October 18 2011
This weekend was the first ever Raptor Run at the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama and it was GREAT! Photos at: http://www.my-endurance.net/photo/album/show?id=932467%3AAlbum%3A67114&xg_source=activity
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 rigs...so 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 forever...it 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 checks...like 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:
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)
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 stem...you 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9DEx5SZFi8 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 http://www.momentstomemorieshome.com Jody allowed me to post my personal photos directly onto the Raptor Run Endurance.net page at http://www.my-endurance.net/photo/album/show?id=932467%3AAlbum%3A67114&xg_source=activity 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!