First of Spring 2002

I was sorting through my flash drive today and found where I had scanned a ton of my ride photos taken by professional photographers and saved them. I thought I had lost them when my *$%!& computer crashed in November, but apparently I did a better job of backing up certain things than I thought (we’ll not talk about all the other pictures, and steno software realtime translation dictionary, and writing that I lost). That got me thinking about how I’ve wanted to start trying to put together stories, even vague snippets, of my early rides. This seems to be as good a place as any to start…

So for your entertainment, I present to you, Mimi’s and my first NATRC ride together. This is the First of Spring ride, held in Alpine (just outside San Diego, around El Cajon), CA, in April 2002.

She would have been around 9, and we had been training for distance riding since summer of 2001. Dad’s foxtrotter mare Kelly had come down with EPM in the spring of 2001, and it was a slow road to recovery, bringing her back up to strength. We would literally trailer out to one of the trailheads, tack up, ride for half a mile out, then come back. We really embraced the idea of Long, Slow Distance training.

Fortunately, Mimi and I also had 4 years of POA show training behind us. POA shows were all-day affairs, starting at 6a.m. and usually not wrapping up until 9 or 10p.m., and we were riding all day long. Western classes, including pleasure, equitation, showmanship, reining, and trail; English classes, including pleasure, equitation, and jumping; gymkhana, usually 6-8 different events. Yeah, we were nuts. But it was a great foundation in stamina and endurance. And eating and drinking under stress. (This one was more for me, not the pony. To this day, I still have no problem chowing down on food in the middle of a ride, and it likely harkens back to my mother stuffing mini-muffins and anything she could get her hands on in my mouth as I’m spazzing out over a jumping class.)

FoS was a one day ride, and we were riding the Novice division, which was a total of about 20 miles. We were fortunate enough to be camped next to one of my best friends, Kaity, whom I had shown with in POA. Her POA Sonny is actually a cousin to Mimi, although they look nothing alike. Kaity had been riding NATRC for a couple years ahead of me, so she was able to give me a lot of tips and pointers.

The rest of the story gets kind of fuzzy, as it was seven years ago, and time has dulled some of the more colorful moments. I recall check-in being fairly easy…we had showmanship and halter training to instill good ground manners (kind of). Ride day, however, started out very interesting. Alpine is close enough to San Diego to catch the morning fog that comes in off the ocean. The trail headed out next to a paved road that wound back though some horse properties, by some avocado trees, and then it turned into a wide dirt fire road that wound its way down into the base of a canyon area.

Mimi discovered the joys of jigging 1/4 mile into the ride. We jigging down the canyon. We jigged across the floor of the canyon, whcih sort of went out, then looped back around through some oak trees and tall grass, where the ride photos were taken. We jigged back up the canyon to a P&R stop. We pulsed down, actually stood for mounting, then jigged our way the last 1/2 mile back to camp for lunch.

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I went to drag myself back into the saddle after lunch, but I think it was probably something along the lines of “What am I thinking?” And we continued to jig. Down the side of a 2-lane paved road, with cars going by at least every 2-3 minutes. *sigh* We finally got off the road, onto a double-track road that sort of went up and down through a couple little hills, then onto a single track that stitchbacked its way down a very steep canyon. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the start of my Tevis training and exposure to narrow dropoff trails…*grin*

And Mimi is still jigging. Inexperienced at distance and trail riding I might have been, but even I knew not to get into an argument with her on the side of a cliff, so she got to merely jig along with her head stuffed up Kelly’s tail until we made it down to the bottom, where she stopped jigging long enough to drink from the little stream flowing there.

We jigged our way another 1/2 mile or so to the second P&R check. We pulsed down, although not as well as the first one. (Hmmm, do you think the jigging is starting to catch up?) She deined to walk out of the P&R and back up the switchback trail. At this point, we caught up to Kaity, and rode with her the rest of the way back into camp, the same way we had come out for the second section. Oh, yes, and after a brief couple miles of walking, she jigged her way back into camp. *sigh*

The most amazing thing? Her back wasn’t the slightest bit sore. We both came out with first place for Novice Junior in Horsemanship and Horse. I was completely staggered, and so proud of her! The next morning, my shoulders and arms were so sore, and I wasn’t feeling quite so complimentary. But I had a six hour drive back home to nurse my sore muscles.

Man, writing that up makes me realize one thing: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” And that’s for both of us. A closer look at the picture will reveal: a Myler level 3 semi-jointed ported kimberwicke and running martingale; Big Horn barrel saddle with the horn still intact; massively stuffed saddle packs; waaaay too many rider layers; crappy paddock boots (actually, they’re a pair of nice Ariats I still own, just bad for trail riding and gaining any kind of traction on dirt). The stuffed pommel and cantle packs for a 20 mile ride still crack me up. Ironically, it took me until endurance to start realizing I didn’t need to pack half the cavalry with me. The joy of crew bags in endurance. :)

It’s pretty amazing…I remember a lot of odd details about that ride. I guess a first ride kind of burns an impression in your memory. Hope y’all enjoyed a little blast from the ride history past!

Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome!

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