Saturday, August 23, 2008

USA: Young Riders - Teen makes altitude adjustment

Dubuquer says she 'just put my faith in God' during difficult race in Colorado
By stacey becker TH staff writer





Photo by: Jeremy Portje -
Massman says that her belief in CHF Addios never wavered.



It was a cold Colorado morning, but the girl from Iowa knew it would warm up soon enough.

What she didn't know that early morning were all the obstacles she and her horse were about to face during the nearly 11-hour 2008 North American Young Rider Endurance Ride.

"There were a lot of things that went wrong along the way," Caitlin Massman said. "I just put my faith in God."

The 17-year-old from Dubuque entered her first 75-mile endurance ride with her Arabian horse named CHF Addios late last month. It was the first time the duo dealt with the high altitude and terrain of Parker, Colo.

While some doubted the small Arabian horse and his Midwest owner could handle the altitude, Massman's belief in CHF Addios never wavered.

"He's a tough little horse," she said. "He's definitely one of the best."

Massman and the nine other young riders began their horse endurance adventure at 5:45 a.m. The first of the five phases was a 12-mile loop the riders decided to ride together.

It was during this phase that the riders made a dangerous discovery: Many of the area creeks were dried up.

The lack of water would become one of Massman and CHF Addios' biggest obstacles.

"I did the best I could, and Addios did, too," she said.

After each of the five phases, which alternated between 12- and 19-mile loops, the horses were required to have a veterinarian check and the riders were required to rest for anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour.

"It's almost like he knows and he just calms himself down," Massman said of her horse during the vet checks.

It was while on the "really long loop" of the second phase that Massman was forced to make a difficult decision.

She said the electrolytes for her horse, sort of like Gatorade for horses, were in a bag around her lap. Sometime during that second phase, the contents of the bag began to leak all over Massman's lap.

When the burning sensation of the electrolytes became too much to handle, Massman told the two riders near her that she had to stop. As Massman dismounted her horse to hurriedly give him the remaining electrolytes, the other riders also stopped, waiting for Massman to compose herself despite the competitive nature of the race.

"You know when to be competitive and when to not," Massman explained.

By the fourth phase, the horse began to get bored, and Massman began to become dehydrated. She said she could feel her legs cramp up as she entered the vet check again.

"I got there and put on a smile for the judges," Massman said. "I could kind of feel myself out of it."

Someone noticed Massman seemed dehydrated and told the rider to dunk her head in a large tank of water before the final phase of the long, hot ride.

For the final phase, the 12-mile loop the riders started with, Massman rode alongside Jessica DiCamillo.

"It was so hot and our horses were so thirsty," Massman said, adding that DiCamillo's horse named Crestwind Premiere seemed to energize her horse.

As they neared the end of the race, Massman did something that might shock others.

"I pulled up beside her and asked if she was ready to go," Massman said. "It was just kind of fair game to say when the race started. If I wouldn't have asked, she would have asked."

So the two girls and their horses raced for the finish line.

"He was running his little heart out," Massman said. "He gave me everything that he had in him and I gave him everything that I had in me."

Although she was in the lead for most of the ride, Massman ended up in a close second place. DiCamillo won first when she checked in at four hours, 23 minutes and 30 seconds, just two seconds ahead of Massman.

"We tried our very hardest," Massman said.

Her dedication and love for CHF Addios took her mother, Holly Massman, by surprise.

"Her ambition and her perseverance is quite amazing," Holly said. "I don't know if I could have the stamina to start something like that."

The race brought horse and rider recognition from enthusiasts. CHF Addios, which Massman bought for $700 at a barn sale, is now worth well over $7,000.

"He's one of the toughest horses I know," Caitlin Massman said. "I'm going to keep him. I'm going to keep racing him."


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