Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fueled by Kerry Butter

Check out our lakefront view at Skymont!
Of all my horse friends, the one who lives closest is Kelly Lane, who a few years back moved just down the road in New Kent County. While we regularly meet up for training rides, she isn't able to get away for AERC rides nearly as often as yours truly.

So, we were really looking forward to traveling together to Mustang Memorial in southern New Jersey on Oct. 1. Then Mother Nature struck, turning my place into Noah's Ark (we were hit with 8 inches of rain in just 12 hours the Wednesday before the ride, with the wet stuff moving north for an unrelentingly gloomy weekend forecast).

We'd already decided to use Kelly's rig instead of mine, a Yukon SUV pulling a teeny Brenderup --  NOT the best setup for a muddy basecamp! Considering another option, I sweet-talked Kelly into adding over 500 miles to our trip by heading west to the Skymont Ride in central Tennessee. Ike Nelson does a fantastic job of managing this fundraiser for the local Boy Scouts. Having traveled there two years earlier with Gryphon, I knew how my way around and how fun those trails are along the scenic Cumberland Plateau. Best of all, their forecast called for sunny skies and perfect fall weather!

Siena chomps as I enjoy more Kerry Butter!  
We both worked all day Thursday. I was helping run a conference in DC and my train didn't reach the Staples Mill Rd station until 9 p.m., so it was nearly 11 p.m. with a steady drizzle falling when we finally finished packing and hit the road.

Taking turns driving and sleeping, Kelly and I covered the 600 miles in under 12 hours, arriving mid-morning. While I grazed our hungry horses in a grassy field near camp, she found a place to shoehorn the rig at the very end of the crowded basecamp. But our cozy site was right on the lake! After hauling our crewing area gear to the other end of camp and going for a warmup ride, we enjoyed some wine & appetizers that included Kerry Butter from Ireland and Ciabatta Bread (Kelly is quite the "foodie," and high fat diets provide necessary energy for riders as well as their horses!)

Heading toward the ride briefing along the glowstick-marked path to the lodge on the other side of the lake, we caught up with friends over dinner, including Dana Abernathy and Joe Ford, who'd both successfully completed their rides earlier that day. Sleepily returning to our campsite, I happily snuggled in the back of Kelly's SUV until time for the pre-dawn feed.

At last! Kelly & Dinero finished with all As about 5 p.m.
Ride day dawned crisp and clear! I decided to ride close to the front and Siena was a pro all day, slowing down for the technical rocky sections & cantering the flat, smooth ones. On the first loop, I paced with old pal Debbie McClary on her young mare, then caught up with Leigh Ann Pauley on the second loop and Kathy Torgeson on the third. Kathy's mare (who'd done Tevis same year as Gryphon) was the only horse doing BOTH days of the ride, so when Sudi Lenhart and Debbie caught up to us on the last loop just 3 miles before the finish, Debbie and Kathy opted to hang back. I gave Sudi a quiet pat on the back and a grin, then we enjoyed a good-natured race to the finish, taking turns leading those last few miles. Sudi, who is President of the Southeast Endurance Riders Association, graciously held back as we crossed the dam to the finish line so we could tie for second place.

Siena had fantastic recoveries and solid vet scores all day, and I'd planned to stand for Best Condition. Then Dr. Otis saw her favoring her left hind during the warm up. We'd finished an hour behind winner Tina Cochran, so probably wouldn't have had a chance anyway. Given that this was Siena's prep ride for the FEI 75 at Broxton, I asked Dr. Ike, who is an equine chiropractor, to check her. He found soreness in her lumbar region that he said could wait til I got home to be adjusted.

Siena enjoys a hearty roll after her 2nd place finish.
Later that evening, after I'd helped Kelly & D.D. with their completion and got some packing done, we enjoyed wonderful photo slideshow of the day by the ride photographer and hearty meal served by the Boy Scouts, sharing our table with Angie and Josie McGhee and Jodi Buttram and her daughter Joni Burden.

Heading along the glowstick trail to bed, Kelly checked her SUV only to find that the battery had drained. Some nice neighbors gave us a jump start and we decided to go ahead and hit the road while the vehicle recharged rather than taking a chance on it not starting when we'd originally planned to leave in the wee hours. Kelly left her air mattress set up in the back, we again took turns driving and sleeping, pulling into my drive before 10 a.m. Sunday.

My 2-year old gelding Chrome's microchip had come in the mail, so after work Monday I trailered him & Siena over to the vet so he could get it implants and she could get her chiro adjustment. I was delighted that she was moving soundly during the pre-examination, but she deserved this therapy after 50 fast miles of trail and 1,200 miles of hauling in a strange trailer. And Chrome got some great experience learning to enter a stall all alone and stay patient!