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Horse comparison story (Part 1)

Judy Long for Nick Warhol
Nick finished this a couple of weeks ago and sent it
to our local "endurowest" group.  I'm posting it here
for him (and because I love to read about my own horse ;-)

Castle Rock 50 and Endurance Horse Comparison  May 15, 1999

The 25th, or 29th, or 33rd (or something like that) running of the Castle
Rock 50 took place on May 15th in Davenport, deep in the heart of the Santa
Cruz area coastal mountains.  This ride story will have a different twist
this time since I completed the ride on my wife Judy's wonder Appy,
Warpaint.  That's right, I rode Nachi Sunshine in a 50 mile ride.  Was I
nuts?  Was I coerced?  Was I suicidal?  Nope, I was smart.  For years I've
seen Judy fight that spotted-butt beast with all her might early in a ride,
only to be in love with him at the end.  Since Shatta is down with a
suspensory injury for the rest of the year, Judy took pity on me and let me
compete on the War Pony.  This story is a comparison between two incredible
endurance horses- my Arabian gelding Shatta and this nutty Appaloosa.  They
are as different as night and day, yet both perform superbly in endurance

Oh, okay.  For those who want a real ride story, here goes:  The ride this
year was about perfect- sunshine, cool weather, not too crowded, fantastic
trail conditions,  superbly marked trail, and best of all the strange
mileage problem on the second loop of two years ago was fixed.  I finished
the thing on Shatta two years ago and complained about the mileage problem,
but true to her word Barbara McCrary has fixed this ride.  I rode this year
with my riding buddy Sally Abe and Ahkiba, and Kathy Webster on Fire Aalarm.
We all finished in great shape about 30th or so.  It was one of the nicest
rides I've done in a long time.  There were some P&R issues to work out, but
other than that it was splendid.

Okay, now for the good stuff.  Why are these two horses so different?  We'll
start at the beginning.  Both horses trailer very well, with the nod
definitely going to Warpaint.  If this horse is not the best trailering
horse on the planet he's a close second.  It took me a year to get Shatta
comfortable with the trailer, but he loads and unloads perfectly now and has
for a couple of years.  WP eats much better in the trailer, as he does
everywhere else as well.   Both horses camp just fine, with the nod again
going to Warpaint, since he does not care if another horse is taken away.
Shatta can go nuts if he gets separated from his buddy.

The morning of the race- Shatta gets the points here.  He is so relaxed it's
as if he's standing in his barn.  He just stands there as you tack him up,
looking around as if he were catching some rays.  Warpaint does not
understand the term "before the race."   For him the race starts the second
the first horse is moving in the dark.  He gets his race face on early and
is very excited and energized from first light.  Perhaps he's just doing
"self conditioning" by pacing back and forth as you try and put the saddle
on.  Electrolytes are Warpaint's cup of tea. He just opens his mouth.  It
took a LONG time before I could get Shatta to drop his head and quit backing
up a hundred feet to get away from that dreaded syringe.  One time Judith
Ogus watched me spend my entire 15 minute hold at a local ride getting
Shatta to take the salts, which he finally did.  "Patience is a virtue," she
told me. "Good job."

On the way to the start-  Shatta wins this one hands down.  Once I'm up on
his back he just walks along in camp, looking around, just sort of taking it
all in, no problem, no rush.  I can trot a bit to warm him up, or lead him,
or stand still, or just walk through a crowd of spinning, excited, hyper,
prancing or jigging horses.  Warpaint is one (or all) of those.  Like I
said, Warpaint thinks the ride is underway at this point.  He's like riding
a hot racehorse on the way to that gate- sideways, hopping, not the
slightest hint of walk or calm.  He's chewing on the bit, dancing, wishing
he were going flat out already. Lucky for me he does not buck or rear, he
just wants to go forward in a hurry.  I tried to walk through camp to warm
him up: not a chance.  People looked at me and wondered if I was looking for
Churchill Downs.  MaryBen asked if I was having fun yet.  Nope, not yet.
He's also really smart- the closer I got to the actual physical starting
line, the more excited he gets.  Maybe I should just take off towards the
finish and do the ride backwards?  It's still 50 miles.

Ah yes, the start.  On Shatta I walk if I want, trot slow, medium or fast,
beginning of the pack, middle, or the end.  Whatever I want he does.  Sure,
he's telling me he'd like to go faster, but I just tell him what I want and
he listens.  Never, ever, a buck or any kind of protest.  I don't even have
to haul back on his mouth.  The neat thing is that if I let him go, he'll
take of as fast and as controllable as anything.  If there is one thing I
really love about Shatta it's his disposition and how he behaves.  It seems
odd that a horse this strong, powerful, and willing to go has such a neat
temperament.  The start on Warpaint is the low point of the ride.  Man, he's
a pain in the butt.  He just wants to be first, no matter where he is.  Some
horses pass another and immediately slow down.  Not WP- he figures now that
he's in front of that one he should leave it in the dust.  It's canter city,
no matter what the pace, even at 3 miles an hour.  You can try and fight it
but it won't do you much good.  Judy still tries to fight him sometimes; I
realized right away I would just control his speed as best I could.  It
turned out to be easier than I thought since I was concentrating on
maintaining the speed I wanted and letting him do the gait he wanted.  It's
a lot of work to keep him in check at the beginning, especially around other
horses.  Much to my surprise he calmed way down after only a few miles.
Calmed is a relative term, but he was trotting and cantering at the speed I
wanted rather than the runaway stuff he's pulled in the past.  Shatta wins
this category hands down.

To be continued...

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