Saturday, May 8, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: RGS Just Believe

RGS Just Believe is 1 of 5 USA team Endurance horses headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship. 

By Merri

RGS Just Believe, aka “Rose”
13-year-old Arabian mare
By Justify X Beaukay Bey, by NV Beau Bey
Owned by Jessica DiCamillo Torres

RGS Just Believe became part of Jessica Torres’ herd when she decided to help out a friend in Southern New Mexico that needed to re-home her.

“When I saw her for the first time I knew she’d be great in the sport of Endurance with those long legs and great attitude to impress,” Jessica says. “She’s always willing to give all she can and  present herself with the WOW factor.”

The mare was broke when Jessica got her near the end of 2015, and came with a dressage background, so Jessica took to retraining her and focusing on Endurance. 

One thing the DiCamillos do with all their Endurance horses is work cattle with them on their ranch. Rose wasn’t impressed with the cows at first, but she soon got over that. “She was like, ‘Oh, ok. You want me to race over here and get that thing? All right!”

Over 4 AERC seasons, Rose has completed 275 AERC miles and finished 10 of 13 rides. In her last 5 FEI CEI3* 100-mile rides in the USA (all in New Mexico) over the last 3 seasons, this pair completed 4, winning 3 of them and placing second in another. 

Their last race in New Mexico was one of Jessica’s highlights. “She impressed me so much.  She had lots of energy in the tank at the end of the 100 mile ride. The weather was great, it was a perfect and amazing - we had a blast that ride. We had amazing staff and crew and officials, and it just turned out to be a great day.” 

Jessica and Rose were USA team alternates for the World Endurance Championship in Italy May 22; but with the recent defection of Hanna Weightman and Poetrie (due to the bad luck and bad timing of slight lameness), Jessica and RGS Believe will join the 4 other USA teammates - including her mother Karen Binns DiCamillo - for the race. 

"I worked cattle and retrained Rose," Jessica says, "to build a world class horse. I’m so proud of the horse she has become.

“I was excited to go crew for my mom in Italy, but now I’m so stoked to be going as a teammate! To achieve this dream together (daughter and mother) is so extraordinary. We have been planing and replanning this moment for years and it’s finally here. 

“I’d like to give a huge thank you to my family and friends for their time, help and support. I couldn’t have made it here without you!”

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horses: Poete and Poetrie

Poete and Poetrie are 2 of 5 USA team Endurance horses owned by Holly Corcoran and headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship. Poete will be ridden by Holly; Poetrie will be ridden by Hanna Weightman.

By Merri

14-year-old Arabian gelding
By Bandjo de Falgas X Poetikka, by Statistic
Bred by Asgard Arabians

24 of 28 AERC starts, 1855 miles in 9 seasons
8 of 9 AERC 100s

10-year-old Arabian mare
By Syndicat X Poetikka, by Statistic
Bred by Asgard Arabians

22 of 25 AERC starts, 1200 miles in 4 seasons
4 of 5 AERC 100s

Both owned by Holly Corcoran

Holly tells the story of how she got Poete and Poetrie.

“Both Poete and Poetrie were bred by the Sayvetz family at Asgard Arabians in West Virginia. They are purebred Arabians and are both out of the Statistic daughter Poetikka. 

“I took on Poete at 4 years old as a training prospect in cooperation with Asgard but as I started work with him, I just fell in love with him as a horse, not to mention his amazing, awesome athletic ability. So instead of working with Asgard to sell him, I acquired him. 

“I always knew he had great potential and he is just so fun (and sometimes difficult) to ride and he has proven me right. 

“Knowing how much I loved Poete and admired his abilities, when his ¾ sister was available, I purchased Poetrie as a 4-year-old.  Initially she was really tough and quite reactive, but given time and training, she has turned out to be an awesome horse. 

“Poete and Poetrie are both athletic and capable. They can both be quite strong willed, and I find it best not to argue with them but to re-direct. 

“Poete loves loves loves to canter and to pass horses.  So at the beginning of the ride this is where it takes negotiation or finding our “bubble”. 

“Poetrie is very matter-of-fact, hard working and takes herself quite seriously (sometimes I have to laugh) but she takes AMAZING care of herself. Nothing gets in the way of her eating and drinking to the extent she will tell me if she wants to pull over and drink out of a puddle or stream or grab a bite of grass.

“I think the “coolest” ride for Poete, Poetrie and I was the January 2020 Broxton ride where I went into it planning to ride the 100 on Poete day one and Poetrie in the 75 day two. 

“First I had been working on my own fitness to get to where  I felt confident I could do it, then it took making sure I had  great crew for the horses, and I took very good care of myself (ie, electrolytes, hydration, eating, etc). 

“Poete and I won the 100 during a race off in the rain.  When we turned the bend in the trail and I asked him to GO I could barely see due to the rain. I was praying he didn’t spook at something as he blasted into the light.  He won and earned BC! 

“So I was able to get to bed at a decent time to get up  early to ride Poetrie in the 75. We started the ride with her half sister, Lorienn and Canadian young rider, Charlotte Tremblay, but Lorienn forged and bruised her heel at mile 60. 

“Poetrie and I continued on alone and won with over a 4 hour lead over the 2nd place horses! 

“Poetrie is incredibly smooth to ride and takes little out of me so I had to ride in the order I did since Poete can be very tough!

“I am so grateful to be representing the USA in Italy at the World Endurance Championships. This has been my goal since 2008 and I am so excited to have earned the criteria for selection. This year it was based upon points and finishing, so both horses had two first place finishes in 100-mile rides over the last selection period starting June 2019. 

“It is very challenging with all of the COVID and EHV-1 criteria for us and the horses, plus we are making our own arrangements, so it has definitely been an education! I just can’t wait to get there and get on the horse, then everything will flow from there!"

**Late Breaking News: Due to bad luck and bad timing, Poetrie developed a slight lameness, which will prevent her and Hanna from going to Italy.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse - Treasured Moments

Treasured Moments is one of 5 USA team Endurance horses headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship

by Merri

Treasured Moments
11-year-old Arabian mare
DA Adios X Hidden Treasure, by RD Five Star
bred by CreRun Farm
owned by Heather & Jeremy Reynolds
ridden by Jeremy Reynolds 

1550 AERC miles
3 Tevis Cup starts/finishes
2017 Haggin Cup winner

Treasured Moments could have been a top racehorse but for the year she was born. “She was really fast on the track but was in the stable that had the top three mares that year and she was number 3,” says Heather Reynolds.

Jeremy had shod her on the track as a late 2-year-old and fell in love with her. Since the mare was #3, the Reynolds were able to buy her as a 3-year-old. Racing’s loss, Endurance’s gain.

The mare has finished 23 of her 26 AERC starts over 7 seasons, and completed 9 100-mile rides. That includes 3 Tevis Cup completions with 3 different passengers. Her first 100-mile ride was the 2017 Tevis Cup with Jeremy; she not only finished third but came away with the Haggin Cup.

“What’s special about Treasure,” Heather says, “is her laid back, willing but competitive nature. She is ridden in a simple rope halter. She did the 2017 Tevis in a rope halter with a single rein so that Jeremy could hop on and off easily to run. She is all business. She’s not neurotic, but she’s not patient.” This versatile mare has carried 11 different riders in competition.

Besides the pinnacle of her third place and Haggin Cup in Tevis, another highlight is that she has the fastest 3 qualifying times securing her slot on the USA team. Jeremy will be aboard for the 160-km race in San Rossore May 22; this is his third time on the USA team and the 9th time competing abroad.

“We are really excited to go to Italy,” Heather says. “Treasure is training really well, she’s super sound and has the right mind to handle the pressure, and she’s already competed abroad.”

Monday, May 3, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: RGS Ragnar Ze Monarch

RGS Ragnar Ze Monarch is one of 5 USA team Endurance horses headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship

by Merri

RGS Ragnar Ze Monarch
12-year-old Arabian gelding
by Aransas HF X One More Tyme EW, by Wojslaw
owned by Karen Binns-DiCamillo

900 AERC miles

As a 5-year-old, Ragnar was lanky and barely broke when Karen Binns-DiCamillo first saw him at Dan Woods’ place in Texas; but it was the look in his eye that grabbed her. “He was just like, ‘Here I am.’ When you look at a lot of horses and have been around them all your life, those few that look at you like, ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do’ - he was one of them,” Karen says.

Karen’s set a goal several years ago of riding in the World Endurance Championships, and Ragnar would become the one to take her there. “A friend of mine, JT Jones, was breaking and training him. He took about a year before he let me have my horse back. I didn’t want him if he wasn’t going to quite behave for me to get on safely. He is a handful and a strong horse. And the first time I rode him, I was like, ‘Now I know why you kept the horse! It wasn’t because he wasn’t broke; it was because he’s so much fun to ride!’”

In his 5 seasons of endurance in the US, Ragnar has completed 17 of his 18 AERC starts, with all but 2 finishes in the Top Ten. But don’t think Ragnar is “just” an endurance horse. He earns his keep by being a working stock horse on the family’s cattle ranch. “The ranch work is base training and it keeps them quite willing to work all day.”

Karen says that every endurance ride she’s done on him is memorable because of his power and his will. “Whether we’re riding with people or we’re riding by ourselves, he just wants to please you. When he’s out in the pasture he’s not a people horse. But when you’re on board, he’s like, ‘Alright. Let’s do this.’ He’s just been eager and willing to do basically everything we’ve asked him to do.”

Ragnar is a very strong-minded horse who likes things done his way. “There’s times we’re going along and all of a sudden he thinks, ‘You’re doing something you shouldn’t be,’ and he drops his head and he’ll pull you right out of the saddle up over his shoulder. And then he stands there and looks at you like, ‘Well I told you we’re not doing that!’ And I’m like, ‘Thanks! Thanks for the reminder!’”

This is Karen’s first time to represent the USA Endurance team internationally, a fulfillment of the aspiration she set. “It is so exciting. It’s unbelievable. I’m just thrilled! We’re all excited. And when I say we, it takes a team to do this. It’s me, my horse, my crew, my team, my other riding companions. It’s a big we, about 11 of us.” Her daughter Jessica will be one of her crew members.

Ragnar and Karen will be riding on the world stage on May 22. “He’s just super athletic. I’ve had the opportunity to sell him, but I just can’t. He’s doing everything I’m asking. 

“There are horses out there that are just fun to ride, and he’s one of them.”

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Belesema Black Satin

by Merri

Belesema Black Satin, aka “Satin”
5-year-old Arabian mare
by Belesemo Obsidian X PNA Lakota Moon, by Sundance Kid V
owned by Elaine Bettez Wabel

3 LD starts, 3 finishes

In a way, you could say that Satin chose Elaine. “I went to Kim Johnson’s Belesemo Arabian Ranch [in Caldwell, Idaho in 2017]. I wasn’t buying; i was just looking,” says Elaine.

“I like mares, and I went into this round pen with 3 fillies. All of them stood there, but she came up to me and stood with me. She wouldn’t leave. So that’s why I bought her. I figured she was worth it. She’s the one of the last ones from Belesemo Obsidian, their stallion that died in 2018.”

Satin was a year and a half old at the time, and Elaine gave her time to grow and mature before she broke her. “I turned 70 last December. I broke her myself. I’ll tell you one thing - it was gentle!”

Last year was Satin’s first endurance season, which was due to various reasons, including COVID-19 rearranging the entire endurance season. Antelope Island in Utah, normally in April, was moved to September, and Elaine took Satin there. 

“I wasn’t going to do anything other than trail ride. Then she was so amped up and such a pill, and she needed some kind of exercise, and the vet said ‘Go for it.’ I said, ’OK, I’ll just do the first day, I don’t think she can do two.

“And she came through the finish vet check of Day 1 with flying colors, so we did the second day. She rode the whole 2 days by herself. 

“She’s never been anything but calm. I mean, she acts like an Arab sometimes, but it’s like she figured out her job. And when she was going up that hill on the second day, she just went into this long beautiful trot. And I was just singing, having fun, because she was so animated and so forward.

“I love this horse! She is laid back, which I think is the way Belesemo Ranch brings them up. They’re just as Arab, and can be just as flighty; she can curl that tail up over her back just like any Arab. She can be as dynamite as any Arab, but she’s very sensible. I think it’s their upbringing, because Kim has a lot of kids that help out and do all that stuff, and I think that’s admirable. The horses are kid proof, they’re friendly, they like people. 

“To me she is just awesome. I would not change a thing about her.”

Meet My Endurance Horse blog

Monday, February 15, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Marie’s Gold

by Merri

Marie’s Gold aka “Luna”
15-year-old Thoroughbred mare
Outofthebox - Dancelikethedevil, by Devil’s Bag
owned by Jo Harder

125 LD Miles
425 Endurance Miles
2020’s AERC High Mileage Thoroughbred

Marie’s Gold was one of those thousands of Thoroughbred racehorses who fall through the cracks after their racing careers are over. She’d raced three years, winning 1 race in 12 starts. She ended up as a rescue with Horse Protection Association in Florida as an 11-year-old in November 2017 because her owner had dementia and wasn’t taking care of her.

Jo Harder fostered the mare in early summer of 2018. “She was a body score 1 at the time HPAF rescued her,” Jo recalls, “and they weren’t sure if she was going to make it because she was so emaciated.” Jo adopted her in the fall of 2018. “Luna” had recovered so well from her ordeal that Jo took her on her first slow trail ride just weeks after settling in. She easily completed 10 miles in the summer heat of Florida. The mare went on to complete an intro ride and then 5 LDs/CTRs in late 2018/early 2019.

“She is super athletic and recovered fabulously,” Jo says. “After a 25 in February of 2019, I had her blood tested and asked one of the vets if she was ready for a 50.  He told me that there was still a lot of gas left in the tank and that there were no indications that she couldn’t do it. A month later, she completed her first 50 [in the Florida FITS ride] with energy to spare.”

Luna is Jo’s third OTTB, and the only breed she’s ridden in endurance. Thoroughbreds who have raced aren’t just get-on-and-go horses. “OTTBs are wonderful, but they take some extra effort, especially at the beginning as they adapt to the trail.

“Keeping in mind that OTTBs are generally just taught to run fast in a controlled environment, the rider has to learn to throttle the horse and adapt to endurance. 

“The rider has to keep in mind a few things too… like if you lean forward to duck under branches and pull on the reins, you’ve just told the OTTB to go faster.”

In addition to being named 2020’s AERC High Mileage Thoroughbred, another highlight of their endurance venture together so far is the completion of Luna’s first 75-miler at FITS last March. “We completed the last loop alone and almost totally in the dark with all kinds of forest creatures making noises around us. She just kept going and going and going. We truly completed as a team.”

Luna and Jo are developing a very special bond. “Luna has had a hard life, but she trusts me,” Jo says. “She raced over a dozen times, and it was apparent that her life at the track wasn’t a picnic.  

“In the beginning, she would sometimes become unnerved over simple things, probably because of some bad memories. Once she gained the confidence to ride off alone, she was superbly happy because she could really use those long legs at a pace that works for her.

“When she sees a hill, she puts that 16.1 body into a 6th gear.  I just hang on and enjoy the ride because I know she'll get me up that hill safely."

**Top photo by Becky Pearman

**Bottom photo by Maria Phillips

Friday, February 5, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Jailhouse Waylon

by Merri

Jailhouse Waylon, aka “Bubba”
6-year-old Standardbred gelding
owned by Anita Rees

100 LD Miles
100 Endurance Miles
2020’s AERC High Mileage Standardbred

Jailhouse Waylon was bred to impress on the racetrack, but he was injured in race training and made only one start. Anita Rees obtained him in the fall of 2018 as a 4-year-old from a friend who has a Standardbred adoption program.

“He’d been adopted out and returned 3 times in about 2 years,” Anita says. “I wasn't exactly looking, but my endurance gelding was rehabbing from an injury so I told her I'd take Bubba. Who can resist a free horse?”

Bubba hadn’t been hard to start under saddle, and he was broke to ride (“sort of”) when Anita got him. She describes him today as very easy going, such a pleasure to ride, especially compared to her horse Shag who is insanely competitive.

Bubba debuted in endurance in 2020, and he completed all 6 of his starts, 4 LDs and 2 50s. With COVID affecting the ride season across the country, Anita felt lucky to be able to do 6 rides with him. The combined 200 miles resulted in Jailhouse Waylon being crowned as AERC’s 2020 high-mileage Standardbred, a breed competition award sponsored by the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

Anita’s most memorable ride aboard Bubba (so far) was their first 50-mile ride in the October Spook Run in Indiana. Anita had agreed to accompany a friend Sarah attempting to finish her and her horse’s first 50. They rode conservatively to get both horses through the ride, and all was well until the vet check at 40 miles, where Sarah rider-optioned from feeling ill. Anita picks up the story from there.

“We had a 50 minute hold with just 10 miles to go. I knew it would be dark before we finished, which normally wouldn't be any big deal except when the Ride Manager came over and said there were tornado warnings - as in ‘take shelter NOW’ warnings. Yikes!

“We’d been hearing some thunder off in the distance, and it had been raining a little on and off for most of the ride.

“Bubba was under my canopy. Eating. He never stopped eating the entire hold and had been passing the vet checks fine.

“If I was smart I should have pulled after hearing that forecast, but I figured it was only 10 more miles, and if a tornado did come through we'd have just as much chance surviving it in the woods as parked in the middle of a field. Seemed like logical reasoning at the time, anyway.

“Bubba reluctantly picked his head up from the feed so we could get tacked up. I also slipped off his bridle and rode him in a halter that last loop. Another first.

“He was not thrilled to go out into the storm, but he did it anyway. The first few miles the wind was so bad, the rain was almost horizontal. There were branches coming down all over, and even a few small trees.

“And lightning. Almost non-stop lightning, which in one way was good because I could see the trail markers, since by that time it was pretty dark.

“The trail was so slick and muddy it was hard to do more than walk in most places, and at more than one point I was seriously questioning my judgement about taking a young horse on his first 50 out in those conditions. What if he tied up? What if a tree fell on us? What if he slipped and broke a leg?

“But we slogged through and finally came to a section of gravel road we'd done on the loop before. Bubba knew camp was close and broke into his big Standardbred road trot.”

Anita and Bubba finished the ride (and finished Top Ten, by attrition) with a half hour to spare, and got the Turtle award, which Anita doesn’t even remember. She was just thrilled to finish with a sound, willing, and confident horse. “Such a great feeling, I was so proud of this young guy!”

Even though it rained through the night and the temperature dropped 30 degrees, Bubba stayed warm and dry under his shelter at his trailer, and he ate non-stop.

You probably get the picture: Bubba LOVES to eat. “He's now known at the rides as that horse who brings a huge cooler full of nothing but carrots. He'll easily eat 40 or 50 pounds of carrots in a weekend. And more if I had them.”

He’s a very personable horse. “He acts more like a puppy than a horse sometimes - an 1100 pound puppy who gets into everything. He’s super friendly, always the first horse to come up and offer help when we're working on fences or doing things in the pasture. He also plays with his tongue and makes silly faces (it's a Standardbred thing).”

Anita started riding endurance in the early 1990s, and started riding Standardbreds around a decade ago. She’s had 7 over the years and sings their praises.

“Standardbreds are such an under-appreciated breed,” Anita says. “Most off the track are very easy to transition to new careers under saddle. They're tough, athletic, and sensible. Bonus if you do get one off the track, since most have years of slow jogging for conditioning.

“They make great endurance horses and we're gradually seeing more Standardbreds at the rides.”

For more information on adopting a Standardbred, see:

** Top photo by Noelle Snyder