Dead Dog Creek 2010

Dead Dog Creek
May 2010

Dead Dog Creak is my favorite ride. For starters, the ride has many creeks, but none of them are named “Dead Dog Creek”. A previous ride in the area was on a creek thought to be named “Dead Dog”. However, it turns out it was the wrong creek with a different name. The ride is sponsored by the White County Saddle Club, but the ride is in a different county in Southern IL.

The race directors are Linda and Aaron Mower of Olney IL. They do just a super job and are what the heart of the AERC is all about. Local, non pretentious horse lovers that also love to ride and are willing to put back into the sport in order to help others.

The ride is definitely rustic. It is held outside of Salem IL, which is right in the middle of St Louis Mo and Evansville IN. It is at the Stephen Forbes State Park. You have water spigots, electric hookups and a pair of out houses. The ride is a series of 15 to 20 mile loops that are repeated around a lake. Over 90 % of the ride is single track trails in woods. There are many streams to cross. All vet checks, for every distance, are in camp. This is my favorite ride.

Unfortunately, the ride was not as well attended as well as it has been in the past. I believe this was because the weather had been wet for 30 days and people who were regulars there knew it could be wet on race day. Boy, were they right.

Sandy and I had 3 twhs and one mft ready for 50s. My top horse, Blues was more than ready to do what he does. Our friend, Pat Phillips was still mourning the loss of her TWH Cowboy, who rolled into an electric tape fence and died. She loves Blues and loves to ride him. She also rides him wonderfully. So, naturally, those two got hooked up. I was ready with my little TWH mare Kate. Kate is not a speed ball, she is a Honda. She is a pretty little grey Honda. I had two other TWHs ready. One was a little mare named Jazz, out of Southern Jazz bloodlines. The other was a pusher bred TWH mare named Niki.

Pat Phillips on Blues and Keith Kibler on Kate

Someone had ridden the course and removed most of the tags. What is wrong with people? So I rode 15 miles with Niki and helped get that straightened out. Next I rode 7 miles of warm up with Jazz. She had no problem with the mud either. I did the warm up with Mira Fleming. She is a wonder. The woman is 77 years old and absolutely flies on her Arabians. She has completed over 13,000 race miles.

Pat Phillips and Blues
Saturday morning dawned with ominous skies. Only 7 competitors answered the call for the 50 mile start. Did they know something I didn’t? The LD did have a full slate. The trail was called “OPEN” and within 6 seconds, the rain started. With the 7 riders sorting themselves out, I slipped little Kate in behind Pat and Blues and Mira and her Arabian. The rest of the horses were also Arabians. Everyone had on rain suits but me. Sandy had placed a light poncho in a bag on my saddle. After 2.5 miles I was really getting wet so I opened it up with one hand while riding. I fumbled around and tried to put it on in full “moving on mode” and realized I was risking serious hurt for no good reason. So, I pulled Kate back and pulled on the poncho. Well, I tried to pull it on. You see, I still had on my helmet and the hole in the poncho was too small for the helmet. I almost laughed out loud until I realized the risk I was taking sitting on a horse, in a race with my eyes completely covered by a poncho. I took off the helmet.

The rain kept coming down and Pat and Mira kept speeding up. You have to ride your own race and my race with Kate did not include going over 13 miles an hour in the mud. We slowed down to the 8-10 mph I had planned out for little Kate. I wanted those horses to move on down the trail. However, Kate was so steady that we kept catching up to them when they would slow for things she would rack right through. We finished the first loop in a pack of the three leaders.

No problems with vet in and I reported for the next 15 mile loop with a dry set of clothes on. At the 25 mile mark, Kate and I started a very muddy climb on the steepest part of the course. She slid a bit and my world went very wrong . The cowboy string girth that I had thoroughly slathered with Vaseline, before the rain, let loose it’s grip and the saddle spun. I would say I hit the ground, but I had not seen ground since the start. I hit the mud and as I slid around I watched Kate run bucking and kicking off the course as she tried to rid herself of the upside down saddle. The cantle bag exploded in slow motion and I saw all the contents spray into the air.

I yelled for Kate to stop. The flight side of her brain took over and she disappeared into the woods. I picked myself up and was glad to find I had nothing broken. I walked and called her name. After a short walk, I heard her nicker to me and saw her watching me from the woods. The saddle was hanging under her. As I walked to her, she panicked again and took off bucking and kicking.

I walked back to the trail and headed towards the direction she had gone. After a while, I saw her and she was standing very still. One reign was wrapped four times around one leg. With my heart pounding, I calmed her and took the muddy English saddle loose and tried to tighten it. The girth would not tighten. Then I noticed something wrong. Both stirrups where gone. There were no stirrups and no stirrup leathers.

As I walked back to where the cantle bag contents were sprayed around I saw the stirrups wound around a small tree that Kate had apparently run over. While I tried to reattach the leathers, two Arabian competitors came by in full race mode. The leader of the two asked me if I was okay and kept right on going. To say I was disappointed that they had not stopped was an understatement. I simply could not attach the stirrup leathers. I hung both leather on my shoulders and led Kate down the trail. It was so muddy I could barely walk. I had to have a stump or a log to have a chance to get on her.

It was still raining so hard I could not see through my glasses. I was covered in mud and sopping wet. My saddle was covered in mud and I had no leathers or stirrups. It was 6 miles to camp. As I walked down the trail I could not find anyway to try and get up on Kate. After walking for a while, the trail ran into a creek that was simply too deep to try and cross. I was at the end of my trail and out of ideas. I had no idea what to do.

So, I prayed that the Lord would help me. I had to have help. Then I turned to Kate and said out loud, “Kate you are going to have to let me on, you are just going to have to let me on.” I faced her into the stream and took a hand full of mane. I bounced one, twice and then jumped with all my might. I landed on her back and pinned the slimy English saddle with my stomach. As I asked her to stand and wormed around to try and balance myself on her back I thought that if the loose saddle spun and caused her to go into the stream it would be two weeks before they found my body.

My little Kate did not move an inch. I got a hand full of reigns and we crossed the creek and I prayed a prayer of thanks. We picked up speed in an easy rack as I balanced on the loose saddle and let my wet legs and boots dangle. We climbed the next hill and as the saddle started to slip, Kate came to a complete stop to let me adjust it. This horse was becoming my hero. It was the longest 6 miles of my riding life but we made it. After vetting, I got help fixing the saddle and off we went for the last 15 miles. Around the 40 mile marker, Kate got stronger. She also got faster and her rack was just singing in the rain. At mile 47 we caught the two Arabian riders that had passed me while I was on the ground. Kate and I eased past them and they sped up.

The race was on. They kept speeding up and Kate kept responding. They broke into a gallop and Kate galloped for the first time. She broke 15 miles an hour in the mud and pulled away from them. We caught Pat and Blues who were taking it easy in the mud as both walked off through the finish line.

Pat and Blues did so great. She was tough as nails and took 2nd in her first 50 in the worst conditions imaginable. Did I mention she has a metal cage in her back? Mira Fleming finished just over an hour in front of us and took B.C. Considering what she came through to get a completion, Kate’s 3rd place finish  was an unbelievably good result.  We decided we had had enough of the wet conditions and loaded the other two horses up and headed for home.

The last second we were dry.

This ride is a great one to have as your first ride and we would love to help those who want to give it a try.

Keith and Sandy Kibler

Shawnee Sunrise Farm

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