July 21 2010
I had been riding Blue (Indigo Blue) all year with the Vermont 100 in mind and he was so ready but it was not meant to be. Our bad luck started 2 weeks before the when he got kicked on the leg just above the knee. It wasn't a critical area but he swelled up pretty good and was cut in 2 places. I iced and hosed and rubbed and did everything I knew to do but a week before we were to leave he was still a little off. At first I thought about cancelling but I had gotten so psyched up for this ride I really wanted to go plus my sister lives in Vermont and was going to visit me at camp. I devised a plan that sounded good at the time...my other horse, Zanie (FYF InZane), has been coming along great and maybe she was up to doing the 75. She is only 6 but I have been steady training her in the mountains for 3 years and she had done 4 50s this year with a best condition at her last ride. All my friends said go for it. It seemed like a good gamble to me. I made up my mind to take her instead even though the day before we left Blue's leg looked pretty darn good.
We left last Wednesday and drove 11 hours to a friend's Standardbred training farm in NY state to lay over. The next day we made the last 5 hours to the ride. Here's where I made a mistake that cost me. Instead of taking HWY 84 to 91 which would have been highway almost all the way we took the advise of our friend and went a shorter way that took us through Albany NY then on secondary roads through Vermont to the ride. This was also the same route that Mapquest and Google recommended so we went for it. Well, it was very beautiful but the frost heaves and twists and turns made for a very rough ride for the horse and it was the longest distance she had ever traveled so far. She seemed to look good when we unloaded her so figured she had made it through just fine. We rested the rest of the day and the next. I did take her out for a little ride to stretch her out but it was mostly in the grassy field and a little bit of walking on the road. At that point she felt fine to me, maybe a little stiff but I didn't think much of it.
The next morning I got her ready and once again warmed her up a bit in the field. As soon as the ride started and we hit the harder surface of the dirt road I could feel that she was off. I immediately pulled her up and went to my trailer to see if I could figure out what was up. I had Easyboot glue ons and had filled the bottoms with Goober packing so thought maybe I had put too much in and there was too much pressure. I pried the boots off and put her Gloves on and trotted her again on the road but she just felt discombobulated and sore everywhere, it had nothing to do with the boots. That's when I realized that the trailer ride had done her in. Maybe she had gotten thrown against the wall a few times, or the concussion of the pot holes and frost heaves on the last part of the trip had made her joints and muscles sore. Whatever it was we were done before we even got started. Needless to say I was very disappointed.
I was putting Zanie away when Claire Godwin came up and related an opposite story. Her horse had gotten kicked by her stable mate in their paddock 2 days before and she did not vet into the ride the day before. Today, however, she seemed all better so she was trying to find a vet to look at her and maybe she could enter the 50 which wasn't starting until 2PM. Only problem was that she was supposed to crew for several other folks who were doing the 50 and she didn't want to leave them in the lurch. This sounded like the perfect antidote for the day and I volunteered myself and my crew for the cause.
So, mission accomplished, Claire was in the 50. Now we were crewing for 4 riders, Claire, Lisa Downs riding Claire's other horse, Pat Oliva and Ashley Kemerer. The day was hot, we worked hard, the riders rode smart and they all finished. I developed a healthy respect for how hard my crew works and we got to be a part of the ride. That and the beautiful Vermont scenery and the added aspect of the runners made it a most memorable experience.
In reflecting on the weekend I realized that I made some mistakes that I hope I will not have to repeat (although I think I have made some of these mistakes before!)
#1- If you have several options always take your strongest horse to a ride that far away and important. Blue looked good the day before I left but I had already made up my mind to take Zanie.
#2 Be flexible - don't make up your mind until you trot your horses out the day before if you have 2 good to go....again...take the strongest horse.
#3 Go with your gut feeling - which was that Zanie was still a bit young for such a big trip and ride. I did not consider the toll that the trailering would take on her. Blue has trailered millions of miles and is very conditioned to it so I didn't think about it for Zanie.
#4 Stick to the highway when at all possible even though the route may look longer it will probably take less time and will be easier on the horse.
#5 - Stay focused. I let the injury to Blue be a sign that maybe it was Zanie's turn. I was relatively sure that the kick was superficial and that he would be ok but I got all excited of the prospect of taking Zanie even though I knew she did not have the experience or level of conditioning that Blue had. He has been competing in distance riding for 13 years and she is just getting started.
I'm sure there are more things for me to think about, there always are when working with horses. The main thing was that the trip was a good one even though some bad things happened, those I can learn by. Zanie proved to be a great traveler, eating and drinking the whole time and behaving very well when we off loaded her at truck stops for rest. Except for the soreness she did great. She looks much better today with only a very slight amount of stiffness left and that was after the long ride back home. I met some new friends and put a good deposit in the karma bank for the future. Vermont is beautiful and I look forward to coming to the ride more prepared next year because I sure do want to ride that trail!!!
Happy trails, Nancy Sluys (from North Carolina)
PS...Oh, I almost forgot to mention a tire blew out on the highway on the way home and we had forgotten our drive up jack and had to call US Rider. So...#6 don't forget your jack!! Always be prepared for on the road emergencies!