Congratulations to Heather Van
Fossen and Corbin - XP Rides 2008 Gold Medal Award
Terri Tinkham and Oliver Twist - XP Rides 2008 Gold Medal Award
Is that a Mustang??? Is that horse
gaited??? What kinda
horse is thaaaaat???
Well, no, yes and he’s a Tennessee Walker, Standardbred
And, it is
not just his appearance that baffles. To look at him you
wouldn’t have a clue! Not only about his breed
but that he just finished this year with 1925
Endurance miles; earning 2nd place in the AERC National Mileage
Standings. Last year
with 1120 miles, when we tied with Dave Rabe for 10th , I
thought, “hey, we are really doing something” ! 2007 was our first year of
doing serious 50 mile Endurance rides; in my three previous years in
this sport, I was content to mostly ride LDs. But once you get
hooked on the multi-day rides and especially the Duck rides, there
is no going back ….. ever. I have become so addicted that I drove
almost 14,000 miles last year to attend these rides.
So, how can this
be, you wonder: a 14.2 hand, non Arab, barefoot and gaited horse
succeeding in Endurance? It is one of life’s little mysteries and I
was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to get
But, according to
Equinox Acre’s breeder Claudia Pequin, Oliver Twist’s youthful
antics in Northern Alberta, almost earned him a one way ticket to
the dog food factory. As a yearling, he would climb gates because he
wanted to be “somewhere else”. He was a complete and total brat.
More than once she confessed to almost taking him out and feeding
him to the wolves. Not until he was five years old did he decide to
join the human race. He still is pretty impersonal and independent
but by some quirk of fate, he is a superbly behaved horse on the
trail. He is so safe and reliable, that I can ride him bitless,
using only a halter.
I am convinced one
reason for Oliver’s success in doing all these miles is that he was
not started until the age of 5. He also comes from sturdy stock; his
ancestors were used as pack horses in the 1920s in Montana. Being a
cross breed also is an advantage for him. He inherited his flying
Standardbred trot from his dam; and from his sire the ultra smooth
rack for which Tennessee Walkers are famous. Last year he also
started showing a foxtrot; a gait similar to the trot but offset
just enough to eliminate the jarring bounce. It is very comfortable
to ride and an easy gait for a horse to maintain. Having a variety
of gaits helps keep him from overusing and wearing out any one group
One of my better
moves last year was to seek the advice of Dr. Gene Nance about the
number of miles that Oliver was racking up. Several friends had
warned me that I was overriding him and that I was going to wear him
out etc. etc. …. Dr. Gene has
watched Oliver closely since I rode him in his first LD in 2004 at
the Oregon Dunes ride where Gene was vetting. He had liked Oliver
from the start and told me I had a really special horse in him. He
basically encouraged me to continue to campaign him and since he
knows I ride slowly, he had no doubt that Oliver would continue to
get even stronger. He was right; in those 1925 miles, Oliver has had
not one single pull.
After having ridden
Bryce Canyon twice and the Grand Canyon once I still feel that Ft.
Schellbourne is my favorite. Although it is hard to compete with the
scenery of the former, I love the wild, wide open spaces, the
variety of landscapes and incredible vistas from the top of the
mountains of Eastern Nevada. That said, it is also one of the more
challenging of the XP rides. The elevation change on the last day
last year was impressive. But we finally got to ride on the newly
blazed ridge top “Ranger Trail” which rises to 10,000 ft. The fact
that the wind was howling at gale force speed mattered not a whit.
The views were beautiful up there. And as is its habit, it
snowed again on Wednesday.
for 2008 was not for any of the above AERC mileage placings
however. I wanted very
much to have Oliver succeed as an XP Gold Medal Horse by completing
all the XP rides. We did every single Duck ride with the exception
of Lost Padres for a total of 1515 miles.
rose to the great challenge, and we are now on the list with the
likes of my heroes Karen Frederickson and Karen Chaton. What a
tremendous accomplishment for this little gaited horse! The
experience has been the thrill of a lifetime.
especially like to thank (Saint) Annie for all her generous help in
so many many ways, and to the irascible “Duck” for continuing to put
on these rides. We may not always seem as if we appreciate
all your hard work, but we really do!
credits: First photo: Cuyama Oaks XP, by Lynn Glazer. Second
photo: Grand Canyon XP, by Natalie Herman