Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meet the Rider: Jen Allen, Susan Keating
by Nicole Herrmann

Jen Allen has been distance riding since 2007. She’s accumulated many miles, on a few different mounts. When you talk to her about how she got started, she fondly remembers hearing that another Illinois rider, Lori Windows, was looking for a rider to help condition a horse. Conditioning turned into campaigning, and that’s all it took. Jen was officially a distance rider!

Equipment should be chosen according to the comfort of horse and rider. Jen commented that she likes beta-biothane tack due to the easy and quick changes you can make with it. She also likes the Abetta saddle for competing, but has used a heavy roping saddle for conditioning. You’ll also see her riding in an English saddle. “Whatever works!” she stated.

When asked about which distance division she preferred, she replied, “All of them! Competitive teaches pacing and the conversations are usually fun! Limited Distance gets you going a bit faster, or slower when you or the horse wants/needs to. It also has fewer rules. Endurance is a challenge, but a lot of fun.”

Jen likes to condition on her property. It offers fields, timber, hills etc. She also likes to get out to the Hennepin Canal, and Keithsburg, IL where there are hills and sand.

Her favorite rides are many, and she’s competed in many states including; IL, MN, MI, WI, and KY. You can really tell she just enjoys the time in the saddle! Her favorite that was mentioned was AHDRA 1 or MBYR, which is held on her own property in Illinois. Endless Valley was also a favorite. It takes place in Spring Green, Wisconsin. “It’s challenging. The first year I was there, it rained heavily; so heavily that I had water in the trailer!”

Winning the AHA National Competitive Championship in 2008, and finishing her and the horse’s first 50 miler with the same horse, Salero’s Legacy, is at the top of her list for proudest moments thus far. When asked what her goals for the future are, she replied, “To compete. I’ve never been a real competitor at anything, until now. I would like to do the Tevis, maybe the Big Horn, and other major rides someday. I still want to do the local rides, because I know them and love them. I want to continue to have a good time, and see the world by horseback!”

When asked what distance riding advice she could offer, Jen adds, “It’s hard, but stick with it, because it’s worth it. You learn so much about yourself and your horse(s). I have expanded my already large knowledge of general horsemanship. I have become a much better rider and horsewoman, not to mention I’ve met some exemplary horse people too!”

Jen can be found at many Wisconsin rides. She is an avid competitor, and active member in many different distance riding groups.

Susan Keating

by Nicole Herrmann

Susan Keating, 55, is a force to be reckoned with! The retired shepherdress, currently instructing weaving and working as a dental hygienist, can usually be found at any of our Wisconsin distance rides. You might see her successfully competing in either riding or driving events. Her enthusiasm for horses and the different distance events is very obvious when you meet her. Her bubbly personality and positive attitude always “draw you in”, as does her excitement for learning and attacking challenges that come her way.

In 2007 Susan was looking for something constructive to do with her arab cross rescue, named Henry. She delved into distance riding and found it to be a great match for not only Henry, but herself as well. “I liked the folks I met and the positive impact it had on Henry,” Susan recalls. The pair continued their hard work and effort conditioning together, and received Novice Competitive Champion in 2007, and Rookie Reserve Competitive Champion in 2008.

In 2009 she decided to test the waters of distance driving with her Halflinger, Belle. The cute little team could always be seen in cart and harness at most distance events. Again the hard work, effort and conditioning paid off. She and her partner, Belle, received Rookie Driver of the Year for 2009, and Limited Distance Driver of 2009 as well.

For the upcoming 2010 season, Susan hopes to compete on Amazing Grace Experience, a five-year old Standardbred mare. She stated, “I intend to start Mazy in Competitive this year, and then move up to Endurance in the future.” There’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll reach those goals, as she is a very determined competitor!

When questioned if she had a favorite ride, she shared, “You bet I do! DRAWARAMA in the Southern Kettle Moraine, near Palmyra, WI is my favorite. It’s an intense 4-day competition and the sense of accomplishment from it, is great!” Susan has competed in Wisconsin and Illinois, and hopes to get to Minnesota and Indiana soon.

You might be wondering where she gets all of this conditioning done. “I condition on roads mostly, but like farm fields when they are available. I also like to go to Lake LeAquaNa State Park in Lena, Illinois. A real conditioning treat is going to JG Ranch at Scales Mound, Illinois!”

Susan has accumulated many miles, accomplished much, and looks forward to the future in distance riding. When asked what advice she would share with people just starting out? She replied, “Take full advantage of the novice and rookie divisions. You should definitely attend any of the clinics offered in the spring, through DRAW or ApDRA. It’s a fantastic chance to learn about this sport from experienced folks. Remember our motto. . . “To Finish Is To Win”. It’s true. Get started NOW! You and your horse will be winners!”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Independence Day: Home on the Range - Monica Bretherton

by Monica Bretherton

At the jampacked ride meeting for Home on the Range, those with Verizon service were perhaps a little smug. As an iphone user with AT&T, I shrugged off my lack of bars. I had warned my husband I might not be able to call. The motto of this first ride of the season was independence, anyway.

My mentors, Cathy Leddy and Wendy Connell, were going out at 7 a.m. to start their fifty-mile rides, and I would have to handle Taz's anxiety about being left behind on my own.

I knew he would be upset - he's emotional and has had a lot of changes in his life recently. So I filled my pockets with treats, knowing him to be susceptible to culinary distraction. When they left the trailer to warm up, he began a morning concert.

Read more here:

Virginia Highlands - Kat's View

It was a fine ride, I met some fine people, I was provided with a fine horse, and I had a fine time."

..differences between west coast and east coast rides?

And judging from that statement, which I stand by, I must confess that there really aren't many differences between east coast and west coast endurance; except at endurance rides closer to home (i.e on the west coast) I usually bring my own horse so the "I was provided with a fine horse" doesn't apply. However i do think that pretty much every endurance ride I have ever been to can be summed up as;

"It was a fine ride, I met some fine people, I rode a fine horse, and I had a fine time."

I am not being facetious here; I really do think (especially after having gone to Australia the next month and could sum that experience up the same way) that endurance everywhere is more the same than it is different.

But somehow I am not sure that that is going to satisfy Tom so.....

Now I will "write something about the west coast perspective."

Shortly after the break up of the Soviet Union (1994) I was sent to Moscow to help set up the computer systems for the naiscent Russian stock market, during which time I had the chance to live and work in Moscow and visit some of the outlying regions (like Siberia). It was an assignment that entailed spending five weeks in Russia and then returning home for one week to go back and do the same five weeks on/one week off again. I distinctly remember after my first five weeks in Russia, returning home to Southern California and going to the local supermarket, walking in the door and seeing "all that food" and being amazed. In 1994 there was NOTHING like that anywhere in Moscow or, probably, anywhere in the former Soviet Union. But what amazed me the most was not so much that there was "all that food' but also that there were all those people in the supermarket who considered it TOTALLY unremarkable.

Bear with me here, this is relevant.

If somebody were to ask me what is the major difference between west coast and east coast endurance, what truly amazed me was the absolutely profligate use of water (the amount of water that ends up on the ground after having been dumped on the horse is staggering to me); however, what was even more amazing to me was not so much the profligate (from a west coast perspective) use of water, but that there were all those people who considered it TOTALLY unremarkable.

Please note that I am not saying that I think it wrong for riders on the east coast to use water in the way that they do--when in Rome...., just that, the rides that I go to, even those where Ride Management provides a lot of water and it is accessible, on the west coast, we just don't use water that way.

So, for west coast riders who go east, be prepared to see water used in a way that you have never seen before; and for east coast riders who come west, be prepared not to use water the way that you are used to. The rule at the Death Valley ride (and a lot of other desert rides) is "you may NOT use the water that we have trucked out into the middle of the desert to pour on your horse; water is for the horses to drink, period." And don't expect to find any water on the ground.

Other than that, expect to have a fine ride, meet some fine people, ride a fine horse, and have a fine time.

And if you go far enough east or west (depending on which way around you go) to will probably get to see a kangaroo, but HOPE that it isn't too up close (like on the front bumper of your car).

Orange County, Calif.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Home on the Range - Tekelady

Akhal-Tekes, Cascade Gold blog - Full Story

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Monday morning and I'm sitting as much as possible, because I'm SORE! But, it's a good 'sore', as I rode my first endurance ride of the season on Saturday at Home on the Range near Washtucna, WA. We did the 50 mile ride, which was probably pushing it a bit, as I've been sick for (it seems, anyway!) most of March. The kids were very generous in sharing their colds and I got one after another. I think we went out on the trails only around 5 times the entire month, with a few more rides in the arena, so I was definately not quite as fit as I had planned to be. Galen has a pretty good base of conditioning and he's no pasture puff, so I figured I'd be the weak link.

Wendy, Monica and I drove over on Friday afternoon, giving my new truck its first real workout. It drove like a champ and kept us all very comfortable. We didn't even play with all the options, as we talked the entire way. We arrived at Ridecamp around 3 or so and got our camp set up. We vetted in without any problems and then went for a nice ride to check out the trail. Gorgeous vistas, lots of tumbleweeds, some pretty good hills and...badger holes! Lots and lots of them, mostly well marked, although we did hear of a few people coming to grief in them. We got very good at spotting them, quite quickly. Monica had brought a yummy dish for supper and then we went to the ride meeting, where we met the ranch owner, Mr. Beckley, and some of his crew (very nice people, they did a lovely job with the ride) our intrepid ride manager, Gail Williams, who always puts on a fantastic ride, and the vets, who do a super job with very little time off. Off to bed early, although a neighbor near us kept their generator on MUCH too long and a patchy night's sleep with an early morning wake up.

Read more here.

In which we go to a ridecamp near Washtucna, and Fiddle goes Far - Full Story

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It was pouring rain at home on the farm when we loaded up the SS Illegible and headed out the gate, bound for a little town on the Dry Side. About ten miles east of the teeny little town of Washtucna, WA the clans were gathering for the first endurance event of the season: Home on the Range!

It was, by endurance-rider standards, a short drive: about 5.5 hours, including stops for fuel and lunch. Heck, we didn't even leave the state...although I guess if we'd kept going another hour or so, we'd have gotten to Idaho.

When we got to camp, the wind was blowing like crazy, and it was raining lightly. Unlike Wet Side rain, you could actually get pretty wet in the rain falling from the sky...but if you stayed outdoors for about twenty minutes after the rain stopped falling, you'd be dry again.

And in the meantime, there's the rainbow. Right over the trail. I was hoping that the rainbow was a good omen.

Read more here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

When the going get's tough... stick with endurance

Boots and Saddles, a horse off course
Thursday March 24 2010

Crysta had a very good point on my previous post about First Rides. I failed to point out the positive and uplifting things that are a part of endurance.

I guess I glossed over the positives since I think *most* of us got into endurance because of those ideas...and I assumed we all understood why endurance is so magical. I tried to address the reality of the first ride - and that is that endurance is hard. As someone who had their sights set on 100's and was only using 50's as a stepping stone, my biggest surprise was just how HARD the whole thing was - from start to finish. Even after I decided I needed to finish some LD's to restore my confidence that this was DOABLE, I still found it HARD. My first season I was kinda casual about the 50 mile distance, because it was "just" 50 miles (remember - 100's were my goal). After that disastrous first season, my motto throughout my second season was "respect the distance".

That being said, it does no harm to reiterate what we all know - that endurance is THE horse sport. (I'm just a bit biased...) :)

* That "magical" bond between rider and horse. I'm not a particularly emotional person. I've gotten good at faking socially correct emotions as not to be labeled as "potential serial killer", but when it comes right down to it I can be a bit... hard. Picturing Minx's effort at the end of our first, disastrous 50, or thinking about Farley's first 100 mile completion brings tears to my eyes. It was a YEAR after the 50 before I could accurately describe the 50 without bursting into tears. Horse and rider are so in tune to each other, it's magic. We are equals (even though I STILL get the final say on speed :) ).


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Blazing Saddles 2010

Keith and Sandy Kibler

We needed to escape the snow; we had to escape the snow and mud. Maybe, if we went south it would be warm and dry. “Maybe”, is a very indefinite word.

Blazing Saddles is in Laurel Mississippi, which is about 100 miles north of the Gulf. We left southern Il at 18 degrees. When we got to Mississippi the temperature started dropping and then the rain started. The good news is that their version of miserable weather could not touch our version of miserable weather. Everything is relative isn’t it?

One of our reasons for going to this ride was that the head vet is Dr Otis Schmidt. Otis is not only completely fair no matter what type of horse you ride; he owns a TWH and understands the nuances of the oddities of judging a gaited horse. I would travel a long way to see Otis at an endurance ride.

Sandy had trained Jazz, a fiery TWH mare for the LD and I had Kate ready for a mid pace 50 miler. Kate is the worst moving horse we own but she is also my favorite. Her personality is that of a labrador retriever. She is also has the perfect emotional stability for endurance. Nothing fazes her. She couldn't care less about imaginary bogey men, being in front, or being in back. Her heart rate drops like a stone. Her only drawback is her movement. Left to her own devices she would pace when she stands still. So, we condition, we train and we learn together. I love this little horse. I dream that she will be my Tevis horse.

Jazz is the most mareish mare we own. She has a rock hard constitution. She decided last fall that she did not want to move forward when another horse came towards her. Now, that might not seem like something important, but when a course is “out and back” you could end up stopping frequently. She also would back up at that moment. Now, my Sandy is a super duper rider and will do things on a horse that leave me weak kneed, but I did not think she needed to compete on this horse until this issue was fixed. We worked and worked and had it rectified but I was not sure that it was fixed on a permanent basis without having another horse as a buddy for Jazz. Endurance ride situations can be stressful enough without a horse having its own issues.

We looked at having Jazz buddy up with Kate and then do a slow 50, but Jazz was too young by a few weeks. She was able, but not eligible. So, Sandy decided to ride Blues, my 16 year old MFT. Blues is a rocket, and has completed several 50s. He has top tened more times than not and has won one 50. However, I keep track of training on all our horses and I knew that Blues only had a little less than 100 miles of riding in the previous 8 weeks. His 12 month mileage before that was about 900 miles. I was concerned his recent mileage was not enough to let him have a good event. Sandy decided to ride him in the 25 mile LD, while I took Kate on a 50 mile stroll.

The ride was a very long way away and was primitive. It was really primitive and you had to take your own human and horse water. Sandy decided to put our new water tank in the trailer stud stall instead of the truck bed. She then filled it up. When we got to the race we discovered that the tank had a molded cover over the inside to the hose spout so that we could not get the water out without using a garden hose through the top of the tank and starting a siphon. I tried to remove the spigot cover from inside the filled tank. Boy, was that cold.

This was the friendliest ride I have ever been to. The people where from as far west as Nevada , as far east as South Carolina and as far north as Illinois. All the horses were Arabians except for our two and a Rocky and a saddle bred cross. Both of the later paced and their riders posted. The ride featured fantastic food at no extra cost. Friday night was catered catfish with all the trimming and Saturday night was homemade Jambalaya.

My friend Paul Sideo talked Sandy into riding Blues in the 50. He knows Blues from his ride at Sedalia Mo, where Blues was 5th. I told Sandy we could ride together and have a great day of husband-wife time if she just took her foot off of Blue’s accelerator pedal. She agreed to watch the GPS and his heart rate monitor and that we would go to the back and hang out.

We hooked up with Ginny Conner and her Chocolate Rocky named Rambo and started off the 50 near the back of the 29 riders. Blues was definitely full of himself and was pulling on Sandy to the point she became concerned. He was not listening to her at all and his desire to "go" was made worse by his being passed by galloping Arabians more than once without a warning. I asked Sandy if she had changed any of his tack and she admitted to putting on a new curb chain. That was the problem and I changed it one hole and Blues completely calmed down. If you ever lose the curb chain on that horse you are going for a detour off the trail to where ever he wants to go because he requires a handle to steer him.

We came through the first vet check fine and Kate and Blues were at 64 when we presented them. At mile 15, Sandy turned Blues around and said, "Blues is a completely different horse now, his energy level is very good, do you think it is alright to go on?" What I think she really meant was, "See you later!" She was gone.

Kate and Ginny and Rambo motored right along at about a 7.5 mph the rest of the day. We caught Paul Sidio and his Arabian about mile 23 and we all had a lovely time. Paul is an old touring professional musician and guitar player and we spent many miles playing music trivia. For me, one of the most fun things about rides is making new friends and the time you get to spend getting acquainted. Kate made me work on 15 miles of Georgia red clay road riding, as the flat surface is the worst thing for her gate. When I came out of my trailer to start the last 12 miles, Kate had untied herself from the trailer and was gone. That sure will wake you up. I found her at the starting line tied to a tree. It seems she was ready to go back on trail.

Paul's horse was trotting and Ginny's Rambo was pacing and Kate was watching their movements and letting that affect her gait. I decided I was not going to have that over that last 12 miles. I stepped her speed up out of starting line and slapped her with the reins on both shoulders. Keep in mind this horse is not just a horse to me. I really do love this horse. I have bonded with her more than any other horse I have ever owned. She is my sweet heart. But, she is most definitely not going to bounce me out of the saddle. The "attention getter" worked immediately and she, not only payed attention, she went to 9-9.5 mph and settled into the best rack she knows how to produce. We zoomed.

Kate crossed the finish line tied with Ginny and Rambo for 19th and it only took about 2 minutes to reach heart rate. It was the only time she had not been at criteria when I presented her. Sandy and Blues had left us in 22nd place at the 15 mile mark. They finished tied for 11th. Had they not held back the first 15 miles, they would have undeniably finished around 5th. We were presented with monogrammed hay bags with "Blazing Saddles" on them and I won a DVD of the film of the same name for being the first one to know a quote from the movie. Knowing "Candy gram for Mongo!" came in handy.

Ginny told me later that she came out of her trailer the next morning to find Rambo missing in action. Everyone helped her look for the horse but he was not to be found. Eventually she was the only one left in the remote campground as darkness fell. After she shut herself in for a lonely night, she heard a knock on the trailer door and a local cowboy told her a friend of his had found a horse in a blanket, and wanted to know if she was she missing one. Rambo had turned himself in at a local farm. All was well.

Jerry Price and her gracious husband put on one heck of a ride and we will most definitely go back. It features good trails and southern hospitality. It is a chance to pick up a friendly 100 miler if that is your thing. I give it 5 stars out of 5!

This was our 34th and 35th start. What we learned from this ride:

1. After a good years base mileage, it does not take as much mileage as I have previously thought
to leg up for the first 50 of the year. It seems our gaited horses don’t lag behind on that issue as
much as I thought.
2. Always check things that are new, like that water tank, and the chin strap on Blues.
3. You just meet the nicest people at these rides.
4. Learning useless trivia is not always useless.
5. My little Sandy is my hero and does not always rub it in when she finishes 1 ½ hours before me.
6. Our Supplement routine is working.

Keith and Sandy Kibler
Shawnee Sunrise Farm

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 1 - Calico Girl - Full Story

Monday, March 1, 2010

Okay, the forecast for the ride was rain. I live in the desert, rain in the desert means a little drizzle in winter or a cloudsburst for a couple of minutes then sun. Well, all I can say is Thank God we spent a day working on water crossings.

We left LV at 9am Friday, so we could get in early, vet-in and check out the trail. At this point I still wasn't sure what saddle or stirrups I was going to use. The old Stonewall I got was painful to ride in, but that was what I had been using and I felt pretty secure in it. The other endurance saddle I had was more comfortable, but that's the one I was using when I fell, so I was superstitious. Robin just laughed at me, 'just keep your heels down and you won't fall'. This became the constant reminder in the ride,"Heels down!". I went with the more comfortable saddle and I'm glad now.

After the ride meeting, Robin decided we needed a bottle of wine. I was checking out lables, but she went for big and cheap. We got a little silly, I guess, because the the sixty-five miler camped next to us kept coming out to see what was bothering her horse. Some horses haven't been desensitized to cackling women, apparently. I don't remember what we thought was so funny; maybe it was the realization that the forecast was rain, and I hadn't packed rain-gear. I live in the desert; I don't own rain-gear. Did I mention, I was nervous? I didn't sleep. Around 2 am, the rain started. ..

More of Part I...

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 2

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 3

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

20 Mule Team - Karen Chaton - Story and photos by Karen Chaton

Here are a few photos from the ride Saturday. I’ve got lots more still to download and will post more later.

According to my GPS, I made it 17.3 miles which was basically to the first vet check. Bo was off when I went to leave and as soon as I felt him trot not quite right I turned around and came back and pulled.

Bo saved me from another 17 hours of riding in the rain. I really wanted to ride the entire ride but this year it wasn’t meant to be. Even though I could have continued I would have probably really messed up my horse. This was his first pull.


Dynamite Dash - Noway's POV

First off, I’m a SE region horse and this desert dwelling is new. Actually, when I got off the trailer after four days on the road, back in January, I thought Mom had taken us to another planet! Nothing looks like it ought to! The trees are short, and the bushes have stickers of outstanding size on them and the sky is so big sometimes I just stand and stare at it. Then there are those really big trees with big fat limbs that look like giant men. Whew, I couldn’t even go out alone with Mom I was so scared. But she finally figured out that if she ponied my pal Sully along, we could go out just fine to explore. Mom complained about her whoa muscles some, but we thought she’d better be getting in shape for the ride season.

When Mom's best friend, Mary Lynn suddenly showed up and started to ride Sully we knew a ride must be coming up. Then they started to busy themselves giving us a bath, blanketed us, clipped off some of our winter coat and generally fussed way too much, we knew a ride was about to happen soon.
It had to be the shortest trailer ride to a ridecamp we ever took. Maybe twenty minutes, so I had to hurry and pee and poop before we got there. Mom loves to clean up after us, so I work hard to make sure she’s happy.

Ride camp was tight, but as long as Sully is next to me all is well. Again more fussing over me, looking here and there to see if I still have four legs I guess. Vet says we’re good to go, so back to more food for the night while Mom and Mary Lynn oh and ah over their dinner of Lasagna. She’s smiling so all is well.

Dawn and time to go! We got to watch some horses go out earlier and thought Mom and Mary Lynn had forgotten to get up, but alas there they were tying us up and saddling. Mom checks and checks, the saddle, the boots, the packs, good grief, as long as she doesn’t forget the treats, I’m good to go.


Monday, March 01, 2010

20 Mule Team - Full Story

March 1 2010

The full story (ie the ever popular "lessons learned" posts that everyone finds so entertaining) will come in a couple of days, but to satisfy everyone's curiosity, here's the basic plot of my first 100 mile completion. (Sorry – it got kind of long, so it's less basic and more....comprehensive)

Ah yes, it was a completion! Whoo hoo!

OK – as I reread this, I realize most of it sounds really negative and un-fun. Let me start off by saying that this was one of the most emotional, rewarding, taxing, painful, fulfilling event in my life. This event fulfills a long-held dream and is why I started in endurance – to ride 100 miles in 24 hours. Very few things in life are really really hard and rarely have I been challenged and pushed to the limit like I was on Saturday. As I write this, I am re-living the pain of the event, but I'm also re-living the in-describle joy of having accomplished something so….(can't think of a word that describes the feeling I have).

Typical of most newbie 100 mile riders, I took care of my horse to the detriment of myself. As a result, my horse is great and I'm here, almost 24 hours later, sitting in my chair trying to pretend I'm not STILL nauseous when focusing on anything further than about 10 feet from me, and ignoring the bloody painful scabs on the inside of my knees and calves.