Marcia Hefker and Heraldic during the Old Dominion 100. Photo – Becky Pearman.
(Oakland, CA) June 24, 2015 – World-class endurance horse “Heraldic” made a remarkable “three-peat” in winning this year’s Old Dominion 100, widely considered to be the toughest endurance ride on the East Coast, adding to his wins in 2006 and 2010.
Heraldic’s 2015 win with new rider Marcia Hefker, in addition to his prior wins with longtime owner John Crandell III, only enhances his reputation as “a freak of nature” – as Crandell once admiringly described his now 17-year-old horse.
“Our entire company is thrilled to congratulate Heraldic again, and welcome Marcia to the family,” said The ReactorPanel Saddle Company president and CEO Carmi Weininger.
Heraldic was the inspiration and model for his namesake the Heraldic Lightweight Endurance Saddle by RP, which has become the saddle of choice for many top endurance athletes and other riders who are particular about saddle fit and function.
“Heraldic is one of those legendary athletes that changes the stats. To be able to win the Old Dominion, Tevis and AERC National Championship in a single season, as Heraldic did in 2010, is almost unimaginable. Five years later, to come back from layup and win the OD 100 yet again is staggering. We’re looking forward to seeing what this great horse will continue to accomplish,” said Weininger.
Preparation Meets Opportunity
Marcia Hefker came to endurance via barrel racing and team roping in the ranch and rodeo world of her native New Mexico. She rode her first endurance race by accident, after seeing a flyer for what she thought was just a trail ride that sounded like fun.
“I watched horses fly by me,” she remembered, “and I decided, this is the sport for me! Endurance is my golfing: pleasure, relaxation, vacation. The competition is just another great aspect of it.” Through the sport of endurance, she met great friends and mentors – among them Susan Norris, Susie Jones, Anna Wolfe – who still ride together whenever they can.
A nurse practitioner by profession, and now also a nursing home administrator, Marcia is rapidly making her mark in her chosen sport. She top-tenned and has twice completed the Tevis on her 2001 grey Arabian mare, Hindi Bint Samia, or “Cita”, among other notable achievements in the endurance world, including a 2013 ranking among the top 25 FEI (International Equestrian Federation) endurance riders.
During Marcia’s quest to qualify for the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Cita sustained an injury that put them out of contention, but Marcia stayed on at the Florida qualifier to volunteer. That’s where she was introduced by the US Chef d’Equipe to another volunteer, John Crandell.
“We talked about our horses, how we trained them, and then we didn’t talk again until this January, when John called out of the blue to ask about my plans for the year. I told him I had three younger horses in training, and he asked if I would be interested in riding Heraldic this year. How could I say anything but yes?” Marcia flew back and forth from her home in New Mexico to ride and train with John, who winters in Florida and summers in Virginia.
Marcia, Meet Heraldic
On her first trip to Florida, Marcia just got to know Heraldic, riding but not competing. On her second trip and first race with Heraldic, they won the February 2015 Far Out Forest 50-miler in the Ocala National Forest, where she met the intense competitor Heraldic becomes on course.
“Heraldic is unlike any horse I’ve ever ridden,” Marcia said. “He’s a perfect gentleman in the dressage ring and hacking on the trail, but in the race I discovered I had zero control. I sweated through three layers of clothes! We must have done more miles on the first loop than in the entire race, just circling and circling. After that, we got along great. He showed me how fast he could blow by everybody.”
The next day, she offered to ride another of John’s horses in the 25, where she finished second “without even trying” with Cody, an 11-year-old gelding John’s mother had bred but who had always been “on the back burner” and never raced. Not surprisingly, Cody has now joined Heraldic on the front burners.
A month before the Old Dominion 100, Marcia and her husband Mark Miles flew to Virginia to prepare. “I did a pre-ride of the Old Dominion trail on Heraldic, over three days, with John riding Cody. It was a great time to strategize and develop my plan for the race. Originally John was just going to crew at the OD, but Cody did so well on the pre-ride that John decided to enter him.” A good decision as it turned out: John and Cody finished second to Marcia and Heraldic on race day, and Cody won the AERC Best Condition award.
Winning the Old Dominion 100
Marcia’s plan going into the race was to go steady for the first 80 miles, where five climbs in intense heat and humidity would test competitors, and then kick into racing mode.
“In the high heat and humidity, it’s important to get off and walk the steeps, and run downhills to save your horse’s shoulders. We lucked out early in the day, which was cooler than expected, and some rain along the ridges was pleasantly cool, then as we descended, we hit pockets of humidity.
“We kept a steady pace ascending, going over the rocky areas and saving our energy. In the last 20 miles, we did exactly what we planned, and let Heraldic be Heraldic. He was amazing.
“He pulsed down rapidly at the first three vet checks, which gave us a few minutes lead time. After the fourth vet check, we had a two minute lead and we maintained that. I opened him up on what was essentially a road, into the pouring rain that cooled us off into another vet check. The rain continued to cool us off as we lengthened our lead through the last two vet checks, and we were rested by the time we finished.
“It was just his day,” she said admiringly of Heraldic. “My goal was just to complete, but he had other plans. At age 17, Heraldic is a champion who has raced hard, and that takes extra care. Months before, his nutrition, his health, and our preparations were very focused on this race, and we took nothing lightly. It was very much a group effort, including my husband Mark Miles and stepdaughter Kaitlyn; and John’s family including his son Yancy, parents John and Linda, brother Jeff, and nephew Josh. I appreciate everything they did for us as they were as focused as we were in this endeavor.”
The Heraldic Lightweight Endurance Saddle by RP
“We understand that the endurance trail heightens problems due to stress over time,” explained RP’s Weininger. “If the horse has a physical issue, the trail will reveal it. Problems with saddle fit are magnified.” With the proprietary ReactorPanel® technology, RP saddles respond to the moving horse’s body by flexing and self-adjusting with every stride. Riders report longer, freer strides, better recoveries, and even lower heart rates.
“When John first challenged us to make a lighter-weight version of the RP endurance saddle back in 2012, I knew from our first discussion that this is a man who is all about the details. He makes the supreme accomplishments – like winning and BC at the most prestigious rides in the US – look like an afterthought; all of his time and energy is focused on the day-to-day details it takes to turn out a world-class performance.”
Crandell has a lifetime of experience in the sport of endurance, and he approaches each element of training and gear selection analytically. When he began using ReactorPanel saddles in training rides in 2011, he learned first-hand how this unique saddle system helps horses comfortably carry the rider’s weight mile after mile. But he needed a lighter-weight saddle to make weight in FEI competition, and Heraldic – the saddle – was born.
That’s something Marcia appreciated. “I rode Heraldic in the saddle RP made for him and John. I enjoyed the functionality of it – it’s beautiful, lightweight, and felt like it was perfectly made for Heraldic.”
To customize Heraldic’s Heraldic especially for her, Marcia called RP for advice. “Riding in his saddle for three days as we prepared for the race, I discovered things that I never noticed before. I called RP, and they couldn’t have been more helpful. I ordered fleece fenders to protect my legs over the rigging, and then thought I’d be even more comfortable with a fleece seat cover, so I ordered that, too. Comfortable and functional – it worked out great!”
There’s a ReactorPanel Saddle System for Every Ride
RP has been saddling top trail and endurance horses since the 1990s. Its flexible panel system is tried and tested at the top levels of the sport, with RP saddles going down the trail under every level of rider for more than 20 years, from XP to LD to FEI.
RP’s proven flexible weight-bearing system ensures long hours in the saddle with equal comfort for horse and rider. For top endurance riders like John Crandell and Marcia Hefker, or for casual weekend riders, there’s an RP saddle to suit.
“RP saddles are a unique and entirely different way to comfortably put weight on the horse’s back, with a 20-year history of performing at the highest levels of sport,” explains The ReactorPanel Saddle Company CEO Carmi Weininger.
“Our saddles are popular with top endurance riders from many countries, including some of the most successful riders in the world. These riders, who could have literally any saddle, choose RP because we give their horses a winning edge in competition. Our saddles are equally popular with pleasure riders who demand a pain-free experience for their horse and themselves, even after many hours on extreme terrain.”
About The ReactorPanel Saddle Company
Since 1993, The ReactorPanel Saddle Company has produced the innovative and user-adjustable ReactorPanel Saddling System, the only saddle you cannot buy without a two-week FREE trial. RP makes this unique saddling system in models for dressage, endurance, hunter/jumper, eventing, fox hunting and pleasure riding. Based in Oakland, CA, RP’s industry-leading programs reflect the company’s commitment to providing saddles that are good for horse and rider, and in delighting customers with exemplary service, integrity and fair policies. Join the legions of RP fans by trying one yourself on the only proving ground that counts: your horse! Visit www.reactorpanel.com.
For more information, contact:
Nan Meek – Dark Horse Media Biz
Carmi Weininger – The ReactorPanel Saddle Company