The Old Dominion weekend 2021 did not go as I envisioned after the amazing 50 mile ride from Camp Bethel a month ago. I’m so grateful.
It appeared that Khaleesi had finally made her come back and I assumed full speed ahead into some 50 mile rides with the end of the season potentially doing a 2-day ‘hundred’ or back-to-back 50s at Fort Valley in October.
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9
On a 25 mile training ride in mid-May we crashed hard on a dirt road and everything spun down the drain in front of me as my horse bled profusely from her deeply cut knees still 6 miles from the trailer. If you haven’t read that story you can find it HERE: Have Mercy Blog.
I didn’t know what would happen or how the healing cycle would go, but it was clear my best laid plans were being derailed. My most basic hope was that this wreck did not permanently damage my favorite horse in a way that might be bigger than just a ride postponement.
If you caught the update on the Emily Kemp clinic at the end of May, you know the healing was bordering on the miraculous and though I considered the real possibility of not being able to participate at all, we rode in the clinic and in fact got a lot out of the work together. K seemed to refuse to accept she was injured.
With 2 weeks to the OD I knew regardless of how great she was healing, it would be a mistake to push her into competing in a tough 50. So I shifted into alignment toward what turned out to be the better plan A.
I would originally have competed the 50 on Friday. Iva & Hope had planned to try the intro ride on Saturday. The intro ride was about 12 miles and would give the two a chance to see how the horse takes to ride camp, being separated from Khaleesi, taking on some rugged OD trails, giving electrolytes and making sure the horses eat and drink.
Instead I scrapped the 50 and volunteered Iva and myself to drag ride on Saturday. I would give Iva and Hope an ‘intro ride’ myself while simultaneously volunteering to help as a safety rider behind the 100 mile riders giving back to the sport in a small way. With this plan I could personally help Iva understand the riding aspect of endurance which is a small repayment for all the help she’s offered crewing for me and K over the years.
Turns out heavy rains the week of the race took a toll on the already challenging trails and after dozens of horses churned it up they were a sloppy mess. The rain continued on and off Friday through the competition and I was grateful I hadn’t entered. The ride is tough enough on a good day. K and I have finished both the 25 and the 50 of the OD and it’s hard on the horse.
I didn’t end up feeling we had missed out, I felt we had been spared.
This is not the last ride opportunity of our career together!
The first loop of the 100 mile competition was our drag riding assignment which was great because we were ready to go for the ride start. Both K and Hope were not too excitable and we had no trouble. We did however have a snafu connecting with the drag rider manager and didn’t get out of ride camp with our radio and official vests until almost 30 minutes after the last rider.
That combined with the fact that we weren’t running 100 mile horses, we rode the loop safely (and in these conditions it was slower than normal) and turned into the first vet check after the last rider had already left the check into loop 2.
This created an unusual complication for loop 2. The original loop 2 riders were Griffin (a friend of mine) and a woman had to pull out late notice due to a family emergency. K was doing so well I volunteered to ride loop 2 with Griffin as long as we had not trouble in loop 1. So just arriving into the check and needing at least a couple minutes before heading out to the next segment for my horse to get a drink and snack- I was now the hold up of the loop 2 drag rider departure.
A new plan formed from ride management and we shifted once again.
Iva and Hope got a ride back to camp with volunteer extraordinaire Dale Weaver while Griffin and I were sent via separate trailer to the next vet check to ride loop 3 instead. We would wait at the 2nd check until the last rider went through but if there was concern we had fresh horses to go back into the 2nd loop for a search and rescue.
I am pleased to report that Hope and Iva made it back to camp without trouble and Hope had no concerns separating from K (we did wear her out!) and K hardly noticed when the trailer pulled away with Hope on board. She had work to do.
Buddy separation: check.
Griffin and I enjoyed the nicer 3rd loop (the second has to be the most grueling and my least favorite!) and at the end of the segment we came upon a rider hand walking a horse struggling with metabolic concerns (not eating or drinking). I’m glad we were on that loop to keep them company the last 2 miles.
Considering the wounds K was healing from had meant some of our training for the OD 50 was spent in recovery and limited movement, I was very pleased for 30 miles on Saturday of riding with some technical terrain and good climbs with the mid day heat and humidity factored in as well. It turned out to be great training.
Something I am getting better at as life goes on is making plans to the best of my limited human ability, and staying aware that I don’t have all the information the creator and sustainer of the universe does. He now has my full permission and cooperation to interrupt what I have in mind and redirect me to a better course. I have come to learn He has my best interests always at the forefront and cares more about my horse even than I do. I never want to force ahead when He’s trying to signal me to slow down or change course. This doesn’t mean I’ll never hit resistance or forces that come against my path, but I’d rather have the backing of the God of the universe while I’m facing difficulty than to be out on my own going rogue!
Looking back, even the wreck on my training ride turned out to be a miraculous amazing experience that showed me what is possible when I relinquish the death grip on my goals and watch carefully for the better path. When I find this better path it isn’t always the easiest, but somehow there is a “smoothness” to it where things work even completely in spite of what one might expect from the circumstances. Even my injured horse was able to work through a horsemanship clinic while healing with amazing speed and strength and then shifted into a 30 mile OD style training ride where I was able to give back more than I took which was a real blessing looking back.
There is a saying that slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. This is how I see our path in the season I am in. There is a LOT going on around us right now. We came back from the OD weekend to 3 new horses in the herd, that’s a big transition and will mean regrouping some things in the short term. I’m building on some new ideas working with local people (especially kids!) who can use some help with understanding horses, I’m organizing all the details of the August Emily Kemp Clinic, I have a book in the late stages of printing, and summer brings some music opportunities with both students and my own professional services. If I were to have to control it all I would be overwhelmed.
Instead what I’ve found is something will come to the forefront and I address it. Other things hang on the periphery, with various stages of priority and that sometimes changes as environmental factors adjust that I cannot control. When I step back just enough and trust I see clearly what to do next, what must wait, and how far to move before shifting. It doesn’t always line up the way I thought, and I find myself like a good dance partner softening up to be led in places I might have wanted to push through my own agenda.
At the moment the march toward a single-day 100 is not a straight line path. I am a straight line thinker which is also in line with my predatory (as opposed to prey) nature, just ask my horses! It seems curvy and one must slow down a bit in order to manage the shifts with grace. Yet I am beginning to see purpose in it, and often the fastest way between places is actually NOT a straight line. Sometimes a zig and a zag expertly navigated can weave us around landmines we cannot see.
The next competition I have in my sights is Big South Fork in September. I will stay in tune to the signals if that is indeed where we will end up next. Sometimes the plan changes to move out a planned ride, but occasionally the opposite happens and an event is moved up the timeline as well. It’s always fun to see what will come!
Slow is smooth…
Smooth is fast!