Saturday, July 11, 2015

5 Ways Black Sheep Boogie was like a modern-day Viking Raid, of sorts

Siena photo bombs little wet G & me
I'm part Norwegian on my father's side and a big fan of the History Channel's "Vikings," which recently completed it's third season. I not only love all sorts of boating but journeying to far-flung endurance rides, kind of like a modern-day Viking?  (And like the Vikings, I spent long winter nights plotting and scheming for adventures to tackle in the year ahead! - #1)

Shoehorning my endurance competitions into a busy work schedule can take some doing! But as soon as I learned AERC Ride manager Mollie Krumlaw-Smith was going to test-drive a new ride location and set of trails for the Scioto ride weekend, I set my sights on making it there. The Black Sheep Boogie, located in the southeast corner of Ohio about an hour past Huntington, WV, sounded like too much fun to miss.

Liz and Siena on the first loop
Gryphon and Siena had been spending the month an hour west of my place at friend Laura's in Louisa County (very helpful while I was out of town for my job a lot that month), which meant tracking down a new farrier. I lined up Carl Via, who serves as a judge for the American Horseshoer's Association. Carl came out a week before the Black Sheep ride and did a super job.

Next, I dedicated a hot Sunday afternoon to pulling stall mats, scrubbing and deep cleaning my trusty '97 Sundowner. After fitting 5 days of work into 4, packing up Thursday evening and putting in a few hours at the office on Friday morning (with my rig conspicuously parked in our office lot) I headed out to Laura's, quickly loaded G&S, and continued west on 64. Since I was able to leave several hours earlier than I'd originally planned, I was able to negotiate the last hour of travel on hilly, twisty back roads and arrive in daylight.

Basecamp at Elkins Creek Horse Camp was cram-packed when I arrived. Lucky for me, I was able to flag down Mollie in an ATV with Rick, the property owner. They found just enough space to back me in beside my friend Melissa Yopp, who driven out the day before, and two other Virginian pals, Jerry Shelton and Ann Wick.  Like the Vikings, finding an optimal spot to come ashore and set up camp is key to success! #2

With the horses all settled in and Liz Stout and her Siberian Husky Kenai having joined us, I enjoyed some libations with my fellow campers. Rain started falling at dusk but we were committed no matter what the weather! Like the Vikings, you psych up for a long "battle" by drinking up and getting briefed. #3

Early morning light showed raindrops on our saddles as we tacked up. The horses were fresh and feisty heading out of camp on a trail up to the ridge, but once we got off the gravel road the trails were quite slippery and several times I felt little G slide out from under me. Like the Vikings, you ignore fear and discomfort and just keep going no matter what! #4

Because of the hot and humid (not to mention MUDDY conditions), both veterinarians working the ride were very strict on their exams. At the first vet check, both Liz and I were given instructions to work on improving gut sounds and massaging out sore muscles on our horses. Added to the amount of mud we had to remove from the horses, our tack and ourselves each time, our vet check holds weren't very relaxing!

We did it! Goofing off at the finish line
But the trails were gorgeous and there were many sections where drainage and trail enhancements had kept the mud away, so we could move out a bit. Even though we took our time on the last loop, we finished 3rd and 4th @2pm, in a ride time of just under 6 hours. Gryphon trotted out well enough to stand for BC an hour later, but it was my new friend Alex who I'd met at a ride in Indiana a month earlier whose horse Marton ended up receiving this super-special award.

Liz helped me get the horses settled for well-deserved rest before showering, packing and heading to her boyfriend's with Kenai, as we'd agreed on. After getting my own shower, I waited with Ann and Jerry (both of whom retired their horses early from the ride) for Melissa and her little rescue Hollie's, a Paso Fino mare, to come in from their last loop. How wonderful to see the look in Hollie's eyes after her completion trot out! That little horse KNEW she'd done something special. The awards and dinner were wonderful - Like the Vikings, you celebrate vigorously what you've managed to endure! #5

I pre-packed before full dark, led both horses over to one of Elkins Horse Camp stall-corrals, and grabbed about 5 hours of sleep before starting the trek home. Being an endurance addict means LOTS of driving, but also spending quality time with my horses, taking them off the trailer every few hours for a pee break and few bites of grass. I'll spare you the details of what it took to remove Black Sheep mud from all my gear!