All of a sudden Doc disappeared from beneath me and I felt myself falling forward over his neck. I only had enough time to close my eyes before my face hit the ground.
I’ll back up to the beginning of the day. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 2nd to feed the horses and myself. Today, I would be riding Elroy Karius’s best horse Jolly Holiday (aka Doc) in the 50 mile Coyote Ridge Endurance Ride in Coulee City, WA. My friend Crystal would be riding my little Arab, Jamison, in the 25 mile. Jamison has only been to four other endurance rides, so he’s still a little tense about camping out at all the different ride sites. I noticed that Jamison hadn’t eaten very much nor did he drink his water, even though I had given him his electrolytes last night.
The ride site was coming alive as the 75 mile riders headed out on trail at 6:30 a.m. as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Elroy was blasting his favourite Billy Idol tunes although, at first, I thought it was the kids a couple of trucks down with the blaring radio. Elroy was riding Diamond Reo today and both looked ready to tackle the day.
We spent about 30 minutes walking the horses around camp, turning circles to get their muscles warm and relaxed. At 7:30 a.m. the trail was open and we started about mid pack down the trail over the wide open and rolling pasture land. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and it really reminded me why I love this sport so much.
The trail wasn’t overly technical, but there were some rocky spots wherein we had to slow to a walk and let the horses pick their way through. Both Reo and Doc were surefooted and quickly put the miles behind them. We eventually came to bog which appeared to be quite muddy with lots of standing water. We surveyed the trail as other riders came up behind us. Some chose to take a different route to avoid the bog but it was off trail. Elroy and I figured we should stick to the trail as the ride managers most likely would have chosen the safest route for us to cross.
Elroy and Reo went first with Doc and me not too far behind. Reo sunk into the bog up to his hind end, but with his front feet on stable ground, he was able to pull himself up and out of the bog without too much trouble. I tried to steer Doc around the area where Reo had sunk but we, unfortunately, found our own soft spot. Doc’s whole front end sunk up to his chest and his face went right into the mud. With his hind end still up in the air, it didn’t take much to throw me forward and off the saddle. Doc was surprised, but very calm and waited for me to pick myself up before getting direction to carry on forward. This could have been a real mess if he had struggled and stepped on me, but he was a real gentleman.
We made it to the other side of the bog and I hand walked Doc a little to see if he was hurt, but he was just fine. However, he was no longer a white horse, but rather a brown muddy mess. As I got back on, Elroy looked me over and couldn’t believe that I didn’t have a drop of mud on me. How is it my horse was a complete mess, but somehow I managed to fall onto the only dry spot in the whole bog? Did I not mention what a gentleman Doc was? He did his best to deposit me in the safest and driest spot. Elroy decided that fall deserved a name and called it the Mongolian Dismount. If all of my Mongolian Dismounts can be that harmless when I ride in the Derby, then I will be very happy! At the next water station, I gave Doc a well-deserved bath and he was once again a white horse – well, except for the muddy ears, as he wasn’t keen on getting those washed while out on the trail.
The first loop was a long one at 28 miles and we arrived at the “Out Vet Check” approximately three hours later in decent condition to continue the second loop which was 9.3 miles. After about two miles of trotting on the gravel road, Doc developed a limp. I checked all his feet, but they were clean as could be. We figured he must have just picked up a rock and we continued on. After a few minutes Doc became tender again for a few steps. We slowed to a walk and Doc was fine. The moment we picked up the trot, Doc would get tender footed. He must have developed a stone bruise from all the gravel roads. We tried to stick to just the shoulder of the road but with his hoof hitting those rocks, it just was too much pressure. I got off and hand walked him down all the hills but being so out of shape, I had to ride up the hills, get off and walk him down again. We finally made it to the fields and I was able to ride him back to camp. We passed the vet check, since it was on grass, but we knew we needed to find some boots to fit over his shoes if we were going to continue.
In the back of my mind, I had come to the conclusion that I was cursed. This was my third borrowed horse in a 50 mile ride and in every single ride something or the other had happened where I could not complete. I was quickly brought back to reality when Elroy found two boots that would fit over Doc’s hooves and shoes. It took about two miles for Doc to feel comfortable on the trail and begin to trust that the rocks would no longer hurt him. Doc came alive and was pulling at the bit, he was ready to race. This horse really knows his job! We were about the last riders to head out on the third loop, but we quickly started picking off other horses and made up some time.
Elroy and I were feeling great that we were going to be able to complete the ride but had to hold the horses back as this ride was just a training ride. Our real competition would be the following weekend in Utah where we were going to do back to back 50 mile rides. We finished in a respectable 18th and 19th place which was more than good enough for me. The curse was over!