
is a race horse.

Lyric now has 2 full season's of CTR and 3 or 4 LD's under her belt. She
has matured and grown up. At 7 and 1/2 years of age, she has learned to
drink, eat, pee, poop and rest when it is offered. I trust her to take care
of her self. Dani is a beautiful rider and together they are a TEAM. I am
only concerned about Lyric's left front hoof. On Monday the furrier
discovered she had crushed her left front heel. We believe it is due to the
high speed trail work Dani had been doing over the previous several weeks.
The right only had some mild damage. Lyric is very left leaded. Due to the
crushed heel Team Lyrelle (Lyr-e-elle, Lyric and Danielle) was bumped to
the LD from what was to be their first 50.

Jazzi (a 6 year old National Show Horse) on the other hand has one year of
only CTR and has not learned to drink early in the ride. She usually waits
until 10 or 15 miles before she drinks. But when she does drink, she tanks
up. Last year at the Warner Springs CTR, I had a real problem with lack of
control with the Little S Horse Hackamore. Jazzi is now in a French link
snaffle and has more training with Michelle Nicklo, a Clinton Anderson
trainer. At the start I still had my hands full, but I was still in control
and after a few circles, neck bends, side passes she started to settle down
and walk.

What I love about this horse is her walk and willingness. She has a 4 to 5
mile per hour big strided walk that eats up the miles. Her trot is very
comfortable and easy to ride. But, Lyric can out trot her any day of the
week and Lyric is a full hand smaller than Jazzi. Needless to say this
really makes Jazzi mad!

After about 45 minutes all 3 horses have settled down and we start taking
turns leading, following and bringing up the rear. Jazzi prefers the lead.
Lyric has recently developed a fondness for the lead too. Pat's horse is
very well behaved in any position. The trail was very well marked and no
loose cows. The footing had a lot of new deep sand and moguls from
motorcycles. It was getting hot and I was glad I had a full camelback of
water for me and two large bottles to cool Jazzi with.

Up we go through the brush, them down into the off road staging area. Less
than a dozen off roaders were in the staging area and all were friendly and
turned off their engines. We were monitored by the ham radio team known as
"React." They were all business getting our numbers and making sure we were
all fine. Water was available in large black troughs kept full by
volunteers. As expected, Lyric drank well here, but Jazzi just looked at it.
Pat had a GPS and kept us informed of our mileage and pace. (I could not
locate mine, bummer.) It was getting hotter.

Next was up a moderate hill and down the other side with amazing views of
the badlands in the San Diego and Imperial County desert. An old railroad
line cut a path down the side of a steep rugged mountain. It disappeared
into a tunnel. It was beautiful and frightening all at the same time. The
horses did well and we were trotting much of the trail. My heart rate
monitor was working well. Jazzi was between 120-130 while trotting and in
the 90's when walking.

Soon it was time to climb in earnest up to the vet check. Our horses did
well and moved out. I was ready for a rest. Dani and Pat looked great. In
fact Dani even tailed up some of the hill.

At one point I had to pee as I had just about drained my camelback. Pat was
so funny as he was thankful I needed a pee stop. I almost fell over laughing
in the wet sand as Jazzi peed with me!

The vet check was a mass of horses and humanity. The volunteers were so
kind and helpful. Jazzi, Lyric and Pat's horse dove into the food. Lyric
ate the grain as if she was starved. Jazzi did not want the grain; she
wanted the alfalfa. Against my better judgment I let her have it. Lyric
pulsed down immediately, as did Pat's horse. But Jazzi stayed at about 60
and criteria was 56 (or was it 58?). Long story short I lost 20 minutes as
I forgot to loosen her cinch. It dropped the minute I loosened it.
Pat went on ahead so he would not be overtime. Lyric vetting with out
problem and Jazzi had a B on hydration. The vet wanted her to start
drinking. So, what does she do after the vet tells me this? Yep, she
started drinking!

This was a 20 minute hold and with the late start, extra hold time, we were
late. The second loop is much tougher than the first and we are now in the
heat of the day. Dani is soaking her cotton over shirt and I have refilled
by horse bottles and camelback. We are off and trot the beginning, but
Jazz's heart monitor is showing 200. She is strong and is fighting me to
catch up to the group ahead of us. I am worried sick as it must be 90
degrees and the humidity is high for the west coast. I slow us down and her
rate drops, but I can not shake by fear. This, of course makes Dani mad as
Lyric is fine and ready to move on down the trail.

We pass the ride photographer, same place as last year. And like last year
Jazzi thinks the camera is going to eat her. Dani gets Lyric all collected
up and she looks lovely. We then cross the road and the hard part begins.
This part is steep with large, room size boulders with pockets of deep sand.
We are behind a wonderful older "been there, done that" mare with a tough
young junior on board. Jazzi puts her feet exactly were the lead mare
steps. In places she has to let her back end slide down while the front
gingerly steers. Thankfully this section is not long and we are done with
the slip and slide.

The rest of the loop is more up than flat with some very funny trail
markers. "Turn off your AC"," downshift" are two I can remember. Dani is
tailing a fair amount up the hills and Lyric is loving it. I am keeping
Jazzi wet with water. At one point I dismounted and re gelled my electrodes
which cured my too high heart rate. But Jazzi is tired and I an worried.
As I said, this is a tough section and the final climb out is brutal. The
ride photographer is waiting to catch us as we climb out of the desert
canyon. The back ground is stunning and the picture of Dani and Lyric is
priceless. On the other hand Jazzi and I are more than a bit bedraggled and
tired. More water at the top and finally Jazzi tanks up. She drank for 5

We waited 15 minutes to let the horses rest and recover. Dani took great
delight in taking off her shirt and dunking it. We were now late, but only
by about 20 minutes. The rest of the ride is mostly a gentle downhill on a
dirt road and a bit of single track. We can make it!
About 4 miles from the finish the front runner in the 50 came cantering up
the road to the 4th loop. They were wet, but looked strong. Later I
learned the front runners were lucky as someone pulled the ribbons on the
3rd loop and Jill ended up doing and extra 10 miles.

To the cookie and drink stand and more water. Turn left, down the single
track and back on a dirt road to the finish. I kept an eye on the clock and
we were going to make it in time! Jazzi and Lyric know we are headed home
and they perk up. We meet some really nice folks on gaited and quarter
horses. Everyone looks good. Lyric is ready to race in.

We make it to the timers with about 5 minutes to spare, but they are telling
me we are 15 minutes over time. Now I am confused. We were under the 6
hours, right? No, in endurance the ride time starts when the ride starts,
not when you start. That's a CTR rule. I was too tired to be very upset.
Dani took it in stride. We made a difficult ride in 6 hours, our horses
pulsed down immediately and vetted out with no problems. Jazzi's improved
her hydration and the vet was pleased too.

I learned many things on this ride. First, just because a ride is billed as
easy does not make it so. The trail had been changed by the tremendous rain
we experienced last winter adding more deep sand and moguls. Loosen your
cinch even if you never needed to before. Re-gel your electrodes at the vet
check. The rider does better when she has lots of water too, just like her
horse. Team Lyrelle is awesome and I am one lucky mom to be blessed with
them in my life. Jazzi is vastly improved, but still needs more
conditioning and needs to learn to drink early in the ride. I love it when
we pee together. I love my RV and it's comforts. Yes, I am getting too old
for lots of stuff, but endurance is NOT one of them. (I should have sold
the tent at the garage sale.)

A BIG THANK YOU to Terry for being the ride manager extraordinaire, all the
volunteers who made this ride possible, my ride camp friends who put up with
me, my daughter who also puts up with me, my horse who carts my big butt
around and my husband who lets me be me and still loves me in spite of all
the dirt, horse hair and early morning feeds.

Nancy Reed

Lazy J Ranch

Elfin Forest, CA