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Liberty Run with the kid: Part DONE

As I find myself wandering around the campgrounds running into a few folks 
I've met from ridecamp or at the last Georgia ride I went to, I'm still 
amazed at how many riders have entered here at Liberty.  I watch the vets 
working and notice one of them doing two riders at once.  He checks one horse 
and simultaneously he has another horse and rider trot out for the CRI check. 
 There are three vets here and they are able to keep the line from getting 
super long like it was the day of the pre-ride vet-in.  As the day progresses 
I notice a lot of pulls.  The completion percentage rate will not be very 
high here today.  This surprises me because the ride has few hills and the 
weather seems cool (course I'm a Floridian so anything below 90 is cool to 
me) .

I'm convinced that if I hang out here at the vet area, eventually Val will 
show up.  Course I'm also waiting for my daughter, Sandy and her gang.  I 
look at my watch and notice it's been an hour already since the start of the 
25.  I migrate over to an area where I know I'll see the riders come in right 
out of the woods at the end of the trail.  

And guess who I see first???  No, it's not Jennifer.  Kay comes in with this 
young looking teenage male.  They are definitely first and second.  I wave to 
her and say, "You go girl," and she waves back to me throwing in a lovely 
Southern smile.  I tell her she's in first, she smiles again and says, "I 
know."  A couple other 25 milers come in then I see Bernie and another gal 
he's riding with.  This is fast for Bernie and I'm jealous cause at my last 
ride I beat him, but still didn't place but 23rd or so.  Damn, I want to be 
out there.

And right behind Bernie is my Jen.  She comes in with a whole gang of kids, 
Sandy, and other women riding with all the juniors.  I start scrambling, 
sponging all the horses, pointing out a hose and using it to cool the horses 
down.  They all want to get in line for the vet check, so we parade over to 
the vet area together.  I count 8 or 9 horses and riders and realize I can't 
help them all.  I start with Rebel, then help with Sandy's horse and also 
help Samantha, Sandy's daughter, with her Tennessee Walker.

Jen and Sandy's horse do great at the vet check.  But with the Tennessee 
Walker, the vet insists he's lame.  Now, it's just a question whether he lets 
the horse continue or not.  I start getting frustrated a bit cause I know the 
horse is trotting out the way he always does and, in my silly opinion, 
there's not a thing wrong with him.  I realize my anti-authority position 
will not get me anywhere here and motion to Sandy to come over and speak with 
the vet about her daughter's Walker.  

Now I didn't mention this earlier (don't know why) but Sandy is a very 
attractive blonde.  Throw in that Southern charm of hers and a guy like me 
(are there any?) would do anything for her.  The male vet, however, does not 
respond to her in this manner.  He marks the horse down as grade 2 lameness 
and leaves it up to Sandy if the horse continues or not.  Well, she says the 
horse will continue and she and Samantha and Jen leave the area to go feed 
the horses.  I tell them I'll join them all later, I'm going to help out with 
the other riders in their group.

Whew, after trotting out about 6 horses I'm seriously considering giving up 
those cigarettes, even if I only smoke a few a day.  Of course, I'll never 
give up the beer, but man am I out of shape.  All the horses passed, but one 
of the teenage girls isn't feeling well.  She threw up, while standing in 
line (really bad form I thought) so we had her lie down and she might not be 
fit to continue.  I'm sure it's nerves, too much acid in the stomach.  I 
remember the feeling and wish I had it today.  You get it while riding in 

The hold time is 40 minutes for us.  This actually gives the riders enough 
time to continue sponging and feeding the horses.  Rebel's eating and he's 
actually drinking a lot of water.  This is a constant problem with him out on 
the trail during his training, but the horse is into this ride, just like his 
rider is.  Jen's full of excitement and tells me everything.  As I'm talking 
to her, people are going by and asking her if this is her Dad?  When this 
first happened, I figured they wanted to meet the famous author of "Rookie 
Horse, Rookie Rider."  Haha.  No such luck.  The first lady said to me, "You 
are soooo lucky to be her Dad.  She's a great rider; she and her horse were 
passing everyone."

After the 4th rider told me how lucky I was to be related to Jenny Lee, I 
looked at her and just imagined what she's like out there on the trail, this 
tiny body on top of a good looking Arab passing everyone in front of her.  
When I rode his silly butt the horse wouldn't pass anyone.  I got behind a 
lady who just wanted to walk, and it took us almost 6 hours to do a 25 (of 
course we did get lost).  And when Jen and I ride together, Rebel won't pass 
me and Dance Line for nothing.  It must be me then, cause out here with 
Jennifer, he's a completely different horse.  I'm wondering how he'd be if 
Dance and I were riding with him today.

Well, it's time to go, everyone saddles up and I watch all head out on their 
second and final loop.  When I see them the next time their ride will be 
over.  As I'm walking back towards my campsite I see Bernie walking down the 
road leading his Tennessee Walker.  Since I realize Bernie should have left a 
while ago I jog up to him to see what's wrong.  "I got pulled," he says, 
"failed the CRI.  My fault, pushed him too hard, just wanted to see what he 
could do."  Wow, this ride must be more difficult than I thought, or it's so 
flat that people go all out not realizing they need to pull back some (yea, 
Howard, like you're not guilty).

Bernie's depressed (I know the feeling), so I leave him be and wander to 
another area in camp.  I spot Cindy, a renowned 100 miler, and her horse just 
got pulled.  Lameness, she tells me, and she's not happy about it.  Now this 
horse is so exceptional he keeps up with Val and her gang.  Has that "look" 
to him that you know a 50 mile run would only be a warm up.  Cindy got pulled 
after her first loop, which totally blows me away.  

Then I meet Roxanne, another hundred miler, and her horse got pulled.  
Lameness she informs me.  Now Rox is kinda like me, you don't want to impose 
your authority on her unless you want some feedback.  She tells me that the 
vet told her, "Lameness, grade one."  So, Rox starts a "discussion" and by 
the time she's through speaking her mind it's "lameness, grade 3, you're out 
of here."  Wow!  The awards banquet should be lively tonite.

I wander back to my site, and watch my "lame" horse trotting, prancing, doing 
the two step inside his portable corral, and realize he's already probably 
done 25 miles or so, just cause he's so upset about Rebel being gone.  As I 
watch him, the Woody Allen in me starts pondering the possibility that all 
these "pulls" are either a method used to thin out the herd cause there might 
be too many riders here, or the vets are making our sport so difficult to 
complete that maybe some of the fun is taken out of the ride today.  Hey, 
this is just me thinking, and I have a lot of weird ideas going thru this pea 
brain of mine.  Then I ask the question, "How many of these vets actually 
ride endurance, and know what that part of our sport is like?"  I wonder this 
cause I keep hearing the same thing at the vet checks.  "You need to take it 
easy.  Slow down."  Do they have a clue as to what goes on out there on the 

OK, I know they're there for the good of the sport and without them we'd have 
some terrible things happening to horses by those riders who would rather win 
at all costs, including the cost of the horse.  It's just that I'm seeing an 
unusually high number of pulls here today, and some of the horses pulled are 
in fantastic shape.  I wonder if Val's horse got pulled?

I see Kay and her horse come in.  Randy's all excited, he hugs his wife as 
she gets down from her horse and they both start jumping around like a couple 
of kids.  I wander over there and realize what they're so dang happy about.  
Kay has just come in first place for the 25 mile and they're getting the 
horse ready for the final vet check.  Wow, this is the same horse who got 
pulled for an irregular heartbeat at the last ride where I first met Kay and 
Randy.  I help them sponge off the horse and clean him up and off they go, 
not wanting to waste any time.

I'm actually considering going to the tent and taking a fifteen minute nap, 
when I see Jen and Rebel come in.  She's riding behind another rider named 
Barbara, a friend of Sandy's and one of the "gang."  I look at my watch and 
can't believe how fast Jen got back, even thought it was just a ten mile 
loop.  Then I do the math and realize Jen has just beaten my best total ride 
time for a 25 mile run.  And this on a silly Arab who will not pass another 
horse when I ride him.  Barbara tells me that Sandy didn't want to go that 
fast, but Rebel did, so she took Jen with her.  Jen looks down at me and 
says, "Dad, can we do the 50 today?  I don't want to stop."  Man, what have I 
started here?

We go through the pulse check, Rebel is down already.  I'm just amazed cause 
I know Dance would have taken ten or fifteen minutes at least.  We get in a 
short line and I realize Jen has won the juniors for the 25 here.  Her first 
run.  And next time she wants to do a 50, something I've been avoiding for 
almost a year.  A vet calls, "Next," and up we go.  He checks out the horse, 
gives a lot of A's and a few B's.  I don't say a word, I swear I'm going to 
gag myself in the future.  He tells me to trot out the horse (something I'm 
getting better at doing with all the practice I've gotten here) and away we 
go.  We get back to the vet and he informs me the horse is lame.  Here we go 

I need to learn how to trot out the horse while I run backwards so I can see 
what's going on here.  Jennifer starts to cry, thinking she's hurt Rebel by 
riding too fast.  My face starts glowing crimson red and I'm imagining myself 
being the first rider to get arrested for assaulting a vet at one of these 
events.  Then the vet says to my sobbing daughter, "It's a grade one, you get 
the completion."  He gives us back the card and we're done.  I calm Jennifer 
down, tell her nothing is wrong with her horse, she did great, and some 
adults have problems wording their opinions to children.

We are standing around the Vet check area, letting Rebel eat his hay and 
drink water, when I see Sandy and her daughter come in.  I go over to help 
them vet in their horses for completion.  As we stand in line Sandy and I 
discuss what to do with Samantha's horse, the Tennessee Walker.  Sam has 
trouble with the trot out so I volunteer to do it for her.  But I ask Sandy 
to hang around for the discussion that we feel is sure to follow.  
Sam's excited cause she thinks she's the second Junior to complete, right 
behind Jennifer.  We get the same vet that saw Rebel just a moment ago.  He 
does his thing with the Walker and then tells me to trot the horse out.  Away 
we go, and I know this guy is moving like he always does.  We get back to the 
vet and he says, "lame, grade three.  I'm sorry little girl, I can't give you 
a completion."  Then he looks at me and informs me it's much worse than 
Rebel's was.  

I start the vet-crew member discussion stating that the "Tennessee Walker's" 
movement (like I'm an expert) is an unusual one and gives an appearance of a 
lame horse, sometimes, when the horse really isn't lame, and then realize I'm 
getting nowhere fast with this guy.  I motion over to Sandy and the 
discussion continues.  I am overwhelmed that this Vet cannot give Sam a 
completion; she's not taking the horse out any more.  He's done riding for 
the day and it means more to this girl than anything.  And, of course, now 
she's crying.  We leave the area to no avail.  The Vet won't change his 
decision; he'd make a great baseball umpire.  

I go over to Sandy's trailer still leading the Walker.  Samantha is extremely 
upset.  Her Mom tries to console her, but the "right thing to say" just isn't 
there.  I try and help, but only make matters worse by badmouthing the Vet 
and using language that I probably shouldn't in front of a girl so young.  I 
say good-bye and thank Sandy again for sponsoring Jennifer for me.  
Samantha's still crying as I leave.

What has happened here today?  Is it just me?  Does the guy have any kids?  I 
mean I'm talking about a 25 mile limited distance completion for a ten year 
old girl.  Her horse is done anyhow, not going out on the trail 
again........I just don't get it.

Jen and I take Rebel back to our campsite.  We brush him, scrape off the 
water, sponge again, scrape again, then put him back in the corral with Dance 
Line.  Dance is so happy to see him; it's almost a long lost reunion kind of 
thing, you'd think Rebel had been away for years the way Dance was acting.  
Jen's still excited, I tell her that she won the junior competition and they 
might give her something really cool at the awards banquet.  She asks me if 
she can go over and keep Samantha company and I agree, but ask her not to be 
so cheerful in front of Sam, cause Sam's unhappy about not getting a 
completion.  She seems to understand and off she goes.

After a beer, I go over to the Vet area (the most exciting place in town 
today) hoping to spot Valerie.  Of course someone tells me "you just missed 
her," so I just watch the Vets working.  Alongside the vet area is a place 
where this famous farrier is doing his thing.  I say famous, cause he does 
"Val's horses" and few other big name riders here.  I won't tell you what he 
charges but I know I can't afford him.  He was the official farrier for the 
East Coast region at the Pan Am games and is a friend of Bernies.

Anyway, unknown to me, he also does Sandy's horses.  As I'm standing there 
along comes Samantha with her Walker.  She goes up to the farrier and yells 
out, "Jay, can you watch my horse trot out and tell me if he's lame?"  She 
yells this so loudly all eyes are upon her, including one or two of the vets, 
who happen to not be very busy at the moment.  Jay would later tell Bernie 
that when this girl did this, with her hands on her hips, she reminded him so 
much of a young Valerie, with the way she called out "JAY, will ya......" 
that it was unnerving to him.  So Jay stops what he's doing, says OK, watches 
the horse trot out and says the magic words, "He's fine."  And I thought I 
was a troublemaker!  I've got nothing on this girl and her potential is 
unlimited.  What a show stopper!

Let's cut to the awards banquet, cause I don't have much else to report. 
Watching Samantha do her thing, then proudly walk away with her horse in tow, 
along with that beaming smile on her face, just made my day.  And I'm sure 
she knew that there would soon be a "Pow Wow" later with ride management, the 
vets, and probably Jay, as a result of her action.   Later than night around 
9:00 PM as we are all patiently waiting for the awards to be giving out, the 
head ride manager says that the first hundred miler is coming in and asks us 
to go out and watch the finish.  A large group gets up and walks over to the 
finish line, which happens to be about a tenth of a mile, or so, away.  It's 
totally dark, but I have my trusty flashlight, that only needs to be bumped 
every minute to keep the light going.  I take my folding chair with me in 
case we're going to be awhile.

We get to the finish line and I fold out my chair and have a seat.  Then I 
hear some cheering and watch the first two riders come in.  The lady who wins 
says, "Where's my crew?"  She happens to say this while she's right alongside 
me.  Without thinking (what else is new?) I respond, "They're drinking beer 
and having one heck of a party at your trailer."  She gives me a nasty look 
(that's what I thought I saw even though it was pretty dark out) like I've 
lost my mind here.  And then it dawns on me.  My first words to the woman I'd 
leave my wife, seven kids, two dogs, one cat, and four horses (actually I was 
hoping she'd let me keep the horses) for was a smart alecky comment not well 
received.  I had just met Valerie Kanavy!

NOTE:  That's it.  I'll end it there.  I will mention that at the awards 
banquet Jen did not get first place for the 25 mile Juniors.  Not sure what 
went wrong there, but I didn't say anything cause I didn't want to take it 
away from the other girl, and in my mind (I've checked all the criteria 
concerning the "rules") I know Jen won it, but we'll just keep it between us. 
 And, by the way, Samantha did get a completion at the awards banquet.  She's 
learned how to work adult politics at age ten.  

 About my remarks concerning the vets at this ride, I know they're overworked 
and underappreciated and that I'm just a dumb ass redneck who doesn't know 
squat.  They are my humble observations and should not be taking too 
seriously (I'm sure most of you don't take anything I say seriously anyhow).  
None of these experiences will deter my love of the sport, endurance riding.  
I will just try and become better informed and will keep more of an open mind 
about it all.  If you are ever at a ride in the Southern region and you see a 
small man, wearing a muzzle, trotting out a very tall horse at a vet-check, 
it's probably me.  Life, to me, is three steps forward, two steps back.  The 
trick is not to let the horse step on your toes while in motion.


PS.  To my GA buddies, I just happen to be watching the GA vs Gators game 
right now. Score's 16 to 14 in favor of the Gators late in the 4th.  Glad to 
see y'all can finally make it interesting.  Been awhile.  haha. 


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