Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fort Howes - Karen Cox

I was #2 to sign up for Fort Howes. The 35 mile LD.

My TB mare "Hey Rose" (Rosie) can be, uh, moody. I knew the excitement
of ridecamp would not help. My husband was travelling so could not be
there as my crew (and crazy horse handler) as planned. Just me and my
son and our stock trailer and tent in the "redneck section" of camp :)
We had some good laughs about that with the other tent campers.

Friday night Rosie was pacing on the hi-tie and stomping if tied to
the trailer so I thought I'd take her for a walk. While standing
talking to someone with her on the lead and she stomped her front foot
and caught me hard in the calf, causing a bruise that covered my
entire calf. (Thank you to the girl from Europe with the magic salve,
and to the Bozeman cowboys for the beer and frozen sausage icepack,
and advils). I thought there was no way I’d be able to ride Saturday.

My leg looked scary in the morning, but it wasn’t feeling bad enough
to keep me from at least trying the ride. I mounted up before the
start and Rosie, hopping around and being an idiot (again), tossed her
head back and bonked me in the head causing me to bail off. Thank you
helmet. She also tossed a boot. Instead of trying to put it back on I
just pulled the other one off. By that point I was thinking, if we
ever get going here, and you step on a rock, serves you right, we'll
have to quit and that's fine with me. So stashed the boots in my pack.
The ride began and I started at the back of the pack and within 100
yards from the start Rosie just. FROZE. I could not even budge her
head. I got off and walked her, back on, still no go. I only got going
with the generous help of another rider (sorry didn't catch your name
- but thank you!) that started late. Though a part of me was thinking
it might be a better idea to just stay stuck there forever.

The first 15 miles or so of loop 1 were a fight. I rode with four
lovely ladies for a while. I learned that the Arab trot is faster than
the TB trot but slower than the TB canter. So, we invented a new gait
that was trot in front and canter in back - or something like that -
the right speed but we boing boinged down the whole trail. Sometimes
we did an actual canter, which normally on this horse is like
gliiiiiiiiding, but not today. The last 5 miles or so she finally
seemed to settle in though. We cantered and galloped about the last
mile right before the vet check, thinking I might blow my pulse-down
but I didn't care because we were both having fun - finally. But we
pulsed in at 52, no problem.

I also learned my horse is now a real barefoot horse. At least at Fort
Howes, where the footing was great. I had never ridden her more than a
few miles without boots, but we did the entire 20-mile loop barefoot,
without a bad step, even over the rare rocks we encountered.

We got all A's at our first vet check, except for a B in skin tenting!
No surprise there as she was in a white froth and heavy breathing for
a good part of this loop, using twice as much energy as needed, and
not at all interested in drinking until the end.

The second loop I delayed my start to be able to ride alone and we had
a great ride. I was thinking this is as much fun as riding at home.
(Which made me wonder if I should ever try this again - but like
pregnancy, I'm over it now). I put the boots on a few miles out
because she just seemed a little slow on the shale road, and she
perked right up after that. We had such a relaxed ride I thought our
mph was way slower than the first loop- but it was actually faster.
If she could go like that the whole ride life would be much easier!
She was also drinking well on this loop and we ended up with an A in
skin tenting. B- on gut sounds so I'll work on getting her to eat more
next time.

After the ride I met some friends of the Stevens, non-riders that were
there just to help out in any way (including keeping the ranch clean
of gophers and gopher holes, thank you). And help they did -
cappucino, home-made sausage, and best of all, a gigantic ice pack and
a couch to sit on in their trailer! Not to mention great company.
Their friend kept my son and another boy occupied with rides in his

I’m glad I stuck it out to the finish. But phew, what a workout. After
all the bouncing, it hurts to move - even my fingers! But Fort Howes
is such an amazing beautiful place. We have a long dry season in
Montana so I was happy about all the recent rain and all the green. It
wasn't too muddy, at least on the loops I did.

I'm looking forward to doing it again next year. Thank you to the
Stevens family for putting this on. I hope they do it forever and I
can come back to ride it many times.

I looked at my ride picture and I'm grimacing in every one, but Rosie
(horse #2) just looks happy as can be. Grrrrr! I'll need to do a 50
mile next time and see if I can wear her out. If she can calm down a
bit next time I’ll be able to let her run some, and maybe not go for
the turtle award.

That's my "ride story"! I endured. I finished. I won (the monkey butt

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