Thursday, January 01, 1998

Who Put the Pony Back in the Pony Express? - John Parke

Have you ever ridden a 2,000 mile horse? I haven`t. But I have ridden a 2,000 mile pony. Remington, my Icelandic, hit the 2,000 mile mark in his third year of endurance on day one of the Fall XP multi-day ride last week. He went on to complete all five days. My oldest son, Willie, and our other Icelandic, Skjoldur, also completed all five days and 250 miles of the XP. This was Willie`s second endurance ride and Skjoldur`s third. All of their rides have been at multi-days. I am convinced that multi-days provide the most relaxed atmosphere for both beginning riders and horses. Skjoldur is an enigma. He breathes new meaning into the term "easy keeper." Generally plump, he grew fatter during the ride. His understanding of endurance seems to be that he gets to trot around with his pal Remington for awhile and then eat a lot, an awful lot. Nevertheless, Skjoldur kept up a decent, middle of the pack pace. The ponies were in their element in the mud which accompanied the gorgeous scenery and intermittent rain. At the XP, as well as his other rides, Skjoldur was already down at every vet check by the time we found someone to take his pulse. Our best buddy, Richard Fuess, went with us with his young Arab stallion, Jake (Zumeriz?). Richard and Jake rode the three hardest days. This was only Jake`s second ride. He has also only been entered at multi-days. Jake is a Karathy son out of the Zontelli`s mare, Cherokee. He is magnificent to look at and appears to have unlimited power up the hills. He also recovers immediately. There is something to be said for the right genetics. Jake occasionally fussed when near the couple of mares at the ride which were in season. Otherwise, Jake was a real gentleman. He never retaliated at Remington who bit him in the trailer, at waterstops and on the trail. Richard`s purpose in limiting Jake to multi-days for the time being is bring him along slowly and improve his manners around other horses to perfection. I think Jake has a great future in our sport as both a stud and a racer. This was a wonderful ride. Willie got a chance to hang out with my old friends and meet some new ones. At 16, he experienced his first guy thing road trip (you know, smelly clothes, mashed potatoes and apple pie for breakfast, sophmoric humor and endless teasing). Dave and Annie Nicholson, and Annie`s mother, Lavonne Booth, treated us all like family. Lavonne personally made our lunches to order every day. It was especially gratifying to have Dave on hand to vet Remington when he reached his 2,000 miles. Dave also vetted in Remington at the pony`s very first limited distance ride years ago. Dave interceded then when another vet misinterpreted Remington`s toelt as a lame trot. Dave had vetted several Icelandics during the Great American Horse Race and his original XP ride in 1976. The Duck has been a major source of encouragement to me at times when I wondered if my pony and I belonged in endurance. The Duck was honored by induction into the AERC`s Hall of Fame this year. Unfortunately, this received little attention in our ridecamp discussions, only the briefest mention in the AERC yearbook and no follow up article in Endurance News that I can remember. We`re missing a golden opportunity to swap stories and lies about (and with) someone who with his sharp wit and sharp eye for the horses personifies the rough and ready spirit of endurance riding. Come on folks, let`s remember to celebrate the year of the Duck. John Parke Solvang, CA

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