In which I was inspired years ago and finally write about it

Mel wrote an awesome post recently about the stories that happened before she started blogging.

That got me thinking that I should maybe tell the story of my very first experience at an endurance ride.

The year was 1998, and I had recently moved my horse, my dogs, and myself away from my hometown. 

In the process of moving, I fell among questionable company.  You know, the kind of people who ask questions like, "Hey, I've been thinking about this endurance thing.  You wanna try it?"

Oh, hell yes.

Although I was enrolled in graduate school and working a full-time job, I wanted to do that endurance-thing more than anything else in the world.  I rode my mare constantly that summer, read the old Ridecamp listserv like a crazy woman, and dreamed of the Tevis.

It never occurred to me at the time that my beautiful-on-the-inside mare and I wouldn't quite fit in.  I knew that endurance riding Was. My. Destiny.

But, when we arrived in camp, clearly there was One of These Things That Was Not Like The Others:
1998 picture of Story, me, and Merridog on the trail

My horse wasn't slender and spritely.  She didn't have a chiseled profile, a babydoll head, dear little tiny ears, and a "blow-up-my-nose-and-I'll-carry-you-to-the-moon" expression on her face.  

My riding companion was not much help.  Her horse (a foxtrotter/arab cross) at least looked like an Arab, and he was being an idiot.  He looked like he belonged in the crowd.

My mare was brown.  She was sturdy.  She had a head like a boot-box and an expression that clearly said "I am too sensible to let you get hurt out here."

We didn't fit in.  

My heart was somewhere near my knees, and I was ready to load that good mare back in the trailer and go home before we even started.

And then....Steph Teeter trotted into camp, having done the first (?20 mile?) loop of the 100-miler on her world-class horse Nature's Khruschev.

I recognized Steph from photos I'd seen posted on Ridecamp.  But I'd never seen a picture of her horse.

2010 photo of Krusty stolen from Merri Melde's blog.
He's a Orlov--in other words, a Standardbred with a Russian accent!

Nature's Khruschev didn't have a babydoll head, or dainty ears.  He didn't look an Arab at all!  He looked like Story...only about 8 inches taller.

And when Steph dismounted, it made sense.  She is at least 8 inches taller than me.  (and about as big around as my left arm, but that's not important here).

Clearly, not having an Arab wasn't slowing down Steph Teeter.  She and Krusty took first, last, and best condition at the Bully Wully ride that day.

I decided to stay.  We rode the novice distance--14 miles.  We got lost twice.  We stopped and picked blackberries.  And when we got back to camp, my sensible mare vetted through like she'd spent her whole life waiting to do this sport.

photo by Merri Melde, stolen from Facebook
Although my mare Story died too young in 2006, Krusty and Steph are still together.  She posted a photo of him on Facebook yesterday.

He still doesn't have a babydoll head or dainty ears.

I think he's beautiful. 


  1. I think he's beautiful too. I had to laugh when someone at ride made a comment about liking Cartman's roman nose. I was like "whaaaa?" roman nose???
    I never even realized it :)

  2. Steph just posted a cool link to a page about Krusty's sire. I notice the word "sensible" is used several times to describe the Orlov.

    Here's the link:

  3. I loved hearing this story about Story. And I always thought she was beautiful. I'm even foolish enough to think my opinion matters although I know less than nothing about baby doll or box heads. Thanks for the read, Aarene. I'm glad you didn't turn back.

  4. I thought she was beautiful too. Were you wearing tall boots in the first photo? Were they rubber or leather?

    My first experience was crewing at Fire Mtn. in 99. They were kind enough to even give me a completion tshirt. I decided that day, enough crewing, I'm doing this. I also changed my mind that day about thinking trailering a horse is something I didn't need to learn.

  5. 100% love this entry. Wow. My block-headed standardbred with the too-big ears and the less-than-dainty trot didn't fit in either. It didn't stop him from being a brilliant endurance partner. Also, I'm glad Booger isn't the only Foxtrotter/Arab out there. I'm hoping to hit the endurance trail with her in a few years....

  6. Well,.,., now you've got me thinking about my first endurance ride - great topic & loved your "Story" :-) Pun intended :-0

  7. I wasted 5 years of my "wanting to do endurance" life waiting for my half arab to grow up so I could then be an "endurance" rider. He grew up, was a complete ASS (a total mis-match for me), before I found him another home. Sick of waiting for the "perfect" horse, I used my steady Quarter horse mare instead. Stupid me, she was the perfect horse. She was perfectly willing and able. I learned all about endurance with that mare and I can't thank her enough for teaching me what a great horse is truly about.

  8. I love this post and story so much.

  9. <3 how do I draw a heart on here???
    there they are. Krusty is the best!
    The Equestrian Vagabond

  10. The same with Robin Hood, the 17-hand Mustang who looks like he could be hitched up for a horse pulling contest. But he's still out there finishing endurance rides. I don't know how old he his. A great horse is a great horse. Endurance just makes it happen for them.

  11. ^^ I thought Robin Hood was a draft X when I first saw him. (My friends quickly told me who he was, and it was just a couple months after his big Perfect 10 spread in EN, so I didn't embarrass myself!)

    My mentor was just starting her green Arab when I was starting my formerly-crazy TWH, but she was quick to tell me about her first hundred-mile horse, a mustangy or QH-y fellow from a feedlot. I still didn't think MY horse could do it, but I did start out knowing that the unlikely-looking non-Arabs do just fine!

    Story is lovely, but you know that!

  12. This was a great story for a non-horse person. You should write a book about Endurance someday....

    1. Ignore the non-horse smarty-pants, everyone. Who said the co-author of *Sex in the Library* was allowed into this party?


  13. Sorry to be a bit fussy....but Orlovs are NOT Russian Standardbreds. As the only breeder/importer of purebred Orlovs in North America, it is important to me that information regarding them be as accurate as possible. Orlovs developed along completely different lines, and have been selectively bred for over 230 years...long before the Standardbred even appeared. They have suffered through war, famine, and everything the Russian climate can throw at them. They do not have as fast a trot as the Standardbred, and in pursuit of that some Russian breeders are crossing the native Orlovs with known as Russian Trotters. Orlovs tend to be BIGGER in both height and depth of bone than the Standardbreds. They are intelligent, steadfast, sound, long lived, and have very generous/calm temperaments. They excel at many disciplines, including dressage (Balagur was a world class Olympic dressage horse) competition driving, endurance, their intelligence and trainability make them wonderful circus horses and their calm attitude and bravery make them excellent police mounts, and many times the Russian National Show Jumping champion has been an Orlov. They are truly incredible. Finally, there is some English information available about this rare breed, although most websites regarding them are still in Russian. My dear friend has written several books on the Orlov history and development, volume 3 will be published later this year.

    1. Thanks for writing. As you note, there isn't a lot of information about Orlovs available in English--I'm happy to know there is now more!


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