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[RC] Big Horn Story - 1 - Steph Teeter

There are rides, and then there are RIDES. The Big Horn 2006 was a RIDE. It
was also a 'wake up' for me. I had the incredible good fortune of riding a
really great horse (Paladin) on an Endurance trail that has no equal, in the
company of a true horsewoman (Bev Gray) and under the care and guidance of a
first class crew (Bill Gray). My job was easy, and I really can't take much
personal credit for our completion. All I had to do was make no mistakes.
The horse (the years of training and natural ability) did the work. Bev knew
how to pace the ride and we got off to a perfect start (she and Paladin took
first and BC at this ride several years ago). We had the good fortune of
riding the first 50 miles with Kathy Arnold, another great horsewoman as
well as AERC HOF. Kathy lives near the Bighorn, has ridden it numerous
times, and just knows how to 'get it done' - as well as how to breed and
train great horses. Plus she knows the trail! And Bill and Ted were awesome
crew. Bill is calm, organized, supportive, and knows the routine. He and Bev
and Paladin (and AA Omner, and AA Bravo) have succesfully conquered most of
the challenges Endurance riding has presented.

This ride 'lit my fire' again... riding a fast forward horse on a
challenging trail, spending 13 hours alone, in the mountains, through the
dark hours of the night, tired, worried and focused on the horse's well
being, focused on staying on course, on just getting it done. For some this
might have been too much, for me - it was just what I needed! Maybe it's
been too many years of futzing around with FEI, the stress and politics...
but the past couple years I'd sort of lost the spirit, or at least the
sizzle. But I think it's back now.

The ride story -. I met Bev and Bill and Ted in Thermopolis, Wyoming. I took
the freeway east until Pocatello, and then hit the back roads. Driving my
parents' 1984 Oldsmobile Touring Sedan - great old car with leather seats
and push button tilt controls. The radio is a little old and crackly, but
what a good ride. The drive was spectacular. An early morning departure, the
sun coming up along the Snake River, hay and corn fields clinking and
sparkling with miles of sprinklers, water from the Snake River turning the
desert green. Drove up and around Palisades Reservoir - a huge lake
collecting spring runoff from the mountains, feeding the thirsty desert
folk. I crossed into Wyoming and headed towards Jackson. I hardly recognized
the town - gateway to the Tetons and Yellowstone, ski town, tourist town.
Packed, the little streets I remembered from earlier (way earlier) drives
across the country was studded with shops, traffic lights, and traffic. But
just past Jackson the Teton Range opened up, and wow... how can it be more
beautiful. Jagged rocky peaks, pocked with glaciers, set against the sage
and timber hills. Sooooo beautiful.

Miles of gorgeous mountain and high desert country, through Dubois (another
little town gone big), along the Wind River range. Into the Indian
Reservation and up the Wind River canyon to Boysen State park  and
reservoir. Spectacular canyon, spectacular river.  I got to Thermopolis and
called Bev - they were at least an hour out, so she said to go to the
hotsprings and relax. The hotsprings area is huge. Large mineral cliffs from
years of sulpher water draining down into the river. The hotsprings area was
given to Wyoming territory by the Indians as part of the treaty - on the
condition that the hot springs would remain 'free' and accessible to the
tribes people. It's a pretty humble resort, not too touristy really, but
wow, really wonderful. I found the main pool area and spent a couple hours
in and out of the mineral water, and snoozing on a recliner by the pool.
Lovely. Bev and Bill joined me for some more swimming and soaking and then
we went to the Holiday Inn restaurant for a Buffalo dinner. A local buffalo
ranch is a thriving business, and they had quite a selection of buffalo
entres. I had the burger, it was good.

After dinner we went to the Fairgrounds - they had dropped the horses off
there before meeting me at the hotsprings. A very nice Fairground, big
corrals, easy access. A cowboy and his horse were the only other visitors.
Walk the horses, early to bed, up with the sun and off to breakfast in
Worland. Toast, hashbrowns, fried eggs and coffee - breakfast in Wyoming :)
We finally arrived to base camp early afternoon - it was already pretty
full, a big turnout this year, we looked around and eventually found a good
spot. Horses out, pens up, made it.

Ridecamp was hopping! It was hot and dusty, but a beautiful setting - green
hay fields, red rock cliffs, and a very energized group of riders - full of
anticipation. Lots of friends there - Tom Noll (and Frank) and his brother,
who has been driving over from Colorado to crew for Tom for the past 4
years, Max and Lisa Merlich - Max would be attemping his first 100 on his
mighty mule 'Junior', Chis, Laura and Kara Yost from Pocatello - Chris and
Kara would ride (Chris's first 100) and Laura would crew. Dave Rabe, always
brown, friendly and cheerful. Lots of others - it was fun to be at ridecamp.

It was so hot that we didn't take the horses out for a ride, just hung
around camp, sitting in the shade, a cold beer or two, getting crew bags and
tack ready. mostly just hanging out. I tried my saddle on Paladin, seemed
ok, I had never ridden him, but didn't have any worries - just looking
forward to the chance to ride such a horse. Bev and Paladin had represented
the US at the 2002 WEC in Jerez (top US rider), the 2004/5 WEC in Dubai - as
well as years of success at home. Pal had a pretty bad crash in Dubai (the
perils of travel and ultra-management and competition on the edge) and Bev
almost lost him. They came through it though, and she brought him back into
training this spring. My only concern with Pal was that I took good care of
him. I had no doubt that he would take good care of me.

I wandered down to the ride meeting, which was pretty low key. Tom VanGilder
was surrounded by an eager crowd, and fielding questions. They decided to
make the holds longer, the pulse criteria would be 68, this is where you
start, be careful and enjoy. A wonderful 'home cooked' dinner (I ate the pie
first) and off to bed. It was still really warm when we finally went to
sleep. I had extra blankets in my tent, as the cool breeze came down from
the mountains, but it never did get chilly enough for blankets. 2:45 AM came
very soon, and it was still warm.

more tomorrow -


(photos at http://www.endurance.net/rides/2006Bighorn100/ )


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