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

WannabeMuleSkinner.com - 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...

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Wednesday, May 08, 2024

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

JessicaEBlack.org - 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...

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