by Angela Leah Averitt
Tracie Williams Parker and Heather Wilkerson encouraged me to share my experience from the Broxton Bridge Endurance Ride this past weekend in hopes of encouraging someone else. This post is about perseverance, hope, the importance of friendship, and overcoming fear…
She is a mare after all and I had heard such things. I also quickly learned that Remi was quite green and extremely agile. I got catapulted off her enough over the first two years to develop some very deep-set fears which have caused me intense anxiety even at the thought of getting on her back. I was determined to keep this horse but knew I did not have the skill or the mental capacity to make her safe to ride so I recently got her back from three months of training with Elise Levasseur Rogers. Elise is an amazing horsewoman who has been an incredible mentor for me in this new journey with Remi and I am forever grateful.
Fast forward to this weekend...
Though Remi has come a LONG way in her training, I still have fear. A LOT OF FEAR! But, I recently made a pact with myself to FACE IT instead of allowing it to consume me. Elise encouraged me a few weeks ago to bring Remi to Broxton, if nothing else, just to camp. I debated for days whether either of us were ready for the challenge.
Though Remi has come a long way, she still has an occasional out of control, high spirited Arab moment when she wants to go flying down the trail and ignore her brakes. So I was thinking "no way in hell with my anxiety can I ride this horse by myself with endurance riders zooming by in all directions right?" But, I signed up anyways hoping that just maybe I would get a wild hair and JUST DO IT!
So the day comes to load up and go to Broxton. It was 30 degrees and misting with winds blowing 20mph. A year ago, I would have never even tried to load her in those conditions because she would rear up and bolt out backwards. Well, Remi decides she’s going to try an old trick.
Anticipating I would give up like I’ve done in the past, Remi spun around in the trailer, hit her head, and bolted out of the trailer. Except this time, before allowing myself to get anxious I immediately sent her back in. It took me over an hour to load her up but I FREAKING DID IT and didn't once allow her high energy to affect me. Once in the trailer she settled down and chomped on hay quietly for the next three hours. FIRST WIN for the weekend!
As soon as we pulled in camp Remi turned into a fire breathing dragon spinning around in the trailer, screaming, snorting, and pawing at the sides of the trailer to the point of making my entire trailer rock back and forth. She made quite a scene!
I somehow remained calm...how I'm still not sure. Maybe from all those times watching Elise work with Remi seemingly unaffected by her crazy. We found a good parking spot to set up camp but because her behavior was seemingly escalating, I wasn’t sure if it was safe to get her out so I called Elise for help. I did not want to reward her bad behavior by letting her out before she settled. Elise came over and calmly let her out and reassured me that she would settle down if I just walked her around and stayed calm, which I did.
All I could think about was her getting loose in the middle of the night and running into the road and getting hit by a car, because this has happened at Broxton before. I messaged Elise and told her we were going home. I couldn’t do it if she didn’t settle down asap. My anxiety was building and I was blaming myself for Remi’s behavior thinking maybe I didn’t prepare her enough for this. Elise reassured me that Remi’s behavior was not my fault and insisted I tie her to my trailer and stick it out because she needed to figure this out.
I found some gorilla tape and mended my broken corral panel, hooked up the electric, and put Remi back in there to try one more time. She shocked herself about 5x before she realized it wasn’t worth continuing to challenge and she finally stood there quietly. Tracie and Heather walked over shortly after and also insisted I stay reminding me that they've both had horses get loose in camp and SURVIVED so it would be ok. So, I decided to stay…
Night #1 was pretty miserable. I slept in my open stock trailer on a cot, the low was 25 degrees and frost covered the walls that I was sleeping next to. Remi continued to call out at least once an hour throughout the night. A few times I heard her get shocked and blow out like a trumpet. I still had great fear that she would become upset enough to tear through her electric corral but the extreme cold convinced me to stay under my sleeping bag and shut up my worries.
Day #2 I got up bright and early to keep an eye on Remi while we watched the 100 milers trot by us out of camp on their first loop. To my surprise she just stood there watching intently only calling out to them a few times as they left. I took her for a walk mid-morning and she was quiet even with riders trotting by us in and out of camp. She found some grass to graze on and even drank from the water troughs. I ran into Maddie Rogers who convinced me to ride with her later that afternoon, which we did. Remi was antsy but controllable. It wasn’t until this moment that I started thinking that maybe we COULD do the Intro ride that we signed up for the next day.
Night #2 Remi didn’t make a peep. She ate, drank, and stayed quiet throughout the night. Finally after 24 hours I got some much needed shut eye.
Day #3 was the day we signed up to do the Intro ride. The Intro ride was a 10 mile loop that was part of the endurance ride but had no time constraints. We could go out at any time and take as long as we needed. There were 85 riders total and Broxton is very open allowing you to see all the trails around you as they are not hidden by trees.
I did my best to go out at a time that other riders may not be using the same loop I picked. This made me nervous but I knew I HAD to do this!!!
Remi jigged for about 2 miles but was controllable. Several riders passed us but were kind enough to recognize her anxiety and slowed to pass making sure we were ok. I made her stand and watch them canter off before we started back down the trail.
Things were going well but she was becoming increasingly anxious the more riders she saw coming and going. I decided to let her trot to get rid of some of her excess energy. She had different plans and the trot quickly turned into a canter that became faster and faster with each stride. She totally ignored all rein pressure. It took me about ¼ a mile or so before I realized the only way to stop her was to either run her into a tree or circle her into the adjacent field which I did as my saddle started to slide with the turn.
This saddle slipping issue has caused me great anxiety in the past, so I decided to jump off and hand walk her until her energy and mine came back down. I only intended to hand walk her for a few minutes, but more horses were cantering towards us left and right and she was getting increasingly anxious. It took everything I had in me to get her to listen and quit worrying about the other horses running off.
We ended up doing groundwork at least 3 miles before she finally started to settle. I was in the process of mounting when Tracie trotted up to us and invited me to ride with them. She was having trouble with her asthma and was planning on finishing her ride slow.
The last 5 miles of our ride was AMAZING! Remi went out on a loose rein, she stopped to eat grass with horses cantering by, and drank from the water troughs. She finally figured out that it was ok that the other horses were leaving us.
by Jennifer Leipold Alexander
Ft Howes, MT many years ago...
Hauled horse from virgina to ride 50. At briefing was asked to sponsor 2 sister juniors who had more mileage than I, so sure!
One pony tied up about 10 miles out so we 3 waited for trailer & vet but sure was not 10 by road for them... + an hour. Eventually I (badgered) group of adults to let other sister go with them as was not far to check, in camp & then mom could sort out next step.
Eventually i rode to camp with a very rested horse. Left with a friend & made the mistake of letting horse keep up with her, well for awhile.
In 2nd check older sister's new sponsor got pulled & no-one would take her so she waited for us off we went. Few miles later my horse got a belly ache (well he had tried to tell me not to go so fast earlier) so i grabbed another adult for the jr & off they went.
I got fussed at on arrival as crew was having trouble with my gut story. Someone (crew) was sure i'd pull & so workers had been told not to wait for me & they went out to close gates on the last 5 miles. Well, i did not drive all those miles to pull & vet said horse was fine.
We got a lovely Dead Ass Last painted rock & a good sport jacket. Pony recovered. Crew apologized. I still feel like i should have handed out parts of that jacket (sleeves maybe?) to the other adult who helped the sisters.
I recommend Ft Howes as a well managed & friendly ride with great trail & worker-bees. Hope I can get back there! And take a jr riding with you !
by Tamara Baysinger
So. I decided to ride Acey on Day 1. Gotta get it overwith sometime, right? Besides, out vet checks and two holds looked like the way to go for a first-timer with a buddy in camp. Laurel and Buffy offered to let us join them, along with Linda and Ted, for a slow ride at the back of the pack. Perfect.
The night before split itself between wind and rain. I slept little enough to observe the passing storms, a victim of new-horse nerves, though I must say I wasn't nearly as restless as I used to get. I was confident that Acey was mentally ready for the trail itself, and that she'd eat and drink well throughout the ride. But how would her fiery, emotional side affect her at the start? What would happen when we reached the creek, only a mile out? Acey is a heart-on-her-sleeve kind of horse, and she doesn't always react calmly to new and intense experiences.
Near morning, the rain stopped. I let myself hope for a dry start. Alas, before my alarm went off at 5:30, the rat-a-tat tapping on the camper roof started up again. And increased in volume. And so, we tacked up in the rain.
I applied several wraps of duct tape to Acey's Backcountry boot gaiters, cursing the dampness that already threatened the likelihood of them staying on through mud and miles. Acey alternately shivered and danced in place, but at least she continued grabbing mouthfuls of hay. The chill and nerves were getting to her, and I was glad when the starters sent the bulk of the horses on down the trail.
Acey seemed fairly calm there by the trailer, so I mounted up...and quickly got off again as a glimpse of the departing herd sent her emotions skyward. Right. We'd start out in hand.
Along with Laurel and Linda, we headed down the road, Acey dancing and fretting at my side. She didn't resist leaving camp, but she was a nervous wreck and spooked dramatically when a couple other, late starters crested a small hill behind us. We walked on and the moment she was reasonably settled, I stepped aboard and asked her immediately to trot. All that energy needed to go somewhere, and a rational, forward pace made the most sense.
We reached the creek still jumping with nerves, but comfortably under control. I moved Acey close behind her new friends Buffy and Ted, and (glory hallelujah!) she walked right through the knee-deep stream without batting an eyelash. Soaked from above by falling rain, soaked from below by our saturated seat covers, but triumphant to have survived the toughest part of the ride -- the start -- we climbed out of the canyon and struck up a merry trot along the ridge.
Acey travelled with her ears up and eyes bright. She managed the early climbs and descents handily, and my only worry was the frequent clopping of her boots against one another. She doesn't forge badly barefoot, but the too-large boots affect her breakover and I feared she would lose them, particularly in the muddy conditions.
Sure enough, we weren't 5 miles out before we had to backtrack in search of a boot -- the left front. Or maybe it was the right front. Either way, it constituted an inauspicious beginning -- and believe you me, it was only the beginning.
We now had one boot with no tape. I tried re-taping with a roll of duct tape from my saddle bag, but Acey was in no frame of mind to stand still. The gaiter was hopelessly damp and sandy anyway. I strapped it on, sans tape, and crossed my fingers. [Note: finger-crossing is no guarantee of success.]
Somewhere around mile 7, I gave up on keeping that errant boot on Acey's foot. Having no room in my saddle bags because I'd filled them with water bottles, I managed to tied it to the back of my saddle, which wasn't easy because Backcountries don't really offer anything to tie around. It rode there for a while until the footing got rockier and I tried putting it on again.
A few minutes later, I found myself carrying the boot. It simply refused to stay put. I wasn't thrilled about sharing my hands between hoof boots and reins, but the vet check wasn't too much farther and the footing was soft. We'd make it. [Ha! Cue ominous music.]
Somewhere along the line, Linda's horse lost one of his Gloves.
And then, as we trotted briskly across another flat stretch, the real adventure began. Acey's head went up and her ears went back. Her hindquarters came up beneath me and I just had time to say "Guys, something's really bothering her" before she bolted.
Zoom! Up the trail we flew!
I chucked the hoof boot I was carrying and tried to rein her in. Not a good move, apparently. All that energy went up instead of out. I'm told we made a rodeo spectacular as we bucked through the sagebrush, circling back toward our companions.
I stayed on...stayed on...stayed on...aaaaaand came off.
I was on my feet again before I registered that I'd hit the ground. Acey waited nearby, watching wide-eyed and bare on yet another foot. I concluded that the boot had come off but the ring of duct tape had clung to her fetlock, causing her to spook in the first place.
We searched briefly for the missing boot, but gave up before long. The loop was taking forever and we had a good 40 miles to go! Now Laurel and I each carried a boot, Acey wore one, and the fourth was never to be seen again.
As we trotted on, I pondered the fact that I seemed to have landed right on the top of my head. Neck stiffness would surely ensue. Chiropractor, anyone? But first, we had to get through today. And tomorrow. And maybe the next day as well. All this assuming that I wasn't forced to pull due to equipment problems.
Sure enough, the second, 25-mile loop went off without a hitch. Halfway around, black clouds rolled over to drench us with rain and pelt us with hail, but the storm passed on a rush of wind and we arrived at the next hold with reasonably dry clothes and happy horses. Acey again vetted with all A's except a B for gut sounds, which I knew would rekindle as soon as she had a chance to dig into some much-desired feed. Indeed, she ate and drank well and continued to look content and eager to move on.
Only 12.5 miles to go. Home free, right?
Sure...until we mounted up and started walking out of the vet check, just as someone lifted a big water tub directly behind Acey. It wasn't too close behind her -- the person didn't do anything stupid -- but Acey's ranch-raised brain isn't used to all that human activity.
A replay ensued. Bolt, attempt to pull up, buck. Stay on...stay on...stay on...come off.
This time, I landed on my back. Again, I hopped up and back astride before Acey seemed to realize what had happened. She was still shaking and water tubs were still being loaded, though, so I got back off and led her a short way down the trail before mounting up again.
I'm pleased to report that the rest of the last loop went fine. No more lost boots, no more spooks, no more unscheduled dismounts.
Linda kindly kept Ted an extra distance back, since Acey was a bit shaken, and we'd picked up a junior at the hold because her sponsor was pulled. As we rode, I had time to ponder the connections between Acey's spooks -- always something from behind, always a bolt followed by major bucks when reined in. I formed my theory about the bucking be a panic reaction to being constrained. I began planning to teach her a single-rein stop (duh), and decided that if she bolted again, I would let her run a bit if possible and pull her up with pulsing instead of firm reins.
We all returned to camp in good spirits. Acey's energy remained high and she earned all A's again, though I could tell by a hint of unevenness in her gait that she was finally getting tired. I couldn't blame her! It was after 6:00 and she'd never travelled anywhere near that far before.
All things considered, I was downright proud her. All day long, she was nothing if not game. She covered almost the entire ride, including the rocky 2nd loop, barefoot in back, and never took a bad step.
Best of all, she had fun.
So we have a couple issues to work through -- hoof protection, behavior when spooked, excessive nervous energy in camp -- but, all things considered, my hopes for the wee little firecracker are higher than ever.
This is a collection of ride stories from distance riders everywhere. Read to your heart's content, chime in through the comments, and share a tale of your own!
Tell Your Story
Submitting your own story is easy and free! Here's how: