Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Farewell to Silver State - Karen in Nevada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


in NV

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Armadillo Incident - Tamsen Valoir

Armadillo Incident, by Tamsen Valoir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Back From My First 50! - Nat Nelson

by Nat Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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