by Jeanette Mero
2020 Big Horn 100! Not even sure where to start or what to say. I know many of our friends have been wondering. Reyna and I, with the help of our awesome family crew, managed to finish both mares in 7th and 8th place a little after midnight with a ride time of 17 plus hours, out of 80 starters from all across the country and against some of the most competitive riders in our sport. It’s almost a toss up in my head whether this ride might be the hardest 100 miler I’ve ever done, on either coast. Even Tevis. It’s close. There was no question it was “real, old school” endurance. And if you had asked me last night at midnight if I’d want to ride another 100 miler any time soon, or even get on the back of a horse in a few days the answer was likely gonna be a NO! It was that kind of hard.
Big Horn was everything it’s reputation was reported to be - incredibly tough, rugged, and remote trail. Climbing up to 9000 plus foot elevations. It’s forest service roads, single tracks, rocks, sand and relentless, literally relentless, up and down climbing from the start all the way to the finish. And we live and train on mountain trails. We experienced the infamous afternoon rain and hail storms getting pelted with dime sized hail on the way into the 3rd vet check, getting so soaked and chilled my arms and hands wouldn’t work for the first half of the hold. We then had to muck our way through slippery mud and rock from all the water, trying to keep the horses from falling on themselves and us. And finally at the end we had to come down a piece they called the “slick rock” at about 95 plus miles into the ride. It was an impressive couple miles of downhill, large sheets of white, ice skating rink, type rock. And that was after finishing the last couple hours in the dark trying to avoid all kinds of trail hazards like deep washes, cattle guards, and ruts that would swallow you and your horse hole.
Oh and did I mention all the gates??? I think Reyna and I literally had to get off and open and shut over 30 gates, some easy and some hard, and at least one that took both of us to get closed again. And then there was the “pole gate” with poles that had to be slid open and shut, which sounds easy enough, except the rain storm left the far side of the gate a complete morass of a sink hole of mud. So getting it open and then both horses through it and then closed again was quite the trick. At one point my mare Lena couldn’t decide how to get herself out of the sucking mud and decided just laying down and collapsing into the muck might be a good option. That was until she actually executed her plan and then she realized flopping in the mud was probably not the best idea. Thankfully she didn’t panic and got herself up and out of it without hurting herself. Albeit she was a different colored horse for quite a while.
All in all there is no doubt we definitely earned our silver belt buckles and top ten coolers and get to carry with us the sense of accomplishment forever that we tackled one of the toughest endurance rides in the world. Our mares this morning actually looked amazing and like they could go again, while Reyna and I are definitely feeling the aches and pains of a tough 100 miler. And that’s how it should be. We took care of our horses, first and foremost, and we are so grateful they got us through the day safely and in one piece. Once again the best part of the whole adventure was doing it all as a family and working together to help us and our mares get through this legacy ride. We made new friends and laughed and visited with old friends. We all of course were cautious and careful with respect to Covid. And we are so grateful to the Ride Manager Cindy Collins and her amazing crew to pull this ride together and make it a possibility when most of our sport and all of our lives have been paused due to Covid. The memories we made over the last couple days will keep us laughing and crying for years.
Now we are on to Cody for a well deserved mini vacation for a few days to see Yellowstone and be tourists.