Check it Out!
Pirate Run (Part 4)
I didn't stay up too late Friday night. I wanted to make the ride on time.
I live for the start of these things; I don't know why, must be some sort of
death wish or something. This conversion to Central time, from Eastern, had
me a little off center. I socialized a bit, even got invited to an
exceptional dinner, courtesy of Cindy and her daughter Ashley. Cindy cooks
this vegetable dish that is to die for; I, normally, eat nothing but meat at
these rides, sandwiches and I usually grill a steak or two. I'm pretty sure
I got back to my tent before midnight, which is early for me when I'm only
riding a 25 mile ride. If I do a 50 I try and get to bed by ten. A 50 is
serious business; a 25 is pure fun.
I had to get out of bed a little earlier than planned. When Mary Ellen
started saddling up her horse for her 50 mile ride, Princess, right on cue,
started acting up. Since I had my tent very close to Princess' pen, her
neighing noises and running around woke me up. She was moving so quickly
around the corral, when she came to a sudden stop where three rungs of
electric tape required her to do so, she even kicked dirt on to my tent. I
got out of the tent, quickly, before she had a chance to stampede through my
electric corral. There I was, outside, yelling at my horse, when it dawned
on me that I didn't take the time to put on any pants. Exit, stage right,
quickly back into the tent. It was early enough, and dark enough where I
don't think anyone noticed that my butt was whiter than my mare's.
So, when Mary Ellen took her gelding out of her pen, I did the same with
Princess. This time I was dressed. And we both saddled up our respective
horses, even though I wasn't leaving for over an hour and a half. Princess
was anxious, but much easier to control than my hyper Saddlebred, Dance Line.
He cannot sit still right before the start of a run. I kind of missed my
Ole buddy who, normally, accompanies me at a ride, but I found myself quite
attached to Princess, and looked forward to the day when I'd have both of
them at an endurance event.
After I saddled up my mare, I knew I had to have some coffee. I put Princess
back in her pen and she behaved for me. Mary Ellen's horse was out of sight.
I fired up my propane burner (I finally did get rid of that alcohol one that
was such a fire hazard) and made some fresh perked coffee. I sat down with
the hot coffee, ate a granola bar, and just looked at my beautiful mare, all
saddled up and ready to go. And she had no clue as to what she was in for
today. Pure excitement, with a dash of adrenaline rush thrown in for good
measure. My stomach began to churn, in a good way, as I thought of what was
I get real emotional when it comes to this sport. I can't tell you exactly
why; probably, cause I love it so much. I was discussing this with Lee, a
little after he told his fantastic "Bruce Lee" tale. Bernie had wandered off
somewhere. I told Lee that I think I'm going through some sort of male
menopausal thing, cause there have been times, here at these rides, when I've
just broken down and cried. In front of others; just not able to help
myself. Sometimes cause of a bad experience, sometimes cause of a good one,
sometimes over just about nothing at all. But it only seems to happen to me
here, at a ride, or, maybe, at home, when I try and write about one.
I looked at my horse and thought what a wonderful thing this is. This moment
in time, before the start of an endurance run, right before dawn. No matter
how many times I repeat doing it, I still get the same excited and euphoric
feeling at every ride. And I know I'm surrounded by others who feel the same
way. I stood up and gave my horse one of my granola bars. As I watched her
eat it, with a look of satisfaction on her face, I said to her, "Princess,
let's go out there and kick some Arab butt today." And I think she
understood me completely.
Fifteen minutes till our start time I got on her and we started warming up.
She was extremely tense and unsure of herself. Everything was new and she
wasn't certain of any of it. She started prancing (I think Dance Line taught
her this move) and then she did this lateral lope move, close to the starting
area, that she had never done before. And I just knew she was one damn good
looking horse; people were staring and I heard someone call out my name and
then, someone else, called out hers. It's showtime.
Nancy, time keeper extraordinaire, did her countdown. I don't know how any
other ride functions without Nancy; I see her at just about every one I go
to. She even knows my name, for which I am grateful. "Good morning, Nancy,
like my new horse?"
Nancy says go, and we all do. My guess is about 30 or so riders are at the
start of this 25 miler. Princess and I are the last to pass Nancy in the
group. We make a right turn onto the dirt road, Princess sees all the horses
in front of her, and she just takes off. Dance Line must have told her about
this part too, cause she's acting just like him.
She's into an instant canter; moving like she has springs attached to the
bottom of her hooves. We just start flying, passing the riders in front of
us, one by one. I slow her down a bit, she's approaching that galloping
speed. Man, this horse is really fast; we don't ever travel like this at
home while training. It's like the horse knows, they know what this is all
about and don't want to be thought of, by the other competitors, as a slow
I let her canter for a while then get her into an extended trot. She has the
springiest legs of any horse I've ever ridden. BOING, BOING, BOING. We
really cover some ground here and continue passing others, some of them in a
canter while she's still trotting. BOING! I feel like I'm riding a cartoon
character here. BOING.
There is something to be said for riding a young horse. Since I know this is
all knew to her; it's a first time experience, I'm enjoying it even more than
I would on a seasoned endurance horse. I'm getting a kick just watching her
as she passes other horses. She glances at them, but never turns her head,
even when some of the horses seem to get upset at this young upstart trotting
by them. She looks all serious and focused about the whole thing. One Arab
even tried to take a bite at her as she passes him by, but this never phased
my Princess. BOING, BOING. Bye, bye, Mr. Arab.
We're on the yellow loop, which is supposed to be 14 miles. Everything is
very well marked and there's plenty of riders ahead of us for me to follow.
We end up behind a couple, both riding Paso's (I asked), and they're keeping
a good pace. I want to give Princess a bit of a challenge on this first
loop; I'm damn curious to see how fast her heart rate comes down when we get
back to camp. The vet checks have always been quite a challenge for me and
Dance Line. I'm hoping this will change today, so I do plan on testing the
horse, whom I feel is in excellent shape because of our training.
The male rider tells me he checked out this yellow loop yesterday, and is
familiar with it. Since I've only done the orange loop, prior to today, I
decide to keep following him and his female companion, provided they keep
this pace. They canter, Princess stays in that extended trot. She's not
breathing hard or fast and I'm enjoying every moment of this first loop.
I know most of you might not believe me, but I can find not one fault with my
horse, Princess, except, maybe, that creek thing, which is on the next loop.
But I attribute that to her youth, and I'm sure we'll be able to overcome
those kind of hurdles as time goes on. I find myself thinking about this as
she and I fly along the yellow trail. BOING, BOING.
Dance Line is hyper; there's not much doubt about that one. He is just about
out of control, no matter what I do with him, on that first loop. Dance kind
of scares the crap out of me sometimes, but it is an experience I truly live
for. Problem is, he takes awhile to come down at the vet check. Heart rate
is up and I have to be very careful with him when we attempt a 50 together.
I almost lost him at one ride and it was all my fault.
Rebel, my daughter's Arabian horse, is a follower, to the extent where he
will not pass the horse in front of him unless he's following Dance Line.
And, his other problem, is he trips, especially when 4 or 5 weeks have gone
by since his last shoeing. And he can trip really bad; my wife is limping
around the house now as I write this cause of one of Rebel's falls. Anyone
want to buy a horse?
But Princess, bless her sweet little heart, shows no signs of any of the
above. And, today, right here, right now, she sure is proving, to me, that
she has heart. And, I think, she really likes this new sport I've introduced
her to. BOING, BOING.
We eventually pass the Paso couple. I guess Princess got tired of looking at
their long flowing tails, which almost touched the ground. The air is still
cool and crisp so I do let her go, hoping I'm not making a mistake by doing
We get into camp very quickly. I can't believe we just did 14 miles. I pass
Bernie's trailer and see him attending to his Buckskin. I figured he was
ahead of us, but it doesn't look like he was by much.
I take off Princess's tack, sponge her, let her drink (she gulps and gulps
and gulps down the water) and then I go to the vet area. There's no line. I
figured she'd be high, but I was curious and planned on waiting around if she
was. This is something I would never do with Dance Line. With him, I wait
at least 15 minutes before getting his pulse rate checked.
The volunteer doing the check on Princess say's, "Time in on Y." She was 52.
Wow! I'm just blown away. We go through the check and get all "A's" on
everything except for a B+ on gut. The vet tells me she looks excellent. I
can't believe my horse today.
The hold is 30 minutes long. I take her back to the pen and watch her eat
and drink. I reheat some coffee and drink a little Gatorade. I add a bit of
grain to the beet pulp in Princess's feed bucket and she just gobbles it up.
She has always had a voracious appetite, which I think is crucial in the
sport of endurance.
After 20 minutes pass by, I re-tack my horse. I grab my fanny pack, look
inside to make sure my "lucky" spur is in there (yea, it's coming), and get
ready to check out with Nancy. We leave right at our out time, which is a
first for me.
Princess gives me a bit of a problem trying to get out of the area. Some
horses are leaving and some are coming back in, it's a two way trail at the
start for a while. She keeps wanting to turn around and follow some of the
horses who are coming in from their respective loop. I wait her out, no need
to stress her. Eventually she takes off in the right direction. BOING.
We get behind this very large, black horse a lady is riding. She's, also, in
the 25 (you can tell cause they have letters instead of numbers on the
horse's backside). We follow her along the dirt road, sometimes pass, but
she keeps right up with us and passes us back. You can feel the ground shake
as this woman's horse approaches us from behind. Princess's ears pin back as
they overtake us. She looks so tiny next to this creature in black.
I ask the woman if she knows how much her Quarter horse weighs. She tells me
1300 lbs, and I believe her. I think Princess is about 850, maybe, 900. Her
horse canters; mine does her extended trot. What a contrast the four us make
as we go down the road, side by side. Black next to white; massive along side
Eventually, we kick it up a notch and go through this trail that is a knee
knocker, only wide enough for one horse at a time. Blacky is right behind us
and I end up pulling off the trail to let them pass. The large horse is
bothering my mare when he's behind us bigtime.
We get to the Princess Whitewater rapids area. Princess does not follow
Blacky, which does not surprise me. She starts acting up on me, just like
she did at rehearsal. I have a hard time getting the slip on spur out of my
fanny pack since she won't sit still. My horse keeps heading for the trees
by the side of the trail, I think she wants to scrape my off of her back.
Other riders continue to pass us by, some look at me and I just say, "Young
horse, first ride." I should probably add, "and trained by me," but I don't.
And here comes my pal, Bernie.
His Walking horse goes right through the creek, no problem. Bernie waits for
me on the other side. I tell him to go on, it's going to be a while. He
does, and I slip on the spur on my left boot. This will be one interesting
I tap her with it, lightly, and she flips out. Starts bucking, then rearing.
I smack her flank, with my crop, on her right and tap her left with the
spur. Who says you can't have a rodeo here out on the trail? The bucking
bronc show has just begun!
I give her a rest, after stopping her from bucking and rearing. I put my
hand on her neck to prevent any future rearing and am glad I put that tie
down on her. I count to ten, keeping her head pointed towards the creek at
all times, and then I let her have it. I plan on calling this experiment the
"Irresistible force meets the Immovable Object."
I smack her hard with the crop and keep kicking with my left spur. She
springs up high in the air, with a little forward movement. We're close to
the edge now, where it drops off. I don't let up on her, kicking and tapping
with the crop. And, man, she just leaps the entire thing, a long jump any
Olympic athlete would be proud of. BOING is not a strong enough word to
describe what we just did, but we're over the creek, literally.
And she's in a gallop. I slow her down cause we're still in the land of knee
knocker trees, making turns and taking out twigs and branches everywhere.
She stays in a canter, and it's a fast one.
I slow her to a trot and reach down to take off my lucky spur to put it back
in my fanny pack. But it's not there. It's gone and I don't know where I
lost it; probably, by the creek area where Princess just made her leap of
faith. I'm glad we don't have to cross that creek again, one of the benefits
of only doing the 25, since the 50 milers have to cross it twice. Too bad
the ride photographer wasn't there; what a picture getting Princess across
that creek what have made. Sort of like Evil Kneivel jumping the Snake River
Canyon, except we didn't have a parachute.
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