Friday, June 17, 2005

My 2005 Cooley Experience - Katie Azevedo

Katie Azevedo, and (RD Censashahnl) "Shrimp"

June 19, 2005

Wow! That was a fun ride.

After turning off the 101 and driving through some of Geyserville's beautiful
vineyard country (and getting a few nice views of Lake Sonoma) we pulled into
ridecamp that was bordered by a creek with a mixture of trees (tall fir, alder
near the creek, old oaks, and blooming buckeye). We arrived not even an hour
after the gate opened, and ridecamp was already filling up fast. The mud was
deep and thick in ridecamp, and it was raining on and off. We met some friends
when we first got there, and they said they were probably going to turn around
and leave... they did. Along with others. Dad finally got the truck and
trailer up a small hill to where we wanted it. I could hardly watch it, it
took him a couple tries with the truck slipping and mud flying off the tires.
Once we settled in, I whipped out my camera and watched some of the HUGE rigs
being towed up another hill by Mr. Waltenspiel's tractor (they had gotten
stuck). Thank goodness for that John Deere, it was in GOOD use this weekend.
People didn't even try to drive through a particularly muddy spot to get over
to a nice meadow- and the tractor pulled every single one through it (if I was
told correctly). Scott Samson helped lots of people with getting their rigs in
the right spots- some of which included getting a really speedy start, and
launching the truck and trailer up a slippery slope (mud flying everywhere,
people dodging out of the way, truck fish tailing and trailer whippin' around
behind it, tires spinning... yeah.. that whole crazy deal...I loved it).

Well I noticed quite a few people I knew or recognized from Quicksilver or
Chalk Rock or the bay area. It was fun! People were saying 'Can you believe
this weather?'. Ruth gave a great pre-ride speech, and encouraged everyone
that the whole trail is not like it is in the beginning (phew). I had taken
Shrimp out that afternoon with my friend Julienne and her pretty Isabella; it
was such deep mud that we walked most of the 1.5 mile loop. Both my Mom and
Julienne had asked 'So Katie, what's your strategy for tomorrow?' I hadn't
really thought about it, I didn't know what to think.

Dad went into town and met my grandma and big brother so they could spectate
this sport. We met and had dinner around a table in our tent to escape the
rain, and I blew out 20 candles on a beautiful cake that my Grandma had ordered
special for me (with Shrimp and I airbrushed (is that the term?) on it... how
sweet!) It was very sweet actually; it tasted good. After that we walked
around ridecamp together and my grandma asked about a billion questions (ie
"Why is Shrimp wearing that?... What is the vet checking when he does that?").

The next morning we woke up at 4:30 as planned to prepare for a 6:00 start.
It was still nearly pitch black and had been POURING rain the night before, and
was still raining. Thank goodness Mom had gotten me a waterproof blanket for
Shrimp (my birthday was that friday, the 17th). So my arab boy was dry and
cozy even though he was being rained on and standing in deep mud outside the
trailer. Mom and I thought "Oh gosh", and I'm sure the whole ridecamp was
thinking that too. I didn't know whether even to start the ride or not. Mom
said 'Katie, there is NO shame in pulling, or not starting a ride with
conditions like these'. Visions of yesterday's muddy trail ran across my mind
as I lay in the gooseneck, and I thought of how they *had* to be even WORSE
after that night. (Questions were running through my head: Was I going to
start? Would Shrimp hurt himself if we did start? Oh.. I don't want that, I
have plans for the future- he is my only horse and I love him so much- I don't
want him to pull anything...) I really didn't know if we'd even be able to
finish the ride if the whole trail was like it was last night. We laid there
in the trailer discussing what in the world we were going to do. Finally we
saw a few lights outside; people were actually getting up. Thirty minutes
later I had decided to start the ride and my rain gear was on.

Some rigs were leaving, some people were tacking up, and others weren't
tacking up. John, Dad, and my Grandma came to watch the start (they stayed in
a hotel in town) and proceeded to get our *other* truck stuck . When Shrimp
was set and ready to go, I hopped up and we joined the pack of 51 people who
started the 50 miler. Shrimp was a dream. At Quicksilver he was hot and
obnoxious at the start, and at the vet checks.. and well there was *none* of
that here. He was my dream Captain the whole mud-sucking, slipping, wet ride.
The first 10 miles were very interesting. Lots of horses and lots of mud. The
morning sky slowly swirled with thick grey clouds and threatened rain. And it
did rain. It was a train of horses for the first 4 miles, and Shrimp and I
tucked in behind Cindy Brown for it (I forget the name of the woman she was
riding with though... but they were both very nice and we introduced
ourselves). Once the hills came we broke off and started riding mostly with a
young woman, who actually was in the Navy for 5 years, and was riding a very
nice bay horse named "Jolie". We went up and up and down and up and through
the creek, and through the creek again, and then again.. and (yes.. lots of
water.. and Shrimp drank well), smiled for the cameramen, had fun conversing,
and trotted into the 1st vet check at 10 miles out. Shrimp pulsed down right
away and got all A's on his card. The rain had stopped, and my family was all
there taking pictures and helping me with Shrimp, it was great.

I started the next loop (25 miles) by myself. There finally was some really
good flat trotting ground, and Shrimp set a great ground-covering pace over the
muddy ranch road. A woman named Clare came up behind and rode with us the
whole loop. 5 miles out we met up with another woman named Sarah. They were
both really really nice people that I'm so glad I had the chance to meet. Both
of them said such nice things about me and Shrimp. It made me feel so good.
After the good level trotting ground we started getting under some trees, and
walked and trotted through more mud. The middle part of this loop had
beautiful views, but it was a climb and a half... all with short steep hills
that went up, leveled out, went up, leveled out.. etc... Our horses were
powerhouses- using all three gaits to get us up the hills. They were all
lathered up and blowing at the top of the hill. Finally when we started going
back downhill is when it got slippery. Many a time we hopped off of our horses
to try and survive short but steep downhills. There were over 3 of these
downhills that at times Shrimp just slid down on all fours (and me on both
feet- although I tried to stay on whatever 'edge' there was for traction). We
were all careful to wait for eachother to get on our horses before trotting
off. I was happy to have such courteous ride partners for this pretty tough
loop. It hardly rained at all for this loop which was nice, and Mr.
Waltenspiel greeted us at the very top of the series of hills with his brown-
colored quad (I think it used to be a different color, but I don't know
which..:)). That was cool to see him there!

Second vet check: John, Dad, and my grandma had all left, but my
trustworthy crew (Mom) was there waiting for us with food, blankets, e-lytes...
all of that. I didn't know if Shrimp was going to pulse down since he worked
very hard that last loop and it was very humid, but he did after a minute (the
p&r gals were so nice, too... all the volunteers and vets were too!) It was an
hour hold, so I sat down in the chair Mom had brought and took in the beauty of
the open meadow full of high native oat grasses as Mom grazed Shrimp. It was so
beautiful I took out our camera and couldn't stop snapping pictures of the two
them. In the background were the hills that we had just climbed, and if I
turned around I would have faced where the hill sloped down to Dry Creek- where
people were leading their horses down for water. To my right were all the
riders and crews during their holds. Everyone seemed well spread out and the
mood was relaxed and friendly.

So off we were after an hour for our last 15 miles back to camp. Clare
caught up with us quickly and we really hauled through the trees and over the
creeks and right through the thick mud. We chatted away and I felt like a
champion to have made it so far out on this very testing terrain- and still
with a happy, sound horse wearing all 4 of his shoes! It was a long way back
to camp... or so it seemed as I started to tire in the last 7 miles or so. It
started to rain on the last loop again. It was so fun though; we got to see
many ranch houses and barns when the course dumped out on a main road (still a
dirt road though.. or should I say 'mud' road). We really set a good pace here
too, but slowed up a little when the road had been going downhill for a ways
(though wet on top, it was still a bit hard). Clare's crew (her husband and 2
young boys) met us when we came out on a paved road about 3 miles to the
finish. That was great- because I was really wondering when the finish was
coming up! We walked up the pavement to the top of the hill, then did the last
1.5 miles on the same trail we did in the beginning of the ride: sloppy mud. We
really covered ground here- Clare took off and I knew Shrimp wouldn't let me
hold him back, so off we went... trotting and cantering through that stuff. We
came in right behind two grey horses at 17th and 18th place. Clare's horse was
#18, and she was 18th place on June 18th! We were met by Ruth and then after
giving our names and numbers to the volunteers we trotted back to camp were
congratulated by people along the way.

Shrimp vetted out beautifully (with a heart rate in the 50's, unlike last
time!! yay!) and we iced his legs and fed him. It took me 30 minutes to get
the caked mud off the bottom of his belly, his chest, and his legs. Mom and I
changed into fresh clothes and washed our hair with warmed water. I told her
about the ride and what I saw ou there on the 22,000 acre Cooley Ranch- like
the coyote I saw off the trail- and we relaxed and watched a family of noisy
woodpeckers enjoy their home in a tall old oak tree up the hill from us. Mom
and I watched BC judging at 4:00 pm and stayed to eat a REALLY really yummy
dinner around the community campfire (served with wine!). Then, Ruth gave the
post-ride meeting. Everyone was loud and happy and gave the biggest applauds.
Ruthie said this was the best group of people she's ever had on the ranch (and
she didn't hafta give out that 'Pissin' and Moanin'' award)! Potato and Kathy
came in first, Michele Rouch was 3rd and her horse received Best Condition. 50
people finished out of 51 starts, and everyone was given a nice bottle of wine
for completing. There was only one pull on the 25 milers as well!

Overall, it was just an absolutely wonderful, exciting ride. I gained so
much respect for my horse, and am still just in awe at his power, his ability
to watch where he steps and keep on his feet through that terrain, his will to
endure and set a great pace, and his great attitude. Quicksilver was very fun
and challenging (it was my first endurance ride), but after Cooley Ranch I now
feel like a real, true endurance rider! Shrimp pulled through that hoof-
sucking mud for 50 miles and looked so great at the end, we both endured the
weather conditions, we worked as a team and made it sound, stable, and smiling
across the finish line! ...So *that's* what Endurance is about!!

Wow, I don't think I could have had ANY more fun during this adventurous
weekend. It could have easily been my best birthday weekend ever!! To the
Waltenspiels: thank you a MILLION times for your efforts, encouragement, and
for an *excellent* ride. And thanks to the wonderful people I met out there on
the trail, and for the friendly folks I chatted with in camp.
Congratulations to all the finishers!

:) Katie Azevedo, and (RD Censashahnl) "Shrimp"

RWD 2005 - April


Nashville, TNRendezvous with Destiny 2005

Memorial Day weekend, 2005, marked the first annual (?) Rendezvous
with Destiny ride. This ride is held on the Fort Campbell army base in

I was delighted to see this ride on the calendar and that it was a
2-day ride. Being so close to my home, I just had to attend.

Friday I got started around 2 PM, a little late, and drove up to Ft.
Campbell. I had no problems finding the camp, using my handy dandy GPS
that was kind enough to give me turn by turn directions. I arrived
just at 5 PM. It would have taken less time if I had left a little
sooner and avoided more of the traffic. But life is what life is. :-)

When I got to camp, I was greeted with a serene lake with lots of
camping space. I found my friend, Angie, and parked next to her in a
beautiful spot.

Before unloading Tanna, I immediately went to check in and pay my ride
fee, even though I wouldn't be riding until Sunday.

I spent the next hour and a half trying to set up my camp. Usually, my
husband comes along on all my endurance adventures, but this time he
had to work, so would be driving up later after he got off work. So I
was left to my own devices to set up camp. I spent much of my time
trying to figure out how to tie Tanna where he could reach food and
water, but not touch a tree or anything solid to rub on. He manages to
slip his halter when left an opening. Finally, when ride meeting time
came, I left Tanna tied short enough to keep away from anything since
I still hadn't found an appropriate balance. My customary corral
panels were fastened securely to the top of the trailer and we would
have to wait for Daniel to come to get them down and set up Tanna's
real home away from home.

The ride meeting was interesting. It started with a military dog
demonstration. Very interesting. Don't mess with those military dogs!

The turnout for Saturday was moderate. 17 riders in the 50 and 34 or
so in the 25. Lori cautioned that the trails were new. Nobody else had
ridden on them. There was cell phone coverage (unless you had Sprint
service...) so there were emergency numbers given out. The trail was
to go near a mount. Apparently a mount is a small village used to
train soldiers in hand-to-hand urban combat. Very interesting. Also
the trail would pass a downed helicopter and a downed air plane. And
next to a dud field with unexploded munitions. So no going off trail!
And hold on to your horse if you come out of the saddle.

There were 4 loops for the 50 milers. The first loop was marked in
white and was 14 miles. Then the yellow/black loop at 17 miles. Repeat
the white loop for the 3rd loop. The last loop was a 7 mile loop
marked in black/white.

Pulse criteria was 60 for everybody all day. 40 minute holds.

After the ride meeting, the group of us all parked together headed
back to our spot. We gathered around Angie and David's trailer to
chat. Quite a nice little group of us. Angie and David, Jackie and
Carson, Patty, and Carol. Then myself. After awhile, Daniel, my
husband, drove up and we all had a nice visit while some of us ate.

Daniel and David unloaded Tanna's corral pen and set it up. There was
plenty of room and Tanna ended up with a good-sized pen. I set up him
with food and water and took him for a walk before bed.

At some point in the evening, I managed to weigh Tanna. 856!!! I
couldn't believe it. Guess who is going on a diet?? Gotta get him back
down to 800-825.

Sabbath morning, we slept in and had a leisurely pancake breakfast.
There are advantages to arriving a day early and riding the 2nd day of
a 2-day ride. :-) All of the other women in our group were out riding
the 25 miler. Carol was out for her first ride!

After breakfast I saddled up and headed out for a quick look at the
finish and to give Tanna a bit of a stretch. He wasn't eating the best
and I was hoping an outing would stimulate his appetite.

I did a walking/trot warmup and then sent him in a canter around the
lake. Very nice. Very controlled. We went out just a half mile or so
and did a large circle in a field and then back to the vet check area
where I spotted David and figured Angie, Carol and Jackie must be in
the vet check. Carol was not with Jackie and Angie. Her horse came up
a bit gimpy so she'd decided to pull and sent the other two on ahead.
Too bad for her first ride.

At some point, I discovered I'd lost my cell phone out of my hip pack.
Not sure how that happened, but I wished the ladies good luck on their
final loop and went to retrace my steps. I met up with Daniel and he
started to call my phone with his. We had to retrace every step of my
earlier ride to find the phone. Because, of course, it fell out at the
furthest point. But we did find the phone. :-)

Tanna was very impatient with me for making him walk or do a
controlled trot. There were horses coming and going from the vet check
and he was positive he should just be allowed to do whatever he
wanted. I disagreed. So we were having discussions and he decided to
trump me. His trump card is bucking. I do not ride bucks very well and
he well knows it. So he gave 3 really hard bucks. I shortened those
reins, pulled his head up, yelled at him and miraculously he stopped.
Whoo-hoo!!! Ride 'em cowgirl. :-) I was thrilled with myself for
staying on (never lost my balance...that's usually my undoing) and for
getting him out of it. Tanna was frustrated. His trump card was no
good! :-) So he tried it again just a few minutes later, but he only
got one buck in before I spun him around in a quick, tight circle. He
danced and was idiotic some more, but he didn't try to buck again.
Game, set, match. :-)

Back at the vet check, I found Carol had come in. She'd decided, after
sitting on trail for 30 or 40 minutes, to keep going. So she was still
in the ride, just not with Jackie and Angie. Daniel and I hung out
there for awhile talking to David (who was generously crewing for
Carol and doing a nice job of it) and Carol. Then we headed back
towards our trailer to unsaddle Tanna. I talked to a few other riders
in on their holds.

After reports from a lot of riders that the trail was difficult and
technical and gravelly, I started to get concerned. I am a back of the
pack rider, so I don't usually have a lot of leeway in my time. I was
wondering if I should even start. I was given a lot of encouragement
and advice by my friends though, so I eventually decided to start.

The awards were interesting. Lori had lots of awards to give out. Top
10 awards were patches that could be attached to blankets. First in
weight divisions received a free bag of feed. BC in both distances for
both days received a water color painting of their horse (with a
picture being the model). In addition there was a turtle award, which
was a little turtle figurine made by Lori herself. Very nice. :-) Also
a middle of the road award for the rider that came in at mid-pack. I
forget what first place received.

Completion awards were coins. Apparently, in the army, when a soldier
does something outstanding, they receive a coin in recognition. So
Lori had some special coins made up. They have the AERC logo and motto
on one side and an eagle on the other side with 101st Airborne
Division, Rendezvous with Destiny, Fort Campbell, KY. Each completing
rider received their choice of a coin or a keychain.

12 out of 17 finished the 50. Eva de Paulis, Debra LaComette, and
Robin Burris tied for 1st place. Elizabeth Woods and her daughter
Aunna-Lisa came in at the tail end. Between 1st and the last 2
finishers, I don't remember. Oh, Patty Bass got 6th and the middle of
the pack award.

I believe 29 out of 34 or so finished the 25 miler. Carol,
unfortunately, was over-time, but she did receive the hard-luck award.
Jackie and Angie both finished. Other spots, I have no idea. Sorry.

There was a small ride meeting for the riders riding on Sunday. There
were 15 riders for the 25 and 6 riders for the 50. Hmm, my first top
ten in a 50?? Even though I'd been at the Friday night ride meeting, I
stuck around to listen to make sure there were no big changes or
surprises. I did manage to lose my original map, so I had to get a
replacement and write the emergency numbers again.

One of the other riders doing the 50 was Betsy Knight. There's your
first place winner, I told my husband immediately. :=)

After the ride meeting, a few of us gathered around these large
printouts of the trail. Lori had printed out large aerial photos and
marked the trail and marked spotters and water spots. Each trail was
shown on its own large aerial photo. Joe Schoech was there and had
ridden the 25 that day. He was giving helpful tips on the trail so I
hung around and listened, even though I'd studied the maps earlier in
the day.

Back to the trailer to finish preparations for the ride. Ride jitters
had set in during the ride meeting. Gotta love those jitters. Daniel
and I pulled up chairs and chatted with our friends for a few minutes.
Angie even brought a carrot cake in honor of Carol's birthday. :-)

After all my final preparations, I ended up going to bed around 10 PM.
Alarms set for 4 AM for the 6 AM start. 6 hours of sleep. Sure.
That'll work...

Up in the morning sleep deprived. As usual. I took Tanna to weigh him
and he was still at 834 (I weighed him Saturday AM and he was 834).
Then back for his breakfast and in to get dressed and get my own
breakfast. And out to saddle.

When I reached the starting line, there were only 2 other riders
there. Joe and Betsy. Hmm. Wonder where the others are. I warmed up a
bit here and there. Even tried out a small canter. Well, we're ready
to go. Trail's open. Only 2 riders in front of me. Well, guess I'll
start with the front runners. Not my usual procedure, but oh well.
Besides, I figured I'd need every extra minute to do this trail. I
followed Joe out who followed Betsy. We were pretty well spaced out.
Not right on top of each other. I followed right along. Tanna fought,
keeping his eyes on Kit, Joe's horse, convinced we should at least be
with them, if not in front of them. But he was moving well and not
pitching a temper tantrum so I was fairly happy with our progress.

The trail was a little rough. Plowed fields that had then dried. Ruts
where there were not furrows. And where there wasn't any of that?
Gravel. Or uneven terrain or overgrown terrian where you couldn't
judge the ground profile. Almost every step was a challenge. Not a
trail to lose focus on.

I caught up with Joe about 2 or 3 miles out (I forget exactly) and we
ended up riding together for the rest of the ride. Kit, Joe's horse,
was on his second 50 and the horses seemed to work well together, so
it worked out well.

The trails were marked well. I kept missing the 3 ribbons indicating a
turn, so when I was leading and came to an intersection, I looked down
all the trails for the next ribbon. When I saw it, I would head that
direction instead of needing to return down the trail and look for the
turn ribbons. Very handy. :-) Also, it helped to have Joe along, since
he'd been on 2 of the 3 loops the day before.

We came in for the first vet check at 8:33. My GPS measured the trail
at 15.2 miles. Right at 6 mph. 6 minutes later, Tanna was vetted
through. Bs on gut (no surprise), MM, and capillary refill. He weighed
810, which meant he lost 24 pounds on that loop. While I was recording
Tanna's weight, Daniel took Tanna over to the community water trough
and repeatedly gave him the "drink" cue until he drank long and deep.
Hmmm. I should get Daniel to do the watering at vet checks. He doesn't
usually drink for me in vet checks. :-)

We took Tanna back to our vet check area and fed him and sponged him
down a bit more. Daniel made me a sandwich and Tanna decided he wanted
my food rather than his. He managed to eat most of his beet pulp, but
largely ignored his hay. At least he was eating something...

As our 40 minute hold neared its end, I resaddled Tanna and prepared
to return to trail. Joe took off before me as I kept forgetting stuff.
Tanna was in the middle of getting his electrolytes and Kit wasn't
happy standing still. We caught up quickly and headed out on our
second loop.

We were in 3rd and 4th place at this point. Betsey was about an hour
ahead of us and another rider had passed us on the 1st loop. Two
riders were still behind us by 5-10 minutes. Most middle of the pack
I've ever been in a 50. ;-)

The second loop was the longest loop of the 4 at 17 miles. Joe had
been on this trail the day before, so we had no trouble with it. We
did slow down on this loop. Both horses were drinking fairly well.
Playing off each other and seemed to be in good spirits. Tanna would
stumble occasionally over the rough ground, but managed to recover
nicely. At one point Kit kicked himself in the back left leg and
caused an immediate lameness. Joe hopped off and checked on him. Kit
seemed to be ok and Joe soon was mounted again and off we went.

Partway through this loop, we came to the mount. The small village
where hand-to-hand combat is taught. Very interesting to see. We
didn't go right through the village, we kinda skirted around the
edges, but still plenty to look at. Both horses drank at the stream
nearby and we chatted with the spotter for a minute or so before
moving on. Tanna was not concerned at all about the buildings. Not
interested in them in any way. Let's move on, he said. But Kit was
enthralled and wanted to poke his nose in the doors and windows. He
might have gone right on in the buildings if Joe'd let him!

We continued on, chatting, moving out when we could, walking some of
the gravel when we couldn't move off it. No lazy man's trail this was.
Tanna is a sure-footed horse, but any inattention to his job resulted
in a stumble, so I tried to keep him focused and engaged. Hard to do
for such a long time!

Both horses ate grass on this loop. Grabbing bites as we walked along.
There was enough water on all the loops and I was very happy with
Tanna for drinking as well as he did. I would have preferred to have
him eat more at the vet checks, but drinking was definitely not an
issue this ride. Plenty of opportunities to drink and Tanna took
advantage of a lot of them.

The second loop measured 16.9 miles on my GPS. Pretty close to 17 if
you ask me. ;-) It was 12:31 when we came in from that loop. So we did
that loop in 3 hours 12 minutes. Average speed of 5.3 mph. Not
blazing, but enough to keep ahead of the clock. An overall average of
5 mph would get us a completion.

It took us 7 minutes to unsaddle and present to the vet. While
sponging the worst of the dirt off Tanna, I discovered he was a bit
sore in his back. A problem I've had in the past at BSF last fall. I
cringed and took him to the vet. The vet gave him a B on back and said
I could continue on. I expressed concern over the soreness getting
worse with 20 miles still left to ride. The vet suggested I let Tanna
rest and then bring him back if I was still concerned at the end of my
hold. Tanna also got the same Bs from before (guts, MM, capillary
refill) and added a B for back and a B for muscle tone. I was not very
happy with these scores. It was going downhill.

Daniel and I weighed Tanna. 810. Same as the previous loop. Good. No
more weight loss. I spent the hold wondering if I should go out again
or pull and save my horse the pain. I was worried about doing 20 slow
miles with a sore back. Also, right about 30 miles I usually begin to
question my sanity of doing 50 mile endurance rides. So there was some
part of me that wanted an excuse to quit. Tanna ate more beet pulp,
but didn't touch his hay. Almost no hay did he eat the entire ride.
Not a good thing. He did eat his beet pulp, but no hay. Gotta figure
out how to fix that...

Anyway, with 5 or 10 minutes left in my hold, I took Tanna back to the
vets and asked Dr. Habel to look at him for me. (The other vet was a
military guy and I don't remember his name. Sorry!). Dr. Habel pretty
much told me that it wasn't bad enough for him to pull me so it was
totally up to me. Not helpful. ;-) What I really wanted was for
somebody else to tell me what to do. Didn't happen. He suggested that
I could go back out and try to stay off his back. Speed up, he told
me. Stay off his back. Get off him when you walk. Speed up? Don't hear
that very much, huh? :-) So I opted for that and headed back to

I also removed the CorrecTOR pad and went with a plain woolback pad
(The CorrecTOR pad had been inside the woolback). This was my first
endurance ride with the CorrecTOR pad and I wasn't sure what was
causing the back pain, so I decided to attack it by removing the new
pad and being very conscientious about staying off his back as much as
possible in the coming loop. What I really didn't want to do was go
another 15 miles and pull with 7 miles left to go.

Joe left about 10 minutes before me on this loop. Understandable since
I was still saddling when he came up to see if I was still going out.
The entire vet brigade had heard my back soreness woes and my wishy
washy-ness about going out again, so they didn't know if I was going
out again. I told him I'd be along soon so off he went.

We followed as soon as we were ready. It took awhile to catch them. I
got off and walked one of the roughest parts of the ground. About a
1/4 mile stretch. Then I mounted and took off again. I had Tanna
canter where he could, trot where he couldn't. It took 50 minutes and
almost 6 miles for me to catch Joe and Kit. But I figured it was
better if I could catch up with them and continue riding with them
since our horses did well together. I was grateful for Tanna's
surefootedness as we cantered through ruts that were sometimes deep,
sometimes narrow, but always changing.

We were on the white loop again. The loop we'd done for the first
loop. So the terrain was familiar, even though it wasn't any less of a
challenge than the first time through. As this loop progressed slowly,
I began to obsess about cut off times. I calculated our final hold and
periodically updated Joe on our remaining time (although I'm sure he
didn't need this novice telling him!).

We were off and walking for awhile on this loop. Me saving Tanna's
back and Joe saving Kit's feet from the gravel by lightening the load
a bit. But we had to pick up the pace or we would never make cut off.
We figured we needed a good hour to do the final loop. We also had a
40 minute hold to wait through and 7 miles left on the 3rd loop. We
had to be in camp and vetted by 4:20 PM to have a chance at finishing
our ride. I obsessed a lot that loop. We reached the water stop on
that loop and Tanna drank nicely. Kit wanted to move on. So we did.

We got to a gravel road that wasn't quite so gravely and picked up a
good trot until the gravel worsened. Joe got off to walk, but I saw
the side of the road opening up, so waited to see if we could take the
side. I decided it was good to trot, so Joe remounted and off we went.
It was a bit more gravelly for about 500 feet than I'd thought, but
soon we were on less gravel. Still uneven ground, but at least it was
mowed and I could judge the terrain. We moved out, cantering when it
was relatively safe to do so. The clock was ticking...

We still had some challenging terrain to get through. We were planning
to walk some more of it, but when we reached it, I was leading and
decided to trot. I thought Joe might drop back and dismount, but he
came right along with us. The trail had been beaten down some so it
was better than it was the day before (I reckon, since I didn't ride
the day before). I stood in the stirrups, both to avoid bumping
Tanna's sore back and to allow him to balance and shift in the terrain
without me messing with the balance. We were taking a risk trotting
over this ground, but I focused and kept Tanna focused and we did a
slow trot through terrain we'd walked the 2 previous loops.

At one point we flushed a large tom turkey. Tanna jumped to his right
in surprise. I was half-turned towards the right to say something to
Joe behind us when it happened so I was already leaning a bit to the
right and stayed right with Tanna. Whew. That was a nice adrenaline
rush. :-) Tanna knew he was headed back to camp, though, and paid no
further attention to the turkey and kept trotting through. Good boy.

We pressed on until we came to the woods. I weaved Tanna through the
woods at a good trot. He's great at serpentine trails. I just have to
keep my leg on him to remind him I have legs that stick out that will
catch on trees. :-) We popped down to the creek and paused to drink.
Can't pass up good water no matter how much of a hurry I'm in. Up out
of the creek and on through more winding woods. That was my favorite
part of the entire trail. :-) Joe and Kit stayed right with us,
matching turn for turn. We weren't trying to lose them, but Joe'd
already told me not to mess up my completion waiting for him, so I was
moving on.

Across more uneven terrain, through some ruts and up a small hill
towards the lake and the vet check. Across the road, through the
field, and I was off, walking Tanna towards the in-timers. Nothing
beats the adrenaline rush of trying to make time! Not even the start.

We made it to the in-timers at 4:07. Whew. 13 minutes to get my out
time, but I wasn't dallying. I went straight to my vet check area and
stripped his saddle and immediately to the vets for a pulse time of
4:10. His pulse was a little higher at 56, but it was still under
criteria, so that was ok. Alright. A 40 minute hold and then back out
again. That would give us 1 hour 10 minutes to do 7 miles. Totally
doable. Especially since Joe knew the last loop and knew the terrain.
As long as Tanna's back wasn't more sore than the last check.

As soon as I pulled Tanna's saddle, I knew his back was not worse. If
it wasn't worse, I was going to go on. Dr. Habel said it might even
have been a bit better. Whew. At least I wasn't making it worse. We
would press on. The vet scores were getting worse, though. Jugular
refill dropped to a B and he did a little hitch on his trot out so got
a B on gait, too. All the other Bs stayed Bs. Weight was 806. So only
a 4 pound loss on that loop.

Tanna thought he was done. Our 5 previous 50s each had 2 vet checks.
So naturally, he thought he was done. Nope. So to try to get that
across, I resaddled him shortly after vetting in. I left the girth
loose and didn't do up the crupper or the breast collar. He was not
amused. He stood there staring at me and looking disgusted. Clearly I
was playing a joke on him and he didn't find it funny. He nibbled some
at his beet pulp, but I don't think he ate very much. And again, no
hay. Probably should have just let him think he was done and left the
saddle off. No way to tell if that would have helped, though.

Tanna was completely saddled and we went down to the out timers with 3
minutes left in our hold. I gobbled down some chips and finished my
water before mounting. I asked Daniel to get my glove I'd left on my
chair. And we were off. An hour and 10 minutes to do the 7 mile loop.
Joe again told me to ride my ride and if he fell back to just leave
him. Ok, I can do that. I hoped I wouldn't have to, but I would if it
came to that.

Off we went. We averaged a good 9 mph pace for the first mile or mile
and a half. A good start. :-) We did have to slow down some, but we
kept moving. One thing was the bugs were very bad on this loop. Just
awful. Joe looked like he was riding in the middle of a bee hive. Kit
was a magnet for those flies. I had remembered to spray Tanna's body
with fly spray (Endure) and we were doing ok, but I'd forgot to put it
on his face. I took advantage of some rough terrain to hop off and put
Tanna's fly mask on. Fortunately, Daniel had put it back in my cantle
bag during the last check.

The plane runway was pretty fun. It was rutted, though, so we didn't
take it at a full out gallop. A good canter worked nicely, though.
Turn to the right and do a quick loop and then back to the runway. On
the home stretch! We were averaging around 7.3 mph. Excellent. Right
on time. We were gonna finish this!

When we came out by the lake, Tanna was excited. He knew he had to be
finished now. Joe and I discussed who should come in when and he
graciously allowed me to cross ahead of him. We trotted and cantered
in and I blasted across the finish line. 7.3 miles in 58 minutes (7.5
mph). I was so happy to be done! What a feeling of accomplishment! I
immediately dropped off my horse and walked him in, telling him how he
was the best horse ever. Our finish time was 5:48 PM. Twelve minutes
to spare. Whew! 9 hours 48 minutes on trail. That's a long day.

Time for BC stuff. I'd come in second, so I was eligible to stand for
BC. I'd never done such before and honestly, I'd never even really
paid attention to the procedures or the rules. I never dreamed I'd be
top 10, so why worry about that?

I went to the vet check area and dropped my saddle, helmet, hip pack,
girth, breast collar, crupper, and sponge on the scales. I didn't have
a halter handy, so we didn't weigh Tanna's bridle or reins. Joe
graciously held my horse while I stepped on the scales. They started
yelling out my weight and I cringed. Tamra, Joe's wife, noticed and
said, "Don't worry, it's the SADDLE" :-) Yeah, right. But I
appreciated the thought. :-)

After I dragged all my stuff off the scales, I watched Joe weigh all
his stuff. Then I offered water to Tanna and sponged him off a little
and took him for his 10 minute CRI and his completion vet check.

We completed! Whoo-hoo! My first genuine top ten endurance finish. :-)
And second to Betsey Knight. What an honor! However, Tanna's vet
scores were not the best. His muscle tone degraded to a C due to some
tightness in his hindquarters. And his guts went down to a C. Dr.
Habel chided me for not letting Tanna eat on the last loop. Yeah. Like
we had a lot of time for that sort of thing! Guess I could have grazed
him for 10 minutes just before the finish line?

I was told I had an hour from our finish time to ready Tanna for his
BC check. Ok. I walked Tanna back to the trailer (a 1/4 mile walk),
let him graze some along the way and massaged his muscles while he
grazed. Then we'd walk on and do it again.

When we reached the trailer, I figured I had 30 minutes before I
should head back to the vet check. I put beet pulp and hay in front of
him. I tried hay first, but gave him the beet pulp soon after since he
wasn't interested in the hay and I knew he needed to eat.

While he ate, I draped his rump rug over his back and proceeded to rub
him down with a wash cloth and cool water. I'd left my sponge at the
vet check, so I had to improvise. Turned out the wash cloth worked
quite well at getting the dirt off. Better than the sponge, I think.
When I had him as clean as I was going to get him, I removed the rump
rug and put his full cooler on him. I massaged him a bit more (nothing
professional or even knowledgeable, just some gentle rubbing and
manipulation of the muscles). Then it was time to head back for the BC

I had left time to linger, so Daniel and I meandered while Tanna
grazed. Joe was headed up for his BC judging, too. We chatted a bit
then I went ahead and went to the vet (Joe offered to let me be judged

Dr. Mike said, "you know the drill, right?" I said, "nope, never done
this before!" He told me to go out like for a regular trot out. Then
make a large circle (that's what he said) in one direction. Stop, turn
around. Make a large circle in the other direction and then trot back
straight. Ok. So off I went. Tanna followed behind me as I ran out,
circled this way and that, then ran back. Whew. Good thing they don't
do a CRI on the rider!

Dr. Mike then proceeded to check my horse all over. A really thorough
vet check. He did all the regular stuff, but also really looked at his
legs, feet, heel bulbs, tendons. Very interesting. Tanna's muscle tone
score went up to a B (from a C at the completion check). He was sore
in his back still, but no worse than at the 2nd vet check. And he was
sore in his superficial digital flexors on the hinds. That was
interesting to watch as I'd never checked those before. Now I know how
to do that. I'd never seen a BC judging as they don't generally wait
for the turtle to come in before doing BC judging. ;-)

I hung around to watch Joe's horse, Kit, be judged. While Joe was out
for the trot out, I found out they had made fun of me when I did my
trot out. Apparently, I went far out and did huge circles. :-D They
should mark it out with cones, then! LOL.

After the judging was finished, they said it'd be 10 minutes before
the awards meeting, so Daniel and I took Tanna and settled him back in
his corral to roll and doze. Then we drove the small pickup back to
the awards. Love having that extra vehicle. :-)

There was a good number of people there for the awards! Considering
the fact that everybody else had finished almost 3 hours (or more)
sooner, it was nice that they had stayed for the awards meeting.

15 riders started the 25. 15 riders finished! 100% completion! Way to
go guys! I have no idea who placed where. Sorry.

6 riders started the 50. 3 riders finished. The 2 riders behind Joe
and myself came in too late from the 3rd loop to have time to do the
last loop, so they didn't go back out. The other rider decided it was
too much gravel and pulled. At least that's what I heard. Betsey
Knight got first place in just over 7 hours ride time. She rode alone
all day. Way ahead of us. I came in second (although it could just
have easily been Joe that came in second...). And Joe came in 3rd and
turtle. Joe's first turtle! And my first top ten! I find that
interestingly ironic. ;-) Betsey's horse, obviously, got BC. Let's
see. Weight divisions. Betsey got first lightweight. I got first
featherweight. And Joe got first heavyweight. You can see we had
tremendous compeition for those awards. ;-) I also got the middle of
the pack award. Haha. It's a very nice water bottle and holder. I like
that. I chose a keychain for my completion award. It's hanging on my
cube wall at work. Very nice. :-)

After the awards meeting, Daniel and I headed back to break camp. We
were going to head home and allow Tanna to spend the night in his
pasture. It was almost completely dark when I finally loaded Tanna and
we headed off down the road. Daniel was driving the big truck pulling
the trailer and I was driving the little pickup following him.

We made it off base and headed towards I-24. But about a mile or two
down the road, Daniel called me and said we had to find a place to
pull off as the alternator light had come on. Fiddlesticks. We stopped
and he checked the battery. Definitely not getting any extra juice
from the alternator.

So we high-tailed it back to Fort Campbell before our battery ran
down. We did not want to be stuck on the side of the highway waiting
for a parts place to open. We made it back to camp and camped near the
pavilion next to another rider. Fortunately, she was just starting to
go to bed so we didn't disturb her too much (I asked the next
morning). Daniel pulled down most of the panels and we set up a pen
for Tanna. I gave him food, water, hay and went to bed while Daniel
went to chat with Dr. Habel and Lori at the pavilion.

The next morning, Daniel took the small pickup into town and got a new
alternator. After installation, we were good to go and headed home
with no further incidents.

So the wrap up. This was a tough ride. Hands down. This was not a walk
in the park. I had to pay attention the entire time. It was a flat
ride. But not an easy one. I really felt like I accomplished something
when Tanna and I crossed the finish line. I earned that coin and I'm
proud of it. The trail markings were great. Periodically through the
course, Lori had put mileage on pie plates. Not every mile, but in a
few spots. That was handy to check against my GPS and see what the
comparison was.

There was plenty of water on the trail. Between creek crossings, mud
holes and the water trough Lori put out, there was water enough that I
didn't bug Tanna to drink at every opportunity. Once he started
drinking around mile 12, he picked his own water.

Tanna is doing well. His back was much better Monday morning and his
SDF were not sore at all. He was prancing around at the end of the
lead rope in the morning. Blowing, snorting and tossing that Arabian
head. That's unusual for him. He's usually quite calm in hand, but he
was flying around being silly. I didn't get on to him too much because
it was great to see him so spirited the morning after a 50.

This was a great ride. If the Army consents to do this ride next year
and Lori is willing to take up the ride manager mantle again, I'll be
there next year. I might pad next year, though.

There were a ton of people that helped at this ride. First and
foremost, Lori! Thanks for taking the plunge and arranging this ride.
You did a great job. Keep it up. Please do it again next year!!
Second, the vets. Dr. Habel is a good, conscientious vet and I'm
always happy to see him at rides. And the military vet that helped
out. And all the volunteers. Too many to mention, but I'll try some of
them. Roger, Eva, Lisa, Susan K (of course!), Sam (the out timer), the
wonderful spotters that always had a smile and pointed us in the right
direction. The ride photographers. And Joe. Thanks for helping me get
through this ride. It sure would have been a lot less fun without you


Nashville, TN

Thursday, June 16, 2005

OD 2005 - Sometimes the Bear Gets You - Laura Hayes

Laura Hayes

I have finally had a night's rest after being awake for 40 hours, and
want to get this down before I forget much.

To summarize all this in one sentence...The bear got me, but I had a
heck of a good the story:

Along with some smashing successes at rides, my mare, Equal Terms has
had some problems in the past with ulcers and colic and such, and if she
belonged to anyone else, I would have advised them to get a new horse
and quit messing around. But I knew in my heart she was the most
physically talented of all the horses I have ridden, and we had a bond I
was not ready to give up on - so we persevered. After riding her for a
1000 miles of competition, I backed off and started from the beginning
again, and after almost another year of going slow and her learning to
eat and drink, we were ready to step things up a little. We won and
BC'd the Michaux 75 two weeks ago, and I was on cloud nine- I finally
had the horse I knew she could be, and I was ready to tackle the trail
at Old Dominion - one of the most difficult rides in the world.

In 1987 or 1988 I was at OD 100 with Rushcreek Noel and was pulled
riding Calvary, at the 80 mile mark. I had not had a horse, or the
time, or the situation in life to be able to try the 100 again until
this year- so this was a 19 year grudge match between me and this trail,
and I decided to do it Calvary. "Like it is not hard enough??" my ever
patient husband asks. I signed him up to vet, so I didn't have a crew

After speaking with Lynn Gilbert who won the OD riding Calvary a few years ago, and showing her my check list, I was very confident that I had it covered- food for the horse, food for me, a few emergency times, and a few comfort items. I had the fishing vest with the pockets, the front pack, the cantle pack, the water bottles, the ASPIRIN, the toilet paper....all the important things!

Even though the weather was brutally hot and muggy, and I had gotten a sunburn the day before, I was mentally prepared to deal with it, and physically ready with the items that would help me - mainly a sponge, sunscreen, and plenty of water to drink. I had a plan to meter out my food during the day, and to feed myself on the trail where we were forced to walk, and to take specific care of ET in the checks when she would have a chance to eat and relax.

I am sure I was more ready than I have ever been, both physically on ETs part, and mentally on mine.

We started out in last place. The start of the OD is down a paved road and with ETs usual 'airs above the ground' antics at the start and my fear of slipping on the pavement, I hand walked out of camp and down the road. As I went by, Art King did mention to me that it was ok to ride, and my husband commented that I should keep all six of our feet on the down side! I mounted up and took off when there were no more horses in sight.

ET was more mannerly and quiet than she had ever been at a ride start and that immediately had me worried! But when she grabbed at the carrot I offered, I knew she felt ok, and off we started up the first mountain. She was great!!!! I was so pleased with her attitude and felt sure we were on the course to success. We crossed the Shenandoah without mishap--she loves to roll in water and I was worried about staying up over a 1/4 mile of the stuff, but she was great and forged ahead steadily. The mountains were waking up and the low pockets of mist, the birds in the trees, the incredible view from the second climb and along the ridge, had me in the perfect frame of mind. ET went along in a workman-like fashion and we gained on and passed two 100 milers before the 20 mile mark.

A few miles before the long decent into the first check, which was at 20 something miles, while wearing wild rhodedenran flowers in our helmet and bridle, a group of the 75 milers raced past me on some rocks and ET pranced and fussed, stumbling some. From there is was a very rocky downhill and then smoother into the first stop for the 100 milers. I got off when we got to the road and ran the last mile into the check confident that we were in great shape and would be able to remain at a consistent pace over the mountains to come.

Oh well....if endurance were easy, could you call it endurance?? E was slightly and inconsistently off on one front foot and I am fairly certain that if I had asked, I would have been allowed to go on, but 80 miles of rock and mountains is rarely therapeutic and so I pulled. I will spare you the details, but will add that she was sound an hour later. Did I make the right decision??? Well, I guess we will never know, but I do know that being conservative is rarely the WRONG decision in the grand scheme of things.

I am going to admit it: I cried. In 6000 miles of this sport, I have never cried - I felt so foolish, but I couldn't help it. We were so prepared, so confident- ET was so fit and willing....I wasn't expecting this. The let down was huge. But Mathew McKay Smith came and gave me a hug, and I realized how fortunate I was to be involved with a sport with such wonderful and talented people.

We got a ride back to camp and I considered hanging around the empty camp and holding my own pity party with my dogs and horse. That lasted about 4 minutes while I changed my clothes, and leaving my saddle with it's packs of food and water, and my helmet and bridle laying on the lawn of the 4H center, I sprinted to the office to catch a ride back to the check. If nothing else, I could hang out with my husband and the other vets and maybe learn a thing or two.

Well, I love the vets, but they were not the liveliest group I have hung out with, especially in the oppressive heat, so I jumped in with old buddy Johanna Blackmore to crew for her sister Jean in the 100. This way I could keep an eye out for my other old friend, Libby Llop who was doing her first 100 on Fly, who I was especially attached to after competing on her last summer during the big XP ride. Johanna and I go way back to what seems like a lifetime ago. I rode one particularly memorable 75 with her late husband, David, and have missed him terribly since his tragic death in 1992. In fact, Johanna had already asked me to present the award for the David Blackmore Memorial during the awards ceremony the next day. I was honored and awed at the responsibility.

Johanna and I had a blast. It was so good to be able to spend time with her and the other girls we were caravaning with, Jennifer Sapira and her friend Jo, who kept us in stitches with her stories. At one check, while waiting for our riders in the dark, we adopted a skeletal dog who had the misfortune of either dying or being dumped in the parking lot we were in- wearing his choke chain and leash, no less. We named him Lucky and made up tales of his adventure to that point, while we drank expresso laced with sugar and fought off the giant killer moths that were attacking us.

Libby finished in 9th place with Fly looking GREAT (and won the David Blackmore award for second from last!), and Jean finished bravely by herself at 5:45 AM - 3/4 of an hour over time, but her horse looked wonderful. The second VA sunrise I shared with friends (first was ET, and the next with Johanna while we waited) was fabulous with the birds singing and the mountains around us waking up, and no matter that the bear got me and Equal Terms that day, we had a great time and wish we didn't have to wait until next year to try it again.

I woke my husband, who had vetted until 3:3:30AM and we went in town for breakfast. As I spilled the whole story to him, I couldn't help but feel fortunate to have such a good man, such good friends, a healthy horse, and more great adventures than most people are ever allowed.

Next month is the Big Horn 100 in WY. Watch out, trail, ET and I are loaded for bear.

Laura Hayes

Vine Cliff Farms

Brocton, NY

AERC# 2741

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

L&S LD Story - Diane Roby

Diane Roby

This was my mare, Skyrock Lakota Gold, or Codee, and
my second LD ride. Our first was the Cougar Prowl
in March. Due to some unfortunate events at the Cougar
(See Louise's story about the arson and
I wondered what this would be like. No two rides could
have been any more different! The weather for the
Cougar was an unusual 80 degrees in March, the weather
for the L&S was an unusual 70 something in June.

We got to the ride Friday morning at 11 am so I could
get set up. I was going to this one alone and wasn't
entirely sure how it would go. We found a great shady
spot and I unloaded Codee and set up the Hi Tie, another
first. Since the day was quite warm I took my time
setting up the tent and everything I would need for
the next day. My boyfriend was coming out later but was
not a horse person so his job was to make sure I ate
and refilled my water bottles.

At 2 I went over to get checked in and I guess Codee
decided she didn't care to be left alone and kicked
the trailer, everyone heard that! She was fine tho.
Vet in was at 4 and we vetted in with all A's. So far
so good. She even managed to behave, no airs above
ground this time.

The next morning there were sprinkles and thunder
when I got up at 4 am to feed. The 50's went out
at 6 am and the 25's were to go at 6:30. Got tacked
up with no problem and even had no issues with the
start - it was a controlled start for the first
little bit of it. Codee was feeling quite fresh and
the rain started to come down as we entered the
wooded area at the start. Then the lightening struck
and she started crowhopping and prancing and just
being an unhappy camper.

The first loop was 16.5 miles and we did it in about
3 hours. We rode in rain, and the lightening and
thunder, and then came the hail and the wind. At
one point I thought we were going to be blown off
the trail. Codee was convinced I had lost my mind
but she kept moving.

We had a 45 minute hold after the 1st loop and again
Codee vetted in with all A's. All that rain helped
tremendously with keeping the horses cool as it
tends to be hot in OK in June. After the hold we
went back out for the final 8.5 mile loop. By now
the day was getting warm and humid. We got lost on
the big hill on this loop and managed to do it not
once but twice! At this point we met up with a nice
lady from MO and her grey arab gelding.

We rode with them for almost all of the last loop,
but she was doing a 50 she needed to pick up pace
so she rode ahead. Codee was a little concerned
being left but the dressage lessons have helped
and I was able to get her to trot nicely by herself.

We came in at 4 hours 57 minutes total and vetted
out with all A's. Codee managed to best our Cougar
time by almost an hour!
All in all it was a great ride
and even with the weather one of the best I've had