Pyramid Challenge- June 2008

Pyramid Challenge-Ky Horse Park-June 08

You have to love the Kentucky Horse Park. The ambiance and history may be second only to Churchill Downs in the equine world. I discovered that there was a endurance ride event there in June of 2008 which was sponsored by the Pyramid Society. This is a group dedicated to promoting and preserving the Egyptian Arabian horse.

As their world wide festival at the horse park included an endurance event I looked into it and had a series of emails with the ride director. He assured me it was open to all breeds. It was sponsored by AERC so it would be possible to ride there, but would we be welcome with gaited horses?

Our Junior friend Michelle Lazorchak, loves the horse park. She had visited there but did not know a way she could ever ride there, let alone compete there. I made her an offer. If she would sit Rebel for enough conditioning miles to prove to me that both of them could safely do the ride, I would sponsor her and Sandy and I would take there to race. Her parents agreed and we started training.

This girl can ride, she can really ride. She also has no fear. She is not quite as assertive with Rebel as I have been in training him but she is probably a bit calmer in her riding style. The two of them bonded during training. I taught him to mind and to speed up and slow down on command. She taught him to nuzzle and how to be ridden without stirrups I taught him to roll in and out of a canter from a gait. Michelle taught him how to gallop. I taught him how to give to pressure and respond to the reins. Michelle taught him how to jump at speed.

Rebels endurance training and life training showed me he was ready to go to a larger stage. So was Michelle. Sandy wanted to race Lady, her beloved MFT. I needed to decide who to take and as the ride was a one day only event, I could only take one horse for myself. Blues would not make the National Championships due to my scheduling difficulties and Kate did not need another ride so soon after her last. Although Sandy’s other mare Dandy is a fantastic horse and would do fine at the event, I don’t like riding that horse very much.
That left a sweet heart twh that had just turned 4 named Pusher’s Rooster Lady. We called her Niki. Niki was a Cadillac of a ride with signs of showing great potential and speed. She was going through a bit of 4 year old attitude that sometimes happens. In particular she liked leading, and could care less about leaving the other horses, but did not care for being left behind.

We arrived at the event to find that they meant what they said about it being a “primitive camping” situation. We were in a field well behind the main festival grounds without electricity but with porta potties. Pizza and water troughs were provided however.

I found that the same vet who had pulled Blues and asked me not to bring Rebel back for BC standing a few weeks before was on hand. I decided to pray.

GPS and Heartrate Management

Coming from the world of triathlon, I use the high tech tools of pgs and heartrate monitors for both training and horse management during the events. I figure we need every possible advantage to successfully compete with the many fine Arabian horses that we ride with and against. We also need to manage heart rate to have the best chance at the vet checks. I intended to watch Niki’s heart rate closely and to ride her slowly. It was my plan to go for the “turtle award”. That is the award for last place. I told Sandy and Michelle that they would get pulled for anything they should get pulled for or anything that even looked like a problem. By this point in time I was worried that non of us would get an even application of the rules because of the fact that we were riding gaited horses.

All three of us had GPS watches, but only Sandy and I had wireless heart rate monitors on board the horses. I told Sandy she could not ride Lady over 150 heart rate, as the course was flat, and that I wanted her to keep the heart rate in the 130’s most of the time. I had a serious talk with Michelle. I told her that if Sandy got pulled she would not be able to finish. I told her I knew Rebel could out pace Lady due to the difference in their conditioning and the number of the events they had done that year. I told her that her job was to continually ask Sandy what Lady’s heart rate was. She did her job and she did it well.

The Trail Is Open

Their were 26 horses at the start of the 25 mile distance event. As I expected, the gaited group was limited to Lady, Rebel and Niki. The trail was opened and I tried to start last. The start was very interesting. Niki did not much care for being left by a herd of quickly vanishing horses. She had never been to a race before, never ridden with trotting horses and never been by a large hi way. The race went along a 6 lane interstate for the first 3 miles. Niki got light in the front end when I tried to hold her back at the start. We practiced one reign stops to work on her mind. We came to a small ditch and the Arabian right in front of us jumped the ditch with gusto and then promptly bucked off it’s rider. Niki was definitely in a new world. We practiced more one rein stops.

It did not take long to find ourselves alone and in sight of dead last place. I decided that this would be an interesting day of bonding and teaching with Niki. Remember, I was looking for last place. I decided the Turtle Award was mine.

After about 4 ½ miles, Niki calmed down and got her mind right. Then Niki got to meet her first cows. We entered a field through a gait with a human keeper and passed a herd of cows. There had to be 75 of them. Niki had never seen one cow, let alone a herd of them. She watched them very cautiously as we passed very near the herd.

We then came across a rider standing beside his horse and the rider had a very worried look on his face. I asked if he was all right and if he needed help. He told his horse was tied up and asked if I had anything to help him as he did not know how long it would take to get help. I told him I did and reminded him that it would disqualify him. He asked me for over the counter tie up remedy and got off Niki to help him. I dropped her reigns and got into my cantle bag. As I was handing him to tube of ointment, Niki turned her head and say the herd of cattle again and ran off to see them and then to pass them. With the cantle bag still open, the contents went flying as she racked off backwords on the course.

I went for a jog to try and to catch Niki. A competitor that I had met before at other rides happened to be coming by the other end of the field and within sight of Niki. A riderless horse is always a sign of something wrong. She graciously caught my horse and waited for me. I gathered up as well as my cantle bag contents, checked on the rider who was off his horse again and got started back on the course.

Not knowing the course is a disadvantage even if you have a GPS. The watch will tell you how far you have traveled and how to get back to the start, but not where the course turns should be. I missed a turn and added another 2 miles to the course. Niki’s 25 mile day was about to be 28 miles. We pulled into the first vet check at 15 miles, which was 18 miles for us considering the missed turn, multiple spins in the beginning and jogging incident.

Niki came down fine and so did Lady and Rebel. Niki was near last place but Lady and Rebel were mid pack. I determined that they were about 6 minutes from the riders ahead of them. I cautioned Sandy and Michelle from over riding their horses. When the timer yelled to go, Niki and I went off in her efficient running walk, Niki only had 10 miles to go, the course was flat and she was doing great. I decided to give her her head and let her rack.

Sweet Ride!

Niki went up to about 10 mph her heart rate stayed just where it needed to be. We caught 2 Arabian riders just before the cross country course and we were all on the asphalt pavement together. I tried to stay behind them a respectful distance but they asked me to pass them. As I approached them, Niki’s sweet and even 4 beet gait was just singing! One of the Arabian riders yelled out “Sweet ride!” as we went past and I smiled and thanked her. As we got past she yelled, “Isn’t she a little big for a Paso Fino?” I yelled back that she was a TWH.

That conversation still makes me smile.

More Arabians came back to us and got a glimpse of Sandy and Michelle. They were not far ahead. I found two riders that were stopped. It was the rider who had been bucked off at the start and she was sore. I had some people medicine for her and stopped to find it. This time, Niki stayed and waited on me. Maybe the turtle award was possible after all.

Niki cruised into the finish doing fine but showing me she was ready to go to her feed bag for a rest. As I approached the finish line I saw that Sandy and Michelle where in the final vet check ahead of me. I saw the vet that had been involved with pulling Blues and asking me not to bring Rebel back for BC judging listening to Rebel and talking to Michelle. I saw a worried look on Michelle’s face. I started praying and I was not pleased. It is one thing for me to be disappointed. It is another thing for one of the women I am responsible for to be disappointed. If their was a problem with Rebel. I wanted to know it and if there was a problem I wanted to knowit was a real one.

I found the first volunteer person with a kind eye and handed them Niki and marched deliberately towards the vet station. The vet saw me coming and headed to meet me. As we met he said, “I heard the same thing with your horse as the last race, but he is fine it just must be the horse!” I said fine and returned retrieve Niki. She did fine during the vet check and we took 16th with Rebel, 17th with Lady and 18th with Niki.

After the event one of the vet assistants told me, “ you have brought the most interesting assortment of horses to this event.” I told her, “Thanks, but what do you mean?.” She said, “Well, the Percheron mix!” Of course, she was referring to Rebel, the TWH.

We liked the course, and we will go back. The race director does a class act and it just seems to me that the rolling hills of Kentucky are the perfect place for a gaited horse!

Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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