Pyramid Challenge- June 2009

Pyramid Egyptian Arabian Festival
Kentucky Horse Park
June 2009

The Kentucky Horse Park is a horse man’s paradise. It makes me just want to stand and breath in the air when I am there. I was searching rides that were within a days drive a couple of years ago and found this ride in Lexington. It is basically the world festival for blue papered Eyptian Arabians. I contacted the race director and he said that all breeds would be welcome as the event was AERC sanctioned. We had fun in 2008, learned a lot, and it turned into Sandy’s favorite event.

Her enthusiasm for this event spilled over to some of our friends. Our dear friends from Kentucky, Chuck Bearden and his granddaughter Treska agreed to give the event a try for their first Limited Distance ride. They took their two twhs, Stormy and Tech. My close friend Kelly Powell from Crab Orchard, IL. took his twh/mft cross Buddy for his second ride and his first attempt at a 50 miler.

Sandy took her trusty and LD experianced MFT Lady. Our “surrogate daughter” Michelle Lazorchak went to try her first 50 miler with Rebel’s Master. Rebel is our 16.1 grey TWH who has shown so much promise and ability at the 25 and 30 mile LD distances. I am still figuring out what works and doesn’t work with these gaited horses at the 50 mile distance. I have been asked many times how many training miles it takes to do a 50 miler on a gaited horse. My working conclusion to date is that you need around 300 miles of training in the proceeding 5 months pre race.

Rebel had 165 miles pre ride. I had reservations, but he is strong as an ox. His last several LDs had netted no less than 3rd place. He had one B.C. and he had barely missed two other B.C. awards. Michelle is a born endurance rider and the course was flat. He would have my seasoned MFT Blues as a buddy and they were corral mates. I decided to let Michelle try him.

Blues was going for his 6th 50 mile completion. Three hundred miles at endurance between the rider and the horse, not including LD mileage get you and your horse’s ticket punched for the National Endurance Championships for life.

I was riding this ride for completion and not for placing.

Because of the economic conditions in the this country, participation is down at all kinds of events. One of the workers at the Ky Horse Park told me that some of their events were down 70%. Perhaps to combat this, the Horse Park had really scheduled different things for the weekend. Here is a high light of just the things I know about.

1. 50 mile and 25 Ld races.
2. World Egyptian Arabian Festival
3.  3 day eventing practice.
4.  Show jumping competition.
5.  Saluki dog show and competition.
6.  Sheep herding dog competitions.

    All of these things were going on while our gaited horses were exposed to approximately 50 trotting Arabian horses in a stressful race situation after a 7 hour trailer ride the day before. The start of the race features about 3 miles beside Interstate 75. The course itself is wonderful to me but the horses get a bit confused by jumps that look like car sized ducks and the other man made jumps used for the Rolex 3 day events. To me, you really need a
    GPS and a wireless heart rate monitor to manage your horse effectively at this ride.

    I suggested we use the start of the course for our pre ride warm up for the horses. Sandy declined and stayed at the ride camp. During the warm up, Kellys’ horse Buddy acted up and Kelly held him back. That is Kellys’ way, and I know to leave him with his horse as Kelly has trained that horse in his own way’ and Buddy is the best ground trained gaited horse I have ever been around. What I didn’t know is that Buddy did a major freak out and reared, then started backing up on two legs. Kelly is a superb rider and had no problem but it showed the stress level Buddy was feeling. The rest of us finished our 5 mile warm up with no issues.

    We put the horses to bed and got up pre-dawn. Being in swirling pack of Arabians at the start is always a tense moment. Everyone seems so serious at many of these events. The ride started and off we went. Unlike last year, when the rider in front of me was tossed on her head at the start, this year presented no such excitement. The first two riders galloped off like they were in the Kentucky Derby. The next 10 riders or so bunched together and the remaining 14 were spread out. Blues led the way of our group of 3 gaited horses and settled in at his easy rack of 10 mph. His heart rate was up for the first few miles, but I knew that was normal for the start of a race and took into account Interstate 75 next to us.

    Blues was very smooth and we took a canter break at about 9 miles to mix up his muscle use. Buddy was pulling hard on Kelly,
    wanting to go. I did not feel good about that. By mile 10, Blues was in 4rth place. I had a race plan, and was determined to stick to it. I simply was not going to go into the 15 mile vet check with a hot horse. At mile 12, I pulled Blues aside and let the lead pack go on. We brought our little gaited group down to about 8 miles per hour and then started walking at 1200 yards to the vet check. With 600 yards to go we got off and hand walked them in. This worked well and we all three came down to heart rate quickly. The vet check was not a problem.

    After a 40 minute hold, we were off again. This time we were alone and I used my GPS and heart rate monitor to keep our speed at about 9-10 miles per hour with a low heart rate. We stopped at mile 23 and let them eat grass to help their stomach sounds. We did the same walking in trick as the first lap. Blues and Rebel had no problems at the 25 mile vet check, but Buddy was off metabolically. Something was wrong. He pawed and seemed uncomfortable. Kelly and I talked to the vet and all agreed he should be pulled. Kelly is very responsible towards his horse and immediately agreed with the vet. He took Buddy back to the vet at the end of the hold and plans were set up for IV for fluids.

    Michelle and I missed our start out times, but were more concerned with Buddy than time, by now. We rode conservatively, took breaks to let them eat, and of course, took advantage of every drinking stop. Blues heart rate was low and I watched Rebel for signs of stress. They were both solid and I was thankful.

    The 40 mile vet stop was no problem and we just had to finish an easy 10 miles to be done. Buddy was getting his IV and the vet told me that Buddy would be fine. We missed our start out time again, but I just was not concerned with time or placement at this point. Our trailers were about 600 yards from the vet check and Buddy was getting his IV at the vet check, so we went back and forth.

    Sandy was in with Lady in the LD. She had had a great ride and finished 8th and had been asked to stand for B.C. Chuck and his granddaughter Treska finished mid pack and had a great time. Their first ride was a very successful one.

    As we slowly but steadily cruised around the last 10 miles, Michelle said that the Ky Horse Park was her favorite place on earth and she wanted to stay there. She said she would volunteer to be an intern for the vet service and live in the tent we had let her use. I told her Blues was experienced but that as this was Rebel’s first 50, he did not know we were almost done. Her “little slice of Heaven on earth” might be Hell to Rebel.

    We came into camp slowly in a tie for 20th position and hand walked to the vet check. Everything seemed fine with the horses. Blues and Rebel had both been hitting heart rate within a few minutes all day and been getting close to straight “A”s on their score cards. For this last vet check we only had to get to 64 heart rate and we had 60 minutes to do so. Rebel came down in just a few minutes. Blues was over 70. Then he came down to 69, then 72. We sponged, wiped and sponged some more.

    Blues came down to 68 then back up to 71. The vets said Blues was fine and not in any kind of distress. They said he was almost asleep. I walked him around. I raised his head, I lowered his head. His heart rate came down to 66 then would go back to 70. We needed 64. One of our crew went back to our trailer for another electrolyte tube. The temperatures were now in the 80’s. Blues had drank well and we had used electrolytes pre-ride and during the ride. He had eaten his wet beet pulp at the 3 stops.

    The vet said that Blues might have had a bit of a cold pre-ride and that could explain his heart rate hanging in the upper 60’s yet his having no sign of any distress. He did not otherwise appear to be off to the vets or to me. I prayed. I prayed some more. Our 60 minutes were almost up. The whole volunteer group and our group were all pulling for Blues. With a few minutes to go he hit 65 then went back to 66. With about a minute to go we rested his chin on Michelle’s shoulder. She is very tall. He came down instantly and we did our trot out. All of his vitals were fine, considering we had just finished a 50 in 80 degree heat.

    The vet suggested that my next level of training with Blues might be to have blood work done on him to find out if he needed to have electrolytes mixed especially for his system. This made sense to me as many elite runners do the same thing.

    We went back to our trailers and the wonderful vet staff at the Ky Horse Park were still checking on Buddy. I asked them if they could take a blood sample from Blues while they were there to analyze him. They agreed and had the results back to me in 40 minutes. They said he was just mildly dehydrated from the heat and I could do an IV if I wanted to, but it was not necessary. Wanting to do anything I could for Blues, I chose to use an IV. The whole thing only cost $ 85.
    Rebel was fine and we spent hours tending our horses with a lot of brushing and treats.

    Blues got his 6th 50 mile completion which qualified him for the National Championships. Rebel got his first 50 completion. The vet said something funny. He said, “I first thought he was too big, but he is just big boned”. He went on to complement me on the training of Rebel, and Michelle on her handling of him during the ride. He then said, “He is a Rock Star!”. I almost fell over. He was talking about Rebel. Rebel is, or so I thought, no better than my third best horse.
    I am still scratching my head as no one thought Rebel could make an endurance horse. We were all wrong. We were so wrong that I am now thinking very seriously thinking of riding him in a 100 mile event in September if he does not sell first.

    What did we learn from the ride? We learned the Ky Horse Park is the most wonderful horse venue we know of and the vets there are wonderful. We learned there is always something to learn with horses. We learned that trailering a horse for 8 hours, that has not been trailered much can stress him. This course seems to stress horses that train in difficult terrain. That is what the vets said and I believe it. I don’t completely understand it yet, but I do believe it.

    The race director had backed out 2 weeks before the event and the Pyramid Society had stepped up and pulled off the event with great success. We sure hope they have it again next year as we plan to go back.
    Here is a picture of Michelle on Rebel and myself and Blues crossing the finish line together at the end of the 50. We all had a very good day.

    Michelle and Keith

    This entry was posted in Endurance Races and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

    Comments are closed.