By this time I am getting tired…tired…tired. Have you seen the list of rides we have attended this year? And that list does not include all the NACMO competitions or the conditioning miles we put on our bodies to keep in shape.
Last year, Miss Daizy totally amazed me by doing 50 miles at Mustang in under 5 hours ride time. (oh my gosh!) Did you read that story? She was amazing last year. The first time I ever cantered for fifty miles!
This year I am taking Steel to run 75 miles. I have owned Steel for two and a half years and I have never competed her at an endurance ride. Many other riders have competed her and told me how wonderful she is. This past spring I rode her at a competitive ride and she was nice, but I felt I was too heavy for her to carry.
I am STILL experiencing saddling issues with Miss Daizy and since Miss Daizy gave herself a huge stone bruise on the bulb of her heel at the AERC Nationals, I pulled her shoes and she’s finished for this year.
Steel, on the other hand, is in fine shape and although she’s been carrying featherweight riders all season, she can finish out the 2015 season carrying my fat ass! We are not telling her she is going to do 75 miles. We have explained she is doing an extended 50 mile ride.
AND – I have sold all my saddles to help pay for some of the cost of the new saddle … which leaves me with my Barefoot Cheyenne (which I cannot part with because I love it so much) and the Abetta (which Steel loves but I absolutely hate). I borrowed a saddle from Lauren to try and it was soooo comfy for my butt but did not fit Steel very well. I didn’t have enough time to adjust it and try it and adjust it so it stayed at home. I packed both my saddles and figured if the treeless saddle started to bother Steel, I would switch the Abetta and suck it up.
And so, this will be my last ride for the 2015 Competitive Season. I did not reach my goal of doing a 100 mile ride this season. And so, the title of this story is …
MYTH BUSTING by DODIE SABLE
Myth #1 – an endurance rider needs five of everything. I carpooled with Team Czar. Steel is a very anxiety-separation type A personality. She gets all worked up if she thinks she has to do something by herself. She absolutely cannot be in a stall, even if she can touch the horse next to her because she thinks someone will go on and leave her there so she works herself into a froth. AND, she has a reputation of being the foo-foo horse at our barn. She’s a dainty little thing that tip toes around and never gets dirty and she’s snooty but she’s a dream because she’s easy to ride and anyone can ride her.
I had put it out to the energies of the world that I wanted to go to Mustang Memorial but needed to trailer, camp and ride with someone. I was prepared to only compete on the 30 mile ride if that was the person that came back to me and said, “I’ll be your babysitter.” Lo and Behold, my favorite rider to crew for reached out to me and said, “Come along with me and Czar and do the 75 mile ride.”
Now it was a most difficult task for me to pack for this trip. I do (literally) have five of everything and I had to keep telling myself, “One! Just take one! You’re only packing for one horse and many items you will not need as Ro will have it. ONE!”
After packing, and repacking, I managed to fit everything Steel and I would need into one endurance box, one overnight bag, one cooler and one bucket. By gosh, it sure did make unpacking a breeze! And by the time the night was over, everything was used up so we didn’t have to repack.
And I only packed one horse. Steel’s not fast or forward like Miss Daizy and I asked Ro to promise me that she would beat the snot out of me if I started whining along the trail that I wish I had Miss Daizy instead of Steel.
We parked next to Dawn who was riding Patty’s decade horse in the 50. Three hands had our camp busted out in less than half an hour. Simply amazing.
Now it was funny on our drive down because Marc kept texting me.
First text: Hey! What are you going to sleep in, your tent is in the living room.
My response. I am sleeping in a camper. It’s all good.
Couple minutes later text: hey, your mattress is in the green room, you forgot it.
My response. What part of camper did you not understand. It has a bed in it.
Half an hour later text: Uhm, your camping box is in the living room, too. Did you need it?
I tell Ro, we laugh and Ro says to tell him unless there is a grey horse in the living room, all is well.
So, I respond: Is Steel in the living room? If not, then I’m pretty sure I have everything I need so stop worrying.
When I went to fill Steel’s feed bag after getting her corral all set up, I realized I did forget something. A knife to cut the baling twine.
Myth #2 – A treeless saddle is not suitable to longer distance competitions. I got up in the morning of the ride, still unclear with myself whether to ride in the Barefoot Cheyenne or ride in the Abetta. I knew we had 75 miles of sand to run and although the ride is flat, flat is as difficult as mountains because the horse and rider never get to change position. I personally prefer a good hilly ride over flat. And give me the rocks of The Shenandoah Valley to the sand of New Jersey. after debating with myself for 20 minutes while I got everything else ready, I decided I would start in the Barefoot, because I love this saddle, and we’d go from there. I had to do some minor adjustments before we started because although Steel is two inches taller than Miss Daizy, she definitely has a much smaller barrel and the girth was too long. Then I feared my stirrups might be too long as Steel doesn’t have the ribs to take up my leg. I got on the saddle with some trepidation, wondering about stirrups, back pressure, was the pad inserts thick enough for Steel .. it was a most worrisome start for me.
We walked around for 10 minutes waiting for trail to open and I felt fairly comfortable sitting on her back. I chose to wash the worry from my mind and when they called trail open, I did something I have not done since the days of Flame, we started out with the pack.
AND WHAT A START! Only ten of us entered in the 75 mile ride, but they were all tall, long leggy horses and were moving at a good clip down the trail. Czar was hell bent on leather to keep up and was barely maintaining his control as he fought against Rowena, breaking into a canter and pulling on his bridle to go-go-go.
Steel was like. Whatever. She was on a loose rein. At the start. With six horses in front of her boogying down the trail and Czar beside her fighting to catch up.
Nice. Right now? I’m glad I’m not on Miss Daizy. Steel is definintely the one to have at the start of a ride. Easy peasy!
Myth #3 – Begging for crew is the only way to get crew. I no sooner put out a post on Facebook that I was had mailed in my entry for the Mustang 75 when Cindy texted me and asked if I wanted a crew person.
I’ve ridden enough trail with Cindy that I knew she would be able to handle the job well and keep me in line. I told her it would be for me and Rowena as we were camping and riding together and she was pleased as punch to be able to help us.
I will have to say that at every single hold, Cindy was there smiling with the feed pans setup and ready to rock-n-roll and she pulled saddles and put on blankets and tracked pulse on Steel (of course, Czar needs no pulse tracking, I don’t think he goes over 60 while out on trail!) and she was remarkable. She stuffed food into my mouth, poured water and gaterade down my throat, and fussed over both of us like a mother hen. She was awesome and I promise you that I would not have had as much fun as I did if she hadn’t been there in the holds taking all the burden off of me.
Tyson got a bit cold while we were riding. Cindy not only gave up her weekend for me and Rowena, but Tyson gave up his nice warm house. And Pi came along to learn how to camp so it was a family affair.
Thank you Cindy for being a most excellent and patient crew person.
Our trail consisted of sand .. .sand … and more sand … some deep, some packed, some loose. And pine trees. Lots and lots of pine trees. I have to admit, it smelled wonderful out there.
First loop was 24 miles, the blue loop twice with a 10 minute gate-n-go in the middle. After Czar’s initial “gotta win” start, Steel and Czar settled into a nice pace together. We had the entire trail to ourselves most the day and into the evening. We talked, laughed, found places where Steel believed there were bears in the woods and had a most enjoyable time on the blue loop. At the end of the day, the blue loop would be done one more time as our final loop. As we had already experienced it twice in the morning, we were sure to know where we were riding in the dark at night.
On November 7th 2015 the day started at 7:00 am, and a very thick and humid 56 degrees. It was hard to keep the horses cool on the first loop and Steel, carrying extra weight that she was not used to, took eight minutes to come down to pulse. Now this is not exceptionally long, but I felt badly about making Czar wait to vet in. Czar can usually come right into the hold and go straight to vetting.
First hold went well with all A’s on Steel’s card. CRI 48/46. Humidity was way up and as we were leaving on the red loop of 20 miles, it started to sprinkle. They were calling for showers later in the day and apparently the weather itself didn’t read the weather forecast because it started earlier.
We donned our rain gear and left for the 20 miles. It’s not overly cold, but it is raining, and everything is wet. If I closed my rain coat, I sweated. If I opened my rain coat, I got rained on. So, no matter what I did, I got wet!
This was my loop from hell. Steel was floundering. She didn’t want to pick up her hind end and work, she was kinda dragging along. She was keeping pace with Czar but I felt her heart wasn’t in it. Then I started to worry that the reason her rear end was dragging was because of the saddle. I had found on the first 24 miles that if I two pointed the post, she was forging. If I posted from a sitting pleasure position she was not forging. I worked very hard to stay in a position to keep her front end working without actually sitting on her back. Mostly because I am in a treeless saddle and I didn’t want to make her back sore.
At one point on this loop, we had a stretch of trail that was 512 miles long of straight sand going on forever and forever and forever. I swear to you, it was the sandy road to Ohio. During this loooonnnngggg boring stretch of sand, we were mixing it up with trotting and cantering and that was when I discovered that Steel’s canter is much much faster than Czar’s canter and while he was loping along so easy and relaxed, she would canter five steps then just move out in an extended trot. Only during these extended trotting moments was Steel fully engaging her rear end and moving like she was happy. The rest of the time, she felt very unhappy to me.
Which made me sad. I was fairly certain that we were done for the ride after this loop and I’d be helping Cindy crew for Ro for the rest of the ride.
We got into the hold and Steel is eating everything in sight but her pulse is up over 64. Not excessive, around 68 but it’s not coming down as quickly as I’d like. We are wet and miserable from being rained on, it’s still very humid, and after we go to the vet and Steel refuses to trot out for Cindy, I think – “That’s it, we’re done for the day.” The vet’s asked me to trot her one more time. Dr. Art says, take off her bridle and trot her. Ro agreed to trot her so I could watch. After her bridle was removed, she trotted right down and back for Ro.
Okay – lesson number one, remove the bridle for trot out. Her CRI was okay at 56/56 so even though she was dragging along on the red loop, she was not in trouble.
Ro suggested some BCAA’s for Steel. I did have a tube of them (one, because I only packed one) and I also had a tube of a lighter elyte, less heavy on the levels of minerals than the normal one I use. I usually give this one at the end of the ride just to keep them eating and drinking after we finish. Since I had one (one!) and was going to give her a BCAA, this was the one I used.
I waited until last minute after she pigged out on everything. I gave her BCAA and then the Elyte and then the applesauce and flushed it all back with some water. I wish I had my camera out because she made the funniest faces at Cindy and then she managed to get half of it on Cindy and poor Tyson.
I changed into dry clothes as the rain had stopped and everyone was telling us it was over for the day. Next loop is the white loop, eighteen miles, and the white loop has a lot of fun trail. I remembered from last year that there are mogels and single track through the woods and sand … lots and lots of sand. But no really long boring 900 mile straight flat roads. I also changed Steel’s saddle pad. I debated changing to the Abetta saddle (for about 3 seconds) and since she was showing no back or loin soreness, I opted to leave her in the treeless saddle and just put her in a dry pad.
We tack up and prepare to go back out. It’s now 3:00 pm. we have eighteen miles to do and it’s going to be dark when we get in so we put our glow sticks on and off we went for loop #3.
I didn’t get any photos on the red loop because of the rain. I didn’t remember to take any photos on this loop until it was almost too dark to see because I was having too much fun! Then when I remembered, it was too dark and the pictures didn’t turn out. This was my best loop. I had so much fun on this loop. Every time we went over mogels I was hollering “Wheeee” and Steel was a totally different horse from the last loop. She was fresh and perky and was trotting along with her tail up and engaging her back end. I have to say it was the BCAA I gave her. It also could have been because we stopped at every water and snack stop and let them eat for several minutes and drink and then we were off again. It took us a little more time to do the 18 miles than the 20 miles, but those stops were way worth it. I was thrilled with this loop and was having a grand time.
I also caused us a minor delay when Ro (in the lead) turned right on the white trail and we saw some people coming towards us … and I felt like we had made a wrong turn … and the riders coming towards us didn’t know if we were going correctly or not … even though they had done the white trail already … so Ro kindly turned back so I could see that the arrow did indeed point us to the right.
SORRY! I just wasn’t confident. My bad.
Even though it was still three hours of riding, and all I could think about was having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because I was starving, I was having so much fun the trail and the three hours blew by. It got dark and night riding is my favorite so not only did I have mogels and single track weaving through the trees, I got darkness. This was great fun …
Myth #5 – You have to have a head lamp to ride trail at night. NO! Absolutely NOT!
Coming back into base camp through the fields, all of a sudden Steel practically jumped out of her skin, spun around and almost dumped me right there. Two riders coming up on us wearing head lamps bobbing light up and down and all around. Steel had no clue what was going on. At home we ride in the dark with a glow stick and that’s it. The bobbing light combined with the sounds of two horses trotting up behind her almost caused her to have a heart attack.
I was just feeling good about her taking it easy and being relaxed and we were going to get a good vet in when she got all worked up and panicked. I asked Ro to let these two horses pass us so she would settle back down. Of course, this means that we would be the ride turtles (last place) but we would STILL TOP TEN! because there are only 10 riders in the 75.
LMAO – that was my running joke all day. We were going to top ten this ride, WHEEEEE.
We pulled over and let them go past. Steel was all worked up so it took the rest of that field to get Steel settled back down. I kept telling her she needed to save that energy for the last loop. One more loop of 12 miles. Hang in there.
We struggled getting into the base camp because one of the volunteers had a truck headlights shining right at us on the path coming in and we couldn’t see a damn thing. I’m sure that volunteer thought he was lighting the path for us but it was the complete opposite effect, we were blinded by the light.
I was grinning ear to ear coming to the timer and several people there commented on it. I told them that if I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t be riding because this sport is all about the fun!
HOWEVER! When I saw the two light bobbers vetting through, I was kinda bummed that they were going to be leaving right in front of us. I didn’t want to have anything to do with their headlamps for the last and final loop.
Steel was in fine shape! All A’s and two B’s on her card and her CRI was 48/48. This was actually her best vet in. The vet who did her on the red loop came over and checked her, too. She said she was a bit concerned for us but now saw that Steel was doing great and she thanked me for taking good care of her. I thanked the vet for being concerned!
Steel was chowing down everything Cindy put in front of her and this was after eating and eating on trail. Cindy kept making her more food as the pan emptied out. We gave her fresh alfalfa hay and she gobbled it up as fast as we could pull it apart for her.
WOW! Go Steel.
The horse that wouldn’t eat or drink or pee last year has suddenly learned to be an endurance horse! She peed on trail twice and once in the hold after the red trail. She’s doing great at this ride. And as I was preparing to go out one more time, for one more loop, I realized that not once did I wish I had Miss Daizy instead of Steel. Steel was just as fun as Miss Daizy, even a bit more comfortable, so I really was enjoying my ride.
Steel is finishing the ride with an alien on her back.
I wanted to be sure that everyone would see me if I got tossed out there in the dark. I also wanted everyone to know where I was.
I texted Marc to let him know we were going out on our final loop.
He texts back: I thought you’d be done by dark.
My response: Uhm, really or are you teasing me?
He texts: No, really how are you going to see the trail.
I respond: Honey, we have until 1:00 am to finish this ride – 15 hours for a 75 mile ride – and God invented glow sticks a long time ago, we’ll be fine!
He texts: Oh
I love my husband, I really do.
I had put on my heavier jacket because it was supposed to get cold now. Unfortunately, once again the weather iteself did not listen to the weather forecasters. It did not start to get cold until after we finished the ride, so I sweated the entire time we were out on trail on the last 12 miles.
(sigh) yes, my clothes got wet yet again … sticky sweaty wet.
So, we tack up and get ready to leave on trail when the ride manager comes over and says, “How long do you expect to be out there?”
I say, “Three hours.”
It’s dark but I see the funny look Ro gives me. She says, “Two hours.”
I am cheshire cat grinning because I know she can’t see me!
Holly says, “Good, be back here in two hours I’m tired and want to go to bed.”
Ro responds, “Hey, I paid for an eighteen hour ride!”
Holly shakes her fist at us and tells us to hurry up and get done already.
The other two riders were out a couple minutes in front of us. Four of the ten riders were about an hour ahead of us and would be back into camp soon. Two of the ten riders were pulled for lameness issues so we were the last four riders to go out to finish the 75 mile ride.
We very quickly caught up to the two riders that had passed us coming into hold. I was actually excited about that as they were moving pretty slow, because I thought we would get well ahead of them and their headlamps wouldn’t bother me.
Apparently, their horses perked right up when we passed and they stayed with us the entire ride. Behind us. Bobbing their headlamps and making me queasy. At one point I wished I hadn’t eaten that peanut butter and jelly sandwich because I wanted to hurl it. Have you every hurled a P&B sandwich?
I did make a couple comments about the lights, very nicely, hoping they would turn their lamps off, but they did not. So first they scared the beejeezus out of Steel coming up behind us with their bright bobbing lights … then they followed us the entire last loop of 12 miles and made me so seasick that I thought I was going to puke off the side of my horse and I couldn’t eat or drink on that loop because my stomach was rolling the entire time.
NO HEADLAMPS! Learn to use your night eyes. Your horse can see, why do you need to see??? Ro only turned her lamp on when she was unsure of the footing and then it went right back off.
A couple times on this loop Steel took the lead. She is very used to night riding and she knew this loop well as she had done it twice already. A one point, Czar said, “Turn Left.” and Steel said, “Oh No, we’re going straight.” There were no glow sticks at this junction and Ro turned on her headlamp but we couldn’t tell so I said let’s go with Steel’s choice because it feels right to me. We traveled a pretty good ways until we saw a glow stick. All four of us, at the same time, let out an audible sigh of relief at seeing that glow stick.
Steel is now the official navigator.
I will have to say that the last loop took a little longer to do this time around over the mornings ride time, but it flew by pretty quickly with the two new riders added to the mix. They talked and joked and kept the conversation rolling for most of the time. It was fun entertainment.
Before I knew it … FINISH LINE! YAY! 9:06 pm = 14 hours and six minutes. Ride time of 11 hours and 35 minutes.
Although we all came in together, we finished Ro 5th, me 6th and the other two riders shared a tie for 7th.
Myth #6 – Foo-Foo horses cannot do endurance – I didn’t even stop to think about Steel’s overall conditioning before I said, “Hell Yeah!” to go ride in the 75 mile competition. While Miss Daizy has been in constant training this year with doing a 100 mile ride goal in my mind, Steel has just been coming along to rides when someone wanted to catch-ride her. Miss Daizy competed 11 rides and Steel did 6. And Steel was pulled halfway at one of those. Plus she hasn’t had any major riding since Hector in September. I have been riding her at the NACMO rides, but that is nothing in the scheme of conditioning. I did step up my game a little when I sent in my entry and rode her hard for three conditioning rides, but that was mostly to get reacquainted with her movement and gait after riding the ground pounder Miss Daizy all season.
** Steel is 16 years old and this is only her second year on endurance. Before that she was a foo-foo H/J and Dressage horse working in a ring.
** Steel is a forger, which can be catastrophic on a flat ride like the Mustang. We have finally corrected her rear interference but that forging never goes away 100%.
** Pretty pretty pretty and I love Steel to pieces, but she’s just not strong as a tank like Miss Daizy. Whenever I ride her I feel like I’m breaking her back and she’s struggling to keep up with the other horses while carrying my weight.
If a rider and horse have been consistently doing well in their 50 mile competitions, then stepping it up for an additional 25 miles is nothing. Now I will admit, many years ago I thought I could never do a 50 mile ride. I thought that the 25’s and 30’s were hard enough, how would I ever do a 50 mile ride. Doing 50’s all season I am string and really wanted to finish the season on a 100 mile ride, but since Miss Daizy got injured, I settled on a 75 mile ride to end the season with a bang!
I did have a blister on my foot which bothered me the last loop.
I did have a rub from my bra getting wet during the rain.
All in all minor stuff and I hopped off, walked her across the field and finished the ride with three shoes because apparently she lost a shoe on the last loop and I didn’t even notice until I got her home and took her off the trailer and Ro’s mom Diane said, “Hey, did you lose a shoe?”
Why yes, yes we did.
Final vetting on the foo-foo horse. A’s and B’s, 48/56 CRI (yes, she is tired now) and her first 75 mile ride completed. Unlike Miss Daizy who complained every time I got on her after a hold, Steel never complained. She never gave up and she never ever not one time told me she was finished. She was off on the red loop, the BCAA seemed to bring her around and the rest of the ride she was perky and lively.
Final vetting on Dodie? It didn’t hurt me any more to do 75 miles than it ever did to do 50 miles … AND … when we finished, I really could have gotten back on Steel and went out for another loop or two, I felt fine. It probably helped that I was riding in my favorite saddle on the cadillac foo-foo horse because she is so comfortable, I never felt sore (except my back which is always going to hurt from now until I die) and I never felt uncomfortable.
I am sorry for the lack of photos. I am hoping that someone took photos in the holds that I can share on this story at a later time, so check back in!
One last thing for the old fogies reading my story who think a 75 mile ride is out of their reach. Today is Monday and I feel marvelous. You can do this!!!!
I have a blister on my foot which is making me cranky, but the rest of my body is not sore or stiff or complaining. I worked hard all year competing in only 50 mile rides on a ground pounder Miss Daizy and finished the season on the cadillac Steel. I am fully considering working Steel myself next year and letting Miss Daizy be the catch rider horse. Steel totally amazed me at this ride. I did not think she had that in her.