Blazing Saddles 2012

Early spring is too cold in the Midwest for rides and summer is too hot. So, Sandy and I have to travel. I have a 500 mile limit for Drs. Otis Schimtt, Dee Dee Huff and Ken Marcella. This ride was right at 500 miles and offered both Otis Schmitt and Dee Dee Huff.

It is also the only ride out of 15 that my twh mare Kate had not finished. Last year, I did a rider option at mile 85 due to a look in her eye and have been thinking about it. I know I did the right thing but I still think about it. I love my little 874 lb. Kate but she is the most challenging gaited horse to ride that I have owned or ridden. She is also the only horse I have ever ridden that gets stronger after 40 miles into a ride.

I can call this girl and she will leave the mare herd and come to me and kiss me. She may think I am her food slave but I fancy that she loves me and I sure do love her. Sandy wanted to ride (one of her) favorite Missouri Foxtrotter mares, Savanah, in the mare’s second 50 mile ride. So, off we go to southern Mississippi.

Naturally, we had truck problems. In the past we have blown trailer tires on trips. This time I replaced two extremely expensive truck tires before we left so I thought we were good. When, just into Kentucky, the engine light came on. Now, I had $ 8,000 of warranty work done on this truck in the last year and thought it was good to go. I was wrong. We pulled into a Ford dealership and they said it was just an EGR valve and I could keep going until I got home. 100 miles later it started surging. Okay, that gets your attention. Then, the entire dash cluster started going dead and shutting off completely. This was definitely starting out interesting. We prayed, drove on and prayed some more.

We finally got to Laurel, met Terry Price and parked. We looked for my friend Jody Rogers-Buttram but learned she had broken down too. My buddy Paul Sidio showed up. My endurance friends are an important part of my life and although I don’t get to see them often, I sure enjoy running into them as gypsy vagabonds with these horses we love. Some of my friends and fellow competitors and characters that showed up included Paul, Steve Huff, Jody Rogers-Buttram, Angie McGhee and Lucy Estabrook.

Sandy got the horses looking great with a spiffy weave into both of their manes. I am so proud of Sandy. She is my hero. Most women of her age would have retired to the couch with her physical challenges long ago. She will not go quietly into the night.

In the 50, Sandy started with her MFT mare Savanah, my friend Steve Huffman and his Spanish Mustang and 26 Arabians. Savanah sometimes pretends to be tired in rides and tries to fake Sandy out. So, Sandy decided to push Savanah and make sure she did not fake tiredness without a reason. When she heard “the trail is open”, she went to the lead pack. Sandy rode with a woman named Nelia all day. Savanah got almost all A’s and pulsed down quickly, but was 5 minutes behind Nelia going out the last loop. In the last 5 miles of the last loop, they caught up with a rider that had passed them earlier in the second loop. When they saw the finish line ahead they looked at each other with a “let’s go!” look. The three of them raced for the finish line. Sandy’s GPS showed 18 ½ miles per hour…Nelia got 4th place and Sandy ended up 6th overall and was thrilled. Her time was 5 hours and 42 minutes. Savanah did great for her 2nd 50 miler.

Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

Here was the finishing order for the top three per Terry Price:
1st Amanda Mead 4:49
2nd Gwen Douty 5:01
3rd Eva Kucerova 5:16 BC

Kate during the warm up before the 100

I got up at 4:00 am so that Kate and I could start the 100 at 5:30 am. We showed up at the start line 10 minutes early and the only people there in the dark were a group of locals that were camping. I asked where the 100 check in was and I was told they had already left. Panic hit my stomach, “how could that happen?” Just then Jack Price, the race director’s husband pulled up and said the out timer was a little late and that I was just the only one there. There had been others there and they had gone back to camp to find the timer in the dark.

The trail was declared “open”. Well, actually the “road” was declared open as the first 15 miles was completely road. I settled in at the back. These folks and their Arabians were absolutely flying. Kate was moving horribly even though I was trying to keep her just under 10 mph most of the time. She had “go” on her mind and “go” equals the horrible pacing movement that feels like a drunk sailor on a rolling ship. I brought her down to a running walk, then moved her up to a rack, then she went to a stepping pace. A few minutes later and she went to a hard pace. I repeated this and I repeated this and I repeated this.

My intention was to ride with my friend Paul Sidio and his horse Piper. They were going too fast for us and I had to let them go. I finally had to put Kate down into the soft earth runoff area beside the road and let her have her head. She went to 12 mph and her heart rate went to 102. There was obviously nothing wrong with metabolic. We ditch rode a good part of the first 15 miles and then had a 7 mile trail loop back to camp. She went back into gait on the trail. I had to surmise the movement problem was the road. I walked her into the vet check and did not remove the saddle nor did I sponge her. I just presented her with her halter on. She made heart rate in about 60 seconds from hitting the timer. She paced right through the trot out.

The next loop was a 24 mile trail that included about 4 miles of road. She moved okay on the trail but hard paced on the road. It was so bad it made me wonder if something could be caught under her shoe wall. I got off and checked the front left and back left. There was nothing and I did not bother checking the right side. She was again near perfect at the vet check. As the vet handed me the card and said “great”, she mentioned that “you do know you are missing a right front shoe don’t you?

Pilot error is what that was. I had not checked the right front when I checked shoes on the road. I had an easy boot, but that is not the best solution for Kate as she needs equal weight on both front feet to do her best movement. I had 4 shoes for her at the truck but needed a farrier. It seems at least one was in the 50 and was between his 1st and 2nd loop. He offered to help but had no tools, shoes or nails with him. I had every hand tool imaginable for emergencies and shoes but no nails for shoes. Someone had nails for shoes at their trailer and Paul’s wife hurried to their trailer. The farrier walked graciously to my trailer with Kate during his hold and used my automotive and trailer tools to put the shoe on. I had to force him to take money and a banana. He passed on the fruit and was wonderful.

Keith and Kate at mile 70, Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

That is the thing about riders in general and in the south particularly, the folks are simply the best.

We got out on time somehow and was soon caught by Clair Summers and her fantastic Arabian Mardi Gras. Clair has done Tevis on another horse but this was Mardi Gras’s first 100. Mardi Gras was named that name because he was born on, well you know.

Mardi Gras ate up the next 24 miles at 9.5-10.5 mph and we settled in behind most of the time. The next vet check was again near perfect but Clair was late to get out so Kate and I left word we would mosey out slow and wait for them. Within 2 miles they trotted up and we hooked on and off we went like a trail. Most of the time, they road on one side of the road on the 15 mile road loop and we rode on the other side of the road. There was very little water on this loop and only one actual water stop half way through. It got dark just a few miles before camp.

We hit the 85 mile and Kate took a couple of minutes longer to come down to heart rate than she had been, although I still did not untack her or sponge her. This made me wonder if I should back off her speed for the last 15 miles. This always presents a dilemma. We all know how horses gain strength from each other, so losing a buddy in the last bit of a 100 can be a negative. However, you have to balance that loss against the need for riding your own ride.

Clair had more horse under her and they still wanted to move 9.5 miles per hour. At mile 90 Kate and I let them go and I moved Kate down to 6.5 – 7.5 mph and we headed for the barn. We missed the two of them but I decided it was time to ride our own ride to the finish line. At mile 95, I took her to a walk with interspersed running walk breaks. Even though we walked most of the last 5 miles, we still beat our best time by 50 minutes and had a finish time of 14.09 and Kate went through the vet check with all A’s and one B. We were 11th place and I was tired, but thrilled. There were only 2 pulls in the whole 100 which was phenomenal.

Here are the top three finishers for the 100.
1st Ruth Anne Everett 10:36 BC
2nd Amanda Fant 12:02
3rd Josie McGhee 12:02

Dr Ike Nelson got his 11th straight LD BC which is incredible.

1st Ike Nelson 2:42 BC
2nd Jeff Thacker 2:45
3rd Jason Williams 2:46

Dr Ike Nelson sings to his horse before getting BC, Could this be his secret? Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

One highlight of the awards banquet for the 100 was that Josie McGhee won a copy of her Mom’s book on endurance. She accepted it and said, “I never have read this, I lived it with her”.
Someone thought she had some chance of getting it autographed.

This was Kate’s 4rth completion in 100’s out of 5 tries and we both needed some rest afterwards. This ride is a wonderful mix of good people and great times and I hope to see a more diverse mixture of breeds there next year.
Keith Kibler

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