Pictured: Elizabeth Bima, walking in with Savvy at Spruce Woods. Savvy was later diagnosed with anaplasmosis.

Written by: Elizabeth Bima

Savvy (aka Freckles) came into my life in the spring of 2018 and, let me tell you, that first season was rough. It’s taken us a long time to figure each other out but we are getting there. Freckles is feisty, spooky and opinionated. She is also the most affectionate horse I’ve ever owned. She either truly loves me or is just lulling me into a false sense of security while she plots my demise. In any event, this was to be the year we took the endurance world by storm! We were moving up to 50s! We had conditioned in deep snow all winter (even doing night rides to get those miles in) and completed our first 50 mile ride in early May. She did great and I only came off once. Fortunately, with my HitAir vest on, I was able to bounce right back into the saddle. And so our ride season began with a smashing success…and then it all fell apart.

Our next ride was at Spruce Woods. Another fifty was planned. I had just come back from a short trip to Montreal to find my Freckles had lost weight. She was sound, however, and so we changed our plans from a 50 to a 25. We completed but she was lacking her usual spark. When we got home the vet was called, blood was drawn and she was diagnosed with anaplasmosis. Two weeks of antibiotics and rest and she was good as new.

Our next 50 was to be at the end of June at Maah Daah Hey, North Dakota. Savvy was sound and healthy. We were both ready for MDH – or so I thought. I had been looking at photos of the trail online and there was one particular photo of horses walking along a cliff’s edge with a wall on one side and a nasty drop on the other. I sent the picture to my endurance buddies and asked them how representative this photo was of the trail. They assured me there were only a couple of short sections like that. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t handle heights. I get queasy standing on a chair but I figured I could always get off and walk those sections.

When we got there I learned that ride camp was in a different location than it had been when my buddies rode there two years previously. I didn’t think much of it until we started along the trail. It was all cliffs and switchbacks. I was terrified. I was sure Freckles would spook and scamper off the edge of a cliff sending us both to our deaths. But there was no turning back. There were horses behind us and no way to pass on those narrow trails. We were stuck. I suppose I could have rider optioned when we got to our first vet check but I figured if I had already gone that far, I could finish and then never ever ever do it again. Despite the heat, humidity and hills Savvy had been doing great. She was pulsing down without any issues, well hydrated and sound. All went well until the trot out before the final loop. She slipped in some mud, went down and stepped on the back of my heel in the process. She was fine but I was out. I could barely walk and putting my shoe back on was out of the question as I was missing quite a bit of skin. I rider optioned with only 10 miles to go.

Our next 50 mile ride was to be at Duck Mountain at the end of July. The week before DM, I bruised my tailbone. Driving to Saskatchewan was a misery but I was determined to ride even if I had to strap a donut pillow to my rear. On the way out, a tire blew out on my trailer. I managed to get it repaired and we continued on our way but I was thinking that this was probably an ill omen. And it was. We weren’t able to complete. Savvy came up lame and we were pulled…again with only 10 miles to go. I think my
tailbone injury and resulting wonky riding caused or at the very least contributed to her lameness. It was time for both of us to take a break.

After a few weeks off we were ready for our next ride. A friend was riding my other horse and wanted to do 15 miles. I thought this would be a nice way to ease back. Freckles felt great the entire ride and then, bam, right at the end…. stone bruise. Dead lame. Some more time off for Freckles and then …. another stone bruise with only a mile left to go. Dead lame. ARRRGGHHHHHH!!!! More time off and then… finally … we completed the last two rides of the season. Although I had really wanted to do 50s, I was desperate to actually complete a ride so scaled them down to 25s to increase the odds. It was the right decision. We’ll start next season strong with no cliffs, stone bruises or aching tailbones. I’m already making plans! I’ve learned, however, that plans can and will change. Roll with them (avoiding
the tailbone area) and enjoy each beautiful non-cliffy mile you are out there with your horse and friends. There’s nothing better. Except maybe apple pie and bourbon … but that’s another story.

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