Thursday, November 12, 2015
5000 Miles of Morgan Power: Bogar Tucker and Cindy Bradley
November 12 2015
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
"How was he?" Steve Bradley asked his wife Cindy, as she led Bogar Tucker, her big bouncing Morgan back to the horse trailer after vetting in for the Owyhee Canyonlands endurance ride.
"Airs above the ground," Cindy said, trying to sound exasperated, but clearly delighted. "He thinks he's 4 years old again!"
It's a typical scenario for the 16-year-old gelding, who is in his 12th year of endurance competition - always full of himself, confident, and very opinionated.
He's been that way since he was a foal, when Cindy first saw him and fell for him at Karl Morris's Morgan farm near Boise, Idaho. "Some horses just hit me right off, and he was a lot like an old horse I had that my dad gave me when i was 15."
Morgans have been in Cindy's family since she was a little girl, and they've been an integral part of her life ever since. And as her primary endurance horse was getting old and Cindy was looking to replace him, it was inevitable she'd want another Morgan for endurance.
She'd previously trained some of Karl's Morgan horses to drive, and Cindy really liked Bo's sire, Stick Tucker. When she asked Karl about the foal, he answered her with a little sarcasm. "Karl told me, 'Well, everything here is for sale, for the right price.' I made an offer for him, and Karl's mouth just dropped. He said, 'Well, I guess he's sold then,' but he wasn't too happy, because he kind of wanted to keep him. So I picked Bo up when he was 3 months old, because Karl was kind of angry about it!"
When Cindy and Steve pulled up at Karl's farm in their horse trailer to fetch Bo, out of the kitchen came Karl, followed by Bo, as if it were completely normal to have a foal in your house. "He loaded right in the trailer and came home with me."
Bo was an easy horse to break. "When I took him home at 3 months, I started taking him out and hand-walking him with me, just down the side of the road, through the creeks, and playing in the water. And when he got a little bit older, I started ponying him. I think that's where he learned to walk so fast. He's got a very fast walk, because he had to keep up. I drove him first, before I put a saddle on him."
At 16 hands, Bo's a big horse. And because he grew so big so fast, that's probably why he had some issues with stifle joints in his early years. Cindy started Bo on 25-mile endurance rides when he was 4 years old. "I was told, oh, he'll never be an endurance horse," Cindy said, "so for quite a few years I did 25's. And they said oh, he's only going to be able to do a couple of 25's, he won't be able to do any more that that; but after about 4 years of riding 25's, I said 'Well, maybe he can do a 50.' And that's when I started riding him on 50's.
"He's got 5000 miles of 'em now! But slowing him down for those 25 miles for several years was probably the best thing I could have done for him."
After finishing 3 of 4 50 mile rides as as an 8-year-old in 2007, and then finishing all 5 of his 50-mile starts in 2008, Bo and Cindy never looked back. In 2009, Bo finished all 22 of his 50-mile starts, for a total of 1,010 miles. He did two days in a row for the first time that season, at Old Selam in Idaho, the Owyhee Canyonlands in Idaho, and the Grand Canyon XP in Arizona.
Cindy and Bo became a familiar sight: the big dark bay opinionated horse and his rider gliding down the endurance trails solo in the West, Southwest, Northwest, and Mountain regions. But don't try to catch up and ride with them, because Bo won't let you.
Bo does best alone on a ride, and Cindy prefers it that way anyway. "He's better by himself," she said. "He doesn't like to be alongside others. He's sort of competitive - he likes to get ahead of everybody. And I can actually tell when a horse is feeling better when they're alone, because they're not interacting with another horse."
The 'slow and steady wins the race' motto has been a key to success for this pair over the seasons, where they've consistently finished mid to back of the pack. "We've done slow miles just because I want to ride slower, and I wanted him to get to 5000 miles. He doesn't want to go slower. I think slow and steady is better than trying to race."
Riding solo so many miles together builds close communication and a strong bond between horse and rider. A few years back in an Idaho ride, Bo and Cindy came to a 3-way intersection where the ribbons were down. "It was an area where it was hard to tell by ground hoof prints which way to go," Cindy recalled. "I remembered riding there sometime before and decided to go left. I urged Bo with leg pressure. His ears went back... more urging and he started backing, whirling, and being an ass.
"After several minutes of this I got angry and said, 'Okay, go your way, but you're wrong, and you will see!' About half a mile his way we ran into the right color ribbons. I patted him on the neck and thanked him! Many people went the wrong way that day.
"Doing all those miles together, you get really bonded. Riding with somebody else, you lose all that special connection with your horse." It's a closeness that Cindy treasures with her special gelding. "Some people miss the whole issue of being that connected with a horse, I think. "
In 2010, Bo did 5 days in a row at the Paunsagaunt XP at Bryce Canyon in Utah. "That's a very tough ride," Cindy said, "and I just had it in my head, we would do all 5 days - not even thinking he had only done 2 50's in a row before that. He did it easily. That was our biggest event!"
Their next biggest milestone was when Bo passed 5000 endurance miles, at this year's Grand Canyon XP on September 6th. He was only the 5th Morgan (or part Morgan) in AERC history to reach this laudable, coveted milestone.
Bo's is an outstanding AERC record: (to date) 5090 endurance miles, 495 LD miles over 12 seasons. He has only 6 pulls in 124 starts. The pair made the cover of the 2012 December Endurance News magazine issue, in a spectacular photo taken by Cindy's husband Steve at the Grand Canyon XP that year.
In addition to his AERC achievements, Bogar Tucker won the American Morgan horse high point award for endurance twice. He also won 2 reserve championships in endurance from the American Morgan Horse Association.
One more AERC award is waiting just around the corner: the Decade Team. According to AERC.org, "this special award recognizes an achievement that represents the foundation on which AERC was formed, by acknowledging a rider who, over a long period of time, has kept an equine sound and actively competing. The Decade Team award recognizes those equine and rider teams who completed at least one endurance ride (50 miles or more) each year for 10 years."
With the new endurance season set to begin in December, Cindy is looking toward the Death Valley XP, in California on December 28-31, to reach this next milestone with Bo.
Cindy said she'll start to back off on Bo, now that he's reached 5000 miles. "We're going to do some 25's and a few 50's." Just don't tell the big horse that, though, since he might have a few other opinions about that.
"I have owned and ridden many horses in my life, but Bo is my once-in-a-life time horse," Cindy said.
"I hope we have many more years together!"