Friday, December 10, 2010

Impressions from an Endurance Newbie - Jamie Bratt - Full Story and photos

North American Shagya Arabian Society December 2010

December 5 2010

It was a weekend of firsts. My horse’s first competition, my first endurance race, the first year of the “Canter Over the Mountain” ride in West Virginia. I had been training all summer with my Shagya-Arabian.

I had purchased Shagya Skamp AF as an endurance prospect; his sire Janos was a successful 100-mile competitor who had been exported to Japan to train for FEI level competitions. Skamp also inherited excellent conformation and temperament from both sides of his pedigree. He exemplifies the famous Shagya-Arabian combination of brains, bone and buddy-up personality. But, at just five years old and after just a few months of training together, would he live up to the promise in his first competition? And what about me, was I ready to race for 25 miles?

Thankfully, I had read the AERC primer for new endurance riders the year before and heeded much of the good preparation advice. The best thing I did was volunteer at a few endurance races before Skamp arrived at my farm in Maryland. Not only did I come to understand the organized chaos of the ride camp and crewing areas, I also witnessed some great tricks of the trade to emulate and some classic mistakes to avoid. Most importantly, I connected with several experienced endurance riders in my area who quickly became mentors and friends. Though I had been riding for over 20 years, I had so much to learn about the unique challenges of endurance (and I still do)...

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tom Quilty 2010 - Kelly Jol

Zameelarabians Blog

December 1 2010

This year I rode the Manilla Tom Quilty, not on my own horse, but on a sweet horse with the name of Mt Eerwah Silver Mariner, know to most, and from hereon, as Petey. He is a horse owned by Jay Randle of Splendacrest Endurance Stables.

My preparations for Scrupulous had gone wrong - and he was not ready and fit enough to warrant making the long trip to NSW to compete. I missed having my show pony stallion at the event - there is something special about a stallion that all notice, they simply draw eyes and attention - however I will not digress.

Petey is a big striding grey, and very pleasant to have around. Very fit - he was still used for teaching many small children, as young as a 2yo boy having his first ride. Worth his weight in gold!

Petey had already done two 160km rides and is a seasoned horse. He gave me a nice quiet and steady start at the midnight ride. There were 300 plus horses milling around, the riders all keen for the silver buckle. It is very exciting at the start of a Quilty - I was rapt to be in the saddle and not watching on the sidelines - like the year prior!

The first two legs were very jarring, and there was a high vet out rate. Petey was solid...

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Last ride of the season: Desert Gold - Karen Chaton Blog

As with many rides this time of year, getting to and from the ride is as much or more of an adventure than the ride itself. This time was no exception. I hadn’t really been planning on going to Desert Gold though I always like going to rides that I haven’t done before. What made me decide to go for sure was because Dave Rabe’s truck was (is) still in the shop. I don’t think they’ve quite solved the problem yet. I didn’t want him to miss going to this ride because he needed to complete at least one day in order to win the mileage championship.

So we worked it out that he’d go with me. Since he only needed to ride White Cloud it would work because each of us could bring a horse and that would leave us with enough room for all of our combined “stuff”. Les was going to bring Tulip for me to ride on the middle day. I had already done over 1300 miles on Chief this season so didn’t really care if he did another ride or not.

Everything always works out the way it does for a reason...

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Eagle Ranch - Keith Kibler - Full Story and photos

November 29 2010

Somehow, I knew the last ride of the year would be special. I had lost my Dad, my brother in law, and Sandy’s favorite uncle shortly before the Thanksgiving day ride and we decided we would rather go ride than look at empty chairs at the table.

We were all ready to go except loading up the three we were taking and as I went to let them catch me the sky opened up into a gully washer deluge. We were into a 3 month drought and this was the moment for it to end. It rained so hard I was drenched under a poncho. It was about 60 degrees when we left Southern IL. By the time we hit Springfield Mo., it was snowing. A misunderstanding in the directions, coupled with a road closure turned a 7 hour drive into a 9 hour drive.

I got up at 4:30 to get Kate, my almost 7 year old twh mare ready to do the 50 mile race. Sandy is the inquisitive type and always wants to know what the temperature is. We have an inside the trailer temperature gauge, an outside the trailer temperature gauge, and a gauge in the truck. The outside gauge said 15 degrees. At least there was no snow and no ice.

Eagle Ranch is outside of Collins Mo, which is "near" Springfield Mo and Kansas City. The camp has stalls and electric hookups and a shower house. Winnie Clutter is the ride manager and just does a super job. She had a wonderful group of volunteers and vets.

Kate had about 900 miles of training so far this year, including 3 50s and a 100. She had a good taper rest and I really thought she was ready. Kate is one of our slowest horses and the most challenging gaited horse to ride that I have ever owned. She has a great running walk, but wants to do a stepping pace rather than a rack if left to her own devices. In the pasture this girl paces. That being said, she is my favorite horse and I love her...

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Friday, November 19, 2010

“I can’t even THINK about bowls!” - Patti Stedman

Life Lessons from and Unlikely Endurance Rider blog

November 19 2010

Sometimes life gets just a little too stressful.

As a self-employed consultant, when there is work available, I work. There are enough lean times that I rarely turn down work, and sometimes find myself with too much travel, too many clients all needing assistance “urgently”, and too many technically demanding training programs to deliver. A classic symptom for me is that disturbing moment where I find myself standing in a hotel elevator with the little key card in my hand and absolutely no recollection of my hotel room number.

I get homesick, miss all of the critters, miss sleeping in my own bed, miss my routine on the farm, miss my husband.

Work has been that way lately. Back to back classes scheduled, such that one weekend was simply an exercise in driving home, unpacking, doing laundry, repacking and hitting the road again. A non-weekend, of sorts.

In the middle of this hectic schedule, my friends Rachel and Pam and I started plotting a way to get ourselves to the Mustang Memorial Ride in New Jersey.

The Mustang ride is a bit of an enigma. The trails there, while lovely, are miles and miles of the same scenery — pine trees, sand, more pine trees, more sand, sand moguls, pine trees, puddles, sand. Did I mention the sand? So to say that the views from the saddle are not awe-inspiring is a bit of an understatement...

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Monday, November 01, 2010

The Spook Run - Endurance Granny

Endurancegranny Blog - Full Story

Saturday October 30 2010

We packed up and headed out on Thursday for the ride at Henryville. Set up camp, dropped off our box of turtle stuff, then headed out for an hour long fairly slow warm up ride, a little uphill trotting in the mix. But the warm up wasn't so much about the warm up as it was getting the lay of the ribbons at the start so I would not botch my ride like last time. I don't know who marked the trail this time but it was CRYSTAL CLEAR where you turned, and where you did NOT. The person who marked the trail should be commended for a job well-done. Ride management in general did an extraordinary job at this ride. Even the sun smiled on us eventually.

But did I mention it was cold? OH MY GOSH....I had a Buddy Heater going in my dressing room / sleeping area and I could still see my breath. The temperatures dropped into the low thirties overnight, and a wicked wind was blowing on ride day Friday. I was concerned about the start as that is usually a big part of her emotional unraveling, and even though I stayed where I thought was in the back, unravel she did. So I just one-reined her and shut her down, again, and again, and again. It was pretty hairy. Then along came Mary from Ohio (who's last name I never did get, I'm so sorry)...who graciously offered to let us ride along with her "slow" horse. The horse was a very big Anglo-arab, very nice gelding. I'd let Phebes lead until she would get another horse on her radar, then I'd tuck her nose behind the big gelding. It worked out well except when leading she was difficult to rate. She'd hold her trot, however my nice little jog got up and went and the trot expouned to 9-13 mph depending on how flat the trail was.

Did I ever say that endurance riders in Indiana ride FAST?...

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Grand Canyon XP Day 2: “It’s Tulip Time” - Karen Chaton - Full Story and photos

I think that I am pretty fortunate to be offered the opportunity to ride Tulip on the second day. For those that don’t know, Tulip is a Morab endurance horse that holds the record for having the most endurance miles on the sport.

With this ride, Tulip has 21,630 miles. Here is a link to his AERC ride record. I’m quite certain that Tulips record will never be equaled again, for a lot of reasons.

Normally I prefer to ride my own horses and generally do not ride other horses. This was the first time for me, actually. Dave Rabe has been riding Tulip some this ride season for Les, who is still recovering from a riding accident last year...

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Riding in the rain: The 1st day of the Grand Canyon XP - Karen Chaton Blog - Story and Photos

October 25 2010

Riding in the rain: The 1st day of the Grand Canyon XP – what went right and what didn’t!

The fall colors this year at the Grand Canyon XP were stunning! I went down early to help out. Dave Rabe did also. No sooner had we gotten camp set up and situated then we hopped into the jeep with Dave and Ann and went out to saw logs and clear some trail.

grand canyon xp trail clearing downfall 018 Medium 300x225 Riding in the rain: The 1st day of the Grand Canyon XP what went right and what didnt!That went well and after several logs were sawed and pulled off trail we made our way back to camp and had dinner.

The weather had been mild so far (which is partly why the fall colors were not past their peak) and there were quite a few bugs bothering our horses.

The next morning we headed out early with the horses and were dropped off at one of the points on the Rainbow Rim rail. I took Bo, and Dave took Tulip.

We rode about 18 miles. The Rainbow Rim trail is singletrack and winds through the forest coming out around the edges of the North Rim every so often, offering us glimpses of the spectacular Grand Canyon. What a view!

More story and Photos here:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

First Endurance Report - Rubi in France Blog - Full Story

Friday, 8 October 2010
First endurance report
Mr Good Boy has been promoted to Mr Chou Chou d'Amour after his first endurance ride yesterday. He was such an unbelievable superstar!

After spending an hour the night before practicing loading into the new, narrower trailer in the dark with just the interior light on, I went to collect him from the field at 6am, still dark. I thought he might be a bit sticky about going in but he walked straight up the ramp and then stood there like a good, good lad while Herve put the back bar and the ramp up. He then travelled beautifully, with only a small amount of complaining at the peage when we had to stop to collect a toll ticket.

When we arrived at the venue, he was really well behaved and chilled out, though he wanted to walk around rather than stand by his haynet. Can understand that after having been in the trailer for over two hours. His excellent behaviour was even more impressive given that there was a strong breeze blowing, lots of new horses to see and hear and lots of trailer and cars coming and going.

I went to get him vetted and he was a bit poky about the vet's scanner machine but the vet was superb and went all quiet and soft with Rubi, gently approaching him and giving him a stroke, letting him have a sniff of the machine and a look at the stethoscope. His heart rate was at 40! Fantastic for his first event!

When it came to setting off, he was a bit on his toes and spooked as he caught sight in his rear vision of a bunch of cantering horses arriving at the finish line on the other side of the hedge, but it wasn't a serious spook. Then we came to set off and he slammed on the brakes at the sight of the white chalk start line! Eva took a hilarious photo of him prancing over it, hiking his tail over his back like a real Diva, as we set off!

Initially we were riding by ourselves, down through the woods and he was really forward going. His ears were so pricked I thought they were going to cross in the middle. He was utterly spellbound at the new trail we had to explore, down through the trees and there was only minor 'looking at things' - no spooking at branches, birds, carnivorous butterflies etc etc..
Our first challenge lay at the bottom of that forest track as we had to cross a stream!...

Read more here:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This mare was one of a kind
Part 1
Heather Smith Thomas

I had her for only 7 years, but in that short time she changed my life. She was a chestnut Arab-Thoroughbred mare named Fahleen. A clown, a sassy, naughty redhead, she had a unique sense of humor as well as tremendous athletic ability; she was the best long-distance range-riding horse I ever owned. She had a lot of determination and heart.

She came into my life on a cold day in March 1967, as a wobbly legged filly with an irregular marking on her short face. As a young foal she was exasperating to handle. Her Thoroughbred mother, Nell, came from a long line of very independent equines, and Fahleen was a challenge to train. I had to earn her respect, and it took several years. In reality she was training me.

As time went on, she came to accept and tolerate me and then to think of me as sort of a second mother, trusting me as completely as I trusted her. After I’d ridden her for a couple of years, our relationship was well grounded in trust. I could do anything with her that she considered reasonable, and we were a team.

Our first years together, however, were very trying, partly because of her unique sense of humor. She just didn’t think like a horse; she was more like a monkey and seemed to receive great delight in testing me.

full story at

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Adventures in Trail Marking

Karen Chaton

I have so much to blog about and can’t seem to narrow it down at any one time and focus on just one topic. I haven’t even finished writing up about my ride at Tevis this year!

For this post I’ll just stick with writing about the pre-ride trail marking and such from the Bryce Canyon 5 day XP ride that was the first week of September.

I left for the ride a week early, along with Dave Rabe. We knew that there would be a lot of work that needed to get done. Dave and Ann spent the summer in Alaska and now that they were back it was time to get to work!

I met up with Dave Rabe (“DR”) in Carson City and we caravaned down to Bryce together, taking two days to get there. We had a pretty uneventful 600 mile trip aside from the usual stuff that goes wrong with DR’s truck (I swear it’s possessed and have named it “Christine”).

The first day and a half after arriving we marked trail on foot, by jeep and I also rode out on Bo and marked some trail from camp. By Sunday, we and our horses were suitably rested up enough for us to head for a long day of trail marking of the canyons and trails on the Grand View trail. It turned out that this day was one of those days where if it could go wrong, it did. Tho not entirely, but enough did that we were just happy to finally make it back into camp, before dark.

...full story at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Riding Old Selam

Karen's Horse Tails

The Old Selam endurance ride near Centerville, ID, just North of Idaho City, is one of my all time favorite rides. The ride always delivers good footing, hills, scenery and creeks. Plus I love Idaho City, another old mining boomtown with many historic buildings. It’s always fun to take some time and check it out. I usually see something I haven’t paid attention to like the pictured jail, or as the sign calls it “Pest House”. Hard to believe these tiny towns had populations of around 3000 in their prime during the gold rush.

The ride camp is on Oscar Baumhoff’s property on the banks of Henry Creek, a mining hot bed in the 1860’s. This has been home to the ride since 1996. The ride was first held in 1976, when camp was near one of the old barns at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, which closed in 1973. I first rode it in 1979, and we took a tour of the old prison which is now a museum and all the houses have since been restored.
“What an odd place for a ride?” is perhaps what you are pondering, and you might be thinking that I misspelled the name too. The ride name, Old Selam, is no mistake. Selam was a cart horse used at the prison. In his day he was a fine carriage and riding horse. But in 1901 the aging grey gelding was used as an escape vehicle; not once but twice!

...full story at

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

VIrginia Highlands

This was our third year to do this ride. We enjoyed it so much the first two times, why not do it again? Don and Nicki do a superb job of managing and their many volunteers are the best. Everyone, management, volunteers and competitors seem to be having a good time the whole weekend! And, the trails are tough but beautiful, the perfect challenge. So this ride was on the list of must dos.

Our team of Lucky Ducks have not had the best of luck this year getting to the rides and finishing a team. This time there were four of us though, so surely we could do it. Mary Lynn and Greg took their two boys, Buzz and Wiley. Myself and Brenda teamed up with our boys, Elite and Noways, and drove down to the beautiful ride site right on the New River. We got lucky and got a good camp spot. Afternoon shade for the horses and not too far from the Vet check. We’ve gotten so good at parking our rigs that our awnings were perfectly aligned. LOL

It was a bit hot getting registered and checked in but we all were done well before dinner time which was pot luck…a great way to start the fun! Someone else’s food always tastes so good. Then the ride meeting, which Don always makes interesting. There were to be 60 something in the 55, and 20 something in the 30. We were ready!

It was nice to have Brenda ride down with me and share camp duties. I missed my granddaughter, Paige, but Brenda sure kept the conversation lively. We got everything ready for ride day and tucked the boys in for the night. Noways was very pleased to have a buddy this time and settled down without pouting like he did at the Ride Between the Rivers. He pouted so much that he did not eat or drink like he should have, and I decided to pull him at that ride. The ride before that was Sand Hills, where I got too ill with the heat to finish that one, so I was a bit nervous about what would happen tomorrow. But, so far all was good.

...continued at

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reflecting on Redwood: Little Bit Goes Pro (and Leaves me for Another Woman)

Submitted by Renee Gonzalez

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I had the opportunity to ride in the Redwood National Forest. 2010 is flying by and I feel like I’m pedaling fast to keep up. It’s been a good year in many ways and I’ve been fortunate to have a great horse and great friends to share some miles with. Here we are, already into August and ready for another Redwood Ride.

I had two goals for this ride. The first was for Little Bit to haul to the ride by himself and camp like a professional endurance horse without the support of a buddy. A professional would be the kind who eats and drinks and takes care of himself, rather than the kind who stares into the distance and waits for it to get dark before he bothers to eat. Usually, Little Bit falls into the less desirable category. He’s normally too busy meditating to remember to take care of the basics.

The ride meeting was short and sweet, thanks to ride manager Natalie Herman and head vet, Dr. Jen Powers. The ride is hosted by Redwood Empire Endurance Riders, a small club that puts on four rides each year. For this ride, Natalie volunteered to be manager and she really did a great job. I especially liked that she didn’t make us put ugly numbers on our horses butts (something I’ve always thought makes a horse look like he’s come straight from the auction yard).

My second goal for this ride was for Little Bit to start the ride by himself. Looking back, I should have been more specific when mentioning this to him, as I think he took it quite literally. Perhaps that was why he chose to dump me at mile 8 and attempt to do the ride “by himself”. The start of the ride went better than expected.

Through the night, Little Bit had made friends with his neighbors and thought it’d be best to stick with them all day. I walked him for about 20 minutes in camp to warm him up, and at 6:30 when they said the trail was open, I let the front runners get a head start on the single track trail before setting out. Little Bit power walked across the levy in a reasonably relaxed fashion. Just as we were about to set out up the big hill, a rider went trotting past us at top speed which indicated to Little Bit that this was where he should start trotting, too. This was the 11th time I had done Redwood Ride so I‘m fairly familiar with the trail, and I assured Little Bit that walking up the giant hill at the beginning was an absolute must. Much to my surprise and delight, he complied with my request and behaved himself. Mission number two: accomplished. Sort of.

A couple miles into the ride, Michele Dostal and her Rushcreek mare trotted up behind us and ended up riding with us for most of the first loop. Her mare is very sweet and pretty and Little Bit really seemed to like her. In fact, he liked her so much that when Michele stopped to adjust her saddle, and I tried to go on, Little Bit “spooked” at something, dumped me, and trotted back to his girlfriend. Thankfully, Michele was off her horse and being on a single track trail, Little Bit didn’t really have anywhere to go. Throughout the course of our relationship, Little Bit has dumped me a lot. But he’s never dumped me and left me for another woman! In the past when I’ve made an involuntary dismount, I look up to see his big pink nose hovering over me.

full story at

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Eastern High Sierra Classic 50 Ride Photos & Report – My 500th Ride Completion! - Karen Chaton Blog

This year was the 25th anniversary of one of the most popular rides in the West region. This ride is very popular for good reason too – it’s in incredibly beautiful country (the Sierra’s) plus it’s got a lot of fun technical trails. The 50 mile ride consists of two loops. The first one is slightly over 20 miles and has the technical terrain on it that includes a lot of boulders, narrow singletrack trail and creek crossings through large boulders and deadfall. This year was drier than most so the water crossings and mud were pretty safe.

The second loop is 30 miles and is also the LD trail. There are three vet checks on the 50, and one on the LD. The 50′s start at 6 a.m. and have 12 hours while the 30′s started at 8 and had 7:15 to complete.

The 50′s had over 100 entries (and the LD’s around 30′ish). We started out in a controlled start at a walk that took us across the highway crossing then up and over a small hill. Once we got down to a two track trail on the other side we were able to start trotting. Soon after that we turned right and headed up the first good climb of the day. This is always a fun trail to ride because your horse has to pay attention to the turns and the rocks. It gets steeper as you go as well.

I was riding Chief and he loves these kinds of trails...

Read more here:

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dear Denny

Patty Stedman's blog - life and its oddities

Ah, the magic of FaceBook.

Denny Emerson and I are “friends” on Facebook.

Now, to be fair, I’ve never been formally introduced to Denny, but I have always admired his long-standing dedication to both distance riding and eventing. During Ned’s first 100 in Vermont, we rode together for a mile or so, and Denny complimented my horse. That further raised my opinion of Denny and his excellent eye for a quality equine.

Not too long after that, I had the privilege of hearing Denny speak at the AERC Convention, where he captivated the audience with self-deprecating tales of his life around horses. His humility and his love for the horse came through crystal-clear (not to mention his razor-sharp wit) and I found myself alternately laughing hysterically and brushing away a tear as he spoke.

I’ve read his columns in The Chronicle of The Horse, and a candid girl myself, I appreciated his well thought-out but frank opinions on eventing and horsemanship.

It was done. I was an official member of the Unofficial Denny Emerson Fan Club.

Like so many others, including Denny, I got bitten by the Facebook bug during the last year or so, and we became “friends.” This is a dubious term, of course, since Denny has 1,023 friends and, as noted above, we have never been formally introduced.

When perusing Facebook (aka “wasting time”) a week or two ago, I saw a post he made and a photo he posted about a past VT 100-Mile CTR he’d ridden. Labor Day Weekend is the 75th anniversary of this beautiful and challenging competitive trail ride, so I popped him a reply to ask if he was planning to attend. He replied that the horse he was planning to ride had developed a cough. I sent a quick note asking if we should try to find him a horse to ride. His reply:

“Can you?”

Well, darn it, I could!

I sent Denny a quick private message, letting him know that my husband and I had already planned to attend the VT ride with two of our horses. I gave him a brief introduction to Ned, who I’d not planned to take to the ride, saying he was fit and capable of going the distance in Vermont (he is four for four on the Moonlight endurance rides, twice finishing the 100 there), and as long as Denny wasn’t interested in a perfect final score, Ned could probably take him around.

Denny accepted.

We haven’t spoken yet, but I’ve found myself with the perverse desire to try to explain Ned, who, as I’ve told people repeatedly, has adequate personality for an entire herd of horses.

So Denny, my friend, here goes …

Dear Denny –

I can’t tell you how humbled I am about your taking me up on my offer to share Ned for the Vermont 100 Mile CTR next month!

I’ve been struggling with the temptation to send you a note to try to explain the profoundly quirky character that is Ned. I chide myself then about the fact that you’ve ridden hundreds, nay, thousands of horses, and that surely Ned cannot be the oddest, the most opinionated, the most ego-driven horse you’ve ever met.

But since I’ve owned the big lug since he was a four year old (the classic 30-day-training-wonder with no power steering or brakes) and he’s now sixteen, well, there’s probably a few things you might want to know.

Full posting at

The Tevis 2010- a comeback ride and always an adventure!

Nick Warhol
This ride! It’s been 4 years since I was able to enter, and that’s way, way too long. Follow my math logic- if I want to equal my hero Barbara White and get myself 30 buckles, and if I enter every 4 years, (add the three, carry the seven), I’ll be about 153 years old if I keep at this pace. I guess I either should have started sooner, or, darn it, enter every year. Tevis 06 was my Donnie’s first 100, and he romped through it. The next year I was recovering from my ACL replacement surgery, so Judy rode the D man to a great completion. In 08 was the fire and the canceled ride, and last year my boy was recovering from an injury, so no go for me. I have been pondering the 2010 Tevis for the past 18 months while Donnie healed up, and as my luck is occasionally good, the endurance gods smiled on me and he’s better. We made his comeback ride at Washoe in April, did all three days at the Wild West ride in May, rode the beautiful but tough Mendocino Magic ride in June, all just fine. It’s a hard thing to be off of your horse for so long, but its part of the game, and it just makes it so much sweeter when he comes back.

This year was also special since my long time riding buddy Sally Abe (pronounced Ahh-Bay) got the chance to start for the first time! Two of her three horses are retired, and her endurance horse Phathom is now an ex-endurance horse. He’s just not up to it anymore, (she needs number 4!) so she has had to wait. My friend Jackie Bumgardner stepped up and loaned Sally her superb mare, Odessesy, for the Tevis. 5000 miles with only a couple of pulls, completed Tevis before- perfect! We went to Bridgeport to pick up the mare and Sally got to know the horse as she completed the Mendocino ride in great shape. We were ready! Yahoo! Judy enlisted our friend Karen Bottanni to help with the Crewing duties, and Sally had her friends Alair Davidson and her fiancĂ© Phil Hartley come along. Sally’s riding friend Shawn-Dei Linderman also came to help and see the circus. Phil’s my shoer, so that sure can’t hurt! We drove up on Thursday afternoon as usual and staked out our secret spot in the gravel parking lot. No dust, and a straight shot for the crew out forest road 6 in the morning- it’s worth the 7 minute walk to the start area. In the afternoon Sally and I went out for a ride down the start road for a few miles, and stopped to look up, way up, at the peaks of Squaw Valley. We’d be up there in a day and a half! Sally was very excited. It’s so pretty here at this point- quiet, peaceful, no dust. Just wait!

Friday morning was nice and cool. The weather in northern California has been so nice this summer. In fact it was the coolest July in our parts in something like 100 years. That’s just fine with me. I like it like this. We walked over to Robe Park to take in all the activities. I always see so many of my friends here. Steph Teeter is here, riding her second Tevis. Her first was in 97, as was mine. (Kind of a gap, there, Steph!) Kathy Meyers is here from New Mexico riding Blue, a horse she rode a long time ago when she lived in Cal. We did some shopping, signed up with Calstar Helicopter rescue, (oh yes, every year!) and I got to see the new horse safety vests. These things are an air bag for a rider? Apparently if you get launched, something senses that and flips a switch and inflates the vest with air to cushion you before you whump on the ground. What will they think of next? I wonder if it works? Who wants to test it? At 11:00 or so we moseyed back to pick up the ponies and wandered back over with our tack to the vetting area. The ride has it worked out pretty well. The vetting went smoothly; we got weighed, sorted, stamped, and bar-coded. Well, almost. They put a yellow hospital-type Tevis arm band with rider info written on it. Except they covered up the writing with the other end of the band. I got my band, walked away, and had a small anxiety attack. Well, as much of one as I am capable of, I guess. I’m one of those people who have a problem with wearing jewelry. It took several years for me to be used to the wedding ring, and if you put a watch on my right wrist I’ll yank it off, screaming! They stuck my new yellow band on my right wrist, and it was too tight. I walked away, but in a moment I started to get light headed, dizzy, and passed out- well, okay, not really, but I had to go back for a redo. The nice lady gave me another one that was nice and loose. Whew! Crisis averted. If this was my biggest problem for the weekend I’ll be happy! Sally and I went out for a little longer ride and had some excitement. We were paused under some giant pine trees, letting the horses graze on the nice, green grass in the serene forest. Suddenly a huge pine cone the size of a football comes crashing down through the tree towards us, causing an avalanche of pine cones to rain down on us. The horses jumped a bit- that was fun!

The ride meeting was very good this year- the WSTF guys have this figured out as well. (It used to be WAY too long) Into bed at 8:30- I slept fine, but I think Sally was pretty much awake all night. 3:30 am Saturday morning is dark, but the trailer lights take care of that. The horses are nice and calm as we tack up; Judy and her gang have everything all set and ready to go. We walk out of camp like we are riding up my driveway at home. It seems like it should be more exciting to embark on the journey, but that will come. We walked over to the entrance of Start Pen 2 and went on in. The WSTF guys almost have the start figured out. The pen concept works great, but Pen 2 wasn’t very good. The last time I did this we were in Pen 3, in the vetting area, and everyone just walked in a nice, big, quiet circle until we were routed out onto the road. Pen 2 was like a crowded airport- horses and people just moving in every direction at random, bumping into each other, helmet lights flashing, riders trying to find their friends, one guy got tossed off: it was sort of controlled chaos. Ride suggestion number one: why not use the old Pen 3? Or if not, make Pen 2 the roads that circle that part of the area. Get everyone walking in one direction- it would be much better than the milling about. We finally got released and hit our first bottleneck- the number taker. Why single track? Why not 2 or three lanes, just like the Bay Bridge toll plaza. Maybe we can use Fastrack? Ride suggestion number two: more number taker lanes. It would be much better. Past the number taker jam up and onto the road at a walk- we were all spread out nicely and lookee here- we hit the actual start at 5:17, only 2 minutes past the 5:15 start time. Pretty darn good. Off we went at a trot, and right over the crazy little ditch that caused the big hubbub 4 years ago. You just never know. The pace was fast as we trotted along the fire road for the first 3 miles or so to the single track. We did not slow down, but just kept sailing along. No riders had fallen off, no horses tied to trees, no carnage at all- nice! A great start. We really moved along on the single track full of horses all the way to the highway crossing before Squaw Valley. They were right about this when they warned us about the crossing at the meeting- they were doing road construction and had it all goofed up. We had to walk along the road, cross under it, walk in the other direction, turn around, walk back, turn again, then finally up the embankment. Great for the spectators- they saw our profiles three times! Now the climb starts up the long, twisty climb up the side of Squaw. The group of riders I was with were going a perfect pace- trot up, but walk the really steep stuff. Perfect! Sally and O hung in behind Donnie and me as they had done since the start. We cruised on up, with no yellow jacket bites, thank goodness, and before long we dropped down to the main ski run. Up some more, and left turn off the wide road onto the single track. Yikes- here’s the rock Gloria Vanderford’s horse slipped down on a few years ago when I was behind her. Yuck. No problems, but as we headed along I looked down to the right and way down below us, on the ski run, were horses. Pleasure horses from Squaw Valley? At this hour? (we got a little closer) Riding kind of fast? (closer yet) With numbers on their rumps? Uh-oh, someone missed a turn. It seems a bunch of riders missed the left onto that single track and took the ski run up to where we joined them. They did not cut any mileage, but had a little smoother run up that mile or so. All together now we worked our way up the ski run to the water stop at high camp, then up and over the tippy top of the peak, past Watson Monument, and down the super cool soft trail that takes us to the Granite Chief Wilderness. This is the most amazing part of the trail, and has some of the trickiest rocky sections. The trail was in very good shape, and for all the snow around there wasn’t much water in the bogs. The little waterfall we have to jump up was only a trickle. Both horses made it through the rock fields just fine, and Sally said something to the effect of “I don’t think I’ll look at a trail with rocks on it the same again.” A rocky, dusty road took us towards the trot by at Lyon Ridge, but the vet check had moved locations since I had been here. We hung a left down a tight little trail to a very nice trot by area with much more room for the horses than the old intersection. Good job on the trail! Much better than every other time I have done it. A quick trot for the vet and back towards the old trot by on the rocky jeep road. A left turn takes us climbing up the long, rocky, dusty ridge trail that winds its way a few miles to cougar rock. There were not many horses about, and as a result the dust was almost non-existent. I was leading Sally as we approached Cougar Rock; we were taking the bypass as usual. There was a rider going over, and one rider in line waiting for her chance at the famous climb. Donnie and I started down the trail towards the bypass trail. It’s a tiny little thing blasted out of the side of the rock on the riders left with a steep drop to the right. There was a photographer up on the top of Cougar rock snapping photos of the woman going over. He took a step backward and stepped into air. He fell down off the top of the rock, a fall of at least 20 feet, and landed smack on the solid rock of the bypass trail, just a hundred feet in front of Donnie and I. Donnie stopped quick, and I could not believe what I had just witnessed. I thought he was dead. How could he have survived that? The rock emptied of people who rushed down to help the poor man. I had to back Donnie up on the tight little trail- there is no way to turn around on that tiny thing. Good boy, Donnie. Tom Johnson was the ride official at the site- he quickly made the correct call to close the bypass trail and send all the riders up over the rock. I got back to where Sally was- she had been behind me and had seen it. We were in kind of a state of shock. The lady in front of us headed up and over the rock, but had to abort half way up and jump off her horse to keep him from backing up. We led our horses over the top, and once up over it, stopped for a minute to stop shaking. It was absolutely one of the worst things I have ever witnessed in my life. It was the sound of his body hitting the rocks that sticks with me. Consider this- had it been 20 seconds later, he would have landed right on top of me and my horse. He did survive; they had to get two helicopters to get him out of there. He ended up with both wrists broken, a broken leg, broken nose, a concussion, and more scrapes and bleeding than I want to remember. Egad- what a way to ruin your day.

We trotted on down the trail- what else could we do? Past Elephant’s Trunk, and back on the dusty trails that wind their way to Red Star and our first real vet check. We arrived a little later than planned, but spent about 10 minutes cooling the horses. Donnie was down to 48 in a couple of minutes, but Odessey was taking a little longer. There were people getting pulled everywhere, and lots for not recovering. Odessey came down, and the vet even commented that we must have been there a while, as her pulse was 52. We trotted on out the 7 mile road to Robinson flat, past the two empty water troughs (bummer) and reached the crazy stop at about 11:00 am. Our crew was there to meet us, and whisked the tack off as we headed down to the pulse takers. Donnie was down, but Odessey was having some unusual issues. She took about 10 minutes again to drop, but at the vets her pulse was bouncing a little: 56, 72, 56. Nope- that won’t do. The vet staff is very careful about anything even resembling a metabolic issue, so poor Sally was pulled. They gave the horse fluids as per their normal practice. Sally was pretty disappointed, but was thrilled about what she had seen so far. She got to see the best part of the trail, and although Odessey is an amazing horse, it just was not her day. This ride can do that to the best. Donnie vetted through very nicely and started his eating binge. Time for my biggest problem of the day so far- we could not find the bread, so I ate Sally’s fantastic egg salad with a piece of cold grilled chicken breast as a spoon. Worked great- just bite off the spoon! The bread was found, and I was saved again. The crew is just great; the riders are spoiled at this ride. I sat in the shade as I finished my lunch, washed the dust off, and tacked back up. Donnie and I headed out on the trail up the mountain behind the check, which leads to a nasty section of rocky and dusty trail. (I liked being on the road out of Robinson a lot better.) This finally ended with the downhill into Dusty corners and some water, then on to the cool single track trail that ends up at Pucker point. This trail can be really dusty, but Donnie and I did the whole 4 or 5 miles all alone- what fun. We ended up at the vet check at last chance, where we vetted through with a moderate vet line, maybe 10 minutes. I hate to lose those precious minutes, but Donnie got to eat, so it’s a good thing. I led my boy down the first canyon to the swinging bridge, then tailed up to the top of Devils Thumb. About three quarters of the way up there is a rider sitting on the trail, her horse is down below, having fallen off the trail. Oh no, oh no. It’s a good thing it was in a switchback, and the horse was stuck a bit under a down tree in a little canyon about 50 feet down the trail. Boy, it could have been a lot worse. There were some people there: I helped out a bit, and took the riders number up the trail and reported it in Deadwood. Some volunteers were able to cut the tree and lead the horse back up the incline to the trail. Yuck- thank goodness it turned out okay. I vetted through in Deadwood and kept on moving down the trial, hooking up with the one and only Barbara White. We rode together out of the check and all the way down the second canyon. I started tailing up into Michigan Bluff, but darn it, I could not quite make it all the way. I hopped back on Donnie who liked trotting up the steep climb. Up to the water (and a huge drink) at Michigan Bluff, and on down the road to Chicken Hawk and the next vet check. I walked in with Donnie down, but ended up getting stuck in a long vet line that cost me probably 15 minutes as well. I was using up more than my allotment of dawdling credits; I don’t like being anywhere near the cutoffs, and I was flirting with 30 minutes. Time to pick it up. I trotted quickly to the top of the Volcano canyon trail, then hopped off and ran down it on foot, pretty fast, doing my best imitation of Chris Knox. Right, uh huh. Donnie trots along behind me down the tight switch backs to the creek at the bottom, then we boogied up the last couple of miles uphill to Foresthill. I caught Robert Ribley right on the road in, so we cruised on in together into the teeming throng of people. Its still fun to come in to all that cheering and happy stuff. My crew was there and stripped my horse; he was at 52 when we got to the water on top. A quick trot for the vet, Dr Laserschef, who is a miracle worker. He was looking at Donnie’s feet, and I pointed out a cut that I noticed while tailing. He leans down and pulls a stick off the horse. There! Fixed! Just like that. What a guy! Judy and Karen took care of my horse while I ate and cleaned up. They had a nice parking place, but a poorly parked car in a turn made it tough for big rigs to make the turn on this little downhill turn out. One guy in a big living quarters snagged a rock and busted out his septic tank, which dumped all over the road right in front of us. Nice! Peeyeuu! Karen did not like the trucks coming so close to my horse when they swung wide for the turn, so she packed him up and moved to a new site out of harm’s way. What a good crew!

I put on my white shirt, picked up my little flashlight, and headed out into the dusk. I have often told people that all you have to do is survive getting to Foresthill, and from there the ride gets fun. I could not have been more accurate. I hooked up with a rider who was riding for her first time, both her and her horse. She asked if she could follow, since she said she was not sure where to trot. We mostly walked down the steeper trails and rocky sections towards the river, then made the right hand turn and took off. The moon was out, the night was nice, and I was on my boy. This is the best part of the ride bar none. We scooted along and hooked up with three other horses that were going our great pace. When we caught up to five more, it was too many, so I held back a bit and we went on by ourselves again. Its three and a half hours of absolute joy on the way down to Francisco’s. I was making up time, and got in and out of the check, but not before scarfing sandwiches and lemonade. The ride workers are the best ever here, but I had one little issue that I have to report since it was so silly. This wonderful volunteer came up and held my horse for me while I got food. She asked if she could fill my water bottles- Yes! They were bone dry and I had forgotten to fill them. I told her they were the ones on my saddle. She returned with three bottles of fresh, clean water. Three? Two clear, and one red. Uh oh. She was so happy to help, until I said that the red bottle on the back of my saddle was the one with my electrolytes in it. She had emptied it out and filled it with water. She was heartbroken! If there was a samurai sword available I think she may have committed Hari-Kari! I told her it was okay, don’t worry, but she was so upset that she had done that. I told her I’d borrow some, and the first person I asked gave me some of the kind I use. It was a non event, but it shows the dedication of those great people down there.

Out of the cool check and down the trail to the river’s edge and past all the sleeping campers who probably wonder why horses keep clomping by their tents all night. I followed a small group of people down to the river crossing; we rode along in silence, me just loving it. I crossed and got my feet all wet- Donnie isn’t very tall, and the water was high. I joined back up with Barbara and rode along with her down the few miles along the river to the vet check at the quarry. It’s lit up with generators like a Caltrans night work crew down there. I vetted next to Barbara, but her vet said he saw something in her horse’s right front. He told her to take it easy, walk in, all the usual stuff. He told her that every horse that had been in there had something going on. My vet looked up at me and said “except this one!” That was nice. I usually just get in and out here, but the D horse was really hungry, so I let him eat out of a 50 gallon mash for a while. Probably a bit too much for him to finish in our allotted time, so we headed out down the flat road along the river all by ourselves. I started singing again, as is my ridiculous habit when I ride by myself at night, until I caught Robert again. He was walking, so I trotted on by and crossed highway 49. The highway patrolman there helping said my horse looked great, but I was certifiable. Maybe, maybe. We walked over to the downhill that leads to no hands bridge and hoofed it down. I led my horse across, as I usually do, because I like leading across it, and staring at that moon as I go across. The moon taunts me when I get pulled, but once again this year, I beat it. Robert came trotting by, but slowed up and we walked a bit together. You have to love Robert- the guy really knows what to say. He looked up at the night and said- “Ya know what? This is just one tough-ass ride.” He hit the nail right on the head. Yes, it is exactly that. It’s one of the things that makes it so special. I bid the talented Mr. Ribley adieu and Donnie scampered on down the road towards the finish. Riding along the moon lit river right here for a bit is a special treat, and is probably my favorite point of the ride. We hung a right turn and walked up the long climb up to Robie Point; that street light up there looks pretty good when you summit. I heard Tony Benedetti and another rider talking just ahead of me. Donnie thought we ought to go smoke by them, but I thought, no, let’s just ease on in. Two miles to go and all is perfect. We trotted quietly along on the roads and walked the last climb (the climbing just keeps on coming!) up towards the finish. Once we heard the people there, I gave Donnie a tiny squeeze and he burst into a canter across the finish line. Oh yeah, he’s the man. He’s cantering across the finish line on his own. Judy and Karen were there, as was Sally. I had not seen her since we separated in Robinson Flat so many hours ago. She’s such a good sport, and there is always next year. She will get that buckle as sure as I’m typing this. We vetted at the finish, where I always remember being pulled on my first Tevis. Not this time! My Donnie zipped back and forth for the vet, who said wow, he looked good. We went down and did a victory lap for the bunch of guys the ride must have hired to be a cheering section. Pretty funny- they whooped and hollered for everyone who finished. Nice touch! Donnie trotted at high speed, and broke into a canter just under the finish banner. Ho hum, when can we go riding again? Ya gotta love it. Back to the barn and food for the boy. Odessey gives him a nice greeting, but eating is what he has on his mind. This year the horses have to go back for a post ride metabolic check between 1 and 2 hours post finish. A very good idea, but I wasn’t going to make it that long. To the camper and sleep. Judy and Karen took care of my boy and the final vet check while I crashed for about 3 hours. That’s a long day.

The awards BBQ was yummy, and the ceremony is always fun. I got up to get my fourth completion, (five finishes) out of 8 starts. Hey- I’m back to 50% now. My Donnie is quite a guy- he’s three for three here. I’m more than thrilled he has come back, and even stronger than before. He loves his job, and I’m glad he landed with me. Thanks again, Barbara and Ron. Thanks again, Judy, Karen, Shawn-dei, Alair, and Phil. I couldn’t do it without you guys.

Sally will be back, and that first buckle is waiting. Not finishing has probably made her even more ravenous for it. I feel bad for the poor photographer, and for the lady whose horse fell down, and all those people who tried it and did not make it. I’ve been there, too many times. But not this year. Donnie and I beat the moon again this year. And we’ll be back, every time we can. Why? Robert said it best- this is one tough ass ride. But it’s the best there is.

Nick Warhol

Hayward, Ca

Nick's story page

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Western States Tevis Cup - Rusty Toth - Full Story

July 28 2010

My Tevis journey began on a whim. Kevin mentioned he was not going to ride, so I offered to take his horse. And so it began.

We began the walk to the start a mile down the road in pen one: 70 horses packed together three to four wide and as deep as you could see in the morning twilight. The tension and excitement made the air thick with energy. Farrabba AKA The Stoner is the kind of horse you trust to always be relaxed, even keel, a true gentleman. I would not see this in him until mile 95.

The mass arrived at the start line where the trail funnels into a two horse wide path with seven minutes to go. As we stood shoulder-to-shoulder Stoner transformed into a ball of fire. At 5:15am the trail was opened...

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Vermont 100 - Bad Luck, Bad Choices but a great time!!! - Nancy Sluys

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 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!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bandit Springs: Ride, Baby, Ride! - Amanda Washington - Full Story

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by Amanda Washington

And ride we did. At the 2011 Bandit Springs Endurance Ride, in the Ochoco National Forest. Again, it was easily one of my absolute FAVORITE endurance rides of all time. As I posted last week, we were "just" doing the 80. And I must say that was a damn good decision! While my mare could have done twenty more miles, she was sufficiently tired at 80 and I was spent! The last 20 mile loop would have been loooooooong!

The ride really started the week prior, as it seemed to take forever to pack and prepare. I got my Easyboot Glue-Ons glued on with a new-to-me method and we didn't finish up packing until Thursday morning, when we were supposed to be leaving! We finally got out of town and were on our way to Oregon!

We arrived Thursday afternoon to the most beautiful ridecamp you could imagine. I can never get enough of this place. It was hot and muggy, both of which we haven't had this year. I was a bit worried about the humidity, specifically, as that can really hurt your horse. We had an amazing dinner hosted by John and Susan Favro of Healthy As A Horse, and chatted with good friends. The next morning dawned HOT AND humid! Yikes! It was a really fun day filled with mini-seminars by farriers and two of the ride vets, my husband and head vet, Cassee Terry. The ride ALSO put on a mini-clinic, Endurance 101, which for a minimal fee newbie endurance riders could attend. I volunteered to be a mentor and had a lot of fun. I hope it helped the transition to the endurance community for some of these newbies. I was also able to help another rider with Easyboot Glue-On shells that I happened to have used from last year, as he didn't have the right size.

We got to bed at a good hour and I actually slept great! 4AM came too quick, but I was up and ready with time to spare. The 80's and 100's started the ride at 5AM, and with only a dozen or so riders on the trail, winding through the mountain meadows in the soft light of dawn was quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately my mare had other ideas...

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bighorn: The Most Unpredictable Ride of Them All - Kevin Myers

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do you remember what you were doing in 1970? It was the year the Neel Glass invented the first Easyboot. In Shell, Wyoming, a group of hardcore endurance riders decided to put on a 100-mile race of epic proportions. The event would take the riders from the hot, arid badlands just outside town up into the high mountain pastures filled with wildflowers and wildlife that only a handful of people get to see in a year.

Forty years later, the event is still taking place. Big Horn is the grande dame of endurance rides, now the longest continually running 100-mile race in North America.

What better year to attend? 32 riders took on the good fight this year: their opportunity to stand face to face in front of destiny in the most unpredictable of settings. Big Horn is one of those races that just keeps you guessing from start until the horse steps his hind legs across the finish line.

The ride meeting was held at the community center in town, ten minutes’ drive from basecamp. A local band was playing on the stage when we walked in and a long snake of tables would soon be host to hungry riders and crew. At almost 8 PM, Jeanette Tolman stood in front of the restless crowd to walk us through the trail that lay in wait.

It was past 10 PM when we got to bed, and the 2:30 AM wake-up call came quickly. The 50 and 100-mile riders all started together at 4 AM. 43 riders milled around the start line for the roll call, and soon enough we were out on our controlled start for a mile along a dirt road before we were set free on a two-track road across the badlands towards the great Big Horn mountain range. The pace at the front of the pack was consistent and riders and horses were all speechless with anticipation of what lay ahead. It was thrilling...

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Bighorn Stories, Part 1 - Cindy Collins

Kevin nailed it perfectly with "epic." First, I was too exhausted and then too busy to write with some home/work obligations and I've decided this may have to come in pieces and parts. Perhaps others will fill in parts I leave off or can't recall. I am a much better oral story teller than writer, so hopefully those of you more gifted with the printed word will also fill in.

I am, of course, heart-broken that I did not finish the ride. But, I have so much gratitude that not finishing the ride seems almost embarrassing to mention. There are several heroes in my story and I want to repeat their names several times in my tale...Ronnie Eden, Walt Benhardus, and Tim French. IF you ever need help, I hope you are surrounded by folks half as fine as those three are. A big thank you, also, to the Haeberle family of Laramie. They'll be in my story, too. Ronnie sacrificed her completion of the ride staying with me, taking over my horse, and trying to get us help. She spent a lonely, wet, cold night on the mountain babysitting her horse and mine. I can't imagine how frightening that must have been. They just don't make many people like that in our world and if you ever get to meet her, I hope you will tell her how special she really is! Then, there is Walt. He didn't know me from "Adam." We'd never met before when he chose to stay by my side and lead me on foot down Black Mt Rd. It was a Herculean effort. Wish I could tell you why I got sooo sick. I'm infamous for my normal vertigo in the dark coming off that mountain. My normal pattern is to puke once, then I'm fine and go on to finish. That didn't happen this time. Don't know if it's because I'm older, or because I got soaked several times and was chilled to the bones (yes, I had two raincoats and they were both soaked through by the third rain storm), or because I was so stressed knowing that the horses were slipping and sliding all over the trail in the down pour and each step felt like they might injure themselves permanently or because I was so stressed thinking about all of the people lost in the cold rain and mud on the mountain...who can know...what I can tell you is that I have never been that sick in my life. Someone who was there said I vomited at least nine times. I couldn't ride, couldn't walk, was shivering so hard that my teeth rattled and Ronnie and Walt kept holding me in a bear hug on either side trying to warm me and keep me from shock. Ronnie gave me her wonderful Aussie raincoat and when I think of her alone on that mountain trying to sleep in a huddle without her coat, it just brings me to my knees.

Mother nature certainly caused 99% of the problems on the ride, if not all. In the 30 years I've been on that trail, I've never seen rain like that during the ride. Snow, yes, but not rain. Ride manager, Jeanette Tolman, was heading from Ranger Creek to Jack Creek to put out the night markings for the trail during one of the down pours. She was hauling her four wheeler in her horse trailer when her truck and trailer slid off the road and her trailer with the four wheeler was left hanging off a cliff. Hopefully, Dr. Haeberle will post his photo of the rig. So, that's the short version of why there were NO markings on the trail off the mountain when we riders took off down it in the rain. Of course, I didn't know any of that at the time. Since everyone knows how prejudiced I am about this ride, I'll ask others to comment on the ride markings before this point. To me, they were perfection. I'd say it was the best marking ever on the trail up to the Jack Creek stop.

I am going to take a break in my story right now because really, truly I am starting to cry and need to compose myself before I continue with part 2. Cindy

Pre-riding the Tevis finish - Karen Chaton - full story

We had a nice ride this weekend, going from the Overlook (finish) of Tevis down to the Poverty Bar river crossing and back. It was a 24 mile round trip day and took us around five hours. We spent a lot of time down at the river cooling ourselves, and the horses. It was fun for me getting to see this section of trail in the daylight.

The blue line that is going straight across the GPS tracks image near the bottom – is pointing directly to my house, across the Sierras in Nevada from the Tevis finish line! Now I know it’s a straight shot as the bird flies but a little more difficult if you do it by horseback!

I have completed the Tevis twice and till now have only been through most of that part in the dark. I had a friend go with me and ride Bo. I rode Chief. This way both horses are ready to go and I will have the option of one or the other depending upon which one I think looks the best as the ride gets closer on July 24th.

tevis trail preride 033 Medium 300x225 Pre riding the Tevis finishWe had a lot of fun on the ride. The horses got one heck of a workout. It was 98 degrees when we got back to the trailer, and also a lot more humid than we are used to...

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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.

...full story at

Monday, July 05, 2010

Tour de Washooo Ride - Karen Chaton

July 3 2010

The ride went really well yesterday. I decided to take Bo. He’d been feeling a bit left out when I ended up riding Chief all 4 days of the Strawberry Fields ride. Granted, Bo did get to mark trail and has been getting in a lot of additional riding — he is the kind of horse that gets bored easily. So this ride has his name on it!

It’s fun to go to local rides when they are so close. This one is at the Washoe State Park in Washoe Valley, Nevada. The park has been being improved over the years and is a really nice equestrian park. There are hitching posts, water spigots, a nice big gazebo, restrooms and plenty of parking. They are even putting in a big arena right now. Showers are also available over in the RV parking area. There is even a dump station.

The first image is of my GPS tracks from the ride yesterday. The ride consisted of three loops. We started at 6:00 a.m. for the 50′s. The first loop was 25 miles, returning us to camp for an hour hold. Pulse criteria at pretty much all of the rides in this area is 60 for everybody...

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Friday, July 02, 2010


Karen Bumgarner
Karen's Blog:

photo by Tami Rougeau
I have been lucky enough this year to be able to venture to Central Oregon for two rides. This has given me the opportunity to visit with old friends that I haven't seen for a long long time! What a treat! But all day as I traveled the 100 miles of SunRiver, people kept asking, "Karen, how many times have you ridden SunRiver?" A lot! That was my only answer but once home I did the research.

One year that I didn't have to look up was 1977, my first SunRiver. It was also my very first 100 mile ride on my big horse, Sunny Spots. Nancy Cox and I rode together, it was also her first 100 on Rakar. I broke a stirrup and rode into camp at the 50 mile point, packing my stirrup in my right hand. Not to be deterred I borrowed a saddle for the next 50 miles. This first year the ride camp was in a meadow on the banks of the Deschutes River near the town of SunRiver. It was beautiful!! The 50 mile loop was uphill for the first half and down for the last half. 10 started and 5 finished. We were out until pretty late, leading our hroses down a hill in the dark, and we saw headlights. This startled us a bit and we were trying to figure out who it could be. Turned out to be ride management out looking for us. Gene Petersen took one look at us leading our horses and said, "Time to ride girls!" He picked me up and put me on my horse and then followed us in the pickup - hey now we had lights. We were tired and sore but the horses were fine.

And that my friends was the first of many more 100 mile rides. I rode Sunny on five different Sun River 100's. One of those just a couple months after Andi was born. I rode the 100 four times on Moka's Pat-A-Dott.

One year I borrowed a horse, Reno, from Jennifer Horsman, so I could ride the 100. Zap did the 100 at SunRiver/Chuckwagon twice. Yet another year I took a new horse, Jafar, on his first 50 there. It is always a great first ride of some sort.
This year it was Thunder's second 100, only three weeks after River Run. A bit closer in timing than I like but I was able to go at that time and reasoned were weren't going fast so we would be fine. It stormed and rumbled and poured and flashed Friday as we stood huddled under a small shelter for our ride meeting and dinner. We all hoped this wasn't a preview of Saturday.

I met Tami Rougeau from Nevada, a fellow Easyboot Glove user, and we talked and decided to ride together.
We left a few minutes late and they never saw the other horses leave camp. May & Thunder walked calmly out of camp and were well behaved all day! It was wonderful. It was a cool 42 degrees! We'd had 85 at home just a few days earlier and these temperature extremes are hard on the horses and riders. I layered clothes and used a rump rug on Thunder for the first time. During the day we encountered some rain, sleet, sun and fog. It felt more like April than mid-June. But the trail had no dust and it really was good weather as long as we kept moving. We'd get chilled waiting in the vet checks. The biggest thing was the horses were starving. They tried to graze on the mountain nibbles of grass but it was sparse at best. Thunder never stopped eating in the vet checks, they just needed more time to eat. We picked up another new friend, Nancy Cardosa, around 55 miles and the three horses traveled well together. Thunder and his two mares, May and Elektrika, were all troopers and we just kept plugging away to the finish. Our CRI's were great at 40/40 and Dr Bensen said Thunder looked great at the finish. So we placed 11, 12 & 13 out of 17 starters. Not that it really matters to me. I just wanted to finish on a healthy horse!

So back to the original question of how many times did I ride it? A total of 14 times, 12 of those rides were on the 100 miler. I rode it when the ride moved camp out by the Rainbow Bridge, then up to Kiowa Springs when it was also renamed ChuckWagon Express. Then later camp moved to it's present site at Wanoga Sno Park and was eventually renamed SunRiver Classic. And a classic ride is what it remains today. Thanks to all who work so hard to keep this great ride going. The management is as classy as the ride!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunriver 100 - Tami Rougeau

OK, so finally got home and got all the chores done and can get a bit
of a note off regarding May's first 100.

As advertised the Sunriver 100 was a great first 100 mile ride. We
could not have asked for a better situation (unless maybe we could
make it not rain or hail).

We drove up from Reno on Thursday so that May would have a day to
rest. That worked out great as it also gave me a day to get organized
and not feel rushed. The people at the ride were so nice and friendly
and I can't say enough good things about the managment, vets and

We checked in on Friday and while we were waiting to vet we met a very
nice lady who was also riding in Easyboot Gloves. Since we were both
planning on a slow steady pace we agreed to meet up in the morning.

So morning came and just as I was thinking that I really should have
found out where my new friend was parked, there she was. All smiles
and ready to go with her wonderful gelding Thunder. Oh May was going
to be in love in no time at all. My new friend Karen said that she
did not want Thunder to see the front runners or he might get
excited. Of course I was exptecting May to be her typical psycho
anyway so the less stimulus the better. We left the trailers a few
minutes after 5 and headed to the start. Then the most amazing thing
ever happened....May calmly walked out right next to Thunder. We had
the best start ever!

The two of them paced along very nicely all day. The footing was
heaven and for a Nevada horse it was like walking on clouds. The
trail was really well marked as well. Since we were riding in the far
back of the pack we never had to wait in any line and there were
always plenty of volunteers to help us out. There were lots of water
stops along the way and the horses drank well. May did her usual
routine of trying to single handedly drain every tank and ate
everything she could get her face into.

We headed out with 30 miles to go and all A's from the vets (along
with a few comments that we could probably start riding the horses now
- CRIs 44/44). Since we still had loads of time we decided that we
would take our time and be mindful of any bad footing, playing the
conservative card at this point in the game. We did not make it to
the last check before dark which was a bummer but with good headlamps
and a well marked trail we managed to make it with only one missed

After we left the last check it rained on us a bit which was a downer
but most of the last leg is common trail from earlier in the day and
the horses were ready to get home. We walked pretty much the whole
way. We had picked up another rider so now we were a party of three
which was fun. We were only a few miles from the finish when the
tempurature really dropped. That was uncomfortable but we had
prepared and knew how to keep warm. Our partner was not very used to
the cold and it bothered her a bit more.

Then we saw the finish. The warm fire and the smiling face of Lois
the ride manager to welcome us in. We were later than we had expected
but we were done at 0200. The vets gave us all A's and again CRI
40/40. Well done little May, well done!

It was a great ride with all the key necessities covered tenfold.
Lois and Sharon and their team of vets and volunteers were simply top
notch; the trail was amazing, great footing and marked to the gills.
To top it off every single person in camp was so nice. There were
three distances going on so even though the field for the 100 was
small there were still a large number of folks in camp.

So, long story short, we had the best experience - great riding
partners (huge thank you to Karen and Thunder!), great trail and great
management. I am so proud of my little Mare. She grew up on this
ride and really earned her stripes. Thank you to everyone who made it
possible. Sunriver 100, not just a great first 100, a great ride

Tami and Amatzing Grace (May)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fort Howes - Karen Cox

I was #2 to sign up for Fort Howes. The 35 mile LD.

My TB mare "Hey Rose" (Rosie) can be, uh, moody. I knew the excitement
of ridecamp would not help. My husband was travelling so could not be
there as my crew (and crazy horse handler) as planned. Just me and my
son and our stock trailer and tent in the "redneck section" of camp :)
We had some good laughs about that with the other tent campers.

Friday night Rosie was pacing on the hi-tie and stomping if tied to
the trailer so I thought I'd take her for a walk. While standing
talking to someone with her on the lead and she stomped her front foot
and caught me hard in the calf, causing a bruise that covered my
entire calf. (Thank you to the girl from Europe with the magic salve,
and to the Bozeman cowboys for the beer and frozen sausage icepack,
and advils). I thought there was no way I’d be able to ride Saturday.

My leg looked scary in the morning, but it wasn’t feeling bad enough
to keep me from at least trying the ride. I mounted up before the
start and Rosie, hopping around and being an idiot (again), tossed her
head back and bonked me in the head causing me to bail off. Thank you
helmet. She also tossed a boot. Instead of trying to put it back on I
just pulled the other one off. By that point I was thinking, if we
ever get going here, and you step on a rock, serves you right, we'll
have to quit and that's fine with me. So stashed the boots in my pack.
The ride began and I started at the back of the pack and within 100
yards from the start Rosie just. FROZE. I could not even budge her
head. I got off and walked her, back on, still no go. I only got going
with the generous help of another rider (sorry didn't catch your name
- but thank you!) that started late. Though a part of me was thinking
it might be a better idea to just stay stuck there forever.

The first 15 miles or so of loop 1 were a fight. I rode with four
lovely ladies for a while. I learned that the Arab trot is faster than
the TB trot but slower than the TB canter. So, we invented a new gait
that was trot in front and canter in back - or something like that -
the right speed but we boing boinged down the whole trail. Sometimes
we did an actual canter, which normally on this horse is like
gliiiiiiiiding, but not today. The last 5 miles or so she finally
seemed to settle in though. We cantered and galloped about the last
mile right before the vet check, thinking I might blow my pulse-down
but I didn't care because we were both having fun - finally. But we
pulsed in at 52, no problem.

I also learned my horse is now a real barefoot horse. At least at Fort
Howes, where the footing was great. I had never ridden her more than a
few miles without boots, but we did the entire 20-mile loop barefoot,
without a bad step, even over the rare rocks we encountered.

We got all A's at our first vet check, except for a B in skin tenting!
No surprise there as she was in a white froth and heavy breathing for
a good part of this loop, using twice as much energy as needed, and
not at all interested in drinking until the end.

The second loop I delayed my start to be able to ride alone and we had
a great ride. I was thinking this is as much fun as riding at home.
(Which made me wonder if I should ever try this again - but like
pregnancy, I'm over it now). I put the boots on a few miles out
because she just seemed a little slow on the shale road, and she
perked right up after that. We had such a relaxed ride I thought our
mph was way slower than the first loop- but it was actually faster.
If she could go like that the whole ride life would be much easier!
She was also drinking well on this loop and we ended up with an A in
skin tenting. B- on gut sounds so I'll work on getting her to eat more
next time.

After the ride I met some friends of the Stevens, non-riders that were
there just to help out in any way (including keeping the ranch clean
of gophers and gopher holes, thank you). And help they did -
cappucino, home-made sausage, and best of all, a gigantic ice pack and
a couch to sit on in their trailer! Not to mention great company.
Their friend kept my son and another boy occupied with rides in his

I’m glad I stuck it out to the finish. But phew, what a workout. After
all the bouncing, it hurts to move - even my fingers! But Fort Howes
is such an amazing beautiful place. We have a long dry season in
Montana so I was happy about all the recent rain and all the green. It
wasn't too muddy, at least on the loops I did.

I'm looking forward to doing it again next year. Thank you to the
Stevens family for putting this on. I hope they do it forever and I
can come back to ride it many times.

I looked at my ride picture and I'm grimacing in every one, but Rosie
(horse #2) just looks happy as can be. Grrrrr! I'll need to do a 50
mile next time and see if I can wear her out. If she can calm down a
bit next time I’ll be able to let her run some, and maybe not go for
the turtle award.

That's my "ride story"! I endured. I finished. I won (the monkey butt

Old Dominion 55: The Trail to the Best Condition Award

Sandra's blog full story
Sandra Fretellier
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

photo: Easycare Inc
Where to start? First, I was not sure I would go to Old Dominion since my mare got pulled at the end of her first 50 at Biltmore. Her recoveries were really good, she never felt lame on trail but was off at the final exam and had a sore foot. She was sound two days later and acted normal during our training rides in Gloves.

I had the opportunity to get a ride to OD and when I heard my good friend Kevin Myers was going to be there, then my mind was set: Twist and I were going! But what distance, 25 or 55? I knew the course from last year and heard it was even harder this year, so I hesitated to enter the 55, but at the same time it was my only way to see if Twist was sound. I knew she could breeze through the 25 without a problem. If she had an issue, it would probably not have shown up in 25 miles.

So I decided to go for the 55 and RO if it was too hard on the pocket pony. She felt really good when I rode her the day before the ride. Kevin glued the boots on (it was tough on him with the humidity, thank you for all your hard work my friend) and we were set to go! The morning of the ride was quiet until I got on her. She is a little fireball and I have to use a Pelham with two reins at the start otherwise it's an endless fight. I prefer having a strong bit to use if needed. If she is gentle, I use the mild part of the bit. If she pulls I can be more reactive and I found it to work much better than fighting and me getting tired and yanking on her mouth.

So off we went, a little bit sideways at the back of the pack. At the base of the first climb Twist was still fired up and wanted to trot. I knew what was ahead of us, so I forced her to walk. Twist quickly gave in and started panting so I got off to help her. She was pooped at the end of the first climb and I let her recover by walking for a long time. We then started to trot slowly, but when we caught up to some horses Miss Twist got a second wind and was eager to go, so we kept trotting.

She pulsed down easily at the first vet check: she always eats and drinks everything in sight, even on trail. So off we went for the second loop, the loop of hell, with a 2.5 mile climb covered with big rocks. It was around noon so the heat was unbearable. Twist was leading a group of horses while I was walking (panting myself) in front of her. I saw she was getting tired so I let the horses pass us and stop for a couple of minutes in the shade (sort of). We kept on going and then it was the going down: I walked all of this.

When we arrived on flat ground Twist agreed to trot but she was dragging her feet so I let her graze and drink (and sponged her) at every opportunity we had. Once again when we caught up to some horses she perked up and it made me feel good. She pulsed down at the second VC in eight minutes. I know it seems long but it was hot and that is when most of the horses got pulled for failing to recover. Her CRI was 52/50, woo hoo!!! I knew the last two loops from last year. Twist was good so we kept a steady pace (nothing crazy around 5.8MPH).

We passed VC 3 with bright As all around, so I was happy and Twist was still eating and drinking. I left a couple of minutes late so she could eat more. The last six miles are not hard and the heat was slowly decreasing so we averaged a speed of 6.5MPH. I caught up to some good friends half a mile from the finish and we decided to tie. Once we passed the finish line they told us we were top 10. I could not believe it, I was sure I was closer to 20th place and would have been happy with it.

I waited to get our completion from the vets before getting too happy. When Nick congratulated me, I jumped on Twist. I was SO happy, her second 50 and top 10 at a tough Old Dominion. What a power pocket pony I have.

I decided to stand for BC, just to give Twist the experience and to get the chance to see how she recovered. I weight 145 lbs with all my tack and arrived an hour and a half after the winners, so I knew there was no way I would get BC, and probably not high vet score since Twist is still a green endurance horse.

A little Twist history: I bought her online (I know her sire has tons of get excelling in endurance), I could not go to see her as I was flying to France for the holidays. I found a vet, had her go through a pre-purchase exam and decided to get her as she was sound and healthy. As you can tell, she was. She arrived at my barn on January 9th, did 2LDs (one she got pulled at the end because of my stupidity). Foxcatcher 25 was OK but she was still a nutcase at the start, even starting 15 minutes after the pack. She still has a lot to learn, but she is quick learner!

Long story short, when they called my name for high vet score at the awards meeting the next morning, I was amazed. But when they told me "Hold on stay here, Twist also got BC", well then I cried. I got Twist because I lost my first horse last year and I couldn't get myself to think of not riding anymore. I'm a foreigner and the endurance community feels so much like a family to me, I had to get a new project to work on to keep riding the trails with my endurance peeps, and Twist crossed my path!

What an amazing little mare she is (14.1), she also has humor, she is a goof and I LOVE her. And I know Mona Tika is giving her all her blessing from the heaven meadows. I miss her every single day but it makes my love for Twist even stronger!

full story and more ...