Teamwork Key for the 2009 Old Dominion Endurance Rides
RELEASE: July 2, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Beth Liechti Johnson
Teamwork proved key to the successful running of the 35th Old Dominion Endurance Rides, held this June in the Appalachian Mountains along the Virginia/West Virginia state line. Throughout the ride, teamwork made the difference: between horses, riders and crew, between ride management, veterinarians and farriers, and between radio operators, drag riders and emergency rescue personnel.
By June 12, 158 horse-and-rider teams had arrived at base camp outside Orkney Springs, a quaint little town located at the foot of Great North Mountain, part of the George Washington National Forest. Of the 33 100-mile teams who started on the humid morning of June 13, 24 completed. Of 69 55-mile teams who started, 56 completed. And the 25-mile limited distance ride had 43 starters and 40 finishers, a 93% completion rate.
Since its evolution from the U.S. Calvary Mounted Service Cup, the Old Dominion (OD) endurance ride stands out as a true test of teamwork between horse and rider on a spectacular, but undeniably difficult, trail. In addition to the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) and Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association (ECTRA) sanctioning, the 55- and 100-mile distances of this year’s event also served as the Arabian Horse Association Region 15 Championship.
By June, the spring rains had pelted the Virginia landscape for several weeks, so trails were muddy and footing was slippery. The rain held off most of ride day, and ominous clouds rolled across the sky, bringing cool breezes and keeping temperatures in the low 80s. The air was thick with humidity that made pulsing down tough.
Trailmaster Gus Politis, assisted by several OD members, marked this year’s trail. Old Dominion Endurance Rides, Inc., board member John Marsh said the 100-milers faced three major climbs: a 1500’ climb to the top of Great North Mountain at mile 6, a 1600’ climb to the top of Devil's Hole 40 miles into the ride, and a 1000’ climb up Little Sluice Mountain 70 miles into the ride.
Marsh noted that the majority of trail consisted of rolling, forested terrain over a combination of trail and Forest Service roads with frequent elevation changes of 300 to 400 feet. Riders enjoyed the display of mountain laurel in full bloom, along with ample streams for drinking and plenty of grass on the trail for horses.
Veterinary checks at five locations revealed scene after scene of the incredible synchronization between riders and crews, as well as ride management, station heads, timers, volunteers, vets, farriers, and traffic control.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., OD member Claire Godwin, DVM, on her 10-year-old Arabian gelding EH Ahmose was first to finish the 100 miler in 12 hours and 17 minutes. “Ahmose is a cantering horse, which held him in good stead on this ride,” said Dr. Godwin, who was thrilled with her first 100-mile win on a horse who had never before done a 100.
Dr. Godwin added, “The trail was challenging, but doable—a blast. The miles melted away since the scenery was so gorgeous.” The Godwin family epitomized teamwork: daughter Katie crewed for her mom and husband Pete assisted with trail marking and filling water tanks at key points along the trail.
Stagg Newman and Ruth Anne Everett rode with Godwin most of the day, with teamwork and sportsmanship going hand-in-hoof. All three watched each others’ horses for problems, and Newman even lent Dr. Godwin a hoof boot when Ahmose lost a shoe.
Everett’s Anglo-Arab Razz crossed the finish second and earned the best condition award. Katherine Shank on WindDancer-Bey was top finisher in the 100-mile Calvary Division, which precludes receiving any outside assistance. Shank also received the Old Dominion Trophy for the team that demonstrates optimum performance based on the horse’s post-ride recovery and condition.
In the 55-miler, Bonni Hannah finished first on Rezus Respite. Kara Lee Thomas