Monday, May. 20, 2024

Barbosa Survives Testing Course At Far Out Forest

The Colombian native guides Steve Rojek’s horse to first place over a deep sandy trail.

A small but determined field of five riders entered the Far Out Forest 100-mile event, Feb. 16, but only two made it to the elusive finish line.

The challenging course through the Ocala National Forest in Altoona, Fla., is known for sugary sand that persuades many experienced 100-mile competitors to opt for the 50-mile event instead. When the 100-milers started at 6:00 a.m., it was 47 degrees, but it was humid and reaching 80 degrees by 1:00 p.m.
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The Colombian native guides Steve Rojek’s horse to first place over a deep sandy trail.

A small but determined field of five riders entered the Far Out Forest 100-mile event, Feb. 16, but only two made it to the elusive finish line.

The challenging course through the Ocala National Forest in Altoona, Fla., is known for sugary sand that persuades many experienced 100-mile competitors to opt for the 50-mile event instead. When the 100-milers started at 6:00 a.m., it was 47 degrees, but it was humid and reaching 80 degrees by 1:00 p.m.

“These trails have lots of shade, but the sand can get deep after a lot of horses have been through,” said ride secretary Karen Jones.

The course consisted of two 15-mile loops and two 10-mile loops which were repeated, requiring the higher mileage horses to traverse sand which, as the day wore on, had been churned by hundreds
of hooves.

Debbie Parsons, trying to finish her first 100 after a pull on the same course last year, said, “The sand was the worst I’ve seen it here, and I’ve actually hauled the 100 miles to work on these trails. There had been rain earlier in the week but not in the part of the forest we were riding, so the sand was dry, loose and deep.”

For the first 15 miles while traveling in the dark the horses stayed together, but they soon spread out as dawn made markers more visible. While riding in the dark Parsons had taken a painful tree branch blow to the eye and decided to take time at the trot by in camp to inspect the damage. After letting the rest of the pack leave her behind she faced the daunting task of riding the next 85 miles alone.

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Leading the field, Hernan Barbosa, a 38-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia, piloted Julio over the sandy course. Steve Rojek, who was competing in the H.H. President of the United Arab Emirates Cup in Dubai that weekend, owns the 9-year-old, bay Arabian gelding.

For 35 miles Barbosa and Julio teamed up with Christina Phillips riding Lana Wright’s Elegant Pride, but at the next check Phillips’ mount was pulled, as was Fran Williams’ gelding, SS Yankee Clipper.
Darlene Krell, riding Cool Breeze, made it to the 60-mile point before a cramp put her horse out of the race. Cool Breeze had finished second, just ahead of Julio in the Goethe 100 (Fla.) just eight weeks earlier, but there would be no repeat in Far Out Forest.

“That trail has never been an easy trail, and we all knew what we were getting in to,” said Krell after leading her horse in off the course. “It was the ‘whoop-ti-dos’ that got us.”

Whether you called them “whoop-ti-dos” or “moguls,” the wave-like surface left in the wake of the ATVs that frequent the trails was a real challenge for the
horses.
         
Krell’s pull left only Barbosa and Julio in the lead, followed by Parsons and Boomer, who would finish more than four hours behind him. Parsons, determined to finish her first 100, faced the challenge of motivating a first-time 100-mile horse traveling alone, riding the last 30 miles in the dark.

“Physically, that marathon I ran the Sunday prior was easier,” she said with a laugh, after finishing at 1:45 a.m. with a ride time of 16:15.

Motivation was never a problem for Julio, according to Barbosa.  While winning the ride with a swift time of 11:34 and taking the “Best Condition” award, the 15-hand gelding, carrying 196 pounds of rider and tack, “stayed enthusiastic the whole day, eating and drinking like a champion. He is not as reactive as many Arabians, but he is affectionate,” he observed. 

Julio, a former race horse, was purchased as a 3-year-old after winning one race and then deciding he didn’t like it. He seems to have found a job more to his liking.

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“He takes really good care of himself, eating and drinking, and he stays tuned to the rider,” said Barbosa. “He knows his job and is enthusiastic to do it. He is equally willing to lead or follow. He likes to go, go, go.”

If all goes according to plan, Julio will make his next appearance at the F.I.T.S. ride (Fla.) in March.

In the 50-mile event the completion rate was much higher with 20 horses starting and 17 completing the event. Megan Davis, DVM, of Palm City, Fla., rode Shaani, a half-Arabian, to first place with a time of 4:50, a mere 2 minutes ahead of Steve Cummings of Indiana riding Khruzin N Style.

They were followed by Catherine Whitaker on Yasmin Tsea Cost in third (4:59). Kathryn Downs on Blew Away and Cheryl Van Deausen on DA Al Capone tied for fourth (5:04), with DA Al Capone earning Best Condition.

In the 30-mile event Valarie Kanavy took first and Best Condition riding Golden Raven with a time of 2:41.

Twenty-nine horses started the 30-miler, and 28 finished.

Angie McGhee

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