Friday, June 25, 2004

Cooley Ranch Ride & Faith in Horse People - Sandy Holder

This is the ride story that wasn't . . . or better yet, the one that my faith in horse people was renewed. So now that you're probably scratching your heads (unless this has happened to you), I'll share with you 'the rest of the story'.

Wednesday before the ride: Wednesday's are always the greatest day before a ride. I'm always excited about the impending time I'll spend on my horse with an old buddy and meet a couple of new ones. This is also usually the day that I pack the trailer and the Suburban for hauling out to the ride on Friday. Why do I like to pack on Wednesday's? Well, it's because I'm a blonde (oops, that's unfair to the intelligent blondes out there), but I seem to always forget something if I pack on Thursday. Unfortunately the mare I have in my pasture with my boy had a problem and it needed to be 'fixed' before I left (developed scratches again). So, without going to bed way too late, having to pack on Thursday was the only option.

Thursday before the ride: it was a long day at work, with me completely antsy knowing that not only did I have to work all day, but I had a dinner with a client and then needed to go home and pack. Needless to say, in the spirit of not going to bed at midnight, I rescheduled the dinner. . . only to have to work until 7:30 p.m. anyway! Got home, got the things out of the attic, all the food (and then some - never like to run short), all the 'stuff' for two horses and my riding partner into the trailer and to bed . . . at 1 a.m. It's a good thing I have a wonderful daughter who will feed the ponies (horses) when I need help. Turns out that I hadn't even had a chance to load my friend's temporary panels that were being used elsewhere on the property (where a mud slide had taken out the fence). So off to bed with the knowledge that I'd need to get up real early in the a.m. and replace those temporary panels and attach them to the side of my trailer. Sheesh - but I was GOING to A RIDE!~

Friday before the ride: this was the day that 'all good things' were to happen. It seems that for some reason, luck would have it that I would today learn (better yet, be reminded) that there are REALLY great people out there, particularly HORSE PEOPLE!!! Getting out of bed at 5 a.m., I started soaking beet pulp (in 3 months of living on our new 'ranch', everyone is the house, including the non-horsey folks, have learned what soaking beet pulp is all about - but I digress). I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed down to feed my boy some much needed 'sloppy stuff' and pull the temporary panels from the plunging hillside . . . of course it took longer than it was suppose to. . . and then my truck wouldn't start (a really bad sign) but once jumped and a deep sigh, I was off to pick up my riding buddy, Dick Carter (yes, the guy with LOTS of experience, and lots of cowboy poetry - but don't tell him I told you). Needless to say, a fun riding buddy and one I'm continually learning things from. After stopping at Starbucks for some much need 'encouragement' (caffeine), we were as I put it "off to see the Wizard". Two hours later, stuck in traffic, we were half way there. Another hour and with smiles on both our faces, things started to go haywire. It's not ALL the time that a pick up truck pulls beside you and says - to your horror - "your brakes are smoking!" Our smiles froze and turned to frowns after a quick look in the rear view mirror (thank goodness Dick was driving).

YIKES, Oh me or my, that's one of the scariest sights I'd seen in a long time. We slowed, pulled off at the exit and took a right heading for what we thought would be the closest gas station. Another right turn and we were on a side street between a Toyota dealership and Car wash but a big enough area at the end of the short block to quickly and safely unload the ponies (our 2 Ay-rabs) before anything worse happened. Just then, even before we could breathe a sign of relief, we had a NASTY dealership owner come over and start giving us the 'you have to get those horses out of here, they'll ruin my business' litany. Ok Sandy (talking to myself again), Dick needs to handle this one. . . as I sometimes get a bit TOO direct in times of crisis (IMAGINE THAT?!). So I took the boys off the street and onto the shoulder to nibble on some weeds and stand in the shade. Of course, my faith in mankind was strongly rekindled when, much to my surprise, a car wash employee came over asking '. . . agua. . cabillo??' and after finally figuring out just what he was trying to say and acknowledging 'si', the car wash manager brought over a bucket of water for the boys. Wow! There are still wonderful people out there (I just voted them into the 'horsey people' category)!!

WHAT NEXT?!! Well, Dick being Dick, he found some folks in the parts/service area that knew some horse people that might be able to help us. My wonderful boy knocked my Blackberry device (combination PalmPilot/Cell Phone/E-mail device) out of my hands and onto the hard ground (did you hear it break? - course my husband would say it's a good thing, me off the cell phone). Calls to Morningstar Farms from Dick's cell phone (we were in Novato, CA) and although Kevin was busy, he put us in touch with Monte, the gal that runs Willow Tree Stables (none of these folks did I know before our 'need' but they were horse people mind you, and helping out when we needed it). 15 minutes later Monte was pulling up alongside the freeway (we were on the other side of a chain link fence), and tooting her 'we're hear to rescue you' horn. Thank God, somebody I didn't even know was coming to rescue me!! Goodness gracious, I still have goose bumps thinking about how relieved I was. Couple that with an educational call (yes, it says on my card that you DO tow trailers) with MoTow - my endurance motorcycle riding hubby had lovingly added me to his towing coverage - and we were mostly taken care of. I must say though that seeing my Circle J, 2 horse slant load bumper-pulled trailer on the back of a flat bed (a inch of tire on either side hanging over) was definitely . . . shall I say, spooky?! Hmm. . . the thought did cross my mind (of course my horses had already been taken away in another trailer) that if it 'fell off' that maybe I'd get another trailer! (naugh, I like the old one enough). So the horses were off to a nice 100 horse barn (they take good care of horses who need layovers by the way) and the tow truck driver was off to drop off the trailer. Oh, but the Opinionated (Dick says I shouldn't use Nasty), dealership owner had a few more 'instructions' for us before we left. . . . gRRRRR!~~

Still off to see the Wizard (ride camp that is). After checking in with Monte and making sure that the boys were happy (up to their hocks in good oat hay - thanks again Monte) we were off to Ride Camp. What, you say?! Well, HECK YEAH!~ What else are we going to do? Heck I'd actually done ONE ride so far this year (volunteered at one too), and one of my best riding buddies was going to do her first 50 (yes, she did it, even though I wasn't with her). So Dick and I headed to Ride Camp where we were quick to be picked up and taken care of on the volunteer circuit. Marci & Ruth run one heck of a good ride and even offered to return our checks (oops, am I suppose to tell everybody that?!). Actually, I think it was Ruth's ride but Marci was in charge of the volunteers (that be me) and early the next morning, gave me a pretty big clock and efficiently put me at the Out Timers box and Dick was doing P & R's (as he was the only one of us with a watch on). That was fun!!~ All day long I was thinking to myself, 'what are all the little things that people do or I'd like them to do for me at a ride?'. So I fed watermelon rhines to the horses, or alfalfa that had been dropped on the ground, rubbed their faces, talked to the riders, held a stirrup down when they were trying to mount with a loose saddle (I like riding with a relatively loose saddle as well) and/or held them back an extra 10 seconds until it was 'official time'!! Actually rubbing all the horses and pointing folks to the 'mounting block' (a cut log from a tree) or in the right direction was a lot of fun. Most folks don't know me and I don't know them but they were all really great.

We had to leave before the final ones finished (including my buddy) to figure out how to get our boys home. That was disappointing as Ruth and Marci had assured us that they were springing for a really good dinner (heard it was fabulous). After calling all the potential horse trailer rental places and finding out that they wouldn't let us rent (I have a supped up Suburban but its only a 1/2 ton - even though it has great springs, electric brakes, chip, large radiator - ooops, back to the story), we found a gal in Cotati that hires out/hauls horses and didn't charge us too much (what she could/should have) to get them home. I guess Karen understood that having to replace an axle is a bit expensive and was quite . She brought our boys all the way to Gilroy, her and her husband THAT NIGHT (arriving about 9:00 p.m.). Amazing, simply amazing. . . so many things could have turned out far worse and yet we were back home, safe and sound (yeah, we even hauled the trailer home on 3 wheels after having all the remaining bearings greased, packed and brakes checked). But for the grace of God and a lot of wonderful people, it could have been a whole lot worse.

My brain stopped functioning about 11:30 p.m. and I finally called it a night. Dick said something to me about 'functioning' and it literally went right over my head (until the next day!!). Looking back I can only say that when the going got tough, wonderful people stepped up and helped us out . . feed us (thanks again Marci and the other volunteer for that sandwich) and made us feel welcome (Monte, Karen and the car wash guy). My faith, not that it had left me mind you, was really restored!!!~~~

Lessons learned? Semi annual check on the brakes and bearings (they were done a year ago), AND, equally as important, be willing to always help out those in need as you may never know when "it" is going to strike you. . . oh, and yes, I could definitely take some charm school lessons from DICK!~!

Y'all take care now, see you on the trails or on Ridecamp. . .

~Sandy, Tally and the rest of the growing brood!!

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