August 5, 2017 - My first official Ride Between Rivers (RBTR), and first endurance ride ever! This is an event that has seemingly been going on since before I was born. Each year during the first full weekend in August, the Randolph County Regional Riding Club hosts riders from all over the East Coast to compete in either a 50 or 30-mile endurance ride.
Begining as early as Wednesday, riders and crew stake out their spots in a small valley nestled between Randolph and Upshur County West Virginia, known as Ellamore. Ellamore is an unincorporated community located on County Route 151 along the Middle Fork River 8 miles southeast of Buckhannon.
For weeks prior to the event, the club works hard to clear trails and make the most welcoming atmosphere possible. According to event organizer Jennifer Poling, the event hosts between 80 and 100 riders on average. In 2017, there were just around 90 individuals from as far north as Vermont, and South as South Carolina.
Considering this was my first go at anything Endurance related, I had no idea what to expect. My dear friend Hannah had signed up to work the timing station with me meanwhile supporting our number one endurance gal, Liz.
(If you have the chance, please check out Liz's blog post on her rider experience competing on the same horse she did ten years ago to the day! It is an absolute treat.)
Our club leader told us we should arrive around dawn. Hannah and I were not pleased, but that is the nature of these things when working with horses. I've read plenty of blogs that have riders waking up at 4:30 AM or before, so I considered myself lucky. This was also my first foray into that experience as well. Though I was tired, it was mostly because I had volunteered to work a Jazz Walk event late into the night prior. Somehow I double booked myself? I won't make that mistake again.
I have to say, I love horse people. When we arrived, knowing nothing about what we would be doing, we were greeted with open arms. It was about 5:45 AM and riders were already asking us questions.
"When do we start?"
"Are you the timers?"
"Where's the bathroom?"
You know the important questions, questions Hannah and I could mostly handle.
Before long we met with Jennifer and our amazingly organized helper T! She was incredible. That's all I can say about it. The spreadsheet OCD game is strong with that one.
Jennifer explained how the morning would work, starts, finishes, and even shared a little about the different riders and "celebrity" horses we had at the race. Some were trying to make the U.S. National team and used our race as a conditioner - awesome! It was an honor to have so many people from so many different places, that is for sure.
Eventually, our fearless leader and club president arrived. He is the definition of Yosemite Sam, and thus that is what I'll call him. Sam, was bright eyed and bushy tailed, and since I'm somewhat . . . extremely dyslexic he called me over to help him with shouting out the timing numbers to those who would be writing the In Times (Hannah and T).
6:30 AM was the start time for the 50-mile racers. About fifteen minutes prior to the start of the race, riders began showing up, circling their horses like sharks waiting for chum. They each tried to get focused in their own way. My view for all of this was great, and simultaneously a lot to take in. Some riders tend to hang near the front ready to take off at a moments notice, while others hang in the back with a very chill demeanor.
Finally, it was time to begin! Many individuals took off at a full canter. Sadly, I wasn't prepared to film the start of the race, so I missed all the running. I can't really imagine taking off like that, and trying to then set your pace for the day? Honestly, the winners this year ran a race that many might consider reckless. Though I agree, again, this was my first time attending one of these so, it's hard for me to say.
Hannah and I spent the rest of the morning getting to know those around us. We chatted with T and learned more about the riders and endurance racing in general from Sam and Jennifer. We even met the woman who coordinates the Vermont 100! She was an absolutely outstanding silver fox of a woman. Everything she did, she did with such ease. She had no crew, just a small Jack Russell Terrier that would sit on her lap while she chilled and read during their 45-minute break. Her level of experience and ability to just "be" compelled me to tell her that she could clinic this day. She ended up coming in 7th place in the 50-mile ride.
The morning wore on and about brunch time Jason, from my favorite little Bistro arrived. I had no idea volunteering to help this ride would mean we got fed, but we sure did! Jason makes a mean BBQ, but I had no idea what he would have up his sleeve for breakfast. He did not disappoint. Jason whipped up a bacon, fried egg, and cheese croissant for each of the timers. Honestly, I'd already had a quick fast food breakfast around 5 AM, but Jason's was so much better!
Hannah and I were in good spirits when it was time for the 30-mile racers to start. Our friend Liz was in this group, and smartly, waited for the chaos to leave before hitting the trail with her lesson student.
The day was long, but around 1 PM the first riders from the 50-mile ride were about to finish. The two in the lead had been going back and forth all morning. Everyone knew it was going to be a photo finish. Both riders in the lead had pushed to the brink of insanity. Never the less, here you have it, the winners of the 2017 RBTR photo finish.
The last rider did not cross until 4:50 PM, overall a really good time for everyone considering they had until 6:30 PM before being disqualified. While there was plenty of drama to go around, the worst thing that happened all day occurred when the radio buzzed, "Rider 104 is down. Does anyone have eyes on horse 104?"
This horse was known for dumping its rider. In fact, several people even went by the horse in the morning to tell him to be nice to his owner today. Sadly, a rouge sponge got wrapped around his leg in the river and terrified him. Luckily, after about 45 harrowing minutes, the trail crew got things under control and saved the day. Horse and rider 104 even completed the race!
By the end of the day, everyone was ready for food, friends, and fun. The Club sponsored dinner for the riders, and we gorged on spaghetti and meatballs. Eventually, the keg was tapped and many danced the night away under a full-moon and bonfire to the Soda-Pop Gypsies.
From what I understand, other rides can be a bit more "stuffy." Many people told me how much they loved riding here, in West Virginia because of how hospitable we are. I do believe we are unique in this way. Regardless, I look forward to the RBTR 2018.
I have no idea if Jean-Luc or I will ever attempt such a ride, but I loved helping with it. If we did it would absolutely be with our new fancy gait we've been working on. I have no idea how people post 50 miles, but I respect so much.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.