|DRAW IV – Saturday 2005
|15 Mile Drivers-Single|
|1st – Wes Licht (Lena Su Ladyhawk – Morab) 390|
|2st – Fay Van Camp (Missy – Grade) 377|
|3st – Gary Jackson (Horus – Morgan) 368|
|3nd – Bruce Thayer (Dayo – Morgan) 368|
|5nd – Jac Deweese (Scooter – Morgan) 367|
DRAW IV – 2005
By Wes Licht
It was mostly sunny and a pleasant cool morning when I pulled into the Horse Park at North Kettle Moraine near New Prospect, but it was made warmer by the big grin of the fellow stationed in the shelter. Friend and MDDA member Glenn Garbish, who lives a short distance from the site, was greeting the drivers as we arrived. While Glenn’s recovery from heart surgery is going great, he has doctor’s orders to postpone his driving excursions for some time yet. Glenn and Fay Van Camp, Jac Deweese, Gary Jackson with wife Katz, Bruce Thayer with wife Karen and I enjoyed a few relaxing moments getting to know each other better while we registered and waited for veterinarian Tracy to return to camp so we could vet in.
After preparing my cart and driving gear, I let Lena graze while waiting our turn at vetting in and until we held our drivers’ meeting. Ride manager Sheryl Levin asked us to decide if we wanted to drive the 15-mile loop all at once or stop for a hold at the turn around area. By unanimous agreement we chose to continue the drive knowing we could encourage our horse to rest and drink at the water station approximately half way. Jac and Gary volunteered to go out first and second in 5 minute intervals and I performed their safety checks. Then Katz took over inspecting the turn outs as I harnessed and hitched Lena. Hugo Hartman was the official timer and after sending out Fay and Bruce, he called my time and we headed down the trail and off through the trees.
Lena was obviously fresh and willing to trot. But she was also willing to stand as we encountered many riders returning to the camp. After crossing the local blacktop road, Hwy SS, we traveled about half a mile on a stretch of gravel road to a parking area, before the trail crossed a small bridge and headed into the woods. The trail serpentined through a variety of terrain and all of it was beautiful. We had patches of extremely tall pine forest that were shady and barren underneath and occasional large areas of mature maple hardwood forest with streams of sunlight filtering through to the vegetation on the ground floor. Perhaps the most phenomenal thing was the overwhelming presence of many large (softball to basketball size) white puffball mushrooms. Most of them were intact unless they happened to sprout on the trail and were clipped by equine traffic.
When we came to an opening with a view, the scenery of the adjacent hills showed beginning signs of fall color. My most vivid memory was coming out of the woods over a hill and seeing about an acre of solid sumac with its wine red leaves and our grassy green trail winding through the middle. Nearing the half way point, I encountered Jac who quickly stopped his horse Scooter, picked up his camera strapped around his neck and snapped a photo of us moving past him. Not far behind was Gary with Horus, both in good spirits. Then came Fay and she courteously waited for me to negotiate a sharp turn up and around a short steep incline before passing. I caught up with Bruce at the turn around point and he was about to climb back into his cart after giving Dayo a drink from the tubs.
After a couple minutes of rest and unsuccessful attempts at encouraging Lena to drink I decided to head back. While looking down I noticed the left support brace for my seat was swinging loose from the splinter bar. Additionally the left support holding my foot basket was loose. Trying not to panic I moved from center to far right on my seat, hoping to avoid a complete breakdown. It didn’t take long with the stress of the hills and bumpy places on the trail. The right seat support broke, just like the left, exactly in the spot where the hole had been drilled for the seat bolt and I felt as wobbly as a baby bird on a perch. For that brief moment only the strength of the springs was holding me vertically.
I couldn’t think of anything in my spare’s kit that would remedy the situation but I hopped out immediately and freed Lena’s soft cotton lead rope. I looped one end of it around the splinter bar underneath the single tree, stretched it taut and wrapped the other end around the seat where I tied it in place. My plan was to have the rope keep the seat from moving backward and with my legs I could push on the splinter bar to hold the seat from moving forward. My goal was to finish the event in some way but I estimated that I had 5 or 6 miles of trail to cover. I had lost some valuable time with the repair but rules state that competitors need to finish within 55 minutes of the recommended drive time. This I thought I could do.
I climbed into the cart very gingerly, placed my right foot against the splinter bar and pushed back against the back rest of the seat. With some stretching of the rope the seat moved backwards but it was allowable and I started off slowly. Of course Lena wanted to trot and I wobbled a bit as we began to go at her favorite speed. I quickly became more adept at balancing my weight against the seat on the ups and downs of the trail. Bumpy areas seemed to be the worst and we slowed often when the trail looked rough to avoid more stress on the seat. However, my confidence was growing – unless something else breaks I think we can make it.
This was no scenic cruise to the finish. I remember meeting up with riders heading out on the trail but I don’t recall any beautiful landscapes. This was total concentration on keeping my balance. Fatigue set in and I regularly started switching which foot I placed against the front. The stress of pushing also caused my lower back to tire and I could feel the ache of my shoulder blades from holding the reins. But I knew I was going to succeed and I began strategizing a new plan as I passed the two mile marker. I had made better time than I thought and I allowed Lena to trot out strongly on the smooth parts of the trail. I decided to sacrifice most of my walk time before the finish. Besides, there was a good hill near the end and negotiating that would take away any improvement in Lena’s P/R that might be gained from walking early.
I pushed on and encountered Bruce walking Dayo. I guessed he might be a bit on the late side but obviously his strategy was to allow Dayo more recovery time. I asked Bruce if I could pass and he moved over as we trotted by. Soon we were vigorously trotting up the last hill before the flat leading into camp. I checked my clock one last time and asked Lena to walk in the last block or so. She sensed the other horses and trailers and willingly followed my directions. Hugo greeted us with “Good job. Did you have a nice drive?” and handed me the green card. I answered in the affirmative and looked at the finish time. We had arrived just within the ten minute window. I pulled over to the side, hopped out and undid the lead rope, snapped it on Lena’s halter and quickly unhitched and unharnessed her. I offered Lena a drink and then moved her to the P/R area where I started massaging her neck and ears. I wanted her to have as much time as possible to slow down her pulse and her breathing. While standing there I could feel the fatigue throughout my own body and I took a couple of deep breaths myself. It was a great feeling to be in this place with all the drivers having successfully finished the event. We will share our stories later.