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

Pink is not a manly color, although after doing this loop twice I will admit, I now see pink quite differently.  This was, after all, the loop I had practiced on most of the week prior to the ride; I had become familiar with the color.  The reason I had repeated it on each of my three horses was the ridge line; long and overall flat ground (flat according to Leatherwood's definition of the word).  The views seen while riding the ridge line had been spectacular, although those views were not to be seen in today's overcast sky.
Early on loop two, I had hooked up with Lara, a rider new to endurance whom I had met at the convention.  The poor girl was one of Jim Holland's protégé's and this was her first endurance ride: the Leatherwood 50 miler.  Even though I had made the mistake of saying that this was, also, Tim's first 50 miler (it wasn't; it was his second), I have validated these facts with Lara.  Jim has yet to answer my email (I think he's still out there going for the completion at Leatherwood). 
Keep in mind, whenever I mention another rider, my facts could very well be fiction, so, please, don't ever expect me to get anything right.  I rarely do.  I count on Michael Maul to get the facts correct at an endurance ride; if you're counting on me you might as well know my world is one of illusion.  Reality and fiction coexist on my planet. I'm rarely certain of anything except for the one fact that I ride to live and I live to ride and I really do experience most of this on a horse named America.  Other than that, anything else is suspect.
Lara decided she would ride with me and America for awhile.  Three hours later she would regret this decision.  On the flat ground, America started flying.  I pulled back on him, but not all that much.  The speed of his canter would steadily increase, and, he started doing something new, even if it was an offshoot of something old.  He started that slalom thing, going back and forth, zig-zagging along the narrow trail.  I didn't even pull sideways on the reins; he was doing this completely on his own.  The scary thing was, he would zig towards that drop off side of the trail, and since we were on the ridgeline, the drop off area was sometimes on both sides.  What on earth is he doing here?
It was as if he was saying, "OK, Boss, I know I'm going too fast here, so, let me turn my head like I know you're going to make me do anyway.  We'll go this way, then we'll bank to the left and go the other way, covering more ground than necessary in that inefficient manner you seem to enjoy so much when you decide I'm running too fast."  This is how we ran most of the second loop, gaining ground on more and more riders.  Poor Lara decided she was going to keep up with us, commenting on my riding ability, or lack there of, every time America did something out of the ordinary.  Out of the ordinary was more common, here, on the second loop, than on any other that day.
Faster and faster we went, for more distance than I should have allowed.  But, I must admit, it was damn fun, and, I do believe Lara was enjoying this type of riding, also (like Tim, maybe, she'll comment; isn't Interactive writing exciting?).  If nothing else, I do believe America and I were entertainment, during the late morning and early afternoon, for Lara, until a sad thing happened.
I'll kind of fast forward, reverse, spin dry, and, confuse some, here.  We did the second loop rather quickly.  Lara and I both got through the vet checks and, somehow, she got the drop on me and left sooner, even though we kind of came in together.  Anyway, the third loop was the pink, all over again.  Except, this time, America was working on the tired end of his ride chain.  I noticed it right away, while we were making that initial mile plus climb for the third time today.  I got off my horse, midway, and started walking.  This was early on, during the game, to be walking my horse but, my gut told me it was the right thing to do.  I would get off, jog, walk, jog and walk, again, whenever my horse's actions indicated this was a good idea.  During the course of the day, I walked my horse, with me on foot, more that ride than I have ever done before.  This is as close to the sport of Ride & Tie as I will ever get.
After that climb, which now seemed to be over 3 miles, I remounted and he took off.  Canter was what he wanted, trot is what he received.  We had plenty of time.  The sun had come out, and even produced a little heat when you were in direct light.  I removed my jacket and tied it around my waist.  I had a feeling I'd need it later on in the day.