Guest post by Margie Thorngren.
I won a trip to Arizona where I rode from sunup to sundown on a horse named Bogart in a treeless saddle. If you had asked me even a year ago that this would be my life I would have just giggled in your face. No, way would I be that gal. Someone that could fly to another state, ride a horse they just met for 35 miles, and stay up till the last 100 mile rider came in. But, that is my life and I am that rider. I learned so much about myself this trip. I learned that I am a wonderful rider and I have what it takes to succeed in this sport. I was humbled beyond words at how everyone in my world supported me. Both from helping me through my first loop to reuniting me and Bogart after a disagreement in the direction we were heading when I was hopping aboard.
Here’s my story from one of my most cherished memories so far in my life.
It took me 10 hours to get to the Sand Canyon ride, and boy was it worth it! During awards I was honored to be the gal that got to rally the kids in the raffle drawing. The drawing itself was exciting and fun to say the least, each of the kids got to draw a name for one of the amazing prizes. When it came down to the drawing for the trip to Scottsdale, AZ I was beyond excited. I told all the kids that the name they were looking for was mine! And believe it or not when I watched them draw the name from the bucket and saw my name I just lost it! Sue called my name and we both jumped for joy! I was over the moon….. And yet a little worried as I didn’t know how I would be in shape to ride 100 miles! Thank goodness I found out later that I could choose the distance I was riding.
Now, EDRA has a very unique riding opportunity for those in our sport and that is to ride with a relay team. I’ve watched these rides throughout the year and couldn’t wait to try it for myself. So, when Sue asked if I wanted to be on a team I jumped at the opportunity.
Now, months of waiting until it was time to fly!
It was Wednesday and I was so ready to get to Scottsdale that I arrived 6 hours ahead of my flight. There was no way I was going to miss my flight because I couldn’t find a parking space in the maze they call a parking lot at SeaTac Airport.
I arrived in Tucson around 10:45pm to be escorted by my ontorage of Ron Sprout and Dennis Summers! Ok, so I must admit I felt like a rock star from the moment the plane landed. I mean I won a trip to Arizona and now two endurance superstars were picking me up at the airport like I was a famous person. We get to the house very close to midnight and Dennis shows me the tach-ma-hall! I had my very own super-duper motorhome to stay in. Talk about feeling like a millionaire! So, I thought I would be too tired to sleep but nope I am exhausted and sleep like the dead.
The next day was Thursday and that is the day I would normally be traveling to the ride. But, I was already an entire day ahead of schedule. Now it was time to meet my steed! Dennis introduced us and we took out my new, ok Sue’s, saddle for a fit. I was hoping it would have stirrups that go short enough… since my legs are pretty stout. And it was great… Dennis tried not to laugh as he put the stirrups up…. Up…. Up… and then off I went for our madden voyage. Bogart and I did great on our super-fast walk ride. He had his balance but, me not so much after all I was riding in my very first treeless saddle. Boy what an amazing feel. I could feel the air in his lungs and the movement of every muscle. It was amazing and I truly felt connected to him in a way I’ve never felt before. Our meet n greet ride was just wonderful, but my stirrups were a little long. So after another adjustment up a whole Dennis and I set to work getting together all the other items we would need to ride on Saturday. When Sue got back from marking trail we all went out on a beautiful ride at a nice trot. Then it was party time at Sue McLain’s house for pizza and amazing company. The house was full of friends new and old. We were all so happy to be spending time together in such a beautiful home. Things couldn’t have been better.
Well good morning Friday! I took the Mooch and Yolo for a wonderful walk in the morning and enjoyed the amazing scenery. Came back to the house and spent time with the horses…. Ok shoveled poo… for some reason I can’t get away from that choir regardless of the state I’m in or horse I’m with. But, a girl’s got to earn her keep. We then exercised the horses in the pasture and got a nice sweat on them. They were so happy just bolting around the cactus and showing off their stuff that makes them amazing endurance horses. It was a blast to watch them move so freely and with smiles on their faces as they bolted past Dennis and me. There was work to be done to get ready for the ride so Sue introduced me to my new “steed”…. One of their quads! I’ve never ridden a quad before and it was truly exhilarating. I had a blast just eating Sue’s dust! Well it wasn’t really dust it was pelting sand but who cares it was amazing and I needed a facial anyways. We ran the quads around the dessert putting up trail markers and signs. Then we moved my palace over to ride camp. Ride camp was a beautiful ranch with huge cactus and beautiful smooth sand. It looked like we were setting up camp right in the middle of a Thoroughbred race track the ground was so amazing. I couldn’t wait to ride in it. More riders started coming and setting up their camps as well. Things were starting to feel “real.” I think that was the strangest thing for me, my routine for pre-ride activities were so different. I felt like I was just hanging out with my friends. So, knowing that I was going to get up and ride at 5:30 am meant I had to put my game face on. I took my shower and put on my ride clothes. That’s something I learned from my dear friend Kathleen Pillow during her pre-ride clinic at the Renegade ride this year. If you sleep in your ride clothes the night before that is one less thing to worry about during the morning of the ride. So, off to sleep I go all dressed and ready to ride!
Finally it’s 4am and its ride day. Ok, I was too excited I was up at 3am trying to find a cup of coffee. Sandy Cheek came to my rescue around 4:30am and I drank it with enthusiasm. Dennis was walking the horses over from the house and we got things going. I saddle Bogart in the dark, which I amazed myself with because I had only put the saddle on one time prior to that. But, it was like I knew this saddle as well as if it were mine. Dennis added my glow sticks and we hopped aboard. Then before I knew it we were off on our first loop. I have to admit it was very dark and I was more than a little bit nervous. But, I couldn’t have been safer between Sandy and Dennis. They were riding the first loop of their 100 mile ride and they let me ride with them on their loop. I was over the moon with excitement. So, here I was trotting at a beautiful 9 mile an hour pace with coyotes howling in the background and the blur of Christmas lights. It finally sinks in! I’m riding the remarkable Scottsdale 100 endurance race and I’m right in the heat of it. I’ve got an amazing horse underneath me and two amazing mentors in front and behind me. I knew I won a trip to Arizona but I had no idea that this is what I won.
As we come in from the first loop I see my team “I’m with Sue” ready for me to cross the line and bring Bogarts heartrate to 60. Well that took less than 30 seconds! And off goes Sue McClain to do her 20 mile loop. She gets back and with the same lightning pace her horse pulses down and Sue Summers is off for her 15 mile loop. Overall, we got a very long rest. I was able to untack Bogart, give him a nice grooming, and massage. As for me I got to change my riding clothes including socks and what nots and truly felt like a new person. I was ready to ride my loop and would get the chance as soon as Sue was pulsed down. I get aboard Bogart and we walk around awaiting Sue’s return. When she and Stella arrive it is like an instant drop in heartrate for her girl and I’m off for my last loop. I was riding the 20 mile river loop. I tried to think how long that might take me and my boy and I figured it would be just over three hours. So trot trot trot we go running through the sand with the wind in our hair. The sights were amazing I still couldn’t believe I was riding in a desert with cactus’s flying past. We trotted past a few riders and really enjoyed our time. I knew I had a few minutes so I hoped off so both Bogart and I could take a little break behind a bush. All was well and I found an old tree stump in the middle of the desert. I hit it with my shoe to make sure there were no bees…. Didn’t want us to get stung and have an unexpected dismount. So I scramble up the stump and get one foot in the saddle. I’m throwing my other leg over and well Bogart had another idea. I mean I can’t blame him he was facing home and he thought that was the direction we were headed. But, he forgot to take me with him and I found myself with tweedy birds and stars above my head and no Bogart to be found. Now mind you at this point I thought for sure he was just around the corner playing hide and seek. But, after a few minutes I realized he was no longer with me and I knew he was heading back to camp. So, thank goodness I had my cell phone on me. Honestly this is the very first time I have ever carried my cell on my body. After this adventure I will always have my phone on my body. So, back to the story…. With tears in my eyes I called Sue to tell her I lost her horse. I couldn’t believe it and was so scared for Bogart. After all we were in the middle of the desert. Who knew where he was and he was all tacked up. Sue was so amazing she asked if I was ok and then assured me that we would find him. I told her I was good just a little bit of sand burn on my shoulder. But, I needed my Bogart! I had to finish the ride. And then the adventure to reunite us began. People in the community saw him and posted photos on Facebook. The local bike riding organization called Sue and inquired about my health and safety. Wow what a wonderful place to live. While my team “I’m with Sue” searched by the road side they look out towards a golf course and there he was! Just taking a little stroll safe and sound eating grass. Not a worry in the world. Finally Bogart and I are reunited; I swear I could hear that song… Reunited and it feels so good playing in the background. So, I hope on and re-ride a section of my ride so I can get to the spot where we lost our way and it is off and running again. Now I’ve got some time to make up so we pick up the pace and come in with huge smiles on our face. Bogart was amazing once he and I came back to camp. He was happy and healthy. His CRI was wonderful; he had an amazing appetite, and just relaxed the rest of the night.
Life couldn’t be more perfect to end this amazing ride!
Check in soon for a follow up guest post from Bogart, the horse.