Sunday dawned another clear, beautiful day, with chilly temperatures until the sun cam up over the mesa behind camp. While it would be warm in the afternoon, we would be in from the days ride before we felt much of the heat of the day. Not far out of camp, we had another straight forward obstacle where we went up a sandy rise out of the wash, turn, and come back down. Good for judging body position, and good to see if the horse was listening, anxious, responsive etc. to the rider.
Hank does not question this sort of deviation from the trail, as we do it all the time at home, and calmly went up and back down. Then up through their badlands, slowly rising up towards the tree line.
Today I seemed to be able to look around more, and enjoy the scenery, and not stare at the footing in front of us. The footing did not change, and still had some spots that one really needed to use caution, but I was able to not try to micro-manage his ever footstep. As the morning sun started to rise above us, Hank and I cast a shadow out across the sand. It reminded me of the photos I took about a year ago, after his surgery, when I was just starting to get back on him, and ride a little. I remember thinking how blessed I was to have him do well with the surgery, to actually be able to ride him again, and see that shadow of he and I together. And who would have thought that I'd be again, looking at that shadow of us together riding over 700 miles from home, as we competed for national awards.
I was able to ride with a couple of the riders who knew the area, and they pointed out different areas, views, and told me what they were. Off in the distance was the rock referred to as "shiprock", and then I was shown the 100-150' wide road down below that the coal trucks run on for miles and miles across the land to the coal plant. I will admit that my very first impression of the area and trails on my Friday afternoon ride was that it was not very attractive, but after seeing more of it, and riding through the canyons, washes,and up on top of the high mesas, I found it did have a very unique beauty.
I have driven I-40 many times, and have viewed the mesas that spread out across the landscape, and wondered what it would be like to ride up to the top of one, what the trails would be like, and now I was given that opportunity.
Today we had two P&R stops, and Hank again got through them with no point loss. I never had concerns about any P&R in the past, but after he had some pulse points lost this year, I actually fret about them a little. This time as I stood next to him, his eyes closed, him very relaxed, I tried to picture a heat beat thumping nice and steady and slow. Shoot, who knows if it helped, but he is so sensitive to my emotions at times, I figured it could not hurt.
We had another straight forward obstacle, or observation, where we climbed up a steep section of trail, where they have built sort of steps, or erosion control with large RR tie type lumber. So along with the soft dirt, they horse had to step up the wooden step, turn sharp to switchback to another, and another before we reached the top. Because it was fairly steep, for the rider to stay up off the horses back, some (well, that would be 'I') had to grab mane, thus only having one had on the reins to guide the horse up the hill. Hank again was responsive, paid attention, and did not feel the need to choose a better route in his mind.
We had one final obstacle out on the trail that was more set up, that just watching the horses handle natural situations. They had put some large wooden poles out in the shape of a Z, and we were to side pass over it, doing a turn on the haunches at one of the corners,and a turn on the forehand at the other. I gave Hank his pre-obstacle peppermint, and we headed to the logs. This is where the always thinking Arabian mind will often take over. He knew we were going to side pass as I lined up, and as I asked him to move off my leg to the left, he did so very willing, although a bit rushed. Got to the corner, and he stepped over the log, but I was able to get him set back up, made the corner, and then next, and we were done. I was very pleased, as he did not refuse, or try to out think me and change directions. lol He got it done. Not super pretty, but more utilitarian in style. Another peppermint for Hank.
I had listened to his metabolic checks all weekend, and kept everything straight in my mind, and did not think he lost any condition points. His back was great, and I again silently thanked my Specialized Saddle for the ability to adjust the fit as he had changed in weight earlier this year. At check out he moved nice, and even had a few other riders say how nice he moved at check out, and they wished their horses were so willing to trot out like that. Overall, I was very happy with him for the weekend, and had enjoyed riding him in yet another part of our wonderful country that I had yet to experience. The folks in Region 3 have been more than welcoming to me at the 4 rides I was able to attend there. Always a warm hello when we arrived. Never did I get the feeling they thought I was an outsider, or intruding on their region. Not that any region made me feel unwelcome, but I got to spend the most time in Region 3 this year, outside our own Region 4. I hope I get the chance to go back that way and enjoy some of the lovely rides they have to offer again. Some of the most beautiful I have ever experianced.
I started packing, as I figured we would be done with awards early enough, I could start heading home. I'd rather get him home, and in his pasture for an extra day, than having an extra day on the road. About the time I was all packed, they called for awards. Our class had 5 in it this time, and I got 3rd in horsemanship, and Hank got 3rd in horse. When I looked at our score cards, the vet marked on the Z side pass "Poor, -2". Oh well, a hard hit, but I was pretty pleased with how he did it, even if the vet thought it was 'poor'. He lost a point for stepping outside the ribbons on the back up the deep sandy hill, and then a point for checking out with a MAW (movement, attitude, willingness) of a 4, after checking in with an enthusiastic 5.
I loaded the boys up, Thelma took her spot in the back seat, and we headed home. Driving half way, to our RV park with corrals, then the second half of the drive on Monday, Hank and Flag were out in the pasture before sunset on Monday afternoon. Taking off in a hurry, to grab bites of grass, roll, and trot around telling the others of their travels to another ride.
Next ride is this weekend, here on our home trails! Only 12 miles from the house! Whoo Hoo!