Check it Out!
Far Outtt Forest, With the Kid: Part Four
We rush tacking up the horses in the dark, I put out all fires, and I'm
pissed. Just can't believe the time got away from me like that. We finally
get the horses tacked, Jen mounts Rebel by herself (you should see this) and
I find a stump that aids me with getting on top of my giraffe. I look at my
watch and it's 6:53, 7 minutes till the 50 starts. We trot pass Roxanne, who
is warming up her horse for the 50. She yells, "Man, are you two late!". We
yell out our numbers to the clipboard lady, and canter off down the trail.
I tell Jen we will still stick with our plan of a slow canter, even though we
missed our starting time (way to go Dad). All because of that new cooking
gadget from Wal-Mart, hot coffee and a couple of toasted bagels. I want to
stay ahead of the 50 milers, as much as possible, even if we only have a 7
minute jump on them. And the only way to do this is to canter. Dance is in
the lead, as usual, and Jen and I have the trail completely to ourselves.
There is daylight, but it's predawn daylight, so not very bright out. The
sand is deep, but in some places the trail is in good shape, if you keep your
horse on the side where it hasn't been torn up by the 4 wheelers.
Lot's of low branches here, so I try not to look behind me at Jen, cause I
know as soon as I do one of them will get me. And on my tall horse I have to
duck more than most riders. We clip along at a good pace, with motivation
being not letting the front runners in the 50 catch us. I know our lead
from them won't last forever, I'm just trying to delay them passing us right
away. Both Dance and Rebel are into this run and know they have buddies
somewhere up ahead. If I die and reincarnate I want to come back as an
endurance horse with a young, pretty female owner who gives me lots of beer.
The trails are deep sand, where the 4 wheelers have tore deep into the ground
(I'm not a fan of this motorized sport), but most of it isn't too bad. I
spot a lot of hidden roots and try to avoid them by riding the high end of
any holes. Rebel follows us perfectly. It is a beautiful morning, a nice
chill is in the air, and it just might be perfect weather for my horse. He
is overly excited, which is normal for him in an endurance run. I try and
control his pace, to keep Dance from breaking out into a racehorse sweat. The
brisk weather is helping.
The mist rises above the lakes here giving it an eerie quality. The fog,
created by the lakes, would make great cover for The Far Out Forest Pervert
this morning. Thanks Jean, for letting me know about some of the whacko
people who live in these woods. I push out the bad thoughts and think of my
sunbather, with that smile on her face. Much better.
As Jen and I continue, I get that feeling of "this is the greatest sport in
the world" and I wish I had started it earlier in my lifetime. I'll just
have to let Jen make up for my lost riding time. I know she's into it as
much as I am; I hope it continues. I plan on distracting her from the one
thing that may hinder this goal, boys, till she's 35. She's still at an age
where they're almost a nonentity, but I know it's coming, sooner than I would
For once Jen isn't talking a lot. I look back at her, when it's safe to do
so, to make sure she's OK. I can hear Rebel constantly, he has this type of
breathing where he exhales loudly every time his front hooves hit the ground
while cantering. Sounds kinda cool. Reminds me of a professional tennis
player, how they grunt when they whack at the ball. "Ummmmmmmpppppphhhhhhhh"
says Rebel. This, also, lets me know how close he is. I do love Rebel,
almost as much as Dance Line, cause he has this habit of never passing me on
the trail, no matter how much Jen pushes him to do so. I consider this a
safety feature that keeps my kid from losing control of her horse in, what a
lot of people consider, an extreme sport.
I duck to miss a branch, but not enough and my helmet cracks the limb. Man
that would have knocked me out cold if I didn't have this helmet on. I'm at
the point where, if you, as an endurance rider, choose not to wear one, I
feel that you're a complete idiot and not serious about the sport or haven't
done enough rides. If I saw a downed rider who wasn't wearing one, I'd stop
and help but he/she would hear it from me about their stupidity, coma or no
After a while, I eliminate all negative thoughts and just enjoy what Jen and
I are doing. No one is ahead of us. We go on like this for at least 5
miles. Very little hills (hey, it is central Florida) and the most change in
elevation is about 6 feet (Florida Mountain). I do love my state, and wish
more riders would come down here to run with us locals. This time of year
the bugs are dead and the snakes are buried deep underground, out of site
where I like them. Few tornadoes and no hurricanes; what more could you ask
for? I did forget the fire danger is high, but nothing's burning yet.
I notice Dance is sweating a little more than I'd like to see, so I slow down
to a trot and then to a walk. Not long after doing this I hear the first
group of 50 milers closing in. Jen and I let the group of 4 riders pass. I
ask my partner if she wants to try and keep up with the big boys. She yells
a resounding YES and off we go. Dance always seems more motivated when he
can see a horse or two in front of him. And today is no exception.
I keep the riders in site and sometimes we even get close enough to pass.
But I hold back, knowing these riders will canter all the way. And they do.
Not once do any of them trot their horses; even after we follow for several
miles. The trail is wide enough for a vehicle, but it better be 4 wheel
drive. Jen and I stay right behind the leaders for almost 5 miles, then I
pull back on Dance and we trot for a while. And then I notice something bad.
Dance's head is bobbing every so often, in the trot, even though he doesn't
feel off. I curse to myself, knowing I might have pushed him too hard. I
get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that he's gonna get pulled at
the first vet check, which is only a couple more miles ahead. Even if Dance
isn't lame, if the vet sees his head bob while trotting out I'm gonna be
stuck out here in the middle of nowhere.
We walk a bit and I try and figure out if Dance is lame or just tired. I
play around with his trot, post on the left diagonal then the right, to see
if it's the left front, where his old tendon bow is. He stops bobbing his
head, so I wonder if he's OK? I feel no sign of lameness and hope we might
atleast get thru the first vet check without a hitch.
And up ahead I see a group of people hanging around and realize we just
covered 14 miles. I'm ready for a break. Jen and I give our cards to the
check in lady, who marks our in time, and hands them back. We dismount and
walk over towards the vet area. I bend down and feel Dance's old bow, no
swelling or tenderness that I can see. Good! Rebel and Dance are both
pumped up cause of all the other horses and activity. We stop for water at a
large trough, and I spot Phil, who crews for his wife. I know he has at
least a stethoscope. I ask if he'll check out Dance's heart rate, it tends
to run high, and Phil pulls out this really cool electronic thing, puts it on
the left side in front of the girth, and in less than ten seconds tells me
it's 70. He checks Rebels and it's in the low 50's. Damn Arabs rule when it
comes to pulse and respiration.
We walk around a little with our horses, Rebel and Dance cannot be separated
in this situation, with me looking for my bucket of feed. I don't see it
anywhere. There's not much of a line at the P&R area so I decide to gamble
on Dance's pulse. I turn Dance so he can look at Rebel while the lady uses
her stethoscope and she gives us a passing 64. Rebel is 50. I go up to one
of the vets, he does his thing super quick and then tells me to trot out.
Dance and I take off and I can tell he's OK. Back to the vet, check
complete, all A's, and wait for Jen to finish. Too easy, what was I so
worried about? Jen finishes with all A's also and we start our 30 minute
We wander together, looking for my lost bucket loaded with beet pulp, some
grain and other goodies. I spot Phil again, and he offers this beet pulp
mash that he has left over. Phil's a classy southern gentleman who I hang
out with any chance I can, hoping some of it will rub off on me. This has
yet to happen. His wife, who does 50's, is getting ready to leave the vet
area. She has to be in that 4 group that we followed for so long. Dance and
Reb dig into the food, both gobbling it up, which makes me and Jen quite
happy. They also steal some nearby hay and drink a lot of water. These two
are into this run today.
I get concerned about them stealing the hay, Phil comes by and tells me it's
his, help yourself. What a cool dude. I'm still irked that my bucket is not
here, because I had two syringes of oral electrolytes I wanted to give the
horses. Oh well, crewing for yourself is the pits (pun intended).
Our 30 minute hold flies by and we mount up, tell the clipboard lady we're
leaving and off we go. I spot Roxanne up ahead, with a few other riders, and
Jen and I join them. We work our way up to the canter, and off we go. Jen
loves talking to Roxanne, so the Mouth of the South (Jen) starts in on her.
Poor Rox, I know she's gonna hear whatever is on Jennifer's mind for the next
5 miles or so. It always amazes me how Jen can talk and canter her house,
simultaneously. When I first started riding endurance I was never able to do
this, and I'm still not crazy about it. But I notice a lot of women have
this gift, while a lot of men either don't have it or elect not to use it.
Speaking of men, I forgot to tell y'all, I saw two male riders at camp and
both had cuts on their cheeks, a result of running into the low hanging
branches. One gentleman was bleeding so heavily I was concerned and
mentioned it to him. This kind of struck me as funny, for some morbid
reason, especially when I noticed not one female had even a tiny scratch on
her face. Must be a macho kind of thing, instead of ducking we'll just go
through those branches.
I ask Rox to point out the tricky turn the 35 milers have to take.
Evidently, a large number of riders missed the intersection last year and
ended up doing a 50. She says she will and that it's not much further up
ahead. OK, my conversation is over, and Jen takes my place. The mind of an
eleven year old girl is constantly evolving, and I do believe if the mouth
doesn't continue to move the whole process stops.
Rox points out the turn to us and we all separate. One rider has joined us
and she asks if we mind her company. I advise her she might want to wear ear
plugs, Jen gives me a dirty look, and we introduce ourselves. Her name is
Maria and she is riding a tiny Arab mare about Rebel's age (ten). It's
Maria's first endurance ride and she seems to be enjoying it quite a bit. I
tell her we plan on cantering most of the way, and she says, "No problem,
I'll try and keep up." Dance leads the way and the three of us continue on a
wide path out in the middle of nowhere. We're so isolated I feel like a
Knight whose job it is to protect these young women on a dangerous trail
while traveling between castles. Any pervert shows himself out here and I
will lop off his head. haha.
This loop definitely seems more remote than the first. It's not really a
loop, the entire ride is one loop. The only people who do it twice are the
hundred milers, and from what I hear there are only a few of them riding
today. I still don't understand why the number of riders is so low. The
weather is perfect and the trails are well marked. And we've run into just a
few 4 wheelers, who have all been courteous to us, pulling over and some of
them even turning off their machines. If Dance keeps up the pace I still
might have time for my afternoon nap, even though we're adding an extra ten
miles to our normal 25.
WHEW, almost done. Please let me know some of you are reading this.
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