Hello to all.....I usually do not have much to say on ridecamp just love to hear all opinions and stories. However over the past years I have learned a great deal the hard and this particular race has been a very successful culmination of those lessons. I'll try to keep it short but first a little back ground. My horse is 72% old line CMK, 28% old line Egyptian and I bought him as a totally green 3 year old and he is 16 now. He is built like a tank and his name is Dio Renegade. We live and train near Asheville, NC and our local race is Biltmore Challenge. Our vet is Ann Stuart an FEI vet and we have a lot of experienced endurance riders in this area, including Cheryl and Stagg Newman. We have a small 2 horse bumper pull, a small truck and one horse and tent camp at rides. We only go to a ride when we are able financially and have the time; therefore, I try to keep him fit year round just in case. A big year for us is 4 or 5 rides but we always try to ride one or both Biltmore rides. Our first 50 mile race was in 1999.
OK that is the background. Our first lesson learned: was our very first ride and has been said many times on ridecamp. DO NOT try anything new or change anything on rideday. Bought a new sponge and line the night before, next day it got tangled around my right leg on the first loop without me knowing and when we stopped for the second water break I tried to get off and whoa...I had one foot on the ground, the other up on Rene's back and could not get back on nor get off.. Had to wait on another rider about 5 min before I had help...LOL Rene knew something was wrong and stayed still somehow...by the beginning of the third loop could not take the pulled groin muscle any longer and rider optioned out. missed a couple of years in there for various reasons, then......
Second and Third lesson: in 2004 we had been training on trail with other horses or alone in only a halter and had done the local race that year without a bit, only in the halter and ride he was well used to. Went to a new race for us and decided to ride without a bit and boy was that a big mistake. This was the Pyramid Challenge in Kentucky. Had heard really good things about this ride but I totally underestimated the effect of wide open space on Renegade. Ride morning found us warming up without the bit, doing fine and did not give it a thought when "trails open" not a controlled start and oh my...my usually fairly calm horse became Mr Hyde. He is totally uncontrollable. That early in the AM and in that very thick, lush grass it was very slick. At about the one mile point he was starting to listen to me when going down a hill he slid and went to his knees, I flew over his neck and landed on my butt, breaking my tailbone. Still I got up and waited for all riders to pass, had to get on by climbing up one of the jumps and rode that loop somewhat out of the saddle. This time I dealt with the pain, came into the vet area and declared we would finish this ride if it killed me....should not have said that, went back out and started passing riders that had passed us earlier and the further we went the more we passed and realized that we were back in the running. Not far from camp and going at a smooth, slow gallop, still somewhat in a 3 point position, a photographer stood up from his vehicle and Renegade took an immediate left and I took an immediate straight flight to the ground. Longer story short, after a concussion with mild TBI, two spinal fractures, first the tailbone on first fall and C-6 on the second fall and with residual double vision and out of work for 4 months, I learned unless you are very, very sure of your horse DO NOT ride the first loop without a bit or at least until your horse finds his brain. By the way, Renegade never left me on either fall. As a matter of fact until another rider got to us he wouldn't let by-standers nor the photographer near us. I have no memory of that, it was told to my husband who is our crew. Another lesson, unless it is a mild injury, DO NOT continue the ride with an injury that interferes with your riding ability!
Fourth Lesson: in 2006 went to Leatherwood for the second time (first time we pulled due to multiple bee stings, we counted 23 and his HR hung at 58) and this 50 did not consider how the very lush grass at home which kept getting hit by rain, cold then hot sun, causing the usual high sugar content would affect him. Also the night before the ride it went from sunny and warm to very cold wet and windy. OK this ride was to be a training ride only for the 100 at Biltmore later in the spring. At the start, with a bit in his mouth, controlled start by the way, when trail was open we started calmly enough but if you have been to Leatherwood then you know most of the trail is steep. That first loop is also single track and steep and your horse is forced to go the speed of the group, which is OK but in that weather, steep trail and early spring grass conditions and holding back can cause a tie-up. Sure enough, at about 5-6 miles out Renegade started getting tight. I did not have a rump rug but took my jacket off and attached it to my saddle to cover his rump and slowly walked him in hand. Luckily we were at a wide spot on the trail and did not have to interfere with anyone else although everyone that passed us offered to stop and help. After about 2 miles, he seemed to walk himself out of the stiffness and at a water break with a couple of good riders there had them to watch a quick trotout, HR fine, movement fine so elected to continue the ride...wrong decision. Renegade did continue just fine, moved through all vet checks during the day with all A's, fast recovery's and and with the vets knowledge of exactly what had happened on the first loop. We finished the ride with a 14th place completion running just slower than I wanted to do at the 100 at Biltmore once again with all A's. However, he was not eating as usual nor was he drinking as usual and 3 hours later he colicked. This ride is out in the middle of nowhere, treatment vet left early to go to another event he was needed at but one of the other vets had fluids which he utilized along with gastric tube to check for reflux, which he had a lot of....longer story short, long agonizing trip to equine hospital (Bonnie Brae), touch and go all night and next day, vets saying they would put him down if he did not turn soon, begged them to give him more time, he did not get worse just was not getting any better. He was not in visible distress other than a hung HR between 52 and 60 and he still perked up when I went in with him. Lots of pain meds, lots of fluids and lots of prayers he finally turned the corner and survived. He had an ilieus most likely caused by the early tie-up and the "by-products" dumped in his blood stream thereafter. So fourth: DO NOT underestimate the affect of cold weather and early spring grass on your horses' health, fifth: DO NOT ride early AM in the cold without a rump rug, sixth: DO NOT continue the ride after a tie up no matter how good he looks and acts. Seventh: The ride vets learned to always have the treatment vet on hand until all horses have left camp. I came very close to losing my best friend over my stupidity.
Eighth lesson: By this time it is 2008 and I had realized even though we only ride when able we had been riding a long time as in same rider, same horse and for several years had at least one 50 mile completion.. No rides in second half of 2008 and first half of 2009 due to taking care of elderly parents and trying to get help with that, working full time and a mild injury that took a toll on our training. Finally, started getting time in over the summer, just ready for Virginia Highlands but had to miss due to the mild back injury I just wrote about. OK over that and was just ready for the 50 fall ride at Biltmore and lady luck hit us hard. The pasture, which is fantastic used to be an old cattle pasture with barbed wire (now it is wood fencing) was gone over with a fine toothed comb. However this year we have had an unusual amount of rain and somehow a very old rusted nail found its way to the surface and found Renegade's foot. Oh my.....this 2 inch nail went into his frog at an almost 90 degree angle causing extreme lameness. Went back to equine hospital at Bonni Brae, was x-rayed and found the path of the nail somehow missed the coffin bone and joint, the navicular bursae, and ended up with the tip of the nail just at the edge of the DDFT. It did not pucture it. This was an injury that could have been his death once again but with diligent care both at Bonni Brae and at home....another longer story short, even though the prognosis was pasture ornament at best, death at worst, he recovered after about 5 weeks, deemed completely sound by my farrier and my wonderful vets with Ann Stuart. Once again I almost lost my beloved partner. Just to be on the safe side my farrier poured a medicated pad in so we could train safely while the hole continued to close in, we had about 4 weeks to get ready for Sandhills. The only reason we even wanted to try for a ride before the end of the ride season was to get a 50 completion for 2009 and Sandhills was the only ride we would be able to get to. So lesson learned: Shit happens and sometimes there is not a thing you can do to prevent it but pray and pray and endure to the best of your ability. Please stay tuned or tune in for Part 2: Sandhills ride story or how lessons learned the hard way can create the perfect ride!