May 14, 2015

Clemson 30 mile Equathon

Friday night is spent doing the most counterproductive and useless thing anyone who can't sleep has ever done: looking at the clock repeatedly saying "If I fall asleep right now I can still get 5 hours of sleep...make that 4 hours...make that 3 hours....." I'm both excited to be heading to an event again and worried about Wyatt who has been up and down all night with a fever and snotty nose. When the alarm goes off at 4:25 am I groan slightly at the early hour and still dark sky, but drag myself both out of bed and out the door. It is race day!!!

The barnyard is not lit and there isn't much of a moon to see by. I have perfected hooking the trailer up by myself in the day time, but when it is dark out I have issues. 20 minutes of pulling forward and back, a little left and a little more right, later and I have had it. I curse out loud and bang the truck with my fist. It doesn't help matters at all. Instead of getting in that blasted truck one more time, I go to grab Gem's bridle. That's the moment I realize that I have begun to lock the trailer due to missing and broken tack and that the trailer key is on the van key ring. Damnit! I open the back of the trailer  and climb over the chest bar and unlock it from the inside, grab the bridle and lead rope and head off to find Gemmie.

Once out in the pasture I quickly realize that I can't see shit and start calling her name knowing full well that she will be staring at me from behind something and not moving an inch. I should head towards the house since that's where the mares typically hang out early in the morning, but my head is elsewhere from my agitation and instead I head off to the back corner.  10 minutes later I head to the house and call Dusty on the way in near tears from the frustration. He says he will grab Wyatt and head to the barn. Just then I see Gem staring me down and I grab her. This morning is not starting well at all.

Eventually Dusty arrives with a sleepy Wyatt in tow and gets the truck hooked up for me while I brush out Gem and then load her up. I look at the clock. We are now 25 minutes behind schedule, but since I always allow an extra 30 minutes into my planning I know we still will arrive on time as long as the drive goes well. Which thankfully it does.

Dusty calls me and says he is going to stop at Bojangles to get a smorgasbord of food options for Wyatt all day and asks if I want anything. My stomach is all upset from my nerves and I tell him no. I head straight to the trail parking area where vetting will occur worried that I may be running really late. I pull in just as the sun starts to light the sky in brilliant gold hues and smile as I see the Ride and Tie sign. It is 6:45 am and I am the first one here.

There is a lot of peace and serenity to being the only one at a trail head just as the sun is coming up and lighting the world on fire. The morning is cool, but the day promises to warm up fast.

I unload Gemmie and set her up with a hay bag. I've never hooked the hay bag up to the trailer before since I usually am either not going to have her tied long or use a corral. The trail head starts to fill up quickly and soon the registration tent is up and running. I go to sign in and try to pawn Wyatt off as my RnT partner, but nobody is buying it. Hey, last year a 4 year old did it with her mom. Wyatt isn't too far off!

Vetting occurs next and is extremely thorough. The ride vet is super nice and talkative, but I think Gem feels a little violated. She looked at all 4 hooves and even checked her temperature which is not something an endurance vet has ever done. Then she asks us to trot out emphasizing that we need to stay on the gravel drive. Gem is definitely confused. She knows that she isn't to trot on such nasty gravel and yet here I am clucking and kissing and annoying her to do just that. She isn't the only horse having issues either. Most horses spend the trot out trying to veer onto the grass. Those that do are made to start over by the vet. Gemm gets all As except an A- for impusion and we are set to go!!

As I tack up, I start chatting with my neighbors and find out that someone challenged a local Crossfit place. The camp is teaming with Crossfitters in the 15 mile RnT who have never been on a horse before. They are partnered up with riders and the one guy told me he expects to completely rest while on the horse. Ha!! I can't wait to talk to him afterward :)

The trail opens up at 8 am sharp for the 30 mile RnT and Equathon teams. Gemmie and I have 15 miles to cover while Dusty plays with Wyatt before he can go off on his 15 mile leg. Knowing how Gem can be a handful at the start and worrying both about her lack of being ridden in the last 3 months and not wanting to get pulled before Dusty gets to have his fun, I make the decision to hold off and start after the others are gone. At 8:02 we head out and start our adventure.

Wyatt found the water hose as we head off to start the ride
Unfortunately, this turns out to be a big pilot error. These trails are super familiar to us both and are our go to conditioning trails due to the technical terrain and lovely footing. The ride is small to begin with (17 total starts in all events and only 2 other 30 mile teams) and now Gem is all alone so she is thinking it is another ho hum solo conditioning ride versus a race. There goes my hope for a fast start!
Gemmie was being a very good sport

My favorite Green Loop Trail. Technical, single footing.

Sorry it is blurry. Gem was wanting to go forward!
Even with that Gem is laying down 6-6.5 mph miles without needing urging. This time last year, I was begging her to go beyond 3-3.5 mph by herself on this same trail. A grin splits my face from ear to ear and I settle in to enjoy the beautiful morning in the woods.
Since we are doing the Equathon and the other 2 were in the RnT I figure I should pass the tied up horses eventually. I plan to spy on them to see how they do things and learn for our outing in September. We never do see them.
Through the woods we go, up down and around and Gem is maintaining good speeds and a good attitude through it all. The forest is alive with blossoms that smell amazing and the sun hasn't made it unbearable yet. It is really a wonderful morning to be out and on my horse. The hills are starting to take their toll on her though. She hasn't had any hill work since the 50 in October! Poor mare and bad owner. When she asks for a breather on top of an incline I begin to let her. My original goal that morning was a 2 hour loop, but that isn't fair to Gem with my lack of conditioning. I switch that to 2 1/2 hours mentally.

Things are going very well and she is still keeping a wonderful pace for the conditions when we hit the gravel access road portion. This is her first time being ridden on her newly shaped hooves and the gravel looks new, so we slow to a walk. I think Gem is happy for the walk break as she is breathing a bit harder than I would like her to be. I let her walk until we turn back into the woods and on better footing once again. I can't wait to order some boots for her for races.

Not trotting or cantering her on that crap
Walking up the hill

Eventually we hit the portion where the Green 6.5 mile trail hits the Red 9 mile one and I point Gem to turn right away from camp and on the Red trail. She is happy to do so without any fight at all and it makes my heart sing.
The beginning of Red is amazing. A slight downhill grade travelling on a double wide clay footing road. I ask for a canter and she stretches out and floats over the ground. My Garmin reads 12 mph and I am grinning like a fool!!
The trail moves on and Gem starts to lag. I can tell she is not really physically all that tired, but mentally she is reaching her limit of being out all alone without another soul in sight. The Garmin just read a 3.5 mph mile and this just won't do. We are at mile 9 and something needs to change or the rest of this ride isn't going to be very enjoyable.
As we get off the last of the gravel road sections I hear from behind me "I'm passing you!" Huh. Never been passed like that before. Usually people ask especially on single track trail where it is hard to get off. I yell back "In a minute. I'll pull over once I can". In about 50 feet I find a section and pull over just to be glared at as she flies past at a barely controlled hand gallop. The poor horse looks all strung out and nearly takes a nose dive 3 times while still in my sight.
Well, Gem now finds a new gear and powers off after the gelding and I am happy that she found new life. I don't like how she is tripping on the roots. She isn't paying a lick of attention to her feet and all I can see is her falling on her face. I wrestle with her and keep her contained until the pair gets out of sight. At least now I know she still has lots of fuel in the tank and push her to keep up that 6-7 mph pace as before.
A mile later I see the same lady walking up ahead and there is a runner beside her. As I come up I ask politely to pass. "No, we need your cell phone." Umm? At first I think the runner is hurt so I look her over quickly and see no blood, no bones protruding and she is walking and breathing just fine.
"Are you hurt?"
"No she isn't. She needs a phone because she is lost"
" are on the Red trail. My Garmin says mile 10 and it has dropped some, so you are about 3-4 miles out from camp. Just keep following the signs."
"No, she is lost and needs to call. Give us your phone"
So at this point I lose it. Maybe it is the Sicilian/Italian blood coursing through my veins or just my overall lack of being able to deal with rude/snotty/mean people, but this is getting ridiculous.
"Ok..first, let her talk. Second there isn't much anyone can do. You need to walk or run back to camp. Follow the trail you are on. You will get there in 3-4 miles. Here is my phone if you need to let someone know."
About 10 minutes later we finish up and then as I am trying to get my phone back in my pocket, the lady spurs on her horse to leave us in her dust.
"Oh no you don't! You will stand there and wait until my phone is away so we can safely continue."
She does and we move off again.
Sheesh. What is up with some people???
Eventually we lose sight of her again for the last time and finish up alone, but moving out just fine. I call Dusty when I know I am 2 miles out and ask him to get water and a mash set up for Gem. A little while later and Gem and I are making it across the bridge that leads out of the woods and to the base of the hill to camp.
I hop off, loosen her girth and take the bit out to walk her up the hill. I know she is hot now that the sun is blazing full on and want her to pulse down quickly. We finish our loop in 2 hours 35 minutes (with at least a 10 minute delay on course). I head straight to the trailer and untack her, sponge her well and then vet her in. Pulse is 50 and she gets all As except a B for impulsion on the gravel. Dusty is now free to run his loop!!

Yummy mash face
As Dusty heads back down the hill to run his 15 mile leg of the event, I settle in to play with Wyatt. He is tired and filthy, but having a really good time. Thanks to Dusty's Bojangles trip he is full and that makes for a happy toddler. As we are playing around camp, mostly getting into as much water and mud as possible, I over hear that the lady on the strung out gelding had come in with a pulse of 120!!! It doesn't surprise me one bit.

Nothing beats a bucket of horse water on a hot day!!
Dusty wants to finish his loop in 2 hours 30 minutes and is gunning for bragging rights over beating Gemmie. I head over to the finish line at 2 hours 20 minutes and watch as he sprints up the hill with a huge grin on his face at 2 hours 30 minutes even. He wins bragging rights and I know I won't hear the end of this!!!
The RM is awesome and gives us our award. We get both the 1st place award and turtle for being the only two brave enough to do the 30 mile Equathon. We both wish there was a 100 mile Equathon we could do. Now that would be a blast!!!
Overall it is a super amazing day as always with the RnT people. Those Crossfit people had the time of their lives too. I talk  to one at the end and he is barely able to walk :) He agrees that riding is more than just sitting on a horse!!


  1. Gemmie needs extra kudos for not completely losing her shit at the walking water bucket. That would have sent Ashke over the edge. Entirely.

    And great job on the Equathon. And bonus points to you for not bitch slapping that woman. What are some people thinking?

    1. HA! I didn't even think of that. Nope...she just stood there with one foot propped taking a nap. I guess that is a bonus to having a toddler :)

      I forgot to add the worst part: after we rode away I kept up a bit and she asked where I was from. Turns out she lives near me. I said the name of my neighborhood and she responded "Oh, you live in suburbia. I'm on a farm" in her best haughty voice. I did my very best to not slap her right off that horse.

  2. I love the anecdote about the crossfit folks!!

    What a fun event. I am quite unfamiliar with that type of thing. It really sounds like the perfect thing for you and Dusty!

    Wyatt looks like he had a blast, too.

    And that woman...eeeessshhh!!!!

  3. I'm sooooo glad the trimmer worked out! Her feet look way better, and I'm delighted that Liz is cheering you on with that rasp. (WEAR GLOVES!)

    Equathon sounds so fun! I'm planning on a Ride n Tie in October, but what a good idea to do the equathon and split up watching the baby!