August 21 2011
My daughter and I attended the Shore to Shore Pioneer ride last week put on once again by Wayne Gastfield and Drs Rae and Brett and timer extraordinaire Bruce Birr (no numbers here, Bruce does it all by name and acts as PR, in-timer, out-timer, and direction giver)....
The miserable hot weather of the last month or so finally broke the weekend before the ride. My dad was in the area about 10 days before the ride and called me to suggest perhaps we should reconsider due to the extreme heat and humidity but we were committed and figured we could always slow down and take our time.
Unfortunately, my daughter's mare hurt herself in her stall the week before the ride, so we had to bring the emergency back-up horse, my son's fat gelding, Qui instead. Originally, the plan was for me to ride the 250 on my gelding, Quest and sponsor my daughter as she rode the LD 125 on Qui. When we arrived at camp, however, Morgan was really disappointed that she couldn't ride the 50's, so I wandered around camp wrangling sponsors and back-up sponsors for the week with contingencies for sponsors who may not finish the 250. Fortunately, Morgan has ridden the 125 there twice and the whole 250 last year, so she is familiar with trail and method of marking, which may be a bit - shall we say "subtle" for those not used to it and she is a very experienced competitor (she finished OD 100 this past June). I was a little nervous as Morgan had never ridden my horse before and he can be a handful, but for some reason he is a different horse at s2s - he unloads at the first camp, looks around and says "Not this again!" and starts to eat, knowing that he won't be done for 5 days. He is overall relaxed at this ride and paces himself, knowing exactly how far he will have to go before he gets in the trailer again, this being his 3rd year in a row..... And she is a very strong rider, as her mare is not a walk in the park to ride, but I still held my breath the first day.
Five riders signed up for the whole 250 (Lois McAfee also showed up to ride all 5 days on one horse, but did not sign up for the pioneer) - Morgan, Bill Wilson, Earl Baxter, Denise Tudor-Hayes (a fellow Ohio Arabian and All-breed Trail Society (OAATS) member) and Rodne LeCouteur, a local Michigan endurance rider. Denise and Rodne were completely new to Shore to Shore but decided to attempt the entire ride.
Four signed up for the LD, myself, two OAATS riders, Leah Palastrant and her junior rider Paige Underwood, and another rider whose name I do not recall (sorry!).
My mom and son very graciously offered to pit crew for us. My mom never drives my rig except at shore to shore and of course my check engine light was on (don't get me started!), so US Rider was on speed-dial. Denise's 18 year old daughter, Rebecca, crewed for her mom and had never driven the gooseneck before. Leah and Paige had Paige's mom, Carla, to crew, again a very novice driver and Rodne's wife, Barbara, drove his huge rig. Other OAATS friends, Mary Mast and Mary Chmielski, showed up to take turns riding and crewing for the week. Everyday, a big caravan drove out of camp with my mom leading her little line of ducklings from check to check. Mama isn't the most experienced driver, but this was her third s2s and she is fairly competent with map, gps and driving directions.
I rode the LD's with Morgan and her sponsor(s) for the day. My fat little black horse is very herd bound and the first few days became very distraught if a horse was between him and Quest, but by the end of the week, had improved greatly, though still screaming if left behind in camp. He also improved a little bit if Quest moved more than 15 feet away from him at the vet check, but definitely something we need to work on, though it is hard with a horse usually ridden by a junior - he is just never alone at a ride! This arrangement actually worked out rather well with my mom as I was able to help her make crew stops along the road in the afternoon (there are no official checks after the halfway at s2s, which can make for a very long afternoon for horse and rider) and set up once we arrived at the next campsite. After the first day or so, we would pass our ducklings off to Leah, who would lead them to the final camp of the day and take my horse with them so he wouldn't have to stand in the trailer all afternoon while we zoomed ahead to offer food and water to any and all who passed by our road stop.
Monday was a bit wet but cool and went by without a hitch. The only major incident of the week was on Tuesday when Earle Baxter's horse fell and caught him with a hoof across the forehead, laying it open. I was sitting along the road with my water buckets and mash, waiting for riders when Earle, Tracy Blue and Amy Yatsko popped out of the woods. I asked if they needed anything and they asked for bandages! He had a bandana on but blood all down his face and neck. I cleaned it the best I could and applied band aid butterflies but told him he needed stitches because I was looking at bone. At the end of the day, he ended up with 13 stitches in his forehead....
Bill, Earle, and Denise all ended up on their back-up horses on Wednesday, so only Morgan and Rodne (and, unofficially, Lois) were left in the 250. Rodne's horse had a pretty severe girth gall in his armpits where his saddle slid up a little, but seemed to be going along well. Quest looked awesome, though he also suffered from a small girth gall which I treated by loosening his girth to hang a few inches under his belly, tightening the crupper a notch and telling Morgan to ride balanced....
Friday, Rodne very graciously offered to sponsor Morgan since he was the only one who could go to Lake Michigan with her (only entered horses could go on to Empire). Otherwise, I would have had to walk the last 6 miles with her on foot.... His horse was a bit lame at the half, the girth galls flaring up. We coated him in Desitin and put my treeless saddle and mohair girth on him, since I was finished with my LD. With breastplate and crupper (which his horse, Son had never worn before, but on the 5th day, he didn't really care!) and girth hanging loose, off they went.
Morgan and Rodne went all the way to the lake, got their ice cream (of course!) and then loaded up into my trailer to head back to camp.
Lois beat Morgan and Rodne by quite a bit, as she, Earle and Bill battled for first all week, but since she was not signed up for the 250, Morgan ended up with 1st and BC for the week. I don't know the individual day results, sorry.... My fat black horse finished 1st for the LD, Leah and Paige also completed the LD with Paige's mount, Apollo getting the LD BC. The fourth rider did not finish the week on the same horse.
Overall, we had a great time, Morgan and Quest got along better than expected with only a couple of minor "Quest moments", Morgan kept her sponsors on the trail with her eagle eye marker-sighting skills, my little black back-up horse did great on his first major test since his colic surgery 18 months prior, the truck limped through the entire week without completely stranding us, the weather could not have been better, other than Earle's skull laceration there were no major catastrophe's, no one got seriously lost, and only a few fenders were smashed on trees in the tight spaces of the camps....
Shore to Shore is a great ride to go to.... Lots of camaraderie, everyone willing to give a hand and leave water on the side of the road to share (especially Linda Hamlin's husband - thank goodness for little herds of pastry buckets!). I highly encourage one and all to come and join us next year.
Thanks again to all who put out buckets to share, to Morgan's sponsors - Denise, Rodne, and Mary Mast (we love you, Mary!), and ride management....