Sunday, August 27, 2017

Northeast Challenge Endurance Race in Maine

We took four amazing teenagers to Buckfield, Maine with us for a back-to-school endurance race competition. We learned from the Biltmore vacation that ground crew was absolutely needed so we were lucky enough to have both Jamie VanDusen and Randall Lam join us on the adventure.

Horse and Rider Teams for the event: 

Erika Eckstrom & Joli's Hero
Kathleen Clifford & Rainbows Poco Spade
Jadyn Lauper & SS Sultani (aka Nymeria)

Jennifer Van Dusen & JPR Rock On
Tristin Rose Morley & Merlin's Beard
Ava Van Dusen & Meagan's Fire Storm

Photos of both Painted Bar Stables Teams
We headed out on Friday. The first thing I learned very quickly was that it is completely different traveling with teenagers than adults! I thought it would be harder - because after all, teenagers have a bad rep! However, no more than 20 minutes into the drive all of the teenagers were fast asleep. No coffee breaks, no emergency stops - just quite moments punctuated by funny jokes and sing-a-longs! 

Yale Polo Facility
I would travel with a bunch of teenagers ANY DAY! They totally deserve a better reputation in society!

We overnighted with my dear friend, Branden Van Loon who is the head coach at the Yale Polo Facility. 

Having access to his fields and being able to stretch out our horses legs before the race was infinitely valuable! 
We arrived in Maine the next day to set up camp for ourselves and horses. Because we were a large group - most people travel with one or two horses - we got an entire field to ourselves.

The camp consisted of temporary electric fencing for each of the horses with a portable solar charger that we had been charging in the bed of the truck the entire drive. 

Everyone brought their own camping equipment. I'm wise enough at this point to realize the extreme value of a folding cot! 

We fed the horses and then packed our gear for the following day, making sure our "hold suitcase" was at the hold point for the next day.

That evening the NE Challenge staff hosted an absolutely AMAZING pig roast for competitors and their ground crews after the debriefing meeting. Most rides provide a dinner before or after the race, but this race really stepped it up with this pig roast! 

With our bellies full and our brains loaded with maps and advice from the ride directors we headed to bed to be ready for the following day!

Ready for the Race!

The next morning we were ready and lined up for the race. Jadyn and Kathleen were set for a competitive try at the race and Ava and Tristin were more focused on successful completion. 

I always call the first mile of any endurance race "Sh$# Show Mile" because of the absolute chaos that heads out with the stampede. All of the horses are fresh and ready to go, riders' nerves are at a high, and there's a nice open trail ahead to run down. 

Because of that Team Live Long and Prosper set out first with the leaders of the pack while the other team waited for the stampede to pass before they headed out.

The trails through the hills of western Maine are beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous trails with great footing and nice m
ix of trails an sandy roads. The views, the brooks, the woods and everything are perfect. 

At the halfway hold, all of the horses looked in good spirits and health, however Tristin had a bit of a snafu cooling Merlin down, making him pulse out just over the limit and require an extra 15 minutes of cooling before he was allowed to head back out on trail. 

Team Live Long and Prosper had an absolutely fantastic race with all three riders tying for 2nd place. We were
 able to get all of the team horses to the finish safely, in competitive timing, and to not only get horses pulse down in time at vet checks, but they all pulsed down WELL BELOW the required limits of 64bpm at the halfway hold and 60bpm at the finish.

I was also very impressed with how Kathleen and Jadyn were able to support Hero and my
 first race together, with him only being off the track 1.75 years. I seriously couldn't have done this race without them! The three of us took turns leading, all leading almost equally. As one horse got tired another would pull up so that the leader could fall back and drag. Impeccable teamwork and horsemanship.

Team Painted Bar Stables Red had a good race as well. As the younger contingency of our team it was definitely a bit harder for them, but they all finished the race amid cheers from the crowd! 
I was also SO IMPRESSED that lessons were learned from the halfway hold and how quickly Tristin and the crew was able to get Merlin's heart rate to drop by 18bpm when she came in at the finish. 

Overall, the Northeast Challenge in Buckfield, Maine was a phenomenal race. Every one of our six horse and riders completed the 30 miles: Erika, Jadyn and Kathleen tied for 2nd, Ava and Jen tying for 13th and Tristin finishing in 15th. 

Tristin won the "Turtle Award" as the final completing rider, but I was so impressed at how well they rallied at the halfway and that they not only finished the distance but were able to complete the final vetting well within the standards. Hurrah to the rookie horse with the rookie rider! To finish is to win!!

The people here are phenomenally supportive of my mission, bringing a gaggle of teens and 6 horses across state lines to compete. It makes me happy people realize what an accomplishment it is to not only compete successfully but to do so with horses and students in tow.

Top Competitors in the 100 Mile Race
Congratulations not only to these top placing riders of the 100 mile race, but to all completing riders! We were all in awe of you and your abilities. For those who don't realize what this takes, they left camp at 6:00am Saturday and the final rider came in at 5:10am Sunday. A special shout out to our own locals, Pam Karner who competed solo with no crew and tied for 1st and Libby Llop who came in 4th.

I think it says loads to the next generation to watch these competitors, young AND old do the impressive accomplishment of doing 100 miles. 

Results from the 100 Mile Race >>


Joli's Hero after the Race
When the girls all told me that they were choosing not just my top pick for mounts, but my second, third AND FOURTH pick, I didn't know who I was going to ride! I needed a horse that could not only complete the 30 miles but keep up with the horses they had chosen!

Hero has only been off the track for about 2 years, and I have only owned him for 1.5. This spring, while we could do nice peaceful 1 hour trail guide rides, at that point we couldn't ride longer than 5 miles without a meltdown and subsequent crab walking, especially in the road, and spooks were a regular occurrence. 

After a full summer of training, Hero completed 30 miles with only minimal fatigue. His health scores were optimal, with a little interference in the hind fetlocks and just a small amount of gassiness in the gut. The entire ride and now he has been eating and drinking and perky. 

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