Far Far Away

Well, not very far actually. Far-A-Way is only about an hour and a half from home for us so it is one of the closer rides but over Easter weekend of 2016 I was still a bit daunted by the prospect of attending it – but attend it we did.

Rebecca and I were on the road to the ride on Saturday, with Kat following with her dad not long after. Adriana was away for the school holidays visiting her family so she offered Sirahh to Bec for the ride as we felt at the time that Mizzy wasn’t quite up to the hills of the hinterland just yet! So we had Rahh, Koda and Vegas in tow. It would be my first ride with Koda and what we hoped would be Bec’s second 40km.

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All set up!

To say I was nervous would be an understatement, Koda’s heart rates had not been wonderful of late and I was beginning to worry she had been over worked during the summer months. She was supposed to have done the mini-marathon but we had a last minute change in our plans which meant she no longer had a rider for it – and I was not mentally up for the challenge of doing it myself!

We vetted in on the Saturday afternoon and Rob told me to go and sit down and try to be calm. Koda’s vet in heart rate of 45bpm was nothing out of the ordinary for most horses, but it was just a couple of beats higher than Rob and I were used to seeing in her and he told me I needed to calm myself down – I had no trouble putting Koda’s anxiety back on myself. We did have a laugh when my friend’s dad, currently doing his TPR training, called a vet over to re-check Vegas’s heart rate – he had counted correctly but he couldn’t believe that her 29bpm was actually real!

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Time to get the mattress blown up

We planned for a nice quiet ride, but as usual Koda had other plans. In the middle of the night the cows in the paddock bordering the showgrounds decided to get up close to our campsite. They were over a fence and a distance that I and everyone else considered reasonable but this was not so for Koda who, upon hearing their snuffling and mooing at 2am in the morning, went into a complete panic and broke  out of her yard, tearing a picket from the damp ground and breaking strands of the wire which, being electrified, began to zap loudly against the wet grass. I heard the commotion and looked out to see her fly past so in the darkness I quickly found a jacket and marched out to retrieve my wayward horse. Fortunately the other two horses, while startled by their little friend’s mad dash and the zapping wire, were in no hurry to leave – so Koda had realised they weren’t going to blindly follow her and returned to them, panting and huffing indignantly about the cows as she stood there!

We initiated some quick repairs and were soon back in bed. The ride wasn’t to start until around 6am so we had more time to rest – though sleep was not coming easily for me. I was wide awake early enough to hear the marathon riders heading out down the road. Soon we were up and on our way – a minor wardrobe issue had us stopping for a few minutes but that was speedily sorted and we were back on track. Bec had so far only experienced a small section of the Kilkivan track and the 40km at Maryborough so the hills of Imbil were a bit of a shock to the system! We were traversing a leg that I was quite familiar with having done it a couple of times before. Our horses tend to struggle with it as we don’t have the chance to train on hills at home.

Kat and Vegas were out there for spot on 6 hours and they still weren’t the last to complete that 40km leg, she had slowed to keep company with another rider who was alone on track. We took it at a pace that we thought was rather quick, but in the end Bec and I finished in a little over four hours. Unfortunately things were about to go a bit pear-shaped.

Our electronic heart rate monitors had been going a bit haywire lately, or so we thought. Koda took longer to strap than usual, but her heart rate was still counted at 55bpm which was the absolute maximum limit that it could be and something that had never ever happened with her before. When the counting was done, Rob looked at me and said again, “You need to calm down.” It was easier said than done, I was in a bit of a mental panic now. Thankfully Koda trotted out soundly and we were passed, but unfortunately Sirahh was not. Upon closer inspection I realised that the boots we had fitted on him that morning had rubbed a small patch of his fetlock raw where a little bit of mud fever had shown and it was stinging enough to make him appear lame.

It stung me too. I’d made the decision to use boots that Rahh didn’t usually wear and it ended up costing Bec her completion which just made it all worse. As relieved as I was that Koda had vetted through I was upset and disappointed for Bec. We had hoped she would be ready to do an 80km with Mizzy at the upcoming Rockybar ride, but that plan would now have to be deferred – she would need that second 40km completion before it could happen.

Rockybar was a month and a half away. I decided to give Koda a couple of weeks to rest before bringing her back in for our first 80km of the year at the station ride. Adriana and I were preparing for the 80-100E, Bec would now ride in the 40km with Kat and Vegas rather than the open ride. We had no idea that it was going to end up being much more complicated than that! If I thought FAW had been tough on me mentally – I hadn’t seen anything yet! Rockybar was going to prove a real challenge but not for the reasons you would think!

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Work of the Heart

Rarely do rides run with zero problems – our first was when my car decided to crap out the week before it with the track barely marked!

Late in 2015 I had been approached by the wonderful ladies who made up the hard-working committee of the Biggenden Endurance Riders Club. They had heard we had been talking about running a ride in our district and they generously stepped forward and offered to help us run one under their club banner.

It all became very real very fast. Within weeks we were scouting trails together, searching the forestry and negotiating with the management of our local facility and paperwork-paperwork-paperwork! For those of you who have not seen our Maryborough Park, there are few places like it. The majority of our endurance rides are run in small towns with varying levels of facilities on offer, but Maryborough is one of those that takes the cake. It is not purpose built for endurance – but it is pretty damn close! From the grandstands, centre ring, indoor arena, canteens and pavilions, toilet and shower blocks, wash bays and endless rows of stables and powered camp sites – the possibilities of the place blows my mind. I can envision a state championship, or even a Quilty taking place – the top two riders battling neck and neck for the finish after a 160km test of horsemanship, right down to the line as strappers scramble to manage the horses and bystanders cheer. The centre ring is flat, grassed and fenced – the perfect place for vetting or mounted best conditioned workouts. I can see the pavilions filled with excited happy riders and crews enjoying the night before a big ride. It is all there – someone just has to be willing to make it happen.

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In 2016 I was determined to run an awesome first ride and it gave me an amazing insight into just how much effort goes on behind the scenes at every single ride. There is nothing quite like putting in the time and effort to make a ride run like a well oiled machine – and the Biggenden ladies sure know how to make it happen! Within weeks we were on. It was early in the season and we had only a 20/40km ride – our expectation of maybe 30-35 riders was blown out of the water when we received a stunning 68 nominations.

Rarely do rides run with zero problems – our first was when my car decided to crap out the week before it with the track barely marked! We ended up borrowing another ute to tow the water trailer and rescue float and I scurried around the track in my husband’s beat up Subaru hoping not to get stuck anywhere. We somehow managed to finish marking the track the day before the ride and I still had six horses to check on. Rebecca and Mizzy were attempting their first 40km and my sister was also trying for her first with Sally. Jas, Erin and Adriana were riding along with them and Kat was taking her Vegas in the 20km.

I wont list everything that went wrong over those two days, it was one that gives you grey hairs! The successful completion of all of my horses and riders made it a great end for us. Being a ride organiser is a work of the heart. I realised in those weeks that it wasn’t just about the ride but about giving back to the sport, being involved, sharing my backyard and the scenery I get to enjoy here. Sharing is what I love about being in the horse world to begin with! I love to share horses with people – why not a ride too?

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Sue and Chatelaine having a whale of a time

It was later decided to retire Sally from endurance – while she did successfully complete, it was clear that she didn’t have the right personality for the sport, so my sister would graduate to a different mount for her future rides. Bec and Mizzy were pooped but ready for round two and Adriana had set her eyes on a 100km while I was dreaming of running an 80km. A bit over a year later that dream would come true, courtesy of my amazing friends in the Biggenden club.

The Rookie

Vets were terrifying – what if we vetted out? What if he was lame and I didn’t realise? What if his heart rate wouldn’t come down? What if I tripped over in the trot out and landed face first in horse poo? What if, what if, what if…

Rebecca Andrews

The first Kilkivan ride in 2016 marked the beginning of my endurance adventures. It was to be a year filled with laughs, excitement and the occasional tear. The 20km ride at Kilkivan was the first step on my road to discovering the shear beauty of endurance horse riding.

I have been fortunate enough to have horses a part of my life for as long as I remember but for the last 5 years; work, travel and university commitments meant that horses had been a much smaller part of my life than I would have liked. But 2016 was going to see all of this change and Kilkivan was just the beginning. I had been watching this sport from afar for about 2 years, via friends on Facebook who had starting travelling and competing in the sport. I had seen all of the gorgeous pictures of horse cantering along in their multi-coloured breastplates and bridles with the hills and bushland as the backdrop. I had seen the training videos and photos of friends out riding together and I had stalked the endurance Facebook pages reading everything I could about the sport.

After returning to Australia at the end of 2015 I knew that if I achieved nothing else in the next 12 months – I must find a way to complete an endurance ride. And then I met Victoria Clarke and all the pieces started coming together. She had horses, she rode endurance, she had a team of people to ride with, she had strappers, she had a float. She was everything I wanted in my new friend and teacher. And to make things even better she was going to allow me to ride “The Golden Pony”. It was teenage me’s greatest dream come true. It was going to be perfect!

So here we were, setting up yards and strapping water, nominating for the 20km, vetting our horses in the start the ride, tacked up and now ready to go. The excitement was palpable. I couldn’t wait to get out on track and see what this was all about for myself. My trusty steed “The Golden Pony” was ready to tackle his 3rd 20km, so in comparison he was a master of the trade. For me everything about this adventure was new, exciting, fresh – and to be honest a little terrifying. It wasn’t the riding part I was afraid of – that came pretty naturally. It was knowing where the track went – 20km was a long way – what if we got lost? It was the vetting process – vets were terrifying – what if we vetted out? It was the strapping process – what if he was lame and I didn’t realise? – what if his heart rate wouldn’t come down? – what if I tripped over in the trot out and landed face first in horse poo? What if, what if, what if?

Well today did not include any of my “what ifs??” There was of course a pace rider for the 20km who kindly led the way so no one got lost. The vets were of course lovely people and didn’t try to eat me in the vetting ring. The Golden Pony was well and truly fit enough to complete 20km and trotted along the track without a worry in the world. I didn’t trip in the trot out and although the day involved a healthy amount of horse poo – none of it ended up on my face.

So, in short, my first ever endurance ride was not only successful but it was also to be one of the most stress free rides I would probably even attend. There were no floating mishaps, no horses that escaped their yards, no camp to set up and no vet outs in our team. Little did I know that this would actually be one of the easiest events I would ever attend. I even got to go home and sleep in my own bed that night.

Looking back on this event now I realise that the pictures I had viewed on Facebook for the last 2 years, the websites I had stalked and the information I had read taught me very little about endurance. Sure they inspired me with their beauty and their glamour, their promise of adventure and excitement but they didn’t tell me about all the other bits. They say a picture says a thousand words but honestly there are probably 10,000 it doesn’t say.

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First 20km!

The pictures of horses cantering through the bushland with their ears pricked and their riders balanced neatly in their saddle tells something of the love and partnership shared between a rider and their endurance horse but it does not even scrape the surface. It does not show the tears of joy and relief when a horse completes a tough track and vets through after being panelled. It does not show the fear or the pain you feel when a horse pulls up lame on track and you have to call for the rescue float. It does not show the hours and hours of riding that went in to that horse to make those hind quarters strong and powerful or the hours of washing and scrubbing, conditioning and plaiting that went into making that white horse look less like a mud pony. It does not show the anguish of finding a horse lame in the paddock after he has done something silly overnight. It does not show the hours spent fixing holes in rugs and cleaning saddle cloths so your horse is protected and comfortable at all times. The pictures on Facebook had not done this sport justice. There was so much more to it, so much more to learn, so much more to experience. For me, most of this was yet to come. That night I would sleep soundly, thankful for the opportunity to complete my first ride, excited by my achievement and inspired to do more. I was training for a 40km – the longest ride I thought humanly possible at that point in time. I had work to do, I had much to learn and I had Marvel endurance to thank for it. For this rookie, the adventures were only just beginning.

 

 

 

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!