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Big Horn 100 - Shell, Wyoming

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Home || Official Website

Merri's 2011 Stories
Kevin Water's Story: Survivor!! Big Horn 2011!!
Kerry Greear's Story: Kerry and Little Joe...Our 2011 Big Horn Story
Bev Gray's 2011Story: 100 Miles in the Big Horns


100 Miles in the Big Horns - Beverly Gray

The Big Horn 100, could easily be one of the most challenging, dramatic, difficult and yet, most gratifying finish that one could imagine. In your endurance ride dream calendar, a proverbial “bucket list”.

I’ve been training my Mandolynn Hill gelding, Jolly Sickle for the Big Horn.

Jolly Sickle is a compact, steamroller build with a very forward attitude. Coming from the Arabian race track, he also has a mow you down mind-set. Alright, it’s the type of horse that I like to ride.

We train on the trails out my back door which ascend abruptly to 10,000ft coated in deep timber and meander thru rocks and massive pines and aspens. Although, this year, many of my regular July trails were still blocked with walls of winter snow so I do trailer to my flat, long trot trails.

On July 15, 1989, the Big Horn 100 was the site of the prestigious Race of Champions. Susan Gibson, the ROC ride manager was notorious for selecting a spectacular ride site, a breathtaking course and a challenge to test her champion line up from around the US and Canada. The qualification for the ROC- Five 100 mile top tens. There were usually 80 to 100 entries. It was not only a first to finish race, but each time zone had it’s own team colors, halters, with time zone team challenges to win for your own region. There was even a “cavalry” division; no crew, no help, pack all your supplies and feed. OK, on the Big Horn 100 Trail!!!!!!!!! A parade, music and a celebration of the endurance horses entered always proceeded race day. The excitement and tension bubbled over. At the 1989 Big Horn Race of Champions, I rode AA Omner. (Hall of Fame)

Race of Champions- “Within your Reach , Beyond your Expectations”

The excitement and thrill of the Big Horn 100 still surround this event. Even without the ROC zone colors, t-shirts, flags, TrailBlazer media, tents for dining and wheelbarrows of prizes, including a horse-trailer for 1st prize. I still have my purple Mountain Zone ROC halter. And, that year, mountain zone won the Team Challenge.

Bill (my husband of 31 years and crew extraordinary), Jolly Sickle and myself planned on a 2 day travel time from Marion, Utah to Shell, Wy. We always stop in Thermopolis, Wyoming- the largest Hot Springs in the USA. In 1896 a treaty was signed with the Shoshone and Arapaho, which gave the public use of one of the largest mineral hot springs in the world. The hot springs was known as having "healing water". In the treaty, which holds true today (amazing) there is no fee for using the State Bath House. There are other “hot spas” including one that has cooler pools and huge slides of hot springs water into the pools. Ahhhhhhh.

The Thermopolis Rodeo/Fairgrounds is almost across the street from the Hot Pools. Sorry Jolly Sickle, you can’t come over for a dip in the pool. The rodeo grounds are clean, convenient and only $4 a night for a big corral. And, if you enjoy a nice dinner, you could order Buffalo burgers at the Holiday Inn-just across the street.

Thermopolis is about 80 miles to Shell. An easy drive and opportunity to stock up on supplies and fuel in Greybull.

Base camp, as for the previous 4 years, was generously hosted by the Pritcht family. Hot and dry as opposed under the Cottonwoods and river all within eyesight, but, very convenient to the trailhead, water hoses, tanks and everything needed for a base camp. We all found shade and moved our musical chairs to accommodate the setting sun and rising moon. Always, lots of social catch-up and news. Stay up late, as who can sleep before 100 miles anyway. The trailers from around the country start to roll in. At this point in the story, so many of the ride and manger details have been addressed, but, I believe, unless you have personally been a ride manager, you have no credible opinions. Corrective problem solving and positive feedback for improvements in 2012 is the direction. We are really a group bonded for the love of a horse, trail and companionship.

The 4am start seems uneventful. Except, my horse. Nice, side pass at a gallop. I’m afraid Jolly Sickles’ race background came back to haunt me. I’m thinking, yeah, exhaust me in the first 7 miles. I stop and wait for a few deep breaths and focus time in the classroom corner (and dunce hat). Here comes Laura and Bill on their beautiful and composed Rushcreek mares. Ahhhh. Laura and I to catch up on events other than AERC convention items. Good times and Jolly gets into the race rhythm.

Climb time. Up, Up and away.

We climb up to the big timber, aspens and down to a stream crossing every few miles. I catch up with Kevin, Rusty and Kevin who I was assigned to pace with (because Steph wanted to keep crew tail-gating with Bill who knew all the vet checks). That was nice for a few moments as Jolly was motoring even at the walk. I grabbed a clump of moss from the trees, tucked it under my nose, and made a few “moss-tache” jokes to Kevin, Rusty and Kevin. Often, I collect a few humorous 100 mile jokes and save them for the events like the one that goes like this….once there was a…..forget it, you just need to ride 100 miles with me.

Just ahead of me is a stunning pinto. It’s Joe and Kerry and Joe Haberle riding Scooter. Joe the junior is listening to tunes, “Hi Joe, what are your listening to?” Joe says “Whaaaaaaat?”

This is a good team. We coast into vet check #1. There are snow drifts to maneuver around and the air is cut so clean I can smell the bacon from over the previous valley.

Mother Nature in the Big Horns can thwart all the best planned saddle and vet bags. Tank Top? T shirt? Windbreaker? Australian duster? Or, Snowmobile suit? I packed all. But, thank you mom nature (on a first name basis when she co-operates), the weather was spectacular- all day and all night!

The trail is very familiar to me. I’ve convinced myself, Flags, who needs flags. (10 miles into vet check 3, I shoved that big shoe into my mouth).

Antelope Butte Ski area is our half way point and the Jiminy Cricket wish upon a star finish for the 60. As with Vet Check 1, we were fed a nice lunch in a gorgeous setting with water tanks and tall meadow grass. The volunteers and veterinarian staff are all so cheerful and helpful. Remember, they have been up since the early start as well.

Kerry and I gallop out of the vet check. Our horses feel good. As we cross the path of the incoming 60’s comments include, “be prepared for no flags. “

(“flags, who needs…shut up, we need flags up here) Kerry and I are prepared with Superman vision to find the trail. Huh? There are flags and the trail is easy to follow. We talk with fisherman, hikers, Atv’ers who all know about the Big Horn 100 and wish us a successful ride.

Around the corner is the next vet check. I give Kerry a detailed description: log rails lead in to a road next to a stream. Every around the corner and she still believes me. But, the spirits are good and still lots of daylight – crucial in “spirits “calculations.

Still parts of the trail are familiar and one more corner- LOOK-the Battle Creek vet check. Battle Creek- I believe we earned a medal. We raise our arms in jubilation and scream a chant of euphoria. Yip, yip, yehooooo. The chant is returned in appreciation of our arrival.

Actually, a lovely setting for a vet check: meadow grasses, stream, dutch oven cook sites- more food. This feast of salad, fajitas, and peach cobbler was provided by the Haberle’s. Yes, on my truck tailgate, all I needed was a checkered tablecloth. It’s the final trek to Trappers Creek and the finish. With the setting sun in our eyes, Kerry and I made good time thru the gates, cattle and down the proverbial slick of slick rocks. At Trappers Creek, darkness descended, but our crews were waiting with water and mash. The moon peered over the trail so long behind us and with the flashers, illuminated the way to camp. I believe Jolly Sickle was playing his own game with the flashers or knew he was close so increased the speed of his extended trot-in the dark.

Yeahhhh, the finish.

Thank you my Jolly Sickle, my husband, Kerry and Joe-the machine who doesn’t spook Kerry! all the competitors and the ride management and commendable volunteers. It takes an army to put on such a spectacular event- although the army for 41 years is about 4 dedicated friends of endurance.