Saturday, March 14, 2009

Extreme Cowboy Race

The Rocky Mountain Horse Expo is always a lot of fun and last year's Expo is where I heard the casting call for "Horse Master with Julie Goodnight", so the fact that the Expo turned my little girl Estes and me into TV stars (yeah, right) will always endear the Expo to me.

This year, I was a little disappointed (OK, a LOT disappointed) that Julie wouldn't be a clinician - the first time in 15 years - but, I was super excited about Craig Cameron's "Extreme Cowboy Race". The XCR is a timed event in which the horse and rider are scored on their ability to complete 13 different obstacles and the rider is scored on his or her horsemanship. I'd given serious thought to asking Ida to ride Estes for me, but one look at the $250 entry fee had me thinking again.

After watching the race, I really wish I had entered Estes - she could have done all of the obstacles, though I might have had trouble with a couple. Side-passing over logs and backing between fence panels may have done me in. I'm not so fond of the jumping either, but it wasn't like Hunter/Jumper jumping, just little 18" jumps to simulate deadfall, so I'd've been ok.

While I love watching the XCR (check out some videos on YouTube), I just worry about it becoming an "event". Versatility Ranch Horse competitions were a lot of fun to watch until they became so regulated and people started training their horses for the "events". What I loved about the Versatility Ranch Horse competitions when I first saw them, is that they were (or seemed) real, something that any "real" ranch horse could do. Now, the horses and riders train only for those competitions; there are no real working ranch horses in them, only expensive, over-trained, pedigreed horses.

My fear is that XCR will succumb to the same fate. Already, there's an XCRA (Extreme Cowboy Race Association) and that's the first step in becoming an "event". So while I'll continue to enjoy them and contemplate entering, I'll also be mourning the slow death of a competition that was once for anyone with a willing horse.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wheelin', Horses and Gunpowder Therapy

What a great week!

Wheelin'...I've been working my butt off at work, feeling every ounce of resposibility for getting almost 200 students scheduled correctly, grading done and new classes set up. So I was really, really looking forward to last weekend. RockCrawlinChef and I had been planning for MONTHS to attend the Rock Zombie Outlaw's Winterfest with his truck, Tinkerbell, in Parker, CO. I couldn't wait for a weekend away - I wasn't going to spend one second thinking about work. We loaded up Tink and took her on down to Parker. I've never been rock crawling, but I've been looking forward to it for a long time. RCC did warn me that we wouldn't be doing any actual rock crawling, but four-wheeling (yes, there is a difference), as the obstacles were designed for "normal" four-wheel vehicles, not big girls like Tink. Didn't matter, I was thrilled to be going, to get to ride in Tink "for real" rather than "for pretend" like around the block or at the Christmas Caravan for Kids/Toys for Tots event.

We found our way to the event site, unloaded Miss Bell, climbed up her big 49" tires into her cab and we were off for a lap to get the layout of the land. Miss Bell, for some reason, was not very happy. She kept stalling and being belligerent, but RCC kept coaxing her on. We managed to make one small obstacle - a short slope downhill with a water crossing and back up the other side - when she became even more belligerent, so we turned around to head back to the truck and trailer to figure out what was going on. We powered up the hill leading back to the parking area and RCC decided that he'd check the transmission fluid. Hmmm...not good. She had transmission fluid, but it was obviously burned and was a little low, so RCC topped her off and climbed back up into the cab only to find out that Tinky no backy. Somehow, she'd lost reverse and we could now only go forward. Not a big problem, but Tink's a big girl. Her turning radius is somewhere around a half a mile. Without reverse, we were dead in the water. No wheelin' for us. Ten minutes or so after we unloaded we were done. We loaded Tink back onto the trailer, very thankful that she was stuck in forward not reverse, grabbed the Flip (camcorder) and headed down to the Zombie Graveyard to watch. Despite not being able to participate, I had an amazing time watching everyone attempt the Graveyard, which is a fairly difficult water crossing with loose boulders on each slope to navigate. There was lots of carnage (wheel-speak for tipping over and/or breaking of vehicles) and tons of audience participation. I heard one woman say that she loved the event because you don't even need a vehicle to have a good time. I whole-heartedly agree!

I was disappointed that our weekend away turned out to be a weekend at home afterall, but it felt so wonderful to spend Saturday outside in the sun after being locked up in my office for what felt like weeks on end. I even enjoyed the free dermabrasion from the wind and river silt.

Even though I had a wonderful time on Saturday, I was still feeling a bit stressed out at work and decided to play hookie Tuesday afternoon. Monday, I sent an email to my collegues telling them that I would be unavailable from Tuesday at 1:00pm to Wednesday at 6:30 am. I had no intention of even thinking about work, the students could manage for one afternoon/evening without me, any schedule problems could be handled on Wednesday, I was outta there!

I checked the weather and found that Tuesday was supposed to be almost 70 degrees! In March! Score! I called Mom and Bill to see who wanted to join me for some equine therapy and planned to spend Tuesday afternoon with my baby girl. Turns out Mom had guests checking in, but Bill was in desperate need of equine therapy so we arranged to meet in Lyons at Ida's pasture.

As I drove alongside the pasture, I looked over to find the horses and what do I see but Ida's red truck dragging the field and the entire herd, Mom's grays in the lead, following the truck in circles. Ida was like the freakin' horse Pied Piper. Bill was just a couple of minutes behind me, so I called him and told him to watch as he drove up, but by then the show was over, the horses had decided that no hay was going to fall off the back of the truck and the ground up cow manure blowing in their faces wasn't a whole lot of fun.

Ida saw Bill and me when we walked out to the herd and stopped to chat for a minute. I asked her if she'd seen Estes' picture in Trail Rider Magazine and she told me that she had bought the magazine. It's not often that the horse you raised and trained shows up in a national horse magazine, even if it is just an advertisement for Julie Goodnight. Ida went back to dragging the field and Bill and I set to catching our horses.

Estes gave me a little attitude about being caught, but was fairly easy to catch. She just had to let me know that it was her choice to be caught. Of course, the treat in my pocket and the curry comb in my hand may have helped her decide not to be a poop about being caught. She loves being pampered, especially after her stint as a TV star. I groomed her, scratched all of her itchy places, and pulled chunks of mud from the feathering around her hooves. I think if she was a cat, she would have purred.

The whole time I was grooming her, Bill was trying to catch Ranger, who was being a poop about being caught. Ranger was definitely in "wild horse" mode; he didn't want to be caught, and by God, Bill wasn't going to catch him. Funny how that attitude changed once Bill cut him from the herd and wouldn't let him re-join it. I was long done grooming Estes and had run the curry comb over a couple of the other horses in the herd while we watched Bill walk off Ranger. Doc, one of Ida's younger geldings with a wide white blaze and blue eyes, decided that I was a-okay and groomed my hair for me while Peanut, her big bay gelding, snuffled and helped Doc groom my ponytail.

Ranger finally ceded to Bill and allowed himself to get caught and groomed. Once the halter was on, he was magically transformed into Bill's mild mannered dog.

You know all is right with the world when you're sharing a beautiful, albeit windy, day in the foothills with some of God's best four-legged critters.

...and Gunpowder Therapy...
I went back to work Wednesday absolutely refreshed and ready to go (even though RockCrawlinChef and Digger had spend the night playing not-so-musical bathroom due to an ugly stomach bug). But my wonderful week wasn't over yet! I still had a GunDiva reunion to look forward to! Glenna, the other GunDiva, finished her book and revisions and was ready for some Gunpowder Therapy. I love shooting, but haven't been since I got my ass handed to me at the August Defensive Pistol match last year. Since I sold all of my guns a couple of years ago, I've been shooting borrowed guns and one in particular I just can't get a handle on. I tried and tried with this gun, but it just wasn't working for me, so while I was really, really looking forward to shooting with Glenna, I was also dreading shooting that darn 9mm. Last night as I was falling asleep, I remembered I had a .45 to shoot and I even had some extra rounds in a couple of my old magazines. Yay!

I woke up ready to go. The GunDivas haven't spent any quality time together since before RCC and I started dating, so even if we didn't get any shooting done, it would be wonderful to catch up with her. I unloaded the 9 from my shooting bag and replaced it with the .45, determined to do better this time.

We long ago decided that quality shooting was better than quantity shooting, so we knew going out that we'd only shoot a magazine or so. It's all about technique and precision when we go out, and the last couple of times we had gone (forever ago) I had finished up completely frustrated. I felt like I had to master that 9mm and the harder I tried, the worse I got. I knew going out today that I might not shoot any better with the .45, afterall, it's been seven months since I've had any trigger time and that was not a good experience.

Shouldn't have worried. We did some dry-fire practice, just presenting from the holster and lining up our sight picture for warm-up before going live.

1st live round, dead on! 2nd live round, right above the first. The 3rd round obliterated the small sliver of paper separating the 1st two rounds and so on until the magazine was empty.

Hell yes! The GunDiva is back!

I can't explain the relief I felt to see the half-dollar size hole in the target. That's more like it. That all-over-the-place bullshit with the 9 was o-v-e-r. I didn't realize how much psychological damage shooting poorly had done - after all, I'm the GunDiva, I've always shot well and prided myself on it - until I picked up that .45 and did well with it today.

Thank you Glenna for going out to the range with me today, it was wonderful. Euphoric, even.