Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Our First 100, Kind of - Skyla Stewart

Our first 100, kind of

Skyla Stewart and Tempo

After almost 2 decades I was ready to try another 100-mile ride.
I came close a couple of times, but something in my gut was
just not ready, it seemed to be more then just the normal
doubt. Tempo and I had trained extremely hard all winter, with
the hopes of starting the year on a slow 75, followed by a slow
100. We came into the 75 in fantastic shape, only one little
problem.I had backed WAY off on the intensity of his training
rides about 5-6 weeks before the ride, while at the same time
tripling his feed, then to top off the 'making of a tie up' I
only did two walking, marking trail rides in the 10 days before
the ride. Wellllll, yuppers that did it for sure, he gained
almost 50 pounds, which he did not NEED, and even though we
walked most of the first mile out of camp, I caused him to tie-up.
Caught it early, got treatment and a trailer ride back (all of
1.5 miles to camp), and just followed the vets advice. Tempo
looked and felt %100 normal Tuesday after the tie-up, and had
seen the vet with a good report. Wednesday, I started to ride

The 100 miler that I had such hopes for trying was only 10
days away, it now was no longer on our personal calendar. I just
wanted Tempo to be OK and be back to his old self. I rode him,
cut his feed back 2/3rds, and gradually increased the speed and
distance, added some hills each day. One week after tie up, I
needed to give him a good exercise challenge over the weekend,
to determine if I felt he might be OK to go do the 60 at the up
coming ride. He did SO super, after talking it over with two
vets, they both said 'if' he is going to tie up again, it won't
matter what mileage you are doing

With a hearty 'go for it'
from the vet that had first treated Tempo, I decided I would
sign up for the 100. The week before the 100 I kept in touch
with friends that were of a VERY positive mindset, and were of
great support of us doing our first 100. I worked on MY
attitude, did not expose myself to any negative or doubtful
feedback from anyone, and just concentrated on what I needed. I
have found that many times I am not very pleasant company for
myself, and I had NO intention of inviting that part of me to
this ride! Instead of the bad things that I knew would be, I
concentrated on the good that comes with going at a turtles pace
and getting the ride done.

I worked on preparing myself
to 'accept' the pain, the fatigue, the dementia, and other not
so pleasant things, to accept them and to let them flow over me
and become part of the experience, and NOT to rule the
experience. I worked up my 'happy' side and used it to my full
advantage, and trust me, I can be a very 'happy' weird person
given half a chance.

I packed up, and headed off for what was to
be Tempo's first 100-mile ride, and what just as well be my
first, I had done only one and that was almost 20 years ago.
That was when it was 'only' another distance to be ridden. :oP
Sometimes being naive has it's advantages.

I had packed on my saddle: baling twine, vet wrap, easyboots,
hoof pick, bandana, flashlight with extra batteries, bug rep
that was compatible for human and horse, sunscreen, chap stick,
tush wipes, snacks, water, sponge, spare rein clip, PowerAde
powder, vet card, rump rug, tied a Gore-Tex rain coat on me,
gloves, sun glasses and probably a thing or two I have now
forgotten. For women I would suggest you NEVER forget a bit of
bag balm or something similar, it is amazing the pain you can
experience after a break on the trail, after 50 miles of

I LOVED my riding partner very much after that bag
balm kicked in! We rode a very conservative ride, a friend was
doing her and her horses first 100 and so we decided to ride
together. The two horses are pretty different in their paces,
but we were able to work around that, and each horse did his
part to not let the other one down. We have ridden together
enough to know that the two boys are willing and able to work
around each other's strengths and weakness. Same with the
riders, we just used our individual strength knowing that we were the
only two riders out there that were first timers, with first
time horses, it only made sense to pair up, after all 100 miles
is a LONG ways to go. The aches, pains, tiredness, grumpies,
hunger, thirst, frustrations, heat, cold, concerns, they all
showed up during the course of the day, but not one of us
(horses included) let them stay around long enough to start a

I had already hardwired myself into KNOWING this was part
of the experience and that I would NOT let it 'become' the
experience. 'This too shall pass', my motto for the ride, and it
DID work!!! Only one tiny 'experience' that did show up, and
stayed long enough to become a party was the vertigo I got about
3-4 miles from the finish. I have never experienced such a
thing, and frankly really hope not to ever again. I had to
decide how to handle it, I could get upset and let it get me
down, after all we had some really GREAT trotting we could
have been doing, or I could just take it for what it was and
deal with it. I took it, giggled, screamed, and did my best to
feel the whole effect of it (did I mention dementia), and we
just kept going forward.

I could only walk, and Tempo had
complete control of where we were going, it was a tiny single
track trail winding through the sagebrush, and the WHOLE thing
just looked like a big black pit to me. He was my rock and
source of strength, he walked right out with head up and a great
attitude, although it was very apparent he wasnt real happy
that Mom was no longer able to trot, and here it was SUCH the
perfect trail. :oP

My riding partner PJ Blonshine and her
wonderful horse Saudi, they babysat us the first 3 miles so
Tempo could get past the tie-up distance, and then they had to
baby-sit a rather strange and out of it woman the last 3-4 miles
at a walk to finish. I was very grateful for there kindness. We
all finished sound, healthy (expect for the dementia/vertigo)
and happy. This was the way to do a 100 miles! They say it
is mental (no pun intended), and so I prepared for that, and I
WON! We stuck together, and with the attitudes kept UP, the
horses were always happy on the trail, and we were too. It is
amazing what you can do, just dont fool yourself that things
will be perfect, they WONT. Realizing things would be
miserable, and preparing before the ride on how I would deal
with that agony was the key that made this a fantastic

I am an overweight (60lbs), 43 year old housewife, I
dont work out but did start walking with my horse on rides as
I know this is the only way I would get any exercise. I did the
homework for my horse, I did the mental homework for me. I
didnt do anything away from our normal routine, other then
getting off and walking.

You know, a 100 mile ride really isn't a monster if your horse
is strong, healthy, sound and has a good attitude, but most of
all, YOU must be ready to deal with the down's that WILL come
during the ride. How you handle that will most likely determine
how you and your horse feel about the experience. Will I do one
again? I have no clue, but at least I KNOW we can!

I have many; many people to thank, from the management, vets,
ride help to crew, without them, this story would not have been
told. Thank each and every one of you!! Too many names, but you
all know who you are, and what you did!

Just don't forget the bagbalm!

Skyla and Tempo (big, strong and beautiful horse, inside and
out (ahh shucks Mom, you're embarrassing me)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

High Hopes for a 100 - Patti Ristree

High Hopes for a 100

by Patti Ristree

Although the numbers in 100 mile rides have declined during the last several years, I've discovered my own growing desire to ride one. For any voyage of this magnitude, you need a guide, so I recruited a few of my endurance heroes to help me as mentors. Some are legendary, some are eloquent; all strike me as having a good dose of common sense, horsemanship and sense of humor in equal measure. Through a series of EN articles, I plan to share their
advice and the tale of my journey in hopes that it will benefit others and inspire them to join us.

If I can aspire to ride a 100 mile ride, trust me, virtually anyone can.

Like lots of endurance riders, I came to distance riding from another discipline--dressage. My ambition to ride a 100-miler is relatively new. In fact, I can recall announcing loudly some years ago that I couldn't imagine riding 100 miles unless I was being chased.

Famous last words and all that.

However, I met and married a man with aspirations of distance riding. I crewed and conditioned alongside him and did a handful of competitive trail rides. You can imagine the jaws dropping amongst my DQ (dressage queen) friends when I suggested that I might try riding my dressage prospect 50 miles.

We went for it anyway.

After several 50 mile rides, endurance friends began commenting on my horse, Breezewood Nevarre ('Ned'). "Now that's a 100 mile horse!"

Strangely, not a single person pointed an admiring finger my way or commented that I might be a 100 mile rider. I'm pushing 40, and firmly lingering on the 'heavy end' of the middleweight division. I am living proof that spandex is a privilege, not a right.

Ned, on the other hand, is 16+ hands, solid, straight, a lovely and athletic mover and, metabolically, a powerhouse. He is a 10-year-old Arabian-Trakehner cross and did his first 50 at Elk Valley (Pennsylvania) in 2001, one week after a recognized dressage show. He has never had a soundness issue to date and has earned himself a bunch of vet cards with nothing but As.

Thankfully, Ned has also developed a strong sense of self-preservation after jumping off a trail and down a steep slope as a green 5-year-old. One leap. (I mentioned that he was athletic, right?) He has humbled me repeatedly and inspires me to become a fitter person, and a better rider.

So what makes me think my horse and I might be ready for this heady trip?

Let's see what my mentors have had to say on the topic:

"It has always been my opinion it takes three seasons to make a 100 mile horse if you want that horse to be going as a teenager." (Mary Coleman)

Check. Got that.

Over the past six years, Ned and I have accrued over 1000 competitive and endurance miles. Before you get any ideas that I'm leading the pack, however, please realize that I'm the "Matron of the Middle of the Pack" and "Queen of the Conservatives," far more inclined to pull my horse than push him. Bottom line: I'm a conservative rider and a worrywart.

And trust me, this boy was so naughty as an adolescent that he's required to be around competing as a teenager.

"I think that with very few exceptions a horse that can do multidays and come through them in good shape (mentally as well as physically) can do a 100. . . . Doing multidays tells you a lot about your horse that you wouldn't know by only doing one-day rides, even if they are 100s." (Karen Chaton)

Ned and I have never done a multiday endurance ride. This is something we will add to our 2005 spring schedule. Early spring ride schedules are tough when you live near Buffalo. But perhaps Jan Stevens' new FITS series in Florida? Chicken Chase in Indiana?

"You and your horse need to be able to do 50 mile rides in seven hours or less and not be exhausted at the end of the ride, still feel able to go back out. If you're making 50 in seven hours but are completely hammered at the end, how are you going to do 50 more?

"I'm not saying 'not feel tired.' There is a different psychology in riding a 100 than a 50. As you approach the 50-mile vet check you are thinking of it as only a vet check, not the end. Of course, you're also pacing for 100 miles (that is, riding more slowly). So you don't feel the same as you would if you were finishing a 50.

"Something about being focused on the miles to go makes a real difference." (Joe Long)

Phew. We're okay on this one.

While we're middle-of-the-packers, we've also completed a 50 as fast as five hours and change. A couple of tougher rides, including one in the heat this year, took significantly longer. And neither of us is typically 'tapped' following a 50.

I remember Flesherton (Ontario) in 2003. I rode the last loop alone, and Ned seemed to be dragging. "Oh no!" I thought. "I broke him." Then he smelled camp, his internal GPS kicked in, his odometer said 48 miles. Don't know what it was, but I was managing a near runaway until the finish line. He does this to me consistently at every ride. Always plenty of fuel left in the tank.

"I was the one who had the mental block against doing a 100. I simply couldn't imagine doing that to my horse. I was afraid he'd hate me. As it turned out, Kaboot acted as if going 100 miles was the most natural thing in the world. At the 90 mile mark he was unsaddled, standing at the trailer on his picket line eating, but when I put the saddle on and put my foot in the stirrup he just automatically headed towards the outgate. I finally believed all those people who told me that the horse "comes back" after sundown (they do!) and that I could do it if they could. (I did!)" (Angie McGhee)

This quote comes from the self-proclaimed "least common denominator," "representative of the non-superhuman masses," "most average of average" Angie McGhee. She may not know it, but that self-description is a tremendous inspiration in itself because I know I'm no superwoman.
Her fear is my own. Do I dare ask this of my treasured horse?

"I'd like to tell you that I came up with the rigorous training program and stuck to it and kept logs and knew everything there is to know about my horse's fitness.

"However, if I did I'd be lying. I conditioned and rode just like I did for 50s.

"Mainly we did it because I really wanted to do it. Everyone said, 'Doing a 100 is mostly mental,' and I used to think 'yeah, right.'

"Well, your horse does need some amount of conditioning, I'll grant you that. But you have to really want to do one. All the conditioning in the world doesn't get you back on the horse at 10:00 p.m. with 40 more miles to go. Desire, however, will do strange things to us all.

"So, if you feel like your horse is physically okay to do one then you just have to decide that it's a serious goal of yours. And then you'll make it happen." (Tina Hicks)

While I'm naturally a bit nervous about the prospect, I really do want to do a 100 mile ride. In fact, it's been on my list of personal goals for nearly a year now.

And now for the big question--why? Why would someone want to add that extra 50 miles to an already long and tiring day?

"There is something so magical about being out at night after being on the trail all day on a long 100 with miles left to go. The night may be the best part of a 100 and I've tried to say it in some of my posts and ride stories.

"Sure, it's tough and you're tired, but thinking about the night times during a 100 still summons emotion from my heart. Perhaps others just want it to be over, but . . . for me, it doesn't last nearly long enough.

"Those memories are stamped on my mind forever." (Tom Noll)

Now it's sounding like it might be fun.

"There is kind of a 'zone' that you get into in the dark with your horse on a 100, where time becomes elastic and loses all meaning, and you are just out there together in this private existence. Words cannot express . . ." (Heidi Smith)

I had the privilege of riding Ned in the pitch dark for the last five miles or so of the Moonlight in Vermont ride in 2003. It was my first time riding in the dark, and I was unaccustomed to trusting my boy to pick his way from glowstick to glowstick, but as the miles went on I found myself giggling in some sort of idyllic trance. It was wonderful.

Care to join me?

Reprinted with permission from the January 2005 issue of Endurance News, official publication of the American Endurance Ride Conference, www.aerc.org, 866-271-2372.