Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Riding Cavalry At The 2007 Old Dominion 100

Paul Sidio's Story

There have been lots of ride stories about the OD 100. This one is mainly about the aspects of riding it Cavalry style. For those who want just the summary, here it is. Ridng a 100 mile ride is tough. Riding 100 miles at the Old Dominion is especially tough. Riding 100 miles under Cavalry rules didn't make it any tougher. Riding Cavalry doesn't add any miles, hills or rocks. It just takes a little planning and forsight.

When I first got into Endurance riding, I heard about the various famous rides and started looking at websites about them. On the OD website, they mentioned a Cavalry division. You rode the same 100 miles , but under slightly different rules. You can look those rules up, but it boils down to this. You have to carry all your own supplies for you and your horse except water. Nobody can assist you or your horse during the ride including at the vet checks. Simple enough, but somehow it intrigued me. It turns out no other ride offers this. So a few years ago, when the thought of doing a 100 was not even in my goals, I started thinking about about what a person crazy enough to do a 100 there would have to take. Then as trying a 100 became a goal, I thought that Cavalry style would be fun. Last winter I posted on Ridecamp asking about this and heard from several people who had done it or knew somebody who had. From their help, I started refining my lists of stuff to take. The best advice was from Kevin Baird who told me, " minimalize, minimalize, minimalize." One nagging worry was that few people had ever done this. Probably less than 100? nobody seems to know. Those that had done so in the past, and were still riding there weren't trying Cavalry any more. Then I heard that nobody had done this since 2002. It makes you worry that everybody else knows something horrible about this that you don't.

I really hadn't planned to try the OD this year, but when the word went out that this was the last year on the old trail, then " maybe someday in the future" became "this year or never". I started trying different packing methods, and doing training rides carrying all my gear. Items were added, discarded and added back several times. Some of the great riders probably could just decide to do this the day before and do just fine, but I am a fairly poor rider, ability and equitition wise, with only 360 lifetime endurance miles before this ride and needed to do a good job planning this out to have a shot at it.

Last year, even though I am an AERC middleweight, I usually tacked out between 215 and 225 . My goal for this year was to actually be a middle weight, and after some exercise and watching my diet, I was tacking out at about 195 this year. With the extra gear, I estimate we started the ride weighing about 220-225. During the day I figured that we would use up the 10 pounds of grain and alfalfa cubes, plus about 2 pounds of my supplies.

Cavalry is simple, You can use what you can carry. You have to carry it all the way, (can't drop it off). You can drop off trash. You can't use other peoples stuff even if they leave it out for you. For example, I asked if I could carry a chair? The Ride Manager looked puzzled as to how/why I thought I could carry a chair, but said sure but you have to carry it the whole way. I am sure a vision of some fool trying to drag a Lazy Boy recliner over Shermans Gap crossed his mind. But I had a 3 legged lightweight camp stool. I could sit on a rock or a stump, but not somebodys buckets,tailgate or even a bale of hay. So the stool made the trip.

Since water was available, then my goal was to carry as little liquid stuff as possible. The big alfalfa cubes in zip locks became my grass and hay for the two vet checks with little grass. I added water into the zip locks at those checks and "presto magic" we had horse feed. Gatorade for me was little packets I could add to water.

So we showed up to Fort Valley, prepared as best we could. Friday I tried the now infamous 30 mile ride on my Missouri Foxtrotter , True Blue. Two weeks before we had done a 35 mile ride in the Ozarks and finished in 4:30. So we were confident that doing a 30 here would be a nice easy preview for the 100. .... In our dreams...Friday, in 95 plus degree heat and sauna like humidity, we came in slightly before the 8 hour cutoff and couldn't pulse down in time.

I had signed Piper, my good buddy 10 year old failed show horse Arabian gelding, and I up for the 50 in the early registration with the plan all along to bump up to the 100. Now we had just got totally whipped by this very tough trail and had to decide to make that decision to bump up or not. I visited with several experienced people about this. Flora Hillman and Karen Bohn were especially supportive and confident it was doable. So I trudged up the hill to the registration tent and changed my entry. My saddle was already set up for it, and I had already set aside the stuff to carry, so it was just a matter of packing it all up. My wife thought I had crossed the boundary line between the normal amount of crazy it takes to ride Endurance to the far side where only certified crazy people are. Her main concern was for the horse, and she made me promise to quit if it was too hard on him. She offered to crew, but I was determined to take this shot at Cavalry.

I had stowaways front and rear, plus a lightweight canvas saddlebag with two compartments on each side. I had modified them so they would hold the stuff better when trotting or cantering. Most trail riding saddlebags are designed for leisurely ambles and not for carrying vital gear for extended miles at faster speeds. Usually in Endurance we want a saddle pad that covers as little area as possible so the horse cools better, but I used an oversized fleece type pad to cushion the area where the bags would ride on Piper.

Having heard about the difficult surfaces, we had practiced with Bosana boots and started with 4 of those plus an easy boot bare with gaitor that Karen Bohn was kind enough to lend us. For headgear I usually ride in a llittle S hackamore the first loop or two and switch over to just a nylon halter. To simplify and minimize, we elected to just use the halter. Piper is responsive enough to not get race happy and run off at the beginning. Reins were a soft cotton type 9 foot long roping type that doubled as lead rope at vet checks and tailing rope. We did carry a spare set of light reins as a back up. Our saddle is a Specialized International model with a few D rings added to hook gear to. We ride without a breast collar or crouper. The saddle fit well enough that we were able to ride all day up and down those impressive hills without it sliding up his neck or off his rump. We never had to adjust it between vet checks except one time when I was dimounting on a hill to tail up the remainder and Piper stepped away. This caused me to pull the saddle sideways on him.

There was still that nagging worry as I met riders who had rode Cavalry previously and who were riding the 100, but when I asked them if they wanted to try it Cavalry, they would give a small smile and shake their heads. Lynne Gilbert rode the 30 and then also the 100 at this ride. In 2002 she not only rode the 100 Cavalry style, but was the overall 100 mile winner and BC. But she just smiled and wasn't going to go Cavalry. She was encouraging. She seemed very nice, but what did she know that I didn't?

So at 5:30 AM , off we went. There are lots of descriptions of this tough trail, so 'nuff said about that. I had worked quite a bit to load my tack so that it was balanced front to rear and side to side. One adjustment I had to make was mounting the horse. Usually I swing my leg over the saddle low and close, but with the extra stuff we were carrying, I had to swing my leg high and wide. So I started using rocks, stumps, ditches etc to assist me..Fortunately at the OD, you are never far from a rock, hill or ditch.

Now here is where the first mis-information about riding Cavalry comes in. The rules say you are on your own and not allowed any assistance. You assume this means that it is just you and your horse against the trail. That is wrong. While other people are not allowed to assist you in material ways, everybody gave Piper and I huge amounts of emotional support. Just like how a cheering crowd at a basketball or football game gives that team an edge, this suddenly turned this from an away game to a home field game for us. It was almost embarrassing. Hall of Fame type riders were walking up to me before the ride, shaking my hand and congratulating me for signing up. We hadn't even started yet, but they were acting like we had already done something great. Now I got nervous. How sad and embarrassing would it be to have all this support and not make it? Right then I determined that the only way we would not finish would be if the vets dragged me off Piper and said he couldn't go any further. The emotional support was unbelievably huge. All through the day as we passed other riders, and even the 50's. the vets, ride management, other peoples crews, volunteers, they all cheered us on. It was unlike anything I have experienced in Endurance. I lost my name and became "Cavalry Guy". If I had to choose between t-bone steaks, air mattresses, massages at the vet checks,combined with a neutral attitude from the volunteers, vets, other riders and their crews instead of having to carry my stuff and get this wonderfull support from complete strangers, I'll always take the mental support. People have commented how I was always smiling on trail and in camp. Given the warm and friendly treatment everybody gave me, how could I be anything but happy? Nobody saw me when we tailed up Veatchs and Sherman Gaps. I wasn't smiling then, just panting really hard.

By the first vet check, we had lost one of the Bosana boots, They were great for traction on rocks and asphalt, plus I felt they helped ease the concussion. So of course we lost one in the first 10 miles. Now we had to decide to go on 3 boots for a while since the trail was relatively easy at that point and save our spare until later. Then when I reached inside my fishing vest for his first grain ration, the discount brand zip lock bag blew out and grain scattered over everything. What he didn't eat, I picked up and shoved back in the vest pocket. So much for plans. We added the spare easy boot at mile 40 or so. So we had four tires on the road now. Then we lost another Bosana boot around mile 75. Tore up the Easy boot around mile 80, (this is getting even more expensive). Moved boots arounds and finished with two on the front.

We kept a steady pace. slowed at the tough parts, and made time at the better parts. We rode with several different riders for short distances for a while, but the good advice I had recieved about just riding our own ride always came through and we would either watch them go on ahead or leave them behind.

The safety net in Cavalry is that if you lose or break something vital, and absolutely have to have it, you can get it from somebody, and finish the ride as a regular 100 rider. Several people had offered to carry an emergency crew bag for me in case I really needed something so at least I could finish the 100. My reply was that if I couldn't ride Cavalry Divison, I would switch over and ride Scarlett Division. For those of you not familiar with that riding division, Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone With The Wind, " I have always depended on the kindness of strangers".. If I got to the point where assistance was absolutely essential, then I too would depend on the kindness of strangers.

Apart from tailing up huge hills and the distance involved, the ride was a breeze. We would come into a vet check, find where our Cavalry site was, ( we were kept somewhat seperate to keep Piper from stealing grain and hay from other horses), go pull the saddle, sponge a minute, walk over to P& R. After vetting through, Piper would eat grass while I got out his grain , carrots and whatever I needed from the saddle packs. I would unpack the stool, and sit on it to relieve my back. For electrolytes, he used Perform and Win which I hand fed him dry. He would lick my hands to get it all. I tried it, but prefered the gatoraide type mixes to add to my water. We had one of those little lightweight insulated packs to keep my ham and cheese sandwitch and his carrots cool. Then we would re-tack. When he was loaded up, I would re-check the weight loads on the saddle bags to keep them even. At Curtis Field, the 75 mile vet check, I used my MRE food. These are self heating meals like the miliary uses. They have some chemical that you add water to and it heats the TV dinner type food up. I had 3 cheese lasagna. It tasted like crap, but it was hot, gut filling crap. When it was heating up, steam was escaping. The box it came in with the instructions had sort of fallen apart during the day. So I just put my foot on the bag to keep the heat in. There was concern on my part that it might set the grass on fire. If a Cavalry rider starts a grass fire can other people help put it out? That was something I hoped not to need to know the answer to. Other crew members and riders came over to encourage me and offer support, and one guy was concerned that my foot might be on fire. At every single vet check the volunteers were anxious to make sure I had drinking water. They were a great help, and their attitudes made it even easier.

Piper is a very special horse with a great attitude in camp. He wasn't dragging me around and hollering at the other horses. I usually just kept a foot on his lead line which left my hands free to work. When using the porta potties, I would choose the one with the most grass next to it and hold his lead rope in my teeth through the door. It was funny at a couple of stops, when I was in the porta potty, I would hear people outside laughing about this. One time a guy , not realizing I was riding Cavalry , saw the horse and the rope going into the porta potty , and said he was going to hold my horse for me. Before I could holler for him not to do anything,(try doing that with a lead rope in your mouth), 4 people stopped him. Everybody was watching out for me.

We only had a couple of scary moments during the ride. When coming into Edinberg Gap vet check, we were only about 100 yards out when Piper got distracted by the lights ahead. I was fiddling around looking for something in my pommel bag when he slipped on a steep dirt part and went to his knees. It was only a surface scrape like kids get everyday on playgrounds, but it was frightening when it happened. About 4 miles from the finish we were trotting on a gravel road. When the road crossed a creek they had put slick concrete. We almost went down there too, and his back legs spraddled every which way for a second until he recovered his balance.

During the day, at various times I had the good fortune to ride with Bob Walsh. He is a fine and kind gentleman. We would ride together for a while, and he would tell me the history of that part of the trail. Then we would seperate and he would go ahead or I would. After Curtis Field, the 75 mile mark, we wound up riding together more of the time as it worked for our horses. However late in the ride, I got concerned for Bob. I had heard a story of him passing out at a previous ride. When we left Edinberg Gap and were trotting on the last 10 miles he said " If we stay ahead of those two riders we might top 10." I looked over my shoulder. There were glow sticks and fireflies behind us, but no other riders visable. "Umm Bob, What makes you think we are even close to top 10?" I asked. He replied , "When we left Fitchetts, I was 10th and you were 11th" Now I was toast, and wiped out, but was positive that we had just left Edinberg Gap,and that Fitchetts was 35 miles or so behind us. Was this the infamous OD Delerium striking? Was Bob losing it? I told him that I didn't care about my placement and at the finish line he should just go ahead of us. Well Bob was delerious like a fox. We finished 9th and 10th respectively.Tom P from Canada had come into Edinberg with us, but was late leaving the hold. He made a wrong turn ( so he says) and finished about 15 minutes behind us in 11th place. One of the nice things about the OD, is that they have a special award for 11th place, which was a free entry to next years 100 mile ride. Pretty crafty Canadian isn't he? Obviously I was outmatched by these more experienced competitors:)

During the last 10 miles, the effects of riding 30 miles in that heat on Friday started affecting me more. My legs were like jelly and I wallered all over the saddle. My equitition which is poor at the best of times became even worse. Remember in the old western movies when the soldiers at the fort see the lone returning rider from the scouting party. He is slumped over the front of the saddle and wobbling from side to side? Then after he gets through the gate of the fort, he falls off the horse and you see 5 or 6 arrows in his back? That was me as we went up Traskers Gap on the last 3 miles and the arrows would explain the pain as my back cramped up.

Somehow as we saw the lights of camp, we trotted on in at 3:26 am. In fact Piper cantered the last 100 yards. He may only weigh 800 pounds, but 600 of it has to be heart.

One of the things about Cavalry that is not well explained in the rules is that even after you cross the finish line, and even after you go through the completion vet check, you are still in a Cavalry mode until the Cavalry Award judging the next morning. That meant nobody could help me with my horse and getting the tack back to my campsite. Nobody could feed me or rub my back or legs. That was something I had not prepared for. I had food at the RV which I was allowed to eat, and feed for my horse. Unfortunately, by 8:am when it was time to do the judging, Piper had tightened up and was off enough to be judged not fit to continue. There was no doubt in my mind that I wasn't fit to continue. When trotting him out, my right leg cramped up and I came very close to collapsing

The head vet, Lani Newcomb, came up to tell me that they were not going to give a Cavalry Award, and it was obvious she was distressed about it. Everybody was rooting for us and hoping it would turn out good. Not getting the Cavalry Award was no big deal for me. It wasn't one of my goals coming into the ride. We had completed our first 100 mile ride, and done it at one of the toughest rides in the world, and done it Cavalry. Then we surpised the heck out ourselves and completed Top 10. Lani was talking about this probably being emotionally devastating for me. All I could think was thank goodness they didn't want me to trot him out more. That would have been devastating.

So here is the second big mis-conception around riding Cavalry at the Old Dominion. People think you have to be a world class experienced rider on one of the legendary horses. Piper and I started with under 400 lifetime endurance miles. Anybody that has seen me ride will assure you that I am not a well balanced centered rider. I am a 57 year old Realtor in only moderately fit condition. Doing our first 100 Cavalry style was no harder than if we had had a NASCAR type crew of 10 people helping. Cavalry style reduced the distractions and allowed me to focus on my horse and the ride. For instance, I carried a hand held polar monitor and never used it the entire ride. We were in touch enough that I knew if his heart was up or down.

If anybody is interested in my list of what I took, and what I used, please feel free to email me privately, Paul at

Cavalry was this great day spent bonding and sharing trail with my horse. I recommend it to anybody. If fact you might want to try doing a 50 that way just for the fun of it. It is more like what they say Endurance riding was back in the old days when people slept in pickup truck seats or on surplus army cots in the back of mostly clean stock trailers. I am still amazed that more people haven't tried it. They are checking, but think I may have been the only non-local rider to have ever completed the ride Cavalry. Folks, it wasn't that hard. The old trail at the Old Dominion is gone. I feel honored to have had a chance to complete it. Long live the new trail. Who wants to try it Cavalry with me next year?

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane Mo

Monday, June 11, 2007

Justin Morgan 50

Sharon Levasseur

This year there was a new endurance ride in Vermont, the Justin Morgan
Memorial 50 in Tunbridge and four surrounding towns. I wanted to ride it but
wasn't sure Zephyr could handle the White Mountains. So three weeks
beforehand, we rode the Brown Bag 25 CTR in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
He did well enough to convince me to give it a shot.

The night before we were scheduled to leave, a friend decided on the spur of
the moment to ditch work and come along to crew for me. HURRAY! Thanks to
preparations earlier in the week, we were packed up early enough that I was
able to cook omelets. We were out the driveway by 8:15 with what was
supposed to be 6 hours of driving ahead of us.

We took our time, stopping here and there for coffee, second breakfast, gas,
elevenses, etc. but thankfully no wrong turns. We finally got to the
Tunbridge Fairgrounds around 3:30 or so, set up camp, and vetted in with all

Heather isn't a horse person and has had no real exposure to the sport of
endurance, so we spent a good long time getting my gear ready and discussing
the logistics of crewing. I've never had a crew before so we had to think it
through out loud together.

Next thing we knew it was time for a very yummy barbeque and the pre-ride
meeting. The trail description was the most thorough I had ever heard; it
was quite clear that Trailmaster Deb knew this trail in and out. I didn't
end up remembering very much of what she said, but one thing sure did
stick... watch out for the bull tied in the middle of the road!!!

Over dinner I met a guy named Dave who was riding a borrowed horse and had
the same goal I had, which was to finish as slow as we needed to in order to
get our flatland horses through safely, so we agreed to start together and
see how it went. Since I had a crew and he didn't, Heather and I agreed
that she could carry some things along and set them out for him.

After dinner it seemed as if we had 3 more minutes of daylight before it was
full dark and time to go lay down and pretend that sleep might actually
happen. Heather had opted to stretch out on the backseat of the truck.
she's shorter than I am. and I crawled into my Tent Cot in the front of the
trailer. I know I slept a little bit because I distinctly remember Zephyr
escaping from his escape-proof corral and that nobody could catch him. but
when I woke up it was clear that either I'd been sleeping, or he'd come home
and shut the gate behind him!

Time to get up came too soon. Start time was at 7:00 so my alarm went off at
4:30. Breakfast for him, breakfast for us, last-minute attempts to finish
shedding him out by sheer elbow grease, and tacking up by 6:40 for warmup.
Dave introduced me to Stina, whose name I'm sure I've spelled wrong, who
also wanted to ride very slowly because both she and her horse were
attempting their first 50-mile ride.

Zephyr was very calm as we warmed up and waited for the vehicle-controlled
start. Trailmaster Deb got this shot of the leading riders and the
starter's car:

Heather got a great picture of all the horses strung out after the starter's
car, on the switchbacks going up the hill out of the fairgrounds. It was all
pavement but all the horses were keyed up so everyone was trotting. Zephyr
was doing just fine until the second switchback when the road turned to
dirt. Then he turned on the afterburners and took off up the hill at his
biggest trot. Rather than fight with him and waste both our energy, I just
steered my rocket and tried to remind him that he had a rider, and that he
should try to keep it under 12mph. After a few miles he started to let me
have more of a say in the matter, so I hung back and waited for Dave and
Stina. We all arrived at the first crewing stop, a boat landing, together.
Heather helped Dave and I, but Zephyr wouldn't drink so I took a minute to
walk him down to the boat landing. Still no drinking so off I went. It took
a few minutes to catch up to Dave and Stina but eventually we did. We were
loving the trails and finding the markings easy to follow as long as we
looked around thoroughly at each turn marker to double-check which way the
trail went. Looking around thoroughly paid off in more ways than one; the
views were spectacular. The mountains were wrapped in such thick fog that
only the tops showed. I tried to take some pictures but the camera didn't
handle the light well so the pictures don't show the true glory that we got
to see in person.

More hills, dirt roads, woods, and fields, and then we were at the second
crewing stop. Pee-break for humans and sponging for horses, and we were off
again. After a while I spotted a pie plate attached to a tree off trail a
bit and yelled "WATER!" I couldn't read the pie plate yet but they don't
grow on trees, so chances were that it was a marker. The other two had
already passed it but Zephyr made the sharp turn without slowing down. They
all drank for quite a while. That was probably around 15 miles in. We all
felt a lot better then, it's always a little nervewracking at the beginning
when they're too keyed up to drink. We rode on with big grins!

The first hold was at a neighbor's farm, and was at around 18 miles. Heather
had picked a good spot for our water buckets up near the pulse-check area. I
knew it was hot and humid enough that to pulse down quickly we'd need to
strip the tack right away instead of waiting until between pulsing down and
the vet check like I normally do, so we stripped tack and dumped it into my
crewing cart. Sure enough, his pulse went right down. We got our official
out time and went back to the truck for a few minutes so we could both eat.
Round about ten minutes later I realized we hadn't gone for our vet check
yet, so off we went. It was in an indoor arena that had a mirror on the top
half of the end wall, and when I walked Zephyr up to it he didn't see the
mirror until he was right in front of it. His head came up, his ears pricked
forward, and he tilted his head from side to side as if he was admiring
himself. Heather just busted out laughing, she'd never seen anything like

We vetted through with all As again and headed back for another few minutes
of snacking before I had to tack up again. The three of us left right on
time. Loop 2 was a little over ten miles. We kept a slower pace, still
moving right out but taking more time to graze (and take pictures).

Every bit of water we saw, the horses sucked down like champs. There were no
crew stops on this loop, and we cruised into the second hold before we knew
it. After the saddle was off, Zephyr pulsed down pretty quickly. This time
we went right over to the outdoor sand arena for our vet check. When the vet
asked me to trot him down and back, and we were on our way back when Zephyr
started trotting with his nose near the sand, sniffing. I was tired enough
not to make the connection. All of a sudden, mid-stride, he dropped like a
stone and just ROLLED and ROLLED and ROLLED! The reins got wrapped around
his nose and torn out of my hand; I'm probably lucky the center buckle
didn't rip my skin. Dumb me, I just reached down and picked the reins up
again but didn't think to move around to where I'd be standing right in
front of him. I would have, but I kept thinking he was finished! It was a
good solid minute before he finally got up. Everyone nearby had gathered at
the arena fence and was laughing. Someone yelled out that I had to clean him
up before presenting him to the vet, and someone else asked how the rolling
would affect our grade for Attitude! Dr. Art King laughed and just said I'd
have to do the trot-out again (so he could check the Cardiac Recovery Index.
pulse before and after trot-out). We passed again with all As and a warning
to be sure and get every last bit of sand out from under where the tack
would go. He didn't have to tell us twice!

Zephyr got less time to eat at this hold because we had to take him over to
the hose for a deep cleaning. We did the best we could without shampoo. I
had time to run to the outhouse with my new container of
Anti-Monkey-Butt-Powder to combat some oncoming saddle sores. Soon it was
time to tack up again, this time with a clean dry saddlepad. We ended up
waiting a few minutes until Esther, whose riding partner had been pulled,
was cleared to leave. It was the first 50-mile for both Esther and her
horse. The four of us did loop 3 together, a little over 9 miles, probably
at about the same pace as we did loop 2. I tried to eat some of my beef
jerky on this loop but when I looked in my pack I saw that the Ziploc bag
had opened, and my pack hadn't been closed, and I'd apparently been trailing
clouds of jerky over the last few miles!

A couple of memorable things happened on loop 3. First, we passed through a
rather run-down farm and we saw the bull. He had been moved off the road...
he was laying down and tied by a 6' rope to an engine block on the ground!
Second, we got to a private residence where there was a sign that said
"water for horses". We were thrilled! The owner came out to check on us
and chatted for a minute. Our horses were just finishing their drink from
this lady's trough, and I was just reaching for the clip on my sponge leash
when she said "OH, you won't believe it, this is so disgusting! I'm upset
with the last people who came through, they didn't get off their horses to
wet their sponges with the hose, they just sat there and dunked them in the
DRINKING WATER! MY horses wouldn't want to drink that nasty water, and I'm
sure yours don't need all that extra salt, so I emptied out the whole tub
and it's just now done filling up." None of us were sure what to say, but I
sure as heck took my hand away from my sponge! We tried to explain that
these horses actually DID need extra salt, and that if they were thirsty
they'd drink out of the nastiest muddiest puddles they could find, but in
the end we just gave up and thanked her for going to all that trouble!

This same woman said she thought she'd just seen a riderless horse heading
back where we came from. We hadn't seen it so she said "oh, it must have
been an apparition." For some reason, this sparked a discussion over the
next mile or so about whether she said apparition or aberration and what
each of those words meant and how both were accurate. We were getting
punchy I think.

As we approached the fairgrounds for the last hold, we were crossing a large
mowed hayfield and everything just felt perfect. It was one of those
on-trail moments that just make everything worthwhile. I did something I’ve
always wanted to do but for some reason hadn’t yet... I dropped the reins on
his neck and spread my arms wide to the side. It felt so good! I convinced
them all to try it, and there we all were, arms spread, cantering along with
the sun on our faces and joy in our hearts.

The third and last hold was at the fairgrounds, and since we didn’t want the
horses to think we were finished we stayed up near the vet area instead of
going back to the trailers. Zephyr pulsed down pretty quickly and we vetted
through with all As again, and no rolling, although we did have an audience
waiting to see if he would try! I had time for one more application of
Monkey Powder… I told Heather I was running an experiment to see how much I
could use before it became visible puffing out through the fabric of my
pants. I’m a firm believer in the stuff now, it sure seemed to help!

This hold was shorter so before we knew it, it was time to head out again.
Dave had been concerned because his borrowed mare hadn’t passed manure that
any of us could remember noticing, so he had her thoroughly checked by the
vets and was cleared to continue. We decided to wait a few minutes past our
out times so Esther could join us; her horse had pulsed down a few minutes
after ours and we knew that if we didn’t wait she wouldn’t continue alone.
This last loop would be a little over 13 miles and we only had an hour and a
half before the 7pm cutoff time, which meant we had to seriously pick up the

As we left camp we picked up a trot just in time to come to a screeching
halt to cross a small rock-bottomed river. The footing was a little
difficult but we made it through with all our horses’ shoes intact. Maybe a
mile later, while we were going up a hill, Dave said he was turning back.
His mare was reluctant to keep pace, which was unusual because she’d done at
least her share of leading the pack all day. She just seemed reluctant to
keep up. It could have been because we had been back at the fairgrounds and
this was her first endurance ride so she’d thought she had been finished, or
it could have been something much worse brewing. Dave made the smart choice
and turned back.

That left me and the two rookie horse/rider teams, and since I’m not that
experienced myself, I joked that the responsibility was scary. But in
reality, I know at least one and maybe both of these ladies were experienced
Competitive Trail Riders, so they knew the important things! We worked well
together, taking turns pushing our horses through the toughest 13.5 miles of
the whole ride. There was no breeze, not much time in the shady woods, and
not enough water. (There was actually a fair amount of natural water but
when we really needed it we couldn't find any.) The horses were puffing
hard but still interested in eating when we asked them to, and whenever they
were trotting they moved willingly enough. It was when we slowed to a walk
that we crawled! None of them wanted to walk at a reasonable pace; we
figured they were making the most of their rest time but it was still
frustrating because the only time we got any breeze was when we were

At the halfway point there were water tanks, where we caught up to a lone
rider. She left as our horses stuck their noses in and drank for a good five
minutes it seemed. We took our time and sponged thoroughly before moving on.
It seemed like forever before we ran into a couple different folks from ride
management, and the second of the two said we were three miles from the
fairgrounds. We continued pushing as fast as we could go, determined not to
fail by being overtime. We passed the lone rider at some point in here. I
had to get off to walk one of the long downhills, my left shin was on fire
and I couldn't trot downhill anymore. I thought walking on my own two feet
might help, and it did. I was able to get back in the saddle and trot again
with less pain.

It was a relief to finally see the fairgrounds across the fields. We crossed
a covered bridge in between and Trailmaster Deb was there to take our
pictures. Big grins and straightened posture.

The horses perked up when they recognized a field they'd traveled earlier.
I was in the lead and when we hit the track around the outside of the
fairgrounds, Zephyr started cantering. He broke into a trot before the
finish line but I crossed it with my arms spread wide and a big grin! That
was the first time ever that I'd finished a ride to the sound of applause
and cheering. I'm not sure why either, maybe they were waiting to see if
we'd make the cut off time? I've just beat cut off a lot of times though,
and never got that reception.

He stopped next to the in-timer without a cue, and I did my impression of
hopping off in a sprightly manner. Which is to say, I slithered down off his
back and assumed a spread-kneed, hunch-backed posture while Heather gave my
vet card to the timer. We went over to the crewing area, stripped his tack
and both sponged and hosed him down. Almost everyone I passed in those first
few minutes congratulated me, and I had to tell them not to jinx it as we
had yet to vet through! His pulse was down in something less than 10 minutes
and we were walking to the pulse box when he stepped on my foot and leaned
on it. I tried to push him off but didn't have much muscle strength. It
seemed like forever! When he was finally off of me I yelled a curse and
doubled over, and everyone started laughing. One lady called out "that
always makes me feel better too!"

I managed to trot him out all right. He vetted through with all As except
for a B on gut sounds, which wasn't surprising as we'd only stopped for a
couple of quick bites of grass on that last loop. I left the vetting area
and handed the lead rope to Heather, muttering something like "let him eat".
Then I headed for the nearest grassy spot and eased down onto my back for a
few minutes of rest! As soon as I could manage it I made my way back to the
trailer to join Heather and Zephyr, and change out of my wet clothes. I took
a turn with Zephyr and just laid on the ground with my eyes closed, holding
the end of his lead rope while he ate the grass around me.

I heard a bit later that people who have ridden all over the country said
the terrain rivaled Old Dominion (without the rocks). I don't think I'd have
done it if I'd realized that! He is, for all intents and purposes, a
flatland horse. We have hills but nothing like this!

There was no award ceremony because most folks had left. After I picked up
my completion award, we ate a cold supper, had some wine, and walked across
the fairgrounds for showers before going to bed. We'd just been given word
that instead of the leisurely departure I'd planned before our 7-hour drive,
we had to clear out by 7am at the latest because a Morgan horse show was
being held that day.

I woke up at 4:45 to the sound of our neighbors packing up. We were both up
by 5 and left the fairgrounds at 7, so we got home at 1:30 instead of
dinnertime like I'd planned. He trotted out sound, even on circles. We got
the trailer unpacked and parked, which feels great NOW but wasn't really on
my top ten list of things to do THEN. We went out to dinner and I still had
time to write this story when we got home!

Hope you enjoyed the story. If this ride happens again, seriously consider
going. It is a true challenge, but isn't that what it's all about?

Sharon L. and Zephyr

First 100 at Old Dominion

Ashley Kemerer

Well I am proud to say that both my horse and I completed our first 100 mile ride at the Old Dominion this past weekend. I know there are oodles of emails from other ridecampers that have completed their first 100's etc, but I figured one more couldn't hurt.

Let me just say that I had a blast! The ride was awesome, the trail was challenging but doable and best of all we completed. Coming into this ride I was not sure that we would complete, like everyone we had various issues arise just a few weeks prior to the ride, so I entered the ride with the attitude of "We're going to give it a shot" I had no expectations and if it was necessary at anytime I was ready to pull my horse if he wasn't up to the challenge or for any other reason. I rode with my father, for those of you who know Skip, and a good friend Lisa Delp. So to the ride, we were off at a 5:30 am start with just a small patch of dirt road going into the first three miles which were to be basically all uphill and very rocky, we had already decided that we were going to walk this part of the trail. We made it through and started to pick up speed into the trot by at Edinburg, then continued on to the first vet check at Curtis Field, 23 or so miles in. Horses pulsed down well, luckily our crew, my mom, had found us a great spot in the shade. The horses had the opportunity to rest up and relax and of course eat.

Off to the Gate and Go we went, the trail was beautiful we went up what I think was Little Crease, whooey was that one rocky section. Then onto Veaches Gap another serious climb with rocks. The Gate and Go was across the river, which we all cooled off in, but alas we had to pass the gate and go and do another 4 or so mile loop and back to the gate and go, but that gave us a chance to see the front runners, all of the horses we saw were in great shape. After completing the loop it was back to the Gate and Go, it was hot and there was no shade and water was at a premium but we managed to pulse down and continue on.

Ill continue on in less detail but I will add that we also did Sherman's Gap, that was a climb and a half, we all walked down the climb to give the horses a bit of a break. I was feeling great and my horse looked great and I was utterly impressed with how well he was doing. Some more climbs and beautiful trail. Unfortunately my dad rider optioned at 90 miles. So it was just Lisa and I to finish the last ten miles in the dark dark night. We made it through and finished at around 4:30, we both vetted through well and headed back to camp to take care of our horses and try to get some rest.

This was definetly one of the greatest experiences of my endurance career and something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life, along with my hard earned OD buckle! To anyone contemplating doing their first 100 (not necessarily at OD) I highly recommend it, go in with the right attitude and keep your horses best interest forefront and go for it. It is something you will never forget.

Thanks to everyone at the OD for making this possible, the crews and volunteers and staff were all awesome, what a great ride this was! Also thanks to my Dad, Mom, and Lisa for riding with me, as well as Lisa's crew too!

Ashley and Tarsu (who I'm sure is catching some Zzz's)

Australia: Nanango CEI***

Ride summary from Jay Randall:

Hi All

The Sample & Partners FEI*** 160km ride and the Nanango Forest FEI** 107km ride (incorporating the Trans Tasman Challenge) has been run and won!

We arrived at the ride base on Wednesday morning, into miserably wet and cold conditions. Luckily we had the ideal campsite, and were able to fend off the rain and remain dry, if not warm. By Thursday the Nanango Showgrounds was looking quite full, and by Friday morning the rest of the competitors fronted up. The facilities were excellent: hot showers, power, great catering, a good PA system, etc....

The weather cleared by Thursday afternoon, although it was still very cold on Friday. Saturday (ride day) dawned a little warmer, and I thought we ended up having perfect riding weather throughout the entire ride. The track was a little soft in patches, but overall was ideal. The away Vet Gate was cancelled due to the conditions, which made the crewing even easier for all of us poor strappers! Indeed, we used minimal water throughout the ride, as the horses were all pretty well taken care of by my wonderful riders on track!

There were 44 starters in the 160km ride and 64 starters in the 107km ride.

The Splendacrest Team (incorporating Alwyn Torrenbeek's 2 horses for the weekend) started 3 horses in the 160km ride, and 4 horses in the 107km ride. We were also responsible for 1 horse in the 160km ride and 1 in the 107km ride ridden by the Kiwi team in the Trans Tasman Challenge, making a total of 9 horses all up in our camp.

Our 160km riders were Alwyn on his strong mare Mary Anne, Yukinobi Horiyuchi on Alwyn's gelding Pardon, and Yuko Kimoto on the beautiful Bullarto Fiorelli. New Zealand young rider Kimberley Ryan rode Splendacrest Dryad in the NZ Team competition.

Poor Yuko had an incident in the third phase of the ride when Fiorelli ended up going through a barbed-wire fence and was subsequently floated back to the ride base. As the mare was badly scratched up, that was the end of the ride for this pairing. Alwyn and Yukinobi both completed successfully, in a riding time of 14:50.

I was extremely proud of Kimberley, who successfully guided Dryad around the 160km in a riding time of 12:33, for 6th Youth placing. Both Kim and her strapper/mother Lisa Ryan were very happy with this result, and Dryad looked excellent the whole way! Kim was the only rider in the NZ 160km team to complete the ride, making the victory even sweeter for me!!!!

Our 107km riders were Tarni Kittle on Raaward Chanelle (owned by Zoe Gardner), Amanda Powell on Shonavale Kamilla (owned by Shane Hopkins), Noriko Hasegawa on Splendacrest Perfection (owned by Shane Hopkins), and John Dugan on his mare Quick & Easy.

Due to a mix up in timing, Noriko had to depart on the final leg of the 107km ride in the dark by herself, and was extremely brave in doing so! However disaster struck when she firstly became lost in the unfamilar dark conditions, and then had a fall with the horse deciding that he knew the way back to ride base and wasn't waiting for his rider! Both horse and rider were found safe but sorry, and we had to withdraw them on course. But Perfection passed the Vet Check with flying colours, and will enjoy his next ride very soon! Noriko was also fine, with a small graze on her cheek to show for her adventures.

Tarni rode the majority of the 107km with Joyce Corbett (THANKS JOYCE!), and was successful in taking out the 2nd Youth placing in a time of 5:42. Raaward Chanelle looked great throughout the ride, and recovered very well after each phase.

Amanda also had a very successful ride, taking out 4th Youth placing in a time of 6:18, and then placing 2nd in the Best Conditioned competition. This mare, Shonavale Kamilla, is just going from strength to strength this year!

John Dugan placed 15th in the Open Division in 6:39, for another good result on his big mare Quick & Easy. She looked great throughout the ride, taking care of both herself and John (who is still recovering from a bad injury to his knee last year).

We were also very lucky to have the New Zealand youth rider in the 107km team, Jordan Piripi, in our camp throughout the weekend, as she was on Joyce Corbett's mare Murland Park Mikhala. Jordan didn't have a very good introduction to Mikhala to begin with, however she persevered and eventually was successful in completing the 107km ride well. Congratulations to both Jordan and her groom, Chris.

The King of Malaysia was in the 160km ride, and the security was pretty intense every time he was around! There were plenty of dark suits, sunglasses and stony stares, however in general the atmosphere around the King was fairly laid-back and relaxed. I was fortunate to see him come in off the final phase of the ride, and I can tell you that he was pretty tired! He rode one of Brook Sample's horses (actually I think the horse belonged to Leigh Ann Sample!), and the Royal Stables trainer, Paul Brown, accompanied him throughout the ride on another of Brook's horses. Both were successful.

I was amused to see the King walking back to his camp after weighing in on the final leg. He was a little shaky on the pins, and eventually just collapsed onto the ground (to the great consternation of his minders) in exhaustion. But he was so obviously happy to complete (and qualify!) that he just brushed off all help, and righted himself.

Another high point for me personally was to meet one of my Malaysian internet friends, Amir, and his wife Nadia. I was very pleased to finally put a face to the name and the interesting conversations we have had by email. Both also completed their rides, and both were headed home very tired!

So, now to the thank yous: This ride would not have been made possible without the vision and sponsorship of Matthew Sample of Sample & Partners. Matthew also announced that he hoped to make the Sample & Partners FEI Series an annual event in Queensland, which was greeted with much enthusiasm!

But it was Barb Timms who put in the majority of the work in order to get this ride under way. Barb has worked tirelessly for the sport of endurance riding in Australia for more years than we all can count (!), and the success of this ride is just another notch in her belt. Thank you Barb!

Barb rounded up an incredible amount of support in the way of the volunteers who assisted in getting this ride going, including Margie Lee Madigan and Scott Madigan, Colleen Shaw, Lesley Nancarrow, Nev Badman, the Sandy Ridges Rural Fire Brigade, the Nanango SES, and a host of other people holding down the jobs of time keeping, secretariat duties, computer operations, weighing, pencilling, communications, horse rescue, farrier, etc.

The FEI Ground Jury was highly visible and extremely helpful, and consisted of Irene Malone, Ieva Peters, Denise Trollope, Sarah Adams, Ron Guest, Kerry Spratt, Ady McIntosh, and all the way from England, Pauline Dickie. Toby Crockett was the TD, and Allan Renner was the CS.

The Veterinary Commission was just an eye-opening gathering of the best Vets!!! Dr Brian Sheahan headed up a crew consisting of Anne Barnes, Pat Hodgetts, Jon Fearnley, Kathy Webb, Prof Chris Pollitt, Judy Law, and international Vets Andre Bereznnowski from Poland and Len Beach from England.

It was an absolute pleasure to see Dr Len Beach again, as I had originally met him at a ride in France last year, and had invited him at that time to come to Australia to participate in this ride. He bought his wife, Pauline Dickie along, and the two of them worked extremely hard over the weekend to assist with the smooth operation of this ride.

I must thank Jenny Bidner, who gave up her weekend to come and strap for our team, as well as Beck Forgan and Gerard Bou (both Splendacrest riders) who also came along to watch and learn. Thanks guys! And a final thanks to Shane Hopkins, who safely drove all my beautiful horses there and back. Thanks, Shane!

Now we are all looking forward to the Spring Mountain ride in two weeks. See you all there!!

Best regards

Jay Randle