May 19, 2009
CTR - Chapter 3
When competing in a Competitive Trail Ride, both my horse and I start with 100 points. The goal is to keep as many points as possible. I was judged on my horsemanship, which includes grooming and in-hand presentation, trail equitation and trail safety and courtesy. A horsemanship judge will observe the riders throughout the event. From check-in to on the trail to my campsite through checkout. I'll be under their watchful eye, grasping on to my allotted points!
On the other hand, a vet will judge my horse on her trail ability, manners, soundness and overall condition. Don’t be checking in any dirty horse! In my case, I figured a clean horse was all I had going for me, but the dang mud made even that job a challenge! Since winter, I have over 80 hours on Windy, close to a 100 miles and arena time prior to the ride. In addition, she spent 30 days at Brenda’s for a spring tune-up. I knew she was in good shape, but still, this was a long ride with pretty poor trail conditions. She would need to work.
At the ride meeting, we were told it rained 5 inches in a little over 2 hours. The ride would be delayed in the morning until ride management could get out to see if any of the trails needed diverted due to flooding. We saddled early and were soon informed there were no changes and we would ride out at 0800!
Sandy Ries, a friend and veteran CTRer, was our mentor and we followed her out somewhere in the middle of the CP/Novice riders. Windy was fresh, a little heady and light in the front when I tried to hold her back. I gave her her head and off we went. Just when I thought I might be able to breath, we encountered a volunteer on the trail. She told each rider in front of me to wait 10 seconds while the rider in front of them went into the trees, following a muddy trail. Soon it was Annette’s turn and she rode out of my sight.
“Wait for me, Annette,” I hollered in vain. The volunteer told me she wasn’t allowed to. The rider in front must continue on. She then told me to proceed into the forest of hell.
In real life, I have this little thing… if I get scared or feel my horse is out of my control, I get off. Pretty simple, really. Work through it on the ground or walk with my horse. But this was obviously not an option. I could turn around and go back. Take the walk of shame to the trailer, but I’d come this far. Not an option either. Or, I could move my mare on down the trail like the riders in front of me did. I didn’t hear any screams. Surely they survived.
As I approached the muddy downhill trail, my heart was in my throat. I wanted to close my eyes. In my mind, I pictured Windy on her hind legs, rearing as she approached the trail. But common sense would tell me she is going to be into self-preservation mode as much as I am and will hopefully agree that the descent will require use of all four of her legs. It’s not my first rodeo, for Pete’s sake. Buck up! I am pretty sure my eyes were open as we slid down the hill because when we reached the bottom, I looked up and saw several people standing on the hill above us. The conversation in my head now went something like this:
“Oh [crap], I’m being judged.”
“Don’t let her run them over.”
“Keep her straight.”
“I should grab the mane but can’t let go of the reins.”
"Pleeeeasssse don’t run over the judge.”
“Bet she remembers she about kicked!"
"Don't fall off now."
My scorecard reads:
“Needs to be lighter in the saddle. Put weigh in heels and bring shoulders up.”
Shoulders up? Hell, I don’t know where my shoulders were. Driving the reins, I guess. Trying to keep my mare from taking out the secretary! Survival was worth the loss of one point.
(To Be Continued)
Chapter 4 - The Finale