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[RC] Red Barn AHA 2 - rides2far@xxxxxxxx

Saturday morning I was out at 5:30 and saw flashes of lightning in the 
distance. Ugh. The 100's & 75's rode out in a controlled start at 7 AM with 
thunder rolling and the lightning coming closer. The treetops were unmoving 
against the dark sky, no wind at all, whatever it was was coming slowly and 
would probably hang around. The 50's were supposed to start at 8:00. As the 
thunder and lightning picked up I got Josie to come out and saddle early and 
figured we could walk them thirty minutes to warm up and maybe get back in the 
trailer during the worst of the storm and hope it blew over quickly. We made 
one trip across camp and a huge KRACK-BOOM!! sent me hustling back to put the 
horses on the picket line and jump inside the trailer. The rain started and the 
lightning increased. I thought a lot about how stupid it is to get yourself 
killed but how much worse it would be to see your kid hit when it had been your 
call. Josie got all mad and was saying, "Let's just GO!" but I saw no reason to 
start on time when I'd just heard from the timer that we were catching the tail 
end of the worst of the storm and after that we'd be all clear. Why die for a 
top 10 muck bucket?  

Might throw in here that I was not riding my own horse. Buddy Lynda Webber had 
a small skin cancer removed from her forehead this week and her Dr. wouldn't 
release her to ride fearing an infection. I needed a mount and her Bailey is a 
doozy so we both agreed I'd put a fifty on him to help her get him ready for 
the 100 at Biltmore. I figured I had plenty of horse to go fast later since he 
was BC at Hahira so what's a few minutes?

It died down enough to feel a little less INSANE to get on a horse and we left 
camp 8 min. late but walked a full 15 min. to warm them up before beginning to 
trot. 30 min or so later we were on 2 track going through the woods coming up 
on a dirt road crossing and I saw a chestnut horse running full tilt with no 
rider down the road. It was almost past us when for some reason it just hit me 
to do my best horse whinny. I used to be pretty good at that when I was a kid. 
Amazingly enough, the horse slammed on the brakes and took a hard left and 
trotted towards us in the woods. I jumped off Bailey and with both horses 
blocking trail managed to catch the mare. Josie had a hay rope in her pack and 
after a couple of tries we got her caught, tied and ponying down the road 
behind us. We could see she was a 75 miler so had at least an hour and 15 min. 
lead on us so figured it might be 10 or 15 miles before we found the owner. A 
mile or 2 later we saw a rider running across a distant field, staggering in 
the mud, waving. Josie said it looked like the love scene in an old movie. >g<  
I rode out to meet her and it was Eva DePaulis. She mounted up with her new 
blue hay rope reins and did the rest of the loop with us.

The rest of the story is, RAIN, THUNDER, RAIN, LIGHTNING,  Why do you speed up 
when you see a bolt snake across the sky ahead? I dunno. I guess we figure a 
moving target is harder to hit. The trail held up pretty well CONSIDERING. I 
mean, things can always get worse. The sound of that ride was SPLASH, SPLASH 
instead of clip-clop. The trail had a current. The worst part was circling huge 
plowed fields. Those got bad. Management stayed so calm it was amazing. No 
snippiness. No panic. Just calm concern for us and appreciation for our 
sticking it out. Gary Sanderson made a run to town and came back with cups of 
Raman noodles and hot drinks. He was dishing it out. Honestly, the cup of soup 
he put in my hadn when I finished that ride was HEAVEN!  Everyone was smiling 
all day. Something about doing something absolutely STUPID makes people smile. 
You just had to laugh at the rediculousness of it all. There was actually a 
tornado WARNING for the first few hours. In other words, one was on the round 
somewhere near. The trot out area was a swamp. It was pretty funny to watch 
riders and horses slogging along and imagine anyone telling what we were doing. 
The horses were doing great. We actually made good time overall after you 
averaged in the firm footing roads you could FLY on, and they were down when we 
got to the checks. We slowed down at the end since it was easy to be going 
along on firm ground then suddenly hit super soft sand that just gave way and 
almost do a nose dive. Pat Oliva passed us 1/2 mile from the finish line and 
knocked us out of top 10. Oh well, considering how we started the ride it was 
amazing to be that high up and honestly, who wanted to hang around for another 
hour and stand for BC when you could stay in the trailer and put on dry 
clothes! :-))

I think I read a typo that said the completion rates were low. I think 
starting rates were low. Half the 25 milers didn't start. Something like 17 out 
of 33. Only 17 50's started out of twenty something signed up. I think 10 out 
of 15 75's started and around 20? 100's. 

I was so wet that I may as well have jumped in the lake to get the sand off. It 
was worse at the checks where you were near all those metal tent frames and 
freezing. I'd rather take my chances with lightning going down the trail 
keeping warm. Finishing was BLISS. I know I'll enjoy my next thunderstorm when 
I'm snuggled in a warm bed 10 times as much as anyone who didn't do that ride. 
:-) I can only imagine how those in the longer distances felt. 

Kudos to Eric Reuter who ran a computer and handled sorting out probably a 
record number of different rides including AERC, FEI, AHA, and CT and never 
getting short tempered!!! He was amazing.

Nobody would ever have dreamed there was an FEI going on so far as being 
trouble by it. It was as down home a ride as any Million Pines you've ever been 
to. I can't say enough about the place & people and will definitely go back, 
despite the forecast again. Thanks to all involved!

Angie McGhee

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