Monday, October 23, 2006

Josie Whelan's AERC NC 50

Mary Howell's AERC NC 50 2006

by Mary Howell

Last year, Darryl Downs, Fran Williams and I rode together on the pre-ride
NC 50 course and I thought the winning time of 7:23 was a pretty decent,
given all those rocks and climbs. This year's top finishers, many of whom
had never seen the trail before, tore almost 2 HOURS off that time!!

I certainly felt as if I was part of a championship, which pulled out of me
& Shiloh out one of the best performances of our career. My experience
wouldn't have been possible at all for me if it weren't for longtime friends
Becky, Bob and Jennifer Supinger, who have been boarding Shiloh, brought him
to the ride, shared their warm trailer and did an exceptional job crewing.

Loop1 (23 miles): At the start, Roxi from Iowa said she saw me and Shiloh
gallop off into the darkness and was inspired to follow, catching up before
the first bridge; we zoomed that first nine miles, slowing only for the 6
concrete bridges on the climb up to Moreland Gap. After just 45 minutes, we
came into the 9 mile pulse&go. Her horse pulsed about 2 minutes faster than
Shi & she was out of sight after that.

I'll never forget zooming along the rocky, uneven ATV trail along the top of
the ridge in pitch black darkness, with the downward-pointing handle of the
Big Dipper showing the way. I didn't have any lights on board but was
fortunate to be riding just in front of Ruth Ann Everett from North
Carolina, whose headlamp provided a reassuring beacon.

Dawn broke as we descended the ridge, with a spectacular view of the sunrise
on our right as Ruth Ann and I galloped the remaining miles of gravel road
into the first hold. One of my favorite vets, Otis Schmidt, vetted Shiloh
through with a CRI of 60/60. Shiloh's pulse time was 7:10, nearly an hour
fast than I'd told my crew to expect. They hadn't arrived yet, but their
friend Mike Condon, a volunteer, helped me out immeasurably, carrying my
saddle to a safe spot and borrowing grain, hay and a blanket from kind
others (thank you Peggy!) When Bob and Jennifer arrived to crew, ride
staffer Bonnie Snodgrass brought us the sad news that Becky had been
involved in a multi-horse incident at the start and had to pull at the
pulse&go because Electik had scrapes all over his body.

Loop 2 (15 miles) Ruth Ann and I left out together on Loop 2 and kept a
steady pace climbing Veach Gap. We were passed by Ed Kidd of Tennessee and
two others, but opted to play it safe on the rocks. Ride photographer Genie
Stewart-Spiers had hiked a whole hour to reach the top of the ridge, which
provided the perfect fall colors as backdrop for the ride photos. Ruth Ann's
horse was a bit shy of the camera so Shiloh took over the lead as we passed
by. On that loop, I enjoyed having a chance to talk to her about horses and
other things; she admired the scenery and explained that her horses train on
the steep Leatherwood Trails but that the amount of rocks was a surprise.

Descending Milford Gap, Amy Cieri of Pennsylvania caught up to us and shared
more about the train wreck at the start. She and John Crandell had a tough
time catching the loose horses, removing their loose saddles and securing
the horses to trees, but she was able to make up about a half hour time
difference to catch up to us.

No sooner did Shiloh reach the flat road along the Shenandoah River than he
broke out in a flat out gallop - Amy's horse Ruby not only kept up, but
passed us coming up the steep grade near Indian Grave. Wow, what an
exhilarating feeling to be able to go that fast after negotiating all those
rocks and climbs. At the hold, another one of my favorite vets, Duane
Barnett, vetted Shiloh through. His fatigue was starting to show a bit with
a 60/64 CRI. He gobbled all the grass he could and had a chance to roll
while we chatted with Sperryville native Eve Bargmann, who reminded me of
the technical trail on the 3rd loop. I decided to keep the size 2 EZ boots
over front shoes that Shiloh had been wearing all day - he could never have
gone as fast over those loose rocks and stayed sound without them.

Loop 3 (11 miles): As I worked up the steep rocky climb to Hebron Gap on the
first part of the second loop, Shiloh was ravenously hungry and wanting to
take his time. I let him walk at his own pace and grab some random clumps of
grass. By the time we crested the ridge, he got his second wind and we
caught up to the others. As we neared the road crossing at Camp Roosevelt
just a half mile form the last hold, the sense of urgency increased and our
group of 5 (Amy, Ruth Ann, me, and two heavyweight division riders) zoomed
down the rocky and muddy trail into Hickory Lane.

I am a defender of having this hold. If you've ever ridden Hebron Gap, those
11 miles take most riders over 2 hours, and there's no water on trail. It's
humane to give your horse a chance to recharge before a final raceoff. As it
so happened, Shiloh lost an EZ boot about 1/4 mile from the hold and then
took a few minutes longer to pulse down than Ruth and Amy's horses. Although
his CRI was 60/52, Vet Amy Worrell saw something a bit off on the trot out
and felt an increased pulse in that right front leg, so we set his leg in a
bucket of ice water during the brief hold. I'm sure that break helped ensure
his completion - but he was angry to be left behind!

As Shiloh saw Amy Cieri's horse Ruby gallop out, Bob and Jennifer had their
hands full trying to reattach his bridle and dose him with electrolytes. He
had a competitive gleam in his eye and he wanted to race after them! But it
was another few minutes before our out time of 12:20, so we cantered
steadily in, crossing the line at 12:24 and 56 seconds.

Heat vet Art King said Shiloh looked fine & he had a 10 minute CRI of 60/60.
Even though me & my tack were only 153 lbs, I presented for BC an hour later
just to learn how he was doing. Although his metabolics were still fine, Art
saw a big difference downward in Shiloh's quality of movement, and
encouraged us to cut out the pads from the front shoes. I think Shi was just
tired and sore like me! BTW, Amy Cieri's horse was padded too but remarkably
Ruth Ann's horse, the first-to-finish FW, didn't have any pads on at all
and still stayed sound!

By midafternoon several horses were being treated and Michigan State vet
students was also taking blood samples and blood pressure readings (with the
cuff mounted around the upper part of the horse's tail) as part of a study.
Since Shiloh was already getting blood drawn for the study, I told vet Joy
that Shiloh could serve as the 5th (random) horse for the AERC drug testing.

I can't match Flora's poetic description of the ride scenery, but our
spectacular surroundings were as much a part of what set this event apart as
the competition itself. The 2006 AERC NC was a wonderful opportunity for me
to meet and talking with riders from other parts of the country. I hope they
all make it home safely and gain newfound appreciation for our Old Dominion
Trails and the staff and volunteers who made this event possible.

- Mary Howell

Josie Whelan's AERC NC 50 2006


by Josie Whelan

I was very happy to have finished the ride. It started out rough when I fell off my horse after he was spooked by 2 other loose horses, and ran away. Meg Sleeper was my sponser and we had to walk for a mile and a half before we saw my horse tied up to a fence. When we came into the 8 and a half mile check we were already last ,but we didn't mind we just wanted to finish. We did all right for a while, but then took a wrong turn and went out three miles. Meg had done the hundred mile ride 2 days before and thought that the part of the trail we were on was the same. Luckily we ran into Stagg Newman who was driving down the road and he told us we were on the wrong trail. So then we had to back track and get back on the right trail. When we were just about to get to the vetcheck my mom came up the road telling us to hurry because the check was closing soon. We asked how she had known we were lost? Apparently the Drag Riders had come in before we had so they knew that we had taken a wrong turn. Everybody cheered when we came into the vetcheck. It was actually kind of cool to get there last because my mom got a spot close to the vets since everyone had already left. It was also cool because lots of piles of good alfalfa hay were lying around. And since everybody elses hay is better than yours I was running around grabbing bits of hay and ploping it in front of my horse. We finally left and th 2nd loop was rocky ,but okay. We went through the second vetcheck fine and started up on our last loop. Well who ever said that the last loop was better than the 2nd is dead wrong. Just as you thought you were at the top of the hill you would start going up again. The entire trail was basicly a rock graveyard. The views were beautiful and amazing, but the trail was tough. We finished with 10 MINUTES to spare. I decided to let Meg have the Turtle Award. She said I couldn't be first junior and get the turtle award( I thought it was strange being 1st junior in 2nd to last place) I want to thank Meg Sleeper for being my sponser and sacrificing her ride, John Crandell for catching my horse, Stagg Newman for turning us around because we would never have made it, Karen and Steve Cummings for hauling my horse, and everyone else who helped me

Josie & Rock (my horse)

Mary Howell's AERC NC 50

Flora Hillmans AERC NC 50

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Weekend of Firsts

A Weekend of Firsts - Margit Krellwitz

It is Sunday; an amazing sense of self-satisfaction fills my heart as I sit in church. I am grateful for so much. Each attempt I make to stand or kneel during the service is followed by a quick pang of excruciating physical pain. I know the pain will only get worse over the next 24 hours. Still, I am happy today, and thank God for the wonderful weekend I just experienced.

This adventure began Friday morning, shortly after I dropped my children off at school. I was so excited. I'm 52 and in the 26 years I have been married I have never had a girl's weekend away from my family! A weekend doing something new, challenging and just for me!

The trailer is packed quickly, the horses loaded and we are off. Three women who love to ride horses! Annetta and Linda have been working with me for over a year, slowly building my confidence and stamina. Finally, I said yes, I was ready to take on this challenge. Linda and Annetta have many years of experience; I have none.

We are headed for the Indian Territory endurance horse race at Lake Oolagah, Oklahoma. The road trip passes quickly and before long we are pulling in to camp. Despite arriving in the early afternoon, there are trailers and horses everywhere! We set up camp, taking care of the horses first, of course!

Once the horses are settled in we head for the ride manager's camp. We check in and show our horse's current Coggins and receive our race card. Annetta switches from the 50 to the 25-mile race. Linda & Misty will do the 50-mile. I will attempt the 25-mile race. After the paperwork is completed we return to our camp to get our horses and walk them to the vet's camp for out pre-ride vet check. Once our pre-ride vet check is complete we settle the horses in for the evening and check our tack for the next morning's ride. A ride meeting to explain the course was schedule for that evening. They would honk a horn when it was time to come!

I was glad to have Annetta accompanying me in my first race, my horse, Shahb El Shiraz (AKA Comet), would behave better around his buddy Fernie, but I was afraid I would either not be able to keep up or worse, hold her back! We went back to camp and prepared dinner. We had a great meal with mashed potatoes, pot roast and veggies all zapped in the microwave thanks to Annetta's generator! We sat outside in our camp chairs and watched the sun set on the lake, not 40 feet in front of us, our horses peacefully grazing between the lake and our trailer. This was nice!

The "mom" in me kicked in and I grabbed my cell phone and turned it on, I had left it off all day. I had three missed calls and several messages! I listened to the messages and called home. I straightened out the confusion about what to feed the mare and colt and what to feed the pony and told everyone I loved them and would call after the race ended.

The ride meeting was short. The start time of the 25-mile race was moved from 8 am to 9 am, giving the 50-milers a two-hour head start. The ride manager and head vet explained what the rules were. The directions were deceptively simple: go to your right, follow the ribbons, pick up a token at the end of the trail, turn around and come back the same way. 17 miles for the first loop, 64 pulse, vet check, 45 minutes hold, then out again, go to the left this time, 8 miles for the second loop, 4 miles out, pick up a token, then back the way you came, 60 pulse, Vet check then done. No maps just follow the ribbons! Seemed simple enough. No maps!!!

The ride manager announced a first-timer meeting with the vet after the general meeting. I moved up to meet the vet. Did I have any questions, he asked? I truthfully answered that I didn't know enough to know what questions to ask. Have you crewed on a ride, he asked? No. Have you come to a watch a ride? No.

I felt like a neophyte. I was a neophyte! I told the vet I was riding with Annetta, if I could keep up with her, she would help me through the ride. One kind gentleman standing nearby offered to let me ride with him. I said great. Of course, I never recognized him the next day and to my knowledge I never saw him again all weekend!!

We went back to our trailer, got ready for bed and waited for morning to come. Anxiety about the race settled in my gut! Great, I thought, I'm going to be stuck in a port-a-potty all night, or all day tomorrow and miss my race! Eventually I fell to sleep, listening to the rumblings of my intestines!

Linda's alarm sounded the start of the day at 5:30. Morning finally arrived. I had woken up at 3 am to go to the bathroom, stepping on Annetta's head getting down from the bed. I couldn't get back to sleep, but thankfully my stomach had stopped making noise! Annetta has taken the couch while Linda and I shared the bed. Annetta and I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up at six. We decided to help Linda get ready for her 7 am start time.

What a glorious morning. The Harvest moon was full and heavy, ready to sink into the west, but still provided plenty of light. The sun was creeping up in the east. You could see the moon reflected in the dark lake water. Someone grab a camera! Horses quietly grazing with the moonlit water behind them and the sunrise too! Does it get any better than this? Before long, it was 7 am and Linda was off! Our turn to get ready to go!

We had checked and double-checked everything the night before. It didn't take long to get ready. What to wear? Why is that always the hardest thing to decide, even here! If I dress too warm I'll get hot, but I don't want to freeze either! Layer and strip, decision made. One last pit stop and I was ready. We walked our horses around to get them warmed up.

It was time to go. Lake Oolagah was a beautiful place; plenty of the people who came to the ride lazily enjoyed the scenery during the ride. We, however, started out at the front of the line and never gave up first and second place!! Annetta was #29, I was #15. We did a 17-mile loop at the start, with a few people on Comet's tail, but gradually we were down to one lone horse chasing us. We thought we had lost him for a few miles, but he caught up and stayed with us until the vet check at the end of 17 miles. With a strange horse on our tail Comet wanted to go faster to get away from him, Fernie in turn didn't want Comet on his tail, so I was stuck in the middle trying to keep Comet off Fernie's tail, and remain far enough ahead of the horse on our tail!

Time flew by, and we expected to meet Linda on the trail as she started her second 25-miles. We saw the front-runners; Linda was not in the top 10 horses. Something was wrong. Time passed quickly and it was 10:38 when we rode back into camp.

Linda was waiting for us and helped get us through the vet check. Misty had slipped on the 8-mile loop and the vet noticed something in her trot during the vet check and pulled Linda and Misty from the race. They had been in the lead for the first 25 miles of the 50-mile race.

Annetta and I both passed the vet check with no problems, and then had a 45-minute hold. She could leave at 11:25, Comet and I at 11:26. We took care of the horses, took a potty break and then it was off to the races again. Annetta graciously waited until 11:26 so we could leave together. We were off again, Annetta and Fernie in the lead. We had hoped to have a few minute start on the horse who had been chasing us. We never saw that horse and rider again.

The second loop was a short 8 miles. We felt great and since it was shortly before 11:30 hoped we could finish before it got too hot! The second loop was rocky in many places and we were cautious after learning of Misty's slipping in the terrain. We still went fast, but walked down the rocky hills and tried to be careful!!

At the halfway mark we were both doing well and felt great. On the way back we passed our closest competitor. We had about 2 miles to go. We pushed to extend our lead. We dashed down a small ravine and up the other side. We had a tree to jump/walk over. We had done many jumps on the trail and had done this very same log on the way out. Comet jumped, I fell -- HARD!! My ears were ringing, I saw stars and heard Annetta say, are you OK? She was holding Comet and was about to head to the finish line and get help. I said no I was fine. I struggled to get back in the saddle. I got back up, determined to finish. Luckily I really was ok, and did not get dizzy as we raced to the end.

At the finish we walked in, Annetta in the lead, Comet and I right behind her. We quickly headed to the water trough. Linda was waiting for us, and helped cool off Fernie and then Comet. Linda urged me to get off Comet. Annetta had gotten off and walked Fernie in. I slid off and started splashing water on Comet. Someone handed me a scoop. I used it and quickly returned it, grateful for the help. Linda instructed me to quickly head to the P&R (pulse and respiration) station. I watched my heart monitor as it dropped and headed in as soon as it registered 60. Annetta had entered before me, and as it had been for the whole race, I was right behind her.

The P & R area was teaming with activity. Several people were taking P & R's. The timer's table was strategically located to record the times as the volunteers shouted the horse's number and the time. 50 milers were coming in at the same time as the early finishers for the 25-mile race. Comet's time was recorded and we were whisked away to the vet. Several vets were checking horses and I moved to the first available. Annetta and Fernie were already being check by a vet. All went well until the dreaded trot out! After completing 25 miles and taking a fall, the last thing I wanted to do was run to a cone and back! But Comet and I did what we had to do. We weren't going to stop now!! Next we had to strip our tack off the horse and step on the scales holding it all! Ugh!!

We had one hour to get our horses cleaned up and ready to present to the vet for the best-conditioned horse evaluation. Fortunately, the campsite had access to a hose so it was easy to clean them up. Linda was a big help!!! Were it not for Linda and Annetta I would have been lost in the chaos of the moment.

We fed and watered the horses and finally got a minute to take care of ourselves. That's when I noticed that my brand new helmet was cracked at the base! I was grateful to have had a helmet that worked. That would have been a nice C-1 injury! Always wear your helmet!

Soon it was time to go for our final vet check. Amazingly Fernie and Comet had each pulsed down at the same time. We were both scheduled to report to the vet at the same time. The vet looked at the best conditioned paperwork she had been handed by the timekeeper and asked to see Comet first, that was when we realized that the timekeeper had mistakenly placed #15 ahead of #29. It was an understandable mistake; after all, the P&R station was like Union Station at 5 pm on Friday. Annetta and I told the vet and timer about the error and asked the vet to check 29 first as 29 had finished first. She said fine. We both vetted out fine, although I thought I was never going to do Comet justice in the trot out; I had run beside him as he trotted up and down a small incline, which, after 25 miles, felt like Mount Everest to me!

We were done at last and could now have lunch! After a nice lakeside lunch, Annetta and Linda took Fernie and Misty bareback into the lake to cool off their legs and just have fun. I stayed camp side and called home to let everyone know I was alive and well and had finished second to Annetta. I was happy and proud of my accomplishment. I took some pictures of Annetta and Linda in the lake.

As the afternoon passed we wandered up to ride manager's camp to see what time the potluck dinner was going to start. She said the last 50-mile rider had just left to complete the last 8-mile loop. Dinner wouldn't start until they returned. I guessed 6:00ish. While with the ride manager we learned that the error in place finish we thought we had corrected at the vet check, had not been corrected. #15 was recorded as finishing first and #29 as finishing second. We had brought that error to their attention at 1:22 when we went to the vet check; we thought we had fixed that error!

It's ok, we thought, we can fix it now, no harm done. Unfortunately we were the ones who were wrong. The rider manage would not change the results. The times had been recorded that way and she was not going to change it! Changing the results, she insisted, would require thirty minutes. It's too much trouble to change it now, besides its no big deal; limited distance (25-miles) doesn't count anyway! Imagine how that made me feel as a first timer!!

We went back to camp and Annetta checked the AERC rulebook. It stated clearly that in the event of a tie the first person entering the P&R area would be awarded the first place finish. OK, we thought, we'll just go back and show her the rulebook; surely she will change her mind. We trekked back to the ride manager's camp and tried again. No luck, despite attempts to reason with her, the ride manager would not change the results. We left, dishearten. I was so embarrassed! I did not deserve to win. I was proud of my second place finish. I could never feel that way about this win. As we walked back to camp I hoped Linda and Annetta would be ready to break camp and go home.

Annetta insisted we stay for the awards ceremony anyway; we would break camp afterwards and head home. At the ceremony I reluctantly and very embarrassingly accepted the first place finish award. I wanted to shout "I didn't finish first - I wouldn't have finished at all without my friend, who lead me the whole way, and gave up a minute for me, and babied me though a fall!!" But it was my first time and I had already alienated the ride manager enough! Strangers who were tired, hungry, and just wanted to go home surrounded me, they didn't want to hear me complain about finishing first! I just offered Annetta my prize as I returned to my seat. Later, I had to stand before the crowd again, this time to be recognized as a first timer. I stood, but I didn't turn to face the crowd. I simple turned several shades of red when I overheard the whispers when people said, "she finish first in the 25, and this is her first time!"

We headed back to camp after the potluck to break camp. Just before pulling out, we broke out the Razzleberry pie I had baked for the potluck. We had chosen not to share it as a silent protest to the finish; it was Annetta's favorite pie and I saluted her with a big slice. The pie lifted our spirits and we headed for home.

We didn't miss a single turn during the race; we missed several, on the way home! We pulled in late, but as always took care of the horses and tack first. I offered the rest of the Razzleberry pie to Annetta. She insisted I take it home to my family.

I drove the 30 minutes to my house. It was after midnight. My husband greeted me with a hug and congratulations. He emptied my car for me while I jumped in the shower, my first since Friday morning. Afterwards I popped several Ibuprofens into my mouth and happily fell into bed. My prayers were simple thanks, I was grateful for so much. I fell to sleep quickly.

All in all I had a very nice time with my friends and our wonderful horses! Will I do it again? We'll see.

Happy Trails

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Yellowhammer 2006 - April in Nashville

by April

Nashville, TN

Tuesday morning, Daniel and I finished packing and headed out for the
Yellowhammer 3-day Pioneer Ride in Alabama. The drive was pleasant,
although a bit warm. This was our first visit to the Yellowhammer
ride. We attempted to go in 2004, but about an hour before we were to
reach ride camp, our engine blew. We spent the next several days
fixing the truck and getting our horse home. Then in 2005, I was
recovering from a broken arm and didn't want to risk reinjury to
myself. So when we reached camp with no mishaps, we were thrilled.

Tamra Schoech, the ride manager, met us as we drove in and we figured
out where to park. Soon Tanna was in his livestock corral panels and
set up with a large muck bucket of water and some hay.

I spent Wednesday morning getting my saddle ready for the ride on
Thursday. I was planning to ride Tanna in the 55 miler. I also packed
my away vet check bag as the first vet check was to be out. The
remainder of the vet checks were all in camp for the rest of the
weekend. Around 11:30 or so, Daniel and I meandered over to the
registration canopy and hung out there all day. Watching people arrive
and attempting to direct them to suitable parking spaces. There were a
lot of people rolling into camp. The weather was predicted to be nice.
Warm on Thursday at 88 degrees or so, but cooler on Friday and
Saturday in the mid-70s.

I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with people as they came by to
register. During the afternoon, I registered myself and vetted Tanna
in for the Thursday 55.

At 5 PM, the ride meeting took place. Tamra welcomed everybody and
thanked the numerous volunteers, many who had been there since
Saturday or Sunday helping with all those things that need doing for a
ride. Then Sarah Engsberg described the trails. We were to go out of
camp on the Blue trail to the out vet check 18 miles from camp. The
second "loop" completed the Blue loop back to camp for another 19
miles. The Blue loop incorporated some rolling hills on the road. They
are hoping to do a 100 next year at Yellowhammer and they wanted to
try out the road on some of us to get feedback for using the road in
the 100. The road was gravel. Some of it wasn't a whole lot of gravel,
though. Anyway, after the second vet check at camp, we were to do the
final 18 mile loop to the finish on the Green loop. Then Otis Schmitt,
the head vet, got up to do his thing. 64 pulse (60 at the end for "the
short race"), tack off at all checks, holds 50 minutes.

Then Dr. Otis diverted from the normal ride meeting routine. He said
"Ya'll know Becky over here and how we've been hanging out together
for awhile now..." Becky joined him in front of the crowd. "Well," Dr.
Otis continued, "We went to Heflin this morning and got married!" Of
course the group went wild with excitement and cat calls. They had
snuck off and gotten married Wednesday morning! Then had hung around
camp all day without telling!!! Then a cake was produced with "Otis &
Becky" written on it and we all had cake in celebration of their
wedding. What a great start to the weekend!

Ok, back to the boring stuff! I have to say, I really, really liked
the ride meeting at 5 PM! After the meeting and the wedding reception,
I still had time to fiddle around camp getting ready for the next days
ride and got to bed by 8:30 or 9 PM. I think I got the most rest I
ever have before any endurance ride!

Thursday morning I got up at 4:15, 2 hours before the start and went
through my ride morning ritual. Dress in my endurance costume, feed
Tanna, feed me (oatmeal and fake hot dogs for protein), saddle, forget
how to saddle and have to resaddle and reposition and saddle again.
Finally I was ready and mounted up while Daniel held Tanna. I had not
ridden him the day before. I like to ride the day before a
competition, but it seems that's when he acts up worse, so I
consciously did not go for a ride. He was jumpy and tense, but
controllable and no rearing or bucking ensued. :-)

I warmed Tanna up and went to the start to give my number to the
timers who would keep track of us riders all day. My number! OOPS.
Forgot to put that number on his butt. So I went back to the trailer
and wrote a big "7" (lucky 7, I was told) on Tanna with a livestock
crayon. Numbers generally are used for horses in the 50 or 55 mile
competition while the 25 or 30 mile competitors are assigned a letter.
This makes it easier for the timers to distinguish the riders.

I hung back and started pretty close to the back. I usually do this.
Occasionally, I'll start mid-pack, but most often, I just start in the
back. There was a controlled start for the first few minutes to allow
all the horses to safely cross the pavement onto the trail and allow
the sun to come up a little bit more. After the trail was open, I
found myself riding with Joe Schoech and Sarah Engsberg. Joe was
riding Kit (he has another nickname...). I'd ridden with Joe a couple
times before and always found it a pleasant experience. Joe is the
nicest guy and is a great mentor for those that are fortunate enough
to ride with him. After awhile we were 4. We caught up with Tracy and
the four of us walked, trotted, cantered, and chattered our way to the
vet check. The miles flew by and we reached the vet check around 9 AM,
where Daniel was taking pictures of the horses going in and out of the
vet check.

We four split up as we went looking for our vet check areas. It took
me a few minutes, but I finally found my vet check bag. I unsaddled
Tanna, got some water and presented to the vet. Dr. Ken Marcella
vetted us and asked about my electrolyting schedule and commented on
his nice shoe job. After vetting through without issue, I returned to
my area set up right next to Sarah and Joe. We talked and chatted some
more while we took care of our horses and ate. The horses enjoyed
eating one another's food. I'd never really had that experience before
as I've most often had my vet checks alone. It was nice. :-)

Joe and Sarah could have left long before me, but they tacked up with
me as my out time was at 9:59. I'm almost always late leaving a vet
check and this was no exception. We were only a couple minutes past my
out time. Sarah and Joe had gone on ahead, but I wanted to see if
Tanna would drink one last time from the common buckets. He did drink
some. I finally left when Sarah yelled at me to find out what I was

The three of us took off down the road on our 2nd loop of 19 miles.
There was more of the road for while and then we veered back into the
woods. I don't remember much of this loop, to tell you the truth.
After awhile, the loops just manage to blend in together! I do
remember Tanna started drinking about 4 miles out in this loop and
drank really well the rest of the ride. We got back into camp around

I went directly to my trailer to unsaddle and then back to the vet to
vet in. Again, no issues vetting in. His pulse was under criteria and
everything looked good. I returned to the trailer and tied him in
front of his food and hay and went back into our camper to make me
something to eat and sit down for a few minutes. The 50 minute hold
flew by and I was again late leaving.

I didn't see Joe or Sarah so figured they went on without me. Sure
enough, I saw Joe just leaving out as I walked toward the out-timer. I
mounted and followed from a distance. Tanna, however, did not really
see Joe and Kit, so wasn't motivated to leave camp. I gave in and we
moseyed along, not really trying to catch up, but it would have been
nice if we had. We had done the first couple of loops in pretty good
time and we had over 5 hours to complete the last 18 mile loop, so I
wasn't concerned about making the cutoff.

About an hour into that loop, Mr. Barnett caught up with me as I was
hand-walking Tanna down a hill. At the bottom of the hill, Mr. Barnett
went on along and I hung back, allowing them to get out of sight and
down the trail a little. I remounted and we walked for awhile longer
and then picked up a nice trot. I enjoyed riding along the beautiful
trails. Plenty of water on trail. The trails were gradually always
going up or down. The trails are very nicely laid out, though, so you
don't necessarily noticed the gradual incline and decline, well,
except on the nice short roller coaster up and down trails! During one
part of this loop, I could have sworn I heard somebody behind us. Two
female voices it sounded like. Tanna also thought he heard something
and we were distracted for a bit.

We finally made it to the finish line at just after 5 PM. I passed a
sign that said "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I puzzled over that sign.
Was 1056 the name of a forest road? Or had they named the trail? Oh,
well, it did say run, so I asked Tanna for a canter and we cantered
until we saw Nancy, the finish timer waiting for me under the finish
line. Wow! That was an unexpected surprise! I was done! Never did
catch Joe, but I didn't really try very hard at all. I wanted to
complete and be ready to go the next day.

I took Tanna back to the trailer and immediately untacked him. I
cleaned him up a bit and took him to the vet for his completion exam.
He completed just fine, but was stiff in his right hamstring. I paid
attention to that. I massaged him some and walked him several times
between the completion on Thursday and the start on Friday. I went and
got my map and my vet card for the Friday 50, ate (thanks to my
husband who fixed the meal while I complained of soreness and rubs),
prepared for the next day's ride and went to the awards/ride meeting.

24 started in the 55 and 16 completed. I was 16th and Turtle (last
place). Joe teased me a bit and said that this was my FIRST Turtle
ever. This was not my first turtle. It was actually my 4th Turtle.
Coulda sworn I had more Turtles than that! I got an award for being
Turtle. A nice statue of a turtle looking at a snail hitching a ride
on his shell. The bottom says "Yellowhammer 2006." That's going on my
desk at work! :-) I also picked out a T-shirt with the Yellowhammer
logo for my completion award.

Friday's 50 mile ride was on different loops. We would do the entire
Orange loop for the first loop. This was a 20 mile loop that would
include a 10 minute stop at 12 miles so Otis could watch us trot out.
Then back into camp for the first vet check and 50 minute hold. The
second loop was the Orange loop again, but a shortened version at 17
miles. The final loop was pink at 13 miles. Pulse was again 64.

Back to camp to get some sleep. I checked Tanna and he was better. No
more tight hamstring. I set the alarm and got up at 1 AM to walk Tanna
and feed him, then back to sleep until 4:15. Start time wasn't until
6:30 on Friday, but I wanted a little extra time to walk Tanna around
and loosen him up before the start.

When I went up and gave my number to the timers for the start, I
trotted Tanna for Otis to watch to make sure he was ready to go out
again for the second day. This was nothing special for me, all the
riders were required to do it, but I was glad of it since I wanted to
be sure Tanna was not still stiff from the day before.

The Orange loop followed the same trail as the Blue loop from Thursday
for 7.5 miles. After the controlled start, I again found myself riding
with Joe and Sarah. This time we also had Sandy Thompson and Betsy
Knight with us for a little ways. After awhile, Betsy decided her
horse was calm enough and headed down the trail. Tanna bounced around
and wanted to follow, but I held him back and we moseyed on along.
Soon Sandy also decided to move out and left us. Those of us that
place last do not often ride fast. ;-) At the 7.5 mile mark, Joe also
headed on down the trail. He wanted to get some good training on his
horse to take to the Nationals in a couple of weeks. I was just out to
complete our first ever back-to-back 50s and was setting a very
conservative pace and walking many of the downhills.

Sarah and I rode along. Sometimes she fell back and then would catch
up again. We were riding fairly close together when we came to the
trot-by. Joe was waiting there, but took off soon after we arrived.
There was a nice water crossing there and I dismounted and sponged and
ate a granola bar. Becky was nice enough to take my jacket from me as
the day had warmed up some and didn't look like it was going to rain
anymore. It hadn't rained, but had looked like it might earlier. The
LD riders began to over-take us at this point.

I hate to admit it, but I had been hoping Otis would say Tanna was off
so I could stop. Terrible, I know, but true! But, no, Tanna was clear
to go and I remounted and Sarah and I took off up the road. Up and
down, up and down. There were funny little jokes on pie plates along
this stretch. "What is a turkey's favorite holiday song?" "I'm
dreaming of a White Christmas" "What do you get when you cross a
turkey with a banjo?" "A turkey that plucks himself!" "Time flies like
an arrow" "Fruit flies..." " a banana" Very entertaining!
Thanks to Mrs. Barnett for writing all those and Susan K and helper
(??) who put them out!

We got back to camp around 10:30. I vetted through and took my hold at
my trailer. Daniel was around somewhere taking pictures, so I was
crewing for myself for these rides. Tanna ate some hay and hung around
sleeping. I resaddled and headed out. Sarah was hanging out in camp
for awhile, so I went out on my own. Back over the Orange loop for the
shortened version. About an hour and a half later, Sarah caught up
with me again while I was off fiddling with the heart rate monitor. I
was using a mohair girth that I haven't used a whole lot, but my usual
neoprene girths had started to create girth galls during my 15 mile
training rides, so I was using the little-used mohair girth I bought
at Hoosier Daddy earlier this season.

Anyway, we finished that loop. I thought I was going to pull. I was
going very slowly and I thought after my hold, I'd only have a little
over 2 hours to finish the last 13 mile loop. That's not a bad pace,
really, 6.5 miles per hour, but that's faster than I'd averaged all
day, as my first two loops I averaged just over 5 mph. I'd have to
really kick it up a notch to make time. I decided to just vet through
and decide during the hold. I stopped at the in-timer to get my time
into camp. I dismounted and jogged to my trailer and quickly stripped
tack and went to the pulse takers. Out time was at 3:20 PM. What? That
meant I had 3 hours and 10 minutes after my out time to do 13 miles.
How had that happened?? Well, fiddlesticks, I couldn't use THAT as an
excuse to quit. I could almost walk the entire way and still make
time. I had mistakenly read one of the time fields on my GPS and had
thought that was the time of day, when it really was just the time I'd
been out on trail for that loop!

So I went back to the trailer for my final hold. Tanna ate and ate and
drank the entire hold. I think he was thinking I was going crazy at
this point and we just weren't going to stop. We have done a 50 on a
Friday and then another 50 on Sunday, but this was our first genuine
attempt at back-to-back 50s. Daniel showed up and I got to chat with
him while I rested and watched Tanna through the window of the camper.
At 3:10, I jumped up and resaddled and headed out on my last loop. The
timers asked me where Sarah was. I told them her horse was tied to her
trailer so I assumed she'd be along soon. I decided I was going to go
ahead and kick up the pace for the last loop. Tanna looked good and
had eaten well at the check, so I figured we could do this unless
something felt off or wrong.

So right out of the vet check, we picked up a very good trot. We had
been over this trail in and out of camp several times so I was pretty
familiar with the footing by now and asked Tanna to canter quite a bit
of it. In no time we were up crossing a gravel road and back into the
woods. We paused and Tanna drank from the red mud/clay puddle (orange
juice, Tracy called it!) before heading into the rolling single-track
trail. Very fun trail, especially at a good pace! I was having a blast
and Tanna seemed to be enjoying himself, too. Sarah caught up with us
and I told her I wanted to kick up the pace and move out on this loop.
So we took turns leading through this loop. I'm sure Sarah and her
horse were happy to move out, too!

About a mile or two from the finish we came up on another rider. It
was Joe! Wow, I thought he was long gone. He was on the ground so we
stopped to see what was going on. His horse had a sore back and he had
been walking a lot of the loop to save his horse. A trail rider came
through and said that the finish timer (Nancy) was getting tired of
waiting for us. So we all headed up the hill, Joe still on foot. We
continued on that way. A couple times Joe mentioned for us to go
around him. I said "No way, Joe, you're not gonna cheat me out of the
Turtle award after I worked so hard to go so slow!"

We got to the sign "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I had missed the ' mark
before. The sign read "1056' to camp. Run....Run." Oh, FEET! Ok, the
sign makes sense now. When we were in sight of the finish, I stopped
Tanna and let the others go ahead. Daniel was taking pictures and
Tanna was dancing and snorting in irritation. When Joe and Sarah
crossed the finish line, I let Tanna go and we cantered to the finish
line. Whew!!! Again, I finished just after 5 PM. And again, I was 16th
place. And once again, I was TURTLE!!! Yay. ;-)

I went to the trailer and stripped tack for the last time. I cleaned
him up a smidge and left his butt rug on. When I went up to vet in,
Joe was vetting out his horse. I asked Daniel to get Tanna's larger
navajo-type blanket that would cover his back muscles, too. I had left
it on his butt when I went out on the last loop and some good
samaritans told me and then got it out of the road for me when it fell
off. Daniel went to get it for me.

When Tanna trotted out, the vet asked me to trot again as she saw
something. So I went again. She said she didn't see it the second
time. Joe explained to me later that this meant that Tanna is sore and
he worked out of it since it got better the second time out. Good that
it wasn't a brewing lameness issue, but still soreness that needed to
be addressed. I settled Tanna back in his pen, covered to keep him
warm and keep his muscles from cramping from a chill.

20 riders started the 50 and 16 finished. For my second Turtle award,
I got a statue of a little turtle on top of a large rock. Very cute.
And I got another t-shirt for my completion award. I could have chosen
something else for completion, but I had worn my Thursday completion
award during the Friday ride and really liked it.

What a great ride! I really enjoyed it. I'm very pleased with my
horse. He is happily hanging out in his pasture with his buddy and is
fine. He has a very slight soreness in his back where I had water
bottles in my cantle bag. I, unfortunately, changed the configuration
of the bottles and I believe that is the reason for the soreness.
Also, on training rides at home, I rarely trained with water bottles.
Have to alter that.

Thank you so much to Tamra Schoech and Sarah Engsberg for managing
this ride. They worked very hard to turn out a very nice ride with
nicely marked trails and water and nice awards and the best timers
(Nancy Gooch, Samm Bartee, Jim Underwood, Jackie Mitchell) and vets
(Otis Schmitt, Ken Marcella, Page Jackson; I know there were 3 others,
but I don't know their names. Thanks to them, too!!!) and all the
volunteers that made the ride run very smoothly. And thanks to Joe and
Sarah for riding with me and encouraging me through mine and Tanna's
first back-to-back 50 milers!

Congratulations to Otis and Becky!!!!


Nashville, TN