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Old Dominion (aka Beast of the East) part one - Shannon Loomis || The Beast of the East - on the 55 Mile trail - April Dobson
My Old Dominion - Nancy Sluys


The Beast of the East - on the 55 Mile trail - April Dobson

June 13 2011

The following is from April Dobson (from Virginia) who rode her Thoroughbred X gelding "Piper" in the OD 55 - his first endurance ride.

The Old Dominion 55 – "The Beast of the East"

After years of frustrating lameness issues, it appears that 2011 is going to be a good year for my horse Piper and me. After two strong spring completions I decided to move it up in June , which meant signing up for the Old Dominion 50. Or, as I’ve been constantly reminded, 55 miles of the toughest trail on the east coast. This was to be Piper’s first endurance ride other than an LD.

The weather wasn’t great with highs in the upper 80’s and some serious humidity, but it has been worse in previous years. We actually had some rain that brought some relief Friday night, and an afternoon shower on ride day cooled stuff out for a little bit, until it became steamy again. Piper did great, finishing sound and healthy with an overall A in a ride time of 10 hours and 5 minutes. His attitude impressed me even more than his athleticism. It’s not easy to keep up a chipper mood for that long.

I actually really liked the trail. It’s funny to hear everyone’s opinions about it. Some think the old OD was harder, some think that the new OD is harder – I guess it’s all in what your horse’s strengths and weaknesses might be and what your preference of trail is. I only ever did the LD at the old OD and LOVED it. Out to the river and into the field and back again. This one has some very long climbs. And lots of rocks of course! It also had blooming mountain laurel everywhere and some spectacular views. I honestly thought the ratio of trail to road was about even, but it’s all or nothing. You ride over rocky trail for so long that you beg for a road. Then you are on the road for so long that you beg for a trail. Back and forth and back and forth.

But I did think it is a fair trail and a tough trail – a true challenge. The roads were soft and dust free from the rain, but that meant more mud on trail. They put water out in key places and marked spots a little off the trail for water that you could get into. The pond at the top of the climb was a wonderful thing – Piper was up to his belly. Lots of horses looked like they wanted to go down in it. It wasn’t very cold, but it still got the layer of sweat off.

On the super long climb on the second loop Piper asked me to compose a letter to Bob Walsh [original designer of the new OD trail]: " Dear Bob, You Suck. Sincerely, Piper. " We got everyone laughing on that one! The follow up was his Christmas card to Bob: "Dear Bob, I’ve had some time to reflect upon the trails at this years Old Dominion. You still suck. Happy Holidays! Piper." Laughter will keep you going down the trails.

This may have been a record year for lost shoes and boots. They were everywhere. One Top 10 finisher’s words of wisdom were to never use glue on boots on this trail – she claimed that the rocks would just eat them! I saw lots of booted people having to stop to retrieve a boot and put it back on only to have it fly off again in 5 minutes. I appreciate the bare foot movement, heck I pull shoes for the winter, but I really appreciated Pie’s steel shoes this weekend! Jack [Weber] said that they are going to put all the recovered shoes/boots in the OD store for repurchase. They might make a killing off of that!!!

I must say that Joe Selden and Nancy Smart, the ride managers, do an EXCELLENT job of hosting this ride. In fact, everyone involved in keeping the Old Dominion alive by getting this ride moved to a new location are my heroes. While my horse might have some evil thoughts about Bob, I myself think Bob did an excellent job of scouting and laying out a beautiful and challenging trail. The vet team was amazing, encouraging, and did a great job of looking after all the horses. And all of the volunteers deserve a huge round of applause. This ride is in the middle of nowhere – there are no towns where people come out to help as the horses move thru. It’s a true commitment to donate time for the enjoyment of the riders.

And thanks to all these people and a dear husband, I had a lovely and successful weekend. Thank you to all!

See you at Fort Valley in October! :-)