Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My big NATRC Adventure

This is a blog written in reverse order. I'm going to write about the NATRC ride Maggie and I attended in Region 6 last weekend and then backtrack to other things (quite possibly in another post) and then talk about Indian Territory from Memorial Day weekend (if I still remember it when I get there) Since it will take awhile to say everything, and I may never really get it all said, I want to say up front that I had the best time in Missouri visiting my mom, taking care of my nephews and going to Silver Dollar city with my family and my friends the Linebacks of Georgia.

I decided to do two NATRC rides back to back. I know that this is something that people seeking the President's Cup do regularly, but this was a new undertaking for us. 

It was a new ride and it was in Missouri, where I grew up, but have never ridden.  The facility was the Flying R Ranch in West Plains, MO. They had covered stalls for all the horses and bunk houses for the people if one didn't want to camp. Maggie and I went anticipating that it could be 100 degrees, and got a bunk house room.  When we arrived, we saw that it would have been much easier to have camped. Not only was it NOT 100 degrees (but instead quite cool) it was a pain to park our trailer and unload our truck and take our stuff upstairs...we were very spread out.  If I go back there again, I will definitely just camp. The camp ground was beautiful and shady.  There was a general store, a tack store, and showers and bathrooms...this is a great thing for primitive campers such as we are. 

We arrived pretty early on Friday, but not early enough to go for a ride.  Of course, as I found out later, going for a ride around the ranch wouldn't have done us much good in competition since the terrain for the open competition trails was very different than the terrain around the camp. 

At check in on Friday night I began to get nervous. The management team was brand new and we were urged by the vet judge to be lenient and nice (which I think we all accomplished) the times were given in a range differently than I am used to having them. The min-max times as well. I am also used to management figuring all the times for the riders, which had not be done. So we were told we'd be going 30 miles at 4.5-5 mph and it would take us 7:15-7:45. This included 2 p&R's and one lunch stop.  A wise, experienced rider said to figure the time on 4.75, but someone else said the real mid-time was more like 4.8. I couldn't remember how to do the math formula to figure it at 4.8, so I used the cheat chart on the RMS system from the website and figured my time at 4.75, knowing it was actually slightly slower than mid. I had also figured it at 5mph which was slightly faster than min.  We were also told that the distances had been figured by 2 different GPS's, but I also know that GPS can be off by as much as 20%. I don't know how you would have figured the mileage on this trail without a GPS, but I suspect all the inclines and descents made the GPS inaccurate.

Saturday morning the weather was nice. We set off at a happy pace, but found by the time we got to the 2 miles we had been riding for 48 minutes and that was mostly at a trot. We had gotten a bit turned around in a pasture when there were ribbons all around us in the pink and yellow that had been used to mark the trail. I had notes that said we were to stay on the fence line, but the people riding withe me were sure I was wrong and I let myself be swayed since they were way more experienced in the sport than I was. So, we wasted a few minutes, but not that many...48 minutes to the 2 mile is not a good sign. At A we were more behind, but we got caught up by B because all the going between A and B was really good footing. I was scared at first because we had to ride beside a highway with a wide shoulder. Evidently horses riding down that shoulder is a common thing as many people waved and no one honked. No 18 wheelers drove by and it was all fine.  Next we came to a gravel road, which Liberty didn't think much of...then we were at B and it got hard. At first, it wasn't too bad. A few rocks here and there, beautiful forest and scenery. Then we started to climb up and down and it got rockier and rockier. Some spots were slippery, but mostly the footing was pretty good. We crossed a river (or a creek) many times and the horses had tons of water to drink. We arrived at our P&R, which was supposed to be 11.6 miles, over 25 minutes behind max...this is not good.  We had a lunch break and headed back out.  The next section was to be 8.4 miles and it was technical as well. There was one really sharp step down that had a turn in it that we had been warned about. The horses had to take a tiny step straight ahead and then turn left to go down or they would go straight off the hill. There was also a really, really steep bank we had to go up out of the river and we had been told to give the horse in front plenty of room, urge them to go fast and keep going and don't stop. They were not kidding.  About the time I thought I was at the time, I'd find I wasn't and I had to turn another switchback and go up another hill. The poor horses were really tired by the time we got to the top.  When we got to our next letter which was D or E (I lose track) we were actually back on time (well, almost)  when we got back to B we were verging on early.  (the trail in and out of "the mountain" was the same) Not really sure how that happened. when we got back to A we were feeling really good about being able to make it in on time.  We had our last P&R and saw the two mile we were relieved. However, that 2 mile kept going on and on and we remembered that 7 hours before, we had noted it was longer than 2 miles (turned out to be 3) so we found ourselves hurrying again and we made it in just before max time. 

My horse was tired. I have never seen Liberty tired before and it wasn't pretty. he didn't want to walk across the gravel.  I had unwisely not booted him because the trails I had been told about weren't that rocky and I have never seen terrain he couldn't traverse barefoot.  He vetted sound and all his parameters were good, though he did lose a P&R point at the second P&R, which is very unusual.  But he was eating and drinking good, so I put him to bed and let him rest with some grazing walks throughout the evening.

Sunday was to be 20 miles, which then turned into 22 (but maybe more, it's hard to tell) we all knew by now that the first rocky section was longer than it was supposed to be and our 8.4 mile section was really only about 6 miles, so most of open was a little concerned. We had the slow part of the trail, but not the short, fast part of the trail. The good news is that we didn't have that scary bank or the rocks to go down from the day before. Today the actual mid time was 4.63, but I figured it on 4.75 again, knowing it was a little fast.  In the end it made no difference.  We hurried all day long on anything that looked safe enough to go fast on.

I digress for a moment to talk about boots:  I had booted Liberty on all four feet and he still didn't want to walk on the gravel. I lost my back boots early. This is not so much the fault of the boots, more that I have never needed to use back boots, so I was unprepared to really use them. My front boots that have always worked failed me too, and I'm not sure why. The only thing I can figure is that my farrier got him really short this last time, which caused the foot soreness in the first place and the boots were too large as a result.  In the end (and this is huge for me) I think I have decided that if more training gives me the same problems, I will be shoeing for rocky rides like this in the future. I will have to practice with shoes and boots to decide for sure because, honestly, I don't know if shoes would have made that much difference. Maggie shoes Dixie for these rocky rides and she was foot sore too, so it's something I'm going to have to think about.  The horse that won open lightweight was booted all the way around, and didn't lose any, so it may just be that I need to work on some finer aspects to be ok. I like the idea of the boots over shoes in this situation  since the boots provided sole protection also, but since Liberty acted foot sore through the boots I'm not sure it would have mattered.

In the end, we were 24 minutes over max time coming in. I take full responsibility for our lateness. In the woods it rained and we got tired and it was slippery. Dixie was in front and I should have been paying more attention to how late it was. Maggie's watch was broken and I was the timekeeper. I should have put Dixie in the back and trotted more and let Dixie keep up with Liberty. I know one other open rider came in 21 minutes late. I know that the open heavyweight rider who won came in 4 minutes under max. So, it was clearly possibly to go the right speed for some horse...whether or not we could have made it in, I just don't know. As it was we galloped 4-5 miles making up time. Perhaps if I had pushed harder in the forest and on the mountain we could have made it. I just don't know. When we got back on ranch property, where we had been able to make up time before was now slippery and dangerous from the rain so that contributed to our lateness. I heard later some horses fell going up and down some of the short, but steep hills. Liberty could barely stay up right at times it was so slippery...and yet he never quit, till the very end.

Maggie says she will never compete there again. I say that I want to do it again so it doesn't beat me. It was the hardest trailer i have ever been on and I have a lot of respect for that territory. It was beautiful. I think that I would love to visit the Flying R ranch for fun. There is a great lake, fishing, swimming and the facilities are beautiful. I think I would like to compete there, but I think I would like to see the timing looked at a little more closely first.  We came in 6th (me) and 2nd (her) and we were tired. When we got back the horses didn't look so hot. I was really worried about Liberty the last couple days. I have never returned from a ride that he didn't take off running. He seems very flat and pitiful and it makes me sad. Today he is eating better and he seems to be walking more comfortably, but he is still lackluster.  Maybe we weren't ready for 2 in a row?

The obstacles were great. Judges Kathy shanor and Jerry Wiell thought up some great obstacles. I have some new things to practice. My personal favorite from Saturday was to do a turn on the haunch over 4 logs set up to form a cross with a circle in the middle. You had to ride into the middle and then cross the horses front legs over each log. liberty was doing great till he got sick of it on the fourth log and decided it was time to sidepass out.  We had to do a sidepass with the front legs elevated. We had to back them in hand over a log and then sidepass an L (didn't go so well because we were running out of time for the mad dash back) We had a gate and an up and down...standard fair.

We are supposed to go to KS next weekend to do another ride, but I'm refraining from making a decision until the beginning of the week. If I don't see some energy out of him, we'll stay home.  I love my horse too much to break him over a goal. As much as i"d like my out of state first or second, I don't want it at the cost of my horse.

From here we went to Corry Key's house in Arkansas, but that is a story all by itself.


Susan B said...

Sounds like a really nice ride if there's no rain, and a fair/good ride if there is. I'm thinking maybe he was footsore just from not wearing boots the first day, and as you said, perhaps he was trimmed a little short. I'm using Renegade boots, and just at the beginning of figuring them out. I will be very tempted to use glue-ons for competitions. If you learn to put them on properly they rarely come off.
I'm glad the ride went pretty well in spite of the foot issues. And I think you were right to go slower. It's not worth a fall or injury.
Susan Brehm

Alice said...

I know that Mary Anna would glued on her gloves in front and they did not come off. I would be tempted to do that as well. I admit to not being as serious about booting as I could have been. My horse never has seemed to actually need boots so I hadn't worked at it rally hard. On top of that he has always been able to keep his boots on just fine so I was surprised at the trouble we had. I like the fit of my epics so I would be tempted to glue them on. I have power straps and some gloves to play with but he doesn't have the right shaped foot for gloves really. I have never worked with hind boots and need to get on that as well. I will have a rocky ride in October that I will either cave in and shoe for or boot all feet...though we have done that one barefoot and been ok. I suspect that the extra sugar in the grass and the too short trim did him in. I have been trimming him myself and I should go back to that since I evidently do a decent job.