Last weekend I joined the American Competitive Trail Horse Association(ACTHA). I paid $35.00 to join and was promised a horsey magazine and opportunities to meet other people and compete in obstacle course rides. I really didn't care about the competition , but really wanted to find more people to ride horse with me.
I also had the chance to ride amidst the huge dangling boulders, assorted cacti and dusty trail s that the Lone Ranger and Siver rode each Saturday morning of my childhood.
The Triangle T headquarters is set just off Interstate 10 at the Dragoon Exit near the Texas Canyon rest stop. It has a saloon and cafe, some bunk houses and casitas. Best of all it is where my childhood heroes rode their horses into the sunset. Thanks to the ACTHA I was gonna be able to do the same.
I signed up for the Dragoon competitive ride in the pleasure division and paid another$58.oo for this privilege! Pajon, my elderly but with mucho brio former Mexican drug horse and I started practicing obstacles.
We opened gates together-no problem. We rode over tarps lined with boulders and then spritzed with water-ho hum. We backed up and down hills and around object...yawn. I called Dora Lee, a former rodeo queen and learned to sidepass. I went to Carole's the queen of Parelli whispering and practiced riding through shower curtains and doing pirouettes. We picked up stuffed animals pretending they were injured calves and put them on the saddle and took off into the hills. We cantered and loped and galloped to Yippe Ay Oh....
I knew we had no chance of winning or even placing. I was not an expert at anything and bungled along on the back of my brave and wise horse. I just wanted to ride and retrace the footsteps of those great cowboys in the sky.
Dust devils and blast of 40-50mph winds and the first dark skies in 6 months dampened the event along with the chance of rain and snow. It should have been sunny and 70's with a chance of rattlesnakes. Instead it was dark and dusty with a sinister gloom when the ride started at 10am.
I was surrounded by women of my age. All had younger horses, new 4wheel ride trucks and sturdy combo RV/sleeper/ deluxe horse trailers. I had my battered rescue mustang, a pathfinder with over 150,000 miles and a spray painted purple and white rickety 40 year old double horse trailer and a tent from a yard sale.
Still I was undaunted. Then a grey haired 60 something in an Armani riding outfit I would expect to see in Virgina -not the old west told me, "you should win a prize for oldest boots"! I responded and not joking, "these are my new and good boots"! And they were-she should see my old ones.
Later while riding to the starting point I complimented a woman on her gorgeous black leather and silver adorned full chaps. I said chaps like in cheese. She went ballistic and proceeded to give me a lesson from the OED on the etymology and correct pronunciation of "chaps with a ch like shut up". I was starting to feel more like Tonto surrounded by a sea of white hostiles. I told her "CHaps" were variable in a hasty retort.
Let the good guys win; the timer started.
Pajon and I galloped up the hills, past the delicately balanced boulders; we picked up Easter eggs out of a basket and were the first to ride through the tunnel. We raced down the hill and stopped at the log. However when we got to the gate, it was plastic. We were slammed with a dust devil and I dropped the chain. Pajon tried to help but penalties for me if my horse did the human part of the trick . . We were doing great when we got to the backing obstacles. Pajon is a fantastic backer. I cant even back his trailer and must always find a circle. I was even worse as once again a huge dose of dust sprinkled into my eyes as i removed my glasses to study the challenge and the jusdges grimaced. I was no help to Pajon on this one.
The competition ended with a long ride through the washes and rock formation. My final obstacle was to be able to finish this race without peeing my pants and to be able to walk when the ride was over. I successfully dismounted my horse; tore off my number 133, threw the rains around the hitching post and semi raced to the saloon bathroom.
I was victorious. The challenge was a success and Pajon and I came in 16th out of 84. the The Virgininan in her English riding habit of the old boot remark wasn't even able to finish the race as thought obstacles were too difficult and quit. The elegant rude cowgirl with the fancy SHhaps came in 32nd. When I got home I looked up the pronunciation and it is a variable with Ch being preferred over Sh....
Pajon and I did ride in the shadow of the Lone Ranger and Silver ; the good guys beat the rude and rich.