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[RC] Jennings, Part One - Howard Bramhall

I knew this ride was going to be a fast one.  Seven inches of rain over the holiday weekend had flattened down the sand making it nice and firm.  A much better condition for the horses than loose, deep sand.  America and I had both agreed we were going to try and keep up with the front runners that first loop.  The air was crisp, the sky clear, temperature was in the low 30's and a breeze was predicted later on in the day.  My inner voice screamed out in silence, "Let's get ready to Rumble."
As I warmed up America adjacent the fenced in area holding one incredibly large buffalo, one camel who seemed to enjoy spitting at you and your horse if you got too close to the fence, some emus, ostriches (they're larger than emus), miniature horses, goats, and a few other animals I had no idea what the heck they were called, I felt a warm burning fire starting to blaze inside my belly.  The heat helped me keep warm and stay alert.  I love the start of these things and deciding to run with the first group, out in front, on a horse who "knows what is going on and expects to be let loose at any second so he can fly" soon after Nancy says the words "trail's open, can get one to thinking, "Today is a good day to die."
Well, I'm sure I could be alone with that thought, warming up with a group of 45 other riders here for the sometimes chaotic start of a 50 mile endurance ride at a Florida ride named Jennings.  But, somehow, I think there might be one or two other riders in this group who are thinking exactly the same thing.  "Today really is a good day to die."  And, we say this with a slight smile on our face. Without some danger, there would be no thrill, and I have yet to not be thrilled during an endurance ride.  The liveliest part of the entire ten hour show was about to begin.
"30 seconds," yells out Nancy.  I look at my watch and count them down, three….two….one.  We're off!  A trot at first, four other riders ahead of me, and America matches the other horse's pace as though the five of them, all braced at the poll and ready for anything, acting like they practice this sort of thing on a daily basis.  I'm perfectly willing to trot all day long, but I know this will not last.  There are three concrete bridges ahead (I checked out this trail yesterday) and, after we cross them, all bets are off that the horses will remain in any sort of trot. 
The horses, as a group, go into the canter.  Riding with a group of strangers, like I do so often during an endurance week-end, it never ceases to amaze me how one horse will react off another, and, sometimes, their motion flows in tandem, as if they were all a flock of birds, airborne, acting as one unit instead of several different ones.  Everything seems quite controlled, at first, but after crossing the last bridge, the canter becomes a gallop, and it seems to grow in speed with each and every step.  The spark has been lit, the heater is on full blast, and the horses, at least this group of five in the front, all have their after burners ignited. 
I pull back slightly on the reins, but not all that hard.  I want America to think I have some sort of control over him even though we both know otherwise.  My horse, along with the other three (one rider has pulled back and slowed down), is covering ground at a speed I'd guess to be close to 30 MPH.  Glimmers of light flicker with the sun preparing to get out of bed, but, it's still predawn darkness that rules the sky.  It's at this very moment that I know nothing that I ever do during the rest of my lifetime will match this feeling I have, right here, right now.  Nirvana, moment of ZEN, Gold fever, Jesus Lives, whatever you wish to call it, I have peaked on a horse named America in an emotional conglomeration of adrenaline rush, self satisfaction, and thrill seeker status.  I am grateful to be alive, riding atop a magnificent steed that has been graced and touched by the hand of God.  Get the idea?  I'm so friggen happy I could cry.
Among the 40 or 50 riders here today, my ole buddy, Susan K. is not among them.  I rode with Susan at Hahira a couple of months back and find myself thinking of her during the start of Jennings Boogie.  I hope you don't mind, with the excitement of all these horses pounding the wet sand alongside, but, I do have a Susan story that I'd like to share with ya'll, and, since, I'm currently in my moment of Zen, thinking pleasant thoughts to distract me from the very idea that if I fall off my horse now, at this speed, I'm a dead guy, here's the story: