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[RC] Allegany Shut Up and Ride - Patty Stedman

It's tradition at the Allegany Shut Up and Ride to have a hurricane within the week before the ride to ensure the trail is not too dusty and that the creeks are nice and full.  :-P
So we've had Ivan and Katrina and one-other-too-painful-to-remember hurricane, and this year we had Ernesto, who at least came 6 days in advance, leaving the trail nearly a week of fairly dry days to recover.
We aren't kidding when we call it the Shut Up and Ride.  Yes, we sometimes have mud (this year less than usual).  Yes, we have elevation changes (according to one GPS, 2000 feet MORE elevation change than the OD 50).  But if you want to hit a trail that you know will be well-marked, and challenge your horse at the end of the season (when you know they should be fit, fit, fit), or if you wanted to prep for this year's National Challenge, this was a good choice.
Buck Shrader woke everyone at 5:30 a.m. on ride day and we managed to get the coffee brewed, despite an uncooperative generator.  We took a moment of time to think of our troops before the ride start, especially poignant two days before the fifth anniversary of September 11th.  I was reminded again, and heard it over and over again from riders -- how lucky are we to be riding these lovely horses freely, all over this beautiful country, this privilege protected by troops willing to go anywhere directed to ensure this freedom?
No one ran over my father, the in-timer, which is always a good thing.  He even proudly said that about 85% of the riders had their cards properly folded, and only one rider called him "old" but she looked so good in her riding tights that all was forgiven.   Uncle Pat didn't have to go anywhere near a horse with his in-timer clipboard, and had a cold beer by about 2 p.m. -- so for him, life was good.
My in-laws are still speaking to me after feeding a whole lot of riders, a whole lot of volunteers, and some others wandering about camp from about 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.
The fugitive on the run since April, Bucky Phillips, who shot two NYS Troopers in the last ten days one county away from the Park, was peacefully apprehended on Friday evening before the ride started (which meant no riders would have the opportunity to apprehend him for the $400K plus reward).   My brother in law, a Trooper who was part of the line unit "pushing" the fugitive that night, was the Grill Meister for us on Saturday -- what a multi-talented guy!
We managed to squeeze everyone into camp, and with a couple of last-minute cancellations, could  have squeezed in a few more.  No horses were treated, and all pulls were for minor lamenesses or other issues quickly resolved.  We had one rider fall and get a helicopter ride to the closest head trauma unit, but there was an EMT camping a short jog from where she took her tumble, and our wonderful HAM Radio Operators had an ambulance en route to her location before you could say 9-1-1.  She called me yesterday and is home and fine, but bruised and mildly concussed -- thank heavens it wasn't more serious! 
Our HAM Radio Operators, a team of about 10 folks we see every year for the ride, are led by a gentleman named Gary Tillinghast, who has been blind from an accident for about 20 years.  He makes his way around the radio trailer, to his camper, and even to our post-ride campfire, following crazy instructions about riders with numbers indicating they are in the 50, but are riding in the 25, or updating the other operators about a gate that should have been opened by the Park (but wasn't) with quiet grace and good humor, turning knobs and repeating complex instructions to his compadres to pass along to the riders.  We know where everyone is, roughly, for every moment of the ride.  We know you lost a shoe but are fine and will be walking in.  His son, Adam, who we've watched grow up -- his father's right hand man every year, is driving now, and helped take down ribbons on Sunday on his four wheeler.
For the first time, one rider took the "elevator" option from the 25LD to the 50, and with a half hour later start than the 50s, passed a few on the last two loops and finished the ride in great form.   She received well-deserved thunderous applause at the Awards. 
There were enough grillables to go around, and the brief thunderstorm we had didn't soak the wood so much that we couldn't have a lovely campfire.
The waning full moon was gorgeous.
Sitting around post-ride, a little weary, a little drunk, with tired but fit-to-continue horses munching and resting all around camp, telling jokes and swapping tales and laughing so hard you're in fear of falling out of your chair, THIS is why we run an endurance ride!
Thank you to everyone who was a part of the special day.
Patti Stedman, Ride Manager
Allegany Shut Up and Ride