Saturday, September 5, 2009

"A Trail Trial? That Sounds Like Fun!: (hahahahaha)

If any of your acquaintances suggest you sign up your horse for a Trail Trial, just ask them to lend you a hammer. Begin banging yourself on the head with said hammer, and stop only when the relief will be very intense. The banging part is how you'll feel during the Trail Trail; the quitting part is how you'll feel when you get home.

There I have saved you some money and time.

So today John and I failed to borrow a hammer. On our way to the farm hosting the Trail Trial, the road looked like this:

If there's one thing I hate more than almost anything else, it is hauling a horse trailer through fog. You can see some sort of sign on the right; I think it says "Go Home Fool".

The day cleared off though and here you can see John feeling fresh and chipper tied to the trailer:

There were 15 riders who were partnered for the ordeal I mean fun. My partner was terrific and I thoroughly enjoyed riding with her and her lovely TWH Smoke:

We decided to help each other instead of getting competitive, and we had some happy times with our two good hearted horses. BUT.

A Trail Trial consists of stations along a trail at which challenges have been placed, to test whether you and your horse are crazy enough yet or need to be driven further insane.

Some of the challenges were fun: a water crossing that got chest deep:

some steep uphills, a campsite with several tents including a Spongebob Squarepants tent that John liked, and a very handsome guy just standing in the trail smiling- to distract us??

Judges give you points based on how well you handle each challenge; there are 'refusals' which subtract from your points; each refusal takes away about 4,923 points so that you can end up with a negative score so huge you may never have the heart to ride again. Handling the obstacle gives you a zero. Yes folks, the perfect metaphor for horsemanship: you never actually get ahead, you just occasionally fail to fall behind and call that success!

We did OK, more or less (well, skipping over our experience at the gate, where John acted like he had just descended from some planet where gates are only found at the Palomino Burial Ground) until we got to the "Logging Camp".

This consisted of a bunch of people who appeared and disappeared randomly out of a death hut, and when in plain sight they operated a gasoline powered log splitter which gave off, I am not exaggerating, the sound of cannons firing over some Civil War battleground. We had to ride a figure-8 in and around the cannon fire, and the fiends timed their log-splits to maximally startle the horse. This is the closest picture I got, and it's a bit blurry & nightmarish for reasons you will easily understand.

Well, John and I covered this particular challenge at what I fondly call a 'mad gallop', a gait that I always think must look impressive and exciting from a safe distance. The main deleterious effect was not on our score (screw that!) but on John's state of mind. He lost it.

We passed on to "the bear cave', someone's raccoon coat hung over a chair; the hay-mowing farmer (not actually part of the challenge course but freakishly loud and provoking the only full-out bolt I have ever experienced with John) and finally the trailer load.

This was a short roofed step-up trailer set in the corner of a field, with Farmer Mengele mowing madly next to the fence and no other horses within sight. John declined to hop right on and the judge said, "I count that one refusal, here comes another one, why don't you just pass this up and take the hit?" I think she was tired. We walked on, John in a sweat far beyond the heat of the day and me with that hammer-my-head feeling.

Good things about the day: I met a nice new friend, I found out John enjoys snuggling raccoon coats, we totally dominated the rocking wooden bridge, and the trails were pretty.

Bad things: I did feel there were dangerous moments, like the logging camp and the bolt. And a horse who won't load onto a trailer can't just be marched away with lost points; you have to return to that problem right away and he must get on. Or you could have a much bigger problem later. So this challenge was not a good one in my opinion. I loaded John up and left once we were back in camp, and I think I owe him an apology and some good treats. This is one experience I will not seek out soon again.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That's outrageous! I get enough trail trials just walking my horse across the street. Who needs a set up? All they needed was some guy in a Bigfoot suit that was rolled in some really stinky bear poop throwing rocks at the horses. Riders are gambling with their lives by participating in such an event. You did make me laugh with your story, though, so something good came out of it.

Anonymous said...

I know some people in Minnesota with Icelandics that love this stuff - apparently it's quite an organized activity - perhaps your boy wasn't ready yet for this level of excitement - the Trail Trial should come with a warning. The woman with the Icelandics described an obstacle (that of course her horse had handled just fine) involving a tent made out of flapping black plastic garbage bags (with a fan to flap them), with a smoke machine churning out black smoke, and in the center of the tent, a cage with an agitated turkey who attacked the bars whenever a horse and rider came near - I felt sorry for the turkey! - the objective was to ring a bell on top of the turkey's cage, which required entering the tent. How's that for fun?

Good for you for telling the story!

OnTheBit said...

At least you have a sense of humor about it. You post cracked me up...and I don't think I would feel comfortable at all riding around a chain saw. I am glad the two of you made it back in once piece!!!

Mrs Mom said...

Dude- never mind Sweet John- you wanna share in some of my strawberry wine cooler? Handsome John will forgive you... but the wine cooler might just take away the hammer my head feeling ;)

Glad you made it back safely!!

One Red Horse said...

Red and I did our first Trail Trials event this summer. The second day had a PIRATE theme. As in Ahoy Matey. We had fun and Red did pretty good for his first ever pirate encounter. Sounds like your organizers were even more diabolical. Logging Camp. Sheeesh.

c2b said...

I have made note and am off to buy myself a suitable hammer. Will come in useful for when I am tempted to do the next so called mis-named pleasure ride.
John is looking wonderful.

allhorsestuff said...

Wiping some tears from laughter here...OH man, those people had something to proove with those -not- so- normal setting events -to the extreme!
We have those trail trials BUT that one sounded as if it were from H_ _ _ !!!
Glad you made it and are awesome!

Stephanie said...

all I can say is WOW! I would have been onmy rear end in the dirt and Fawkes would have made a mad gallop all the way home! I suppose with the right horse and tons and tons of training it could be fun. Glad you made it safely through and John is looking fab in his pictures!

eventer79 said...

ROFL -- I have just discovered your blog and love your hilarious turn-of-tale (or is that tail?). Was just talking to my friend about the somewhat negative (soul crushing) nature of competitive trail riding, what a coincidence!

We Are Flying Solo

AareneX said...

laughing my butt off, here (no, wait, I just checked, it's still there dangit)! What a load of hooey.

I wouldn't mind being tested on stuff that can actually happen (ahem, the logging camp is not uncommon here...I frequently ride through a working logging camp to get to my favorite trail) but the turkey is pretty out-of-the-way.

Glad to hear that you've survived!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Thanks for the warning. I just saw there is a "trail trial" in the area and I a.l.m.o.s.t thought I might take Moon...just for fun.

Doesn't sound like too much fun to me. Maybe I'll just go watch and see what it's all about.;)

Once Upon an Equine said...

Thank goodness you and John survived that. The logging camp sounds like a scene out of a horror movie.

Horseypants said...

That was sooo funny! But I am also glad you made it home in one piece.

FlyingHorse2 said...

ROFL!! Your description was dead on!! These 'trail trials' are prevalent in my area and on a particularly boring holiday weekend, I decided to take one of my bomb proof, been there done that horses to one. Some of the obstacles were just downright dangerous! We had to ..... were supposed to walk over a series of old mattresses. Well, a couple of horses had already 'been there, done that' and left holes in the fabric on which your horse could then become entangled and flip out dragging a mattress from it's hoof. I passed on that one but actually saw the next exhibitor rearrange the mattresses due to dragging during the flip out. WTF???? There was a long narrow ditch that you rode down into and out of ..... okay simple enough except for the fact that it was covered with a tarp across the deepest a roof. No thanx. I'm more claustraphobic than my horse and riding through a 'grave' wasn't my idea of fun. We jumped a mudhole that you were supposed to walk through and it had mud soaked towels hiding in the bottom. We saw the towels being dragged about when horses came out of it. No problem, my horse was a jumper and we saw it as a liverpool. Trail trials, I don't think so. Trials for people who hold these events, I can see coming soon to a courthouse near you!!

Stephanie Mills Photography said...

Wow! I haven't seen fog like that since I moved to Florida. Looks like a beautiful ride!

Breathe said...

Geez! I won't even go on haunted hayrides! LOL

"Palomino Burial Grounds" <--- favorite line!

Seriously, I don't think I could handle two of those things, let alone all of them. Thanks for the warning. :)

Tammy said...

Chain saws, log splitters, hay guys.... sounds like our house! Where do I sign up?! :)