ridecamp@endurance.net: It Ain't Over Till I'm Over, Angie McGhee

It Ain't Over Till I'm Over, Angie McGhee

Stephanie Teeter (step@fsr.com)
Tue, 22 Aug 1995 20:55:36 +0800

Steph - This is one of my favorite Angie McGhee stories - I have her
permission to let you post it or use it on the homepage. It was originally
published in 'From The Horse's Mouth', the journal of the Southeast Endurance
Riders Association.
- Dave

Great article! I put it on the homepage. Thanks. Steph Teeter

Angie McGhee
Time and again I have endured articles about the drama and the
pressure of running up front. "Who can name anything as stressful as
leading the North American Championships and fighting off the second
place horse?" they ask. To which I reply "I Can!" How's about cut off times
at vet checks, getting caught in the dark on a 50, fear of being
lapped by the 1OO's, or knowing throughout my last loop that everyone
else is waiting impatiently for me to cross the finish line, so they can
start the awards meeting?

What do these perpetual front runners know about the problems we
turtles face? What do they know about happily finishing a ride only to
have the timer wake up and comment, "Oh, you're not lost", or trotting
across the finish line after 5O miles to the sound of applause for the
first time...only to discover they mistook you for the winner of the 100.

Don't get me wrong. I still get my kicks, even though I am a
member of the "rear guard". It's everyone else who seems to have a
problem with it.

My husband knows better, but my children and Mom still irritate
me by asking "Did you win?' I've tried the old "To Finish Is to Win"
line on them, but they just stare blankly, then repeat their question.

The "To Finish Is to Win" motto is especially useless on the finish
line timer. This timer is bribed by people who have fast horses for
sale to say especially cruel things like, 'We were worried about you",
or 'I figured you were the number 23 we were waiting on". It's OK.
I'm used to this routine. After making his obligatory derogatory comment,
he'll yawn, fold up his chair, pull up the sign and walk back to camp with me.

If I feel bad about my reception from the timer, I'll soon feel
better. As soon as I come into sight, the camp will erupt into cheers
because the awards presentations can finally begin. If I'm lucky,
someone will hand me a plate of cold scraps from the dinner which I
paid five dollars for and was served two hours ago. I know there was
more food than this on their plates because I watched the vet eat his
at the third vet check, after which he disassembled the check and left
me on my honor to finish out my hold time. (That always presents a dilemma for
me because I wonder if they're really hoping I'll leave a little early)

Thus, I accept my completion award while still wearing my helmet,
with my horse's reins looped over one arm and a limp paper plate in
my hand. Meanwhile the winners, showered, in clean clothes and
having enjoyed an afternoon nap, accept their awards graciously.

After the awards, participants who can't ignore my horse (since he's the only
pet present who is on leash) attempt a compliment by saying with feigned
admiration, "He's tough isn't he?" What they're really thinking is "Do you
think he'll ever break down, so you can get a
fast horse?" I can see they pity me for finishing so far back.

Twenty eight horses started, twenty finished. Mine was the twentieth. Some
people think I came in last. I beg to differ, they
obviously aren't using my "PJS"... which stands for "Placement Justification

To demonstrate, let's start with the eight horses who did not
finish. I beat them...I'll gladly fight anyone who tries to deny me
that one.

Next, I'll listen for rumors of whose horse looked over-ridden
at the finish. Under my system, I beat them too. I also take out
any rookie rider who had the audacity to beat me. They obviously were
too stupid to heed the warning signs their horses were sending out,
which I, in my experienced wisdom, was so busy heeding that I let them
beat me. That knocks out four more horses, so I'm now 16th of 28...
getting better!

At the next ride I attend, I'll keep tabs on those I5 horses
who finished ahead of me. If I see one of their riders on another
horse I'll inquire about the one I finished behind. An answer like:
"Oh, he strained a suspensory in that ride", or "Rode him too fast over
those rocks and he got a bad bruise" means they goofed. I'm vindicated once
more and I mentally move myself above them in that ride's
finishing order. Now I'm 14th out of 28...that's not last. That's middle of
the pack and I'm happy to be there.

Another game I enjoy is my "I'm racing them to the 1,000 mile
mark" idea. I don't inform any of the people I'm racing against,
for fear that they'll pick up their pace. Never the less, I have them
picked out. Some of them started horses when I did. Some have ridden
with me for brief periods at rides, then seeming to snap out of their
boredom induced trance, have galloped off to finish hours before me,
I watch them at rides and I check their names on the mileage listings.
If they switch to a new horse, I chuckle and put them back at the "0" mark.

Should I choose to move myself higher in the standings, there are
other classifications I can kick in. For instance, we all know about
weight divisions. These help me very little, so I've come up with a
few of my own.

1. PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT "MADE" HORSES. These people save themselves
a tremendous amount of time and trouble by buying horses who have
proven they can handle the rigors of competition, (unlike those of us
who waste a year at a time on virgin prospects who carefully hide their
hidden weaknesses just so they can spring them on us at their first
competition) -I don't hold it against these people that they buy
made horses, I would gladly do the same if I could afford to do so,
but since I can't, I put them in a different division than myself.

2. PEOPLE WHO HAVE REALLY NICE RIGS. In my book, this covers
anyone who doesn't sleep in a pup tent or the bed of a pickup truck.
They sleep the night before the ride, resting-soundly behind the hum
of their generators. They're confident that people like myself are lying
awake, listening to every noise made by every horse in camp... including
theirs. They actually get some sleep, thus they have an unfair advantage and
must compete in a separate category from myself.

anyone who has more help than a reluctant husband). These people have
the luxury of crews who take complete charge of the horse at the vet
check, while other crew members massage, fan and spoon feed them.
Meanwhile, I'm standing in the CRI line chewing on a bagel that's
been riding in an Easyboot. We obviously have no business in the same
competitive division.

4. PEOPLE WITH NO JOBS AND/OR CHILDREN. These people have an unfair
advantage in conditioning. They should have to race each other for
Two hundred miles.

I am resigned that many of us "middle-to-the-back of the packers"
will never move up. It's in our genes. We're careful, cautious,
and dedicated, but we seem to lack that killer instinct. We never dare
ask our horses to use those hidden reserves. We just won't do what it
takes to win. For this reason, we can never sell our slow horses for
fear that they'll go on to be great successes in the hands of other
riders who go around buying "made" horses. I cringe at the thought of
some famous rider accepting her award and thanking me for the years
of LSD that I put on her horse..."I had watched Angie's horse for
several years and felt he had the ability to win...in the right hands" she
would say, as all eyes turned to me. I would kill myself.

Since I see no signs of a turn around in my career, I've decided
to accept my slow poke status and count my blessings. There are, after
all some good things about being a turtle. Such as:

1. I get more hours in the saddle for the money. I bet I hurt
for days longer than the winner, and after all, why else would we
choose this sport if our goal is not inflicting the maximum amount
of pain on our bodies.

2. If I start at the front of the pack, I'll see everyone by the
end of the race. It's a great way to meet friends.

3. Everyone is happy to see me when I get to a ride (with the
possible exception of the finish timer). They're all happy to see
someone they can beat!

4. It doesn't slow my horse down when I get off to jog...I'm
as fast as he is!

5. If I ever get tired of endurance, I can always show my horse
in western pleasure classes.

6. Races to the finish are more creative. For instance, in a
typical battle for who's last, my friend Ruth and I brought our horses
to a halt just short of the finish line. We then dropped the reins
to see which horse would voluntarily cross the line first. When neither
horse budged, we counted to three and then squeezed. When my horse
crossed first, I apologized, because after all it really was her turn
to be "not last". Her reply summed up our problem perfectly...she
sighed, "That's OK. Beauford is just a victim of inertia."