Check it Out!
Well, he's going to be famous anyway . . . so here's the FAHA 50Story.
<Warning: Long and likely to embarrass several of you!>
My husband, Richard, takes great pride in his anonymity. For a couple of
years now, he's just been that long haired, tie dyed wearing guy on the gray
arabian gelding (and you know how rare *those* are) who Buck Shrader always
calls "Dick" (while I chuckle and snort). When I had my draft cross mare, we
endured (isn't that why they call it "endurance"?) a season or two of gawkers
taking large bets on whether or not she could complete without keeling over.
But since selling her, we could pretty well park anywhere at any ride, and
keep to ourselves. Having two (and now three) socially inept (but securely
tied -- don't flame me) dogs certainly helped.
Now me, on the other hand, I'm a little more difficult to keep quiet. Yep,
it was me that started the thread on "Dogs in Camp" -- entirely without
intent -- all I wanted to know was if we should have our puppy's dewclaws
removed. I was a newby then, and I'm careful now to state my questions
carefully, don my Kevlar suit, pull the pin on my handheld fire extinguisher,
and stand back. And I am proud to say that I never even participated in the
"Guns in Camp" discussion (Steph forbade it). A month or so back I posted
the NH vs. DQ vs. H/J vs. Endurance Addict essay anonymously, and have since
been sent the thing (neatly cut and pasted) from several friends who said
"this sounds like something you could have written!?" "Gee, you think so?"
I've been pretty well shunned by all the members of my dressage club since it
was published in our newsletter, but you endurance folks, you're a resilient
and humor-enriched bunch, you are!
So it only seems fitting that I would do my best to completely humiliate my
husband, Rich, and tell you about our adventure at the FAHA 50 in Ford City,
PA, last weekend.
Angie McGhee, not one to see me get off unscathed, wanted me to point out
that yep, I'm the fool who wrote to you all last week about MY young horse
that jumped off a trail and down a bank a couple of weeks back when he
spooked. And no, contrary to Angie's theories, we do not have one short
rein, nor do we let the boys watch "Man from Snowy River." So hey, I guess
we'll be horse shopping. Anyone have one of those carousel horses that was
removed from an amusement park hanging out in their basement someplace?
Here's the letter Rich wrote to his cousin, the day after:
Well, I had one hell of a weekend!
I had a 50 mile endurance ride on Saturday. We arrived Friday at noon, got
set up and ready for the ride on Saturday. The ride started at 6:00am and
there were 51 riders for the 50 mile ride. It is a shotgun start like the old
hole shot days of motocross. I ended up in the middle of the pack. We had
gone about 5 miles when I started to pass a few other people.
There is a section of the trail about 7 miles out called "the ledges." It is
about 1/2 mile of very narrow trail which runs about 150 feet above a narrow
flood plane. The water is about 75 feet wide and runs for about 3/4 of a mile
off a man made reservoir. Shantih and I were coming up a small steep rise on
the trail when he tripped. He planted his right foot to catch himself and it
was just off the trail. He lost his balance and started to slide down the
hill. I fell off but got my foot caught in the stirrup and I was dragged.
When we hit a tree my foot came out and Shantih started to somersault down
towards the water. At the bottom was a 6 foot drop off and he went into the
water. I stopped just above the drop off to see my horse swimming away. I
yelled to some guy on the trail <thank you #47 whoever you were> and asked
him to go for help then jumped into the water. My horse out swam me so I got
to the opposite shore to find it was layers of bottomless sediment mud. As I
ran down the bank Shantih swam to the bank and tried to get out. He
quickly got stuck in the mud. I got to him and stopped him from struggling.
He tried once more to get out and only got in deeper. Once I settled him down
again, I pulled his tack off and I began to dig out his legs with my hands.
Once that was done I tried to get him up on shore. As he dug into the shore
he only sank in deeper. In a desperate attempt he turned away from the bank
and went back out into the water and swam about 50 feet up stream. Again when
he came on shore he immediately got stuck. At this point I just kept him calm.
The rider got to the next check point and got some help on the way. It took
an hour and 45 minutes for anyone to show up. One guy, Gary Endlich, who
lived near there came down the trail and slid down the bank, swam across the
water and got to me. Patti and some others also came down the trail but had
to go back around and find a way to the other side of the water.
I was about a mile in off the nearest road. After about another 1/2 hour
another guy (Bill McAninch) showed up and the three of us tried to get him
out and failed. Shantih threw his head in the attempt and hit me in the face.
I lost my glasses and got a bloody nose.
We used our hands and a stick to dig out the bank as much as we could and
finally Patti and the other group of people showed up. With 8 of us we put a
halter on him, tied a rope around his girth and ran a third rope across his
back legs under his tail. Shantih was tired but when asked he lunged and we
all pulled and got his front legs up and out. On the second try we got his
back legs out of the water. The next 20 feet of shore was still soft enough
that he sunk up to his belly, with the third try he was on solid ground.
We walked him the mile to the road and loaded him up on a trailer and took
him to the vet at the check point. Yvonne Liddell, the vet, cleaned up a bad
cut on his back leg and wrapped it up. He may have damaged the tendon sheath
which may take some time to heal. Our vet is coming out tomorrow and we may
have to have an ultra sound to see the extent of the damage.
It was over three hours in the mud. I went off the trail at 6:50 in the
morning and got on dry land after 10:00.
I am thinking of taking up needle point!
The people who put on the ride were fantastic. I am going to send thank you
cards. Gary jumped in the water with a pocket watch which did not survive. We
are going to send him a new one. Luckily it was not a family heirloom.
Maybe your hobby is safer? <Rich's cousin is a paraglider.>
Keep in touch I am going to bed, I am exhausted.
Okay, now it's time for the frantic wife's version of events.
Was at the first vet check, shouting orders ("more water") to our friend,
Tim, who had bravely come with us on his maiden pitcrewing voyage. A couple
of our riders (Ann Zedaker -- BC, by the way, go Ann! -- and Sallie Sullivan)
had already come in, so I headed to the in-timer to wait for Rich. Along the
way, I heard rumblings that a rider was 'down.' With complete faith in my
husband, I frantically grabbed the in-timer's arm. "What number is down??!"
"#5 -- isn't that your husband?" "#$@!*&" Run for the Jeep, abandoning my
newby pitcrew, and drive away with the stethoscope (oops!) hanging from the
When I met up at Checkpoint #6 with the Ride Managers, Donna Shrader and
Nancy McAninch, I was distressed (a much too mild word) to find that they
didn't have much information at that point. A radio operator indicated that
a rider came in and reported that a rider was down off the ledges but had
swum to get his horse. Swum? Rich doesn't swim. He didn't think he needed
an ambulance, but the horse was still down there.
From there, Nancy and I headed out with John Gray to the ledges. Thank you,
John, for not commenting on me mumbling in the back of the pickup. (It is an
amazing tribute to the Catholic dogma that I could recall all of the words to
"Hail Mary" while bouncing down a logging load at about 45 mph.)
We woke up Gary and Melissa Endlich, whose farm is nearby. We all headed
down toward the trail that becomes the ledges. We yelled for Rich, and could
hear him, but getting to him was another matter. Three times I attempted to
get to the shore at the bottom of the ledges (mostly crawling), but it was
far too steep. At one point I was about 10 feet from the water, but from
there it was a sheer drop off, and trees and debris made for a rough landing
into the water. Rich (God bless him) forbade me from coming over, although
somehow Gary (who is pretty MacGyver-like, we hear) made it to the other
bank. When I finally got a view of Rich and Shantih, it wasn't pretty. Head
to toe mud, and Shantih was stuck, half on his side, in the mud on the bank.
John and Nancy told me to come with them and that we'd get to the other side
to help them. We met up with one of the radio guys, Trooper, and his son,
who had completed a little mini endurance-run getting to our location. More
praying, more radioing, and Nancy reached her husband Bill, told him not to
go to sleep (he'd just completed his midnight work shift) and to get some
Somehow, after what seemed an eternity (but just a little longer to Rich, I'm
sure), we found an old fishermen's trail that we hoped would take us to the
opposite bank, where we could help Shantih out of the mud. Like the stoic
wife I am, I sucked back tears and kept my hysterical thoughts about
Shantih's circulation and the extent of his injuries to myself. As John
pointed out, our best luck was that Shantih wasn't panicking, and was resting
calmly in the mud, awaiting help. I bragged to the entire group that indeed,
this was an incredibly sensible horse, always willing to wait for human
intervention when he got himself in a pickle. Sensible horse? Okay, maybe
we'd have to re-evaluate that one, based on the fact that he did indeed fall
down the ledges.
Ropes in hand, calling back to Donna Shrader (trail guru) on the radio, we
trailblazed to Rich and Shantih's location, where Bill and Gary were busy
positioning Shantih for an easy exit. Shantih was shaking, but otherwise
calm and not struggling. Everyone grabbed a section of rope -- Melissa,
Nancy and me on the girth rope, John at Shantih's head, Rich and Gary pushing
from behind. Three long, painful struggles (with rests in between) and he
was out. He rested when we asked him to rest, he battled his way out when we
asked him to. Quite a horse.
It was a long walk back up to the road and the trailer. Rich refused to let
anyone else lead his horse. Within five minutes, the shaking had stopped and
Shantih was grabbing grass (he's always "tanking up", not knowing what
adventure we have planned for him next). Bill refused to give up the saddle,
carrying it up that mile long hill to the trailer. It was a joyous but
wearily triumphant group who was met by a tearful Donna Shrader at the top of
Shantih willingly (almost) climbed aboard Bill Gray's trailer for the ride
back to the vet check. It was obvious that stepping up was painful.
When Yvette Liddell saw the horse emerge from the trailer, her first response
was "Oh no, I like that horse!" (I was just pleased that she didn't mutter,
"Oh no, that SOB!") She had several questions about how he was positioned,
and for how long, and how he fell. Searching for cuts wasn't easy with the
mud coating Shantih from muzzle to tail, but he had several scratches and
scrapes and one deep and "nasty" laceration on the outside of his right hind,
below the hock. It was nearly impossible to clean, but Yvonne and her tech
(whose name fails me at the moment) did so, applied a compression wrap, gave
Shantih some Banamine IV, provided us with a week's worth of sulfa drugs, and
provided us with strict instructions re: his care for the next day or so.
Our friends, Randi Jackson (who pulled her horse, Spuds, at the first vet
check due to a laceration) and Tim (now all-pro pitcrew member via baptism
by fire) ran around getting us beet pulp and drinks, and ice, and retrieving
the Jeep from where I'd parked it at Checkpoint #6.
After all the hoopla, I took a good look at my husband. His glasses were
gone, he had mud on his lips, in his ears, a bloody nose, his tied-dyed shirt
was muddied to the point of being drab, and frankly, he didn't smell too
damned good either. But he sure looked good to me. His worst complaint
after the slip, tumble, roll, swim? Poison ivy, all over one arm. I told
him that he really needs to pay more attention to what he touches in the
We were astounded by the kindness shown to us by everyone at the ride. Rich
became an instant celebrity, and we've decided to rename Shantih "Cliff."
Buck Shrader announced to Rich (aka "Dick") upon his return that he'd won the
award for "Most Graceful Dismount."
A sincerely heartfelt thank you to everyone!
As I type this, Cliff is out in the pasture, where we find he is less
destructive than cooped in his stall. The cut is healing nicely, and managed
to miss any vital leg parts, like tendon sheaths, etc. He's actually sound.
The little #*@& needs to get back to work soon, as he becomes an absolutely
crabby clown when he is disabled.
As I type this, Rich is in his truck somewhere, probably scratching that
poison ivy, praying that I didn't tell you all just how brown his underwear
was when I threw it in the washer. From the mud, you sickos, from the mud!
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Check it Out!
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