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After a sleepless Wednesday evening worrying about whether I had packed
everything , my 2 sons and I loaded Shaliekah and set off at 8 am for
the Platorand 100 miler in Machadodorp , Mpumalanga,South Africa. The
350 km trip went fine considering we were already competing with Easter
weekend holiday traffic and we arrived at the venue at 12. Machadodorp
is situated in the heart of forestry and trout fishing and the scenery
is stunning with dams and fast flowing mountain streams. We were one of
the first groups to arrive and set up camp right next to a small flowing
stream under 2 large Oak trees. Some 50 milers entrants had started to
arrive and it was time to socialise and hand walk horses through the
lovely green grass and streams. The rest of our group started to arrive
that afternoon and we all went out for a short ride through the
town(population 1000 and a real 1 horse town!). Shaliekah was absolutely
impossible , bucking and prancing and spooking at every rock and puddle.
I knew I was going to have my hands full!!. 
This 100 miler was a brave experiment by the Platorand Club to try and
encourage 100 milers in our 50 miler season. Historically 100 milers are
only held after our national finals in July and there has been a lot of
negativity towards 100 milers prior to Fauresmith. We have all been
encouraging this as there are many riders who wish to only concentrate
on 100 milers and we would like to ride throughout the year!!. The club
was offering the 100 miler and a 50 miler on the Saturday. My friend Sue
Walker was to ride with me on her novice horse and my mentor Johanni on
her very experienced mare Zaleyah. Sue and Johanni have almost 10 000 km
in competition and Zaleyah was doing her 8th 100 miler. Rex(Sue's horse
)and my mare Shaleikah are only 2nd season horses and this was to be
there first 100 miler. We were only aiming at finishing , while Johanni
would ride more competitively.
On Friday morning we all went out for a warm up ride and then late on in
the day we were taken out in bakkies(pickups) to see some of the course
for the first time ever. At this stage there were 15 entrants, but after
this drive only 7 entered!!!!. This is definitely THE most difficult
ride on the calendar - of the 160 km . probably 50 km is flat and some
of the hills were over 6 kms in length and at an angle of more that 45
degrees. We started out on the drive very noisy but slowly it got
quieter and quieter on that bakkie as we all wondered what we were
letting ourselves in for. The 3 of us decided we had to start , for the
clubs sake, and just try to finish.
We got back to camp and packed everything into the bakkies and  entered
and vetted in. Shaleikah was so excited we couldn't control her and she
jumped the ribbon tape around the vet check - but pulse was 36 anyway
and she was bursting with health and fitness. We then tried to get a few
hours sleep . However , most of the 50 milers had arrived at this stage
and with 80 horses to do the 50 milers camp was humming!!. After lying
in the tent cuddling my "Good luck" teddybear I decided it would be
better to just sit around the campfire and chat. 9 pm we saddled up and
did last minute checks of goodies in the bakkies and started warming up
the horses. After picking up so much info on Ridecamp I had bought the 3
of us glow sticks and we attached them to our horses martingales. The
moon was very bright and the sky cloudless and the evening cool, so we
had perfect weather. We were ragged unmercifully about the
glowsticks(the first to be seen being worn by horses in SA), but took it
good naturedly as it was intended. 10 pm and we are off - well as far as
the gate anyway!!!!
There was a foot deep ditch t the gate with a rubber mat laid over it
and no way were the horses going to cross that!!. Shaliekah saw Zaleyah
cross , and in panic jumped the ditch while the others were fighting
with their horses, and off we set snorting, prancing and spooking!!
Through the little town and along the railway line , praying not to meet
a train!!. The crews could not drive with us at this stage and we were
motoring along at a HUGE trot in a bunch. The crews met us for the first
time at 16 km's and Sue and I took extra time to let the horses drink
and eat so that the leading group could get out of sight as we felt we
were going too fast for the novices. Off we went with both horses very
keen and moving well. The scenery was lovely with a very bright moon and
I was surprised how much I could see and how calm the horses were in the
dark.  We were climbing steadily all the way and the road surface was
good with watering points at streams all the way, as the crews still
were not with us. At 49 km's  there was a huge hill which the horses
really motored up and on top was a running check point. We presented
immediately with pulses of 48 and spent some time  drinking and eating
with the crews. Of again on our own and now it was getting cold. I
discovered we had left my windcheater back at camp and hubby had to take
off his sweater to give to me- very unselfish crew!!!!. This was a very
eventful leg for me and not much fun. At one stage we were sure we had
taken a wrong turn and I slowed to a walk to get out the map and
flashlight to check our position and how far the vetgate was. Shaliekah
seemed fine with the torch on and I hooked the reins over my arm and
opened up the map. Well, that was it, she bolted off onto the verge and
I was worried about fences as the grass was waist high. I tried to stop
her and turn and the next thing I was in the grass on my back!!. She
took off back to Rex and when I got up I came face-to-face with a
cow!!!!!. We went on none the worse for wear but 2 km further down she
bolted again!! Sue reckons I should enter her for polocrosse as she has
never seen a horse move so fast so quickly!!!. I had not seen anything ,
but apparently there were some very strange shaped horse-eating rock
monsters on the side of the road!!. It took her 5 km's to stop snorting
and dancing and we moved at a very slow hesitant pace for a while. The
first vet gate was at 58 kms and we presented immediately we had
untacked - pulse 48 again. Hold time of  20 minutes and a welcome break.
I was off 2 minutes ahead of Sue and we very hesitantly left the farm
spooking at the lime arrows on the road, while waiting for Sue and Rex
to catch up. The morning mist was settling in and this leg was terribly
cold and damp. I couldn't see much as I wear glasses and the
condensation was making vision decidedly difficult. We walked the horses
a lot as this was a lot of downhill and the going was very stoney with
holes in the road. Sue ended up around Rex's ears when he stumbled, but
luckily he managed to get them both upright without any harm done. The
crews could drive with us here, but met us every 5 km's  and it was
amazing how quickly the horses cottoned onto how bakkies mean food and
water!!. The second vet gate was at 83 km and we were very glad to be
warm and dry for a while, pulses 48 and everything fine. Some welcome
coffee and banana bread from the P and R people and we were off again.
This 3rd leg was the leg we had driven on Friday and we knew this was
going to be difficult. The sun was starting to come up and the view was
stunning- rolling hills covered in the beautiful pink and white cosmos
flowers, interspersed with tawny golden waist high grass. Mist lying in
fat white blankets in the hollows and the sky that soft baby blue colour
you only find in Africa at sun-rise. We had earlier decided to tail and
lead the horses up the worst hills and we toiled up the long ones
stripping sweaters as we went. We both felt the horses were getting
stilted going downhill so we lead downhill too, and when we could got on
and found ourselves on very keen forward going mounts!! The leading was
definitely working. The 3rd vet check was at 108km at the highest point
of the ride and we had a 40 minute hold being spoilt rotten by the
farmer- tea and scones on the best china and watching his horses running
around the fields greeting the new day. Rex and Sue left before us and
Shaliekah left the vet check jumping the ditches and doing a stallion
impersonation!!!  Down, down into the canyons with the rock formations
looking like a giants playground of building blocks, and the rock faces
shining red in the sun. It was now very hot and airless and we  were
starting to feel very footsore from the rocky footing. The horses seemed
fine and still very keen. We met up with a local farmer who followed us
for about 6 kms on horse back. Our horses were not impressed with this
stranger and acted very possessively- Shaliekah lunging at him if he
encroached on Rex , and Rex baring his teeth when he got too close to
Shaliekah. We had done 125 km at this stage and were tired but still
keen. The vet was leapfrogging us and was so supportive - coming back
every 10 km's or so to egg us on - The horses are looking great, you're
doing great. Only 3 kms to vetgate" etc etc. The horses were drinking
and eating voraciously and were still keen and forward going. We came to
a huge clear cool farm dam and walked them knee deep to cool off and
drink. Shaliekah started doing her submarine impression- whole head in
water with only ears showing-so I decided a roll might be imminent and
decided to leave the dam- unfortunately not fast enough!!!!!! The next
minute we were both under the water and I surfaced to find her lying
down kicking and rolling in the water!! We both left the dam wit water
streaming off us!! All I was worried about was my vet card, but it was
till dry and handed over to hubby to look after. The next 5 km's were
absolute agony for me - wet jodhpurs and chaps are not fun!!!!!.
Shaliekah was rejuvenated and pulled like a train to the next check . It
took 5 minutes to get her pulse down from all the cantering!! I spent
some quality time with my boots and socks while I tried to empty six
inched of water out of waterlogged rubber boots and swapped dry socks
with my husband!!! The last leg was the worst - all uphill, bad surface
and extremely hot. We were trotting along feeling very depressed when in
the distance we saw Johanni's bakkie- she had finished and come back to
encourage us on!! The horses saw the bakkie and decided to race it into
the next running check!!!. We heard she had finished third and we vetted
through the running check at 145 km 's with pulses of 40!!!. ONLY 20
km's to go!!!!!! The longest 20 kms in my life as we anticipated
finishing and trotted along the railway line again. The horses could
smell camp and were pulling strongly. Our crews met us for the last time
15 km from home and Shaliekah grabbed one mouthful of grass from the
bakkie and carried on- she wanted to finish and not mess about!!. As we
approached the dreaded ditch we were met by people at the gate cheering
us on!! Shaliekah just cantered straight up to the ditch and jumped it
without a break in stride and we were in the camp and cantering straight
at a sea of people!! Every single person in camp(including all the 50
milers who had long finished) was lined up along the lane and were
clapping and cheering!!. It felt as though we had won the ride!!!. We
untacked and presented immediately with a pulse of 58 and falling ,
trotted out sound and was congratulated by the vet on gut sounds and
condition. WE WERE FINISHED!!!
Shaliekah and I were surrounded by smiling crowds and hugged and kissed
by total strangers and friends. What a great experience , and many many
50 milers there and then vowed to do 100 next year. All we heard was "If
you can ride so long and come in with the horse and rider looking so
good then it's not so difficult and I can also do it!!!" We had spent 17
HOURS out there, but it was worth every single step of the way. We saw
great scenery(going so slow we also saw every single stone and blade of
grass!!), enjoyed great companionship, and finished with two very keen
interested healthy horses. Do it again?? Of course,..... and as soon as
possible!! Do anything different? Make sure I have dry extra clothes
packed, get fitter for running instead of walking, practise reading maps
in the dark on a skittish horse without falling off, get contact lenses
so I can see in the mist , and trust my instincts about my horse - she
is a STAR!!!!. 

Cindy Budler
  Fabrication Division
  South Africa
  Tel: Direct Line :(011) 871-1006
         Cellphone : 082 464 1809	
  Fax:(011) 873-4623
  E-Mail :

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