Our trip started with a lay over with Steve Hugus and Isabelle Farmer who helped us get much needed rest and fed us delicious food as we were still pretty worn out from Tevis. We got to see their wonderful horses including their adorable foals who Cassidy especially enjoyed scratching and loving on. Isabelle gave Cassidy some lessons on her very talented upper level Parelli horses and Cassidy soaked up her knowledge and teaching skills!
We met Kay Ickes at base camp- she drove 14hrs to come crew and be a part of the ride!
The ride started at 4am. Jesse and I decided we would make the most of the flat lands in the cool early morning and both mares felt calm and relaxed and navigated the trail in the dark with ease. We met our crew before heading up into the mountains and both horses were eager to get going. We took it easy over the next part as the climbing starts and doesn’t stop! The views on this section are not easily captured with words as this is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Jesse did all of the steep up hills on foot to be sure to save Bonnie’s energy.
Coming into the first vet check we started to worry that Bonnie wasn’t eating with her normal gusto. Jesse convinced me to go ahead and he would hand walk Bonnie the rest of the way. I didn’t like to leave them but the mares were being very independent and this allowed me to get Reckless vet checked then help with Bonnie when they arrived. Bonnie passed the vet check but Jesse felt like something wasn’t right so he rider optioned. This impresses me more than winning or finishing any ride- putting your horse first! He said that on their walk to the trailer Bonnie clearly started to feel better and started eating ravenously. We think she had a little tummy upset but thanks to Jesse taking care of her like he did she will have lots of rides ahead of her!
One rider left the vet check well ahead of us but Reckless left on a mission to catch up. I loved getting to ride right by where Jesse and I exchanged wedding vows one year prior up on a bluff overlooking the trail. We caught up to Jennifer Kaplan and her amazing gelding and we ended up riding the rest of the day together becoming fast friends and being thankful we didn’t have to do the long lake loop and trek down the mountain solo.
Our horses just felt great and ate up the miles as the day progressed. It was so fun to have crew at each check as Reckless is such a big girl she takes some extra work and ice to cool her down! I felt very spoiled and pretty confused when I was told to go sit down and eat something as my crew had it under control.
As we headed out on the third loop- the very long lake loop- I realized that Reckless was missing a hind shoe. She stood perfectly still while I booted that foot. I noticed her other hind shoe was twisted as I had started the ride with shoes that were a little old and she had sheared the nails right in half on both hinds. In true endurnace fashion all decisions have pros and cons. I had chosen to keep shoes that were a little older to let her have extra long feet which she greatly appreciated on all the rock never taking a questionable step all day but now I was paying the price as I only had one boot on the foot that lost the shoe and a shoe half falling off. Jennifer helped keep eyes on my situation planning to tell me when the shoe fell off so I could keep it and nail it back on at the next check- this was gonna be a long loop of worrying. Coming up a long climb to the road I saw our truck and crew!!! I could not have been more thankful. While Reckless ate and drank I nailed the twisted shoe back into place and we were headed down the trail in confidence with a tight shoe in just a few minutes!
At the last vet check Reckless was so hungry she ate huge bites and enjoyed lots of attention before we headed off on the last loop with both horses looking strong and happy. We had been leap frogging with two other riders and were fully expecting to see them again and swore many times we saw headlights right behind us once the dark settled in. I have never seen a single mile of that loop in the daylight and it turns out it was actually quite beautiful. The horses were happy to get water at Trappers creek and then we saw our crew one last time who even had hot coffee for us! We headed to the finish ready to be done with that long last stretch working as a team to spot glow sticks and stay on trail.
We crossed the finish line and decided to tie for first which felt so good as we really did ride the majority of the ride as a team.
Much to my surprise Reckless won best condition- this was definitely because of the hard work of my mom, Cassidy, and Kay who took the absolutel best care of her all day- thank you!
Reckless has quite the story which deserves a little mention. CJ Wise and Derek Wise trusted me with her four years ago when they ended up with her because she had failed as a dressage horse and terrified her previous owners. We immediately named her Reckless after the heroic Sgt. Reckless from the Korean War. Reckless proved to be a challenge- she was so sweet and willing but would be overtaken by moments of “psycho” where my biggest challenge was just keeping her feet on the ground as she would stand straight up or throw huge bucks that were no joke. Loving her new job as an endurnace horse she proved to be very athletic and capable except when it came to pulsing. She would get anxious and worked up at the vet checks and we got pulled several times for not pulsing down if there was too much going on around her. I almost gave up on her as an endurnace horse. Nick Kohut and William McCullough you two were instrumental at Ft. Howes and Spanish Peaks for your incredible patience and kind way with her and I believe that you both had a huge hand in her mentally figuring things out and helping her become a real endurnace horse. I can’t thank either of you enough.
For anyone who has not attended the Big Horn it is truly one of the most amazing rides and you should come. This ride means so much to me and Jesse that we exchanged our wedding vows right off the trail.
This year was in memorial to Jeanette Tolman as she poured her heart and soul into this special ride during her lifetime. Her family did an amazing job and gave her a wonderful tribute by beautifully putting on this ride. I will be forever grateful I got the privilege to ride this year and could not be more thankful for my family and could not be more thrilled with Reckless.