Saturday, October 06, 2018
Absence of a Debacle at the 2018 AERC National Championships
October 5 2018
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
With the looming specter of the previous week's botched World Equestrian Games Endurance race, and the threat of approaching of Hurricane Florence, both within a stone's throw of Biltmore, the American Endurance Ride Conference National Championships went off without a hitch, with kudos to top competition, horsemanship, and sportsmanship.
The Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina, has been the site of the Biltmore Endurance Rides since 1994. It was the second time the AERC National Championships were run over this course (2012 was the first one). This year's events were held September 20-22.
Cheryl and Stagg Newman have managed the Biltmore rides since 2006, and the trails for this year's National Championships had been test ridden in the May Biltmore ride. Hurricane Florence ultimately cooperated, though it was questionable up to the weekend before the ride.
"The ride site had maybe 2 inches of rain," Cheryl Newman said. "Asheville is a rain shadow, so it got less. We didn't really get the brunt of Florence. We didn't even get that much wind, which was a bit of a surprise.
"The storm was out of here Sunday. By Monday morning we knew we were fine. Monday we sent out the word that yes, we were going to have the ride. 'Come one, come all, we have a nice welcome mat out for you.' And people did come.
"By the time they got there, the event site was quite dry, and by the time the ride rolled around on Thursday for the 50, the trails were in really good shape."
The 50 Mile Championship
In that fine display of horsemanship and sportsmanship, Erin Lemmons and Tuscarora John (aka "TJ"), and Jeremy Reynolds and Anydaynow (aka "P") tied for first place in the 50 mile Championship in a ride time of 5:20.
Erin Lemmons, 32, and her 12-year-old gelding Tuscarora John hauled in from Stephenville, Texas. "I had a plan of the pace I was going to do for all 3 loops," Erin said, "and I stuck to it."
"We'd won the Biltmore 50 in May," Jeremy Reynolds, 38, said of P, his 17-year-old mount, "and I beat a really good horse in a sprint-off. So I knew coming into the Championship, he felt really good training and everything, I knew he was going to be tough to beat."
Both Erin and TJ, and Jeremy and P, were near the front of the pack of 68 starters the entire ride, and on the last loop that pair of riders had a clear lead and obviously still had strong horses.
Jeremy said, "When it came down to just Erin and me, I offered, would you like to tie, these horses have worked really hard. We're not going to go slow the last loop, but there's no point taking extra risks. And she agreed, so we rode together and tied."
Erin said, "At the last vet check, my sister, my brother-in-law, my mom and dad were all saying, omigosh, he looks really good, he's still full of energy, head up, ears up, looking around, like we're not done yet, so they said, don't do anything stupid, of course!
"Jeremy's horse P looked pretty good. And we just kind of traded off. He led a little bit, I led a little bit, we rode together on some two-tracks. I mean, it was perfect. Both horses truly deserved to win."
Heather Reynolds summed up the ride with a bit of humor, "We were 45 minutes away from the WEG course. The weather was similar and the trail more technical. The completion rate was stellar. Without stopping and restarting the ride and without canceling the ride, there was a 74% completion rate for the championship 50 mile ride (44 starters and 28 finishers) and there were 22 finishers of the 24 starters on the Open 50."
Jeremy and Erin also tied for top Lightweights; 3rd place Alisija Zabavska and Hidden Assetts were first Featherweight; first Middleweight was 7th place Jane Rodrigue on Al Shama Shaazon; first heavyweight was 18th place Don Meuten on FYF Wolverine; first Junior was 13th place Madeline Isaacs on Shasta.
Anydaynow is by Patriot Missle (by Wiking) out of Annatiki, by SX Champion. He was bred by CreRun Farm and is owned by Barbara Hershberger, from Pennsylvania. Anydaynow has competed for 10 seasons with a record of 23 finishes in 32 starts and 1195 miles. Barbara competed on him for his first 8 seasons; both Heather and Jeremy, from Dunellon, Florida, have ridden him the last two.
"He's the first horse that Heather and I sold when we decided to become professional horsemen," Jeremy said. "We never owned him; he came back to us a few times during his career for training, when Barbara wanted us to work on him."
Tuscarora John, by Line Dancer out of Fawora, by Fawor, was bred by Jane Teutsch of Texas. Erin had previously looked at TJ as a 4 or 5-year-old. "We were kind of new to endurance at the time, and didn't know a good thing when we saw one. We really wanted him, but Jane wanted a little more money than we had budgeted, and we weren't sure what to pay for a good endurance horse. So we did pass."
However, Erin kept an eye out for TJ. Former USA Endurance Chef d'Equipe Emmett Ross had bought TJ and was training him but eventually decided to sell him. When Erin found out, she wanted to try him out again.
"November of 2015, Emmett brought him and another horse out. I rode the other horse first, because Emmett was saying TJ could be a little bit of a handful. I said, 'Really! that sounds like my kind of horse!' But i got on the other horse first. We rode a few miles, then we traded.
"And I just instantly fell in love. I didn't care what issues we had to work through, as far as recoveries. It was just - this horse loves to go, loves his job, and is a dream to ride. So I had to have him!"
TJ not only tied for first place in the 50-mile Championship; he also took Best Condtion. TJ is a first place and Best Condition machine, since Erin began riding him in 2016. (Previous to that, the gelding finished 4 out of 4 starts). Together they've completed 10 of 12 starts, with 8 first places, 2 second places, and 10 Best Conditions.
"TJ’s first career was a track horse," Erin said. "He is a stakes winner!" That's likely where his competitive nature comes from. "He's an amazing horse. He's really competitive. That's why I really enjoy riding him!"
The 100 Mile Championship
Holly Corcoran, 54, from Pennsylvania, had no idea she was more than 2 hours ahead of the nearest competitor when she and Poete crossed the finish line in the 100 mile Championship in a ride time of 12:26.47.
"I felt incredibly focused. I didn't know anything else that was going on around me. I knew I was an hour ahead at some point in time, but I didn't even know I was 2 hours ahead of anyone when I finished," Holly said.
Coming into the ride, Holly had good expectations of her 11-year-old gelding. "I had ridden the Bitlmore 100 in the spring [finishing 4th and earning Best Condition], and I was hoping to decrease my time. But then we dealt with high heat and humidity this time around." They still beat their previous time, by 8 minutes.
And Holly cleverly used a good ride strategy. "His ego gets fed by passing horses, so we actually started 10-15 minutes behind, nowhere near the start, and ended up passing just about everybody and coming within 6 minutes of the front runners. And we stayed there the rest of the ride."
Holly and Poete, and Meg Sleeper and Syrocco Cadence rode together from loop 2 onward. "Meg is a fierce competitor, so she really kept me on my toes to make sure that my turnaround and recoveries were right on target. We were basically head to head, finishing within a minute or so of each other for the pulse times, and heading out through the 5th loop. And at that vet check, they found some lameness on Meg's horse so she was pulled. Then I continued the last loop alone.
"I had outstanding crew. And without them, I don't think I would have been able to have the performance I did, because it did get hot and humid, and they kept Poete cool. He was eating like a machine. Toward the end of the holds, he was quickly into the 40's [pulse rate] and staying at a good low rate before we were ready to go out, which I think made a big difference for him being able to keep up the steady pace during the ride."
Poete also took Best Condition, something he's done in all 3 of his starts this year. The gelding now has a record of 18 finishes in 22 starts and 1205 AERC miles and 5 Best Conditions over 7 seasons.
By Banjo de Falgas out of Poetikka, by Statistic, Poete was bred by Tom and Holly Sayvetz of Asgard Arabians in West Virginia. Holly picked him us as a 4-year-old and started him under saddle.
"I'm really lucky because I think the Asgards have the athleticism and genetics that they have naturally low heart rates and they have quick recoveries."
Holly actually has 5 Asgard Arabians, including Poetrie, a 7-year-old 3/4 sister to Poete, who finished 10th in Thursday's 50-mile Championship. "Asgards are like potato chips. You can't have just one!"
Holly and Poete were first Lightweight; Marcia Weilbach and Zanthus Fury tied for 2nd place and first Featherweight with Wendy Mancini and Sterling; 16th place Cheryl Van Deusen and Ebs Regal Majjaan was first Middleweight; 9th place Guy Worthington and PA Hi-Spirit was first Heavyweight.
33 started the 100-mile Championship and 16 finished. Worth noting was the incomparable 78-year-old Jan Worthington (with over 32,000 AERC miles), who rode with her son Guy and finished 8th aboard Dimitri KS; and Claire Godwin and 27-year-old incomparable PL Mercury finished 15th, for his third 100-mile completion of the year (including Tevis and Old Dominion!), and his 17th 100 overall.
A Smooth National Championship
Ride manager Cheryl Newman summed up the ride.
"Well… nobody's going to really write paeans of praise to the heat and humidity. Particularly on Saturday for the 100 - let's say it was seriously humid that night.
"But overall, in the scheme of things it was a very smooth ride. There were minimal glitches and the riders all came with a very positive attitude and seemed to be very pleased with the ride itself, and how the trails presented themselves.
"They came ready to be pleased, and they had a good time."
More ride info at: