June 27 2011
Horse: My Last Nickle – 10yo, 16.2h, Anglo-Arab, 620 miles in CTR & Endurance in less than two seasons (first ride was end of July 2009)
· Nickle was bred for this sport – he’s a 2nd generation on our farm, we bred & owned his dam and purchased his sire when he was born. His sire was a full Russian/Crabbet Arab who had over 2,000 CTR & endurance miles. Several of his get are competing today in CTR & Endurance.
· Nickle was sold when he was young to an eventing home and then we had a chance to buy him back when he was 6. He stood around for 2 years while I was working on growing my own family.
Me: Char Jewell, first ride was a CTR in 1986, 3,781 miles in CTR & endurance, primarily on three horses
Every winter here in Maine, those of us who do not head south for a fun winter of endurance riding, are stuck dreaming about the upcoming season. During one of those day dreams I decided to shoot for my & Nickle’s 1st 1-day 100. At that time he had 465 miles – had completed two 1-day 50’s very well that previous summer along with a bunch of CTR. So, I devised my plan…
I begged & pleaded for crew. The first person I contacted was someone that I’ve ridden hundreds of miles with and she knows me very well. She also knows that I’m not good at taking care of myself during competition. I get distracted taking care of my horse instead, which usually ends up in me feeling woozy by the end of the day. My Mother volunteered to help take care of Nickle as well as a couple other friends. Luckily for me, they were all green to crewing a 100 mile and didn’t know what they were signing on for. HA!!
As preparation we’d head for a 25 mile CTR on April 30, 1-day 50 Endurance on May 15, and a 3-day 80 on May 28. If he sailed through those rides it would give him 4 weeks to coast until the 100.
Things went better than planned.
At the 25 mile – he came through with a perfect score of 100. At the endurance, he accomplished his best time yet for a 50 – around 6:20 hours (the results are not posted yet) in the Mountains of Vermont. Just a few minutes off top 10. At the 80 mile, he missed Grand Champion by ¼ point with a score of 99.
Nickle has a history of not eating well at rides. A year ago I started him on Neigh-Lox. He internalizes his stress from travel and competition with the result being not eating well and poor gut sounds. The Neigh-Lox in his feed during the competition season has helped tremendously. The other surprising thing that happened at the 80 mile was that he started eating everything I put in front of him. Between the heavy competition schedule that month and the Neigh-Lox he was eating “like a horse”. He finally figured it out!
He was ready.
But, was I? I am not what you’d classify as, um, “physically fit”. Could stand to lose 30 lbs and gain some tone, but working 50 hours a week at a desk with the only exercise of mucking stalls on weekends and chasing my 4yo daughter – that’s not gonna happen any time soon.
In the 3 weeks before the 100 I wanted to get a bit of night riding in and some conditioning rides to keep him ready, but not tired. I can only ride on the weekends, so that gave me 6 riding days in those 3 weeks. We took two night trips, one for less than 5 miles and the other 14 miles. We did 3 rides of 8 miles or less on the other days and one 15 mile. Totaling 6 rides of under 40 miles total.
I found myself in the 3 weeks leading up to the 100 to be neurotically attentive to Nickle. I do believe he knew something was up. Twice daily checks of his body for any hint of trouble resulted in a suspicious boy.
I went into this ride with two major advantages 1) only a 50 minute drive, where some of the other competitors had a 12+hour drive and 2) I know those trails like the back of my hand – I’ve been riding up there for 20 years. I do have to admit that for the first time in years, I had butterflies about a competition. It was weird to experience that feeling again after so long.
We drove up Friday morning, got there by 9 so we could get a decent parking spot. Glad we did as all the competitors from “away” were already there and good spots were becoming short. It rained. Then it rained some more. Oh, did I mention that it rained?? We worked on getting the truck packed between rain showers and drove out to set up the hold location for the 1st & 2nd holds so they didn’t have too much to do first thing in the morning. The other 4 holds were all back at camp. That makes life much easier. I kept him bundled up with a fleece and rain coat so he was warm with a selection of food for him to munch on. He vetted in with all A’s.
I slept pretty good Friday night – woke up around 11:30 to hear a thunder storm rolling through. Got up at 3 to feed, got last minute things organized and tacked up at 4 for a 5:00 open trail.
1) 17.5 miles – 40 min hold (this loop ended up being a bit short due to a last minute trail change)
2) 11.9 miles – 40 min hold
3) 13.7 miles – 40 min hold
4) 22 miles – 30 min hold
5) 11.8 miles – 20 min hold
6) 11 miles – 20 min hold
7) 11 miles
Pulse parameter all day was 64. 11 horses were entered in the 100.
My plan for this ride was to ride a bit faster than CTR pace, walk all the crappy places and walk all the big uphills. I wanted to make sure I stopped often enough so he could grab bites of grass frequently along the way to keep his guts happy and hydrated. I looked at the ride results from previous years and the average wining time is 12:18 and the average 10th place is 16:01. My goal was to finish with a ride time of 14 hours.
This year I decided to try less electrolytes – I mixed up 8 syringes - each had 1/3 dose Perform N Win and ½ dose Perfect Balance mixed with Pro-CMC. I also carried a syringe of Lyte Now on my saddle in case I felt he needed a little something extra while on trail. He got one dose Friday night, one Saturday morning and one at each hold. I gave him 3 doses of Lyte now based on his pulse reading higher than normal at certain times while on trail. So he did the whole 100 miles on 2.5 doses of Perform N Win, 4 doses of Perfect Balance and 3 doses of Lyte Now.
The weather was absolutely perfect. Light rain/drizzle & low 60’s – cool enough for the horses, but not cold.
The first major difference I noticed was the start. Everybody just walked up the road. Very nice change from the mad dash on 50’s I’m used to. Right from the first couple miles I hooked up with Patti Steadman riding her husband’s horse Sarge on his first 100. The two horses were perfectly matched as to pace and seemed to like each other. Of course riding with Patti is great fun. She talks just enough to keep your brain working but doesn’t talk your ear off like some people can. And yes, she is as funny in person as she is on paper!
Loop 1 went well – average pace was 7.6mph, we walked immediately to the PR folks as he was down when we walked into the hold. All A’s with a 52/60 CRI. Horses had started coming in to the hold when his CRI was done & he started to nicker at them, Nick Kohut, our head vet, said he had no worries because he knew if it weren’t for the horses coming in his CRI would have been better. I had all sorts of food for him to eat, but all he wanted was grass.
Loop 2 was great although we did hear some rumblings of thunder in the distance. Patti took all the blame since she took her rain coat off at the hold. We held an average of 7.1mph and walked immediately to the PR folks when we came in to the hold. His CRI was 48/52 with all A’s except a B for hydration. He hadn’t started drinking yet, we were still stopping for grass frequently.
Loop 3 we headed back to camp with an average pace of 8.1 mph. It was starting to get warmer so I pulled his tack before we went in for our PR. His CRI was 64/72 with all A’s except for a B on gait. He had to come for a recheck – they though they saw something on his RF. Boy, I can’t begin to describe how stressful it is knowing you have to go for a recheck. I know I could have done a better job cooling him out before we went in for his PR – I think that’s why is CRI wasn’t great.
Loop 4 the longest of the day at 22 miles – we averaged 7.5 mph. Very sad to report – about half way through this loop Patti’s horse grabbed a front shoe with his hind foot & tore it off half way. The nails that were still in were too tight to try to pry it off. I was desperate to try to get it off so we could put an easy boot on, but Patti insisted we leave her. By this time Sarah Jack, who I’ve known since she was born, had caught up with us (she makes me feel old). She was riding her horse’s second attempt at a 100. I was very glad to have company as Nickle gets pouty when he’s alone and especially so when he lost Sarge. Even with company I had to keep after him to go forward. He was waiting for Sarge to catch up. We pulled Nickle’s tack coming into the hold – his CRI was 60/60 and all A’s.
Loop 5. Nickle definitely figured out something was going very wrong. The furthest he’d ever been was 50 miles in a day. We’d been back to camp, pulled his tack. He got to hang out at the trailer. He was very confused about going out again & didn’t like it. At all. He was VERY pouty and I had to get after him about moving out. His pulse was great but attitude was not. About ½ way through this loop he perked up and we did some cantering and he was moving freely – definitely a happier boy. I wasn’t really worried about his pouty attitude. Most everything I’d read people said horses get a lull around 65 miles. He hit it perfectly. We averaged 6.5mph – there was a lot of steep downhill, muddy yucky crap on this loop. He came in to the hold – I didn’t pull his tack because I didn’t want him to think he was done. His CRI was 60/60, all A’s except for B’s in hydration, gait & muscle tone.
Loop 6 a short 11 miles. However, most of it was either uphill or downhill. At this point we’d been 77 miles and I didn’t want to waste his energy on trotting up the big climbs, so we walked the uphills and trotted the flat & downhills. We averaged 6.7mph (there was a LOT of uphill to walk). Again at the hold I didn’t pull his tack his CRI was 64/64, all A’s except for a B on gut and a C on gait. Another recheck. 88 miles completed and we had a recheck. OMG!! I was so worried about him at this point that I totally forgot to take care of myself. I didn’t eat a thing and barely drank anything. That was not good. After a committee discussion the vets decided we could go out. They felt his shoulder muscles were sore, nothing too serious, but I know all that uphill and downhill on this last loop wasn’t going to help. I was stressed and a bit panicked to say the least.
Loop 7 same as loop 6. We left at 8:31 – due to the cloud cover it was getting dark quickly. I had 3 glow sticks on his breastplate and a headlamp with a red light in case I needed to see anything in particular. We started out and he was fried. I mean really fried. I’d ask him to trot, he pick it up for a 100 feet & quit. He still felt really solid under me, but mentally he was done. He was doing his slow walk of death. His pulse was still good, so I knew he was OK physically. Sarah tried to get her horse to lead, but he stopped dead in his tracks, laid his ears flat back & threw his head. No luck there. I was seriously contemplating turning around and calling it a day. Seriously. Then after a couple miles of jog/walk we could hear a group of 4 riders coming up behind us – they’d been 5 – 10 minutes behind us all day. I told Sarah that we better stick to them like glue otherwise we’d be out here until midnight. She agreed. I was so glad we did decide to stick with them. Their horses were experienced 100 milers and were still willing to trot along where we could. It was so dark that we couldn’t see the horse in front of us. Only one of the 4 from the other group had any glow sticks on so Sarah & I worried that we’d run into someone and had to depend on our horses to slow down when the horse in front of them did. We just couldn’t see them. Pretty scary actually. We stopped a few times for grass, but since it was so dark we couldn’t see where the grass was. We ended up depending on the horses to stop to get grass, apparently they could smell it, because we sure couldn’t see it. Nickle by this time was famished. He was trying to drag me off into ditches to grab at weeds. I felt really bad since I just didn’t dare let him crawl into a ditch off the side of a dirt road. I was afraid we’d sink out of sight. I just couldn’t risk him hurting himself at this point. In retrospect I should have had my Mom give him something to eat at the pit crew spot, but I just wasn’t thinking clearly. I forgot to ask for a drink or something to eat for myself too. Not a good move. When we were walking I could feel he felt off on his RF, but when we trotted he felt even. I knew his shoulders must be sore, but did still feel solid under me. We averaged 4.9 mph on this loop. By the time we got in at 10:47 I was fried, could barely think clearly. We pulled his tack and started dumping buckets of water on him. I grabbed a handheld & believe it or not his pulse was in the high 50’s. I literally held my breath while Nick did the completion exam. He can be very cagy when he wants to be. He was standing there busily writing on my rider card, not looking at me. I was fearing the worst, no one else was saying anything either, the silence was deafening. He looked up at me with a serious face, then, slowly, a smile spread across his face and he said, “Congratulations.” I immediately grabbed him and hugged him, said, thank God and everyone cheered. Sarah got her completion too, as did the other 4 in our little band of 100 milers.
His CRI was a 56/56 and finished with half A’s and half B’s, overall impression of B+.