Saturday, April 30, 2005

LBL Express 2005 - April

by April

Nashville, TN

Late Thursday morning, Daniel and I met up with the Halls at our local market. The Halls live up the street from us and consist of Susan (mom), Ricky (dad), and Cindy (14 yo). Cindy and I ride together periodically and Cindy expressed an interest in endurance riding. So this spring, Cindy has been carefully working with her teenage mare, Stormy, with the idea of riding the 25 mile LD ride at LBL.

After getting fueled up and getting a pizza for the road, we headed toward LBL. The weather forecast was less than pleasant. Thunderstorms, rain, wind. But this was the only 25 mile ride I had in my planned season and I wanted Cindy and Stormy to have a taste of the endurance experience at an LD ride before jumping into doing 50s. So we were going.

It was chilly and both horses were blanketed for the trip. Windy, overcast and just chilly. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at the LBL Wranglers campground early afternoon.

We busied ourselves setting up camp. We chose a campsite right next to a bathhouse.

Tanna was to be tethered with a running picket line. Daniel put up the rope and we attached knot eliminators away from each pole to prevent Tanna from rubbing on the poles. He is a master at slipping his halter if he has something to help him. We attached another knot eliminator from which to hang Tanna's hay bag. Close enough for him to reach the hay, but far enough away to prevent him from being tangled in the bag. A lead rope securely tied to a locking climbing carabinger hooked over the rope completed the setup. Tanna ripped into his hay the minute he was put on his picket line. I showed him how far he could roam and then left him to eat (thrilled that he was, in fact, eating!).

Stormy was housed in a metal corral. We usually have Tanna in the metal corral, but with this Stormy's first endurance ride (to our knowledge), we thought it would be best to have her in the corral and tie Tanna, the expert (haha).

While setting up camp, the sun came out and warmed the day up. It was quite pleasant actually. Maybe the weather would be good?

We headed to the pavilion to sign in. Teddy Lancaster of Running Bear was parked near the pavilion and I paused to admire her new rig and say hi. Sign-in was painless and quick. Cindy and I received our rider packets and a water bottle with the LBL Express logo on it. Very nice. :-)

Back to get the horses and make the quarter mile hike to the vet check to vet in. Both horses vetted in with all As and were happy to drink from the concrete water troughs around the campground. I was happy both horses were drinking. Last year, I rode the 25 mile LD ride at LBL and Tanna drank nothing between the time we arrived on Thursday and the time we finished the 25 mile ride on Friday.

Cindy wanted to take Stormy on a ride to see if she was going to act up badly. So far Stormy had been acting quite calmly and rationally. No nervous fits, no jumping around like a magical jumping bean. Calm, serene. Like an old hand at camping. It is likely that she was taken on group trail rides in her life before Cindy got her, so maybe she just likes it. She is also quite attached to Tanna and Tanna is a very good camper as far as not being nervous and silly in camp. So maybe she was taking cues from him.

Cindy decided to ride bareback, but I thought a saddle was prudent, so I saddled up quickly minus my HRM, sponge and tights. I was wearing jeans and just decided to do the pre-ride in jeans. We were only planning a walk and maybe a bit of a trot.

We took the horses for stroll around camp, allowing Stormy to look and absorb. Lots of nice horse flesh to look at. No, I repeat, no electric corrals. They were not allowed this year from what I could see. Every horse was picketed, stalled, or in a metal corral. There were even a couple mules and a horse that were staked out to a stake in the ground. When I checked in and mentioned that Stormy would be in a pen, they were very careful to be sure I meant a metal corral and not an electric one.

The pre-ride was successful. Both horses were controllable. Energetic, but not stupidly so.

While on the ride, we saw the SERA scales set up near the vet check. So after unsaddling, we took both horses over to weigh them. Stormy weighed in at 942. Tanna weighed in at 822! I have tried and tried to get his weight up this winter and it appears I finally did. I don't think he needs to weigh any more than 825, but I was pleased with 822. Unfortunately, we didn't weigh the horses again. I meant to, but I kept forgetting to. So I have no idea how much weight either one of them lost during the ride. I need to buy my own scales to set up at my campsite. :-)

We had just enough time for supper before the ride meeting. We cleaned the camp up and blanketed the horses as we thought rain was surely coming again. I left Tanna eagerly eating his supper.

While waiting for the ride meeting to start, we hung out at Teddy's trailer, conveniently located 20 feet from the ride meeting location. :-) I purchased more syringes (love those syringes!) and some EnduraMax and looked at the Freeform saddles she had on display. She doesn't sell the Freeform saddles, but she does have them to look at. They are interesting looking and look shorter than the sports saddle I tried last year.

The ride meeting was interesting as always. :-) Dr. Mike Habel and Otis Schmidt were on hand as vets. A couple more vets were coming, but had not arrived. The LD ride was to start at 6:45. 15 minutes after the 50s left. Since the 25s and the 50s started on different trails, there was not going to be a problem with too many horses on trail. 40-some-odd riders in the 25 and about 17 in the 50. 3 riders were entered in the 2-day 100. Of the 40 LD riders, there were 6 JRs entered and all 6 were on their first ride. The LD riders had 2 loops. The first loop would be 14 miles and the second loop 11. I really liked that. Last year, the loops were the same, but the shorter loop was first last year. I like the 14 mile loop first. Pulse at the vet check was 64. 60 at the finish, of course. 40 minute hold.

SERA president, Truman Prevatt, announced that SERA is in the process of accepting donations for a portable blood analysis machine that would travel the SE rides like the scales. Hopefully, there will be more information about that on the SERA website.

After the ride meeting was a new rider's meeting. We hung out for a little bit listening, but it started to get late and we needed to check on the horses before going to bed. We slipped out. After walking the horses and settling them with hay and water for the night, we went to bed.

The storms came in waves throughout the night. During a lull, I woke Cindy up and we walked the horses around again and checked their hay and water. Back to bed to listen to the storms come in and roll out. The alarm rang at 4:30 and I got up. I made sure Cindy was awake (she was) and went about my preparations for the day. It was NOT raining and I was thrilled about that. I don't like saddling in the rain.

By 6:30, Cindy and I were mounted and headed for the start. Both
horses were alert and excited. Stormy acted up a bit whenever we were
near the other horses, but we kept walking around and tried to keep
her calm and occupied. Tanna was being angelic. :-) We met up with
Jackie, a friend from Middle TN, and decided to start the ride
together. We allowed the pack to get away while we offered water to
our horses and Cindy hopped off to tighten her girth. When most of the
other riders were out of sight, we calmly started our ride at a walk
and across the nearby road into the woods.

We soon picked up a slow trot. Tanna was doing ok. Stormy was fighting
and acting up a bit, but not too terribly much. Somewhat normal for
her. Jackie and Serina (sp?) were ahead a little ways. We came to the
first hill. Not too much of a hill, but steep and with the recent
rains, muddy.

Somebody had dropped their water bottle on the trail and Jackie
commented on it. Then her horse flipped out. I'm not sure of all the
sequence of events, even though it happened directly in front of me,
but Serina reared and the saddle slipped. Or maybe the saddle slipped
first and she reared in protest and caused it to slip more.
Fortunately, Serina did NOT go over backwards. That would have been
very very bad. And that probably would have involved Tanna and me as
we were directly in the line of fire for that. Serina came down and
spun back towards camp. I tried to get Tanna to block her, but it
didn't work too well as she just stepped off trail. Then Jackie was
off on the ground and Serina was flying back down the trail towards
camp, bucking, with the saddle around her hips. Tanna was having his
own fit on the side of the hill, but I got him under control and
checked with Jackie. She got up and assured me she was fine. Knowing
there was really nothing else we could do, Cindy and I continued on
while Jackie headed back to camp.

We found out later that Serina had sped straight back to her trailer.
Eyewitness accounts report that the saddle was under her belly and she
was moving out fast. When she passed the small restaurant, 2 park
rangers sprung into action to follow her. Later Jackie told us that
she and Serina were both bruised but fine. Whew. That could have been

On with the ride. Tanna and Stormy worked well together. Since the
trail was two-track a lot of the way, we rode side by side. We did the
14 mile loop in 2 hours 24 minutes. A good 5.8 mph pace. My goal for
this loop was a 5.5 - 6 mph pace on trail, leaving plenty of leeway
for a longer hold or any problems we might encounter on trail.

The vet check wasn't too bad, but Stormy didn't want to trot out in
her bridle (and away from Tanna), so I trotted Tanna to encourage
Stormy to trot. Maybe not the best, but it worked. Cindy now knows to
work on trotting out with a bridle. :-) Both horses did fine on vet
scores. Tanna received a B on guts, but As everywhere else (hydration
scores As!!!!!). Stormy also received a B on guts, but also a B on
impulsion (no surprise there due to her lack of willingness to trot
away) and a B on wounds. This was a mystery as Cindy and I saw no
wounds. Only old scars from an old accident with a fence. We could
have asked the vet, but we'd already left the vet check and as long as
there wasn't a problem, we figured it didn't matter so much.

We opted to return to our campsite for our hold. I tied Tanna to the
trailer with his hay bag gaping in front of him and mixed his beet
pulp mash. For this trip, I had premeasured meals in gallon bags.
Complete with supplements. Very handy. I think I will do this for
future rides. All I had to do was find a bag labeled VC, put it in a
bucket, dump some water in and serve.

Tanna ate most of his mash and some hay. I left him tacked up with a
loose girth and loose breast collar, ready to go out again at a
moment's notice. At some point, I gave him his mini-dose of
electrolytes and a follow-up of Fasttrack/Neigh-Lox.

I changed from my sweatshirt (which was soaked in sweat) into a ride
t-shirt and put my non-breathing rain coat back on. It hadn't rained,
but that didn't mean it wouldn't.

At our out time, I told Cindy we could go any time. She resaddled and
we mounted up and headed out 15 minutes late. We saw Jackie at the vet
check area and chatted with her a few minutes before going out for our
11 mile loop. Tanna was eager to go out again. Stormy, a bit confused.

About half-way through this loop, we caught up with Diane riding an
appy. He was refueling along the trail when we caught up with her.
Tanna thought that was a great idea and grabbed some grass along the
way, too. Diane decided we were going a reasonable speed (SLOW) and
rode with us for awhile. Until I stopped to find a bush. She decided
to head on. Tanna took advantage of the break and I rewarded him with
half a granola bar (I got the other half!).

Tanna was thrilled that the other horse had gone on. He loves nothing
better than tracking and catching a horse in front of us. :-) He was
having a great time and so was I. I think Stormy and Cindy were
enjoying themselves, too, although Stormy was showing signs of being
tired and/or bored. She had definitely settled down, but she was a far
cry from being exhausted or overworked. She was just mellower. :-)

We walked when the trail got too muddy and slippery. Tried to make
time where we could. We also stopped for a few minutes to let the
horses enjoy some good grass. The weather was overcast, but not as
chilly as the first loop and I was fairly comfortable

After awhile, we caught up with Diane and rode the rest of the way in
with her. About 20 minutes from the finish, it began to rain lightly.
At least it waited till the end of our ride. :-)

We did the 11 mile loop in 2 hours 15 minutes. Slower than the first
loop. 4.8 mph. But we stopped a lot more on the second loop and ended
up walking more due to muddier conditions and trying to get the horses
to eat while walking. Add in the 15 minutes we started late and our
loop average was only 4.4 mph. But we had 20 minutes to spare. :-)

Both horses were down when we presented them for pulse. Tanna repeated
mostly As, with a B for gut. Stormy trotted out better as we had her
parents bring the halter to the finish, but still received a B for
impulsion, a B for guts, added a B for gait (she was a bit tired) and
a B for muscle tone. All in all a decent ride and Stormy and Cindy's
first completion! :-)

The ride cards were being kept until the ride meeting, but since we
were planning on heading home before awards, I had Daniel take
pictures of our ride cards and made arrangements with Jackie to bring
our completion awards back to Middle TN. Our horses were snug in their
pastures at home long before the awards would have been presented and
we deemed that the best thing for both horses.

We headed back to camp and cleaned up the horses. Tanna polished off
the mash he'd left from the vet check and ate some more hay. I hosed
off his lower legs and scraped off a lot of the dried mud from his
belly. Most of the camp had been packed already by Daniel and Cindy's
parents, so all we needed to do was take care of the horses and let
them rest a bit. We walked both horses to the water trough on the
other side of the bathhouse and both horses drank well. Stormy still
needs to learn to drink and eat better, but she did eat and drink

This ride is due some great weather. Maybe it will be next year. I'm
not sure but what I would have bailed if it had only been me to think
about. As it was, I'm glad we went and Cindy and Stormy had a good
first ride.

Thanks to the Fruths for putting on this ride and to the vets and all
the volunteers for being cheerful and making this ride happen despite
the bad weather! Here's hoping the weather was better today!

Nashville, TN