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Sweaney/Montoya Twenty Mule Team 100

Karen Sweaney
Hello Ridecampers!

This is my first full day home from the 20 Mule Team 100.  Since it was my first hundred, I thought I’d tell you all about it.

Some of you may remember that I did my first 75 at Manzanita in September.  I had only done 50’s before that ride.  When we came home from that ride, I knew that I wanted to try a 100 miler.

My mare and I finished the Firemountain 50 (January ’00) in great shape.  She had tons of energy left and felt wonderful.  I decided that we were ready for the 100 in February.  The weekend after Firemountain, I rode a 30-mile training ride but was very worried the next morning when my mare had scratches so bad that her entire lower leg was swollen to the knee.  I treated her for a week and was happy to see it improve.  I rode on Saturday again and the scratches returned.  Again, I treated it for a week and included hand walking to reduce the swelling.  I rode the next weekend, but took great care to keep her leg very dry.  Her leg looked good the following morning.  I spent the next week walking her religiously and treating the leg twice daily.  Since her leg still looked okay (although a bit chewed up and raw) I decided to head to Ridgecrest anyway.

The vets at 20 Mule Team are very knowledgeable and realized immediately that she didn’t have anything that was going to be a problem.  We got our number, and spent Friday afternoon getting ready for the ride.

My husband, who is very non-horsey, volunteered to crew for me.  He did a great job by the way and even managed to crew for several other riders who needed some extra help!  We spent the afternoon discussing where he would meet me, what he should bring (everything of course!), and what he was to do for my horse and me.  

We got up at 5:00 a.m., dressed, saddled my mare and with a “good luck and I’ll see you in a few miles,” we were off!  I was feeling good about the adventure that lay ahead and my horse felt wonderful.

As we rolled into the first vet check (the 100’s only had to P&R and then trot out), my husband was there with a blanket, hay, grain and water.  What a sweetie. J I felt a little bit bad that I was only going to be there for a minute!  We pulsed down quickly, trot out, and off we went.  A few miles out of the vet check, I realized that I had lost BOTH hind Easyboots – my mare is barefoot in the back!  As I was sitting there pondering what to do, a really nice rider (Carla) stopped and asked if I had lost an Easyboot.  She held my horse while I threw it on.  Even though the next 15 miles were the rockiest part of the trail, I went ahead and trot the rest of it to Vet check 2.  I had Easyboots on the front and now only one in back.  I ride Montoya barefoot at home and know that her feet are very tough and hard.  She never flinched once!

At Vet check 2, we had our first hour hold.  Again, my husband was all set up and even had a plate of lunch for me.  He has never been to a vet check before, but he had it all set up just right!  We borrowed an Easyboot from the Mitchell family (1999 winners of the Bill Thornburg Family Award, JR Regional Mileage Champion and 4th JR National Mileage Championship) and I headed out.  The afternoon loop proved to be a bit of a problem.  After that long six-mile dirt road, I got a nasty stomachache.  My poor mare had to stop on the side of the trail for a good half hour so that I could quit throwing up and get my bearings back!  Fortunately, Terry Wooley came along and let me fall in behind her at a nice slow walk.  After another mile or so, I had to get back off and throw up again!  What a weenie!  At about 2 ½ miles from Vet check 3, I decided to just go for it, sick or not.  Thank goodness my husband was there!  I stayed for a half hour even though it was only a 15-minute hold.  Terry’s husband helped me on and wished me good luck.  He later told me that he didn’t have much hope for me (he’s an M.D.).  Well, I shocked my husband by riding the last 8 miles to camp in about 50 minutes!

I vetted through, took care of my horse and took a twenty-minute nap.  I left at about 5:30 for the last 35 miles.  It took me 7 more hours to finish and they were the longest seven hours I can ever remember.  All I wanted to do was to crawl into my sleeping bag and go to sleep.  I kept going though and was more grateful to my husband at each stop.  He kept reminding me that this was fun and that I needed to get on and get going.  The last eight miles took me just under two hours to complete.  They were the same 8 miles that I did in 50 minutes 8 hours earlier.  

When I got back to camp, Barney vetted me through and laughed when I told him that it was just plain insulting to ask me to trot out!

My husband helped me remove the Easyboots, we fed Montoya and blanket her, and then I cleaned up as quickly as I could.  I was too tired to even appreciate what my mare had helped me to accomplish.  In seconds it seemed, we were back up and packing the trip for the ride home.  My regular riding partner, Marci (who did the 65 with her two horses – she had a second rider) told me that she had gotten us entries for the Californio’s 100 in June.  She laughed when I groaned!

I have to admit that I finally feel like a true endurance rider.  Not that 50’s are anything to scoff at.  I am plenty tired at the end of one of those too.  There’s just something about a 100 miler to strengthen the bond between horse and rider.  I found out what I am made of and what I am capable of doing.  I wanted to quit so badly when I was out there sick on the trail.  I told myself that it’s called endurance for a reason.  And so I endured.  I am glad I did it and you know what?  I think I might even do that hundred in June!

If you’re still reading, thanks for letting me share my experience.

Happy trails!
Karen Sweaney & Montoya DSA

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