Tag Archives: FEI endurance

You Can’t Ride With Me

“I can’t have them cleaning two riders off the ground” was all I could think as the freshly broken mare I was riding leaped and bucked and ran through the trees as branches pulled me every direction. I don’t know how I managed to stay on, perhaps it was the will from my previous thought, perhaps it was skill, or perhaps it was just because the trees were so dense there was nowhere to go. I do know how I stopped… the mare and I got wedged between chest high trees, fallen into a V shape. We were locked in like we were in the stocks.

Without any way to dismount or escape or even see the other riders, I sat and listened.  Silence made my stomach sick.  Not true silence, no, if anything the opposite.  I could hear her mother and sister screaming her name and crying, but she was silent.

I waited

and I waited

She is surely dead, I have killed this young girl.  

Perhaps only 30 seconds had passed since the initial wreck, but it felt like an hour before Makayla screamed “My leg, its broken” and wailed in agony.

She’s not dead, I haven’t killed her. It’s surely a miracle.

With the extra commotion, the mare surged through the downed trees and back onto the trail, I dismounted and approached.  Not close, just enough to alert myself to everyone and see.

Makayla was lying on the ground screaming and crying in an awkward lump, but she was alive, and was not a vegetable.


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Several hours earlier I had mounted the young mare who had been backed a handful of times in the pasture, with the intent of doing an easy 25 mile Limited Distance ride.  Ariel, Makayla’s sister also hopped on an equally green horse and we were accompanied by two experienced babysitter horses ridden by their Mother, Tara and Makayla.

This is where it’s important to note, Makayla declined to wear a helmet.

A few rodeos (from my mare) well stuck and 23 miles down the trail, things were going well.  We were close to the finish and the baby horses were now being called “broke”.

That’s when Makayla’s horse (one she had been riding for 13 years) spooked sideways and I watched her fall. The first thought in my mind “She’s not wearing a helmet”

She fell in my direction, and her horse spun around and ran into mine. She was already nearly beneath our hooves, and my mare panicked, with horses and forest blocking every direction, she bounced up and down on top of Makayla until I kicked her hard enough to bolt into the dense forest.

I watched the mare’s hoof hit Makayla’s bare head.  I will never forget it.  It haunts me.


There is a bright side to this story.

  1. Makayla wasn’t dead or a vegetable, she didn’t even have a concussion, the hoof must have just grazed her head.  As far as we know, she didn’t even have any broken bones (that we know of) and was able to ride the last 2 miles to the finish line… eventually.  She IS very sore and bruised.Image may contain: one or more people
  2. We were being crewed by a paramedic in their paramedic vehicle.  He literally drove down the trail (cleared some double track for us!) to our rescue and was able to properly check her.  He also took care of her for the rest of the day
  3. Makayla recognizes how incredibly lucky she is and has vowed to always wear a helmet.  She realizes that no matter how calm and steady your horse, accidents can happen to anyone.

So here is my vow, if you don’t wear a helmet, YOU CAN’T RIDE WITH ME.  No exceptions.  

 

 


Addition after original post: I have been asked why we would even consider taking a green horse out in competition.  Good question!  We were literally the only 4 riders entered that day and with crew and vets we were well set up to give the horses a positive training experience, so we took advantage.  We treated it like a training/pleasure ride, going slow, giving lots of breaks and of course, patience!

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Endurance racing is like a box of chocolates…

…you never know what you are going to get.  That’s the fun thing about the sport of endurance. No two rides are ever the same and anything can happen.  This past weekend had been a source of stress for a little while. Not only was it my first FEI-sanctioned ride (extra rules to remember, more paperwork to fill out, and more $$ to shell out),  the site of the ride was the location of my first and only ever DNF (did not finish). Splash had pulled something in her shoulder. It was very minor and just required some time off to rest.  This ride was more about mental hurdles than physical ones. But after much reassurance that this ride was just like the others I had completed, only much more expensive, as the day drew near, my worries began to settle.

Race day started off great.  The sun was shining and Splash felt full of energy.  The first two loops went by quickly. The course was very flat compared to our training grounds in the Dufferin Forest and it felt like Splash wasn’t having to try at all. However, at the end of third loop, Splash hit her wall and was tired but received A’s on all the other parameters so the plan to take the last loop slow. The endurance racing gods must have heard about this plan because at mile 40, Splash took two head bobbing steps.  Since we had just ridden down a gravel road, I figured there was a stone in her hoof. I hopped off to look and was relieved to not see any stones. It took me a few seconds, however, to realize that there wasn’t a shoe on the hoof I was holding.  Luckily, there was a water stop a few feet up the road with lots of grass and shady areas so we walked slowly up to there while I called the crew back in camp to send a farrier out.

While in reality it didn’t take the farrier long to get out to where I was since I was just 4 miles out from basecamp, it felt like an eternity.  Just to show how awesome the endurance community is, every rider that passed the water stop asked if everything was ok and I had a few offers to borrow Easy Boots, but unfortunately none of them fit. Since I could not find the lost shoe, I made the decision to pull the remaining shoe off.  I had ridden this particular loop earlier in the day and I knew there was only minimal road work to do further down the trail.  I normally compete Splash barefoot and she hadn’t had this pair of shoes on for long so I figured she would be able to handle the rest of the ride.

While there were some quite slow moments and I was reconsidering why I do this sport in the first place, Splash reminded me why we do this,  when on her own accord, she would pick up a trot and canter where she thought she could and even received a comment on how “spunky” she looked from one of the 100 mile riders as they passed. I had never been more relieved to see that finish line but we weren’t totally in the clear yet.  We still had a final veterinary inspection to pass. Sometimes the final check can be a little nerve-wracking since there’s nothing more disappointing to find out you’ve ridden 80km only to be pulled at the last check (fingers crossed this will never happen!)  It’s made slightly more stressful at the FEI level as there are now three vets watching your trot out and they do a silent vote to decide whether or not you pass. Splash felt much better and more energetic at this trot out than the previous one so I was hoping that was a good sign.

One of the biggest things I stress to people considering getting into the sport is that you do not need an Arabian to compete. This horse is living proof. We successfully achieved our 1* status!

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Photo credit to Wendy Webb
Now Splash gets a bit of a vacation while I plan our next adventure: tackling the Madawaska Highlands near Algonquin Park at the end of the month.