If I have learned anything in the 12 years since I first rode in an AERC event it is this: pack everything, be prepared for everything, and most crucially, leave a corner of your coping brain available to engage when your plan goes completely sideways. Because it will. Inevitably, perhaps gloriously, and definitely whether you want it to or not.
The backstory and plan?
Attending a 3 day multiday ride a mere hour from my house. Scrappy and I were signed up for back to back 50 milers, looking to test our fitness with our first 100 miler on the docket for February. We'd had a frisky but still sensible completion at the Nevada Derby 50 in April, which told me I needed to play with saddle fit and get Scrappy working on the bit, a bit, any bit, since he Hi-Ho Silvere'ed through the hackamore I'd been riding him in since purchase. We spent May-November riding LSD miles and working in the round pen, and it was showing to the point where a friend riding him remarked on his change in attitude and body, admiring his recognition of half halts and proper carriage where previously he jutted his jaw and motored on his way how he liked. I felt like we had our shit together physically and mentally, I had back ups for my back up gear, copious rain gear for both of us for the storm predicated to roll in Friday night, a dry bed promised me in a friend's horse trailer negating need for my tent--surely nothing could go too wrong? (somewhere, endurance elves are snickering..)
I even cleaned up my pinto poopaloosa a little before we left for camp
wide open spaces...scenic but not ideal as we discover..
Ride camp was literally an hour away and a place that I've trained at fairly often if not actually attended rides at, so it didn't take long to find the spot buddy J had saved us and settle in.
ET phone home from on high
Scrappy and J's new gelding Shiner settled in nicely
cozy bunk in back of J's trailer
J bedazzling her pony, as one does!
I'm sad over the lack of photo evidence of our vet in trot out, as the trot out has been one of our projects over the summer. When I bought Scrappy in summer of 2013 he had already done a few rides including a 100 miler, and was entirely unimpressed and mostly unwilling to Trot Out as needed for vet checks, resulting in me dragging him like a dead thing at our first ride together. Mortifying and unacceptable, so we practice and at our last 50 we managed 2/4 decent trot outs. We've practiced literally every time I've handled him all summer and his barefoot trot out on this Friday afternoon was the bees knees, though I didn't exactly see it, I could hear and feel it, and I heard others say he floated.Why spend a paragraph on a 20 second occurrence? Because small victories matter, especially when the larger picture didn't get painted exactly as the human artist intended.
nomming a thanksgiving potluck hanging out with friends around the fire in ride
camp was a great way to spend the holiday!
Friday morning tack up was uneventful, Scrappy moved around a little but was pretty cool. I was concerned about getting J sent out in my spare Renegades as she was having boot issues, but otherwise all seemed well.
Dr. Jekyll chilling in his office
I do believe that he continued his bold polite walk for all 3 steps after crossing the official start line. Bold walk became shuffling trot which turned into excited surge, stepballchange, canter in place, stepballchange, undetermined gait sideways, then everyone's favorite Jot (jig trot!)--wait hey, there's a buck! No rearing to be had since we had lateral control and I was already serpentine-ing and half halting, to no avail. I can really speed up this ride story right now if I tell you that Scrappy and I did some version of that, plus circling and hand walking (and a lot of swearing) for the next 27 miles straight. If you're surprised there's still a few decent trail photos (or that I managed to eat or drink anything), let me assure you that only my years as a multitasking-to-survive trail guide allowed me to. The Dr. was out, Mr. Hyde was in residence, and the little human on board was effectually relegated to nonessential annoying accouterment.
Aurora: "hole! bog! ditch! We're gonna die!!
Scrappy: I IS INVINCIBLE AND RIDECAMP IS THAT WAY!
photo credit Baylor/Gore
Aurora: sonofabitchinhors--oh SMILE
photo credit Baylor/Gore
besides being a jackass about it, Scrappy was moving great and did all the
important EDPP stuff just wonderfully, I was feeling great and non-nauseous myself. Eventually we'll put that all together into a Finish!
a little pre-storm sneak peek weather way out on first loop
once you leave on one long loop, you don't get to run back to the
trailer for gloves, real bit, etc. so...OWW
Dr. Jekyll was back & open for sympathy visiting hours as I massaged his hindquarters & hung out with other riders who's days had gone sideways.
Cute, contrite, quiet, not a whisper of the terror he had been. Oh Scrappy.
So what went "wrong" you ask? Let's recap:
1.Scrappy now has around 400 AERC miles (made up of LDs,50s, and 1 100) with a variety of riders (3 different people competed on him previous to my purchase) and has gotten some sort of (inconsistent) notion about what this "trot for a while, get checked, do some more" thing is all about
2. Scrappy is on his 3rd year of a few rides and lots of LSD miles, so he's pretty darn fit despite his sleepy cow eyed exterior
3. Aurora needs to stop thinking that because Scrappy is quiet for conditioning and used to be quiet on the first few e-rides we did, he'll be that way again. That is, I DID attempt to do my homework over summer, working on control, proper body and bit carriage, **but all that jazz done by yourself or with one friend just doesn't translate to the herd on trail scenario.**
4.Snaffle bits are for home training (for now) and merrily starting the ride in any sort of group, or even with a partner, is a bad idea (for now). Scrappy had a combination of buddy sour and camp sour going on mentally it seemed. Even when trotting with J and Shiner he bugled back to camp..lol.
5.*everybody now!* Aurora needs to wear gloves!
Ready to go home haul home Friday pm
I think we are both ambivalent on feelings for each other in this pic, I just fake it better..
So there you have it. Best laid plans gone awry and a totally different outcome than what we'd trained and planned all summer for, but lessons learned and horse and human returned home in overall good health which, in this crazy game of life and endurance, is something to give thanks for indeed.
Regroup, retry! See you on the AERC trails in 2015.