Saturday, 07 April 2012
The USA Time Trail was held last weekend, on the 31st of March, in Mt Pleasant Texas. On Monday the 26th around 5 pm the caravan pulled out of Florida to head West to Texas. Jeremy and Ellen Olson, Melody and Jeff Blittersdorf and Jeremy and myself. In our road circus we had 13 horses, a Great Dane, 4 Chihuahuas, 2 Pit bull mixes and Jeremy O's hunting dog which I forgot the breed of!
The circus was making great headway. We had decided to keep each other company as well as keeping motivated to drive straight through the night to get to the camp as quickly as possible while the weather would be at its coolest. Around 2 am we got a phone call from the Olson's who were in the back of the caravan. They had blown a trailer tire. The Blittersdorf's and us pulled off at the next stop, which was almost 10 miles up the hwy. As luck would have it the stop we made had a live tiger in a cage for exhibit! It was the weirdest gas station hole in the wall place. We waited for a long while. Jeremy O was trying to get his wheel jack (plastic ramp thing for trailer tire changing) to work but it was slipping on the asphalt and when he tried pulling into the grass more, the trailer sat too low to get the tire off... you can imagine the frustration. When the jack snapped into pieces it really topped it off! It was early am and sleep deprived fun was in full action!
At this point we headed back to them so we could try to help out. Mel and Jeff went ahead to find food. We had another plastic wheel jack. With a team effort we got the tire changed. We were rolling again! Hurray! It took about an hour and a half.
We caught up to Mel and Jeff and carried on. I think we were all more energized than normal as we were headed to the race we had all been looking forward to the entire winter training session in Florida.
We were almost to the town of Mt Pleasant around 10:30 am. Our GPS was reading 10 miles away when the poor Olson's lost their second tire! Luckily it was light out this time and we were right outside of a gas station. We all pulled in and it was quickly remedied by Jeff and the two Jeremy's pulling off the mangled flat and putting our spare tire onto their trailer. This time we were rolling in under 30 mins.
We all had an extra horse on each of our trailers so we had to head to the off site boarding facility to drop the spares. It was ruled that only horses entered in the Time Trial could be in camp.
After the short detour we were all off to camp. Camp was in Mt Pleasant at the Preifert Factory yard. (We pulled in just after noon on Tuesday.) It was convenient to town and got the horses really broke to trains. There was a train that ran through the back of camp. It was literally less than 100 ft from our horses.
We set up camp and got the horses all set, then we relaxed for a bit before riding around the hay fields to loosen the horses up. We were camped right next to our friend's the Donley's. Becky Hart had carpooled from CA with them as well.
Both of our horses looked like they had traveled really well. Jeremy would be riding A Kutt Above and I would be riding Riverwatch aka Marvel.
That night we went to dinner with the Donley's and Becky, Judith and Tracy. It was nice to have a Chili's restaurant right there. We had fun catching up with friends and even more fun getting to bed after not sleeping the night before.
As soon as we were sound asleep the train came through. It came through about 4 times each night! Each night the train seemed to get louder and longer. It was a VERY heavy, rumbling cargo train.
On Wednesday we rode and then walked to Walmart. It was so hot out we wanted to get sun hats. Jeremy got a super stylish straw hat that looked like something out of a Corona beer commercial. I got a bonnet type hat, whatever, it kept the sun off our faces.
We rode again in the pm. It was probably in the high 80's. On Wed Terri Rashid and her trainer Robin pulled in. Terri is a good friend and client of ours. It was fun to see both her and Robin. Terri's horse Keen would be doing her first fast effort on a 100. They had driven all the way from AZ and had, had a blizzard just the week before! Talk about contrast in weather!
There was a wine and cheese reception held by the Central riders which was fun. After which we spent our dinner with Robin and Terri. Chili's looked like the who's who hang out for the elite USA endurance riders. A lot of the teams were eating there. Pretty funny.
Late on Wed night Scott, Tim and Skip arrived. Scott stayed in camp with us to help with Marvel and Tim and Skip headed to the hotel.
Thursday morning we rode and then went to the crew points to see what we could see. Jeremy was wanting to see the footing to make sure he was happy with what we had on our horses feet as far as traction goes. We both had Easyboot glue ons.
That night we wanted to venture out from Chili's and find something else. It actually took 4 tries to find a place we wanted to stop to eat! We actually sat at a place and changed or minds! We settled on a Mexican joint. Terri, Robin, Scott, Tim, Skip, Jeremy and I were there. About half way through the meal Lori Olson also joined us. She came straight from the airport. It was a lively meal.
Friday we rode again and got all of the crew stuff laid out and Skip got the ice situation coordinated with Jason Stasuik. Garrett Ford arrived and jumped into our crew logistics and got briefed on the plan. Mary and Ranger also joined our crew when Sue Hedgecock's horse didn't get to start. While the crew went out to see the crew point and handle last minute details Jeremy and I took a nap. We were all ready to rock and roll.
There was a nice dinner at the camp in the Preifert hanger. Emmett gave a ride briefing and went over what he was hoping to see during the event. It was to be a display of your horse's abilities to perform at speed under pressure while still having a sound individual after the race so he would have a team of fast horses to pick from at the end of the day!
We headed to bed. It was still very hot and muggy as it had been all week. Around 1:30 am my sister Holly, her boyfriend Matt and another friend, Colin arrived. They quietly snuck into the trailer to fall asleep. They had driven 5 hours (from Austin) when they got off work, now that is dedication!!! I don't think much sleep happened as the train came by a few times and the dogs had to go out a couple of times and Holly and the boys arrived and we were excited.
We got up and were ready to roll! We got on our two guys 40 mins before the start and got to warming up. Marvel was feeling frisky to say the least. Jeremy and I warmed up separately as we did not plan on riding together. Kutt was much more experienced. It was Marvel's second 100, his first FEI 100. His first 100 was winning Tevis.
I was wanting to be in the top 6 but I wasn't sure how it would play out as Marvel was an unknown.
The first loop was the longest and it flew by. After we crossed the bog for the first time we saw a very large hole in the trail. Almost right after that we ran into Emmett, who was manning a creek crossing. I told him about it and by the time we rode the lollipop loop back to that point the hole had been staked off with caution tape! Talk about service and looking out for the well being of all!! It was on this loop that Valerie's horse fell down and she came off. We came upon Val and asked her where her horse had gone and she said it kept going. I asked if she was ok and she said she thought so. I rode on and after a while saw Jeremy out in a meadow grabbing the horse. I told him she was a ways back. He decided to go back to her. I continued. Jeremy went to Val, helped her on and then realized in having a conversation with her that she had stopped making sense and probably had a concussion. Val's other riders caught up to her and he rode a ways with them to make sure Val would be safe. (While Jeremy was catching Val's horse the horse had run up beside Jeremy and as he grabbed it the horse fell under Kutt and then got loose again and fell two more times. Valerie later found out she had broken some ribs and had a concussion.)
Marvel was looking great. He was overwhelmed at the first crew point by the crew coming at him with water. He was similarly overwhelmed at the first vet check with the mass cooling. He did recover quickly though. Kutt was already there eating. Both horses ate impressively. We were the 4th ones out of the check. It was a 30 min hold.
Loop two was another long loop. Marvel was better with the crew. He recovered and was 3rd out. Jeremy and two other front runners were not there. Apparently at one turn the sign to turn had been covered up and it had cost them some time and miles. Marvel and Kutt again ate like champs and did so at every single vet check! Amazing considering the heat and short checks. It was another 30 min hold.
Loop three was the first short loop. It was roughly 12 miles. Marvel was great with the crewing by this point. Good thing, as it was in the high 80's and VERY high humidity as well. We had a 40 min hold. I think we were 5th to recover.
Loop 4 was long again. It was really the hottest part of the day. The trail through the day was a mix of slightly rolling trail with a lot of turf. There was also a section on 4 of the loops where you had to cross a large boggy area on the way out and back, so 8 times through the bogs. It was a very challenging course. We rode with Monk on this loop. Marvel came in and pulsed right down. He was the 4th one out again! Kutt was in the lead group. This was our first and only long hold. It was a 50 min hold with an exit exam. Terri came in off this loop 12 mins before Jeremy was supposed to leave and her mare had pulled a shoe in the bog. He quickly went to work as he still had an exit exam as well! He did make it out on time but he I think it was the first time he put a shoe on while wearing a helmet!!
Loop 5 was about 16 miles. It was very humid and hot still. We ended up doing this loop with Deborah Reich's rider Amy, who was riding Juniper. Marvel recovered again quickly. We were once again in 4th place. At least that was consistent:)
On the last loop Kutt went out just a hair ahead of the second place horse, Reach For The Gold aka Reggie (Valerie's other horse). Becky was three minutes behind on No Repeat. Valerie's rider and Becky both decided they would not race Kutt as Jeremy had helped Valerie with her fall and he had helped Becky earlier in the day as well. Emmett really did not want the three riders taking extra risks either. Jeremy and Wendy trotted along waiting for Becky so they could ride in together.
I left about 30 mins after them and did the last loop alone. It was fun but there was head-on traffic that was headed back to camp so Marvel was a trooper heading out alone away from camp 90+ miles into a super hot, humid 100.
I finished 25 mins behind the lead group and Marvel was 4th. I couldn't have asked for a better ride. Jeremy was 1st, in a ride time of 8:16, Wendy 2nd and Becky 3rd.
Out of the 49 that vetted in, 45 started and 19 finished. It was a very challenging day. Some people had a big smile at the end of the day and others were disappointed.
Congratulations to all that made the long list, Terri Rashid included! Emmett also gave out two of his three wild card spots (these were reserved for him to give to anyone he wanted that for some reason did not make the long list. You had to start the Time Trial and one of your horses had to finish to be eligible for the long list). The two spots he gave out were to John Crandell, who was pulled for lameness on Heraldic and Deborah Reich who was unable to compete due to a medical reason that she is recovering from (Deborah's horse, Juniper, however was just fine and did the event with Amy and ended up in 9th place.) Valerie is on the long list as she was riding the event and her other horse, Reach For The Gold was 2nd.
Kutt also won Best Condition. He looked super. He is the funniest horse, he is such a laid-back, easy-going guy that he is always such a sleeper and he surprises us every time.
In all I really think we have a very talented pool of riders to choose from going into the WEC. It should be great this year for team USA. I am very excited to see how well our team will do.
We are now back in Florida. We will be out here until the Biltmore on May 5th and then we are going to keep driving from that race out to CO where we will start out summer training at the Ford's Ranch in Durango. I hope we see many of you in North Carolina on May 5th.