As I sat around the lamplight, I met the individuals who had come from all over to ride in the heat for 25 and 50 miles. Despite the fact that almost every one was in my age range (late 40s to 50s), I felt like I was the twelve year old suddenly sitting at the grown up table.
They all talked about their horses and who they'd be riding. I talked to a gentleman who got into endurance about 10 years ago after he met a woman who loved to ride and now rides 50 mile rides on his beautiful arab who is 15 years old (or so).
I talked to a mother daughter team who had come out here to do their first ride. And that's where the trouble started. Ann, who is on the board for the Texas Endurance Riders Association, was just a hoot. I'd guess she's in her 50s, short hair, long LQ trailer, and a bigger heart. She talked about how she got into this sport.
"I used to ride cutters, and I had it all down. Girl, my buckles were this big," she said, showing me a dinner sized circle with her hands. She described how she and her daughter got a brochure or magazine on endurance riding and were just laughing at the riders in tights and helmets.
"The first time I came to do a ride, I had my hair done and my make up all on. I figured if I didn't know what I was going to do I was going to look good doing it!" By the end of the ride she said her hair was a wreck, her makeup had melted down to her chest and she was HOOKED.
"So, Winter," she said, smiling at me, "do you have a horse?"
"I sure do - he's right there," I said, pointing to Cibolo, who was blocked from her view by the large live oak. "He's a quarter horse, tends to get a little upset in big herds, so I thought I'd expose him to everything."
"YOU HAVE A HORSE HERE? Oh, you HAVE to RIDE!" she said.
She waved off my objections. "You can ride the intro. I'm going to be riding the intro, it's just 15 miles and I'll have my baby. All we're going to do is walk and trot."
"Walk and trot?"
"And there's only, like, 6 people."
The mother and daughter team nodded. "Just six."
Hmm. Walk trot I could handle. And Cibolo would probably do okay with six. And they were all camping within a 25 yard space us, so he was kind of getting to know them...
She leaned in to me. "It's just an intro ride. Very low key."
I took a deep breathe. Sure 15 miles was twice what I had done last week, but Cibolo was sound and I was willing to push myself physically.
"Ok. I'll do it."
And there was much rejoicing.
Later that night in my tent I heard the BO come by. "How are you doing?"
"Freaking out, a little, but excited."
"You'll be fine. He's going to do fine and you are ready for this."
I laughed. "Thanks. I can always walk, right?"
She laughed. "Absolutely."
Late that night the moon lit the hill as I headed down to visit the magic yellow room also known as the portajohn. I didn't need a flashlight, and Cibolo was awake, looking relaxed. Earlier I'd moved around in the tent and he had snorted a bit at the noise. I talked a little and he quieted down again.
As I headed back to sleep I decided I'd still see if they needed volunteers in the morning. After all, I didn't want to let anyone down.
At 6 am I heard the, um, concerns of Cibolo as Amigo got saddled up. Amigo is 6 but he's a very young 6. He acts more like a 4 year old. The BO was having a hard time administering her special mix of electrolytes and Amigo was having none of it - to the point of rearing. I stood by her to help, trying to be a calm spot in the storm.
"He gives me a hard time like this," she said, a bit exasperated.
I instantly felt guilty for complaining about the very minor issues I have with my horses on occasion. In fact the ride would end up being a reality check.
I found a Christy, but she was Chris, not Christy and the volunteer coordinator was still not in. I tried to pitch in here and there, but the crew was already in place and hard at it. So, with a little dryness in my throat I asked when I could register for the intro ride.
It was a good hour and a half before registration opened, so I took some pictures. Some of calm horses, some not so much.
Note she is not riding him. But later we talked
and she said he's doing fine - at home.
Cibolo and I headed over to register at 8, and I noticed a few more folks there signing up. Four right there.
Okay. Ten riders. That'll be okay.
Cibolo looked on with interest at all the other horses, he'd called out a few times on the way down, but no one seemed to pay any attention to their horses when they did that, so I decided I wouldn't either. He passed his vet check with flying colors. The check included:
- soundness check (trot out and back)
- pushing on his gums to check how he refilled
- heart rate and respiratory check
- gut sounds check
- muscle check
- dehydration test by lifting the skin to see if it would "tent"
We had an hour to tack up and ride. It was a pretty long hour...