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Juniors finish at NC

Angie McGhee
I've already got people curious about this huge tie for 2nd place at the
NC so I'll go ahead and satisfy your curiosity for that one.  Looks like
on the results we had 5 come in together. Wrong, we had SIX! >g<

I started out sponsoring my daughter Josie.  Sandy Thompson of GA.
sponsored her daughter Samantha & Scott Solis of GA. Scott asked if we
wanted to ride together but I said I'd rather just see where we ended up
and if we ended up pacing together that would be fine.  Well... we ended
up coming into the first check pretty close.  Then a junior from South
Carolina lost her sponsor there (pulled) and Sandy picked her up.  Then
Cameron Holzer of Houston and Kristin (?) daughter of vet near Dallas lost
their sponsor. They were 7 minutes ahead of us.  There were people who
were riding in the ride for no other reason than to pick up sponsorship
for juniors if they needed it, but I'm not sure how far back they were.
What it came down to was that we were the closest to them and it would
have been a shame for them to have had to wait, so I took the 2 from
Texas.  It was more generous of Sandy than me since she actually  somelost
time since the one she picked up was a few minutes back.

It wasn't that we wanted to "beat" the others especially, they're all
friends...but with six juniors I thought it would be much better if we
tried to "beat" each other on the trail than have the whole pack racing at
the finish.  We honestly tried to go hard, but what it came down to was we
just kept getting back together on the trail. It was fun, the kids were
doing a great job, but I couldn't imagine that they'd all finish, since
the completion rate for the 100 had been barely over 25% and there was
TONS of lameness.  But...everybody just kept going.  They worked together,
were polite, and a bunch of really professional kids.

Cameron Holzer is absolutely amazing.  She had ridden 80 miles Thursday
and had been pulled, and now was just as cheerful as could be. She has the
most amazing positive attitude, just commenting on the pretty colors, or
telling others what pretty horses they have, just spreading complements
all around constantly.  Scott Solis, the one boy took the brunt of all the
abuse from the girls and defended himself well with a droll humor that's
advanced for his years.  Josie and Ben were working like pros.  Samantha
and her mom, though so competitive that they race each other in half the
time were being so generous tying their fortune to others, it was just
uplifting to ride with the whole crowd.

Though our two groups mostly just came together occasionally, we came
together for the final time with about 12 miles to go.  We were pushing
it.  So much so that I gave electrolytes without dismounting for the first
time ever.  (If you want to see a surprised horse, have someone in front
of you stop the line to cross a tree and you reach over and grab your
kid's horse's bridle and dose him. But no matter what we did we had six
juniors all together.  At the time we weren't up front so it wasn't as
bad. I thought there were 2 juniors ahead of our group.  Then we came to a
long climb and there was a group walking it.  We passed them and guess
what...there were 2 juniors in that group.  I'm thinking, "Oh
one of this group of six is going to be National Champ? This is going to
be a major disaster!"

The finish in camp was not where I wanted my kid racing. They'd done all
that was possible to make it safe, but the weather hadn't cooperated.
First you had to come down a STEEP skidder path that was slick to get down
a tall ridge behind camp. Then at the base you had to turn left up a dirt
drive, turn a hard right and get on a flagged (with the tiny flags
surveyers use) course that circled a huge hay field.  There would be 3 90
degree turns as you circled the field, then a straight 50 yards to the
finish...then another 75 yards or so to get stopped.  What I was thinking
about as we led our ducklings down the trail was that the ground in the
field was was soft and slick from the rain...there were
trailers and corrals all along it any of which might belong to one of our
juniors and their horse might turn in at full gallop...also I soon
discovered that THREE of our six juniors were riding ex-race horses!  I
knew that if the horses didn't pull up after the 75 yards they had to get
stopped they might turn left the way we'd started the ride that morning
and try to cross single lane driveway with a 4'high culvert under it with
drop offs at each side.  My kid's horse was one of the ex-race horses and
is pretty good in a sprint. He's beat everything in this neck of the woods
but I was not anxious to see her running him anywhere, much less with 5
other kids.  And then there was the completion ratio Thurs...

Then we found out the GREAT news.  There was another junior far ahead of
us. So, this was for 2nd place. (forgot to think, what if she's pulled?)
>g< Big difference! Duane Barnett once told me nothing's worth racing in
for but 1st or 10th and I have lived by that ever since.  By now the kids
were trying to decide between themselves what to do.  Somehow just talking
about it seemed to wake the horses up and they started getting racey. This
was about 3 miles out and they just kept getting faster. It looked like
the start of the race.  The great thing was...what they talked about was
WHAT WAS BEST FOR THEIR HORSES.  They wanted to race each other. Believe
me, they wanted to know who was fastest. They were not worried about
getting hurt...but they also knew it would not be good for their horses.
Even dangerous. So they agreed. They would all tie.

For those who don't like ties, I'm sorry.  These kids did race. They raced
for 49.5 miles.  They raced on the trail where it counted and it was a
tie. Finding out who could sprint at the end would not have proved who had
the best endurance horse.

After the finish Josie (and all the others I'm sure) wondered if they
"could" have won if they'd raced.  Then they heard what all had happened
before them.  That at least 4 (I heard 6 also) horses in the top 10 were
pulled at the finish line...that one horse had slipped on a wet spot (he
was fine) and fell as he raced in...  Josie asked me, "Do you think we did
the right thing?" About that time we could hear a siren in the distance
and I said, "you hear that? It's not for you or any of your
friends...because you did the right thing"

At the awards that night I was afraid they would just call out the kids
who'd tied as if they'd finished in whatever order they'd written their
names down (it would have mattered to them believe me!)  Instead,
management called them all up and made a fuss over them and told what good
judgement they'd used.  Then they took enough prizes out of the raffle
stack to give every one of them a prize.  After that they entire tent full
of people gave them a standing ovation.

In the arena at camp they had a backdrop set up for winner's circle
photos. That was one of the main reasons Josie had wanted to go to the
ride. She's read all the Black Stallion books and thinks race horses are
sooo exciting.  Steve Rojek generously sponsored a photo of every
completer with the drape of roses over their neck in front of the
backdrop.  Tonight when Josie wrote the junior riders list about their
finish she reminded them that the reason we got the photo in the winners
circle was that the motto is "To Finish Is To Win".  I think we had a
bunch of juniors at that ride who were winners.  By the way, the
lightweights finished something like 14 out of 25. The featherweights
finished 14 out of 25, the heavyweights finished fewer than 50% and the
juniors finished 9 out of 11.

Cameron Holzer, 13 years old was pulled at 80 miles Thursday.  Her horse
looked fantastic on the trail with us as we came in and if we'd raced my
money was on her.  She was pulled at the finish. (her horse had pulled a
muscle)  She did not complain. She was upbeat...and my heart went out to
her when the others got to stand up for their standing ovation.  I salute
Cameron, who I do believe endured more than anybody in Kentucky this


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