Sunday, September 24, 2023

2023 Antelope Island - Dane Berry

September 24 2023
By Dane Berry

It has taken me a while to write this recap, mostly so I could find the words to properly give credit to the amazing veterans, juniors, and everyone else more experienced than me in this sport (which is basically everyone!) who do these rides as a matter of routine. This, my first 50 mile ride was an eye opening, grueling, difficult, amazing, rewarding, and ultimately uplifting experience that has to be lived to truly be understood. I therefore don’t write this post pridefully, but rather in full humility that I truly only succeeded due to support from friends, family, I suppose a little personal insanity, and of course my amazing horse Nico.

Overall, let this preface suffice: I am in awe and respect all of you riders who embark in this sport; I have so much to learn from all of you. Conversely, I can confidently say as probably one of the most inexperienced beginners that just decided to go and attempt a 50-mile ride as my second ever event, that ALL of you looking to get into the sport of endurance CAN DO IT. If I can, you can… Hear me out.

Antelope Island 50-mile endurance Ride, Sept 16 2023 Ride Report

Exactly two years ago, Sept 23rd 2021 was the first time I swung my leg over Nico. It was that first ride that I felt an immediate connection and so I purchased him about a week later. In today's horse buying/selling market, I consider it a miracle that he is the horse I found! I don't recommend to most people doing it how I did it... I had not ridden a horse in about 16 years, and even when I had ridden as a teenager it was very minimal experience with no lessons; just a few odd rides basically. I just loved horses my whole life so I made the plunge and just bought one (as opposed to maybe smarter avenues of pursuing horses, like lessons or leasing!). On top of that, I decided to purchase a fresh trained 8 year old Arabian… A friend of mine retroactively told me that they legitimately thought I was going to die, inexperienced as I was going and buying an Arabian out the gate!

The whole story is too long for here, but know that for two solid years, Nico and I worked hard together to build a bond and develop a relationship. Fast forward to Sat 16 2023, exactly 1 week shy of our two-year anniversary, 5am in the morning. I walked over to Nico’s pen at Antelope Island. I would like to say that we had a special ‘moment’ where he ‘told’ me that he was ready to do this penultimate event… but true to his nature he mostly just ignored me in favor of the fresh hay I had thrown into his pen. Giving him a pat I readied myself for the day.

The first 5 miles are on a smooth, slightly gravely road. This is of note, because I’ll set the stage here for you to understand Nico’s hoof situation. Nico is barefoot and has been for our entire season. Knowing the terrain we would face, I did everything possible to try to get shoeing options worked out before the ride, bought some glue-ons and everything, but it turned out to be impossible. The situation for trying to figure this stuff out leading up to the ride were on my mind persistently and a constant stress. All you need to know, however, is that on ride day all we had was a pair of front scoot boots, my knowledge of the course, and Nico’s amazing mind to protect himself and his hooves (Update FYI – I finally have a farrier coming out this week to help me for the first time all year! This will be game changing for us moving forward).

We conquered these first 5 miles by alternating areas where we could ride just off the road, or when we were on the road I would dismount and we would run together on the ground; anything I could do to save a little pressure on his feet. After these 5 miles, I knew the next solid stretch was amazing trails so I decided to take off the scoot boots; as his movement is much more freed up without them (they fit decently well, but he’s always told me he likes it better without them). We made solid time through the miles but to my chagrin we had lost the boots from my saddle. I have secured them to the saddle previously in training with no mishaps, but in my own human race-brain I must not have attached them adequately enough. I tried to back track to find them but to no avail. We ended up doing the entire rest of the ~45 miles completely barefoot.

Completing the first 15 miles was tough but we managed it by being smart on the hills and taking our time over any rocks, making up time wherever there was good footing. Taking a brief water break back at ride camp (not an official vet hold), we gritted our teeth and headed out on the remaining ~12ish miles to the vet hold at White rock.

While this portion is vastly comprised of amazing hoof-safe trails, Nico still seemed to be struggling to me. It was getting hot, and his impulsion was at an all time low which is rare for him. Every time someone passed us in either direction, he would stop cold, as if they were there to save him. It was interesting, because as opposed to City of Rocks where I had to work a little bit with his ‘race brain’ this whole first segment of the ride I had to overcome the opposite. He seemed unmotivated, hot, and not wanting to go out. I had been monitoring his electrolytes and water intake so I knew that theoretically he should be fine. I also know my horse very well and have definitely put in the time and effort in training, so I was very worried about pushing him too hard especially with my hoof concerns. These 12 miles for me were a matter of grit and a true gut-check, as almost every step I was very worried about him and I was loosing energy myself. My inexperience was definitely showing!

We crawled into the first vet check. I was emotionally exhausted already, as I definitely wasn’t taking in enough elytes and nutrients for myself (yes a huge learning experience). I told my concerns to the ride manager, vet and volunteers. I have to admit that in my mind I was definitely teetering on the decision on whether to pull from the ride. We were going slow enough that we were on the cusp of not making time and in my inexperienced and concerned state I was worried that Nico’s hooves and impulsion couldn’t hold up. Despite my negative internal thoughts I told myself I wouldn’t make a decision until of course the vet check, and if we passed that I would wait the entire hold to refuel myself so I could be in a better state of mind. Transparent honesty to everyone reading this though – I was struggling!

The pulse down and vet check was telling… Nico pulsed down immediately, and passed the vet check with flying colors, not a lame step or hint of soreness. Volunteers and experienced people there commented on how well he was looking. One amazing lady (don’t know her name) mentioned that based off of my comments she figured that maybe he was just slightly sore on the more rocky portions, but probably the main issue was that he was being a little lazy, bored, and needed to strengthen his mental toughness. These, and other expert observations gave me the internal steel I needed. I know I have taken care of him, I know we have trained, I know that he (we) could do this! Overhearing the conversation, a very kind rider that happened to be getting water at the check on their way back home offered me her riding crop, just to give Nico a little encouragement. I decided that we would set out on the next 8 mile loop; and if things looked good, we would make the effort!

Aside: I can’t say how grateful I am for everyone at that hold – Jeff (ride manager), my mother, volunteers, and the vet. They listened to my concerns and acknowledged them. They were non-judgmental of me, and I know they would have supported my decision if I chose to pull. However, even while having amazing support, they also expertly advised me and encouraged me. I’m not sure how they did it, but they pulled off giving me the perfect balance of understanding and ‘push’ that I needed. As a person and an athlete I am extremely hard on myself already, and no one there made me feel weak, embarrassed or any negative emotion. It was a wholly rejuvenating environment and gave me what I needed to continue. I literally couldn’t have done it without them all.

Nico and I set off, and while the crop helped immensely, I only really needed to use it the one time at the start, and all the sudden the entire rest of the ride was completely different. He set off with amazing strength and confidence in each step. We still walked cautiously on rocky portions; but everywhere else there was not a hint of the previous lethargy or lack of impulsion. He was breathing great, and seemed to be growing in strength even though we had already gone over half the ride in the ~80degree heat. We did the 8 mile loop in just about one hour, made up a ton of time and more importantly had found a new determination… we could do it!

After another brief water break, we set off! We ended up riding a portion back with some great riders – Amy and Amanda who were out on two of Jeff’s horses. It was a much needed mental boost for Nico and myself. We stuck with them for about 5-7 miles or so, at which point Nico had made such a mental turn around that he was actually NOW – 80% done with the ride – getting stronger and stronger and even starting to exhibit some ‘race brain’. I pulled him off of the other two horses just to recoup his mind, and once we were ¼ mile off, I let him continue to push strong and open up when he wanted to. He immediately reconnected mentally with me, and we made the entire rest of the way at a trot/canter, Nico never missing a beat and showing amazing strength the whole way home.

We got 8th place, turtle award, finishing in 8:47. We had gone from almost not making time and worried about pulling, to finishing stronger than I thought possible. Nico pulsed down quickly (I think 5-10 minutes max), and vetted out with his CRI being a solid 48/48 and still having no lame steps. Our only health issues at all were on myself, as I ended up throwing up and having a hard time recovering over the next few hours, something I gladly accepted because my horse was safe and sound, and my own inexperienced self can learn how to eat/drink better for next time haha.


Jeffrey, ride management, volunteers, family, friends, vets, Nikki, Amy, Tanya, Matthew, Merri My Green-Bean Team Heather, Joy, Tennielle (if I didn't tag you doesn't mean I don't appreciate you!): Thank you so much to everyone who made this ride possible and got me through to the end. I literally would not have made it without you.

Veterans and current participants in the sport: I respect you and admire you. From those who do intro rides, LD’s, to 50’s, 100’s and everything else, you (we) are a gritty and amazing group of people and athletes. Pat yourself on the back, because you are pretty cool just by attempting this sport!

Those of you entering the sport – make friends, talk to people, their support and experience are invaluable. Also give back and help those around you! I see often the comment ‘what can I do to get into the sport.’ Some great advice I hear is ‘just go and volunteer’ etc. I have one thing to expound on this excellent advice: Do something that is ONE STEP outside your comfort zone. If your comfort zone is to just stay home and not go at all, then go volunteer at a ride. If your comfort zone is to volunteer, then go and volunteer but also bring your horse to ride camp so you can learn together. If your comfort zone is maybe camping with your horse but you are unsure about the ride, then go and do an intro or LD. If your comfort zone is an LD; don’t be afraid, sign up for a 50 and see what happens! After two years of training, my comfort zone was to make it to that first vet check… yet with those around me and Nico we survived and excelled at that one step beyond my comfort zone, and grew because of it.

Whatever your comfort zone is, or whatever you can achieve know this: I support you whatever level it is!

This is a singularly amazing sport with amazing people. Go to your barn or pasture, give your horse a treat, and start making plans on how you’ll achieve your goals. Nico and I will see you there.

Friday, September 22, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Siri Olson

By Siri Olson
September 19 2023

Each year I try to pick one goal ride. This season VC 100 was on the list. We trained hard, consistently, and did all the things to prepare, beginning in February. The thing about endurance is that it is not an over night process. It is very much a long term commitment.

The ride finally rolled around and plans had been in the making for quite sometime.

We found ourselves rolling into ride camp Thursday before the ride. Its a long drive!! We had some down time and relaxed. The horses settled in great! Friday night was definitely a sleepless night. So sleepless I literally started counting sheep to shut my brain off. My alarm went off and I told my husband that I wasn't sure Troop and I could do this. I was so scared! What was I thinking? Like really, the VC 100?? The toughest ride we have ever attempted and undoubtedly one of the toughest rides in the US. Is Troop ready? Is he really a 100 mile horse? Look at the 100 mile field of riders!! How could we possibly compete here, of all places?? Kevin is always supportive and told me get up and get it done.

I was blessed, honored, and humbled to ride with one of my heroes Max Merlich on his bitch face mare, Layla, on his 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Max!! Congrats on your 100 mile completion.

I was also very honored to ride with badass Tani Bates! She is iconic and tough! Congratulations on Jericho's 1st 100 mile completion! Way to go to the toughest ride ever and knock it out of the park!

Then there's Troop. Yep, we had some A$$ Monkey moments. I mean really, it's not Troop without some antics and attitude. He Trooped through the day as steady as he could be. We both hit a low on those damn SOB's!! Hot, tired, not feeling the greatest. Lack of sleep? Over emotional? Dumb female hormones?? Here's the thing about endurance, the challenge is not always the literal trail. Sometimes it's that connection with your horse and/or with yourself, or just pacing 3 very different horses with different abilities and strengths. Flexibility. Adaptability. I always have a plan A, knowing adjustments will probably be made. For some reason I just couldn't find our steady rhythm. My biggest challenge was quite honestly with myself. I suck at speaking up because I want everyone to be happy and have fun. I don't want to be the spoiler or weak link, especially with my very non-typical endurance horse. I always put those I care about first and foremost, no matter what, even if it means making those adjustments. The first 51 miles was hard!!

We finally made it to the 51 mile vet check and I was not in the best head space. I had been riding with one contact (the other one was tore before I could even get it in that morning), had run out of water, and there was this pain in my shins I had never felt before. I needed hydration, FOOD, and time for my brain to process WTF was going on! I literally felt like I was falling apart and failing, miserably! My amazing husband fed us! Food tasted so good!! I got rid of that damn one contact and opted for glasses. Changed my clothes, panties and all. Grabbed a couple of tylenol. Took some time to just have my own pitty party and shed a few tears, okay, so ALOT!! Pulled up my big girl panties, sucked it up, and changed my plan, perspective, and goals for the ride. It wasn't just about finishing, it was so much more.

We marched out of that vet check like the bad asses we are! We were ready to kick this VC 100's tail! I opted to get off and lead Troop down the big hills in the daylight. He's not a downhill horse, especially those super steep downhills!! We could actually keep up with our Team on the downhills this way. And it helped get my shins feeling better. We knew this loop was going to get dark on us since it was so long. Our crew was so amazing to meet us at the road crossing before camp. Site for sore eyes for sure!!

We were almost back to ride camp when we had an incident on the trail. Could've been so much worse! So thankful it wasn't! We all pulled together made adjustments and got into camp for the 76 mile vet check. All the horses vetted through sound. One more loop, just one more loop.

For whatever reason I somehow thought the last loop was short. When we found out it was closer to 20, it was a bit demoralizing! Especially with all the other challenges throughtout the day (shoes, boots, more boots, ROCKS and more ROCKS, ect). It was time to go and get it done!!

We thought we could make up some time on the last loop. Nope! True to form, there was LOTS of walking!! Rocks, wash outs, boulders, trees, ect...And still the horses were feeling good. Troop pulled on me that entire last loop!! He was ready to go! But the trail kept us in low gear.

We trudged on with one goal in mind and that was to cross the finish line by 4:59 am. As we were creeping closer Max's head lamp died. Then Tani's. Max had a flashlight, but he needed 2 hands on his mare. Mine was still working. I gave Tani my extra headlamp. Mine finally died about 1/2 mile from the finish. As we climbed the last hill we could here our crew woopin'!! I smiled, my heart was full. Max literally stopped a foot before the finish line!! I had stopped behind him and literally pushed Layla across it! We finished at 4:30 am. Now we just needed to vet through. We walked ALOT on that last loop and it got chilly!! Troop is a big muscled boy!! If his muscles cool down, I worry about him stiffening up. It's happened! It was a 2 mile walk back to vetting from the finish line. I prayed silently that I did everything right all day for my big boy. He felt beyond great!! This is that scared thing. Scared of what?? Failure!!! Just need to pass one more test!!

That final trot out was the BEST!! Troop was STRONG and solid. Me, I was tired, mentally and emotionally exhausted!! We finished 44th and took the coveted Turtle award.

Our amazing crew is the absolute best!! Could not have done this ride without them! Thank you Darlene Merlich , Valerie Sharpe Vollbrecht and her Kevin, and my wonderful husband. They kept us going all day!! And documented our day with amazing videos and pictures. I am forever grateful!

Thank you to my most amazing ride partners with badass horses! Congrats on your well earned finish! We all got buckles baby!! Woop! Woop!

Thank you to #NASTR ride management and volunteers! The hospitality was amazing! BTW, I thought I held the record for losing 3 shoes in one ride. Not any more! Max wins with losing all 4 shoes in one ride!! And who knows how many boots!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Alex Lewis

By Alexandra Lewis
September 18 2023

It was a busy day here at VC100! It was SO FUN to see the PNW representing with so many horse and rider teams!!

Marco and I had an amazing first 25 miles with Stevie Delahunt and Carmen Jackson and Mallori Farrell ; horses were feeling fresh and ready to go!! Thanks for the fun this morning ladies!!

Marco had no problem navigating the rock in the dark, something I was worried about but clearly don't need to be! We cruised through the first 16 miles of the ride without a hitch and enjoyed the views and how strong Marco felt!! I was having to do a lot of holding him back, but I knew that was going to be the situation because of how fit he is right now!

As we started walking through someone's property which was where we were routed through, Marco went down in some sand onto both knees, cutting them up, and the right one was pretty bad. I noticed at the vet hold he had lost a glue on boot after I did a boot check at mile 10 or so, which is why I think he went down in the first place.

I doctored him up in under 3 minutes, had the bleeding stopped, liquid bandage on the cuts to keep them from getting dirty, and caught back up to the group. Marco felt strong after, but not 100%, which was concerning this early on in the ride.

I told Marco that I wanted to keep going, but we would stop at the check 25 miles in if he wasn't ok, but he needed to show me how he felt; not more than 1 mile later, he almost went down again on his knees, so I had pretty much made up my decision right then. And this wasn't because of the rock, this happened in areas without rock.

We had some steep grades to go down after that, and Marco wasn't as sure of himself on the downhill, so I stayed on the ground on the descents, and when we got down to flat road he wanted to fly and he felt GREAT on the flat... However this ride is anything but flat!!

Getting into Kivett Lane Vet Check, Marco vetted through with a 44 heart rate, but was every so slightly off, and the vets were super supportive in helping me figure out what to do!! Dr Dan Chapman gave me the option of icing and trotting again, which we did and Marco had improved, but my intuition told me not to go back out.

Dr Dan agreed that Marco's right knee would only get worse over 100 miles, not better, but if we wanted to keep icing and moving along in the ride to see, then we could keep going. To me it felt like staving off the inevitable. Marco was saying his knee was just ever so slightly painful so we better call it. I decided that it would be best if I Rider Optioned so we pulled. I feel really good about this choice, and for me the horses must always come first!

I had a FANTASTIC experience at this ride, it's so laid back, these Nevada Derby Riders know how to put on a great ride!! The trail was crazy rocky just as advertised and I can't wait to come back again to tackle the Virginia City 100!! Crysta Turnage you have to be there next season to ride it with me. Thank you for the wonderfully marked trail, a BEAUTIFUL view from camp, challenging trails, the great volunteers and management, and an epic adventure!!

Marco is all tucked in to his blanket, Simone Mauhl and Karen Gundersen and I are watching the horses come in, and it's been a good day. Thank you to these amazing women for showing up when I needed crew, and for having my back... Your friendships mean the world to me!! I'm grateful for your time this weekend with me, your hard work taking care of us, and the fun we had!!

On to the next adventure!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2023 Virginia City 100 - Virginia Jenkins

September 18 2023
By Virginia Jenkins

Virginia City 100... I can definitely say no one was lying about the rocks. Flite and I took on the historical trail and brought home a completion with a 20:05 ride time.

We started out at 5 am in front of the classic Delta Saloon - what a cool start. After the Virginia City sheriff led 60 horses and riders to the wrong start in his own city, we got on the trail. Flite and I cruised along in the dark through the rocks (and more rocks... and MORE rocks) and into the first vet check at 24 miles. Flite vetted in at 40 and 40 minutes later, we were off on the next loop of 15 miles. This loop had some sections with NO ROCK (crazy, I know), but also had Bailey Canyon where I managed to lose two octos. Thank goodness I had my renegades with me. I popped them on and off we went. We came into the Washoe Park check and Flite once again vetted out fabulously.

Next up was a 12 mile loop. But not just any 12 mile loop. Here, we conquered the SOBs (aptly named, imo). I decided to be a hero and hike up the first and second ones. The first one was seriously straight up and I thought I might die. Flite was rolling his eyes at me as he grabbed a snack while I could barely breathe. Next stop was at Basecamp at 51 miles. Flite looked great for the vet in, but didn't eat as well as he usually does. I really think he thought he was done and could take his time eating. Sorry buddy, we were only halfway!

Off we went on the next 25 mile loop. I had overheard some people saying the first loop back to Basecamp was the hardest, but they were WRONG. This loop took us up and up and up to Mt. Davidson. We reached the top just as we lost light. Many steep and rocky miles down and we arrived back at Basecamp at 76 miles. Flite looked like a million bucks and ate ravenously. We left camp in the dark to finish the last 24 miles. Flite did such a great job in the dark. He carefully picked his path and told me when it wasn't safe. We rode without any lights! I had heard this loop was easier and less rocky. Well, I guess when the rest of the trail is a rock pile, less rocky still means super rocky! It was very slow going in the dark, but we managed to arrive at the 94 mile vet check.

Flite had been feeling great so I confidently trotted him out for the vet. Lame. I was crushed and so confused. I removed his hoof boot and splint boot to see if there was something in there causing an issue. Nope. I took him back for a recheck after the vet finished vetting the pile of riders who arrived behind me and he was *slightly* better. She let us go the six miles into camp and try for a completion. Flite carried me the first couple miles where it was less technical, then I got off and hand walked the rest of the way. It was slow going, but we crossed the finish line at 4:25am.
It wasn't over with just crossing the finish line though. We still had to pass the final vet check. Holding back tears, I walked him down to the vet area and let the vet know what was going on. He had me trot out and he took a few bad strides before evening out to earn a completion! Holy shit, what a relief! We had done it! This was truly an incredible accomplishment and I am so proud of my Flitey Boy. He never got unmotivated and conquered everything I asked of him. What an absolutely incredible horse.

We met a lot of wonderful people on trail and in canp (Jessica, Pam, Lucy, Annette to name a few) and generally had the best time.

Special thank you to my wonderful crew Gracie and Cressy. They took care of me and Flite so well AND even looked after baby Chile and Kaito while i was riding. I couldn't have done it without their help and support.

Thanks to ride management for putting on a top notch event with great organization and friendly faces. Everyone should ride this legendary ride if they can!

Edited to add that Flite is totally fine! Just a very tired booty from all the trotting downhill on rolling rocks

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The 5-day 255-mile Spanish Peaks Pioneer 2023 - Ann Wicks

By Ann Scott Wicks

Jicarilla Journey. Journ-Journ. Beautiful Girl. All names for my wonderful Mustang mare. I am so lucky to have this amazing horse in my life. She is kind, sensible, and as sure-footed as they come. And this past week, she gave me her all. She never once hesitated when I made the big ask at the SoCo Spanish Peaks endurance ride to try and ride five days in a row: 255 miles of challenging terrain in some of the most beautiful country I have ever ridden.

There are so many moving parts to a successful endurance ride, particularly one over 1,600 miles from home, that just arriving at ride camp with happy, healthy horses is a win. From there, we took it one day at a time. With my traveling companions, Lynne Gilbert and her horse Calvin, our primary goal was to complete the first day’s 50 mile ride. It turned out to be a hotter than expected day, and with the possibility that we might want to ride back-to-back 50’s if all went well, we took it easy and rode as conservatively as the horses would allow; they wanted to move out, and we spent a good bit of the day asking them to take it easy and slow down!

The next day felt a bit more challenging with more demanding trail that included lots of climbs and descents, but again, the scenery was spectacular and we got to ride alongside, and then over, one of the many rock walls that define this landscape. At the start of the ride, we joined up with Kelly Stoneburner and Jesse James, who were planning to ride all five days. It was another successful day due in large part to riding with Kelly and Jesse, who knew the trails so well and paced us accordingly. At day’s end, another completion and our first time doing back-to-back 50’s. This gave us the opportunity to attempt a Pioneer Ride and tackle a third day on trail.

The third and fourth days are a bit of a blur. Each day’s rhythm was defined by all the things that had to happen before, during, and after the ride. The “Hellevator” was a highlight of Day Three - an adrenalin blast out of a canyon up steep switchbacks that had us laughing with relief when we got to the top. After successfully completing the three-day Pioneer, the possibility of attempting to ride all five days loomed large, and with Kelly’s encouragement, I decided to give it a go. Journey was doing great, and to my surprise, I felt great after each day’s ride. I decided I might never have this opportunity again and that I shouldn’t pass it up, so we would at least tackle Day Four. When Tenney announced at the ride meeting that night that she thought the Day Four trail was the most challenging, she wasn’t wrong! The day was made a bit more challenging due to lack of sleep that night: strong winds blew through camp for hours, rocking the trailer and making it difficult to sleep. Then once on trail, there were lots of big climbs up into the highlands among the aspen groves where where the elk tracks lined the trail, only to encounter “Luke’s Limit,” a long, slow, unmounted descent straight down the mountain. The horses took great care of themselves all day, eating along the trail and taking long drinks at the many water tanks. Finally, we arrived back at ride camp after a long, tiring day. Doubts about riding the next day surfaced as my girl was tired, and so was I.

But then the next morning at dawn, this normally reserved mare stepped forward to greet and nuzzle me (and no, I was not holding her feed pan!). Here it was, the morning of the fifth day, and completely unaware that I would again be tacking her up for yet another 50 miles, Journey was affectionate and wanted to be beside me. I got choked up. She was tired. I was tired. But we were both willing to give it a go. And go she did. In my semi brain-dead state, I left her hackamore at the trailer when I went to do the morning trot out for the vets. Oh well, I thought, she’ll be just fine in the rope halter; it was, after all, day five and she had already traveled 205 miles. How wrong I was! Once she was warmed up and we were out on trail, I quickly realized the rope halter was not going to do the trick. I had so much horse under me and she wanted to move out! I never would have believed it was possible to have as strong a horse on day five as I had on day one, but there she was! Needless to say, I grabbed the hackamore at our first hold so that the rest of the ride wouldn’t be a struggle. It was another beautiful day on trail that included the exciting descent of “Pistol Whip” and then lots of long walks and climbs along dusty trails. It was somewhat surreal arriving back at ride camp, and I Ioved that my dog Tripp came running up to greet us as we came off trail. And then during our final vet check, Journey took a step forward and put her face next to mine, her nose against my mouth, our breaths blending as we breathed in sync. I don’t know what she was feeling or thinking at that moment, but for me, it was a perfect ending to an amazing adventure, and I will always treasure the trust she placed in me and the steadfast way she carried me over some truly challenging terrain.

All of this would not have been possible without the generosity, support, encouragement, and trail savvy that Kelly and Jesse so willingly shared with me for over 200+ miles of trail, along with Lynne who jumped in to crew for us on days four and five, Cassidy Miller and Helen Gurina who helped trot Journey out the first two days when I twisted my hip after stepping in a hole, and Rob and Pam Talley Stoneburner who also helped crew for us. Then there were the wonderful vets and all the volunteers, the amazing food truck folks who provided us with great meals, and all the loving support from afar from my husband and daughters. Also, a big shout-out and thank you to Tenney Blouin with SoCo Endurance, and all the private land owners who made this ride possible. But most of all, a big thank you and all the love and devotion in the world to my wonderful Mustang mare, Jicarilla Journey, my beautiful girl.