Summertime Blues Endurance Ride, La Grande, Oregon
Mackenzie's First 50
by Jessica Isbrecht
The sun was just starting to brighten the sky when I woke at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Byron wished me a happy birthday. Then, rolled over and went back to sleep. I fed the horses and myself, chugged some water and a few electrolyte pills. Tacking up and last minute checks went quickly since hoof boots were already on and glued in place.
Twenty horses started the 50 mile ride at 7 am. I managed to choose a good starting position, just behind the front runners and just ahead of the slower folks. We rode with other horses for a bit but eventually found a nice bubble of solitude. We actually spent most of the day alone and that was wonderful.
Everything was going swimmingly until about halfway through the "creek trail" when Mackenzie stumbled coming through a whoop-dee-doo (large bump in the track used as a jump by ATVs/bikes). She fell to her knees and I thought we were going to roll. Luckily, she recovered and kept right on going. She was sound at the vet check so we went out on loop two after an hour break.
At first she thought I was crazy for leaving camp since we'd already gone 25 miles (her longest distance to date) but once we got going she was all business. I merely had to cluck and she'd happily pick up a trot and go on the buckle. I knew we were in the top ten and I started fantasizing about showing for Best Condition. Well, don't count your chickens before they hatch Woman!
We trotted around a bend in the forest service road and were surprised to see it rutted up with deep tire tracks. I steered her into the rut but she decided to climb up onto the high ground. As she stepped uphill out of the rut, the tiny gravel bits rolled between her hoof boots and the hard packed dirt. Her legs slipped out from under her and we both hit the ground on our right sides. It all happened so fast! I heard my vertebrae crack as my shoulder and head landed and I felt my right leg and hip hit hard. I managed to scramble to my feet and grab her reins just as she was standing up. We were both dazed. I looked her over for injuries (only a few abrasions) and held my breath as I asked her to walk forward. No limp. Thank goodness!
So, we started walking. I pulled my phone out of my thigh pocket and found the screen shattered. It still worked so I pulled up the ride map and tried to make sense of where I was and where the nearest pick up point might be. I spent a long time trying to decide if I should quit and call to be evacuated, or keep going the last 15 miles. I trotted her in hand and she looked sound but I still wasn't sure what to do. Would it be wrong to keep going? Was I asking too much, even if I hiked the rest of the way with her?
My friend Karen caught up to us a little while later. I asked her to watch and tell me if Mackenzie looked sound at the trot. She told me she looked fine and I should definitely not pull.
I hiked a few miles and remounted when I felt certain that she was indeed okay. We then proceeded to walk the rest of the way to the finish, maybe trotting a quarter mile of it.
I held my breath during the final examination and made a quick birthday wish just before the trot-out. All was well and we passed! I was so relieved. I shed a few tears on my way back to our trailer where I spoiled her with a feast while I cleaned and dressed her wounds and poulticed her legs.
Later, at the awards it was confirmed that we placed 7th with a time of 8:38. Everyone sang Happy Birthday and I ended up winning a pair of Renegade Hoof Boots. It was a wonderful day.
Mackenzie tackled her first 50 (which was not an easy one) at 16 years old, survived not one, but two, potentially catastrophic accidents, and still looked like she could've gone out again the next morning. To say that I'm proud of her is an understatement.