Thursday, February 17, 2000

Far OUTTTT Forest With the Kid: Part I & II - Howard

The kid and I were raring to go. Jennifer hasn`t shut up about THE RIDE since ten days to takeoff and I was getting kinda edgy myself. Even though we have never come close to placing in the top ten at any of these endurance rides, we always think we have to potential to do so. Some egos never die, and my kid`s idea of competing kinda keeps feeding mine.

Course I just hope to complete, cause when you ride a 17 H Saddlebred, you don`t always get to finish. I had returned my other Saddlebred (Skeletor), that I was leasing, to his owner cause I was having serious weight problems with the horse and knew he and I were not a match. Even though he was one of the craziest horses I`ve ever ridden (you`d think that would be a match right there) I just could not keep weight on him no matter what I did. For the Far Out Forest, I was putting all my chips on Dance Line, the tallest horse at Ridecamp, no matter where I go, who has had some leg problems in the past. My pull rate at these endurance rides, with Skeletor or Dance Line, is almost 50 percent; Jennifer, riding her Arab, has never been pulled at a ride.

The big day finally comes. I think one of the reason`s Jennifer loves these rides is that I usually pull her out of school a day or two so we can get to camp early. FOF is the closest endurance ride to my house, a 55 mile trip, if you can believe that. If only they were all like that I`d be in endurance heaven.

We get up early, wife is hanging around watching me pack up (actually I started packing two weeks ago), just laughing her butt off at me because of my nutty way of doing things. When I bought out the duck tape to seal the cooler (and, yes, I did put the food in first) she had to hit the bathroom she was laughing so hard. One of these days she`s going with us and I can`t wait till she sees me cook with an alcohol burner that is so old it has a born on date of 1944. I lit it on one trip and 8 foot flames started coming out of this tiny burner filled with alcohol (did I buy the right stuff?), igniting a tree that I had put it under (duh) and melting my tea kettle and the cooler I had been using as a table underneath the burner. If you camp close to me you must carry a fireman`s ax, fireproof blankets, and a water hose.

I finish packing everything I can think of loading and do the last thing that I hate doing. Loading the horses. Now Jen`s horse, Rebel (yea, I know his name is Politically Incorrect), loads real easy. Walks right in. Skeletor was a pain in the butt and Dance Line is not much easier. Dance is sooooooooo tall and his neck is sooooooo long he has to put his head down quite a bit to get in my rather tall trailer. And his body requires two spaces in my three horse slant load. But I have learned a trick or two and I`d tell y`all what I do, but some of you might try it without me, and if I`m not there to show you how to do it, you might injure your horse a bit. So it will be my little secret. I get Dance Line in using my "method," hook him up and notice his back legs are still on the ramp. This guy is so long I have to special order any blanket to get it close to covering his butt.

I figure I`ll just get behind him and push him in, but as I go to exit the trailer, Dance starts freaking out and pulling hard on the trailer tie. I "exit stage left" as quick as my little legs can move, watch Dance pull back so hard the rubber mat slides from his back legs to his front and down goes Dance`s body, all except the head, still attached to the tie. The break away didn`t break; and I`m actually kind of glad. Maybe he learned something there. Dance stands up quivering, I yell at him to get his body completely in (he does), raise the ramp, close the top and know I`m off with a couple of first class nags and an 11 year old who is gonna talk my ear off the next 55 miles.

HEY, Gotta go to work but I`ll finish it (sometime), promise.



The drive was uneventful, except for listening to my daughter talk incessantly, the entire trip, without taking hardly a breath for air. I actually knew the way to this campground; I was there last year. It was the Far Out Forest ride where I pulled my horse, even before I started, during the pre-ride Vet Check. I reluctantly did this after hearing the advice of the head vet (he was supposed to be there this year and is my favorite vet of all times) and from an endurance rider who was a reliable friend. Tendon problems are not good ones and can put your horse out of the game permanently. But I had heard some phenomenal comeback stories, endurance related, and I was planning on Dance being one of them. Actually, I was kinda praying cause I was having insecure feelings (non Jesse Ventura type) about my horse`s legs.

And here I am driving to the same ride with the same horse. Look up the word stubborn in a dictionary and you`ll see a picture of me and my horse. We were returning, this time accompanied by Jennifer and Rebel, to a ride so close to my house I wouldn`t pass it up even if the entire ride was one big sand dune (it isn`t). As I drove to Doe Lake I attempt sending telepathic thoughts to my horse, Dance Line. I tell him I consider him a superior, athletic specimen, whose Achilles` heel is a left front tendon. I mentally transmit, "Dance, OLE buddy, if you get us thru the 35 miles of deep sand at this ride, your status will be elevated highly in my back yard. I will let you pick the gait for most of the ride. As God is my witness (I love "Gone with the Wind," sorry), you will be adored as no horse before you (hey, it is telepathic thought, so I embellish)."

Unfortunately, Dance was too busy worrying about the mat he uprooted from the floor of my trailer (I could feel the back end sway every so often as I drove, especially when I made a turn or stopped) to answer me. But I knew he and I would have plenty of time to discuss it, face to face, before the start of the ride tomorrow morning. I had left the house by 10:30 AM (I got up at 6 to put the finishing touches on my packing, haha) and hit Doe Lake by high noon on a beautiful, but brisk, sunny day with not one cloud in the sky.

As I pulled into the Ridecamp area, I noticed not too many rigs were here. This surprised me because I remembered at the ride last year, this time of day, it was twice as crowded. And Jean`s ride, at Osceola last month, had a lot more riders and rigs. I started wondering if, maybe, the deep sand and the three vetchecks outside ridecamp were the reason for the lack of riders. Oh well, I know just the spot I want, way back in the corner with Lakefront property. And I take it.

I set up the portable corral in record time (for me under 30 minutes), exit the horses, look at Dance making sure he`s OK (he is) and start out with the tent. I had made the mistake of letting Jennifer run off, not realizing I needed her to help me with the poles. So I wander to search for the kid and to see if any riders are registering. I check for my wallet, with my fresh AERC cards in the front pocket (I have it), and wander towards this huge pavilion meeting hall they have here. The building has a fireplace, which I figure will be popular later tonight.

I find Jennifer, say hello to a few folks and go into the hall. Only one person in front of me in line. Yesssssss. Too cool. Then, as I`m standing there I realize I forgot to bring the Coggins papers. Duh. So, I leave the Pavilion, say hello to a few more folks, who have their stuff together, and watch them form a line that was nonexistent a few seconds ago. Damn.

I force Jen to escort me to our campsite, get her to help me erect my Wal-Mart tent special that sleeps 6, and then let her wander off again. I go back to the Pavilion and get in a line that isn`t too long. Looks like lines will not be a problem at this ride. In front of me is Jean, from Osceola, and I talk with her a bit. During this time Jennifer and her friend join us for a couple minutes. Jean looks at my daughter, then at me and proceeds to tell the tale of The Far Out Forest Pervert who molested and killed a young girl and then killed her family somewhere near here a couple years ago. Not far from this very spot, in the same forest, that is to be our home for the next three days. I look at my daughter and wink, hoping she will think Jean`s story is fiction, which I find myself also wishing. My kid needs her sleep tonight and if Jean`s tale keeps her up or gives her nightmares I`m gonna be pissed in the morning.

Jean finishes her tale, I don`t let her know she`s irritated me a bit, and we finish registering. I grab Jennifer again and tell her we`re gonna beat the vet line today. We hurry and grab our two horses, and I notice my new female neighbor has just gotten herself stuck in the sand next to our campsite. Before I leave our portable corral with our horses I go up to her and ask if I can help. She`s in a foul mood and tells me help is on the way. Good thing cause my 2 WD diesel wouldn`t be able to get out of the hole she`s dug her truck into. I leave with the horses, feeling I`ve been a good neighbor, and Jen and I hit the vet check area, with only one horse and rider in front of us.

The vet doing the check is the best I`ve ever seen at an endurance ride, so I listen to him pass on to the rider in front of me some valuable information concerning horse conformation. He has spotted something with her horse`s front legs. He has her horse do a figure 8 kinda thing and the horse comes up lame in one particular direction, twice. The vet kinda knew this would happen before it did, which amazes me cause the horse looks pretty good, in my opinion. Anyway, he doesn`t disqualify the rider but does give her some advice concerning this ride and I look at Dance and think, "It`s showtime, and I`m not gonna mention last year." We breeze through the check with all A`s and then I get to watch my Jennifer.

I`m not sure if I told you but even though Jen is 11, she could easily pass for 7 because of her height. Since I have a living Grandmother (she`s 85) who is 4"10" my genes have to take the responsibility for this part of Jennifer`s physical appearance. Riders in line watch her trot out her 15 H Arab, and are usually impressed. So is the vet and he talks to her the entire time, hardly looking at the horse (I`m joking). Rebel gets strait A`s also, and we hike back to our camp. I spot Truman in line, he yells out something funny about my horse ("It sure must be colder up there on top of that mountain you ride"), a few other riders in line laugh, and I ask Truman why he`s not wearing shorts, since that`s what he wore at Osceola when it was 35 degrees outside. I can`t retort as well as Angie, off the cuff, but I still give it a shot.

A few of the riders in line next to Truman laughed (out of courtesy I think) and Jen and I go back to our campsite. No one is camped next to me, except for the STUCK LADY we have for a neighbor. I ask Jen if she wants to see if her friend Samantha and Samantha`s Mom (St. Sandy) want to ride with us, after they vet in. Jen takes off to ask them. I`m realizing that Sandy is the only Georgia buddy I got that`s showing up at this ride. Sandy has too much class to bother me while I`m napping, so this might be a good thing, even though I`ll miss the drinking company.

I relax and have a beer. Find some food, eat and realize I`m nap material all ready. Jen comes back and tells me Sam and her Mom are saddling up. Damn, there goes the nap, but it is a beautiful day. By the time Jennifer and I are done tacking up Dance Line and Rebel, St. Sandy and Samantha ride up to us and say Hello. The four of us leave the camp area on horseback and head out around Doe Lake.

We ride a bit, Sandy says something about my tights asking if I`ve lost weight. I tell her I might have, I`m down to only a twelve pack a day right now, a drastic reduction. haha. I canter on ahead, Sam and Sandy want to take it easy cause they`re doing a 50 tomorrow, and end up ahead of the other three so much they`re out of site. Jennifer had decided she wanted to stay behind with Samantha. I come up to some camp area and notice a woman who appears to be sunbathing. She must be a Yankee, cause it`s too cold for most Southerners to be in a bathing suit today.

I ride a little closer to the young lady, just to make sure she`s OK, and notice something quite unique about her. She`s totally naked, trying to get that all over tan. Wow. I wonder if she`ll want to come over and pet my horse? haha. I decide to stop wandering towards her, even though it`s really what I want to do, because the camper next to her might contain a male or guard dog (is there a difference?) and I don`t think either one of them will want to pet my horse.

So I just wait for the gals, admiring the view, the young lady catches me looking, smiles and waves. This gives me the incentive to wander over closer but then I hear the other horses coming my way. I ride towards St. Sandy and the gang, not wanting them to think I`m some kind of pervert or something. I don`t tell anyone about the naked lady and we continue on our ride.

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