Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Ride - A touch of Mexico - Ann Troutner

THE Ride

by Ann Troutner

I want to share with you my story, involving my renewed horse passion, with
the purchase of this pinto.

I now live in Mexico, after Arizona. Bernardo has been my albacil
(construction worker), now maintenance man and gardener, for the past 14
years. Lidia is his wife. El Rodeo is the rancho where he lives, 20 minutes
(~30 miles) from Guanajuato Mexico.

Well, we did it! I was on the horse for ~13 hours and ended with no pain. I
was in 7th heaven and smiling all day. It was a great day! El Dia de La
Cueva, every July 31st, the entire town of Guanajuato Mexico is up in the
hills, picnicing and celebrating the rains, by holding a mass in the cave.
What a crowd and all out in nature, on the most beautiful day. It was sunny
and the hills were GREEN from the rains that have already come.

Bernardo had traded for a new horse, just on Friday. He was a dangerous
(unknown) black stud. The man who sold it to Bernardo was actually on
crutches because of some accident with that horse. The first night, my El
Pinto, a stud, had broken his halter to go over and stomp the new stud, when
Dani or Bernardo heard the commotion to go out and stop it.

Saturday I went
out to Rodeo, to wash El Pinto, and to meet the new guy and see how "wild"
he is. Bernardo would ride him for the first time on Sunday, with the idea
that he very likely would have to turn back, if his horse was acting up with
people or cars or other horses, etc. You get the idea.
His new horse was
fine all day. This is THE horse of Bernardo's dreams that he wants to keep
for a long time, to ride, and not race. He was smiling all day, too.

Bernardo, Dani, his 11 year old son, and I got a late start. Everyone else
from Rodeo had left for town. So we trotted on out for the first couple of
hours. I had no trouble to keep up and we made good time. We were on the
highway with cars and buses and our horses were fine. We cut through the
mountains. It was rough turain, and again I kept up with no problem. We were
even sliding on slick rocky surface, in climbing some steep parts.

We got to the Pipila area where many people were gathering for their
picnics, etc. So far, we were the only horses that we have seen, since the
rest were all gathered where they were supposed to be. So, Bernardo asked
the police where the horse parade was at that moment, who radioed to ask.
They had just left the train station. So we went to meet up with them. We
rode down Callejon Tecolote, the original cobble stone ~500 years old
street, in and out of Guanajuato. Then we turned and rode on the streets,
where I always walk: by Plazuela San Francisco, Teatro Juarez, Jardin de
Union, and stopped in Plaza La Paz in front of the Basilica, to wait. Again,
we are the only horses seen at this point.

Then you could hear the hooves and the drum/trumpet band coming. We watched
everyone go by, meaning we saw all the horses and equipment and outfits and
cowboys before we entered the line in the back. I enjoyed that. There were
five of us women that day. I didn't know any of them and only saw two of

We rode through town with the 300 horses to Presa de La Olla, up into
the hills, to La Cueva and the Bufa. It was interesting to watch all the
horses and keep mine under control. And Bernardo was so pleased that his
unknown went well all day. He will keep it, and likes it so much, like me
with mine. Then the next hours were riding in line, up to the hills. After
the mass was held in the cave, for every year since 1650, we spent the
afternoon watching cowboys on horses, doing things with chickens to
entertain us. You see, we are still on our horses, but standing in rows to
watch the entertainment. What a cultural scene it was.

So, now it is time to ride back to Rodeo. We meet up with the Rodeo crowd to
return. That was a different route with other riders, namely Bernardo's
brother, Jose. The next day Bernardo told me that his brother told him, that
he now believes it is true, that Ana Trucha (me) does know how to ride, and
can be trusted to do so. Bernardo had told his brother about our route
through the mountains to get to Guanajuato, which Jose knows how rough it
was, and how I was still fine on my horse, trotting home on the way back,
after hours of being on the horse already.

Bernardo can be proud of me. I made a good impression on everyone (who might
care). I am proud to have been bareback, on such a beautiful pinto stud.
Also when some guy would ask me where I had ridden from, and I would answer,
Rodeo, they knew what that meant and took another look.

On the ride back to Rodeo, we were letting the horses drink in a stream. El
Pinto's knees slowly collapsed under him and I was in the water up to my
neck. I found 1 cup of sand in my pockets and shoes. There was still enough
sun and daylight to dry off and not feel cold. The joke was how I had gotten
completely wet, after being well prepared to stay dry in a rain. I have a
small pack, tied on my "sillin" (bareback pad) that I ride with all the
time. It has a rain poncho, because you don't know when it will rain
suddenly, and it usually does. But very funny for others to watch this kind
of thing that happens. Bernardo was kind enough to remind me of the ride we
were on a year ago, where he swung his leg over the saddle to mount, but he
went completely over to the other side, and onto the ground on his butt. It
was a tall horse and he overshot. Very funny for others to watch.

The next Sunday I went riding with Bernardo, along the river at Rodeo, and
to a little store in Tejaban, to buy cold drinks. We then turned home for
chicken mole dinner and Lidia's fresh tortillas. On the way back Bernardo
asked, "Ana, would you like to try my horse?" I was honored and, yes, I did
want to ride Santanas. He was so big, and so strong, and so alive. I
galloped him, sliding to a stop a couple of times, to try him out, and to
let Bernardo see his horse run. You see, when you are on your own horse, you
don't get to enjoy how it looks, like the other riders do.

I hung back and happily chatted with Bernardo the rest of the way home.
Close to his house came Jose, his brother, with Adan, his 15 year son,
riding their horses to Tejaban. Santanas got very excited, and reared up
three or four times, with me calmly trying to pull him down and move him
away from Jose's mare, and on home. Well, Bernardo commented that now
nothing more needs to be said to his brother about my abilities, since Jose
could see right in front of him.

Actually, I have never been on a rearing horse before. I am surprised at how
easy it was. Now, I want to train El Pinto to rear on command. And of
coarse, I am looking forward to be a part of this tradition again.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

OD Adventure - Jody Rogers-Buttram

Jody Rogers-Buttram
Well, I won't bore you to death with all the minute by minute details. But, will put together how it went.

We stayed Weds. night on the way up at a great KOA camp in Wytheville, VA. It was 2:30 am when we pulled in. Marie and Majik and their crew person Zoe had been there since early in the evening. Some of us have to work, so that was why I was much later. :)) Marie and Majik were very happy to see Rose and Cash....well maybe not Cash.. Majik had fretted being there all alone. But he soon settled down. They all (and us too) rested and slept. Left out of there at 8:00am on Thursday evening. Pulled into camp at about 12:30...but on the way up when we got close enough to the mountains where the trail would be, I would call Maire on the cell phone and say, "If you look out of the truck to the right, you will see Edinburg Gap. " or " at mile marker 272 should be about the southern most section of the trail. " It was kinda like a pilot on a plane pointing out the geographical points of interest. But, then again, I am a geographer, and mapping is what I do.
So, into camp we come, drive around to the back where the 100's are parked. There is Tom Sites already there and waiting on us. Joel, who has never talked to, emailed or seen Tom, says to me, " There is Tom Sites, your buddy !". He said he had no problem picking him out....just from what he had heard. Got the horses, camp and all set up and settled. Then set up for the pool party!!! In the mean time, Laurie Underwood and her dad, Walt pull in and a bit later, my very good friend from Michigan, Dr. Tom Dombroski rides Ebony, his Harley up to our camp. WOW, the gangs all here. The swimming pool is filled (and that was a story there), the snakes, frogs, lizards, duckies, spiders and water guns and balloons are filled and ready. Tom Sites and others began preparing our meal....and it was SO good. Tom Sites, is an excellent cook. That evening he stuffed us with the best Mexican meal, salad to die for, soft or hard shell tacos with beef/pork meat with hot peppers. OH so good. I ate plenty of it...along with Marie's Coronas and lime !!!! We did have a few visitors that came up to the "Grits" camp to see our setup.
One small problem that Thursday evening was Cash Pony, he was fascinated with the hillside...and stood in a trance. But, he didn't like the soccer game. He ran thru the fence not once, but twice. Doing so, he cut the inside of his back leg above the hock. Nothing bad, but it scraped the hide off. He swelled some, so on Friday, the Grits team vet, Dr. Tom looked him over, watched him trot, and then said he would be fine. Man, it was sure nice to have our very own Vet !!!!
Friday came, all three horses got their massage from Karen Zelinsky, and I think they really like that too. We saddled up and rode just a couple miles, and then it was time for riders meeting and going to bed. Well, before I could go to bed, we (Joel, Dr. Tom, Laurie and her dad) had to load all this STUFF onto the bed of the old grey truck. Now, let me say this, to take everything that you need, or that you might need, or that you might want, for two horses, two riders, and three crew people....TAKES A LOT of truck bed !!!!!!!! My truck looked like Jed Clampetts. Finally to bed at around 11:00pm.
We wake to music, very irritating music at 3:30. But, up we are, feed, and tack up . Ride down to the warm up ring, and then out of the ring and onto the trail at 5:00am. We have officially started the OD !!!! Now, how far can we get. Marie, Joni and I are riding along and talking about the trail, and how there are no rocks, no big hills and this is a piece of cake. Cross the river at 12.5 and into a 20 mins. hold at McCoy's. No crews there, but you didn't need one. Plenty of grass. At this VC, we are telling them what we thought so far, and they (ride workers) laugh at us. Oh, you are fixin to see the first climb and rocks, they tell us. So, out we go and in a bit, we did start up a hill. Nothing great at first, but it got worse and worse as you went. Finally, we are not dissappointed !!!! We see the ROCKS !!!. Over the top and down the other side to VC 2, where are crews are waiting. Time wise, we are right on predicted schedule, about 3:45 to do 25 miles. Horses are doing great, cool temps and no humidity makes Rose a very good girl. Marie was shocked that she was trotting along with a pulse under 100. And she did that nearly all day !!! Rose is not known for having a low pulse, she is 1/2 Paint horse. Out of McCoys and onto the best trail of ride, we felt like we were back home. Great moving trail, and move we did. Came into Foster's Landing (43 Miles). Again, all three horses doing wonderful. Left there for a 10.3 mile loop. Tom Sites said, this has the biggest climb. And it did. I took my GPS unit on the ride, didn't really use the mileage, but the elevation feature was priceless. We climbed from around 600 ft. to a little over 2300 !!!! And Rocks, I have never seen such rocks. Joni and I were off tailing most of it, Marie was off some I think, and then on the top riding the ridge, Marie would say, "Oh, look at that beautiful view", or "Look at these wonderful rocks". I'm thinking, I can't look at the view Marie because I am trying to watch these *&&^% @@#!*&^ROCKS !!!!!!!!! I do have some great pictures of those lovely little rocks when I get them developed. Turns out that 10.3 miles was the longest, most miserable 10 miles placed on God's green earth. It took us 3 hours to go 10.3 miles. Why??? Because you have to walk 9 out of the 10 miles !!!!! So, into Hickory Lane and 53 miles. A saddle change for Cash Pony there because he was getting a little girthy. So, the heavy Orthoflex went on him. Again, all three horses were doing fantastic...they didn't even look like they had been anywhere. Back out on the trail and onto another long was 15 miles, but took forever. We named the next VC (Curtis Field) the MIA VC...because it was....MISSING. That leg of the trail had the most hard pack dirt road ever....riddled with, yep you guessed it...more ROCKS. And one Rattlesnake. Karen Isaacs found him, not us. It was dark when we left that VC, 7-8 more miles and we were at the foot of Sherman's Gap and Pickett Springs. Back out onto the trail and now we had company, the drag riders !!! Two really nice people on two really nice mules. Up Sherman's we head, Joni and I are off tailing, finally get to the top and we decided we are in time race to make cut off at McCoys. So, I stayed on the ground (no Crupper and another story with lots of bad words) Off I run. Joni and Marie are riding, get down off the worst of it, and I still stay off and just run. I can run fast when I have to. Marie tells me at the bottom when I stop to get on, that she was impressed, didn't think I could run that fast. Heck I didn't either....but fear of not making cutoff will do that for you. :)) We tear out down the road and get into the VC with plenty of time. In fact, we left the check right before they closed it. Now, here is the big let down of our OD adventure. We crossed the river with the most beautiful moonlight dancing on the water....and NO glowsticks in the milk jugs !!!!!!! I really wanted to see that. WE all really wanted to see it. 12.5 miles to go to the finish !!! Strong horses, so we trot on, get into Liberty Hall and it had gotten really cold then. I wrapped up in a horse blanket and just sat on the ground. Joel, Laurie vetted the horses thru, and I just sat. Marie asked me if I was OK, and I told her yes, but I just needed to sit and rest a minute. Short hold and back out on the trail for the last 4.8 miles. Again racing the clock here, but knew we were ok when we turned to the woods that bring you to the soccer field. At 4:40 am we trotted in side by side for the finish. WE DID IT !!!!!!!!!!! YIPPPEEEE !!!!!!!!!! Took the tack off, and threw on some blankets and walked down to the ring for completion check. Here we had the head vet, Dr. Melissa Ribley from California. WOW, she vetted my horse thru and I completed.... She did Majik as well and I think Dr. Art King had the little turd, Cash Pony. Poor Joel had to re-trot Cash for Dr. Ribley, because he was holding his head too tight. The reason: Cash was dragging Joel at the trot out !!! That little $150 horse was dragging him all over the place. Joel asked me if we had a chain in the trailer for him, at the finish line !!!!!!!! He had the brightest eyes, and didn't look the least bit tired. They all looked great.
So, we crawled in the bed at around 5:30 in the morning. For the first time in my life, I didn't take a shower before I went to bed after a ride. That's a trailer rule, you don't get in the bed until you take a shower. Well folks, the OD is an exception to that rule. All three of us went to bed dirty.
We had a very nice breakfast, then awards and then headed on down the road the KOA again to spend the night. I think we did pretty well at the awards, Joni took first jr. and TOP TEN, she was tenth, I won a paint horse award, and of all things, for being 11th, a free entry to the OD 100!!!! Marie got that buckle she so badly wanted, and our little team, the True Grits won the team award. We had one misfortune, one of our members, Judie Ricci lost her horse at the first VC, and didn't catch him for a couple hours, and had to pull. Hey, if that hadn't happened, we might have finished all four team members.
The ride management was great, the vet were great, the volunteers are the best, the towns people all were very encouraging, in fact at one house, there were two little girls standing in the front yard holding up a little paper sign that said, "GO HORSES". Now, that was sweet.
So, would I go back??? I have the free entry, so now, let me forget about the rocks for a few months, then I would go back. Did I learn anything??? Yep...and for the NC in Oct. I can put it to good use. One thing that I learned was, Aries didn't need to go to do that 100. She is dumb, and falls over rocks. Sorry Angie, but the truth hurts. Rose is no doubt the horse for the 100 at the NC in Oct. Cash Pony is as well. Neither horse tripped over rocks much at all, and none after dark. Plus, Rose has a bigger butt to push up hills with. :))
Well, I didn't mean for it get this long, so sorry...but I still left out a lot.
Jody, Joni and the OD ponies, Rose and Cash.

Monday, June 12, 2006

OD 25 - Alyssa's First Ride - Alissa Cowan

Alissa Cowan

Some of you know some of this saga, as I told some of it after the NAEC
at Fair Hill in October. But here's my endurance history, from start to

About 2 and a half years ago Fair Hill International asked me if I could
run the North American Endurance Championship, to be held at Fair Hill
in October 2005. I, dummy that I am, said "sure!" Dummy, because I had
only vaguely heard about endurance, and that was only because Fair Hill
ran an endurance ride in October of 2003. Which I did not attend. So,
I read the rules, had help from some great local experienced endurance
riders, had an awesome trail queen (which was key, because I ALSO didn't
know the trails at Fair Hill at all), and somehow we managed to put on a
halfway decent ride (Foxcatcher endurance and LD in April of 2004). Did
we have glitches? Absolutely! Did I have fun! Absolutely! Did my
husband think I was insane? ABSOLUTELY!!

In May of 2004 I went to Biltmore to volunteer and to see how the "big
dogs" run an FEI ride, since my ride in October was going to be FEI.
That's where I really got hooked. Not so much hooked because of the
riders (although that year Stagg finished a billion hours before anyone
else, in a thunderstorm, and THAT was impressive). But more hooked
because of the people who ran the ride and volunteered and worked their
fingers to the bone for absolutely zero money. Most, like me, probably
PAID out of their own pockets to go volunteer there. And they were
cheerful, dedicated, and happy to teach a newbie like me.

These amazing wonderful people helped me all summer with the planning
for our Fair Hill ride in October 2004 (FEI, AERC 100, and AERC 50).
Anything weather-wise that could have gone wrong, did. So - we all got
together after that ride and did some planning and made some changes so
we could put on an outstanding ride in 2005, for the North American
Endurance Championship.

So that's my endurance history. Not all that impressive, right? And
then a couple months ago I was silly enough to get involved in a
discussion on Ride Camp, when a nice person from New York was saying
that she wasn't sure she should try endurance - didn't have the right
horse, right equipment, enough time to condition. And I responded that
I was in the same boat - my current mount is a TB/Percheron cross, I
have a flat as a pancake hunt seat saddle, and not much time after work
to ride. Have to ship to trails, etc, etc. SO - my friends Cate and
Ben emailed and said - "Silly! You don't need to ride your own horse.
Ride ours! We have this cool TWH (whom I had ridden some over the
winter on training rides), we have the equipment, we have the means to
take you with us to a ride. AND - we're going to the OD in June and the
horse is already entered and needs a rider."

Sounds simple, right? But to me this was kind of like me saying "hey, I
want to climb a mountain" and a friend saying "GREAT! We're doing
Everest next month - want to come?" I've BEEN to OD before as a crew
and as a volunteer. Both times I about died of heat exhaustion, both
times I saw how many horses pulled, and both times I got lost just
DRIVING to the vet checks, which are all in the middle of nowhere. How
was I supposed to ride there?

Somehow Cate convinced me this would be FUN, and that the 25 mile ride
at OD is actually not as treacherous as some of the trails we ride at
home. I rode Zach on one last training ride on Sunday before OD, got my
arms pulled out of my sockets for the first 5 miles, and then put him in
front and had a happy wonderful horse. Ah-ha! Light bulb moment for
Alissa. Horse likes the front, and horse REALLY likes to be close to
friend Buck. Who, fortunately, was going to be on the 25 mile ride as
well, ridden by Ben.

So off we go to OD. My first ride dinner as a competitor was awesome -
great burgers and sausage, and a gazillion dish to pass dishes. I was
stuffed. Ride briefing was short and sweet. Vet in went fairly well -
Zach was a pistol and tried to run me over, and the vet was a bit
confused by his gaited horse action on the circles (hey - and you CIRCLE
for an endurance vet-in? Never seen that before!). All too soon it was
7AM on Friday morning.

Zach was lovely on Friday morning as long as his head was planted on
Buck's hip. Otherwise I has a squealing, silly little TWH. Although
riding out a TWH antics are MUCH easier than riding out a TB/Perch
antics! Controlled start up the asphalt road, then then we were
climbing up an enormous mountain, with logs for erosion control and more
rocks than I have ever seen in my life. We were riding the whole time
with Bits (mustang) and Kristin. At one point up Rock Mountain I saw
and felt what I thought was a rock fly past my head, from Bits' foot.
Then I looked more closely and realized it was one of Bits' Easy Boots.
So, our fiery mounts all had to stop while we tracked down the Easy
Boot. Lots of horses had to pass us on a narrow trail. Kristin decided
that putting boot back on was more trouble than it was worth, so both
hind boots came off. And that little mustang went the rest of the ride
(including making her way back DOWN Rock Mountain) without taking a bad
step. Tough little sucker, that one is.

Our group was a bunch of rookies - all new to the OD, limited endurance
experience. We boogied when we could. We walked probably more than we
should have. We probably didn't stop to let horses eat as much as we
should have. We marveled at the enormous, beautiful houses we passed
(where do those people WORK??). We waved to friendly folks in the
little town we passed through. The nice bulldozer guys pointed us in
the right direction. We were having a grand old time. And about the
time we got to the river, which we had to cross to get to our hold at
the halfway point, Bits and Zack both stopped pulling our arms out.

Crossing the Shenandoah River is amazing. Look to the left and to the
right - amazing views of mountains in both directions. I was a little
worried about Zach. Actually, a little worried about me, as Zach has a
tendency to just stop, drop, and roll in the middle of a creek. He's
done it to me before. And I didn't want to ride in wet boots the whole
way home. But all worries were for naught. Zach was awesome. Poor Ben
did have to get off in the middle of the river, though - Buck managed to
step through his reins. Smart old horse stopped as soon as he did it.

Cate, our crew person, was whooping and hollering at us as we crossed
the river - she was so excited for us! And she got some great photos,
as well. We got to the hold a little later than we wanted. Pulsed down
and vetted in. Zach was a little quiet in his gut - needed to eat
more. Think I could get the little train stopped on the way home to eat
anything? No way. That little boy wanted to go HOME.

30 minute hold - enough time to use the porta-pot, grab a drink and a
granola bar, stuff Zach full of food and water, re-tack, and we were
back on our way. Re-traced our steps - back across the river, back
through the little town (wave to nice people), back past nice bulldozer
guys, back past all the new houses (wonder how much that one costs?).
All too soon back to Rock Mountain (I am sure it has a real name, but
Rock Mountain describes it well). Actually, the trail UP is lovely
footing this direction - all well maintained stone dust trails. So the
trail was lovely, just LONG LONG LONG. Then we crossed Skyline Drive
and looked at the watch - we had about an hour to make it down Rock
Mountain (the down on this direction was the yukky part) and then a mile
down the paved road to Ride Camp and home. We stopped for our sparkling
cider and for Henry to write our arrival times on our cards at about
12:30 - we still had 30 minutes to pulse in. Might take that long to
get these big old TWH's cooled down! Zach was actually good in about 10
minutes, but we waited for our buddy Buck (who is much bigger). Pulsed
in at 12:45. Our nice friend Art vetted us out. Still a quiet gut -
needs to eat and drink some more. No problem - he'd have til Sunday to
hang out at camp and eat and drink to his hearts content. But - we
finished! And Cate reported today that Zach looks awesome.

A congrats from Art. Later, a big hug from friend Dr. Nick. Julie
Bullock said "it's about time you rode one of these rides!" And nice
Tom Timmons, who was the head vet for NAEC, was dumbfounded when he
learned this was my first ride. "You managed an NAEC and you've NEVER
ridden a ride?"

So - here's what I learned:

1) Riding a little freight train really works the abs. Hmmm. Maybe I
should schedule with Cate to ride him three times a week...

2) One must ride MUCH FASTER on the trail than I had ever imagined to
finish within time. I thought we were hustling whenever we could, and
we pulsed down with 15 minutes to spare. Lesson for Alissa - practice
trotting (or gaiting) down hills - it's not as scary as I first
thought. So - who's smarter? The horse who Alissa thought was a
freight train, or Alissa who thought we were going WAY TOO FAST and
ended up finishing ride with 15 minutes to spare? Who knows - we'll
have to test it out again!

3) The OD has a LOT more gravel and paved roads than I would have ever
thought, on the 12 miles out and back from camp. Light bulb - perhaps
this is why they've been scouting out new trails?

4) Assigned camping spots are an EXCELLENT idea if you have a good
Parking Nazi. Might have to implement that one...

5) Always, when people asked me about endurance, I told them that I
loved managing rides because I loved the people. So when friends asked
me if I ever rode an endurance ride, my response was, with a look of
horror on my face: "Are you kidding? Those people are CRAZY!!!" I
have learned, from first hand experience, that all of you are, indeed,
crazy. But, still I love you.

The bug has bitten. Darn you all. I am looking for the next place to
ride. Seeing if Cate is going to another ride where Zach needs a
rider. And seeing if perhaps my big old TB/Perch cross can handle doing
a 12 mile CTR clinic. I'm not getting too crazy yet - I have to take
the big boy back home in August, and will pick up a new, yet to be
determined, horse. So my endurance adventures on a horse of my own will
depend on whatever I bring home with me in August. But, assuming the
new horse has half a brain, look for us to be out and riding some
endurance in Spring of 2007. Oh, boy. I can't believe I just said
that!! Darn you Ride Campers for talking me in to this insanity!