Thursday, October 18, 2012

Time in saddle gives county woman rare feat to go along with ‘legs of steel’ - Full Article

By: Cindy Klepper - Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Janet Kirkpatrick tells you she has "legs of steel," believe her.

The 74-year-old sticks out a well-toned gam -the result, she says, of the time she spends in the saddle.

"You're standing up the whole time," Kirkpatrick says. "And I think it helps the back, too."

She should know. A horse enthusiast her entire life, the Huntington County woman discovered endurance riding - a sport in which horse and rider race to finish trail rides of 25, 50 or 100 miles - in 1984. Fifteen years later, she became one of an elite group of endurance riders to log 5,000 competition miles on the same horse.

This summer, Kirkpatrick repeated that feat - piling up another 5,000 competition miles on a second horse.

"To do it on one horse is very unusual," she says. "To do it on two separate horses is just a dream."

In actuality, Kirkpatrick says she's probably accumulated three times her official miles - if you count in all the miles she's logged in training and just for pleasure.

"In the beginning of the year, I put in probably 300 miles just getting him ready to roll," she says.

Kirkpatrick's current equine companion - a purebred Arabian officially known as H.A. Highfire but answering to Booker - came into her life shortly after the unexpected death of another Arabian named Butch.

She and Butch had accumulated 6,168 competitive miles between 1990 and 2002, when the horse suddenly became ill and had to be euthanized.

"That was the longest night of my life," she says of Butch's death. "I held his head. I always told that horse I'd never let him hurt."

A friend connected her with Booker, an unbroken 4-year-old who "had never been out of the field he was born in." Another friend got Booker used to having a rider on his back, and Kirkpatrick spent some time playing with the horse before taking him to the woods for their first ride.

"He dumped me right off," she says...

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