Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old horse, young horse, green horse, kinda stupid horse

This is my answer when someone asks me "Where have you been?" Or "Wow haven't seen you at a ride for a long time!"

At one point this endurance junkie had safely placed endurance riding on the back burner of life and was surviving nicely. When I saw an old friend and they'd ask "Have you been riding much?" I had all the excuses and reasons. Horse is too old. Not enough $$$. I got a young horse that isn't broke yet. Oh I can't take that beast out in public yet!

But then the young horses got older and the training began. And it went on and on. Now green horses are supposed to get better with time and training. But you can train and do tricks and games in a ring all you want, but nothing "makes" a horse like riding it. I was once asked "So what makes a good horse?" I told them wet saddle blankets, LOTS of wet saddle blankets. Now I'm not sure if this person was one fry short of a Happy Meal but the queation was asked "Where do you buy those?" OK so I know that you aren't supposed to laugh at people. So after biting my tongue and being in pain I had to explain that you earned these wet saddle blankets by getting out and actually riding the horse. The hotter the weather the more the horse sweats, the wetter the saddle blanket and the faster you get results.

Now I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I have tried this training thing both ways. Back in the day we would just get on and ride. If they had a turn and a whoa we headed for the hills and they got their first wet saddle blanket. I was also younger and tougher back then. Or you ride in an arena for awhile, graduate to trails so they "learn", and hope they remember when they get out in public. Mine are kinda stupid so in public they have to act totally unbroke and entertain everyone. It has been my experience that we got way better results doing it the the old ride 'em cowboy way, and our horses didn't take forever to be a decent ride. A good Arab needs to get a bit tired for any memory retention to take place I think.

So with that in mind, it was time to take the young, green and sometimes stupid horse to an endurance ride. And then another ride and another ride.....because maybe mine are a bit slow learning how this works. Or smarter than their rider. Or definitely tougher than what I bargained for. Yup that's it! They just get fitter and tougher and better. There is a fine line between stupid and tough, you ride enough and you'll figure out where to draw that line. My friends and I would ride for hours, days and miles and miles. After 1000 miles and five years of wet saddle blankets - Thunder is starting to figure it out. And those 100's pack bonus points into those wet saddle blankets so you get faster results. My goodness, the red horse does have manners!
Looking back, Zap wasn't really "good" till he had at least 3000 miles and was about 13 years old. Blue only has a little over 300 AERC miles, with some good unmeasured trail miles in a couple years time. He will see more action during the summer.
Hmmm, so I have a loooong way to go yet!

So here I am, riding two horses as often and regularly as I can fit it in around work. Getting those hard earned wet saddle blankets. The wetter the better. The farther they go wearing that wet blanket the better they become. Man this is work. And now - here I am - back riding 100's after all these years. And still finding it fun. Yeah I may be kinda stupid too. Well matched to these ponies. YEEHAW! Go ride!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Thunder and I doing our first 100 with Lynn White and Agnes. Photo by Steve Bradley

This ride was a long time coming. It wasn't just a matter of getting in shape and doing it, there were so many hurdles jumped to get there.

Wrecks! Injuries. In 2006 I fell down the bus steps and broke my tailbone, blew three discs in my back and missed a whole year of endurance riding. I was lucky to ride at all during late summer but had two patient friends in Carol Brand and Karen Steenhof while I rode Rushcreek Hollie. A year later i felt that I was doing well enough to start riding Hollie's son Thunder. I took him on one 50 miler but the trotting and such was just tough on me. We did finish though and I stuck with trail riding. Then the day before my birthday, Thunder spooked, bolted, I came off when he skidded on the gravel road and that was the end of that ride, and any rides for awhile. Broken ribs, punctured lung, concussion, lost horse for 6 days, great friends out searching for him, oh my gosh what a nightmare.

I learned that I will never ride in a bosal again, a one rein stop doesn't work in a true emergency in wide open spaces and I also learned the horse when panicked is totally unpredictable. I also learned what superb friends I have as they worked so hard to recover my horse which is a story in itself.

As I healed up I started riding Hollie again and Thunder went to my friend Joe Nebeker for some "remedial learning". And no more hackamore, I told Joe "I want a bit in that sucker's mouth!" You know, until that day when he spooked and bolted, he was not a spooky horse. Obnoxious and bucky yes but he was not spooky. Now he is still spooky. Joe rode him on cattle and a couple endurance rides. I had people telling me to never ride him again (even though I was) and that I needed to sell him because he was going to get me hurt. I started to believe them and was going to sell him, but couldn't actually do it to my dream horse. I had bred and raised this horse and had a special conncetion with him from the moment he was born. No I had to keep him and get through this. I had a few friends encouraging me and I am so glad they did.

Thunder is never easy. He "allows" me to sit on his back and he takes me places. We bargain and reach compromises as we go along. He likes to play games and push my buttons, just like a playful boy child. But as he matures he is getting better all the time. Four days in the Sawtooth Mountains really built our teamwork. We crossed talus slopes, granite fields, traversed narrow trails so high they scared me till I was tremebling, rapid white water streams all while looking at some of the most gorgeous God's country I had ever seen.

It took a lot of time, prayers and courage but Thunder and I gradually worked it all out. Miles of trails, time spent riding alone, plus endurance rides here and there pushed us towards the ultimate goal. A 100 miler. Amidst all this I was still strengthening the weak back and working my way into shape again. Of course old bodies don't just keep healing, there are always set backs and you just have to deal with them.

With that 100 mile in goal in mind, we started with Tough Sucker 50, the Owyhee Spring 60, a week later we did Prineville 75. The 75 kicked my butt. I was tired and hurting but Thunder had been a very eager beaver the first 25 miles, just bouncing me everywhere. But I was still determined to do the 100 at Oreana. My daughter was convinced her mother was crazy when I said "I have to do it - to see if I still can."

Well we all know that we did do the ride and I had a blast. The trail was fantastic, the scenery gorgeous, the challenges were there but doable. And I felt good. I'm back!!! And it's great. Life is a journey. I'm glad I didn't run from it and chicken out, riding a shorter distance. I'm glad I stuck with the horse that nearly killed me because I kept telling people he wasn't a bad horse, we just had a bad day. The best things we do in life aren't easy, that's what makes them the best.