Thursday, June 06, 2024

2024 Mary and Anna Memorial 100 - Emilee Randal

June 5 2024
By Emilee Randal

Finally have time to sit down and write a ride recap for The Mary and Anna Memorial ride. My first 100. First and foremost, none of this would have been possible without my mom, Darlene, Max, Fire’s previous owner, Cat, who did so much to make sure she held up well, Kristine, Celena, Joslynn, Siri, Sarah, and so many other people.

Back in March, Darlene put the wild idea into my head that I could probably do the 100 at Mary and Anna. I thought she was absolutely insane, because WHAT?! My initial goal was Tevis, but this year I’m going to go crew. Darlene thought it would be a great first 100 and she was right. Surprising, I know! We decided it would be smart to have me ride with Max at Eagle Canyon to see if our mares were well matched for 100 miles. You put a half thoroughbred mare and an off the track arabian, both competitve, together for 100 miles, and they won’t tell you if they’re tired. Despite angry mare stares all day and mild concern that they would push eachother too hard at MAMR, we decided to give it a go. I fed Fire everything she would eat, her ugly duckling clip grew out, and before I knew it, it was time to go. Fire was well prepared with regular BEMER sessions, chiropractic work, and some massage work.

The trek to La Pine wasn’t bad, but Bend traffic is no joke. My mom and I left bright and early around 5 or 5:30 and got to camp around 1:30. We got all set up and later on, Joslynn and I went for a little pre-ride. She took Miles (a decade team horse who is still breezing through LDs) and I rode Fire. The conversation was wonderful and we had a grand time cantering up a hill.

I took Fire out the next day for a second little pre-ride. We went bareback in my sidepull and she was so good. I was really happy with how she was doing and I felt like we were as set up for success as possible.

I tried to sleep that night, but it didn’t go too well since I kept dreaming that we got pulled because she was dead lame, colicing, etc.

I woke up at 3:30 and forgot a few things, but I wasn’t nearly as forgetful as I had been at Eagle Canyon.

I was in the saddle by 4:45 and she had fire coming out of her butt. I’m sure half of it was me, but she kept giving me the tiniest little bucks like there was a literal stick up her a$$. Once we got going, she settled in nicely. Max, Darlene and I had discussed strategy and we were going to go all day with one horse leading for 5 miles, then switching out for 5 miles, then switching back. We started with Fire in the back. I think it saved me some blisters on my hands.

Jala was taking photos just a few miles from the start, which I didn’t know, and I ended up throwing my jacket a few hundred feet from her. She was going to grab it, but someone else did. No luck finding it yet.

The mares were moving along very nicely and Fire was more manageable than she ever has been. I was pleased. Before I knew it, we were at the 20 mile vet check. Fire was eating, drinking, and she even peed! Vetted through fine and my blood pressure dropped significantly.

We went out again, and in that first 20 miles we had picked off all of the people that we would for the whole day. We were happy with how our mares were doing and we kept a super consistent pace of 8mph. Fire was going on a loose rein at this point and I figured the rest of the day would be a breeze.

Going into camp she started jigging. Poor thing can’t keep up with a big half thoroughbred mare going downhill. God forbid! We both just kept getting more and more upset, so I came into the vet check with electricity coming out of my butt, or something like that. Darlene took Fire and I went to go take a breath and eat something. I ended up taking a brief power nap, then it was back in the saddle! We did another two loops before Siri noticed that I was pretty off center and Fire’s back was getting a bit sore because of it.

The small change that I had to make to balance myself caused a good bit of agony. I had to shorten my right stirrup to make it slightly better but my ankle was SCREAMING at me. On the very last 9 mile loop it hurt so bad I could hardly think. I was very glad I wasn’t 75 miles into Tevis with another 25 to go.

I survived and we crossed the finish line in 5th place. Fire took a few minutes to pulse down, but she did and trotted sound. I was expecting to cry from the emotional overload, but I did not.

I took her back to the trailer, took care of her and gave her all sorts of food options, then went back to vetting to watch other people come in. I still don’t know why I didn’t just go to bed.

Jala came up to me and gave me a hug, and for whatever reason, I started crying. Total waterworks. I was laughing at myself while crying because I had no idea why I was crying, but soon, the tears subsided and I was happy to sit by a little propane fire and watch people come in.

I went to bed with some very sore legs and woke up the next morning for BC showing. The SECOND I saw her, my eyes went to her hind right leg, which had blood running down it. Good grief.

She cast herself in her panels overnight. I took her to the vet and was freaking out just a little. He assured me she was just fine. Her other legs were cold and tight - thank you compression socks!

Fire’s CRI was 56/64, so she was tired, but otherwise okay. I was overjoyed. I knew we didn’t have a shot at BC, considering the horses in front of us have a much more rigorous training program, along with some damn good owners, but I was just happy her CRI wasn’t horrific.

Overall, nothing really went wrong. It was a good day spent with good people. I had some very wise people give me advice for next time and I’m thankful for people who are willing to share their knowledge.

We brought home AHA Region 4 Endurance Purebred Arabian Reserve Champion and Purebred Arabian BC - for clarification, not overall BC.

I cannot express how thankful I am to everyone who helped me out throughout the day - Heather was great company to calm me down, Siri and Sarah, who both rode 50s and then jumped in to lend a hand, Darlene, my mom, and Joslynn. I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting, but seriously, thank you ALL.

Another big thank you to Jennifer Kaplan, who did so much to help get me to this point in my endurance career, to Ashley Fiedler for years of support and riding lessons, to Sue Barrington for introducing me to BEMER - thank you for helping with keeping my girl healthy, Marlene Moss for all of the saddle fit assistance (finished with no back soreness!), to The Distance Depot for keeping us looking snazzy all day and being my favorite tack place, and Fleet Foot Forge for all of the brainstorming you did with me to give Fire the best advantage with her shoeing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

2024 Mary and Anna Memorial Ride - Samantha Ellis

May 27 2024
By Samantha Ellis, Crater Hill Equestrian

The Mary and Anna Memorial Ride was one for the history books for us, my only regret, is not having to gone to this ride in years past!

We were anxious to try a new 100 and get a look at the course for the AERC National Championships. I had some concerns as we don’t do much speed training on our horses, and this is a flat course. We focus more on long slow distance and steady hill work. We wanted to use this ride to make some horse choices on who we want to aim for championships.

As per the usual, endurance is all about being flexible. I planned all year to take Leno to this ride as a prep for Tevis. Of course a week prior, he decided a pasture injury would sideline him (he will be fine- but had to sit this one out). I struggled with riding or not riding, but at the end of the day we needed another sponsor so I would need to ride. The only other horse that we could fit a 100 safely into their schedule was Sybil, whom I had turned the reins over to Mollie Quiroz for the season.

After much discussion, we would proceed as planned with our groups and I’d just make the horse switch and ride a similar ride as planned prior. After looking at prior times, we came up with the plan that my group would finish between 830 and 9, and Mollies group between 1030 and 1130.

The ride start was perfect, they said the trail was open and Sybil just kept her head down grazing :) . I let everyone blast out of there and waited for a calm time to walk out. Tierney Beloberk and Christine Crum’s horses were equally reasonable. We had a great start and got passed by a bunch of people in the beginning and then when just started cruising. I feel like the beginnings of rides really set the tone for how the rest of the day is going to go. Mollie was riding with Katie Stilwell Katie Stilwell Beloberk, Vanessa Erickson, and Jax. All 4 first time 100 mile horses, so they started a bit later than us.

We cruised into the first vet check with no issues. The volunteers were amazing and our crew bags were there waiting. The horses pulsed right down and better, it was a bit cold at this check and I wasn’t sure what exactly we were in for for the rest of the day. After we left there, things just fell into place.

We kept a steady pace all day. Cantered a few flats to use different muscles, but mostly just held a steady trot. The footing is absolutely spectacular and was truly a treat! Watching the clock and gps this is a similar time and pace that we would be doing at Tevis into Robinson Flat so I thought this was great training!

Unfortunately Christine was pulled at 60 miles, and Katie was pulled at 40 but both appear to be minor and to be honest it was great to have some crew! By this point Andrew Gerhard had also finished his 50.

As we came in at 75 miles we had our amazing team of Christine, Katie, Andrew and Frank Crum waiting for us! Sybil and Tres were feeling amazing and pulsed right down! When I vetted Sybil the vet said wow, she doesn’t look like she’s done 60 miles! I said actually 75 :) .

We kept passing people in the vet checks because our horses were recovering very well. I stuck to the game plan and while I really didn’t care about placing, I just wanted to hit my time target for Tevis training, it was a wonderful surprise to end up 3rd and 4th!!! We finished at 836, so right on target! I would have ridden the same ride whether we were 1st or 30th. That was the appropriate speed and that’s what we were going to do, and whatever happens was meant to be!

Mollie finished right after 11, everyone looked great! It was a huge accomplishment to get all these first time 100 milers through! We had the brilliant idea to ride the 50 the next day since we had already paid for fuel and taken the time off work. Why not get our moneys worth :) :) :) .

So Sunday morning Vanessa, Christine, Mollie, Andrew, and Frank set out for the 50. This meant I had to ask Tierney to show Sybil for BC. If you don’t know Sybil, she can sometimes be a little goofy and definitely got a reputation here when she first arrived. I expected some serious push back from Tierney, but to my surprise she was up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to show at 7am!

We set out for the 50 at the same time and tried not to have an anxiety attack worrying about how it was going. I got a text from Katie saying Sybil looked great but then crickets. Mollie, Vanessa and I laughted until we cried.

We came in at 22 miles and vetted horses. My heart sank because I knew they had done awards by now and I didn’t hear anything, so while I thought Sybil looked great apparently it wasn’t good enough. Or maybe she was a dragon and T didn’t want to show her.

Topsy vetted through right away with her freak show recoveries and I walked around to get her some food. The Beloberk’s walked up to me to say goodbye, and Tierney said something like, “so your horse…”, my heart sank again, she must have been crazy. And she couldn’t keep a straight face, we were awarded High Vet Score AND Best Condition! We were quite a ways off the pace so I didn’t have high hopes, but I am blown away! Sybil’s journey is only just beginning and it was a perfect reminder that strategy and sticking to the plan always pays off! I would always rather a BC than a win!

We set off again and finished our 50. Christine tied for first place with Jay, and I’m so happy that Pikhante is still out there living his best life all these years later. Again we ended up Top 10 simply by chance and riding a smart ride, we all showed for BC. Pikhante ended up getting BC and Topsy got High Vet Score! Her CRI at the finish was 44/44.

Sometimes I feel endurance has a deeper meaning. When Tierney first started taking lessons, I said, she’s going to be my endurance rider! And here we are! I haven’t had the chance to ride with T on a 100 since Tevis 2022. After her head injury, this was really special and I just loved getting to spend the time with this amazing young lady and am so proud of who she has become. I watched her make all the right choices, put her horse first, we laughed, we cried, we navigated, we had highs and we had lows, but it was such an honor to spend the day with her. And that she got out there and showed Sybil, and I had many people come tell me what an amazing job she did!

This ride was so amazing. The crowd up north was more than welcoming, the camp was amazing, the trail is ideal for the NC ride!!!! I know many complain about the early starts on rides, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Tevis starts at 5 too, and being done in brought daylight was a real treat. There were still plenty of people out there until 4am as well. The early start and finish time allowed us to get up and ride again Sunday!!!

Darlene Merlich and Max are really amazing people, who welcomed us with open arms even though we generally don’t venture up that way. Im so incredibly sad that this is their last year managing as this ride is 100% top notch!!!! The marking was perfect, the GPS was spot on, there was no possible way to get lost.

I’m feeling extra grateful for this amazing life tonight, the people, the family it’s created, the amazing horses, the amazing people experiences. Literally we are living the dream! I have to once again thank Shawn Bowling and Lisa Bowling for having this dream and helping build the program and watching it soar - then turn the reins over to Mollie Quiroz and I, and I really hope we continue to do you guys proud!

Thank you Jennifer Elizabeth Mayfield for being such an amazing vet, we could not do this without your expertise, and always just being a text message away!John Brain and Scotty Mayfield kept the horses shod perfectly with no lost or loose shoes! Cara Choy thank you for working in everyone before we left, I know Sybil’s success had a lot to do with your hard work! Specialized Saddles kept us all comfortable all weekend with straight As on backs withers! I love love love my Aussie light and for both of my mares to get High Vet Score in it is amazing! Thank you Diane Seaby Stevens for fitting everyone! Thank you to Highh Lonesome Arabians, Debra Lemmons, Erin Lemmons, Jessica Lemmons for breeding these amazing athletes and trusting us with them! And also only ever being a text or call away for anything that has to do with breeding, training, or just to talk! Highh Visibility, Highh Tops, Highh Marks and Highh Treason. Mandolyn Hill Farm was also well represented by our team this weekend, thank you Michelle Morgan and Chris Lewis for putting faith in our program! Kiss Curl MHF, Mercy Me MHF, El Kusu MHF, and Raven MHF. Courtney Brain, Mari Larson Flasck, Barbara Hartley, Jennifer Elizabeth Mayfield, thank you for trusting our team to pilot your horses this weekend and trusting us with their education in the sport!

I have more to say about this weekend, but I’m still recovering, and there will definitely be more posts to come!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Christina Chesterman Memorial ride 2024 - Nick Warhol

May 22 2024 Nick Warhol

One of my favorite things in this sport is going to new rides for the first time. I'm a little surprised I haven't made it to this one before, but I went up with Sorsha, and Ines with Rayos this past Saturday. The ride is a 3.5 hour drive for me, located just north of the town of Paradise CA, the poor town that was burned to the ground by the big fire a few years ago.

I'd never been to Paradise, and seeing it was kind of scary. Most of the buildings that are there are new; the ones that have been rebuilt, but a lot of the town is still just gone. It's very spooky. The ride is put on by JayaMae Gregory, who did an absolutely splendid job. Everything about it was well organized and well run; I didn't see any real issues at all.

The whole event had a great vibe to it since it is a memorial for a young local woman who was killed by a drunk driver. Her parents come to the ride, the whole town supports it; it made for a really neat atmosphere. I hadn't heard that story before. The ride camp was great, located at this big ranch up in the mountains.

There were campground spots, and a big Meadow with lush green grass. Lots of bugs in the meadow though; luckily we were up in the campground away from all that. The ride itself was entirely out from camp; there were two vet checks on the 50 out at a single location about 15 minutes up the highway.

You know how every time you do a ride, it always seems like something can happen for the first time? Well, it did for me. In 33 years of endurance, this was the first time that I ever slept late. I set my alarm on my phone and for some reason it didn't go off. I was awakened to Ines and Laura Fend talking outside and wondering where I was. The ride started at 6:30, I got out of bed at 6:08. In 22 minutes I got dressed, ate, tacked up, and made it to the start exactly on time. That included my shoelace snapping off as I tied it. That’s why there is a spare pair of riding shoes in the trailer! Nothing like a little bit of stress in the early morning!

The ride started out on forest roads in the chilly morning air. After winding through a combination of forest roads and some nice trails, we ended up on this amazing raised road/trail that went alongside the right side of an irrigation canal of sorts. But it was a wide canal of 15 feet or so with deep, rushing water, with about an eight foot drop to the water itself. It was really neat to ride along this thing for about a mile, with an occasional slowdown or stop because you did not want your horse to go left into this thing. That would ruin your day real quick!

The ride in the past has had an extraordinary amount of forest roads in it, but management took the advice of riders and threw in much more single track. They put some very nice trails in here. There was one section especially that I just had an absolute hoot in. It was an old, soft, Jeep road sort of thing that wound through the forest that had been trimmed for horses. We blasted through that section, even cantering some of it; it was like chase in the Old West where the horses are running through the forest. Sorsha and I led, and poor Rayos had to really work to keep up! It was fun! That ended all too soon. We continued along on a combination of Jeep and logging roads, with occasional segments of single track through the trees. It was a fun loop with perfect weather.

We arrived at the first check at 20 miles where our crew Laura and Judy were there waiting for us. Laura spent the weekend hanging out with Judy which was great, and a huge help for me. We had our hour hold, and then continued on to the 2nd loop of 15 miles, where we climbed up into the high country. The terrain up here reminds me a lot of the Wild West ride; same kind of elevation, trees, and trails. This loop started off on forest roads, but culminated in a steep technical climb that was really steep, but only for a little while. Sorsha hammered up it as she usually does, thinking she should just run up it, which she usually does. It was one of those hills that has the breast collar really doing its job. Once at the top, about a mile of forest roads took us to the end of the loop where we picked up the playing card and rode back down the mountain. The way back down was less interesting, being just on fire roads, but they were fire roads in the pretty forest with the footing mostly good.

Back into that same location for our second vet check where we spent half an hour this time. The weather was really interesting; it was just lovely when you were riding in the shade, but when you get into the exposed sun it got a little warm.

But overall it was quite nice. I didn't think a lot of the first half of the 3rd loop going home, since it included a few miles of open exposed boring flat gravel roads. We actually saw the guy who had done some trail sabotage riding a quad with a woman on the back. He had gotten on to the course, kicked out a chalk arrow line, and was taking down ribbons coming towards us. We didn't know that at the time. We didn't have any issue whatsoever since we found the chalk line that he had kicked out at the only intersection in question.

We then continued on until we picked up the next ribbon in a hundred yards and all was well. By the way- the trail was marked exceptionally well. I think there was one time in any of the many turns I had to look to see where the ribbon was, and there it was. Great job ride management! I take trail marking personally, and these guys did it well. Once we got off the ugly forest roads, we reconnected with our outbound loop for about 5 miles and had a lot more of that fun stuff in the deep forest that we had done in the morning in the opposite direction.

It was also nice getting back into the forest where it was cooler. The ride has an interesting finish in that you get to the base camp area and do an entire mile loop around it. The poor horses are very confused! There's a giant, deep, clear water crossing right before the finish line where you round the meadow and come back to the finish, where both horses really tanked up.

We finished at about 3:30 PM in the middle of the pack after having a great ride. The ride meal was also very good. We camped Saturday night and headed home in the morning which was nice. Sorsha just cruised through it as usual, fresh as a daisy at the end. I really enjoyed it, and I will certainly be back! Next stop- two days at the Wild West ride!

Monday, May 13, 2024

2024 Biltmore Challenge 25 LD: A lesson in enduring - Lea Koechle - Full Story

May 12 2024
by Lea Koechle

A lesson in enduring...

Every rider has a story where they first encounter what it means to be a true endurance rider. As a Limited Distance rider, I’m sure I’ll have bigger stories than this one when I move up in distance. But, at this point in my story, this ride had me the most fire spitting mad and the closest I’ve been to wanting to quit and instead having to dig down and cling to the word “Endure.”

Biltmore is an absolutely gorgeous estate nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. I’m not going to go into the history of the property as I don’t know it and on this particular occasion I was not there to learn it. I do plan on going back, sans horse agenda, to truly appreciate the history and architecture of the estate. For this trip however, I wanted to ride the grounds and appreciate the beauty.

For two years I had been hounding my trailer buddy and ride mate to go to Biltmore. Since she will be taking a sabbatical from riding to focus on personal health and it’s my birthday, we finally decided to do it as a last “hurrah” since we won’t know when, if ever, we’ll be racing together again...

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Treasure of the Sierra Madre: River’s 5th 50-mile completion (Road to Tevis 112) - Full Story

by Jessica Black

April 27, 2024

This last weekend River and I completed the first day of the new Treasure of the Sierra Madre endurance ride. It was a beautiful ride with some fun technical trails. We rode with Heidi Helly and her horse OP for the second time, which was, again, a learning experience for both River and me!

River’s state leading up to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Just two weeks earlier, River had completed back-to-back 50s at the 2024 Cuyama Oaks xpride, held not 20 miles west of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Two weeks before that, she had completed 50 miles in the desert at the Western Mojave xpride. She came out of Western Mojave with a stone bruise in the toe of her left front hoof. During the final loop of the second day at Cuyama Oaks, River became intermittently lame. She would start favoring the left fore, and I would hop off, clean out all the debris, and she’d be fine, right up until her hoof got full of sand and rocks. I’d have to get off and clean her hoof out again. I ended up walking much of the final loop.

I thought that it was the same stone bruise, not fully healed. When my farrier came out, he found a different issue. The stone bruise was 100% healed, but she had a corn in the left (outside) buttress of the same foot. A corn in horses is a bruise or hematoma between the hard and soft tissues of the bar, nothing like corns in human feet! River’s was “dry” (not suppurating) and not readily apparent. My farrier found it with hoof testers, but I couldn’t see anything...

Read more here:

Saturday, April 27, 2024

2024 American River Classic - Nick Warhol

April 26 2024
By Nick Warhol

The American river ride was the first ride that Sorsha and I have done in over seven months. Family obligations have kept us from doing any riding, but we have that pretty much sorted out now. I drove up on Friday morning with Ines and her spunky gelding Rayos. Camp was PACKED with rigs; the parking team did a good job getting people situated. We got so lucky since we were the third from last rig to fit in the main area. We got a great spot very close to everything. The weather was perfect, finally, although I was a little worried about some of the muddy bogs that might be present in the cool area due to the recent rains we've had. At the ride meeting the trail lady talked about something called the long water, be sure to take the long water; don’t go to the left. What was that? Well, I guess we'll find out.

The ride this year was different than past American river rides in that it started and ended in cool, doing loops in and out of camp, as opposed to the point-to-point ride that's always been in play at this ride over the years. The last time I did this ride about 8 years ago, I found the single track from Folsom Lake to the Auburn area was just too torn up, technical, and downright nasty to do again. I was glad to see a change. The ride was 3 loops for the 50: the 15 mile red, the 10 mile white, then the 25 mile blue. The red and the white loops started and ended in cool. The blue loop was pretty neat since it went from Cool to Auburn, backwards on the tevis trail, to the vet check at the overlook and then back to Cool the same way we came.

We left camp at 6:15am with a controlled walk over to the start, then took off with the pack at 6:30 with over 60 horses in the 50. The ride started right out on single track , which is fun, but makes it hard to pass people, especially early on. For some reason we just couldn't get away from the conga line of horses during the first few miles. It's just so much easier to ride by yourself. We hung back after a while and let the groups go but kept getting caught up in other groups; It was kind of strange to keep getting stuck with many riders. The trail is a mixture of really nice single track and jeep roads with good footing in most areas. There were boggy sections, as well as some rocky stuff, but overall the footing was quite good. We ended up on a long downhill road to the American river, which was pretty full, (the rapids were loud!) and skirted along the shore to the East for a bit. We then climbed all the way back up to the top of the canyon where Cool is located. After 10 miles we finally were able to ride by ourselves the last five miles into the vet check back in camp. We still didn't know what the long water was. Sorsha recovered instantly with her classic 40/40 CRI and ate happily at the trailer for 30 minutes.

The next loop was the white loop, using many of the same trails and the same area as the red loop, but included the infamous long water. A look at the GPS route we recorded shows the crazy repetitive trails used on all three loops. A couple miles from camp we noticed over to our left a couple of people trying to extract a poor horse from the mud. That looked pretty grim. The lady at the ride meeting had said “be sure to take the long water, don't go to the left or you'll get stuck.” Well, apparently this rider went to the left and got stuck.

We turned left into the long water which turned out to be like a Creek, but it was deep. Sorsha is a tall horse, and my feet and ankles were underwater as we slogged up this Creek / puddle / river that wasn't moving, for at least a couple hundred feet. I would have taken a video, and I wish I had, but I was a little bit nervous in there. It was really deep water. And at one point Sorsha thought she might try to exit stage left, but I caught her, and with one nice left leg push I got her back into the deep water in the center of the pond. That was exciting! We exited the water, with horses dripping, and continued on, but had some trouble with trail marking on the white loop. We got lost twice and did an extra 1.6 miles. (we have a gps) One benefit was that the wrong trail we were on was a great single track! Once back on trail, we continued on with winding trails back to the start finish and second vet check in cool. Another great CRI for Sorsha, this time 40/36.

We spent our hour hold letting the horses eat which they did happily, and headed out for the out-and-back loop to Auburn in the heat of the afternoon. It started out in the same general area with the other loops, but eventually made its way over to the Wendell Robie trail all along Highway 49 towards no hands bridge. I recognized right away when we got on to the tevis trail, and we rode across the no hands bridge enjoying the beautiful views. There were a lot, and i mean a lot of people walking on the road along the river between the bridge and the auburn area. It was very crowded with people; we made our way as best we could along the river loop and then to the last vet check at about 40 miles at the Auburn overlook staging area. The check was at the very top of a big climb which was hard on some horses. It was hot, and several horses weren't recovering, but Sorsha certainly didn't have that problem. She was 44/40 here, it took Rayos a few minutes to come down, but he did. Several horses were pulled for non-recovery here, and I think some were probably not able to make the cut off time.

We spent our 30 minutes and continued on, riding back the way we came towards Cool, going in reverse across no hands bridge. It was a long, slow climb up the rocky trail up the Canyon, (at least they kept us off the training hill!) but we took it easy not being in any hurry. We got to the top, then looped around, did a couple more miles and then headed to the finish. It was a long ride; we finished at 5:20, with the winner finishing at about 3:15. The winner happened to be “sandwash” Ali Woodward, riding one of Melissa Montgomery’s Mustangs. (Melissa was pulled at the 40 mile check). Ali has turned into one of the best catch riders in the West region. She needs to get her own horse, well then again, maybe she doesn't! Sorsha finished with her classic 40/36, CRI impressing the heck out of the vets. We finished in about 15th place I think out of the 60 or so starters, but I fear there were some overtime pulls at that last vet check. All in all it was an excellent ride, although getting lost a bit, we had a great ride in good weather on great horses. Next ride will be the Christina Chesterman in a month!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

2024 Eagle Canyon - Emilee Randal

Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride - Day 1

By Emilee Randal
April 22 2024

I’ve never been to this ride before but I had an absolute BLAST. I rode with Max both days.

Fire vetted in perfectly Friday night and I felt confident about holding a strong pace. I wasn’t sure if I had ridden her enough, but Darlene told me about a million times that my horse was fine and we would do well. She was right.

We started at 7:30, nothing hectic and we held 1st and 2nd for a little while. Eventually Suzanne Hayes (the woman with 100 100s!!) passed us and we knew we’d be fools to try and keep up, since we were planning on riding both days.

4 miles in I was in agony. The Ghost I’m using has a flap that rubs my knees and I had to vet wrap my legs. It was hell.

We held 2nd and 3rd the rest of the day. We saw an antelope and a few burrow owls, along with a coyote.

I had to compensate funny because of my knees (which were swollen and bruised) so I was very sore the next day. Uh oh.

We finished about 30 minutes behind Suzie and Fire had all As, along with a 56/48 CRI, so Max and I showed for BC. Max won, along with high vet score, and there weren’t any other juniors on the 50 so I didn’t qualify for Junior BC. No biggie.

Fire started devouring more food than she had in the 2 days we’d been there and she was drinking fabulously. I think she knew we were going again.

Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride - Day 2

Again, we started at 7:30. this time, Layne Bownds Lewis (the fab ride manager) was riding. What happened is her story to tell, it is posted, but I ended up galloping back into camp to get her husband and some help, and then I galloped back out again. Layne is tough as shit, pardon my language but it’s necessary.

Thankful for good horses, and I’m sure Layne would appreciate if you all would keep her in your thoughts.

We rode the first two or three miles with Leah Cain, then split off on our own and watched as Suzie trotted out of sight with David and Melissa Laws in front of her. We wanted to keep a steady pace since we were riding horses who weren’t fresh - and that is what we did. The girls were hotter Sunday than they were Saturday, so we decided if they still felt great at the end, we’d pick up speed on the last loop (10mi).

Layne lent me a saddle cover for the Ghost so I could ride without issue, and my knees got better all day, but I was sore as hell from needing to ride funny the day before. Last year in Moab, Fire was backsore by the end. This time, she was not. Anywho, we saw lots of antelope, great blue herons, and a plethora of whistle pigs. We ended up making time on the last loop and I felt Fire get tired about 4 miles into that loop, so I kept that in mind and we came into camp.

Her 10 minute CRI was 60/64, and at the hour it was 60/60. I think she will recover just fine and be ready for The Mary and Anna Memorial Ride.

Thank you to all of the people who helped me through this ride. Joslynn Terry wrapped Fire’s legs for me and crewed for me all day, knowing how sore I was. I couldn’t have asked for a better helping hand. Darlene Merlich is a wealth of knowledge and I’m thankful for her guidance these last few months. Celena Pentrack’s voice was in my head ALL day, reminding me to ride well. Marlene has been so patient while I figure out the Ghost and I’m very pleased with it, as long as I have that seat saver. Everyone knows how wonderful my mom is and I am so thankful for her hauling me all over and being my #1 supporter.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

2024 Twenty Mule Team 100 - Lucy Trumbull

March 14 2024
Lucy Trumbull

Sometimes it seems like the more I do something the less it feels like I know how to do it. Riding Squee has brought new and different challenges to long-distance riding, and 20 Mule Team - whilst familiar - was no different. This was my 8th time riding the 100 miler (with Squee and I doing the 60 and the 65 milers here the last couple of years).

It didn't start off well when Squee managed to slice open his head in the trailer in the first 30 minutes while we were on our way over to fetch Ranger and Annette. After a quick inspection of the bleeding flap, we glopped on some desitin and shut him in the middle stall of the trailer where he wouldn't be able to do any more damage. We made it to Ridgecrest with no flat tires or the trailer lights failing - and dodged the worst of the weather on the way down. Carefully parked the trailer to maximize its wind-breaking capacity, and installed both horses on the lee side (thankful that I've got spring ties on both sides). We were even close enough to the faucet and had a hose so that we were able to fill water buckets without much heavy lifting - a bonus, given that Squee pooped in his water bucket, twice, (presumably due to turning his butt to the wind), before I gave up and put a water container on the ground, slightly to one side.

Friday was spent gluing on his shoes, gluing his forehead back together (who knew how useful superglue could be), pre-riding an amped up horse (aka Kite Onna String), packing crew bags, and wrestling with things in the wind.

Because of the wind, it got to the stage where you couldn't do most basic tasks alone. My tack room door stopper suffered a failure from being nearly blown off its hinges, meaning that you needed two people to get the saddle out - one to hold the door, the other to wrestle the saddle. Similarly, to tack up, you needed one person to wrangle the blanket and saddle pad, while the other put the saddle on. Everything that normally lives outside the trailer was smooshed into the back of it, so it was tight quarters back there, with us clambering over piles of equipment, hay bags, feed containers, tack, chairs, etc.

All night it blew hard and in the morning despite trying to shelter them out of the wind, it didn't look like either horse had drunk very well, nor could we tell how much hay they'd eaten versus how much had just blown away. I gave Squee a mash which he devoured with such relish that I immediately gave him a second one - which sort of clued me in that he hadn't eaten much overnight. I was super-glad I got those two mashes in him as the morning developed. I also managed to give him a dose of electrolytes before the start.

The ride started at 6 a.m. and we were only 5 minutes late - pretty good going. We sailed along, making good time, passing horses as is Squee's habit, and enjoying the gorgeous sunrise. So far so good.

At 6 miles in, we hit our first issue of the day. Annette's stirrup decided to part company with the saddle, so we stopped at the first water trough for her to fix it (necessitating a complete saddle removal). Thankfully, although Squee ignored the water trough, he and Ranger amused themselves eating desert greenery while this repair was going on (possibly what contributed to him not crashing later, so definitely not a wasted stop). He was also not happy about all the horses that passed us here, but he managed to keep it together.

On we went, sailing along the ridge, admiring the rocks and at times clinging to the saddle to stop being blown off, leaning into the wind. It was crazy windy out there - but hilariously so. What the heck??

At 14 miles (at the "hot chocolate stop" - on the traditional night loop), another trough, another opportunity to drink ignored, but not totally out of the ordinary given the cool weather. I dosed Squee again, hoping to encourage him to drink at the trestle 6 miles further along.

He was bopping along quite happily - wanting to go-go-go, but I was able to keep him to a dull roar - better than past rides here. As we hit the shoulder of Laurel Mountain, it rained on us and although I was bundled up, I was reminded that I hadn't brought along my rain jacket. Thankfully it stopped pretty quickly, but it was a little nervous-making. I had to unzip three of my six layers to find a suitable safe inner pocket to put my rain-spotted glasses into.

At the trestle, he munched on alfalfa but ignored the water trough , so we took some time to let them refuel. I dosed him a third time in the hope that when we hit the vet check in another few miles, he'd start to drink.

Nope. At the vet check (~25 miles) he still had no interest in drinking. He pulsed down nicely, vetted through well, except for unsurprising low hydration scores - but worst of all, his gums were *bright* red, causing great concern. I flashed on the three doses of elytes I'd given him and vet Susan McCartney wondered if that was what had caused the irritation. Ugh. So much for diligent elyting. I flushed his mouth with plain water for a while using my elyte syringe and by the time our hold was over, his gums were back to normal. No more elytes for him for the rest of the ride...

Ranger had taken a little longer to pulse in, so we waited for them - I figure any rest time refueling is good time. Of course, Squee didn't eat his soggy mash, or drink anything (even as we left the check), he just munched on alfalfa.

The next section isn't the most scintillating - riding alongside hw-395, in a straight line for miles. This was similar to last year's route and I was mindful of the fact that in theory a person could trot-trot-trot non-stop for miles and miles. Since we don't train on that type of terrain, that clearly wasn't going to happen, so we put in a few walking breaks.

Squee felt good and the wind was at our back for the first few miles. Ultimately, of course, we had to turn and head straight into it. For some reason I thought there was a water trough at this point, so started doing some mental calculations as to where the next one was. Although Squee felt fine, I decided that if he didn't drink at one of the next two troughs (~32 miles and ~34 miles), I was going to have to pull him from the ride. Because we were looping around, from that point it was just a few miles back to the vet check. But after that, we'd be heading up into the hills and I didn't want to take a compromised horse up there.

And - big sigh of relief - he *finally* took a great big drink at the next trough. Imminent pull averted, although I still felt like I was going to have to baby him along due to the fact he was dehydrated.

So we climbed up into the hills - taking it really easy and not pushing at all. I'd worried that the weather would blow in when we were up there (and we'd had a short taste of it at that 34 mile-trough when we were pelted full in the face with small hail for a couple of minutes) and watched the lowering clouds to the south nervously. But instead we were down in a little canyon, out of the worst of the wind, and what wind there was was at our backs again.

Slow, careful climbing up to the top, but the reward of an amazing view as we crested the saddle at 4,200 ft / 1,280 m. And best of all, the weather never caught us.

Down the other side and headed back to the same vet check as in the morning. Half way down and Annette's stirrup parted ways again (she'd called a friend back in camp and asked them to bring her second saddle to the vet check for this eventuality). This time she trotted on one stirrup for 2-3 miles until the trestle #2 before stopping to fix it - something I couldn't have done, at least not without a lot of whining. Squee and Ranger munched on alfalfa while she made cunning use of her breast collar strap to McGyver a repair job.

Back around to vet check #2 at 50 miles. Squee again got relatively good scores, except for hydration, and at least his gums were the correct color. Ranger, OTOH, wasn't having a good day and it was here we parted company with him getting a ride back to camp in a trailer.

(At 50 miles, the one thing you do *not* do is think "gah, I'm tired, and we're only half-way through"). Thankfully, Squee gives no sh*ts, and cheerfully left the vet check without a care - eager to get down the trail and catch other victims. It's exhausting and exhilarating at the same time - amazing to see his energy, but exhausting because you have to constantly rate him to stop him blowing himself up.

Headed back to camp, we alternated cantering and gaiting, me trying to get a steady pace, him wanting to run. We hunted down some other riders who I assumed were on the 60 or 75 miler (there were more of them than 100 mile riders - and they did the same route as us), but it turned out to be Tami and Monica on the 100. I asked Squee to stay with them for a while in an effort to steady the pace, but he ultimately outwalked them once we got down onto the flats in town and he dragged me into camp (see video clip) at 60 miles with the wind blowing in our face.

This was our hour-hold, so we had plenty of time to regroup, refuel (many thanks to Annette for supplying me with ramen noodles), re-dress (thanks to Annette for the snow pants - although it meant I had nowhere to put my phone), and get Squee's saddle back on (stink-eye from him, since he thought we were done, as we had been the previous two years). We taped some glowsticks onto his breast collar and I booted up the "Rides with GPS" app that supplies audio-cues in the dark as to when and where to turn.

Of again on the first night loop - 15 miles - which would bring us to 75 miles back at camp. Squee was happy as a clam, leading out his posse of Tami, Monica, and new member Megan who was doing the 75. The wind had dropped and it was blissful to ride without having your sinuses whisked or your ears buffeted.

Within a few miles, Megan needed to jog on ahead - her horse has a useful can-go-for-100-miles slow trot that she wanted to make use of. She passed... and of course, Squee wanted to go with her. Since he was now drinking like an adult, had passed the previous vet check well, felt good, and Megan was going a nice easy pace, I didn't see any harm in letting him join her.

This was my mistake and one I made in the past when I rode Charlie at VC100 a few years ago. "Slow easy trot" - whilst it looks slow and easy for an arabian, is not the same as "picking your own gait and staying within reason" for a gaited thing. Squee kept up fine and had a jolly time - to the point that, when the wind came up again, he just went faster and faster until I realised we'd left Megan behind. I slowed him down again and we bopped on back to camp together. Along one stretch I was a little nervous about what seemed to be deep sand, but Squee seemed to gobble it all up.

Back in camp at 75 miles for the 4th vet check with a rabid beast who just wanted to eat and eat and eat... but unfortunately showed no sign of pulsing down. Unwilling to slosh him with water, all we could do was strip his tack, put on a fleece cooler and try and maintain the delicate balance between letting him eat rabidly, and taking him away from the food source to try and get his pulse down - causing it to spike up again because we'd taken the food away. Ugh.

At the last minute, the PnR person was able to get him at criteria - at which point he promptly peed... which would have helped if he'd done it earlier.

So he got through the vet, but not great. I worried that the lack of hydration was catching up with him, making his blood move along like sludge and that he'd go downhill from here. .

This hold was only supposed to be 45 minutes and we'd already spent a bunch of time persuading him to pulse down, so we went back to the trailer for more refueling, a soggy mash for him, more ramen for me, and ended up spending a whole hour - putting me back out on the trail for the final 25 miles at 11 p.m.

I'd never seen Tami or Monica come in to VC4 behind us, so decided that they'd slowed way down and must still be behind me, so it was a bit of a shock to arrive at the out-timer - albeit 20 minutes late - and be told that Tami had left 30 minutes earlier.

Oh. So I'm now turtle. Hey ho.

Off we went, Squee now a lot more subdued (but also heading away from the wind) for a long, dark windy loop. I'd hoped that we'd catch Tami, but Squee wasn't motivated enough. I tried to stay awake, but dozed off a couple of times within the first 10 miles - not good. But catnaps do you the world of good, so I was pretty perky by the time we hit the pointy end of the giant triangle that was the turning around point for this loop - 12.5 miles to go. The end of the loop had a short section of about a quarter mile where they routed us across-country to jog over to the return trail - and this quarter mile was lit up like a UFO landing strip with a glow-stick bouncing on a bush in the wind every 10 ft. Squee took a few minutes to munch on some greenery while I admired the glowsticks. Most amusing...

... until we headed back into the wind...

And windy it was. Ack. It was full, in-your-face wind. Along this stretch, there were three detours off the "headed-straight-back-to-camp" trail, each headed away from the wind. Looking at the map beforehand, I'd originally thought these would cause problems for any self-respecting horse with a sense of direction. Head *away* from camp? Nuh-uh. But instead, when we got to these detours, Squee took off with enthusiasm, doing his rolling downhill eye-popping speed gait away from the wind... and then we'd turn back into the wind and slow down again.

Astonishingly, I actually fell asleep again during one of these back-into-the-wind sections - possibly because I had my eyes squinted shut against being sand-blasted. I woke up with Squee walking straight through a large bush and bumbling around in the undergrowth (I think he was trying to head away from the wind). Consulted the Rides with GPS track and found that we'd veered off course. Apparently Rides with GPS was also asleep, as it never warned me like it's supposed to.

Back on course again and fighting to stay awake, keep Squee on trail, and go as fast as was sensible on a horse that has no desire to go into the wind, but goes like stink every time we head away from it.

The final detour seemed interminable - why weren't we there yet?? It seemed to go on and on, into the wind. And then we were on the final track leading back to camp. At which point Squee stumbled and went down on his knees, with me nearly going over his head. He clambered back up again, took a couple more steps and tripped again. I was on the verge of getting off to lead him in the final half mile but the wind was horrendous and he was fighting me to go - apparently this had woken him up and his mission was now to get us back to camp as fast as he possibly could. There would be no getting off.

The wind was howling at this point - the large trees planted along the front of the couple of residences near camp were whipping around in an alarming way, looking like they were going to be wrenched out by the roots; the horse was fighting to go; there was a metal shipping container banging away; and it all felt like a bit too much and I was suddenly near tears - probably mostly due to fatigue and worry about Squee - but I was overwhelmed by the whole thing.

In the last block, I did manage to get off him and try to lead him "quietly" into the finish line so he would "pulse down all nicely", but all that actually happened was he dragged me forcibly along, despite the death grip on the lead rope. The wind was whipping around, he was rabidly hungry again, and just wanted TO EAT DAMMIT. We did a final vet check with the wind crashing around us and - 100 miles done and dusted. My 7th 100 mile completion at this ride, and Squee's second 100 mile ride. It wasn't pretty, mistakes were made, but we got 'er done.

* * *

Huge thanks to Annette for crewing for me after she and Ranger were done for the day - and for staying up in the wee hours to help me with him.

* * *

The next day I missed most of the awards (I thought they started at 10, an hour later), but it turns out Squee and I won the turtle award (I wasn't sure, since we actually caught Tami and Robert Ribley at the finish line - turns out by the end they were just minutes ahead of us and if we'd made a tiny bit more effort, we would have caught them and could have ridden together) and got some swag (which isn't common when you aren't a top ten rider, so much appreciated for the donation - a rope halter, bucket, and some Doterra essential oil products from from Untamed Tack ( and Darlene LeVan... including their excellent Deep Blue Soothing Blend for poor tired muscles)

We had planned to stay over until Monday (I've come home on the Sunday after the 100 in years past, and it is seldom pretty). The pones were bundled up with plenty of food and we had no desire to sit in the windy camp listening to the buffeting wind, so instead we spent the day helping Brian go out and fetch the water troughs on trail.

It was so interesting to see the trail a) from a different view (i.e. to drive to the locations) and b) in daylight in some cases. In the dark, I'd gotten turned around and didn't realise where we'd repeated trail in reverse in a few places, where we'd ridden the trail in years past - and most of all, to have Brian explain why he routed the trail how he did.

Great care was taken to make sure we used the best possible options - particularly in the dark sections where some of the tracks we'd used in the past had suffered erosion. He'd even angled those detours deliberately so we'd be headed away from the wind along those oh-so-welcome stretches. Nice!

Big thanks to Brian Reeves and his volunteer crew for another excellent 20 Mule Team ride. I love this ride, have ridden it ten times, and come down to crew for friends a bunch of other years. Long may it continue!

* * *

We came home on Monday, again without any flat tires (this had become a thing on past trips to Ridgecrest, always necessitating a trip to the tire shop) - but I did lose the running lights on the trailer as we were coming through Auburn in the dark to drop Annette and Ranger off.

As of the following weekend, I think I've found the short, so right now the lights are working. Fingers crossed they stay that way.

Squee's glue on shoes have been removed while he takes a few weeks off, and I'm mulling over my mistakes with a resolve to "try to do better". Uh huh.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

2024 Twenty Mule Team - Vera V-Abdallah

By Vera V-Abdallah
March 5 2024

Last weekend, we participated in the 20-Mule-Team Ride, which was only held for one day of riding. Thus, we had to do some juggling with getting the adoptable rescue horses out there riding the 35-mile limited distance (LD) ride, while Erna on Love Story competed in the 60-mile ride. I rode the LD ride with one of my newer mentor horses, Sir Trot a Lot, who I thought would do great to accompany the two adoptable horses, Alada Baske Aire and Two Step Betty. I was nervous about Erna riding the 60 miles without me, but my friend Cynthia Buendia rode my horse Sharif to be there as Erna’s support. Erna is now a "young rider" at 17 years of age and she is eligible to ride alone, but as a mom, I was so happy for Cynthia to ride with Erna.

I figured that Sir Trot a Lot could take over Sharif's guardian role on the 35-mile LD ride, since Sir Trot a Lot is a very calm and mostly confident horse. Erna and the 60 mile riders all started out at 6 a.m. whereas I started out at 7 a.m. This was great because I was able to see Erna and Cynthia off to the start of the ride and still had enough time to get myself ready to start our LD ride.

As most of you probably know, the weather conditions were less than desirable with a horrible windstorm that lasted all weekend, with sustained 30 to 40 mile winds and gusts that were up to 100 miles per hour! In addition, rain, possible snow or sleet was forecast. We dressed appropriately and set out to ride.

Alada Baske Air was ridden by Leah Palestrant who is an experienced endurance rider who flew in, all the way from Ohio, to ride with us! I was very happy about this because it was Alada Baske Air's first endurance ride. Two Step Betty was ridden by Katja Pizka who is also a board member of our rescue. It was Katja's first endurance ride, though she is an experienced rider and is very physically fit.

It seems like at every ride there is something new or crazy that happens! This time, it was crazy weather with the wind storm, as we had to ride alongside some residential properties with stuff flying and flapping all over the place. At the start of a ride, horses are usually anxious and to add to it the flapping and flying debris, it was nerve wracking for me. We made it passed the properties and the horses did very well. As I was breathing a sigh of relief, we saw a truck with a photographer ahead, but the horses were hesitant to approach since they could not quite make out that it was a human ahead and not a horse eating monster. We kept calling out to the photographer to call out back to us, so the horses could hear a human voice, but the blasting wind was so loud that he could not hear us. We finally got to where he was crouching down in the dirt road, taking photos of us. As the photographer disappeared into his truck and we went to ride on, we saw a riderless saddled-up mule galloping toward us.

That was my "oh shit" moment because not only was I concerned that my horse would take off running with the mule, but I was also worried for Leah and Katja. How would Alada Baske Aire or Two Step Betty react? I was able to stop my horse from running, though he did bolt a few steps and was able to grab the runaway mules reins, all the while yelling for the photographer to get out of his truck and to hold onto the mule, which eventually he did. Fortunately, neither one of the other two horses ran off, they listened to their riders and stood still. That was a huge relief because in my mind's eye, I had imagined all of our horses galloping alongside the runaway mule back to camp.

We all took a deep breath and continued on. In my mind, I kept questioning my sanity for continuing onward with the ride with the gale force winds howling around us and having survived the runaway mule situation. But onward and forward we forged our way through the microderm abrasion sand storm. At least, I was getting a free facial treatment! Once we got to the turn off, where we were heading north on an incline sandy road, we let the horses trot forward. We had to make up time because we had only ridden at a walk to this point and the mule episode had cost us time for sure. Also, this would run off some energy of our horses because they were on edge with all this wind. We trotted for several miles and things settled down, but the wind didn't follow that lead. It kept howling alongside us and the strong wind gusts almost blew us off our horses!

I kept trying to have Sirt Trot a Lot lead our group, but he absolutely refused to lead. The only time he was willing to ride up front was when another rider would pass us and he would follow the horse for a mile or two, but then Sir Trot a Lot would come to a complete stop and would not even take one more step until Alada Baske Aire would take over the lead.

I asked Sir Trot a Lot if he was not embarrassed to have a "new horse" be the leader, but he did not seem to care about being a follower. Katja and Two Step Betty rode behind us and there were a few times when they would lead, but Betty also seemed to prefer staying behind the two geldings for this ride.

We arrived at a water stop about seven miles into the ride and as the horses were drinking, their heads suddenly shot upwards. We could not see much because we had to squint our eyes to protect them from the flying sand. The horses had noticed a column of about 15 cross country motorcycles blasting by us, way before we had become aware of the bikes. That was a lot of motorcycles all at once! Fortunately, yet again, the horses stayed calm. But it is in moments like these that your heart stands still momentarily especially with new horses.

We continued riding at a good pace until about mile 14 into the ride. It started to rain and hail. The hail was not fun at all because it was thumping pretty hard on us and the horses. At that point, the horses really did not want to continue, they wanted a break! But we were able to motivate them again once the hailstorm had stopped. Alada Baske Aire continued leading the group.

We had to cross Highway 395, just as it was starting to hail again. Sir Trot a Lot does not like big semi-trucks, they intimidate him and just as we were standing by the side of the highway, waiting to cross, several semi-trucks were starting to pass by. He really looked for guidance from me, as his rider, but he also looked at the other two horses' demeanor. They stayed calm, so he stayed calm.

We finally were able to cross the highway and rode on. But, at around mile 16 into the ride, the horses really needed a break. Normally, when riding an LD ride that is 25 to 35 miles long, there is a vet check around 15 miles into the ride, where horses are given a 30-minute break. Our horses started walking as slow as molasses and there was no way to motivate them to trot. I tried to get Sir Trot a Lot to lead, and he absolutely refused. Alada Baske Aire would not trot ahead and Two Step Betty did not want to lead in a trot either.

We were really concerned about making time. You need to average a minimum of 4.5 miles per hour in order to finish a ride within the allotted time. According to the GPS app on my phone, we were ok on time, but if we could not motivate the horses, we’d be in trouble. I called my friend Susannah Jones who was waiting at the vet check at ride mile 24 and told her of our trouble and my concern that were going to go over time. I told her that we were about seven miles from the vet check and at this rate, we’d arrive at the vet check tomorrow. She laughed and the horses must have heard the laughing because they decided it was ok to trot again.

Alada Baske Aire got a second wind and he happily trotted in the lead again. This motivated Sir Trot a Lot to trot along, just as I had contemplated changing his name to Sir Stop a Lot. Two Step Betty was good to go again too. We continued a pattern of trotting alternating with walking until we arrived at a water stop at ride mile 20. This stop not only had water, but it also had some alfalfa hay for the horses. This was great because all three of the horses drank and ate. This stop was manned by Paula Herr and her husband who adopted a horse from our rescue and it was really refreshing for me to chat with them.

We had four more miles to go to get to the vet check. The horses were refreshed and more eager to move forward, but poor Katja started experiencing back spasms and pain. I know that those four miles were really hard on her, but she sucked it up and trotted along.

About ¼ mile from the vet check, we got off our horses and walked them in so that they would pulse down faster to the required pulse of 60 or below. Two Step Betty pulsed in at 44 beats per minute and Alada Baske Aire’s pulse was at 56 as we walked into the vet check. Sir Trot a Lot’s pulse was at 64 and we had to wait a few minutes for it to reach 60. We had a 30-minute break until we could ride out again at 12:26 p.m. According to my GPS, we had ridden 24.5 miles, had been in the saddle for a little under five hours and had averaged 4.9 miles per hour. The horses passed the trot out and the vet check in flying colors. I was so proud of them!

In addition to Susannah, Giovanni and his wife, whom I have known for many years were volunteers at the vet check. All three helped us with our horses, so they would drink and eat. In addition to covering our horses with wool blankets, they held onto them so we could run to the porta-potty and we could grab some snacks and some Advil for Katja. We gave each other a pep talk in regard to the remaining 10.5 miles.

Off we went to ride the remaining miles and again, we not only had to cross Highway 395 again, but we also had to ride alongside the highway for about one mile with traffic blasting by us. We had to pass a large property with lots of junk trailers and things that were fluttering around, as the wind was still going strong. But the horses did well and acted like old professionals.

When we had seven miles left to ride, I gave the pep talk that during our conditioning rides, we have ridden seven miles in less than one hour. We psyched ourselves up that we were almost at the finish line. The last few miles were not that tough. Maybe it was because we had gotten used to the crazy strong wind and stuff flapping and flying around. The last four miles, we had to ride through a neighborhood and there were properties with construction and things flapping around. We chose to walk through the neighborhood instead of trotting because by our calculation, even if we walked the rest of the way, we would be ok on time. We had to ride alongside of a street that wasn’t too busy and we trotted where we could and walked where we felt it was safer to walk.

We made it into ride camp, which was our finish line after 35.4 miles at 3 p.m. which was 30 minutes before the cut off time. Two Step Betty immediately pulsed in at 52 beats per minute, Alada Baske Aire pulsed in at 56 beats per minute and both horses finished with a good vet report card.

But Sir Trot a Lot stayed at 64 beats per minute. He would not drop down to the required 60 beats per minute. He had been drinking well during the entire ride, he had even stopped to pee three times during the ride. He had been eating every chance he had. We noticed that his back was sore. I felt so terrible for him. We waited at the vet check for 30 minutes, but when he did not pulse down to 60 beats per minute. Even though he and I had finished the 35-mile ride, we did not get a completion.

The veterinarian checked him over and told me to come back within the hour to give Sir Trot a Lot another check up. Of course, as soon as he got to the trailer and his friends, his heart rate dropped to 54 beats per minute. But at this point it was too late to get the completion. I told myself, “it is what it is”, I was just happy that Sir Trot a Lot was gulping down his beat pulp mush, happily chewing on his alfalfa hay and drinking a lot of water. When we took him back to the veterinarian, Sir Trot a Lot checked out fine.

I was extremely proud of Alada Baske Aire and Two Step Betty. I was grateful to Leah for leading the way for most of the ride with Alada Baske Aire who is a better leader than the more experienced Sir Trot a Lot. Leah is an absolutely amazing, experienced endurance rider and it shined through during the entire ride. Also, I was very grateful to Katja for completing the last 10 miles of the ride even though she was experiencing a lot of back pain.

Endurance riding is definitely not for the faint of heart, you really do have to put your “big girl panties” on and you have to “suck it up buttercup” for sure!

Thursday, March 07, 2024

2024 Twenty Mule Team - Chelsea Arnold

March 5 2024
By Chelsea Arnold

I almost gave up and moved down to the 75 mile ride…At 11:30pm the night before the 20 Mule Team 100 mile ride, the winds were 50 mph and howling, rocking the Lq trailer back and forth and I thought about the ride ahead in the blowing wind. What am I thinking, went through my head.. what do we need to prove? I talked to Shayna and she said, “it just depends on how much not fun you want to have?” LOL!! I knew we were tough enough to get it done and I was saddling up the best and toughest horse I know. But did I need to? I convinced myself that night that 100 miles in this weather was stupid and I could just level down and not be out all night.

But then I woke up at 4am and like the 100 mile rider I am… I was like… oh what the hell. I had made myself a promise never to pass up a chance to ride a 100 miles on a good horse, so weather be damned…you only live once so we are putting on our wind and rain gear and heading out into the storm. I was riding the one and only Gus, so we saddled up and warmed up in the blowing wind to ride out with Sabine and her boy Ammour. The horses were game and ready. The trail opened and off we went.

Laughter and smiles all around as we tackled the wind and crazy conditions. The first loop went pretty quick and the desert was green and lush and beautiful. It’s so raw out in the desert, and the wind made you feel just how wild and harsh it truly is.

The vet check was 30 minutes and then we were out on loop 2. This loop was nuts, lol… It was long at 26 miles and the rain came, soaking us, then sideways hail and crazy winds gusts that made you grab your saddle. All we could do was laugh and hang on. You couldn’t talk over the roar of the wind. The horses dug deep and put their heads into the wind. At one point, Gus was trying to trot at an angle to the wind to protect his face. But at that point you realize that you can do anything on a good horse and with good company.

We made it to the next vet check with another 30 min hold. We had no crew, so some lovely ladies held our horses so we could make mash, shovel down some food and refill our packs. 50 miles to go…

Only too soon, we headed the 10 miles back to ride camp for a lovely 1 hour hold. The horses were strong and knew they were headed home, so they made short work of the loop and before we knew it we were back in camp. They vetted through and Shayna and Elsie (who had ridden the 35 earlier), helped me get Gus situated. I changed clothes, ate some soup and was ready to go the next 15 miles. Let’s do this…

Sabine and I met up again and headed out in some lighter winds. Actually, this was the best loop of the day as the winds had slowed down briefly and made for a glorious 15 miles. I was naively thinking that if the rest of the ride was like this, it will be a piece of cake.

At the 75 mile vet check, Sabine and Ammour finished their ride in 3rd place just as it was getting dark. Woohoo! So proud of them! Gus and I vetted through for our next loop and headed to the trailer to rest and eat. I managed to eat some turkey sandwich and get myself mentally prepared for a long 25 mile loop into the dark. I was wondering how Gus would be heading out by himself without a buddy, but as soon as we put his glow sticks on his breastcollar, he knew… He is an old pro at 100 milers. It’s been over a year since his last one, but he didn’t forget…

Too soon and I jumped back on to head into the abyss alone with just the Gus man for company. 25 miles… we can do this. Of course the winds came back with a vengeance. They were now ramping up to 50 mph in the gusts and a good 30-40 mph steady wind. Good lord. What was I thinking…

Gus, bless his big ole heart, walked out of camp in his power walk and as soon as we hit the trail started trotting. He wanted this done as much as I did. But the winds didn’t make it easy, as hard as we were pushing, the winds kept pushing back. Much of the trail was spent with a full sideways wind or a horrific headwind that practically pushed us back.

We fought on.. As we were almost at the 10 mile mark, still headed away from camp, Gus hit a lull… as he walked along I tried to encourage him but he knew we were still not headed home and this just sucked. So we trotted glow stick to glow stick and I let him walk when he reached the glow stick. Pretty soon we got into a rhythm. He ate the lovely green filaree that was growing in the desert and that perked him up. As soon as we made the turn for home, Gus put on the gas…. Right into the big headwind. Unreal. I was trying to encourage him, but he couldn’t hear me over the wind but I yelled anyway. “Good boy, you got this, come on tough guy, fight it!”

We fought on and with each loop we had to take off the main road, I could feel Gus’s resolve slip but then he would come roaring back every turn for home. Come on boy…. Hang in there. Giving electrolytes was ridiculous or trying to eat was impossible as everything was just flying out of your hands. Finally, we were making the last climb to the water tank and I knew we were just miles from home. I reached down and gave that big old horse a hug. We’ve got this big guy… and thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving this crazy endurance life as much as I do.

We crossed the finish line and Gus wanted to head to camp so he was circling around me and the finish line crew was laughing that he wasn’t even tired at all, lol. Crazy horse…

We vetted through with mostly A’s and got our completion. 5th place! What?!?!? So stinking proud of us and what we just overcame. And so full of love for this big ole cow horse from Colorado. 6/6 100 mile completions and almost to his 2000 mile mark with 0 pulls.

Buz wasn’t able to come to the ride, but he kept texting me asking how his horse was doing… lol… yeah honey… I’m fine too, hahaha…

When we got home on Sunday, Gus’s nighttime stall was bedded up with bags of shavings and when I checked on him later that night, he was sound asleep in his fluffy bed his dad made him… I know its killing Buz not to ride the Gus man but hopefully by summer, they will be back killing it on the trail. (But after I steal Gus for Tevis, lol....)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Fursan Cup Part II - Alex Shampoe

February 23 2024

By Alex Shampoe

The Fursan Cup race 2024 120k started at 7AM.

I got to the venue about 6:15. There were a lot of people buzzing around. Driving to the venue it seemed like the whole city of Al Ula was asleep. Then we hit the venue where everyone was busy and excited. The energy was very high. In the moment I was grateful that I have done bigger races like this, so it wasn’t too overwhelming.

All I could think about was the race start. The day before Power (my horse) was doing everything he could to stay as far away from other horses as possible. He had his bubble and didn’t want others in it. With 200 other horses starting, his bubble wasn’t going to work. I had confidence that he had done multiple starts like this so I was focused on staying with my team and creating the biggest bubble I could for Power.

The horses were all fed and walked but the time I got to the venue. We tacked up our horses and took them out of the barn. We hand walked them around the Saudi quarantine area. Most of the other horses had left and already gone out to the start line. Cheryl, Vicki (our new German teammate) and I decided we should get on our horses in the stable area while our horses were calm and away from the other 200 horses. We got on and everyone was calm and happy. As we tried to leave the stable, we were told we had to get off and walk out of the barn area and then get on the horses again out where everyone else was. This was what we were hoping to avoid but we had to follow the rules. The rules were very strict for safety reasons, so we quickly agreed and got off the horses. We walked the horses out and found a gap to stop and get back on between waves of horses. Now we had a short walk on a 3-horse wide path to the start line. There were multiple different herds of horses circling and circling in and out and around each other. We stayed in the furthest circle we could away from the start line. We were trying to find our Saudi rider that we were supposed to stay with during the race. He was riding for the same stable that we were. Then we heard the countdown to the start and suddenly, the sound of over 100 horses galloping away.

Just then our Saudi guy called to us, and we followed him to the start line where most of the horses have already left. Thank goodness all our horses were calm. They didn’t like when other horses would be acting up around them, but they all stayed happy next to each other. Power (my horse) was very focused on getting to the start line and going through the start. He did much better than I thought he would with all the horses around him. He knew what he was doing, and I just needed to trust him. The start went down a huge chute 40 yards wide with plenty of room for all the horses. When we left there was not much passing going on. Everybody in the back was pretty set in their pace right away. There was a little bit of juggling around as a few stragglers tried to find a group, but it was a very pleasant start.

The first loop was supposed to be the easiest loop. It was mostly on hard packed roads. What made the loop difficult was the rock and sand. There was rock on the hard packed part and then there was sand on the side. There were rolling hills throughout this loop. Was definitely not a flat and fast course. Right away we found out the different paces of our four horses. We had two younger horses just imported from France and then two older horses who had done a lot of sand work. One of the horses wanted to do more of a slow canter. Two of the horses wanted to go and go and go and go faster and faster and faster. After the first 5 km Power (my horse) was perfect. The first 5 km we were finding our groove. That was the fastest I’ve ever connected with a horse that I just met for a race. The day before I was so concerned that it was going to be a bad start. I had expected that Power and I were going to be fighting each other for the first half of the day but we weren’t. He listened to my seat, so easily. He cantered to the rhythm of my seat and my hips. When my seat told him to trot, he trotted to my rhythm. When my body told him to walk, he walked. No fighting. He followed all transitions from my body. I could not believe it. 

I want to give some credit to my saddle. I love my Reactor Panel. I believe a big part of the change in Power from pre-ride to race day was being able to change my saddle to fit him. He went from not being happy in a general fit to becoming completely comfortable in a saddle custom fit to him. I tend to be a very controlling rider. I always have contact with my horse’s mouth, not necessarily on the bit but ready to help them whenever I can throughout the day. It doesn’t matter what horse. I had light contact with Power’s mouth and that is how we went all day. We never had a fight. He was so balanced, and so in tune with my seat for most of the race. I felt like I could ride him bareback without a bridle. He was so awesome. Obviously I can’t say enough about Power.

Coming into the first vet check was a little interesting. For the two younger horses we slowed down to make sure they would pulse well in this new environment. We got off and hand walked the last 20 or 30 yards in for them. Vicki had to pull off and weigh right away. Her horse still had a lot of energy so he couldn’t stand there and wait while she weighed so thankfully her crew guy ran to take her horse and start cooling him. In FEI we all have pinnies with our numbers. You can’t touch a horse unless you have his piney on. 

When I crossed over the in-timer line, I saw my crew guy, so I handed him Power (my horse), and he took off running!! I took off with him, saying “slow down, slow down!” and he turned back, still running, looked at me and said, “No Worries, No Worries”. He ran all the way to the closest water trough to the vet check. I took my saddle off as fast as I could thinking it’s going to take him longer to pulse down now because of the running. Then a guy with a heart monitor checked Power and I couldn’t believe what it said. 42 pulse! With no water for cooling, we walked right into the vet check and Power pulsed below the limit and trotted right away. The check itself was busy. There were lots of horses circling waiting for their chance to vet through. All our horses passed, and we were through to the next loop.

The crew area was in a huge open space completely covered. Each team had their own small space where they could crew their horses. Thankfully, the front runners had already gone out on the second loop and so the crew areas were not jampacked. When we came out of the vet check Power walked right up to his buffet table and stepped right into his huge ice water buckets. It was so cool to watch. He stood there the whole time like a perfect gentleman. You could tell he knew what he was supposed to do in the vet check.

The second loop was difficult. During this loop it got hot. We start off on the rolling, hard packed roads with the rock pebbles and side sand. Then we hit the rolling hills of deep sand. We soon hit a great crew point with lots of water to cool the horses. Then up up up in the deep sand to the top of a dune. (We got off the horses and started walking on foot. All of our four horses quickly showed us that they were much faster in the sand than we were, so we got back on right away). It felt like we were walking forever. It was so cool when we got to the top and looked out behind us. There was 30+ horses all lined up like a wagon train walking up the long dune. 

This loop was 32 km long but at least 10 km of it was this deep sand. Then at the top there was short trot/ cantered section around the top before starting back down. Then back to deep sand walking all the way to the bottom. I learned very quickly on this loop how great Power is in the sand. Having a balanced and conditioned sand horse who’s really listening to exactly what you want, was very helpful and made this loop non-stress for me. Thank you Power. From there it was hard packed road all the way back to the venue. And again, my amazing crew person took my horse and started sprinting through the check! This time I didn’t have a mini heart attack and I let them go, and of course Power pulsed in again at like 44 so…! All our horses made it through looking great!

One thing I really loved about this race was all the volunteers out there, giving us water to cool horses. They had two or three crew areas where your crew could come out on every loop. They also had at least three volunteer crew areas each loop with a lot of volunteers to give us water to cool. It helped that Vicki and I were young pretty girls who didn’t speak Arabic. The volunteer guys gave us a lot of water for our horses .

The third loop was like the first. It had a couple more sections of the deep sand though. These sections were spread out in little sections. This loop had more hills right away than the first one. The hills and few short periods of deep sand made this loop difficult. Oh yeah! And the heat. Coming from Florida the dry heat was quite a change and the amount of sand that you breathe in even when it’s not windy is shocking. Or more literally choking. My buff that I almost didn’t bring that day was a life saver. As I came off this loop, I still had my crew person to run Power through the cooling area. But the guy with the heart monitor wasn’t there and so my crew person started cooling. We maybe put 2 scoops of water on him while I’m waiting for the monitor and I then like 30 seconds after waiting I told my guy, “let’s just go in and see what happens.” I felt very impatient and spoiled but I love that I could trust Power like that, and he pulsed in at 44 again. 

This loop we were watching our phones too. The other two riders for our stable (the owner Faisal and the other German rider Anna) were riding more towards the front. On our walking breaks we were checking the app to try and get an update on how they were doing. We learned Anna had finished in 9th place!! Unfortunately, Faisal got pulled at the finish. It was funny riding our own ride and being able to get updates about the front runners, especially knowing a couple and cheering for them motivated us even more so.

Our two young horses in the group were starting to feel the sand and the heat. The last loop (loop four) we just wanted to get everyone through it and finish. We had to keep a consistent pace as we needed to fish the race by 7:10pm. By the end of the 3rd loop we had been averaging 12.8km/hr. We needed to finish with an average of at least 12km/hr. We had about 2 hours and 35min to finish. The loop was 25k. We were not crazy worried, but everyone was keeping an eye on their watch. This loop had a lot of deep sand. It did not have quite as much constant incline as the second loop, but a lot of rolling, deep sand. We met up with Yvette from Canada leaving and we started the loop off with a few kilometers on a hard packed road with a good incline. Then we hit a long section of deep sand followed by a little section of hard packed road where we got to see our inspirational crew. Next, we hit an even longer section of deep sand, and another inspirational crew point. On our last section of sand, we got to watch the sun coming down and our watch’s tick away. Finally, we could see the camp only 5km away and rode the hard packed track back to the finish line. In the end we finished with 22min to spare.

All our horses vetted through and received completions. Power felt like he could have gone out and completed another 40km. His vet card said he could as well. I can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to ride Power. With all the difficulties and changes with the horses over the 6 weeks before I cannot be more grateful of how it ended up. He tested me the day before the race, but I think he was just making sure I was tough enough for the next day. He knew if I would put up with his stuff the day before then he could give me his all on race day. No matter what I asked of him he did. We let the group go once, even losing sight of them, so we could watch the footing in the sand, no fuss. Canter/gallop out and catch the group, no problem. Waiting at the water points with 15 other horses running through and bumping us around, no fuss. Really having a balanced and strong canter through some unexpected deep sand, no problem. I’m so thankful for all the dressage lessons I have taken throughout the years. Without those lessons I could not have ridden Power as well. He really wanted to listen to the movement of my body and seat. It’s crazy when a horse halfway around the world can connect with you like that. He was worth 10x the leaping in the air, bucking and throwing himself all over the place he did on the pre- ride the day before the race. I hope that one day I can go back and ride him again. I am even looking forward to his pre-ride shenanigans. 

Thank you to my horse’s owners, my crew, my team, the volunteers, the veterinarians, the officials, and the organizing committee. Thank you to so many people from Saudi, Jordan, UAE, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, and the USA for coming together to make this happen. How lucky I am to experience these incredible adventures on the global equestrian stage.