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We’re glad you stopped by to visit our website on distance driving. Perhaps you’ve just discovered MDDA and want to learn more about just what we do. Perhaps you’ve come to check the schedule to see when and where competitive drives are being held or check the results of past drives. Or perhaps you are just interested in looking at some photographs of our horses and drivers at the various competitions. Whatever the reason, thanks for browsing and drop us a line if we can answer any questions or be of service to you.

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Lincoln Trails


Lincon Trails
Last First Horse Place Miles Pts
Troyer Tony Heart of the City (Arab/Saddelbred) 1 15 6.6
Troyer Tony Junior (Arab/Saddelbred) 1 15 6.6
Mowrer Aaron Arazi (Half Arab) 1 15 6.6
Sahner Robin Sparkie (Halflinger/Arab) 2 15 6

Lincoln Trails – 2008

By Jac Deweese

The resumption of driving at Lincoln Trails became a real challenge due to heavy rains from hurricane Gustav.  I was working on a broken livestock waterer when I received a call from Tony Troyer.  It turns out that there were three drivers at the event, Tony Troyer, Aaron Mowrer and Robin Sahner.  Tony drove a pair while Aaron and Robin drove a single horse.

According to Tony the drive was normal on Saturday until about 2 miles or less from camp. This was when the drivers came upon a significant hill with a severe wash out and the competitors apparently chose different means of negotiating this section.

According to Aaron the washout was about 2 feet deep.  Ride manager, Ruth Stewart, did not know just how bad this hill was. The folks that helped mark the trail thought it was just going to be for riders, and it wasn’t too bad for them.

Aaron chose to get out and line-drive his horse down from the top.  Robin chose to actually unhitch and take her horse to the bottom of the hill, then move her cart down by hand. Tony had Laura, a high school aged Junior rider, with him in the cart. She asked Tony, “we aren’t going down that hill are we? That’s a nasty hill!!!” They circled a few times wondering what was the hold up? Laura got out to check on Robin and her passenger then told Tony it was clear.  Tony’s big fore chart with floatation tires started down then had some real exciting moments when his wheels dropped into the wash out and hung-up.  His team pulled the cart along this way for about 20 yards before he said, ”it’s time to get out”.  Tony’s team was slipping around, the mare slipped twice into the big earthy crack and when City Girl wasn’t in the gulley, Junior, the gelding was slipping on the high side of the bank. The team did really well swinging back and forth stepping/jumping the erosion gulley. Robin saw Tony coming down and came to an abrupt stop and started up the hill to assist.  When she got there they looked it over and without even a push the team pulled the cart out.

Aaron had the most severe problem.  Apparently his single tree started to crack on this hill and he managed to fix it up for the time being. About 200 yards away from the timer, at the bottom of a different hill, the single tree cracked in half and damaged his harness when the stitching gave way on the breast collar. His solution was to use his lead rope to tie around the horse to make a breast collar and tie it back to the cart.  He completed the course and actually came in first.  I guess Tony, Aaron and Robin all exemplify the UMECRA slogan ‘Persevere’!  Tony’s passenger, Laura, actually wanted to go out again! (This was her first trip in a cart, she normally rides Limited Distance.) Tony also thinks that he should get someone with more experience to ride along with him…Then maybe his drives will be much less eventful.  At the end of the day, every one asked the drivers “how did they make it down that hill?”

Congratulations to all the competitors for completing the course.

I wish we had some pictures of Aaron coming in or perhaps one of the wash out, but unfortunately no pictures were taken.

Saturday night there was another light rain and due to the clay trails the driving was cancelled.  This was a good decision according to Dawn Haas who rode her horse down a hill while the horse was sitting on his hooks and sliding down the hill.  Not real good conditions for a cart.

My First Distance Drive

By Robin Sahner

Saturday’s Lincoln Trails distance drive was the first one that my pony Sparkie and I attempted.  I was a little bit hesitant about going, since we did a Preliminary level CDE the weekend before, and 15 miles was a bit more than I wanted to do.  But the Middle Fork Wildlife Area is in my pony’s backyard (literally), and it’s very beautiful, so we went.

I know that single turnouts do not have to carry a groom, but I don’t like to drive alone on the trails, so when Jan Sheets, a fellow member of Indiana Whips and Wheels, asked me if I needed any help, I asked her to ride with me.  I trailered over to the park on Saturday morning (all of a 3 mile drive), met Jan, had Sparkie vetted, hitched up, and set out.

It was a beautiful day, and the footing was lovely.  We had close to 2 inches of rain on Thursday, but it had been bone dry before that, and things had dried up quite nicely but hadn’t gotten hard yet.

Somewhere more than 2 miles in, we came to a place in the park where a right turn takes you down an old dirt road flanked by woods on both sides.  Galloping up that road (mounted) used to be one of my favorite things to do in the park, but in recent years it has eroded so badly that I don’t ride on it any more.  There are very rough, big, crooked ditches running down the whole thing.  When the trail tape indicated we should go there, I thought surely it must have been graded and fixed, at least a little bit.

It wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t the case, and it looked quite dangerous to me.  But it was too late to turn around or back up.  I tried to pick my way, and managed to make some progress by staying way to the left and then making quite a rough crossing of a ditch and staying way to the right.  But after that, I could see that if I made even the tiniest mistake, I was likely to drop a wheel into a ditch and dump us both out of the cart and possibly pull Sparkie over to boot.  We weren’t even halfway down yet.

I decided the only safe course was to unhitch.  Jan headed Sparkie while I did that, then she led Sparkie down the hill while I very carefully maneuvered the cart down.  It’s a very sturdy, 2-wheel cart with fixed shafts, and fairly light, so I was able to get it down the hill.  But there was only an inch or less between the left wheel and the ditch at times, and the right side of the cart (where I would have been sitting) was usually completely filled with branches from the trees.

We regrouped at the bottom of the hill, and watched Tony scramble down the bottom of it with his pair.  (Sorry we held you up, Tony.)  They continued on while we re-hitched.  Sparkie didn’t seem upset by what had happened, but he’s a herd-bound guy and he was not happy that the pair was leaving him.  He knows his job, though, so he stood quietly while we got ready.  Things continued uneventfully.  After a little bit we caught up with Tony while he was adjusting his harness, and then we followed him for a while, which made Sparkie quite happy.

After a somewhat rocky part of the trail, we drove on a paved rode for a short distance, and I thought Sparkie seemed a bit off.  I was walking him for a while, hoping it was just temporary.  Coincidentally, John Hott, the park superintendent, happened to drive by, so Sparkie got a break while we stopped to talk.  (John is the superintendent of the Kickapoo Park complex, which includes the Middle Fork area. (Kickapoo is one of the parks scheduled to close on Nov 1.)

After we left the road and walked for a bit longer, I asked Sparkie for trot again.  He went quite willingly, and seemed sound, so on we went.  We had a lovely drive to the northeast point of the park, mostly trotting with a few short canters, before turning back south, headed for home.

There’s a stretch of trail along that route that has two very deep ravines to cross.  Each one has a fairly steep downhill and is just as steep going back up.  When I was there in the spring, the footing was awful, but it had obviously been worked on and it was much, much better.  Sparkie did a great job of holding the cart with the breeching going down (I don’t have brakes) and then giving a hard pull to get us up.  It was a challenge, but a good one.

After that, it was basically nice flat trails all the way back.  I’d say that at about 11 or 12 miles Sparkie started to get a bit tired.  He’s a Haflinger-Arab cross, and more Haflinger than Arab both physically and mentally.  I like when he gets tired, he slows down.  Most of my horse experience is with Thoroughbreds, who will literally go until they drop, and often don’t know when they’re hurt.

For the rest of the way, we did a lot of walking, and some slow trotting.  We were fortunate that there was a nice stream crossing on that part of the trail, where we stopped for Sparkie to take a long drink and have a bit of a rest.

It was unfortunate that the approach to the finish was up a hill, but Sparkie pulled us up just fine and then we were done!  We were about a half hour over the allowed time, I think.  We probably lost most of that on that one bad stretch. I didn’t try to make up the time, and that was a good decision.  I suspect that even without the delay, though, we would have been a little bit over the time, and that would have been fine with me.

While we waited for the vet check, Sparkie had a nice drink and ate hay.  He vetted quite well, I thought.  He was sensitive to pressure on one of his feet but wasn’t noticeably lame when he trotted.  He got a 1, which seemed right to me.  He scored well on everything else, and the vet said he was in very good shape.  I wonder if people had been somewhat concerned when we set out, because Sparkie is rather a hefty pony and never looks very fit even when he is.  By the time Sparkie got home Saturday, it was dinner time.  I gave him double his usual feed (ok, that’s a cup instead of half a cup) and turned him out (he lives outside 24/7).  Sunday morning he seemed perfectly normal and I couldn’t see any sign of lameness.  He has great feet and has never been shod.  I’m hoping I can do some distance driving without having to put shoes on.

I didn’t drive on Sunday.  I think Sparkie could have handled it, but I’m not sure I could have kept my concentration.  And it didn’t seem fair to ask him to work hard 2 days in a row, 2 weekends in a row.

My overall impression of distance driving after my very first one is that it’s great fun, but 15 miles is rather a lot for me.  I’d be happier with 10-12 miles (and avoidance of dangerous places).

I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to try some other MDDA drives.

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