AERC National Championship 50

grumpy_kittySo, in sixteen years of competing, I have never qualified for the AERC National Championship Ride.  Not that I want to ride at Old Dominion again this year (see June’s ride – whew!) but as Miss Daizy and I have qualified, and the ride in is our region this year, and I am determined to beat the OD trail … off we go!  I’m thinking that I will NOT be able to conveince Paula to come and crew for me (ever again) so Naoma has promised to come and crew for me the day of the ride.  The vet checks are away from base camp and I need some poor unsuspecting person to drive my gear around.  (Hello Naoma!)

I use this above photo to start this ride story because at 2 1/2 weeks out from the ride … absolutely NO-ONE is talking about it.  I have no idea who is entering, who is going, who is crewing … it’s like the ride doesn’t even exist.  Sooooooo ….  I created this meme and put it out on the endurance Facebook groups to see what response I’d get.

Surprisingly, not much!  Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I am going to be all alone at this ride.  No-one I know is qualified to go.  I do have two people interested to ride trail with me, now to pray they are serious about that.  Otherwise, I’ll just go up when everyone else is ready to go on trail and hope some rider doesn’t mind my jingle bells and would like my company.

This will be very interesting!


Ah, the ride story.  It was an amazing three days, I will admit. I really enjoyed the camping time with my daughter Naoma and my three grandchildren Katana, Sai and Stas.  Stas was a bit on the pouty side the entire time, but then again, I can’t blame him.  He was surrounded by all girls, even Miss Daizy and Poe!

I learned, on  my trip down to Oakney Springs, VA, that the state of Virginia lies.


When I crossed into Virginia, it was my intention to top off my tank so Naoma wouldn’t run out of gas while driving around being my crew and gopher.  I saw a Shell gas next exit so pulled off.  I drove aimlessly for five minutes before I realized that the Shell Station had been replaced with a BP Station.


I got back on the highway and drive another five or six miles and saw another blue “GAS” sign that indicated there was a Shell at the next exit.  I promptly got off the exit only to find the Shell had been replaced by a BP … and it was across the street from another BP.

WHAT?   (&*^*&$#$^#$&*&*))

So, I got back on the highway looking at my gas gauge indicating that we were now below a quarter tank and since I’m driving a trailer I had best get gas soon.  Carefully watching for a Shell or Sunoco “blue gas sign” I saw another Shell emblem before the next exit.  I really didn’t believe it at this point, but I got off this exit anyway.


No Shell, but a bran new BP station.  Now, it’s not important that I only fill up with Shell or Sunoco, but as I have gas credit cards for these two gas providers, it’s much nicer to pay for the gas next month, than pay for it right now.

So I filled up at the BP, using half my cash I brought with me to do so.

I got back on the higway and the very next exit, another Shell emblem on the blue “GAS” sign and .. yes … I could see a Shell gas sign standing tall over the trees.


Yep, the state of Virginia lies and I am going to complain to their Department of Transportation about it, too!

I arrived exactly when I wanted to, at 1:00 pm.  And the camp was a ghost town.  Seriously, there were maybe 10 rings there when I arrived.


I have never been to this camp that there weren’t over 100 rigs.  This was amazing.  And although they wouldn’t let us park on the road side of the camp, due to the very soft and mushy state of the field, I was still able to pretty much pick my spot.


Naoma arrived shortly after I did with kids in tow.  My crew is here!


campWe rapidly set up the camp.  In fact, we set up the camp so fast, I was in amazement of the efficiency of having four extra hands!  I directed and did the heavy lifting while Naoma did the setup and the kids fetched and carried.  Katana walked Miss Daizy around to eat grass while Naoma and I setup the corral panels and filled her water buckets.  When it was all done, in a couple minutes, Miss Daizy was petted and loved on and set free.


naoma tentAnd I am super jealous of Naoma’s new tent!  It has (as the kids put it) TWO ROOMS!  A sleeping section partitioned off from the sitting section.  Remarkably, as big as it is, Naoma managed to set it up all by herself because I was busy setting out chairs and the camp stove and didn’t realize she was doing it alone.  SORRY NAOMA!  A customer of hers found out that she liked to camp with the kids and offered Naoma this nice tent, used once, for free.  You have to love your customers, who love you back!

NICE! (and really big)

AERC NCRKatana and Sai brushed Miss Daizy up nice and pretty so we could go down to get her vetted in.  As this is the AERC Nationals for 2015, there was a photographer taking photos of all the horses entered after their vetting in and the girls wanted her nice and pretty for her photo.  They did a very nice job.  Miss Daizy was beautiful.  And passed her vetting in with wonderful scores and low pulse.  Now, during the photo session afterwards, she wasn’t as wonderful!  She didn’t want to stand still, she wanted to eat grass and stare at the Asgard mare that was on display for the raffle tickets, and eat more grass.  We finally did get a nice picture of her, though.  Thanks to Becky who patiently snapped away as Miss Daizy danced around.

I have been having a ton of trouble last season into this season with fitting a saddle to my little mare.  Miss Daizy works like a big horse but she is only 14.1 hands tall and she is very very short backed.  And I am no little person, weight wise I fall into the Middleweight division in AERC.  So finding a saddle big enough to fit my fat butt but small enough to fit onto the small landscape of her back, has been quite the challenge.  I am working on saddle number five at this ride.  The first competition we did in it, it seemed to work well.  At the second competition we did, it made her so sore I almost pulled her from the ride.  I changed some setup on the saddle, got a better girth and am hoping that it is solved this ride.  We did this trail in June in an old beat up saddle and after this ride, I have to stop using that saddle as it caused the left side of her back to swell and all the hair fell out a week later.

So, everything is finished for the day and now we can go around camp and visit with people.  By this time more rigs are coming in but it still seems like a very small group to be in this very large base camp.  I am not used to this small of a crowd.  My understanding is that there are forty-four horse and rider teams qualified and entered into this Championship Ride.  When I saw the listing, I was a bit freaked out because there are a LOT of big names on the list … top competitors in my region as well as a couple top competitors from the SW and MW.

Oh my …. and here we are, two little peons, Team Miss Daizy.  A little blip on the screen of endurance competitors.  (grin)  It feels good, though, to be qualified to compete against these big name riders and horses.  I have one goal.  Just one.  Complete and do it better than I did in June.  I am not competing against the other riders, I am competing against myself.  My June 2015 Old Dominion ride was horrible!

Katana spent most of her afternoon taking Miss Daizy out into the big grassy field and hand grazing her, then trotting her all over, then hand grazing.  I watched the two of them and I really wish I had thought to take pictures.  Miss Daizy was having the time of her life.  Every time Katana would ask her to trot, her tail would flip up and her ears stood forward and she trotted right alongside Katana until Katana asked her to stop.  Then her head would immediately drop and she’d start eating grass again.

I had heard rumors about the grass at the Old Dominion field.  I’m not sure whether they are true or not, but it has been said that horses have become sick on this grass.  As you read this story, keep this in the back of your mind as a book marked information.

sai_poeSai was in charge of Poe and she did a fabulous job of keeping Poe walked and taken for potty breaks.  It was kinda funny to watch those two together because Sai is very much like me, a clown, and Poe is like … WTF?


I loved this photo that someone took.  It warms my heart to see that one of my grandkids has my wonderful sense of adventure and fun.  Sai was pleasant and fun the entire time.  Even after the kids ate all their breakfast food when they arrived in the afternoon and she thought they would have no breakfast for the rest of the camping trip, she was still in a perky mood.  YES, she also has my ravenous appetite.

It got hot and humid around 3:00 pm and we were getting a wee bit concerned because it was supposed to be more humid during tomorrow’s ride.  The horses have all started putting on their winter coats and I only saw three horses with a radiator shave.  I was praying that Miss Daizy would stay her normal cool and pulsed down self for the vet holds.  I was riding with Peggy tomorrow (a big name and long time endurance competitor) and I knew that she liked to cruise into a vet check and go straight in for pulse.  Miss Daizy is not always down right away because she gets excited to be in a hold and have FOOD!

Getting time for the dinner and ride meeting.  I told the kids to grab jackets because I knew once the sun went down it would get chilly.  Naoma did not heed my instructions and halfway through the meal, she had to send Katana down for a jacket.

Uh huh

mapRide meeting was pretty thorough (or so I thought at the time).  My grand children made friends with twin boys and they played so very hard while we finished up the meal and had the ride meeting.  it was so nice to hear giggling and laughing coming from far far away as they played.  Naoma did have to get up at one point and go tell them to “shush” because they got too loud.  Everyone through out the ride day that saw me on trail or in the holds kept complimenting me on my well behaved grand kids.  Not my doing, it’s all Naoma!

Okay, I digress – ride meeting.  They told us that they had taken out the long hill and rock climb across the cliffs – OH DOM!  Pay attention!  They took out your scary part of the trail.  They also said they put a water tub at the top peak of that loop.  Oh thank goodness because that 17 mile loop was hard on use in June as it was devoid of any fresh water for the horses.  What they did NOT tell us was that they replaced those miles with service road.  Graveled service road.  Miss Daizy is NOT happy on gravel.  I am not happy on gravel.  And if they had told us this bit of news at the ride meeting, I would have put Miss Daizy in boots before we started the ride.  See that straight section in the middle of the two loops?  That we do twice?  And a small section of the outer loop at the bottom?  All road … graveled road … and no burm on the sides to get off and trot in the grass.  Now, one thing this did do was speed up the completion times for this trail over the June ride because horses were able to “git up and go” on the road instead of climbing up and over rocks.


Here’s our distances to each hold.

  • From start line to Bird Haven (where I’ll see Naoma and crew) 15.7 miles.
  • From Bird Haven to Laurel Run (where I will have no crew) 16.4 miles
  • From Laural Run to Bird Haven (where I’ll see Naoma again) 13.4 miles
  • From Bird Have to finish line (where I’ll see Naoma – again!) 6.5 miles

I’m ready.  It is dark when the ride meeting is finished and we get back to our camp area.  We’re getting chilly.  Sweated all afternoon, now we’re shivery.  Gotta love fall.  Miss Daizy is concerning me.  She was quiet all day but as the sun went down she started pacing.  She had ground all her hay into the dirt and was starting to churn up her paddock area into a pasty mud.  She wasn’t drinking her water, hadn’t even touched it at this point.  This isn’t like her.  She’s usually pretty quiet and she is definitely a good eater.  There is still some grain in her pan that I gave to her before we went up for supper.


I gave Miss Daizy more hay to replace that hay she had mushed into the dirt.  Naoma and I chit chatted for awhile then I turned in.  Crouched down and hunkered over into my teeny weeny tent.  Yep, I am jealous of Naoma’s big stand up and walk around tent.  I lay in my tent listening to Miss Daizy pacing pacing pacing and I do not hear any munching at all.

Very concerning.

I finally fell asleep sometime after 11:30 pm (that’s the last time I looked at my phone) and I did sleep pretty good until 4:30 am.  Good thing that Poe had to go potty because my phone (apparently) roamed all night so the battery was dead dead dead.  I put on my sweats and crawled out of my tent with Poe in tow.

When I flipped on my flashlight and shone it towards Miss Daizy, I saw a mess in her paddock where she had ground it up all night.  She had dried sweat on her neck and chest and she was highly agitated, hollering out as soon as she saw me.

Oh man.

I really needed to pee but took the time to give her the morning grain and throw more hay into her paddock.  She tasted the grain then started pacing again.

What is up with this?  She is not like this at camp.  I am hoping it is not because she’s alone without Steel because that’s going to drive me insane.

After taking care of Poe and my potty needs, I went around the back of the trailer to fill her water buckets.

Oh no …. they are barely touched.  She did not drink last night.  I don’t know why, this is her water from home.  And when I shined the light over her feed pan, I see that her morning grain is barely touched and she is not even looking at her hay.


Okay.  I put a lantern next to her so she can see that I did give her tons of stuff to eat and then I sat down in the chair next to her pen.  I contemplated what could be going wrong this camping trip.  She is normally a very good (and quiet) camper.  She can see the horses on either side of her, so I’m not sure what is causing her anxiety all night long.

Naoma gets up around 5:00 am and I tell her what’s going on.  We talk about different ideas on it and I have no idea what to do.  I take her out of the pen and she immediately drops her head into the grass and starts eating.  Since she didn’t appear to eat anything the night before, I kept her out of her pen as long as I could so she could fill up on grass.


katanaIt’s still dark when Naoma brushes all the dried sweat off her.  I start gathering my saddle and stuff and we get hr dressed for the ride.  Time out is 7:00 am and it’s going to be barely light at that time.  I actually love this whole darkness thing of spring and fall rides.  I am sure I am going to love doing a 100 mile ride because riding in the dark is my favorite!

She’s all dressed and ready to go.  The kids are up so I ask Katana if she would like to hold her while she eats grass.  Of course, Katana was like “Oh  yeah!” and she was the best groom handler ever!  Even with all the horses and riders getting ready, Miss Daizy was all about eating the grass.

While she took Miss Daizy off for grass, I went off for the fifth pee of the morning.  What the heck?

Well, I was hydrating myself pretty good.  Drank 1/2 cup of coffee to stir things up, then a whole bottle of water and an apple juice.  Maybe that was TOO much hydration.


leaving on trailPeggy came over and we mounted up to walk around and let the front runners get out on trail.  Even though Miss Daizy doesn’t get too worked up at the beginning of a ride, I want to keep it that way and prefer not to run out on trail with all the yahoos.

We are walking around the back of the ride camp when I hear them call “TRAIL OPEN” …  I watch the front runners leaving and then Peggy and I make our way up to the road and we let them go.  Of course, Miss Daizy wants to go 90 mph right away, and be the leader of her two horse herd, and be the WINNER.

Love this little mare.

We did come up on a horse as we left the road and got onto the trail.  Miss Daizy wanted to be the winner of that horse, too .. so I had to stop her for a minute and get her race brain refocused.  Thank you Peggy for giving us that little brain break.

Then we’re off and moving along.  Miss Daizy is moving pretty freely and she feels good, not tired at all.  I was expecting her to be a bit more reserved after spending all night racing in her paddock. We got jammed on single track trail at about mile five behind 13 horses walking.


And stopping at every water crossing.


Come on people, we are at mile five.  Let’s go.

After about two miles of being jammed behind these riders, we came to an opening and we took it, flying by all the riders.  One rider cut out of the pack behind Miss Daizy a wee bit close and Miss Daizy threw out a foot at the horse.  I hollered at her, she flicked her ears at me like, “But did you see that horse getting to close to me?” and we galloped up the hill past all the other horses.

spread outShe was in the lead most of the first loop, daring Akhira to try and pass her by.  I felt like we were having the time of our lives on the first loop.  No worries, moving free and loving every minute of it.  Three of us now working together and Miss Daizy is in the lead setting the pace.  Peggy hasn’t complained about the speed we’re doing and I know she likes to ride fast, so I assumed everything was going well.  The third rider in our group commented once about how nicely the three of these guys were working together.  I agreed.

rocksWe’re almost to the first vet check at Bird Haven before Akhira decided he wanted to set the pace a little while.  I was good with that.  I have to admit that Peggy apologized for me view of his hiney.  He likes to work with his tail curled up over his back and I had a grand old time watching him wagging his tail as he trotted along.  I don’t know about Peggy, but I really enjoyed sharing trail with her all day.  She taught me a trick, too … little did she know I was watching her closely whenever her and Akhira were in front, and sponging on the fly is a learned skilled.  it took me all day to finally get the hang of it, and by the end of the 52 miles, I had almost perfected it to be as smooth as Peggy did it.

coming into bh 1Okay – so we get into Bird Haven and I had asked Peggy if it was okay to walk in across the grassy field so that we could pulse right away.  She was good with that, but just as I asked, here came a a rider blowing past us at a high speed trot and (of course) Miss Daizy had to be the winner of that horse so she jumped right up into a trot.  I barely got her to walk to cross the stream into the hold because she was sure that other horse would be the winner over her.


katana_waitingAnd who do I see on the sidelines?  Waiting for me are my three grand kids, watching for us to come in.  That warmed my heart like nothing else.  I was already enjoying the trail and Miss Daizy’s enthusiasm and Peggy’s company.  Seeing those kids waiting for me and hearing them cheer as I came across the field was the most remarkable feeling in the world.  And even better than that was crosing the stream to the timer and having Naoma right there grabbing reins and pulling Miss Daizy over to the water trough while I got my ride card checked in.  I didn’t even have to tell her anything except that Peggy was the purple canopy, let’s move our stuff over there so Miss Daizy could stay with Ahkira.

This is a 30 minute hold, it’s still a bit damp and chilly so I decide to leave my saddle on.  We go straight to the pulse in (first time I ever did that, too … I’m also a little conservative about giving Miss Daizy a couple minutes to relax) and considering that we trotted into the hold, I was amazed to hear the pulse taker chime out “Time on 507?  Pulse 44”


Her CRI was 44/42 and her trot out was perfectly wonderful, even wearing all her gear.  They did tell me that her gut sounds were a bit quiet and she got B’s on all four quadrants.  I kinda half expected that considering she started the ride this morning on only a belly full of grass before we left, since she didn’t eat all night and she didn’t touch her morning grain.

I take Miss Daizy over to Peggy’s canopy and Naoma spent that five minutes of time moving her stuff over.

WOWZA, this is the best crewing ever!

bh 2Unfortunately, Miss Daizy is not really interested in her food, she wants Ahkira’s food.  She doesn’t want her alfalfa hay, she wants Ahkira’s alfalfa hay.  She doesn’t want to be sponged, she wants to sleep.  I was hoping she would eat her slurry to get some beet pulp in her tummy.  But nope, she was just interested in resting and nothing more.  Peggy gave me a five minute warning so I gave Miss Daizy her elyte, even though she had not really eaten anything and Miss Daizy knew it was time.  after sticking her tongue out at us with her “yucky face” on, she knew we were going to get a move on and she perked up.

I double checked I had everything I needed to go back out on trail.  Full water bottles, crackers, Miss Daizy’s boot in case she would lose a shoe, and we’re ready to roll right on the m oney, 30 minutes.  This is also Peggy’s doing.  I never get out of the hold on time but Peggy is right on the money . “Come on Dodie, let’s do this.” so we actually had to wait 10 seconds at the timer before we could leave on trail.


going this wayWe leave Bird Haven and within a couple miles or so we find ourselves on a gravel service road.  Wait a gosh darned minute.  I do not remember doing any gravel roads out of Bird Haven when we did this ride in June.  Now they did say they took out part of the trail and replaced it but no-one told me it was replaced with gravel road.  And about half of this gravel road is newly graveled.

Oh no no no no

Miss Daizy HATES gravel road.

I have to say, we did this seventeen mile loop pretty quickly compared to the June’s seventeen mile loop.  Working on gravel service road we spent a lot of time cantering and covering ground compared to June’s hill climb and cliff trail where we had to walk.  Problem was, I could feel Miss Daizy lifting up under me and taking an off step occasionally on the gravel road and I was getting worried.  If I had known we would be doing gravel roads I would have put her boots on while we were in Bird Haven.  I am not happy.

So we made it into Laurel Run in just under three hours.  A big time comparison to the June ride where it took me and Dom four and a half hours to get into Laurel Run.  Again, Peggy was ready to vet in as soon as we threw off our saddles but I knew Miss Daizy wasn’t down yet.  I asked her to wait just a couple minutes so we could go up together.  We had a volunteer doing courtesy checks and she was listening to Miss Daizy at the time I asked Peggy to hold up.  She told me to go on up, her heart rate was down.

Okay ….

Up we go and Miss Daizy is 52.  Nice.  We go over to the vets for the trot out and check up.  Her trot out is fine (whew, because they’re trotting us out on a gravely slope … I was concerned if she would take a bad step or two on the gravels.)

Her CRI was 52/52 … but, again her gut sounds were bad.  In fact, they were so bad there weren’t any gut sounds and the vet held my card and asked me to come back in half an hour to be rechecked.


Okay, one thing that was not in my favor riding with Peggy is that she moves along the entire loop.  I like to stop once and a while while on a loop to allow Miss Daizy to stand and eat and get her HR down for several minutes.  On this seventeen mile loop, we stopped at the water tub, ate a handful of grass then got right back on trail again.  I really wanted to stay there for a couple minutes and let her eat some of the grass she was trying to nibble at, but Akhira was on a roll so we moved off.

Now, she didn’t eat dinner.  She didn’t eat breakfast and she didn’t eat at first hold.  We’re in gut trouble.  Horses need to keep their bellies full or they start to shut down metabolically.

No crew in this hold.  I take Miss Daizy over to a pile of food that the volunteers set out for us and she immediately drops her head into someone’s oats and eats like crazy.

Oops, she’s eating someone else’s food.

That person was kind enough to allow her to eat their oats and they moved their other things over because her rider was going to be coming in shortly.

laurel runMiss Daizy ate the oats, she ate the grain that the ride management provided, she ate the grass around the grain, she ate the hay.  And I was loath to stop her eating to take her back up for a recheck because I knew once I disturbed her she was going to be thinking we’re ready to roll and she wouldn’t eat any more.


After taking her for a recheck and the vet cleared her to go but wanred me to let her eat and drink because her gut sounds were back but still very quiet, I saddled her up and she dropped her head and promptly fell asleep.

TOO FUNNY!  I caught this picture of her dozing waiting for our time to be ready to go.

I had her elytes and applesauce in the nice bag I made to carry her boot so I gave them to her and we got out of hold right on time.  She’s not as perky leaving Lauren Run as she was leaving Bird haven, but she is still moving along pretty well.

Until we hit the grave road again.

Owie … she kept telling me owie.

Damn gravel roads.

I have learned my lesson.  Ride Between The Rivers had miles of gravel road and she told me owie at that ride.  Hector Half Hundred was almost all gravel roads and she told me owie at that ride.  Now she’s telling me owie at this ride.  Time to either start padding her for the ride season, or booting her for the rides because she does NOT like gravel roads and a lot of the rides we attending this year had lots of gravel roads.

Oh Miss Daizy, I am so sorry.  Not only is she telling me owie on her feet, she starting to trot crooked, which means she getting owie on her back too.

DAMN SADDLE ISSUES … I swear to the powers that be that I am going to figure this out one day.

We’re almost back to Bird Haven so I text Naoma to let her know we should be in by 3:00 pm and if she could PLEASE find the Aleve and bring me some, that would be wonderful!  I didn’t get a text back from her so I wasn’t sure if she received the text or not.  Signal was spotty.  It was kinda funny to be riding along and all of a sudden my phone would go “UH OH” several times as texts downloaded.

Peggy starts to notice that Miss Daizy is gimping a bit.  If it’s now noticable to my riding partner, we’re gonna get pulled.

Oh well.  It is what it is.  I will hate to have Miss Daizy’s first ever pull be at the National Championship Ride, but it happens.  All horses competing in this sport, especially ones like Miss Daizy that do a lot of rides in a year, will eventually get a pull (or two) so if our 21st competition together is the one where she gets a pull, then so be it.

Miss Daizy started to slow down, too.  Not like her at all.  She’s usually very very strong the second half of a fifty mile ride.  She’s now following along behind Akhira instead of trying to be the winner of him.  And at a couple points, on the gravel road, she actually dropped pretty far behind him.  There is nowhere to get off this gravel road and trot on the burm, because there is no burm.  I am feeling very very sorry for her and her owie feet.

coming into bh 2nd timeWe make the turn over the creek into the field to Bird Haven hold and I get off to walk her and give her feets a rest in the soft ground.  She is dragging along behind me and I am 100% certain we are going to get pulled at this hold.  When I got off and reached under her saddle, she dropped her back like a stone.  This &^%^$^%$*^ saddle has made her sore again.  So now I know I have to get rid of this saddle and start from scratch.  I have to rob a bank so I can buy a real saddle that can be flocked to fit her properly.

Oh man …

katana BHWe cross into the hold and get our time in and since it’s a 20 minute hold, I decide not to pull her saddle.  Just in case, by some miracle the vets don’t pull her, I am probably going to pull her.  She is not happy.

Katana, the ever excellent crew girl for Miss Daizy,  grabs Miss Daizy and takes her straight to water.  She drinks and drinks and drinks.  Then Katana brings her to the hold area and prepares to sponge her down.

katana spongingWhoa!  By George, I think Katana has it!  She was a most excellent crew, knew how to take care of Miss Daizy and I’m totally ready to take Katana on her own endurance ride!  And she worked so hard for this ride, first time ever that Katana got to see what makes a ride run from the ground, and never one time did that child complain.  She did ask lots of questions and they were most excellent questions.

sai spongingThen Katana takes Miss Daizy to her food pan and she dives right into it.  Miss Daizy is eating like she hasn’t been fed for six weeks.  YAY!  Even though I know she’s not comfortable, she is acting like a normal Miss Daizy in the holds.

Again, Whoa!

Then Peggy says “Let’s vet.” and since I’m sure she’s gonna get pulled anyway, I don’t worry whether her heart rate is down yet or not.  We go over there.  Naoma is carrying a bucket of water and sponge and Katana is carrying her feed pan.

BH vet check 2Pulse, 56.


Kathy is there as my vet’s scribe,and I would like to give her credit for all these lovely photos in Bird Haven when we came back through for the second time.  I did not see her taking any pictures, she looked pretty busy to me.

Okay, her pulse is at normal levels.  We’ve done 46 miles.  I ask Naoma to do her trot out so I can watch her move.  Naoma is like ????


naoma trot out 1The vet checks her all over and gives her A’s and a- on most things.  Naoma trots her out so I can watch her.  I see one or two little head bobbles but nothing serious.  She’s actually moving pretty freely.  Back tot he vet and he grabs ahold of her back and she drops like a stone. B- on the back. (owie)  I think that should have been a C myself.  He checks her CRI and it’s 56/60 … huh … A’s on her skin tenting and capillary refill. A- on muscle tone.  He checks her guts and says they’re quiet but there is some sounds, she gets a B / B / B- / B-.  And he clears her to go back out but tells me to stop and eat and drink because her gut sounds aren’t the best.

Really?  I ponder the wisdom of taking her back out on the six miles back to finish.  She is cleaning up everything in the hold like an equine vacuum so, knowing the last six miles has no road except the 1/2 mile to the finish line, I decide I will go on out.  Even with her back being sore and even with her feet being ouchie.

Trust your gut.  Always trust your gut.  I should have pulled her right then and there and trusted my gut.

Akhira had to go back to the vet for a recheck on his gut sounds.  During the course of the day, I heard the scribes telling us that many horses were being held back for rechecks on low gut sounds.  We weren’t sure if the vets were being overly cautious or if there was an actual problem.  My guess was that being the Nationals, riders were working their horses faster than normal and not letting them eat and drink enough along the trail.


Rumor has it that the stuff they put on these dirt roads out here is unsettling to the horses and when they come to Old Dominion and ride, they have issues.

(double shrug)

I didn’t know if we would get out of the hold at 20 minutes, but after a recheck Akhira was cleared to go so we leave right on 20 minutes.  I have no idea how we managed that, but we did.  And Miss Daizy quickly took the lead.  She was mincing steps when I first got on, probably because her back was sore, but once on trail she stretched right out and moved along.

About halfway into the loop, while we were hooting and hollering and having fun cruising through the single track path, Miss Daizy started bobbing her head.

Uh oh …

And it was so noticeable that Peggy commented on it.  We stopped many times on this loop for water and grass.  Both Akhira and Miss Daizy were begging for food.  Each time we started back on trail, the head bobbing was getting more and more distinct.

Miss Daizy wouldn’t allow me to pick up the left diagonal.

NO!  she said.  NO!

And she was preferring to canter over a trot.  But she was still leading and was moving out very strong, just not sound.  My poor Miss Daizy.


She’s lame.  Feels like the right front.

Off to the left of us was a tree full of vultures and I certainly wondered if they were sitting there waiting on Miss Daizy to keel over … for their supper time.  It was amazing to see them there, filling the tree to the brim.  I have never seen so many vultures at roost before and they were right on the trail, up close and personal!

We come off the trail onto the gravel road leading to the finish line and I tell Peggy to go on if she wants, we’re walking.  Miss Daizy so very much wants to trot into the finish, and she’s fighting me to stay at a walk.  I have to make her walk because whenever she trots her head is bobbing and she’s limping.

WALK MISS DAIZY, just freakin’ walk already.

Peggy was pretty impressed by her willingness to work hard even foot sore, and said she’d walk in with me.  I was sorry that I pushed her to this point instead of just pulling her at the last hold.  Now she’s REALLY sore and it’s all my fault because I didn’t listen to my gut.


I get off and Naoma is there with her pan of food.  Miss Daizy dives right into it and is eating like she hasn’t had a meal in three days.  We walk down to the vet and Miss Daizy never lifts her head from the pan of food.

I am left pulling the little red wagon with my saddle and stuff in it and poor Sai is trying to help me keep the stuff from falling out.  We failed miserable, me and Sai!  The stuff kept falling out so we had to keep stopping to put it back in.  I was trying to hurry so I could watch Miss Daizy at the vet but Naoma was way ahead of me with Peggy and Akhira.

Pulse, 58.

Okay.  Katana, you’re doing the trot out so I can watch.  Go.


Oh man oh man oh man

Lame, dead lame.  LAME LAME LAME.

And it is the right front.

They tell me I have one hour to try and get it right.  I know I am not going to get it right as soon as I lift her foot and touch her frog at the heel bulb.  She just about flipped over backwards.

Owie.  Bruised on her heel bulb.

Peggy was having her own issues as Akhira’s guts were off and they told her she had an hour to get him right.  She’s stuffing food into him as fast as she can and I am letting Miss Daizy eat all the grass she wanted for an hour while I waited.  I don’t know why I bothered to go back up for a recheck, I  knew she was not going to pass, this was not a muscle cramp, this was a foot damage.

Peggy and Akhira got the guts working and they passed their recheck and completed.  CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!  I had the most fun on this ride and Peggy was a great companion on trail.  Plus, I was watching her closely and learned a couple things, so that was an added bonus.

Back to the vets at one hour and Miss Daizy is LAME LAME LAME.  Although, the trot out did look better than the first time she trotted out.  I also notice that her back was starting to puff up in that hour.


Up to the treatment vet who confirmed that it was her right front heel bulb and nothing else.  She did want to see her again in an hour because her gut sounds were still kinda quiet.  She said a B- to a C on all four quadrants.  I told her Miss Daizy had been eating for the past hour and the vet recommended another hour of grass and come back.  No solids foods like grain, just grass and see if she would drink.

While we were eating grass, Miss Daizy peed and it was dark yellow and thick.

Uh oh.

Eat more grass!

They called for dinner and I told Naoma to go on up with the kids and bring me something back, I wanted to stay and keep Miss Daizy eating so I could go back up to the treatment vet for a gut check in a bit.

They went for supper and we ate grass.

Back to the treatment vet and she gave me a thumbs up on her guts.  She said they sounded almost perfectly normal but since her HR was still elevated, at 52, she didn’t recommend any grain, just hay and grass and try to get her to drink some more.

Okay.  At least I didn’t kill my horsie.  I probably maimed her back (again) and am going to cause her to never want to take me for a ride again, but she will be fine.

For the readers of this story!   I did have a most marvelous ride.  I really enjoyed the trail … hated the gravel road (BORING!) but loved the trail and Miss Daizy was on and forward the entire ride, even with a sore back and an ouchie foot, she never once stopped loving her work.  I beat my June OD ride time by over three hours so I felt really good about that.

I was very sad that (once again) I caused Miss Daizy’s back to be sore and have now put that saddle on EBay for sale.

I was very disappointed that we didn’t get a completion for the AERC National Ride, because I will probably never have this opportunity to compete in one again.  This was a hard pull for me, as a competitor, mostly because it was a “special” competition.

I was weepy Friday night as I realized that if I could not find a saddle to fit Miss Daizy and me properly I was probably going to have to sell her to a lightweight rider so she could continue her career in endurance.

I was depressed Saturday morning when I started saddle shopping and found to buy a good saddle I was going to need to invest about $3,000 – money which I just do not have to throw around, and what if that saddle doesn’t work either.  I set up a GOFUNDME account so I could beg people to loan me money to get her a really good saddle.  I have $1000 from selling the Orthoflex and now I will put this saddle for sale so should get another $800 or $900 … but the saddles I need to look at to fit not just her, but also fit me … well … they start in the $3000 range and go up from there.

I was a little better after talking to Lauren who has an saddle that might fit me and she’s willing to loan it to me over the winter to condition in and see how it works out for Miss Daizy.

I was a lot better Saturday evening when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and remembered that I had a good ride and a great time with my grand kids and all in all, for a first pull, having a bruised heel bulb is far better than having a broken leg .. or worse … metabolic issues leading to kidney and/or liver failure.

And Sunday morning as I watched her trotting all over the pasture chasing after Happy and The Baby, because I added them into the herd, and I didn’t see her limp or bob her head – not even once – I cheered up greatly and my world is good again.

And in my world, it’s not the destination that’s most important … it’s the travel time getting there.  And I truly had a wonderful travel time at AERC 2015 National Championship Ride in Oakney Springs, VA.  Thank you to everyone that supported the ride with their time, energy, dollars and presence.