A year and half ago, Sue Greenall was within a hair’s breadth of dying on the trail from a tragic accident. But on June 9-10, she proved she’s back in the saddle with a vengeance, winning the 75-mile ride and earning best conditioned at the Old Dominion Endurance Ride in Front Royal, Va.
Greenall, of West Windsor, Vt., won the ride on Tyger Dann, the horse she’d gotten hurt on in November 2004. They finished in 12:33; twelve riders started and nine completed.
Greenall recalled the accident well. “Tyger tripped at a canter and flipped over on top of me. I had three broken ribs, a concussion, punctured lung, broken neck, dislocated shoulder and three cracked vertebrae in my back. If it hadn’t been for my helmet and the quick thinking of my riding partner, Kathy Brunjes, who gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I doubt I would have survived,” she said.
“I spent six months recovering and started back competing in May 2005. I picked my competitions carefully and did several 50-mile rides. But at that point in my rehabilitation, I barely had 50 miles in me.
“I was simply determined to get back on my horses,” she continued. “I had limited movement of my right leg so my commands to them must have seemed weird. My horses had to take up some of the slack for which I am very grateful!”
The Old Dominion Endurance Ride, held in the mountainous George Washington National Forest, is 32 years old and still drawing riders in hopes of conquering the challenging course. “I love the Old Dominion trail!” said Greenall. “It’s a challenge for both horse and rider and offers up everything an endurance ride should.”
Ride manager Vikki Kingslien and 216 volunteers adeptly managed the event, offering a 25-mile limited distance ride and 50-, 75-, and 100-mile endurance rides.
Can’t Catch Him
Virginian John Crandell rode Heraldic, bred by Asgard Arabians, Sinks Grove, W.Va, to finish first in the 100-mile ride, and earn the Old Dominion Trophy (best condition judged the following day) in 14:27. Daryl Downs, who completed 9 minutes later on Cincinnati, dogged him for 79 miles. Cincinnati earned the AERC best condition and the high vet score for the ride.
Downs, 19, won the 100-miler last year, but said, “John [Crandell] is not a pushover, so I wasn’t going to try to catch him. He has won this five times, and I’ve only won it once.
“But, I made it to Sherman’s Gap before dark,” Downs continued. “I actually saw what it looks like, but I wish I didn’t. It is a lot of rock. I came into McCoy’s [Ford] only 9 minutes behind John, but I had no intentions of slamming my horse into the ground to catch up with him.”
Head veterinarian Dr. Melissa Ribley said, “I had the opportunity to watch the two leading 100-mile horses throughout the day. They just got stronger all day. I was thoroughly impressed with these horses’ abilities.”
The only junior entered, 11-year-old Joni Buttram on Cash Bonus, completed in 20:26, followed immediately by her mother, Jody Rogers-Buttram and teammate Marie Threadgill. The three made up the “True Grits,” the only one of four teams to complete three riders and win the team award. This was the first time any of these three riders competed over the Old Dominion course.
Thirteen of the 25 starters completed, with Miriam Anver earning the turtle award with a ride time of 20:26:31 on Tams Lil Clipper.
Winning In Her Back Yard
Mary Murphy scored a hometown win when she and Bubba O bested a field of 65 competitors to win the 50-mile competition in 6:54.
Murphy, who lives in Fort Valley and trains on parts of the Old Dominion trail, has ridden the 50-miler six times and was first in 2001. This year she said, “I had no thoughts of winning. I had asked God if we could finish fifth and Bubba could earn best condition. But I am happy if I come in 20th or 30th place, just as long as my horse is healthy.”
Murphy was eighth out of the first vet check (12.5 miles) and fifth at the next check (25 miles). “Bubba lost a shoe and another shoe had to be reset, so I went from fifth to eighth place. Then I was first into McCoy’s Ford vet check [38.1 miles] and left with a one-minute lead over the next competitor,” she said.
“At this point, I let Bubba go for it, and he trotted across the Shenandoah River by his own choice. At Liberty Hall, we left out 4 minutes ahead of the rider behind me. My horse was so strong, he cantered up Lands Run,” she said with pride.
“He is a big puller,” she continued of Bubba. “And he’s really strong. He tried to buck me off in the first 11 miles because I wouldn’t let him run.”
The fourth-placed horse Donovan, ridden by Katrina Geier, earned the high vet score and best condition. Their course time was 7:49.
In the team competition, “3 Good Legs” won by nearly an hour. The team included Allan Noble on HC Tiger (22nd place; 8:49), Lisa Delp riding Eden (23rd place; 8:50), Catherine Peloquin on Fourmiles Kuna (30th place; 9:18:11) and Brenda Senseney on JP Jackpot (31st place; 19:18:12).
The limited-distance ride, 25 miles to introduce riders and young horses to endurance and part of the Old Dominion trail, was held the day before the main event. Forty-eight started, including several riders who would compete on different horses the next day. The placings for this ride are based on the horses completing and reaching a pulse of 60 beats per minute and, of course, passing the final veterinary exam.
First-time competitor Derek Tudge on Nikki was first-to-finish and first to pulse down. His course time was 3:34. Although his horse’s owner, Holly Croney, finished alongside him on Frivolika, Ashley Kemerer’s horse Kirah Zone pulsed down 3 minutes earlier and placed second. Croney placed third with a course time of 3:39.
Thirty-six riders completed, and Mike Condon had the optimum time with 4:44.
National Championships Coming Soon
The AERC National 50- and 100-Mile Championships, Oct. 20-22, will be held at the site of the Old Dominion ride, replacing the Fort Valley Ride and based out of Fort Valley Stables, instead of the 4-H Center in Front Royal, Va.
Many riders entered the Old Dominion to familiarize themselves with the course for the fall championship. The main changes will be that Sherman Gap will be traversed in the daylight and the Shenandoah River will be seen from the mountaintops, but not crossed.
Because so much of the course will be used for the AERC championship rides, Melissa Ribley, chairman of the Veterinary Committee, and her husband Robert Ribley, chairman of the National Championship Committee, flew in from California for the event. Melissa was the head veterinarian, assisted by 17 veterinarians, while Robert entered the 100-miler on WMA Rattler, loaned to him by owner Troy Ball.
Ironically, it was only Melissa who got to ride over the infamous Sherman Gap, as Robert was eliminated at 79 miles, before the 2.5-mile rocky climb. Two days prior to the event, Melissa and three other veterinarians (Doug Shearer, Debbie Hadlock and Eileen Kellner) were loaned horses to sample 17 miles of trail. Guided by Jean Whitman, previous Old Dominion manager, and Kathy Broaddus, the riders climbed up and then over and down the other side of Sherman Gap, up Veach Gap, along Little Crease Trail and then back down the Sherman Gap Trail.
“I am very glad I had the opportunity to see a representative section of the trail, including Sherman Gap. The trail was relentless. It got rockier and steeper as we climbed,” said Melissa. “It really gave me the perspective of what these horses were about to be asked to do.”