Lincoln Trails 2012


Lincoln Trails 2012


The tradition of the names of Endurance rides is bemusing.  “Dead Dog Creek”, has lots of creaks but none of them are named “Dead Dog”.  “Red Barn Run” has no barn, but the word is their used to be a barn. “Raptor Run” is named that because the old growth forest made the race director feel like a dinosaur might use her for lunch. “Lincoln Trails” used to be in Central Illinois.  If you know history, Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln” because he did practice law in Illinois and lived most of his life here before going to Washington D.C.  However, the ride was not in Springfield and is definitely not within a few hours driving of their now.  It is listed as being in “Kinmundy” IL. If you go to Kinmundy, you won’t be at the ride because, it is actually at Stephen Forbes State Park and that is in Omega.

Omega has a population of about 30, but does have a general store with great ice cream and beer. It seems the store’s Sunday beer sales keep it going, as it is the only place allowed by law to sell beer in the entire area.


In any event, the ride application clearly stated in bold print, “There Might Be Mud”. Having ridden there several times, I knew they were right.   I had Jazz, a 7 year old twh mare, ready for her first 100.  She was 2 for 2 at LD, and 4 for 4 at 50 miles.  Kate was in foal, so she stayed home.  Sandy had Savanah, her 7 year old mft mare, more than ready for a 50.  Savanah can fly and was two for two in Lds and 3 for 3 at 50 miles. Now, I am kind of in charge of training schedules in our program and making sure our horses are ready for rides no matter who is riding them, but my Sandy is in charge of “nurturing”.  That means a variety of different things. From my male type “A” perspective, it sometimes means “worrying”.  But, if “Mama isn’t happy…….”  Well, you get it.

So, Sandy started worrying 3 weeks ahead that Jazz was not ready for a 100.  I poured over our training catalogs. I showed her that Jazz had about 1700 miles of training in the 4 years.  I submitted the question to a 100 miler friend, okay it was Paul Sidio. He said yes. I submitted it to 2 gaited competitors who are friends. They said yes. I submitted the issue to our close friend who is a local genius gaited trainer who knows the horse extremely well. He said yes.  I thought, “I have a lot less trouble convincing juries than my wife”.

Then it rained. Oh, oh, new worries. Then it rained more and the forecast was for a gully washer at the race site the night before. I finally realized I just needed to ride with Sandy in the 50. Mind you, she does not need me to ride with her.  Far from it, she won’t even wait for me. The woman, who does not appear to have a competitive bone in her body, turns into Billy Shoemaker when she hears “the trail is open”.

In fact, no one rode the 100 because of the mud.  It became a monsoon the night before the ride. They delayed the start to make sure the creeks could even be crossed.  This is an Umecra ride and they have lots of rides like competitive trail, Ld, and novice but the field for the 50 was small at 5. This was probably because of the mud. I am never apologetic about the size of a ride. All any of us can do is ride the ride presented to us by the people putting on the ride and ride with the folks that show up to ride. I figure everyone that fails to show up is missing out.

The other 3 riders where all experienced and the field was 2 Arabians, a Shagya and our mft and twh.  Jazz went to the lead and we held it through 19 miles of the first 20 mile loop.  The trail was actually not bad, but I was secretly glad I was not doing a 100 miles on it. Sandy and I backed our pace down at the mile marker to camp spot and then got off and walked into camp.

WE ACTUALLY HAD A CREW!  Our son Jonathan and daughter in law, Amanda came to the race and stayed with us and crewed. It was a blast spending the weekend with them and it has been so long since we had a crew that I had forgotten what a blessing they can be.  Jazz was at 54 when presented and Savanah always takes a few minutes longer to come down due to the fact she is more solidly built.  The hold was only 40 minutes, and even though Jazz had come down before the 2nd place Arabian, I let the first and second place horses go and waited patiently at the timer for Sandy.  She had told me not to do this.  She told me she would not wait for me. I said, “Yeah, I know, I get it, and I would send you and hunt you down, but this is a husband thing and I am waiting for you”.  The ride staff was appropriately impressed with what they called “a proper attitude” and told Sandy. I thought, “brownie point, wonder if I got a brownie point?”  Not a chance.

Sandy, super crew Amanda and Jonathan and MFT, Savanah Sunrise

Sandy, super crew Amanda and Jonathan and MFT, Savanah Sunrise

Jazz pulled Savanah for most of the next 15 miles and I decided that the leaders must be moving out.  Jazz has an incredibly square and even 4 beat racking gait and can certainly hold it for 50 miles.  I sometimes hear people express the opinion that a gaited horse can’t rack for 25 miles let alone 50 miles.  I know this to be false.  It’s not that I don’t use canter breaks, because I do.  It freshens the horse if the horse has a well developed canter.  Jazz does not have a well developed canter.  So, she racks.

I presented her at the second vet check and she was at 44.  She was also still making close to straight “A”s on her grades.  We were about 12-15 minutes off the leaders.  Since Jazz came down immediately, my out time was 5 minutes before Sandy and Savanah. Sandy was insistent that I go out and not wait and see if I could gain back time. Her argument was this:

  1. Don’t wait on me.
  2. I would not wait on you.
  3. You have a shot at BC, go!
  4. Don’t wait on me, I mean it!

So I went. It took her 2 miles to catch me. She passed me with the same grin of determined satisfaction that Lance Armstrong used to give those he was crushing as he went past riders up the Alps.

I gulped, and thought, “What have I created here?”  But the truth is I did not create this hot shoe.  She just sort of blossomed.  At times, I really don’t recognize the woman I married 32 wonderful years ago. I am however, always proud of her.

Sandy was in the mood to move out, and with some judicially applied persuasion, so was Savanah.  Going up a hill, I asked Sandy to shift her horse into a canter. Savanah has a great canter.  Suddenly, Jazz copied it. It was not the little, choppy canter of the past. It was a smooth, reaching canter. YEAHHHH!!!!!.  I had been looking for this for two years with this horse.

I praised Jazz, and we went back and forth from racking to cantering on the up hills. With 5 miles to the finish I broached the subject of the finish to my wife and mentioned a word she can’t stand. It is her dreaded “T” word.  Yes, I did it, I asked her if she wanted to tie.

You would have thought I had asked her to give away her favorite horse.  Her reaction was immediate and definitely not “husband friendly”.  To put nicely, she said, “I hate that, we are racing to the finish.”

As logically as I could, I explained that we were in 3rd and 4rth place. Because there were less than 10 riders in the 50 we would not be getting any bonus points no matter what we placed and that the smart thing would be complete and just not do anything with any added risk. She was not having any part of it.

Mind you she was on the faster horse, and we both knew it.

Then with 2 miles to go she said, “I will race you to the one mile wooden bridge”!  Visions of slipping on the slick bridge came to mind and I said, “No”.

She took off in a fast rack that became a controlled canter.  Jazz kept up with Savanah in her newly acquired canter and we hit just over 14 mph.  We are approaching the 49 mile mark and she was hitting a new high speed. On top of that her heart rate was still very low.  This mare is good, very good.

We crossed the bridge very safely and slowly.  By the way, I don’t want to blame it on my vocation, as I am a lawyer, but I can sometimes do pretty well with strategy.  Just past the bridge, with one mile to go, I knew there was a spot where a horse could pass on the trail.

I touched a spur to Jazz and said, “Come Up”!  She did just that, and we edged past Sandy and then the drag race to the finish line began.  The trail was windy and had very few places to pass. Very, very few if the leading rider was doing things like keeping to the middle of trail.   Yes, I did sort of “drift” over on one spot that was a little wider and did sort of result in Sandy not passing me.  But, I had a very vivid remembrance at that very moment of Sandy passing me in this same situation at Raptor Run with 300 yards to go.  A very vocal objection from immediately behind me brought me back the moment.

I held her off and we finished 3rd and 4rth. We had closed to just 4 minutes off of first place. Jazz ended up with the Best Condition award which is always my hope at rides.  Our horses have been privileged to take several BC’s but this was Jazz’s first. As we had raised her from a weanling, I was and am very proud of her.  We had a great time and would suggest this ride to everyone.  They have a great potluck and unique awards. Just understand there may be some mud.

Also, always remember to encourage your spouse and know that competition has both its rewards and its drawbacks.

I am hoping I get to quit sleeping in the barn and move back to the house any day now.

Dancer's Southern Princess, aka "Jazz", 7 yearold TWH

Dancer's Southern Princess, aka "Jazz", 7 yearold TWH

Keith and Sandy Kibler

Shawnee Sunrise Farm

Marion IL




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