our first 25 (very long)

Glenda R. Snodgrass (grs@theneteffect.com)
Mon, 10 Nov 1997 11:34:17 -0600 (CST)

We did it! The months of preparation and dreaming culminated in a
successful completion of the 25 at Long Leaf this weekend. Here's our
(very long) story:

I had been warned that the ridecamp would fill up early, and that I
should arrive by noon at the latest if I wanted a good spot. With that
in mind, I got up EARLY (by my standards :) Friday morning -- fortunately
I was semi-comatose that early in the morning, so I wasn't alert enough
to be nervous about the upcoming ordeal. <g>

I arrived at the barn at 8 am, intending to be on the road by 9. That's
when I encountered the most difficult obstacle of the entire weekend:
loading Lakota into the brand new (read: stinky) trailer. He has always
loaded well in the past, but apparently took exception to the "new" smell
in the new trailer (purchased Monday, no, not waiting 'till the last
minute, not me!). It took over 3 hours to load him! I tried every
non-violent means I could think of, including bursting into tears with
frustration (not that it helped any, but it made me feel better, as I do
love a good cry). I had test-loaded him on Wednesday, and did get him in,
albeit reluctantly, after an hour of effort, then got him in again after
10 minutes, so I was unprepared for the 3-hour ordeal on Friday, thinking
(hoping) we had worked it through already. Of course, the conditions weren't
exactly favorable in any event: the vet arrived at the barn while I was
putting Lakota's shipping boots on, and proceeded first to float the teeth
of two horses using a (loud) electric float or something, about 50 feet
away, and then he gelded a 4yo stallion new to the barn, complete with
moaning and whimpering from the stallion lying comatose on the ground,
blood on the vet's hands, which Lakota was watching the whole time!! It
unnerved me a little, so I know it bothered him. Then 5 boarders (yuppie
housewives with red fingernails and diamond rings a-flashin', musical
laughs tinkling) arrived for a big happy trail ride with friends,
including 3 strange horses who trailered in while we were attempting to
load ... all this happening before I usually even GET OUT OF BED in the
morning! Ugh. However, by 12:00 we were loaded up and heading out the
gate ... three hours late.

The drive to the camp was uneventful, and thank God I even managed to find
a parking spot that required nearly no backing up (being new to
trailering, ya know, I'm not crazy about backing up), also conveniently
located right next to Ridecamper Charlene Bartholomae and her neighbor,
Mr. Bill, who were absolutely terrific, holding my hand through weekend,
loaning me things for Lakota, telling me what to do, boiling water for my
coffee on their cookstoves. It made all the difference in the world for
me to have someone I "knew" there to help me make it through our first
ride. It didn't take long to set up camp (since I don't have much to make
a campsite with anyway :) and I tucked into Charlene's yummy taco soup as
soon as Lakota was settled in with hay & water in his portable corral.
I then checked in with the ride secretary (or whoever those nice people
at the table with all the envelopes were) and got my ride packet.

Pre-ride vet-in took place a little later. Lakota got all A's except for
gut sounds, so the vet told me to make sure he had plenty of hay and
water for the night. He asked whether I had a long haul to the ride,
since that could cause poor gut sounds, and I said "No, the ride was only
2 hours, but it took more than 3 hours to get him in the trailer!" The
vet laughed at that and said that was probably the culprit. Sure enough,
Lakota got all A's on gut sounds the next day.

I followed Tina Hicks' instructions to me for attending the pre-ride
meeting (eat before you go, carry a jacket, chair, flashlight and your
trail map), and all went well. I was ready! Well, actually, here it was
only 6:00 in the evening, pitch dark, no electricity, no light for
reading, freezing cold, what was I going to do with myself? I was so
tired, though, from several days of less-than-enough sleep while trying to
finish my work and get ready for the ride, that I decided to tuck right
in. I had bought a cheap used camper shell for my truck (red camper
shell, green truck, it's The Christmas Rig!) to sleep in, not counting on
the fact the temp would drop down to 33 degrees on this ride and I would
be freezing my butt off all night long!! I slept in thermal longjohns
top and bottom, cotton turleneck & tights over that, sweatshirt with hood
pulled over head, sweat pants, wool cap pulled over hood, two pairs of
socks, gloves, insulated vest zipped up, two blankets over my body, and
STILL I shivered! I'm just not made for cold weather. I shiver below 65.

I woke up around midnight so hungry I thought I would die. In the dark,
huddled among the blankets in the bed of my truck, I wolfed down a cold
weiner from the cooler and half a bag of Fritos, washed down with water
from a gallon jug. (Yes, good nutrition and manners go out the window
when it's cold and dark and you're really hungry!)

I was glad I went to bed early, in spite of the midnight cooler-raid,
because these endurance people get up EARLY!! Since the 100 started at 5
am, there were 100-mile riders warming their horses up shortly after 4 am
... by walking & trotting the road around the campground, only 4 feet
from my tired, cold head ... <g> Naturally Lakota wanted to go ride with
these horses, so he called to them, as did all the other horses in the
ridecamp ... I'm just curious, do endurance people sleep at all? <VBG>

I got up around 5, fed & watered Lakota (yes, hauling that freezing cold
pond water all the way across the ridecamp in a bucket, wondering where
Michael Langdon was hiding :), stretching my tired, cold, achy muscles
(and I haven't been on the ride yet!). I made coffee, and stared into it
morosely as the sun came up. Charlene told me I'm the only person
younger than she who reminds her of her grandmother! I'm just not a
morning person. :) The 25 started at 8:30 and I barely got ready in time ...

But I made it! I was walking Lakota around about 10 minutes before the
start time, warming him up, feeling fine, and then we lined up, the
starter told us to go, and everyone took off, and suddenly my stomach was
full of butterflies and I was REALLY nervous! I hadn't been nervous at
all until that moment, but I choked. For about 3 minutes I was really
scared, then it passed and I was fine.

I was shocked, however, to see my laid-back, laconic, lackadaisical,
lolly-gaggin' Lakota take off running after those other horses! I
couldn't believe it! At home he is such a slow starter, I cannot ever
get him into a canter before an hour or more of walk & trot, he just
takes forever to wake up ... but not at this ride! For the first 15
minutes or so I just let him go, since we were on a fairly narrow stretch
of trail, single file, and everyone was trotting pretty fast but not
really running. Once the trail widened I pulled him back some and
settled into the back of the pack with another first-timer, Natalie, who
was riding a young horse on his first ride too. She and I agreed to ride
in the back together and treat this ride as a training exercise, which I
think went very well for both of us. We took turns leading and
following, one running ahead and one staying behind, stopping at every
watering hole and patch of grass.

We had the pleasure of seeing Danny (?), riding Samm Bartee's baby Weagle,
wiping off about 30 pounds of cold, wet mud -- just ahead of us, Weagle
spooked at the big mud puddle and jumped sideways, brushing Danny off with
a tree limb, and he plopped down headlong into the mud puddle! I mean, he
was absolutely covered head-to-to in the cold wet stuff. I felt so sorry
for him (not that my sympathy stopped me from laughing!), knowing he was
really cold at that point. He wasn't hurt, though, fortunately, and
hopped right back on, finishing just ahead of me and Natalie (we were 19
and 20 out of 20).

Lakota did absolutely fantastic; I was so pleased and proud! He ate and
drank at nearly every opportunity, listened to me, even when other horses
ran past us he didn't try to run away, didn't toss his head or anything
like that. We got all A's but one (a B on mucous membranes at the final
vet-out), and he was just as perky at the end of the ride as he was before
it began. He paced his pen all afternoon, wanting to go ride with the
other horses. I'm sure he could've done the 50. And his ankles didn't
swell overnight either. Our ride time was 3:40 I think, which was close
to my goal of 3:30, plus I had the pleasure of riding with a companion and
new friend.

The day warmed up a little bit (not much by my standards :) and the sun was
gorgeous, filtering through the trees. The trails at Long Leaf are very
nice, pretty wide and well-maintained, lots of little ups and downs so
interesting to ride, lots of creeks to cross, no big holes to step in.
By mile 20 or so I was so happy and content, I forgot all about the
miserable day and night before! It was a wonderful ride.

That afternoon I was so tuckered, it was hard to haul the water buckets
over to Lakota. It was easier to just walk him to the tank! <g> The
ride management served a delicous BBQ chicken, beans, cole slaw & bread
meal in the afternoon, which I wolfed down (after half a bag of Cheetos,
two handfuls of Goldfish and a packet of donuts -- why eat fresh fruit
when there's junk food around ?) I mean, I needed the extra calories to
keep my body temperature up, right? <VBG>

At the post-ride meeting we learned that there were 20 starters and 20
finishers in the 25 ride, and 18 starters and 16 finishers (I think) in
the 50. I'm sorry I can't name the winners, because I'm really bad with
names, and they were strangers to me so the names just didn't stick in my
mind. I'm sure someone will post the results soon. There were 23
starters in the 100, I think, but I don't know how many finished.
Completion awards (for us, at least) were very nice folding canvas camp
chairs (which I need, since I had borrowed a chair from a friend for this
trip!), with "Long Leaf" emblazoned on the back.

Hey, "To Finish is to Win" -- so Lakota and I won! I had no illusions
about really being competitive on this ride -- I wanted the experience,
to see how Lakota and I would do in a "real" ride, and now I know that we
can do it. He definitely could have gone faster, because I held him back
a lot, and/or he could have gone longer, because he was in great shape at
the end. That's a success in my book. I'm just glad they don't vet
check the riders, because I finished grade-2 lame. :))) I had a lot of
trouble with my ankles wobbling in the stirrups, and am thinking I need
to go back to lace-up boots (though I love the ease of pulling my
Blunnies off and on).

Since this is my first ride, I can't really compare it to others, but I
will definitely be back at Long Leaf. The ride was well-organized to my
mind, at least, and the volunteers were terrific. I told everyone "This
is my first ride, please tell me what to do" and they were all great at
helping me out, so I didn't clog up the works. The vets were great,
explaining to me everything they were checking and why, so I understood
all the marks on my card. All the other riders and crew persons I met
were very nice and welcoming as well. It was nice to meet some
Ridecampers in person (including Dee Fortner, who finished 8th in the 25
and was very happy about it!). Becky Siler was there taking photos, and
I got two very nice shots of me and Lakota, which I will scan in and put
on my web page this week.

All in all it was a terrific experience, a fabulously fun weekend, and I
will definitely do it again -- as soon as the weather warms up. <VBG>

Glenda & Lakota (25 down, 1000s to go!)