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    [RC] Big South Fork 50 - Tina Hicks

    Just got back from the Annual Big South Fork ride. This ride is 
    put on in the most incredible place on earth on the eastern TN/KY 
    border. There is an incredible campground with full facilities, over 
    200 miles of marked horse trails, and incredible views of the gorge. Of 
    course you have to pay for that with chiggers, bee stings and poison ivy 
    :-p but it's well worth it :)
    I was taking Hank to this ride. Hank is a 7 y.o. walking horse that is, as
    I like to say, the poorest excuse for walking horse there is :) since he
    trots most of the time under saddle and always in hand.  This was his
    first ride and my first one in 2 years and the first time doing a ride
    on anything other than an Arab. As we drove into camp and I saw some
    familiar faces I thought how nice it was to be back :)
    My best friend Lyn was with me - she had planned on riding the 30 but had 
    to leave her guy at home as a horse in her barn was very sick. She didn't 
    think it was wise to either bring the creeping crud to BSF or bring 
    any new crud back to her barn. Not 
    good for her :( but since she is a *fantastic* crew good for us :))
    We nosed our rig in as the camp was quite full - this ride just grows and 
    grows thanks to the wonderful area and the fantastic ride management. This 
    ride has it all -well marked, gorgeous trails, nice campground, great 
    management - definitely one of the premier SE rides.
    We got Hank set up on his picket (in the middle of Chigger Village and yes
    we were using 100% Deet all weekend and still ended up with those #%@*
    chiggers that BSF is so famous for) with hay, beet pulp, and water and
    went about setting up camp.
    As were setting up camp we saw another rig trying to find a place to park. 
    Lyn and I waved them in in front of us - by moving our truck and walking 
    carefully there was pleny of room :) Turns out they were first time riders 
    on the 30 so we spent alot of the weekend answering questions about beet 
    pulp, elytes, sponging, etc..We were more than happy to help them out - 
    I've had many people do the same for me over the years and was glad to be 
    able to return the favor. 
    When we vetted in the vet had a hard time really hearing his pulse - his
    comment was "best I can tell he's about 32 - barely alive" :) Oddly enough
    those are great words to hear :) Being a good ole' walking horse (instead
    of one of those silly, flighty ay-rabs <vbg>) he looked as at home on
    Friday in camp as he does in his home pasture. Even laid down on his
    picket line and slept Friday nite.
    There was a scale there and he weighed 970 to start and when we finished
    he weighed 902 :( but gained back up to 934 3 hours after we finished. The
    scale was already put away early Sunday morning but I suspect he would
    have gained back some more overnite. I'm hoping with more experience he'll
    maintain his weight better though he wasn't the only one that lost that
    much. Weights were recorded in a log by the scale - lots of interesting
    info there for Susan G :)
    Thanks to all the Parelli work I've done with him I got on him Sat AM with
    45 horses milling around and he promptly started grazing - pulse 42. Not
    that Parelli work teaches your horse to graze :) - I mean I got on him and
    he was just as quiet as he is at home. Once he saw some other horses
    exploding like popcorn around him he took a bit more interest in his
    surroundings but was still nice and quiet and sane - how wonderful :)
    I planned on going easy all day (to get my money's worth you know <g>) so
    I started with the last 5 or 6 people. He was very forward but quite
    manageable I was happy to find. Since he was a bit wound up we gaited most 
    of the first loop
    rather than his normal nice floating trot - uugghhh, he doesn't have the 
    rack/pace/whatever it is. The first trail is 16 flat, easy miles. I got
    off to tail up a small hill into the first check - that's where the
    photographer was so Hank's first ride pics are of us tailing :-p
    I came into the check at a walk, untacked, put some water on him and
    realized I didn't have my stethoscope. You'd think I'd never done this
    before :-p When you're riding in the back like this there are never any
    vet lines so a courtesy check was no problem. His pulse was 49 - yup, I'd
    say he was down. 
    He vetted through fine and he ate some but was more interested in all the 
    craziness going on around him. He didn't drink but I knew he would - there 
    were too many elec in him not to. I was elyt'ing approx every hour with 
    either Lyte Now (which he *hates*) or Perform'n Win (which he *loves* but 
    isn't quite as convenient). By doing it every hour or so I could see that 
    they keep eating and drinking and don't get that mid ride bonk we often 
    The next loop was 25 miles and pretty remote. Only way to get to you was
    by 4 wheeler - inaccessible otherwise. Karen's (RM) words were be smart
    and stay safe on this loop. I loaded up with food and water for me,
    carrots and an apple and elec for him, and took off.
    By now it was getting hot. About 2 miles from camp we came to a bit of
    water - I went to sponge him and saw that I had taken it off the saddle to
    use during the vet check and it was still there :( So here I am on this
    long loop in the heat with no sponge :( Angie would not be happy at all
    with me. But one gets inventive when one needs to. I had an easyboot with
    me and just planned to get off to put water on him - there was tons of
    water on this loop and at my speed, while it was an inconvenience to use 
    the eboot, it
    wasn't worth adding 4 miles to go back and get the sponge. Besides I 
    caught up
    with some other riders halfway through the loop - we rode the rest of the
    way together and they let me use their sponge :)
    About 10 minutes after that I got stung twice on the ankle by bees :( 
    While scratching/rubbing my ankle we managed to walk my knee into a tree 
    branch :(
    Hmmm....not a good start to this loop.
    We came to our first nice stream on this loop and he put his head down and
    drank and drank. Ahhhh....watching those ears go back and forth as he
    drank was really nice :) I used my eboot to put water on him, gave him
    elytes and we were off. This loop was the most scenic of the three - it
    basically went down a long hill to the river at the bottom of the gorge,
    along the river for quite a ways where there were rocks the size of houses
    in the middle of it, up a big, rocky climb, did a loop on top in the sun
    since it was now past noon, came back down again alongside the river and
    then back up a hellacious climb and then into camp. I had planned on
    taking 5 hours on this loop - I did that almost exactly by trotting where
    I could and walking/tailing the climbs and really rocky sections. We also
    grazed some, stopped to elyte, etc... We pretty much noshed our way from
    point A to point B to use Susan G's terms :)
    My fabulous crew, Lyn, was situated in a life saving position - right
    after that last huge climb.  While Hank tanked up I found out that she had
    helped several folks that had come by since we had plenty of water (people
    and horse) on the truck - there are lots of people at this ride that owe
    me big time :))
    One thing that helped on this ride for me was how Lyn really made me take
    care of myself. She dubbed herself the Nutrition Nazi <g> and made sure I
    ate things for longer term energy, took elyes myself and of course drank.
    It worked - even though it was a looonnnnngggg hot day I never got that
    weak in the knees feeling you sometimes get late in a long ride. Of course 
    for those that go faster you are already back in camp when you get that 
    feeling :))
    Back in camp for the second check we pull tack, sponge, take him over, 
    the pulse taker puts the
    handheld on him and he jumps to the side kind of alarmed. Seemed kind of
    odd but I just figured it startled him. Pulse was 60 since he had just
    jumped 3 feet to the side :) He had been trotting on the trail at 110 so I
    knew that he was fine, but a little tired. So far we had all A's with a B+ 
    for guts. 
    I put him on his picket line to eat and hang out for the 40 
    min hold - that was a
    bit of a mistake - he was quite alarmed when I started tacking him up
    again - he was in rest and recovery mode back at his trailer and could do 
    without 10 more miles thankyouverymuch. 
    While tacking up I found out why he jumped with the handheld HRM - his
    girth area was a bit sore :( I had used my felt girth which I've used
    several times before but changed back to my ortho-flex softsides girth
    which is wide in the middle and really contoured in the armpit area - it
    was so loose there was daylight under it but when we got done with the
    last loop his girth area was much better. I normally ride with a 
    loose girth but had tightened the felt one up a bit so I could use 
    the HRM for his first ride - won't do that again.
    When I vetted through after loop 2 Ken Marcella asked me if this was my
    normal pace - I said I sure hope not :). He made an interesting point
    about riding really slow when it's hot - and I think he's right. Basically
    he said sometimes you can go too slow in the heat - don't make the mistake
    of being out there too long - sometimes you use up less energy asking your
    horse to move on if he will and getting it done rather than taking forever
    while thinking you're doing some good and going slow (I think that's a run
    on sentence <g>).
    The deal is the horse builds up heat but you get no evaporative cooling
    (which we have very little of anyway here in the east) because you're
    going so slow and the sum total is worse then if you asked the horse to
    use a bit more energy and get it done and out of the sun and back to
    food/water/rest - within reason of course.  I had never really thought
    about it that way but I can certainly see the sense in that. 
    So with that
    in mind we picked up an easy trot and off we went. This loop was flat and
    easy except for 2 moderate climbs. He got a second wind once away from
    camp so we ended up doing the last 10 miles in a little less than 1.5
    hours - not breaking any records for sure :) but faster than we had gone
    for most of the day. Camp was about a mile past the finish line - he
    figured that out pretty quickly and picked up a trot/canter after we
    finished and just sailed all the way back in - just made me smile the
    whole way back to camp :)
    Once again, pulled tack, put some water on him and took him over - I think 
    he was 54 or so. Vetted through fine - prognosis - tired but in good 
    shape -  overall an A-. Our ride time 
    was 9:35 I think. And no I didn't get the coveted Turtle Award - there 
    were 3 people behind me believe it or not :)
    All in all it was a truly enjoyable ride on my gaited boy :-)) and many,
    many thanks to the help of my great crew Lyn :) and Karen Clark and 
    her many volunteers who put on this wonderful ride.
    -Tina and Hank with 50 AERC miles to his name :)
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