August 19 and 20th I packed up my car and headed to Solstice’s home, at the Ganaraska Forest for the Summer’s End OCTRA ride.
This is a particularly special ride, as it started as a training clinic a few years ago and has grown both in popularity and in size as generous landowners allowed the trail to cross their properties. I was astonished when I drove into ride camp and saw all the rigs. It had tripled in size since I had last attended as a volunteer in 2015.
Again, I would be volunteering. Unfortunately, until I buy a truck and trailer, I am at the mercy of those I can carpool with. Not to get down of course, I had volunteered to be a scribe on Sunday which would have me training toward my Lay-Judge certification. To make the weekend even sweeter, Carissa offered me to do the Ride N Tie with her.
The Ride N Tie was on Saturday, we set off with Carissa on her horse Cannon and me running alongside. The intention was that we would trade every mile or so and stay together (to avoid leaving Cannon unsupervised!) but poor guy was having a bit of a meltdown as his girlfriend sped away ahead of us. Long story short, while we met each other a few times on trail for our mandatory midpoint tie and once when the entire RNT race made a wrong turn, I didn’t see the pair until the end of the race when they caught us just for the finish line. I was pretty darn proud of myself for running the full 10km trail myself, no walking, and even technically outrunning our horse! All that training in the gym is paying off!
From there I was recruited to do Set Speed scoring and secretarial work, it was interesting to see how the computer calculated the scores and the various reporting measures that ride managers must do.
On the Sunday, I scribed for the vetrinary judges, learning the ropes in hopes of one day earning my Lay Judge credentials. It was a great day for this, as unfortunately for the riders there were a lot of pulls for a lot of different reasons. As I said, this was good for me because I got to test my eye for lamenesses, see some metabolic warning signs, and even a few surface factor pulls. Needless to say, I learned a LOT. Good news too, is despite high pull rates, there were no treatments required, things got dealt with before they became a larger problem. The vets and riders should be proud.
Another interesting thing about being behind the scenes is seeing how riders treat the volunteers – whether things were going great or difficult. Lots of riders are sunshine and rainbows, but there are also a lot who are outright rude to the judges. I understand we are having trouble keeping volunteers in our sport and this would be why. Riders, please! Volunteer at least once as a timer, pulse person or a scribe and see it from the other side of the looking glass.
I know we get caught up in competition, dehydrated, tired, impatient, hot and cranky, but always slap on a smile and muster a “thank you” for those volunteers and judges. Remember, in our sport the judges aren’t there to pick at you and find reason to pull you, they want to see you succeed! If they are telling you something is going wrong or has the potential to go wrong, listen, thank them, and apply their advice. Your horse will thank you and your performance and knowledge will improve greatly when you engage every tool in your kit – your vet checks are critical!
Thanks to Dominic Glisinski for the video of the Summer’s End trails and Myriam Zylstra for the photo of me volunteering at the ride.