My daughter Danielle will tell you this is her favorite ride to date. She
will also tell you this is the ride that she finally got to let Lyric really
trot, a lot. As a mother and daughter newbie team with 2 young horses I can
say I think we finally rode like endurance riders. And with that I can say,
proudly, all the miles of training finally paid off. And it could not have
happened without Tara, Craig and Danielle Walker-Nollner, showing us how it
is done. I will be forever grateful for their patience, kindness and good
humor both on and off the trail.
First a bit of background in an attempt to keep the players straight. The
scorecard: my daughter, Danielle Gradisher is 13 and rides Lyric, a 7 year
old tank of an Arab mare. Danielle Walker is 12 and has many endurance
miles under her belt and rides a new mare, Bella. Tara rides Boo, a
seasoned gelding. Her husband, Craig rides, a big gray gelding, Shaker. I
ride a 6-year-old half Arab, Jazzi who I have had for one year.
Danielle G. and I have had our fair share of troubles and difficulty on the
endurance learning curve. Lyric can be a very difficult horse and came to
us with behavior issues, saddle issues, bit issues, etc. Danielle G. is,
well, young and neither her nor I knew anything when I got the notion to be
an endurance rider. We were both new to horses and had to start from the
very beginning. I have had injuries too, broke the same foot 2 times in 3
years. I did not have a horse for some time and started Lyric until
Danielle felt safe to ride her. To date we have done more CTR than
endurance and only limited distance at that. I have made many newbie
mistakes such as mixing up CTR and endurance rules. If you look us up on
the AERC site, you will not be impressed. So, for what it is worth my ride
story comes from a newbie point of view. I have so much to learn. And in
that, I take great joy at the small accomplishments made by my daughter or
Base camp for the Turkey Trot was a county park with stalls, grass, showers,
hook ups and a covered pavilion. It has one of the easiest access with no
dirt roads and an easy freeway drive. We arrived at base camp before noon
on Friday. Both horses vetted in with all A's except for Lyric who had a B
on gut sounds. What a pleasure to have Dr.Beasom who has the magic touch
with Lyric who in the past has been a total pill at any and all vet checks.
Dr. Beasom made it seem so easy; a little carrot, a little quick look at the
gums, no big deal.
Next, all five of us rode the start and the last few miles of the trail.
Danielle G. was testing a SR Enduro saddle as Lyric had grown out of her
Sharon Saare F tree. The saddle was beautiful, and it fit! Good sweat
pattern, no behavior issues due to pinching. Danielle G. loved it and the
seller agreed to let us use it the following day for the ride.
After a colorful ride meeting and a wonderful potluck dinner, it was early
I did not sleep well as it lightly rained several times during the night. I
slept in the cab over section of our RV and the rain sounded like a
downpour. This brought out the worrywart gene I inherited from my
grandmother. I checked on the horses several times, they were very happy
with full hay bags and warm turnout blankets.
The trail was in the scenic Sweetwater River watershed within 10 miles of
the US-Mexico boarder. An amazing mixture of county, state, federal and
private landowners were all talked into giving permission for about 120
riders to trespass. This land is considered to be some of the last
remaining untouched functioning coastal echo systems in southern California.
Coastal chaparral, canyons, riparian, year round creek, a reservoir and even
some antique and not so antique trash made for never ending eye candy.
Rides like this is why I do this sport.
The trail was challenging with lots of hills, rocks, water crossings and an
emu ranch to boot. The footing was a mixture of fire/access roads, new and
established single track and some big granite gravel to spice it up. I had
my husband's Legend C Garmin GPS turned on most of the time and it provided
some interesting data. In the first 4 miles after a short descent we
climbed almost 500 feet, then descended an equal distance. For the next few
miles the trail was relatively flat with water crossings. From here the
climbing was tough, almost a thousand feet in a little over four miles. Our
horses worked hard keeping a steady working trot most of the time. They
were very wet, but due to the cool temperatures the horses were not
In no time we were in the vet check. The criteria was 56 and none of our
horses had any difficulty pulsing down. I remembered to loosen Jazzi's
cinch and not fight with her until after she pulsed down. Lyric was very
good, drinking and not getting upset with the volunteers and their strange
gadgets that they stuck in her side. Jazzi would not drink and was looking
for food, preferably alfalfa. Lots of grass hay was available but no
alfalfa. I was going to be safe from the alfalfa induced Jazzi monster. I
had packed some orchard grass pellets that both Jazzi and Lyric ate. Next
time I need to pack a pan to make a wet mash. The volunteers were wonderful
and so helpful. It was especially nice to have friends hold your horse for
you so you could answer nature's call. I ate a quick ham and dilly roll
sandwich and downed a Gatorade. All of the horses vetted through without a
problem. Lyric again got a B on gut sounds, Jazzi all A's.
Back out on the trail, it was still cool and windy. We had a problem
finding the beginning of the trail back to base camp. Jazzi was reluctant to
move out and I was starting to get upset with worry as she had not drank any
water the entire ride. But, my mental gymnastics were unnecessary as Jazzi
was fine; she just did not want to leave the vet check and all the food.
The trail home got pretty spectacular with a huge downhill down the face a
mountain on new single track. The GPS data is some 600 feet straight down
in 1 mile. Tara, Craig and Danielle G all dismounted and walked most of
this. Danielle W. and I rode it down without incident. The rest of the
ride was relatively flat when compared to the earlier hills. We made
excellent time and took turns leading and in the line up. Lyric got to
really trot out and my GPS clocked her at 14 MPH on the flat about 4 miles
from the finish. Danielle G. was glowing as her little horse out trotted
We made the finish at about 1pm and all five horses easily pulsed down.
Danielle W. came in ahead of Danielle G. by about 3 minutes. The volunteers attempted to put Danielle G in ahead of Danielle W., but Danielle G.
quickly corrected them. I was proud to be her mom and see her true
After a warm sponge bath, all the horses vetted out without issues. Jazzi
had finally drank at the finish and while being cleaned. Lyric's back was
in wonderful shape from the SR Enduro saddle. Beer and chips, showers and a
bit of a nap for us humans followed.
The dinner was the best I have ever had at a ride; pans and pans of
wonderful, spicy Mexican food. So much food, in fact, volunteers were
handing out quesadillas and taquitos to the hungry people waiting in line.
They served meat and cheese enchiladas, guacamole, carnitas, chili rellenos,
chips, salza, beans, rice and more. No one went away hungry!
Here is what I recall of our group's standings, Danielle W. came in first
junior and 15th overall followed by Tara, Craig, Danielle G. (second junior)
and myself. This is not official and just my recollection after a few beers. We made the ride in 4 hours, well under the allotted time (ride time
only, not including holds). Our horses had lots of gas at the end. Lyric
found a saddle that fit (what a relief) and I did was able to keep up with
Much of this was due to the cool weather. I still have a drinking issue
with Jazzi. Jazzi also has developed a habit of loosing momentum after the
vet check. I am not sure how to deal with this. Jazzi has also become much
more sure-footed and self-assured on the trails. Lyric and Danielle G. are
really blossoming and coming into their own as a team.
Danielle W. and Bella are also becoming a team in spite of the short time
they have had each other. Tara and Craig are so seasoned and so
knowledgeable. They make it look so easy. I am so grateful they let us tag
Maybe Danielle, Lyric, Jazzi and I really can do this. Maybe we can become
real endurance riders after all. What a wonderful ride. I cannot thank
everyone enough for this wonderful experience!
Lazy J Ranch
Elfin Forest, CA