Dead Dog Creak 2009

Dead Dog Creak 2009

We had extreme weather in May 09 at Shawnee Sunrise Farm. Actually, we had what was called an inland hurricane. We had winds like Katrina but without the water. The winds clocked in at 106 mph and the damage was everywhere. Thankfully, none of us nor the horses were injured. We all just needed a break from bad weather. So, we checked on the Dead Dog Creek in Salem IL and found that is was just a little “wet”.

Sandy took her big and beautiful MFT mare Lady. We took our 16 year old “surrogate daughter” Michelle Lazarchak and our 16.1 TWH gelding Rebels Master. I took my favorite horse, a 5 year old twh, named “Kate” and my best horse, a MFT rocket named “Blues”. The trails were very wet and muddy and the creeks were high. Then, at about 8 pm, the race director came and told us that a very heavy storm with hail was on the way. We battened down the hatches, loaded the horses into trailers and got inside the liveaboard. It rained, it hailed and it rained some more. It made for a very interesting night. About midnight it quit raining and we turned the horses out into our portable electric pin. That thing is a God send.

It was so wet the next morning that anything other than work boots or waders meant your feet were wet.

Michelle and I started the 30 mile event together and found ourselves in the lead after about 5 miles. We both watched our gps watches and our heart rate monitors closely. The conditions were the worst I had ever ridden in, let alone raced in. Some of the creeks were belly deep to little 14.3 sweet Kate. She is really a “mudder”. She is so little that she just seems to skip over bad trail conditions. Rebel is like a panzer tank, he just rolls through anything in that easy amble gait of his. Aaron Mowers was riding with us on his fine Arabian and half way through the first lap, he disappeared in a gallop. I declined to go with him.

Michelle and I kept a steady pace in the mud and slop. Kate is such a little sweet heart. Sometimes I think she is part golden retriever. She usually comes to me from the mare heard when I call her name. By mile 3, an Arabian mount with the co race director had caught up to us. For the next 2 miles we traded the lead between the 3 of us. At about the 5 mile spot, the Arabian took off in a relatively dry area in a gallop. I told Michelle to let him go. It was going to be a long day and if I have learned one thing from this, it is that you ride according to your game plan, not some one else’s game plan. We used our tools and went down to a walk with 1200 meters to the first vet check and then got off and walked the last 400 meters. We both dropped to 64 heart rate within a very short time and went back to the trailer for a bit of rest.

We learned that we were still 2nd and 3rd as we left for the 2nd 15 mile loop and that we were around 10 minutes off the leader. Apparently, galloping had earned him ten minutes. To me, it was not an acceptable risk to my horses. We rode carefully on heart rate for the second 15 mile loop. It is difficult to keep two eyes on the trail in front and a third eye on the trail behind for on coming Arabians but we did our best. We finished with all shoes still attached and pulsed down fine. Big Rebel pulsed down 1 minute faster than little Kate so we were 2nd and 3rd. The surprising thing is we were only 3 minutes off the leader at the end of the 30 miles. It seems the galloping Arabian had found a mud bog and gone into it. The only thing not covered with mud between the horse and rider was the top of the riders helmet. We had had a wonderful day. Rebel just keeps getting better and better with less training than both Kate and my main horse Blue’s. I, and everyone that knows the horse, is very pleasantly surprised.

Day Two

Sunday was a sloppy day, but thankfully, it brought no more rain. My darling wife, Sandy. saddled up her big mare MFT Lady for the 30 mile LD. Lady is our most beautiful horse and we have her look alike daughter at home in the pasture. Someone will fall in love with the daughter whose name is Savannah. I got up on my “best horse” Blues for the 50 ride. People had bailed from the 50 like rats from a ship after the horrible trail conditions of the day before. Now, the mud was churned to say the least. Only Blues and one other horse answered the call to the start for the 50. From my perspective, you can only ride against those who step up and I never apologize for a small field of opponents. Since I have now done the course numerous times over 4 years, the race director asked me to keep the other young woman with me through the first 5 miles. She was a wonderful rider on a warm blood. After the first 5miles I sped up and she let us go.

After another mile of rolling along in an easy rack in the mud, I came across some of the LD riders who had started their event after the 50 started. After the first 5 miles, we were on the same course. As I passed three Ld riders, I asked if any of them wanted to go with me and told them what pace we were going. It helps a horse enormously in this to have a buddy. The effect is
most noticeable after 30 miles when there is a drop in energy. One of riders asked me if she could hop on behind us and I assured her that I would not have asked if I had not meant it.

Her horse was a quick Arabian and she matched our pace perfectly. We rolled into the first vet check and Blues was in the lead in the 50 and she was in 3rd place in the 30 mile LD. When I went to the trailer I learned that Sandy and Lady were in 2nd place in the Ld as they were still at the trailer. I told Sandy I was coming after her so that we could ride together. She was only 6 minutes ahead on her start time and I knew Blues could easily make that up. As I waited at the start line, it occurred to me that if I ran Sandy and Lady down I would be taking Sandy’s competition to her. I decided quietly to myself that it was time to be a team player and pull my pace back to no faster than what I could figure Sandy and Lady’s pace to be. That worked perfectly. I brought Blues in easy to the 2nd vet check and the Arabian rider was thrilled with her finish and her 3rd place award. Sandy chided me at my last hold for not catching her and Lady as I had promised. When I said, “did you want me to bring your competition to you?”, her eyes got big and she thanked me.

Meanwhile Blues was still in the lead of the 50 and we had one more 15 mile mud lap to go. I searched with straining eyes to pick out the mud bogs and find ways to cut around the deepest spots in the creak crossings. Blues was still game and could sense we were closing in on the finish. We took two breaks to munch some grass and Blues liked that very much. With one mile to go The grass eating really seems to help with the gut sounds during the vet check. With one mile to go, Blues had a bobble in his gait on his front end. I immediately pulled him over and jumped down. He had thrown a shoe in the mud. With one mile to go and in the lead, our race was now in jeopardy. I had bought new boots for Blues just in case, and of course, had one with me. I scraped mud off his hoof and got it on. Some trail riders came up and watched me and offered to help. I knew that Blues flat feet could have been bruised by anything in the mud when the shoe came off and knew we were now walking a fine line. I needed to get him in over the last mile very gingerly and get him to the finish line immediately before he had time to develop any soreness in case he had bruised his heal. Any signs of soreness would disqualify him and that would be heart wrenching. On the other hand I definitely want to hurry in any way over the last mile and risk bruising him further or having another shoe pulled off. I only had the one boot with me.

We finished still in the lead by about 30 minutes and he passed the “trot out”. We went back to the trailer and waited the hour for the BC trot out. Blue’s scores were excellent all day and with the time lead and the fact that I was heavier than the second place rider, I knew we should take BC unless Blues favored the hoof with the thrown shoe.
We did the trot out with the boot and Blues favored the boot a slight bit. I took the boot off and he favored the shoeless front hoof. I congratulated the second place rider for her BC and meant it.
It was something to manage a horse for 50 miles in these conditions. Blues had finished first in gotten his 5th 50 mile completion. He only needed one more to qualify for the National Endurance Championships as the qualifications are that the horse and rider need 300 miles of non LD completions together. His time was good enough that he would have won the 50 race on either day of the ride.

It was a very, very good day.

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