Top of the Rock – 2008

Top of the Rock 08

There is a reason that this ride is called “Top of the Rock”.  It is very hilly and it is very rocky. It is also a great ride. The camping is primitive and hosted by Bill Wilson. The ride is the site for the National Championships this year. If I can complete the 50 mile ride on Blues and get one more I plan on taking Blues to the National Championships.

I decided to take Blues and Rebel. They were the only gaited horse amongst a whole lot of trotting horses.  The ride was international in scope as there were FEI riders from Canada, Germany and Switzerland.  The vet check on Friday went well for both Blues and Rebel. Sandy had stayed home for other duties so I was in for a weekend of hard work.

Saturday morning was Blues turn to go. The 50 had 34 horses.  The course was very rocky and had quite a bit of mud.  The first 20 mile loop was close to perfect and Blues came into the vet stop in the top ten. He came down to 64 with no problem. During the “trot out” the vet said, your horse looks like he is off on his left front. He told me to slow down.

I am not a vet but I know this horse. I did not believe he was off but I did as I was told. I slowed down, I really slowed down.  We did a lot of walking during the next 20 miles. We fell off the pace we had been holding dramatically. Blues wanted to go but I turned him off. Blues walking pace of 4.5 miles per hour has about a 90 heart rate. His easy rack of 10 mph is about a 100 heart rate.

We can into the 40 mile vet check mid pack at best and hit heart rate quickly. The vet had me do the “trot out” many times. He said that Blues looked fine at the walk and the shuffle but at what he called the “rack” he said Blues looked off. He told me it was the front right. Mind you it was a different leg than he cited before. To prove to me that Blues was off, he got a set of pinchers. Blues had no soreness of any kind. No swelling. No heat. So, solely on what the vet said he saw on one of the three different gaits I had to show Blues was declared lame and pulled.

Many competitors came to me and told me that they knew Blues was fine. I had a heart ache.
Say good bye to the National Championships. I felt slighted and discriminated against for competing a gaited horse. I went back to the trailer with a slow burn at how the horse had been treated and how hard he had worked to get to where he was.

I decided that no one was going to steal my joy and I simply turned that heart ache over to the
Lord. I figured that Sunday was a new day and that I would show up to the line with my 16.1 walking horse and see how his amble gait would stack up to the Arabian field.
Blues in his easy Rack

The Trail is Open (again)

During the warm up I got a lot of strange looks on Rebel.  The field in the 25 mile event was 22 horses. Needless to say, Rebel was the only of his kind and the biggest horse to boot.  He is like riding in a Panzer tank. Big, smooth, powerful and boy can he cover ground.  Off we went. Several of the Arabians were more than a bit cranked up during the start. An Arabian passed us about 1200 yards into the ride and then jumped up and cross fired right in front of Rebel. Rebel had only seen trotting horses at the events he had been in before. I doubt he had ever seen a horse cross fire at the trot before.

He panicked. He threw his head down and let out a buck. It was not a serious, “you are going over the moon buck”, but he really did catch me off guard and I was on an english saddle. I should have said I had been on an english saddle. I landed on his neck by his head caught by my right arm with my left foot still in the stirrup. He bolted off the trail to our left. I was facing his left ear. I firmly said “WHOA  REBEL!”  The big boy, turned to his right, cut across the trail to right and I repeated my command. He stepped across a log and completely shut down and stopped.

I hopped down onto the log and hopped back into the saddle, turned him back to the trail and looked around. All the riders behind us and come to a dead stop. Some one said, “we thought you were dead and being drug.” I said no, I was hanging on to his neck. The riders in front that had caused the wreck had not stopped or waited. They were gone.

No matter what kind of rider I think I might be or become I know I am not that good. God had my back during  that little incident.

Off we went without further incident. We pulled into the first Vet check in about 8th place. The day was hot and I had been watching Rebel’s heart rate closely. He came down fine. I was understandably concerned about the “trot out”. I asked a helper that was on hand at the ride to motivate Rebel a bit during the “trot out”. He did a good job, well, maybe too good a job. Rebel panicked a bit after the turn. He pulled away from me as a result of the helper’s motivation and went for a “trot out” by himself.  He was grabbed by someone and I actually got a hug from one of the vets.

The second loop was started and the temperature was up in the 80s. Pretty hot for such a big boy. I tried to keep his heart rate down to around 110.  Arabians started appearing ahead of me on the trail. At one point the course had an out and back where we picked up a token. At this point I had one Arabian not far behind me and only 2 in front of me. I timed the two in front of me and know we were only 3 minutes off the lead.
I kept Rebel steady and his heart rate down. Training in difficult terrain really has its advantages.  Our horses are tough in the latter part of races. Rebel never faltered. By mile 20 we had caught the leaders. I followed respectfully. That sideways hopping Arabian was still jumping in a crooked manner. I could not imagine riding that way through out an event.

At mile 22 I asked if we could ease past. Rebel was in the lead of a race again.   The pain of yesterdays pull seemed eased. Still, I remembered the last vet check ahead. I wondered how it would go.  We traded the lead back and forth for the next 3 miles. I pulled over with 800 meters to the finish line and got off and walked Rebel into the vet check.  3 Arabians and Rebel were all in the finish area together during race to get our heart rate down. Rebel was third and I was thrilled.

He did the “trot out” just fine. However the same vet as yesterday thought he heard something off on Rebels gut sounds on his left side. He told me he would let us get our completion but asked me not to return Rebel for B.C. showing. Remember, Rebel had gotten B.C. at his last ride. Because I out weighed the other two riders in front of me, and we had all finished within seconds of each other, I knew there was a chance that Rebel might win B.C.

We took our 3rd place finish and no B.C. was awarded.

To say I was proud of that big boy would be an understatement. Never underestimate a TWH. Not even a big one.

Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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