Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore

OK, for those who just want the quick results, Hank and I both won first. For those who want to read on, here it is, and, keep in mind, blogs are just that... telling folks who are interested, what is going on.

Thursday AM I headed out to the pasture, and called Hank to the barn. Took my calling a few times into the 4AM darkness for me to finally hear the hoof beats of the horses as they came across the pasture towards me. He had his pre-travel mash, and then a quick bath. I’m sure he was very put off by my scrubbing him before the sun even came up. I tossed his polar fleece cooler on him, loaded him in the trailer, and we hit the road. Thelma had taken her place in the back seat. An hour from home, I went back and removed the cooler, and tossed a light sheet on him. He was dry, and the sheet would keep him clean.

I have made the trip up I-35 through Oklahoma a few times now, but had not been on into Kansas in a few years. This time of year it is very green, and the countryside rolls out ahead of you as far as you can see. We hit the Turnpike, and I always feel captive on it. If you have never driven one, they have very few exits, and if you do get off, you have to pay, and then get another ticket when you re-enter. Every 50 miles or so, they have a gas station, and McDonalds in the center that is “free” to exit if you feel the need.

Hungry for a Big Mac or need fuel?

Even when you go through larger cities, you will have very few exits. Finally we reached the Topeka area, got off the Turnpike, paid our $15 toll for using it, and headed on into camp.

Camp is at Perry State Park. Our area has mowed grass, with plenty of trees. I joke when one arrives early, it can be more difficult to choose a place to park, as you want to make sure you get THE perfect spot, as you have most of the camp to choose from. I only moved one. I have shade for Hank, the dog, and some on the camper for much of the day to keep it cooler.

A slight breeze has been blowing, and it was just beautiful Friday morning when I got up. More riders have started to arrive, and I think I should go get Hank out for a short ride. I had been told that the area had a lot of ticks, and had sprayed Hank well with Adams flea and tick spray, but upon return from our little ride, I picked off about 30 ticks. I went to the wash rack, gave him another bath with Adams shampoo, then rinsed him with Adams dip. He still had some ticks on him at check in. Tough little buggers.

The ride meeting was to be at 8PM, and I had been warned ahead of time that the meetings at this ride usually run a tad long, so even though it was not dark until a bit after 9PM, I took my light. We finally got our maps around 9:15 or so, and then still had to go over them, and then figure my times to all the points before heading to bed. Different regions handle the map info different, and I am used to getting mileage to each spot, and also the time to each point. This ride gave us the MPH, and final time window, and distance to each point. So, I got to bed about 11PM after figuring times to points and was up again at 5AM for a 6:30AM ride out.

Our Saturday weather was slightly overcast, and not overly warm. Even got sprinkled on a bit. I was about the 5th or 6th horse out, letting those who knew the trails lead the way. We had an observation of a steep muddy downhill not far out of camp with the Horsemanship judge, and then the vet had us canter, stop, stand, and canter again. I felt a hump in Hanks back where he was feeling good, but he was polite, and did not buck. We really moved out early along the edges of some fields that in general had some good footing.

Not knowing the trail , I had also been warned it can be slow going in some areas. We had a lot of cross roads, and places the trail split that often took some thought and reading of directions to make sure we went the right way. They had some wonderful point riders that met us at the tricky intersections and directed us the right way. A stop and back up a small hill for both judges before we headed out on to an Open only loop that took us out through some woods that had some of the most technical and “trappy” footing I have ridden all year. Lots of former creek crossing, that due to rain earlier in the week, became boggy / muddy crossings, that almost always had steep descents and ascents down and up out of them. Along with the mud, they usually had a lot of rocks, some larger that the horses often had to step on, and hopefully keep their footing. Hanks logic on these crossings is not my logic. He prefers to walk down nice, leap the bog, and land half way up the other side, do a second leap, and then we are usually at the top. Makes for some excitement. He has such a strong hind quarters, I think it is easy for him to do this. Making him walk nice up these hills in the slick mud had him slipping, so it actually did became my preferred method too. We trotted where we could, but walked out for most of this section. The brush was thick, and I was glad I had a few horses in front of me to gather most of the ticks.

As we came off this section, we had a metabolic check. Finally our first P&R. Most riders in Region 6 pull their saddles at the P&R’s. I watched Hanks heart rate on the monitor for the first few min., saw it was going up, and yanked my saddle too. Different heat and humidity level than we usually ride in. We had a good score, and were off to camp for lunch. Again, moved out along the fields.

When we arrived at camp, the vet was doing a metabolic check and soundness check on the Novice / CP riders as they headed back out. I had to wait to make sure the timer got me timed in, and then went to my trailer. Hank ate well, drank, and was a happy pony. I headed back to the timer about 5 min. early, thinking we too would have a vet check, but no vet. I asked a couple other Open riders, and they said the vet stopped them as they arrived, and they did their check before lunch. Great, I was NOT stopped, and had now missed a vet check, due to no fault of my own. I was obviously pretty tweaked, as I did’nt know how they would handle this. We had a horsemanship obstacle, and I informed the ride manager what happened, but would not see the vet for about an hour or so on down the trail. We were now over on the other side of the trail system, with more muddy, boggy sections, and lots of woods. Moved out when we could. Finally got to our second P&R and the vet did a metabolic check on Hank as we arrived to make up for the one they missed at lunch, and then another on all the horses as we left, including a judged off side mount. We had to move out a bit to get in on time, but not horrible.

After arriving back to camp, and taking care of Hank, the vet came around to check legs, backs etc., and had me lunge for soundness, since they missed me at the lunch stop. Hank had a few odd, uneven steps, but we were lunging on a bit of a slope. When I moved him to the flat, he was fine. Thankfully the meeting was much earlier tonight, and I was to bed at a reasonable hour.

During the night we had some thunderstorms blow through. I got up and stuck his rain blanket on, and put Thelma in the horse trailer. But the morning looked pretty good, with some cloud cover as we hit the trail for another 21.6 miles on top of yesterdays 33 miles. Since we were on a lot of the same trail, I timed out first, and rode with Mary Anna Wood, owner of the famous “Elmer Bandit”, She was riding a borrowed Fox Trotter who was HUGE. He and Hank got along great. Again, move out on those flat trails, because we knew after last nights rain, we would have more mud.

Mary is a hoot to ride with, as she has awesome stories of her travels, and we found we knew some of the same people through odd connections beyond the obvious of NATRC. We were doing well on time, and even found ourselves WAY ahead at one point to the times we should be at their points.(ahead as per what they said was mileage to that point, and what our times were) But then we started to have concerns, as we had not had our 2nd P&R, and it was getting closer and closer to the end of the ride.

Mary then said “we have been out here 4 hours, or 20 miles, and have not reached the 2nd P&R, and the trail is only to be just shy of 22 miles”. We started pushing, and came in to the 2nd P&R at the beginning of our 30 min. window to be in camp. We let them know, and it was commented everyone was having the same issues. We were in the shade, but no breeze. Hank had the best incoming P&R of the whole weekend, but I yanked his saddle, as I knew this was going to be tough to cool him. I dumped water on him, and he relaxed, but still lost a point on pulse. I tossed the saddle on as quick as I could, asked Mary if she would be offended if I left, as she still had to resaddle, and she understood. We headed out, and when we hit the flat trails, really started to push. We had not got to the 2 mile point sign, and had about 10 min to get to camp without being late. Came around the corner, and the vet was there for a metabolic check to help speed up the final check out in camp. While I got my few min. of wait time back while waiting for the horses in front, it still messed up our rhythm we had for trying to get back to camp as fast as possible. Since we had not been told that all riders were given extra time to arrive back in camp, even thought all seemed to be running late, we needed to try to arrive in time to not get penalized, or even disqualified if over 30 min. late. When we left her, Hank was ears up, ready to go. He was terrific moving out where we could, and coming back and slowing down when I asked through the muddy/rocky stuff. We flew along at a canter on the open trails that were more dry in the sun. I have never been late at the end of a days ride in all our years of NATRC, but today that would change. The last sprint was along the dirt/gravel driveway in camp, and Hank was galloping. When we stopped, he was blowing pretty good, but dropped fairly quick, and looked really good at the trailer after I got his tack off, and food in front of him.

The ride ended up with I’d guess at least half of the riders in all divisions late. After about an hour or more from arrival, we had our final check out, and Hank was sound, and an A on Movement, Attitude and willingness, and his back was terrific. (Thanks to the Specialized Saddle, it has been terrific all year, even packing my not so twiggy like body) We were not informed of any time penalties, so I had assumed that we were good, and management worked things out. I personally had very few holds on the trail, as we were usually the first at each judging point, so knew I was indeed “late”.

While waiting for the scores to be done, and awards, I started packing up for the drive home, and took Thelma for a good walk. She was very good all weekend, and even charmed the neighbor out of some pork chop scraps. The weather had turned warm, well, hot, and sticky / humid. Thankfully it was not like that for the ride itself. Finally, it was time for awards. As I mentioned at the beginning in the “spoiler” for those who did not want to read the whole story, Hank and I both got 1st in Horse and Horsemanship. Got a $50 gift cert. to a Kansas Western Store, but I can order on line. I think it is time to get another pair of Ariat Terrains. I got our score cards, and saw I had indeed received time penalties. When asked about being notified, an announcement was made that this was unusual, and that they did not have time to tell everyone, and that they’d like to make this the official announcement of time penalties. It was also mentioned only a couple placings were changed because of the time penalties. It was indeed, VERY unusual, and I was not sure why we were not told at final check out.

So, you might think that is it, but the trip home was pretty interesting in itself. I tried to nap before leaving, but my mind was going over all the events of the weekend, and I could not sleep. So, we loaded up, and hit the road. As I reached Topeka, and grabbed some food, I saw lightning all around us. Called hubby to check radar and he said storms were kind of everywhere, but running right up I-35. Great, driving in heavy rain is not fun. But, I got on the Turnpike, and watched the lightning in the distance to all sides of me.

My dash cam of some of the weather around us

For 200 miles, I had storms get close, light up the world with bright, close lightning, but had NO rain until I pulled off at an Oklahoma truck stop to rest. Then it poured for 30 min. or so. I gave Hank a mash, and swung his divider in the trailer so he could mover a little as we rested. I hoisted Thelma into the camp (she weighs 75 pounds) and headed to my bed for some sleep. But Hank decided he was done resting, and it was time to go. He danced around, he pawed, he fussed, and he moved the rig. Guess he was not tired after the almost 60 miles of trail this weekend, and wanted to get home! I managed a few hours through his fussing, and then finished our drive on home. Really, all I can do is laugh at him, as he has such opinions on things, and this time it included when we should be on the road. When he was turned loose, he grabbed bites to eat, rolled, trotted around, grazed, and seemed to show off to the others again, and knew how special he was from doing well again.

This weekend was a lot of lessons learned. First lesson was to always give any hold time I might have at an obstacle, even if it is only a minute. Next, it is polite to wait for the rider behind you at an obstacle, and actually good horsemanship. But, if the obstacle is long and drawn out, that time can add up to a few min., maybe more. On a ride like this one, I could have used that time. I’ll still wait for riders behind me, but it is just something that I was thinking about, as we are on OUR time when we wait for another. Thankfully, it is very unusual to have the timing as such to need every last min. to get in before our max. time allowance. And now, looking back at my score card, and considering all things, I missed a vet check, but it was not my fault, and I was not judged on an equal level, as my horse had a metabolic check hours after the other horses, and they trotted circles ridden, mid day, at lunch, not at the end of the day lunging. I should have spoke up, but one does not want to cause any ‘problems’, and I do understand that things happen. So, while I am happy that Hank did so well, and very pleased with how much he had in the motor when I asked him to give me more than he should have ever been asked to do, galloping at the end, I did not have that elation type feeling like I have at other rides this year when he has placed so well.

I loaded my GPS track from Sundays ride to Motionbased, but because of the trees, it had a lot of sections that it lost signal. But here are the stats from the last P&R back to camp, which was about 3.5 to 3.75 miles. It has the P&R, and us not moving as part of the stats, along with the stop for the metabolic check. And disregard the 38 mph max speed, as I don’t think we went THAT fast.

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