May 8, 2012

Reminiscing About Competition


I’m cleaning.  Or I am suppose to be.  We have that pesky graduation party coming up this weekend.  Its good to entertain once or twice a decade so the house gets the long overdue once over.


But while I clean, I find things and as I put them away, my mind wonders.  This time it was my score cards for my four Competitive Trail Rides.  I know I have talked about them before on this blog and on Horsetrailriders but now, eight years after that first competition, I do have a different perspective.


I always wanted to compete.  I knew the distance wouldn’t bother me; usually up to 35 or so miles over a two-day period.  But it was everything else that had worried me.  Okay, to be really honest, just one other thing:  the obstacles.  Referred to as “observations” in some circles, it is basically being stopped along the trail and asked to perform some task; be it simply “observing” you riding up a hill or sidepassing over a log.  The whole idea made me a nervous wreck.  My horse won’t do that! 




The first year I completed, back in 2004, I decided to do it only because I had a horse that might do some of that.  I had bought Jo, a seasoned appaloosa gelding, from some friends.  He knew how to sidepass and had the basics down.  Maybe we could make a reasonable showing. 


A few weeks prior to the ride, he came down with a sore back.  And if that wasn’t enough, he also sunburned on those sores.  He was a mess.  Blue would never check in sound for a CTR; even at the clinic we took, one of the judge’s deemed him lame not really understanding that was just the way he traveled.  So I either forfeit my ride entry or take Ginger, John’s mare. 


Ginger used to scare the bejeezes out of me.  As I got more comfortable in my riding skills, I gradually started including her in my rotation and that year, due to Jo’s issues, took her to Cowgirl Weekend.  I had a great ride there so figured, why not compete on her.  We probably wouldn’t do great at the obstacles, but Ginger loved to go-go-go.  She would do awesome as a CTR horse.




Well, it didn’t quite go as planned.  She hated the vet.  Anytime she would try to look in her mouth, I would lose control of her.  She walked off when mounting.  She forgot how to back, she rushed hills, and she was pissed!  I remember at one vet check, she was just pacing; wouldn’t hold still and I popped her on the head with an empty water bottle.  I was that pissed at her back!  When I tried to groom her after the ride, she raised her leg to kick me.  Ginger never kicked.  My saddle evidently didn’t fit well and she ended up with girth sores.  And to add insult to injury, here I was worried about the obstacles, never mind the fact that I really didn’t know how to ride and MY scorecard reflected THAT!  She was a mess, I was a mess.  I decided I tried it, did it and won’t humiliate myself ever again with this silly game!


ctr 066


Fast forward five years.  Humiliation becomes humbleness.  And like childbirth, you kind of forget the pain.  I’m now riding Windy, Ginger’s only baby.  Far from perfect, but I am once again tempted to complete.  Not wanting to do it alone, some friends also entered as first time competitors and we made the trek to Missouri.  While my score card still reflected a lot of my same issues:  “need to be lighter in the saddle”, “landed heavy in the saddle”, “need better leg and rein aids” and “body position off”, Windy, on the other hand, surprised me.  Although she did raise her leg at the vet, it was more of a reaction to the stethoscope that she didn’t know was coming and I figured if that was the worse thing she did all weekend, we could get through it.  Imagine my surprise when my little mare ended up in 6th place.  It really did whet my appetite for another ride. 


Stephens Forest Tammy and Windy


By the next ride that same year, my anxieties were over.  I knew what we had to work on and was pretty sure we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves anymore.  But when I opened my trailer to unpack tack, I found I had forgotten my best saddle pad in my other trailer.  Other riders helped out and offered up an assortment of pads, but following the first day’s ride, she had a little saddle sores where the rigging was off the pad and soreness in her loin.  Her other scores were  remarkable, but not enough to pull us into placing.  But did I have fun that ride!  Finally I was able to relax during competition and enjoy the ride.




The next year, 2010, I was lured into competing in the same ride that I rode Ginger in all those years before.  The weekend was beautiful and my mare was beautifully conditioned.  When riders talk about their “zen” ride, this was mine.  The weather, the trails, the ride… it was all wonderful and if we never placed, I would have left happy.  As it turned out, Windy placed 2nd and for the first time, I came into the placings, too, earning a 4th place ribbon.  It was icing on the cake. 


CTR 019


Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  Just a walk down memory lane.  A little nostalgic.  I miss Ginger.  I wonder if we would have practiced if we could have done better.  She died too young.  She should have gotten a do-over at this.  And I wish I’d lose the weight I put back on so if I did complete, Windy wouldn’t have to lug around this added poundage.  Might be good incentive for me to consider dieting more seriously.


I do recall having a conversation with someone recently about the CTRs and their reluctance to do it because of the obstacles.  I think about where I started with Ginger and where I am at today.  Rather than letting the obstacles become an obstacle, I set out to learn to have better control of my horse so that we could make a decent showing.  With anything, it takes practice and know how and we are still working on all of that, but looking back on that first ride and the last, THIS is what the organization means about this competition helping you to become a better rider. 


I’ve kind of got the itch to do it again….. 






  1. I know I am a little on the emotional side right now for all kinds of reasons but I teared up, reading this. Over you and your willingness to swallow pride and keep on truckin', over gallant Ginger . . . Man, I should not try to write these things while at work!

    Anyway, I am proud to call you friend. Keep paving the way. Royal and I plan to attend Turkey Creek and it might be wild . . .

    1. Ah, thanks, Terri. I miss that little red mare terribly. She didn't stand a chance at that first ride with me but I think she could have had a comeback! :)

      I want to do Turkey Creek SOO bad but CGW is the week prior and missing 2 of Case's football games in a row might not make me mother of the year. But, I'm thinking if I could talk John into competing with me, haul up after the game, request morning check-in.... just maybe. I definitely have Indian Cave on the radar...

  2. What a fun story! I know you miss Ginger so much; it's so hard when they go. You look so happy in all the pictures!

  3. What a great trip down memory lane. And fantastic pictures! That would be awesome if you did do it again!

  4. Do you realize that Hank had many "DNC" (did not complete) notations on his score cards in 2009 when he won Presidents Cup? You give them a go, and if you can't do it, then you move on. But the key to doing them well, is practicing doing things on rides at home that are more difficult, tricky etc. than you would hopefully ever have to do on any other ride. Be it up and down ravines, or side passing over things etc. Then, when you are asked to do one at a ride, have your thoughts go to: "We CAN do this, I have done worse at home, I'm gonna show this judge how WELL we can do it"

    Hope to see you at a ride I'm at some time...or me at one YOU are at!

    1. Hank got DNC?? Who'd of thunk? :) For me, it was really a matter of breaking it down. I know she may not do this, this and this, but lets get really good at THAT and then we'll work on this. At IC 2 yrs ago, we were to back between two trees. Simple enough - she has a great back. But she decided she wanted to eat the branches above her instead of back. They always surprise us! I hope we do meet on the trail. A friend has mentioned Oklahoma in November....

  5. this post makes me miss riding so much :)


I am so glad you stopped by and look forward to hearing from you! Do come again.