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