Summer and I did our first Texas Trail Challenge at Parrie Haynes Ranch in Killeen TX this weekend. It was a 9.5 mile loop with 9 obtacles. And what a beautiful weekend for it!
42 riders showed and 13 of those were in my class, I had the largest class!
First obstacle was a soundness check trot by with the senior judge Doanna, we in NATRC call her Doe. Anyway, Summer is a gaiting fool this morning, and we are gaiting past her, well, I didn't hear her when I was supposed to gait (or trot for trotters) over two medium sized logs. I tweek Summer's reins and she breaks gait for about 2 strides, I then hear Doe tell her secretary "broke gait". Darn it! My fault, not Summer's. Oh well, moving on.
Next obstacle, rope gate. We have done all kinds of regular gates but never a rope one. We did okay, but I will be setting up a rope gate at home because we do those in NATRC sometimes.
The next obstacle was a good one for me. Since I trained in patrol, you have to know how to read a Mapsco, I could read the map they gave us pretty good! The ranch foreman wanted us to point out on our maps where we were. I aced it! We were at a 65 degree bend fixing to turn left. I looked on my map found what looked like it and was home free!
The next was a down hill water crossing. Since Summer was born with gills, aced it.
The next looked like it could have been a disaster for some horses, but not for us...It was a junk pile, there was all kinds of stuff on the ground hanging on poles and a roping bull head stuck in the ground right next to where my class was to walk. I was asked to approach the pole on the ground, step over, stop and count to 5. Aced it. Why? You ought to see where I board. The are places on the property that look like Sanford and Son should live there! (smile) I told some folks that heck, we have been training for that obstacle for years now! (smile again!)
We go on down the trail and we are riding parallel to the road with a fence between us. Summer and I did most of the trail by ourselves. About 20 feet ahead I see something right next to the right side of the trail. I had a feeling it was a dead deer. I was right. I positioned myself in my saddle and got my hands ready but didn't really tense up. Summer had never seen a dead animal with me on her back, I didn't know how she was going to react. She was great! We got to it, it was a young doe, its eyes and tongue were missing and some of its entrails were out. Vulters. But it was not bloated or smelly so it was fresh. We stopped, looked at it, Summer said, "yes mom, it's dead, I don't think we can revive it." and we moved on. Too bad that one wasn't an obstacle. One of the older riders moved it later because of green horses possibly spooking at it. It was kinda gross.
We then came to a judge (there were five of them BTW and they were moving them around in trucks) who wanted me to have a halter, lead rope, knife and hoof pick. Check, check, check and check. NATRC training kicking in.
Then was a small down hill, ditch crossing, up hill, stop, back up the way you came. Summer and I have practiced this before. But at this moment she left her head back at the last judge. We did it, it wasn't pretty and we lost one point, but we did it.
The next was dangerous. After this obstacle I didn't care if Summer placed, this mare is never for sale! The foreman brought what he called a "bridge". It was a 4' x 4' platform about 6" high. That's not too bad, but, it was on 7" legs! It was made out of ply board and most of these horses had shoes on. His instructions were, place your horses front feet on the "bridge" and count to three. Another bad part about this was the grass was about 8" high, so the "bridge" looked deceiving to the horses eyes. Well, we were the first one to try it since we were leading the pack anyway. Summer tried, she immediately slipped off. I asked her again, she went down to her front knees, she got up and stepped off. I then asked the judge if it would hold all her weight, he said yes, I was going to step her up on it. So I asked her again, just knowing she was going to refuse, but she tried again. She got her front feet up, I said, "one" and she slipped off again. Right then I could care less if we placed, she did not hesitate to trust me to try for a third time. I love this mare and right then, I knew she loved me too. Had the thing not been on 7" legs, there would not have been a problem, but it was too high, ply board and her shoes did not make a good combo.
The last one was a dismount, walk in-hand to the judge, and remount. No problem.
We get back to camp and my friend Jan (she was about 10 riders behind me) and another friend Christy got in, we were talking about the "bridge". Jan told me her horse, Ace, did exactly what Summer had done. She said that the judge then called the ride manager and told her he was pulling the obstacle, it was too dangerous.
During the awards is when I learned that there were 13 in my class. I thought, well maybe we will get 5th or 6th I hope. I just wanted Summer to bring home something, she is such a smart and willing girl that she deserves it. Well, they called 6th, nope. They called 5th, nope. 4th, nope. I gave up, but you know, that "bridge" kept reminding me that a ribbon doesn't matter, but mine and Summer's partnership is what is the best award of all. Then they called 3rd, Tammy and Summer! WOOHOO! I knew my baby deserved a ribbon! I just love that mare of mine. I can only hope that everyone who loves horses will be blessed to either already have or will find that special mount.