Here’s Where the "Ride" Ends and the Story Begins:
I begged, and then forced, Speedy to get to the top of the last hill. I knew we were in some sort of trouble, and perched on the side of the hill was not going to help. Speedy crested the hill and stopped. He refused to take another step. He wasn’t blowing, his pulse dropped immediately down to the 50’s, but he wouldn’t go any further. The drag riders were now with me and both ladies were pretty concerned. We decided that we should radio for help, stay where we were, and let Speedy rest.
The radio that they were using was on a shared “signal” and our messages only made it to the dispatch occasionally, which made communication nearly impossible. It was decided that we should travel a bit further to make it to the nearest marked trail so that help, if it arrived, would be able to locate us. After much tugging and pulling, Speedy was encouraged to go just a bit further to a jeep road. And then we waited. For two hours.
During our wait, one of the drag riders spent quite a bit of time massaging Speedy’s knotted hind end. The knots were so pronounced on his rump that you could feel them just by running your hand over his butt. On his inner thighs you could see the tendons standing out on his skin. The massage really helped though, and Speedy finally cocked a leg and went to sleep.
When Speedy woke up we decided to coax him down the hill a little ways to a bowl-like area that was filled with tall, green grass. It was now 8:00 p.m. None of the horses had drunk in over three hours. If we were going to stay the night, a very real possibility, we knew the horses needed some moisture, even if it was only from grass. It took some time, but Speedy finally agreed to walk to the grass. He immediately started eating and then peed a lovely stream of lemonade-colored urine. Hurray! No blood, which would have indicated a tie-up.
One of the drag riders decided to ride further down the road in hopes of spotting the trailer that we hoped was coming. Instead, she found Dr. Seals hiking in to find us with 5 liters of fluid, electrolytes, Banamine, and a pail to carry it all. A driver and a guide accompanied him. The drag rider rode back to us and we decided to head their direction. It took another hour to get the fluid into Speedy, and while that was happening, the group devised a plan for getting us all off the mountain. No trailer was coming. The roads were just not accessible for anything other than a serious four-wheel drive truck, and the trail we were supposed to take was simply too steep for Speedy to navigate. We would have to find a different way out.
The driver took my helmet and bridle, handed me a coat, and gave each of us a bottle of water. She returned to the truck and the rest of us started our hike out. It was now 9:00 p.m. Speedy and I had been on the trail since 6:30 a.m. I had only eaten a small breakfast, a fruit cup, an apple, 5 bottles of Gatorade, and several more bottles of water. I had also hiked at least 15 miles of very rugged trails. I was tired, hungry, and sore. But there was no choice but to keep walking.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people with me. Gary, a ride volunteer, agreed to lead us out, with the two drag riders following and giving him directions. I followed them on foot, while the vet insisted he follow us to ensure Speedy’s safety. It was now completely dark and we were following paths that were steep, rocky, and shoulder high with grasses.
Somehow the drag riders were able to navigate the mountainous terrain and we arrived at the bottom safely. We now had to cross what they referred to as, The Hollows, a long meadow filled with knee-deep creeks, which Gary, Dr. Seals, and I forded on foot.
After hiking for nearly two hours in the dark, we finally arrived at a narrow, paved road where a three-passenger truck and a two-horse trailer sat waiting for us. We had six people and three horses to move. The group immediately worked out the logistics and insisted that Speedy and I be transported to basecamp first.
Once we were back in camp, Speedy dove into his hay, slurped up a pan of very wet beet pulp, and gave a deep sigh. I located all of my tack, took off my wet boots and chaps, and went to wait for the vet’s arrival. When Dr. Seals arrived, he gave me a big hug and told me how impressed he was with how I was able to hike that difficult trail with Speedy right behind me. We joked that it was good that I wasn’t paying him by the hour! I took care of my bill, thanked him for all he had done for us, and made my way back to the trailer. By the time I made it to bed, it was midnight.
Speedy and I had spent nearly 18 hours on the trail, rode and hiked 50 miles, but didn’t get a completion. That was the longest 50 that I’ve not completed!
That night, Speedy drained a bucket of water, ate nearly all of his hay and beet pulp, lay down to sleep, and looked great the next morning. He had no filling in his legs, his back wasn’t sore, and he took nice long strides from his very first step. I took him for a walk and he dragged me around looking for grasses to nibble on. He hopped right in the trailer and came home nice and quiet.
This Should be the End, But it's Not:
The fired roared past the barn, immediately across the road. The wind kept it blazing just to the north of us, but it did manage to leap across the road and start burning up the driveway. Firefighters managed to put it out before it got too far, but we stood at the ready with hoses. Fortunately the fire stayed to the north, and the firefighters kept it under control. The air was filled with thick, black smoke, and ash fell all around the barn, but nothing on our side was burned. When the immediate danger had passed and we could see that the fire was well contained, we removed each horse’s halter and gave them all a pat. All I can say is, what a weekend!
That was the last endurance ride that I did, or rather, didn't do. Just several weeks after that "race," Speedy G and I went to our first dressage show. From endurance to dressage ... So now you know the rest of the story.