As I've mentioned before, Noways and I have had an up and down sort of year. If he wasn’t having problems I was, so we ended up on the pulled side of three rides this year. So frustrating.
But, as luck sometimes has it, this time Lady Luck was with us and things came together.
Noways has always known he could be a winner if only ‘mom’ would allow it. To heck with slowing down for sharp corners, to heck with taking a drink along the trail, to heck with waiting for mom’s friends or his buddies, to heck with stopping to apply boots when he steps off his shoes… well you get the drift, Noways is a single minded, go getter.
Ride morning was COLD, so there were lots of rump rugs. I decided to go without one because I can’t remember ever using one on Noways and didn’t want to risk something flapping on his rear and a rope under his tail on such a crisp morning. I know for a fact that he can win in rodeo situations. Mary Lynn was having trouble keeping her’s straight and finally decided to take it off.
We warmed up for a bit before the start, Mary Lynn decided to start closer to the back while I elected to go ahead and start with the pack. It was a controlled start since we have to go down a paved road for a short distance before getting onto a gravel road that takes us to the trails. Noways was calm but ‘ready’, and we had a good start although he wanted to get on up with the lead pack. I got lucky and tucked in with Diane Doll who rides a calm mare, and bides her time well. We went along together at a steady pace for a few miles and I finally let Noways move on up to the lead pack and rode in the back of that with Bill Wilson and Betsy Knight. There were eight of us with Kyla McAfee setting the pace on her grandmother’s good horse, seventeen year old, Kemosabi. They train on these trails, and he is fast, and those McAfees go fast, so we were taking some turns a lot faster than I like, and Noways was pulling on me hard. When we were taking a hard right turn off of a gravel/dirt road onto a single track, (at a gallop), I decided to pull Noways around to get behind Bill, when two more riders, Dixie and her Jr. rider came galloping up and also nearly missed the turn. Boy was that a close call as we nearly collided. I was trying to hold off the thought ~ “This is risky riding not to mention, crazy…” but continued on like any fool on a fast horse. At last Noways worked his way to the front and he relaxed immediately and was a happy boy, head up, ears up, and flying. Kyla stuck with me and Cindy on her cute little black, Bandit, who had just two weeks ago top tenned in the AERC national championship. I really had no time to look back and it makes me dizzy to do so anyway, so I just assumed the whole pack was back there. Kyla kindly answered when I questioned if we had taken the proper turns. We finished the loop like this, saw a beautiful deer that followed along in the woods, then crossed the trail in front of us. Kyla warned me twice to be sure I saw it, but Noways could have cared less, his mind was focused on the trail and the way back to camp and that was it! Noways gave me some trouble when we got back on the gravel road headed back to camp when Kyla passed us and kicked it up to a faster gallop…nothing I could do to stop Noways from going after her but to wrestle him down with shear strength. But managed to hook up with Cindy and he settled, and thankfully, Kyla slowed back down to a steady gallop. Whew I was exhausted already.
Walked in to the vet check and Tom Keith, who had replaced Noways front shoes the day before, noticed that he had already lost one…darn! But his foot was in good shape and he must have just done it because I didn’t hear it when we crossed the pavement. So while I cooled Noways, icy water, brrrr on the front and a blanket on the rear…Tom shaped a shoe for him and got that on as soon as Noways met his pulse time. Thank You TOM! I was so busy with my boy I didn’t notice too much who was coming in and how far back they were. We checked through fine at the Vet check, all A’s and B’s. Greg (who had to crew, since his horse turned up a bit lame before the ride) slung that heavy saddle back on and we headed for the trailer for food and rest. We did the first loop of 25 miles in two hours, including the pulse time. Geesh no wonder my heart was in my throat the whole time.
Noways was eating so well, I waited until the last minute to tack up again. Then noticed he had the beginning of scratches started, so I swabbed some Desitin (sp) on that and hoped for the best. I was five minutes late getting back to the timer to start my second loop, but was glad to be on our own for at least a while so we could get settled in without being in race mode. I figured at this point that the ‘pack’ was ahead of me and I would be lucky to get in top ten. But, boy did we have a good ride on this loop, we only saw some 30 milers on the same blue loop, and Noways was happy to pass on by, then, Oh no! There was Kyla on the ground leading her horse back towards me. Said she had fallen, Cindy had caught her horse for her, and she was going to walk back. I held her horse for her so she could remount, but suddenly she sat down on the ground, and was in pain from a cramp in her leg. I really wanted to stay with her until she at least got back on her feet, but she insisted I go on that she would eventually get back. I wasn’t too happy about it but we went on. I worried about her the whole darn loop… When we were about half way around we passed Alice Bryant who was riding in the 30. She told me that Cindy was just about 10 minutes ahead of me and that she was in first place! What! We had been cruising along pretty good by ourselves, but now decided to kick it up a notch, much to Noways delight. We finished this loop right behind Cindy so that our out times were only one minute apart. Cindy came over to my camp to make a pact…”What do you say a Lucky Duck and a Wild Bunch help each other get in ahead of the rest of them for a win? We’ll work out who wins later.” Sounded good to me, Noways goes best alone, but is happy with a buddy too. I agreed to tie for first since we are in different weight divisions, and I really wanted to get our first win, since the stars had finally lined up for us.
This time we were on time to get our out time for the final, pink loop which is ten miles. Then a funny thing happened…Cindy’s horse, Bandit refused to go out…no amount of ‘prompting’ would convince him. Bob McAfee, the timer, was busy with in-coming riders and couldn’t look up to let me go out so I could help her. Cindy finally got out the gate and up the paved road. I caught up to her then I realized we were going out the wrong way, so had to go back through camp and out the other way. We lost a few minutes here and I had no idea how close the other riders were. Well, poor Cindy had to again convince Bandit to get out of camp. I thought he would want to keep up with Noways as we cantered out, but no…so when Cindy cried for help, I stopped while she hopped off and lead him up to me so I could grab his rein and pull him on out. He leveled out after that but needless to say, they were not happy with each other…These horses sure can embarrass us…
The pink loop is part of the blue loop, so we had done it before and Noways was well aware of where we were.
I have never had to push Noways and am usually applying the brakes, but now at least, Noways was more willing to slow down on the hard climbs. Which was OK with me, as my neck, back and legs were getting really shaky. But even with the hills, there is a lot of good going here so we again cruised along. I was pretty much done in and feeling sick to my stomach. Had to pull my neck buffer over my nose and mouth to keep from hyperventilating in the cold air. I was so tired my head was bobbling along like those bobble dolls you see in the back of red-neck cars.
Later we found out that Bill Wilson (this is his home territory, and is always a threat) was behind us, and although his out time was 15 minutes behind us he declared that he was going to “Catch those girls!’ And he did!! Darn… It was on a long gravel/dirt road that we always gallop. We were just galloping, trotting along and here he comes at a hard run…my goodness, he looked like he was running from the law! A big grin on his face and his horse’s white mane and tail flying…Made me smile at the picture he made, even though I thought my first win was lost…
Noways was not happy with this at all and pulled and pulled on my exhausted muscles, but I felt too sick and tired to run the rest of the way in so held back with Cindy. We were still cantering, but when we rounded a corner, there was Bill slowed to a trot, so we continued to canter by then kicked it up to a gallop. Heck with being sick... I thought the end of this road would never appear. I was having trouble staying straight in the saddle. Fortunately, Noways stayed under me and we made it to the road crossing then on down on the trail that leads to the finish and camp. I never looked back (mainly because I was unable to), thinking that Cindy and Bill were battling it out or planning to push it up on the final half mile stretch to the finish. Bill’s horse can run, obviously! Got to the top of the hill and there was Kyla still walking in…gosh the poor girl had had it tough for sure. Since she was upright, I turned Noways towards the finish and let him rip. I heard Cindy’s voice yelling but couldn’t tell what she was saying, and again couldn’t look back. I figured if she had fallen I’d just go back after I crossed the finish line. I squeezed Noways and he jumped into high gear and ran for it. He loved it, and crossed the finish at a flat out run!! What a rush…but I was so sick I was trying to decide which side of his neck to empty my stomach. I was able to swallow hard, pull him up and turn around to get our card marked.
Cindy was right behind me, dismounted and got our cards taken care of. I probably was looking a little green at this point.
My goodness we finally got a win!! Wa Hoo!!!
We walked the rest of the way in to camp, got Noways cleaned up and through the pulse check. Cleaned him up some more and to the Vet check all the while trying to keep him warm. This always worries me. I have never been pulled at the end, but think it would be just the worst…But, Noways looked good and got good marks. He was definitely having an ‘on’ day.
We did that 50 mile ride with a ride time of 4:19. I've been wanting to break the 5 hour mark and boy we sure did that.
We stood for BC, but Bill got that one! Congratulations again, Bill!!
A successful ride is never done alone. First there are the ride managers that are willing to put in all that time and money to make it go. Thanks to Lois McAfee Ride manager, her husband Bob who was timer, and to Bill Wilson who lets us camp at his home and tramp up his fields. And of course there are all those volunteers that put in all those hours sitting in the cold to get us through the pulse checks, the vet checks and timer checks. The veterinarians, Maureen Fehr, and Mike Hubel, and who stand out there waiting on us to present, putting up with nervous horses and time after time look them over so carefully. To the people that crew for us riders when we are lucky enough to have them. Thank you, Greg for hauling that saddle off of Noways, and then again hefting it back up there. Noways seems to always grow taller during a ride. Believe me it was much appreciated. And a special THANK YOU to Tom Keith who reshod my boy so he could fly! I’ve always told Tom he puts wings on my horse’s feet and he surely did it this time!
Congratulations to the other two Ducks that finished out our team so we got some points, finally. Mary Lynn finished in 11th position on the fifty and Brenda finished 4th in the 30 miler. We all had a great time of it indeed…
This is Noways back home and looking forward to some well earned grazing and rest. He looks much better than me… Love that horse!