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Top 100 Mile Rider Interviews


Rider Name:   Karen Isaacs
Years in Endurance:   18
# of 100's:   24
Career AERC Mileage:   8,100 (thru 2004)

Age that you did your first 100 at:  28

How is your 100 mile conditioning program different from your 50 mile conditioning program?   It is no different.

Describe your feeding program, before during and after a 100:   Our horses survive on green grass in the summer and grass hay in the winter, and a few pounds of sweet feed. The time around endurance rides (any distance) only differs in that I give them soaked beet pulp and extra treats (fig bars are very much liked). During the ride they can be fussy and I will let them eat whatever they want. Later in the ride when they are really hungry they will eat about anything, but early in the ride I have to get hay from other people – alfalfa is often a favorite.

What kind (if any) supplements have you used -- do you think they made a difference?  I have tried a few things, if they are free samples or ride prizes, but have never noticed anything make a difference.

How close to the 100 mile ride do you do your last conditioning ride? Last 50 mile ride?   I have been riding a seasoned horse for so long that we don't do much conditioning. Typically I will do a 50 3-4 weeks prior to a 100, but would do one 2 weeks in advance if we took it easy. I don't feel it is necessary to ride in between the competitions.

How do you prepare yourself for a 100 mile ride?  Over what period of time?   If you don't mind pain, it is not necessary to prepare yourself. But you can do 100s without hurting (during or after) by making sure you are in shape. The most important thing is to ride a lot. I usually do 50s regularly to accomplish this. Being as fit as possible is a big benefit to both you and your horse. I try to run a couple of times a week the year-round. I think biking is an excellent way to improve riding fitness although I only do this sporadically.

How do you know or feel that the time is right to do a 100 on your horse for the first time?   If a horse can do a 50 without much stress or strain, he can probably do a 100. If he can do a multi-day without much stress or strain, he can definitely do a 100! The key of course is being able to accurately make this assessment. One good clue is if you can do the last loop as fast as you did the first loop.

How do you handle riding in the dark? Glowsticks on your tack or not? Headlamps, flashlights (describe).  Do you have a preference on color of glowstick?   I rely only on my horse's ability to see in the dark and he always does just fine! I think artificial lights are unnecessary in most cases and detract from the enjoyable sensation of being out in the woods at night. I do carry a flashlight with me in case I need to look for markers, read a map or see to fix something. If you are riding along a road, reflective wear will make you more visible to traffic than a glow stick or a flashlight.

How do you and your horse feel at different points in the ride?  What are the "low" spots and how do you handle them?   My horse has a lull at 0-5 miles (ha, ha-- he doesn't like to leave camp) and will often hit another one somewhere between 50 and 75 miles. It is really nice if you have someone to ride with, but if not, you just keep moving. This is where the rider's mental perseverance comes in. I usually get pretty tired (sleepy) towards the end of a 100. Getting adequate rest prior to the ride would help prevent this, but usually the hectic pace of ride preparation and life in general makes that hard to do.

Is your post ride horse care any different than a 50-mile ride?   I try to watch him extra closely for 24-48 hours and hand-walk regularly if he is still in a pen.

Any advice to first time 100 mile riders on post ride rider-recovery?   If you get off and walk part way through any loop that is longer than 10 miles, you will not be sore after the ride. When I do a ride that is flat and we trot and canter the whole way, it is a week before I am able to go down steps comfortably. On rides where I dismount to climb up and down hills, I cannot even tell that I have done a ride the next day. The difference is really that dramatic.

What kinds of food and drink do you like on a 100?   I eat and drink as much as time allows at every vet check. I drink water and Gatorade and generally eat things that can easily be packed such as fruit and snacks (cookies, crackers, chips, candy). Hot foods on cold days and cold foods (ice cream – yum!) on hot days is sheer bliss, but this is of course only possible if you have a crew.

What are your recommendations for someone attempting their first 100 miler?   Don't try to pick a 100 that you think is easy, because there is no such thing. If you have a choice, just pick a trail or the type of terrain that you enjoy and that your horse is good at.

How often do you electrolyte on a 100 mile ride? How about pre-ride or post-ride electrolyting?   No different than for 50s. The amount and frequency will vary depending on the weather, but at least at every vet check and often midway through the longer loops. Upon arriving at the ride, and continuing for a day or two afterwards, they also get electrolytes added to their feed. I decided I wasn't giving enough after observing my horse when he was unloaded and turned out after getting home from rides. He would roll, then drink, and then go chew on the salt block.

How many 50 mile rides would you do on a horse prior to doing his first 100 miler? Over what period of time?   It depends on the horse and what he has been doing, but I would want to do a least a few 50s. I think that is the easiest way to condition and prepare the horse. Most could probably be ready to do a 100 at the end of the second year of doing 50s. Doing multiple day rides is a great way to ready a horse for 100s, and to assess his endurance.

What is your most memorable experience on a 100 miler?   The times I remember most are when I have been by myself after dark. When you cannot see anything and there is no one to talk to, the motion of the horse and the way it feels to ride is really enhanced. I love it when Jeb is trotting fast through the woods on the way to the finish and he can follow every turn while I can't even see the ground. I also have a very distinct memory from the Tevis after we trotted up a long climb out of Squaw Valley. At the top of the pass, the wind was ferocious, but the view was so incredible that it felt like we were on top of the whole world. I regret that I did not get to finish the ride, as I don't know when I'll get another opportunity to see that trail.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on a 100?   While on the last loop and riding along the edge of a lake in Georgia, the night was full of squeaks, croaks and chirps made by various swamp creatures and it was kind of spooky. I was just posting along when all of a sudden Jeb jumped out from under me and I landed on my butt in the sand. Something large had jumped in the water with a loud splash and scared him. I think that is the only time I have ever come off of him at a ride.

What is your favorite 100 mile ride and why?   Old Dominion, because the trail is beautiful, interesting, challenging and NOT repetitive. I liked Tevis and the Vermont 100 for the same reasons. My horse seems to be motivated by the notion of getting somewhere, then getting home, and rides with all vet checks in camp can be real drudgery for him.

What do you look for in a good 100 mile horse?   He needs to have the same traits that makes a good endurance horse for any distance – a good trail horse, sound, comfortable to ride, good recoveries. A 100-mile horse also must take better care of himself by eating and drinking at most opportunities, and be able to keep weight on fairly easily.

How old do you think a horse should be when it does it's first one day 100?   It depends on the horse and what he has been doing. Jeb was 6 ½ when he did his first one-day 100. Probably 7 would be a good age to start.

What do you think is the biggest mistake that you've made on a 100?   Getting lost a couple miles from the finish at the Pan Am because I didn't believe Jeb when he told me the right way to go.

What do you think is the biggest mistake that most riders make on a 100?   I hate to see riders look miserable during and after a 100. I think a big reason people don't want to try is that they think it is too difficult, so we really need make it more obvious that we are having fun! It is a lot easier if you start off being in good shape yourself and make sure to stay comfortable, hydrated and well fed during the ride. Sometimes I think people go too slowly, especially after dark. It is a lot easier on the rider to get finished by midnight than to be out until 3 or 4 in the morning.

What traits do you posses that make you a successful 100 mile rider?   Other than owning a horse that has a talent for it there is nothing special about me except perhaps that I don't give up very easily. A more pertinent question maybe, is why I do 100s. The answer is because it is the true test of endurance. This is why the original, and still the ultimate endurance ride, is 100 miles in one day and why this is the international championship distance. The challenge is doable, but requires a reasonable amount of training and talent on the part of the horse. When you truly love to ride, you can only get enough satisfaction by doing a WHOLE endurance ride.

What traits do your horse posses that makes him/her a successful 100 mile horse?   Jeb has enough self-motivation that he is always willing to move along, but he is not OVER-motivated. He takes good care of himself and doesn't waste much energy. He just seems to get stronger the farther he goes.

Describe something about your current 100 mile horse that is unique or different from other horses?   I have never known of a horse to be so grouchy and opinionated. He dislikes very many things, such as veterinarians, trot-outs, horses behind him, horses beside him, etc. This means that we never get to follow the oft-given advice of “Ride your own ride”. Every now and then I get to choose the pace, but mostly we end up riding JEB'S ride and not my own ride. Usually if I ask to slow down I get ignored, and if I ask to speed up I get snarled at. I have come to accept this situation, because he is evidently smart enough to know what he is capable of.

What lesson have you learned the hard way, on a 100 mile ride?   That my saddle was making my horse's back sore. I learned this twice, with two different saddles.

How many 100's a year do you think is doable for the average horse and rider team?
If they are riding to complete?    7
If they are riding competitively?   4

How much time off following a 100 mile ride do you recommend?
If they are riding to complete?   2 weeks
If they are riding competitively?   3 weeks

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