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[RC] Jennings, Final - Howard Bramhall

 Well, Juliet stayed with me, trotting, walking, drinking, with the occasional canter.  I didn't talk much (yes, not like me at all) because I had a bit of nausea in my stomach and thought if I sucked in too much wind while talking I'd lose it completely.  So much for my liquid diet idea.  We kept a good pace, but nothing close to what we did the first 3 loops. I thought for sure the third place rider and horse would pass us, but we never saw them.  During one of the canter sessions I noticed America didn't want to pass JD's mare, like he normally did.  This scared the crap out of me.  It was a first.  America, for the first time ever, showed signs of being mortal.
I'd like to build it all up, we're near the end here, but, I'm just going to tell ya'll what really did happen (gee, Howard, that would be a first).  The last 4 miles was interesting.  Juliet stayed with me until the last two.  Then, thinking I was going to race with her, she took off.  Knowing America had peaked early, I let her go.  Poor Juliet had stayed with me most of that last loop, expecting us to give her a race to the finish, but this we did not do.  I got off America, loosened his cinch, and he and I trotted, with me on foot, the last 2 miles.  Yea, I know, not an exciting finish, but I didn't have it in me to force my horse into a canter.  I knew he was out of gas.  I had ridden him too fast, and I know it was the third loop that did him in.
We crossed the finish line in 2nd place.  4 minutes behind Juliet.  I was happy, America was now pumped back up, we walked in to the vet check and got our completion.  Time wise, when I got in it just happened to be right on cue for our 15 minute CRI check for BC, so we did both in one swoop.  The vet told me he looked great, could go on and do more (no way) and I was feeling purty good.  Oh, I forgot, while walking back into camp, a group of young girls, 6 or 7 of them, asked if I was the 2nd place rider in the 50.  I nodded yes, and they all started to cheer.  One of them said, "We just wanted to do our part for the ride."  They succeeded.
In line for the final Best Conditioned trot out, JD was ahead of me (they do it in order of completion).  I watched him trot out his mare, do the turn thing and come back.  I noticed JD had cut the turns kind of sharp and his horse
might have looked a bit off by doing so.  I took note of this, and when it came my turn, I did not cut them sharp.  I made wide turns, knowing that if America looked off, in either direction, I was out of the BC competition.  I never seem to do all that well for BC, but not having all that much practice in this arena, I wasn't expecting very much.  I did know I was most likely the heaviest rider in the top ten which gives you extra points.  Points I feel America deserved carrying my fat butt for 50 miles (OK, 48).
At the awards, later that night, the last thing Pat did was the BC for the 50.  She started from bottom to top.  When she announced my gal, Val's name for second in the BC, I knew I had won.  As soon as Pat said my gal, Val's name, I fell out of my chair and started crying.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, was any more surprised that America (not me, it's the horse) had won BC.  I went up to get my miniature statue of the Pony Express rider, an award that now sits centered on my fire place mantle next to an encased American Flag given to me by the Air Force when I retired.  Some of my buddies yelled "speech," and, yes, I did have some things I wanted to say, but, alas, I was in no shape to utter a word.  I was still crying.
That's it, short and sweet, kind of like my ride.  I do want to say to ya'll I've never been more proud in my entire life.  Keep in mind, I'm the guy, who last year, was damn lucky to finish a 50 with a completion.  I had gotten so tired of getting pulled, usually for a subtle head bob on the trot out, I went so far as to learn how to trim a horse and I've been doing all my horses since last summer.  Since then, not one of my horse's has been pulled at a ride.  Ooops, sorry, one exception, Jen's War Cry did get pulled at the end of the Hahira ride after she did the entire 50.  Hey, what can I say?  Nobody's perfect, especially not me.
Finally, don't try this on your own.  Please.  Don't say to yourself, "If Howard can do this (ride fast), so can I."  And, besides, it's not the rider, it's the horse.  America was labeled a "total runaway," when I purchased him.  He's come around since then, but, what I'm doing with him is a gamble.  I am taking some chances, maybe, too early, but I don't and won't ride him like this at every endurance ride I attend.  I pick my own battles, and try to space them out quite a bit.  Join me at GATOR RUN next week.  It's a great trail, I will not be going fast at all, I'm going for the miles, and I'm going to ride America in only one of the three day rides that week-end.  Who knows, I might show up one of those days with Dance Line for the LD.  I do love those LD's.