By Sharma Gaponoff for Saddlefit 4 Life® and Jochen Schleese
©2015 All Rights Reserved
Since over the past weeks and months I have documented some of the common issues that can arise with endurance competitions and to endurance horses, I thought you might be interested in reading an actual story from one of our endurance clients – Sharma Gaponoff, who is the author of ‘TEVIS’ (the 100 mile, 24 hour annual Western States Trail ride that ends with the Tevis Cup). Read more about this race here if you’re interested: http://www.teviscup.org/the-trail/about-the-trail. I actually just read about an even more horrendous ride in a recent Toronto Star about a ride somewhere in the Middle East through the desert on horseback, which makes these 50 or 100 mile races look like a walk in the park (which they obviously aren’t, but just in comparison…) Oh, and please excuse the fact that this reads in places like a testimonial, which I didn’t mean it to be. 🙂
“I had a WONDERFUL time at the Grand Canyon ride which was fabulous. I felt privileged to be able to ride on such beautiful trails. The Grand Canyon XP Ride venue was both literally and figuratively world class. I had loads of fun meeting new people, too. Although I had a lot of trepidation about riding five days in a row, it turned out to be much easier on my body than I anticipated it would be. I love my new saddle. It was definitely the key to keeping Tahoe and me comfortable. At the end of the 5th day of riding, I actually felt like I hadn’t ridden all week! Go figure. I was tired, but not sore in the least—anywhere. Neither was Tahoe. As a matter of fact, Tahoe actually got stronger every day. My saddle is custom made on the top half for me and on the bottom half for Tahoe, resulting in exceptional comfort for both of us all week. As a matter of fact, I was more uncomfortable sitting in the car for the two days it took to drive there and the two days it took to drive back than I was riding five days in a row! (Maybe we can get Schleese to make car seats also…)
As I was preparing to go on this adventure, I thought that since we would be up on the Kaibab Plateau (which is at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at about 8500ft elevation), all the trails would be flat because that’s what plateaus are—flat. However, there was plenty of topography and lots of different micro environments that we rode through so it was just beautiful the entire week. The ride management mapped out different trails for each day. You had your choice of riding either the 50 mile trails or the 30 mile trails. Each day they looped us back to camp so that made the ride logistics easy since we started and ended the ride at the same place daily. I also appreciated the fact that they provided lunch and dinners for us every day—they even had plenty of vegetarian food, which made me very happy. I worked up an appetite and the food was great!
The first day and the last day the trails they mapped out for us actually took us on the Rainbow Rim Trail which is literally along the rim of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I felt like a kid in a candy shop being right there at the Grand Canyon, the only place on earth like it, and what a view—with textbook perfect geology to boot. Once we rode from camp to the Rainbow Rim Trail, we stayed on it for about 10 miles after which we left that trail and rode on other trails in order to loop back to camp. On the first day we rode the Rainbow Rim Trail one direction and on the last day got to ride it again going the other direction. Yippee!
This was the first time I had ever ridden in a pine/blue spruce/aspen forest. Though the aspen leaves had not started turning yet, they were drying and beginning to fall off the trees. In some areas we rode the green dry leaves actually blanketed the trail and as our horses trotted and cantered along these trails the smell that wafted up from the leaves was wonderful. I’d never smelled an aspen forest before and it is a lovely smell.
Turns out Tahoe and I were one of only 3 horse/rider teams who actually rode all 5 days. There were over 100 participants, but most people brought more than one horse and alternated them. Just goes to show what a great athlete Tahoe is… I am actually planning on writing up a short story of my GCXP Ride experience that I will submit to the AERC Newsletter, so this is just a short excerpt of my ride.”
Thanks for sharing Sharma – I always enjoy reading about the experiences our riders share with me!