Ozark Trail, 2012

Ozark Trails 2012
In 2009, a friend of mine named Paul Sidio, had an idea of doing a point to point 100 mile endurance ride in the Ozarks fashioned in his mind live Tevis. The ride was to be rough, on beautiful bud challenging trails. It was advertised as an old fashioned ride and not for whiners. Partially due to a very bad storm that left much of the trail with debris, no one made it past the 65 mile mark in the rides first year in 2010.

In 2010, Linda and Barry Cole caught the vision and challenge of the event and they were the race directors. Six of us finished the 100. My twh mare, Kate, led the race until a major, biblical storm caused the course to be changed. Paul and 5 others finished 100 miles in about 23 hours and 20 minutes. Kate did 119 miles and was 15 minutes behind.

Naturally, I did not tell Kate we were going back. Sandy reluctantly agreed to crew for us. This would involve a lot of work on her part. She had to get us started at daybreak, drive the live aboard 100 miles to the finish and drop it. Then she had to bring the truck back up the course with supplies to leap frog ahead of us to each vet check for as long as 24 hours. Did I mention how much I love my wife? For the purposes of this weekend, I guess the better point is how much she loves me.

The trail is very tough on hoofs. I used Vettec and plastic screen under the shoes to pack the Vettec last year and it worked very well. This year, my farrier strongly suggested using simply leather pads instead. As you shall see, I will stand my ground on the Vettec next time.

Race day was forecast in the low 90’s and 80% plus humidify. The vets became rightfully concerned, and added vet checks in place of some of the “gait and goes”. I did the math on the time and knew that the ride would become a balancing act of the following:
1. Managing time.
2. Balancing the heat, humidity, difficult trail and coming darkness.
3. Watching the trail surface and potential damage to hoofs.

So, my plan was to get out and cover reasonable distance as quickly as possible while keeping an eye on heart rate, temperature and humidity. I wanted to cover as much of the trail as I could until the day got. The plan was to then slow down. We started at day break and Kate went to the lead. I watched her heart rate, speed and avg moving speed on my gps watch. We settled in at a 7.1 moving average. That would be mid to the back of the pack at most 100s. I really thought that could be a winning average on this course. It is very tough and winding with hundreds if not thousands of small climbs and creek crossings. My math, experience on the course, and gut told me that a minimum of about 5.5 mph moving average would be needed to finish in 24 hours.

Kate leading and still having all her shoes.

Kate leading and still having all her shoes.

Kate led into the first gait and go, which we were told to treat as a hold at the 20 mile mark. We led out with two Arabians for company. At about the 24 mile mark, Kate stumbled. I got off, saw she had lost a front shoe and put on a boot.

Pulling into the vet check a mile 34 showed Kate with hoof that had lost some material when the shoe was pulled off on the trail. It was already hot. Usually Kate is very good at cooling. It took her a few minutes. I thought the hoof could be a problem. It was. She favored it on the trot out whether she had the boot on or not. She was lame and our day was over.

I am extremely motivated by completions. When I started this adventure, I was told “everyone knew you had to use Arabian horses” to be competitive in this sport. I thought that wrong. Our completion rate was over 90% coming into this ride and it really pained me to be pulled. However, this sport is not for the faint of heart, nor for those wanting to take the safe easy way.

Paul, The trail is this way, really, I am sure of it!

Paul, The trail is this way, really, I am sure of it!

It was time to get my mind right and spend the day serving others. Riders and horse teams where getting pulled due to the conditions and people needed help. Paul and Piper were also pulled and a trailer full of horses where headed back to camp. I went back to camp with Sandy and then went to the 65 mile vet check. There was a vet check at about 50 miles and I knew the day would be fully hot by that vet check and so the teams still on the trail would need help by mile 65.

Gunnar coming into mile 34 vet check

Lovely folks, lovely horses and great fun had by all.

So, Sandy and I took supplies and went to the 65 mile vet check. We set and visited with Paul Sidio, who had also been pulled at the 34 mile vet check due to an aggravated pasture injury. We had a lovely visit with the vet and other crews, some of which were from England. Time passed, I did math, it got dark. I went back up the trail to use my supplemental lights to guide the soon to arrive riders. No one came. I did more math. I decided that even if a rider showed up, they were not going to make the 100 miles within the 24 hour mark.

We went looking for horses and riders. Some had quit and were walking up a nearby road and they were looking for pickup. Daryl Downs, a very good FEI rider from the east coast was riding Paul Sidio’s back up horse, General Lee had gotten off course and added 8 miles off course on a nearby road.

We were all toast, and as I was enjoying a good meal in air conditioning back at the horse camp I actually mused I was happy I did not have hours more riding to do in the high heat and humidity while watching my data and wondering if I would make the cut off.

Paul describes some of the finer points of race directing to Linda.

Linda Cole announced that a special deal would be made to those who tried this year and wanted to try the 100 next year. In three years, there have been 6 finishers. Kate, the wonder twh, a mule and 4 fine Arabians are the finishers so far. Kate is expecting so I am bringing on 2 more twhs for 100s and plan on being back with one of them next year. By, God’s grace, I will not give up on this trail. It is just too much fun and such a fun challenge! If I wanted something easy, I would do something else.

Keith Kibler
Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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