Mizzy Wizzy

That road is a 100kp/h section so we tend to tread very carefully along there – what we do not usually have to take into account are people deliberately trying to frighten our horses! 

A few months ago I told the beginning of Mizzy’s story here in our blog post Golden Child. It was like a dream as we filled in the first page of his logbook with a string of A’s and 1’s barely three weeks after he was broken in, bitless and barefoot to boot.

It was not the end of Mizzy’s year however. The Kilkivan ride was coming up and we were all attending with our 80km horses – why shouldn’t we take Mizzy too? Well, as it happened, there was a lovely girl who was keen to do her first ride nearby! Kim came and rode Mizz a few times to get to know the little scamp and it was soon all settled. Mizzy’s first set of Blue Pegasos shoes went on the weekend before the ride and they completed the 20km sitting on the tail of the pace rider with straight A’s and 1’s yet again.

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Kim and Miz ready to vet in for the Kilkivan 20km

The golden pony had a few little tricks up his sleeve when we trained. He wasn’t without a pigroot in those days and certainly knew how to make things interesting for his rider when he got bored! He never really intended to get me out of the saddle when he kicked up his heels so the times I did come unstuck were in no way his fault.

The first fall came a week before his first ride at Widgee. The break in my foot had healed for the most part but I was still paranoid about hurting myself. We had done a nice 10km loop that brought us home along the roadside, passing the tennis courts as we went. That road is a 100kp/h section so we tend to tread very carefully along there – what we do not usually have to take into account are people deliberately trying to frighten our horses!

We go past the tennis courts regularly, so the horses don’t even blink as people run back and forth or the intermittent CLACK of the ball being hit, but that afternoon there was no one in sight bar one young boy, about 12 or 13 years old. Erin, Chintzia and I jogged down the street with Koda, Sally and Mizzy, minding our own business and I remarked on how good Mizzy had been that day and how well he was handling training. We had no idea what was about to happen.

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The big purple ball had not frightened Mizzy in the least, he had seen it and heard it hitting the ground as it bounced up and down and there wasn’t even the slightest bit of tension in him as we approached. Then the kid spotted us and for that split second I thought he had stopped bouncing to let us pass. But I was wrong. In that moment he had paused and held the ball still he had clearly decided that throwing it at the fence was by far the better and more entertaining option.

All I can say is that in that moment I was praying that there were no cars coming as all three horses lost all sense of reason and spun toward the road. Koda and Sally were under control within a moment, but it was all too much for Mizzy as I tried to restrain him and he was so scared that he decided he had to get rid of me in order to save himself. The three successive bucks had us first sideways, then in the ditch and then onto the road – it was the last that had me off as I went straight over his head and landed on my knees on the bitumen, the rough surface instantly tearing through the denim of my jeans and the skin of my palms as they landed a moment later.

I was angry, but my first thought was for my horse. He stood wide-eyed nearby in the middle of the road while Erin and Chintz scrambled to catch him. He seemed unharmed and not keen to leave his friends which I was very grateful for. My next thought was for cars which may be coming at 100kms down the road unaware of what had just happened, so I stiffly stood to reclaim my horse and guide him away from the road. The next thought was for the little brat who had caused the entire thing – the brat who had now disappeared.

I was in no mood to go looking for him, he clearly knew he’d made a big mistake and I knew that if I stayed off Mizzy for too long while looking for the twit that my knees were not going to manage getting back on. The blood and swelling were evident – time to mount before I lost the ability to bend them altogether…

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Blood all cleaned off  and the swelling coming in nicely!

Now, I’m no doctor, but I know what fluid on my knees means when I’ve hit a solid surface with a good few hundred kilograms of propulsion behind it. I probably should have had x-rays done, maybe a few weeks out of the saddle – but having only a couple of months prior escaped the hell that was a moon boot and broken foot, there was no way on earth I was going to be admitting any kind of weakness here.

So I sat for the next week with various bags of frozen vegetables on my knees while I watched reruns of How I Met Your Mother and Friends, intermittently riding out with the girls for training and ignoring the pain as much as possible. I am no role model when it comes to injuries I’m afraid, but by the next week the swelling was gone and I was no longer limping so we went to Widgee for the 20km. Unfortunately six weeks later it all came raging back as I went for a jog and the swelling returned with a vengeance. Yes, there was a fracture in there somewhere… But as with most equestrians, I grinned, I bore it, I kept riding!

It was soon the end of our riding season and we were moving house so Mizzy was turned out for a rest, but not before our second (and last to date) fall occurred – and it was a doozy! I still have a faint scar on my arm from it.

We had shifted to a new property which wonderfully backed onto miles and miles of trails. On Mizzy’s first outing we followed in behind Jasmine, happily daydreaming since we were not in the lead. It all happened as I tried to turn my stirrup away from the small tree that looked rather dead – unfortunately my twisting motion caught it instead and the next thing I knew the little sad dead tree was wedged between my stirrup and the cage, pulled from the ground and dragging along beside us!

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Ouch – still have the scar!

There were a couple of moments that I thought I could save the situation. In one second I thought I’d gotten the thing loose, in the next I thought Mizzy had realised it wasn’t a big deal and then I suppose one of the branches must have poked him as he suddenly lost it again, springing into the air, bucking and bolting in complete panic and subsequently dumping me sideways into a very spiny and rough grass gum-tree! It was quite a hilarious spectacle I am sure and I still find it rather amusing to think that I got a damn tree stuck in my stirrup!

So, that was the end of Mizzy’s bucking for me. He has never tried to drop me again and I do think his four year old brain had very valid reasons for being upset in those situations. It wouldn’t be long before he would meet his new riding buddy, fresh returned from a stint in the UK and looking for a new hobby. A grand journey was about to begin, we just didn’t know quite how grand yet.

Training Tales

So, before I go getting started on the year 2016, there are a many in-between stories that are deserving of some telling!

Lets start with a few from 2015. It was an amazing year as far as our completion rates and goal achievements, but there were some far and beyond marvellous times that came along in the down time between our rides too. Such as the time we took Spencer for a ride…

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Sharing Haze – not the highlight of my week!

It was our first time out with Milton after he had arrived at the farm, Adriana was taking him for a spin that night and I was aboard Koda. That was an eventful night to say the least, Haze being my precious baby it was not easy letting someone else ride him! But Spencer wanted to know what all the fuss was about so out we went!

I micro-managed every step Haze took, yelling out to my poor hubby as he steered around our track. I almost died inside as I watched Haze cantering along in the dark and realised Spencer had no idea there was a huge ditch coming up – after a lot more yelling they successfully dodged it but my blood was already well and truly up! We jogged along in the dark, Adriana and Spencer laughed and talked while I glanced across at Haze constantly. Then we came to the hill that we usually let the horses flog up – Haze knew that hill and he took off at a strapping pace with Spencer flapping around hilariously. I wasn’t worried, it is just how he rides! Then through the darkness we heard a god awful girlish shrieking and we approach to see Spencer waving his arms in the air, reins dropped and Haze standing leg-wide. He’d hit a very large spiders’ web!

A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting and riding the beautiful kiwi Willowvale Sirahh. Adriana is a lovely correct rider but she will be the first to tell you that safe is her number one priority which is why I took our new pony out for a spin first! I thoroughly enjoyed Sam’s antics, he is an amazing horse to ride – but there was a moment that I ended up deciding not to tell Adriana about…

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Feisty Sam carried Adriana to her first 80km completion the next week!

I had Jasmine and Erin with me that day, we did a lap around the block and came to a nice steep short hill that the horses enjoy sprinting up. Jasmine and Erin let their horses fly, and at the base of the hill I decided to test out Sam’s breaks and steering – they were very effective! But as the snorting, prancing and cavorting grey cantered on the spot, tossing his head and leaned on my hands at the base of that hill and I sat up asking him nicely to be still (which he ignored completely) it occurred to me that this was not the sort of behaviour that Adriana would want to know about before getting aboard for her first 80km! We made it up the hill safely, and Adriana did not hear the story until well after her successful completion of that ride…

Reel back to the time that I was wearing a moon boot because of my unfortunate meeting with a hole. I got in the habit of following the girls along in my ute, carrying water and doling it out for the horses at various points along the way. Most of the roads we use are back roads, quiet ones with very little traffic so I used to drive along the edge of the road, pulling out onto the road when ever one of the white guide posts would appear.

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Note the hiding concrete gutter…

Apparently, on some roads the white guide posts are not a reliable thing to use as a “guide”, a lesson I learned loudly, violently and unreservedly as my ute fell nose first into a grass covered gutter with a sharp concrete edge. There was an amazingly loud scratch and crash as the front left side of my car fell into the muddy hole, followed by much screaming from me – then silence as I registered the hissing sound of what I desperately hoped was not my radiator!

It was not the radiator, but it was one of my tyres and there was no way in hell I was getting out of that hole by myself with absolutely no traction or air in the busted tyre. Adriana and Erin rode on home as a neighbour helped pull my car out of the ditch – apparently it was not the first time this sort of thing had happened on that road, the white guide post that I missed was in fact flat on the ground and covered by grass after some other poor soul had fallen into the same predicament as I now found myself!

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And the very dead tyre!

The poor Patrol that was trying to reef my ute out of the hole died several times in the attempt but finally managed the task in time for my darling husband to appear and replace my busted tyre while I hobbled around on my moon boot in the street. It was almost completely dark by the time I made it home and the girls were very good getting the horses fed, rugged and turned out after their training. And I learned never to trust white guide posts ever again!

 

 

2015 – High and Low

The next 80km on our horizon was Kilkivan, to be followed by Nanango for the last of the three-part Blackbutt series of rides for 2015. Jasmine was chasing her last 80km completion. Erin was attempting her 3rd 80km in an effort to get her Open status in one 100% swoop. Adriana was on her first ride as a free-as-a-bird Open rider on a yellow-book horse and so were Milton and I!

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Mizzy and Kim

I was still on a high from our completion at Murrumba. It had been an amazing experience for so many reasons, although there was one shadow cast when I got home to find out that Haze had gone to a new home and I’d probably never see him again. My heart broke, I had cherished the hope of buying him myself – I found out later that my dear friend Rob had even wanted to get Haze for me. But it was not to be.

I cried, and I cried some more. Then I dusted myself off and got back onboard.

Unfortunately, we were going to hit a snag at the Kilkivan ride. We had five horses – four 80kers, and Mizzy was going to be piloted by Kim Barker on her first endurance ride and his second in the 20km. The 80kers rode as a team, which is a lucky thing because as it happens, I was about to have a shock as I vetted in off the first leg – Milton was lame.

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Pre-ride Vetting

My boy had felt perfect out on track, nothing was out of the ordinary except that I had found myself trying to hold him back a little – he was very full of himself! But nothing untoward had happened otherwise so I was in a serious state of shock to find myself watering, feeding and watching my poor steed (who was, by the way, sound as a bell the following morning…) while my team mates headed out on the second leg. Through the haze of my exhaustion and sadness, I was delighted to know that Mizzy had made it through his 20km with Kim.

Jasmine was a bit under the weather, I was worried to send her out knowing she was feeling ill but she plucked herself up and got out there. It was a good thing as Adriana was not keen to lead and Koda refused to so Erin couldn’t have put her in front – they needed their bubbly blonde leaders!

I sat at camp with the strapping team made up of dads and husbands and my dog – who came and placed his new-found fetching-stick on my lap and asked me to play. Instead I picked up the 30kg German Shepherd Border Collie cross, slumped him across my lap in my camp chair and snuggled him until my girls and their horses came back into sight through the darkness.

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Kilkivan ride-start!

Strapping was done quickly, Adriana and Erin were complete – but my heart broke for Jasmine as she and Hala were vetted out lame at the end of the ride. It was awful, knowing that she’d pushed through the pain of being ill to realise only 2kms from home that Hala didn’t feel right. It is never a nice thing to vet out – I sometimes wonder if it is worse knowing that it is going to happen, or dealing with the shock when it is a surprise. From my experience, its the surprise ones that hurt the most.

We were sad, but we celebrated two completions, especially Erin and Koda’s graduation to Open status with five successful completions in a row. It was getting late in the season and I’d never run my horses through a whole season before, I was starting to feel like it had been a long year, but we still had one more ride planned.

The South Burnett club had run two rides at Blackbutt earlier in the year, but for the third ride they relocated to Nanango. The three rides were being held as a series. Any rider who successfully completed the three 80km rides would go in the draw to win a Pandora saddle – and I’d already completed the first two!

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Feeling good – Leg 1 Kilkivan

I was one of several possible winners entering the ride. Erin, Adriana and I headed out in the afternoon light and powered through the first leg in 12kms per hour – which was still quick for us, though nothing compared to the eventual winner’s first leg of 18.1kph! We all vetted through easily – it was looking like a smooth completion.

As we chugged along through the darkness, singing along together to keep  our spirits up, I glanced at Erin and Koda for a moment as I realised Erin had gone quiet. It looked strange – her gait was off. Koda was still stepping strongly and evenly with each of her powering strides, but something still didn’t look right. I asked Erin and she confirmed – not lame, but something wasn’t quite right.

In the dark in the middle of the track we stopped and I got off  Milton, handed his reins to Adriana and turned to Koda. Equine Touch was always my go-to response and it was going to get Koda through the last few kms. I quickly did a few small moves on her and showed Erin how to do them from the saddle. We were back up and going in a few minutes and Koda seemed okay. Within a few more minutes of movement she was moving freely again.

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Before ride-start – Nanango 2015

We trotted into camp after a slightly slower second leg. Sirahh and Milton felt great but we were concerned about Koda as she cooled in the night air. Her woolen rug was only going to do so much. It proved to not be enough as her muscles stiffened while she and Erin were told to wait for the line up and were then held up in the TPR bay.  I was feeling concerned for my young team mate on the brink of what could be her first vet out – unaware of what was about to hit me. Despite my efforts to keep Milton warm while waiting for the TPR and vets, he too had stiffened – four steps into our trot out and I stopped, not wanting to put him through the full run and knowing it was pointless. Both Erin and I ended our seasons on a vet out and I knelt by Milton’s knees in shock and just kept saying how sorry I was to him.

It was not an ideal way to finish our year. The fact that both horses had recovered by morning was a positive, but we were still feeling flat. Adriana and Sirahh had made it through though – so at least we had that to be glad about.

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Milton baby

It had been a long year with a lot of positives and a few not so good things along with it. We’d learned a lot along the way and had a lot of fun and ridiculous stories to tell – from Adriana and I embarrassing our young team mates with our off-key caterwauling as our horses chugged up hills – to scary mannekins blocking fire escapes at scary country-town pubs!

2015 was done and dusted – what were we going to do with ourselves with the off-season at hand? Well, I was going to go stir crazy and realise just how much I rely on my sport to keep me sane. Sure, I had pony club events, hack days, sporting games, trail rides. But nothing beats endurance. Nothing.

Murrumba Magic

After the disaster that was our morning (see last month’s edition if you missed it…) we were finally on the road to the Murrumba Magic 100km. I had an awful feeling that we were going to have a terrible ride, I was not in a good place after enduring the terror of missing horses, my stallion getting caught in a cattle grid and a crazed call to the vet.

Siri was safe and sound at home being watched over by my mother and sister, my dear friends were plying him with antibiotics and pain medication – and my husband put me in the car and started driving. I was the least fun person to be around that day.

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Camp all set!  Photo credit: Adam Perrier

 

We finally arrived at the ride base, Jasmine and her dad and our friend Rob had found us a spot to set up our yards in the main ring. We were right next to my friend Tasha who was riding in the 40km with her mare Miss Jayne, her second horse was being piloted by Mindy in the 100km. The horses were soon fed and watered, the boys were setting up the campsite, we grabbed our gear and headed to the secretary’s tent to weigh in and nominate. Seeing the horses happy and eating after travelling so well, I was starting to relax. I still needed a bit more of a pick me up though, so I detoured by the Dixon Smith tent and bought a new helmet – yep, that helped….!

Time to make sure the horses were ready to vet in. A little feed with their electrolytes and they were ready to go down to the ring. Sahala, Milton and Koda vetted in with HR’s of 29, 30 and 31 respectively and trotted out well – except little miss Koda who still hadn’t gotten the hang of trotting out, Erin wrestled her from start to finish much to the amusement of the vet! On my way to vetting I was approached by several people enquiring about Milton and sent them straight over to Rob.

We were ready to start and it was time to chill out and rest before the early morning start. We had our traditional pub dinner at the Woodford pub – by far the coolest pub we had found so far – which was packed to the seams with riders, strappers, drivers and friends. We had our pre-ride discussion about our strapping system while we waited for our dinner, the boys watched a bit of the football game playing on the tv and then we headed back to camp while they continued their philosophical chats – us three girls went to bed for the night as soon as the horses were fed and watered again.

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Ready to go    Photo credit: Adam Perrier

When morning came we all saddled up silently. I stupidly lost my gloves – or left them behind at home during the confusion of the morning – so Adam gave me his gloves as I climbed up into Milton’s saddle, shaking from the cold. It was misty and freezing but the horses were feeling great. Time to go!

Jas led us out,Sahala pulling to follow the faster horses ahead of us. It was Milton’s third ride as a novice and Koda and Erin’s second big ride ever so we had no intention of going flat out, it was going to be a long road for the younger team – an extra 20km longer. We managed the first leg in 11.9kph and the horses certainly felt good so far. What a shock we were about to have.

As soon as we came in, Rob, Adam, Craig and Spencer appeared to strap the horses. Rob had his stethoscope out and checked each horse as we went. So far so good, except that Hala was higher than usual. Ten minutes later it still hadn’t dropped, we were scratching our heads as he seemed fine – then the tell tale off-colour urine gave us all the information we needed to know.

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Jas-Cam on Leg 1

Metabolic problems can affect any horse at any time. Careful management is needed – especially in the case of endurance horses. Some horses are particularly susceptible and some research shows mares to be more so than geldings, however there are many exceptions. Episodes can be triggered by many different things too, it can be a stressful thing to try and figure out what is causing such problems in your horse but in many cases once you know what it is you can manage it! In our case, we found the problem quite quickly.

Never ever ever give an endurance horse an electrolyte containing bi-carbonate. I mix my own electrolytes so that I can be sure of what my horses are getting, but there are plenty of pre-mixed electrolytes that do not contain it and are suitable for endurance horses. Lite salt, iodised table salt and dolomite mixed at the correct levels have worked for my horses so I have stuck to it.

Hala was ruled as lame by a vet panel and they requested a re-present in 30 minutes so that the vets could re-check his status. He was fine and Jas diligently monitored him while Erin and I quickly fed and watered our horses, then ourselves, before we saddled up again to head out.

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Jas and Erin keeping an eye on Hala ❤ Photo credit: Adam Perrier

It was sad to leave our team mates behind – and I immediately felt their absence as Milton reminded me how much he hated being in the lead. Koda was not as perky as she had been on leg one, but she followed none-the-less. We struggled on this leg, it was not an easy one. It was hot and we were tired but we plugged on with endurance. Somehow we made it through at a pace of 11kph.

Our strappers met us at the line to take our gear and help us get the horses sorted. Milton vetted in at 39bpm and trotted out nicely. Koda came in at 43bpm – and trotted out terribly. The vet almost called a panel as he requested a second trot out. She was not lame, but she was tired. Erin and Koda were allowed to continue, but we were warned to take it easy and get some electrolytes in her.

Once back at camp we realised why Koda’s hydration was off and why she had drank so poorly on the second leg – she hadn’t eaten her feed and missed out on her electrolytes while we rested off leg one… Tasha had just finished her ride with Jayne, so she hurriedly mixed up a cup of electrolytes in yoghurt for us to syringe into Koda’s mouth. By the time we were saddling up we had managed to get her to drink a little of her molasses water.

 

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Photo credit: Denise Keelan – Erin and Koda after the first checkpoint on Leg 2

Erin and I had a very stop and start third leg as we sooked, babied and shoved Koda through the final leg. She is a stubborn little mutton and when she is tired (even a little) she will plant her little hooves and refuse to move. Somehow we managed to convince her to push on and got her home again – this time she vetted through with her first well behaved trot out, though I am not sure if it was because she was too pooped to fight or if it was Erin’s dad refusing to let her run him over!

That’s when it hit me. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, excitement, joy – knowing I’d trained these horses and they’d made it through 100kms! I had come back from the despair of losing my horse and feeling like a failure to this – two horses solely trained by me completing a big ride successfully. It was pure amazement, happiness and relief.

Milton was open and Rob and I were both so happy. Koda and Erin were well into their Novice status with two down and one ride to go. Although Hala hadn’t completed we were relieved to know the cause of the problem so we could avoid it in the future – and he was well recovered before we had even finished our ride. All was sunny, all was good – onward to Kilkivan!

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My very first Yellow Book!

Hang up the hang ups

I fathomed in the space of a second that he was up to his flanks with both hind legs and a front under the grid – then I was looking for something to knock him out with – I faintly remember Spencer or Erin screaming something. Or maybe I was the one who was screaming as I realised there was no possible positive outcome in all of this.

I’d never been to the iconic Murrumba Magic 100km before and I will never forget my first time and all that happened before we got there. I try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives of the experiences but for the purpose of telling the story I kind of have to paint the whole picture!

A few weeks before the ride, we had moved some of our horses to a new paddock not far from home. They had lived there previously and it was a lovely paddock full of grass surrounded by cane fields and a gate close to a road for us to access. Unfortunately, we had a little issue with fences – someone kept opening our gates. We had managed to catch the horses before any trouble came about when it had happened the first couple of times, but the third time was a complete disaster and happened on the morning we had planned to travel to Murrumba. Here’s the story.

Erin had stayed the night as we were planning on an early morning and her dad was going to meet us there. Jas and her dad were also making the trip while Spence and I towed the three horses down to the ride with our float and ute. The night before, Erin and I had meticulously packed down to having the three horses we were taking in the back yard with their halters and leads hanging on the fence and their morning feeds ready. It was fantastic. I went to bed with a feeling of complete preparation!

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Packed and ready!

At 3.30am my phone buzzed. I ignored it at first thinking it was just an email alert, but when it buzzed again  and again a few moments later I was awake and decided to have a look. An urgent post had been put up on the local equestrian Facebook page saying there were four horses loose around the corner from my house – and the descriptions matched some of my horses!

I was up, dressed and in the car, float in tow, within minutes, racing around to the paddock and past the spot the loose horses had been seen on my way, but I saw nothing! At the paddock, the front gate leading to the road was closed, but there were three more that led into the cane fields so in I went with the float and ute, racing along the cane rows and praying that the horses had just turned around and gone home. There were still three others in the paddock if four were loose – and yes, there they were! Near the dam, sleeping under the trees were three of my geldings dozing – but my stallion, his old companion and two geldings were no where to be seen. But the gate in the far corner was indeed open – it almost looked like someone had driven over it.

I drove along the lane way in the direction that they had been spotted and prayed that I’d see them grazing in the cane fields, but they weren’t there. By this point I decided to alert the troops and darted home to wake Spencer and Erin. With both of them along we went back out to search. It was starting to get lighter when I saw Mister, my sister’s stock horse gelding, strutting up and down a fence across the road from the farm they were paddocked at. He looked in a panic, where were the others? Then it hit me – he was pacing back and forth next to a cattle grid, and the other three horses were on the other side of it.

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Mercy, a week before the “ordeal”

There was no way around that grid, it was a fenced in driveway – the only way those horses had crossed it was by walking or jumping. Thankfully the property was owned by a family friend who happened to be the man we were agisting with so I knew there was a little walk down the driveway, two gates to pass through and maybe an awkward conversation with the tenants about why we were there, but it was a safe route nonetheless. But just as I was climing across the grid myself, Mercy, the big mare, decided she’d had enough of that side of the and walked straight back across it! I panicked for a moment, but her big dinner-plate feet served her well and she walked straight up to Spencer and Erin who were standing by holding Mister on a lead.

My moment of relief was extremely short lived though, because Sizzy had a meltdown on seeing Mercy walk away and decided to follow her on his much daintier and slimmer legs! He made it half way before he fell through it and without thinking I leapt on him, fighting with all of my 55kg to hold him down and stop him from struggling and breaking his legs. I fathomed in the space of a second that he was up to his flanks with both hind legs and a front under the grid – then I was looking for something to knock him out with – I faintly remember Spencer or Erin screaming something. Or maybe I was the one who was screaming as I realised there was no possible positive outcome in all of this.

Suddenly I was flung out of the way as Siri threw me off his head. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t know how it was possible, but he was up and he was out and he was running to Mercy. My brain was in such a state but I heard hooves behind me and then I was up, untying my jumper from my hips and wrapping it around Jett’s neck as he too went toward the grid and his friends. I caught him in time though, thank goodness. He stopped, shoved me a little indignantly and then I dragged him the long way around through the gates – and all the while my mind was racing.

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Jett – the mischief man

I couldn’t look toward Sizzy as I led Jett away. All I kept telling myself was that he was up and if he could walk nothing was broken, he was okay! He was going to be alright! We got through the gate and Erin strapped a halter on Jetson – then I looked at Siri.

There was blood, it was gushing with every step he took from a cut above his hoof. There were grazes and small cuts all the way up to his flanks though none of them bled like that foot. It looked almost arterial, pulsing blood every time he took a step. My favourite jumper – a blue cookie monster one that I call my “lucky jumper” – couldn’t contain the bleeding for more than a few minutes even though we had it folded almost four inches thick. My vet was called, but he was away at a conference so he had me call the vet at another clinic – who happens to be an endurance vet – and she was soon on her way to us but it would be a 45 minute wait at least! There was so much blood, but the legs weren’t bent at odd angles, everything looked as it should other than the surface trauma! What could I do? There were three other horses standing idly by the roadside and Sizzy was off his tree with hysterics. The float – the float was still attached to the ute!

We decided it would be best to keep Mercy – since she was his companion and would help to keep him calm – but the two geldings were a hazard as Sizzy paraded around dominantly and consequently gushing more blood out of his foot while the adrenaline ran high. Jas and her dad arrived, they and Erin loaded Mister and Jett up and took them back to the paddock, Spence went to wire up the open gate, and help arrived for me in the form of my amazing rescuer Abbie. Seeing my appeal for help on Facebook, she arrived with bandages and cloths to help stem the bleeding while we waited for the vet.

Much of what happened is a blur to me, I’ve listed the important stuff but I could have things very much all over the shop as far as order goes! I remember talking to Rob, Milton’s owner, who did a good job of calming me down as I screeched about all of the blood coming out of the wound. Somehow he managed to convince me that legs always bleed badly, especially right above the hoof, which echoed what the vet had told me. I was far too hysterical to be thinking rationally when I spoke to her though!

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All patched up and considering some hay

After talking to Rob who was waiting for us at Murrumba, we had decided that if the vet visit would take us past a certain time, Adam would float the three horses and the girls to Murrumba, then Spencer and I would follow when we were able. If I was at all in a safe enough mental state to attempt the ride at all!

When the vet arrived I was much calmer – and so was Siri. Once the geldings had been taken away he had settled down, then I think the pain kicked in because he stopped prancing about and shrieking, opting instead to stand over my shoulders and rest his foot while I sat between his knees and Mercy grazed nearby. The vet took quick stock of Siri’s condition and gave him a painkiller then asked whether he’d been tetanus vaccinated – the grid was rather rusty. Thankfully, I’d kept him up to date with that jab!

The vet showed me how to wrap the leg and the layers of items to use to keep it from slipping and getting dirty, then gave me a week long supply of antibiotics. He’d need a needle twice a day. Abbie came to my rescue again and offered to visit and check on him while I was away at the ride – she really was my hero that weekend! She got plenty of practice with needles too, which was a new thing for her. Our friend Maddie came out and taught her how to do it, then she was on her way. Thankfully Siz is gentlemanly and behaved himself for them despite the needles. I couldn’t ask for better friends, I have so many amazing ones!

With Sizzy in safe hands, all three of the paddock gates wired shut and time to spare, we were ready to put the three endurance horses on the float and head to the ride. The three halters neatly lined up on the fence were popped on and the horses stepped aboard kindly. It was almost like they knew I’d had my fill of stress for the day.

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A week later, on the mend and playing with the hose!

But my stomach was still in a knot and even when we were on the road there I said to Spencer that I didn’t feel right; so much had gone wrong; we should just go home and be glad that the worst hadn’t happened; lets not ask for trouble by going to the ride. He shook his head – No, we were going. The three horses in the float were ready. They were eating, drinking, calm and happy – there was nothing wrong with them, they had no idea what had happened and there was nothing that would give us reason to go home. Time to hang up my hang ups. Get my head in the game – get on with the ride.

Golden Child

In 2010 my stallion, Siri Mahali was born. At barely a month old, Sizzy suffered an injury which left him incapable of being anything but a paddock ornament and breeding horse. He was my very first foal, I was there from his first day and I’d fantasized of the day I’d break and train him myself for endurance – so to say I was devastated would be an extreme understatement. When I came to grips with the loss of my dreams, I settled for one day riding his foals. It would be a distant future, with little choice but to wait – then, a year after his accident Sizzy’s half brother, Amir Halo (Mizzy as we call him) was born to one of my favourite mares, owned by some dear friends of mine. I was there the day he was born, but I had no idea what the future would hold.

Jump forward four years and Mizzy has been mine a year. My friends decided they couldn’t manage the stifle lock that he had developed as a youngster and gave him to me – with that my dreams came rushing back! Starting my own baby horse, taking him through his first ride, getting him through his first 40’s and 80’s, dreaming of the day he’d be old enough to do a Quilty.

When I first got him, he’d spent a few weeks with a breaker who had an untimely accident with a different horse and cut short the training he’d started. In the end it was just as well since I felt Mizzy was still a big baby at only three years old. So I didn’t continue his education and opted for turning him out with his brother and my other young ones to grow. It ended up being a good thing because he grew another three inches and became a bit broader. He was just as sweet as his brother, they look very alike except for their different shades – one fiery chestnut, the other glistening gold.

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Maloo Vale Siri Mahali and Maloo Vale Amir Halo

It was July of 2015 and Mizzy was about to turn four, so it was time to see if he remembered any of the things Malcolm had taught him. Having had so much trouble with Koda’s teeth with her bit as she aged from 3 to 5 I decided to avoid the issue altogether and started Mizzy in a rope halter. Malcolm had said Mizzy was one of the smartest horses he’d worked with, he was clever but cheeky too – time would tell if it would all come together.

So it began, day after day of pressure and release, pressure and release; left and right, left and right; back and step forward, back and step forward. He remembered it all – Malcolm was right.

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First time aboard!

Within a week I was riding the little scamp around the regular training tracks, bareback at first and then we graduated to a saddle. The stifle lock would disappear once we were on the move – after consulting my vet he suggested that warming up before vetting in at a ride would be beneficial and there was no reason Mizzy wouldn’t make a strong riding horse. So, I was riding my golden pony,  my dreams were coming to life! Where would we go first? Well, there was a ride at Widgee in three weeks – why not start there!

So we decided to load up the float and take Mizzy, Milton and Sally to Widgee for a slow and steady 20km. After Sally’s unfortunate vet out at Rockybar I thought it would be a good idea to try her at a shorter distance and it was only a fortnight since Biggenden so a quiet short ride was just what we were looking for! Along for the ride was my little sister for her very first endurance ride.

It was a long one, Mizzy was barefoot and bitless but he took it all in his stride and we babied him around the 20km track. He’d been under saddle for three weeks and his first entry in his logbook was a completion – what more could I ask for? Well, a completion for Sally was icing on the cake. My sister was over the moon and wanting more. There was more than one funny moment – the best being captured by Kevin Coppalotti at the creek crossing! I remember Milton balking slightly and then slowly wading in and across, I followed in closely behind with Mizzy who just glided through gently. We were almost the whole way through when I heard a shriek and then I was covered in water as Sally, in a panic thinking she was being left behind, leapt into the water and caught my sister off guard. The photos were priceless and I couldn’t ask for a funnier memory!

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Splash! Photo by Kevin Coppalotti

It was the start of a long journey with the golden child, it is still going even now and I hope one day that those dreams I dreamed will be real. Even if I’m not the one in his saddle, I will be so proud to have played a part in making it happen.

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Mizzy all calm at the creek! Photo by Kevin Coppalotti
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Chintzia and Sally on track
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Another one of my artsy fartsy horse-scapes
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Milton and Adriana – Photo by Kevin Coppalotti

Something wonderful

Next up on our calendar for the year was one of my favourite tracks – Biggenden. The ride has never been run over the exact same trail, every year is new! What did Sue have in store for us this time? The last thing our horses wanted – a bloody big hill…

Here at home we don’t have hills. Not real hills, they’re more like gentle slopes really, so our horses tend to struggle on the hillier tracks and we have to slow down a good deal and take care of them through the tough parts. Most of the Biggenden track was undulating and good under foot which is a lot like what we train for, but that hill – oh lordy that hill…!

We had four horses in the 80km – Jasmine riding her horse Hala, Adriana with Sam, Erin on Koda and myself with Milton. We also happened to meet a new rider in our area who we managed to help along to the ride with her horse – her name was Kat and her little mare is Vegas. They were entering the 40km so we would begin a bit earlier.

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I believe Jas was singing and dancing at this particular point..?

Before we vetted in, Adriana and I clipped Sam and left a snowy patch of white hair in his yard which Revan (my dog) found to be such fun to play in. After a quick brush we vetted in and decided to go on a quick pre-ride. It was a lovely afternoon, Spencer and Erin’s dad, Craig, got the fire going and we all huddled around before heading off to the Biggenden pub for our customary pre-ride dinner.

The next morning we rolled out of bed in the dark to the thrilling rustle of horses hooves and the clinking of saddles and bridles. It was foggy and freezing! Adriana, Erin and I were all rugged up – gloves, light jackets, face masks, anything to stay warm! No one really takes notice of one another as we saddle up, its usually so cold you can only focus on your task of getting your horse ready to go and trying to remember where you hid your gear to save it from the dew. Once we’re all aboard and a little warmer and awake we start to pay a little more attention and one thing that got us all gasping was Jasmine in her t-shirt! We all had a laugh and tried to convince her to put on her jacket, but she insisted she was fine and we all shuffled away giggling in the darkness with Adam waving us off.

In those days, with novice horses and novice riders to take care of, we would wait until the front runners were well and truly gone before we trotted out of the gate. Milton’s owner, Rob, was there cheering us on as we buzzed out. We were all eager – it was Erin’s first 80km and Adriana’s last novice (she had completed an 80km in between Biggenden and Blackbutt) I was quietly stewing about the hill we had been warned about at pre-ride talk. Hills were not Milton’s strong suit at that point!

We got a good rhythm going, jogging along nose to tail like we did in training in the order we knew our horses to be most comfortable – Jasmine out front, then Adriana, followed by Erin and then myself at the back where I could keep an eye out on the juniors. We were making a decent time, the track had a couple of boggy crossings that had us laughing as Milton minced through them trying to avoid getting his feet wet! It was not long after we had hit a turnaround point that a story we have re-told many times since occurred which included a random bush dunny – I was not busting enough to use it, but one of us was, I won’t say who…!!

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Biggenden 2015

After much laughing and hysteria and shrieking we were once again on our way and after passing a distance marker we all clicked that “the hill” must be coming up soon. We spotted the bent up and twisted gate that the cows in the paddock had blasted through while the track was being marked – a sure clue to how close we were to “the hill” – Rob had been part of the track marking team and had told us the story so we were fore-warned.

Then it was in front of us. Adriana and I had been singing at the top of our lungs, sufficiently embarrassing Jas and Erin enough to keep our moods up, once I saw the hill I was on enough of a high to think ‘hey, it’s not as big as Sue said!’

It was. At least I was sensible enough to have kept Milton behind because he would have slowed everyone back to a walk within the first ten metres if we had been in the front! As it was, Hala and Sam were seasoned vets and jogged up the hill steadily and cautiously enough, Koda was smart enough to bound up after them like a little deer – skinny legs springing left and right. Then came Milton, lumbering up and slowwwwwing dowwwnnnn. It was a long hill rather than a steep one, so we climbed and climbed and climbed steadily as the other three horses bounced up ahead of us.

The downhill was much easier, but just as steady as some of it was quite steep. Watching Koda scooting around I thought to myself that she was coping very well – I wondered what she would think when she got saddled up again for a second leg, it was going to be a learning curve for the perky little miss! At least she wasn’t throwing her back end at every horse that passed by now, she was learning.

We maintained a steady trot as we came in and smiled for the camera off to the side of the track – Kevin Coppalotti is one of my favourite photographers of all time and he took some amazing photos of us at the ride. My most cherished one is of Milton and I at Biggenden coming in off Leg 1 – my mum says I look like someone from S.W.A.T on a horse, Spencer says I look like we’re going to rob someone…

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Milton and I – coming in off Leg 1  Photo credit: Kevin Coppalotti

Leg 1 was finished in 3hr 38min, a sound 11kph which I was quite happy with. All three of the horses vetted through nicely and our strappers did a fantastic job. After a break and feed, we were all ready to saddle up and get back out. I would say “poor little Koda” but she didn’t seem at all worse for wear!

The second leg was the same loop we had already done, but the day was getting warmer so we tried to put a little more speed on – we didn’t dare push though, as much as we wanted to be out of the weather, we wanted to be sure of our horses more. It was uneventful until the hill rolled around the second time. I got off and led Milton for much of it and at the top I remounted. We had the opposite issue with Koda – she got to the top after bounding up and pooping herself out and then refused point blank to go back down! I think her little mind was ticking and she was not at all sure whether she would be expected to go out again. “Just in case,”she said, “I’ll wait here and you can collect me on your way back around!” Of course, that was not an option, so Erin dismounted and led her down a part of the way until Koda perked up and we continued.

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Still smiling! Adriana and Sam

The stall had made me worry though. I don’t know if Erin realised it or not but my mind was racing in a mad panic, watching Koda’s every move as she jogged beside Hala and the two riders laugh together – while Adriana and I rode behind, silently looking back at one another as unsure as ever if that was a hitch in Koda’s step we were seeing..

If there was anything, Erin wasn’t noticing it. She may have been new to endurance but she’d spent enough time on Koda to know when something is up with her. The fact that she wasn’t commenting on anything made me mentally tell myself off for stressing. I knew what the real issue was – my brain was cued onto Bart, this was my own little horse in her first 80km and my heart was in my stomach with worry for her, regardless of the fact that nothing at all seemed to be wrong with her.

We pushed on, it was getting hot and we were all starting to wilt in our saddles – there was the finish line. We jogged in, just like we always did in training, rode straight up to our strappers and weighed in. We dumped our saddles to be retrieved later and walked “calmly” to camp to strap and everything became a blur. Adam helped Jasmine, Craig helped Erin, Spencer was going back and forth between Adriana and myself as all four of us called for the heart rate monitor, the hose, towels or what ever else our horse needed. We must be an interesting group to watch, I wonder what we look like – I know what it feels like. It feels like fluid motion. We all know what our job is, what the goal is, what to do to achieve it and we just make it happen. A team.

I lost track of everyone, but at some point I know Jas and Erin left to vet in. We still had time and Sam was ready to go in but Adriana didn’t want to leave me as Milton’s heart rate wasn’t quite right. It took me a minute, but I realised he needed to pee. We whistled and walked him slowly but he was determined to hold it – time was up, we had to vet in. I walked beside Adriana to the vetting ring, Rob was waiting for us and as I explained that Milton desperately needed to pee so his heart rate would drop, he finally decided to do it – how weird are we endurance riders, worrying about whether our horses will pee! Rob patted me on the back and sent us in while he went and stood with Yvonne to watch us.

Milton’s heart rate had dropped and while the TPR’s did their checks I saw Koda and Hala trotting out and vetting through. It was a lift I needed – the last hair raiser for the ride was about to come. I walked up with Milton, the vet asked how we had gone and did his checks. We trotted up sound and as the vet gave us the all clear I turned around to see Sam jogging in with Adriana – and we were in complete shock as Adriana was asked to trot out again.

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Marvel Endurance

She was in a panic, worrying for her horse and stressing that Yvonne was on the sidelines watching too. She trotted out again, but her hand was too tight on Sam’s lead and he was sluggish – once more the vets wanted to see a third and final trot out, only three can be asked for. I took Sam’s lead and waved it at him to stir him a little. He wasn’t lame – but he was lazy! I ran beside him, clicking to him as I went. It wasn’t much better, he was determined to be stubborn, but the vets passed him and we went back to camp with raised heart rates of our own!

Yvonne laughed when I talked to her about it later. Sam is a smart cookie and had quickly wrapped Adriana around his little finger – that day put the fear of god into her, she wasn’t going to let that happen again!

We were very happy with the end to our Biggenden Adventure in 2015. Kat had completed the 40km with Vegas and all four of our own horses had vetted through. Jas and Erin had completed equal 9th Juniors and Adriana and I were equal 10th Lightweights, not that any of us considered numbers to be above the achievement of successful completions. It felt like something wonderful, being a part of a team that all worked for the same goal and helped one another along the road. Endurance can be as much a solo sport for anyone, but when you’ve had a team alongside and behind you – there is nothing quite like it.