Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tevis - My Mustang Story - Char Antuzzi

by Char Antuzzi

I can now say I am the proud owner of a Tevis buckle. I got
my first buckle this last Sunday, riding the best horse I've
ever had the honor to ride, Sir Galahad, a 16 hand, 1000 pound
bay, blm mustange stud. We crossed that finish line at 3:28am
after a very long hot 22 hour ride along the Sierra Foothills.

Last year this great horse and I gave it a shot. We had won our
Tevis entry at the AERC Convention, so what did we have to
lose? We crossed the finish line at 5:38am, Sunday morning. In
my heart we finished, but just too late to get a buckle. This
year I wasn't about to let the clock win again, if I had
anything to do about it. At the same time I wasn't about to
hurt my horse to beat a clock. The entire day I was sponging
Gali, throwing water on him, giving e-lytes and just really
keeping an eye on him through the ride.

I had a schedule in my head of where I wanted to be and what
time, but for anyone that rides Tevis you now how that goes out
the window. There were a few parts of the rides I was worried
about. The Bogs and the canyons. We beat both of them. I was so
thankful that I had equithotic shoes on going over all the
rocks, not one time did my horse slip on the granite!

We got into Robinson's at 10:30am, got Gali vetted on in, then
before I knew it I was being shoved back on him by my crew and
told to get moving. Gali was hot at this point and the going
was slow. A few miles just down the road there appeared to be a
Tevis Oasis. A private family had hoses, water, gatorade for
us. Talk about neat people! They took a lot of time and hosed
Gali, got him cooled off and we had a great conversation with me
telling them that Gali used to be wild, he was captured,
adopted and now here he is and yes he is still a stallion.
(They asked what the brand was on his neck, they got the long
version of what it was, lol).

I head off to the canyons, somewhere in here is where I met the
most wonderful lady, Bobbie Pomroy whom was riding her sisters
horses, Hopper. Turns out Bobbie and I were both riding for our
loved ones that were taken with cancer. We both made a promice
to our loved ones that we would do what ever we could to get
through that ride in their honor. And by gosh, we did!

Bobbie and I rode through the darkness of the canyons together.
It was so dark we couldn't see the ears of our horses. I didn't
want to snap glowsticks unless I had to. So we rode that trail,
just trusting our horses. They never let us down! Her little
mare and Gali my wonderful stud did so well together. I am sure
that Hopper earned a whole lot of respect from Bobbie that
night on the dark trail.

Before I knew it we came into Fransicos'. I have never ate a
better tasting peanut butter and honey sandwich. But, Gali ate
mine! I had to go back and get another one, mmmmm yummy. Gali
trudged onto the river crossing, me talking the whole way. I am
sure Bobbie was about ready to shoot me, shut up CHAR!!! We
step into the river and swoosh, my calves are wet and I ride a
16 hand horse. I hope Bobbie has a snorkle.

We cross the river, climb up the other side and Gali knows one
thing, HOME... He wasn't about to let the clock get him this
year either. I cover his rump at the Quarry, we sure don't want
to have him stiffen up here of all places. He grabs some food
and off we go, back into the darkness, heading for home. We trot
most of the way in and before I know it, there it is the lights
of the Overlook. I have tears in my eyes. I can't not even begin
to tell Gali how brave and gallant he is. I bend over and hug
him, pet him, tell him how good he was for me, he never quit
and I could never be more proud of him.

We head off to take our victory lap around the stadium. There
is a bond that I share with the speical horse that no one will
ever know. I can't imagine my life without Gali in it. He isn't
an arab, he isn't small and sleek, but he is a proud 16 hand,
1000 pound mustang stallion that had something to prove and he

Gali... thank you for giving me a gift, my first Tevis buckle.

Your human,


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Moon Me Moonlinght Ride & Pajama Party - Tracey Smith

MOON ME, Moonlight Endurance Ride and Pajama Party

Tracey Smith

Well, the ride I was not sure I even wanted to attempt (due to it being a night ride) has turned out to be the most fun and challenging rides I have done thus far! We distance riders in Texas are a creative lot, and when it gets too doggone hot outside to ride during the day...someone decides to put on a Moonlight endurance ride at the LBJ Grasslands and I being a sucker for a challenge...rushed to send in an entry!

I have not been able to do much competing this year, with my new job and not having the time off so I jumped at the chance to do a ride this close to home...even if it meant doing something I'd never done before...riding at night voluntarily. I say voluntarily because I have been "caught out" after dark once or twice when we misjudged sunset and ridden a half mile or so in the dark...but not 25 of them...and certainly not at endurance pace!

When I first mentioned the idea to my husband, he was sure I'd really lost it this time, but he agreed to come camping with me during the full moon weekend in May up at the LBJ Grasslands. I met up with a couple of other CT region riders Linda and Jonni, who were both wanting to get in some night riding practice as part of their Tevis preparations. That weekend we rode 20 miles, but at a pretty slow pace and with a full moon and NO clouds in sight so it was like daylight at 11pm!

Fast forward to July, and as the ride drew closer I doubted my sanity for entering as even though I'd had that one successful intentional night ride with Linda and Jonni, I'd still never really ridden at night "in competition" where keeping on time mattered and where I had a horse who knew it was "game day". But I figured I could at least muddle through as my friend Anita was going to ride as well and we'd get each other through it right?

Anita was able to get off early on Friday, and headed straight up to the Grasslands as our biggest fear was not being able to get a camping spot with shade since trees are at a premium up there when there's an endurance ride and we did not want our horses (or us) sitting around in the sun all day Saturday until vet check and ride meeting and ultimately the ride. She got a great spot and by the time I got off work and got up there it was about 9pm. That's when we commenced the game of "Tracey can't back a trailer" which we played for about 30 minutes until I successfully trimmed the trees near the edges of the campsite with my truck but finally got backed in straight enough to unload Amira who was not finding this game very fun. Anita had already set up camp (what a friend) so we just relaxed and then went to bed and attempted to sleep in 88 degree heat...with only 1 little battery operated fan between us in the tent...and we vowed that in the morning we'd get our neighbor Connie from Missouri (who we'd been chatting with) to look over the horses long enough to run into Decatur and get MORE FANS!!!

We awoke to a nice cool morning on Saturday and decided to go out for a short ride. I always like to do a "head check" ride before a CTR or endurance ride to see where Amira's head is mentally and she was a good girl, ready and willing to move out but not chargey as she can sometimes be.

After our ride, we headed into town for those fans and ice for ourselves and a couple of neighbors. When we returned it was noon and they were just beginning to vet in horses so we brushed up our girls and headed over to vet in where we were met by the most pleasant vet scribe, Alanna Sommer whom we both knew from doing CTR. She'd come to work P&R's but during check-in was working as a scribe for the vets.

After check in we shopped at Stablegear Tack (they have the coolest stuff) and visited with some other riders we knew, and some we'd just met, and hung out in the shade of our campsite until the ride meeting at 5pm. After ride meeting we headed back to eat our dinner (the horses ate while we were at the meeting) and then we started getting ready to ride out at 8pm. And because this WAS a PAJAMA PARTY after all, both Anita and myself rode in our PJ's, mine were purple with Panda Bears and hers were blue with the Pillsbury Dough boy.

Unlike what I'd done at the previous to 25's I'd ridden we decided to time out with pack (I'd gone out last before) and see how the girls did. I was nervous Amira would get "race head" but she didn't. She was eager to trot but was responsive and easy to rate, and Tiny was the same way for Anita so we headed out at a pretty brisk pace and maintained it for most of the first loop on the white trail. Because we started at 8pm we still had an hour of daylight and were a little more than half way through when it was fully dark.

As we were riding we thought often about Jonni riding the Tevis and we wondered where she was at that particular time. It was kind of cool to know we were out riding under the same moon as the Tevis riders...although their challenge made ours pale by comparison, I still felt a kindred spirit.

Somewhere about the 10 mile mark according to my GPS, Amira took a pretty bad stumble and seemed like she might be a bit "off" so I told Anita to go on and I was gonna walk her a bit to see if she walked it off as she often does and would catch up if she was okay or just walk on in if she was not.

After a couple minutes her walk seemed normal again and she was asking to trot so I let her, but Anita and Tiny were too far ahead at that we ended up riding the dark...can you say CREEPY??? Here is where I thought my worst fears were coming true...I was truly scared and second guessing Amira...who was seeing just fine and unlike me...not scared. Seeing how calm she was finally made me calm down and know I could trust her and we kept up that same 6mph pace on our own for the rest of the white loop. We arrived in the vet check just a minute after Anita so we were pretty close to catching her and that meant we could ride out on the second loop together.

We got our in times and offered the horses water, Tiny drank up, but Amira did not which bothered me a bit, but she did not seem dehydrated. They were both at criteria so we went on into the pulse box and were met by Alanna's smiling face again. I mentioned to the vet about her stumble and not drinking but she was still an A- in hydration and he did not see any problems at the trot out so we were good to continue after our hold.

Anita's mare Tiny seemed a bit tired, so we planned on taking the 2nd loop on the red trail slower as we were still doing great on time. Well, about a mile into the 2nd loop Tiny got her 2nd wind and was ready to move out that we did...which made Amira happy as she never agreed to the "slower pace" thing. The 2nd loop went with out a hitch other than that Amira still would not drink at the lake, so I hoped she'd drink when we got back to camp. We timed in and went to offer water and FINALLY Amira was ready to drink, and drink, and drink and drink! By the time she was done drinking we knew they were pulsed down so we went on into the box to see Alanna one last time (she did Anita's pulse, someone else did mine) and then to vet out for our completions and both horses vetted out fine. Amira got a B on gut sounds as she did not eat much on trail, but this is normal for her and all else was A's.

We headed back to camp, tended to our girls and then collapsed into our chairs with our neighbor Connie and drank a beer before falling into bed after 2am...only to wake up at 7 to feed horses and be ready for awards at 8am! We felt like we'd not really been to bed when it was time to get up again.

Ride Manager Maria Wallis and her crew did an awesome job on this ride! Maria mentioned at ride meeting that there'd not been a moonlight ride in Texas for a few years, but this ride in the middle of a blazing July started somewhere around 90 riders I think. so it looks like moonlight endurance is here to stay in Texas!

I was exhausted but I had such a great time I did not really notice until after I got home and got a hot shower. Of course the very first thing I did when I got home was log on to the Tevis website so see how Jonni fared and I squealed with delight when I saw she'd completed. She has been a tremendous mentor to me in this past year and I could not be prouder of her accomplishment and that is one ride story I and just dying to read as Jonni is a great story-teller to start with...and now she has a truly great story to tell and I can't wait to hear every bit of it.

I was so impressed with how well Amira did on this ride...this is the hardest and fastest I have ridden her yet and she seemed to enjoy it more than any other ride. We rode 49 minutes faster than our last 25 (Bluebonnet in April) and this was IN THE DARK!! She was responsive and easy to rate speed wise and not concerned when we were passed or had riders come up behind us. And those ears stayed up and perky the whole way, always seeming to be eager to see what was around the next corner...even when we were riding alone and I was tentative she was strong and despite their size difference she and Anita's mare Tiny (who lives up to her name...she's a little mare, but a dynamo) really paced well together.

So, while I don't see Tevis in our future just yet I do see a 50 mile ride sometime next year and will most definitely do the Moon Me Moonlight ride and Pajama Party again...but next year I will be doing 50 miles and loving every minute of it!

Tracey Smith & Amira

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Tom's 2005 Bighorn Story - Tom Noll

by Tom Noll

Riding this year's Big Horn 100 was important to me for some very personal
reasons. I was disappointed when my horse Frank came up with front-end
lameness in late May. Some of the best vets in the business looked at him
including Stuart Shoemaker, Pete Knox, and Nancy Loving, and we all decided
that he needs some time off. It was less than six weeks to the Big Horn and
I did not have a horse.

I could have ridden Max, my wife's horse, but Leslie was planning to ride
the Big Horn too. Hundred-mile horses are not that common and I needed one
fast. Fortunately, two of my very good friends, Linda Black and Regina Rose
came through with a big pinto horse named Mozart who I could take to
Wyoming. Mozart is half Arab and Half Tennessee Walker and Linda, Regina,
and I began to put the finishing touches on his conditioning. He has a
smooth trot and we thought he was ready for a 100, even though he had never
done an endurance ride or an LD ride of any distance. And, Leslie's horse
Max had never started in the dark.

The Big Horn 100 is said to be one of the last 100-mile rides that is still
conducted like things were at the beginning of endurance. The ride is older
than the AERC and the Big Horn is a big-loop 100 on real wilderness trails.
The trail is very adequately marked, but the attendance is sparse. If you
plan to ride the Big Horn, it can be helpful to hook up with someone who
knows the trail, especially for the nighttime sections because it is rough,
it is long, and it is wilderness. The ride is hosted by some of the nicest
people that you'll ever meet in endurance, and the veterinarians, Lyle
Bischoff and Mel Fillerup, will do their best to help you and your horse get
safely to the finish line. Still, the Big Horn is a significant undertaking
not to be underestimated.

Tom Van Gelder, members of the Van Gelder family, Jeanette Tollman, Patti
Tollman, Cindy Collins, and others have hosted the ride for years. There
was a very nice party for Tom Van Gelder at the Shell Community Center the
Thursday before the ride to celebrate his 80th birthday and many of the Big
Horn riders attended the party. And, like the previous years, my brother
Willi and his wife Alice came up to crew. Other riders remarked that I had
the million-dollar crew and I agree. No one had a better crew than Leslie
and I.

We started the Big Horn 100 at just after four in the morning. Max and
Mozart made their way up the Black Mountain Road to Jack's Creek for the
first vet check. They took a slow measured pace and we made it to Jack's
Creek just after 9:00 in the morning. Slow, but acceptable.

After a 1-hour hold we were off to Antelope Butte. I don't think that Max
even realized that we were on an endurance ride until he saw the other
horses at Jack's Creek. Max had never started an endurance ride in the dark
and he probably thought that the humans were just out on some kind of crazy
trail ride.

The stretch of the Big Horn trail from Jack's Creek to Antelope Butte is
long by any measure. We passed though Shag Nasty and Boulder Basin, we rode
over the highest point of the trail at nearly 10,000 feet, we forded Shell
Creek, we rode past Adelaide Lake, we passed a some packers with mules and
horses on the Adelaide Trail, Leslie saw a moose or elk in the willows
beside the Adelaide trail, we forded Adelaide Creek, we made the hot climb
out of the canyon to Big Horn Plateau, and we traversed the plateau to the
Antelope Butte ski area. Leslie and I rode alone through much of this
section. As we were riding along, I thought to myself, "How can a 100 get
any better? We are riding alone through beautiful mountain meadows on the
Big Horn trails at our own pace." Riding the Big Horn 100 trails is living
at its very finest.

The Adelaide Trail leads through the wilderness and it is a rough and rocky
trip. Some of the descents are steep, and you and your horse must negotiate
downed trees and big stones in the trail. There is almost no trotting on
the Adelaide Trail. Max was truly in his element on the Adelaide Trail.
Leslie has trained him to be a rough trail horse and you could tell by his
very focused expression that the Adelaide Trail was his kind of trail. It
was if he was saying, "I am Max, and I live for trails like this!" It was
amazing to see him work and Leslie is very proud of him.

We arrived at Antelope Butte around three or so and we left after an hour
hold - late, but still ok. We began another climb to the Hunt Mountain Road
and Big Horn Plateau and the smell of the flowers was amazing. We rode
under a full blue sky, the scent of lavender was in the air, and a sea of
color was laid before us on the ground. Every year I look forward to the
high country section of the Big Horn trail and every year I wonder if it
will be as spectacular as I remember, and every year I am overwhelmed. All
of the Big Horn trail is special, but the 50 miles from Jack Creek to Hudson
Falls is unlike any other trail offered by the AERC. The 25-mile and
50-mile riders are very lucky and they get to experience good parts of the
trail, but if you want to ride the whole 50 miles from Hudson Falls to Jack
Creek, then you must choose to ride 75 or 100 miles.

On top of the plateau the wind was howling out of the south. The canyon
geography is aligned from southwest to northeast at portions along the Big
Horn plateau and the winds were funneled through the canyons and blasted out
to the plateau. We and our horses faced some stiff and drying winds along
the Hunt Mountain Road from Antelope Butte to Horse Creek.

We blanketed the horses at Horse Creek and took a short rest. Horse Creek
is one of my favorite vet stops, but the with the wind and cool
temperatures, I was happy that we only spent a half hour there this year.
We left around 6:30 and time was getting tight.

>From Horse Creek it was off along the plateau and then the descent through
the canyons to Hudson Falls. The canyons are another set of rough terrain
and tough trails. The canyon trails are not for the faint-of-heart. The
trails are very steep and rocky, you are a long way from help, and we had
already ridden nearly 75 miles. The steepness in some sections is just
amazing and I told Mozart "One slip here and someone is going to get hurt!"
Still, the canyons are one of my favorite sections of the Big Horn trail.
Max is an amazing rough terrain horse and Max took the lead through the
canyons setting the pace for the rest of us. The canyons are another
section of true wilderness riding. The sun angle was low, the shadows were
long, and we were treated to spectacular views of the waning sunlight on the
limestone cliffs.

We hooked up with some other riders in the canyons and we all made it
through to the Dug Way trail. The Dug Way trail was a new section added
this year so that we would not be going directly down Cedar Canyon in the
dusk and darkness. By the time we reached the Dug Way, time was late.
Three of the riders with us took off down the trail at a quick pace. Leslie
and I decided to hold back. We've had some trouble with lameness that we've
attributed to going too fast downhill and we wanted to avoid it this time.

It was just after 10:00 when we arrived at Hudson Falls. Max had traveled
75 miles - further than he had ever traveled before. Leslie thought that
Max might be slightly off on the front. The hitch in Max's gait was
intermittent, but Leslie took a rider-option pull at 75 miles.

For me, I was torn. I wanted to finish the 100, but it was dark and I did
not have anyone to ride with. I was DFL (an ultrarunning term that is an
abbreviation for Dead F'ing Last) and I could not decide whether to go on or
not. Tracy Blue offered an option. Tracy was one of the riders that took
off down the Dug Way trail. However, Tracy slowed down because she did not
want to injure her big quarter horse Bud. Tracy is tough, Bud is tough, and
she desperately wanted to finish the whole 100 miles, but she did not know
the trail. We talked and we decided that we would ride on in the Trapper
Creek Ranch together. It was late, our chances were slim, but we thought we
might be able to finish in time with enough trotting.

We started off from Hudson Falls with some trotting down the road. Mozart
was showing less and less enthusiasm for the trail. His trot sections were
getting shorter and his walk sections were getting longer. Tracy and I
continued on. Under normal circumstances, someone might think about the
poetic environment - a man and a woman, two horses, nighttime trails with
the moon and the stars. However, this was an endurance ride and we were
working together as two tired riders who had ridden over 75 miles of tough
trail, our horses were tired too, and I imagine that I was rather dirty and
smelly by that time. A more accurate image would be two weary riders out on
the trail, a little later than expected, seeking the next stage stop or rest
station, and we continued on. By now the wind had shifted to the north.
There was a good moon but it was still dark and the air was cool. The moon
set around 1:30 and it got even darker. Then the clouds came in and it
became very dark. Somewhere to the north of us was a major thunderstorm and
the flashes of lightning lit up the sky. The trail was dark and we resorted
to walking. Mozart had very little desire to trot.

There was absolutely no traffic at 3:00 in the morning as we crossed the
road in the darkness. We were heading up the last section of trail when
Mozart suddenly went all the way down to the ground. As I stepped off my
first thoughts were "aneurysm, he's dead!" but he was rolling around. The
my thoughts were "a sudden onset of colic." I walked over and promptly went
down myself. It seems as if we stepped off a slight shoulder or rut of soft
dirt on the trail. Mozart went down and since he was down, decided to take
advantage of the situation and roll in the dirt. I got him up, put the
things back on my saddle, and we continued on in complete darkness.

The sun was coming up over the Big Horn trails on our last few miles into
camp. Mozart was weary. Tracy and I made our way down the hill, across the
Trapper Creek bridge, and on to the finish line outside the Trapper Creek
Ranch. We were overtime but we had ridden the entire 100 miles of Big Horn
trail. Our horses passed the veterinary completion exam and we were done -
lapped by the sun.

We rode a full 100 miles. Mozart dug deep and gave the Big Horn 100 his
very best effort. He'll make a fine endurance horse with more experience.
I doubt that he'll ever forget his first endurance ride and I know that I
won't forget my third Big Horn 100.

The Big Horn 100 is a special ride hosted by special people. They love the
trail and the Big Horn riders who return to ride again love the trail too.
I am sure that there are easier 100s, but the Big Horn 100 trail is special.
There is magic along that trail and that magic works its way into your
heart. Sitting here at my computer, I wish I that I could be back out on
the Big Horn trails on a tough horse with miles behind me and many miles
left to go.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll

SW Idaho