Unintended Consequences

The water obstacle at the Trail Trial photo courtesy of Kitty Carlisle, Projections Photography

I discovered something at the TnT clinic that I did not expect to find. It upset me very much. Dolly was looking for Po. I hadn’t had her out with other horses since he died over a year ago, so I knew she might be a little silly, but I didn’t expect that. The first thing she did was buddy up to the horse in the stall next to her. At first, I thought she was yelling for him, but later realized he was standing right next to us. She kept craning around and staring of into the distance at all the other horses and screaming her head off (right in my ear, which makes it a bit difficult to listen!). Of course, all of the feelings of loss and grief began to surface in me, on top of the fact that I felt terrible for her, on top of the fact that she was screaming in my ear. I decided I needed to get her out more!

So yesterday, we trailered over to Smith Valley to do the annual Alzheimers Ride at the Hunewill Ranch. There is a Trail Trial, followed by the ride itself. I decided to sign up to do both. My goals for the Trail Trial were simple: walk quietly between obstacles on a loose rein, wait quietly for your turn at obstacles on a loose rein, don’t get silly about the other horses. Notice that my goals had nothing to do with the obstacles. I figured I’d just do what I could and not worry about scores. It would be good experience for Dolly and give purpose to what we were doing. We didn’t do so well on some of the early obstacles. She wanted to rush when she needed to stop and relax, so that’s added to the list of goals for the future. But, basically, Dolly tried at every obstacle and did very well in between them. She screamed once or twice, but the only time she got concerned was when a group of 4 horses we had been following disappeared into some willows up ahead and she wanted to catch up.

The ride itself started right after we finished the Trail Trial. There must have been maybe 50-60 horses there. I rode with my friend Sandra and it was a beautiful autumn day for a trail ride through the cow pastures. Except that it wasn’t exactly an “autumn” trail ride. After the first dry pasture we rode through, we hit the wet. And then more wet, and even more wet (it was a wet year!). It was kind of the Mud Bog Alzheimers ride. Fortunately, I had double taped Dolly’s Easyboot gaiters with Elastikon so they stayed on the whole ride. Dolly was just a little champion about going through all the boggy, marshy and creeky stuff. I was very proud of her. Sandra’s horse Tesega was reluctant at first, but by the time we had waded through about a mile or so of boggy stuff, even he was squelching through the bad spots like it was old hat. About halfway through the ride, Sandra noticed there weren’t very many riders behind us anymore—I guess a bunch of them turned back at one of the ditch crossings because it was so wet!

Dolly was quite tired by the end—I had been in the saddle for almost 4 hours. When we got back to the trailer, she got oodles of good cookies and a well-deserved roll (giving new meaning to the word Claybank). Then I left her with hay and water and headed over to the barbecue. If you are a local and haven’t done this ride before, it is well worth it just for that part. There is always lots and lots of great homemade food and good live entertainment. In fact, it is worth it just to show up for the barbecue even if you don’t want to ride—there is a run you can participate in before the rides or just make a $30 donation to Alzheimers research when you get there. There is also a silent auction and a raffle that you can join in on. So we were sitting around eating when they announced the winners of the Trail Trial and Dolly and I came in second in our division! How funny is that? (It has occurred to me that there may have only been two people competing in my division, but I can live with that.) I won a nice leather punch that can live in the horse trailer and Dolly got a few more oodles of cookies. To top it off, I won three of the raffle prizes. In the end, Megan Hunewill announced that we had raised over $10,000 for Alzheimers Research.

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