Check it Out!
O.K. for those of you with lame horses or bad wisdom teeth I'll tell my
story the LONG way for your amusement.
Went to the Dawson Forest G.E.R.A. Classic this weekend and here it is.
Turn back to late May. The horse (Kaboot) is doing really well finished
5th at Liberty 50 in 4:19 ...then 2 days later my knee went out for good.
Drs. diagnose totally destroyed meniscus trapped in joint (a week later
when I finally went to the Dr.) and perform surgery. All was looking
well, rode within a week. Wasn't worried. Then about 3 weeks ago funny
things started happening. As I would slow the horse to stop I'd have
REALLY sharp pain. After 15 miles it got bad and I couldn't trot
downhill. I was really concerned that I might not be able to ride 50
So, rather than have any goal like "top 5" I was praying "Please God let
me be able to do 50's!" I had planned my busiest Fall ever and suddenly
didn't even dare mail in a pre-entry until after this ride.
Also, I now have my first "permanent" full-time job in about 17 years.
I'm teaching High School Art and couldn't take Friday off since school
just started, so I had to drive my truck in and park next to all the
Lexus and Cadillacs (yes those ARE what teachers drive) with a truck
rounded over with hay, muck buckets of water in garbage bags, manure
fork...you get the picture. The kids are like, "Dude Mrs. McGhee, what's
all that stuff?"
My niece Ashley was going to do her first 25 at this ride and was
practically beside herself. After being all hyped to go to Summer Breeze
and having to cancel, she didn't believe we were going until we were on
the road. She assured me my brother and his wife were coming to watch
and I tried to prepare her for their indifference. These are people who
have tennis shoes that are 5 years old and not dirty yet. When she was
little he made her sit on a towel in their car after she rode a horse
WITH a saddle!
Ride morning we were supposed to start at 6:30 AM. I'd gotten there late
and I think was the last one in camp to go to bed. Yes, that was me
shining a lantern in everyone's face setting up my vet check at midnight.
Saturday morning I was also the first in camp to get up. My neighbors
REALLY hate me.
Somebody commented after Longstreet's Charge about how thorough my wakeup
call was, but whoever did this one put me to shame. I think they drove
between every rig there and never took their hand off the horn. If there
had been any green horses when they came by my truck doing 20 miles and
hour bouncing thru the holes and laying on the horn in the pitch dark,
we'd have had a heck of a stampede. I vote we let that person mark the
trail next year. They obviously take jobs seriously.
I put on my knee brace, tried to guess whether to go short or long on the
stirrups and headed out...after a "loader dose" of Ibuprofen (I'm
It appeared it would be too dark to start on time. Everyone was just
leading their horses because it was so dark, but they said were starting
anyway so we (all 34 of us) set out at a walk behind the "controlled
starter" who was to lead us past the bad washouts at the beginning of the
trail. Kaboot was in a hurry and worked his way up to the front behind
Nikki Young who pretty much always goes for the win. Lynda Corry has
been begging me for 2 years to take off with the leaders and see if
Kaboot can "go with them" and I was seriously considering it. We were
doing really good at the walk. :-)
Then Suzanne (the starter) suddenly pulled over and yelled "GO!" Instant
STAMPEDE! This was Kaboot's first race with the English hackamore and he
stuck his nose out in the "brace against the snaffle and bolt" position
and was shocked to hit the hackamore. Change of plan...shake head
violently from right to left, bounce in front, buck in frustration....I
decided I'd much rather live than go with the front runners and wheeled
out of line to pick a sane rider to fall in behind. Joe Schoech was the
lucky guy and I tucked in behind him. Good choice.
Had a great first loop. The trail in general winds around thru woods
keeping us mostly in the shade. There are 2 places to cross the river
which we crossed a total of 8 times during the ride. The first was to
the top of his legs, and the 2nd was 1/2 way up my half chaps when
mounted. The rocks really didn't seem bad, but then people kept saying
"YOU put on Longstreet's Charge...now THAT'S rocky" so I guess I'm hard
to impress. There was a great stretch of trail along the river that was
as tight as can be and just zigged and zagged constantly. We had to ride
that stretch on every loop and though the first time we almost hit a few
trees where you had to make a decision which side to go round...by the
2nd time Kaboot was FLYING thru. It's so fun to ride a little horse on a
trail like that and hear the sound effects from the people on the big
horses behind you....OUCH!!! *#@^, STUPID !#@%$# >g<
Joe and I rode really relaxed and I had time to tell him many Danny
Herlong stories. He later claimed that my plan had been to make his side
hurt so bad he couldn't ride well. We didn't see many other people,
nobody was passing anybody, Joe was getting off and leading up some big
rocky hills in preparation for the ride & tie at BSF, and we all assured
him he wasn't holding us up a bit. No pressure to go fast whatsoever.
Lawton Johnston was with us. He's got an incredible new mare he's riding
(new to me). She's 1/2 Standardbred and by his stallion. He raised her
from a retired Standardbred mare a man begged him to take for free.
She's 8 and looks ready to take on the world.
My nearest camping neighbor (whose tent was flooded with my lantern light
1/2 the night) offered to help me crew. She was leading Kaboot towards
the vet check as I sponged when suddenly he stopped to shake. Kaboot has
an incredibly long forelock and even though it was braided and bound up
he finished the shake with his characteristic, flip up the nose to throw
the hair out of the eyes move. The neighbor had wound the lead rope
fairly tight around her hand and had her back to him when he stopped. It
happened so fast, he stopped, shook and flipped back his hair in one
movement and it lifted her completely off the ground and yanked her back
towards him where she hit the ground on her back on the road like a ton
of bricks. I felt terrible. It obviously hurt and she had landed right
on her hip. >shudder<
Went thru the vet check with no problem and Kaboot went right for the
neighbor's food. Good sign. Fortunately neighbor was there so I was
able to make a deal that "What's mine is yours if what's yours is mine"
and we agreed. My very clean brother and his wife showed up. Looked
rather out of place. Several people commented, "ya'll sure are CLEAN!"
She asked Ashley, "do we look out of place? >g<"
Headed out for loop 2. Met Ashley coming in from her first loop. Her
eyes were like saucers. I knew Ben was fast and she might have a little
surprise coming. >g< She showed me the inside of her thigh. Seems
right before the start she'd tried to pull up her tights and her hand had
gone thru...torn from crotch to knee. Fun...but good ol' "Aunt Angela
the paranoid" had spares. She was doing a good job and had all in
control, but tired arms and shoulders.
2nd loop, I was still just babying my knee and wondering what would
happen around the 20 mile mark. So far so good. Rode with a good group,
Sarah Engsburg, Lawton Johnston, Joe Schoech, and Patsy Gowen. Patsy was
going for Thundarr's 2,000 mile and was excited about that. Once more we
made good time, but didn't do anything slightly crazy. Just nice pacing.
Came in at the 1/2 way mark and more of same, just going for another
completion...then as I left somebody mentioned I was 11th (O.K...O.K... I
asked) Hmm, might as well try for top 10 right? It was starting to warm
up. Met Joe Schoech just outside camp and he'd slowed down so we trotted
on. Hee hee, top 10...then topped the hill and saw 3 riders
ahead...50's! Caught up with them and oh boy here we go...."ZOOM!" all
heck broke loose, they took off and Kaboot had radar lock on them. Sort
of like popping the whip and I was on the end. We were going way too
fast for my taste (wouldn't have felt so fast if I'd had control) when we
came to the creek and met another 50. Of course by now I'm counting
heads pretty good. They eased upstream to drink and since Kaboot drank
immediately I just tip toed on out the other side and hit the zig zag
trail....VIVA LA LITTLE HORSE WHEEEEEEEE!!!!
You have to realize that there's been very few times in my life I've
attempted to make a move on somebody, but I suppose this was one. Those
horses had done the first 1/2 of the race fast and seemed to be slowing a
little. I'd done it slow and seemed to be getting faster so I figured,
"out of sight out of mind" right? Unfortunately I came up on a turn
marker that confused me and stopped to contemplate its significance and
they caught me. :-( foiled again. >g<
We all rode together for quite awhile. The lead changed some, but Kaboot
was enjoying leading so I'd lead until we got to a hill and then when I
slowed to walk it I'd get passed. We were clipping right along, but it
was still fairly sane. Then I caught sight of riders ahead. There were
3. I rode up behind them and yelled at Cleon Akins (in the lead) "Hey
Cleon, pretend you're happy to see me!" He looked back and waved and
kept walking up the hill. I said, "So, is Nikki up in 1st all by
herself?" and they answered "Nikki pulled". I was shocked, "Then who's
in the lead?" Answer, "Cleon!" Oh my gosh....17 miles to go and we had
about 1st thru 8th place in one group. I felt like Kaboot was pretty
fresh since he was in "catch and pass mode" but still...
Megan from Florida...originally from Zimbabwe (last name Davis maybe?)
took the lead and talk about party time. We took off like the roller
coaster at the 6 Flags. All heck broke loose and there wasn't much I
could do about it. Talked to Bud (was it Benson?) later and he felt the
same way...all I can say is we went WAY too fast and this was the race.
We came out on about a 2 mile stretch of HARD packed (like concrete) dirt
road that hasn't had significant rain in 6 weeks and was covered with
just a scattering of fist size gravel...I would have walked every step of
it in a training ride and we were RUNNING. It was the thing nightmares
are made of. This is when I was fighting Kaboot, but all that meant was
I took away his ability to choose where to put his feet. I know, some
people say I should learn to control him with a shoestring, but if he was
always in control we'd never top 10...I just don't have the nerve he's
got. This is when I looked over and Bud's horse was still trotting, so I
said, "it must be O.K....even if it is 20mph" >g< Funny thing, they were
all professionals. We ran away for 1/2 the road, stopped at a water tank
and everybody took a good drink and waited for everyone to have a chance,
then we ran away the last 1/2.
When we hit the vet check I yelled at my brother and his wife, EVERYBODY
GET A SPONGE AND GET WATER ON THIS HORSE!!!!! Roger Rittenhouse joined
in and the water was flying. The sister in law was actually hand feeding
beet pulp. She's never looked so lovely to me. Kaboot was unconcerned
and busy eating the neighbor's alfalfa. Though I wanted out of this race
for sure, I still thought I wanted to beat everybody thru the vet check
just for the sake of excitement. It seemed like a long time...I got to
the P&R area and only Cleon had been thru. We were 2 minutes back and in
2nd place. The next rider was 2 minutes behind me and Megan was 6 I
believe. I talked to Dr. Marcellas about what I should do. Kaboot
looked great, but I wanted no part of the kind of racing we'd just done.
I wondered if I should go for BC...but heck, there were 3 heavyweights
running top 10!
I was thrilled it was Cleon ahead of me. Kaboot & CJ pace very well
together and I like to ride with Cleon. I caught him pretty quickly and
said, "hey Cleon lets team up and get out of here!" We headed out
together and the horses were very willing. We rode the whole loop very
sanely. I think everybody had been scared by what they'd done the third
loop. Bud said he'd stayed in camp extra just to make sure he didn't get
involved in it again.
Cleon was worried that CJ wasn't drinking. Kaboot was having a good day
and actually grabbing grass as he climbed hills and drinking at every
opportunity. Cleon was funny. He was far more interested in my sponging
prowess than in who might catch us. He kept saying "Are you SURE you
don't have elastic in that string?" >g< I think I had more people
complement my sponging at this ride than I ever have. The sponging video
tape and "signed regulation sponges" are in the works...
Cleon's horse CJ is at least part Morgan, maybe 100%. He's a tall,
really nice leggy horse and I didn't want to try to race him in. Cleon
kept worrying about him not drinking and he'd let him drop back and then
catch me again. We never discussed the finish, just my sponge. Finally,
about a mile out he dropped back and I wasn't there when he came back
up...just thought I'd mosey on along a little faster >g< I don't trust
him THAT much.
Kaboot knew where he was and cantered the last mile or so with his ears
up. There was a big crowd at the finish line and my brother was there
with the camera. For once Kaboot didn't act silly and cantered right up
to the crowd.
Danny Herlong was at the finish line and I yelled, "Do you take checks?"
and he screamed "HELL YES!" People may have wondered what we were
talking about. I let them know at the awards.
Kaboot looked good in the BC judging. I thought we might have a chance
if the Heavyweights horses wouldn't look too darned good. They didn't
have room for them to do circles, so after the regular exam they had us
trot them on pavement. I didn't notice until later the vet had put
"grade 1 LF on concrete" on my card. SHRIEK! Kaboot ALWAYS trots
clip-CLOP, clip-CLOP he just comes down heavier on the right. Maybe he
shouldn't, but it's ALWAYS there. He was perfectly even as far as his
head I'm sure, just the sound. He got a 9.5 on "Quality of movement" and
a 7.5 on soundness. Oh well. It might have bothered me if Bud's horse
hadn't looked so great, but he deserved BC so no big deal. That horse
put in a great performance.
Now, at the ride meeting I told the following story.
In 1994 I competed a new horse and got pulled in 5 out of 6 rides...(he
was off in the one he finished). When I decided to sell him and had
someone on the way to look at him, he galloped down the hill and fell and
shattered his rear splint bone. I had to sell my backup horse to pay for
his surgery, and he needed 4 months before he'd be ready to sell.
The phone rang. It was Danny Herlong in his STRONG South Carolina
accent. He said "Hey, you sell horses sometimes don't you? I've got a 4
year old gray Arab I need to get out of my field" I said, "Danny, I sell
kid horses sometimes, but not green horses" He said, "No, this ain't no
kid horse". "Well," I said, "I actually need a horse right now, but I'm
broke". He jumped right on that. He said, "Here, you just take this
horse and ride him and if you want him you can pay for him whenever you
get the money, if you don't you can just send him back". I said, "I'm
not about to break a horse for you. If I like him I'll buy him and if I
don't I'll sell him for a profit and pay you". He like that O.K. Then
we had to talk cash. We argued price for a long time and my top dollar
was $100 less than his lowest dollar. He GUARANTEED this horse would win
a race some day so we finally agreed that I got him at my price, but if
he ever won a race I owed him another $100. It was an interesting deal.
I wrote out a contract which Danny saved and said he's going to publish
if he can find it. He didn't have a coggins, but gave me one to another
gray Arab to get him home with and said if he came up positive to shoot
him and I didn't have to pay him.
Soooo this win cost me $100 and Danny Herlong accepts checks. When Danny
stood up to accept my check he announced, "I will NEVER use that vet
again, she PROMISED me that horse would never stay sound." >G<
By the way, Ashley was 17th out of 59 starters on the 25 and said it was
over TOO SOON. She's going to do 50 at BSF.
So, IS THAT LONG ENOUGH? :-)
P.S. The fact that I "won" seemed to be a bigger deal to others than to
me. I now KNOW that I believe to finish is to win. Before the ride I
heard somebody say, "My goal for the day is...." I thought, "My goal for
the day is for my knee to not give out", which it didn't. Patsy's goal
was to get 2000 miles, I'd say there were lots of people who met their
goal which was winning. I was more thrilled to be passing people the
last half of the ride than I was to win. I've always wanted to do that
and it's finally happening. I like high vet scores and passing people at
the end. I don't know about this up front stuff.
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