by Tamara Baysinger
Friday, September 3, 2021. In the forest near Centerville, Idaho. Early.
Breakfast goes down on a queasy stomach. I slept some, between long bouts of tossing and turning. I'm not super nervous ~ Ledger has good training, I know these trails, and we're only going 25 miles ~ but first rides are first rides, and anything can happen. So I'm a little nervous.
Ledger has cleaned up his hay overnight. He stands quietly for tacking up, with the help of Mr. Sweaty and a bowl of Outlast. The temperature isn't too far above freezing. Ledger shivers despite the blanket draped over his rump. I do, too.
My plan is to trot straight out of camp after most of the field is gone. Ledger will protest about leaving Starfish, but a little smack on the butt should be all it takes to keep him moving. Once we're out of earshot, we'll be golden.
Reality isn't quite like that.
It starts out well. A little reluctance, a little weaving, a little piaffe that's better saved for the dressage ring...but we're out of camp without much trouble. Hooray!
And then, the ribbons lead us sharply to the right. So sharply that Ledger reckons we're headed back to his buddy. That's when he loses every marble he has.
I feel him gather as if to run. One-rein stop! That shuts down the speed, but not the tension. He spins around. Stops. Gets light in front. Uh-oh! Disengage hindquarters NOW! We spin and spin until I find a split second in which to dismount.
On the bright side, I'm not cold anymore.
Ledger has turned into a dragon. His whole being is electric. He wants to run, to buck, to rear, to get back to camp, to catch the other riders. He wants to do pretty much anything except lead like a nice boy.
We try anyway. A few stragglers come up behind and pass, asking if we're okay. We are. More or less. We're just going to go in hand for a bit.
So of course, there's a creek crossing. Knee-deep on both of us. Ask me how I know.
Squish, squish, squish! Both of us press water from our boots as we walk and trot up the hill, across a paved drive, and into the trees. It takes a good mile for Ledger's brain to reinstall sufficiently that I decide to mount up. He's still a live wire. We negotiate. Trot, but not too fast, and I'll stay out of your mouth as much as possible. No, we aren't whirling around to find your buddy. And you really need to concentrate going down this hill!
He nearly falls on a steep decline because he isn't paying attention. I dismount again. I am a card-carrying member of the I Choose Life Club, folks. Happy to walk when I need to. Besides, Ledger's front boots are already twisting. I forgot the athletic tape (gah!) and the fit is imperfect. We pause to re-set the worst one, but it twists again within minutes. We'll just have to do our best.
He settles, eventually. More or less. I ponder the rearing thing, and realize that the junior cowhorse bit we tried at home -- in a much lower pressure situation -- may be too much for him. It doesn't have much leverage, but it does have some. I'll switch at the check.
Speaking of the vet check, it's...interesting. Ledger stomps his hinds as if to threaten the vet (ACK!!!). Or is he just annoyed by his boots, like Jammer tends to get when we're standing still? Speaking of standing still, Ledger doesn't. I apologize to the vets, who are very understanding of my first-time-pony woes. Ledger proceeds to run me over during the trot-out.
Okay, so there's room for growth. I swear we practiced ahead of time. We'll practice more. And we'll leave his buddy home next time, because that seems to be where all his brain cells have gone.
At least he gets all A's.
He eats. I find a mullen mouth twisted wire D-ring snaffle and make the switch. Mr. Sweaty brings me food to eat as I change both my boots and Ledger's. He drinks. I drink, though not the beverage I might have liked to enjoy. Just water, alas.
And then we're off. In a bubble, thank goodness, no horses in sight. We bob and weave our way out of camp again, then hit a steady trot as Starfish's hollers fade. Ledger is still pretty wound up, and I'm dismayed to catch up with a group of riders just a couple miles along. A few more come up behind us, compounding the potential for overexcitement. Oh well, he has to learn sometime!
I stay aboard for more of this loop, but still walk plenty. Ledger does not lead nicely. He wants to GO! I get tired of his bad manners ~ not something he's displayed at home, but we all know rides bring out new behaviors! ~ and start making him back up the trail every time he gets rushy in hand. He does a lot of backing.
Some strangers on a four-wheeler ask, "Aren't you supposed to ride him?"
"Ride him?" I say, "I'm lucky he doesn't make me carry him!"
It's an old joke borrowed from an old friend, but it still makes me smile. Actually, I've smiled most of the ride. (Hike. Whatever.) I went into this knowing I'd probably have my hands full, and I'm content to deal with the situation as it develops. I'm not in a hurry. And for all Ledger's fire-breathing nonsense, I'm really loving what I see.
Back to the trail. By mile 20, I have decided that if the junior cow horse bit was too much, the mullen mouth isn't enough. We need a happy medium. Where's Goldilocks when you need her?
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 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.
by Tamara Baysinger
Friday morning, May 10. I've taken the day off work. Ride camp is only a hour's drive away, but I'm ready for a little vacation and don't want any pressure getting settled in for Jammer's first endurance ride. I reckon we'll pull in early, set up camp, and spend the day basking in the sunshine while the rest of the trailers roll in.
We surely do get that sunshine! It's unseasonably warm for this area -- close on 90 degrees, and expected to be just as hot for Saturday's ride. And I've ridden Eagle Extreme before. It's deceptively difficult. Close to home, just in the foothills overlooking Boise, on the trails where many local riders condition their horses. But close and familiar don't mean easy. There are some long climbs ahead. And as I say, it's hot.
On the bright side, Jammer is a gem in camp. He takes in the sights calmly, eats and drinks, hollers some but doesn't fuss. When Karen Bumgarner arrives with her horse Blue, we set the boys up next to each other, and Jam's world is complete. He and Blue have only met once, but Blue and Karen are our babysitters for Jam's first ride. The pair of them appear to get along swimmingly.
It's good to see old friends at the ride meeting. I've been away from my sport too long! Management backs the start time up from 7am to 6:00, out of respect for the heat. That's welcome news. I'm all for saddling up by lantern light and trotting past the vet at daybreak.
Come morning, Blue is a bit doggy right out of the gate -- he's used to starting at a walk, but this vet requests a trot -- but Jam is feeling frisky. He prances along with his nostrils full, but his manners are intact and I'm not working overly hard to hold him in. We see horses ahead on the trail, but he doesn't rush. Before long, a few late-starters pass us and he isn't fazed. Oh yeah. I'm really starting to like this horse.
The second of the two loops features the real climb. Up and up and up and up and up! We trot much of it but walk some as we follow a creek bed, then a gulch, up from the sage desert to where the lupines grow. Near the top, we take a short detour to visit a water tank that fills from a slow spring; Karen knows it from prior years, so our horses get an extra drink without having to add more than a few extra steps to the ride. Lucky horses. It's really hot now. Sunscreen stings my eyes.
Finally, we reach the top. We'd be thrilled, except that we know what's coming. The long lollipop. And I do mean long. Lots of rolling hills of the variety that tend to slow you down unless you want to beat up your horse's legs. Looooooooong lollipop. Lots and lots of rolling hills. We ride all the way out to the Emmett highway before circling back, then have to go past the quickest route toward camp and come down the long way to add even more miles.
It's somewhere in that last stretch that Karen exclaims, "This ain't no lollipop -- it's an all day sucker!"
She's right. Boy, are we glad when we finally drop into the valley and hit the homestretch! Jammer knows where we are and trots in strong, all day sucker notwithstanding. Good horse.
The timers cheer us in and congratulate us on our turtle placement. "Ummmm...." Uh-oh. We can't have turtled. We know for certain (thanks to lollipop trails) that there were riders behind us when we came into the hold. Nobody passed us on the second loop. Something has gone wrong.
We pull out our maps, discuss the issue with management, and figure out a likely scenario. It appears that the three riders behind us missed a turn on the second loop, which brought them into camp too early, without having covered all the miles. Drat. The ride manager heads over to their trailers, where they are already unsaddled and changed into shorts, to discuss their options.
Meanwhile, Jam vets through with top marks. His pulse is low and he looks fantastic. The vet suggests we try for BC, but Jam's trot-outs aren't spectacular (training oversight, totally my fault!) so we decline. In hindsight, maybe we shouldn't have. Ah, well. Maybe next time.
Management re-appears to let us know that the mistaken riders have decided to head out again and finish the miles. They'll trailer out part way to save time, ride the missed section, and earn completion only. That puts me and Karen in 8th and 9th place, with a ride time of 8:38. It's dang hot and I feel badly for those poor teams that have to go back out, but I'm impressed that they've decided to do it. Real endurance riders do what it takes instead of throwing in the towel.
Back at our trailer, Jam drinks more water and dives into a pile of hay while we riders find a scrap of shade and some beer. First 50 done! It was a tough one, but Jam made it feel easy.
Yep. Sure do like this horse!
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!
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