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Kerry Greear's Story: Kerry and Little Joe...Our 2011 Big Horn Story
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Kerry and Little Joe…..Our 2011 Big Horn Story - Kerry Greear

Wednesday July 20 2011

I rode the Big Horn 100 in 2006 on Hawk, my fabulous Morab. It was his 3rd 100 and we finished 2nd and BC. That year, several people spent the night on the mountain and others were overtime because the trail was not marked for night riding. I was able to get off the mountain and do well because we had put a lot of miles behind us while it was cool and good footing first thing in the morning and because Dorothy Sue’s horse, Flyer, knew the trail and led us off the mountain down to the road into the Jack Creek Vetcheck.

Hawk and returned to the Big Horn in 2008. We had a wonderful ride again that year. I spent quite a lot of time on foot finding flags and putting them back up because I knew there were many people behind me who would not be able to find the trail.

This year, I did some XP miles in Wyoming and knew I needed a second horse. Hawk can do 250 miles over 5 days and do well, but he hates roads and since he is 16 this year, I prefer to keep him on better footing whenever I can. I knew Little Joe Too, my paint/arab was going to have to start carrying some load. I love riding Joe on trails, he is a powerful horse who is also sweet. But he came to me as a crazy horse with no self esteem, especially around other horses. I have had to be very careful riding him because he reacts, is quick, and we have parted ways many times. I took him to Ft. Howes before the XP so I would have a better idea of how he would do around the other horses. Vetting in on Friday afternoon, he had a HR of 68 and after trotting out he was 80. On Saturday, we waited until all were long gone then started on the trail. We spent a lot of time going sideways, but managed to finish the first 17 miles in pretty good shape. He had 40 to 50 spooks but only 4 or 5 bad ones and I only came off once. In the middle of the second loop, I could feel him relax and he did much better. He was still spooking, of course, but he was acting more like he does when we are alone or with Hawk on the trail, and he pulsed down easily. The last loop finished as a storm was coming in and he had that look in his eye again...but was 52/48 for his final CRI. I knew I could take him on the XP and finish some 50s. Joe continued to improve his work ethic while on the XP. I rode him 3 days and finished 3rd twice and tied for first once and he earned two BCs. He was improving in “camp manners” and was actually relaxed enough to drink while next to another horse. I always knew he would be a good endurance horse if we were by ourselves, but he has not been able to relax around other horses. After the XP, I had a dilemma that most people would love-----which horse should I take to the Big Horn? Hawk loves the challenging trails, I can take a nap on him, and I know he will always take care of himself as well as me. Joe takes more energy from me, he is bigger so doesn’t cool down as fast, and I have to really pay attention when I ride him. That is not a trail I want to get injured or be without my horse on…….He had looked really good at the end of the 50s on the XP, but would a tough 100 be too much for him mentally and physically?

I decided to give the Big Horn a try on Joe. My crew (husband, Mike and sister, Colleen) have seen the changes in Joe over this past year. They used to be afraid for me to ride him or even be on the ground by him when he was frightened. But he was definitely an uncertain option to pit against the Big Horn. I decided that my best option would be to ride by myself as much as I could, keep him ahead of or behind a horse moving his speed to help him relax and try to read him while also remaining vigilant about the trail. I tried to go through my memory of the trail so it would be fresh.

We arrive Friday afternoon at the ridecamp and it was just as I remembered it from 2008. We knew it would be very hot. Kevin Meyers, Rusty Toth and Kevin Waters were lounging in the shade waiting for me, and Rusty did an efficient job putting on Joe’s GlueOns. Joe was fairly relaxed in camp but wary of all the horses, plastic in the water tanks, etc. When he knew he was safe in his electric pen, he started to eat and drink. We went to Shell for the ride meeting and to eat supper but no one was there to do the ride meeting. I talked with the vets who know endurance riders and the Big Horn-----all we want to know is, when do we start, where do we go, where are the vet checks, what is pulse criteria, how long are the holds, can crew get to vet checks and how? Lyle and Irina were able to do a spontaneous ride meeting to help us so we could actually go back to camp and get to bed by 10pm. The other two times I had been to the Big Horn, the ride meeting wasn’t over until after 10pm. With a 4am start, that is just not very practical.

I did not sleep at all that night. I was worried about if the trail was marked, what I would do if I came off Joe and he decided to leave me in the middle of the ride, and if I would have the stamina to do a 100 on this horse. I have an internal alarm clock, but didn’t need to use it...by 3am I was getting dressed, drinking chocolate milk and popping Celebrex and Allegra. Joe was pretty calm and we walked and stretched and looked at a few obstacles along the road. His snorting and spooking were minimal. At the start, we did a nice slow, controlled trot. Joe wanted to go so we did a few circles and sidepasses. Once we started trotting out a bit more, we were in a big group of horses and several put their ears back at Joe and bumped into him. He was alternately nervous or got aggressive. I knew I needed to get him in front so he could relax for awhile. When I was able to do that, Joe Haberle on Scooter, the Kevins and Rusty and Bill Brown came behind me and we had a nice pace. Joe relaxed and I started to look at the trail, remember, and visualize an absolutely splendid day was ahead of us. Bev Gray caught us and we headed into the climbs, alternately leading. The three of us came into the first vet check just slightly behind 4 other riders, and Joe looked fabulous. He kept watching the other horses come in instead of concentrating on eating and drinking but had enough. Bev and I headed out and ended up walking for miles because of all the holes/soft ground. We wished we could have stayed on the road, which would have been much kinder to the horses. Bev and I were remembering the trail and talking about what was ahead. Our horses paced well together. Two groups of riders were with us for several miles but we knew the Antelope Butte vet check was close and moved ahead of them on the last downhill then road/trail leading in. Joe and I both felt great at this vet check. Colleen and Mike took care of Joe, who wanted to graze, and I changed clothes. Bev and I left this vet check on a big trot and started the 3rd leg of our adventure.

This section of trail is beautiful but LONG and HARD. The climbs are tremendous, lots of downhill, lots of rock, water crossings, hikers and ATVrs. This was the stretch I knew we would have to keep our wits about us. We really weren’t sure where the vet check was, but we both remembered where Jack Creek vet check was in the past. We both remembered pieces of the trail, but Bev was much more optimistic about the vet check. I think she told me about 15 times that it was just around the corner. There were some places we had to reason through where the trail should be, and we were always right. We would find flags trampled into the ground. We trotted where we could but did a lot of trotting off our horses on steep/rocky downhills. The horses were very hungry on this long stretch and we let them grab and go whenever we walked and stopped at every water to let them graze. Jolly Sickle and Joe had formed a partnership, Bev and I had done the same. Earlier in the day, Bev had said to me that she would be very excited to get 6th place on her horse (only his second year in endurance) that day. I told my family that at the second vet check and we laughed--------I told them that Bev was going to win it and I was going to see if Joe could stay with her horse……but if he couldn’t I knew we would be fine on our own and I would just do the best I could. After we went through the old vet check site, still loving the trail and the moose, flowers and beautiful weather as well as the beautiful trail markings, we were puzzled about when we would get to the last vet check. But we were certain of a few things. We were on trail, we were going to be able to do most of the slick rock of Black Mountain in the light, and that our horses felt strong.

We came around a bend and saw the vetcheck ahead on the creek. The horses were already trotting strongly but wanted to really go when they saw them. Joe was hot and took 4 minutes to come down, I was tired and did not sponge him as we crossed the creek. He looked good and did a few nice spooks. He felt better than I did. I had injured my neck and back the weekend before this, and I found I could not turn my neck. Bev waited for me and we set off on the road. We jogged down miles of slick rock/road and made good time on the next section. We only had to open a few gates and we were glad to see that even if we didn’t need them, the flashers were on. There were several bogs to scramble through on this section and it was dark for a short time before the moon peeked out. The moonlight was fabulous and we could see the lights of Trapper Creek. We came down the road and I heard my sister shout. Our crews met us with food and drink for the horses and we spent about 5 minutes there. We headed toward camp and got to the crossing where in 2008 we had done a piece before camp. There was a flag on the gate post but no flasher. I wasn’t sure what to do. We rode up the road most of the way, which is a rocky climb. There were no flashers. I told Bev that all I could remember was a meandering road but that if it wasn’t marked we wouldn’t know which road to stay on, and I was wondering if we were even supposed to do that piece. We went down the road and headed back to camp. Our crews caught us and told us they were sure we needed to do that piece. Janette drove up and went out ahead of us to put flashers on the trail. We were then able to do that 8 mile piece and cross the highway and get on the road into the finish. Jolly Sickle and Joe stretched out in their awesome trots and came into the finish to the cheers of the vets and fabulous volunteers. Lyle told us that our horses looked fabulous. I could tell that Joe was tired by looking at his eye, but his heart rate quickly came down to 60 and he still had his bounce. Mike handed me a cold Blue Moon and I was happy. Joe ate and rested all night and I slept like a zombie. I had only good thoughts in my brain.

The next day there was confusion about the time of the awards ceremony. Some said 8:30, others said 9:00 and others said between 9:00 and 10:00. We wanted to celebrate and cheer, especially for the juniors and those finishing their first 100s. We all gathered in Shell and waited and waited and waited. I finally asked the efficient ride secretary if we could just do it and not wait. Volunteers and riders put out food and we did the ceremony. Then we loaded up in the heat and headed home. We unloaded Joe and he looked great---anxious to go find his friends in the pasture to share his adventure.

I, like everyone I know, love the Big Horn 100 trail. We love the challenge, the beauty, the history. We love the vets who do this ride. We love the volunteers at this ride and appreciate all their time and work. Tim French, I love you. I love Jeanette and Patty. They are absolutely the nicest, hardest working people I have seen on the trail. But...changes need to be made in organization and communication so this trail can continue to be challenged and loved by all of us. I know many riders, volunteers, and ride managers who are willing to do help. Bev shared with me what the Race of Champions was like on the Big Horn trail. What an epic that could be! Thank you for making my ride wonderful and helping me to help Little Joe finish this ride. I love you, Bev. I admire your horse. And Mike and Colleen-----you are the absolute best family/cheerleaders any girl could ever have. The Big Horn 100 was my 56th birthday party, and it was splendid!