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

The pink loop, the second time around, was not the same loop.  It had metamorphosized into another trail completely, with more hills, climbs, and, for some reason, even the ridgeline did not appear to be at all flat.  How did this happen?
America and I eventually caught up with Lara who was riding with another female.  The three of us stuck together for 4 miles or so.  During one downhill descent America just stopped.  He decided he was tired of going down hill and he wasn't going to continue on any further.  He wasn't breathing hard, didn't appear to be tired, but I could not bring myself to urge him on.  I dismounted and we walked down the hill together.  
This is how a horse trains a human because whenever he did this, and it was to be repeated quite often, I would dismount and start walking.  Lara, for some reason, stayed with us and would dismount, also.  The other lady in our threesome rode on, probably wondering why on earth we would want to get off our horses and walk with all these rocks and overall rugged ground.
About half way or more through the third loop Lara's mare went down.  She had this incredible urge to lie down and that's exactly what she did.  Scared the crap out of us all.  I had spotted Phil's humvee, hooked up to a horse trailer, off to our right and pointed it out to Lara.  I told her I'd go back down the hill where one of the volunteers had stationed himself, and make sure they radioed for a driver to take her mare back to the barn, if that was what she wanted.  She said yes, good idea, and that's exactly what I did.  I knew the "fun" had just been removed from Lara's day and felt badly for her.
I continued on the loop, alone, walking America with me on foot for most of the remainder of the trail back to the barn.  I must admit what happened to Lara's horse upset me a great deal.  I felt partly responsible because I knew we had covered some ground quickly during the second loop and her horse paid the price on the third.  With America not wanting to go down hill sometimes, when I was on his back, I started thinking seriously about pulling when we got into camp.  The day was already slipping away; we had been out over 8 hours from our start time.  This was a record time, in length, for me and America and we still had another loop to go.
When we arrived back to camp I was depressed.  I started seeing things wrong with America that were not really there.  We went through the vet check, and, Ken, the head vet, for the first time ever, kind of urged me to finish.  He said except for the girth rubs, which is a constant problem with America's sensitive skin, my horse looked great, trotted out without a problem and he saw no reason why this horse could not easily finish this ride.  Yea, that threw me too, it was the first time I had ever been encouraged by a vet, especially one I respected as much as I do Ken, to finish a ride.
During the hold I talked with Susan K.  She had already completed; top 5'd Leatherwood if you can imagine that one!  Her words were similar to Ken's.  "Well, if it were me and the vet said the horse was fine, I'd try and get that completion."  I mentioned this to Ken, later that night, and he said Susan would more than likely carry her horse across the finish line if the situation required.  Sometimes, I think Ken studies the riders as much as he does their horses.
Well, what could I do?  I must admit I could hardly walk and I knew that being able to travel on foot would be necessary to help my horse get through the next ten miles.  We left camp with a fellow male rider named Barney and headed in the direction of that first blue ribbon.  And, even though it wasn't the same climb that we had repeated for the first 3 loops, it was a climb all the same.  This last loop turned out to be the trail from Hell, and it was the most difficult ten miles I had ever done in my lifetime.