Thursday, October 30, 2003

My First Ride - Nancy Reed

As I proof-read this I think about how beautiful the Pamo Valley is. As of this minute I believe it has not been touched by the fires. I pray for all of us in Southern California. Be safe and watch out for each other - human, canine and equine! Nancy

I wanted to tell you about my first ride. I am a newbie with a newbie horse, a 5 year old green Arab. Being an old newbie and a conservative rider I chose a CTR to start with. We did the 9th annual Ramona Rally and AHA region 1 CTR championship, on October 3-5. Let me first say that the location was beyond beautiful. The Pamo Valley in San Diego County is the land that time and developers forgot. The valley floor had a small stream with an oak and sycamore canopy. Cows were everywhere as were deer, coyotes and wild turkeys. The temperature was in the low 80's at mid-day with a nice breeze. One could not wish for a more perfect fall southern California day. I was scared to death as I did not have a horse buddy to bring from home. My greenie, Lyric has done lots of camping, but always with her buddies. She has never spent the night tied to the trailer. Did I say I was scared to death? She trailered the short distance fine, but boy was she awful in camp. She had temper tantrums, called out constantly and was a really BIG pill. It then dawned on me after I watched her pee for the millionth time in an hour - Oh s---, she's in season! Did I tell you I was scared to death? I brushed her getting ready for check in. I talked to her about what fun we would have. Lyric would have none of it. She hated the ride vet; refused to let him even look in her mouth much less press on her gums. And lunge/trot out, forget it. Lyric came from a show barn were she was religiously lunged each day. I can lunge her at home by voice command without a rope. But at the ride-FORGET IT. I was mortified. Next I thought, tack up and walk around camp. Maybe that will calm her down. Lyric thought that was a fine thing to do as long as I walked too, no riding. I was still scared to death as Lyric's behavior was the worst it has been in 6 months. By now I'm thinking I'll just say at camp and maybe drink beer instead of riding. Friday night my understanding husband told me it would all be OK and to get some sleep. Sometime about 9 Lyric decided to stop calling out and we all got some sleep.

On Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. horn honking awoke everyone and everything to a picture perfect day. Lyric started calling out. I keep thinking beer sounds good. Lyric ate everything during the night, including e-lytes and every blade of grass hay. She kept peeing every few minuses. I was scared to death, but figured we had come this far, we done all we could do to get ready, WE ARE DOING IT! I tried to eat some oatmeal (we call it gruel), but I got about 3 bites and gagged. I rechecked my cantle bag and all my tack. My husband helped me with the camelback water system and made sure I have some Cliff bars for later. I was ready to start my first ride. Who would I ride with; would some poor soul take pity on me and be my ride buddy? I know Lyric would not go alone - I did not want to go alone. I kept thinking I'd pull if Lyric unseated me and you know, drink beer. To the starting gate I went. Lyric started to rear, buck and have a hissy fit. I kick her forward, do tight circles, think of beer. Then I am saved, clutched from the jaws of curtain defect and rejection-by a junior!!!

Yep, Jayla from Riverside County came up to me and said, "Do you need some help?" I wanted to kiss her, but was still trying to stay seated. Flame, aka Olympic Flame, her 19 year old Arab gelding is calm and quiet in the face of Lyric's antics. I start to let myself hope we could do same of the ride. I thank God for my good fortune and ask for protection and blessings. Lyric starts to calm down and follows Flame out of camp. As we climb the first hill I am exhilarated by the beauty of the Pamo Valley and heartened by how Lyric is calmer with each footfall. Up the hill and past the ranch house we travel. As we reach the valley floor heading north, a coyote bounds across our path from the brush. Lyric calmly gazes at the running figure and goes back to her job, getting us down the trail safely. Yep, all those despooking exercises do work! Maybe we are going to finish this ride. About 45 minutes into the ride some photographers are waiting for us on the far side of a 20 foot deep arroyo. Lyric is sure they are going to kill her and pitches a fit. Tight circles one way then another. Flame and Jayla come back to rescue me. I put Lyric on his butt and she calms down and manages the arroyo without a misstep. Boy is she worried those women were going to do evil! The pictures document her worried face, pictures I will cherish for years to come. To make a long story short we finished the ride! Lyric was not perfect, but she settled down and went to business. Lyric went up and down all the hills and rode by cattle (they were scary!). Flame and Jayla kept us on time and in good humor. Lyric's metabolics were all A's at the vet checks but still would not let the vet check her gums. She looked good at the finish line after 21 miles. I hurt everywhere. Lyric hated those sneaky judges who attempted to hide on the trail and spy on her. She ate, drank, peed and pooped throughout the ride. We finished, no falls, no crashes and still a lot of horse left at the end. I was so happy, we did it.

I learned so much from this ride and have a LONG list of things to work on. For Lyric, it's time to learn to go alone down the trail. She may need a new saddle (no not that!), but I will see if the synthetic pad was the culprit first. I need to lunge Lyric several times a week, much to Lyric's dismay. My cinch needs to be replaced and I've ordered a mohair one. I also need to have all my friends and even passersby's look in her mouth. For me I must go back to the gym and do sit-ups and push ups along with other forms of torture. Jayla was so wise when she told me the rider has to be just as fit as the horse. More important, I have to relearn to ride without leaning to the right. This is a deep seated habit, based on holding my reins in my left hand.

I could not have dreamed this was possible without everyone on Ridecamp, all the knowledge, tips and stories. All the stuff about tack, e-lytes, training, and ride stories, etc. I am so thankful for this venue. Ridecamp got me to my first ride. Jayla and Flame saved Lyric from the "alone" monster and made our completion possible. I will someday graduate to endurance when Lyric and I are mentally and physically ready. That will take more training for horse and rider. And more Ridecamp. Thank you!

Nancy Reed
Lazy J Ranch
Elfin Forest, California

PS I am blessed with a family that not only tolerates a horse crazy mother, but came to my first ride to help and support me. Daughter Danielle helped with pulse and respirations while hubby Jerry tried his best to get me to eat gruel, as it has served him well for many years on hundreds of mountain bike rides. Thank you for loving me!

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