Lincoln Trail 2010, 100 Miles

Lincoln Trail 100

Most of our endurance rides are around 9 hours away, so when we get to go to one within 2 hours of home in Southern Illinois , we make use of it.  I have been thinking of using this ride for our first attempt at a 100 miler for a year.  Kate, my little 6 ½ year old grey Tennessee Walking  Horse was the horse I chose.  Kate is the worst moving horse we own.  She would like to pace when she stands still and I have spent a lot time remedying that.

However, she is a sweetie and she is my favorite horse.  She is not my best, just my favorite.  I can call her when she is with the mare herd and she will leave them to catch me and nuzzle me.  The other day I called her and she came from the back pasture.  She really surprised me when she looked at me for about 10 seconds and then ran away and out of sight.  In two minutes I was surprised to hear galloping hoofs.  She had gone to the back pasture and retrieved the rest of the mares and brought them all to me.  Sometimes, I think Sandy might be jealous.  Kate has done 4- 30s and 4- 50s.  All were completions and 7 were top ten finishes.  The only one that was not a top ten was because I held her back in her first 50.  She is like a Honda, steady and dependable.  Did I mention she is adorable?

Sandy had her MFT Savanah ready for the horse’s first 30 mile Ld.  I am very deliberate about training schedules.  Savanah is 5 and has had 33 rides and 268    miles of training this year.  Kate had 63  rides and 691 miles of training this year.  All of our rides are on GPS watches and many have a heart rate monitor.   I think they were both ready.

Friday night featured a pounding rain storm.  When we got up to feed pre ride, the rain was still coming down. It was time for rain gear.  Only 5 riders signed up for the 100 and one backed out before the start.  The 100 was going to be Kate and 3 Arabians.  At the start I was asked pointedly by the spokesman for the three  “ Is it your intention to ride with us?”  I got the hint.  100 hundred miles by myself in the mud, at my first 100, could make for a lonely and challenging 24 hours.

I hung back for the first 4 miles until I was asked for directions.  I know the course well.  I showed the way of the path and shortly afterwards, the other 3 pulled off the trail.  I pulled over and waited.  Once the others started they only walked.  I decided I had no choice but to go on.  It was going to be a lonely day.

I decided to do the first 20 miles loop at a leisurely pace.  Oop’s I meant rack, not “pace”.  We finished the first 20 mile loop a few minutes in the lead and Kate came down to 60 within about 2 minutes.  The second 20 mile loop was more of the same and we gaited along at around a 124 heart rate at an average of around 6 mph.  We did speed up to a rack when we could.  I think gaited horses have an advantage in bad terrain and bad weather.  Because we train in the Shawnee, which has lots of hills, creeks, and rocks, they are used to a challenging surface.  Gaited horses don’t have a suspension time when all four feet are off the ground, unless they pace like Kate, which makes them sure footed. They always have at least one foot on the ground.

I take canter breaks on our mature horses after they are set in gait.  This seems to refresh them.  We finished the loop at 40 miles and Kate was at a 57 heart rate.  She had scored all “A”s in every category so far.  The 40 to 60 mile loop was more of the same and the rain stopped.  I got to ride with a couple of the 50 mile riders for a while and slowed to ride with a pleasant woman.  Kate and I both enjoyed the company.

As we came into camp and I was caught by the other 100 riders.  She ate the whole break.  I had some chicken, chips, water and a 5 hour energy. Heading out for the 60 to 80 mile loop presented an interesting challenge.   I knew it would be dark before the end of the loop.   Kate was hitting on all cylinders and she had always gotten stronger toward the end of a 50 mile ride. This was different because we were already at mile 60.

I decided, from a strategy standpoint,  that the less time I spent in the dark the better.  I had 2 minutes on the trailing riders.  If I sped up, I thought I could maybe get 15 miles in before it got dark.  This would leave me with only the last 5 miles of this loop in the dark and then the last 20 mile loop.  The other riders would have more of this lap in the dark and it might help Kate in the long run.

I smooched Kate and she picked up her racking gait.  For the entire ride, I never had to touch her with a spur or to motivate her other than verbally asking her to speed up.  She is wonderful.  I love this little mare.  We finished the next to last loop in the pitch dark with about a 30 minute lead.  She was at 54 when we came in, but she did get 2 “B”s.  The vet assured me that a bit of a drop was not unusual this far into a 100 mile event.  When you threw in the mud and terrain, I was sure she was right.  She said I should expect a dramatic loss of energy in Kate.

Concerning lights,  I had gotten a lot of advice.  We had practiced with lights and without lights.  Kate couldn’t care less. We had never practiced with glow sticks.  She did not like them and she let me know that, by stopping beside the trail.  I put them into my back pocket.  She liked me to use a head light.  She wanted to walk in the pitch dark , but would gait if I turned on my head light.  After about 5 miles, the head light started going dim.  Once we walked off the trail in a bad spot and lost the trail.  I could not find it.  I was by myself and it was so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face without a light.  Who does a night ride without a moon?

I remembered my wrist GPS and put it on an 80 foot radius.  I found the trail only about 15 foot away.  I could not panic.  It occurred to me that I could get in real trouble by myself and I had to stay focused.  With 12 miles to go my helmet light went dim.  No problem,  I had a spare.  I put it on my helmet and then discovered it would not stay in the “up possession”.   I had practiced with it but not on this helmet.  So, I got to finish the last 12 miles with both reigns in my left hand and my right arm over my head holding the light.  At times I shut the light off whenever I could.  Kate would rack along until a limb would whack me and I had to turn the light back on.

Kate and I finished the ride by ourselves at 12:45 a.m..  I was really glad to ride through the finish line. Kate acted like it was no big deal  and she was at a 60 heart rate at the vet stop.  The vet staff and volunteers who are waiting gave us a standing ovation, which made us both very happy.  Kate took first at her first 100 and was B.C.  Life was very good and I could not have done it without my loving wife Sandy.

Sandy did the first LD on her MFT Savanah.  It did have a moment of tenseness.  A well intentioned husband was waiting for his wife, who was doing a 50, and was beside the trail handing out apples.  Apples are a very good idea.  The very wolfish looking dog that was off leash, was not a good idea.  It stepped out of some shrubs just as Sandy’s co-rider, who was riding an Arabian stud horse had taken the lead.   The stud spooked and threw the rider.   The stud came at Sandy’s mare, started pawing, screaming, and rearing as if to mount Sandy’s mare with her on it!  Sandy kept spinning her mare, as the stud was standing on his rear legs and lunging at them.  The stud kept circling the mare Sandy was riding, trying to get to her, but stayed just out of reach of his owner, who was trying to grab his bridle.   Sandy didn’t dare try to ride off, because she knew he would catch them.  So she tried to stay close to the rider, hoping he could grab him.

Sandy kept backing and spinning until the owner caught the horse.  As soon as the rider caught him, the stud stopped dead still and became a perfect gentleman!   The rider mounted up, after profusely apologizing, and off they all went.  When they came in to the vet check the owner asked Sandy if she would be nervous about riding the next loop with him as his horse liked a buddy.  She said “I don’t have a problem as long as you stay on his back!”  And so the 2 of them finished the last loop together.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend.

Keith and Sandy Kibler
Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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