Early in my endurance career, the season ended with JD's on Thanksgiving weekend and didn't resume until late March or April. Two years ago, USA Southeast Endurance began holding a mid-winter fundraiser ride about an hour northwest of Charleston, SC at Broxton Bridge Plantation.
With temperatures in the low single digits and back roads covered with ice and snow from the most recent storm, me and my friend Lisa's three teenage sons left New Kent early on Thursday, Jan. 30, picking up speed once we reached I-95 South.
It's been an unusually severe winter for our part of the county, and this most recent storm struck the Carolinas as well as southern Virginia, with several inches of snowfall visible until well past the South Carolina state Ride management had sent out several emails and social media posts reassuring that the competition would proceed as planned, although late vet-ins would be allowed, and I could tell they were worried about covering costs, much less coming out ahead!
I've been friends with the Green boys: Forest (17), Hunter (15) and Ridge Green (14) since they were little kids. On Wednesday night, Forest had driven the three hours to my house from Star Tanney, Va. and left his ailing truck at our house so my husband could work on replacing the fan drive and serpentine belt. He was going to help me with the return drive and crew, along with Ridge, while Hunter was going to enter at least the first day's CEI 75-mile (120 km) ride. The trip down went smoothly as we all listened to a CD of "Unbroken," Laura Hildebrand's book about the life of WWII POW Louie Zamperini. It was about 40 degrees when we arrived around 2pm and felt like a heat wave as we set up camp.
Hunter and I started with the 100 milers at 8 a.m. on Friday, and we enjoyed watching ice melt from the tree limbs all morning, almost as heavy as rain against clear blue skies. Theresa Carroll on Silas raced off and beat Jeremy Reynolds in the 50. I was keeping a close eye on our speed - for Hunter to earn a COC on Cheryl’s mare Spotty, he'd need to finish no later than 7:30 p.m. As dusk approached, Gryphon did a super job of leading and pacing the last two loops when Spotty wasn’t drinking well or very motivated. Spotty bounced back on the last loop and we finished with 11 minutes to spare, but sadly Gryphon got pulled at the finish. It was a sore back, not a leg, and after a morning dose of bute, he trotted out sound the next day. In Friday's 100 (160 km) event, Heather Reynolds on Chanses, her British friend Nicola Gilbert and Jeremy Olson on Amy Whelan’s big gelding Wallace Hill Shade rode together all day in the 100, which Heather won. Jeremy Olson who came in 2nd earned Best Condition.
Saturday dawned cold and rainy, NOT what was forecast! The 50-milers didn't start until 9 am, giving me time to sop up the Broxton kitchen floor after a spigot broke in the big commercial sink. My easy-to-ride Siena set a great pace on this, her first CEI ride, hanging with Claire Godwin on the first loop, Taylor Stine on Jeannie Waldron’s horse in the 2nd and then Jaber on Peggy Clark’s horse in the final loop. She had good vet scores and CRIs all days and completed in 5th place despite all the mud. Her ride time was about 5:25 and we showed for BC. Despite me & my muddy, wet clothes and tack weighing 184 lbs, nearly 20 more than usual, Peggy's horse won and I'm glad I persuaded Jaber to stop and let him drink twice on that last loop, which surely helped!
Hunter was reluctant to leave Saturday evening as we agreed, since his girlfriend Emilynn was just finishing the 75-mile ride, but at least he got to crew for her all day. Broxton's hot water was out so no one without a living quarters rig could take a hot shower, which helped motivate us to drive 250 miles to the Bruckers in Bear Creek, NC. We overnighted there and enjoyed hot showers and a hot breakfast the next morning.
Safely back to my house by noon, the boys began the last leg of their journey while I set to work taking advantage of the bright sun and mild weather that afternoon to clean mud and sand out of all my tack, gear and trailer. Siena is parked at JD's until the Spring Fling ride in April, and Gryphon has off until Bunny Hop at the end of March. Back to foxhunting on good ole Shiloh, weather permitting!