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July 17, 2014: Competitive Trail Ride Preparations

For the past few days, all Pete and I have been doing is getting ready for this weekend’s upcoming competitive trail ride. I did this once before, by myself, in 2010. And I did it in 2012, with Pete. I don’t recall, either time, doing this much preparation.

It’s late Thursday evening. Today I cleaned the trailer, the tack, the horses. I still have to clean my saddle. Pete’s already cleaned his. He also got the camping gear together and the food. We aren’t purchasing meals – it’s too expensive. We’ll camp and make our own meals, just like on long trips.

Getting ready has had its more mundane moments. The more mindless work has provided me with much-needed thinking time. Of course, I can’t help but think of what I will be doing under the duress of competition – and how I’ll go about doing it.

Alys and Raudi coming out of the Little Susitna River

Competitive trail riding, unlike Endurance riding, has a good number of predetermined rules. This event takes place over three days. There are two nights of camping in a set area. Horses are tied nightly to the trailer. Your camp is judged, your horsemanship is judged, your animal’s health and well-being is judged. All is judged right up until the very end. I made the mistake of relaxing on the afternoon of the final day – and not doing things right. (For example) Raudi and I rode on Siggi’s butt going over a bridge). I will not do this, this time.

My attitude about this event is similar to that of Terri Meilke. Yesterday she said “I like doing this event because I learn what I don’t know. And this makes me a better horseperson.” How true this is. In the end you get a score card with points for various things done correctly and minus points for things done incorrectly.

This is also an opportunity for me to spent time doing what I most enjoy doing – riding my horse. I now know that Raudi will do fine around other horses. And I know that she’ll go down hills nicely, which has not always been the case in the past.

This is also an opportunity to spend time with good friends. Pete and I right now have an emergent posse, which currently consists of us, Frank and Claudia, Heather, and a few other people we met while hosting our obstacle course/trail ride. Pete is doing the novice class (the one day ride) because we don’t want to push Mr. Tinni too hard. And I’m doing the competitive pleasure class (a two day ride) in order that I might ride with him on the first day.

We are trying hard not to think about the fact that Pete won’t be riding either Mr. Siggi or Signy. Rather, we are focusing on the fact that Mr. Tinni is going to (again) have a good time. (He won two awards two years ago. He was the high point lightweight novice and the best conditioned lightweight novice horse.)

I am also trying hard not to think about the fact that Raudi still isn’t sidepassing very well. I think we have a 50-50 chance of her getting it right. Well, if we can’t do this, it won’t be the end of the world.

We will do the best we can, and have a good time. And we’ll learn a few things that will serve us in good stead in our next Tolting the Divide trek. How is that for optimism?

Next: 196. 7/18/14: Lessons Learned: Like Clockwork