Contact information:

Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

April 16, 2011

Ride Story: Chicken Chase I & II, 2011

Wow!  Where to even begin with my weekend ride story...the drive up was uneventful except for some potholes on I-65 South that I thought would swallow truck and trailer, and yes I managed to drive into each and every one.  Camp set up went smoothly, and as usual I had twice what I needed, maybe three times, but the weather forecast was "iffy" and I wanted to be sure and have extra blankets, jackets, rain gear, boots, you get the picture.  I'm still hauling around way too much stuff.  I said a little prayer and signed up for two days, and headed off to pre-ride a little section of the blue flagged trail to let her stretch out from the haul down to Henryville.
Phebes behaved nicely for the little hour long pleasure ride.  Here she was practicing the "Look of Eagles" and I think she was doing a good job of it!  LSEGH drove up each day and took some pictures, he also makes for a good solo crew person helper.  It is nice to get to sit down, chow on a sandwich, or make a run to the porta potty because you know there is someone available to hold the horse. 

We got Phebes all squared away in her electric pen, and LSEGH bid me farewell and headed north because one little rat terrier needed to pee.  Phebes was vetted in with all A's, and was exceedingly well-behaved for the vets.  What a nice change a year can make.  In fact she was better behaved than many of the horses up there, and I was proud of my little mare who seems to be catching the curve of many things all of a sudden.  The ride meeting made perfect sense as relates to my directional uh---disability, yeah!  Yellow to the right, and blue to the left.   The first loop was to be ten miles, and the second was fifteen.  I set up Phebes with all kinds of chow and went to bed early.  Sleep was fitful but I did enjoy the singing song of the laughing frog in Bill Wilson's pound.  All night long it sounded like heh-heh-heh followed by a normal frog "ribbet."  I've never heard a frog make this particular sound, then I got to thinking about Funder's blog and the adolescent heh-heh-heh, so I figured it was a young frog with a dirty mind, checking out the lady frogs in the pond.  I'll bet the lady frogs don't like it, heh-heh-heh.
Up at 2 AM to feed the Phebes, check her hay, and back to bed until 5 AM.  I tried out Lida's suggestion on a breakfast drink, a protein bar, and a banana.  This was followed shortly before we left with half a peanut butter sandwhich, a V-8 and a coffee drink.  It all set well, but do you notice how much fluid I had taken in during a very short span of time?  I always worry about hydration having had heat exhaustion so many times, so I thought I'd hedge the bet.  It worked well except for one thing, it won't take much imagination to know that a full bladder on a jostling horse while posting the trot can get pretty uncomfortable to say the least.  Actually, that is an understatement.   I was chanting various crazy mantras through my brain to distract myself that my bladder had reached near critical mass and there was a lot of ground to cover before I would be doing anything about it!  Phebes went along pretty well after the hazing at the start.  She had her usual emotional melt down believing that she would surely die if she couldn't chase after every horse in sight.  I said NO.  She eventually settled down and we found a spot to call our own and headed on down the trail.  Things were going great for the most part.  We came in at the half, vetted through, she was eating, drinking, and her pee was beautiful, speaking of which guess where I made a beeline for?  The hold seemed to fly by and we headed out onto the blue loop.  The ride was getting better, and we again found our little pocket and trotted awhile, and walked awhile, life was good.  Near the bottom of one of the biggest, longest, forever rocky hills the trail ran under a downed tree.  It looked plenty high enough to duck under, what I could not see was the slope on the other side going upward, and that there was a second tree on the other side of that one.  Since we were going under I did drop to a walk, started under only to determine that I didn't think the horse would fit under the second tree, and for sure I wouldn't from the waist up.  Someone had trimmed the limbs off the first tree which we were now underneath.  I attempted to back Phebes out from under the first tree and one of these cut off limbs poked her at the withers, she panicked, dropped her head and went hell bent for leather under the second tree, the one that I could not possibly fit under and come out alive on the other side.  I had literally a split second to lose my stirrups and let her run under me, leaving me clawing off the tree, and her galloping away into the Clark State Forest.  I have never been so afraid in my life.  The outcome could have easily killed me, probably would have tore my body apart.  I was so grateful to still be standing, and yet now I was terrifed my horse would become lost and a forest, or road fatality.  I started hiking up the longest, steepest, rockiest hill on the loop on foot.  It was sunny and warm, and my water was with Phebes.  I'm in reasonable shape, but I wonder seriously if I'd make it out of those woods if I had to walk all the way out...all the time I'm calling for her, heart pounding in my chest.  Two riders come up behind and ask what happened, and they take off.  Another five minutes goes by and another set of riders comes by, same scenerio, before the get clear gone I ask if one of them has an extra water bottle, and she gives me her's and promises to tie Phebes to a tree if she finds her.  I continue hiking up the evil hill from hell itself.  I've about made it 3/4 of the way up when I spot three horses coming across the top of the ridge and one of them is Phebes!  The first set of riders had found her, caught her, and ponyed her back to me.  I was seriously choked up that they lost two positions in placement to find my horse and get us back together.  It really speaks for the spirit of what endurance riding is.  The lady who had Phebes first name was Leah, and I never did get the second woman's name as they left before I could find out.  There just aren't words when it is your horse, and their ride.   All could say was thank you, and they smiled and rode away.  Phebes was a mess after her little wild gallop up the freaking miserable rocky hill of Hades and the escape from the evil tree.  She had blown out two of her easyboots, the saddle was hanging sideways (tree intact thank goodness), the tree had ripped a gash through my new pommel pack, and scraped the hide on one side of her withers.  I was glad for the pack or she likely would have been seriously injured.  I'm trying to get the messed up boots off, the saddle back on, check her over while she's a whirling dervish on the horrible hill of death.  I'm pretty well emotionally spent, I'm physically wiped out, and we've lost nearly forty-five minutes which was going to push the envelope on our finishing on time.  After her mad runaway gallop, she was not very eager to move down the trail suddenly, and we were seven miles from the finish.  But eventually, finish we did. I looked like I had taken a roll in the dirt which was not far from the truth, but we did complete, and remember one of my goals for the ride was NO DRAMA.  Most of ride camp cheered as I came in.  I felt like I belong, and part of the group for the first time.  It was humbling, and it was awesome, and I was glad that we both lived through it, literally.  She vetted out with a couple of B's in the usual places, gut sounds, and muscle tone.  We had conquered Day one of the Chicken Chase in formidable crazy Granny style.

Then the temperatures plummeted and the rain began.  It rained, and it rained, and it rained some more.  We got a break long enough for an abbreviated ride meeting, only for me to discover that the trail for the next day was being changed due to the deep water and deeper mud.  We would be riding seventeen miles the first yellow loop, with a large part of it on crushed stone service roads, a highway, and a county blacktop road.  So not only were we risking certain death by vehicle, we would run over gravel with her bare behind because she had blown out two of her boots.  My heart started to pound a bit with anxiety, but I thought this is the way it is, and we'd do our best to work through it even if I had to walk the blacktop roads on foot.  So I drag back to my trailer thinking am I really cut out for riding tomorrow?  After one near-death experience, so I want to risk another as road riding is her biggest weakness.  When a car comes up behind her she wants to flip her hindquarters out into the middle of the road, if I'm on foot she will push me, and attempt to do the same thing.  Why she moves toward the car, instead of away I have no idea...but I've made up my mind that we will try.  And it begins to rain again, icy, torrents of rain and wind until after midnight.
Day Two

So the start was a half hour later this morning, and after the monsoon quit I got a pretty good nights sleep, awakening at 5 AM to get her fed, and do all the morning stuff which included significantly LESS FLUIDS.  It was a controlled start and I tried to keep myself pretty far to the back.  I asked if anyone was planning on riding "glacially slow" today and they looked at me like I'd lost my mind.  It was raining again, and it was cold.  We had our minor little hissy fit at the start, but not as bad as the day before, I just stood there with her and let the riders keep coming around until they were pretty much out of sight, then turned her towards the ribbons to do it alone.  She was a little tight so I decided we'd walk at least the first mile or two.  During this process a woman I had met at the Versailles park last fall Sabine Z. came riding up behind me.

 She asked if we were going slow today?  It was a fortutiously lovely circumstance.  She was all about trotting a little and walking a little, and her horse was really steady on the road which gave Phebes a "safe" place to be.  The ride went slow because of the deep mud on some of the non road trails, especially the last loop which was deep, leg wrenching, boot sucking muck!  But we did finish day two near the very back of the pack.  Phebes ate and drank well this ride, and other than her panic at being gouged by the tree the day before creating chaos, I finished with a big chipmonk smile on my face.

                                   "Just call us queens, queen of the multi-day."


  1. Congrats at the finishES!

    YIKES about the tree incident!! Were you riding in the new saddle?

  2. Kudos to you for sticking it out! The two young bucks split for dryer pastures and warmer beds :) hope to see you again soon!

  3. That's so awesome. Congrats! Much better than our disaster of a weekend.

  4. You are made of TOUGH STUFF! I am proud of both you and Phoebes! I'm thinking every ride will seem so easy after this one. Congratulations on finishing two tough days!

  5. Wow! Glad you guys both came through it relatively unscathed!

    Jen and I (the new girls in blue and orange!) decided to scrap day two and went home early. Our boys were both beat and neither of us felt like riding in the cold rain and muck today. We got our completions yesterday (18th and 19th!) and felt that was good enough for our first time out.

    We hope to see you again later in the season! We're hooked!

  6. Congrats on finishing two days! WOOO HOOOO!!! Go Granny!!

  7. Congratulation EG! Queens, indeed. No quite drama free, but injury free has to be a close second. That tree situation sounds terrifying.

    What a difference the year has made!

  8. Nicole,

    No we were using the Crestridge, I haven't got the bugs worked out on the new one yet.

    Everyone else,

    Yes drama drama drama! But a happy finish and she ate, drank, pooped, peed, and could have galloped in the last two miles easily (but we walked instead).

  9. Oh my gosh, you have some of the most entertaining ride stories E.G! Glad you are both safe and you both finished!! You should have gotten the award for the "toughest team" at the ride..

    Just think, it can only go up from here right?? It's early in the ride season...

  10. Yall are FANTASTIC. You did great! I'm so happy for you! Loved the teenage frogs :D

    I really do not miss getting clotheslined by trees. I've gotten nailed twice, and it's such a slow-motion 'oh shit" train wreck as you realize what's happening, drop your heels, slam into the tree, and watch the horse disappear beneath you!

    I got that sense of finally starting to belong this weekend too. Isn't it just amazing? And you found a turtle buddy, YAAAAY!!

  11. Good for BOTH OF YOU. We're all so proud.<
    So...what's next, then? >g<

  12. Sabine was turtle "for the day". She usually runs in the front of the pack but has just started re-conditioning her horse Leon...all to my good yesterday. She did say she would like to come to Versailles sometime and train with us, which would be nice as the horses really pace nicely together even though Leon's legs are foot longer than Phebes.

    I had so much fun this weekend that I can't sit still now that I'm home hardly!