ridecamp@endurance.net: [endurance] [Story,long] Ft. Armstrong 50

[endurance] [Story,long] Ft. Armstrong 50

Diane E. Nelson (nelsonde@ttown.apci.com)
Mon, 29 Jul 1996 10:38:30 -0400 (EDT)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.... Like watching slow
motion photography, I gaped as Mr T and Kevin helplessly slid to the
ground on grass covered asphalt...Mr T's left rear slicing across his
left fore elbow and opening an ugly wound. Kevin felt him go down and
managed to push clear so he did not have a horse landing on top of him,
but he slid across the rough asphalt on exposed forearm and shoulder.

It had looked so deceptively lovely--like a long, grassy jeep trail that
invited a forward trot--but instead was an old roadbed only partially
covered. Even Kasey slid around, and he has borium on the rear.
Fortunately both Kevin & Mr T are fine. Kevin walked the 1-2 miles to
the water stop where radio crews could call for the horse ambulance...but
I'm ahead of myself here.

It was a 6 1/2 hour drive to western PA--and at the risk of repeating
myself--you really must try out the fabulous hospitality and grand
facilities of Crooked Creek Horse Park. It has rings, stalls, clubhouse,
ample parking in sun or shade. And of course the good folks involved in
the Horse Park cannot do enough for you--making you feel like honored
guests and old friends!

The first day's loop was 30 miles over a permanently marked trail that
wound through narrow track woods bordering a lake...more water than you've
ever seen on a ride! I was amply warned by riders who had done this
trail before--tough, tough, tough. Ledges, narrow track, rocks...gosh,
you should have seen my green face as I mounted up at 6:30 AM, ready to
face the challenges (Mom does NOT like heights, ledges and litle bitty
narrow places!). The toughest part of the trail came first but we
managed to make pretty good time, despite the mud and rock. Mr T led, as
usual, setting a reasonable pace (for him). Kasey negotiated the trail
with elan, and all our ring work paid off as I bent him this way and that
around this tree and THAT (Yo, Kasey, that's my *&%^$ leg!)--well, voice
commands are an acceptable training tool, too.

But it was a three-strikes-you're-out kinda day for Kevin and his best
buddy. About 4 miles into the ride, crossing through a creek, Mr T got a
little silly while we were sponging and backed over a large log, into a
bottomless pit, to his belly. Somehow, some way, Kevin managed to stay
centered while Mr T lunged and scrambled out of the bog. A few minor
tears and scratches, no blood, sigh of relief, and a
well-done-Kevin...and off we went, along with a front shoe. We didn't
notice that until some time later, but fortunately the muddy going kept
the foot from being too chewed up. So Easy boot time, me holding the
jerk (oops, sorry, Mr T) and Kasey (glad to have old lard bucket off his
back for awhile).

Now the challenge...how do we get Mom back up on Kasey. The old back has
spasmed, right across that "belt area" (those of you with back problems
can relate I'm sure), and I can't "lift" into the saddle. Mercifully
there's a truck there, dispensing goodies, so I try to climb onto the
tailgate...and tried, and tried, until I was giggling so hard I couldn't
do it, period! So with the help of two youngsters holding Kasey and a
stirrup, and a very understanding lady giving my butt a little
power-boost from behind, I make it first up onto the tailgate and then
just an easy step-up into the saddle. You just gotta have a sense of
humor about this...otherwise, how could I get up each morning without
dying of embarassment?

Mid-point passes, new shoe on Mr T, does Kevin want the 9 minutes added
to his time to compensate for the farrier? Nah, we're fine...plenty of
time. Famous last words....

Seven miles to go, down they go, splayed across the trail. Kevin has
never crashed and burned like this...shook him up some. But Mr T shakes
the experience off, wants to go on, eager, impervious to the pain.

At the water stop I tell the vet I'm pulling with Kevin, but everybody
convinces me to go on...but the time!! I've lost so much of it as we've
dealt with one disaster after another. Will Kasey go on alone? But it's
only 5 miles! So, feeling like the Worst Mother in the World, abandoning
my son and his injured friend, I go off in pursuit of a lone rider not
too far ahead. Kasey drags, bellows for Mr T, doesn't wanna....

But then something kicked in, he had a job, let's get it done--and we're
off. This section of trail is marginally easier so we make fairly good
time, but I'm pushing the envelop and need to boogie. My new riding
companion stays just ahead of me, far enough to make Kasey drive to find
the next horse...and then another incident! She's in a wide stream,
dead-center, dropping her sponge when her mare goes ballistic, bucking,
lunging through the stream, up onto a steep bank, around a corner,
dumping the rider and scampering off with the sponge and strap tangled
about her back legs! The rider is fine...can I catch the horse? Sure,
no problem...off we go. Here kitty, kitty, nice horsey, ya' wanna like
WHOA? The little s__t stays just ahead of us, walking, trotting,
galloping through the narrow wooded trail, then hits the large field
surrounding base camp and takes off--right into Moira Harrington's arms!
I'm prepared to drag her ladyship back to her ambulatory rider but the
captors on foot urge me to go around the corner and finish while I was
still within my legal time--again felt like a jerk doing that, but took
their advise (the rider was already in view trudging through the field)
and finished with maybe a whole 2 minutes to spare!

So that was day one. Kevin was already back at camp, the vet was just
finishing up ministering to Mr T's wounds and assuring Kevin that he'd be
fine, keep it clean. We trotted out well, Kasey was starved but
well-hydrated and cheerful.

I slept good...not used to this 2-day stuff...but boy, 4:30 AM rolls
around pretty quick for a 6:30 start in the fog. I just didn't know if I
wanted to go out by myself, without Kevin that is. You know how it
is--you get so used to riding together, it feels, well, strange not to
have him along.

I left at the back of the pack with Bill Gray, Pat Oliva and Nadine, a
junior rider. Bill & Pat, being endurance riders, set a blistering pace
that I had absolutely no interest in doing, so Nadine & I became
joined-at-the-hip for the entire 20 miles, well-matched in pacing and
strategy. I knew that you have to make time, 20 miles in 2:45-3:00
hours, no holds, but my, you have to BOOGIE!!! This section of trail is
over private land---some narrow track woods, up and down steeply rolling
fields, all mowed just for us! Impressive! Ribboned out the
whazoo--even a blind man could follow this trail! Views to die for. Not
much water, sun shining brightly, Nadine and I stripping outer layers fast.

So with the pleasant company of Nadine we finished at the back edge of
our window. Kasey came down to 46 in good order, trotted out very well
(showing "improvement" in several areas over the initial trot-out). And
I felt a real sense of accomplishment--better yet, not much hurt!!!

Kevin had had an entertaining morning with a distraught Mr T, but still
managed to prepare buckets and goodies for the old warriors coming in
from the battle with the trail!

Score-wise we only did "OK"--the lay judge must not have liked Kasey.
She scored him as a "C" at the starting trot-out, then claimed "serious
degradation" in mechanical fatique, so we lost a whopping 7 points right
there. The vet, on the other hand, saw "improvement" on her evaluation
and I lost only fractions of points for wind puffs on the rear. I don't
agree with the lay judge...but you learn after many years that each
person will call it as they see it. Bev Anderholm was my personal vet
for a lot of years before we moved to Allentown (but not for this horse) so
her opinion was the one that really counted for me--and she always tells
me "like it is". Sixth place HW division...a good finish under adverse
conditions (both trail and circumstances)...not a bad weekend after all.

Now, Pete LaBerge, you might want to skip this paragraph. For my "little
problem" with more-bounce-to-the-ounce, I doubled up with two different
types of sport bras and for the first time in YEARS have not had
discomfort. Also found that my new Ariats were actually worth the
money!!--no numbness in the ankles. And the Cloud stirrups eliminated
all the other foot/knee problems I've "endured" over the years. Suddenly
I really like my full-seat cover too!

Seven hours home, two traffic "parking lot" tie-ups and one accident.
Cleaned out the wounds, covered with Dye's liquid bandage and home
to...not sleep. Sigh, too much caffeine.

Rest well, boys...you have two weeks to just be horses as Kevin & I fly
off to Denver & Wyoming.

Then...the Chesapeake 3-day 80 over Labor Day.

Thank you, Ft. Armstrong people...

Diane @ Safe Haven