Sunday, November 8, 2015

"What A Cute Little Pony!"--Our excursion into the world of Endurance Racing

Rebecca took this picture as we went in for the vet check at the end of our first endurance race, The Mustang Memorial Race near Trenton, New Jersey. We competed in the 30 mile race. I am confused as to how many contestants were in that race--somewhere between 35 and 39, I think. I rode Joey, a Choctaw. Jen rode Holland,a Shackleford. Lydia was on Manny, a Choctaw, Rebecca was on her horse Crazy Bear blm/ssma cross and Terry also rode a Choctaw, Twister. Terry was the only one of us who had ever seen an endurance race before.

As the trailers unloaded our horses drew a lot of attention. They stood out in the mostly Arabian crowd. As Holland was lead in there were several comments of "What a cute little pony!", most sincere, some condescending. (Holland is about 13 hands). The main reaction was a look of puzzlement--"What is he doing here?" seemed to be the unspoken thought on every face as we passed.

The Choctaws drew a lot of attention. They are as tall as the smallest Arabians. Our western saddles, boots and jeans drew lot of attention.

My attention was only on one thing--keeping the girls relaxed and ready to ride. Manny still gives an occasional buck. Twister will give a little bolt now and then. Crazy Bear had no experience around other horses. I did not want any of my riders to have problems. I intended to start our group at the back of the pack. Did not work out that way-we were near the front and Joey set out to over take the other horses right away.

Within 100 yards our horses were spinning in disarray. Joy wanted to run hard, as did Holland. but the other two were simply confused. We settled down. I let nearly all of the other horses pass us and we went very lowly for the first 3/4 of a mile.

And then each horse remembered who he was and we continued to pass horse after horse for the next fifteen miles. The first vet check was at the 18 mile mark. Only one horse reached that point before us. Holland does not like veterinarians. Taking his pulse is not easy. If he ran the vet off, he would be disqualified.

We spent a great deal of time getting him calm enough to let the stethoscope touch him. We also did not rush to cool horses off and get them to the vet check. Only later did I understand how much time it had cost us. Had I put more emphasis on pouring water over the horses we would have gained nearly 1/2 an hour.

When we set out for the last leg every horse was relaxed and we moved on through the constant heavy sand of the New Jersey pine forest. After about seven very fast miles, with Holland and Crazy Bear cantering hard at the front, Twister began to fade a bit and crossed the finish line after the other four of us.

This time Holland stood fine for the final vet check. We were given our official times. An hour later horses who finished in the top ten were invited out for additional vet checks in order to compete in over all conditioning.

The results were in. Jen had shown everyone why the cute little pony was there by coming in 7th. Lydia and Rebeca came in 8th and 9th and I came in 10th.

In the conditioning competition Lydia and Manny took third place. Rebecca and Crazy Bear took fifth and Joey and I took 6th. (Joey was probably carrying more weight on his back than any horse there--the scales showed over 260 total weight).

The race organizers were friendly and very helpful. They could not have been less like the establishment of the horse show world--first rate people.

Bottom line--in our first race we won four of the top ten positions in speed and three of the top ten positions in Best Conditioned.

While at the same time retaining 100% of our cute ponyness.

(I learned a lot from this and much deeper analysis will come in future posts)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you all! I'm betting the next time you do this, you'll have a heads up as to what goes on & the horses will learn from this. Nice little pony, huh? How many of the "nice little ponies" were stallions?

Anonymous said...

The little horses that could......

Anonymous said...

This is a lesson I've learned from the first moments at Mill Swamp:
Do not judge a book by it's cover.

A lesson that needs to be taught/learned more than just in the horse world as well.

Steve, keep on educating / enlightening the public!


SherryL said...

I am so proud of all y'all! It makes me happy to be able to say "Hey, I know thoses horses and people", I feel like we are part of something special.

Becki Wells said...

Congratulations to "Team Mill Swamp". As I learn more and more about these horses (not ponies) I am totally amazed and in love. Thanks for showing others what strength, perseverance and heart these wonderful breeds have.


DianneW said...

Adding my belated congratulations. I am expecting at least one 1st place the next time.

What are you going to do when non-preservationists start wanting to buy the Choctaws for endurance?