Singles – 30 mile – Saturday July 29
|1||Brian Fisher||Tenzar (Arab)||318|
|2||Jac Deweese||Scooter (Morgan)||310|
Singles – 30 mile – Sunday July 30
|1||Brian Fisher||? (Arab)||?|
Singles – 10 mile – Sunday July 30
|1||Gary Jackson||Horus (Morgan)||377|
|2||Katz Jackson||Talon (Morgan)||375|
Wildcat – 2006
By Jac Deweese
I’ve been targeting this drive as an opportunity to really test my horse, Scooter, over an extended drive. We’ve been working steadily all spring and summer with the 2-day 60 mile as our goal. The weather has turned excessively hot and humid, to the extent that at least one other driver has decided to pass on this competition. I’m torn by my responsibility to my horse, but I do know that he quickly cools if I’m allowed to slosh with water. I’m also confident that the ride managers, veterinary and the many experienced distance riders will be as concerned as I am about our ability to stand the heat. With this knowledge I decide to proceed.
Scooter easily loads Friday afternoon and we head for Wild Rock State park near Neillsville, WI. As we travel the 2 ½ hours north I note that the temperature is between 6 and 8 degrees cooler than it was at home, but when we arrive it is sweltering. The kind of heat and humidity that when you move you are immediately wet from sweat and it doesn’t dissipate when you stop.
The riders have competed in this heat and as I visit with them they tell me that it seems to have been tougher on the riders than their horses. All of the horses have handled the heat well and there is plenty of water at strategic locations on the trail. I then visit with Dr. Howard Ketover and he assures me that the horses have come through in good shape. When I talk to the ride managers, Elinore Tonsor and Romona Radtke, I learn that the drive has been changed from last year and we will have to travel on the gravel ATV trails for only about 6 miles, but after that we will be on horse trails through the woods. They have also decided to shorten the trail for the 1st day from 35 miles to 30 and will start as early as possible to avoid some of the severe heat. The riders will start at 4AM, in the dark, while we will start at 5 AM or as soon as we have adequate visibility.
Scooter has been squinting at me from his left eye and I ask Dr. Howard to check it at the vet check. We discover that he has a small ulcer in the upper corner of his eye and we discuss treatment. Dr. Howard assures me that delaying the treatment until after the event will not jeopardize his health and we are cleared to go in the morning.
We are all pleased when another driver, Brian Fisher, arrives. There will be two of us attempting the drive on Saturday. Brian lives close by and he drove at Wildcat last year with success. He has a small Arabian, Tenzar, who will be hitched to a 4 wheel buggy and his young daughter along on the drive. We agree that I will go first and we also discuss the time allowed for the drive. Elinore suggests that we set the time at 5 hours, which sounds excessive, but she wants us to really take advantage of the water on the trail.
As I return to my camp after dinner I meet Dr. Susan Keil who is an endurance rider that has competed on Friday. She is interested in acting as my groom and I jump at the opportunity to have an assistant for sloshing Scooter on the trail. I discover that she is from Kansas City and an equine eye specialist. How lucky can I get? She also checks Scooter’s eye and generally agrees with Dr. Ketover’s evaluation. We agree to meet at 4:30 in the morning and head for our beds.
I’m not a good camper and without air conditioning I get very little sleep, but I do manage to rest during the night. At about 2AM there is a downpour which does help to cool things down. At 3AM the rain has stopped and I decide to get up and prepare Scooter’s breakfast. I mix up my beet pulp, grain and electrolyte and he eats with enthusiasm. After taking care of my own needs I pack everything I can think of onto my cart. Water and some fruit for me, a sponge and slosh bucket and another bucket of feed plus an empty water bucket for the vet check. I’ve sent a hay bag ahead for the vet check, but decide to carry my buckets.
At 4AM it is still totally dark and I take Scooter out for a walk and to see if we can find any grass for grazing. I can’t see the grass so it is a matter of strolling along the drive and letting Scooter scout for food. We are not very successful and after 15 or 20 minutes we give up. Scooter is a little excited as the riders leave camp. It’s time to get the boots on and I soon discover that this is a very difficult task in the dark. I am careful to verify the right and left boots but adjustment and fit is hard to determine. (I should have remembered this and checked the boots at the vet check, it proves to be a deciding factor in this drive!)
At 5AM we are hitched, loaded and ready to proceed. At the start we are held for another 5 minutes, just waiting for a little more light.
We are released and I remember to start my watch, but we are well down the road before I realize that I didn’t start my GPS. Oh well, I normally drive based on the watch. I just wanted the GPS to check Scooter’s pace and I can still do that.
It’s half-light, easy to see the road but not so easy to see in the distance. We can’t even tell if the sky is clear, but as we drive along it quickly gets lighter and we can see that we are in a beautiful setting. It’s the kind of setting you would like to visit, but not live in. It is kind of swampy with clear pools/ponds and a scattering of small trees. A perfect habitat for wildlife. A pair of large birds take off and we think they must be sand hill cranes. Susan is asking about the parts of the harness, Scooter is travelling easily, the weather is pleasant and we are enjoying the ride. Up ahead about 200 yards we see a black bear cross our trail. It’s just far enough ahead that we can’t be sure of its size. Bigger than a cub, but appeared smaller than an adult. The undergrowth is fairly thick and the bear is not visible as we go by. Scooter must have caught the scent and becomes more alert as we pass his trail, but there is nothing there.
Our only obstacle on this trail is a wooden bridge. There is a sharp incline to the bridge and I’m a little concerned about how Scooter will handle this new experience. I mention my concern to Susan but continue to hold the reins as though this is no big deal. Scooter walks up to the bridge and continues across without any concern. I’m very pleased.
The day has turned out to be overcast and the temperatures are mild. We are surprised and pleased that the weatherman has been proved wrong again. We do notice a very dark cloud in the distance and try to determine which way it is moving.
We’ve come to the end of the gravel and here are some signs. One is bent over and Susan offers to get down and check them out. Sure enough the bent sign is blue has DRIVE printed on it a points straight ahead. The white sign points to the left. When Susan gets back in we note a DO NOT ENTER sign on the trail ahead. Now we are totally confused. One of those signs is wrong, but which one? Knowing that the trail has been altered due to the heat and our instructions include a short stretch on a highway, I decide that we’ll go straight ahead. We are soon at the highway, but there are no signs. We turn left and are unable to find any signs. We then explore to the right with the same results. OK, it’s time to retrace our path. We return to the original signs and find Brian scratching his head. Again we look at the signs. The arrow to the left has YELLOW and DRIVE written on it! We hadn’t really looked at that sign, because the other was printed and just what I’ve learned to expect on our trails.
We are back on track and the trail is through the woods. Gently rolling and Scooter is just rolling along. Susan repeatedly notes that he obviously enjoys this activity. I’m glad to have unbiased confirmation of my opinion. We are enjoying dodging overhanging branches and ducking as we pass under trees that have leaned or fallen over the trail.
We are soon at the vet check and as we start to unhitch it begins to sprinkle. Just what the doctor ordered! It is still comfortable and with the shower Scooter’s PR comes in at 9 and 6, which is excellent.
During our hold Susan and Dr. Ketover enjoy a visit, Scooter eats to his hearts content and I enjoy a snack of pudding which Susan had packed by mistake. Brian and Tenzar arrive in good shape.
We are back on the trail and I notice that we are passing through some berries. I’m able to pick a handful for each of us and Susan tells me that she never gets to do that in an endurance event. She’s obviously enjoying the ride.
We’re moving along at a pretty good clip when a large branch that was lying in the trail suddenly appears to fly up and toward us. Apparently Scooter has stepped on it just right and it has jumped into the air. We are all startled but it falls harmlessly. Soon after that I notice an abnormality in Scooter’s gait. We slow to a walk. I notice that his speed and enthusiasm are gone. Darn, we seem to be snake bit at this event! There is no chance of a stone bruise, so the only thing I can think of is that he has been injured when he hit that branch.
We’ll hold to a walk and see what happens. Brian soon passes us and it is obvious that he, at least, is moving easily. The weather has turned out to not be a factor at all. It has been near perfect driving weather, just high humidity.
We’re finally back to the ATV road and we now have some ATV traffic. Probably 10 or 12 riders, but they are all very courteous and there are no issues. As we proceed I notice that Scooter has picked up his pace, but not yet to normal.
We finally arrive at camp and in spite of our forced walk we are in time to qualify for a completion. When I remove the boots I find that the left front has rubbed. At the trot out there is no evidence of lameness and it is apparent that Scooter was just reacting to the discomfort of the ill-fitting boot.
Lesson learned: Check your boots during the drive!
Since Scooter was so uncomfortable with the eye problem and the chaffed foot, I decided to skip the Sunday event. Drs. Ketover and Keil cooperated in treating the eye before we left. They carefully explained what I needed to do and what to watch for during his rehab.
We did have an enjoyable drive and the new trails at Wildcat are excellent. We’ll definitely be back in the future.