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2011 Old Dominion

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Fourteen-Year-Old on $550 Horse Wins 2014 Old Dominion by Merri Melde
2014 Old Dominion by Nancy Sluys

Photos by Becky Pearman here

2014 Old Dominion 25-50-100

Old Dominion - by Dawn Hilliard


100 miles - 32 starting, 23 finishing
1Bryna StevensonWhisperstreams Atropine13:43.17Best Condition
2Heather HoynsZainal14:51.16
2Nicki MeutenCashin In14:51.16
4Daryl DownsEF Shes Alada Kki15:08.25
5Gina HagisPhoenix Fairlane15:08.28
6Meg SleeperSyrocco Rabia15:08.30
7Tom HagisAli Mostafa15:08.36
8Lisa GreenAmana Tabi15:22.13
9Kathy BroaddusFougueux16:16.20
10Dawn HilliardRA Sultan17:06.26
10Dean HilliardRA Silbaaddin17:06.26
10Nancy WalkerSoloman Charm17:06.26
10Lara WordenKF Leprechaun17:06.26

For the rest of the results, click here

50 miles - 62 starting, 53 finishing
1Barbara HershbergerKenlyn Irishman6:35.59
2Cheryl NewmanJS Comet6:50.56Best Condition
3Stagg NewmanJayel Super6:51.16
4Karen WadeWBF Soldiers Rose7:05.20
5Nicholas IrianniWBF Soldiers Tribute7:08.18
6Teri CarrollSheik7:40.50
6Debra Lynne GilbertMercuric7:40.50
8Dale WeaverLuminaria7:51.39
9Henry SmithHC Kharisma7:58.53
10Brian CossLily Creek Stetson7:59.20

For the rest of the results, click here

25 miles - 46 starting, 37 finishing
1Felesha ManninoNevada3:28.00
2Patti Jo DudaHO's Cherokee Summer E3:31.00Best Condition
3Lawrence McCarthyBoy Juander3:36.00
4Jessica HerrmannDV Bad Medicine Rizzy L3:39.00
5Helen KarpBobbee Sox3:40.01
6Madaline KelholtzTsunami Storm3:40.02
7Dominka NawrotJolly Jake PW3:42.00
8Terri BradleyChosen Elek Me3:43.00
9Valerie KanavyGenuwine Gold3:47.01
10Elizabeth GatiStrike Gold3:47.02

For the rest of the results, click here

A Year's Progress - by Bryna Stevenson

Fourteen-Year-Old on $550 Horse Wins 2014 Old Dominion - by Merri Melde

Paul Stevenson photo

by Merri Melde
June 21 2014

Leave it to a 14-year-old junior rider to set some new endurance riding standards in one of the country's oldest and most prestigious 100-mile rides. Not only was the 40th anniversary of the Old Dominion 100 Bryna Stevenson's first endurance ride by herself, but she also set the record aboard Whisperstreams Atropine (Maddy) as the youngest winner; she and Maddy won the Best Condition award; and she and Maddy won the Old Dominion trophy (day-after Best Condition)* the next morning.

While the trail through Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge mountains is known as "The Beast of the East," for its "rocks, heat, rocks, humidity, and rocks," according to 4-time finisher Dawn Hilliard, and is "wicked tough," according to Daryl Downs, previous youngest winner of the 100-mile ride in 2005 at age 18, it was Bryna's and Maddy's kind of trail. "Maddy really likes hilly trails and she does really well with them," Bryna said. Owned by Jen Stevenson, Bryna's mom, it was only the second time Bryna and Maddy had partnered up in an endurance ride. Their first and only ride together was in November of 2010 in the 30-mile Mustang Memorial, Maddy's first endurance ride. Since then, Bryna has accumulated over 2500 endurance miles throughout her junior career.

The now-10-year-old mare had been languishing in a Western Pleasure barn before the Stevensons got her. "That was not working out for her; she would take off with the owner, and bolt," said Jen. "We observed her out in this field for about 6 months, and I thought, 'Wow, she's really nice.' The barn closed in the summer and they were dispersing all their horses, and a friend of mine said they had this Arab that they couldn't get rid of that I should go take a look at." It turned out to be that same mare, and they wanted $550 for her. "Bryn tried her first and said to get her, and I went the next day and tried her myself, and she was a lunatic, but… we bought her." Dubbed "Whisperstreams Atropine," or Maddy for short, (Whisperstream is the Stevenson barn name), Maddy didn't come with papers, but is rumored to be 3/4 Arabian and 1/4 American Saddlebred.

Jen took up with Maddy in endurance after Bryna started her, riding her to 33 of 35 completions and 1690 miles over the next 4 seasons. One can easily deduce the mare much preferred the endurance trails to a life of Western Pleasure.

Maddy already had 2 100-mile completions to her name, and Bryna had 3, and both had ridden over the 50-mile Old Dominion course, though neither had ever tried the Old Dominion 100. After Jen and Maddy finished the 50 at Old Dominion last year, Jen and friend Lisa Delp got to talking about how Bryn could probably do a nice job with Maddy at this year's OD 100. "From that point on, we really wanted to have Maddy prepared aptly for this hard ride."

Bryna hadn't started out the ride thinking she'd win, however; she had just wanted a completion. "I started my ride and I got probably 2 miles down the trail, and Maddy kept going. She kept catching up with the leaders, and I just rode her on a loose rein all day, and that's just where she stayed, up front. She felt really good."

Bryna rode the first 3 loops with Virginia riders Tom and Gina Hagis, experienced OD riders. Gina complimented Bryna afterwards, "She is a excellent rider, nice and soft. She is easy to ride with, quiet, and can put her horse in the back or pick a good pace in front."

The fourth vet check was where the ride turned solo for Bryna and Maddy. "We came into 'Big 92' [at 57 miles]," Bryna recalled, "and Maddy vetted in all A's. There was a hill leaving Big 92, and Maddy stopped while going up the hill, turned around and saw them coming up the hill behind us, and she just took off, as fast as she could. I didn't ask her to do anything the entire loop. The rest of the ride I was all alone."

Bryna had ridden Maddy on training rides before, and she'd ridden in the dark before, but she had never ridden Maddy in the dark before, so she after the sun went down, she took it easy. "I asked her to walk a lot because I wasn't sure what she would do." Maddy can be a spooky horse, but "the last loop went really well."

That's an understatement, as the pair finished 1 hour and 8 minutes ahead of the next finishers who tied for second, Nicky Meuten and Cashin In, and Heather Hoyns and Zainal, with a winning time of 13:43.18. Several observers at the finish line commented that Maddy looked fabulous, like she'd hardly done anything. That judgment was confirmed as Maddy won both Best Condition, and next day's Old Dominion trophy.*

Jen Stevenson had started in the day's OD Limited Distance ride, but pulled Rider Option when her horse threw a couple of shoes. She spent the rest of the day waiting for news on her daughter, since all vet checks are out of camp. She was waiting at the finish line, overwhelmed as the glowsticks from Maddy's breastcollar showed up on the road nearing the finish line. "I was trying to fight back the tears of happiness," Jen said. "I was just so proud of my daughter and my little horse."

Bryna was very tired, but elated. "I was a little out of it. I'd just had a cup of coffee at the last hold but it hadn't totally kicked in yet. I remember when I was coming across the finish line everyone was patting me on the back, it felt really amazing."

Bryna is quick to credit the Hagises for their help during the ride, and both Bryna and Jen praise fellow Northeast endurance mother-daughter duo Lisa and Meghan Delp with the help they've given the Stevensons over the years. "They've been our mentors over the past 2 years and they've really contributed to our being able to finish rides. We had some trouble in the beginning, and they really selflessly offered us so much guidance. They sponsored Bryna on so many rides when I got pulled, and they really taught us how to complete a ride with the horse looking good," Jen said.

"And my husband Paul is a huge part of this," she added. "He was Bryn's crew and also drives us to every single endurance ride we go to, and every horse event - when we're not endurance riding, we're usually going to an event or a show or a pony race."

Bryna first climbed on a horse when she was 4 years old, riding English and doing some lead line showing. By the time she was 4 1/2, she was walk/trot/cantering and jumping cross rails on a really placid registered Quarter horse. She has done barrel racing, gymkhana, hunters and jumpers, and CTRs. Last year she started eventing. "I just want to be clear: Bryn usually chaperones ME at rides," Jen laughed, "because she's a much better rider than I'll ever be. "

With her experienced and varied riding background, Bryna is striving to share this wonderful sport of endurance riding with other potential junior riders. Regina Welsh is a friend who got Bryn into steeplechasing, and she's also the founder of US Pony Racing, developed for "for the purpose of developing and promoting racing opportunities for young riders." Bryn thought that endurance rides would be good conditioning for the steeplechase horses who are expected to go long distances, and for the young riders. She created a video to help get more eventers and steeplechasers interested and involved in endurance.

Jen added, "It would be a great opportunity to get kids out of the riding ring. A lot of kids in New Jersey just ride in arenas, and they really don't have the opportunity to go out on the trails because they've never been exposed to it."

Despite this huge accomplishment of winning one of the toughest endurance rides in the country as a Junior rider, Bryna took the whole adventure in stride throughout the ride weekend.

Veteran endurance rider Angie McGhee, who finished the OD 100 for the first time in the middle of the pack, said, "I'll admit, I have been leery of some of the teens with minimal endurance background that have been jumping in with both feet, full speed in our international scene. [Bryna] was NOTHING like that. Very sweet, unassuming, grateful, and knew her own horse very well and gave it a super ride. One of those people you could feel happy for and good about the sport." Daryl Downs added, "If my record of youngest winner of the OD was taken by anyone - I would want it to be Bryna. She is very talented and we share a lot of good times!"

Fortunately for endurance riding, Bryna Stevenson has many miles of trail ahead of her as junior and senior rider, many more goals to accomplish and share, and many more records to set.

Bryna's video "A Year's Progress"

(or link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDSKnIFVvos)

*The Old Dominion Trophy is the premier 100 mile division award presenting the to the horse/rider team which has demonstrated optimum performance based on its post-ride recovery and condition at the Old Dominion 25/50/100 mile ride. The formula for determining a winner is based on a veterinary score, total elapsed time and weight carried. Equine leg protective devices are prohibited during the ride. Horses are judged the morning following the close of the 100 mile ride.

Recap by Angie McGhee

Don't know how many know it but back in 2007 I tried OD on Jody Buttram's mare Aries. We got pulled at 70 miles and I figured that would be my last trip. HOWEVER at the awards breakfast Stagg Newman presented me with the perpetual "Monkey on the back" award. Apparently this monkey was first presented to Maggie Price by Jim Baldwin when she didn't finish. It's a plastic gorilla with a piece of stiff nylon rope attached by a rusty safety pen. Stagg hung it around my neck and said now I had to finish the OD to get rid of it. The monkey came home and I put it on my mantle. I hadn't had a 100 mile horse since Kaboot retired in 01. I'd been trying for 6 years, been through three horses and STILL didn't have a 100 mile horse! A month later I bought 7, a 7 year old unhandled stallion, with no prospects of being a 100 mile horse any time soon if ever! Heck, I could have bred a mare and raised a baby by now. That's how long it took me to get back up there!

I kept hoping somebody from VA would offer me a good horse if they got desperate enough but they just kept asking me, "When are you going to bring back our monkey?" 7 finally started doing 100's but he doesn't take electrolytes. Every year I'd see their forecast and think, "Not this year". Last year I was on the verge of taking him when he got cramp at both Red Barn and after 87 miles of Biltmore. Figured I'd better figure that out before committing to such a trip. Finally, this spring I rode Tally in his first 100 at Biltmore and he did great. It looked like it was FINALLY time to return their darned monkey after it had spent SEVEN years on my mantle!

The usual stuff happened. Cade tried to kill Tally in the field a couple of weeks before the ride...the usual stuff. I didn't tell much of anybody I was going until the last minute. The day I sent the entry Tally started coughing non stop while I was in the barn but it was apparently just a piece of hay in his throat. Stuff like that. :-P All I wanted was to return the stupid monkey. I spent the last 7 days studying the map and the weather.com trying to imagine which ridgetop I would be on when the afternoon & evening thunderstorms hit. Have I mentioned I'm developing a lightning phobia?

Got to the ride, he traveled well, everything looked good to go. Weather turned out AWESOME!!! Started the ride, all was going great. About 15 miles in we were getting close to the vet check and had to cross pavement. Jody had warned me the pavement was "Slicker than Owl $#@* so I brought Tally to a complete stop. There were already skid marks so I knew she was right. Tally stepped out on it and it was "Bambi on ice" He almost went down, then pulled off a perfect recovery and was on all four again. Then it was like instantly ZIP!...BAM! All four feet seemed to just zip to the right and we slapped the pavement on our left side. Felt my helmet bounce on the pavement. He scrambled up and I held onto the reins so he sort of dragged me across the road till he stopped. I felt fine, he looked fine, stirrup was somewhat flattened. Got ready to get back on and then saw the looks on Meg Sleeper & Paul Sidio's faces. Apparently the event was more exciting to watch than to participate in. I think it scared them worse than me. They waited while I got back on and Meg kept saying, "Are you SURE you're OK?" I said, yes a few times, then finally recited my phone number to prove no concussion. She said, "Well, I don't know your phone number so I'm not sure if you're correct or not" >g< Rode into the VC, switched for the stirrup on my spare saddle, then I started to feel the arm...:-/ Turns out I couldn't straighten my left arm or fold it. Just had to hold it at 90 degree angle. Couldn't rotate palm up or down without major pain, but didn't hurt at all so long as 90 degree, thumb up. Most pain I had was learning to get on and off without it. You'd be surprised how much you use your left arm mounting and dismounting. Was really afraid I wouldn't be able to dismount on trail all day but Tally was really cooperative about stumps & rocks and I developed a system of getting on and off. The trick was to hold my arm out to the side and rest my breastbone on the front of the saddle as I swung my leg over. Worked pretty well except at the VERY end when I darned near leaned to far and flipped over him. :-P It was funny. When I told Bill I thought I was hurt he said, "You gonna ring the bell?" I said, "NO". Then he said, "Remember, it's about the monkey". For the rest of the day he would remind me when I talked about needing to slow down or whatever..."It's about the MONKEY"!

So, the next 85 miles for me was mostly just figuring out how to ride one handed. I learned when going on a loose rein to keep the reins in the bad hand which could not pull so the good hand could grab further up short in case I needed to pull up. Couldn't make him stand in a creek to sponge, but could sponge on the fly so long as I didn't try to steer or check him with the bad hand. etc. Trail was kick butt on a very nice day. Can only imagine how much bigger the mountains would have been on a really bad one and can't imagine riding the spine of the highest thing around in lightning. Guess I'll have to return to get the full effect now. :-P

Rode the first 20 miles or so with Meg Sleeper, Daryl & Skip. Spent some time with Claude on the big climbs, rode with Paul & Amanda on her POA "Pony". (hard to think of it as a pony when it's almost the same height as Tally and outweighed his 776 lbs. by 300 lbs!) Amanda's pony lost a shoe and Paul Sidio stayed with her to apply a cast he had with him since none of our boots fit her. Risked his ride for that...very generous of him. Rode the last 30 miles with Jody and Joni. We were all three totally on survival mode. We wanted completions!!! Jody on a new knee, Joni on a first time 100 miler, me riding a horse with such crooked front legs you wouldn't think he could do an LD. Our horses were doing great but we'd seen others starting to stiffen up in the front end from all the downhill on gravel and we decided to be extremely conservative since we had tons of time and it was such a nice night. The moon was FULL and gorgeous over the mountain. It literally got so cool that you could see your breath! I think most people think about that buckle the last six miles...or try not to think about it so they won't jinx themselves. I was trying to keep myself from thinking about whose neck I was going to put that monkey around.

Here's video of our finish. http://www.my-endurance.net/video/od-finish">http://www.my-endurance.net/video/od-finish

At the awards I was literally surprised when they handed me my buckle. I'd been so focused on getting rid of the monkey I'd almost forgotten it!

At the meeting a nice man came up and said he worked in an emergency room and asked to check out my arm. He did some probing and asked some questions and then told me he felt I had a "radial head fracture". I referred to him as "that ER nurse" and somebody corrected me.."SURGEON"...turned out it was the owner of Asgard Arabians. Very nice man to take the time to help me out. Looked up the diagnosis and yep, dead on.

I presented the monkey to Skip Kemerer. I thought he was a good choice since he goes there often and has at least 2 100 mile horses. Hopefully it won't stay out of circulation 7 years this time!

Had a great time. The OD crowd was SOO friendly. Claire Godwin and all the others were already asking questions about what could be even better for the National Championships there.

I was asked if I would go to the National Championships there. My answer was, "When AERC treats the 100 like a main event and has it SATURDAY!" No way I can attend any NC that's held mid week. I know they have all the reasons they do that, but to me "it ain't working". The reasons I hear is so they can have the same people ride in the 50 Saturday (who cares?) and for the sake of the party. (Is this a championship RIDE or dinner? So, there's my suggestion. All distances Sat. Personally, I think it should be nothing but a 100 on a Saturday, one champion, not a dozen. It wouldn't be for sure me but I would support that. Having a National Championship ride on a Thursday is just like junior high JV game. bleh.

So, I do have a buckle and I don't have a monkey. Arm's messed up so can't do pottery this summer, weeding garden by myself is out, looks like I get to drive the hay truck instead of stack...but I got that buckle! :-)


Old Dominion by Nancy Sluys

June 14 2014

Zanie (FYF InZane +/) and I have been training all year in preparation for the 40th anniversary edition of the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride in Orkney Springs on the rugged mountain trails in the George Washington National Forest straddling Virginia and West Virginia. I was terribly disappointed when I got her up from the pasture on Tuesday morning before the ride and noticed that she had a big scrape across her side right where the saddle, pad and rigging came together. At first I thought I could heal it in time and went to work with some herbal salve but in a day or two I had to admit that it would not be healed enough to take all the friction that would be involved in negotiating the tough terrain of the ride and sadly made the decision not to take her rather than to worry about the outcome.

My thoughts turned to Able (R-Kons Able) who was my up and coming endurance horse. I had started him on a 30 last September and October and he has done 2 50s and 2 55s since then. Could he do it? The hundred? To me the Old Dominion IS the 100 mile ride. I knew he could do the 50 as he had successfully completed the Old Dominion No Frills 55 mile ride at the end of April and in 12th place but could I ask such a new endurance horse to take the challenge? I thought about his strength and the fact that I had been conditioning him on and off for nearly 4 years and realized that he did have the base to tackle the ride safely. Not wanting to miss it I went ahead and committed him to the hundred with the thought that if it was too much I would quit when he had had enough. The conditions turned out to be absolutely perfect with clear skies, temperatures in the 70s and a full moon. I couldn’t have asked for any better for a first hundred!

At the ride briefing the night before I was approached by Claire Godwin who asked if I would be willing to sponsor her junior rider since she had a broken hand and would not be riding. Junior riders 16 and under are required to ride with an adult sponsor for the whole ride. Claire Taylor, who was 16 years old, had attempted two other rides, the 50 and the 100, at the OD but had never completed. She was looking to get the monkey off her back! It sounded like it would be fun to ride with her and I knew I could get her through, not to mention that I would have a buddy for my horse that could not leave me! I agreed to be her sponsor. I was also planning on riding with Ruth Anne Everett, who I have partnered with in the past and really enjoy. We were going to have a fun little team going down the trail. We were all just interested in completing the challenge and really enjoying ourselves.

The moon was coming up when I went to bed, promising light on the trail for the night portion of our ride. I fell asleep easily, comfortable with my decisions for the ride and looking forward to the 5:15 am start. At 3:30AM we were awakened by reveille being played loudly over the sound system followed by some other weird music. Since I had set my alarm for 4AM I was a bit miffed over losing that half hour of sleep but I was up so I went ahead and fed Able and started getting my stuff ready. I saddled Able early to give him a long warm up so he would be ready for the big climbs. I met up with Ruth Anne and went to find Claire and head for the starting line. Ruth Anne’s horse Jax and Able were both very keyed up so she decided not to start with me as the horses were feeding off of each other but we would meet up down the trail or at the vet check. That was fine with me because I could concentrate on Able and get to know Claire and her horse, Salute (owned by Claire Godwin).

At 5:15 the timer announced that the trail was open and we were on our way. We let the frontrunners go and walked quietly out of camp before we picked up an easy trot. The two horses seemed to know they had a job to do. The weather was cool and breezy and the horses felt really good. As they warmed up they picked up some speed and we had to rate them pretty strongly to the first vet check. The trail was pleasant at first as we wound through the woods past a water tower. We came to a clearing where we stopped as the sun was rising to look at the view and take a few pictures. We didn’t talk much at all since we were both concentrating on keeping our horses in control in the crisp morning. Then the climbs and rocks started coming and seemed to never end. After several really rugged, steep mountains and a long rocky ridgeline we came to a forest service road then the trail to Bird Haven, our first vet check at 15.7 miles. We arrived at 7:31 and both horses pulsed down in a few minutes. We had made good time on that first segment that would help us later in the day and night. Ruth Anne was there but she had run into some bad luck losing a horseshoe on the first section. She had gotten it replaced at the vet check and was going to join us for the rest of the ride.

The second leg was really tough with lots of rocky sections. We ascended to a beautiful but rock and boulder strewn trail that followed the spine of a narrow ridge. If there were no trees and shrubs it would look like a trail at Tevis! Laurels lined the trail and were in full bloom, sometimes it was so closed in we had to almost push our way through the laurel. We would catch an occasional view of the countryside below and realize how high up we were. It was spectacular! It was very hard to make time on this section and we trotted wherever we felt we could, even if it was just three steps to take as best advantage of any good footing we could without putting the horse’s soundness at risk. At one point I failed to slow Able in time to avoid a tricky rock pile and he skipped over it but caught one of his glued on boots, which ripped it off. I noticed a few strides later and stopped to replace it with a regular Easyboot Glove. I then became nervous that I might lose another. I had one more boot with me but he takes a different size on the front and back. I had just used his spare front boot so if he lost another front I would be in trouble. I have glued on Easyboot Gloves for 11 hundred mile rides and the only other time I have ever lost one was at the 2011 Old Dominion, convincing me that the OD trail has no prejudice or preference for or against any type of hoof wear, it will rip them off just the same!

Bad luck struck Ruth Anne and Jax again a little later when the newly replaced shoe did not hold and came off leaving Jax with a tattered hoof and increasing lameness. I gave her my remaining Easyboot so that she could hand walk him safely the four or so miles to the next vet check and withdraw. We sadly left her walking and continued down the trail while I tried to text her husband, Mike, and let him know that she would not make it to Buck Tail , which was the next place our crews could meet us. Able, who had spent the night next to Jax at camp, pined for him a while, stopping and looking back to see where he was. We came off the mountain and down to a gravel road leading to Laurel Run, our next stop.

As we were arriving at Laurel Run a woman noticed I was having boot issues and informed me that she had some Easyboots for sale in her truck. She was my angel! Knowing we still had to make it to the next vet check where my extra boots would be, with lots of evil rock on the way, I went ahead and got one of each size that Able wears, just for good insurance. After that I never lost another boot for the whole ride. I guess it was good insurance.

Our crews were not at Laurel Run as it is a small area and crews were not allowed. They had volunteers to help hold your horse and food for horse and rider. Ruth Anne would get a trailer ride back to camp from here and we would continue to Buck Tail where my husband, Bill, and Claire’s parents, Martha and Steve, were waiting for us. Despite the rugged terrain we had made good time with an average speed of almost 7mph thanks to some gravel road that allowed us to trot out and even canter for a few stretches.

As I have done this ride twice before I always leave Laurel Run with a little dread anticipating the five or six mile long climb up a gravel road in the hot sun at midday. The first time I did it the temperatures were in the 90s and it seemed to take hours. This year was not bad as we had a strong cool breeze for relief. I actually sort of enjoyed it as the views were great. There was a pipe coming out of a mountain spring about half way up that they had put a tub under. It offered the horses a well needed cool drink and they took advantage of it gladly. We walked the whole thing to save our horses for later. I think this is where I sang the first song. I have written two songs about endurance riding while I have travelled the long trail alone on a hundred mile ride and this seemed like a good time to sing one and get us through the drudgery of that long climb, in fact, the song is called “The Hundred Mile Ride”. We finally turned off the gravel road onto another laurel laden trail even more beautiful than the last. The trail traveled through boulder fields and areas of stunted trees and the spine was even narrower, sometimes just a few feet wide. It was exhilarating and exciting and even a little scary at times.

I think the trail from Laurel Run must be the longest 13.5 miles on earth as it took us over 3 hours to get to Buck Tail, making it in excess of six hours since we have seen our crews. Bill, Martha, Steve, and Claire Godwin were happy to see us arrive as they had been hanging out there for hours. By now we had travelled 45.6 miles, we were almost halfway there. The horses looked good, they had settled into the ride and had started taking care of themselves by drinking at every opportunity and snatching grass from the side of the trail as we walked. We also took advantage of grassy areas by allowing them to stop and graze for 5 or 10 minutes, keeping their gut sounds healthy and keeping the energy up. We enjoyed an extra long hold of 50 minutes and were able to relax a bit and eat some food. There was lots of drama unfolding as reports of pulls were starting to come in and we wished our fellow riders still in the race all the best of luck and ourselves too. Claire was happy that she had now made it further than she ever had before at the Old Dominion and was hopeful for a finish. Of course, there was still a long trail ahead of us and with “The Beast Of The East”, as they call the Old Dominion, nothing is a guarantee, you have to fight for every mile!

When we left Buck Tail it would be another 25 miles until we would see our crews at Big 92 vet check. Eleven miles into the trail we had a gate and go stop at Waites Run where the horses had to meet the pulse criteria of 64 beats a minute before starting a ten minute mandatory hold to rest and let them eat. It was starting to get warm and the breeze had quit and most of the trail was on a sunny forest service road so I was feeling a little hot and low energy as I was entering my low part of the day. Slightly refreshed after our rest we continued on to Big 92. The other two times I have done the OD this has been my low point too, one time I was quite sick at this point so I did not have a great memory for this section. All I did remember was a long downhill trail that Zanie had rocked and rolled on the last time I was here. What I failed to remember was the long, technical, rocky climb before it that seemed to just go on forever. After leaving Waites Run you make a turn that heads you back towards camp even though you are still 45 miles away but the horses can feel that turn and they pick it up knowing that they are headed home. We made some good time before hitting that rocky mountain where the trail turns back the other way for a while. The horses seemed to just crawl up that mountain, losing all forward momentum and losing all the time we had made up and more. When we finally hit the long downhill forest service road that I had remembered being so fast but we were disappointed to find that it wad completely washed out from the previous years heavy rains. It was covered with bare loose rock and the big gravel they used to try and repair it. There was no time to be made up here, the going was slow and treacherous. We finally made it to the gravel road where our crews at Buck Tail waited several miles away. We arrived around 9pm as the sun was setting and we had now made it to the seventy mile point!

I was feeling better as the evening cooled me off and was looking forward to the night riding. I treated myself to a complete change of clothes as mine were damp and clammy and I did not want to get chilled at night. I knew that the next 8 mile section was mostly gravel road and we would be able to make up some of our lost time. I was not paying attention and did not notice that Claire was having an issue with her horse. He had become a little tight and crampy in his hind end as he rested and the air cooled off. He was passed by the vets but with cautionary statements. Claire G loaded him up on some electrolytes, which he had probably gotten low on, and requested that we walk and baby him to the next vet check expecting him to work out of it. Our hopes of making up time on the gravel road diminished and we resigned ourselves to the long walk.

As we left Big 92 another rider names Denise who we had been leap frogging all day tagged along with us for the night portion of the ride. We set out as dusk was falling and it crossed my mind that I had never ridden Able at night and wondered how he would handle it. I turned on my headlamp and he didn’t care a bit. He just went steady forward into the darkness. He was fine with it and was enjoying the cooling temperatures. Around 10:30 the full moon started to rise over the mountain and the night came alive. We turned our lights off when we were in the open, only using them in the dark woods. The moonlight was bright and we could see well. Here is where we sang my second song, “Run Race Horse Run” to pass the time. We had been saving it for a moment like this! The whip-o-wills began calling and were so loud we almost had to cover our ears. Walking forced us to notice the little things, a birdcall, a gurgling creek, fireflies, bats with glowing eyes and all sorts of night magic. Our new riding friend questioned whether we were going to walk the whole thing, worried that we would not make it in time. I said that we would walk for as long as the horse needed to and I was totally confident that we had the time to do it, having years of experience with pacing when I rode NATRC competitive trail rides. After a while I noticed that Salute was moving much more comfortably so we alternated one minute of trotting with 3 minutes of walking when the trail allowed and soon he seemed totally back to normal. We arrived at Laurel Run for the second time well before the cut off time. Both horses vetted through with all As on their vet cards and we were relieved that Claire’s ride would continue. At this point we only had 20 more miles to the finish line, 13.4 miles back to Bird Haven where we had our first vet check and 6.5 miles to camp. Finishing the Old Dominion 100 seemed well in our grasp.

If you recall my description of the first 2 legs you will remember the difficulty of the trail. Even though these segments shortcutted parts of the trail we had done in the morning I think it kept all the hardest parts. Riding in the darkness made it even tougher. Much of the trail to Bird Haven was single track, technical trail that demanded our complete attention. The horses did great though and handled the terrain well in the dark. We were still taking great care with the horses and would only trot on level ground so Salute would not get stiff again trotting on the up hills or down hills. I kept my eye on my watch and GPS to be sure our pacing was still good. I was surprised to discover that although Able does not seem like he is walking fast he can maintain a 4.5 – 5 mph mile walk on good ground and that would get us there on time. We sang both songs again before we got to Bird Haven and before we knew it we were there.

Once again both horses looked great, they were picking up strength and energy. The vets were pleased with Salute and complimented me highly on Able’s condition and our care on the trail. This was a high moment for me. We both became quite emotional when we realized that we were going to do this thing!

Denise was still with us when we started our last leg, the 6.5 miles to the finish. This trail was slow and rocky and we once again walked most of it. When we hit the water tower that we had passed in the morning and made a turn I could feel that Able knew we were almost home. He felt strong and forward and the last few miles went by quicker than we had expected. Pretty soon I started smelling the turkey farm down the road from camp and knew we were very close. We suddenly hit the gravel road and the last half mile before the finish. As we approached the lights of the finish line at 4:45, with our crews and a few others waiting, the sky was lightening from the oncoming sunrise. Able surged ahead, eager to get there and Denise and Claire had a funny reverse race for the turtle reward. They both got slower and slower and just before crossing the line Claire tucked Salute’s head with the reins and came in last, the celebrated turtle! To finish is to win! Of course we were not officially done until the last vet check, which is always an anxious moment because a horse can stiffen up in the cool night breeze if you are not careful so we put blankets on them and kept them moving on to the vetting area. Both passed with flying colors, fit to continue. We had done it and with 30 minutes to spare! I was so very proud of our ride! I had gotten another first time 100 mile horse (this being my third I have started on the OD trail) through the toughest ride in the East and maybe the country and helped a junior get the monkey off her back!

Thanks to all the volunteers and the ride management that made this incredible ride possible! It’s because of you that we can do what we love! Thanks to my crew, Bill, for helping us get through! It’s a team effort! Also, if you ever have a chance to sponsor a junior, do it! It’s a whole lot of fun!

Happy Trails, Nancy Sluys

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! :-)