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Far Outtt Forest, With the Kid: Part Five

I'm riding alone on the trail, searching for her. For some inexplicable 
reason I just can't get this woman out of my mind.  Dance and I turn a corner 
and up ahead and I see her.  She's still sunbathing, still nude, exactly like 
the last time I saw her.  The reflection of the bright sun resonates from her 
well oiled body.  She looks up, smiles and waves to me, first as in Hello, 
then a hand gesture telling me to come closer.  I approach her on horseback, 
and when I'm about ten feet away, I start feeling dizzy.  My mind enters some 
kind of hypnotic trance as I find myself looking at this beautiful creature.  
She's a well proportioned, young brunette, with the most perfect body I have 
ever seen.   And that smile, on her lovely face, melts any inhibitions I 
might have.   I try not to stare, but just can't resist her power.  She says, 
"Hi, my name is Debbie.  Why don't you get off that big horse and sit down 
for a chat."

I get off Dance, hook up his reins to the saddle, and walk towards her.  "I 
haven't been able to stop thinking of you, since yesterday," I say.  Deb 
says, "I know, would you like a beer?"  I answer, "Sure," and 
WHAACKKKKKKKKKKKKKK.............a tree limb has just knocked me off my horse, 
I do a double somersault backwards, and land in the deep sand.  "Dad, are you 
OK?  Didn't you see that branch?" says Jennifer.  Maria is there, also, just 
wondering what the heck happened here.  

I notice that the visor on my helmet is now hanging to the side, I pull on it 
and off it comes.  Man, I must have been in some kind of trance or something. 
 Not a safe thing to do out here.  I tell Jen and Maria I'm OK, get back on 
Dance Line, and off we go, hoping they forget about my faux pas eventually.  
Maria asks me, "Would you like me to ride in front?"  "Sure thing," I tell 
her, knowing she's lost confidence in my ability to lead.  

This part of the loop definitely seems more remote than the first.  This 
trail is not a series of loops like I'm used to.  It's one long 50 mile loop, 
with a cut that the 35 milers take.  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, most of them pulling their 
vehicles to the side of the trail to get out of our way.  Some of the drivers 
even turned off their engines, making it easier for us to go by.  If Dance 
keeps up this pace, and the nonriders continue to be so polite,  I still 
might have time for my afternoon nap, even though we're adding an extra ten 
miles to our normal 25.

Dance is hardly sweating; I'm glad I sponged him thoroughly at the last vet 
check.  Jennifer had won this cool sponge at the Osceola ride for finishing 
first in juniors.  It has a long plastic cord (long enough to hit the ground 
from atop my giraffe), with metal hooks and a ring attachment, all making it 
easy to separate and throw into a river, lake, pond, or puddle.  She's 
letting me carry it today, knowing my horse needs it more than hers.  I'm 
convinced that using a sponge, as often as you can, especially on a tall 
legged Saddlebred, is one of the keys to this sport.  I can't tell you how 
many sponges I've lost because of a poor knot, to rivers, swamps and hungry 

Maria is keeping a good pace, we mostly canter, with her tiny Arab leading 
the way.  Jen keeps talking, telling me I should always be ready and pay 
attention.  "Were you sleeping, Dad?" she asks.  I'd like to tell her what 
happened, but just grunt in the affirmative to her question.  I lean down and 
hug the long neck of my gelded male companion, telling him that I'll keep my 
mind alert and block out thinking of my nude sunbather for the rest of our 

After a few miles we come up on our last remote vet check. Hardly any riders 
are here; in fact there are more volunteers and crew members than riders and 
horses.  Jen and I both dismount.  I take Dance over to a water trough, he 
drinks and Jen and I go over to this makeshift vet area that parallels a dirt 
road.  Dance still has alot of energy and he's a bit hard to control.  I 
kinda yell at him to settle down, but inside I'm amazed at the fire this 
horse still has in his belly after 26 miles.  I love his spirit.

The lady with the stethoscope says he's 64 and I go up to the female vet.  
She recognizes me from the Hahira ride, and tells me my horse has really put 
on some weight since she last saw him.  I tell her it's not the same guy, 
even though they are cousins and have the same chestnut color and similar 
markings.  As she is doing her checks, Dance moves around constantly.  This 
volunteer, wearing a bright orange cap, comes over and tells me rather 
sternly, "You need to keep on the side of the horse that the vet is on."  

I remember seeing this guy before, at the pre ride briefing.  I think he even 
got up and said a few words on the danger of us losing our trees or, maybe, 
it was trails.  My face flushes with anger, I'm about to lash out at this 
tree hugger, but I keep it in.  I want to offer him the reins, to see how 
well he thinks he can do with my hyper giraffe,  who presently isn't too keen 
on being checked for anal tone, but, instead, I keep quiet.  I kinda nod my 
head, knowing that if I speak the words would wound him, and orange cap 
wanders off, thinking he's helped me immensely.

I'm grateful to anyone who volunteers at these rides, but instruction is not 
something I'm looking for, especially from a non rider who is just observing. 
 I have a jumpy horse and I kinda like him that way.  Orange cap is lucky 
Dance didn't bite him; my horse moonlights as a guard dog, protecting my back 
yard during the weekdays.  You should see him patrol my fence!

The lady vet asks me to trot my horse out and we do so without a hitch.  The 
vet says, "That was lovely, he's looking good."  I think she likes my horse 
or maybe it's just my winning smile.  Haha.  I get out of the way, but hang 
close by to keep an eye on Jennifer.  I want Rebel to know his buddy is still 

Rebel and Dance seem to need each other at these stops; the bonding that 
develops between the two horses, during an endurance run, is unbreakable.  
Because of this I actually walk the road that parallels the trot out area, to 
make things easier for my 47 inches tall, and still growing, daughter.  She 
gets thru the check fine and we walk away from the vet area.  Maria is next 
in line, with about three other riders behind her.

This last remote vet check seems too empty to me; few riders and not much 
activity, especially when compared to our last stop.  I look for my other 
bucket, but don't see it anywhere.  I see Allison, taking a break, and Jen 
and I go sit next to her.  Allison, my number one fan, tells me what I did 
wrong with my bucket placing last night.  I definitely did not pay attention 
at the pre-ride briefing and, evidently, placed my buckets in the wrong 
location.  One of them is at the second vet check, the one the 35 milers 
never see.  Sometimes my stupidity amazes even me.

Allison offers us her hay and some feed for my horses. The two gobble it up 
and Rebel tries to rub up on Allison to thank her.  She gives Jennifer a 
bottle of Gator Aid, a granola bar, and some other stuff to eat.  Allison 
then says Good-bye, because her hold is over and it's time to mount her 
Mustang.  If it wasn't for the kindness of others I don't think I would make 
it through a ride.  I sure can't count on my own organizational skills.  I 
know, in a year or two, Jennifer will have this whole thing managed perfectly.

Maria joins us and I tell her Jen and I will start out slow, since we might 
leave ten minutes or so ahead of her.  She nods her head and I notice she 
looks a bit tired.  It's my guess that Jen's conversational skill has worn 
Maira down, but I keep the thought to myself.  Maria doesn't seem to be in 
the mood for my humor right now.

A very nice gentleman (not orange cap) comes over, tells Jen and me we can 
leave, and does so by using our first names.  What a nice guy.  I tell Jen we 
should try and get the horses to drink again, so we walk over to the water 
trough.  Feeling kinda sore, I'm not in any hurry to mount up.  Jen and I 
just watch our two funny companions splash each other in the face, playing 
with the water more than drinking it.  These two horses have just made our 
day; man, do I love these guys.

During this time Maria leaves the vet area and I don't think she noticed us 
next to the water trough.  By the time I realize this Maria is out of sight 
and I tell Jen we need to get going.  Jen gets onto her horse by herself 
(this never ceases to amaze me) and I put Dance in a ditch, using the higher 
ridge area as my stool.  I feel something pull in my back, as I mount up, 
wondering how that's going to feel tonight.  I hear a few of the crew people 
chuckle at seeing me climb aboard and wave to them as Jen and I depart the 
area.  It's rare that Dance and I don't get a laugh or two from people 
watching us.

We start out in a trot but soon hit our gait of choice today, the canter.  
Maria is nowhere to be seen and I have the feeling she's moving quickly, 
thinking we are ahead of her.  I mention this to Jen and she suggests we go a 
little faster to try and catch the woman who is trying to catch us.  The 
trail is much like it's been all day, loose sand, but plenty wide, with not 
too many turns.  I avoid all deep holes just knowing there is a hidden tree 
root in there.

During our run Jennifer gets her horse to pass me, she sticks her butt up in 
the air, turns her head around, points to her hip and says, "This is what 
I've had to look at all day."  Haha, I only wish mine was that small.  Jen 
and Rebel keep the lead for a few miles, still no sign of Maria.

After a few spooks from Rebel, Jen decides she doesn't need to be in the lead 
anymore and lets me pass her.  We finally spot Maria, I yell at her but she 
doesn't see or hear me.  Maria and her tiny Arab mare are booking down the 
trail.  We increase our speed a little, Dance spots Maria's horse and is more 
than willing to play catch up.

We get to a marking with an arrow pointing left and notice Maria missed the 
turn.  I yell for her as loud as I can and get her attention.  Big lungs in a 
little body pay off sometimes.  I yell again saying, "Wrong way,"  and motion 
for her to come in our direction.  We wait for her and Maria says, "I thought 
you guys were ahead of me.  I was really getting frustrated not seeing you at 
all."  Looks like I'm not the only daydreamer in the crowd.

We continue on the final section of this huge loop and catch up to Allison, 
who is in a trot.  She stays with us for a while until we get to another 
intersection, where the sign for the turn seems incorrect since the arrow 
points straight up.  We stop, I pull out my map and think I find our 
location.  As we are talking, discussing which way to go,  I spot a group of 
men sitting around a table next to a small trailer.  I don't see any vehicles 
next to their trailer.  The men see us, get up and walk our way.  On the 
table I notice an empty bottle of Jim Beam, tons of empty beer cans, and what 
looks to be a water pipe or bong of some kind (don't ask how I know these 
terms).  Oh great.

One man in the group yells out to me, "Hey mister, you lost?  We know which 
way to go."  The man then starts waving his arms wildly in kind of a circular 
motion.  I have no idea what this guy is up to.  He then stops the motion, 
crosses his chest with his arms and points out in two different directions 
with both of his hands.  At the same time he says, "You go this way," 
perfectly mimicking the Scarecrow from "The Wizard of OZ."  His buddies all 
laugh, slapping themselves silly and acting like this is the funniest thing 
they have ever seen.  Too much!  I'm wondering if they were the ones who 
messed with the directional arrow.

This gives our group the incentive to hit the trail, even if we're going the 
wrong way.  I'm sure the men were harmless, but I just can't imagine a lone 
female, doing a 100 miler, out here late at night after dark, running into 
this group.  The Far Out Forest Pervert could be hiding behind any of these 
bushes out here.  The fact that I didn't see a car anywhere is what freaked 
me out.  I'm not a gun nut by any means, but if I were that lone female rider 
I would definitely consider carrying one after witnessing what the four of us 
just did.  

Jennifer starts asking questions about the men.  I try and assure her they 
were just having fun, but Maria and Allison give looks that indicate 
otherwise.  Allison drops off behind us and it's just the original three, 
still cantering along.  I'm amazed at how well Dance is doing today.  His 
leg, with the bowed tendon, is holding up and he seems to be having a great 
time out here.  After going a few more miles, around a lake, and down a dirt 
road with no vehicles, I spot our campground.  We've come full circle and are 
back to our temporary home.  

Jen and I are the first to enter the vet area and no other rider is around.  
The head vet (this guy is so cool) comes out to meet us and says, "One of you 
is in tenth place, the other is in eleventh."  I look at Jen and it's a no 
brainer.  "She's in tenth, I'm behind her," I say.  This smile comes over 
Jennifer's face that I've never seen before; she's extremely full of herself 
and I'm quite proud of my daughter.  The vet does his checks and then tells 
Jennifer she needs to come back with her horse, in less than one hour from 
now, so he can look at Rebel for Best Conditioned horse.  Wow!

The vet also tells her to remove all tack and weigh herself in at the 
Pavilion.  After he finishes looking at my horse I help Jen with the tack and 
she hits the scales, barely able to carry her saddle and pad.  And the man 
records her at a whopping 89 lbs.  Too bad they don't have an award for 
lightest rider.

We walk back to our campsite and Jen's excited.  She asks me, "What do we do 
with Rebel?"  "How should I know?  I've never top tenned," I respond, with a 
smile.  "Dadddddddd."  I tell her to brush off her horse, we'll feed them and 
clean him up as much as we can.  I get out the beet pulp, water it down, add 
some grain, and feed both horses.  I throw them some hay and grab a beer and 
sit down.  My body is aching.  I know I'll hardly be able to get out of bed 
in the morning.

As Jennifer brushes off her horse she continues talking.  "I just can't wait 
to tell Samantha and Roxanne that I top tenned.  And now I'm going up for 
BC....yada, yada, yada, yada."  Actually, I'm quite enjoying this and wish I 
had the energy to go get out the video camera that's in the truck.  Jen's 
normally a very happy kid, but she has just peaked at total satisfaction.  
I'm so glad I'm here to see, and hear, it all.  Watching and listening to 
her, I know this memory, will stay with me till the day I die.

I help Jennifer clean up Rebel, letting the horse continue to eat while doing 
so.  We then leave our campsite and go back to the vet area.  Again, no one 
is ahead of us and Jennifer does her thing.  At the end of the trot out Jen 
kinda stops a bit too suddenly; Rebel stops right behind following her lead. 
His legs dig into the deep sand and the horse goes down, all the way to his 
front knees.  The crowd that had gathered around all goes, "OHHHHHHHHHH," 
thinking Jen might get hurt or the horse has just injured himself.  I kinda 
chuckle to myself, knowing that neither is the case.  The vet, Dr. Cool, 
seems to know the horse is fine.  Rebel gets up and the BC check is complete. 
 I feel that Rebel knew his show was over and he was just taking a Bow for 
the audience.

That's it. My story's done, complete, finished.  I will tell you it got so 
cold that night, after the run, Jennifer and I slept in the truck, with the 
diesel engine running.  Since all our neighbors, Roxanne and Stuck Lady, left 
I knew we weren't keeping anyone up.  Jen didn't get BC (weight is a factor), 
but she did get a lot of neat stuff for top tenning.  In closing I'd like to 
ask all my Southern neighbors to please put this ride on your calendar for 
next year.  We're down to three endurance rides a year in Florida and I'd 
hate to lose this one, due to lack of participation.  If I can finish on my 
Saddlebred, I know you guys can too.  If you show, beer's on me.  Promise.

And, no, I didn't go looking for HER the next day.  But she was on my mind as 
I pulled out of ridecamp with my rig.  haha.



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