Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter and Old Dogs


Saturday, December 27, 2008

November and December in Virginia are prime riding months- between 50 and 60 degrees, dry and crisp, a great time of year to get in a lot of schooling time. Not this year, though. It has swung wildly from 65 degrees and pouring rain to 25 degrees and 50-mph winds without any kind of pattern at all, making any form of riding routine impossible. To clip the horses would leave them frozen on the bitter days, but they get too hot at 65 degrees to do any serious work. The weather made it impossible to get our outdoor arena finished this fall, so with the ground being either slick as a skating rink or frozen into ruts, it's been nothing but frustration watching them standing around.

Comes December 27, and wow ! 58 degrees and sunny, run and get the tack !

Kazak, the old veteran, knowing him well I put him on the lunge to get his bucks out, 10 minutes of craziness and he was done, lathered but happy. We'll go for a hack tomorrow in the morning when it's cooler, he has a really bushy coat.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain! - Australia

From The Making of an Endurance Horse

Monday, December 15, 2008

We have been in quite a severe drought for the past 4 years, with nothing but dust in the paddocks. All the dams in the area have been bone dry for at least 2 years, and all the stock have either been moved to other agistment paddocks, or (as in my case) been getting hand fed twice a day.

And now it has started to rain! In the past 4 weeks we have had over 10 inches of rain.... and all the dams are over-flowing, the weeds are starting to really get ahead now (bugger!), and the horses are starting to get mild laminitis from the fresh new sprouts of grass. Not that there is a lot of grass, mind you! The dust bowl that was my paddocks ensured that most of the grass roots had completely shrivelled up and died long ago, but there are a few hardy patches of grass coming back through.

Mostly we just have weeds. Some of them are horse-friendly, and some are not. The pests like Lantana, Privet and Prickly Pear are just having a field day!! But the place LOOKS green, and it really is refreshing to see.

Of course, this means that I've had to put the work on Flamenco on hold for the past couple of weeks, as the round yard has been just too wet and slippery to do any work in it.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Qatar: Who needs a personal trainer? - Maggie Mieske

Riding4ward - Globetrotting in Qatar

Dec. 12th, 2008

Today Hattan walked us around the oasis. Nelson and I decided to give him the day off from being ridden, but he still needed to get out and exercise his legs, and so did we, thus we headed out to walk the trails of the oasis. We saw all the same things we saw yesterday, but on foot. Hattan thinks he is a Hoover vacuum and stops to pick up and eat whatever is in his path: palm leaves, sticks, clumps of dirt, wood shavings, you name it. The only thing I did NOT see him pick up in his mouth were the peacock feathers!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Terri Tinkham and Oliver Twist - XP Rides 2008 Gold Medal Award Winners

XP Rides

Congratulations to Terri Tinkham and Oliver Twist - XP Rides 2008 Gold Medal Award Winners!!

Is that a Mustang??? Is that horse gaited??? What kinda horse is thaaaaat??? Well, no, yes and he’s a Tennessee Walker, Standardbred cross.

And, it is not just his appearance that baffles. To look at him you wouldn’t have a clue! Not only about his breed but that he just finished this year with 1925 Endurance miles; earning 2nd place in the AERC National Mileage Standings. Last year with 1120 miles, when we tied with Dave Rabe for 10th , I thought, “hey, we are really doing something” ! 2007 was our first year of doing serious 50 mile Endurance rides; in my three previous years in this sport, I was content to mostly ride LDs. But once you get hooked on the multi-day rides and especially the Duck rides, there is no going back ….. ever. I have become so addicted that I drove almost 14,000 miles last year to attend these rides.

So, how can this be, you wonder: a 14.2 hand, non Arab, barefoot and gaited horse succeeding in Endurance? It is one of life’s little mysteries and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to get him.

Full story at

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cazon FEI International Endurance Races - Leonard Liesens

Nov 29th 2008

My fourth trip to Argentina. This time the initial goal of our trip was the conference organized by the Association of the Arabian Horse Breeders led by Elena Romero. Elena is the owner of the Los Estribos Haras where the famous Wagram stallion is the chief sire.

Elena invited us – Francois Atger, from France and myself - to present the “French system of performing in endurance”. During the two days of the conference held during the Horse Fair of Buenos Aires, we presented various aspects of the system. While Francois Atger concentrated mainly on the breeding and the raising of the endurance horse in France, I focused on the education and conditioning of the horse, from the young horse to the high level techniques. A good hundred of riders and breeders attended the conference, asking many questions.

Then we had the opportunity to visit the Haras of Los Estribos and see the young stock produced by Wagram. Wagram is well-known in the world for being the sire of two winners of the President Cup – RO Fabiola and RO Super. His get, especially the herd of males of two and three year was very impressing and similar looking, something that one with the eye of a breeder likes very much.

On the Thursday we finally head to Cazon with our friends Miguel and Celina Pavlovsky . I was eager to see the horse that Miguel offered me to ride. In fact, I have been always very very successful with Miguel’s horses. I had the big pleasure to ride his good mare Mora Austria in 2003 at the 160km ride in Bahia Blanca, then the year after at the PanAm in Pinamar, completing at 5th place.

This time again I was blessed when I jumped on Mora Nina. I was immediately sure she was a girl with the killer instinct. Apart from that she had also the movements and the right relaxed and ground covering canter that we like in Europe. Mora Nina is a tall anglo-arab mare from the famous chief sire of the Haras San Andres, Moro Fugitivo. Pablos de Heros’s horse Moro Ideal was also impressive : a strong and very tall part-arab by Moro Fugitivo out of a French saddlebred mare. With him, Pablo’s has a good placing as a combination horse/rider at the FEI ranking. He was actually second with the possibility of collecting enough points to finish at the first place.

Bothe of us were competing on the CEI*** on the distance of 120km, among a pack of a good 50 starters, which is quite exceptional for Argentina. Among the starters, Valery Kanavy riding LM Parys.

And last but not least, the Boss, Miguel, who was competing with Mora Presumida for the Argentinian Championship on the distance of 160km.

Cazon is an ideal place for organizing endurance rides. A very nice venue on the grass with plenty of space for camping. Steph has described the venue better than I could do. We liked very much the way it had been designed in the local style.

The weather was hot, too hot on the Thursday. Fortunately, there was a big storm with big rainfall during the evening. This made the going softer, removed the dust and cleaned up the skies. The day of the ride, the weather was still hot – around 30 degrees Celsius – but with a good breeze.

The start of the 160km was given at 5AM while the 120km was flagged off at 6PM. Only 7 riders on the 160km for a long ride across the agricultural fields for 7 loops. A very good going, packed sand and sometimes grass along the highway, almost like cantering on a racetrack most of the time.

Three horses were eliminated at the third vetgate, then another one paid his toll to the speed at the 4th vetgate. So only 3 were allowed to take the start of the last loop of 19km, Petersen, Pavlosky and Taddeo. Finally Pedersen won at the average speed of 14.86kph. The two others were less fortunate as their horse didn’t pass the final examination.

On the 120km, 14 riders competing in the category Young riders and 33 in the category Seniors. Winner of the Young riders was Larrere Guadalupe on Sche Abu (Avg speed: 18.51kph); second Martin Ojeda on board Al Anochecer and third place for Manuela Mender riding M Diaguita.

The 120km race for the seniors was won by Antonio Ponce riding Del Siete Barbara at the average speed of 20.06kph. I finished second with my outstanding mare Mora Nina, just 2 minutes behind Antonio and with a few more kilometers, I’m sure Mora Nina could beat him, but this is the sport. We were cruising in the middle of the pack for the first and second loop, trying to find the right pacing for this mare, trying to go fast but relaxed at the same time, without taking care of the others. At this game, Mora Nina proved her excellent mental and sense of independence. Perfect girl… After the fourth loop, staying always at a good tempo, I started to pass many riders, either at the vetgate or on the trail… So it was the time to think about a good placing. At the start of the last loop, we were 4th with a gap of 2 minutes on the third and 6 minutes or so on third(Valerie Kanavay) but 12 minutes on the leader. Second place was in the range of Mora Nina possibilities, depending on her mental during the first km of this last loop. But she has got the mental and plenty of energy… We caught up almost immediately with the 3rd rider and kept a good canter until I was able to see Valerie in the far. When I saw her taking a turn far away, I could count how long it took us to reach the same turn… 3 minutes… fine… It was possible for Nina… but without putting her in debt… we caught up at the water point. She didn’t want to drink… too excited. We stayed behind Valerie and the junior rider who accompanied her a few kilometers… but Nina was too strong and we passed them on the way to the second place, then we trotted for some time without knowing that the leader was so close. One or two kilometers from the finish, the leader was in sight, but it was too late. No problem, 2nd place will delight Miguel and San Andres Del Moro.

Behind us, the French couple Virginie Atger and Angel Lazes rode a good ride, making profit of the good recoveries of their horses to finish at 4th and 5th place at an average speed of 17.39kph. Pablos de Los Heros took the 9th place. In total 22 couples finished the race on 47 starters.

Today, while I’m writing this report, two qualifications rides are taking place on 80 and 40 kms. This afternoon we will head to the Haras San Andres del Moro. The plans are to visit the Pavlovsty’s haras then go bring a visit to the Haras Las Cortaderas of Claudia Quentin.

Leonard Liesens -

Photos by Caroll Gatelier Coverage Page

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Valley of the Sun Ride - I R Murphy

The first ride of the Valley of the Sun rides was held on Nov. 29. This is the first ride of the series and the first ride for me, Irene Murphy, as ride manager to host. Thirty seven riders and numerous volunteers on horseback, hikers and vehicles came out to participate. The ride site was the 30 acre lot or the newly christened Four Peaks Campsite in the McDowell Mtn. Park in Fountain Hills, AZ. The campsite has water, hitching rails and porta-johns available and the park continues to upgrade the facilities. The trails used were primarily within the park boundaries and were a combination of sandy wash, rock and hard packed dirt. The weather was rainy in the week leading up to the ride which reduced the dust in the park and made the ride very pleasant.

On Friday before the ride a large group of volunteers (Stephanie Duross, A D Williams, Cindy, Dave, Corrin and Mark and Darrin Harper, Kayleen Helms, Mary Murphy) arrived at the campsite to begin marking trail. Sections were identified for each group and everyone took off with ribbons flapping. Meanwhile back at the basecamp we set up vetting and check in areas, filled water troughs and prepared for people to arrive. The riders began to arrive around noon, setting up camp, checking in and vetting in. Many local riders trailered over to check and vet in then returned home for the night. A pizza dinner was held in conjunction with the ride meeting on Friday night. Because of the close proximity to Fountain Hills we were able to use the local restaurants to have hot food available. After the ride meeting many locals returned home for the evening after enjoying the dark starry night.

The morning of the ride came early with some last minute preparations required to finish the trail marking. It was discovered that a portion of the morning loop was not completely marked so a volunteer (Donna and horse Harley) offered to leave at first light and try and complete the trail. If it was not possible it was communicated to the riders that they were to go to the water and back only. We traveled to the water stop to make sure that everyone received the message. The ride began at 8am and the riders were off. A photographer (Joe Fanthorp) was present throughout the ride and took pictures of the start and several points on the trail throughout the day. The goal for this ride was to have prints available as part of the completion awards as well as digital downloads after the ride on the website.

The ride progressed until we received word that a rider (Lucian Spataro) had been thrown and the horse (Masquerade) had run off. Quickly we reorganized the volunteers so that people could go and assist the rider in locating his horse. We split up the trucks, tanks and checklists to make sure all the key points were covered and that no one would go too long without water. Additionally, the Spataro’s contacted the sheriff’s department so helicopter searches of the park added to the ride.

The first set of riders arrived at the vet check between 10:45 and 1:00pm for a 1 hour hold at basecamp. We had a few rider option pulls and one metabolic incident where the horse recovered quickly after receiving fluids. Because of the loss of key volunteers lunch was not available for the riders as it was at a remote check location. The vets however, quickly told us of this issue and we managed for someone to go and retrieve our food so that we could at least feed the vets. (we did however, still have soda available.) The weather was beautiful and sunny all day which made the site very pleasant especially when the vets were no longer hungry.

The first riders arrived at the finish in the 2 o’clock hour and we completed CRIs and best condition judging. First place and best condition were awarded to Dayna Weary. The primary sponsor for the ride was Renegade Hoof boots who had rewards for the top ten placings and best condition. The Western Ranchman Feed Store provide completion awards for the remaining finishes. Pictures were also provided for all riders.

The riders continued to complete throughout the afternoon and after dark with the last rider arriving around at 7:30 pm.

Meanwhile, the search for Masquerade continued. The volunteers continued to scour the desert for some sign of the missing horse. While they were hiking, though, they noticed that the rider was not as well off as previously thought. Calls were placed to 911 and paramedics sent to ba secamp to meet up with the volunteers vehicles. Lucian was taken to the hospital and emergency surgery performed for severe internal injuries that he received during the fall.

The search was called off at night unsuccessfully due to the darkness.

Sunday morning the volunteers returned to basecamp with fresh horses and 4-wheelers to both continue the search and clean up the basecamp and trails. It was disappointing to see the condition of basecamp after the riders had left. Clean up took many people all day to haul manure, hay and in some cases shavings to the dumpster to avoid the fines imposed by the park. Helicopters arrived and the search began again. Riders went out in multiple directions and again searched the park. Reporters arrived at the basecamp and began to put together a news report for the evening news. The search continued unsuccessfully for the second day and was again called when darkness fell.

Monday morning came after the reward announcement played on the Channel 5 news Sunday evening and additional people showed up, many of which were attracted by the reward offer. We focused on those on horseback and I received calls constantly while we again rode out into the park. We located several of the wild horses in the park as well as a chestnut foal that had been separated from its mother but reunited. I was fortunate to be able to borrow a horse (Kahn) from Lancette Koerner to ride on Monday after my own mare (Passion) was injured on Sunday and unable to ride a second day.

The search continued through the day and we were joined by the MCSO search and rescue squad which added numerous pairs of eyes continuing to search the park.

Just as we were heading back to the trail head we began to hear reports that they had found Masquerade. A riders stallion began calling and Masquerade came out of hiding and approached their group. He was led out of the park and trailered to be reunit ed with his owner.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Endurance: Qatar Style - Maggie Mieske

November 15 2008

Since arriving in Doha, Nelson and I have searched endlessly for the endurance people here. The horse people we found kept referring us to the local riding club for lessons, which is not what we were interested in doing. Finally, after 3 months, we made multiple contacts in one weekend which resulted in our attendance at our first Qatar endurance ride yesterday. It was an experience. I decided that the best way for me to summarize without pontificating is to simply compare and contrast endurance here with endurance in the U.S.

How is endurance the same here as it is in the U.S.?

1.. The people. Endurance people are as willing and friendly to help you, answer questions and befriend you as they are in the U.S. As a result, we made too many friends to count. We hung out with the farrier (Dormell is Nelson’s new best friend. He has promised to let Nelson ride along and see what a Qatar farrier’s life is like) and we hung out with one of the treatment vets. Both of these men were so warm, welcoming and encouraging that I cannot explain how much their new friendship with us means.. We also hung out with Dormell’s friend, George, from Arizona! See, home is never very far away! We met the two Avrils, two women from Ireland who discovered endurance later in life as many of us do and are taking the plunge. Avril #1 rode yesterday and we pit crewed with her husband along one loop. We also met some of the Al Shaqab Team, the silver medal winners at this year’s World Endurance Championships. I teased them that I wanted to try out for their team and they thought I should. They were kind and very funny young men.

2. The horses. There is nearly the same hodgepodge of horses here as in the states, all colors, all sizes, but of course, all Arabian or Anglo-Arab (about 20 of the 50+ entered). Some are quite robust and some are a bit thinner than I’d like to see. But, they smell and sound like horses to me! That in itself was a tremendous pleasure!

3. Beet pulp. I never saw very much (not in the quantities we use in the U.S.) but I smelled it in a bucket and someone said, oh, yeah, that’s beet pulp.

4. Family friendly. I didn’t bring my neighbor with her young son because I wasn’t sure how family friendly the sport might or might not be here. I saw lots of kids and even a couple of small dogs. Many of the horses are owned (if not ridden) by sheikhs and their families, so they come out to watch and soak up the atmosphere. It’s the same kind of atmosphere really.

How is endurance different here than in the U.S.?

1. It’s fast. Very fast. It’s flat.. Very flat. It’s racing, pure and simple, although my new friend, Avril #1, made a plan for herself, pacing herself for each loop, stuck to it and, when we left, was running about 22nd place in the 100 km which started with around 50 riders. The 80 km junior ride had nearly the same number of riders. This is another astonishing difference to me.

2. They have rides which are only for junior riders. They do not ride with an adult sponsor as they do in the U.S. However, they have a pit crew near them at all times, so it is like having an adult with them anyway. Which brings me to pit crewing….

3. The trail is essentially a “track.” There is a 30 km loop and a 20 km loop. Pit crews can and do ride alongside their riders during the ride. They may speed up to get ahead and get things ready at the water stop (every 5 km) for their riders, but essentially, they are right there the entire time. It is against the rules to hand off water from a moving vehicle, but in the dark, who would know? And our crew didn’t carry a tank with water. They bought bottled water (1.5 liters) for pouring on the horse and for the rider (1/2 liters). Bottled water is cheap here. I am not sure what other crews do as we only went out on one loop and it was dark. BTW, the track appears to us to be graded to keep it flat. It’s too bad it was at night because I think the nearby dunes would have been beautiful! In addition, the trot out lanes at the vet check (there were 20 lanes) are graded and leveled and packed down. I can’t count how many times we trotted out over bumpy, lumpy ground at vet checks!

4. The rides here start about 4-5 p.m. which now is less than an hour before sunset. There was a full moon last night, but since everyone drives alongside, the horse/rider has plenty of light from headlights.

5. No camping overnight. Not that one couldn’t camp, but most people (or at least those I met) go home after the ride. Heck, when we start going, I’m taking a tent and setting up camp! J

6. Nearly everyone (maybe 80%?) rides with leg wraps or support boots on their horses (mostly leg wraps though). I noticed that when wet, they weigh a ton. I asked Avril #1 why she does this and she honestly said, because everyone else does. After the second vet check, she replaced the wet wraps with lightweight neoprene Podium support boots and I think her horse probably was the better for it. Her hind legs were starting to tire and she had started overreaching. I hoped that taking the heavier leg wraps off might solve that problem. I hope to hear from them today for a report.

7. All of the rides are held at Qatar Endurance Village, near Sealine Resort and a huge petroleum plant. I was hopeful before we got there that some of the trail would go along the Gulf, but that was not the case. Darn! It’s only about 50 km from where we live, but we’re having trouble adjusting to the idea of all the rides in the same place forever.

8. All rides are FEI. I have some serious research to do if I think I want to try FEI in the Middle East.

9. The vast majority of the horses are owned, trained and ridden by different people. I noticed many are owned by members of the Royal Family and, of course, by Al Shaqab Endurance Team which is essentially the Emir, Sheikh Hamad al Khalifa Al Thani. There are many other “teams” as in many will come from various stables and call themselves teams, although I don’t think there are “team” awards of any kind. However, we did not stay until the finish because I have to work this afternoon! I could be wrong about that. The riders are basically nothing more than paid jockeys. I was surprised at the number of children/juniors riding the 80 km on horses owned by the Al Shaqab Team. One of the team members told me (when I asked if he rode the same horse consistently or many) that Al Shaqab owns over 80 endurance horses, although he said that he has one horse that he trains/rides for the jumping team. Basically, my Irish friends are the only ones who own, train and ride their own horses, although Avril #1 can’t ride both of her horses and so has a jockey ride the other. Avril #2 is currently laid up from back surgery, so she has offered for me to take a ride on her horse which I have not even met yet. They stable their horses near Al Shahania (outside of Doha) where horses are trained and ridden by the owners and trainer, a Dutch woman and her daughter, I believe.

10. The top 15 earn “big money.” I did not find out how much “big money” is, but I am sure it is not chicken feed. I have yet to learn if there is any prestige or value placed on Best Condition which is always MY goal.

These are my first impressions of endurance riding/racing in Qatar. I am sure I will have plenty more to add as time goes on. As much as I would love to bring Malik here, I think there might be issues and consequences I have not considered or that I might not even realize. Malik could do this and excel. However, who would I ride in the Shore to Shore every summer? I have finally discovered where the endurance horses are and it seems there is no shortage, so at this point, I will start searching for a possible endurance mount for myself, either to buy or lease. I have enough friends to lead the way for me and help me out now. In the meantime, I need to start getting in shape again…I was dismayed to discover that I do not have the muscling in my arms and legs that I used to have when Malik and I were conditioning and competing regularly. Duh. BUT! I did it before. I can do it again.

Does anyone know something that rhymes with kilometers? “Kilometers of smiles” simply doesn’t have the ring that “Miles of smiles” has.

Starting over in Qatar,

Maggie (and Nelson)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dell Valle Vulture Venture 50 - Nick Warhol

2008 A first for certain, or “To finish is to win!”

Endurance riding is a little like baseball, in that it’s always full of surprises; every ride has the potential for something to happen that never did before, be it good, bad, or otherwise. The DVVV ride in beautiful down town Livermore, California, had a few interesting twists this year. For one thing, it was a two day ride this time. I don’t know how many two day horses there were, but they sure got a work out. It’s a pretty difficult ride for a local 50 in the Bay Area, since the whole trail is either up or down pretty significant climbs all day. It never really lets up except for a couple of quick jaunts on a road alongside the lake for a couple of miles or so. There are a few 1000 plus foot climbs that go pretty much straight up thrown in for good measure. I like the ride, because it’s in my back yard, I ride here all the time, and it is put on by my good friends Bill and Jane Cloud, with assistance by Mike and Kirstin Bernsten.

I’ve had a weird year this year with Donnie that included starting out like wildfire- death valley, 20 mule team 100, and patriots day 100s with great results. I gave him the time off between Pats Day and Tevis, and, uh, well, no Tevis due to the fires. But lucky for me, or unlucky, or both, Mister D developed a quarter crack that I thought was a bigger issue, and would have kept me out of Tevis had it been held. That makes me lucky, or unlucky, I’m not sure, but neither was any good. As a result he did not get to do Swanton, either, darn it. The good news is the crack wasn’t a big deal, just a shallow crack on the exterior skin of his hoof, so the crack got better, but then he fell down in the pasture running his laps before breakfast. (He does this, you see. He just goes out and runs in the morning, all by himself.) The ding bat tweaked himself pretty good in the rear and had to spend a few weeks getting over that. He made his comeback at the quicksilver ride in October where we had a great ride and finished quite well, in the rain, no less, on the one day it rained in seven months. Of course. This is endurance.

Back to Livermore- Judy had to bail out of the ride at the last minute due to a shoe job lameness on Color, so I was on my own. My buddy Sally Abe was riding one of Laura Ferking’s horses, Ruby’s Tin Man, or Tin Cup as I like to call him. I started out the ride with Ace Bay Area rider and great guy Bill Coburn, but after a short while I hooked up with our friend Karen Bottanni on her veteran horse Movin ‘on Blues. Six for seven at Tevis, with five in a row? Yes, he’s a good horse. A little “surly” sometimes, but a good boy. The ride starts out with a controlled start right through a family campground, then dumps us out on an uphill single track trail called Valicitos trail that’s nice. A good climb up the twisty single track takes us to a long decent on a fire road, right back to the campgrounds, but a quick left sends us to an out and back check down a road to a spot called Deer Jaw, which they added to get the extra mileage needed, since they dumped the big climb up Rocky Ridge this year. Thanks guys- much appreciated! That’s a big pull up there and back. We hung a 180 at the smiling Bill and his ATV and backtracked all the way back up the downhill fire road we had just come down, down the uphill single track, (there’s a lot of that in this ride- go up and down the same hills all day), through camp, to the start, where we turn right up the arroyo, which is all river rocks. Serious rocks. Walk very slowly rocks. Lucky it is only an eighth of a mile or so in the wash rocks to the next climb on fire roads, and then the neat steep downhill single track to the creek that was totally dry this time of year. Another climb back up on trails to more fire roads, then more downhill single track on the zig zag trail through the trees. More roads now lead through some ranches and up a serious climb on a fire road to one of the highest parts of the park called the airplane hill. (They fly remote control gliders here. I used to, BH. (Before horses)) A well placed water trough is a relief at the top, then it’s, you guessed it, more down. Now you begin the 7 mile jaunt to the dam on the big, wide, all weather gravel road that we have ridden on a whole lot of times, as it is our standard winter conditioning location. There are bikes and hikers here, but on the road there is lots of room. This road is a roller coaster all the way with up and down climbs ranging from little to pretty big. The last hill near the dam drops down the other side to the vet check at the golf course, below the dam, for a 30 minute hold. If that dam broke, we would be swimming. It was getting a little warm, especially for the early season fur balls we called horses. Mister D and Blues made short work of the vet check and enjoyed a snack before starting back up that long hill. Now we head the 8 miles back to camp, but we get treated to the single track trails that criss- cross the road on the way back. You have to be careful, though, as these trails are a test bed of sorts, where the park allows horses, hikers, and mountain bikes on the single tracks. Most trails are okay, but there are a couple where I don’t want to meet a bike. (Barb wire fence, fall into the lake, that sort of thing!) The last trail dumps you out at the lake’s edge where we trot the flat access road back to the marina, and through campgrounds to the base camp. This is 30 miles; it’s a real 30, and not an easy one. We pulsed down right away and let the boys eat for 30 minutes and took them to the vet. It was here that I had my first ever “huh?” in a vet check with Dawn. He was 52 off the trail, and when we returned to vet in a half hour, Claude took the first CRI pulse he got 56. No, that’s not right, not after 30 minutes. This horse is a recovering fool. I trotted him out and back, and the second pulse was 40. Okay, much better. I think he must have just missed counted. He said, yeah, probably. The horse looked great. Whew! Back to eating and lunch.

We headed out of camp on time to go and do the final 20 miles, which was a bizarre figure eight sort of thing that made use of lots of already ridden trails. We had to go climb back up that first big climb and back down the cool Valicitos single track, turn right in the rock wash again, and up that same hill again. You have to love it when your horse just trucks on up these grinding hills, heading away from camp, trotting if you let him, and cantering if he can. I sure do! Back down the steep single track and up the other side of the canyon again, just like early this morning, but here’s the change- we hang a left and head back towards camp. Yep- check the map, we are on the trail, I know where this goes. But what’s this? A horse and rider coming towards us? This is no fun rider, this is a top horse here. We ask her where she’s going, she sighs, and reports she was leading, took a wrong turn somewhere, and came into the finish through the main camp, which was wrong. They sent her back out in reverse to go back to the turn she missed up on top and finish the trail the right way. Bummer, but she was a good sport about it. “Oh well,” she said, “this just happens sometimes.” We come down to the finish line spotter, a quarter mile from camp, who takes our number coming through the first time- she smiles and sends us back out to the marina and the road along the lake. I asked about the leader, she said, “yeah, she got lost.” As we get to the normal staging area near the marina a couple miles away, we see the next three leaders coming down the hill called squirrel gultch, come through a gate, and turn towards the finish. Uh oh, they are lost too. That’s not right. I know them, so I stop them and tell them “Hey guys, you’re going the wrong way. The finish is down the airplane hill, not back down through camp here.” They are focused and don’t believe me; they shoot out the wrong way towards camp, the way we just came. I yell after them and warn that we just saw the first place horse going back out to do it right, no, they are sure they are on the trail and scurry on. Nope, guys, you are messing up, but what the heck? I tried to help them. We shrug it off and continue on (after looking at the map ONE MORE TIME), I convince Karen we are doing it right. We pause at the water trough, where neither horse drinks a lot. Hmmmm, me thinks, he should drink here. We trotted the mile and a half or so along the beautiful lake on the dog run road, stopping countless times for hikers, families, strollers, portable BBQs on wheels, small boats, you name it, it is coming down the main lake access road. We pulled over at a camp site and whipped out my portable water bucket and offered the boys some water from the spigot. They both drank about 12 buckets each. That’s better- that trough must have smelled bogus to the both of them. We continue on over the nice single track that leads away from the lake, and turn right on the main gravel road for the long climb back up to the top of the airplane hill. Strangely enough, both Karen and I say at the same time, “I know where they got lost.” It’s a turn up ahead that was marked for the fun ride and took you down to squirrel gulch, to where we saw the three leaders heading for home the wrong way. It made sense! That’s why they saw ribbons- they were fun ride ribbons.

Up, up we go, trotting and walking ata great pace, with an occasional blast of canter, just ‘cause he likes it. We get to the turn in question, and yes indeed, I can see the confusion. The sign has two lines on it- fun ride, and below that, loop two. Big flour arrow on the ground, red ribbons going that way. I knew we needed to go back up to the top the way we came, but this was different. Hmmm. Loop 2? We had been following signs for loop 2 all afternoon. We went about a hundred yards to a water trough where they both drank. I was telling Karen we have to go up to the top of the airplane hill, since the map shows it right here. I also knew we needed to finish on that same trail we had come in before, and the only way was up this hill here. I thought perhaps the road ahead would intersect with a left turn that would take us back up on top. Just then Bill Cloud comes racing down the hill on his quad to fix the signage on that turn. He waves us back- yep, up this way, the same way we came. We chat with Bill and tell him I knew we had to go up- the map shows it clearly. He fixed the sign and we trotted up the hill to the top and the water trough. I looked over at Karen and told her- “You know what? We are the first two horses to not be lost. If everyone went the wrong way, that makes us first and second.” I thought we were in the middle to back of the top ten anyway at that point. She said, “No way, others must have done it right.” We cross the road, and hop off the boys for the long, long hand walk down the hill to the bottom. This is when I start playing Tonto and the Lone Ranger. “Kimosabe- There are no hoof prints going down this hill- they are all coming up.” Yes, we were the only horses going down so far. Hmmm. After walking down for a while, we look way, way down the hill and see three horses and riders heading up the massive climb, but at a slow walk. They can’t be fun riders, not after 7 hours, and it would not be much fun to have to climb back up this with an inexperienced horse. They were walking slowly, Karen thought maybe pleasure riders, but they were too far away to tell. As we got closer, I realized it was them! It was the three riders I had tried to warn about 45 minutes before. They were coming back up the hill to get back to the turn, to finish the trail correctly. Karen and I were not quite what to say, so we just walked on down, and finally met them in the middle of the hill. They were still steaming mad, and said WE were lost. I just smiled and thought “see ya” as we headed down the hill, leading our horses. I figured it would not make much sense to say “I told you so!” at this point. We only had about 2 miles to go, and I told Karen, we are in first and second. She was still not sure, but I was convinced. We trotted along the last roads, back to the spotter, who was indeed confused, as the other three horses had just passed her going the wrong way? We scooted on in towards camp, just across the road, and we hit the finish line, where the nice lady said, “Hey, first place!”

Yep- Donnie and I won the ride. Well, okay, it was a gift, and Karen certainly let us go in first, but hey, you have to finish to win, right? There was a lot of confusion at the finish about who was where, and who had to go back out, but it was clear that Karen and I had done the trail correctly, (we met the ride manager on the right trail at the top of the hill) and we were the first to finish, so we got it. That sure turned out neat- knowing where to go certainly helped, but it was pretty obvious that all you had to do was look a the excellent map, and no one else had. We were getting congratulations from everyone- pretty neat! We both went and showed for BC in an hour, and both horses looked very good, great in fact. I outweigh Karen, so heck, I have it in the bag, right? Not quite- Blues edged Donnie out by a couple of points on horse score, so she got BC! I was absolutely thrilled for her, since she and Blues have been a team for many years and many miles, and this was her second top ten ever. Karen had left, and when she found out that Blues had gotten BC, she could not believe it. I thought it was perfect; I got the win, and she got BC- it could not have ended any better than that.

What else happened? Who knows. I have had lots of top ten’s, but this was my first win in my 16 years and near 9000 miles in endurance, and it felt pretty neat. The ride time was not fast, as we were planning on a 7 hour ride anyway on this very difficult trail, and that’s what we did. Sure, it was a gift to a certain extent, but like I said, I’ll take it. This is a tough ride, and to have Donnie and Blues looking like they did at the end is all that really matters. Bill Coburn followed the right trail and sneaked in to 7th- he was pretty happy as well. There were about 40 riders on the 50 I think, with a few pulls. The best part of the DVVV ride is the dinner- Bill is a madman when it comes to feeding riders, and the dinner was no exception. I only planned to ride the first day, but there were only 12 riders signed up for the 50 on Sunday……….. No, take the boy home and let him eat and rest up and eat some more for next weekend- the Lake Sonoma 50, one of my favorite rides of the year. I turned him out in the arena at home, where he trotted across to his rolling spot. He rolls, gets, up, trots back to me as if to ask what’s next? A lot more, I hope. You are a good horse, mister Dawn.

Nick Warhol

Hayward, Ca.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Malaysia WEC: Of Horses and Riders - a Local's Perspective

by Azahar Idris

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For the first time Malaysia, or to be more exact Terengganu, was the host of the FEI World Endurance Championship 2008.

We were all excited to be there, at Lembah Bidong Equestrian Centre. Just to be there to witness the great sporting event.

Squeezing my tight schedule, I drove up there after Maghrib Prayers. Reaching there at almost 11.00 we had to explore the entire facilities just to find a decent place to sit and watch the horses. The tiredness and the drizzling night made us somewhat lost bearing of the whereabouts of things.

I was looking for the Veterinarian centre, but just could not find it.

Finally, we did find a place. At least we were free from the drizzle. So the five of us, My wife, Amalia, Kak Long (my wife's niece) and were mesmerized by the magnificient horses and the riders too.

The Arabians were something else to see. They, with their concave face, slim body and beatifully raised tail walked or canter proudly as they left the starting point.

It was very close to the hub of the race - the starting and ending place.

It was already the end of the third loop when we arrived. We saw riders from UAE and Spain coming in. We also saw riders starting their fourth loop.

We waited for almost two hours, just to catch a glimpse of His Majesty Sultan Mizan riding his horse. According to the Policeman that joined us in the seating area, he was still resting.

Amalia was also excited with the horses. She kept on snapping pictures of the horses as they made their way (some seemed to have lost the desire to win) and also as they started the new loop.

My wife and I planned to wait it out till say 4 o'clock in the morning. But Amalia was sneezing continuously...perhaps the drizzle had triggered her rhinitis. Amirul was dozing on the empty seats.

So, we gave in. We left Lembah Bidong Equestrian Centre at around two in the morning.

We put up in Mahani's house for the night.

WEC Afterwards: I have a rash - Bob

Nov. 12th, 2008

well it was a lot more fun packing the horse gear in Canada for the trip over here....the packing for return hmmm not so much. I think we will all be glad to return to North America and i will be especially thankful for some dry skivvies!!! Seems like everything is damp as soon as you put then on..we have decided that the wering of skirts and sarongs is definitely the way in this climate! Well enough about that.
First let me thank all who have sent us notes of encouragement and congrats...very much appreciated.
Tomorrow at 6 am the horses will be loaded and we will not see them for about 10 days!!! Thankfully John Crandall from USA will be travelling with the horse. Not sure how the US manages to trump us each time ..but it may be something to look at in the future.
US was allowed to send team vet with horses on the way here and administer fluids in Amsterdam....Canadians 0 1
Now on the return trip US has a groom to accompany the horses for 3 days stay in Amsterdam...Canadians still 0 2.
Perhaps in the future ...whomever that will entail...we should be allowed what is definitely available. What do ya think????
Today at lunch I initiated a riders wrap up and synopsis of the ride. We have decided to post our comments publicly both favorable and not so much....with an effort to provide help to whomever is available for 2010. What do ya think???

Sorry it is about to rain...monsoon struck with a vengence last night. Damn near drowned in the little bean can car that I have rented. It was raining so hard the wipers could not keep up. so I drove to my new hotel....closer to the barn...staring at the white line and hoping that one of the looose cows, goats or chickens or people were not in the road at night.
Happy trails everyone

The "First" Ride - Carol Delisi

The “First” Ride

Carol Delisi, Sheridan, MT

The Helena Pioneer Cabin Endurance Ride was my 3rd endurance ride (well – a couple failed attempts before that – but those are entirely different stories). This ride was special though since this was my first ride with my new horse and it was just the two of us hauling to the ride. I’d ridden 180 miles so far in 2008 – and even rode 80 of those miles with this horse, but at the time of those miles, I hadn’t bought her yet. Now we were a team and on our own. Thankfully, we weren’t really by ourselves, as I would discover.

I’ve loved horses all my life. I didn’t own a horse until I was 35 years old, when my husband bought me a little QH Paint colt. Since then I’ve owned just 2 other horses before I bought this beautiful Arabian mare named Samrah. I believe I’ve found the horse I dreamed of since I was a little girl. She’s tough, fast and beautiful. She makes friends easily, but gets cranky once in awhile, which I appreciate, having those episodes myself. She can be very sweet and she has these big expressive eyes that show her appreciation for a carrot or a rub on the shoulder.

We arrived at ride camp fairly early in the afternoon, after a long, bumpy ride on a road I was worried was taking us to the middle of nowhere. And then when we got there I was thankful we were in the middle of nowhere with the houses of the city far away. As soon as I got there, someone I knew greeted me and helped me decide where and how to park in the nice, big open grassy field. I was worried about Samrah missing her buddies and being all alone at the trailer, but a stuffed-full hay bag and her hi-tie took care of that. She could see other horses and she was happy enough after calling out a couple times to let everyone know she was there.

After getting her settled, I set up my tent and got my camp organized. The people parked in front of me were outside their trailer, relaxing, so I thought I should introduce myself. They invited me to sit and chat and I enjoyed getting to know them and sharing some time. I was more than a little worried about riding by myself and asked about riding together and was pleased at an enthusiastic response. We agreed we’d start out together and be flexible, if necessary. I got an invite to share dinner with them and one of their daughters who showed up with her kids. I felt very at home and any anxiety I had was fading away.

The anxiety came back during the night when I heard the wind pick up enough that a couple times I thought the tent might lift off the ground. The tent fly was flapping and I heard items in other people’s camps blowing in the wind. I kept looking out my tent window to make sure I could see Samrah’s silhouette in the moonlight. Every time I looked she was calmly sleeping or munching her hay. Her calmness helped me get a few winks of sleep.

The next morning was dark, cold and windy. The mid-September day felt rather wintry, even though the forecast earlier in the week had been sunny and warm fall weather. Samrah was a little hyped up but was kind enough to stand still for saddling up. I concentrated on keeping my breathing regular, even though my heart was starting to pound with excitement and worry at the windy weather.

My partner’s horse was what I feared Samrah would be like: dancing around at the end of the reins, like a kite in the wind. I decided the only way I’d feel comfortable was to mount up, so I did and was pleased that I stayed in the saddle and only had to deal with some jigging. My partner decided to walk her horse the first mile or so, and even with gusty wind her horse was calm enough now so she could mount up. We set out at a ground-covering trot and caught up with two people I knew. The four of us ended up staying together the rest of the ride – through the rain, brief hail and several wrong turns. We saw the sun come out in the afternoon, promising a beautiful day the next day. We rode through sage and open grass, past huge boulders and through quiet forests. We rode past elk, bighorn, bear – not real ones – but 3-D targets for bow hunters. We made a couple wide circuits as the horses tried to figure out if they were real and would eat Arabians. We came in last and happy to finish. I was so proud of my mare – she was steady and sane throughout, with only a couple hissy fits at vet checks when her new buddy wasn’t right next to her. Our finish was truly a “win” for both of us.

And even though, for the first time, we traveled “alone” to a ride, we were never really alone. On the second day, when we rode a 25 mile, we found two new companions, and enjoyed the sunny, calm, beautiful blue-skied weather.

I wanted to get an early start to get home the following morning so I told a friend of mine who talked about traveling together for part of the way that I couldn’t because I wanted to leave early. I got everything packed up and then pulled away out of ride camp. Before I did though, I decided to take one more look around the rig, just to make sure everything was okay. Something must’ve told me that I needed to find the flat tire on my trailer. I tried to find the tire iron in the truck and couldn’t, so ran to get help from my friend who was one of the few still in ride camp. She calmly and quickly helped me change the flat tire and then offered to drive with me to a stop to make sure the lug nuts were tightened. My first ride “alone” with my new lovely horse was anything but, and I was very glad for the companionship and friendship we enjoyed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Malaysia WEC : Some Personal Thoughts - a Local's Take

Pearls and Gem

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Maria Mercedes Alverez Ponton and puny looking arab gelding ,Nobby : Individual Gold ,World Endurance Championship ,2008 ,Lembah Bidong ,Terengganu ,Malaysia .18.2 kph average over 160 kilometres under extreme heat and humidity ,a myth blowing feat .Team UAE ,Bahrain and Qatar :Team Gold ,Silver and Bronze .Relegating the Europeans ,Australians and Americans to the 'dustbins' of endurance history .That was Malaysia WEC that was !

I am still in a state of shock .I never perceive one could go beyond 16 kph in our conditions ,especially our high humidity .We have difficulty even breaching 12 kph .When ESPN's Lisa Wong asked me ,looking at our tired Ms Laily on Jesse James walking past the finishing line at the end of phase 5 when Maria had long gone home to her hotel room to sleep , what ails the Malaysians ?: I could only offer the best classical excuse .We Malaysians are still at the wrong end of a 'steep learning curve'.


2008 WEC: Riding with kings!!! - Bob from Canada

Nov. 11th, 2008

Hi All
Well i wrote a huge blog last night and the damn connection died before I posted here we go again!!!

I will begin with the build up to the ride which began with a good night's sleep...finally. The ride morning was spent setting up the crew area. This was accomplished amidst a land grab reminiscent of the wild west.... some countries were setting up rows of buckets in prime areas to claim territory! our few Canadian buckets were hopelessly outgunned!!! In the hold area we had two tents for our 5 horses which was just enough room to do a good job of crewing. the other grabbing was of bags of ice...despite being assured that we would be supplied all the ice necessary for the day... crews were going away with pick up boxes piled high with ice....this in the morning at 10 Am in 40C temperature with seven our eight hours before ice would be necessary...go figure!!!
The wild and crazy start was a sight to behold...there was a great deal of spinning rearing and bucking. In the beginning four of us started out together at a controlled much as our horses would allow. I am sure you have all seen pics of the start line lined with spectators by now ...but from the field the air was electric. First one then another and finally a third horse passed us ...sans rider...and we commented that we were already ahead of 3 out of 135 horses. The poor riders were left to run down the field pathetically called HALT to thir runaway mounts. There was a great cheer as the king started the ride.
things were relatively uneventful on most of the first loop and the horses finally settled in to a working trot. Despite trying to ride as a ws near impossible for me to get Galaxy to pace with the I went ahead at the end of the first loop. By now we were in complete darkness and would be for several hours. Crewing in this extreme heat and humidity was a great learning experience. We used ice water to cool out ...even on the back muscles..not sure if that was the right idea as Galaxy developed a sore back later in the ride...but it was incrdible how much cooling was required. i was very gratefull for the help Galaxy received in the holds with my crew Barb and angeal doing a great job. and a special thanks to Scott Hie with his back magic, Rob Benns for his constant smile and words of encouragement, and all the rest of the Canadian crew!!! It was especially interesting to see the temps of the Galaxy in the hold... sometimes coming in at 40.9C in the beginning of the hold definitely in the danger Zone!!! ...thnakfully he pulsed down despite the heavy panting panted and effort to cool himself. Once thru the vet area...we had to continue to cool him to get the temp down to a reasonable temp of 38-39C to be able to continue.
Loops 2 and 3 in the dark were long and unending..with the occasional strange noises from the jungle thrown in!!! The water tanks were spaced every 3-4 km with 7-10 large black water troughs usually 3 filled with ice water and all the people water you wanted. They really looked after us with water!!!
Somewhere in the night we were hit by a severe lighning storm and torrential rain...but lucky for us no incidents. Unlike the US who had two spooked by the nearness of a stike and both Jan and Meg came off their horses..perhaps there horses felt the electricity coming thru their steel shoes in the water.
Finally the light began to appear and we were able to pick up the pace...I am not comfortable cantering in the dark so as soon as it got light enough I asked Galaxy for a good canter. The track was smooth and fairly soft so good going. However the sand did a number on my shoes and they were hanging by a thread at the end of the ride totally worn out...eve though I had been shod 4 days previous to the ride!!!
On loop 5 i came upon two malaysian riders obviously with tired i made a motion to follow me and their horses seemed to pick up the pace. We exchanged a few pleasantries and complimented each other on our horses! It was only at the hold that I realized that i had been riding with his majesty!!! As we had come in to the hold together I prepared to ride again with the king ...but it was not to be as he had retired from the race. i did get to finish the last towo loops with Halim ., ammeber of the royal entourage and we crossed the line together and promised each other a shirt. So I now have the shirt to prove the adventure.
I think overall we Canadians were just happy to finish the ride. Certainly it was the toughest ride i hve ever been in and also the largest.
I am pleased that Galaxy was able to handle the conditions. As pointed out to us ...we are along way from a medal position in these conditions. However finishing 34 or thereabouts out of 135 was good enough for me. I had said all along that it was my goal to finish the ride and not go home with an incomplete!
So now we are relaxing at the beach and trying to recover from lack of sleep
most of the crew is gone and we are down to our original people.
it is now Tuesday PM at 2 and raining a monsoon!!! Time to go put the horses in the barn.
Will write more later.
Selamut tinga from Malaysia

Monday, November 03, 2008

Skymont - Angie McGhee

Wow, where were you guys? SKYMONT WAS GREAT! :-D Honestly, we do rides in sweltering heat, freezing rain, etc. etc. and then *finally* you get to go to that ride where the weather is PERFECT. You have a beautiful drive in with the fall colors at their peek, pull into a camp that overlooks a gorgeous lake with all those orange and yellow trees reflected like a mirror and have just a first class experience from the word go.

The biggest thing that happened was that General Jeb Stuart, Karen Isaac's great horse hit the 8,000 mile mark! Karen & Thomas are expecting a child in January so Karen had someone else up but was right there crewing when Jeb hit his milestone. It's great to see a really great horse & rider just keep going and going! He didn't just eek through either. I believe he was 5th place.

I had the whole family plus 2 involved so we looked like the keystone cops unloading all the stuff. I rode Seven, Josie had Cade (finally graduated from high school and no more sports to work around!!!) We even had the *other daughter* (as Bonnie refers to herself) riding since Jody Buttram offered her a mount in the 25. Talk about pulling a kid "out of the field" and doing a tough ride. I don't think she'd been farther than 3 miles on a horse in years, but she had a great time. My old pal Lynda Webber (used to be Lynda Corry) formerly of Texas fame finally got another mount and filled up the third slot in my trailer. Yee ha, splitting the gas right when prices is good! She came back in style finishing 12th with her new horse Baily...thanks to Becky in Atlanta for selling her such a good horse!

Bill was the official spotter that we passed 7 times during the ride so it was easy to keep in touch as to how everyone else was doing. That worked out great, there was that one spot you just looped past each time, sometimes twice and they had big barrels of water there. Once the horses had been to them once they knew the drill and everybody drank great. Unlike some places, they kept topping them off all day so even when you were in back there was lots of fresh clear water waiting. :-))

June and Larry Jordan do an absolutely amazing job of putting this whole thing together themselves. You'll never find a better marked trail and June did all 38 miles of it herself. The fact that this ride is held on a Boy Scout reservation means the roads are simply jeep trails that for the most part have never seen gravel. A combination of jeep roads and trails along the edge of the Cumberland Plateau with gorgeous views makes for one of those days you hope you can think back on when you can't do this sport any more. The fall colors against the BLUE sky were dazzling.

In the 50 miler I think there were 29 starters and 21 finishers. Sandy Thompson took home the beautiful oak hand made tack trunk for first place and Rebecca Nelson won BC which was a really nice rolling bale bag.

In the 25 I think there were 51 starters and ummm 45? finishers. Eddie Edwards won 1st & BC in the 25, but since he just finished fast and went home I'm guessing Susan Kasemayer is going to get some use out of his awards he left behind. (Note to Eddie, if somebody *tells* you they're not going to deliver your prizes if you just win and go home, you might ought to *believe* them!) >eg<

There's not that many rides where you can have your ride meeting, awards dinner/meeting and a Sunday morning breakfast complete with biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, candied apples, scrambled eggs (with or without cheese) and hash browns (with or without peppers). Oh yeah, and coffee and juice *and* a fire in the fireplace! Finish that off with Dr. Ike Nelson's Cowboy church service and you've had a weekend that sends you back to work wishing it wasn't over yet. :-)

It was a great ride and I highly recommend you all put it on your calender for next year.

Angie McGhee

How broken is too broken?! our Moab ride story! - Marlene Moss

My husband Stace and I decided we really needed a vacation and since we missed Moab last year, that ride became our goal this year. Well, 5 weeks ago Stace broke 3 bones in his left foot when a 700 pound bale fell on him - he was very lucky. Then last week I got tossed and bruised my tail bone pretty bad (still mostly assuming it's not broken except when I move wrong or my horse decides a shadow is worth jumping). Then our truck started having starting issues (no pun intended). And our intermittent trailer brakes (on a 3H LQ) became more consistent - on the non-working side!

Stace managed to get all of 17 miles on his horse in the past 2 month, but luckily she keeps her conditioning and his foot was feeling pretty good so he aimed to do the first and third days. We bought a fuel pump (hoping it was the solution to the starting problem, but it wasn't) in Grand Junction on the way to the ride and relied on the exhaust brake to get us safely down the hills. We were quite determined to get to this ride.

And it was absolutely worth it! I was riding a new horse this season and we were still learning about each other. She starting the season as a fairly sane idiot. Mostly great when riding but a lunatic otherwise. She has slowly settled in and can go from race mode to sleeping standing in an instant (except for the need to rub her head all over me) so I was having to learn what was her learning to deal from what might be a horse that was getting tired. But she did great and rode all 3 days, ending strong. Stace met his goal of riding 2 days and both horses camped well (other than a little exploration during the wee hours one morning).

This was an amazing ride, and shouldn't be missed. Each day brought new trail and different types of terrain and gorgeous views. We learned our horses can canter over slick rock. For those of you who need a place to condition for sandy rides this certainly fits the bill! On the second day when Stace let his foot recover, I rode by myself for the first time. I started out near the front runners but got tired of trying to pace my horse without creeping up on the leaders all day. So I made her walk for a bit and found a nice window. It was nice to find that she was still as forward as I asked her to be, remaining willing to suggest cantering on her own as the terrain allowed, but also, she didn’t care that we were alone and there were horses "up there".

We had one fun moment! This horse is very opinionated and a little barn sour. When we ride from home she will make instant left turns in an effort to go back home - it gets frustrating, but I still have to laugh at her. So at one point we were cantering along on the last leg of the ride and we came up a hill and she could see the big rock hill that had camp right behind it. She saw that rock and immediately dove left, plowing into a sand bank and some bushes, thinking she knew a better way back!

Aside from the spectacular views (which I can't even begin to describe), this was a great ride. With over 100 riders each day, ride management and all the volunteers had their work cut out for them. Vet checks were out each day and lunches were provided, which was fantastic. We were fed better than we would have fed ourselves. The horses had excellent hay and tons of carrots provided. And best yet, there were plenty of water stops, all very well supplied by the water trucks. Trails were well marked and dinners were excellent, along with a bonfire. Griffin's tack provided the top awards (I got the LD first lightweight award each day - a half bale bag, a crew bag and a rump rug) - all beautifully embroidered. Sheri outdid herself for the ride completion awards - the first day she bought an 8x10 photo for each rider from a local photographer. The second day was a table top grill and the third day was either a log book (which I had already bought separately) or a really neat map/ride card pack also made by Griffin's.

Next year Sheri is considering trail that goes down to the Green River. Another ride not to be missed! Hopefully we'll have less broken things next year (and we made it home by not letting the truck come to a complete stop anywhere, we're now back to researching the problem.)

Marlene Moss

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fort Valley on the "Nice Day" (Friday) - Part 1 - Flora Hillman

October 28 2008

How can I put this other than….Fort Valley is perhaps the most favorite of all my most favorite endurance rides -- the gorgeous fall foliage is always spectacular, and the trails are always breathtaking and challenging. Everything about this ride is terrific, and one always comes home with memories that one will never forget.

Living only 1 ½ hours away meant that I had the luxury to leave home and arrive at base camp at a reasonable hour. This prior site of vet checks for the OD rides had morphed into a perfectly groomed flat field full of tiny flags denoting overly generous parking places. It was quite orderly, very inviting, and I ended up parked next to the nicest people – one of whom would be in the 50 with me, the other taking her novice horse in the LD for its second time at a distance ride.

There were lots of familiar old faces, and some new ones – which I find really makes up the essence of what endurance camping is all about.

Check-in, vetting in, and settling in all went without a hitch ….everything just great UNTIL the battery serving my main LQ power supply -- decided to die! I managed to get it recharged with the solar panels, but it discharged again the instant the sun disappeared…right in the middle of my next day preparation. By very good fortune, or decision, or whatever, I had decided to spend this year’s foxhunting subscription money on a nice little Honda generator, and had brought along my new “toy” to try out. Thank goodness for that! Although I’d forgotten the gas can at home (hey, this is my first time bringing one of these things on a ride, you know), at least the generator’s tank was topped off. In a second I had both lights and power and electric heat ….at least until 9:59PM. After that, it was back to battery lights and Mr. Buddy. But by then I was finished, packed, and ready for Friday’s ride. I crawled into a toasty warm bed, and almost instantly fell asleep.

The first half of the night passed uneventfully, except for the novice horse next door plaintively calling for his at-home buddy at 1AM. No matter, he soon gave up and the remainder of the night was spent in blissful silence.

Dawn arrived like a bad hangover. We awoke to no sky at all, just a glowering, sullen doom-and-gloom of unhappy steel gray clouds blanketing horizon to horizon. The sun simply refused to make an appearance, only grudgingly filtered down a skimpy bit of abysmally dim light for us to tack up and get ready. As I zipped on an second jacket to help ward off the cold, I figured this would be one OD ride where no one would have to worry about heat stroke, humidity, or sunburn. Hypothermia, on the other hand, was a distinct possibility. I zipped on a third jacket, just in case.

The ride start was delayed for about 15 minutes while the advance motorcycle crew checked on and replaced a few missing ribbons. We all milled around in the semi-dark for those extra minutes, and then ..the trail was announced open!

Since I only ride for the miles now (my pony is 18 going on 19 so we’re enjoying the trail now rather than burning it up), and I had also planned to ride the 50 again tomorrow, I didn’t want to get caught up in the excitement of the front running riders. I watched as the main body of riders disappeared up the road behind the controlled start vehicle while I joined the rest of the rear guard riders who were sharing the same intent upon maintaining a relaxed start.

The “back of the pack” was quite a jovial company, everyone happy and chatty and relaxed ….as much as one can be on an endurance start. The first leg up Milford Gap on the gravel road was just steep enough to take a bit of the wind out of the sails of anyone too eager to rush to the top. Once on the trail it was very dusty and dry, and with multiple hooves pounding the dry ground, we sent up quite a cloud of fine powder worthy of the Tevis itself.

The trail up to the top was non-eventful, then it was over the crest of the Massanutten and all down, down, down to the valley floor with a left hand turn (north) onto the gravel road that runs alongside the North Fork of the Shenandoah.

What a gorgeous road this is – perfect for a canter or a good road trot.
Riders began to spread out, and my guy started to become a bit of a
handful. After 9 years of riding endurance you would THINK he would not get
all involved in a tug of war over what speed we were going to agree upon.
Oh, no. Not him.

Unfortunately, I was losing the argument because I had him only in a halter
and had completely forgotten to bring along his bit. With nothing other
than my reins, and loudly voiced threats (totally ineffectual as brakes, I
might add) I finally threw the bight of the reins over his face just above
his noseband to create double pressure . It worked! He instantly backed
down, and my impromptu contraption drew several smiles as well as a comment
“that is SO clever!” from some passing riders. It helped take the stress
off my arms because my reins were now loops, and it was far easier on my
back…and my temper. Once the trail headed off the road back up the
mountainside to begin the route back to base camp and the 1st VC I was able
to dispense with the “double brakes” and give him a bit more freedom for the
rest of the 18 miles.

The trail at the top of the Massanuttens heading back towards Milford Gap is
arguable the best and most scenic section -- a soft dirt path , not many
rocks, and stunning views. It was a joy to ride among the trees that were
just starting to color up. I was by myself, which is how both I and my pony
like to ride, yet, it took a few miles before I noticed there was a vast
silence in the trees around me that was a bit…well, unusual. My senses
sharpened and I began to listen, but heard not a peep from any wildlife.
Even the birds were silent and invisible….as if they had already hunkered
down in advance of what was to come in less than 12 hours. It was very odd.

But at the moment I was enjoying the trail so much that I ignored the
unsettling silence, and happily trotted my pony the rest of the way,
eventually reaching Milford Gap as it headed into the VC. My guy was already
at 52 by the time we reached the In Timer, so it was straight into P&R, and
then through the vet check and back to our trailer to eat and rest until our
hold time was up.

I was about 6 minutes late getting to the Out Gate for Loop 2 because my guy
was still eating and I didn’t want to disturb him as this next loop was
about 20 miles long. I made sure his saddle packs were stuffed full of
sliced carrots for him since he has a critical need to refuel enroute, and
packed an extra bit of chicken for myself in case I got hungry.

The 2nd Loop took us back up and over Milford Gap and then headed us back
down to the road alongside the river where we turned right (south) this
time. Once again we enjoyed some canters and cruising along, making time in
anticipation of having to walk the more difficult sections of trail yet to
come. I met up with Ashley Kemerer at one point along the road and we fell
in together, enjoying each other’s company. Just before the road took a
sharp bend to the right, the trail dove off to the left into the woods,
leading us on a merry narrow-trail-bumper-car ride through the woods until
it paused at a hidden sandy enclave at the Shenandoah River. We stopped to
offer our thirsty horses a long refreshing drink. Just upstream a canoe
floated quietly in place as the two intent, but friendly fisherman sitting
within kept close attention to the two fishing lines that were held tight in
the deep grip of the river. Downstream a column of white smoke rose like a
beacon from a small yet earnest campfire at a busy campsite. Our attention,
however, was riveted by what lay just across the river from us, reflected in
the crystal clear water. There the sheer rock face of “the Golden Cliffs”
lifted straight up out of the deep waters like an ancient god, up and up and
up, far above our heads, displaying stunningly beautiful arching wave layers
of multiple geological strata, the brilliant artistic result of billions of
years of crust movement and shifting. It is truly one of the most
awe-inspiring sights, and well worth the moments to pause and reflect.

Once the horses turned their interest from drinking to splashing, it was
time to be on our way again. The trail shook the water off our heels and
then shrugged off the woods to dump us back on the road. We crossed to the
other side and began to head up another path. This one would take us up over
the Massanutten on an ancient route that bypasses a prehistoric Native
American site that gave the trail it’s name – Indian Graves. Infamous for
being one of the most difficult of all trails in the Massanuttens, it starts
off gently, but then lives up to its reputation.

Once the path began to get steep I told Ashley to go on as I wanted to stop
and give my pony some of the grass growing alongside the trail. I knew the
effort at the top of the trail would be difficult and wanted my pony rested,
fed, and energy recharged. A few minutes later I remounted and followed the
trail as it snaked its way higher, each footfall being a steeper climb than
the last. I was heartily glad that I’d spent the last two months walking 4-5
miles a day to get myself trim and fit – I needed to pull my own weight in
tailing up behind my pony on that very rocky climb. The trail became more
and more difficult until it turned into a rock slide of almost vertical
ascent. You *have* to climb it. No options. It was exhilarating,
challenging, exciting, treacherous, difficult, and exhausting.

And far too short!! It was over almost before I knew it. I felt great at
the top of the mountain -- all my weeks of fitness work had paid off, and
I glowed with pride at having been a partner to my pony in this climb, and
not a burden.

Happily, Hugh McDonald, the ride photographer, was at the top to get a great
shot of me and my pony as I tailed him up that massive boulder strewn path.
He showed it to me later at camp, and I can assure you that it will
absolutely be one that will join the others on my “Endurance Wall of Fame”.

Reaching the crest was an anti-climax, and the way back home, while fairly rock strewn and slow, was easy enough. Trotting along I kept thinking I was hearing a light sleet hissing in the leaves around me, but every time I stopped to listen closely, the sounds stopped as well. The silence was really overpowering, and only the periodic noise of the cold breeze rustling the dead leaves was evident. For the first time that day I began to feel uneasy, and was now reluctant to stop enroute. On the bad stretches of rock I dismounted and walked, pulling up grass for my guy doling out his stash of carrots. I did not stop at all, but kept moving as he munched and crunched his snacks over the miles. We finally hit Milford Gap road and cruised the last mile at a spanking trot while we passed others walking in. We strolled into the 2nd vet check with a HR of 58. Once vetted it was back to the trailer to rest and eat and wait for our out time.

During the hold, while my pony ate, I filled his saddle packs with fresh carrots, and started packing up my stuff to leave that night. The sky had continued to look more dismal and more threatening by the moment. I didn’t linger in camp, but was at the Out Timer within 30 seconds of my time. I wasn’t about to waste precious moments in camp and run the risk of getting caught in bad weather out on the trail.

The final loop was on the valley floor incorporating several lollipop loops that chriss-crossed one another several times. Bless the three volunteers – Bonnie, Roy, and John -- who manned the trail junctions to make sure everyone did the loops in order. Roy warned me his trail was “difficult”, which I found to be somewhat of an understatement. A portion took a side excursion into untracked rocky areas that were downright sadistic, and made me wonder if the person that had laid them out had a grudge again horses and riders in general…or endurance riders in particular. Even my pony showed his displeasure by stopping in a snit at one point and moodily asking me to get off and lead him through the minefield of rocks in front of us.

But all was forgiven as we exited the final lollipop and the trail eased gently onto lovely private lanes with lots of yummy side grass to snack upon, and threaded through open fields complete with a clear deep stream to wade into for my pony to drink deep and long. I laughed at the funny signs management had posted on one point of the trail warning of “spook ahead” for farm equipment hidden around a bend of the trail, and despite the lowering sky and ugly clouds we cruised with a big smile across the finish line as the 14th rider to finish, ending up in 13th place overall.

I made a quick check of the internet weather, which confirmed Saturday’s 50 would be under an all day downpour with high winds – not my favorite type of weather due to my ownership of a 2 wheel drive truck that will go out of its way to get stuck anywhere, anytime I any place even slightly damp. I could get out of the ridecamp under my own power now, but tomorrow would be a different story, and I hate getting towed. A few minutes later Saturday’s lineup had one less rider, and I returned to finish my final packing in order to leave right after the dinner.

The Awards Dinner and presentation that night were a hoot. Great food, lots of people laughing and having a grand time. Everyone was elated to find that 100% of the LD riders had finished! Woohoo!! And 25 out of the 29 50 milers had finished. A great completion rate!

By the end of the awards there was a fine drizzle coming down. Those leaving were relieved, those staying were resigned at what was to come. I said goodbye to all my friends, wished those riding the next day “good luck” and tucked my truck’s nose right behind another rig that was part of the exodus to “get out of Dodge” before the weather got bad. In less than 2 hours I was home, my pony in a warm, dry stall with tons of food to scarf down, and me happily recounting to my hubby what a great ride this day had held.

Special kudos to Claire Godwin and her cast and crews of wonderful volunteers for putting on such an outstanding ride, from start to finish! Fort Valley is always challenging and fun, and should be a must for anyone who wants to experience the beauty, serenity, and sheer adventure of endurance riding in the Massanuttens.

Flora Hillman

Fort Valley Ride - Kim Patton

October 25, 2008

I didnt want to crawl out of my nice warm sleeping bag. I didn't even want to ride. I was having pre-ride jitters.
This would be my second LD ride if I managed to get on my horse.

My friend Karen had fed the horses at 6 a.m. and so I all had to do was decide what to wear and to saddle my horse.
The fine misting rain made everything all drippy, including the horses and I told Karen that 'we don't HAVE to do this' and she retorted 'we didnt do all of that conditioning for nothing, we are going to do this ride!'

I took in a long slow deep breath and turned my focus on getting Falcon ready. The darkness quickly turned into daylight with omnious clouds hovering overhead. By 7:30 we were mounted and warming the horses up. Falcon, a 5 y/o arab/paint cross was fairly relaxed/if not sleepy.

At 7:55 we checked in and waited for the start. A "controlled" start?!!!! NOT what I considered controlled. We started out in the middle of the pack. Horses were prancing and cantering and trotting along behind the lead vehicle and I had a major panic attack as I saw some horses slipping on the sleek wet pavement. We crossed a cement bridge and thankfully Falcon was more focused on the other horses.

Falcon, by this time was almost out of control, prancing and dancing sideways like a dressage horse as we all swept up the pavement...then aaah, a right turn onto a gravel road, much safer footing...and we cantered and trotted and moved our way towards the front of the pack.

Soon Karen and Red caught up to us and we went single file up a rocky trail over Milford Gap. The trail down the other side was rocky, wet and narrow. A rock ledge bordered the right with a sharp incline. Falcon maneuvered the trail well, head down, looking for rocks. Several times he stumbled and I flew up out of the saddle, losing my right stirrup and noted to myself that I needed to shorten that stirrup at the next water stop.

The rain began to deluge us now and water squished out of my moisture wicking tights everytime I hit the saddle. Yeeee Hah!
We came apon a wonderful grassy road and Falcon took off at a canter, on and on we went taking the lead for a while. He wanted to gallop, but we had miles to go and so I tugged on him to slow down (with little success) When we reached the gravel road along the Shenandoah river he set in to a more steady pace.

Soon we reached the ascent back up the mountain on another narrow and rocky trail. We climbed slowly and were soon overtaken by 5 other riders who we let pass. The warmth and steam rising from the passing horses made a great cloud to settle in over us. I thought we would never reach the top.

It was on this trail that we saw the BEAUTIFUL FALL FOLIAGE that ride management had spoken of. It was absolutely breathtaking. Then as we crested the top, the view of the Shenandoah valley once again took my breath away.

Once again a downpour enveloped us then lightened as we crossed back in to Fort Valley. We sped back down the trail and ended up at the first Vet Check in 7th place and all A's.

Karens daughter brought us hot Chicken Noodle Soup while friends took care of the horses for us. Karen's time out was about 4 min. later than mine, but since she was riding my horse and she is my friend, I waited for her. Karen needed some motivation to get going again, but soon we were back out on the trail at 1201.

Up the road we went, trot, trot, trot, squish, squish, squish. And DARN we missed the first turn and had to backtrack what seemed to be a mile. After that we stayed on trail. But I hated that loop for the most part. All winding through the woods and taking so many turns that my mind was in a whirl and I couldnt place what direction we were going in my head.

Up steep hills, down hills, more rain, trotting, galloping, squish, squish, squish. At a creek, Falcon stopped to drink and drink, then led 3 other horses up the rock creekbed, surefooted as ever. Man, I am glad he takes care of himself.

Finally Red took the lead with some urging from Karen. When we reached the hayfields Falcon decided it was time for a good buck or two, but I quickly caught on and yanked his head up. From there we had a belly deep water crossing. We LOVED that. Falcon didnt want to get out of the if we werent wet enough already.

One more short steep climb, then good trails to home. YEAHHH!. We had done the 12 miles in less than 2 hours. I walked Falcon in to the Vet, but he was too excited to be back 'home' and whinnied at anyone who would talk to him...not getting his heart rate down to 60.

Judy Ricci, his trainer was close by and came over to help...stuffing some electrolytes in his begrudging mouth and sponging him down for me. Then time for the vet. I was so excited, since we had come in next to last in the Virginia Highlands ride. We finished in the middle of the pack this time and could have placed a little higher had we not left 6 min. late and then gotten lost. And to think that I wanted to quit just because of a little rain!

It was an AWESOME ride.

And the sun came out just as the Vet called out 'overall A'! What an AWESOME AWSOME DAY!

Kim Patton, Luray Virginia

Missing Skjoldur

John Park

We returned home two weeks ago after our trip to Colorado for the funeral of my wife Marilyn’s young nephew. I went out at night to feed the horses and noticed that Skjoldur had a heavy discharge pouring out of his eyes. When I saw him the next morning, he was a little wobbly and his eyes were so opaque that he was effectively blind. I took him into the nearby Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Clinic where he was immediately put onto intravenous fluids. He was diagnosed with an internal infection of possibly his heart and of his liver. He slowly improved for a week until he worsened again. After test after test, his veterinarian informed us that it was clear that his liver was no longer functioning and that there was no hope of recovery. When she told me how he would suffer as his brain deteriorated, we made the decision to put him down last Friday. He was only eighteen years old.

I’ve been in trial but was able to get out early that afternoon and reach Alamo Pintado while the sun was still up. It was a beautiful day. I brought Remington over and met Marilyn at the clinic. I found Skjoldur in his stall at the intensive care barn wobbling on his feet with his head hanging down to the floor. After an intern disconnected his tubing, I haltered him and led him out into the sunlight. When he saw Remington, Skjoldur rushed over and laid his head against Remington’s neck. We put them into the large grassy “playpen” behind the hospital and turned them loose. They both had a good roll in the sand. They then grazed on the fresh grass together under the warm sun while we took turns petting them and taking pictures for half an hour or so. When one would move off a ways, the other would race over to be with him. They were obviously joyous to be in each other’s company again. As the sun started to dip below the horizon, the veterinarian and an intern came over. I fed Skjoldur a final cookie while they administered him an overdose of anesthetic. We left him lying peacefully in the grass under a sycamore tree. I pray his last thoughts were happy ones.

Although we didn’t think we had any tears left after Colorado, Marilyn and I cried our eyes out this weekend sharing memories of our lost pony. Skjoldur was a paradox. He was a stunningly beautiful little horse at just under 13.3 hands high. His summertime palomino pinto coat would turn snow white in the winter. His wavy full, flaxen colored mane was unusual even for an Icelandic. He looked like a toy horse come to life. He was gentle and affectionate. We sometimes used to call him little happiness. My friend Lynne Glazer told me once that Skjoldur was the pony every woman wanted when she was an eight year old girl.

But Skjoldur also proved himself to be one of the toughest horses in the sport of endurance riding. He had tremendous metabolic recoveries and was essentially tireless. During the XP 2001 ride from Missouri to California on the Pony Express trail, he completed 32 fifty mile rides, 1,600 miles, in a 52 day period. He was the first horse in the AERC to complete 1,000 miles of sanctioned endurance rides in a thirty day calendar period. He completed 40 rides that year for 2,010 miles with no pulls. He won first middleweight and first overall in our region, the regional mileage championship, the middleweight Pioneer Award for most points nationally in multi-day rides, and came in 2nd for the national mileage championship even though all of his rides but one were in the last half of the ride season. Almost all of his career miles came from multi-day rides. He was never entered in a ride less than fifty miles long.

Five gaited, he was just as smooth at the trot as he was at the tolt. He liked to poke along at a steady pace, preferably two or three feet behind Remington’s tail. But he was a demon going downhill. He would trot and canter at full speed down the tightest trails, flinging his body around the turns. He had a way of paddling out his front feet so that he didn’t have to slow down as the slope got steeper. My most thrilling ride ever was his 2,000 foot wild descent from the mountain ridge down to the valley floor at 2 am near the end of the Californios 100 mile ride three years ago. I can still feel the exhilaration of not being able to see whether we would fly right or left or dip up or down as he rocketed down the single track trail in the pitch dark. It pains me to think I will never feel what it is like to ride him again except in my memory.

But it comforts me to know that so many people will remember Skjoldur. Although he was Remington’s back up for me, calling him a back up would be like calling Ginger Rogers Fred Astaire’s assistant. Skjoldur was the Icelandic my family and everybody else got to ride in endurance. Probably my most memorable endurance rides were with Marilyn in Utah, my son Andrew in Nevada and my son Willie in Wyoming. Nine different people completed fifty mile endurance rides on him. My friends Laura Hayes and Kat Swigart each completed several rides on him. Jane Blair rode a fifty miler on him wearing a cast at Bryce Canyon three days after breaking her arm falling off her own horse. Everyone who rode him thought he was the smoothest horse they had ever ridden. Lori Cox wrote after riding him in a seventy five miler in Nevada that it was like riding a horse on wheels.

Skjoldur was also the horse my non horsey friends felt safe on in weekend trail rides at the beach or in the mountains. The many children and other beginners who were introduced to horse back riding on his back were proud to know they were on a horse who could take them as far as they could imagine. Remington and I tend to be loners on the trail. By allowing people to ride with us, Sjoldur served as our bond with family and friends. My life is richer for the deep friendships we made throughout the endurance community in the years we shared with him. He was so much a part of our lives.

We never had the sense that Skjoldur relished going down the trail mile after mile for its own sake the way Remington does. Instead, it seemed that Skjoldur did the amazing things he did simply because we asked him to. When he was young, he would get nervous and sometimes spook and throw me when I would ride him alone on conditioning rides. The more angry I would get, the more nervous he would get. So I composed a dumb little song about how I loved him from the minute I picked him out of the herd and how lucky I was to have him. I would sing this out loud to him while we trotted along. It forced me to calm down which, of course, allowed him to relax. This dumb little song has been going through my head all day even while I’ve been in court. I hope it never stops.

The Fort Valley Rain Dance - by Jen

The Fort Valley Rain Dance (Part I)

While I have not viewed the original text, it must include something about; marking 50 or so miles of trail with brightly colored ribbons, inviting all whom are crazy enough to attempt to traverse said trail on horseback, and parking those loonies in a lovely grassy meadow, (like we'd be happy in a gravel parking lot, aye?), then suckering 30 or so chipper volunteers to spend a perfectly good day off work standing in the middle of the woods with only a slight clue what their exact purpose is. Yepper, it happened again! This time I was lucky enough to depart camp without the aid of farm equipment though! Not so sure on those who left Sunday.

Due to the fortunate fact I am employed, I had to ride on Saturday. Just daring the weather gods to fulfill what the weatherman had promised. Two inches of bone soaking, mud creating, Tide commercial inspiring, down pour. Let it be known, Fort Valley was in a mild drought when we arrived, dust poofing up at every foot fall. Touche' ! First omen, arriving Friday afternoon at 3pm, and asking "Who won the 50?" Reply from Mary Coleman, "I don't think they've finished yet". Oh great gobbly gook! It can't be true!!!

Friday dinner, awards, and meeting; was wonderful, informative, humorous, and light hearted. Seems we're all at peace with the weather, and we're dog-gone-it gonna have fun anyway! Wild story told about saddle and rider going over the rump of a horse climbing up Indian Grave, and reports the photographer caught it all! (oh bageez, its not bad enough to fall off in public, but someone had to take pictures of it?!?!) Learned Friday's 30 had a 100% completion rate! Way to go guys! And Tom and Tektonic won the 50! Woohoo! We got to meet the lovely raffle horse, Symetrie. (I'm so jealous Kathy!) OK, so down to business, Sat's 50. 1st loop 18 miles, a few moderate climbs, and quite a bit of gravel roadway by the river. 2nd loop 20 miles, including new *dirt* trail, and the dreaded Indian Grave climb. 3rd loop 12 miles, Martha Ann's loop, all on private property, zig-zagging looping, looks like loads of fun! Two 45 mins holds, parameters of 64. Spirits lifted!

Sprinkling at bedtime. Leaped out of bed a 2am, when *something* shook the trailer. Turned out to be the heavy wind lifting my awning, fixed, gave pony more food, then back to bed. (That 2am gust was topic of several "startling" stories on Sat!) Tacked up in sprinkles, and really warm, not bad, I can do this. Off we go, controlled start, following Henry up the paved road. I'm really impressed how slow, quiet, and well behaved, all these wild arabs are this windy morning! Footing is actually great, just enough rain to knock the dust down and soften the hard packed ground. We stayed in a group up and over Milford. Then down to a nice grassy rolling road that got everyone stretched out. I found a great riding companion going my speed, we chatted it up while watching for the ribbons.

Returned to camp and VC1, and found it to be pretty wet, but everyone still laughing and having fun. I fretted over soundness, my poor pony was slip sliding over those wet rocks, he seemed fine, eager to go, but there wasn't an inch of flat ground to check soundness. No worries, Dr. Nick says he's fine. Removed all soaked clothes, new dry ones on, stuff pony full of food, and back out we go.

Loop 2 was to die for!!!! The trail was so much fun, nice dirt trails, twisting, turning, DIFFERENT, loads of great views. But it was getting noticably muddier. Towards the end of the "new" part we were fetlock deep in mud. Sigh, I never thought I'd be hoping to see those familiar rock trails.

(Part 2)
Then the turn for Indian Grave, oh boy. First trip up this monster for the young pony, I'm not sure he's mature enough to handle the task, checked all emergency exits! >wink< Well guys, no sugar coating, it was bad. The rain had begun to flat out pour on us. The lower steeper climb that is mostly dirt, was so slick the horses would slide each step forward they gained. I used the emergency exit and tailed up to the rock. Back on ponyboy, he's still motivated (read Napoleon complex still functioning as usual). I'm the middle horse, following buddy from the first loop, and a new friend caught up with us during this loop. The horse up front is a trooper, leaping two or three times up, then stopping for a breath. This was a huge help to motivate my pony who was really waivering. There was literally a 2" deep waterfall running down "the stairs", the noise was slightly scary, but the water flowing around his hooves and splashing up in his face really freaked him out. He stopped and pondered a time or two, but just with verbal encouragement I was able to convince him not to back up, phew! Just when I thought, I was in trouble, the horse behind me turned around and went to other way! HOW did she do that? There is NO room on this trail to turn around! Off the rock and took the last upward turn back on dirt/rock mix, still a flowing waterfall. All horses started taking turns trying to quit, who could blame them? I start whooping to motivate little man (hey, it works), soon all three of us were whooping up the hill. It worked! Phew!

VC2 revealed battered, muddy, volunteers. Ugh! It seems several had taken turns inadvertatly sliding into the vet check.. no not the horses.. the volunteers! Oops! Still most are giggling, but noticably more wet and less animated. Again, fret over soundness, pony fine, remove all soaked clothes, news dry ones on, pony stuffed full of food, and we drag back out, chanting only 12 miles to go!

Loop 3 was even better. One small climb (I swear I heard the horses threaten to get even), lots of fun wooded zippy trails. All the mud you could ask for! >g< Hey, if that's all we can find to complain about, it was a fabulous! There were 3 spotters left in the woods to point us in the right direction. Those poor soaked souls, how ever did someone talk them into that job!?! His evilness is still trying to rip my arms from the sockets, so I figure fair is fair, he carried my butt up the mountain, he may as well enjoy cantering. A few nice canters thru hay fields, one especially deep river crossing! (This is were riding the pony does not pay off, sure its easy to get on/off, and everyone else gets the spider webs, but I was wet halfway up to my knees!) Some not so appropriate canters we won't discuss in other places, but I'm happy he's pulling and seemingly getting stonger. I couldn't wait for the ride to be over, but Henry's truck could be seen on the horizon, and the finish line seemed to come too soon.

Final vet check, went just as well as the previous. I need to recheck my card, but I think we had all A's for the day!

My crew was kind enough to have everything packed when we got in. His evilness got in a good roll, then into his nice dry trailer, stuffed full of goodies. (We are only a three hour drive, he ate EVERYTHING by the time we got home!) I changed again, officially filling an entire trash bag full of wet clothes! And off while the getting is still good! (aka before the mud gets any deeper!)

Huge thanks to all the wet muddy volunteers, management, and land owners! The weather can never be controlled, but every other detail was carefully planned and carried out to keep us all safe, happy, and on trail! :-)

Congrats to everyone that finished on Saturday, that really was an ENDURANCE ride!

Finally warm and dry,