Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DREW - Love At First Ride

by Merri
April 19 2016

He's already special in that he's one in a thousand equines who have crossed the 3000 mile AERC threshold in their endurance careers.

But for most of those who know him, he's one in a million. For many, it's been love at first ride on Drew, the little gray Arabian endurance horse who has touched so many lives.

Owned by Lisa and Shel Schneider of Agoura, California, Drew has been part of the Schneider clan for 14 years. They bought him from David and Tracy Kaden in Texas in 2002 when he was 10 years old. In his previous life, he had been a Western pleasure show horse.

"We went to see the Kadens and tried 4 or 5 horses," Lisa recalled. "We had trailered out to the desert to ride, and there was this huge train that went by. We had just switched horses, and the one I was now on bolted, and the one Shel was on - which was Drew - just stood there doing nothing.

"He was a little guy, just a sweetheart, took care of himself. He was busy drinking at the water trough when this big loud train went by. So we bought him. They delivered him to us at the Twenty Mule Team [ride in southern California], and Shel rode the 35 on him the next day with our 12-year-old daughter Amy. It was love at first ride."

"I was pretty much a beginning rider then," Shel added. "Lisa had so much confidence in him, that I got on him at 20 Mule Team, and I not only rode him without knowing him really, but Amy and I came in second and third. We didn't ride very slow."

Lisa said, "We knew immediately he was safe enough for Shel to ride. Then we put Amy on him, and she took him to 4H. He did all the English classes, hunter hack, Western pleasure, gymkhana, and trail classes. And she won everything! She was high point pretty much every year she rode him in 4H."

Drew, Amy, and Poni the dog, Andi Smith photo

When Amy turned 16 and could ride by herself without a sponsor, she sometimes rode Drew alone. "We never worried about her," Lisa said, "because, first of all, she had a lot of miles. But we also knew Drew would take care of her. That's such a freeing feeling that he gives you because you don't have to worry about him doing something stupid. You don't have to care about him getting race brain. He doesn't care if other horses pass him. He doesn't care about being left. He just does his own thing, and it's just so easy and so fun. And he can really move out sometimes.

"He just understands who's on his back. If I get on him and we're going out for a longer ride, and I let him get going, he'll crow hop, saying yippee, and haul ass towards home."

Lisa recalled the 25-mile ride that endurance ride photographer Lynne Glazer did on him in the 2014 Cuyama Oaks in California. "Lynne goes flying by us on him. I said 'Lynne, slow down!' and she says 'I'm not in charge!' She was having fun.

"He's always good. He just gets it. He knows his job."

"He's perfect on the trail," Shel confirmed.

The one thing Drew does not like is water. He's a real desert horse. When I talked with Lisa and Shel, Lisa had just come back from a ride on Drew where it hailed. "This never happens in SoCal, and he was NOT happy. He doesn't like water. He'll cross water, but he doesn't like being wet. He acts like a little drowned rat when he gets wet in the rain."

It was muddy water that took Drew down, literally, at Tevis. After a 6-way bypass heart surgery in 2001, Shel decided he wanted to ride Tevis in 2002. He was scheduled to ride another of the Schneiders' horses, but that one came up injured, and Drew was the alternate. Lisa rode with them aboard Barnard De Soi.

Everybody has heard of the infamous bogs in the Granite Chief wilderness. Drew met the bogs and did not like them. And there's no avoiding them. Lisa said, "We had to go into this hock-high bog. So I went first, and Drew took one look at that and leaped up on a rock. He couldn't balance for very long, and he leaped off the side. This was down a very steep hill, and it got very scary. Shel came off him at the top, and landed on a bush, which cushioned him perfectly; he was fine. But Drew kept going down; he was just freaked out.

"He got stuck in a big bush, and Shel had to go downhill to find him. This is at 10,000 feet mind you, in Granite Chief at the high point. I'm freaking out because I'm up on the trail and I can't see either of them; all I can see are these bush tops waving around wildly. And I'm thinking of them falling down the cliff, and Shel just had this bypass surgery a year prior. And I'm thinking, how are we going to get a helicopter in here for one or both of them!"

Shel finally got to Drew and started leading him back up to the trail. "I'm yelling at Shel, and he's now able to talk, but he's trying to walk uphill with a very shaken up Drew, and we're at altitude."

They did make it back on trail, got Drew settled down and Shel back on, and they rode onward. When they got to Deadwood at 56 miles, Drew passed the vet check, but Shel opted to pull. "We're done for the day," he told the vet. Lisa went on to finish Tevis for the second time.

That was Drew's only attempt at a 100-mile ride, but he went on to a stellar record of (currently) 112 starts in 119 finishes, with 3080 endurance miles and 1445 Limited Distance miles.

Susan Garlinghouse on Drew at the 2009 Shine and Shine 25-mile ride near San Jose, California

Along the way, he's given confidence and riding bliss to numerous endurance riders, probably none more so than Susan Garlinghouse, DVM. It's an occurrence that most all of us can relate to.

Lisa recalls, "Susan had had a couple of accidents on another horse involving broken bones. She lost a little confidence, so we said, come ride Drew. She drove 75 miles out here, each way, every weekend for several months, and she'd stay with us or just ride and go home.

"They just clicked. So we switched with her, took her mare, and she rode Drew for about a year. After some Limited Distance rides, she moved up to 50's on him. Now she's finished Tevis 3 times."

Drew has carried a number of "green bean" (new) endurance riders to happy finishes, and at an Endurance 101 clinic he hooked a woman and her little girl. "This woman hadn't done a ride at all," Lisa said. "Her little girl is just hanging out absorbing everything, but she doesn't have a horse. So Shel puts her on Drew. And she's riding around the arena, and this kid is just absolutely hooked.

"So now they're getting her a horse, and her mom's competing, and she's finished her first 50. We attribute it all to Drew!"

Shel chimed in, "He's such a good ambassador. After that, the mom got rid of the mare they had, because she wasn't very nice. She wanted to get something her kid could ride, like Drew."

You don't have to be an endurance rider to fall in love with Drew. The Schneiders live next to a state park where they often encounter inner city kids, or foreign visitors, some of whom - it's hard to believe - have never seen a horse in person.

"Drew is the ambassador," Lisa said. "We've put tons of kids on him. We put a Japanese tourist on him, and oh my God, I thought she was going to faint from happiness. All of her friends took pictures, and she was the only one brave enough to get on him. She'll never forget that.

"Drew gives such a great first impression [of a horse]! And he just stands there batting his long eyelashes looking adorable."

The local church group was having a fundraiser one weekend, and they asked if the Schneiders could bring Drew over for pictures with the kids. Amy rode him over there, and polaroid after polaroid was taken with each of the kids. Lisa said, "There are a lot of refrigerators in the neighborhood with pictures of Drew. Some of the kids didn't want to get off him. He loved it."

The little gray gelding has also carried developmentally disabled children. Lisa recalled one particular one. "This girl was probably 8 or 9 and was so disabled, she didn't speak, had some balance issues, had some pretty severe brain damage. So we put her on Drew. He stood stock still. He knew who was on his back. And she smiled for the first time in her life on Drew. Her mother was just in tears."

Shel has tried to put together a list of how many people have ridden Drew. "I stopped at about 70. And I don't know how many I missed. We started adding it up; it's amazing. Both of Lisa's brothers rode him in the arena, and their kids. Somebody comes over, you put him on Drew. Or at an endurance ride, if we're going to do a pre-ride, Drew's an extra horse for somebody."

That's me on Drew!

That somebody one time was me, at the 2009 AERC National Championship ride in California. I was present to report on the ride for, and I stopped to say hi to the Schneiders. "Want to come with us on a ride?" Lisa asked me. She handed me a helmet (which I still have) and I climbed aboard this perfect little gray horse and went on a pre-ride spin with Lisa and Shel. I don't just automatically enjoy every horse I get on for the first time, but I had a delightful short ride on Drew. I could tell he was a special one. Lisa told me to keep the helmet - and every time I wear it, I'm reminded of Drew.

Drew's the smallest horse in the 5-horse Schneider herd ("14.2, with his shoes on"); he's the oldest, at 24 (on April 21); and he's the King.

Lisa said, "I was once asked, if I could clone any of the horses I've ever had, which horse I would want to clone. And it would be DREW. He has the perfect disposition, and perfect conformation. My only regret is that we got him when he was 10. We wish we would have had him when he was younger."

The Schneiders will be throwing a real birthday party for Drew on April 30, with guests and a cake made with carrots and oats and some apples thrown in. If you're lucky enough to be invited to celebrate this fabulous little horse's life, give him a hug. He'll deserve it because he's one in a million - and he'll love it.

Drew mowing the front lawn, because every older horse should get to do this!

Top photo: Lisa on Drew, Shel on Barnard De Soi in the 2009 AERC National Championship 50 in Greenville, California

No comments: