Foxcatcher 2012

FOXCATCHER 50 miles

I am excited to FINALLY be entering a 50 for the first time in three and a half years.  After injuries that took me out for a year, then an auto accident (in which an idiot ran into the back of my trailer flipping us on our side) took me out for another year (and I’m still experiencing a lot of mobility loss from that accident) I believe I am ready to torture myself on a 50 mile ride.

Now, for all my excitement, I have a lot of trepidation as well.  Flame has shredded every boot style I have tried on her feet.  I am down to the Easyboot Epic (just purchased for $300) and the Renegade (last resort as they’re even more expensive).  Today, one week before the Foxcatcher ride, I am going to take her out on some tough trail and see how these boots work.  If I can keep them on her feet, my plan is that we’ll run the first loop of the Foxcatcher barefooted then put the boots on for the final two loops.

Stay tuned!

04/14/12 – Okay, now before I start this ride story, keep in the back of your minds that I am still flying from all the fun I had.  So, if it seems to be a little silly, that’s why!

I am doing this ride with no crew.  Pixie comes along with me as my fan club.  I thought it quite funny to get text messages Friday evening saying, “I know you’re here, I saw your pink dog.”  She’s not pink!  She’s apricot, a perfectly normal color for a Princess Poodle (chuckle).  This is a picture of her waiting to be picked up and put in Mabel so we can get on the road.

Periodically, I manage to get to a ride without any adventure.  BUT!  I think when that happens for me, my friends suffer.  Poor Cheryl got all twisted around following the directions from the ride entry and ended up in New Jersey.  Thankfully, she still trusts me (since I was the one that caused us an extra 45 minutes getting us lost going to the Bunny Hop) and she called me before she got too far.  I got her headed back to Maryland and she arrived minutes before I did and picked a sweet spot to park.

Check in was quick and easy, I was in the EXPRESS lane.  This meant that all I had to do was pick up my envelope and roll on back to the trailer.  Rider #153.  That equals 9 (not a lucky number for me).

Cheryl helped me set up and we were done in moments.  Nice.  I could not get the crayon to write on Flame.  It kept picking up the shedding hair.  So instead of leaving crayon behind, it was acting as a lint roller.   It was very frustrating.

We both checked in – A’s across the board for the both of our trusty steeds.  Flame was busy checking everything (and everyone) out so her heart rate was a little elevated.  When she did her trot out I heard a lot of giggling.  Cheryl said she had four legs going in four different directions.  Fortunately, my vet knew gaited horses and we were fine.

So, here we are at 4:30 pm, all checked in and nothing to do but sit and have a conversation and vegetate.  What a nice way to get to a ride.  No rushing around, arriving late, trying to get vetted in before dark and missing the ride meeting and supper.  AMAZING!

I looked over the fields, full of rigs for the 157 entries in tomorrow’s ride and I felt a sense of homecoming.  This is my first 50 since November 2008.  It’s been a long road to recovery for me and Flame.  I was so excited I could not stand the anticipation.  So many people said “HI” to me.  It was like a great family reunion.

The ride meeting (which I was able to attend this year as I arrived early!) was totally jam packed.  Pixie was in the middle of all this.  I probably should have left her at the camp.  I was certainly not thinking when I brought her with me.  We were introduced to the FEI committee, all the vets and ride management.  The food was marvy.  And the meeting was well presented and covered just about every contingency.  I would personally like to thank the ride management for handling such a large ride with excellence.

I have several concerns for tomorrow’s ride.

  1. Flame has this thing on her spine that popped up in early February.  We did Bunny Hop 3 weeks ago and it didn’t seems to bother her, but it still worries me.
  2. Flame can’t keep a shoe, boot or anything on her feet so she’s barefooted and it hasn’t rained in weeks so everything is dry and hard … I’m hoping her feet will hold up for the first loop of 25 miles so I can boot her for the last 25 miles.
  3. Flame hasn’t worked a 50 in three and a half years and her brain isn’t in “safety mode”.  I can’t decide whether to start her with the forerunners like we did in 2008 or hold her back.
  4. For a mid-April ride, it’s gonna be hot (upper 70’s) and sunny – I’m gonna melt!!!

Flame is avidly interested in everything going on but she’s minding the corral (whew).  Cheryl and I visit with lots of people at our camp as they stop by to give us Good Luck and after it gets dark, we decide it’s time to hit the pillows and get ready for tomorrow morning at 5:00am.  Lynn is here to try her first 50 mile ride and she’s as nervous as a hen in a fox den.  I am pretty sure that Phoenix will be just fine.  He is fit as a fiddle.  She also has problems with keeping boots on his feet.  Yes, he’s gaited, too!

WHOO HOO

I made sure that Flame has her glowstick on her halter…(try finding a black  horse running loose in camp at midnight and you’ll understand the glowstick!)…she has plenty of hay and water and she’s been drinking the Thirst Quencher like crazy, so I know she’s going to start the day well hydrated.  After a quick inspection of the fence, off to bed I go.

I sleep like a dead man until 1:00 am … and now I’m wide awake.  Dammit!  For the next four hours I snooze and wake up about every 1/2 hour.  I am too excited for words.  Poor little Pixie is trying to get some rest in the bed with me and I keep tossing her all over the place.  I think she even growled at me once (chuckle).  I must have looked for the red glowstick 20 times.  Once it was missing and I opened the door to be sure the fence was still up.  Flame was resting and was not happy that I interrupted her beauty sleep.

Finally – at 4:30 am I give up and just get up.  I’m totally excited.  I can’t even describe how jazzed I am.  It feels like I’m doing my first ride instead of my 21st ride.  I even stopped once to just take a deep breath and scold myself for being so silly.

Tick tock … tick tock …. time is creeping up on us and I still can’t decide whether to start front or wait.  gawd.  Two little girls came by walking a dog that Pixie fell in love with last night.  I asked them if they’d like to walk around with Pixie, too.  Oh, my, gosh.  You’d think I had just given them a million cupcakes.  With a resounding “YES, PLEASE!” I found someone to keep Pixie company while I was out on trail.

I put the saddle pad on Flame and she went on instant alert.  As the saddle went on she started quivering.  OH NO!  I walked her around to warm her up and she’s practically standing on my head.  OH NO!  I get out the lunge line and put her to some serious warm up and she’s little Miss Rodeo.  OH NO!

6:55 am … five minutes to start.  I take her back to the camp site, tighten the girth, take a deep breath and get on.

She surprises me by moving right off at a walk.  Hmmmm.  We walked through the back of the camp and took the long way up to the start.  I figured that would give most the riders time to get out on trail.

MISTAKE #1 – she heard them go – all 157 of them – and suddenly I was riding on a pogo stick.

7:05 am – I got that under control and pointed her down the trail.  There are about 8 horses right in front of us.  I am barely maintaining any control of her but she is staying in a running walk.  My shoulders ache as I hold on to the reins to keep her from running over the horses in front of us on the single track trail.

MISTAKE #2 – the more I held on to her, the more she started getting worked up.  By the time we hit the road crossing at mile #2 she was getting out of control.

Okay, I have space to pass people so I begin to move up through this clump of riders and she body slams three horses.

(die from embarrassment)

I get past everyone and she takes ahold of me and charges through the next single track path, almost killing both of us because she’s not watching where her feet are going.  We’re moving downhill and there is a severe run off gully just before a small creek that she ignores because she’s too intent on finding the next cluster of horses to pass.  As she races into it, she falls to her knees.

(die from fear)

We come out into a field where the trail runs off to the left around a field in a “C” shape.  Instead of going left and following the trail like I asked her, she sees horses at the top of the hill on the right and she charges up the hill dodging her head left and right to avoid my small amount of control.  She is out of control and is fighting me so hard I felt something pop in my middle back.

(die from anger)

THAT’S IT!  Her brain is totally gone and the only reason I’m still in the saddle is because she doesn’t care if I’m there or not.  I steer her into a group of bushes.  Ka-Pow, she gets hung up in them and I quickly dismount.  I am shaking so bad I can barely walk us back out of the bushes.

(Remember last year’s Foxcatcher?)

I am at about mile #3 and this horse has totally had a brain meltdown.  She jumps on my head, she body slams me, she half drags me across the field BUT I DIDN’T LET GO OF THE REINS!

I start walking back towards the creek.  This is mile #3 and she is in a thick white lather.  She is a basket case.  Her nostrils are flared and I can see her pulse in her neck vein.  I’ll bet it’s at 500.

MISTAKE #3 – next ride, she goes out front with the front runners.  Then she can pass them and be the winner.  Sheesh.

Many (many) riders pass me as I’m walking back to the creek.  I assure everyone that I am fine and my retarded mare will need admission to the nearest mental institution.

I reach the creek, look at my watch and it is 7:14 am.

gawd – feels like it’s noon.  That was the hardest 9 minute battle I ever had.

I cannot believe that I spent a whole week dying to get to this ride and I got a full 9 minutes of it.  I am so disappointed. (and embarrassed, and scared, and angry)

I stand in the creek in water almost to my knees and sponge and sponge.  Flame is circling around me so fast I’m afraid she’s gonna start a whirlpool that will suck me in.  I talk to her (in a calm voice!) and tell her that she could have won the race if she’d just let me have a little control.  I tell her about the miles of trail she’s gonna miss and all the cute geldings she could have passed.  Eventually, she began to quit pacing round and round me in the water and stopped to drink.

Wow.  Really?

No horses had passed us for about 1/2 hour.  Flame had her brain back and was getting cooled off.  I could no longer see thick steam rising off her body and she had stopped shaking.  She was even eating grass along the bank.  Okay, maybe we can continue on???  I look at my watch and it’s 8:16 am.  I’m only 3 miles into the ride so I’m about an hour behind … I mentally shrug and tell myself I have 11 more hours to finish this ride, let’s get to it.

I find a stump (that had a pretty little violet in bloom growing right in the middle of it) and I get back on.  With some trepidation, I turn her in the direction we need to go and ask her to walk on.

Flame walked across the creek, came out into that field and actually turned left to follow the ribbons.  That’s where the walking stopped.

Okay, not bad.  She’s moving fast but she is listening to my hands and voice and slowing down when I ask her to.

I did not realize how fast we were moving until we began passing horse after horse after horse. At one point, on a single track trail, there were e 8 horses in front of us and she was determined to get past them.  She was working herself into a frenzy and I was barely keeping her from body slamming through them.  The little chestnut mare directly in front of us had had enough of Flame and let her have it with both back feet.  Flame backed off then!  For about a foot.  We came down on a wide crossing and she quickly passed them by.

We arrived at the 10 minute “stop and go” at 8:57 am.  I believe that was at mile 12.   So, we just did 9 miles in 40 minutes.  Holy crap.

While we were in the “stop and go”, there were about 20 horses in there.  I understand that every one is trying to get water at the same time from the same water trough, but there was an exceptionally rude rider, who had dismounted and was taking up a “horse” space at the trough while 7 horses are trying to drink.  That rider smacked Flame in the head when Flame looked over at the rider’s horse.  Excuse me?  That did it for Flame, she backed out of the water trough and didn’t drink.

9:07 am – time to leave the “stop and go”.  She didn’t drink at the (maybe because she got smacked) but she ate grass like she’d missed her last three meals.  Okay, I’ll take that.  Refueling, I guess, because when we left out of there she was REALLY on fire and we started passing more and more horses.

She got excited when we came up on horses but she had stopped fighting me.  She waited until I gave her to go ahead and then we passed.  After passing, she would speed up like she was saying, “HA!”  She was stretching her legs like crazy and I was not able to convince her to slow down on the gravel roads where we could not get off into the grass.  I was concerned that her feet were being chewed all to hell, but she kept moving along at her nice smooth rack so I kept my mouth shut.

When I saw the 20 miles marker and I looked at my watch and it was 9:44 am, I almost fell out of the saddle.  That means we just did 8 miles in 33 minutes.  And there has been no loss of power or energy from Flame.  Not in the least!  She is really working strong today.  I stopped her in a lush field hoping she’d eat.  She did, until she saw this nice grey arab up the hill.  She quickly caught up to her and followed her through some single track trail.  She wasn’t crowding her and the rider didn’t seem to mind our many jingles bells behind her, so we stayed behind them until the next open field then we passed.

We got half way up the hill and Flame slowed way down.

Uh oh.

As soon as the pretty arab caught up to us, Flame was off and running again.  The rider said her horse wanted so bad to be with Flame, it was the strangest thing because lots of horses had passed her and the mare didn’t do that before.

We got to talking.  And since the mare (named Rose) was traveling a little slower that Flame previously was, Flame actually slowed down and got some rest time.  They really did like each other because at the 1 mile to go sign, Lisa (the rider) said she wanted to walk so she’d see me in the hold.

Amazingly, Flame walked, too!

WOW!

We got into hold and I asked for a courtesy before I went down to drop off my saddle (tack off for holds today).  Flame was right on 60 pulse.  Wow.  I figured she be somewhere around 500 pulse (chuckle). Time in 10:34 am.

We dumped the saddle and went for vet check.  All A’s on everything.  Then the trot out.

Oops.

Vet says her right hind looks slightly off and she’s tight.  I tell her that she ran barefoot and maybe her feet are sore.  She says go put on boots and come back to trot out again.

(NOTE:  The ground is exceptionally hard right now as we’ve had no rain for a very long time.  While many of the trails went through fields of grass, the same amount of miles went over hard rocky footpaths or graveled roadways with no grass burn to get off the gravel.  Flames feet are not bruised or chipped and she was cranking speed over these conditions.  That is very impressive to me!)

I put the boots on (right hind foot is sliced into the frog – ouch) and ask Flame to trot out for me on the lunge.  I can see she’s still favoring the foot.  I went up and talked to Dr. Nick.  We decided I should pull her so as to avoid causing more damage.

(grin)

Yes!  I am grinning!  Did you see what this phenomenal mare just did?  25 miles in 2 hrs 15 minutes?  And she was still moving strong when we arrived at vet check, sore foot and all.  At the trot out, she was flying down and back, legs going in 4 different directions (fortunately, we had the same vet as the morning).  The vet even said she looked like she definitely had 25 more miles in her.

WOW!  I even managed to get the meltdown under control.  I am so glad I didn’t give up and go back to base.  I am hoping that Flame learned a little something today about getting all worked up.  Double big grin.

Now, if I can figure out how to protect her feet, she may actually finish a 50 in the top 10.  I think I am going to have to invent boots specifically for gaited horses doing endurance.  It will probably involve glue, velcro and prayer.  Then I can share the boots with Cheryl/Crash and Lynn/Phoenix.

Cheryl completed her 25 mile LD on Crash!  Whoo Hoo!  She teased me that I should have entered the 25 instead of the 50 but I have to say, I’m happy with how the day went, so I’m glad that I did the 50.

I believe that once I heal up Flame’s foot and get going again, the next 50 we’re gonna start out front and I’m going to put the Epic’s on with glue.  Maybe that will work.  In the meantime, I’m going to do every conditioning ride with the Epics so she gets 100% used to them on her feet, maybe that will help, too.

Cheryl helped me pack up my camp so she could follow me out to the TP to get home.  I really appreciated her help.  It was fabulously hot and my middle back (where I heard the “pop”) was really giving me back muscle spasms and cramps.  Cheryl didn’t get a ride shirt because she wasn’t one of the first 100 riders to pay in full.   She was very disappointed not to get a shirt, so when we stopped for gas, I snuck over to her truck and put my shirt in her ride bag.  I hope she smiled when she found it.

When I got home and let Flame go, she ran (top speed, feet going in 4 different directions) across the yard towards the pasture to greet Shrapnel.  She was moving very fluid in the grass so I’m hoping the foot heals up well.  The lump on her back is slightly swollen and it is tender when I push on it.  This is the other thing that I worry about.  It’s hard with no pain when she’s in between rides.  This morning (Sunday) when I checked it, it is hard again and has no pain when I push down on it.  I certainly wish I knew exactly what it was.

And when I got up this morning, fully expecting to be beat up and sore from riding on a cyclone, I find no stiffness or tenderness anywhere.  Amazing!!!!!

On a short side note, if you check my ride records on AERC, you’ll see that it’s Foxcatcher 3, Dodie 0.  That’s right, I have not completed a Foxcatcher 50 yet.  Next year will be my year!  Know how I know that?  It’s 2013 and 13 is my all time lucky number~!

Next ride?  I don’t know.  I have to wait and see what this foot does.  I can tell you this, I will not enter any more CTR’s.  Flame is just not cut out to go slow and rate herself.