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[RC] Endurance, Carolina Style: Part Four - Howard Bramhall

Well, we were off.   America was on fire, as usual (the candle was lit), so, I started the slalom thing.  That thing he and I had mastered so well, but it's not very efficient.  I cut our angle along the trail at 30 to 45 degrees.  And, when I perceived a danger like a quicksand ditch on the declining side, I increased the angle, being wary of not running into another horse or rider. 
Hello, Susan K, good-bye, Susan K, the look on her face as we pranced behind her at one angle and crossed in front of her at another was, well?.., priceless.  American and I flew down the trail, side to side, in a style that just might make some of you laugh really hard if I could ever get it on video!  Remember that ping pong game, on video, before computers got so sophisticated?  That's me and America on the first loop of an endurance ride.  Ping?Pong?.Pong??Pong?.Ping?.(if any of you have an idea of what I meant there, please, explain it to me).
Jen and Erica kept up, which was made easier, for them, cause their horses traveled in a straight line.  And, so did Susan K., with two tiny- hineys, bringing in a group of six or so whako riders who all bring much more adventure to the table than is necessary.  Ah, but it is an adventure, is it not?  One girl's mare did the neck and neck thing with America.  I hate that.  I let her fly on up ahead.  I found myself wishing I had remembered to wear my baseball gloves. 
I positioned us so we were not a danger to others, even, though I knew we were quite a danger to ourselves. If I lost my temper, which I can easily do riding El Whacko at the start, you might hear me say, "Explitive deleted America, I'm going to kill you."  I know that fellow, former Dictator, evil villain, might be saying that very thing.  If he's still breathing.
This was just like a Florida start, the trails were wide, and fast, and deep sand.  If you did this ride, btw, you can attend any, and I mean any, Florida ride.  I know cause I've done all the FL rides.  But, the difference being, Sand Hills did have some good clay surfaces to throw in, once in awhile.  Also, there were hills, not too steep, but a long, gradual kind of climb or descent.  And, the dirt roads had firm footing (I preferred riding on the shoulders for my barefoot buddy).  Yes, America is doing this ride barefoot, as he has all season.  All three of my horses were barefoot at Sand Hills and they've been that way since last summer.  The real scary thing there is I'm doing the trimming.  Me so proud (as a farrier, not a rider).
During that first loop I stopped America several times, put him in a 180, positioned my hands with some weight just above his withers (yea, he could rear), and made him wait.  Always an exciting time, when I do this, especially if a rider goes by us at a high rate of speed.  The title of this training session is "Hardcore endurance on a horse that wants to fly."
Eventually, after many sessions of stop, go, stop, go and several 360's as punishment for bad behavior, Erica, along with Jen, caught up to us.  There they were, side by side.  Jen was riding with her Mom, and, I was quite proud.  America seemed relieved that his two buddies had finally caught up with him; the three of us came in to the first vet check side by side: The Three Amigos (even though my height qualifies me to be Martin Short, I think I'm more in line with Chevy; Steve's too clever for me to be him).  We kept the 3 horses together, and, this made the vet check thing a buddy thing.
Sadly, Princess got pulled for lameness.  She did look off.  I was shocked!  The horse was fine on the trail coming in.  My wife was concerned, thought she had done something wrong, and I just kind of shrugged my shoulders as she walked by me and America leading Princess back towards the barn.  Her day was finished after 20 miles while Jen and I pressed on.
Jen got the jump at the vet check and left 15 minutes, or so, ahead of me.  Not sure what happened there, but the kid definitely was not fooling around.  Not to worry, I was planning on letting America take off a little more than I did on the first loop. 
As we headed out on the second loop America behaved himself and, we left camp looking like we were actually in agreement, for once.  When he bends his head at the poll and pulls ever so slightly against the bit, I know, if I can keep him straight, this would become the movement that defines the reason I ride; a controlled and fluid, slow motion, indescribably delicious canter.  And, God Bless this horse, he gave me exactly that, if not more.  America was into his in-tune, rhythmic flow that is quite incredible.  We were in stride, together, man and horse, melded into one creature (gees, what a load of horse manure).  lol
We traveled at this pace then increased the speed of the canter for several miles.  I wasn't all that surprised, when, after passing a few riders, I did see Jen and War Cry up ahead.  America had tipped me off by making the family tribal horse cry, alerting my eyes which captured their presence before they were actually there (deep, Howard, really deep).  In other words, he saw them before I did.