My horse surges forward willingly, almost 20 miles under his cinch and he doesn’t care one bit. We are picking up the pace because Summer and her crew are hot on our heels and I don’t want the fight I know I will have if they go by us at the speed they are needing to maintain to make their window.
Soaking rain two nights before, the trails are good but there might be a slick spot here or there. We are winding fast through closely set trees, this way, that, watch your step buddy, atta boy.
Royal extends his trot at my ask, ears up, completely cheerful. His feet land perfectly, my balance is good in the saddle and even though we are moving at a pace hard on a chubby gal to maintain that long, it’s all good. We are winding up our very first Competitive Trail Ride and we are having a ball.
(photo credit Sandy Cook Ries, thanks for all your help and guidance, too! same with the one below)
I should have let Summer push me just a smidge harder. They made their window, I missed mine by one minute, costing my horse and I a point a piece. I shrug, a point, how bad can that be?
Royal takes third place in his division scoring 97 out of 100 possible points. The three dings were all me. That one, late, and setting him up for an awkward offside mount causing two steps = two points. No mistakes on his part whatsoever. At least while the judges were looking anyway.
I took fifth, the mistakes were mine to make and I was not surprised by any of them. Roadmap for me too but pretty darned exciting to place at all in our very first attempt!
About five minutes into the ride that morning I have figured out some very important key elements to playing this very fun game.
Take more than one time keeping, pace tracking device!! Mary Anna Woods (of Elmer Bandit fame) rattled off a list of watches, stop watch, gps, and I said “all of them? You run them all?”
http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2010/02/116.shtml#axzz34efidX2H) Check out their story. Getting to meet, talk to and ride with this amazing horsewoman is a highlight of a very wonderful weekend.
With over 22,000 logged miles in the saddle, I’d guess she knows her stuff and the blank face of my gps told me I should have brought at least one more . . .
The other key element was have a plan and then change your plan when you hear a better one. Mary Anna was coaching her ride partner and I sidled up close, shamelessly eavesdropping.
“You going to ride with us?” She asks me cheerfully.
“No, I am going to ride by myself. My horse is not good in even small groups, right now but if you don’t mind I’d love to sit in and plan some strategy.”
Her plan, walk out slow for at least two miles. It took her that long to find Elmer’s brain. If she blasted out, it was a mess all day.
Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like my horse, thinks me.
Yep, she says. You fight them, they get stronger, you get weaker.
Yep, thinks me, been there, done that, horrible results.
We walked out on a loose rein. I am riding the horse that shows up and this is the one I have been hoping for. The Arabian is interested in the goings on but not high, not overly excited.
I time my ride staying a bit behind Mary Anna and Fran Smith, and a little in front of my fellow Distance Derbiers, Kerri Weir and Julie Mruz. I figure, I might not be exactly sure of my time but I know they are and I will find out where we are at a stop, sync up with my phone, decipher my map, re-adjust our pace and all the other things that go along with riding a CTR.
It goes well. Royal settles at the obstacles and it doesn’t take much at all to precisely place his feet where I think our legs ought to be. I get dinged on my wretched forward leg on the uphill obstacle, Royal gets an excellent ++. Way to go pony.
At the pulse and respiration checks he hangs his head, relaxes and his big kind heart beats sweet and slow.
Pretty much perfection, right? Those parts were, for sure. Then there were the two different times, allowing other faster riders to pass us by (which they did with perfect etiquette and courtesy appreciated by me if not my horse) and the whirling and spinning that ensued told me I needed to nip that crap in the bud or the horse might go on the ride without me.
The third time that happened I got in front of the action instead of reacting to it, met his resistance with my own plus one, bumped him with the snaffle bit until his ear rolled back to me and his feet slowed solidly under us. Enough of that, Royal. I will keep you out of trouble where I can but I am not tolerating this behavior a moment longer. Oh yeah, and I believe I will use as fine a touch as I possible can so as to not send you screaming over the tottering edge.
If you ride long enough and work hard enough, you might get to experience that feeling of when your horse is your partner, his legs are yours, your mind and will are together and he follows your lead like it’s his own idea. We are getting there.
The Arabian lost his brain a few times along the way but it didn’t stay lost and the happy steady guy that is showing up in the skitzoid’s place is priceless. That he is pretty and talented does not hurt but without heart and brain, he would have been down the road long ago if he were just another pretty face.
A little sour and worried the Friday night before the CTR clinic and ride weekend, I grouse about some who knows what. Tammy Vasa looks over at me and says “you know, Terri, two months ago you didn’t know if you could even get him here.”
Well true that.
There’s a lot more detail to how very cool the CTR weekend was for us . . . We camped, Royal stood tied, patiently for the most part. I gained more education on how to camp safely with my horse and a deep appreciation for how hard a staff might work to put on an event such as this!
You know I am going to credit our successes to riding with Peter. I know I get that “true believer” blaze in my eyes when I talk about what has happened since I really got serious about taking on his kind of horsemanship. It can’t be helped, it is only the truth of what has taken place.
The things I have learned riding with Peter Campbell are why my lovely boy and I are objects in motion, CTR, trail ride, horse show, it matters not. We load up, saddle up and get after it.
Last night, riding Cunningham Lake in the moonlight with Colleen and a couple other friends, I start to lose my calm. My horse jigs, anxious ears, tight hard body. I breathed a calm I did not feel, caused my muscles to relax, ask for a soft feel and the horse bumps back a couple of times but then softens to my hand. His neck loses it’s wicked arch and he walks, tension dissolving from us both. Take the lead, Ter. Take responsibility for your mental and emotional condition and your horse will follow.
Notice in the photo to the right, Royal is calmly allowing not just one but two horse to walk out in front of him. Huge!
Today I headed off down the road to the first horse show I have ridden in years, first one for Royal ever. My heart beats in my chest where it belongs. I am also finding my peace and my faith in my horse. I am not going with expectations. I have no attachment to any results. I am hopeful for partnership with my pony and some more good times.
In this photo, Royal is wearing my old English bridle as the pretty one I borrowed did not fit. In total LACK of proper preparation I have left the girth to the dressage saddle at home and a kind soul provided a saddle for us in which to ride the English classes for which we have not practiced. I was adjusting leathers as we headed for the ring, got them too short but oh well, here we go!
When it comes time for the Western classes, well heck we tried out the curb bit and one handed riding for a whole 45 minutes the other night so we are set, right?
In my own defense, the original show date conflicted with the CTR and I had no thought of practicing or getting ready for it til I realized it had rained out and we could actually attend. It’s a very fun saddle club show with a group I used to ride with and plan to do so again.
My horse is really a deeply tolerant fellow and I will tell you, for the most part today he rode like a dream and my wish for partnership, true unity, was more than answered. The parts that were not dreamy I will answer to and for. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but these great days make it all worthwhile. Can’t wait to see where we go from here!
There’s been a LOT of help from our friends along the way and I am so glad I am at a stage in life where I no longer have to know everything, either do it all on my own or have you completely do it for me. Balance, man, it’s all in the balance.
Gather the bright spots, the golden moments. Remember how you got there. Build on them and don’t get distracted when things do not go well. Ride your own ride and allow those around you to ride theirs as well.