Monday, October 31, 2011

Spook Run 100 - 3 Morgans and Me - Shannon Loomis

October 31 2011

To all who did not attend the Spook Run ride in SE Indiana this weekend, you missed a beautiful ride.  Trails were in great condition and well-marked, plenty of water in the creek crossings, late fall color, and cool enough for the Morgan horses!  Lois McAfee managed the 50/25 on Friday and Amy Whelan took over the controls for the 100/50/25 on Saturday.  My daughter, Morgan, and I showed up Friday afternoon with our Morgan horses, Angel (aka "The Devil's Handmaiden") and Quest, to tackle the 100 mile trail on Saturday.  Mary Chmielski and Helen Cantrell rode the LD on Friday and volunteered to crew for Morgan and I on Saturday.  All the holds were in camp, but life is so much easier when help is available.  They were awesome.  We were met at the entrance to camp by a "blanket brigade" all day as Mary and Helen seemed to sense our arrival each time and were prepared with coolers for the ponies.

The weather was crisp, definitely requiring gloves and hats Friday afternoon.  Friday's ride had about 20 50's and 13 or so LDs.  Saturday was 13 100s (!), 23 (or so) 50's and 13 LDs.  The vets were Mike Habel and Maureen Fehrs.   Saturday morning was quite cold with a hard frost and a layer of ice on the water buckets.  Our trailer lacks a furnace so it was very difficult to get out of our nice warm bed to tack up the horses for a 7 AM start.

It was quite dark at 7, so Lois and Connie Caudill led the 100s on a controlled start for a few miles until it was light enough to see the ribbons.  The Morgans and I cruised along as the sun peeked over the yellow and orange hills of So Indiana.  The first loop was 25 miles and by the time we returned to camp it was warm enough to start shedding coats and gloves but standing in camp was a bit breezy, so the horses were kept covered all day.  Connie pulled after the first loop, feeling her horse was not quite right to go another 75 miles and Lois continued on alone.

The next two loops were a 19 mile trail repeated twice which also covered most of the final 10 mile loop, which meant we were able to see in daylight what we would be riding after dark.  The Morgans were pulsing down nicely, though since we were afraid to throw much water on them in the cold and kept the rears well covered, it did take a few minutes each hold, as we were moving along pretty well.  In the third loop we joined up with Amy Yatsko and Earl Baxter and rode with them for the next 3 loops.  Angel and Morgan took a bit of a header towards the end of the 3rd loop as they jumped a little ravine and Angel lost her footing on the other side (leaves hid a lot of little roots and erosion ruts) and planted her face in the trail.  Morgan "dismounted" over Angel's head - she claims she did it on purpose, somehow missing Angel's devil horns as she went over - and both popped up relatively unscathed.  Angel had a bit of a bloody nose but it stopped quickly and she seemed unfazed.

The 4th loop was a 15 mile out and back which repeated a lot of the first loop, which is fortunate, because most of the 100s rode it in the dark.  It was a nice ridgeline trail, so easy to make time on.  We watched the sun go down on the opposite side of the mountain on the same trail we watched it come up on.  Amy, Earl, Morgan and I managed to get all but the last 4 or 5 miles of this loop under our belts before darkness fell around 6:45.  Coats, gloves and hats were quickly replaced as the sun went down but it was not nearly as cold as the previous night.

The last two loops were the traditional "pink loop" known to those who have done rides at Bill Wilson's farm before.  We set out in the black - the tiny little crescent moon set about an hour after the sun did but it was so low to the horizon, it didn't offer any help at all - head lamps on and booked around the loop; we had already seen it twice, so the horses were comfortable on it though the second half of it seemed to go on forever, winding through the woods.

After a short 20 minute hold, Amy and Earl went ahead and the Morgans and I set our own pace in the dark.  Quest was a little hesitant at first - he had some eye trouble last year and I don't think his night vision is great, plus he had spent the last loop following Amy's horse, Captain.  We put Angel in front for a while, but after a few miles, Quest decided he was up for the challenge.  Boy, did he move!  Once he figured out where we were, and I figured out how to hold my light for him, we Zoomed!  This loop seemed to fly by since we knew the finish line was so close!  We finished both pink loops in 1 1/2 hrs each in the dark....

Lois and Hoosier finished first (BC and 1st FW) about 90 minutes ahead of us, her ride time must have been about 12 hr and 15 min (I am estimating) - she was finishing as we were leaving on our last loop - not feeling well, but still with a smile on her face.  Earl and Champ (1st HW) and Amy on Captain (2nd FW) finished just a few minutes ahead of us (1st Jr and 1st LW) and then the next riders were more than 40 minutes behind us, so a big gap in the 100s.  We finished with a ride time of 13:44 and a total time of 17:04 crossing the finish at 4 minutes after midnight.  The last riders finished sometime after 3 AM.  BRRR!  Vets Mike and Maureen had a bonfire and Bill's heated garage to wait in, but still a long cold night.....

Our Morgans ate like pigs all day, going through a banana box of deer apples and my buffet of feed.  I don't think they stopped eating at any of the holds - hay, grain, grass - it all disappeared.  Quite a change for my ulcer boy, I think I finally have him under control and haven't used any Gastrogard all summer.  Quest tried to cramp a little in the cold during the last hold but I gave him some extra calcium and an extra cooler and he warmed up very quickly as we loped down the lane to the last loop.

Sorry I don't know the final results for everyone - awards were handed out as riders finished - and Morgan and I went to bed.  I do know that except for Connie, all 100s finished (92%)!

Thanks for having a 100 for us, Lois, Amy and all her volunteers and crew (especially the popsicles formally known as Mike and Maureen)!  And thanks to Teddy Lancaster who donated all the junior awards this weekend.  And finally, mucho thanks to our great crew, Mary and Helen!

Shannon Loomis
Pleasant Creek, WV

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bar H Bonanza NATRC - Kandace French

October 23 2011

We just got back from the inaugural Bar H Bonanza NATRC Ride put on by Katy Taylor and Gail Shepherd. If you weren’t there, you missed a fabulous time at the Bar H Bonanza Region 2 NATRC ride in Corona, California.

Wow! What a GREAT first ride! A fabulous group of talented horse and rider teams from California Region 1, Region 2 and Arizona converged for a fabulous opportunity to ride the beautiful countryside of Gavilan Hills, California. The management did an amazing job and thought of so many of those special, small details that made the ride a winner. Top notch judges, Dr. Michael Peralez and Jim Ferris made it fun and challenging. Both the judges and their teams zipped all over the countryside in record time and got tons of opportunities to judge all the competitors a numerous opportunities.

The ride was staged at the Bar H Ranch owned by Chris Herron of Gavilan Hills, California. He raises Arabian horses and Texas Longhorns cattle. Wow! Seeing these Long Horns up close and personal was a treat, and sometimes intimidating. Beautiful animals. Another treat was learning that after watching Katy and her team scout and mark trails over the prior weeks and learning about the philosophy of NATRC, AERC competitor/Ranch owner Chris Herron decided to enter his stallion, a Gulastras Splash son, in the NATRC novice ride himself and did very well, placing in both horse and horsemanship.

Our rider’s packets were filled with fun and thoughtful treats. The catered meal was wonderful and the riding area was beautiful. The trails were varied. The volunteers worked tirelessly and the talent pool of the P&R teams was of the highest caliber. I can’t believe this was the first time this management team put on a ride. They did a great job and didn’t miss a thing. Even the awards were beautiful; hand made and decorated horse shoes. Words can’t do them justice. An extra special pleasure for me was the opportunity to finally meet Shelley Housh and her Sterling Shagya Sport horses in person. Spectacular!

I can’t wait to go again next year. This is definitely a ride that will be on my calendar every year. Fun, fun, fun. Thanks for a great ride. Congratulations to everyone who attended, special congratulations to those who placed among touch competition and thanks to Katy and her team for adding yet another ride to the calendar.

Yankee and I competed in Easy Boot Gloves as well. I am so thrilled NATRC allows boots with gaters now :) All my horses are barefoot and I compete in Gloves or Glue Ons.

Kandace French

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Raptor Run - Susan Franklin

October 18 2011

I have to write about Raptor Run this weekend just because I want to gush some more about how great the ride was.  Soooo great!  Alabama the Beautiful baby! 
If you don't know us, Mike rides Ender & I ride Bird.  I've been wanting to try a 100, but not on Bird.  Mike wants to try Ender in a 100, but doesn't want to ride it.  We're so smart we figured out that I could ride Ender in the 100, problem solved.  So this weekend we were testing a ride start strategy that I'm calling Operation Keep Susan Alive because my big fear of riding Ender is that he has a lot of eagerness for the sport & can get, um, revved up at the start.  Mike uses Bird's rear end to control Ender in these situations.  He sticks Ender's nose into Bird's hind end & doesn't let him see daylight until things have calmed down a bit.  Well, I won't have a Bird, & I don't want to die, so I decided that we needed to find a strategy to get me through that first loop by myself.  (yes, 100-milers have all told me that 100-mile starts aren't as energetic, but still... this is about me being scared.)
So, to Raptor Run we go, with our strategy.  We spent the warm-up way back on a grass hill by the pond waiting for everyone to leave.  Lucky for us, it was a controlled start, so our horses didn't hear thundering hooves leaving them, either.  Even though we were all alone, we still did a walking start down the paved road & past the steep gravel downhill.  Worked like a charm.  Ender was a perfect gentleman, calmer than Bird even.  We were planning to slowly pick horses off on our way to our favorite spots. (Bird's is mid-pack, Ender's... well Ender wants to keep picking off horses to infinity.  He's always looking for the next one & if he thinks he's run out of them, he pouts.)
The first loop was slow, but awesome.  (Our start strategy worked, but it might not be the best idea on a ride with lots of riders & lots of single track.  We found ourselves at the back of a long, slow line we couldn't get around. waah)  But such nice forest, nice trail.  I loved it!  My horse loved it!  We learned later that Jody (ride manager) thought it was the "bad loop."  Well, I swear we must have inhaled some sort of pre-historic raptor pixie dust back in those woods that confused our thinking, because we couldn't find any fault in it & I came out loving me some Alabama, even though we made a stupid rookie mistake & added 4 miles to the loop backtracking.  I came out saying, "Oh it was just so nice out there, 16, 20, who cares?"  (later, when the GPS said 50 miles & I should have been finished, I was a little less pleased. haha) 
The second loop was fun, too.  We saw a lot of day riders.  They were all so nice & some of them we saw over & over & over.  I don't know how that was happening exactly, but it was pretty comical.  Mike would jokingly say, "There's only one or two ahead of us, right?" & they'd answer, "Oh, no, there's a ton ahead of you!  You'd better kick 'em if you wanna catch 'em." haha   One of them asked me about the trail, if I knew whether it was "about an hour" back to their camp.  I thought how funny that question was because that all depends on how fast you're going!  I told him I thought it was about 8 miles & I heard him say to his friends as we trotted away, "She doesn't know." hahaha  
Before we had left home, Mike & I had decided we were going to this race to test our strategy (Operation K.S.A.), then otherwise just ride our ride & depending on how things "shaked down" during the race, if we got close to Top Ten in the last loop, I would drop back & he would go for it.  Bird had a quiet gut after our last race, so I was giving probiotics a try & wanted to take it easy.  We were going to carry radios & I was going to call him & tell him if someone was coming up behind him. haha  Like Nascar.  Well, we forgot the radios, but when we left out on that last loop, we asked Lance (timer) where we were & he said 11th & 12th!  What?!  I had no idea we had moved up like that.  I was clueless.  I know we went straight in to p/r every check, but still....
Sure enough, as we got into that loop, faster riders (the Texans) came up from behind & we had to execute our "shuttle separation" so that Bird could drop back & Ender could go for the gold!  I was worried that I would have a problem with Bird when Ender left him, but it worked out ok.  I guess he was tired by then & didn't care.  We found a place to scoot over & didn't see Mike & Ender again.
At one point when we were alone, my heart rate monitor started beeping at me & it said Bird's heart had spiked to 220 bpm!  What?  I slowed down to a walk & worried about my horse for a long way.  It slowly came down, but was still high, then (too much later) I looked down & the contact pad had slipped around facing the air!  Dang it!  Why on earth would a HRM spike when it loses contact with the heart??  Why wouldn't it drop to zero?  What is up with that?!  Anyway, I don't suppose Bird minded the break.  I know better than to rely solely on HRM to know how my horse is doing, so that was sort of a dumb mistake.  I turned it off.
We ended up Ender squeaked into the 10th place spot & got to stand for BC.  He got high vet score!  Yaay!  (Mike noticed that he maxed out on the weight portion of the scoring - heehee - my 100-miler horse is being conditioned heavy weight.  He & I are gonna soar!!)  Bird & I got in about an hour later, 17th.  Mike had a run-in with his big (heavy >g<) western saddle, so he was hurting.  Somewhere on one of the steep parts, he leaned up over the horn & Ender did a hop to get up the step & drove that horn up under Mike's ribcage & it got stuck!  He had to lean up to "unhook" it.  Ouch!  He's heading to the doctor as I write this, so let's hope that turns out ok.... [[update: He'll live.  It's only a cracked rib.]] Oh yeah, & Mike is saddle shopping.  Endurance style.
For a first time managing, Jody Buttram sure did seem like she knew what she was doing.  She did a great job, prayed up some great weather, & surrounded herself with great help.  (I haven't competed in any other region, but I swear we must have the best & nicest group of people working endurance rides anywhere.  It's hard to even describe how good they all are, in every way.)  Everything was just great!  Jody had awards for everything you can imagine, this ridiculously tasty Flintstones-looking slab of meat on a bun for dinner, a perfectly Alabaman guitar player, & lots of dancing under a big tent under a big moon with coyotes singing background.  Love.
If you live anywhere even remotely close to north Alabama & didn't make it to the ride, I'm sad for you & hope that Jody does it again so you can do it next year.  The trail is technical.  Strangely, I didn't realize it at the time, even when I was taking all day to complete it.  I heard people talking about it being technical, but I thought they were exaggerating.  At the awards ceremony, I was stunned at the ride times.  (almost 7 hours for the 50-mile winner?)  I thought they were accidentally reading off the total times with holds included.  I still didn't believe it until I read my card the next morning & sure enough, I had been out there on trail almost 9 hours!  Really?  (Bird says, "Yes, really.")  There were several steep, deep-step, rock "staircases." I remember saying, "Uuugh" a lot going down them, but they were neat.  (Bird says "neat" is not the right word.)  Anyway, it's difficult without seeming difficult.  Or maybe I was just mesmerized by that forest & everything seemed fun to me.  Or maybe it was the raptor dust?  Either way, next year, y'all all need to come!!  Bring a tough horse, do a tough ride, and maybe it will cast a spell on you like it did me, & you'll have a good, relaxing, fun time, too!

Raptor Run - Angie McGhee

October 18 2011

This weekend was the first ever Raptor Run at the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama and it was GREAT!  Photos at:

Back when I got into endurance in 1987 Alabama had as many or more rides than most other states...a spring *and* fall 25/50/100 and it was a hotbed of competition. Unfortunately, the ride went away and Alabama has had no rides other than the Talladega ride which is very near the Georgia line. Slowly we lost Mississippi and Alabama and endurance barely seemed to exist there any more. In the last couple of years there's been a wonderful revival. Terry Price brought back the Mississippi rides with Blazing Saddles and Witch Dance and we suddenly started seeing some families like the Carraways, & Huffmans who used to be the 'big dogs" but hadn't been seen lately. Now with the return of the Bankhead Ride it's as if the clock is turning back and the whole area is waking back up! This is such a great part of the country with pleasant weather and great footing. It's like mixing a little Florida sand which is "too soft" with some TN/GA red clay which is "too hard" and getting "just right"!

The old Bankhead Ride was held at a camp called "Owl Creek" which used to accommodate a bunch of 2 horse stock trailers and tents just fine but would never handle even a dozen of today's bigger it was an absolute jackpot when Jody Buttram met her pal "Ronny" and discovered he had a huge beautiful bermuda hay field (the horses were in heaven) just a hundred yards or so from the entrance to the national forest...and that he was willing to let us use it!!  For those who have known Jody only as a rider for...pretty much may come as a surprise that she was such a natural ride manager, but for those of us who know the way she plans ahead and can tell you every ride she plans to do and on which horse for the next 24 months it was a no brainer.

As a rider my review of the ride would be: Great camp, well organized, all the right support people there to have total confidence it would be run perfectly. Lance and Samm Bartee and Nancy Gooch as timers, Danny Herlong and Carmen Blaylock taking pulses, and Otis Schmitt and Dee Dee Huff as vets. Doesn't get much more experienced than that. I even had my own personal farrier, Jason Bagley there as ride farrier! Add to that the local Ham Radio club out there to make you feel confident, and fun messages stapled on pie plates going down the trail to keep  you amused and it was a great day. The messages for those who didn't know were aimed at Jody's Co-worker "Frannie" who had decided to attempt her first LD on her huge blue roan foundation QH. Her friends at work made up the signs and had Jody post them on trees going down the trail. Franny finished with a whole five minutes to spare! The weather was pretty much what I plan to order up when I make it to heaven. Beautiful fall temps with brilliant blue skies and colorful leaves.  Jody was sporting a "new improved" svelte figure after marking the entire trail on foot. After just riding it I was even more impressed with that fact.

Loop one  was what Jody considered the "bad loop" that she'd get over with then we'd get to ride her "good trails". Funny, everyone I talked to loved the first loop best. The level of difficulty (for those who know the SE rides) is much like Talladega, but the scenery is much more Big South Fork. Beautiful rock formations, spruce trees, going down into cool hollow sand crossing mountain streams, things you'd never suspect were waiting as you drive through the flat cotton fields on the way to the ride. My theory is that in Alabama if it's flat, you farm it, if it's not you ride it. I've never seen more day riders on the trail. They were very nice and so anxious to yield the trail even when you assured them they didn't have to. Alabama is just horse country!  There were so many rigs all over the roads on our drive out. Even passed one fellow calmly riding his horse down the side of a major divided highway with semi traffic going by as he talked on his cell phone.  The rocks Jody had warned us of weren't so much the little kind that bruise the sole as they were sandstone formations that you had to hop up on or step down off of. They weren't slick so it was actually kinda fun.  Josie and I rode the last half of the first loop with Keith Kibler and wife on a TWH and a Missouri Fox Trotter and Steve Huffman on his Spanish Mustang. Jody went way out of her way to present LOTS of breed awards, contacting the parent organization of pretty much every breed that she knew was coming. Steve is one of the old timers we've gotten back out on the trail and it's amusing to watch the reaction of those who don't know who he is. These days when a guy shows up in jeans, western shirt, cowboy boots and hat, on an old time western saddle riding on a non-Arab we don't expect them to smoke our horses on the trail and look good doing it! We especially don't expect them to hop off their horse and  jog the last 1/2 mile uphill into the vet check in their cowboy boots but he did that too!

It turned into a warm day but with all the trademark  blue "Jody tubs" of water put out and topped off all day by Jody's husband Joel, and the nice cool streams it was no problem at all. The trail was tough, lots of ups and downs and turns that tend to work the rider more than usual but the footing was soo nice and the scenery too that it was well worth the effort.  The ride went off flawlessly and then the fun began...

The ride meal was "sandwiches"...which didn't sound so exciting until you opened your bag and realized your "sandwich:" was a double slab of grilled sirloin steak on a hamburger bun! EXCELLENT!!! That was provided by Jody's brother-in-law and I vote for that to become a tradition!!!  Jody's mother, Barbara Rogers (again one of our former competitors from AL) handed out fruit & snacks to riders as they worked during the vet a mom trying to make her kids take care of themselves. :-)

I'll let Jody post the results. I know some of it by memory though:

30 started
1st Karen Dely
2nd Steve Huffman on Southern Motion, Spanish Mustang, home bred, gaited, doing his first 50. BEST CONDITION!
3rd Angie McGhee on JA Hallys Eclipse (WOOP WOOP!)
4th McKinley Borden
5th Summer Borden
6th Ron Chapman (raced in...had his great grandson there as crew. How many kids have a great grandpa like that?)
7th Jason Stasiek
8th Josie McGhee on TM Cade
9th Cici Butler-Stasiek
10 Mike Miller on Ender (High Vet Score)

32 started
1st Eddie Edwards
BC Ike Nelson on Spiderman (8 straight BC's!)

Next came the great awards.  Lots of friends who were happy to have rides back in Alabama had donated great stuff....Alice Smith (another old timer from Mississippi) donated beautiful "first junior" halters with plaques. The Pow Wow ride donated a free entry for last junior in both distances. Terry Price of MS donated "Redneck Wine Glasses" for high vet score (a mason jar on a can screw the lid on so you don't spill it when you're drunk...order yours now!) I donated a copy of my book "The Lighter Side of Endurance" to a first time rider (Order TWO now!). Bags of Legends endurance feed ($20 or so value) for top 10 in the 50, Raptor Run buckets, tubs, leads with engraved tags for breed awards, a big coffee table book for first TWH from their parent club, beautiful engraved silver platters for BC in both distances and War Mare in the 50. LOTS OF LOOT! :-)

After the awards Jody had hired a fantastic performer, Joseph Baldwin  I enjoyed just leaning back in my chair under a blanket and listening to him. He could do popular songs as well as the original performers but I especially enjoyed his very well written originals of his own. Then he turned up the dance tunes and got the less inhibited to entertain us with some fun dancing. That ended a great ride day and early morning Cowboy Church with Ike Nelson ended a great weekend. Can't wait for next year. :-))

Linda Toops was the ride photographer and should have her photos up soon at  Jody allowed me to post my personal photos directly onto the Raptor Run page at  I kind of forgot while I was posting them that I was on her page so if I by any chance put a comment on like, "Jody did a wonderful job" it's going to look like she was bragging...but that was me. >g< Didn't have time to go all the way back through and figure out if I had done that or not. :-P

Thanks Jody and all those who made it possible!
Angie McGhee

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2011 Tevis: Did It! - Jenni Smith - Jenni Smith - Full Story

October 10, 2011

The motto of the Western States Trail Ride (aka Tevis) is “To finish is to win.” It is truly apt. Even this year, with a significantly different route that took out a majority (in my opinion) of the more challenging trail, the completion rate only climbed to 60%. When the ride follows its typical course, that rate typically hovers around 50%. Which ever way you slice it, this is a tough stinkin’ ride.

That said – we finished! And it definitely feels like a win – for us, for our horses, for all the careful preparation, time and monies spent. Whoo hoo!

Jenn and I got to McCann Stadium (in the Auburn fairgrounds), did our victory lap around the arena, and passed under the official finish line just after 10 PM Saturday evening. Definitely the earliest time I will ever finish the ride, by a margin of at least two hours. Bear and I finished in 16th and Jenn and Stella were 18th (another rider named Pam Bailie on a cute paint mare named Macy did the last four mile stretch with us and finished 17th).

The amazing thing is that the winner – Jeremy Reynolds – finished three hours ahead of us. He did the entire course in 10 1/2 hours. Amazing. We came into the first vet check just behind him and were maybe 10 minutes behind him by the mid-point of the ride. It’s a testimony to an amazing horse and a fit rider (he runs quite a bit with his horses) that he could pick up the pace so much in the second half of a very tough ride.

Even though the course was largely different, I still thought of this as three rides sewn together – here are their stories;


The start was something to behold. They had all of the horses muster in one open field at 6 AM (start was at 6:30) and asked us to keep moving them around in a large circle – both for safety (fewer dust-ups) and to give them opportunity to warm up. Jenn and I malingered near the start line because we wanted to get out in the first part of the herd (again for safety – we knew our horses capable of a pretty fast pace and the fewer horses you have to pass the less chance for wrecks). Then a lead rider walked us some distance in a controlled start (much like a car race, my SO pointed out). As we wound down a hillside on an asphalt one-lane road, Jenn called out to look back and it was just a sea of horses winding up the hill in the early morning light. So wished I had a camera with me.

When the lead horse stepped aside, the pace exploded. Jenn had been concerned about Stella in this setting – she’s young yet, a little inexperienced, and has a tendency to lash out with her heels at other horses. But she was good – only aimed two retaliations at horses that crowded her from behind and didn’t cause any damage (it does help that she isn’t wearing steel shoes). There was some jostling and Jenn and I had to make an effort to stay together in the low light as we sped down a dirt fire road, headed toward the Tevis trail to Foresthill. But things shook out pretty quickly and we landed in a good space...

Read more here:

The Tevis 2011* It’s always an adventure! - Nick Warhol - Full Story

October 13 2011

(* The Tevis with an asterisk)

This ride just seemed like it did not want to want to be held. It was supposed to happen in the summer, but there was too much snow in the Sierra to allow it. Something like 10 feet was still standing in and around Robinson Flat in August, and Squaw Valley had a reported 700 inches this winter, which is something like 60 feet of snow? That’s a bigger snowpack than a lot of ski lift towers are high! It sure would not work for the horses. Rather than cancel, those dedicated WSTF people made the call to move the ride to October 8th- a very daring move to say the least. There were concerns about the fewer daylight hours, the campgrounds, the cold, and perhaps would it rain? Yeah, that turned out to be the biggie. Not only did it rain all over northern California, but it snowed, again, in the Mountains. Not your nice, light, fluffy dusting of powder. No sir- this was a storm that dumped between 2 and 3 feet at the upper elevations. In October? It’s the Donner party all over again. At least that’s what I thought when on Thursday afternoon I nervously looked up at the ski runs at Squaw Valley that were covered in snow, just begging for skiers, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lucky for me I was really sick the weekend before the ride. So sick that I would not have been able to go if it had been a week later. Sometimes my luck works out in the right direction! I felt a little funky on Wednesday, but not enough to keep me away from the ride. (I just wired up a box of Kleenex and a bottle of DayQuil on the front of my saddle.) Donnie and I are having our best ever year and he’s in splendid shape. My wife Judy once again “volunteered” to crew for me and my Donnie on my ninth start, Donnie’s fourth. He’s three for three here- twice under me and once under Judy. The deal is if Judy crews for me at Tevis I get to crew for her at 5 other rides during the year (if I don’t ride) It’s a fair deal, since crewing at Tevis is more work than riding it. Our best buddy Becky Glaser also joined in to provide the much needed second vehicle, as well as giving Judy a hand. It’s SO nice to have a crew, especially these people with such experience. They just know what to do.

We tried to pack up and leave for the ride Thursday morning as we usually do, but we found ourselves watching a movie in the house while the rain poured outside our home in Hayward. I wasn’t packing up in this. I kept looking at the road conditions- highway 80 was still open without chains amazingly enough. (I ordered some for the trailer a couple of days before we left, just in case. You know- If you have ‘em you won’t need ‘em.) At about 10:30am it let up and blue sky appeared. We tossed our stuff in the rig, loaded up the boy and set forth in the mighty Pony Tug wondering what we were in for. The trip up was completely uneventful until we started climbing the Sierra. It was blue sky and clear all the way, with roads open, but the snow on the ground in the mountains started about 3000 feet. It kept getting deeper and deeper, until at the Donner summit there was easily 2 plus feet on the ground. It looked like the dead of winter. There were small walls of plowed snow on the edges of the highway. All I could think was “there is NO WAY the ride is going to through this snow.” This is 7000 feet; the top of Squaw is above 9000. It sure was a nice day, though. We rolled down through Truckee and down highway 267 to the turn for the entrance to Robie Park. It wasn’t marked, but we turned in to the forest onto the narrow paved section. Uh oh- here comes a rig from the other direction. And another. A third. This can’t be good. We pause at the tow truck, and see a rig turning around in a spot that worked. The driver, Leigh Bacco, stopped and rolled her window down as she passed us coming out and told us it was a no-go. A rig had been stuck ahead of us, and the tow truck driver had apparently said it was a thousand dollar tow job, and that there was no way he was going back in there, so we were on our own. Leigh had made the right call! She said she was planning on driving over to Squaw Valley and hanging out there until we knew what to do. It took about a half hour to get to Squaw, but we were sure wondering out load what in the heck would happen with the ride. Start at Squaw? Um, no, not with all this snow. We pulled in and found a nice place in the parking lot to set up the rigs. We unloaded the boys and put blankets on; it was 4:30pm, but under 30 degrees and getting colder. Donnie and the other horses happily stood and ate while Judy and I, Leigh, and Matt Scribner all threw on ski parkas and sat around enjoying Bloody Marys and Gin and Tonics that Matt graciously made. They were great! We were waiting for the decision that would be announced at 5 pm. Smart phones are wonderful- sure enough we saw the announcement that Robie Park was out of the question and we should all head for Auburn. There would be a ride! Of some sort. The boys had been in the trailer for too many hours straight, so we walked over to the local Sushi restaurant and had a fantastic dinner and really enjoyed ourselves. Just like being on a Ski vacation! With my horse? It was that cold! After dinner we trundled the boys back in to the trailers and drove on back to Auburn. I was quite relieved, since I had already made up my mind I would not start if they intended to head up over Squaw Valley. We found a nice spot in the grass field by the finish, put up the horses and went to bed by 10:30 pm.

Friday morning brought all kinds of speculation. There would be a ride, but where? How? It seemed pretty unlikely that anything could be done. I chatted with Barbara White in the morning and she gave me the straight scoop- a hundred miles, out backwards on the trail to Foresthill, to Chicken Hawk, then an out and back loop, then back on to Auburn the way we came. A Tevis lollipop ride! The mind reels! What about the start? On the finish single track? Come on! Two way traffic on the California loop? You have to be kidding. What about the river in the morning? Would it be lowered in time? These WSTF crazies re-did the ride in 24 hours that it had taken them a year to plan. Who would be where, when, I can’t believe how much they must have gone through. The ride meeting was pretty funny. Poor Chuck Staley probably had not slept in 2 days, and Tony Benedetti tried to explain the start. What pens? All we had to do was walk along the railroad tracks, go to a field, muster there awhile, head through a gate under the underpass, through the skateboard park, down a paved road for 10 minutes, hit the field at the bottom, not enter the ditch on either side, only enter the lower pen in one spot, circle around, and they would release us at 6:30 am when we could at least see. Right. Everyone was really wondering how this would work. I tried to calculate a start time that would get us just to the start just as they left.

It turned out to be unbelievably good. I mean REALLY good. Like better and easier than any Tevis start I have been on...

Read more here:

Tevis - Heather Reynolds

Reynolds Racing Blog - Full Story

Monday, 10 October 2011
This year Tevis was a really different experience for everyone who attended. The week leading up to the ride there had been a storm that had left the sierras covered in snow. It would be extremely dangerous to attempt to cross through the Granite Chief wilderness area. On Thursday I called the Tevis office and was told that it would be fine but that I should wait to drive to Robie Park on Friday to let the snow melt a little. This looked really bad to me as I knew there had to be a lot more snow up in the high country if basecamp was hard to access.

Six weeks before Tevis I was contacted to help a couple of UAE riders through the race. I had been preparing horses like crazy for 100 mile races for both Tevis and the North American Championship that had been two weeks before Tevis and was working really hard. I also went and picked up two of Hillorie's horses to train them as well, Jordan and Sandy, so that we could use Sandy and have Jordan as a back up. I was now really worried that all of the hard work was going to now be faced with danger.

My friend Chris Long was driving in with Andy Bown from Utah. Andy was lending Chris a horse so she could help assist me in getting the riders through. Chris called me to let me know that she had heard there would be an update on the Tevis web page later in the day.

Upon looking it was later learned that we would start from the Auburn Fairgrounds (the finish line) and do the race in reverse all the way to Chicken Hawk, then do a new trail down Gorman Ranch Road to a number check and turn around from there and go back to Auburn, the way we had come. Essentially Tevis would be an out and back. What a relief from the hazards that were out in the high country covered in 3 plus feet of snow!!

Friday we drove up to Auburn, which shortens our drive by over an hour. We found a great parking spot and unloaded the 4 horses. We had with us Marvel for Jeremy, Tiran for Mohammad, Sandy for Sultan and Bey for myself.

After setting up it was only 9 am. We had left home at 5 am to get a good parking spot. We decided to walk to downtown Auburn for breakfast. We hit up Aweful Annies. It was a great breakfast but while we were there, there were an alarming amount of Bloody Marries being bought and consumed from surrounding tables. Not sure what was up with that, I counted at least 12 and we were sitting on the outdoor patio deck!

We looked around a couple of shops then headed back to the ride site. Around noon the whole gang showed up. Almost all of the crew as well as the riders. We visited for a bit and then went to get our rider packets and vetted in. After all of this we went for a pre ride. I wanted to get the two riders on their horses and make sure the tack would work out. The ride went well. On our way back when we were almost back a super, super long train went by and all of the horses had to wait it out. They did ok with it, a little anxious but ok.

The ride meeting was at 4 pm. It was shorter than normal which was great. It left time for dinner before bed without it getting too late. During the ride meeting we found out the vet check arrangements. The first vet would be a trot by at the lower quarry, then a full vet check at Francisco's, and hour hold at Foresthill, another trot by at Chicken Hawk, then loop back to Chicken Hawk for a full vet check, back to Foresthill for another hour hold, full vet checks at Francisco's and the Lower Quarry then the finish.

We all headed into town for dinner, I must say having Tevis this way was SOOO civilized, restaurants, real bathrooms with showers and no red dirt!

Saturday morning we even got to sleep in compared to normal, the ride didn't start until 6:30. Wonderful! The two riders showed up around 5:30 and Hillorie even brought us Starbucks! We saddled up and got on at 6. Jeremy a little sooner, as he would be riding faster and wanted to get down to the start.

My group had a relaxing walk to the start. I was wearing a red glowing armband so that my riders could spot me easily in the little darkness in the morning. It worked well. We all kept together easily. It is about a 15 min ride down to the start so we got there a little over 10 mins before the start.

The ride began and we were off...

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

North American Endurance Team Challenge - Heather Reynolds

Reynolds Racing

Sunday, 02 October 2011
This is a little over due! Jeremy and I are still going full steam preparing five horses for Tevis.

On Tuesday before the NAETC we headed up to the ride. It was super hot out so we left at 6 pm. Skip was hauling our trailer up as we had had a license issue with our hauling vehicle and Jeremy was still in the process of getting his class "A" non commercial license. We pulled into camp about 12:30 am.

Wed we got up and Jeremy took Dee and Kutt for a nice long walk. Then we made coffee with the amazing machine Jeremy had gotten me for my birthday. The rest of the Pac South team trickled in throughout the day. Becky called and was having some rig issues and would be coming much later in the evening than planned.

We went out for a ride and both horses felt great. After hanging out and saying hi to friends we went to town for a few items and for dinner. Greenville is a small town. It is a very welcoming town and the locals all seem like friends. We had dinner in the local cafe/diner. It had a very hometown feel to it.

Thursday everyone had arrived that would be riding for our zone. My main crew Nicole Chappel arrived. We started to get all of the crew stuff out and buckets organized. The Pac South riders were: Alex North, Nicole Smith, Becky Hart, Jeremy Reynolds and myself. You should have seen the piles of buckets, ice chests and crew stuff that we had out!

A group of crew also went to scope out the crew points. Skip was keeping everybody informed as he was our chef and he was attending daily, morning meetings with the officials, who would go over logistics and details.

All of the teams had their passports inspected with the horses present. After the inspection we rode Dee and Kutt again and they got to see the change that had been made to the finish line loop.

I clipped both horses after the ride. It was still very hot and they both had decent coats growing.

Our team vet, Jay Mauro looked all of our horses over thoroughly and watched them trot in straight lines and circles to evaluate their soundness.

Becky went out for a ride on Pete and wasn't happy with him, she was feeling something funky in the front end. She asked Jeremy if he could check him out. She was thinking about not riding! It was decided that Jeremy would mess with his feet after he vetted in Friday.

That night there was a wine and cheese reception hosted by Pac North. It was fun to visit and see everyone. A lot of people were dancing to the live music. Jeremy and I left early and hit the hay. The next morning we heard that a few of our team mates and friends from other teams had shut the place down and then had headed into town to the local bar!

At O'Dark Thirty Rebecca Silva arrived. Jeremy had to drive her to the cabin where she would stay. About :45 after Rebecca, in the middle of the night when you are dead asleep Jeremy's main crew and identical twin brother, Tim arrived with Lori Olson, Becky's crew. Jeremy had to get up and drive her over to the cabin she would be staying! Becky you owe him!

On Friday we rode first thing in the morning as vetting in would be at 9 am. Dee and Kutt were both feeling ready.

Skip would have to figure out who he wanted to have as the official team of 4 and who would be the 1 individual rider. He would have to decide very shortly after vetting...

Read more here: