Thursday, July 08, 2010

Shamrock 2010: Rough Roads & Wacky Weather Make Memorable Ride

Michelle Smith
July 7, 2010

What is it about the Shamrock Ride in Wyoming that keeps people coming back year after year, some from places as far away as Canada, Ohio and Missouri? My first time at the Shamrock Ride in 2006 was punctuated by record-breaking heat -- close to 100 degrees. It was my second time doing a fifty mile endurance ride, and despite a very successful completion, I swore I’d never go back.

Next year I was unexplainably and inexorably drawn to return. Go figure. Maybe it’s the BBQ dinner that Ride Manager Susie Schomburg puts on every year, on the Saturday night of the three-day ride: Real beef ribs, about a foot long; pork ribs and BBQ chicken, all grilled in front of you by a crew of her “regulars”—cowboy types turned volunteer chefs, good naturedly piling up your plate with more meat than you’d normally eat in a month.

Or maybe it’s the incredible scenery, making you feel like you’ve just stepped into a wild and woolly Western movie, about to come face to face with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in the next canyon. The mountains are jagged and stark and streaked with red, jutting up above sage-brush encrusted rolling hills, dotted with cattle and prong-horns. Turn a corner, descend, and find yourself in a lush valley with crystal clear tinkling creeks, rustling aspen, a waterfall, and sheer granite rock faces on either side. This is a land of stark contrasts, extreme weather and wide-open country, where the Code of the West still seems alive and well and modern 21st Century life seems fake and faraway.

As I’ve noted before, the vets are God at an endurance ride, and one must choose one’s God carefully. In which case, the cherry on top of the sundae at the Shamrock Rides might just be the Vet Staff that remain constant and vigilant year after year: Max Smylie, Head Vet, usually assisted by Tom Currier and Glenna Hopper. The relationship between vet staff and rider is a complex and sometimes complicated one. On the one hand, you want a vet that’s going to demand that your horse is safe to race. The bar must be set high to ensure this standard. As a rider and devoted horse owner, you’re depending on the vet to help you know when it’s safe to continue and when it’s not. But on the other hand, you don’t want the vetting process to make it so tough that the “average” horse and rider become disqualified—this would keep folks from continued participation in endurance and membership would suffer. From what I’ve seen over the years, Max Smylie is somehow able to strike just the perfect balance, and that can be a tough thing to do. I’ve spoken with numerous riders that keep coming back to the Shamrock Rides because of the vetting. A great vet makes for a great ride.

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