The Horse is Fine, The Rider is Crazy

Riding is easy.  People and logistics are hard.  I’d love to be able to say I’m calm, cool, and collected and much of the time I am.  Except when I’m not.  

*Apologies in advance for the lack of photos, most did not survive the death of my phone in the American River.

The weekend of July 7-8 I attended the bi-annual Tevis Education weekend.   And I got educated.  For a short summary list of the changes I’ve made based on what I learned skip to the end.  For the full story of the weekend complete with my personal challenges, read on.

My awesome dad flew out from Pennsylvania to help me.  He’s not a ‘horse person’ but is great company, can drive anything, and is willing to help.  I packed up everything for me, my dad, and Sparta and we departed Southern California for Northern California at 1 am Friday morning.  After managing to scoot past LA before major traffic, we climbed to the high desert and drove.  And drove.  And my dad noticed the semi trucks were religiously going 55-60 mph.  I’d seen the signs saying ‘Speed Limit when towing 55 mph’ but in my travels so far, it had been a non-issue and traffic moved along at 70.  Until now.  I looked online and it turns out there is some historical pseudo science that was proved to be wrong shortly after causing this stupid law in California and now the entire trucking (and horse trailing) industry in California is stuck crawling along at 55 mph.

As the sun rose, temperatures climbed into the 90’s and then the 100’s.  Over a 600 mile trip, going 55 mph makes a 9 hour drive into an 11 hour drive.  I took the chance and was passing the big rigs one at a time….until I saw, too late, the cop car behind me, swerving as he checked his computer to run my plate. The lights went on and I pulled over.  I was polite and somehow got off with a warning which totally shocked me as I never seem to get away with anything.  Good thing I resisted the desire to inform him of the science and actual research proving the law is stupid and doesn’t do what it’s intended to do anyway.  Rose’s Brain – 1, Rose’s Mouth – 0.

With temperatures around 107 deg F, we arrived at camp around noon, sweated, set up camp, and sweated some more.

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I caught up with two ladies I knew who had coordinated trailer shuttle rides and had a spot for me.  Our shuttle driver was also the water guy so we arranged for my dad to go along with him the next day so he’d have something to do.  We attended the vet talk, then the ride briefing.  After the ride briefing we realized that mentors weren’t assigned, it was an unannounced insider trading type free for all that we’d totally missed.  Deep breaths.  Ok.  One of my friends took the lead to get it sorted out and I stood by and tried to chill.  The organizer grabbed some random kid in shorts who hadn’t intended to mentor and voluntold him he would be the mentor for the 3 of us.  He didn’t seem thrilled and was interested in how fast we could go (his horse needed to go fast) and going line dancing that night.  Ok.  No problem.  The real benefit of the Ed Ride weekend was seeing the terrain and layout firsthand and networking.

When I returned to the trailer after the ride briefing Sparta had taken down the non-electrified, wrapped around trees, electric fencing and was standing with the paint gelding, Tonka, next door.  Happily.  His owner got back and we decided they’d be happier together and moved him into my ‘back yard.’  

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The First Day of Riding

In the morning, I couldn’t find the coffee. I tacked up, shipped to the start and off we went.  The mentor’s horse was a head flipper. It started out badly and got worse.  He dropped back behind us and we all agreed and thought that’s what he’d told us to do, assuming he wanted to have a private work with his horse.  We’d slow up and check that he was back there every so often.  At some point he caught us and seemed all annoyed and said he’d been yelling and trying to get us to wait up.  Coming into the first vet check the mentor dismounted and asked us if his horse looked lame (maybe?  Not noticeable) and jogged on foot into the check.  We were assigned to a different mentor group and within 20 minutes of coming into the vet check his horse was dead lame.  We later found out it possibly had a history of abscess issues (among other things).  Our new group was actually two mentors and a Swiss girl.  We had a lovely ride and the new mentors suited me very well.   

The Second Day of Riding

In the morning I managed to find the coffee.  Of course I’d then lost the drip thingy to support the filter.  The upside down top of a gatorade bottle was sufficient.

But then as my mentor and I were ready to leave, we were missing the Swiss girl. It turned out she had the times wrong and thus we left late and behind a lot of groups.  Not that it was a race, but we’d been warned it would be a miserable day if the faster groups were behind the slower groups on essentially 20 miles of single track cliff trail.  And it was.  We asked to be allowed to pass when it was possible only to be ignored.  There were pile ups 40 horses back on single track cliffs while people fussed to give their horses a drink or tried to get them to cross tiny bits of running water.  At one point, Sparta’s entire hind end fell off the cliff and she cut her hind leg scrambling back up while we were dancing around on a cliff, while inconsiderate people who wouldn’t let us pass before, now held us up while their horses refused to cross a creek. (Yes, I realize it’s my problem for having a horse that won’t stand still, and yes, I did come home and reschool WOAH and STAND.)

I was not happy.  And being at the back, Sparta wouldn’t drink because the groups in front of course didn’t care to wait long enough for the last horse to have a drink.  I asked them to wait.  And they didn’t.  And I less than politely asked again to no avail and completely lost my marbles.

The Part Where I Lose My Marbles

I yelled that I hated this sport (as it exists in the United States) and was only doing this because I had committed to doing it for the horse which belonged to a friend.  I took to hanging about 1/2 mile back so I could maintain some sort of forward motion instead of the horrible caterpillar start and stop.   Down in a canyon near the American River, I caught up to the caterpillar, turned around, and went back to a place where I could wade in the river.  It cooled and rinsed the cut on my mare’s leg and was time well spent.

Luckily, it was a short ride that day.  I got my lift back to camp, packed up, and got on the road.  There was nothing more to be gained here and I wanted to be on the road while it was cool and not in the 100+ degree heat the next day.  After about 11 hours on the road, I dropped my dad off at the hotel, dropped the mare off at the barn, and went to sleep.  

You might be thinking the drama is over.  But it’s not.  My phone died while I was cooling off in the river.  My dad tried to reach me on my work phone the next morning but I was dead to the world until about 9:30 am and at this point he was worried.  I dragged my exhausted carcass up, went by the barn to check the mare and make her a mash, and went to pick up my dad.  At this point, if I’d had any sense, I’d have come right back home and gone back to sleep.  But I didn’t.  I tried to function.  I tried to get my phone fixed since going to the cell phone store is always a relaxing experience….and ended up screaming at my dad and essentially having a complete meltdown.  I sulked in the yard for about an hour, we made up, and went to get noodle soup at the Chinese grocery store.  

I dropped Dad off at the airport the next morning and went home to change for work….and instead slept for 14 hours.

Stuff I Learned

  • Gate & Go.  Come in pulsed down, get in and out in 3-5 minutes.  Walk out carrying hay so your horse can eat while you keep making forward progress.
  • Woah is crucial.  And standing. Standing still.  On command.  The mildly annoying refusal to stand still becomes potentially life threatening on a narrow trail that drops away down a mountain.  A reminder day followed by two ‘remember what we did yesterday?’ days have been very effective.
  • The hindgut must be fully loaded and that takes 2-3 days.  I decided to drive up earlier than originally planned since 11 hours not eating well in the trailer just won’t cut it.  Besides, research was presented showing 1% dehydration per hour shipping (under ideal conditions, not 112 deg F).  We want to start fully hydrated.  
  • Pads for impact protection.  There will be more road than usual this year in addition to it being 100 miles.  With the many options, I’ve chosen to go with an Impak pad (under the shoe only)  in the front under the steel rim shoes we’ve been wearing.  
  • And ice boots.  I tried out some versions made for horses last night and talked to people.  The cold blanket ones I put on with polos were heavy, sagged, and didn’t stay super cold.  But the freezy pops I brought were just the right length, stayed cold, had good contact, are cheap (I’ll need enough for two holds and 4 legs per hold), and I can eat them.  
  • Accept help.  I was deadset, “I don’t need crew, I’ll be fine.”  Reality is I did desperately need at least someone to drive my truck & trailer from the start to the finish.  

I have the ability.  I have the knowledge.  Now if I can just keep from coming totally unhinged and get all the bits to the right places at the right time….

Bring it on Tevis Cup. #89

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