Tuesday, December 22, 2009

California: Look, Ma, No Car!

Concierge.com - Full Story
by Susan Hack | Published January 2010

In the Egyptian desert, near the Pyramids, a horse bolted. I wasn't hurt, but now whenever I get on a horse, instead of pleasure all I can think about is falling off. I've ridden since childhood but have come to Ricochet Ridge Ranch, just north of Fort Bragg, hoping to recover confidence and strike a balance between common sense and obsessive dread.

Ranch owner Lari Shea is a breeder and champion rider of endurance racehorses. Her weeklong riding holidays take guests through Mendocino County's forests, cattle flats, and miles of undeveloped beach, mainly at a high-speed trot. Veterans of twenty-five- to hundred-mile-long contests, Shea's horses, many of them Arabian and Russian Orlov crosses, are equine ultra-marathoners. A high-energy, five-foot-tall ringer for Sandra Dee, Shea greets me wearing a flamboyant red-and-black western shirt, black riding tights, cowboy boots, and knee holsters for cell phone and hoof picks.

In the barn I meet my charge for the week, Citron, a fourteen-year-old palomino mare, half Arabian and half Akhal-Teke, an obscure but smooth-gaited breed from Turkmenistan.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Terry Rashid

The Coso Junction Warmup (sanctioned under the name Death Valley Warmup) was the first ride of the 2010 season, at least within any reasonable commute of the bay area. It was also my last chance to get Keen qualified for the FEI1* in January. Unfortunately, Keen was still slightly lame prior to the ride, so once again Escapade needed to step in and take her place. (I can only imagine the conversation that Escapade is going to have with Keen when she returns: “Hey you lazy mare, you stop faking this front foot lameness or I’m gonna *kick* your butt. I am tired of these ridiculous multi-day rides!”)

Of course in some ways, it made it easier on me, because now I was only planning to bring one horse, instead of two. Even if Keen had been OK for a 50 miler, I would not have done two days of 50s with her recent issues. So now it was just Escapade and me. No worries about a horse left in camp while I was off riding, and I only needed to haul water for one, and pick manure for one – a lot less work.

I like to head out in the early morning for long drives. This one was around 375 miles, so I headed out at 4:00am. While that meant I didn’t have any traffic to deal with headed out of the bay area, it also meant that I would be driving Pacheo pass in the dark. Thankfully there were no accidents going in the eastbound direction. Unfortunately there was a nasty looking multicar pileup going the other way. I must have driven by just after it occurred because there was steam or smoke still coming from at least one of the cars and there were no emergency vehicles on the scene. I kept thinking, “Please let no one be badly hurt,” as I drove on, shaken.

Once I reached I-5 the driving became very straightforward and flat. I turned on some music and watched the miles roll by. I knew where I planning to stop for breakfast, a McDonalds in Coalinga. In an unusual bit of advance planning I had located the McDonalds along my route, picked one at a good distance for breakfast (~140 miles) and looked at the aerial satellite imagery to make sure there would be a place to park the rig. Amazing! Actually, it worked really well, so perhaps I will try to remember to do that again for other trips. J

There was diesel at a Mobil station across the way from the McDonalds, so I thought I would fuel up there even though I wasn’t low. Unfortunately it had the SLOWEST pump I’ve ever dealt with – less than 1 gallon per minute! I decided to hang out there for a while so I could eat some of my breakfast while not driving, but I still only got around 8 gallons before my patience (and my egg & cheese biscuit) ran out. The sun had risen during my stop, so between that and the latte, I hit the road again considerably more awake.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 DVE Warm Up Ride Day 1 - Becky Hackworth

The day dawned I think....it was still dark with clouds. I did something we all know we shouldn't, but I tried some new things for the ride that I hadn't tested out at home. A head/neck warmer, a waterproof pair of pants and a new lightweight jacket. It all worked out well though. I did bring my been there done that horse, Marc, because my most frequent riding partner Sue wasn't sure she would be able to ride. So just to be safe, I didn't bring Roy my youngster. lol

We started off on the first loop on essentially the same trail as the old Geo Bun Buster ride. Marc felt really strong all the way to the quick vet check on the back side of the mountain. I took about 5 minutes for him to pulse down but he was quite warm and has a really heavy coat this year. I don't have the heart to clip since we had snow last Monday and it is still very early in the year for cold weather here in the Sierra's.

Well after cooling off he was fine and good to go. So off we went. At this point we were alone and we were heading for a little pass that lead down to a little valley that sometimes has wild horses. Well just before we got to the pass, it got foggy. Really foggy. Really sort of cool riding in it. At times it got cold but the new outfit proved very good at keeping me warm and dry. It really does pay to have the right gear.

Just before climing out of the valley, Marci Cunningham and Lori Bertoluchi(sp) caught up with me so I tagged along for the rest of the day. The fog stayed with us the rest of the first loop. I could tell where we were just because I have ridden the area before, not because I could see where we were.

All good at lunch in camp, then back we go for the second loop. About that time it started to rain. Nothing like they saw in Kentucky this year, but certainly a lot for the desert. Really just a heavy drizzle, but the water was running off my vizor. No wind which was good.

On the last leg in to camp instead of the desert ride phenomenon of being able to see camp from everywhere on trail, we could only see two lights. Everything else was fog and rain.

We all finished in good shape, all the ponies good to go again even though I was the only one planning to ride day two.

Becky Hackworth

Death Valley Warmup Ride Report, Part 2

Karen Chaton

I’ll start with what it was like just getting to the ride. For a few days leading up to the trip, we were experiencing extremely cold temperatures (for here). We’d had a high temp the day before I left of 16, while it got down into the minus 10 and teens at night. A storm had come in a couple of days ahead of the really cold temps and dropped a foot and a half of snow.

It took me awhile traipsing through the snow just to get everything loaded into the trailer for the trip. The day before I ran an extension cord from the barn to the trailer. I brought out a small electric heater figuring I’d turn it on inside the trailer LQ to keep things from getting too cold. At temperatures below zero, things will still burst inside the refrigerator. The only problem with that idea is that I overloaded the circuit breaker in the barn. Between the lights in the barn, the two stock tank heaters and the trailer it was just too much. And of course, I found out by noticing that the horses water trough was frozen the next morning. Doesn’t take long in minus temps. Fortunately it didn’t freeze enough to kill the fish. They have been frozen before and come back to life.

Each time the breaker tripped I’d have to go back and forth from the house through the snow, until I realized that it was a losing battle and just ended up unplugging the trailer and forgetting trying to heat it and didn’t pack any food ahead of time.

snowtable 150x150 Death Valley Warmup Ride Report, Part 2The road conditions during this time were horrible. It’s almost a week later (today) and the county finally came along and plowed our street. Ha! I knew that I wouldn’t be able to leave early and had to watch for my window of opportunity so that I could get from here down to Coso Junction. It’s about 270 miles if I go down Highway 395. It adds at least an hour if I go around through Nevada and come over Montgomery Pass. Dave put the chains for both the truck and the trailer in the back seat of my truck. I really wasn’t looking forward to the idea of having to chain up. I just don’t like hauling horses in those kinds of conditions.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ride & Tie - A Great Race by Patrick Davies

Patrick's Blog - Full Story, pictures, and video

Friday, December 4, 2009

I thought that it was about time to create a blog about the Ride & Tie, for it's the Ride & Tie that got me involved in everything endurance related. Back when I was 25 my brother Mike called and told me that his running partner had a friend, Nick Larsen, who needed a race partner. I'd always loved horses, so I thought that I'd give it a try.

That spring I met Mike, his running partner Tim Fenton and Nick for a test ride. Mike and Tim had done the Ride & Tie the year before, but this was a first for Nick and me. On this "test" ride we probably went out and rode/ran for about 5 miles, and you'd have thought we'd gone around the world. At that time I'm sure we never thought we'd be able to do 40 mile training rides and runs in the mountains, but over the next 10 to 15 years that's how it worked out. We improved each year, and about 4 years after the first Ride & Tie we had our best race chronicled in the video.

Justin, Karli, Jake and I were going through some old videos, and found a video of the Park City Ride & Tie. Using that old footage, I put the video below together.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Oklahoma Season Finale - Lucie Hess

Day 1

Had a great ride today at the Season Finale ride in Oklahoma.

Lot's of folks showed up today 24 or so 50's had to be close to 40 LD riders. The weather was lovely, clear, some wind, highs in the 70's. unheard of in late November.

Louise Burton won the 50 and got BC too, she also won the 1/2 Arab National Championship ride this fall.

I finished with a stong horse, he was pulling me to get in. This time I wasn't the turtle, maybe 6 or so people behind me.

After a fast morning trying to keep up with some friends. I dropped back and I just rode at my own pace, and worked on having a sane, calm horse when he's being ridden alone.
I usually ride with someone else, so he gets frantic sometimes when he's by himself. But we had 8 miles of moving along with a loose rein. But not so much on the first 17 miles!
No big spooks so I stayed on! (there's always tomorrow).

Tomorrow same trail, about same number of folks ridng.
Looking forward to the last ride of the year.. Should be another nice day.
More later!

Day 2

Finally I'm home after driving 8hrs. Well, I've really been home since 5 pm, but who's counting?
The Saturday Ride was on the same trail as Friday. Lot's of riders were riding the 2nd day on the 50 and 25.

Jane Huff and Mike Jaffee surprised all of us when they rode up and Mike was riding Jane's horse and Jane was riding his MULE! Jane said no time like now to try to ride a MULE. I told her she was gonna be a mule skinner! So off they went, both finished and had a great time. But ask Jane how well Emme Lou likes mud puddles

My day started off great! Donna Huetteman wanted to ride slow and easy, so we hooked up and rode together. It's always fun to ride with people you don't know very well, because after you spend time together riding the trails and chatting, you get better accquainted.
I was having a good ride, but on the way back, (it was an out and back trail), Spanky took a bad step and then took 3 bobbles on his right leg., then was fine.. this happened a few more times, but it was so intermittent, he was sound on a hard packed road and was trotting sound on the flat ground. I sure didn't know what was going on, but I was pretty concerned. We were close to camp so I just went ahead and rode in.
So I know in my heart we were done and went into the vet check knowing I'd be pulled. And we were and rightly so, by that time he was a grade 2, the vet thought it was on his left front, I still think it was his right front since that's the leg that I felt wasn't quite right.

Donna went ahead and finished the ride, she was pleased with her finish, her first back to back 25's I think it was.

I was pretty disappointed, but oh well.. there's another day.

The day was so nice, clear skies, but much cooler than Friday. There was a stiff cold wind coming in. But much better for the horses, with their winter hair on.

By the time we had awards and a potluck dinner, the wind had really picked up and it was getting pretty cold, a couple of propane heaters were brought out, We talked about how most people think we are crazy to sit outside on a windy, cold night to eat dinner. Well, they think we are crazy for riding so far anyway.
There were lots of riders on Saturday, probably as many as there were on Friday. Lot's of Texas folks as their Thanksgiving ride was cancelled. I got to see Captain Thunderpants, who is leading the nation in Jr miles, he is a cute little pony who just keeps up with the bigger horses and carries his rider, Hannah, around carefully. We told Hannah her pony was cute as we rode by and I heard her tell the person she was riding with, "Everyone says he's so cute".

Even tho I was disappointed with my pull, I still wouldn't have missed the ride. I had a great time both days.

Over the winter, I'll have to remember the unseasonably warm weather and the fun that was had, riding the trails, sitting around a fire with good friends and adult beverages enjoying being out in nature, with Horses! And I'll plan for next year!

Going to ride 50's and hope this lameness was "just one of those things". Doesn't hurt to think positive.

Thanks to Susan Young and Ann McFarland for putting on a great ride with well marked and well trimmed trails.

Now to clean out the trailer and winterize it! Yuck.. I'd rather clean the stalls.
More next year!.

Desert Gold - Judy Etheridge

Also here is my short Desert Gold story:

I really wanted to do at least one day of this ride but was short of horses due to problems with my mares. So I decided to ride minimally conditioned Orion, 24 -1/2 years old, on the LD on Sunday--I was in luck with the weather and the direction of the trail--we went down a bunch of shortish, steep hills--up is definitely not a favorite at his age. Our first loop was perfect--the best ride I have ever had on him--we didn't see any other horses so I was able to let him set the pace. At the lunch break he pulsed right down even with a heavy winter coat and he ate and drank at the trailer--with age comes wisdom--he used to hardly eat or drink during a ride. He was pokey at first on the second loop until a friend of a friend who was looking for someone to ride with caught up with us. That brought him back to life and we trotted most of the loop with O wanting to be in front like the old days. I had to throw some water on him at the end to get his pulse down but it only took a few minutes. He vetted out OK and I breathed a sigh of relief--we did it!
Have to say LDs have their charms--I am not as sore and tired as after a 50 and I didn't really worry about how O was doing because the pace was not nearly so fast as an endurance ride. Today his legs are tight and he doesn't look like he did anything special yesterday which makes me even happier.

Thanks to Scott, Susie and all the volunteers who made the ride possible:):)


Judy Etheridge

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Season Finale Endurance Ride - Heather

Sabumi.blogspot.com - Full Adventure

Monday, November 30, 2009

I didn't want to talk about it before it happened because I didn't want to jinx myself... But I have been scheming and planning to attend the Season Finale 50 Mile Endurance ride in Chandler, OK this weekend!
All day Wednesday, I was busy packing and getting food ready. I was also making a Thanksgiving dinner for John and I. I couldn't handle the thought of going without Thanksgiving food! This is by far my favorite holiday. So, I ruined the turkey, bought a rotisserie cranberry glazed chicken from Target, and everything else was awesome. The chicken was darn good too! We had a grand dinner and packed up the leftovers to take camping with us!

Thursday, John did his traditional Turkey Day 20 miler in the morning, then we packed up and got the horse. Once we were on our way, we just settled in for the 5.5 hour drive. Boomer was a great traveler for the most part. He was moving around a lot for the first hour, so we tied him up and gave him a hay bag. He was much better after that even though he didn't touch the hay. One minor mishap on the drive was a pesky little (HUGE) grasshopper in the truck. He kept flying up between the door and me and scaring the beejesus out of me. I tried opening the window, but he wouldn't leave. He finally perched on my seat to my left, I leaned forward while driving, and John smashed him on the seat behind me. Victory.

Once we arrived we set up camp and I took Boomer for a walk through camp to start getting used to things and also so I could figure out how to enter/get a vet card. Boomer was a totally different horse compared to last time we went camping at Clinton Lake. He didn't pace or call to the other horses at all. He just settled right in and started eating and drinking.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 Trens Tesmen (Translation: Trans Tasman) - by Gerard Bou

New Zealand.

The Shakey Isles(or is that Hawaii?),Land of the long white cloud(it's actually
grey).Home of Mordor and a ring that caused some trouble a while back.A place
where everyone really does wear black all the time.A vivid image is that of
Derek Armitage wearing his green and gold Aussie jacket walking the boardwalk in
Wellington harbour surrounded by a sea of black jackets.The proverbial "sore

There is around 4 million people in NZ.That gives them around 266 000 possible
All Black sides that would be capable of beating our current Wallaby squad.But
we weren't there for rugby.Bet they wish we were now

We drove from Wellington to Whanganui.You should know that the WH in NZ is
actually pronounced PH ( as in F)depending on which part of the country you come
from,so it could actually be Whanganui or Phanganui.I don't think the locals
even know.I heard both.We stopped at Paraparaumu on the way.Now don't get too
carried away reading that twice because it is actually pronounced
patapatamoomoo.Crazy Kiwis.I mean Aussie place names make perfect sense like
Oodnadatta or Coonabarabran.Easy as.

The team met up in Whanganui at the hotel and we all went for a swim in the
pool for bonding and spent some time sunbaking on the beach.We threw beachballs
around and frizbies as well.

Oops none of that last sentence is true.If you threw a beachball on the beach it
would end up in South America and the frizbie would probably come back to you
after circling the globe on the gale force winds.So in NZ they may well call
frizbies boomarangs.I think they have heard of pools but they have never seen
one.At least not an outdoor version.The sand on the beach is black and the
driftwood should be called drift trees.Whole trees were all over the beach.Quite
amazing and the rocks on the beach were all pumice and as light as a
feather.Doubt that you would want a swim at that beach unless you had a
deathwish or a wetsuit 3 inches thick.

Ride base was around 18mins from the hotel.A pleasant drive through the
greeness that is NZ past the sheep and dairy herds.Deer farms dot the landscape
and it is incredible to see how much livestock they can squeeze onto small
blocks of land.Here we need about 2000 acres for 2 cows,a pig and a sheep and
even then we need to hand feed twice a day but in NZ there is so much feed that
100 head can spend a week on 1 acre.If you took an Australian horse to NZ they
would have a panic attack and a seizure,collapsing in a heap just from not being
able to work out where the hell to start eating and their cones and rods
couldn't process the lush green colour causing temporary blindness.Two days
later they would have a body score of a hundred and no girth would be long

Ride base was a couple of paddocks at the base of some steep hills covered in
sheep with a woolshed and some yards.A lovely sight and of course no shortage of
feed.On our arrival there were a few trucks already there and the Aussie horses
were waiting for our riders to get on board.Wonderfull to see the Kiwis look
after us so well and having horses available for testing 3 days before the ride
was excellent.

You don't need to hammer in a waratah (star picket) in NZ you just drop it from
5 inches above the ground and it settles around a foot in the earth.They also
use telescopic metal yards.Ooh they can be tricky lining up the holes.Apparently
they have some rather odd rules about yards over there.Voltage meters and such
that I won't bother going into now.Also no gooseys.Not a one.All trucks with a
couple of floats.Apparently the gooseys get bogged too easily.No surprise
there.Pretty sure if it isn't raining in NZ it is just about to.

They also have earthquakes.They gave us an earthquake one morning.5.1 on the
richter scale.Now I've never actually been in one before but I have come to the
conclusion that Kiwi earthquakes are soft.Soft like butter.Cmon Kiwi quakes take
a teaspoon of cement and harden up ya pansies.I didn't even notice.I think my
shoelace slipped off my boot and the end touched the ground gently but that was
about it.If we had an earthquake here it would open huge cracks in the ground
and swallow whole cities.Soft Kiwis,soft.

Chapter 2
The Aussie invasion
Coming soon(sorry 2 finger typer.I need a break)

Chapter 2

Here's a tip for the young player.If by chance you get asked to be a groom for
a rider on the Australian team you say yes.3 years ago a young lass took me on
my 1st 40k.Later that year she took me around my 1st 80.The year after she took
me around my 1st 160.I'd like to think that now we ride together as equals but
somehow I don't think it is the case.It was an honour for me to be able to lend
my support to Tarnia Kittel in NZ.

The team was as follows.

Sonya Ryan. groom, Jo Hamilton Branigan
Adi McIntosh. groom, Anita Lunt
Talea Hasko-Stewart. groom, Fia Hasko-Stewart
Tarnia Kittel. groom, me

Linda Tanian. groom Vanessa Crispe
Lisa Stoffel. groom Wade Burgess

Derek Armitage was our "cirque de sole" or is it "chef de quipe" and he was
assisted by his wife Glenda.A pair with much experience and they both did such a
sterling job.Thank you guys.

We had the opportunity to ride/choose horses in NZ 3 days ahead of the
ride.This was a fantastic effort by the Kiwis as I'm sure they could have all
just showed up the day before the ride as we would normally do.The quality of
horse on offer was brilliant as well.They offered us no dungers.Not a bad horse
amongst them.I would hope that next time the Kiwi's come here we can offer them
the same quality and show them the same hospitality.Something for the squad to

We watched the horses trot out and checked their logbooks.It was then that the
riders could choose a horse for a test ride.So off they went into sheep country
for a spin.

After a couple of rides over a couple of days the horses and riders were all
sorted.Sonya was on a big fancy grey Taralea Sheer Illusion,Adi mounted a very
pretty bay AA Elite,Talea a pretty faced bay Aurora Australis,Tarni a pushy grey
called Rios,Lisa a dappled dark grey called Iti and Linda who hadn't arrived yet
because of work committments was to ride a chesnut called Vigar Hussan.
I managed to wangle a test ride on Hussan and as we took off up the hill I'm
waiting for the inevitable shy.We split herds of sheep and cows all the while
I'm thinking "I know it's coming.There is no way that any arab will tolerate all
these sheep and galloping cows without stepping sideways at least once".It never
came.I was glad as the saddle I was in had the biggest knee pads ever and I
could have passed a Moa egg(extinct flightless Kiwi bird) easily with the riding
position I was in.I had not expected to mount a horse in NZ so I borrowed
Derek's jods and a helmet for the ride.I was in no danger of getting deep vein
thrombosis while wearing Dereks' jods and indeed I could have pulled many a G in
a fighter plane without fear of the blood rushing from my head.The jods were his
from Malaysia and I must say that even though I had to roll around on the ground
to actually get them on it was a buzz to be wearing jods with Australia written
down the side.Hope to wear those again.Well not Derek's but a pair of my own.
The horses were hot.They are fed quite differently to ours which may explain
why they are so hot.Honestly my jaw dropped when I saw what went in the feed
bucket but it is obviously working for them as the logbooks can attest to.They
ride pretty fast too.Steep hills up and down are taken faster than most of us
would here and the horses are so used to the conditions that you can feel the
power from their bums taking you up and they have no problems rushing down.In
fact the slipping going down hill was caused by me trying to hold him back a
bit.Once I let him do what he was used to he was as sure footed as any horse I
have ridden.

So it was all sorted.Riders happy with their mounts and eagerly awaiting ride
start.It is a really big thing representing your country and the butterflies
were a fluttering in our riders stomachs.The next installment Chapter 3"The
pressure cooker" will be out soon.That's where it gets exciting

"The Pressure Cooker"

Saturday night we were treated to dinner at the woolshed and a pre ride
briefing.For those of you that have never been in a woolshed you can smell
sheep.Very strong smell of sheep and the timber floorboards were well oiled with
sheep grease.(I think it's called lanoline but I like to say sheep grease).What
else would you expect to eat in NZ other than sheep and deer.I had both and made
sure that I had at least a small serve of salad even if I just wanted to eat
more venison.

Derek made a short speech and so did his Kiwi counterpart Chris King.The pre
ride talk was oh so short and sweet.They basically said get on your horse and
follow the markers.Very refreshing to not feel like you need a pillow for pre

Tracks in NZ are not marked with arrows but rather roadside posts.You know like
the reflective guide posts on the side of the road.There are few trees in the
paddocks to attach an arrow to.Also they use milk containers painted fluro
orange.There are very few gatesitters and many,many gates so the riders have to
open and close the gates themselves.I can just imagine how we would whinge if we
had to stop every 2k to open a gate whilst our competition caught us up and then
hold the gate open for them whilst they wait for you to close it again.A good
system in many ways and not so good in others.

So back to the hotel for some shut eye dissapointed that I didn't get to
eyeball the opposition strippers (strappers) as they did the Haka.I think we
should make an official request for a Haka when they arrive here next time.Derek
has a Haka joke that I'm sure he'll tell you if you ask

Up early for the short drive to ridebase and time to saddle the steeds for
ride start.A daylight start at 6am which saw all riders happy as and off up the
sheep covered hill and over the top not to be seen again for around two hours.
I should explain now for those that don't know how the crewing system works on
the squad.The rider is of course responsible for all on track.Once the rider
returns the horse is handed over to the stripper who is then responsible for all
decisions thereafter.The groom strips the horse,trots the horse out,returns the
horse to the yard,feeds the horse,re saddles the horse and presents the reigns
back to the rider who is seated upon a goose down throne asking for more grapes
and wine.You must at this point remind them that it is important that they
remount their freshly stripped steed and join the throngs of competative riding
again.Strippers could also be called the riders "bitch".

So first leg was 30k.I had expected Tarni to do just under 2 hours.There was a
stripper call at 3k from base.It was a big call with from memory 18 horses
coming in together.Guess you can blame the gates for the traffic jam.
Now this is where it becomes interesting as the stripper.We didn't know our
horses much at all and from looking at the logbooks we had a reasonable idea of
how they pulsed.Rios is a very pushy,arrogant horse who really isn't much
interested in standing still or being polite.He throws you around like a rag
doll and the more you give him back the more he fights you.Off with the saddle,a
quick wipe on the neck and we went straight in at 68 after he came in at 72.It
really was a punt at that stage and by the time we got to the vet he was 64 with
a CRI of 60.So we were 1st in and 1st out.Great result.All of our horses made it
through the first vet check and really the difference in times was of no
consequence at that early stage.One of the other Kiwi juniors was only 30
seconds behind Tarni.

The second leg was again 30k although travelling a different direction.All
of our horses looked great heading out and they came in a little more spread out
this time.Little did we know that one of the fellowship was about to fall.Who
fell?You will have to tune in for the next thrilling installment and see.

The Pressure Cooker continues.

Sonya's big grey came in looking great.There was a question over it's CRI
though.She had to represent but no one was at all worried.Also Ady's mount
showed some signs of being a little uncomfortable after vetting so she was going
to give the horse a little more time to relax before going out again just to be
on the safe side.This meant that Ady's day went from competition to chasing a

Linda's horse had been very hot during the first leg and gave her quite a hard
time.She had given the horse some extra time in the hold to settle before
heading off on the 2nd leg.This began an unfortunate chain of events as once on
the 2nd leg she broke a stirrup and combined with a hot horse made it difficult
to say the least for her.There is little provision on that track for any rescue
mission and it took a long time to get a new stirrup to her.She too was aiming
now at a completion and would struggle to finish the ride before the cut off

Sonya's big grey was deemed unfit to continue at her represent being pulled on
a panel for metabolics.Now I personally had a little bit of a hard time trying
to work out what exactly happened and so did the rest of the team as well as
Sonya herself.The horse looked great,was eating and drinking but the vets
decided that the CRI was no good.A rather confusing ruling at the time and still
a mystery really.Bad luck for Sonya but she took it extremely well.A real credit
to herself and the team.So the first of the fellowship falls in NZ.Perhaps we
can now call Sonya "Boromir"

All 4 of the Kiwi horses were still going and we had only 3 team members
left.Trouble starts to brew and the worry begins.

You must take into consideration that we were there to hand back sound,healthy
horses but it was also a serious competition.We wanted a win and so did the
Kiwis.They wanted it badly.Who wants to be beaten on their home turf?No one
likes beating Australia more than the Kiwis so it was pretty tense at times and
tactics were flying around everywhere.Tarni was still at the front,Talea was not
far behind and Ady was mid field.The Kiwis were pushing hard and their focus was
definately on Tarni trying to draw her into over doing her horse.We knew that
they wanted to take her out hard and apply pressure to her mind and her horse
hoping for a mistake but she held her nerve even when she lost a shoe.She hopped
off and ran a few hills while making up time on the soft flat parts.The ground
is so soft that shoes aren't really needed in many spots of that track.The
Kiwi's were pretty sure they had Tarni beat after the shoe went flying but she
came in seconds behind the leader with a great chance of beating them to

We went in 1st to vet but Rios decided to push me around a bit just as the
heartrate was being taken.He pulsed over with a head toss and we had to go
around again.We could have walked straight in again but I certainly didn't want
to be the one who made the decision to go early and have the possibility of
vetting Tarni out so I took 4 minutes to be sure that Rios got through.He did
and Tarni was 4 minutes behind at the start of the last leg.

The 2 last legs were both 20k.Tarni was 4 minutes back now and it was very
unlikely that she would push her horse that much to catch.What she needed to do
was stay in the leaders mirrors and make him err in judgement.As Tarni left on
the last Rios took off like a horse posessed.A gallop out of the gates after the
lead horse.What a fantastic horse to still be going hard after 3 legs.
Talea was still cracking along beautifully and none of us doubted that she
would finish and finish strongly.We were now hoping that the Kiwis came unstuck

And so the ray of light!One of the Kiwi horses did not want to go out.I mean
really didn't want to go.The rider had to dismount and lead him down the road
for a km before mounting again and trying to get him going.He reluctantly headed
across the paddock on the last and we thought that Ady would probably pick her
up and get past.Talea was probably not in a position to catch the 2nd youth Kiwi
but if she finished there was always a chance that the Kiwi would fall at the

Linda had come home now and unfortunately did not have enough time to do the
last leg so she did the the only thing she could and withdrew.Not a great day
for Linda and we all felt for her.

While everything else was going on Lisa Stoffel,the quiet achiever, was still
moving along nicely on her dark dappled grey.Always looking great in vetting and
looking good for another finisher.Although not chasing for a place she was as
happy as larry and riding in NZ wearing the green and gold.What a fantastic
thing to achieve.Lisa will go a long way in this sport and should be
congatulated for her proffessionalism and dedication to the sport.

So it comes to the finish.It was a nailbiter right down to the wire.A full Kiwi
team heading to the last gate and 3 Aussies still in the hunt.Tarni chasing the
lead horse,Talea chasing the second placed Kiwi,Ady chasing the other 2.Could
you ask for a better script.

So to the finish

It sounds a terrible thing to wish a vet out on someone.Especially when they are
youths.When in the midst of a competition you tend to get into the competing
thing alot.It was a very friendly competition but both sides were hoping for vet
outs.I guess that is the nature of the sport at that level.FEI is not complete
is to win and the Trans Tasman trophy was of great importance to us.Not at the
expense of the horses but a win was what we were chasing.
The strapper call came for the leading rider.The Kiwi youth that had been doing
his best to stay ahead of Tarni.His horse came in looking exhausted but not
lame.They were strapping like crazy on that horse.Tarni came in around 5 mins
after from memory so they held their places around the same the whole leg.Tarni
was dancing on Rios as she crossed the line.Rios looked fantastic and we had
30mins to take our time with him.He pulsed down fine but we had so much time we
took no risks.A rug over him and a walk around saw him pulse down to 52 and we
went in.The Kiwis were still strapping the leader.

Rios still had plenty of life and was keen as ever to push me around and the
trot was spot on and full of energy.CRI no dramas and Tarni was through.What a
relief that was and what a celebration.

The Kiwi horse was still being strapped.It looked weary and they were obviously
having trouble with it.That is the sting in the tail.The young fellow riding the
horse had felt the pressure and pushed maybe a little too much.The horse went to
vet and was 64 and trotted ok.The only problem was that they were 29seconds late
to vet.

A fact we didn't know for some time after.

The second Kiwi youth horse came in looking pretty shabby.Obviously stressed
and the rider was in tears.No one likes to see that.The horse was cramping and
having trouble moving or even standing.She was not to know where Talea was
behind her and had pushed too hard as well.After a very long strapping time the
horse pulsed ok and trotted out to everyones amazement not desperately lame.It
was equally stiff all over so I guess the vets couldn't really vet it out
lame.Unfortunately the horse fell down after leaving the vet ring and was put
straight on fluids.Not a great outcome but the horse recovered well after vet
attention.I was trying to think of a way of explaining that last one without
metioning the treatment but it is the way it happened and I guess part of the
story so there it is.A bit sad but it could happen to any of us.

Talea came in and the horse looked fab.A quick strap and a great trot out and
woohoo she was through.5th place for Talea.Excellent effort from the young
Canberran.So here we were thinking that we were 2 a piece with Ady to come.If we
had another Kiwi in trouble and Ady makes up a place we have the trophy.

We thought for a while that Ady was coming in with one of the Kiwis but it
turns out that we were wrong.We had the wrong bay when they finally came into
sight.One more Kiwi came in and pulsed out.Caused by a front end lameness.So we
were still going with a chance.

The last Kiwi came in ahead of Ady and looked tired but not lame as it crossed
the line.This was the grey that wouldn't go out on the last so she did well to
get it around.Ady came in whilst the Kiwis were strapping.

Now the Kiwis strap differently to us.No rugs no walking.In my opinion that is
where the next horse fell down.They took a lifetime strapping that horse in the
cold without a rug and with no walking at all.The horse trotted in sound but
upon the trot out was as lame as they get in the front.It didn't even make it to
the end of the run out.So c'mon Ady if you get through we take the trophy!
I think I said that to Ady which in hindsight wasn't the best thing to add to
the pressure she was already feeling.Sorry Ady
Anita had battled with that big bay all day and had done extremely well to
manage it in the vet ring as it was a difficult horse that towered over her.It
had a kick at a vet and also a cow kick at her jacket while she
ran.Unfortunately for both Anita and Ady the big guy was lame in the near hind
in the trot out.Not super bad but enough.I could see Anita kicking herself but
it was not her fault at all.Quite simply the horse was lame and no matter how
she had trotted it out the result would have been the same.

So we are thinking two all and they were both ahead of our first 2
respectively.We would still retain the trophy as you need 3 to finish in order
to win but it didn't feel the same as a win.

Aha!Then we get the news that the 1st Kiwi horse was late to vetting and Tarni
had won!Woohoo.We had 2 they only had the 1 so it was as good as a win.Way to go

Lisa came through and vetted great so a wonderfull completion to her.A well
ridden consistant ride.The ride was all over and the team was happy with
although not technically a win,a win all the same.

The difference between the 2 sides was horse management.In the vet ring,in the
tactical approach,and on track.All the Aussie horses were handed back to their
owners in good condition even if one was a little lame.

I shall return for the final wrap up and BC results.

Sorry this is getting very long.


It was important to me to fill in some details about our teams achievements.As
far as I am concerned they had the sporting hopes of a nation on their shoulders
even if only a couple of hundred people knew that they were there.To represent
your country in any sport is big.A reward for hard work and determintion and our
4 team members and 2 reserves are heroes to the sport of endurance.It is not a
gravy train representing Australia.There is no funding for the squad so all
expenses were met by the individuals right down to the uniforms.Carol Dixon
sponsors the Aussie jodphurs,a point that didn't get forgotten, so thank you

So many of the small things get forgotten or glossed over when it comes to
hearing about the squad and what they are up to overseas.Our Trans Tasman squad
were riders like you and I who chose to give back to their sport and chase a

Fia and Talea Hasko-Stewart.The mother and daughter pair that went about their
job quietly and efficiently coming up with a 5th youth place and a horse that
looked great in BC.Always a smile from Talea who I'm sure had a ball and did her
country proud.Excellent effort guys.

Linda Tanian who had a hard day at the office and a long drive back to the
airport after the ride and missed out on the celebration.Sometimes things just
go astray and there isn't much that can be done about it.Bad luck Linda.One of
those days.

Vanessa Crispe who had a hot horse to strap and helped out everyone else around
her when it was needed.I felt secure knowing that if by chance I slipped and
fell into the Whanganui river and was eaten by a crocodile Vanessa would have
been able to tell the forensic investigators what sex the croc was.A skill that
will I'm sure come in handy at a ride one day

Sonya Ryan and Jo Hamilton Branigan.I like to say Jo's name to myself with a
Prince Charles accent.Go on try it.How good was it to have a vet as a
strapper.Sonya enjoyed her mount tremendously and was positively beaming
throughout even after it went downhill.A real credit to the herself and the

Ady McIntosh and Anita Lunt.The west Aussies from flat country dealing with
the green hills of NZ.The pair of them very proffessional and always happy.There
was no grumbling at the end and they both did a wonderfull job managing a
difficult horse.Way to go girls.You should both be proud of your effort.
Lisa Stoffel and Wade Burgess.Wade is probably one of the most positive young
fellows you will ever meet and was absolutely over the moon to be in NZ.Lisa,who
should be known as BHP,(the quiet achiever) was supported by her entire
family.It was fantastic to see her finish and have the whole clan there proud as
punch.So they should be,she did a great job.What a supportive family they
are.They have the spirit of endurance in abundance.

Tarnia Kittel and Gerard Bou.(me).Tarni picked up the win and BC.She did
exactly what I knew she was capable of.She handled her nerves with poise and
control and I am so incredibly proud of that girl.What a ride.Bloody legend.
Derek and Glenda Armitage.Da bosses.They both did such a fantastic job looking
after us and organising everything.Such knowledge between them that they are
more than willing to share.I doubt we can thank you guys enough.

The Kiwis looked after us all so incredibly well.They put us up in the
hotel,gave us great horses(with no lease fee) and showed us such awesome
hospitality.They were gracious in defeat and I was impressed by the way the
riders congratulated each of the Aussies.We all felt for the lad who was late to
vetting.It must have been awfull for him.He will get alot out of that ride and
come back stronger for the experience.All of them will.

A great event,a great result.Proud to have been a part of it.

Aussie Aussie Aussie OI OI OI!

Perhaps someone can post all the names of organisers and horse lenders as I am
no good with names and I didn't write anything down.

I'm sure that something more official will show up

Cheers peeps

Gerard Bou
Please call me G

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Part 2: Lessons learned and now Sandhills Ride story - Sharon Hinshaw

Hello again.....if you read part 1 you will know that we have had some problems over the years to say the least but now want to tell you of how putting the lessons I have learned to the test and how a ride can be perfect. Sandhills, 30-55-75 Stampede what can I say, very well managed, very well marked fun trails, great friends, ...a big THANK-YOU to Patsy Gowen, Liz Sine, Alison Bailey, all the vets and volunteers and the park service and the H Cooper Field Trials for allowing us to share the trails. And to God for perfect weather, except for the very cold start at about 30 degrees but that was OK, as guess what, we had a rump rug on.

So, two weeks before the ride, began feeding hay in increasing amounts. Renegade is on pasture 24/7 unless he is pigging out (he gains weight just looking at grass), then he gets half day dry lot mostly or muzzle occasionally. I also start a gradual increase in a high fat content grain and wet beet pulp. He has free choice salt lick in the pasture but I also give him a low sodium salt in his feed. He gets a vitimin/mineral supplement along with selenium/vit E crumbles. His hay before a ride is pressed timothy and a little bit of a leafy alfalfa. On Thursday evening before a ride he gets a small dose of e-lytes. I clip his neck only as it is quite cold here in the mountains as it is predicted to be hot in SC but I don't want to have to blanket all winter. He is well hydrated for the 5 hour ride down and I keep his blanket on during the cold first 2 hours. He has a combo of Timothy and Alfalfa for the trip and has eaten it all by the time we get to camp. He looks good, drinks well and starts eating as we put him in a stall next to one of his BFFs, usually we high tie but just in case of bad weather we reserved a stall. Set up camp with our tent and had a good laugh at hubby who later claimed to be glad he had heart burn as the low temp was 28 degrees...LOL, I however used my trusty, rated -32 degree mummy sleeping bag and was just fine. Before this, he had gone out trying to find food in this remote area and got stuck at a train crossing for about 45 minutes and could not find his way back but had to wait out the train and go back the same way he had come, my crew was not very happy. Renegade was though and gave him another small dose of e-lytes and put his blanket back on. I also clipped his neck a little better as my clippers had seen better days and had not done a very good job. Ride meeting went well and Steve had made it in time for most of it. Had a quick dinner and turned in about 9. Steve checked on Renegade making sure he was drinking well and eating, which he was, then I got up about 1AM and gave him his final very soupy grain, chopped grass forage and beet pulp meal and went back to bed leaving him to rest. Steve got up in plenty of time to walk Rene around warming up with blanket on, then saddled up with rump rug attached and fleece cooler on over all that and walked some more. I'm ready by now, usually I eat something but had too much nervous energy as I was very worried if I was doing the right thing in trying this ride so soon after the nail injury. I could not eat. Small mistake as I took some Motrin with some water and nothing else. More on that later.

So I'm up on Renegade with rump rug in place and warming up more at trot and a little canter and some dressage moves for stretching and listenability...LOL. We are here with several friends, one, Mel that I would ride with for awhile and Bonni who was in the 75 and usually top tens or wins. The start was to be at 6 and my plan was to start mid-pack. I meet up with Mel and ride out to the start checking in with the incomparable Nancy Gouge. The 75's are leaving out on red and the 55's on orange but the both trails start at the same place then split. So the plan for the controlled start was to take the 75's with a gator first and then the 55's with a 4-wheeler down the trails till it is light enough to see the markers...we ended up start about 6 minutes later than planned as the 4-wheeler would not start and we could not start and there were no glow sticks out and we could not see the color of the markers. Ahhhhh...finally we are off and trail is open at about 6:45. Great warm up during the controll phase. So I am where i want to be with a very well warm up horse, quite upset that I have put a bit in his mouth, but he tolerates it well enough. After an hour and a half or so of this 24 mile loop I realize that we are going faster than I originally planned by riding with Mel who had different goals and a different ride plan than I did. So at a water break in which Renegade did not want to drink from but knowing that he usually would I stopped him, got off, told my ride group of about 5 to go on without us. Well sure enough as soon as they got out of sight, Renegade drank and drank!!! Now we are on our own and can more easily pace. I wanted to be between a 6 to 8 mph pace and that is what we did from there on. Normally, we do negative splits but today my goal was just to finish this ride with a happy and very sound horse both metabolically and with no lameness issues. Renegade usually takes very good care of himself so I also planned to listen to him and go at his pace now that he was away from his BFF. He doesn't pay anyone else any attention except for a slight pick up in pace when others come in sight either in front or behind us. So, he is drinking now, pooping, peed once on this loop, snatching what food there was along the way and eating carrots with each water stop and ears pricked forward we are in at 8:48, a little faster than planned but had looks and acts great. Steve is there to help and we take our time here as I don't care about our placement. He pulses down quickly to 56 in about two minutes, criteria is 60 but we take time to get some of the sand off his belly and legs as he hates that. Off to the vets, explain to them about the nail injury as I want to make sure they watch that leg, but he is sound and gets all A's. YEA! Back to crew area and he eats quite a bit but then wants to graze on the grass there, thats fine with me. I did not eat but drank plenty including an 8oz grape juice...another small mistake as I developed hear burn almost immediately on this second loop. Ddin't last long as Renegade helped move it out of me (belches) and was very glad we were alone so as not to embrass myself...you know southern belle manners and all that...not...LOL

Out on the second loop (green) sooner than I thought it should have been, just knew the card said out at 9:36, strange esp as Mel was in much sooner than me and should have gone out ahead of me but did not take the time to really look at it....oh well would figure that out later. By the way, we had 50 minute holds across the board. Mel caught up with us put we did not want to go at her speed again so let her and her group pass us on by and Renegade was quite happy with that. Renegade very much had his brain back in his skull so I did not have a bit in on this loop. Carried it with me just in case but never needed it again. So now with the indigestion gone and alone again we are happily moving down the trail but realize that the sand which is everyhwere...hence the name...LOL, has become much deeper and I decide we are not going to risk a suspensary injury and we slow down. We ride this loop by our selves for the entire 14 miles. This loop was the shortest and so I thought might be the easiest but that was not so. The sand was just too deep so our time reflected our slow down. 14 miles in 2:04. So back in camp at 11:39 but our pulse down was even faster, 56 in a minute..by the way I usually get off and walk in the last 25 yards or so and loosen his girth as a relaxation cue, it works well. We take our time again to get some of the sand off and into the vet in 6 minutes. Also checked with the timers to let them know about the time mistake on our first 50 minute hold, sure enough they had shorted us 10 minutes of rest. It was decided since we had started 6 minutes late and were going to change everyone's time out, they would use some of that 10 minutes to make up for that 6 minute late start. Is that clear as mud?? In other words the 6 minutes to be subtracted from our total time became 4 minutes added to our total time. Got that? LOL Renegade again gets all A's and that particular vet suggested he could a little faster if we wanted...no thank-you we are quite happy as we are...! He eats alot of leafy alfalfa this time, less of his soupy stuff and then back to the grazing of grass. I eat finally and drink alot myself so we both are content. Forgot to mention, I give small doses of e-lytes before we leave on each loop as long as he is drinking well. We leave a little late, about 4 minutes, as Renegade was still interested in eating and I forgot to

Ok out on the third and last loop, navy and 17 miles and this time company catches us. Fun! The three of us have a blast as we all are going about the same speed.. Karen on a chestnut Arab gelding, Michele on a black Morgan gelding and us. All horses get along and no big competition troubles. All goes well till we get to the section in the pine woods that have bunches of hole along the way. We were warned of this at the ride meeting so slowed down appropriately. Also a comedian had put plates on trees with little suggestions such as better slow down now...are you walking yet, not done yet, one appropriately enough we had been whining about not having enough water on this loop, feet hurting, knees hurting and various aches and pains and then we have a plate come up that said "are you still whining"? LOL that was great timing...LOL So we are clear of that area and able to pick up some speed and finally water tanks!! Thank goodness!! all horses drink and drink and drink some more. And before we know it there is the finish line. This loop took us 2:33. Now we have an hour to present for completion. Steve and I decide to hose him down at a wash rack and get all sweat and sand off him. Massage him dry and put his cooler on and then head on over to the vets. Wow..he looks great. HR 42....CRI 42/42 and all A's except a B plus on gut sounds. The only thing we forgot to do was weigh in after each loop nor did we remember to weigh in after the race, so I can only guess at his weight loss but probably about 50 lbs. He is completely sound, not one bit of a hint of lameness. What a fantastic day!! Could not have been better for us, met all our goals and paced well. Made some new friends and absolutely looking forward to awards dinner of pizza, salad and various desserts...yummy. Renegade gets a various food bar as well with several different things to eat and he gets dessert too. He loves the stall toy that looks like an apple with a treat in it and a green ball that hangs down for him to try and eat. He loves it and I love to watch and laugh as he tries to bite it....LOL Oh forgot to say but we came in 23rd with a ride time of about 7 hours and 30 minutes...don't remember exactly as I was so pleased I wasn't listening. Later after dinner we had great converstaion around the campfire with great friends and other than checking on Renegade several times slept like a log.

To close this story, I want to say how very much I love and appreciate Renegade, the horse with nine lives...LOL. He always comes running when he hears me...he gives me anything I ask of him, he is very loyal, and we have formed an incredible relationship over the last 13 years. Even though we do not have many race miles we do have thousands of training miles. The getting to a race has become more important to us than the race itself. I hope that some of the lessons I have learned can be of benefit to anyone who reads this and if it prevents even one mistake for someone else it all will have been worth it. To Sandhills management again thank-you for an almost perfect ride!!!

Sharon Hinshaw and Renegade

Lessons I have learned and Sandhills ride story...part 1 - Sharon Hinshaw

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!

Sharon Hinshaw

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ride 'em like you stole 'em! - Maggie Mieske

Living Forward blog - Maggie Mieske in Qatar

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Well, at least that seems to be how many of the riders at yesterday's ride seemed to ride. The winner of the ride from Al Shahaniya Stud averaged around 25 km an hour. There were others who went faster that were pulled. I have to admit that these horses all looked strong and I don't know their histories, but I am sure many of them are veteran endurance horses. I liked what I saw for horseflesh (and this time saw very few underweight or skinny horses). Al Shahaniya and Al Shaqab teams dominated the top 15 spots that pay money (I don't have final results for the entire ride as we were exhausted, called it a night and went home early, which was about 10:30 p.m.). I can say that of the first 15, Al Shahaniya won 3 placings (1st, 5th and 6th) and Al Shaqab won 6 (3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th). It looked almost as if Al Shaqab were pairing their horses and perhaps they were, but they did not all arrive at the same time, though they were within 1-3 minutes of each other. They also had 15 horses entered! :) Al Shahaniya had only 4 in the 80 that I could count. None of this is official, of course, just placings as of the time Nelson and I gave it up and went home. It's about an hour and 15 minutes from Al Khor.

My biggest complaint and issue with their methods here, in addition to the speed, is the ICE WATER. They literally pour buckets and buckets of ice water on the horses, not only on their necks and shoulders, but over their back and hindquarters as well. The less organized teams with less experienced grooms (or perhaps it was less well-disciplined because I know those grooms have been doing this a few years) literally rush the horse, 4 or 5 at a time, and start throwing water at it. ICE water. I wanted to throw a groom or two myself right into those barrels of ice water. And then they panic and wonder why the horses are jumping around and their pulses won't come down! One groom was in such a rush that he grabbed his rider's horse as he came up, the rider jumped off, started to loosen the cinch (some of them actually know to do this), and the groom started trotting off with the horse....the poor horse was so discombobulated by the rush of activity, conflicting messages from groom and rider and people rushing at him with buckets, that he literally fell to his knees! He was ok (and he was one we helped crew and so did not get the massive amounts of ice water and not over his hindquarters and also managed to show the grooms how to scrape the water they were pouring off the horse...this lasted for that one horse...they did not repeat what they had learned, although I saw the rider do so when he came in again). Unfortunately, we were busy with other horses when he came in and he got the ice water treatment from the grooms (in spite of reprimands from the rider, too). Pulled for lameness. Gee, ya think? What really bugged us the most was watching the horses come in SOUND and then go lame when the ice water treatment caused them to cramp up. It makes me want to scream!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Moab Canyons - Kerry Greear

The weather report was "iffy" but we were packed and prepared. I worked until 4pm on Tuesday then went home where my sister and MASTERCREWPERSON (MCP) Colleen was doing the last minute things on the LIST. I'd had my friend, Lori's horse, Jazz, here with Hawk since Sunday and we trace clipped and bathed them. We still have green/wet grass at our house despite the cold and snow we had (no fall at all!). We loaded then picked Lori up at Spearfish and headed toward Casper then Rawlins where the plan was to unload and let the horses rest a bit. We almost turned around twice----sliding sideways down the road with a LQ trailer behind is not fun. My sister said I uttered plenty of "SHIIIIIIIIT" over a 5 hour period. It was so cold and windy in Rawlins, but we fed the horses and Lori and I ran around the arena with them a couple of times. We waited until almost dawn then set out again. It was horrible all the way to Rifle, we were 30mph of wheel-grippin fun. But we got to the ride around 2:30pm on Wednesday where it had snowed the night before. Go figure.

Ride Camp is large, lots of water, Sherri's dad is a real trooper. We set up our electric fence and got horses settled and greeted friends and found Easycare Man, Garrett. After the ride meeting it was cold, dark, and we had horses to glue on boots. The heatgun made it possible and all went way better than we had hoped.

Thursday am, the coffee was ready at the office and we didn't start until 7:30. Nice, since I found I was so stiff from driving I couldn't move my neck. Horse liniment works well but is pretty smelly---okay it kept my nose running all day!

Enough! This was a wonderful ride. The trails were awsome each day. The slick rock is not slick, we trotted over it. The sand is not what I expected; there is a bottom to it and not hard for the horses to travel through. There was a lot of water on trails, even spots where hay and carrots were available. I was glad we had cool weather all three days, although Saturday afternoon the sun was warm. Vet checks were out where lunches and hay were available. The vets were great, volunteers cheerful and efficient, and Sherri was EVERYWHERE.

We finished all three days with very good times and my horse felt and looked good all three days. Hawk has done great this year in Pioneer rides with Glueon boots. We finished all 5 days at Schellbourne, Bryce and the 3 days at Moab with very good times and wonderful recoveries. My MCP, Colleen, and friend Lori helped and we loaded and headed to Craig where horses had stalls. Dry roads all the way home.

Thank you Sherri and crew! I had a ball and I will be back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yellowhammer 2009

Endurancerider blog
Nashville, TN

Monday, October 19, 2009

I will tell you up front that I had the best time at Yellowhammer this year. Everything just seemed to flow and I can't imagine having a better time.

Sunday, September 27

I'd been working on and off all the week before to get the camper and trailer ready to go to Yellowhammer. Tony, my farrier, came out at 9 AM to shoe the horses. He is going to fire-fighting school during the week, so had to schedule my appointment on Sunday to get us in. We had planned to put new shoes on the horses, but the shoes looked so good, he just did a reset. I figure Tanna is too busy doing airs above ground to actually touch his shoes to the ground and wear them! Daniel and I took turns holding the horse being shod and chatting with Tony. The other one was busy prepping for our trip.

Tony left around 11:30 AM and Daniel and I continued to fly around getting ready to go. We finally left home at 1 PM. I was driving our small Tacoma and Daniel was driving our Chevy 3500 dually pulling the horse trailer. The Tacoma is a welcome addition at Yellowhammer as we can just park our Chevy with the slide in camper and use the Tacoma for running around. We have friends that borrow the small truck as well, so it gets plenty of use during the week and certainly justifies the expense and slight inconvenience of driving separately.

We stopped at the local store to put gas in the trucks, get ice and bread and fuss around. Finally, we got on the way.

The time passed pleasantly as I listened to my audio book and followed my beloved husband and horses down the highway. The rain that had plagued us for 2 weeks had stopped and the weather was perfect. I stopped several times for breaks, but Daniel kept moving right along. I would pull off for a rest stop and then catch up since we only drive 65 mph max with the rig. Worked quite well as I generally am the one pushing for breaks.

We arrived at camp just as it was getting dark. I quickly unloaded Serts and Tanna, hoping to avoid Serts peeing in the trailer, but alas, he already had. Tamra Schoech (ride manager) and Susan Kasemeyer (all-around helper and regional AERC director) came over to help Daniel with the corral panels and invite us to eat with them. When we got the horses and cat settled, we did join them for dinner, bringing our yummy Subway subs over and greeting Sarah Engsberg (TEVIS 2009 WINNER!!!!).


The Making of Monstor: Owyhee Canyonlands Day 5

The Barb Wire - In the Night Farm

All right, all right -- I'll write, I'll write! You guys crack me up with your comments.

But I'm warning you, it's like I told Ironman shortly after dismounting on Day 5: I have no story to tell. No one kicked or bucked or ran away or fell off or won or got lost or came up lame. It was just a plain, old, marvelous, enchanting, exhilarating ride.

Why are you all still here?

Oh yes. The question of the 50. Well.

"What are you doing today," Ironman asked for the benefit of his video camera, aiming the viewfinder at me and Consolation as we strolled toward the starting line.

"We're doing the fifty." I said. "At least, we're going to try. You never know what will happen."

Consolation certainly thought she knew. Milling among the other horses, she quivered with controlled excitement. When the trail opened and we all took off like a herd of turtles, walking along the gravel road and the steep hill we'd climbed at the beginning of Day 1, she pranced along at the back of the pack. It's only 30 miles, Mom. Let's go!

You don't know what you're in for, little lady.


Monday, October 19, 2009

High Desert Endurance Ride 2009

Karen's blog

The High Desert endurance ride this year was especially colorful. The fall colors were really nice this year - we rode through tons of yellow and orange cottonwoods. What a great ride!

I decided to take only Bo to this ride. Chief had just done four days at the Grand Canyon XP he needed a break. Plus the vet came back out the week before High Desert and did some more work on his eyelid. We hope this time will be the last time that has to be done and we’ll finally be over this injury.

The ride turnout at High Desert was small this year - when I got there around noon on Friday I think that I was only the fourth rig there. I got Bo all set up, having one horse at a ride is sure a lot easier than taking care of two! He was doing well eating and drinking and seemed content to zip around on the hi-line between the hi-ties. I longed him before more people came.

The vet arrived just as it was getting dark. I saw her pull in so quickly grabbed Bo and got over to vet right then. I vetted him in barefoot - the area is gravely but I knew that Bo would be fine trotting out over the rocks that way so didn’t bother putting boots on. Sure enough, he was!

I see a lot of barefoot horses at rides these days that are not even sound at a walk without having boots or boots and pads put on them. I know that there are probably many shod horses that wouldn’t be sound either without hoof protection but it would really raise red flags for me if my horses couldn’t even walk or trot barefoot soundly. Is it thrush, or feed –causing sensitive hooves? Or having their protective soles trimmed away? I don’t know for sure, but these riders really need to tune in and pay close attention to this.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bird’s Yellowhammer

Nashville, TN

Once upon a time, actually just this past weekend, a girl and her horse headed west to conquer a fierce fifty mile stretch of trail known as the Alabama Yellowhammer at Talladega. Susan was worried, as per usual, that she had under-prepared her brave mount, Bird. Susan and Bird had completed their first 50-mile race in May at Longstreet’s Charge, after which Susan made a promise to her other horse, Falene, that she would stop neglecting her. She also had a Theory, that a horse fit enough to complete a 50-mile endurance race could be kept fit with less work than it took to get him fit in the first place. And so it was that for the next 4 months, Susan rode both horses, 90% of the time on weekends only. Bird enjoyed the lighter workload, but would it be enough to keep him fit? Susan did not know. She was going to find out in the forests of Alabama in October.

Susan also had a plan, unbeknownst to Bird, to speed up. If Bird had known of this evil plan, he probably would have faked a lameness. He’s a laid-back, stop-and-eat-the-roses kind of guy. He likes to turtle. In fact, he didn’t win the turtle award at Longstreet only because someone else asked for it, and Susan let them take it. They completed the race with only 13 minutes to spare. But Susan had the bright idea that Bird would be better off if he didn’t spend 11+ hours under saddle. Everyone told her that Bird could speed up, that she wasn’t pushing him at all, and she knew it. She had seen his CRI’s last year at Skymont and again at Longstreet, and they were low, really low. Always already pulsed down when they came into the holds. She had actually tried to speed up at Longstreet, but screwed up running him up that mountain when he needed to pee, and he got into trouble, had to stop and recover, then she was too scared to speed up again.

Take 2: Yellowhammer. As luck would have it, about 5 days before the race, Susan tried to take Bird out on his final pre-flight check only to find that she couldn’t sit any speed above a walk. You see, Susan’s melon got thunked pretty hard last summer when 400 lbs of hay elevator crashed down on her head. Sometimes she has issues. Now, 5 days before Yellowhammer, her head was having its issues. She couldn’t have ridden 10 minutes, much less 10 hours. So she turned around and went home, turned Bird out, and tried to rest the problem away before Saturday. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went, but Susan was scared to even try to ride again. Finally, on Thursday, D-Day, she saddled up and took a very short jog around the arena. All systems: GO! Now she’s ready, ready to take a horse who may not be conditioned enough that she hasn’t ridden in over a week to ride a trail they’ve never seen at speeds they’ve never attempted.

Thank goodness her brother-in-law Mike was going again to crew for her. She had thought about telling him that he didn’t have to, that she could probably go it alone this time because she knew several people going who could help out if needed. But with this sketchy brain thing, she knew she’d better have Mike there in case she couldn’t drive home after. So, they all loaded up and headed out Friday before lunch. When they arrived at ridecamp, the scene was a tad overwhelming. There were rigs and people and horses literally packed in everywhere. Lucky for Susan, she had people. People on the inside. People who had her back. Her friend Shelley Scott-Jones had been there since Wednesday and had saved her a spot up near the vet check. Sweet! She got parked and all set up and squared away in time to take a short warm-up ride on a very fresh Bird.

Now Susan had heard that the trail was technical. That, ladies and gentlemen, was an understatement. The trail, or at least this tiny portion of it, was all rocks, ruts, roots, and mud bogs. Ugh! Let’s just say Susan started right then and there praying and praying hard, for the protection of her dear sweet pony. She kept on until eventually she decided to just Turn It Over so she could get on with this ride. “Please, God, keep my boy safe.” “You’re in God’s hands now Bird, you’ll be safe.” She had to remind herself of that promise many times over the next 24 hours because when you Turn It Over, the deal is you turn it over. You can’t keep worrying about it after you turn it over. That’s the deal.

Another thing happened on that little warm-up ride. When she turned around and headed back for camp, Susan felt an unfamiliar horse under her. If she wasn’t sure if he was ready before, she had no doubts now. This horse was ready. I’m talking Ready Ready. Maybe not riding him for 7 days before a race was a good thing. She didn’t recognize the power in him. He felt magnificent! And he flew over the terrain she was just fretting over like he had sprouted wings. She had to get in his mouth to hold him back, but she was laughing hard when she got back to camp. This might not be so bad after all.

Later, Bird vetted in for the race at 32 bpm! and 860 lbs! Wow and wow. He took his ribbing for his various and sundry gaits in the “trot” out. Dr. Otis asked Susan if she had her big girl panties with her. He remembered her getting the huge pair of yellow panties a year ago at Skymont when she ran out of time and didn’t complete. They read, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” She took them to Longstreet and they pushed her to finally finish a ride. She didn’t need those panties now, though. Tomorrow she would ride panty free!

So here’s this rookie endurance rider wandering around ridecamp looking for giants. She was telling someone about Sarah Engsberg being there. “She’s here somewhere...the girl from Georgia who WON TEVIS this year.” “Yeah, she’s right over there,” someone said and sure enough she was just a few feet away from them. Susan, along with a lot of other people had virtually watched the Tevis race two months ago on computer stream broadcasts. Sarah and K-Zar’s story was a really touching one, and when they congratulated her on the win and asked her what it felt like, she choked up a little remembering it. No wonder. It was truly a remarkable run. The poor guy who lost his horse at the Tevis this year was also at this ride, but Susan didn’t meet him. If she had, she would have given him a hug.

This Yellowhammer ride is a 3-day event, so the ride meeting Friday night was also the awards meeting for that day’s race. Apparently, the award for best condition had been questioned because the head vet, Otis Schmitt, was defending it, like he should ever have to defend anything... seriously! Anyway, he was explaining that the reason BC went to a horse with a sore back was because the trail was tough and had beat up all the horses and they were all sore somewhere. Best means best, not perfect. Of course, Susan was at that meeting and although some other important things were said about the next day’s competition, all she heard was “the trail was tough and beat up all of today’s best horses.” You Turned It Over, remember?

There are 2 holds, in camp, 50 minutes each. First loop is 20 miles, 2nd 22, 3rd 8. Pulse down is 64 bpm. The 2nd loop is an out and back and you’ll get a password at the top you have to remember and tell the in-timer when you get back to camp. That may prove to be the hardest challenge of the day. Everyone knows about horses getting “race brain,” but riders get race brain too, it’s just a completely different animal. Rider race brain is like early-onset alzheimer’s with a pothead daze. That password had better be a really easy word!

After a quick beer around the campfire listening to campfire stories (note to self: give Jody Buttram’s family a wide berth!) and a few sleepless hours spent in the nose of her stock trailer, Susan began the rituals of ride day.

3:30: Electrolyte dosing, not exactly a ritual, but she was trying hard to get a pre-ride pee out of Bird so he got a super early elyte.
4:30: Up for a walk in the dark perchance to pee. They walked all around camp. No pee.
5:00: Feed Bird and get dressed to ride.
5:30: Groom Bird and tack up.
6:00: Rider up. Walk around. Cue the pee.
6:08: The Pre-Ride Pee!! Yaay! It is done! Now Susan can relax and enjoy the day.
6:15: Check-in with the out-timer.
6:25: The trot-by and wait. Find June and get ready to roll. Susan’s friend, June Jordan, is on a new horse, Lealee. They’re planning to stay together as much as possible.
6:30: They’re off! 24 horses. 24 riders. 50 miles to go.

The weather is perfect, mid-40’s heading up to mid-70’s and low humidity. Today Bird’s gear includes a heart rate monitor, but it becomes clear early on that it’s not going to be much use. After Longstreet, Bird shrunk a whole saddle size. He was now in his “skinny saddle” and wore a completely different, much skinnier girth which just didn’t hold the lead in place like his old girth did. Susan tried reaching down to turn it a few times, but soon gave up. The speed was fast. They nestled into a little group of about 5 or 6 teams and tore down the trail. If her old pleasure trail riding buddies could see her now... well, they’d see a big blur as she streaked across the sky approaching the speed of sound, but I digress.

It felt like a good pace, the pace she had meant to attempt today, but when she would have normally slowed down a bit, these girls kept on going. Well, ok. She was riding a winged Bird who didn’t seem any worse for it, they were stopping for water often enough (4 times this loop), and this was exactly what she was hoping to learn today, how other people did it. Every ride she and Bird had done up to this point they had done either completely alone or once with another rookie horse and rider, her crewman Mike and his horse, Ender.

Susan could also hear her friend Shelley in her head, “Stay with June, no matter what!” Now normally “no matter what” isn’t the best advice in an endurance race, but Shelley was right about this. Bird was probably more fit than Lealee, and June has been doing this sport for 18 years – she knows a little something about getting a horse safely across the finish line. It was time to stop underestimating Bird. Their in-time on that loop was 8:27. 10 mph. That’s cushion. They could slow down on the next loops. Mike was shocked, to say the least. Susan had finally gotten up the nerve to see what her horse could do. Mike had been a Bird supporter for a long time, and he was happy to see this.

Bird’s pulse was 70, and he was down in a couple of minutes. They waited for Lealee to pulse down too and headed for the vet. One B on gut. He needs to eat. Not a problem. One thing Bird does really well. Their vet check spot was just steps away from their trailers. Susan realized that the trail was beating her up and she should have hit the Advil then but didn’t. Race brain. She would pay for that mistake on the next loop. Besides being super technical, the trail had a lot of up and down action. Bird is a Tennessee Walker and has some nice smooth gaits including his trot, but what he does going downhill is not one of them. Susan calls it a “shuffle” but today she considered it just slightly more comfortable than a jackhammer. She doesn’t normally have riding pain, so this was new. She wasn’t sure if it was the trail, or if her body was secretly struggling to keep her head still, but either way, she was hurting.

50 minute hold. Time for thanking God for an uninjured horse, a great crew and other friends, June, Shelley and Molly Herlong, all there in support mode. And exactly how is Shelley doing this anyway? She’s volunteering at the ride, running around with her clipboard and duties, and yet she is ever-present with Susan and June tending to them like a mother hen. It’s truly remarkable. She may actually have super powers. Further investigation is needed.

While working on Bird in this hold, Susan realized that she desperately needs a hay bale bag. There are alfalfa leaves all over everything! In true rider race brain fashion, she devised a brilliant plan to buy bags and donate them to Angie McGhee’s Longstreet ride next May and then compete for one of them! Since she and Bird aspire to the mid-pack, she decides to have the bags go to a random drawing of the middle packers. She’ll buy red ones because she intends to win one and she wants a red one. Only an endurance rider could understand why this plan made perfect sense.

It was also in this hold that Dr. Otis told Susan to leave her HRM at the vet check for the next loop. When June heard about it, she remarked that Susan already had a reputation. Uh..........oh. Susan had never given a thought to her Reputation, and now it might already be too late! Yikes. Was she already The Whiny One? The Stress Case? The Crazy One Who Thinks Her Horse Might Be Her Reincarnated Boyfriend? No, no one knows about that. Whew. Anyway, now she’s got something else to think about. Maybe, if it’s not too late and it’s not already taken, she can get something cool like The Girl Who Can Really Back A Trailer. She can’t think about that now though. She has a race to ride. Elytes? Check. Let’s go!

Leaving out on loop 2, Bird was a few minutes ahead of Lealee. They were going to wait, but June said she wasn’t liking Lealee’s clinginess and not to wait. Susan, being semi socially retarded, wasn’t sure if June didn’t just want to ditch her, but she was hoping that that wasn’t the case because she and Bird were enjoying having company in a race for a change. They turned out to be un-ditchable in any event because 2 minutes out, Susan had to stop for stirrup adjustments and Lealee caught up with them soon after.

This loop was 22 miles. Actually, it wasn’t a loop at all, but an out and back and some sort of Jedi mind trick which made it last forever! What was up with that damned loop?! With a now full-blown case of rider race brain, Susan was completely incapable of operating her GPS so unable to watch the miles melt away on the monitor. Each bend in the trail was magically and mesmerizingly identical to the last. All 1,251 of them. On the way up, Josie McGhee and her cutie Cade passed them with 2 other people, one of whom was riding Lynda Webber’s horse, Bailey. She was Bailey’s previous owner, and they were having a sweet reunion. They all took a breather at the turn around point where they got the password which was not “barbecue” but “Talladega” instead.

As they headed back, they met Angie on 7 and Jody on their friend Molly’s horse, Rip. Jody told them that they were in the 6 and 7 positions. And so began the undocking of Susan’s command module from her ship. It would take a little longer for the shock to fully sink in, but the seed was planted, right there at mile 32, and her out-of-body experience was just beginning. She was running Top Ten. On Bird. Chi? Che? Non capisco. Bird grabbed the mike for the 2-way radio and called in to camp, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

They may have been running up front, but Bird and Lealee were tiring, and they had slowed way down. Later in that never-ending 122 mile loop, Susan started letting Bird walk up the hills, and June and Lealee disappeared ahead of them. Now, with no one around to see, Susan turned her attention to the pain wracking her body. She rode doubled over wrapping one arm tightly around her rib cage. What on earth was going on with her? She felt like the entire trunk of her body was going to explode out, killing her dead and covering her horse in little Susan-chunks. She also knew that Bird was paying for her stiff back. Ironically, she had Advil in her pack, but her race brain was unable to recall this minor detail.

After thinking for about the twenty-fifth time that they should be back in camp already, they heard a whinny from behind. It sounded like Lealee, but she was surely far, far ahead by now. It seemed like a long time since they had seen her. They finally got back to camp, looked back, and it was Lealee behind them. What? June had taken a wrong turn at the last spotter and had to back track. So, they all came in together after 42 miles, and Bird and Lealee both had salt faces. Bird pulsed down right away and vetted out all A’s. When Susan got back to her vet check area, she looked at the vet card and noticed Bird’s CRI was upside down. Her vet at that check, Dr. Ken, hadn’t even mentioned it. Not knowing what to do, Susan wandered off in search of advice and before she had walked 20 yards, she ran into Susan Kasemeyer and Joe Shoech. Nice. She knew she could have walked 10 miles and not found better people to get advice from. Both took one look at her card and told her to think nothing of it. The pulses were super low (48/54), everything else was all A’s, and the vet didn’t even mention it. She could ask for a re-check or she could forget it which is exactly what they would do. Done.

More people in this hold mentioned what position they were in. 6th. Every time it came up, Susan’s mind took another tentative step away from her body. She had no business in the Top Ten on her little Tennessee Walking Horse that could. In fact, just a few weeks ago, she was sitting around crewing at the Big South Fork ride when a rider stepped up to the scales carrying her gear, and the guy next to Susan commented that that rider was having to weigh in because she was in the Top Ten. Susan said, “That’s not something I’ll ever have to worry about.” The guy said, “You never know.” She replied, “Oh, I know. I ride a TN Walker.” And he said, “Oh, ok, you’re right, you’re not going to have to worry about that.”

But Susan saw Angie in this hold too, and Angie told her that she had paid her dues. Her brain couldn’t recall exactly what those dues were at the moment, but she was quite sure that yes, she had definitely paid them up. Besides, this was Angie McGhee, people! If she said Susan had paid her dues, she had paid them! So now as Susan continued to watch herself walking around in the rarefied air of the Top Ten Club, she found it fascinating the way people were constantly but subtly communicating her position to her. Even with rider race brain, it was impossible to lose awareness of where you were. Everyone told you. Everyone except any riders who passed you. They didn’t mention it. Fascinating. And everyone is rooting for you. Everyone wants everyone to do well. I guess it’s because the horses are involved. I mean, even if you didn’t particularly like a person, you wouldn’t want their horse to fail, right? It’s really a great sport.

Speaking of wishing others well, Susan had two other friends here riding the LD today, Maria Delaup on Jessie and Stephanie Johnson on Momar. Stephanie was at her first ever endurance ride. Susan had done some conditioning rides with them and knew that they had plenty of horse for what they were doing today, but it was still good to hear that they had finished safe and sound. Yaay! Stephanie sounded like she would be back for more. Yeah, new recruit!

This next and final loop was only 8 miles and Susan wanted to strip down to the bare necessities, no saddle bag, no water, no cellphone, nothing. The 3 Advil fairies were already starting to work and she was ready to roll. Mike gave her the jockey boost into the saddle and walked her out to the out-timer. On the way, he pulled a switch from a tree and handed it to her, just in case. Susan knew that Bird was tired and while spying on the inner workings of the Top Ten crowd was fun, she fully expected the next and final loop to be the slowest of the day, and she envisioned rider after rider after rider passing them until they were back in the Land of Normal, mid-pack.

They were leaving camp alone. Lealee had a re-check. Susan was going to miss her trail buddies, but at the same time, she liked being alone with her horse, too. Now they could talk. Susan has a long-standing habit of saying “last one” at the end of anything she ever does with Bird, picking up his feet, circles on the lunge line, shoulder-fores in the arena, hills on the conditioning trail, whatever. She always says, “last one” on the last one. So when they rode out of camp at the start of mile 43 of this 50-mile race, she said, “last one.” Bird flicked one ear back briefly. He wasn’t expecting that. All the other races he had ever done were 4 loops, not 3. “Ok then, let’s do this puppy!” he said as he flicked his ears forward and picked up the trot.

Bird picked a perfect time to get a second wind, but Susan still wanted to lollygag, looking back for June and Lealee. The miles would be easier with company, and she knew Lealee was tired too and could probably use the company. Eventually, they heard someone approaching, but it wasn’t their trail buddies. It was Cindy Bell on her 100-miler horse, Chance, and Angie Fura. Susan was still walking Bird up hills, so they passed, and she fell in behind them and breezed them for a bit. She didn’t want to pass up the opportunity for a little company for Bird. She did have to explain to him that he was not allowed to keep pace with a 100-miler horse. He had to go Bird-pace. So they dropped back. But Bird-pace turned out to be pretty good. They had averaged 7 ½ mph on that never-ending 2nd loop, and now he was back up to an 8 mph average. What a good Bird!

Yesterday’s short warm-up ride was very helpful too because when Bird got to that part of the trail, he really took off, crossing the finish line revved up and relieved. They finished in 8th place! Nancy Gooch was at the finish and told Susan this, but of course she didn’t need to, Susan knew. Nancy told her she would need to get weighed with the gear she rode with including water bottles. Susan heard the advice and repeated it down to the other Susan walking beside Bird far below, but then they both walked straight into camp and immediately forgot it.

On the way in, one of them thought to call ahead on the 2-way, “We crossed the finish line... 8th.” “Say again.” So now, in addition to having a full blown out-of-body experience, Susan is in a full blown state of shock. I mean, what just happened?? Well, for one thing, her horse completed the race without a scratch on him. She did have just enough sense to thank God for that. Turning It Over turned out to be the best decision she made all day. Beyond that... well, thank God for her crew too, Mike, who swooped in at that moment and took over. The next several minutes passed in a blurry haze.

Bird had dropped 30 pounds in the race, so after he vetted in, they spent their hour-long hold at the trailer eating. Bird ate like it was important. Back and forth and back and forth between his alfalfa and his beet pulp. Otherwise, he was very humble and not the least bit affected by his huge accomplishment. I guess it didn’t seem odd to him that his rider couldn’t stop kissing him. She was kind of like that even on a normal day. They sponged him off, walked him around, and stretched his legs, but mostly just let him eat. June and Lealee came in a few minutes later, and Lealee was as intent on the grub as Bird was. They had both conquered a tough trail today.

While waiting on the BC re-check, Susan’s South African neighbor came over and told her that there had been a mistake, Bird wasn’t in the Top Ten after all, they had counted wrong, the vet was rescinding his position. Nice try, but Susan was un-punkable. She hugged her Top Ten boy tight and said, “Not a chance.” This nice man gave Susan and Mike advice to prepare for the BC check. He said they needed something to spook the horse, rev his engine. Mike told him that Bird was essentially unspookable. The horse has been through mounted patrol training where they literally threw firecrackers at him, for crying out loud! How were they supposed to startle a horse like that?

Susan, whose race brain may or may not have begun wearing off, had the bright idea that the sound of a candy wrapper could happy up her horse if he had just finished watching an ASPCA commercial. The plan was to have Mike crinkle the wrapper in his pocket during the trot out. Just before they took off, Susan realized the flaw in the plan. If Mike crinkled a wrapper in his pocket, Bird would likely contort his body in all sorts of interesting directions just to reach those pockets and frisk Mike for the treat he was hiding. She and Shelley were giggling about this as they watched the trot-out, but it didn’t happen because Mike, clearly not suffering from race brain, had decided against the tactic. He said that Bird was plenty feisty, snaking his head at him trying to bite him like he usually does, so he didn’t need to use the secret weapon.

When she turned around from watching the trot-out, Susan had the delicious pleasure of spotting farrier Guy Buck. She was tickled to see him onhand to witness her horse standing for BC because Guy Buck was there for her first ride 2 years ago at Skymont when she ran out of horse on the 3rd loop. She was distraught and had told him that she didn’t know what she needed to do differently. He told her that she needed a new horse. Well, in fairness to Guy, Susan was on a different horse today, the difference miles and miles of conditioning makes. Still, it was a really sweet treat to gloat over her Tennessee Walker just a little bit.

Everyone seemed pleased with Bird’s check, and Angie said that if Bird got best vet score, they would make a plaque! Susan was just tickled that Bird looked so good for having gone so far so fast. She didn’t fully understand the grading process, how BC was determined, what high vet score meant, etc. She just knew that it was all good, and BC was the most coveted award of any ride. Someone told her that if Bird had come in 30 minutes quicker, he would have been a contender for BC, and someone else said that she needed to gain weight, or at least listen to Nancy’s advice about taking all of her riding gear to the BC weigh-in. She’ll just have to try to remember all of this later. Right now, she’s still floating in the clouds.

At the dinner and award show, people kept offering Susan and Mike their extra meal tickets that they had bought for crew or family that didn’t show. It dawned on Susan that it was apparently common practice among the riders to buy their crew a meal ticket. Funny, that had never occurred to her and lucky for her, her retired-Navy crewman was quite content with the MRE she had provided for him! Hey, MRE’s are good.

Susan saw Cindy Bell at the dinner and said thanks for letting her breeze her horse for a while on that last loop. Cindy laughed and said, “Sure, what were we gonna do, throw rocks at you?” note to self: you can throw rocks at your competition. The awards were going on for a while when the air took a really cool turn and Susan’s crew, who still had not clocked out even though he wasn’t eating a nice barbecue plate, ran back to the trailer to toss a blanky on Bird. He made it back in time to hear that Bird had high vet score! Actually, he tied for the top. Yaayy!! If you layer shock on top of shock, do they cancel each other out? Well, kind of. There’s definitely a shock saturation point, and Susan was there. It was all just so unreal. No t-shirt, but they did get a really cool little duffle bag that said “Top Ten” right there on it just in case anyone back home needed proof. Susan intended to carry her duffle bag with her everywhere she went for at least the next month or so.

After the dinner, Susan and Mike high-tailed it out of there with their tired horse and their loot, feeling very, very grateful for the good day, for ride management and the volunteers putting on such a great, safe, well-run ride, for the vets taking care Bird, and for their friends being there for them all day long. Staying the night would have been fun, drinking a few beers, basking in the warm, fuzzy feeling of a having a safe, sound horse at the end of a hard ride. But they only had a 2 ½ hr drive and Bird would really appreciate sleeping in his own paddock tonight. Besides, he was only going to be more sore in the morning and this way, he’d be already home. So they left.

On the way home, Susan decided that she would have to write the story of her day because there was too much to remember, but she also realized that she would have to tell it in the 3rd person because she was having a hard time still with the out-of-body thing. It all seemed like it was happening to someone else. Mike did drive her home after all, even though her head was, more or less, ok. She had to walk on tip-toes for the next 2 days to keep the wobble at bay, but some darvocet and a couple of days on a mountaintop did the trick. The stoic Bird, in true Bird style, had one sore day on Sunday when he didn’t want to be touched, and then he never mentioned it again.

The End.