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[RC] Jennings, Part Four - Howard Bramhall

I cannot put into words how I feel about my new horse, America.  I know he's special; of that, there is no doubt in my mind.  The words of his previous owner, Kathy, are constantly running through my brain, "He's a complete lunatic out on the trail.  He never gets tired and loves to race."  I must admit, most of this is true, but, America, after completing 200 miles on 4 different 50 milers with my fat butt on his back, has learned to listen to me a little.  When I pull him back, he does slow down.  Kathy had only done LD's on this horse; the 50 is what America needed and the progress I've been making with him in this distance and the fact that it's getting him to respond to me is just what the Doctor ordered.  25's were too easy for him; now, he's not quite sure how far we will travel at a ride.
I don't race at all the rides with America.  I actually use some of them as part of his training.  I didn't race at Goethe last month for two reasons.  Those two reasons were named Jennifer and Ashley.  I won't race with two juniors, especially when one of them isn't kin and I'm not all that sure about the horse she's riding.  That's all I need is to come into camp with one of my junior's horses in trouble.  Fear of something going wrong is a prime motivator, at least, for me.
But, here, today, I have no junior.  The wife is sponsoring the kid, and America and I are on our own.  Ah, I dream of moments like these.  Yes, I do still fear true competition, because 3 years ago I got a horse into trouble in this sport.  We weren't going fast, by today's endurance standards, but, the 50 was too much for him and I didn't realize he was in trouble until we were done the ride.  The incredible heart of an active horse can cloud what is going on inside, and no one is more aware of this than myself.  And, with me weighing in at just under 200 lbs, I understand that extra weight on the horse increases the danger even more so.  So, Howard, why do you go so fast? 
It's not me.  I'm just the rider.  This horse has a burn inside him that I have never seen before.  Dance Line, my Saddlebred, had a similar disorder during that first loop, but, with America, it's quite different.  He really never seems to tire.  America's previous owner, before Kathy, considered the horse untrainable, unmanageable and quite worthless.  Before Kathy got him, this person was going to take America to a horse auction and would have sold him there to someone who turns horses into dog food.  What a waste that would have been and what an idiot that owner was.
At each endurance ride, America seems to get stronger than he was at the previous one.  He's learning how to manage the 50.  I never urge him on.  I pull back and slow him down, but, if he wants to pass another horse, and it's not the front runner, I just might let him do it.  He moves out on the trail best when he's in the lead and does not see another horse in front of him.  This is when he's most efficient.
In spite of that, I do enjoy riding behind a pack of riders.  This is part of America's training program I like to use at a ride.  Yes, you can use these rides as part of your training program.  I have yet to be able to create anything close to what the horse is feeling during an endurance ride at a training session.  I'm quite convinced that such a thing is not possible. You can't get the horse pumped up, while training at home, like they will get during a ride with 100 other strange horses in camp.  There's just no way to match this except to do it during the ride itself.  For me and America, each ride is a training session.  I have yet to leave an endurance ride without America, and myself, learning at least one new thing about this incredible sport.  We take that knowledge back home, and work on it for reinforcement.  Horse's have incredible memories and repetition is key to their learning and understanding.  And, it seems to work on me too.  America isn't the only one being trained at an endurance ride.
Three riders come into camp, after the second loop.  Another very fast time (I'm not telling).  We zip through the vet checks, again.  I don't even look at our card.  I do know America looks fantastic.  This cold weather is working out better than I ever expected.  I take him back to our campsite, feed him, electrolyte him, put on a blanket over his saddle, and get inside my Motor home.  I crank up the generator (can you believe I have a generator?), turn on the heat, and drink some OJ. 
I've learned not to eat much during a ride.  My breakfast, very early in the morning consists of one granola bar, coffee, tomato juice (hold the vodka), OJ, two Ibuprofen pills (for the pain yet to come), two vitamin pills and a glass of water.  I avoid solid food during the course of the ride.  Even though I do have one of those endurance license plate type signs nailed to the side of my barn back home which reads, "Ride till You PUke," I try not to practice this during a ride.  I hate throwing up.  A liquid diet during the ride seems to work, at least for me.