My First 50
by Mindy Nagy
It was a cool rainy morning in late September 2018. I was tired from managing the ride the previous day, but we had trained for this all season and we were ready! The second day of rides tend to be lower attendance and as it turned out, Legend and I were the only ones entered in the 50-mile endurance ride that day. The first 50, by ourselves, in the rain, but we are endurance riders! And endure is what we will do!
Well, that’s what part of my brain was saying. The other part was nervous. Legend and I had trained together all season and we were both comfortable with each other but had only had a couple training rides by ourselves. I tend to like to ride with at least one other person not only for company but also for safety reasons. I’m capable and fine riding by myself but also realize all the things out of my control where having another person is helpful. The saving grace here is that we were doing our first 50 in my comfort zone on trails we train on.
Even though I had mixed feelings about going out on my own I finally decided that this could be the best case for doing our first 50. We are on familiar trails and we get to set our own pace for the whole ride without influence of any other riders. Race brain is a real thing and gets the best of many riders and horses, myself included. I also had the support of my best friends; Jennifer Shooshanian who graciously managed the second day of rides for me and Shannon Weston was my crew chief extraordinaire! Also since I was the only entry, I’d be able to unmark the trail as I went along; other ride managers will understand the value of this (lol).
So off we went! The first few miles Legend was a bit spooky but he eventually settled in. I had to hold him back quite a bit that first loop, he was very fresh but the trails were pretty slippery from the rain and the rides the previous day. The first loop went great! At the first vet check Legend was a little stiff in the hind end. Like I said earlier it was a cool, rainy day, so on went the warm blanket and in went the electrolytes! And thanks to the wonderful Linda Hamrick for supplying us with some calcium, which I did not have in my crew bag (it’s there now), he left the vet check ready for more!
Second loop was more of a challenge; it was the longest loop we would do that day, 20-miles. Shannon and I had made plans to meet at the halfway point of that loop to give Legend some support. Once we got to that point Legend looked around kinda confused, he had only done 25-mile Limited Distance rides and by his calculation we had done that. But the saddle wasn’t coming off and we were not back in camp and more electrolytes were being put in his mouth. Once his break was over we were off to finish the loop. He felt good and forward and he was happy to arrive back in camp. The second vet check went off without a hitch and on to the last loop.
Oh the last loop! This was by far the hardest loop, mentally, to get through. All day we had ridden by ourselves. We passed other riders through out the day but they were always going the opposite direction. But now, for this last loop, we would not pass anyone for 15-miles. The other rides were done for the day and everyone left in camp were just waiting on Legend and I. The third loop also was broke up between two trails and between the two trails we had to ride through the camp road.
Legend left camp strong and forward like he had all day. We did the first part of the loop and then made our way down the camp road, this is where Legend decided he had had enough! He put on the breaks and it was if he had said, “No! Why?! Why are we not going to the trailer?! What the hell do you think you are doing to me?!”. He would not move forward with me on his back. Luckily for me I was riding endurance so I dismounted and hand walked him to the next trailhead. Once we were out of sight of camp I was able to mount again and he continued on like a dream.
However, my mental challenge was not over, I was getting tired too. I’m not sure if you talk to your horse while riding but Legend and I were having conversations. Only 9 miles to go at this point and I just kept breaking up the loop until we would see our crew. I would tell Legend “our people are waiting for us, let’s go find our people!” My husband had joined Shannon for crewing on the last loop and it was so wonderful to have them both there so cheer me down the trail. Aside from Legend they were the people who got me through.
We made it though that last loop and finally there it was…the finish! We had slowed to a walk but I decided that we needed to trot across the finish line of our first 50. As we emerged from the woods I heard whooping and cheers from the vet check area as the handful of people left congratulated my return! We trotted across the finish line and I immediately bent over the neck of Legend, hugging and crying into his mane. WE DID IT! We finished!
Legend cleared his final vet check and that last trot out was amazing! Head up ears forward like he could go on forever! He is one powerful little pony and I couldn’t ask for a better partner to go down a trail with.
Picture Credits to Shannon Weston, Mindy Nagy and Kris Myers.