Friday, December 19, 2014

How to avoid getting lost: from the rider's perspective - Endurance Granny

Endurancegranny Blog - Full Story

December 19 2014
by Endurance Granny

Boy oh I wish I had all the answers to that one! Other than something happening to my horse my #1 fear at a ride especially at a longer ride (50 mile) is getting lost. Talk about the ruination of an otherwise great day! There have been two instances where I got lost and it cost me my ride. After spending months of preparation for both of those rides on different horses it was a terrible let down.

The first time I got lost I had decided to start with the pack to try and position my horse nearer the front of the pack to try and get an alone bubble to ride in "somewhere in the middle" as the ride progressed. This was on Phebes, and we had managed to finish 7th on our previous ride with good vet scores, so I figured if I could position myself in the middle we'd have some sort of a shot at 10th-? depending on how the day went. Well----it didn't go too well. Putting her near the front at the start got her all worked up, and me focusing on control, and soon finding ourselves IN FRONT within a quarter mile of starting and me still trying to get some kind of reasonable control of her at a canter we blew right past the blue ribbon (at first light of the morning I can't seem to see blue) and we were off...following ribbons, blue ribbons, in THE WRONG DIRECTION. At this point in our education I was not aware the ribbons should always be on my right (except at a turn) and I wasn't the only one...another rider was hot on my heels and we trucked right on seven miles THE WRONG DIRECTION until we met up with the pack head on coming THE RIGHT DIRECTION. That was embarrassing, humiliating, and a big old learning lesson right there. Phebes by that point had herself so worked up that I was worried she'd have a metabolic issue, so I rode back to camp and took a rider option as I could not see her finishing the ride with a do over as torqued up and sweated out as she was. It was kind of a hard lesson, but I learned it. Phebes wasn't ready for middle pack, especially not be starting in the front group. Race brain took over and the day ended badly with getting lost, which was probably in our favor...chasing the front all day would have been bad.

Now how could I have avoided all that? I could have let all the front runners leave, wait for some of the mid-pack riders to leave, looked at my watch and let about four minutes pass and walk on out to the trail and start. Things would not have been so excitable and my chances of missing the first turn would have been low. I'd still most likely have finished back of the pack, but I WOULD HAVE FINISHED...

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Like A Phoenix Rising, Lincoln Trail 2014 - Full Story

Posted on December 17, 2014 by Keith Kibler

SOMETIMES LIFE DEMANDS that you refocus.
My wife Sandy and I love the sport of endurance riding. We train and compete gaited horses, and endurance has been an
important part of our empty nest years. We both compete mainly at the 50-mile distance but she does some LDs and I compete in some 100s. Sandy has a long list of autoimmune disorders that would leave most grandmas at home in the recliner.

In September of 2013, I came into a vet check in a 100 and she was sitting in a chair with a bloody rag on her head. She had fallen and hit her head while walking her Missouri Fox Trotter, Samba, who had been pulled with a lameness issue.
A couple of months later, we found out that Samba had EPM. It became so bad that you could push on the horse’s hip and it would almost knock her down. Samba had also lost hundreds of pounds and no amount of feed and hay would put weight back on her.

Sandy fell again a month later on a bluff overlook in the Shawnee National Forest. After that, she was diagnosed with an ultrarare autoimmune disorder called Stiff Limb Syndrome. She is one of 400 people in the
world with that diagnosis. She was put on once-monthly immunoglobulin IVs. We treated her horse and we treated her.
Cancer tends to run with this strange disorder and Sandy was found to have liver cancer too. Her medical team took out the cancer and part of her liver in February of this year. For a month she lived and slept in a recliner next to our bed. Sandy dreamed of getting outside and riding a horse again. I kept treating the horse and then training the horse with the help of friends.

In April, several of my friends and I put Sandy on the tailgate of a pickup truck and we helped her carefully onto a horse for the first time since that fall in October. She refused to give up, and neither did the rest of us...

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Enduring the Endurance Ride

Kyhorse Blog - Full Story

by Kyhorse

November 26, 2013 by kyhorse
That’s not me. We stopped for happy hour at the creeks. The winners kept going.

I just finished my first Endurance Ride.

A caveat about what follows: It may sound like I’m whining. I’m not. But I wanted to give you a true glimpse into what it’s like to start this very tough sport late in life, and still survive.

For those of you who don’t live in the horse world, or perhaps even for those who do, an Endurance Ride is 25, 50 or 100 miles long, and in a natural setting: pastures, woods, gravel trails, etc. Winners are determined by fastest ride times plus time for horse’s heart rate to pulse down to an acceptable level (usually 60-64 BPM)

Hint: I signed up for the 25 mile ride, the lowliest of the low. Something the “50-milers” scoff at. To 50-milers…. well, 25 miles is just a frolic in the park for a few hours. But I have no pride. 25 miles is PLENTY for me...

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

End of Season Notes - JayaMae Gregory - Full Story

December 5 2014

It is difficult to describe the feelings I am feeling right now. There are many who, looking in from the outside, did not see the effort, the trials, the tears, the doubts, and the great fear that I have experienced in the last few years. And there are many more who know little of my life before Asali, for before her, I was a girl searching for a direction, but constantly losing my way. JayaMae is not my given name, you know. It is a name I gave myself. It has great personal meaning and I adopted it at a time when I wanted to leave behind a very painful past and take on a metamorphosis. I shed my skin, picked myself up, and moved my family 500 miles away, to begin a new life. That is when, quite by accident, I found Asali. What I have discovered in the last few years since we have entered into a partnership and taken on a sport I never thought I would endure – endurance – is that I am the same girl, in the same brown skin, that I was years ago. The only difference is that I have found a strength within myself I did not know I had before. I have learned to believe in myself.

Endurance is a sport that stretches beyond just knowing how to ride. It requires a true partnership with an animal ten times your own size. It is a sport that challenges your very core — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Endurance taught me to overcome the elements of the backcountry, to learn to be alone and comfortable in silence, to trust my mount and to trust myself. It taught me to take things as they come, that the best fun in the sport is when, despite a fall or a runaway horse or getting lost on the trail, you can smile through it all and keep riding anyway. The rides we did not complete forced me to reevaluate my training, my riding ability, and my horse’s ability. It was each non-completion that taught me that change is okay. And it was in those failures that I was hit with something very valuable, in the name of humility. Every ride, even those that are successful, somehow humbles me, for it is more than my own talents that get us to the finish line...

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

2014 France WEG Recap - Heather Reynolds - Full Story

1 December 2014
by Heather Reynolds

So France was an adventure. After my 2 days of flying right after Tevis I was really walking like a crippled person. It took a couple of days to work the kinks out.

Jeremy had driven our two horses, Chanses and Gold Dust Rising to the USEF headquarters in New Jersey before the flight so they could be inspected one last time by the team vet. It was decided that both horses were ready for the trip and were a part of the traveling squad for Team USA.

Jeremy flew with the horses while I flew by myself from California to New York to France. I arrived in New York late at night but the next day I met up with Meg Sleeper and Ellen Olson, two of my teammates. We had a good time in the VIP lounge, a little too good of a time! We almost missed our flight, and we were there most of the day!

The flight was alright but we were all really disappointed that we had booked ourselves onto an over seas flight that didn't have personal entertainment. Darn. Lucky for me I was good and tired.

We landed in France and found my rental car that we all piled into. The drive to our house we were staying in was about 4 hours away. Good times. We stopped and had a coffee on the way.

We finally found our B&B and got the tour. It was super cute, with a country flair. We tried to then navigate to the stable as the horses would be arriving at o'dark 30. We wandered around for a long while and gave up and had pizza instead! (By the way our B&B was more of a bed than a breakfast we found out!)

Jeremy Reynolds, Jeremy Olson and Lynn Kennely arrived with the horses and got to the B&B late that night. It was good to see Jeremy and hear how the horses were doing.

The next couple of weeks were a slow blur of meetings, paddock watch, trot outs, riding, eating pastries at the bakery down the lane, staying out of the rain, starring at the horses, eating more pasteries, keeping dry, standing around, trying to find trail checkpoints, watching the local guy who we rented the stable from work his thoroughbreds, riding in the least muddy area possible, putting horses on the walker, cleaning stalls and eating pastries. We also ate pastries...

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Fort Valley 50 - Liz Stout

Liz-Stout Blog - Full Story

October 27 2014

The Short:
Amazing ride. Loved the trails (again). Q was pretty stellar all day as long as she wasn't leading. Pulled at the finish due to a cramp in her rear end. She was fine within a few hours - body sore, but fine.

The Long:
The weather at home had been a steady mist - not rain or fog but mist - for days. It had been cold and froggy, too, the kind of weather that makes you want to do nothing more than sit indoors curled up doing nothing. The kind of weather that makes it hard to do anything on time out-of-doors. As such, I was running a bit behind my scheduled departure time.

I made it to the barn about 30 minutes later than planned. Fortunately, the trailer was packed because I'd done that on a whim on Monday night. All I needed to do was bring the mare in, dust off most of the mud, hook up the trailer, put her on the trailer, check all tires on the way out of the driveway (garage with air compressor is on my way out), and be off!

So much easier said than done...

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Haunting - Karen Bumgarner

Karenshorsetales Blog - Full Story

Monday, October 27, 2014
by Karen Bumgarner

As fall settles in so does crazy weather! When my bestest buddy, Colleen Martin, and I cooked up the idea of her meeting Beth Nicholes and I at Fort Rock for an endurance ride, the weather was gorgeous! A week ago it was still tank top weather. Rain settled in a few days before the ride and the weather report was a dismal 90% chance of rain on Friday, and 70% for the weekend. But we are endurance riders, and our young cohort, Beth, said, "I'm not afraid of rain!" So us two old ladies couldn't wimp out on the kid.

Besides I have known Tribby's for nearly half my life, and their place is gorgeous! It had been two years too long since I had ridden over here. This site, known as the historic Gebhard Well, was also a vet check at one of the old endurance rides put on by George Behee in the 80's. I have many great memories from rides, horses and people in this area in the old days. Shoot, Andi did her first endurance ride out here, in utero, I was 7 months pregnant when I rode the old Cabin Lake 60 on Tonka in 1982!...

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maryvale 40km ~ My worst Nightmare

ToCompleteIsToWin Blog - Full Story

by Mindy Nguyen

Maryvale was the third ride for 2014’s season with a 40km and an 80km ride on the Sunday. I couldn’t wait for it, as this would be Mr.T’s second 40km ride of the season and I would get to ride with Monique. I really hoped I would get to ride with Sascha again too.

Sascha and I don't live close to one another so doing endurance together has been our regular opportunity to spend time together in a hobby that we are both madly passionate about. Every ride together was a blessing and we just couldn’t get enough. But Sascha’s team Splendacrest was still on a break and Zafire the beautiful stallion she loved riding still hadn’t been brought back into work yet.

Team Surch had a new horse called Zac. Gary took him in the 20km at Boonah a few weeks earlier and he was the coolest, quietest little dude at the ride. Sascha is a really good little rider too so Sue and Gary offered for her to ride him at Maryvale.

Monique and I loved riding together so much because we knew how to look after each other. We knew exactly what to do to help each other out if we were struggling with our horses. Like at the beginning of a ride when the roadside can be very dangerous we put whatever horse is calmest in front and stick to single file. Without words we always just did what had to be done to keep ourselves and our horse’s safe so we knew Sascha would fit right in riding with us...

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

2014 Indian Territory - Susan Young Mock

The 22nd Annual Indian Territory Elevator Ride is in the history books!  The weather was perfect and the trails were in the best shape they've been in for quite some time, thanks in large part to the herculean efforts of Dr. Jim Baldwin!  He has faithfully brush hogged trails, cut up fallen trees, pushed windfall off trail, and built/repaired bridges for over 20 years and we all appreciate his effort, time, money, blood, sweat, and probably a few tears.

Friday and Saturday evenings were in the 50s which made camp fires, S’mores, and camaraderie the call of the evening.  What a wonderful way to spend the weekend visiting with friends while listening to the calming munching of our favorite equines.  There were 9 new riders whom the other riders welcomed them with open arms and invited these new and potentially new AERC members into their camps.  Each new rider had a mentor on trail as well.  Did I mention this was a GREAT weekend?!

Thank you for marking, unmarking and trimming trail Jim Baldwin, Gail, Rob, and Christina Kimery (with a friend of Chris’), Alexis Jones (with husband Rich and his cousin), Kathy Crothers, Rick and Julya Humphrey, Link Mock, and various pleasure riders.  After the start of the ride, volunteers POURED out of the woodwork!  Thank you Nona Broussard, Rick Humphrey, Ann and Fred Spencer (Fred worked after completing his ride), Caleb “Will Work for Chocolate Milk” Minnick, Kirsten Scott (started working after finishing her ride and mentoring a first-time rider), Link Mock (after finishing his FIRST ride!), and Dr. Jim Baldwin (not only did he help vet, he trained a new veterinarian!).  All of us appreciate your efforts before, during, and after the ride!  A young lady approached me early Saturday morning stating she had done the Intro Ride at the Frank's ride in late June and that she wanted to learn more about our sport by VOLUNTEERING TO HELP!!!  THANK YOU Trisha Williams!

A special word of THANKS goes to excellent ride veterinarians Leon Self, Camilla Jamieson, and Jim Baldwin.  We all learn so much more about our precious equines thanks to caring professionals such as these.  Their conscientious efforts and attention to detail helps us be better riders.

While pulling ribbon, I met Diane Day and her lovely daughter Anniska on trail.  Diane wants to help work on trail and hopes to be at the Jo Tate Fall ride at the Frank's Ranch October 18.  Can this weekend get any better?


Thanks to the generosity of endurance riders, the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, LA, will have well over 30 gift cards to give to their young patients!  Your selfless devotion to the welfare of others will bless these children in ways we’ll never know.  THANK YOU!!!

The Limited Distance Ride had 21 starters and 21 finishers!!  Mary Heberling and her wonderful Pinto x Arabian gelding Hajar earned Best Condition with a score of 751.5.  Hajar also tied for High Vet Score with 480 points.  Nikki Bridwell’s horse “Deals Kamil Jr” also had the High Vet Score of 480 points.  Kudos to the first-time riders Carole Watt and her darling mule Leroy, Travis Brinck and her SC Akil Gassur, Donna Fearing and her Paint Cheyenne, and Link Mock and his Friesian cross Captain.  Kathy Crothers was “Middle of the Pack” and Link Mock was “Turtle”.

The Endurance Ride had 20 starters and 17 completers.  Congratulations of Rosemarie Doyle’s horse “Santa Alpha Lucia”, ridden by Debra Stockwell, on completing her first 50!  Gunnar Frank won with a ride time of 6:07 and also won Best Condition with a score of 730.  Julya Humphrey’s  Spanish Mustang “Copperhead Road” had the High Vet Score with 430 points.  Sue Phillips-Jaffe and her awesome Quarter Horse mare “Sussie Prize” was “Middle of the Pack” and Debra Stockwell was “Turtle”.  Congratulations to all!

We are looking forward to the 23rd Annual Indian Territory October 3, 2015.  Hope to see you all there!

Susan Young Mock

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just Start (Sooner or Later You'll Finish)

by Lynn White

What I love about endurance riding is that we embark on long journeys with particular goals in mind only to end up experiencing and learning things we never thought about.   In 2000 I started trail riding with some endurance riders and decided to enter a 25-miler for the fun of it.   After that I was quite happy doing LD’s on my mare Agnes.  In 2002 we entered a 50 on a lark and never rode another LD again:  Never wanted to.   When Agnes was 18 we completed our first 100-miler.  When I drove to my first endurance event I never dreamed of finishing a 100-miler nine years later.

As much as I loved Agnes she terrified me at ride starts.   She was tough as nails and an excellent trail horse, but she’d morph into this crazy Banshee at endurance rides.  Agnes behaved like she had a neodymium magnet in her nose that was strongly attracted to the rear end of the nearest horse in front of her.    In her previous life she had been a pack horse, and considered her endurance career way more fun.  Agnes loved endurance so much she’d run herself to death if allowed.   During our eleven seasons together there wasn’t a ride where I didn’t question my sanity within the first 10 miles.    But when Agnes was on and things went well riding was magic.  I think this is why I kept coming back with her year after year.  I learned a lot from Agnes, most importantly how NOT to start a horse in endurance.   I often wonder how far she could have gone with a more  talented and knowledgeable rider.
Starting a horse from scratch and getting them through their first 50-miler puts a whole new perspective to AERC’s “To Finish is to Win” motto.  This is probably not a big deal to people who grew up on horses.  But for those of us that took up serious riding as an adult and  emerged from the mid-life crisis needing a challenge, it’s like taking up BASE Jumping.   Belesemo Moon is the first horse I actually started in endurance.  When I bought Moon (whom I lovingly refer to as “Roger”), Agnes had recently died from colic.   I had seen a photo of a cute unstarted Belesemo-bred horse on a bulletin board at the Teeter Ranch during Fandango in 2012.  He obviously had some Appaloosa in his lineage.    I recall looking at the photo for a while thinking what an oddly colored little horse he was. 

A week after Agnes was gone I was looking at horses for sale on Endurance Net and there he was again.  I called Carol Brand of Lost Juniper Ranch.    We talked for a while and I found myself saying something like, “Yeah, I’ll take him,” and Carol saying something like, “So when will you come pick him up?”  My problem really wasn’t getting Roger, it was convincing my non-horsey spouse that a second horse was needed on our place.    Equine procurement with my husband is always a tricky issue requiring the diplomatic skills of a Cold War era envoy.

Mid-July of 2012 I took a day off work, drove to Lost Juniper Ranch, and picked up Roger.  I took him directly to a pre-purchase examination.  Not only did he pass with flying colors, but he behaved remarkably well for all the commotion going on at the clinic.  There were bulls banging around in trailers, someone cutting dead trees with a chain saw, horses screaming for each other, and people milling about.  This little Arab in the Appy suit impressed me from the start.    A couple weeks later Roger went to “Joe-the-Trainer” for 30 days.  

Joe is a Quarter Horse trainer.  His equine passion is team roping, and he’s pretty good at it.   Joe puts a great start on young horses but he has a jaundiced eye towards Arabians.  He compares riding an “Aye-Rab” to riding a kite, or something to that effect.   Really though, starting a horse is pretty much just starting a horse.  It doesn’t matter what sport one is riding because horses all have to learn the basics and respect.  Joe doesn’t get attached to horses he’s starting.  Joe’s honest and fair and if a horse has some quirk or serious behavioral flaw Joe will find it, deal with it, and help you deal with it.    Joe really liked Roger which translates to, “Roger is a really nice horse.”   At 30 days Roger was ready to be picked up.  The rest of the 2012 summer we trail rode with  PJ Blonshine and her horse Pascha.

In 2012 was I focused (more like obsessed) at getting my seven year old Akhal-Teke going.  He was what is referred to as my dream hose.  I had waited seven years to buy my Teke as a weanling, and waited another three to start him.   There were some big dreams attached to this horse.   He turned out to be  a horse way beyond the skill level of a shorter than average 50-year-old “kinda-timid” rider.   For two years I tried to get comfortable riding this horse.  We never clicked.  He wasn’t the problem, it was me.   He belonged with a bold aggressive rider.  He’d never be happy as a mild-mannered endurance horse.   After his last drop-spin landed me on my head, rattled my brain, and cracked my helmet I was relieved to see him go down the road and thankful this adventure didn’t include a helicopter ride to a trauma center.   By the time of my shoulder reconstruction during the autumn of 2012 there was enough fear ingrained in me to question if it would ever be possible to ride without that nagging sense of impending doom. 

Around February of 2013 it was time to get back on a horse.   I spent a week doing ground work with Roger.  When the big day arrived for riding I saddled up and realized there wasn’t enough strength in my shoulder to hoist myself on.  Next day I bought a mounting block and we were back on schedule.   Except now I had those anxious thoughts of falling off and messing up my shoulder.  My new shoulder wasn’t needed because of some riding accident; it was just worn out from getting older.  But it’s the most aggressive joint surgery one can get.   It took about 18 months and lots of therapy before it was 100%.  Plus it cost the equivalent of a new-to-me pickup even after the health insurance coverage.   But the old ’77 Ford can be nursed a couple more years and living 100 miles from Oreana (AKA The Nexus of the Endurance World) means I can get to rides without ever having to brave the Interstate.    I’m lucky.  All I need is tenacity and courage.  Lots of courage. 

In April of 2013 we went to Oreana for our first LD.  We made it about 200 yards before I quit. Yes, 200 YARDS.   I was an unsteady mass of anxiety and Roger knew this.  This LD seemed more like enduring a 100-miler during a blizzard with cougars around every rock.   Roger is a sensitive horse and he’s only as brave as his rider.  He can sense the slightest shift in my seat or shrill tone in my voice.  This would have never become apparent without actually starting a ride.  Every horse and rider team has to start some time, somewhere.   Later that summer we managed to finish three LD’s.  I think we turtled two of them. 

Thinking we finished a couple LD’s with hills, we had to be ready for a bona-fide 50-miler (“thinking” is the key word here).   Last ride of the 2013 season we were at it trying our first 50.  We were doing alright alone until I took a wrong turn.  Then the hot-shoe  LD’s caught and passed us.  On top of that, duck season had opened and the sounds of shotguns echoing up and down the Snake River Canyon pretty much blew Roger’s little mind.  When I did muster up courage to trot, Roger started bucking.    We walked most of that 25-mile loop and immediately rider optioned out at the vet check.   Winter of 2014 was spent reading up on training, arena work, and some trail riding.  I had to get Roger’s bucking worked out.  

We were back for Round Two at Fandango during the 2014 Memorial Day weekend.  That was another not-gonna-finish ride.  Someone saw Roger pee and said it looked dark.  My heart starting pounding (panic attack or one of my many health issues), so it was another walk into ride camp for a rider option out.   As it turned out, Roger was in dire need of a sheath cleaning. 

I needed to get serious about conditioning and get used to the heat.  Agnes never much required much formal conditioning.  She came as a horse with a foundation so all I needed to do was just take her on a couple 20-mile training rides and we were good to go.   Roger presented the challenge as an overweight sensitive horse that had never gone farther than 25 miles.  It was time for faster solo rides with hills, rocks, sand, and heat three times a week.  We had six weeks to get ready for the next ride.   

Nasty horse wrecks tend to illustrate just how unforgiving gravity becomes as one ages.  So far my wrecks have happened at the beginning of trail rides with friends or close to home.   I’ve had one wreck that had the potential of being tragic.   So it’s a little scary trailering and conditioning alone.   I leave detailed maps for my husband so he knows where to come looking for me.  I joke that I wear colors that can be spotted from a helicopter, but I think it’s just smart to have a something-will-go-wrong plan when horses are involved.   My opinion about search and rescue personnel is this:  Most are volunteers, so make it easy for them to spot your sorry ass.  Ironically, riding alone is the best way to bond with a horse.      

Within a couple weeks of rocky trails and heat my irrational fears dissipated.  Roger and I had fun finding new trail together, learning how to open BLM gates, eating along the trail, learning to move out when the footing allowed, and then more eating while walking.  Roger’s heart rates began to drop.  He was calmer.  We were a team.  Instead of dreading the rides, I found myself looking forward to finding new places to explore and spending the time alone with my horse. 

Mid July of 2014 we wound our way on the back-roads for Round Three at the “Almosta Silver City”  ride.  Originally, Steph Teeter was going to put on a ride at historic Silver City in the Owyhee’s.  Finding passable trail in that area became an issue so Steph opted for a low key ride out of their ranch in Oreana.  Perfect first 50 for Roger.  The only real challenge would be finding someone else who wanted to do an eight-hour 50.   An endurance ride is kind of like going to a tent revival meeting:  Everyone has similar ideas of general outcomes, but one never knows who is going to show up and what is going to happen. 

I struck up a conversation with Merri Melde who had one of Roger’s relations, Belesemo Dude.  Dude, better known as “Dudley,” had been off and on and out of endurance riding for six years.  Merri had been working very hard with Dudley and was hoping for a completion of his second 50.  She asked me how “fast” I planned on riding.  Fast to me on a young horse is seven miles an hour so I told Merri between 6 and 6.5 mph.  We decided to start together.  It would be really cool to get two Belesemo horses through a 50 together. The theme for us was going to be “Roger and The Dude.”  It sounded more like a 1970’s era TV sit-com. 

At six o’clock the next morning we were off and rode together the entire ride.   We completed that ride in 8.25 hours and tied for 11th place.  I don’t remember the heat or the sun or the dust.  But I don’t remember thinking I was crazy for doing endurance, which was a definite first.  I remember that feeling after the vet hands me my card to say, “Congratulations,” and how much fun Merri and I had.  
My mountain of anxiety and irrational fear had been defeated by managing a newbie horse through his first 50.   Roger still has some crow-hop issues, but he’s not trying to unload me, he just gets excited.  I can handle this.  Roger is actually a very brave and honest horse as long as I am.  He’s exactly the type of horse I need at this stage of my life.  I don’t really know how fast we’ll be able to go, if we will ever be a team to be reckoned with, or if we will be able to get to do a 100-miler together.  I just ask a little more from Roger each time, and if he’s up to it he gets a little stronger and a little faster.  We are not in a hurry:  The ultimate goal is another Decade Horse, but a lot can happen in 10 years.

I really believe our endurance horses find us.  We can scour the earth for our dream horse only to find the one meant for us on a bulletin board or a classified add at just the right moment.   All we need is courage enough to let things happen while on this journey we call endurance riding.   Finishing a ride is easy; it’s getting a horse to that starting line which requires the effort. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Tevis - Heather Reynolds

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

This past week I flew to CA for the Tevis. I landed in San Francisco on Thurs morning. Hillorie was all smiles when she came and picked me up. We drove back to her place and finished the last minute packing. The plan was to go drop off her young horse to trainer, Mark Schuerman (the trainer of this years Tevis mount Hadeia), and while we were there we would make sure all of my tack was in order, then we would go drop the trailer at Foresthill.

We loaded up Hillorie's big, young chestnut and hit the road. There was a bit of traffic. The weather was super, but then again pretty much anywhere North of Hell would be an improvement to Florida's weather this time of year.

(On a side note, the Easyboot team booted up my mount on Wed for me in the Easyboot Glue ons. I love that group. Easycare has done a lot for the Tevis as well as for my horses personally.)

We got up to Mark's around 2 or so. He was there as well as my good firend Nicole Chappel. We all got organized and of course I had to check out how Hadeia looked. He looked perfect! His body weight was nice and his coat was shiney. I was now getting a bit more excited about the race that would be in less than 2 days.

After going over a few details, Hillorie and I left. We went for a late lunch at the Flower Garden Inn. We had a chicken salad to die for, it had all kinds of goodness in it, including different types of berries.

When we were done we headed up to Foresthill, hitting up the grocery store on the way. We parked in our regular area at Foresthill. By now it was probably around 5 pm. We were burnt out with driving so we decided to stay in Auburn that night, rather than driving back the hour plus to Hillorie's house to then turn around first thing and come right back up. We had a lot of fun catching up and hanging out.

On Friday morning Hillorie ran a few errands and then we met back up and went to Echo Valley Ranch to grab a few items. We had fun goofing around in there.

The drive up to Robie was great, the mountains are so beautiful. We stopped in Truckee for a bit, while getting something cold to drink we sat in a really cool cafe/restaurant and watched the locals go by.

We pulled into Robie around 2. Mark thought he would arrive around then. I checked in and looked at what the vendors had to offer, all the while running into friends. Great to see everyone.

When Mark pulled in we helped him get all set up. Hadeia was excited, he knew where he was. He has done the Tevis the past 2 years with Mark, placing 11th and 7th.

Hadeia (registered name, French Open) is a 14 yr old, 14.3 gelding. He was gelded as a late 8 yr old. He ran on the flat track before his endurance career, running an amazing 89 times. His legs are very clean and tight, he's a beast...

Read more here:

Monday, July 21, 2014

For the Newbies / Green Beans

Endurancegranny Blog - Full Story

July 20 2014

I wanted to reflect a bit today on this long process I've gone through called Endurance Riding. The beginnings if you will--- were quite painful and difficult. A group of slow to mid pack endurance riders mentored me well through a mild winter of legging up with a goal of spring ride. We even pre-rode the last loop of the trail that would be half of my horse's first LD. That very first ride was nearly tragic for me. I probably rode a bit faster than I should have, but nothing that we had not done and built up to in training. Let me tell you the mistakes I made that day so that perhaps I can prevent you from the errors I made that day. Don't be fearful though...just be smart.

My horse lacked mental maturity.
She was in heat.
The horse had five days off prior to the ride.
I brought a bale of alfalfa.
We left at the start with the pack.
The first five miles were way too fast.
I was unable to read my horse (due to lack of overall distance experience).
It was unseasonably warm / I did not have electrolytes.
My horse had an underlying medical issue of which I was unaware.

Talk about a perfect storm for sure was. Learn from me. Don't repeat my mistakes. My first time LD resulted in my horse urinating BLACK, and veterinary intervention to save her life...

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Fireworks - Heather Reynolds - Full Story

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

We recently went on a great trip to CA. During this trip Jeremy ran the Western States 100 mile run, but that is another story, (he did finish it in 21:32). After the run Jeremy flew back to FL to care for the herd, Emma Orth flew back with him to lend a hand. I, on the otherhand, was able to stay and visit all of my family and friends that I have been missing dearly.

The first several days after the run I spent with my parents and siblings in my hometown of Los Gatos. It was great to be back in CA, even if there is static electricity! I especially enjoyed that the temperature actually cools off to a chilly temp in the evening.

On Wed evening my friend Hillorie Bachmann drove 2 hours to come get me and take me back to her place. We stayed up way too late catching up, it was great. The next day I went running and hung out at her house in Vaccaville while she worked from home. Later in the day we drove up to Auburn so that I could ride her horse, French Open aka Hadeia (which means gift). I had only met Hadeia a couple of times before and I had never ridden him. Hillorie was going to let me ride him at Tevis.

When we got to the overlook in Auburn, Mark Shurman and his brother Tom were already there saddled and ready. Hadeia was also saddled. Hadeia is a short muscular bay, probably somewhere between 14.2 and 14.3 He had a very successful career as a race horse during his previous employment. He has 89 starts on the flat track and his legs look amazing. He also did Tevis with Mark in 2012 and 2013...

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Big Horn 100 - Roxi Welling

12 July 2014

Three for three at Big Horn 100 and increasing our time each year!!!

Hope Misner, Sondra Roberts, and myself left Thursday morning for Shell, WY to meet up with Teresa Johnston and Rod Johnston. Hope was riding GDE Sweete Legacy (Tulip), Sondra was aboard her horse Shareef, Teresa on the mighty Nickel and I rode big Al (Alamo CA). Rod was the poor man in charge of crewing for us all . After a yummy dinner and super informative ride meeting we were off to bed. Ah yes, this is also when i think Andy Brown told me he'd be passing me at the slick rock again! Past two years he's off and running by me on the dreaded slick rock!, To the slick rock before dark was our motto this year!!!

Start time is 4am for the lucky 100 milers. I believe there were 28 of us starting. So excited to see the enrollment growing!!

The morning was exciting! A great controlled start up the road to out turn in the gate to start up the mountain. Trails were marked incredibly with lights then as the sun came up ribbons. Up, up, up to the first check. Spectacular views!!! Fields of gorgeous wildflowers! Fabulous company with my girls and best buddy Teresa! I guess rain made it tricky for crews to get into the first check and Rod was nervous about making it to the next one so Paschal E Karl was kind enough to let us pile crew stuff for 4 horses and riders on top of Hannah Pruss stuff - THANKS! Then Rod dropped the truck at the base of the hill and caught a ride up. The roads dried out enough that he was able to go ahead and bring our truck up. So grateful for his crewing!

I had gotten altitude sickness for the first time ever (embarrassing being an Oregon raised girl) and Rod took fantastic care of ALL the horses. Keeping them fed and legs cooled and all us crazy ladies hydrated. Be careful Rod - great crew is always asked back.

At this point Suzy Hayes and her group snuck past us. We caught her and i teased her that finally!! I passed her at The Big Big-Horn Rides. Of course that was short lived as they chugged past as on the climb. Next time Suzy!! This was the Shag-Nasty loop. 25 miles of beautiful mountain lakes, gorgeous rock sculptures and great river crossings.

Four hours or more later we return to the vet check. Teresa said one loop left! We can do it!! I swear if she hadn't been there (my mentor) I would have quit, I was so ill with that stupid altitude sickness. But never say QUUT!!! If Teresa with 7 knee surgeries and a knee replacement can ride Big Horn after just traveling to Alaska, California, doing a 35 mile bike race then flying to Big Horn can do it then by goodness I can suck it up!!! To the slick rock before dark!!!!

Last 25 miles we go!!! Down down down down up down around a corner to the dreaded slick rock before dark!!!! We did it!!! Off the horses we jump to navigate the rock.....not so dreaded anymore...what seemed like 6 miles in the dark is maybe a half mile in the daylight with only a couple tricky places.

Farther down the trail and into a point was the most spectacular sunset. The reds and oranges were amazing! As we are traveling on down coming up the road was a great sight. The man with water for horses. So odd to see this truck creeping up the road stopping to give water. Perfect timing! Then down we go to cross the highway where we met Rod for more horse goodies. The last 6 miles to camp! Up another climb then along the ridge and down following fabulous marker lights to the highway crossing and up to the road to camp. About a mile or mile and a half to the finish line!!!

Just as we slow to walk across the concrete bridge Teresa looks back and says Oh CRAP! Someone is coming. RUN!! My instant thought was its ANDY and BILL!! "Don't run across the concrete" i yell! We get across the bridge and take off!!! Teresa says ok slow down they arent chasing then she yells again yes they are!!! We all take off!!! Im yelling RUN HOPEE RUN!! Crap!! Here they come! Through the corners, to the straight! RUN HOPEE RUN!! Andy's coming up beside me! Gooooo Alamo!!! Across the finish line!!!

CRAP!!!! Stop Alamo WHOAAAA. So exciting to have so much horse left in all 3 of my horses!

Spectacular company, horsemen, trails, ride management. thanks Big Horn Rides for a third time of pure fun and excitement!

Oh! The breakfast was perfect!!! And we love our photo and top 10 horse coolers!!! Already have the buckle! Maybe next year Suzy I will pass you and maybe next year Andy and Bill you will get us on the slick rock .

2014 Big Horn 100 - Dennis Summers

12 July 2014

Bighorn 100 - That's what I'm talkin about! I been whining here on 4th gear about the wimpy direction I feel endurance racing is going in the good old USA. Turns out, Maybe I just been going to the wrong races! Bighorn 100 has around 15,000 feet of climb and descent thru some of the most scenic, and rocky country I have ever seen. The riders brought tuf and fit horses ready to handle whatever the race threw at them. Every rider I saw was well prepared mentally and physically too.

The front pack raced smart and hard. There was even a bit of a runoff for top ten at the end to get one of those cool top ten blankets. A tuf trail with tuf competition will make u tuffer, or send u home talkin to yerself. At any pace this trail presents huge challenges. Anybody who reaches the finish line knows they are a serious endurance rider aboard a serious endurance horse.

Ride staff and trail marking was top notch. All in all a really great race. Only downside for me is Hannah brought a great horse that had a great day and we just couldn't reel her in to win. Great for them, it was a hard earned and well deserved win. The upside, is she's a 4th gear follower so in a way we contributed. Even still, really proud of the way our Peach and Bogart handled the challenges. Bogart got hiself a hard earned BC out of the deal.

We got the Bighorn monkey off our back the first time, whew. Wait a minute, on the way home Sue found a free entry attached to the BC sheet!. Maybe we not done with Bighorn!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

My 24,000 mile Ride at Eagle - Karen Bumgarner

Karenshorsetales Blog - Full Story

July 6 2014

There is truly nothing like a good ride with great friends on fine horses!! It just doesn't get much better than that to this endurance junkie. Plus on this ride upon my wonderful Blue, I surpassed the AERC milestone of 24,000 AERC miles!

Steve Bradley got a great capture of the three of us at Eagle Extreme. All photos in this segment by Steve Bradley Photography.

Eagle Extreme was late going on the ride schedule and was held June 14 this year. Ride management did a wonderful job of putting together two nice loops through the Eagle hills for the 50 mile ride which is what we chose...

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride 2014 – Nancy Sluys

June 14 2014 

   Zanie (FYF InZane +/) and I have been training all year in preparation for the 40th anniversary edition of the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride in Orkney Springs on the rugged mountain trails in the George Washington National Forest straddling Virginia and West Virginia. I was terribly disappointed when I got her up from the pasture on Tuesday morning before the ride and noticed that she had a big scrape across her side right where the saddle, pad and rigging came together. At first I thought I could heal it in time and went to work with some herbal salve but in a day or two I had to admit that it would not be healed enough to take all the friction that would be involved in negotiating the tough terrain of the ride and sadly made the decision not to take her rather than to worry about the outcome.

     My thoughts turned to Able (R-Kons Able) who was my up and coming endurance horse. I had started him on a 30 last September and October and he has done 2 50s and 2 55s since then. Could he do it? The hundred? To me the Old Dominion IS the 100 mile ride. I knew he could do the 50 as he had successfully completed the Old Dominion No Frills 55 mile ride at the end of April and in 12th place but could I ask such a new endurance horse to take the challenge? I thought about his strength and the fact that I had been conditioning him on and off for nearly 4 years and realized that he did have the base to tackle the ride safely. Not wanting to miss it I went ahead and committed him to the hundred with the thought that if it was too much I would quit when he had had enough. The conditions turned out to be absolutely perfect with clear skies, temperatures in the 70s and a full moon.  I couldn’t have asked for any better for a first hundred!

     At the ride briefing the night before I was approached by Claire Godwin who asked if I would be willing to sponsor her junior rider since she had a broken hand and would not be riding. Junior riders 16 and under are required to ride with an adult sponsor for the whole ride. Claire Taylor, who was 16 years old, had attempted two other rides, the 50 and the 100, at the OD but had never completed. She was looking to get the monkey off her back! It sounded like it would be fun to ride with her and I knew I could get her through, not to mention that I would have a buddy for my horse that could not leave me! I agreed to be her sponsor. I was also planning on riding with Ruth Anne Everett, who I have partnered with in the past and really enjoy. We were going to have a fun little team going down the trail. We were all just interested in completing the challenge and really enjoying ourselves.

    The moon was coming up when I went to bed, promising light on the trail for the night portion of our ride. I fell asleep easily, comfortable with my decisions for the ride and looking forward to the 5:15 am start. At 3:30AM we were awakened by reveille being played loudly over the sound system followed by some other weird music. Since I had set my alarm for 4AM I was a bit miffed over losing that half hour of sleep but I was up so I went ahead and fed Able and started getting my stuff ready. I saddled Able early to give him a long warm up so he would be ready for the big climbs. I met up with Ruth Anne and went to find Claire and head for the starting line. Ruth Anne’s horse Jax and Able were both very keyed up so she decided not to start with me as the horses were feeding off of each other but we would meet up down the trail or at the vet check. That was fine with me because I could concentrate on Able and get to know Claire and her horse, Salute (owned by Claire Godwin).

     At 5:15 the timer announced that the trail was open and we were on our way. We let the frontrunners go and walked quietly out of camp before we picked up an easy trot. The two horses seemed to know they had a job to do. The weather was cool and breezy and the horses felt really good. As they warmed up they picked up some speed and we had to rate them pretty strongly to the first vet check. The trail was pleasant at first as we wound through the woods past a water tower. We came to a clearing where we stopped as the sun was rising to look at the view and take a few pictures. We didn’t talk much at all since we were both concentrating on keeping our horses in control in the crisp morning. Then the climbs and rocks started coming and seemed to never end. After several really rugged, steep mountains and a long rocky ridgeline we came to a forest service road then the trail to Bird Haven, our first vet check at 15.7 miles. We arrived at 7:31 and both horses pulsed down in a few minutes. We had made good time on that first segment that would help us later in the day and night. Ruth Anne was there but she had run into some bad luck losing a horseshoe on the first section. She had gotten it replaced at the vet check and was going to join us for the rest of the ride.

     The second leg was really tough with lots of rocky sections. We ascended to a beautiful but rock and boulder strewn trail that followed the spine of a narrow ridge. If there were no trees and shrubs it would look like a trail at Tevis! Laurels lined the trail and were in full bloom, sometimes it was so closed in we had to almost push our way through the laurel. We would catch an occasional view of the countryside below and realize how high up we were. It was spectacular! It was very hard to make time on this section and we trotted wherever we felt we could, even if it was just three steps to take as best advantage of any good footing we could without putting the horse’s soundness at risk. At one point I failed to slow Able in time to avoid a tricky rock pile and he skipped over it but caught one of his glued on boots, which ripped it off. I noticed a few strides later and stopped to replace it with a regular Easyboot Glove. I then became nervous that I might lose another. I had one more boot with me but he takes a different size on the front and back. I had just used his spare front boot so if he lost another front I would be in trouble. I have glued on Easyboot Gloves for 11 hundred mile rides and the only other time I have ever lost one was at the 2011 Old Dominion, convincing me that the OD trail has no prejudice or preference for or against any type of hoof wear, it will rip them off just the same!

     Bad luck struck Ruth Anne and Jax again a little later when the newly replaced shoe did not hold and came off leaving Jax with a tattered hoof and increasing lameness. I gave her my remaining Easyboot so that she could hand walk him safely the four or so miles to the next vet check and withdraw. We sadly left her walking and continued down the trail while I tried to text her husband, Mike, and let him know that she would not make it to Buck Tail , which was the next place our crews could meet us. Able, who had spent the night next to Jax at camp, pined for him a while, stopping and looking back to see where he was. We came off the mountain and down to a gravel road leading to Laurel Run, our next stop.

     As we were arriving at Laurel Run a woman noticed I was having boot issues and informed me that she had some Easyboots for sale in her truck. She was my angel! Knowing we still had to make it to the next vet check where my extra boots would be, with lots of evil rock on the way, I went ahead and got one of each size that Able wears, just for good insurance. After that I never lost another boot for the whole ride. I guess it was good insurance.

     Our crews were not at Laurel Run as it is a small area and crews were not allowed. They had volunteers to help hold your horse and food for horse and rider. Ruth Anne would get a trailer ride back to camp from here and we would continue to Buck Tail where my husband, Bill, and Claire’s parents, Martha and Steve, were waiting for us. Despite the rugged terrain we had made good time with an average speed of almost 7mph thanks to some gravel road that allowed us to trot out and even canter for a few stretches.

     As I have done this ride twice before I always leave Laurel Run with a little dread anticipating the five or six mile long climb up a gravel road in the hot sun at midday. The first time I did it the temperatures were in the 90s and it seemed to take hours. This year was not bad as we had a strong cool breeze for relief. I actually sort of enjoyed it as the views were great. There was a pipe coming out of a mountain spring about half way up that they had put a tub under. It offered the horses a well needed cool drink and they took advantage of it gladly. We walked the whole thing to save our horses for later. I think this is where I sang the first song. I have written two songs about endurance riding while I have travelled the long trail alone on a hundred mile ride and this seemed like a good time to sing one and get us through the drudgery of that long climb, in fact, the song is called “The Hundred Mile Ride”. We finally turned off the gravel road onto another laurel laden trail even more beautiful than the last. The trail traveled through boulder fields and areas of stunted trees and the spine was even narrower, sometimes just a few feet wide. It was exhilarating and exciting and even a little scary at times.

     I think the trail from Laurel Run must be the longest 13.5 miles on earth as it took us over 3 hours to get to Buck Tail, making it in excess of six hours since we have seen our crews. Bill, Martha, Steve, and Claire Godwin were happy to see us arrive as they had been hanging out there for hours. By now we had travelled 45.6 miles, we were almost halfway there. The horses looked good, they had settled into the ride and had started taking care of themselves by drinking at every opportunity and snatching grass from the side of the trail as we walked. We also took advantage of grassy areas by allowing them to stop and graze for 5 or 10 minutes, keeping their gut sounds healthy and keeping the energy up. We enjoyed an extra long hold of 50 minutes and were able to relax a bit and eat some food. There was lots of drama unfolding as reports of pulls were starting to come in and we wished our fellow riders still in the race all the best of luck and ourselves too. Claire was happy that she had now made it further than she ever had before at the Old Dominion and was hopeful for a finish. Of course, there was still a long trail ahead of us and with “The Beast Of The East”, as they call the Old Dominion, nothing is a guarantee, you have to fight for every mile!
    When we left Buck Tail it would be another 25 miles until we would see our crews at Big 92 vet check. Eleven miles into the trail we had a gate and go stop at Waites Run where the horses had to meet the pulse criteria of 64 beats a minute before starting a ten minute mandatory hold to rest and let them eat. It was starting to get warm and the breeze had quit and most of the trail was on a sunny forest service road so I was feeling a little hot and low energy as I was entering my low part of the day. Slightly refreshed after our rest we continued on to Big 92. The other two times I have done the OD this has been my low point too, one time I was quite sick at this point so I did not have a great memory for this section. All I did remember was a long downhill trail that Zanie had rocked and rolled on the last time I was here. What I failed to remember was the long, technical, rocky climb before it that seemed to just go on forever. After leaving Waites Run you make a turn that heads you back towards camp even though you are still 45 miles away but the horses can feel that turn and they pick it up knowing that they are headed home. We made some good time before hitting that rocky mountain where the trail turns back the other way for a while. The horses seemed to just crawl up that mountain, losing all forward momentum and losing all the time we had made up and more. When we finally hit the long downhill forest service road that I had remembered being so fast but we were disappointed to find that it wad completely washed out from the previous years heavy rains. It was covered with bare loose rock and the big gravel they used to try and repair it. There was no time to be made up here, the going was slow and treacherous. We finally made it to the gravel road where our crews at Buck Tail waited several miles away. We arrived around 9pm as the sun was setting and we had now made it to the seventy mile point!

     I was feeling better as the evening cooled me off and was looking forward to the night riding. I treated myself to a complete change of clothes as mine were damp and clammy and I did not want to get chilled at night. I knew that the next 8 mile section was mostly gravel road and we would be able to make up some of our lost time. I was not paying attention and did not notice that Claire was having an issue with her horse. He had become a little tight and crampy in his hind end as he rested and the air cooled off. He was passed by the vets but with cautionary statements. Claire G loaded him up on some electrolytes, which he had probably gotten low on, and requested that we walk and baby him to the next vet check expecting him to work out of it. Our hopes of making up time on the gravel road diminished and we resigned ourselves to the long walk.

     As we left Big 92 another rider names Denise who we had been leap frogging all day tagged along with us for the night portion of the ride. We set out as dusk was falling and it crossed my mind that I had never ridden Able at night and wondered how he would handle it. I turned on my headlamp and he didn’t care a bit. He just went steady forward into the darkness. He was fine with it and was enjoying the cooling temperatures. Around 10:30 the full moon started to rise over the mountain and the night came alive. We turned our lights off when we were in the open, only using them in the dark woods. The moonlight was bright and we could see well. Here is where we sang my second song, “Run Race Horse Run” to pass the time. We had been saving it for a moment like this! The whip-o-wills began calling and were so loud we almost had to cover our ears. Walking forced us to notice the little things, a birdcall, a gurgling creek, fireflies, bats with glowing eyes and all sorts of night magic. Our new riding friend questioned whether we were going to walk the whole thing, worried that we would not make it in time. I said that we would walk for as long as the horse needed to and I was totally confident that we had the time to do it, having years of experience with pacing when I rode NATRC competitive trail rides. After a while I noticed that Salute was moving much more comfortably so we alternated one minute of trotting with 3 minutes of walking when the trail allowed and soon he seemed totally back to normal. We arrived at Laurel Run for the second time well before the cut off time. Both horses vetted through with all As on their vet cards and we were relieved that Claire’s ride would continue. At this point we only had 20 more miles to the finish line, 13.4 miles back to Bird Haven where we had our first vet check and 6.5 miles to camp. Finishing the Old Dominion 100 seemed well in our grasp.

      If you recall my description of the first 2 legs you will remember the difficulty of the trail. Even though these segments shortcutted parts of the trail we had done in the morning I think it kept all the hardest parts. Riding in the darkness made it even tougher. Much of the trail to Bird Haven was single track, technical trail that demanded our complete attention. The horses did great though and handled the terrain well in the dark. We were still taking great care with the horses and would only trot on level ground so Salute would not get stiff again trotting on the up hills or down hills. I kept my eye on my watch and GPS to be sure our pacing was still good. I was surprised to discover that although Able does not seem like he is walking fast he can maintain a 4.5 – 5 mph mile walk on good ground and that would get us there on time. We sang both songs again before we got to Bird Haven and before we knew it we were there.

     Once again both horses looked great, they were picking up strength and energy. The vets were pleased with Salute and complimented me highly on Able’s condition and our care on the trail. This was a high moment for me. We both became quite emotional when we realized that we were going to do this thing!

Denise was still with us when we started our last leg, the 6.5 miles to the finish. This trail was slow and rocky and we once again walked most of it. When we hit the water tower that we had passed in the morning and made a turn I could feel that Able knew we were almost home. He felt strong and forward and the last few miles went by quicker than we had expected. Pretty soon I started smelling the turkey farm down the road from camp and knew we were very close. We suddenly hit the gravel road and the last half mile before the finish. As we approached the lights of the finish line at 4:45, with our crews and a few others waiting, the sky was lightening from the oncoming sunrise. Able surged ahead, eager to get there and Denise and Claire had a funny reverse race for the turtle reward. They both got slower and slower and just before crossing the line Claire tucked Salute’s head with the reins and came in last, the celebrated turtle! To finish is to win! Of course we were not officially done until the last vet check, which is always an anxious moment because a horse can stiffen up in the cool night breeze if you are not careful so we put blankets on them and kept them moving on to the vetting area. Both passed with flying colors, fit to continue. We had done it and with 30 minutes to spare! I was so very proud of our ride! I had gotten another first time 100 mile horse (this being my third I have started on the OD trail) through the toughest ride in the East and maybe the country and helped a junior get the monkey off her back!

     Thanks to all the volunteers and the ride management that made this incredible ride possible! It’s because of you that we can do what we love! Thanks to my crew, Bill, for helping us get through! It’s a team effort! Also, if you ever have a chance to sponsor a junior, do it! It’s a whole lot of fun!

Happy Trails, Nancy Sluys

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A weekend with AERC’s cousins: NATRC and Ride and Tie - Funder - Full Story

5 May 2014

So instead of spending my weekend doing AERC endurance prep stuff with my AERC endurance horse, I went for a drastic change of pace and did NATRC and RnT stuff with other peoples’ endurance horses. Fascinating, right? Read on!

Friday afternoon, I hauled M’s Fetti to a NATRC ride at Mt. Diablo. She’ll post about it soon, I hope! She says she took lots of pictures, and it’s beautiful country over there. Anyway, my part of her adventure was to show up on Friday outside of Santa Cruz with the trailer, haul Fetti up to Mt. Diablo, leave the trailer, and come back for them Saturday afternoon. Easy, right?

Yep, easy. Except for traffic. The 85 mile trip from Felton to Clayton took us three and a half hours, when we’d naively assumed we could do it in two. Instead of showing up at a comfortable 5:30, we got the trailer dropped at seven pm, during dinner/meeting. Eeek! I was super hungry and sick of driving, so I just made sure Fetti had food and water and bailed on M. Sorry about that. Well, a tiny bit sorry about that. ;)

Saturday morning I did some errands, then came home and cleverly napped all afternoon. We were originally supposed to go to a party Saturday night (my thinking: “LDs take six hours, therefore I’ll pick up the trailer in the afternoon and traffic won’t be so bad and I’ll get Fetti home and drop the trailer and head over to the party kinda late”) but Graham was sick and apparently NATRC really wants you to stay for awards, so the party got back-burnered. (Sorry K!)

At six I headed back over to Clayton. I knew M had finished happily, and I wanted to see the awards and cheer her on. I wasn’t sure what they were offering or how much tickets cost, so I ate ahead of time and showed up at seven, after dinner and just before awards began.

I knew a few people — well, to be honest, a few people recognized me, but you may remember I’m face-blind so it’s really, really hard for me to recognize casual acquaintances “out of context.” Anyway, the point is, there was some crossover between AERC people and NATRC people.

So here’s how AERC awards usually go: Filthy, tired people trickle in and eat a vast amount of food. Ride management gets up and talks a little bit about the day: unforeseen obstacles, accidents, weather, how good/bad all the horses generally looked. They call out all the finishers, last to first, usually LDs then 50s (if there’s a hundred, most of them are still on the trail, and they’ll have their own awards the next morning). Everybody gets cheered as they go collect their finish award. Top Ten gets extra loot. If there are bonus awards (mid-pack, oldest team, turtle, whatever) they get extra loot too. One of the vets gets up and talks about how wonderful the top-ten looked and how it was so hard to determine Best Condition, then announces BC, which gets extra cheers and even more loot. The meeting breaks up into people going home and people staying overnight (who continue drinking and giggling).

NATRC awards were different. First, the people look clean and well-rested (they’d only ridden 27 miles, and they’d finished hours earlier and cleaned up). Then they raffled. I don’t mean they raffled, like, three halters, those people raffle like woah. It took over an hour to raffle everything off. Next, the one of the judges got up and talked about the trail. Then they called awards for a bunch of categories — NATRC does three weight divisions (heavyweight, lightweight, junior) and three classes (open, novice, and competitive pleasure, and I do not pretend to understand the differences, and there’s also “distance only” which isn’t eligible for awards). They placed out to 6th for some of the weight/classes and to 3rd, I think, for the rest of them. First place got lovely handmade plaques; the other placings got certificates. And to top it off, they ran through each class twice: once for horsemanship, once for horse. (So a superior horse with a less talented rider could win its horse class, or a great rider on a horse that didn’t look as good could win her horsemanship class.)

The way it played out in real life was that out of 40 teams, about ten teams got called over and over again, and a couple of teams got called once, and everybody else didn’t get their names called at all. I knew, intellectually, how NATRC does awards, so I wasn’t surprised … but as we trooped out (at nine pm, egads) I was surprised to realize how sad I was for M.

Coming from a non-show background to AERC endurance on a never-gonna-win horse, I really embraced AERC’s “to finish is to win” motto as a personal standard. I didn’t realize that because AERC really thinks we’re all winners for finishing, AERC puts a priority on acknowledging us all for our personal “wins” vs. the trail. That’s why ride meetings call out all the finishers. That’s why everybody who finishes gets something for finishing.

The something isn’t always very impressive — I’ve gotten everything from a ride photo (so lame!) to logo drinkware (woooo yeah!). But I have a physical memento of almost every AERC ride I’ve ever done. I have proof that we did the thing. M bought an average number of raffle tickets, but didn’t win anything. Her sweet mare followed all the rules and got her through the whole day, but M has nothing tangible from completing the ride. I’m a little sad for her, y’all. Yeah, she’s got her pictures and memories, and there was a ride photographer, but ride awards really do matter. I can point at every single completion award I’ve ever gotten, and I’m so proud of all of them.

So that, oddly, was my big takeaway about the difference between AERC and NATRC. NATRC doesn’t give completion awards and it sounds totally petty, but even a tiny leather keychain means a lot to the rider. It brings back good memories every time I look at my High Desert brush or my Twenty Mule Team wine glass...

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Australia's Red Range 90 km - Full Story

After Mr.T’s first successful 80km in September at New Italy I gave him a full month off to enjoy being a horse and peacefully grazing during such lovely summer days. It was hard not to ride but it was made easier by being so busy planning my wedding and wanting him to have a decent rest.

However, I decided his next and last ride of the year would be 90km at Red Range at the end of November and to do that I needed to start getting him fit again ASAP. But I had to keep my promise of not riding until after my wedding and I also wanted to stay off Mr.T’s back to partially continue his rest for a bit longer.

So for 4 weeks I gave him full rest and then for another 4 weeks I went from 2 lunging/ground work sessions a week to every second day, increasing in duration and intensity. While we worked on increasing fitness, we also worked on our bond, communicating more and more each session at liberty. Needing less and less tack each time to control him...

Read more here:

Friday, May 09, 2014

Gold Rush Shuffle - JayaMae - Full Story

May 6 2014

There is something about crossing the finish line just as the sun is setting. Being blinded by the vibrant orange and red filling the sky, and then squinting as your eyes adjust to the dusk. Galloping across the field, just a 1/2 mile from your destination, the chill of night caressing your cheeks….

Just as the holiday season began last year, Jakob and I headed to the Gold Rush Shuffle near Camp Far West Lake outside of Wheatland. It was a fairly quick drive, and as we pulled into ride camp, the excitement began to build. Jakob and I had signed up for 2 days with our horses, Asali and Beauty. We were to ride the 30 on our first day, and the 50 following that. It was to be Jakob and Beauty’s second 50.

We had a fantastic ride on the first day! The horses did well and as always, I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my son on the trail. The following morning, Jakob and I headed out with well-rested, fresh horses. The sun was making its way high into the sky and its rays danced on the meadows in the front of us. The fields were green, not brown and dry as they are at summer’s end...

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Biltmore 2014 - Heather Reynolds - Full Story

Thursday, 08 May 2014

The Biltmore ride was postponed by a day this year due to the river threatening to flood the banks. (We are all too familiar with what happens when it floods, last year we got to "enjoy" the river for a few extra days before we could leave.) All things considered, the race went very smoothly. Cheryl shuffled all of her paperwork and somehow stayed very organized. The footing was also really great as the rain had softened the ground just enough. The best part was the stunning weather. I have never seen better weather at the Biltmore. There was very little humidity, no rain and nice warm temperatures without roasting any one.

We drove up to the race on Thursday. We had glued up all of the horses earlier in the week. Most had on the Easyboot Edge but one had on the Easyshoe on his hind feet. We arrived with a little daylight left and set up the horses.

We had brought up 4 and Yvette had trailered up the 5th horse for us. I would be riding Stirgess the first day in the FEI 75 then RR Opening Act the second day in the FEI 55. Jeremy would ride RR An Honest Crook on day 1 in the FEI 100 and then RR Most Likley on the second day in the FEI 75. Nicki Gilbert also came to ride her horse that we keep for her, JG Btash. She would ride him on day 2 on the FEI 75 with Jeremy...

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One 50 Down - Jenni Smith - Full Story

May 7, 2014
We’ve successfully stepped up onto the first rung of our ladder to Tevis 2014. We completed the American River 50 on Saturday, April 26th.

mid-race shot, but clearly we had a good time :)
American River is a point-to-point ride along Folsom Lake and (shockingly) the American River. Slightly more complicated than most endurance rides because you have to get your rig moved to the end point, but really challenging terrain and very beautiful.

Because the trail is not conducive to passing in the early going – it’s mostly single-track – we made a point of starting out farther to the front than we typically do. We were caught up in the midst a fast-moving group of about eight horses – switching leads every once in a while – into the first vet check at about 17 miles. Only one of those horses left the vet check in front of us and we caught him up fairly quickly.

He was riding a mustang, a really tough little sorrel gelding that Stella took an instant, violent dislike to. No beating around the bush with that mare, if she doesn’t like a horse (okay, let’s just say “gelding”) everyone knows it. When he was riding behind me she tried to slow down so she could kick him bettter. When we stopped at a drinking trough, she’d spin and fire at him if I didn’t keep a sharp eye on her. It was kind of funny but keeping horses from injuring each other is serious business in endurance racing...

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Monday, May 05, 2014

My Very First Endurance Ride Experience - Aarene Storms

Haikufarm Blog - Full Story

...The year was 1998, and I had recently moved my horse, my dogs, and myself away from my hometown.

In the process of moving, I fell among questionable company. You know, the kind of people who ask questions like, "Hey, I've been thinking about this endurance thing. You wanna try it?"

Oh, hell yes.

Although I was enrolled in graduate school and working a full-time job, I wanted to do that endurance-thing more than anything else in the world. I rode my mare constantly that summer, read the old Ridecamp listserv like a crazy woman, and dreamed of the Tevis.

It never occurred to me at the time that my beautiful-on-the-inside mare and I wouldn't quite fit in. I knew that endurance riding Was. My. Destiny.

But, when we arrived in camp, clearly there was One of These Things That Was Not Like The Others...

My horse wasn't slender and spritely. She didn't have a chiseled profile, a babydoll head, dear little tiny ears, and a "blow-up-my-nose-and-I'll-carry-you-to-the-moon" expression on her face.

My riding companion was not much help. Her horse (a foxtrotter/arab cross) at least looked like an Arab, and he was being an idiot. He looked like he belonged in the crowd.

My mare was brown. She was sturdy. She had a head like a boot-box and an expression that clearly said "I am too sensible to let you get hurt out here."

We didn't fit in...

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Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Nevada Derby I 50 - Funder - Full Story

April 9 2014
by Funder

Last Friday I threw everything I owned in the trailer and headed over to Reno. It was rainy when I left Oakland, and it was rainy when I stopped in Yuba City and stole a little bay Arab named Farley. We headed for Nevada and the hope of sunshine.

Derby is one of our early-season rides and almost everybody I know in the area was going. My phone was blowing up all weekend with updates from all my friends, and Aurora was the first over the pass. She reported that the rain stopped and the pass was dry, and there were blue skies in Nevada. I was second over the pass, about two hours behind her, and it was not dry.IMG_1653
It was, in fact, snowing. But Caltrans had salted the roads, and it wasn’t sticking, so we just roared up and over without any problems.

I was briefly sad when I started the big climb from Auburn to Truckee, because my truck just didn’t have as much power as it used to. Poor truckie, you’ve only got 80k miles, are you really losing power already? And then I remembered my extra passenger — it wasn’t towing worse, it was just towing an extra 800 lbs. Simmer down, Funder.

Lucy and Patrick were next, another two hours behind me, and they hauled in slushy snow, fingers crossed that they wouldn’t have to chain up, but they made it too. Mel was the last one over, just before sunset, and she almost had to chain the Corolla, eeek!

Nevada was beautiful as always. I was starving, so I stopped for a burger, then pushed south to Washoe Valley. Right as I passed the 7-11 gas station* in New Washoe City**, the “50 miles to empty” warning display came on, but I was almost there so I ignored it. Hah, stupid truck, my horse has a lot more than 50 miles to empty in her tank. Ain’t nobody got time for you...

Read more here:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Nevada Derby 50: Testing, Testing, 1..2..3

Redheadedendurance Blog - Full Story

by Bird
April 7 2014

Scrappy, Georgia my camp Chihuahua, and I hit the road early Friday morning with a rig full of waterproofed items, which turned out to be wise, as this was my view not 10 miles from home:
Snow in Donner pass area, but nowhere near as unfriendly as it got for those traveling later that afternoon!
I had confidently plugged some apparently random address into my GPS early on and about 3/4 of the way to the ride it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't entirely sure where I was going. This was my first Nevada ride and beyond being "somewhere near Reno kinda" I wasn't totally clear on my destination. Fortunately I had past Reno local Funder just a phone call away and she quickly sent me the correct GPS address (totally not the one I had), which I was thrilled to plug into my GPS until said apparatus answered me immediately back with "6 hours and 31 minutes until your destination." I tried not to crash my truck in Reno traffic while figuring out how this could be possible, no really, HOW COULD THIS BE POSSIBLE??!?!

Just before total meltdown one last frantic glance at the GPS showed the tiny bicycle icon was lit up.

Huh. Hmm. Well, let's Push "car."

"51 minutes until your destination."

Alllrighty then.

Ride camp! :D
It was alternately blustery and alarming chilly and just warm and still enough to bring a sweat to your brow in ride camp, depending on the rapidly moving cloud cover. There weren't very many rigs there yet but a friend was and spotted my not-at-all subtle truck immediately and directed me to a perfect camping spot:
That's a peaceful picture above, isn't it? It nearly wasn't so. When setting up I pulled my neatly folded tarp out of my truck bed to spread it out and pitch the tent on...and discovered ants. Lots and lots of ants. There was a lot of spraying, refolding, smooshing, brushing, some GPS-bicycle-incident worthy cursing, and well, it came all right in the end and the ants never did visit my bedroll, luckily...

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Eagle Ranch Lessons Learned (A first-timer's perspective) - Tim Finley

April 1 2014

I am truly hoping someone from Eagle Ranch this past weekend reads this post :)
We zipper-suited sun-gods, when not growing bullet-proof mustaches in March or slipping the surly bonds of earth on laughter-silvered wings, have a tendency to be rather critical of ourselves as a means to improve in our warfare trade.  In the flying world (and the military as a whole) we have a robust system called "Lessons Learned", which, in reality, is a gentle way of saying, "Things we screwed up, things we should have done better, and things we were stupid for not seeing ahead of time.  Let's write them down so the dolts following us have no excuse for performing the same screw ups." 
So here are the top ten things I wish I had known as a first timer this past weekend that led to rookie mistakes and entertaining lessons learned:  Keep in mind as well, these lessons were all learned on the back of a 4 y/o, 17h OTTB FRESH off the track who has never known anything but flat, open expanses and the safety of plenty of room to run.
1.  Eagle Ranch is varsity level challenge.  Moreover it is probably the last place a horse like mine or a rider like me should have made a debut.  We heard there were "hills".  We heard there were "rocks".  We heard it was "technical ride".  We were never told how oblivious we were.  In less than a mile we had crossed a creek (a first) scaled a 40-degree, rocky slope (a first), descended an even rockier slope of equal grade (a first), battled a grueling war against the multiple new-found phobias of aforementioned TB the whole way, gave up on attempting to pony said horse out of frustration, crossed another creek, repeated a similar climb (twice), and scorched the trail at just under 2 mph the first mile.  If this sort of adversity doesn't make you feel alive, nothing will. 
2.  Whatever you think you're going to need, bring more.  If you think you'll need 5 bags of hay, bring 7. 6 pack of Mt. Dew? Bring 8. If you're certain you can get by with 2 syringes, bring 5.  If you think you brought enough to the pot luck, you'll be embarrassed to find that horse people are fanatically fabulous cooks and will bring your taste buds to their knees... and in bulk.  Fortunately, we packed just enough courage... and so did our horses. 
3.  Tip your farrier.  We brought our TB to Eagle Ranch with regular steel shoes shod by a local K-State student.  He was relatively cheap, but when we saw the result of his handiwork this weekend, we came home and wrote him a $50 tip.  To be honest, the course was far more austere than we anticipated, and I fretted (when I had time to bring it forward off the back burner) the trek would be shortened by a thrown shoe.  Like the quote goes:  for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, etc.  But the craftsmanship of this up-and-comer was so stellar (on a horse who goes through shoes like machinegun rounds), not a scratch was found, not a nail missing, and not a sore foot on the rookie TB.
4.  Crazy horse ladies are not just crazy horse ladies.  They are crazy horse ladies who have forgotten more about horses than I will ever know.  I spent time sponging experience, insight, and advice from several of these fountainheads over the weekend and found myself nearly overwhelmed with perspective and education.  I hope there are 400 crazy horse ladies at every ride that are willing to make a dumb flyboy smarter about his horse.  Crazy cat ladies on the other hand... I may still maintain a safe distance.  ;)
5.  Patience comes in flavors.  The military divides all functions into three stratifications: Strategic, Operational, and Tactical, big to small.  I can proudly hang my hat on my strategic patience, that being the development of my horse, not pushing him too hard too soon and granting him the time and space required to shape him into a sound, proud competitor.  I'm "pretty good" at operational patience, that being the patience required to negotiate an entire course.  I can recognize that the course doesn't cater to his talents and will be more adversity and challenge than he can equal at this stage, and perhaps the goal should be simply finishing, rather than beating any clock or equine competitor.  As for tactical patience, which would be considered negotiating singular obstacles or challenges like a down slope or HORSE-EATING CREEK WATER, I can slip to the wayside at inopportune moments and lose that strategic/operational perspective and find myself disappointed with a horse who is, in objective truth, giving me all his heart and courage.  (to be discussed later).  Patience comes in flavors, some more palatable than others.  Pack a spoonful of sugar (see #2). 
6.  Marriage is a team.  My wife is the MVP. 
7.  Creek water, as it turns out, does not eat horses.  [Independent verification required, however]
8.  John Wayne once said, "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." I genuinely hope someone reading this was actually at Eagle Ranch and saw us lunging our seemingly schizophrenic, bay-colored mammoth time-bomb in the round pen prior to the first day.  I hope they watched the dangerously unsettled brown monster that bucked wildly and reared against the lunge as if it were a God-given talent,  Truly, I hope someone here saw the fire spewing from his flared nostrils and the steam rising from every pore in his vascular skin. 
I hope someone saw me get on him, and I hope that someone prayed.
... and  I hope someone saw him finish hours later (with a 48 bpm heart rate) and thought he was a different horse.  Because he was a different horse.  Furthermore, the rider who had the courage to mount him was not the same rider he brought back.  Courage is the delicate, infinitesimal line beset on either side by abject ignorance (wherein the absence of knowledge of the danger, courage cannot exist) , and utter stupidity (knowing full well the danger and not making a rational, adequate decision to mitigate it in interest of self-preservation).  I nearly didn't ride him out of the overtly evident danger.  Instead, I accepted the risk, slung my boot in the stirrup and we went. The first mile, like everything with this horse was brutal, but like everything with this horse... everything after... was unbelievable.  Courage is a trustable virtue.  Trust is a courageous virtue.  A horse's brain, as I am learning, is an abstract, convoluted contraption of rapidly spinning gears, whirring gyroscopes, steam vents, and inconceivable logic that projects random flashes of tiger images onto the retina. Yet, a horse's heart is pretty simple, pretty-damn-simple.  [it just doesn't come cheap.]
9.  Endurance riding is called endurance riding because one must endure the ride.  It's not an "endurance free-trot with owners in lawn chairs hoisting encouraging posters for their horses".  50% of the "endurance" comes courtesy of the rider, not solely the horse.  Take care of yourself.  I am in exceptional shape.  Shape means something between nothing and nothing when you don't drink enough, eat enough, or remember to do so soon enough.  Granted, if you're on a blazingly talented horse and can lope the Tevis, start to finish, you might sly your way across the finish before physical malady encroaches in on your demise, but for a rookie entrenched in an hour-long, Armageddon-like, epic duel to the death with a 3 foot-wide creek, those encroaching fatigue ninjas assault you out of the shadows (or presumably out of the creek).  I of all people know this ad-nauseum and allowed myself to become preoccupied with tactical problems, therein creating operational problems.  For want of a rider, the race was lost. You may depend on your horse to carry you across the finish, but he's depending on you to get him there.  DRINK YOUR GATORADE TIM.
10.  Lessons Learned are nothing but a bunch of sidebar crap.
Let's face it.  I could critique my mistakes, misgivings, and shortcomings for days.  I could chastise my horse's behavior at the beginning of the day and remark how he has a long, arduous journey ahead of him, insofar as reconciling his new job.  I could bemoan how disappointed I was when we lost an hour because my cowardly horse didn't want to cross a not-even-flowing creek.  I could whine about how my wife and I were horribly unprepared for... everything.  We could complain that the trail bordered on dangerous to horses.  I could meander for days about all the things I wish I had known, found out the hard way, and beat myself and my horse up over it.
That would be not only a waste of time, it would be asinine. 
Because here is the bottom line.  I brought a horse I knew to have exceptional character, but also knew he would be nearly impossible to simmer to a manageable temperature.  I put him on a course he had never seen, in a job he had never done, in an environment he had never experienced, set against a canvas of austere, foreboding ground that threatened to devour the young TB at every turn in addition to all the excitement he was attempting to ingest.  I put him on jagged, loose boulders on steep inclines over the distance of a marathon. I demanded he put one foot in front of the other, and try.  I became angry at the horse-eating creek.  I yelled at my horse: "Do you have any idea how much courage it took to get on your back this morning? It's a [expletive deleted] puddle of water!"
... it didn't hit me until we finished the second loop, and again when we went out to do the final loop the next morning.  That sorrowful look in his eye at the impassable creek, that frustrated head bob at every rocky downhill slope, that furious/jubilant attack charging up rugged hills, those valiant, rocket-assisted creek-clearing jumps -- the answer to my question I spewed in anger, was "yes," and he was doing everything in his power to reciprocate. What I failed to see was how unfathomable what he had accomplished really was, and it was my own myopia that hung my mind on the one spot where it was just simply too much for him.  I couldn't see it then, but I could recall it later.  He tried.  He tried with an urgency, but his mind engineered an un-scalable wall that his better efforts to climb proved futile .  Certainly I was frustrated, but so was he.  I was so caught up in the disappointment, I lost sight of the aggressive effort he was giving.  This tore at my heartstrings harder than any of the amazing stories he had crafted prior in his life.  For the first time, it wasn't I setting him up for success and spectating the amazing story, it was we, living it together, and he directly turning the favor... and I was a prideful, bungling fool for not seeing the majesty and purity of it in action.
A pretty-damn-simple thing. (bears repeating)
We came in that following morning after having completed the final loop (that we opted out of the previous day), and after driving the rookie at a seemingly grueling pace over 8 very austere miles, trotted into the vet check.  Granted, I was no longer competing, but requested a heart-rate since no rush existed at the moment.  50 bpm. 
What was the one genuine lesson learned?  This:
There is only one greatest horse in the world, and every horse owner has him.  ...and I have mine.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Thrill of Speed. The Beauty of Partnership

photo by Karl Creations

March 31 2014

The second edition of the AERC Membership Committee's blog, "Why Endurance?" features a remarkable story of a journey of a former ultra-marathon runner turned endurance rider. Gwen Hall shares her inspirational and beautiful story of endurance and a love of the horse.

I was honored to be asked to write a short article on why I ride endurance, specifically, why I choose to sometimes race endurance and what got me started in the sport. I am not a writer by trade, and to put into words what at times is an intensely emotional experience for me is very difficult. For now, with this horse, my goals are sitius, altius, fortius- for as long as he enjoys doing it. The exhilaration of pushing our personal limits farther is incredible, and I believe that, at least for my four legged partner, the feeling seems to be mutual. If only I had a video of when he returned from his first 100 mile race! His chest was puffed out like a peacock and he strutted out to the pasture in front of his buddies like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Whoever says pride is only a human emotion does not know horses!

My introduction to endurance sports started with running ultramarathons competitively. Actually, it started with running to lose weight which led to ultramarathons. I have completed races up to 100 miles, can’t remember how many marathons, and at one time proudly held three separate women’s ultra-distance course records. I learned from ultras that we are capable of so much more than we think we are. Some of my fondest memories though were not of the wins or completions of tough races, but the camaraderie amongst the runners. The front runners would cheer on the slower runners as they passed on an out and back section, or even came back after their finish (and a shower/nap in some cases) to welcome the back of the pack at the finish line. Many of the top runners showed true sportsmanship and for some of us mere mortals we could only aspire to compete as they did. I also learned the hard way that the long term wear and tear of training can catch up with you and what can happen when you do not listen to your body. Unfortunately, various life challenges cropped up that put an end on my time and ability to run/train as I once did. But as they say, when one door closes in your life, another opens. Mine opened to the fantastic sport of endurance riding.

Read the rest of the story here: