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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Broxton Bridge, Nov 2010...The ride

Start at 7 AM means a 5 AM wake-up alarm. Yes, it does take me 2 hours to wake up and get ready to ride. It was COLD! About 36 degrees. We did have an electric site, though, and I had brought a small space heater, so it was a luxury to have some warmth while dressing. But it was still cold.

When Daniel and I took Tanna to weigh him at the SERA scales, I decided it wasn't worth risking when we noticed the sheen of frost/ice on the mat covering the scales! Just my luck for Tanna to make it to the day of the ride only to slip on the mat and not be able to start!

Back to the trailer for preparations. I dressed in many layers and my trusty winter tights, then saddled Tanna. I really like the Hi Tie we got. I did have to tie Tanna to the trailer until I got the saddle on him as he wouldn't stand still for saddling. But then he was allowed to be on the Hi Tie with more room to move around.

I had not had much time during the week to fuss and worry about ride day. So I was strangely relaxed about the whole thing. At 6:43, Daniel mentioned the time and I hurried to get mounted and headed to the start timers.

Our most excellent timing staff was waiting in the cold for my number. 34. The number was dutifully painted on Tanna's rump, but he was wearing a rump rug that obviously obscured this number and rubbed it off so by the time the rump rug came off later in the ride, you couldn't read it anyway.

I milled around with the other riders until the controlled start began. Joe was leading us out on his red mule. I waited for a bit and finally followed the crowd. During the mile long controlled start, we passed a few people just because I didn't like the way Tanna or the other horse was acting.

After we crossed the main road (601), the trail was clear. I waved and called to Susan and Joe and headed down the trail. We were on our way. Tanna was beside himself with excitement and tried to break into a canter every other stride. I tried to find a pocket to put him in where we weren't with other horses, but it took awhile and I let several horses pass us while looking for that sweet spot. Finally, we got into a place where he was a bit more controllable. There were maybe 4 riders behind me and 31 in front of me.

My training schedule, and thus my ride plan, was to work for 4 minutes and then walk until Tanna's HR dropped below 100 bpm. I knew this wouldn't work as well for the first part of the ride until his adrenaline rush broke.

Tanna gets to a point, usually within an hour of the start, where he'll take a deep breath and go to work sensibly instead of running like a moron on adrenaline. When he reaches that point, Tanna's HR will be normal. But until then, I decided to have him work for 4 minutes and walk for 1 minute since I couldn't rely on the HR.

The 4 minute sessions were halting for awhile as I would ask him to go, he'd attempt to canter, I would pull him back to a trot, sometimes even a stop and then repeat. The 1 minute "breaks" were a battle to keep him somewhere between a dead stop and 10 mph. He thought if he couldn't go fast, he'd just stop until I saw the light. At least I didn't have to worry about the footing beyond trying to stay out of the churned up sand on the inside of the many turns.

We reached the spotter the first time where where there was water. This was about 7 miles into the ride. There was a spotter and a ham radio operator relaying our numbers back to base camp. Here we were to do a small loop back to the spotter before continuing on. Several riders were coming off the small loop, so there were about 6 horses there at once. I called out my number and asked Tanna if he wanted water. He didn't, but he did stretch out to pee. After another minute or two of standing, we headed out on our loop.

Tanna is very good about heading down the proper trail. He knows that to catch the horses we were just with, he has to do the trail right. I taught him that years ago during out and back loops. After passing many riders going the opposite direction, I continued to encourage Tanna and when we got to the turn around spot, I would let him go full out to catch and pass riders. Maybe not the brightest move, but it sure taught him that if he kept going the right way and fast, he'd catch the other horses. Makes rides where you can see other horses going different directions much easier!

Around the loop, back to the spotter, out to the road, turn right and head on into the second half of the 20 mile loop. At this point, I thought Tanna should have broken his adrenaline rush by now. But he hadn't. His HR was still erratic, high and his behavior was irritating. He kept trying to bolt every other second. Finally, I hopped off and walked with him for about a half mile to get him to calm down. When I got back on, he was a bit more controllable, but his HR was still much higher than I liked. I decided to keep to the 4 minutes work, 1 minute walk for the rest of the loop.

We were moving right along, but with Tanna's high HR and erratic gait, I began to worry that he'd pulled something and was lame. I hopped off and watched him walk and poked and prodded him to see if I could find a pain source. He was jumping around so much it was hard to tell. I was about 5 miles from the end of the loop, so I hopped back on and headed on.

When I got close to camp, I hopped off and walked the last bit in. We'd done the loop in 2 hours 36 minutes. Definitely a fast trail!

Tanna's HR was still in the 80s when I got to Laurie, the in and out timer. I saw Joe and shared with him my concern that Tanna was lame and hiding it in adrenaline. He asked if he could help with anything, but I distractedly said no, thanks, I just need to get him to the vets. Maybe he'd calm down and we'd be able to tell if he was lame. Pulled for lameness at a groomed ride with no elevation? Definitely an anomaly.

I headed to our trailer to pull Tanna's tack. I didn't have to, they had said first check we could leave our saddles on, but I decided if Tanna was lame, it could be in the back, so I wanted the vet to see everything. Daniel appeared and helped me strip everything off and we threw Serts' cooler over Tanna. It's a bit bigger than Tanna's and covers more of the back of his legs like the hamstrings.

We were able to snag Dr. Otis for the vet check. Since this was Tanna's comeback ride, I wanted Dr. Otis or Dr. Ken to check him as they know me and him and I wanted anything out of the ordinary to be brought to my attention immediately. As Daniel trotted Tanna out, I shared my concerns that Tanna might hiding a lameness with adrenaline. Dr. Otis said he didn't see anything, so a big sigh of relief.

Back at the trailer, I put Tanna on his hi tie, but he just stood there, not eating the yummy hay or drinking the water. I gave him some grain, but he just nibbled at that, too. Finally I put him in the pen with Serts, which was a good move. Tanna drank a good amount of water. Usually, he doesn't drink until we're out on the second loop. He also ate some hay with Serts. Not a ton, but some.

Convinced Tanna was ok, I slipped into the camper to change my clothes as the day was warming up fast. I asked Daniel to change the heart rate monitor battery to make sure that wasn't a reason for high heart rates.

I went out on my second loop late. I generally don't get out on my out times anyway, but I was a good 15 minutes late. Tanna was eating when I should have started putting the saddle on, but I decided to let him eat instead. We'd done the 20 mile loop at a faster pace than I'd planned, so I figured we had the time.

This next loop was 15 miles. Blue ribbons. Back across 601 basically doing the 20 mile loop backwards. With a few twists and less mileage, of course. Tanna was still trotting strong, but now he was much more controllable and his HR was reasonable. So he even got to canter some this loop.

We were alone, which is right where I wanted to be. I pulled out my iPod and my single ear piece and we went on down the trail. I was able to do the 4 minutes work and then walk until his HR dropped below 100.

Not too far into the loop, I caught up with a couple of riders. I hung back, letting them get further ahead of me until it was convenient to pass them where they wouldn't just come up on me during one of our walking sessions. I don't like to play leap frog.

We did that 15 mile loop in 2 hours 5 minutes. And that included the 15 minutes or so I was late going out. So about an hour 50 minutes of actual work time.

I took Tanna back to the trailer to strip his tack and then to the vet check where we got Dr. Ken. Daniel again appeared and trotted him out for me. Everything looked good! Back to the trailer again for the hold. This time I immediately put Tanna in the pen with Serts, but closed the dividing panel so I could feed Tanna grain and such and Serts wouldn't eat it. Tanna ate well this check and I had a bit more time to just relax. I quickly braided his mane to keep it off his neck as it had warmed up nicely. A trick I learned in April when we needed to keep his mane off his neck catheters.

Our 3rd and last loop was the black/white loop that I had marked on Monday. I went out a little late again. I just haven't mastered the art of getting out on my out time!

We started out on our own again, but about 4 or 5 miles out, we came out onto a field where the trail wound up and down and around it for 4 miles or so. I could see 9 other horses on the field, all at different spots in the trail. Two riders were not too far ahead of me. Within 10 minutes, we passed those riders and set our sights on the next 2. We neared those at the water. I let them go on while Tanna drank and I sponged him a little. Then we ran them down and passed them.

Tanna was strong and responsive with good heart rates. I was still working him for 4 minutes and walking for his HR to drop.

Coming out of the field, 2 more riders were ahead of me just before the spotters. I passed them, called my number to the spotters and kept trucking on. Tanna was having such fun passing the other riders. Strong and energetic and willing. Hard to believe we'd gone 45 miles at this point!

We were chasing 2 more riders, but we were at the end of our 4 minute work and I had to pull Tanna up and have him walk. It took a bit to get him to calm down and let his HR drop, but finally we were able to go on again. We caught those 2 riders as well as 2 more eating grass. I knew we were not far from camp and didn't bother to stop. We motored past at a trot, then Tanna broke into a canter.

Two of those riders we passed eating grass were hot on our heels, so I let Tanna canter. I still insisted on him walking every 4 minutes and that added to the "drama" of the riders about to catch up with us. We flew around the lake headed toward the old Civil War-era houses when I saw Daniel out to try to get a picture of me like I had asked. Usually, I'll stop and chat with him, but with the other riders hot on my heels (I could see them across the small lake), I yelled a greeting and said I'd see him back at camp and kept on.

We curved around on the road and then we were on the airstrip to the left of the pink flags. Tanna was cantering at a good solid pace with a good HR. Near the end of the airstrip, I glanced back and the riders were far enough behind me to walk some without putting too much pressure on. We walked and then trotted across the bridge and angled to the left toward the finish line instead of to the right like the other loops.

I kept Tanna to a trot until we rounded the last bend and then I asked for the canter. He immediately complied and we cantered in that last glorious quarter mile. Head up, ears perked, strong canter, balanced. A moment to treasure forever as we crossed the finish line. Tanna was still my endurance horse!!!

Daniel got some good shots as we crossed the finish line. What a rush. I was thrilled. Laurie was there waiting to write on my card. Finish time 3:42. We'd done that last loop in an hour 51 minutes. 7 hours 2 minutes ride time.

I walked Tanna to the trailer and sprayed him down with the hose. It was faster and easier than sponging. I tossed his cooler over him and Daniel and I took him for his completion exam. Dr. Ken did us the honor of the final exam and declared Tanna fit to continue. Very fit to continue. He definitely could have done another 25 or 50 miles right then.

Instead, I took him back to his pen and Serts. Then I began to clean things up and tidy up to be able to head back home.

While in the trailer, I watched Tanna roll in his cooler. Ugh. But coolers wash. After Tanna was done rolling, Serts decided to roll in the same place. He rolled completely over and got his leg stuck under the panels. Startled, I threw the back door of the trailer open and lept out, talking to Serts to calm him. Unfortunately, Serts decided it was time to get up and attempted just that. I wanted to help, but just backed up and watched as there is nothing really to do when a horse is struggling in a fence. If he'd laid calmly, I might have been able to help him, but not that struggle. I was dimly aware that Tanna was behind me to the right and out of danger.

After what seemed a very long time (really only a few seconds), Serts was free of the fence, but holding his left hind leg up. I calmed him and reached to pet him. He put some weight on the leg and I became aware of other people around. Tamra appeared out of nowhere suggesting for me to take Serts to the vets right away. I agreed and went looking for a halter and lead rope. I left Tanna in the pen while Tamra came with me to the vet.

Dr. DeeDee was there and available to look at him. Serts was bearing weight and looked not bad. He had 3 scrapes on his shin and some swelling already. He became a jerk and wouldn't stand still and tried to head butt me. We laughed at him. Tamra suggested wrapping the leg and Dr. DeeDee said to give Serts some banamine before trailering him the next day. Tamra gave me some poultice to put on the leg before wrapping it. I had some standing wraps and quilts from Tanna's stint in the hospital and had packed them at the last minute.

The next morning, I re-wrapped Serts' leg. It looked really good with no swelling. I gave him banamine before we loaded him for the trip home. Tanna got his back legs wrapped to avoid stocking up.

What a great experience. The trail work was a lot of work, but very satisfying. I always enjoy spending time with Joe, whether riding with him, crewing for him or marking trail. Tanna is back and an endurance horse again! Serts' leg is good and healing well.

God has been merciful to me.

Tanna and me at the finish line. The pie plate on the left is one of the markers for the finish line. Photo by Daniel Johnson.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Broxton Bridge, Nov 2010...Before the ride

At Yellowhammer, I learned that Broxton Bridge was going to be put on in November, the week before Thanksgiving. I missed the ride run there in May due to Tanna being sick. I determined to shoot for the ride in November as Tanna's comeback ride.

Tanna and I set out on a training program incorporating LSD, hill work and speed work, about 30 miles a week of work for 6 weeks, leaving a week for rest before the ride.

In the days leading up to the ride, I began to try to figure if I should take Serts along. Broxton Bridge was a Friday/Saturday ride, which meant I could only do one day (I don't compete on Sabbaths). Serts might just be a bit of a bother. So I shot a quick email to my buddy, Joe Schoech, who happened to be the ride manager and asked if I should bring Serts for trail marking. Joe replied within a day indicating that I should bring Serts, so that settled that.

Discussing the email with Daniel, Daniel asked if we could leave Sunday. We weren't scheduled to leave until Tuesday because my farrier was coming mid-morning Monday and there wouldn't be time to drive the 450+ miles to arrive on Monday. Short notice, but I texted my farrier and asked if he perchance had an appointment. Tony texted me quickly giving me an appointment on Thursday. I learned during that appointment that the guy who had been scheduled for it canceled about 30 minutes before I asked for an appointment!

I began to panic, thinking I wouldn't be able to get packed in time. I'd been a bit lazy about packing since I'd have Sunday and Monday to pack. But by 7 PM, Saturday night, I was ready. God really wanted us to go Sunday!

Early Sunday morning, we finished the last bits of packing, loaded the horses and headed out for Ehrhardt, SC. Daniel was driving the 3500 pulling the trailer and I followed in the Toyota. Taking the Toyota was another last minute decision. The trip was thankfully uneventful. I switched blankets back and forth to keep the horses comfortable during the trip when we stopped.

We pulled into camp about an hour before dark, giving us enough time to pick out a spot with water and electricity and set up camp. Well, Daniel set up camp while I held onto the horses and chatted with Joe, who had arrived some hours before us.

As we talked, I began to see the reason I'd brought Serts. There were some challenges with the trails. In that they were not finalized yet. Having been around some ride managers during the days before a ride, I could appreciate the stress involved with having people to mark trail and nothing to tell them to do. Riders coming in 4 days to ride a trail that was not ready for them, much less marked. Eeeeeek.

After we got settled, the 3 of us began to look over maps and the trail possibilities. We had 2 trails that Joe was pretty sure of. So the plan for Monday was for me to take Serts and go mark one of those loops while Daniel and Joe consulted with the property manager on what other trails we could use to make up the remaining loops. The decision which loop for me to mark was made simple when we realized we only had the proper color flagging for one of those loops. Well, easy one there.

Monday dawned early and started with camp "chores." Feed the horses, walk the horses, clean the pens, breakfast, hot shower. What? Hot shower? Yes, indeed. The bath house boasted 3 large shower stalls (at least on the ladies side). Each stall had a changing area, sink, toilet and hot shower. Very nice. The only thing I didn't like was no electrical outlets to blow dry my hair to keep me from freezing in the early morning chill. But hard to complain about hot showers, right?

After breakfast, Joe drove Daniel and me around the property, showing us the trails and some tricky spots we would have to mark. We took the Toyota and had no trouble driving the trails. All the trails were wide enough to drive a truck or tractor down. We spent some time discussing the hurdles and how to overcome them.

Back at camp, I saddled Serts, gathered my marking supplies and headed out to mark a 15 mile loop. It took me a good hour to get into a groove and figure out what I was doing. I was tying ribbons to clothespins on the fly and finally fell into a rhythm to tie the ribbons while looking for the next place to put a ribbon and Serts trotted. Gotta love Serts. He's a great horse. :)

A few miles out, I came to a spot that I couldn't figure out what was going on. I knew where I needed to go, but not how to get there as there was a don't-go-there barrier. I stared around trying to figure what the deal was and finally just went around the barrier and continued marking. There were a good many spots that I couldn't mark as the trail wound back and forth beside and in fields. I only had clothespins and ribbon with me. No pie plates, flags or stakes. So I took a waypoint on my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 to point out to Joe and Daniel later and continued with what I could do.

About 3.5 hours into my excursion, Joe and Daniel drove up on Joe's trusty red mule. I showed Joe where the barrier had been that I couldn't figure out and requested they bring me my rain jacket as the sky was threatening rain. I was also out of clothespins. When they got my items, they headed off to figure out the trail I'd missed while I continued on. It took them a bit of looking to figure out what was going on, but they did figure it out.

Finally, after 5 hours of riding, I returned to camp. Luckily, the rain had held off. Serts was good and tired and Tanna was thrilled to see him. After taking care of the horses and getting some supper, Daniel, Joe and I reconvened at Joe's trailer to go over the day's events and see what progress had been made. More chatter and map data and decisions. I would go out again on Tuesday with Serts and mark the fun ride trail, which had been decided on, while Daniel and Joe continued to tour the trails, piecing together more loops. Things were going slowly, but were progressing.

Tuesday morning, I saddled up and headed out again, in the rain. This time, I knew what I was doing and had no trouble settling into a groove. The fun ride trail went along with the 15 mile loop I'd marked the day before (cutting out some miles, of course), so it was a matter of double-checking my markings from the day before and adding green/white ribbons.

Serts was barefoot and got a little pokey as the day went on. I never did settle on a good reason for that. He might have been bored as he'd seen the same trail the day before and he bores easily. He might have been a tad footsore as he has flat soles. He might have just been tired as he hadn't been worked a lot since Chicken Chase. Whatever the reason, I decided he was done with trail marking unless there was just no other way.

Marking the fun ride trail went well and I was back in camp in a timely manner. Daniel and Joe were still trying to piece together the remaining loops. They had a 20 mile loop, pretty much, but were still working on the remaining 15 and 10 mile loops. Since Serts was done and there were no trails to mark anyway (the ribbons for the 20 mile loop still hadn't arrived), I asked Joe what to do. He told me to go watch a movie, but I offered to go get supplies instead, so I cleaned up and headed to the tiny town of Ehrhardt for my next adventure.

I was asked to go to the hardware store to get flags to put along the fields where there were no trees and to find some ribbon for the 15 and 10 mile trails that were still being worked out. I was told the store was next to the post office. Well, I had difficulty locating the store and drove around for a bit until I finally located it. I went in and the owner was very helpful and I cleaned him out of red ribbon and blue ribbon and picked out some pink flags, blue flags and orange flags. Blue was the only color that matched our ribbons, but you take what you can get.

When I got up to the register, I realized with growing alarm that this gentleman would not be able to take my debit card and I had no cash and my checkbook (even if he'd've taken it) was back at the camp. Sure enough, when the total was rung up, he said he needed cash, but there was a bank up the street.

So I headed off on foot to the bank to use the atm. In bewilderment, I walked around the bank, but no atm. I went inside and no atm. I stood in line and the poor girl looked abashed and said, no, they had no atm, but the gas station down the street did.

Back to the hardware store, muttering under my breath the entire time. I told the owner I was still looking for money, but I'd be back. I drove to the convenience store, which thankfully did have an atm and the atm actually worked and actually gave me enough cash for the purchase. After paying for the purchases, I dropped into the grocery store for some applesauce for Tanna and then drove the 7 or so miles back to camp, forgetting to get ice in all the excitement.

At camp, I fussed around a little until Daniel and Joe showed up. We sat at Joe's trailer, wrapping blue ribbons around clothes pins and then red ribbons around clothespins. All the while talking about the trails. The men had finally figured out the trails to put the blue and red ribbons on. Yay!

That night, I went to bed early. I was quite tired and was asleep by 8:30 PM. Daniel stayed up poring over maps and trails and going over and over the last 3 trails that still needed to be marked. I probably would have done the same, but I didn't have a computer and looking over somebody else's shoulder for that type of thing is not a good idea for my type A personality. Better for all involved for me to sleep!

First thing, Wednesday morning, Daniel explained to me that he'd rearranged the trails. He'd discovered 2-way traffic for way too long that would have been confusing at best and really hard to mark and keep straight. I told him to make sure Joe knew about it before we went out to mark trail. So Daniel and Joe had a conversation. Joe had found the same problem and they were right on the same page for getting it straightened out.

After breakfast, Daniel and I headed out on an ATV provided by the Broxton Bridge facilities to mark the red and blue trails. Joe took his mule and headed to the black/white and green/white trails that I'd marked on Monday and Tuesday to place flags and pie plates to make the trail very plain.

It took Daniel and me a little bit to settle into a routine that worked for both of us. We had hoped to be done marking both trails by noon to begin marking the 20 mile black/gold loop in the afternoon, but the day wore on and on and I began to realize that wasn't going to happen. I had a fit when we were marking the blue trail and realized that some of our red ribbons were down. The facilities crew were out cutting limbs back from the trail and had cut down some of our ribbons! I was not happy and had visions of having to remark the entire 10 miles of red trail. Fortunately, that wasn't the case and we only had to replace a few ribbons.

Later in the day Wednesday, Susan Kasemyer showed up to park beside Joe. Yay! Also a few trailers were trickling in. And Tamra Schoech, Joe's wife, arrived well after dark.

After taking stock of the clothespins we had left, I decided we needed some more. Susan had about 150 in her trailer she gave us, but we still needed more, so Daniel and I headed south to Hampton to buy more clothespins and eat at Taco Bell. Back at camp, the 4 of us tied black/gold ribbon (which had finally arrived via FedEx!) to clothespins to be hung Thursday. Talk about coming down to the wire! We had one day left.

Thursday morning, Daniel and I left as early as we could get away to mark the black/gold loop. It took us all day to mark that trail. We put up roll after roll of orange ribbon strung between trees or stakes to indicate to riders not to go past them. We put up countless red plates that were also meant to indicate not to go past those. We wrote on white pie plates and stapled them to stakes and trees. And, of course, we put up ribbon after ribbon after ribbon.

Joe and Susan drove the red and blue trails, checking the markings, adding clarification where they thought necessary and analyzing some of the trickier intersections. Then they followed along the black/gold trail. At one point, they came on a point where they were stumped. They came around a turn and the black/gold ribbons just stopped. They thought they had missed trail somewhere, but no, Daniel and I had skipped marking that because a tractor had been out scraping the trails and we didn't want to follow him. We came back to mark that spot just as Joe and Susan were trying to figure what had happened!

Finally, we finished putting the ribbons up! The trails were marked! Except for one last piece, which Joe and Daniel would have to do after dark. They would have to go back out and put up barrier ribbons where they couldn't put them up because of vehicles still going through the trails.

We headed back to the now full camp where I hurried to register to get my vet card and vet Tanna in for the Friday 50 before dark. I took Tanna to Dr. Ken for the vet in and explained Tanna's history with the colitis and EPM in April/May and asked him to look carefully for any signs of stress that could indicate a problem. Dr. Ken asked some questions about the history and his training and his last long ride and then pronounced us good to start. I thanked him and headed back to camp to gather my vet check stuff as much as I could before it got too dark. Then I zipped off to shower before the pizza supper.

Ride meeting was at 7 PM and I listened to Joe talk about the ride coming up and fidgeted waiting to "help" with the trail section. I think Joe just wanted somebody else up there to take the stares. Tamra helped out when Joe was showing all the signs for the riders to ignore. Then I held up the ribbons while he talked about the trails they marked.

50 milers had 3 trails. Black/gold - 20 miles. Blue - 15 miles. Black/white - 15 miles. There would be 2 50-minute holds. Not sure of the pulse, but I usually just make sure Tanna is at 60 bpm or below, so I didn't really care. Pulse is generally 64 or 60 at the checks. Start at 7 AM.

25 milers had 2 trails. Black/white - 15 miles. Red - 10 miles. One 50 minute hold. Start at 8 AM.

The Fun Run was the Green/white trail - 10 miles. Start at 10 AM.

After the meeting, I fielded some inevitable questions (after all I was standing up there with Joe talking about trails, so I must know stuff). Then I reminded Joe he still had to go out on trail to put up barrier ribbons. I saw Daniel and Joe off on their excursions and then finished prepping for my ride the next day, walked the horses and went to bed.

Come back in another day or two for the actual ride part of my adventure.