Friday, August 31, 2007

AERC NC. Sweet Home Oreana! A local perspective.

Steph Teeter

When Chris and Brian Collette's band 'Run For Cover' belted out their version of this well known song (Sweet Home Alabama) I felt so privileged and proud to be part of Owyhee County, and Oreana. I first came to Owyhee county in 1991, doing rangelands research for a joint University of Idaho and BLM project. I fell in love with the vastness and beauty of the land and the open friendliness of the people. A burger or two at the Oreana Bar & Grill clinched it. We were able to buy property here in 2000 and set up camp. My husband John is a southern Idaho (Emmett) native, and he was happy to have a place in southern Idaho again.

One of the reasons we moved down here - where the dust and heat can at times be trying... is because Owyhee County offers endless opportunity for riding, and riding far. Within months of signing the contract to purchase our land in this empty corner of southwest Idaho, my passion for the sport (obsession? compulsion?) led me to start exploring the county for trails, poring over maps and aerial photos, working with the BLM on access, and generally becoming even more passionate about this land. John and I began hosting Endurance events in 2001 and this year I was thrilled to be able to host the AERC National Championship event - two races of 55 and 100 miles each. I selected trails to challenge the riders and to also give them a good tour of the land. They rode into the mountains - up and around Toy Mountain, back down North Fork Castle Creek and Hart Creek drainage, and then across the desert, down to the Snake River with a stop at the Sierra del Rio Ranch. I am also endlessly grateful to the ranchers that permit us to ride through their land in order to put these marathon courses together! One of the reasons I fell in love with Owyhee county was due to the community of friendly and accommodating people.

We had top US and Canadian Endurance competitors here - from as far away as British Columbia, Florida, Virginia and South Carolina. We were also thrilled to have guests and riders from South Africa, Malaysia and Japan. The King of Malaysia had arranged to participate, but had to withdraw at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts. Maybe next time! Even so we had 5 days of competitions, educational clinics, trade shows, and a fantastic country dinner and dance. Our caterers, Blue Canoe Catering were the best - everybody loved their food and they fit right in with the festive spirit. And they worked very very hard and were greatly appreciated. The Run For Cover band amazed everybody - a local band? But these guys are great! And they were - country, rock & roll, slow dance - they did it all.

In addition to the top competitors from across the USA and abroad, we had a good showing of local riders! Many came from the Northwest, the Mountain states, Canada, California and Nevada. We also had many competitors from southern Idaho, and a handful from Owyhee county! Carol Brand and Linda Kluge, both Oreana residents, completed the tough 55 mountain course in good time.

The winning times were fast, even faster than I had anticipated - I guess the Championship titles at stake brought out the best, and brought out the competition. The 55 mile race had a fastest finishing time of 4:57 - and this included a climb from our ranch on Bates Creek to a high point on Toy Mountain of 6500ft! Plus steep trails and rocky gullies to negotiate - impressive horsemanship, and 60 minutes faster than this course has been done before! The 100 mile race had a fastest time of 9:19 - an even faster overall pace than the 55 mile race, and these riders rode the Toy Mountain course, and then headed out into the desert during the heat of the afternoon. Impressive horsemanship AND impressive horses. Given the record high temps during the 100 mile competition (it was well over 100 degrees with blazing sun in the canyon 'furnace' between miles 57 and 85) , this was a real test.

The races were tightly regulated by a team of world class veterinarians. A vet from Malaysia and two vets from South Africa added to our prestigious team of USA vets. Our local veterinarians (Robert Washington from Idaho Equine Clinic and Karen and Olin Balch from Cascade Veterinary Hospital), were on hand to provide treatment if any horses became exhausted or dehydrated. Happily no horses had any serious problems. And only one horse required minimal veterinary attention during the event. We staged veterinary checkpoints at 10 - 20 mile intervals where horses were thoroughly examined, and horses were allowed time to eat and drink and recover before starting the next phase. A total of 4 hours of holds for the 100 mile event, and 2 hours for the 55 event gave riders and horses time to recover, and allowed the vets the opportunity to do an exit exam on the 100 mile horses. While the exit exam is difficult from a competitor's perspective (horses would be presented just before departure, fully tacked), it affords the vets a closer look at the horses, after the horse has had a chance to let down. A few horses were eliminated during the competition for lameness - sore muscles, thrown shoes, etc - but overall it was a very safe and sane event, and a true testament to the level of horses and riders that came to Oreana!

I love this land, and this sport, and was thrilled to be able to offer a glimpse of it to others from across the country and across the oceans. I was very proud of our AERC competitors, vets and staff. I do believe we in AERC have the best 'version' of the sport in the world, a version where the trails are challenging, the horses and riders are tough and non-complaining, the vets are careful to protect the horse, but not antagonistic towards the riders, and we all cheered the 9:19 fastest time as well as the 17:00 tail end time!

We tried to provide this championship with as much 'hoopla' as possible. Bev Gray provided invaluable help by bringing in a great group of sponsors, who were delighted with the exposure and the chance to be involved. With clinics and dances and dinners and riding demos in addition to a challenging championship ride, our goal was to bring the endurance community together - riders, vets, sponsors, clinicians, volunteers, foreign guests - to keep building the depth of support for the sport, to make new friends, and to showcase AERC's top riders and horses. Hopefully we succeeded to some extent. I'm not sure Oreana - and Owyhee County will ever be the same... between the ranchers teaching the South Africans to throw a rope and crack a bullwhip, the South Africans teaching our local bars that a 1am closing time would never do, the Malaysians getting a true rodeo show as some cowboys roped runaway calves out at vetcheck 2, our Japanese AERC rider (with 5 Tevis buckles) teaching the local volunteers how to speak 'endurance' in Japanese, and all of the AERC competitors getting a good dose of Owyhee heat, rock, dust and fine Idaho wine... we'll all have some interesting tales to tell our horses while out on that next long long ride...

Sweet Home Oreana! Indeed.

Steph Teeter

AERC NC. A Mule Story

Max Merlich, Reba and Junior

Ona made us promise last night to write a ride story. Patti and Jay had a nice send off for them at their house and we toasted to their new adventure and planned to try to ride Bighorn next year. It is only a day’s drive for Ona and Dale but two full days for us from Oregon.

We hauled over traveling together with Karen on Tuesday and arrived at Teeters in the early evening. PJ had a spot reserved for us in the “pervert section” and that is where we lit. Lynne Fredrickson and Carla Stamper soon showed as well. Wed was spent messing around and getting ready for the 55 on Thurs. Lynne and I had plans to ride that one, everybody else was going to do the 100 on Sat. Karen, Lisa and I went for a ride in the afternoon and Rebba managed to shrug off Lisa, she got me for the first time the week before as well. As she is getting stronger she has been becoming more of a handful. Lisa was okay but pronounced her mule riding days over. She was not riding as Dunne is recovering from a heel cut. Ina showed up and word came that Lois, Darlene and Mona were on the way also.

Thursday Lynne and I started at dawn without much incident. There was a big rush to the front and within a few miles we were pretty much by ourselves, it was nice and like that for most of the ride. VC1 was made in 14 miles and we got our first taste of FEI and high profile ride vetting. Lots of paperwork and protocol, less time to eat. We were out of there pretty fast and started the climb over Toy Mt. It is about ten miles to the top with the first five being rolling country followed by steep climbs. Rebba did not do well on the long hills, she is going through this thing where she wants to canter the hills and then walk, or if you hold her in the trot, she will trot further but still want to walk. Going away from camp when your are out 20 miles or so does not help either so Lynne had to wait for us on some of the hills. She drank out at about 22 miles which is early for her. We topped Toy and began the pleasant trip on top in the high country looking down into Jordon Valley in OR. We rode with Trish for the rest of the ride at that point as well. The mule picked it up as we were now going in the right direction. At 32 miles we hit the gravel crew road and trotted on into the 34 mile check. There, sadly we found our team mate Karen and Jakar had been pulled for lame. That was a bummer for sure but it did not look like anything serious and has proven so far not to be. We vetted out of there well and began the climb back to the top and down the old wagon road. The climb to the top was nice trail and some small stream crossings were welcome. Once on top though we began about 5 miles of serious downhill on a very rocky wagon road. Lynne and I got off and ran some but soon got back on and just walked it. No way to make time here, we just enjoyed the views. We hit a creek at about 4 miles that was mostly dry but had potholes with some water that all the critters got into. In a mile or two we hit the ridges and the wagon road became excellent two track and we were off cantering.

Here I ran into some big adventure. The plastic vest with our numbers and sponsers came loose from my tie job for the second time. This time there was a 20 knot breeze going in our faces as well as cantering and it made a noise that Rebba did not recognize. She is well broke to plastic and slickers but this was different and it was making a lot of noise. I reached up to rip it off and she ran away with me, downhill and wide open. I sat down on her hard with the reins which had no effect at all and knew I was in trouble. I yelled at Lynne and she turned and got off the trail just before we ran her down. I think she ran about a half mile, hit the level and started uphill maybe a little and I saw one ear come up and signs she might break gait. I ripped the vest off and of course she shied and out through the sage we went but since I had expected that, I managed to stay on and get her into a one rein stop. All I will say about that whole thing is I was very happy to have lots of good trail, a good seat and that the mule can run. I left the vest where it lay and we went on into VC3 at 50 miles.

Things went fairly well here, we had exit CRI’s and the vets told us not to race in. We were not sure who we would be racing but we agreed that was a fine idea and soon we were off. We finished without fanfare, we had met Mary McGinty and Hellbent’s Affinity walking a couple miles out and Mary said she could not get back on as her knees were too sore. Lynne bailed off and boosted Mary on and we came in together. It was a good trip for us all, I think we did it in 8 hours or so and were pleased with it all. We had LOTS of great help from Lisa, Darlene, Ina, PJ, Mona and Carla, it made the VC’s pleasant and easy. It was not really all that hot, maybe mid 80’s as well with a nice breeze so the ride was fairly cool for Oreana August standards. My good friend Tom Noll was in camp with Frank tied to his trailer and it was good to see him. Rebba laid down in her pen flat out and snored in the dirt as usual and caused passerbys to prompt me to call the vet. This snoring went on all night. Had a good dinner at Teeter’s and a nice local band.

Next day was spent getting ready for the 100 and word came it was going to be hot. Lynne’s 100 mile mare managed to hurt her leg in her pen and sadly Lynne had to scratch in the 100. That left Tom and I unsupervised but with more good crew. Word came it would be hot as well. Junior did not want to leave his sister to go vet in and created a big fuss and lots of hee-hawing and baulking on the way to the VC. A big crowd had gathered to see Heraldic and Bogus Thunder vet in but Lois, Tom and I arrived in time to be first to vet. Lois and Tom pretended not to know me as the mule continued to be an ass, hard to vet and hollering. He vetted in at 64 and bucked and cantered the trot out and the vets were not impressed. Especially the Malaysian and South African vets who seemed to be distancing themselves more and more from the mule. Pretty embarrassing but when he has a lot of time before a ride and all that good feed he starts getting wound up.

Tom and I stared at dawn near the rear of the 30 starters. We were just behind Terry Benedetti and Warren Hellman and in front of Lois and Kim Hoffmarks and sort of with PJ and Nance. We had a good trip out to VC1 and the critters seemed to settle, knowing it was not a 50 mile pace today. Every animal had to be untacked for every VC and exit CRI’s were the rule out past VC1. This with the extra paperwork and protocol of the FEI ride made it a little stressful and added several steps that we were not used to in the VC. However there were 4 riders to every vet so we never waited long. Out of there and we began to climb Toy again. Junior is twice the mule his sister is right now, he took the hills in stride easily and tailed up and led down like a champ. He drank early at 25 miles and all was well. We rolled into VC2 at 34 and it was hot. Out of there and back over the top and down, we were catching PJ at times and were caught by Lois and Kim at the “dry creek” water hole. There was a little water but Jr had to stand on his nose to get it which he did. Soon we were back in the desert and on into what had been the 50 mile check the day before, today just a water stop. All six of us met up there and cooled off. PJ and Nance left and soon after we all did. I managed to dunk all my electronic gizmo’s and blissfully rode on without any of them bothering me anymore. At camp, 57 miles, I got by Rebba in her pen with only minor bellering and our crew had a nice set up for us at the VC area. It was HOT. Sadly again, Nance and Kim were both pulled but the bonus to Tom and I was we got to ride with Lois. PJ left in front of us alone as we were all struggling a bit with all the FEI stuff. Junior ate 3 bowls of mash and Karen dosed him again with probiotics which seem to be working to stimulate his late day appetite.

Out of there and up on the ridge we met John Crandall and Ms Dell coming in. Heraldic is just an awesome horse and it was very inspiring to see him coming in with the early evening light on him. At that point they had 30 some miles on us so I had to break the news to Junior I had waited too long to turn him loose and see if he could catch them. They were in as good as spirits as us and we high fived them and felt pretty darn good about the whole thing for being last anyways. On the way out to Del Rio ranch we ate alfalfa at every water stop and took ten or 15 min to do so and it really seemed to pay off. Junior had a big rattler buzz beside him about dusk and woke him up but we did not go back to investigate his size. Rusty continued to shy and Frank was still pulling on Tom and all was well, we arrived at the ranch at dark. Here we had a good feed as the ranch had opened up a field that was waist high with grass and alfalfa. Dennis Summers had gotten pulled here but we vetted through fine and headed out in the dark. The next 25 miles were the best of the whole ride for us, it was nearly a full moon and cool and surreal in the desert. Tom and I knew the trail well and where we could move out and where to watch for the gopher holes. Junior came alive and was pulling on me to go faster, a new experience for me to see one get a second wind. It brought powerful feelings alive in me to know that after 9 years he is truly a 100 mile mule. You had to have known him earlier to know this was not a forgone conclusion. But now he knows how to take care of himself and me as well and get the job done. He is not going to outrun many people on 100’s but we were in front of 11 horses that had buckled for one reason or the other! Into camp for a short hold, still some crew left but the smart one’s had gone to bed. We untacked and tacked and CRI’ed and did paperwork again and soon were off. I thought I might have trouble getting him out but he went out willingly, Rebba was asleep and he knew he had one more leg. I tailed him up the ridge and soon we were on top on the flats in a stiff breeze and the moonlight. Lois and Rusty were ahead and still spooking down the trail with Lois calling him several new names. The 8 miles went fast and soon we were a mile from camp and ran in to PJ and Issac. They had just passed 3000 miles for Issac and PJ did not want to mess that up and wanted to walk in. None of us could hold our horses anymore so we trotted on in, vetted through and called it a night. Lois called Rusty “honey” which I had to comment on that was not what you had been calling him for the last 43 miles! Junior had a good pee and a roll and went to bed after we wrapped his legs. It was a fine ride and with great company, great crew and great animals it does not get any better for me. Lois had met her goal of 3 100’s this year as well. I wanted the same for Junior but we were 2 out of 3 and I was fine with that as well. Tom commented that this was the easiest 100 he and Frank had ever done because most of his have been the Bighorn and Tevis. And this ride was not exactly easy with Toy Mt thrown in.

Mike Ross Ride Between the Rivers. First 50

The first 50 mile ride for this horse & rider
By Holly R Corcoran

Almost Heaven … West Virginia… Well, that certainly wasn’t the trails or the parking, but it was my first 50 mile endurance ride. And the people, volunteers, ride manager (Jennifer Poling) and other riders were all very friendly and helpful! The weather was beautiful with low humidity and shaded trails.

On Saturday August 11th, my purebred Arabian mare, SEG Tornado Star (aka “Tora”) and I completed our first 50 mile endurance ride. I’d done several years of LD rides on my gelding, who unfortunately wasn’t able to elevate to a 50 mile ride. I purchased Tora in January from Spirit of Texas Arabians (who, as a side note, are wonderful people to deal with) and, although she had not done this type of work before, took to her new job with zeal. On our first LD ride at the Michaux in May we rode slowly. In fact I had to hold her back when she’d see a horse on the horizon and want to catch up. On our next 25 mile ride at Hickory Creek, I decided to allow her to increase her pace and she did wonderfully, finishing with great pulse rates and all A’s at the vet checks. I really felt she was ready for 50 miles, but unfortunately it would be new to both of us.

I have a rather hectic schedule. My daughter shows our horses on the Arabian circuit and so, to fit rides in between shows, is challenging at best, as well as finding a weekend here or there to stay home and get caught up on all the farm stuff. My choice of rides is governed mostly by the weekend it falls on and my availability. I noticed this ride in WVA advertised on the AERC website and, after talking to the ride manager to see if it was a do-able ride for first-timers, we scheduled to go. Mapquest claimed it should take only about 6 hours, with a trailer I knew it would be closer to seven, but eight hours later on Friday we arrived to glance down the hill into the parking and realize the my LQ three horse (with only one horse to the chagrin of the parking volunteer) was going to be a challenge to fit in the field amongst the other trailers. After realizing my trailer would bottom out in one spot, he directed me to another. None the less, I felt like the unwelcome stepchild parked in the middle of where several trailers would eventually need to exit. The volunteer assured a worried rider that, yes, they would get her out after her ride on Saturday. I wasn’t as concerned because I knew I was staying until Sunday. And to their credit, the volunteers were amazing, even backing trailers out for the faint of heart! Then I discovered it was their first time hosting this ride (won’t THAT be fun … their first ride and my first 50!) My anxiety started.

Well, we were parked … we put the fence up, settled the horse, got signed in, vetted her in and then took to the trails to get a lay of the land. As we headed out through the stream and a little mucky field, we hit the trail. I asked another rider in the opposite direction how the trails were and her response was “rocky.” Sure enough, as I progressed up the trail, it was indeed rather rocky. Tora seemed to have good solid feet. She had on shoes but no pads. So I figured, if she didn’t pull a ligament going through the mud or get a stone bruise on the rocks, she’d be fine! Needless to say my anxiety escalated!

I went to bed hoping I would actually get to sleep. I set my alarm and went to sleep. I awoke at one point and checked the time seeing that it was 3:58. My alarm rang at 4:30 and I got up. Funny, I didn’t hear anyone else moving about. I got dressed, put my contacts in my eyes and happened to look at my watch. What?! It was 1:45AM. Thinking my watch might be wrong, I checked my cellphone that claimed the same time. I guess I had changed the time while setting the alarm. I went back to bed and amazingly back to sleep until the real 4:30AM arrived.

The ride started at 6:15AM. The last two LD’s I’d done on Tora, she did not see the other horses start. At those rides, we’d waited until everyone else left and then took our time. I’d learned that once my gelding figured out what the start meant, he’d almost ran away with me on one of the starts and I did not want this to happen with Tora. On this ride there really wasn’t any place to hide, but thankfully we stayed away from the fast starters and left with the walkers. She was raring to go, but was very mannerly as we took our time and warmed up, trotting slowly up the trail. As I have mentioned “up the trail” a few times, let me clarify that in West Virginia, it really means UP. I’d admired the majestic mountains diving into one another like green waves as I drove out Route 68 and my truck was laboring up a 2000 foot climb for the sixth time.

Although I started last, I slowly passed a few other riders, one team being a mother and daughter pair on Morgans, bells jingling on the mom’s horse. Later at the middle of the second loop I would join them. I find that when I ride alone, the hardest part is finding a home. On the LD’s I don’t mind riding alone, which I did at Hickory Creek, but I was hoping to join up with someone here.

Tora was her normal “let’s go” self and my challenge was, again, like in our first LD, holding her back to hopefully pace her. The trails were really rocky and there were some significant climbs, but she was doing great. I rode her with a heart monitor and I was able to keep her at an aerobic rate pretty much throughout the entire ride, except for some of the steeper climbs. My strategy was to walk the hills and really rocky areas and make up time wherever I could. At around the middle of the ride we came to the first river crossing. I hadn’t had her in really deep water, but she was a sane trooper taking one step at a time. The water was up to my feet and as I looked across the river, thinking the shortest distance between two places was a straight line, I noticed a ribbon hanging from a branch diagonally across in the middle of the river and then up around a bend where the current was flowing in. Steadily we made our way to the bend only to round the corner and find the rest of the river to cross! Slowly we picked our way around the rocks to the other bank.

We made it through our first loop and at the vet check, my girl had a pulse of 48 and was all A’s. Whew, first one down, three more to go. Once I actually started riding and concentrating on the ride, my anxiety diminished. My daughter, Kelly (my crew) and I contemplated our next loop and expected arrival time.

I left on the second loop which was really rocky at the start but thankfully evened out to some ATV trails and roads where we could move out. Towards the end of the second loop, the mother and daughter team passed us. I found that following them provided company for Tora and they set a nice even pace. Amusingly, the little girl, whom I’m guessing was around 8 or 10 years old, was singing and chatting merrily to herself, the horse and her mom as they trotted down the trail. The horse she rode was definitely a steady-Eddy since she would often loop the reins over the pommel of the saddle, expressing herself broadly with both hands while on occasion snatching leaves from the trees as they trotted by. It was fun riding with this pair!

Coming into the second vet check I tried to hold Tora back by walking her in. As it turned out, she knew it was the way back into camp and her new found friends were continuing down the trail. She jigged the whole way to the point where I hopped off and hand walked her. I use that term loosely, since she continued to want to progress quickly down the waterfall of rocks. She’s a lot more nimble than I am on the stones, but we made it and again she was all A’s. We were now at the middle of the ride and at the half-way mark for time, which was basically a good thing, if we did not need to slow down due to fatigue.

We started the third loop and I knew the mother/daughter pair were out ahead of me, so we moved progressively and Tora eventually heard the bells ahead. This loop I learned their names were Shannon (mom) and Morgan (daughter). True to form, Morgan sang cheerfully along as her 26 year old mount trotted steadily down the trail. I admired her ease with her horse and found out it was her fourth season riding – holy cow!

Tora started to tire on this loop, which, by the way, I could tell she was wondering why we were even out again since she was normally done after two loops. Although she was tiring a bit, I was glad to see she was taking care of herself. She was diving into puddles for a drink as she needed it and snatching a bite of grass along the way. However, knowing she was feeling the miles, I thought she would really need buddies on the last loop, so I stuck right with Shannon and Morgan through the hold. Thankfully, although Tora’s pulse was a little higher, she was within the parameters and we passed with an overall A- (she got a B for attitude since she was a little reluctant to trot out). The vets were Art King and Nick Kohut (with treatment vet of Tracy Walker, DVM) and, as everyone knows, they are great vets and great resources!

The final loop. Oh my God, we made it this far! We were ready with our new found friends to head out for the final time. This time Shannon and Morgan were singing and I even pitched in with John Denver’s “Take me home, Country roads.” Well the singing and the companionship pulled Tora and I through the final loop, including that one really long climb that seemed to reach right up forever. But we chugged along and before we knew it, the FINISH was there! I was actually counting on the “turtle award” (if there was one), but completed 39th out of 41 finishers. Tora completed the ride with an overall A-, this time for skin-tone because she did no drink quite as well on this last loop. But as far as I was concerned she did WONDERFULLY! We finished our first 50 for both of us. I was so ecstatic!

Overall, although this was the first ride that Jennifer Poling had managed, I think she did a great job! The volunteers were wonderful. Everyone was so friendly. The vets were the finest. I have a big hearty THANK YOU to all! And amazingly enough, I could move the day after the ride even after an eight hour drive home. What a great sport! How fortunate I am to have this new partnership with such a great horse! LIFE IS GOOD! Hopefully, we’ll be attempting another 50 in New York in September!

Holly R Corcoran is a self-employed CPA and freelance writer in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. Although she rode her family’s Morgan’s in her youth, she’s been raising and competing with Arabians for the past ten years. She is currently compiling a book of letters for women – for more information go to

Thursday, August 30, 2007

National Championship - From the Dancefloor to the Saddle

Last weekend I had the good fortune to ride the AERC National Championship 100. It was the second time that my horse has toed the line with Heraldic in a 100-mile event, and it was the second time that we were left in the dust at the start. I am not sure that either Frank or Heraldic really cared, but it is certainly something special when you can run the very same course at the very same time with some of the very best in the sport. I do not know of many other activities that afford that opportunity. I cannot play golf with Tiger Woods, Frank cannot enter the Kentucky Derby, and as a team, the most equine events are out of reach for us. But, when the AERC National Championship came to our region, we qualified and ran with the best.

The 2007 National Championship was truly a first-class event. Steph and John went out of their way to host two exceptional rides. The trail over Toy Mountain is one of my favorites and coupling the mountain trail with the desert loop to the Sierra del Rio Ranch made an honest 100-mile course with plenty of variety. On the Toy Mountain loop just before the descent in front of Quicksilver Mountain, you can look out across the desert vista and see Fossil Butte, the Snake River, and the canyon location of the Sierra del Rio Ranch -- all of which are on or near the 100-mile trail. All those landmarks appear very far away and the distances will "mess with your mind."

The trails, the local vets, the AERC vets, the foreign vets from South Africa and Malaysia, the riders, the horses, the volunteers, the caterers, the band, and especially the hosts were all exceptional and it was a weekend to be remembered. Steph and John know how to throw a party. The band was composed of Owyhee County locals plus some other real cowboys from elsewhere in SW Idaho. After a few blown circuits and electrical adjustments, we danced under the moon on the deck until late Thursday evening. On Friday, the lyrics to the slightly altered Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Oreana" were still running around in our heads.

On Friday we socialized, shopped, and attended clinics on conditioning, pacing, and shoeing. We packed our saddle bags, walked and fed our horses, and bided our time until the civilized 6:30 AM start Saturday morning.

All day Saturday I rode with my friend Max Merlich and Junior, his 100-mile mule who would be right at home on the Outlaw Trail. We set a reasonable and measured pace designed to get us up and over the mountain and across the desert to the finish. Over Toy Mountain, down the old stage wagon road, through the desert lands at dusk, and then along the desert trails under the stars at night, we rode along at steady, even pace designed to take us through 100 miles of tough trail. At 92 miles Frank's exit CRI was 48/48 -- the day had been hot but the pace was effective. We were not the first across the line, in fact, we were almost the last, but we rode our own ride and lady luck chose to ride along with us too. It was a great day followed by a spectacular night under a big desert moon.

The AERC National Championship travels around the US, as it should. If the National Championship is ever held close to your home, be sure to attend either as a rider or as a volunteer. I do not know if I will ever get the chance to ride another National Championship 100 and Frank is at least seventeen so I doubt that I'll get the chance to ride another NC 100 with my horse Frank. Saturday was a day of memories.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho

AERC Championship: A Novice Learning from the Experts

By Nancy R. Skakel

I had the great good fortune to be able to attend the 2007 AERC National Championship 55 and 100 Mile Races at Oreana, Idaho. This was also an FEI sanctioned event, so some riders were hoping to complete for FEI qualification, while other riders were just competing for the AERC recognition. There were FEI officials from South Africa and Malaysia in attendance, as well as several FEI qualified US veterinarians. One competitor, Seiichi Hasumi, riding the Shagya-Arab Fayette de Cameo, came from Japan to compete.

John and Steph Teeter hosted the race at their remote ranch in southwestern Idaho. This is high desert plateau, very hot and arid, at the base of the Owyhee Mountain range. The facility is rustic but with all the amenities one could wish for. Ample space, plenty of water, catered meals, nice public bathrooms (NO porta-potties! except on trail). We even had Wi-Fi Internet and cell phone reception (if you stood on top of the log near the main gateway in front of the old mobile home, or climbed the hill…) The Teeters host as many as 10 or more endurance events at their ranch each year.

Ride camp was at 3000 feet elevation. The 55-mile race, held on Thursday, went to the top of Toy Mountain, about 6,500 feet high. The footing was largely packed sand, although some stretches were quite rocky. I arrived after the completion of that event, but I believe most of the 48 starters finished that ride. The horses I saw in camp looked good. One horse was pulled after tying up, but there were no other horses on fluids. As I watched the awards, I was impressed with the number of older people (older even than me!) who are still competing.

Friday was a day of rest, pre-rides, and seminars. A panel of farriers presented a very in-depth seminar on shoeing. Of particular interest was the enthusiasm for a unique innovation developed by the head staff farrier at UC Davis. This is an aluminum shoe wrapped in a bonded polyurethane compound. The other farriers seemed to be impressed with the ease of fitting and application, as well as the effectiveness of this design. The brand name is Sneakers by Equithotics .

The next seminar was a talk by US National Champion, John Crandell, on the topic of conditioning. He used a power point presentation with many graphs demonstrating that exercise first causes a loss of condition. The body then repairs and strengthens stressed tissues during a rest phase, and rapidly climbs to a plateau of fitness. This plateau is maintained for a period, and then drops off without further conditioning. Thus the goal in training is to 1) understand and recognize this wave of stress, loss, rebuilding, and strengthening, 2) plan your conditioning to coincide with the peaks and valleys of that graph. Of course, the difficulty is that muscle tissues (including cardiac) respond much more rapidly than bone, cartilage, and especially ligaments. The biomechanics can get quite complicated. The training plan for an individual horse must be flexible and targeted very specifically to that particular horse. The main point that he emphasized over and over is the benefit and necessity of the rest periods to allow the horse’s body to heal, repair, and strengthen. He said most people over train and do not allow enough rest for their competition mounts. He wants to see his horses playing and frolicking in their pastures. John answered many questions from the audience. I asked him what tools he used to access his horses to make decisions for their training. He answered that the main thing is to know your horse. He uses heart monitors and good veterinary consults, but primarily he relies on his knowledge of and feeling for his horses, and close observation.

Next Stag Newman spoke about learning from mistakes. He used examples from his own long and distinguished career in endurance, to illustrate how to prepare for competitions, and how to strategize for a race. The main point I came away with from his talk is that it is most often the steady pace that does not over exert the horse and rider team has the best chance of not only completing, but finishing at the head of the pack.

Troy Ball also made an announcement about the foundation of a new organization called APEX ( HYPERLINK "", A Partnership for Endurance Xcellence. This organization is dedicated to education for the improvement of the sport of endurance. They have assembled an impressive group of experts in the fields of endurance; competitors, ride organizers, officials, veterinarians, farriers, breeders, and others. This group is organizing educational programs, literature, clinics, a mentoring system, and other features to further educational opportunities within the endurance community.

Sadly, I missed the seminar on moving up that was held on Thursday afternoon.
Friday evening Kathy Voyer hosted a wine and cheese hour, and presented her imported Shagya stallion, KS Rubin, in two dressage demonstrations. He was ridden to music from the movie, “Conan the Barbarian”; the Oriental flavor of the soft melody suited him well. There were a total of 7 Shagya owners and breeders attending the Championship, (one Shagya-Arabian competed). We handed out nearly all the brochures and fliers we brought with us, and talked to dozens of people interested in the Shagya breed. We had a nice display with banners, photos of the 2006 World Champion endurance horse, Hungares, sale fliers, stallion fliers, and breed brochures.
My main reason for traveling to Idaho was to see Rubin and to help support Kathy promoting the Shagya breed. I was able to help bathe and groom Rubin for his debut, and then to stay with him while he was tied to a trailer for an hour between his dressage demonstrations. He is a very compact horse with excellent Shagya type. His neck is very well placed and of adequate length. His withers could be better defined, but his topline is strong and well muscled. He has a good shoulder and powerful quarters; very good bone, good angles. His hooves are a bit small but appear to be of good quality. As always with the Shagyas, it is his heart and mind that win over his fans. His character is excellent, very good manners, willing, and eager to please. He is an excellent ambassador for our breed, and Kathy is doing a very good job to promote him and the Shagya horse.

I had volunteered to do any job to help with the competition. The morning of the race I was assigned to scribe for the vets, my first choice of duties! I rode out to the first vet check site with the South African FEI officials. I got a firsthand glimpse into the politics of the FEI organization and the international endurance competition community. They told me that South Africa has 260 FEI qualified endurance riders! This is a big sport in their country.
I was assigned to scribe for Dr. Balakrishna Polanaidoo, from Malaysia. Malaysia will host the World Equestrian Games in 2008. In November this year the King of Malaysia is hosting an FEI Trial Event, the Sultan’s Cup Terengganu Endurance Challenge. There will be competitors from 16 countries riding in this World Championship qualifying race. Dr. “Bala” and another Malaysian FEI official came to this AERC championship ride to support and promote international endurance competition.

How lucky I was in this assignment! Dr. Bala and I hit it off very well. He recognized that I am interested in learning as much as possible. He spent a lot of extra time explaining what he was looking for and finding in his assessments of the horses as they came through the vet checks. He answered hundreds of questions from me all day, and went out of his way to teach me. Between horses at the vet checks I was privileged to listen to the discussions among this international group of top American, Malaysian, and South African vets as they discussed endurance research projects, FEI rules, diseases and parasites peculiar to each of their countries, treatments, drugs, recent veterinary research findings, and interesting cases.
As the day progressed Dr. Bala and I became real friends. On the long car drives between vet check sites we discussed world and national politics, economy, environmental concerns, history, social, cultural, and religious differences, linguistics, and of course, horses. It was quite an honor to spend such a pleasant time with this educated and cultivated gentleman.

The vet checks are a very educational venue for someone new to the world of endurance riding. The horses are assessed for 14 criteria. First, their heart rate is taken – it has to be 64 or below to start their vet check time. The horse is then trotted in hand and without tack for 50 yds, and after one minute the heart rate is taken again. This is the Cardiac Rate Index, or CRI. The lower the heart rate is to begin with, and the less elevation in that rate after this brief exercise, the better the horse’s rate of recovery. The vet then does a swift physical exam of the following points, and grades them from A to D, with A being excellent, B is showing stress, C is showing signs of distress, and D is elimination from the race.

Mucus membranes – color, moisture, consistency of secretions
Capillary refill – how quickly does the blood refill when a finger is pressed on the gums (an evaluation for dehydration)
Jugular refill – the resiliency of the jugular vein indicates blood volume and cardiac efficiency
Gut sounds – as dehydration and exhaustion advance the bowel becomes less active, critical for a horse
Muscle tone – are they stiffening up or getting sore?
Anal tone – a flaccid anus is a sign of severe exhaustion
Back and withers – checking for soreness in this critical carrying portion of the anatomy
Wounds – cuts or abrasions occurring during the ride
Tack galls – spots rubbed raw by ill-fitting saddles, bridles, boots, etc.
Gait – is there any sign of consistent lameness? This can be quite subtle
Impulsion – is the horse moving with energy, or just dragging?
Attitude – is the horse alert, interested, hungry, or dull?
Over all impression

I am not (yet) an endurance rider, but I have studied conformation and movement for sport horse breed classes. It seems to me that the top finishers at this competition were for the most part of similar conformation and type. They tended to be leggy, lighter in frame and certainly lean in muscle mass, but harmonious and well balanced within their own type. They had well defined withers, backs that were not too long, and good length of hip and nice angles in the quarters. Many of the horses moved close either behind or in front, some to a significant degree. However, the top finishers moved more correctly, with a straighter flight of the foot. I did not see a lot of suspension, but freedom in the shoulders and an elastic trot typified the top horses. Nearly all of them moved well under themselves. I did not see many that trailed out behind.

There were some of the horses that seemed very thin and over conditioned to me. While Dr. Bala agreed, he seemed not to be so concerned that most of those horses would be able to finish if their riders paced them properly and took good care of them at the vet holds. There was one horse we expected to be pulled at each of the 8 vet checks, but she lasted until the 92-mile mark before being pulled. She had nothing left to draw on for the energy to continue. Many of the horses that were hollow over their toplines at the beginning of the race were pulled before completion. The top finishers were lean but with their ribs well covered and not at all gaunt or sucked up. I thought often of John Crandell’s admonition not to over condition and to allow the horses plenty of rest before a race.
The second vet check (VC) was at the 34-mile post. There were no holds or eliminations. As the riders headed back out on the trail, I watched their equitation. I must say, there was a very wide range of skill at sitting relaxed and in rhythm with the horse. Naturally, the front-runners appeared quite competent in the riding ability. A few of the riders were really pounding their poor horses’ backs, or leaning so far forward to have all their weight on the forehand. This was something Stag Newman had mentioned in his talk – the need for endurance riders to take lessons to improve their riding competency.

The mountain loop ended at the third vet check at the base camp after 55 miles. One horse was pulled there and put on IV fluids. I spoke with the rider later. She had competed internationally with this horse. She told me the vets thought the horse was reacting to an electrolyte overload prior to the race. His kidneys had recognized an over abundance of potassium and gone into high gear to excrete that vital mineral salt just at the time that he was actually needing it more. A few liters of fluid and he was well recovered.

The third vet check at 75 miles came after 20 miles out across the desert. The afternoon temperatures climbed to around 100 degrees, but where the track dropped down into a couple of small box canyons the temperature was probably closer to 110 degrees. The track was generally fairly level and packed sand. It invited a faster pace, but the many rodent burrows caused the riders some concern. The vet check at mile 75 really started to witness the toll on horses and riders. The horses were tired, their gaits stiffer, their recoveries prolonged. Gut sounds were generally diminished, with a couple of horses getting C’s, and B- was common. Skin turgor was down. The vets were giving a lot of B’s and B-‘s for mucous membranes, capillary refill, and even jugular refill. Tight and sore muscles showed on palpation and in the gaits, impulsion, and attitude.

I am an RN, and I was asked to check on a couple of the front running riders. They were close to heat exhaustion – light-headed, nauseous, cramping, rapid pulse. No significantly elevated temperatures or delirium, but I lectured them on taking as good care of themselves as they did their horses. They were basically dehydrated, and it cost them time to recover themselves before they were ready to go on. Even those of us standing in the light shade at the vet checks noticed that although we had been drinking water all day, we had no urge to urinate. The fluids were evaporating out of us in the arid heat. Several of the riders had backpack water bags they sipped on constantly, but it wasn’t quite enough. They needed electrolytes, too.

This vet check was in the bottom of a canyon, near the Snake River, on a private ranch. There was a mandatory 50-minute hold, and the ranch generously offered a lush field of tall grass for the horses to graze in while the rested. We anxiously watched as the horses slowly chewed the lovely grass. They were too tired to graze with much enthusiasm, but that green grass was the best possible tonic for a sluggish gut.

It was at this 75-mile VC that I was able to scribe for the vet checking Fayette de Cameo, Mr. Hasumi’s Shagya-Arabian mare. I remember that her CRI was 52 and 48; the best CRI I saw at that VC. She was in excellent condition. Mr. Hasumi was looking tired as he jogged her for the vets, but they were well rested and ready when they came back for the exit check. Three other horses were pulled at this VC for lameness. The first horses in were 6 hours ahead of the tail draggers.
During one of the lulls between groups of riders I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Stag Newman, recent president of AERC and one of our nation’s top competitors. He was not riding in this race. I introduced myself as a complete newcomer to endurance, and he encouraged me to ask my most basic questions. He told me he rides in used dressage saddles. He said he does a fair amount of cross training with dressage to increase suppleness, responsiveness to the aides, and balance. He and John Crandle both recommended going easy on the speed and endurance training. Stag also told me that he posts most of the time at the trot. He will adopt a two-point cantering uphill, and stand a bit in the stirrups to trot downhill. He trains faster on the hills than he would ride in a race, and slower on the flat than he would ride in a race. Hill work and suppling arena work are the mainstays of his training program. Stag was so generous and not in the least condescending to my novice questions, and I had him to myself for some time. Truly, I was learning from the experts!

When half the riders had come through the 75-mile VC, Dr. Bala and I returned to the base camp to assist with the final vet checks. We were both feeling a bit weary by then, but at least Dr. Bala had jetlag to blame for his flagging energy. While we chatted with Dr. Bala’s wife and some of the other officials taking a break, Dr. Bala brought out his laptop computer to show me what a “thumper” looks like. This is a horse that gets into a stress state that results in the irritation of the phrenic nerve, causing the diaphragm to contract in synchronous rhythm with the heart. The result is that the poor horse is breathing very rapidly and shallow. It can be quite a dangerous medical situation. Dr. Bala also showed me a presentation he had made on a research project of stomach ulcers in endurance horses. Half the horse he had endoscoped showed moderate to severe stomach ulcers. His theory was that overloading electrolytes contributed significantly to the development of stomach ulcers. He recommends frequent small doses rather than larger bolus doses of electrolytes.
This was the 92-mile VC. There was another 8-mile loop that returned to the ride camp. Sadly, a few horses were eliminated at this point, mainly for lameness. The vets felt sorry for the riders, but it is the vets’ job to protect the welfare of the horses. Some of the horses came in looking rather marginal to be able to go on, but when they returned 40 minutes later for their exit exams, they were fit enough to go the last leg. Occasionally, when a vet feels his assessment of a horse’s lameness is equivocal, he will ask for a vote. Then 3 vets watch the animal trot out and vote by secret ballot whether to pass or eliminate the animal. This often elicited very interesting discussions among the vets after the rider was informed of the vote.
John Crandell riding Heraldic and Cheryll Dell riding Reason to Believe rode together as the leaders all day. They both completed with times of 9:19 hours. The tail draggers, including a mule, completed around 2 a.m. Heraldic and Reason both looked good in their completion exams, although Heraldic was a bit stiff and short in his gaits. This showed again the next morning at the Best of Condition exams, and Reason to Believe won the BC award, while John and Heraldic won the national championship title and second place BC. Except for the stiffness in his gaits, Heraldic’s last vet exam was all A’s.

Three other horses were presented for BC exams on Sunday morning. They were, in the order of their placing, Joynce Sousa on LV Integrity, Anne Hall with Bogus Thunder, and Seiichi Hasumi with Fayette de Cameo. All 5 of these horse looked fit, in good flesh, alert, and sound the morning after doing the 100-mile national championship race.
I was able to spend some time talking and just visiting with several FEI riders. One of the themes was the difficulty for an individual to pay for the effort and commitment it takes to achieve the international level of competition. Financial support from the USET and sponsors would help immensely. The other thing they wished for is a European base where they could come to ride and train, and gain international experience.

My friend Mary Lehman and I were camped in a great spot. In front of us were Anne Hall with the Polish Arabian Bogus Thunder, and Seiichi Hasumi with Fayette de Cameo, Shagya-Arabian. When we introduced ourselves as a Shagya breeders, Mr. Hasumi gave Mary and I pretty Oriental fans to cool us. John Crandell’s rig with Heraldic was just to the east of us, and Carolyn Hock with GT Sando and Kathy Voyer were to the west of us. Behind us was Jeri Randle’s friend, Dean Hoalst with his 20-year old thoroughbred ex-race horse, PK Whiskey. Mary helped Jeri crew for Dean and another friend of Jeri’s who had arrived without a crew. Mary and I fell asleep each night talking about all the fun we were having and the things we had learned and observed during the day. I came to the event anticipating a fun and interesting weekend, but I got so much more than I had expected, learning from the experts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Euston Park, Thetford, England

Iain Cockley-Adams
Croghan Hill Farm

FEI 3 * 160 km || 5th August 2007

It was going to be a hot day in Suffolk. As the competitors gathered for the 6.00am start it was already 24˚C (75˚F). Whilst for those who had travelled from Europe to Thetford this looked like a typical summer’s day, this early morning temperature was something the British based riders had hardly seen at any time of day this year. As the ride progressed temperatures peaked at 31˚C (89˚F), uncharacteristic for an English summers day but unheard of so far in 2007 which has seen record rainfall and cool cloudy days.

The 160km offered up a varying mix of stubble fields, woodland and grass tracks, some road and a great deal of the uncompromising flint tracks characteristic of the area. The course consisted of six loops varying in length from 40km for the first and second stages to 17.5km for the final circuit. Each stage brought the riders back to the venue for the vet gate.

At Vet Gate One the United Arab Emirate’s Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya was at the front – a position that he held throughout the ride. His 9 year old Grey Arab Zakar Zahara eventually crossed the finish line some 20 minutes clear of second place Cecile Mosti of France on Khandela des Vialettes.

The winner averaged 18.23 kph. Mubarak bin Shafya’s slowest circuit was the final loop covered in 16.09 kph; his quickest was the third stage (80km-105km) ridden at 19.39kph.

However, for most of the day the leader did not have everything his own way. France’s Jack Begaud, who for the last two years has been the leading rider in the FEI World Rankings, was hard on his heels until around 130km (85 miles) when his mount Highlander suffered a hind limb injury forcing them to retire on course.

Third place went to Raed Mahmood of Bahrain riding Izba du Caussanel.

The first British rider home was Ros Jackson on Nazeeka in fourth place (14.84 kph), followed by Janice Cockley-Adams with Khadidja du Pont, the third successful 160km completion this season for Janice Cockley-Adams and her Arab mare.

Christine Yeoman was next home on her new Argentinean bred horse LM Midday and 7th place was another Briton, Linda Coplethwaite riding First Time. Eighth and ninth places were taken by Qatari competitors, Essa Ahmed Al Mannai on Dragon JT and Abdulla Towaim Al Marri on Shagar 5, who rode together focussed on securing the qualifying standard for the upcoming Open European Championships.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tevis 2007: Better late than Never

Ron Chapman

I started riding endurance in March 2003 at the City Slicker. The year before I had called to see if I could ride in a ride at Cave Run Ky. When I called Connie Caudell to ask about the ride, she ask are you qualified, I said I think so. She said this ride is for the National Championship, I said I had never rode an endurance ride but would like to however I doubted I was ready for the N/C. She invited me to come up and help and learn. I went up and stayed all week, marking trail, working in vet checks, putting up tents, and anything else that needed done. It was a great experience, I learned a lot. I also met a lady named Linda Joyner who invited me to come to Memphis in the spring and ride the City Slicker with her. I did and that is another story, but I made it through the 50 and got the turtle award, and was hooked. I now have 265 LD mi. and with my Tevis Completion over 1000 Endurance Miles( My first 100).

I rode in the Daddy's Day Dashin mid June with Cherly Fenton. She had rode the Tevis in 2004 and finished 30th and she gave me alot of encouragement as I told her I planed to try it in 2008.

On monday after Father's Day I got a call from Paul Sidio, a guy I had rode with at a ride and we had shared our dreams about riding the Tevis Cup. He ask me if I would like to ride out to Reno with him, help drive and maybe help crew for him I said I would love to. A week or so later Paul called and said he felt that Barukh and I were as ready as He and Piper were and what did I think about loading and riding in the Tevis. I told him that I would love to but that would put him back to looking for a crew again and I wouldn't do that. He assured me he could get a crew, I said I will give you a week and if you find a crew we will talk but that I really couldn't afford it. The next day, in less than 24 hrs Paul called and said I have a crew and not to worry about the cost just chip in a little on gas since he would have to pull his three horse instead of the two horse so we would have room for hay and tack. (Thanks Paul)

Paul contacted Debbie Parsons and Chip Jack who had crew for the Bowen the year before and both had finished and got their buckle. The Bowens said they were great and they were along with Dovie Pickering we had a better crew than Tony Stewart.

Paul had also arranged for us to stay at Bob and Dovie Pickerings the week before the ride which was great for us and our horses. We were treated soooo good I am afraid to tell it all for fear of having to stand in line if I get the chance to go again. Thanks Bob and Dovie I hope someday you can come our way and we can return the favor. You are super people.

The Tevis was everything I excepted it to be and some, It is a ride like no other, Everything was first class, the ride committee (Most especially Robbin) was great, the volunteers were great, very friendly, very helpful, and everywhere you could want one just look up and thay were there. The Vet staff was so very very good and helpful and great cheerleaders. They no only took care of your horse but gave encouragement and cheered you on.

I rode with a lot of good people , at Last Chance I knew I was half way, was not going to top 10 (which I never thought I would) I felt good, had a lot of horse left and lots of time. At that point I told myself this Buckle is mine, all I have to do is ride smart.

When I left Forrest Hills I was moving right along passing riders in the dark when I came upon three people riding in the dark with no lights on and ask if I could pass when there was room . After riding a little ways behind them I could tell they knew the trail and I had never been on it before. They slowed down at the bad spots and moved out at all the good ones without the help of lights . Some other people came up behind us and ask to pass and when the people in front found a place they let them pass , they ask me if I would like to pass also, I said no, I made one mistake by asking to pass earlier, that I was fine right where I was. It turned out to be Robert Ribley and his wife, both got there 1000 mile Buckles at the award banquet.

We rode into Francisco together, and as I was leaving a little ways down the rocky trail I stumbled upon a lady who seemed sick or ill throwing up on the side of the trail. I asked if i could take her back to the vet check. Of course however she said no thanks that she was too close now to give up! I told her there was no way I would leave her that I would ride with her for what little comfort I could offer. As we rode she could not stand to trot for she hurt to badly, so we walked our horses to Lower Quarry. Not concerned about time, for I was positive we had plenty of time to finish, but worried for her for she felt so horrible. She was now my focus yet still keeping the focus of the ride in my mind. As we rode I became curious and asked her name, Georgianne Gross she told me. She also told me this would be her fith attempt on the Tevis. She had finish twice in the previous four attempts and assured me that we would finish in plenty of time.

When we left Lower Quarry, we trotted to Hwy 89 crossing about 2 miles away. As we went up the little switchback, I heard the sound of a shoe being thrown and prayed I was wrong. However as it was sure enough Barukh had lost his right rear shoe. Now what to do I thought. I tried to get Georgianne to go on without me but she wouldn't have it! For my actions of kindness were now her returning kindness in a new friendship that had formed along this amazing journey. However, with just a mile left , I finally convinced her to go on and wait for me. Reluctantly she rode off ahead and finished three minutes ahead of me and was happily waiting at the end of the long trail by the finish.

I felt so great when i heard the cheering of,Debbie,Chip,Georgianne,and Paul, congratulating me as i rode head held high into the finish!

Paul had finished at 3:20 am it was 4:46am when I got in but he was there with the gang to cheer me home. I got my completion, did my victory lap ,we had made it.

I grabbed a phone and called my wife back in TN to let her know that Barukh and I had made it victory was ours. They were all so proud of us. Our three children had helped their mother keep track of me all day and through the night.

It was very gratifying the next day at the awards when a lady came up and hugged me, and with tears in her eyes she put a face on the voice I had heard in the dark the night before. It was Georgianne and with these words she almost made me cry. She said if it had not been for you I would not have got this buckle. It made it worth it all. Because had it not been for Paul Sidio and the Good Lord I would not have got mine either. So it made me feel good to gave back to someone.

So if you ever get the chance to do this GREAT RIDE called the Tevis Cup Don't pass it up. I promiss you will be glad you went.

God Bless
Ron Chapman

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tevis: Max and Junior (the mule)

Max Merlich

Like most things in life, once you get older, it is the journey to the destination that you will remember, not the arrival there. While we did get to Auburn, it was in the truck and trailer down from Foresthill. But we sure had fun.

So many people helped us get ready for the Tevis as well as during the ride. I will probably forget some and for that I apologize but I must mention Lisa, who trained with me and spent many days on the road, crewing and putting up with my fretting and worry. Gordon and Sharon I owe a lot who gave me confidence, advice and then came all the way down and crewed the day of the ride. Jane Switzer and her mother and father who gave us a great place to camp and pasture Junior in May, set up the pre-ride with Vicky Testa and Kim Nunez, and for coming out and cheering us on at Robie, Robinson, Michigan Bluff and Foresthill to console us. Tom Noll who gave me a great cheat sheet on times and pacing between the VC’s and a very accurate description of the trail that we had not ridden. And Ona for much good advice and encouragement and the reminder to have fun! And to all the fellow riders who gave us so much good luck and best wishes before the ride, thanks, we thought about you on the trail and really thought we were going to make it.

We pre-rode the Foresthill to the river on Memorial day but could not cross due to high water. Vicky Testa and I were dropped off on Wed noon before the ride by Lisa out at the Hwy 49 crossing of the trail and we rode out to the river, crossed and crossed back and rode to Auburn. It was a slow trot and a hot afternoon. The river was on the way up and we did not dally on the other side as Junior was getting light on his feet on the crossing and the water was up to my calves. Vicky assured it would be lower for the crossing during the ride. Crossing No-Hands bridge on the way in was quite a thrill and the trail remains uphill from there to the finish but not bad trail. I was reflecting on if I would be riding it Sunday morning but no way to tell. We went to the BBQ that night at the fairgrounds in Auburn and I got to see Crockett Dumas who I had not seen in 25 years. Met some other great folks also.

We hauled up to Robie Park on Thursday morning and found a good place to camp and set up. We saw our fellow NW riders as well as made some new friends. We walked Junior a couple of times and he was clearly getting jacked up. He made friends with Ron Wilkins and Diane LIndholm’s big molly mules. Chris Yost and Nance Worman showed up about dark and we made plans for a ride the next day. We rode out for a couple miles and back so we could see the start and called it good and made plans to meet at 430 am for the start. All the critters were ready and a steady stream of rigs were piling in. A horse evidently spooked in his pen a few camps from us mid morning and ended up breaking his front leg and more and was put down and hauled off which put a little damper on things. It was pretty awful to hear that going on. We vetted in fine and packed up our boxes and the Westergard’s arrived late afternoon and we made our plans. The vet in was great to watch and we saw some famous horses like Bogus Thunder vet in, awesome horse. The atmosphere in camp was pretty electric and Lisa commented that it was like the super bowl of endurance. I had to tie Junior to the trailer finally because he was so jacked over all the goings on. I think he was afraid the ride was going to start without him. The ride meeting went on and on but the dinner was great.

We were in pen 2 which was a horrible place to muster up 60-80 horses in the dark. Dust, rocks, trees and amped-up horses made that a stressful time. We were told to circle and wait for release on a controlled start. Junior behaved well although Lisa had had to hold him for me to mount. He had been beside himself in his pen but calmed during the saddling operation at 4 am. I finally just stood in the middle of the pen and waited. Was supposed to ride with Nance and Chris but could not find them in the chaos, turns out Chris had overslept! How could that possibly be…..I did not sleep at all!

We were out of the pen on a controlled start which surged up the road in fits and starts and was more stressful than the pen. Some kicking and bucking and yelling going on but we stayed out of that, and we were off. Actually once released it went pretty well, folks were fairly polite and in a mile we were on single track downhill switchbacks to Hwy 89 crossing. I think there was a big wreck behind me, I heard it and was glad it was behind me. Daylight came and it became apparent fast that we were going to trot downhill fast on rocky trail or get run over so we did. We crossed 89 and started up Squaw Valley ski area on good single track hard uphill. Some guy was bucked off behind me and his horse was ramming through our group and I had to spin Junior and face him in a bad spot but Junior held trail and the horse bailed over and continued until he reached the next group and was caught. He was tied to a tree and left, that commotion and delay caused a huge traffic jam but only a few people were nasty about it. Soon we were up above the lodge and in to the ski runs and service roads and there was room to pass. We passed Crockett Dumas and several people and I knew it was going to be a good day on the mule. He was so strong and competitive. He pulled the mountain over Squaw at a fast trot and I once saw 150 on the monitor but most of the time he was 100-110, I knew he was in great shape. At High Camp he did not drink but we fill bottles, sponged and left. We rode into the Granite Chief wilderness with three mules leading a pack of a dozen riders. It was mule country, big boulders, bogs, roots and tough trail. Mostly walking, short stretches of trotting. It was high and beautiful country, you could see Tahoe and the Pacific Ocean if it was clear. It was about the only time I got to gaze around at the view all day, the going was slow enough you could let the mule pick his way. I was breaking him off big handfuls of tall grass up near my saddle and feeding them to him on the fly. I have heard it could be boggy and we hit one bog but it was a dry year. Between there and Lyons Ridge we did some serious downhill trotting on rocks, it was easy to see standards for trotting downhill were going to be lowered considerably here or you were going to be run over or not make time. Just out of Lyons Junior drank well and it was the last water in a trough but there was more. He actually threatened other horses when they tried to get in on the last of the water! We came into Lyons Ridge and he was down and we vetted and were out of there in a hurry. Sharon’s advice on that was true, we passed many people in the VC eating watermelon and fooling around. Junior had a few bites and was pulling me down the trail when he saw horses leaving so on we went.

In a mile or so we came around a corner in a good trot and there was Cougar Rock. I had pretty well made up my mind to go around that but I was curious to see just how bad it was. I have heard it both ways. A women on a big chestnut was up on the rock scrambling with all four and the chestnut was trying to stand on his hind legs and bail back out. There was a line of people waiting for their turn at it and we never slowed, we went right and passed another half dozen. After that it was along a high ridge on some good single track up and down and we were passed by quite a few anxious riders. There were not many good places to pass and I could hear rumbling from behind but I was not in the lead. This is the only part of the ride where I saw some bad sportsmanship and not much, just some passing where it was not too smart. Some knee hooking and that sort of thing, and it was the only time the mule threatened to kick. Then we were into Red Star and he was down fast and we saw our NW vet Dr. Timmons! He made me come back and said he saw something in the mules RR but not enough to make me trot again, just said to be aware. He circled RR to watch on my card which may have meant something, maybe not.

Soon we were on a two track road with good trotting and we made the 7-8 miles to Robinson in short order. I rode with Krista Snyder some here on her Paint Corky and we had a good talk. She went on to finish 28th, good for her. This was pretty cool in that there was a big crowd and people actually cheering. There was Lisa, Gordon and Sharon who took over and we were vetted in fast, Junior had a good roll and went to eating. He was hungry and had drank well and looked and felt great. There were some horses in difficulty already at this VC, it was a hard 36 miles and I think it sorts out weak and the sick fast. We were well ahead of our schedule and all was good. Gordon and Sharon were crewing for Tony Bennedetti as well and he was gone already but his horse was not looking so good they said.

We left at noon on time and headed out through the top of Duncan Canyon and down Mosquito ridge. Here was some rocky trail that was downhill and had to be trotted to make time. It was hot by then and we were in the old Red Star Burn that my company had done some work on both the fire fighting and some salvage logging on the west end. It was a huge burn and I understand that the trail was relocated after the fire. We crossed road 43 and were downhill into Dusty Corners on a dusty rocky red dirt two track that was downhill all the way and nasty to trot. It was like this all the way to Dusty and it was not relaxing, you had to stay riding all the time and Junior was doing those little slips in the rear in the rocks and the dust. Again I rode some with Krista Snyder. In Dusty Junior drank a ton of sponge water and some better water, filled our bottles and were off on the Pucker Point trail. I loved this trail, it was all single track and on a north facing slope with big beautiful timber and cool shade. We made great time here with a small group, it was good trail and good going. I can’t say that I noticed Pucker Point when we went by, there were some high sides but the trail was good and solid and Junior just wanted to go. Into Last Chance and the halfway mark on the ride we were thinking that we have probably come more than halfway in terms of difficulty. Junior was down fast and ate pretty well but he peed darker than I wanted. He had been drinking more than he ever has so I was not really worried but it was hot and he had put out hard already. We elyted him for the 5th time and left for the canyons.

In about a mile you hit the edge of the middle fork of the American River. It was a planned get off and run for me and we did. It is a 2200 foot drop in a mile or two and it is a lot of switchbacks and rock. We ran where we could. Had one nice little pool of water left on the way down and he drank well and soon we crossed the swinging bridge. I was alone during this descent but there were people in the river when I got there. I went up to the drinking hole up the trail a couple of hundred yards and it was just like advertised, good cool water. We had a drink and a bath and were ready to go when the Japanese gentlemen rode up. I used my scoop to cool his horse and told him if he wanted to pass now would be a good time as I was going to tail up. He said “no, please go slow, horse tired” Off we went with me wondering about a fellow on a horse I had heard he paid big bucks for asking a guy with a $1500 mule to go slow! But this gentlemen finished also…. It took a long time to tail out of this hole and I had to get on twice or puke in front of people. It was very hot and very steep and rocky with a ton of switchbacks. I think this is where Khrista Snyder passed me. Into Devils Thumb, no food but water and then only a mile to Deadwood. Junior drank some and ate well and we left behind the Japanese gentlemen.

Eldorado Canyon is just about as deep but is a little longer trail so not as steep. We rode some of it and then got off and ran what we could. I met a lady from the Midwest riding JAC Natalie, one of Annarose’s great horses and we visited on the way down when we were not gasping. We were passed near the bottom by some riders and I tailed up some and rode some into Michigan Bluff. Some of this was with a fellow from Colorado who had been running up front but had been told to slow. There had been no easy water to get to in the bottom but a mile from the top there was a little creek that flowed out on the trail in a muddy puddle. Junior kept going up the creek until he found a nice pool and drank well. He was standing like a dog drinking out of the toilet with his feet on the seat and had me hung in an alder tree but I let him drink! Into Michigan where we saw Kim and Vicky and some other nice folks cheering us on. Julie Suhr, who I have wanted to meet for years and have emailed some came up to us and gave us a hug. Junior spied mash buckets and pulled me across the yard but we were told he could not have them, they were for another rider. I thought I was not going to be able to drag him off them but I did, I felt so bad for him, I could just feel him sink. No hay at all there, some kind fellow gave me a handful of straw and we left waking down the street with him eating straw! It was only a mile or two to Chicken Hawk Volcano VC so we trotted on. At a quarter mile we got off and I tailed him up a dirt road into the VC at mile 65. He was at 64 in a couple minutes and I was thinking that this has went well for us, I am pretty much ruined from the running and tailing but he is fine and still has good energy and is only 4 miles from our crew at Foresthill. Some nice folks are sponging him and I let them sponge his rear end after seeing the water is not cold and it is still 95 out. Was this a mistake? Never know, I had been doing it all day at times it was so hot and have done it most of his rides that were this hot if the water is not that cold. Anyways we are pulsed and he is eating hard and when we trot out we are told to come back………Six vets line up and watch us a second time and that is that, he is lame. The all agree RR and think rear end. Two of them palpate him and cannot find any soreness, he just keeps on chowing down. I cannot find anything on his legs, feet or rear end either. DeWayne where are you when I need you???? He says I can try to work it out but I figure it must be a deep pull, a cramp would show. And just like that, it is over.

We get a ride down to Foresthill and meet our crew, unsaddle him and feed him. I am explaining to Sharon what happened and going over his rump there it is, a baseball size lump of cramp and he is not liking it touched. Sharon and I put on Arnica at great peril and by morning he is sound at the trot on pavement and by Sunday afternoon in S Oregon on the way home at a grazing spot he is his old self pulling me around. Was it water on his rear, lack of elytes or just the cumulative trauma of downhill trotting and all the little slips. Never know but I would bet the latter, he got half again as much elyte as he ever has and it was so hot I cannot imagine semi warm water causing him to cramp.

As we are hauling out of Foresthill about dark I see my fellow riders from the trail leaving for Auburn and it was bittersweet to see them go but we wished them the best of luck. At that point most all of the hard stuff is behind you and even though it is the final push, it is nice to have downhill easy trail. I am sure if we could have gotten to that point Junior would have picked it up and went on home strong. On the other hand, three of our PNER riders, Sue Walz, Ernie Schrader and Dean Hoalst were all pulled at Lower Quarry, six miles from the end. What heartbreak. But I did hear that Dean’s great horse PK Whiskey, finished the ride at 20 years old. What a horse!

Will we try again? Hard to say right now, because of the difficulty of the trail the time element becomes a large factor. That is the only thing I did not like about the ride is the pressing need to trot downhill on ground that I normally do not trot on. If you don’t, you probably won’t make it on time. Having a mount with a good surefooted downhill trot or even a real fast walk would be a big advantage I would think. We have a while to think on it anyway and it was all in all a tremendous experience.

Most of all I am glad I did not hurt him in any way and brought him home sound and ready for the NC 100 later this month. Toy Mt will look flat and the trail smooth compared to Tevis!

The Lazy Man's Way to Crew Tevism- Victoria Thompson

I stopped going up to Tevis years ago for a myriad of reasons, but one of the main ones was my parents no longer lived in Lake of the Pines (12 miles north of Auburn). Well, they moved back. I love visiting my parents during Tevis - the ride is an excellent excuse to "get out of Dodge" while in Dodge. I especially enjoy it now that they live about a mile from the finish line. So convenient, so cheap, and I don't have to share a bathroom. Who could ask for more.

Well, this year I announced my plans to my husband that I was going up to Tevis and I told him the weekend. He said rather matter of fact, "You can put the top down on the Mercedes. Have fun. I'm going fishing ... in the truck." I was rather dumb struck. For people that know me they understand that this is almost an impossibility. Me? Lost for words? Inconceivable. I sort of just stared at my husband blinking. He reached up and closed my mouth. Then he reiterated, "I get the truck that weekend." Well that just put a huge chink in my plans. How am I suppose to visit my parents when I have no escape plan? I'd have to figure something out.

My horses are boarded at Chris Herron's Bar H Ranch. When I heard Chris was going to do Tevis again this year I told him I'd drive out to Foresthill and help him out. I wouldn't really be much worth as a crew person, but I could at least get away from 'Dodge' for a few hours. Then Kat Swigert told me Melissa Margetts was coming out from Colorado to do Tevis and could I help her out. I met Melissa and her super cool Paso Fino, Cabo, at the Main Divide 100 in March. I Emailed Lissa to see what her plans were and found out that she had no crew what so ever. So, there I am perfectly able to help out and I'm stuck in a sports car that chokes at the first sign of dirt.

Thank God for Ridecamp. I put out the SOS and got more responses than I could dream of. I needed people to go to Robie Park to see Lissa off in the AM and drive her rig down to Auburn. I asked for, and got, a separate person to go to Robinson Flat early to avoid the rush and get a good spot. I would go to Foresthill and get a spot there. I asked and I received. I hated writing the Emails to all the other volunteers to tell them no thank you. But, I'm glad I did (no offense to anyone). I wound up with ladies that had ridden Tevis themselves and could answer all of Lissa's questions with first hand knowledge. Too cool. Now it was just a matter of logistics. How to get gear and passes transferred to their respective people in a timely matter. Piece of cake.

Oh, did I mention I've been having Eustachian tube problems since May and have been a Dizzy Dora all summer. No, silly me. I can't make any sudden moves or turn my head fast without having a bout of dizziness (hey, I'm not landing on my butt anymore so things are improving). And I'm going to go crew Tevis. On top of that, I was told that my sister and her husband would be at their Meadow Vista home and that my brother and his family would be passing through town on their way to Lewiston Lake. What a great time for a family get together. We haven't all been together for at least 7 years. Wouldn't this just be wonderful. Blah, blah, blah. Make the parents happy. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. I'm doomed. I'm going to try to crew Tevis. This was going to be an interesting weekend.

The countdown was on. Only a week to go and my husband announced that work has ruined his plans and I can have the truck after all. That just made things a whole lot easier. Didn't get me out of my familial obligations, but I now had room to carry gear.

So here was the plan. Lissa and Cabo arrive in Auburn on Monday and ride the trail from No Hands to the finish. Then they go up to Robie Park on Thursday. I drive up from SoCal on Thursday via the eastern side of the Sierras through Reno (the long route to Auburn, but the short route to Truckee). I stopped in at Robie Park to see Lissa (and Chris Herron). I pick up all the gear Lissa wants at Robinson's Flat, the crew passes, hay, grain Etc. Then head on down to Auburn and the warm embrace of my family's bosom. First thing out of my mother's mouth is, "Why do you cut your hair so short?" Nice to see you too mom. Friday afternoon/evening I transfer all that gear plus people food and drinks and buckets and crew pass to Nancy Corbelletta who will go to Robinson Flat. Joanne Gwin and her mom and friend Mary and their children will drive to Robie Park on Friday, find Lissa and help her. I continue to remain with my family trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I speak only when spoken to. My sister's husband showed some interest in the ride and asked a lot of questions - his son runs the WST Run, came in third this year. All in all a quiet evening. Saturday the family gathers at my parent's house for breakfast. Meanwhile, Lissa has begun the ride, her rig is being transported down the mountain, Nancy is waiting at Robinson's. And I'm sleeping in, showering, clean clothes, big breakfast. Ahh, crewing at Tevis, this is the life.

I got to Foresthill about 12:30. Spotted Chris's big rig and pulled in next to him. Since Lissa wasn't a top ten contender I had no doubt that most of the cars would be gone by the time she got there and we'd have plenty of space. I was right. I wandered around saying hi to people I knew. Looked for Hal and Ann Hall's crew but never did find them. An old friend was crewing for them and I wanted to see her, but it just wasn't meant to be. I was up by the in-gate when Nancy arrived from Robinson's. We talked for awhile down by the truck. We found some shade and she made us the most wonderful mojitoesque drink. Need the recipe, Nancy. We finally wandered back up to the in-gate and there were Joanne and Mary and Mary's daughter (sorry, I forget her name) along with Lissa's dog Wilson. So we sat and waited and watched all the horses come in. And we waited, and we waited some more. Joanne and Mary decided to take a bucket of water and a sponge down the road and next thing you know there was Lissa and Cabo. Mary slugged that saddle around like it was made of gold. She wouldn't put it down all through the vet check. Cabo did great. Chris was just leaving his vet hold when Lissa arrived and she was allowed to use his LQ to change clothes. Nancy, Joanne and Mary just jumped in to work. We parked Cabo in front of a bunch of hay and water and let him munch. I sponged him clean. Lissa ate a little bit, but was asking if we should saddle him up to go. I told her she still had 40 minutes left on her hold and to sit down and be quiet. Fat chance. She tried, but it didn't last long. Between Nancy, Joanne and Mary I pretty much just stood back and watched. I swear the most I did that hold was sponge Cabo off and hand the glow sticks to Nancy. I LIKED it.

For all the groaning Lissa was doing about her um ... chaffing problem, she was walking pretty darn good. Nancy brought her Monkey Butt cream (but it wasn't Monkey Butt, something else I don't remember). Had Lissa purring like a kitten. With glow sticks taped to Cabo's rig it was time for Lissa to go. The others saw her off to the out-gate while I cleaned up. I separated everyone's gear and loaded Lissa's into my truck. Things were going to get a little interesting after this.

Joanne and Mary were off to find Joanne's mother and sons. They lost them. Joanne's boys got very sick Friday night and Joanne's mom took them to a motel Saturday morning. The problem was they didn't know what motel they went to. The motel where they SAID they had reservations never heard of them. Joanne's mom got a new cell phone and the number wasn't in Joanne's phone. Joanne's phone was dead. Mary's phone worked, but she didn't have the number nor could they be found in the motels. Mary's phone was getting low on power. They had to go.

I now had the dog and had to go to the fairgrounds to find Lissa's van to deposit said hound. I also had to eat. It was 9:45 PM when we all pulled out of Foresthill. I was going to drop the dog off and join Nancy for some dinner. Then we were going to go to the barns and fix up Cabo's stall. Then Nancy went to get a few hours sleep. I went back to the parking lot and walked the dog and unloaded the rest of Lissa's gear into her trailer. It was about 1:30 AM and I tried to get a couple hours of sleep, but there was a guy in the LQ next to me that was barfing his guts up. Poor thing. Doesn't make for pleasant bed company. I went to the arena instead. Did a little walking around the barns. Then went to the finish line about 4 AM. Nancy met me there. About 4:45 - 4:50 a bunch of riders came in with Lissa and Cabo among them. Cabo looked great. Hugs, tears and a big drink of water for Cabo and we were off to the fairgrounds. We handed Cabo some food while he waited for a vet to see him. Then he was trotting out for the vets and they said, "Yep, gaited horse. Lame on all four feet." Cabo passed with flying colors. Lissa climbed back aboard for her victory lap and the announcer said, "Would you look at that guy go. What is that?" Cabo just zoomed around the arena. We let him eat a little grass and then walked Cabo back to his stall. We cleaned him up and left him alone.

Nancy, poor thing, left to begin another very long day. She had to drive back to Palo Alto and then go to a baseball game with her husband and mother-in-law. She probably stopped at every Starbuck's between Auburn and San Francisco. What a trooper. I took Lissa to her van and waiting dog. They left to go to their motel. I went to my parent's house. Since they were still asleep I just parked out front and read a little Harry Potter and waited until they got up. I laid down about 8 and asked to be woken at 11. My father obliged me with a very loud knock on my bedroom door.

I showered and went back to the barns to walk Cabo. Cabo thought I was nuts when I asked him to walk with me, but he came along peacefully. He would much rather have been left to eat. He was a little stiff and sore, but not too bad. He tolerated the bath he got, but just barely. He had some sore spots, but nothing really bad. His legs looked good and his eyes were bright and alert. All in all I'd say he managed those 100 miles quite nicely. Lissa arrived during his bath. She had showered and changed but hadn't slept. Too wound up. We went to the awards ceremony/banquet and listened to other people's ride stories, had a good meal and watched the presentation of the Haggin Cup. After watching all those horses John's deserved it, hands down. I was still kind of out of it because while standing in line to get food I looked out and down a hill and there was this big poster of my colt Hawkeye (AHA has it spelled Hawk-aye). Right next to Hawkeye was a poster of Lynne Glazer's gelding Q. Now I'm giving these posters a good look thinking to myself I know all those pictures, what on Earth are they doing there. Uh, duh, there's Lynne and Christy Cumberworth in their booth letting people know where they'll be able to find their Tevis pictures, and selling some posters too. I'd been walking all night passed Lynne's truck and didn't even see her. I'd of banged on her door too if I'd noticed her sleeping there.

Lissa and I had breakfast on Monday morning before I headed on down the highway. She was finally able to sleep, but the dust had done a number on her voice. She and Cabo were heading back to Colorado on Tuesday. Her last words were, "I'm never making Cabo do another endurance ride again." We'll see.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Endurance Horse - Lisa Volkman

Endurance Horse
by Lisa Volkman

Admire the willing Endurance Horse,
his nature is quite strange.
There is NO way he can stop on a
dime and give you nine cents change.

But he'll slide down cliffs, wade thru streams
and charge up hill 'til his hot body steams!

So race against him if you've got the guts.
It's full speed ahead with an elegant strut.

He gives all that he's got and still finds more...
He's a definite 12 on a 1 to 10 score!!

2007 Tevis - Sue Walz

Tevis has become my yearly adventure. 2007 was an eventful one. I caravaned down with Krista Snyder & her Tevis bound paint, Corky. It made the drive more interesting, though I scared her with my freeway speeds! ;-)

We started the week before Tevis with the Gold Country Ride & Tie. My friend, Cash, teamed with veteran Ride & Tier, George Hall. They took my mare, Ruby, on her first Ride & Tie! They did great with her, although tail ending the 25 mile distance. It was a fun experience!

The next day we all pre rode the Foresthill to across the river section of the Western States trail. I saw some signs that looked like a shortcut home to my dad's house off Sliger Mine Rd. We tried that & got lost! Krista tied up Corky & hiked in to a house that we passed. She found out where we were approximately & we rode out on some very steep trails. We made it home safe!

The prep for going to Robie Park is a routine for Raven & I. When I went out to halter him & bathe him he didn't do his usual keep away game. He walked up to me & put his head into the halter. He then took me over to the bathing stall & walked in! Can you tell he is anxious to get to the Tevis ride? He loves it!

On Thursday we drove up to Robie Equestrian Park near Truckee. A beautiful camp to start this incredible ride on. Cash & Jeff crewed for me there. Kara found her way up there to crew for Krista. We intermingled our crews throughout the ride in a cooperative effort. My dad, Steve Elliott & Kara were at Robinson Flat hour hold. Everyone was at Foresthill!

I got to start in the first pen this year! Halfway up the controlled start one of the lead horses flipped out & backed into Raven. He bulldozed his way into the lead after that. So I kept him in a walk & kept circling back to stay near the first group. We had a 5 minute wait at the starting line & were off!!

Raven stretched out & was on a loose rein quickly. Flying down the trail with the other front runners! We were fourth crossing hwy 89. His usual explosion of speed at Squaw Valley didn't happen because I didn't have to hold him back this year. At Granite Chief Wilderness they had changed the trail to be safer, less rock. Raven kept trying to go on the old trail! Amazing memories horses have. He picked his way through quickly & deftly. We continued on towards Cougar Rock enjoying the incredible High Sierra vistas. I decided to approach Cougar on a loose rein & see if Raven would choose to climb it like last year. He sped up to the right & went around! No awesome picture this year!

Heading to Red Star Ridge I noticed Raven was already missing his left front shoe. I wasn't worried, he's a 100 mile barefooter on other rides. He vetted through well & we continued the six miles to Robinson Flat. I vetted him through again before we had the shoe replaced. I always have extra plastic shoes in my vet bag now. The farriers were great! They made sure all the shoes were on well.

On to the canyons. The first one Raven went down fast. He has an awesome downhill gait. A mile or so before swinging bridge he slipped & fell, though. He fell on his right side, the mountain side, luckily. I got quite bruised & scraped up. I kept ahold of the reins & was dragged a few feet before Raven stopped. I stood up & ran with him a ways until I found a safe place to mount. On the other side of swinging bridge the ascent was slower. I was assessing my injuries & sponging the blood away after sponging Raven. He had no abrasions, luckily. I felt like I had abdominal injuries. At Last Chance I let them know about the fall. At Deadwood vet check the volunteers were great. They knew I had fallen & I was given Advil & three Platinum bars with an anti inflamitory in them. I ate all three that she gave me & they really helped! I got through the next canyon slower. My dad & Steve were at Michigan Bluff & helped cool Raven down & gave him a bit of hay. I got going quickly.

I got through the new Chicken Hawk vet check. I let Raven eat a smorgasbord of soaked feeds. Then I left for the four miles through the lovely small canyon that brings you to Foresthill.

The volunteer from Platinum came running up to me at Foresthill to see how I was doing. She had been so worried about me! At that point I could honestly say I was in no pain. She gave me more bars for me & for Raven! So nice & caring!

As I was coming into Foresthill I saw my friend Judy Houle. She's a wonderful equine massage practitioner. I asked her if she had time to work on Raven. So he had a great 40 minute massage as he rested & recovered at the hour hold! My crew was great & got me out on time.

Raven gets excited when he hits the California Street trail! He knows it's the last leg & knows the trail well. I can pretty much drop the reins & let him go. Getting down towards the river, before Francisco's vet check, I was joined be a couple more riders. We came upon Roger Yohe running with his horse. We passed him & continued down the trail. We were four riders when night fell. Behind us a ways we heard cries for help! Roger & his horse had fallen! Two wanted to turn back but we were close to Francisco's & agreed that it would be the best help to get there as soon as possible & tell them what we heard. They ended up having to air lift Roger out. The horse scrambled back up the hill & I believe ran into Francisco's & was treated for abrasions.

It's always difficult for Raven to get his night vision back after leaving the well lit Francisco's. We may have briefly gone off trail. I couldn't see either! When he got his vision back we were flying down the trail again. Quickly, we were at the river crossing. It was pretty deep, I had to hold my feet up or they would've been soaked. we climbed out & up the hill & quickly the other riders caught up with me again. That inspires Raven to speed up & soon we were approaching the Lower Quarry vet check. Raven saw the lights of the vet check & flew down the trail to get there! A volunteer took him from me & got him eating mash & hay. I perused their selection of snacks & chose a nut bar for myself. Raven quickly pulsed down. After we had eaten & rested I walked him to the vetting area. As soon as he took the first few steps I saw something was very wrong! He was very off at a walk! I told the vets we were out. They saw the lameness & arranged transport. Tevis was over for us with six miles to go. One of the volunteers was running her hands up & down his legs & noticed a thorn in his knee! She pulled it out & it was a big one! Enough to put us out. He steadily improved as soon as it was removed. The next day he was barely off & by Monday he was fine. I'm so thankful it wasn't anything worse!

Raven showed me that he's got what it takes to be a contender for top ten on Tevis! We were running up with the top ten & never out of top 20 all day! He is an amazing guy!

We will be back in '08!