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  • Writer's pictureBlakeley Stables

November Blog: 2023 Endurance Season Recap!

And with that, the 2023 season comes to an end! Wow, what a season. Although technically the 2023 endurance season started December 1st, 2022 - in the North-West region our first race wasn't until April. 

Although we don't have any races until April, training for the season generally starts around middle of January/February. This year we only had 4 horses coming into the season, and only 2 riders. Sanoma had spent the winter in Europe for a little over 5 months. So out of our 5 horses, only 4 were in training. 

Early in the year we had the 4 boys were were training for Tevis: Gabriela was planning to ride Pyro, Sanoma was focusing on getting Cardamom Tevis ready, and Wasch was determined to get Goober his 5th Tevis buckle, but since Goober was still in rehab from his surgery, we were training Sherman as a back-up. 

Sanoma flew back to the States a week before our first endurance ride at the Grizzly Mountain Ride. She hadn't ridden once in the 5+ months she was gone, got a couple of taper rides in and then we mounted up, April 15th for the Grizzly 50. 

Grizzly Mountain Ride - April 15th

*4/4 completions in the top 4 with a BC and highest vetscore

Wasch was on Goober (who was feeling great and so happy to be racing again after a year and a half off), Gabriela rode Pyro, Sanoma rode Cardamom, and our good friend Michaela rode Sherman. Sherman was probably really happy to have a featherweight rider! Our 4 horses came in 1-4 and Sherman won highest vet-score. Sanoma likes to blame the schnitzel and chocolate on her BC with Cardamom :) lol but it was really Gabriela's doing of keeping him in top shape for her, because we all know she is the best momma! 

It was so cute to see how happy Goober was to be competing again. He was feeling so good and he reminded us of himself when he was a 6 year old. 

Still Prineville Memorial Ride- May 5th/6th

*5/5 completions in the top 3 with 2 wins, 2 BCs

3 weeks later, on May 5th and 6th, we had our next local ride at the Still Prineville Pioneer. Also 30 minutes from our home, we arrived early Friday morning with Pyro, Cardamom and Sherman. The three boys did very well, finishing together in first with a ride time of 4:53 on a hillyish ride. Sanoma wasn't taking dieting too seriously yet and again won BC with Cardamom. Following the BC showing we drove home to grab some fresh horses! Saturday morning we loaded up with just Goober and Pyro. Wasch had another appointment and wouldn't be riding, so Sanoma was back on her favorite boy, Goober, accompanying Gabriela and Pyro on their second day of racing. 

The two girls had a blast tying for first. Well, besides Sanoma driving her mother crazy with how easy she was going on Goober and enjoying the view with him instead of getting him ready for Tevis. We only mention this because it took them 2 hours longer and Goober and Sanoma won BC with highest vet score, because he wasn't really worked - since Sanoma let him eat all the trail snacks he wanted. 

We again drove home straight away, this time - it let out a flashflood and hail. Our windshield wipers were going as fast as they could but couldn't keep up with the downpour. We felt bad for all the other endurance riders that didn't live half an hour from ridecamp. We took care of the boys and made plans for Sunday to take, Sherman and Cardamom out for their second day at the pioneer ride, and throw in Zorro (our back burner horse that hadn't been priority) as the 3rd horse to take. 

However, as we heard the rain on the roof all night, we snoozed the alarm and decided not to risk taking our boys out on slippery trails. They seemed happy enough with our decision! 

That put us at 9/9 top 4 completions and 4 horses that were training crazy strong for Tevis. 

Pacific Crest - June 16th

*3/3 top 3 competions with BC

As we scheduled out the next few rides between May and Tevis (July 29th) it seemed like there was a scheduling conflict with our first choices, so we decided to go to the Pacific Crest ride in Southern Oregon. It was our first time at this ride and a great choice! It is so beautiful, superb rider management, amazing trails - 10/10 would recommend. We only had 3 riders, so chose to bring Goober, Pyro and Cardamom. Poor Sherman had to sit that one out. We again tied for 1st with a sub 5 hour 50. Sanoma likes to say it was her diet and exercise that cost her the BC, but we all know that Goober is just the bestest and Wasch and him deserved it. 

That put us at 12/12 completions, 4 wins and 4 BCs. 

Bandit Springs 50 - July 9th

*1/1 completion with win

3 weeks after Pacific Crest and 3 weeks before Tevis, Sanoma and Sherman braved Bandit Springs all on their own. Well, not completely, because Gabriela was there to crew for her, and Wasch, Barrak and our guest from Germany came later on. It turns out, that if there isn't much competition, Sanoma is a pretty laid back rider. Sanoma and Sherman won the ride about an hour ahead, but still took their sweet time and longer then we scheduled for. Since we had plans with our guest from Germany, the crew had the trailer all packed up and we left almost as soon as Sanoma and Sherman finished. They didn't have a chance to show for BC, but we felt confident with Sherman as our back-up Tevis horse. Now we were just waiting for one of our Tevis horses to go lame, or something to come up, because we finally had 4 top Tevis horses and only 3 riders. We offered for Michaela to ride Sherman, but she had worked so hard and her mare was doing so well that we decided it would be best for Sherman to stay on the bench unless we needed him. 

Tevis Cup - July 29th

*2/3 completions, 2nd and 4th place

Tevis came up all to quickly and flawlessly as ever. It was quite unnerving at how smoothly all our prep was going, how well the horses felt (even having a good back-up option). 

Tevis was a BLAST! The bulk of our crew drove out from Texas, with one crew member flying out from New York and of course our best crew boss, Barrak flew down to crew for us! As far as Tevis’ go, this was one of the smoothest. We are so proud of Pyro and Cardi (or Boopsie as Sanoma likes to call him), coming in 2nd and 4th, strong and happy. 

We were having too much fun with our crew and forgot we were there to race and not just have a fun friend reunion. I guess the Tevis bug is highly contagious, because we lost our crew from the previous years to crewing their own rider and daughter, Michaela Andrews on their first Tevis. But we still got to camp together and it enjoy each others company. 

The start from Soda Springs was a little crazy than normal. There were a lot of riders blowing by us and Goober was having a melt down about being back at Tevis. He knew what was up and took it a little too personally. He was galloping sideways and in race mode. We eased back a little, so that Goober could focus on his herd and not on the other horses around him. The 3 vetted through Red Star like rockstars, but coming into Robinson Flats, our crew that had our blankets was running late (or maybe we were just so fast that we were early). 

It was so early and cold without the blankets. The 3 boys came in sweaty and hot, but the cold hit their muscles fast. We got Cardi and Pyro through with saddle pads and jackets piled on their butts. Cardi was shivering and generally easily chilled. By the time Goober made it through the vet line, he was a little cramped and stiff. It wasn’t bad and we were surprised when the vet aske for a reshow. Half way through the hold, our crew made it with the blankets. The boys warmed up, but Goobers was still a little stiff and got pulled. 

It was heartbreaking because he was doing so well and had had such a rough last couple of years that we really wanted to see him make this comeback, but the good news is that as soon as he got down to the fairgrounds he was looking 100% (plus a ton of sass) He was upset to have been pulled and it stung to see Goober’s disappointment. But Wasch shifted gears quickly - what a treat to have him and Barrak, the crew boss, as support, joining our friends and Crew from Texas! What a great, fun spirit - and they can really hustle! 

But his heartmates made up for it!

Pyro was solid all day, he breezed through Tevis. Sanoma and Gabriela really wanted to finish together. Their two boys rocked the canyons. Sanoma finally got to work and tailed up the canyons:) It was fun having horse left leaving Forrest Hill at canter. The boys were eating it up. They were riding with the leaders coming into Fransiscos. 

Leaving Fransiscos, Pyro was ready to motor up the rerouted trail that led the horses up a 2 mile hill. It was a tough hill and Sanoma didn’t want to push Cardi on it. The girls eased up for the hill and lost the leaders (Jeremy and Jenna) who powered it up.

At the top, our amazing crew was waiting with buckets of ice water. We pulled the saddles and gave the boys the cooling of their life while giving them oats and snacks. After several minutes, Cardi started mildly choking on some oats. Sanoma had a mild panic attack while her crew took care of her and Cardi. Our crew who now included Wasch helped us make a hard decisions. We decided to that the mother-daughter team should go their separate ways. Gabriela took off and Pyro went into beast mode. They had lost a lot of time and going for the W was a bit of an after thought. Strategically, we should have planned the end game a bit better, especially since this was Cardi’s first Tevis completion, but Gabriela would rather ride Tevis with her daughter than win. With support from our crew she started making time on the leaders. 

Sanoma stayed a while to make sure that Boopsie’s coughing spell that had freaked her out wasn’t anything serious. She let Pyro get out sight and Cardi recover in the shade a bit with nice cool water and a snack. 

As Dante was leaving our crew saddled Cardi in less than a minute and Sanoma was back on the trail. 

The new sectional of trail was a fun change. Gabriela ended up coming in second only about 7 minutes behind Jeremy. Sanoma and Boopsie finished in 4th. 

Boopsie rocked all the way, and steady and incredibly strong for his 1st Tevis finish. Pulling back was a good idea, and at the Confluence vet check, his CRI was 60/56 with straight As. He rocked Tevis with straight A’s on Gutsounds the whole ride. 

We have to say, we were so surprised and very disappointed when both boys were not looking 100% Sunday morning. We decided not to show for the Haggin cup - even though they were feeling really good. Cardamom's scratches that Sanoma had nursed all ride long had flared up overnight and were a mess. One of the worst cases of scratches we’ve ever had. Despite Pyro looking awesome after the ride and galloping around the pasture as soon as we got home, his stone bruise from a few weeks before Tevis acted up again Sunday morning and he was a little off. 

We really enjoyed riding together as a family again this year and what a bummer that Wasch and Goober got pulled early at Robinson Flat. 

Well, this Tevis good things came from Texas, not just our crew, Texas was on Fire! It was so fun racing all the Texans and congrats to Haley on winning the Haggin Cup!

Lava Cast - September 16th

*3/4 top 4 completions with highest vetscore and BC

7 weeks after Tevis, we decided to squeeze one more ride in this season (or so we thought). We drove the hour to Lava Cast Memorial Ride Saturday morning with our 4 boys, Sherman, Pyro, Goober and Cardamom. We had gifted our good friend Olivia a ride entry on Goober as a graduation gift. It was her first time attempting an endurance ride. She was a joy to ride with, and we were shocked and disappointed when Goober was off at the 35 mile vet check. It was a new leg he had never had trouble with, so we attributed it to his feet since we have been having a hard time with them since buying him back. Sanoma and Gabriela finished 1st and 2nd with their two Tevis boys. It was so nice to ride with Michaela again, and we are so proud of how far her mare has come this season, she finished in 3rd and then Wasch came in after them with Sherman in 4th. Cardamom won BC, making it his 3rd BC out of 5 starts this season, and putting him at 1st place NW region BC standing (Until Melissa and Gizmo passed them - Huge congrats to them!!! Especially since Gizmo is a BES horse that we used to own:))

We decided that while our Tevis boys were off for the winter, we would buy another horse to match with Zorro, since he had been on the back- burner almost all season. We bought Kartif from Sandy Smyth Training but it turns out he had been in training and was way ahead of Zorro (who didn’t have a riding buddy all year and was basically just a pasture puff at this point) and was ready for fast 50s.  Next April seemed too far away for his first race.  We still had race fever, and weren't quite ready to be done for the season, so we dug our boys out of winter break (they were already 6 weeks in), threw a quick ride on them, looked at the weather forecast and made a spirit of the moment decision to head south. 

Camp Far West - October 28th

*3/4 top 5 completions

that's what happens when you look at the 10 day weather forecast and see the low of the coming week is in the teens.

So we signed up short notice and off we went with our 3 wooly friends (Kartif still had his CA coat, he was probably happy to head "home"...) excited to race one more time this year. While we were reading the CFW flyer and the directions on the way down, we realized that Sanoma was actually still eligible to ride in the young rider championship! How fun! She signed up when we arrived. We were really not prepared for a championship! Cardamom had been on break since Lava Cast, poor Sanoma had no crew and we didn't want to shave our wooly horses heading back home into the cold right after the weekend. 

But fun we all had!

Sherman and Kartif traveled very well together,  and yes,  Kartif is a "little forward" at the beginning, his beginning lasts about 30 miles. We had a blast until, ... - he pulled off both front shoes at the same time! Bummer,  we carried only 1 boot with us, so we snailed back to camp. We finished the last loop with a lot of loosing boots and putting them back on, but nevertheless happy and sound in 4th and 5th place. 

Sanoma and her wooly mammoth were not any luckier. Here is her story recap from Instagram:

 “Cardi was doing great and we were leading for the first 40 miles. At the 40 mile vet check his CRI was 56/48 and we felt ready to race!
About 45 miles in Molly caught us and we rode together for a bit until I noticed that Cardi had lost his LF shoe. I lost a couple of minutes getting the spare boot on but caught back up with her fairly quickly. We were booking it at this point and Cardi and I were ready for a horse race!
At the 50 mile vet check, I didn't have any water to cool my wooly mammoth with and so we lost a minute on Molly pulsing. As we left the vet check I put Cardi into a fast canter and my little boy put on his turbo jets😅 Just as we started gaining on Molly we lost our easy boot. I jumped off and secured our spare - loosing a couple precious minutes before charging off after her again.
That boot was giving me quite a headache. About 6 miles into our last loop I noticed we had lost the boot again. I had just seen it, so I knew it couldn't be too far back. I started back tracking since there was no way I could continue the speed we were going without a boot. I got to where I had last seen it and couldn't find the boot anywhere. So I kept going back (up a hill🥴). I think we went back about 1/4 mile and I couldn't find it anywhere. I turned around to double check the trail. As I was slowly trotting down the trail I realize there is a funny noise from Cardi's back foot. I look down and guess what? Cardi had lost his front boot, but stepped in it with his back foot so we were packing the boot around with us the whole time.

I hopped off but since he had a shoe on his back foot, I couldn't get the boot off. Ugh. I looked around for a stick or something to use to open the clamp. Finally found the knife I had forgot about in my pocket. Carefully without cutting myself or Cardi, I was able to take the boot off, secure it on his front foot and continue down the trail.
At this point I realized that I had lost too much time and wouldn't be able to catch up with Molly, especially since the boot came flying off anytime I asked for more speed.
We finished solidly in 2nd place! Huge congrats to Molly and her beast of a horse on a strong finish and to the other young riders that I got to ride with! “

But it sounds like our family was not the only ones who struggled with their boots.

We are really happy how our boys did despite the significant time losses due to technical difficulties and considering the extreme weather change. 

Sunday, Wasch and Sherman headed out again for the second day. They were doing great, right with the leaders, but at the 35 mile vet check, Sherman had to reshow. It was a huge surprise, but when we pulled his glue-on off, it seems some adhere had slipped under his sole while gluing, and was just enough to cause a consistent offness. We were bummed he didn't get to finish, but relived that he was 100% sound again as soon as we pulled his boot.

We are really happy we went down to ride CFW, what a beautiful ride! It was good to see everybody, especially all the NW riders who had the same idea as us.  When we unloaded at home Sunday night it was about 15°, and our horses told us we should have staying some extra days down south.  

2023 was a great season! We had 21/24 top-five completions (we need to have a word with Goober and bringing our completion rate down) lol, a 2nd and 4th place Tevis finish, 5 BCs out of 8 different rides. Pretty proud of our 4 boys (and Kartif) that carried us through this race season. 

We would like to thank everyone who was a part of our season, the volunteers, ride managers, vets, supporters and everyone we got to share the trail with:). 

We'll see what the 2024 race season brings. We wish everyone a good winter, till next April. 

Happy Trails!

The Blakeleys


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