After the muddy hill from hell, I waited for Jessica to ascend from the same fate. Her eyes were big. She looked at me and as serious as a heart attack said “Tammy, I wanted to cry!” Jessica is younger than me (quite a BIT younger, I learned) and I look at her as one brave cowgirl. I figured if Jess was scared, it must have been really bad and we lived through it! As twisted as it seems, this brought about some newfound confidence for me and off we went.
The rest of the day was a blur. Fast riding, adventure, one wrong turn, and did I mention the mud? We splattered ourselves, we splattered each other and the points on the prettiest bay horse turned gray. But we didn't stop. We crossed creeks, fields and weaved our way through the muddy trails. And when we went through our first P & R check (pulse & respiration), our horses amazed us with their quick recoveries. After completing some 22 miles that first day (per the GPS), we were all smiles as we crossed the finish line.
We stripped the tack from our horses and started the long task of mud removal so we could again present our horses to the judge. I was pleased to find that Windy’s P & Rs were great. She had no sign of soreness nor edema and was sound. And her legs didn’t move as the vet placed the stethoscope in the area that was so worrisome the night before. All of us newbies were given the green light to compete the following day.
Sandy, our mentor, didn’t fair so well. Her horse, Whiskey, was sore. The vet would recheck him in the morning, but Sandy knew in her heart she wouldn’t put him back on the trail. We would be flying solo on Sunday.
The CTR people are a helpful bunch. Hearing of our dilemma, Shari Parys, offered to mentor us through the next day. Although we wanted so bad to take her up on her offer, we didn’t want the stress of mentoring us to take away from her competition. We thanked her and reluctantly declined. The four of us were on our own and come hill or high water, we were going to complete this journey!
We divvied up duties and with Annette and Bella in the lead, we were off! Our plan worked for the most part and we varied the tasks as needed. We all got an opportunity to lead. It was such fun to lead the group at a fast trot through the forest. Sometimes I was in the middle and even brought up the rear. The horses weren’t as high as the previous day, but were consistent throughout the ride. We attempted the obstacles albeit not necessarily pretty. Our P & Rs were as good as the day before. According to our GPS, over 2 days, we rode almost 40 miles in around 12 hours. We crossed the finish line a few minutes past optima time, well within the time limit. High fives all around! Sandy greeted us with hugs.
Windy after final vet check
After presenting our horse to the judge for the last time, we packed up our trailers to prepare for the trip home as the judges tallied the score cards. We joined the veteran riders - the best of the best - for the awards ceremony. We were most anxious to see our scorecards. It was a long two days and we longed for feedback. But nothing written on those cards would change the way we felt about each other and our camaraderie, our horses and their spirit or ourselves. The scorecard could not begin to capture what an incredible two days we had just experienced!
I’ve probably mentioned on this blog before that I am not real competitive. I’ve never been into sports and didn’t really care if I was the last chosen for dodge ball. I’ve felt the same with horse things. Although I’ll enter speed events and challenges at game days, it’s for my own personal accomplishment, not the win. Completion is where I get my satisfaction. Windy, the prettiest bay horse, my dream horse, gave me the ride of my life this past weekend in more ways than one! I couldn’t have loved her more. Imagine my surprise when her name was announced as the 6th place winner in our class of fifteen! You could have knocked me over with a stick.
I was not alone in bringing home the glory. Annette’s Bella Paint was the 5th place winner in our class and Robyn took 5th in horsemanship! A slight change in strategy and Jess or Cutter may have been in the placing, too. Jess was truly our rock from the get go! Not bad for a bunch of beginners! A special thanks and congratulations to our mentors and friends, Shari, Robin, Dave and Brenda, who were also in the ribbons! And for Sandy for showing us the way that first muddy morning!