Dead Dog, 2011

Dead Dog Creek 2011
Gaiting for a Weekend

This is one of my favorite rides. It is named after a creek that the race managers used to race through on another course that has absolutely nothing to do with this course. Then, they found out that “Dead Dog Creek” itself was actually named something other than “Dead Dog Creak”. They kept the name for this event and in the world of endurance that makes perfect sense.

The course is windy, wet and is frequently crossing creeks and has climbing. What more could a gaited horse want? It is also within 2 hours from our home, and that is a real blessing. On top of that, Aaron and Linda Mowrer are real peaches as the ride managers. They are non assuming, old school endurance to the bone. They don’t care if you ride a 3 legged pogo stick if your horse can do the deal and they will encourage you and help you along the way. They get 5 out of 5 stars.

So, we had 7 horses ready, and only 6 trailer spots. I elected to leave Blues at home and accept the help of my friends Kelley Powell and Jeff Anderson. I would put Kelley on Niki, who I thought fast enough to keep up with Sandy and Cheyenne in a 50 on Saturday and then have Jeff ride with Sandy and Savannah on Pippin in a Ld. on Sunday. I decided to ride Jazz in a 50 and then follow up with Kate in a 50. Blues is the fastest critter we have but he was staying home. So 6 horses, two rigs and 4 riders went to Salem.

This course, which I earlier described, has two conditions. Those conditions are wet and REALLY wet and sloppy. The first day was wet. I caught up to Sandy and Kelley about 6 miles into the ride while Kelley and Niki had slowed Sandy down some by leading. Kelley announced that Sandy’s coffee required him to make a brief nature call. Sandy suggested answering that call while he stayed on the horse and we kept moving. Kelley found this suggestion daunting and impractical. Remember, Sandy is married to a triathlete. I will let your imagination take over at this point.
Sandy said she would go around the bend in the trail. Well, the girl did just that and then she gave Cheyenne her head and let her go. We never saw Sandy again on the trail. She was gone, as in, “really gone”.

Cheyenne Post 50

Niki and Jazz did well together and we settled in for a long and muddy ride. It sprinkled some on the second lap and we got cooled off. I suggested to Kelley that we get our rain coats in case we got really wet on the last lap.

Niki post 50
A few miles into the last lap saw the sky open up. I had my rain coat on but no rain pants. Kelley had not brought his rain coat. Then, the thunder and lightning started. We were in woods and pulled under a cedar tree. After a while, Kelley was as wet as he could be and I suggested we might as well continue as he was starting to shiver. Both horses had a shoe sucked off in the mud. We avoided the deepest part of the creeks as best we could. Little Jazz is a tough as tough can be. She slipped or got hung up in the mud and came close to going completely down three times, but never gave up. We went through the finish line tied for 4th and both had no problem vetting through.
Sandy had taken the nature call opportunity and trounced us. She finished 2nd behind a national class Arabian and Julie Jackson. Sandy and Cheyenne beat us by 50 minutes. Gulp, you read that right. She beat us by 50 minutes. I am so proud of my wife.


Jazz post 50
At 2:00 am, the sky completely opened up. We are talking biblical proportion rain. A lightening strike near the trailer made sure we were all wide awake. Of course, the hail also kept us alert. Sandy announced her withdrawal from Sunday’s ride. I am quite sure that conversation was going on throughout the ride camp. I got up at 4:30 to get Kate ready and pour the food and electrolytes to her. I do love this little mare. She is such a trooper, and will do whatever I suggest to the best of her ability. Every ride on her is a training ride though, as her gait is the worst of all of our horses. As a practical matter, she has the worst propensity to pace of any gaited horse I have ever set on. She is also the toughest and the only horse I have ever ridden of any breed that gets stronger after 40 miles.
The ride managers pushed the start back while they looked at parts of the trail. The creeks were at bank level and would require swimming. They changed the course to road riding. Well, at least most of it was “beside the road riding.” This is the worst thing for Kate. There would be no shade and it would be all flat. Kate needs turns, ups and downs and climbs to break up her gait. I knew that this could be a long day for us. Mary Wills asked to ride with us on her fine Arabian, Solstice. My friend Jeff decided to ride Pippin against Julie Jackson and her national class Arabian, Nitro. Nitro had qualified for the National Championships but had been injured. Nitro was “slumming” to be in the 30 mile LD. Jeff set Pippin on the heart rate perimeters I had worked out and it resulted in a steady 11 mph rack. He was leading at the turn around spot on the first lap and Julie and Nitro caught him at the ride camp. I cautioned him not to try and keep up with Nitro as I knew Julie had been cautious with him and that he was a world class horse with numerous 100s under him. I did not want Pippin blown up, and wanted his first ride to be a good one.

Off we went with our rain gear as it looked like we could end up getting wet again. It did not rain, it just got warmer and the humidity rose with the temperature. I was soon sweating through my clothes. The change of course did not afford the ride managers the chance to set out water. Fortunately, the rain had left some ditches along the roads full of water and there were lots of puddles for the first two laps. Mary Wills and I came in together and her Arabian came down 45 seconds before Kate. Mary had her rain gear tied around her waist. During Mary’s trot out, she had the rain gear fall to her feet and she almost did a nose plant. All those watching the trot out thought her pants, had fallen but it was only her rain gear. The young male vet, who was at his first ride turned red and, then burst out laughing. I accused Mary of using a misdirection move to keep the vet from watching her horse during the trot out. We all had a good laugh.
There were several riders in the novice ride and the CTR ride and we were all on the same road course. Kate took the opportunity to invent new gaits. My favorite of her “alternative gaits” is her lope. She can lope between 9-12 mph and her heart rate actually drops during this movement. Drinking was mainly from puddles. During the last loop, the ditches were mainly empty, and with the lack of shade, I worried some about the heat on Kate. We walked some and then crossed the line. Kate was first and also received the BC award.

Kate post 50

Kate post 50

Jeff and Pippin finished behind Julie Jackson and Nitro. It was a surprise to learn that Pippin was only a few points behind in the BC standings.

Jeff Anderson and Pippin


So, we had competed 5 TWH’s and had a 1st, two 2nds, and two 4ths as well as a B.C. Most importantly we had completions on all horses and had a really nice time.
The State of Illinois has approved the improvement of these trails and that work should be done for next year.
Hopefully, we will see you all there!
Keith, Sandy and Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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