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Lori & Roger Sumrall wrote:
> Lucky you, going to Old Dominion.  I'm in the SE but don't have the time to
> get my horse that far into his endurance career right now. (I have big
> plans once I do finish school)

Where are you from?  We moved up from North central Florida
(Gainesville) about 13 years ago.  BTW - they are holding a limited
distance this year, too - 25 miles.  You would ride the last half of the

>         Is OD as hard as everyone says it is?  What's the big deal about it? 

I could write a book!  The course is tough - some may argue that it is
tougher than the Tevis because of the high humidity and the <constant>
climbing and rocks.  The 50 mile course (all we're ready to do with this
new guy) takes you over 4 major mountains with 2 crossings of the
Shenandoah River.  The river itself makes the ride all worthwhile. 
Imagine crossing a river almost as wide as a football field, water up to
your stirrup (or higher) at the FORD (never mind to each side), mists
over the water with purple mountains in the background.  Picture riding
down a ridge line that's maybe 4 ft wide and rock strewn, a view of the
valley in either direction.  Usually 30% or more of the 50's pull out
and more than 60% of the 100 pulls out.  

Imagine attending a ride where the vets are the biggest names in
endurance.  (Same folks as those who vet internationally and at ROC, Pan
Am, etc.)  They evaluate there horse at vet in with an extremely
critical eye.  Once the horse gets out on the trail, there are many
inaccessible stretches if something goes wrong.  It's an honor even to
just get to start.  I always feel that if I can make that beautiful
river crossing, I got my money's worth.

The second half of the ride climbs the rocky back half of infamous
Sherman's gap.  The horse reach the top, only to have to be lead down
"stairstep" ledges until the trail resumes looking like a trail.  The
last year I went, I was shaking as I got off of the pass, only to see
two elderly grandmothers jogging down the trail ahead of me, just
chatting.  BTW - the 100 mile horses come down Sherman's gap in the

The last vet check is 5 miles out at a farm from the 1700's.  Five
miles  doesn't sound far until you consider that it is 5 miles over the
last pass.

Base camp is the 4H Center in Front Royal, Virginia.  It is home of the
old US Cavalry Remount Station.  They tested their horses over the same
trails & old stage coach roads as we compete on today.  

The "Quadrangle" is the original barns that we still use.  We warm up in
the heat & fog of predawn in the Quadrangle's yard.  It's eerie seeing
horses appear & disappear under the lights.  The first 1/2 mile is along
a paved country road and everyone always seems to be so workmanlike - no
racing out & getting killed.

Children line the streets in the small town we ride through, farms put
out water hoses & water tanks for the horses.  One fellow stands there &
"mists" the horses with a hose while they drink from his tank & eat the
grass that he has specially NOT mowed - just for this weekend.

The restaurants in Front Royal (3 miles away) look the other way at our
grungy "best" after a long weekend.  The showers are cold by the time I
ever get in, but we tell ourselves that it helps to restore the

I always wonder why I do it - Only one finish out of 4 tries.  (One
metabolic and two lameness from the rocks).  Somehow, I always have the
bug to go back, though.

If you are interested, the OD Assoc. that runs the ride puts out a
newsletter, high tech endurance clinics & horse evaluations, and
training rides.  It's hard to participate when you live a bit away, but
we joined anyway.  At $25, it's hard to beat.

I ramble.  Let me know if you have questions about the ride.  I hope I
like the saddle cover since I'll really be using it for the first time
at the OD.  I detest "debugging" new tack at a ride.  The ONLY reason
that I'm considering it is the pad will bother me, not Rocket.

Linda Flemmer
Blue Wolf Ranch
Bruceton Mills, WV

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