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[RC] Red Barn Slog aka No Easy 100s! - Sluys Guys

After doing the OD and Big South Fork as my 1st 100s last year I figured that Red Barn with it's flat sandy terrain would be a piece of cake! Not so says I!! My previously empty buckets told me that we probably had somewhere between 4-6 inches of rain that day which started soon after we were in the saddle and continued to around dinner time with lightening and big thunder and periods of high wind that made the raindrops sting the face.
My husband, Bill, who was to crew for me got tied up and had to stay home. Since I was by myself I thought it would be easier to go back to my trailer for my holds. When I arrived I timed the walk to the vet check at 2 minutes, it seemed pretty convenient since I was parked right next to the trail coming in and could drop my saddle on the way to the in timer but by the time the morning was half over the mud between me and the vet check became very deep and hard to navigate causing me to lose lots of time and energy walking back and forth. I had set up a bucket and hay bag up at the vet check just in case I would need it and the last 2 checks I stayed there but still had to run back and forth to the trailer for forgotten items. Between that and having to change clothes a number of times I had no time to rest myself. I really learned the value of a good crew that day!
The first loop wasn't that bad but the second (red) loop was starting to get really boggy since it had a lot of new trail that had been recently bulldozed. Holes would just open up under your horse unexpectedly and great caution was needed. The places where the swamps crossed the road were rising, sometimes belly deep, and would have ditches in them that would make you feel like your horse just fell out from underneath you! We then had a 20 mile loop that went around a lot of cotton fields that were starting to get deep and some more deep crossings. I started that loop with another lady but after about 5 miles she thought her horse wasn't doing right and decided to turn back. Blue, missing his new friend, started to slow down which wasn't a bad thing since the conditions were deteriorating quickly. He is a very careful horse and he was really watching his foot placement which gave me confidence that we would be ok so we kept pushing on. By the time we got off the white loop my boots were filled with water and being waterproof they weren't letting any out. At the trot out I felt like I had 10 pound weights on each foot, Blue looked great though! Blue was starting to get bummed out because I kept taking him away from the "horse party " to go back to the trailer and stopped eating the several kinds of hay I brought him so I grazed him for a while which put me leaving that vet check about 20 minutes late. I figured I'd go ahead and stay up in the crew area for our next check so he could sample everybody else's hay and he was fine with that.
The yellow loop the second time around was a bear. By this time I was near the back of the pack and all the riders in all the distances had used this trail at least once and some twice and it was not only chewed up but the several miles of circling cotton fields had become literally knee deep and worse allowing for no trotting at all, just painful slogging! I was not looking forward to doing the horse eating red loop again knowing that it would be much worse and I was seriously considering pulling from the ride for my horse's sake, plus I was getting pretty tired from fighting the elements and crewing for myself.
When I got back to camp at 60 miles I was overjoyed to find they had shortened the ride to 80 miles, taking out the dreaded red loop and doing the blue loop (which we had not done yet) twice to finish. That sounded doable to me so I decided to continue. About this time I started hearing reports from the first riders returning from the blue loop saying that it was extremely dangerous in places too and some were talking of pulling their horses. The trail team went out on four wheelers and rerouted the trail to the road where we had to ride down to a stop sign and back to make up the mileage. That took out the worse of the dangerous places and kept us a bit safer. There were plenty of fairly good places on that loop to make up a bit of time but I was still going to be doing my last loop in the dark and dark it was with the thick cloud cover and no moon!
The rain had finally stopped and the sandy trails drained fast so my last loop was better than I thought it would be except that I could barely see. I had a light stick on Blue's breast collar and a head lamp if I needed it (which I did) but soon discovered that I had grabbed the one with the old batteries which became quite dim in a very short while not giving me much aid. We made it in somewhere around 10PM and Blue was feeling really good. He even pulled me around a bit at the vet out and got lots of compliments from the vets for his animation plus he got all As on his card. It totally amazed me that he actually looked like he could go out and do the 20 miles for the 100 but I have to say that I felt pretty spent. Today I feel like I've been run over by a truck, that 80 miles kicked my ass! I felt way better after the OD riding almost 24 hours compared to this, the elements really took it out of me for sure. For the most part Blue looks pretty good today, I rubbed his legs for a long time with Sore No More and massaged him a bit. He is a little stiff but not that bad considering what he went through plus the 8 hour trailer ride home. He had one little ding on his left rear fetlock which is also amazing considering all the hidden hazards. Once again I am in awe of this horse, he's tough!
One thing I need to mention was the amazing team of folks who put on this ride. The Perry family were incredible, always there from finding me a parking place close to the vet check when I arrived to the incredible effort in the trail rerouting. They had also involved the whole town, who were all excited about the ride and keeping us all safe. There were more spotters than I have ever seen and they always looked cheerful even after hours of standing in the rain. I don't know how Eric Rueter keeps all those rides straight but he does it with what looks like amazing ease (although I'm sure it's tougher than he makes it look!). With AERC, FEI and AHA endurance and CTR rides all being held simultaneously throughout the weekend it was just incredible how smoothly things went. A huge thanks go out to these people who had some hard decisions to make during a really tough time. I'm not sure how it affects the FEI riders as far as their points and qualifications go but it was the right decision to make in light of the danger to the horses and riders.
Hope I get to ride those trails on a better day, they were really beautiful between all the raindrops!
Happy Trails, Nancy & Blue (looking forward to doing a full 100 at Biltmore!)


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