This is a collection of stories by out members. Some are about how a tradition started. Some are about why they keep coming back. Some are a about exceptional experiences, good or otherwise.
If you have a story of your own that you would like to share, please send it to us at (a picture is welcome):email@example.com
On the old Chokecherry Canyon Train Ride trail there was a sloping side butte called the “antenna hill” which was used as the first Sunday morning P and R. In those days we often had a full ride of 60 riders in Open and Novice. (There was no CP then.) At the Saturday night briefing the Novice riders asked if they could time out first, to be followed by the Open riders. It was pointed out to them that since there was no Sunday open loop, every Novice would be passed by every open during the ride. The answer was “we can handle it”.
What I did not anticipate was that since the open riders were traveling faster, the whole open division caught up to the whole novice division at the top of antenna hill. All sixty riders were in one (long) line on top of the hill. Terri and Lonnie Smith, who were both riding open remembered all the open riders would chant, “open riders coming through”. We had several P and R teams and they worked very fast and there were almost no delays.
Since that ride, we have always started the Open riders first.
Bill & Judy Cumberworth
This is an old story, told to my Reg 3 friends but I think it is worth repeating. It is why I choose to ride a mule.
Dee, my white mule, and I were riding the Navajo Lake CTR one year and had somehow found ourselves separated from all the other riders. Everyone knows that I am trail challenged and try to keep other riders in sight when competing, but somehow I had lost sight of everyone.
We found ourselves coming off the ridge top on to a main rode that lead uphill to the right......The ribbons were confusing and I made a decision to go up the hill. My mule obliged me but when we arrived at the top of the hill she stopped dead in her tracks. I looked around expecting to see something that drew her attention----nothing. She would not move forward and I thought, how strange. After urging her forward and her refusing to budge, I turned her around and headed back down the hill thinking I must have overlooked a ribbon. She always paid attention to the ribbons and sometimes surprised me with going one way when I expected to go the other. I often laugh at that as I had to recover my balance.
At the bottom of the hill, I could not see any markers as to which way to go and I was sure the way was up the hill. So again I urged her that way. Again when we got up the hill she put on the breaks and refused to go any further......What the heck! I was getting very frustrated and decided that I would trust her to do the right thing. I certainly did not know what I was doing.
Sure enough when we got back down the hill she turned across the road and through a "Y" and then back into the brush onto a marked trail......picking up speed as if she definitely knew where she was going, within 5 min. we caught sight of riders and I breathed a sigh of relief that we were on trail.
I have many sweet stories of this mule......looking back at me with "Why the +#%& do you want me to go this way, when right over here is a much better and safer way to travel"...usually happening when the judges ask for a certain path.
She was 23 years old when I retired her from "Open" with yet another Nat'l Championship. I was concerned about her age and the possibility of injury. I wanted her to be comfortable and ridable the rest of her life. She still wants to go and is always at the gate when I take my new mule out.......breaks my heart.
Story by Dayna Morgan:
So..... I always like to get to Colorado Trail early for parking pickings! Todd and I headed up Thursday and had a great evening! We were joined by a handful of folk that evening and the group was sitting around the propane campfire with great libations!
It’s now dark, after dinner...... about 830 pm..... it was dark.... really dark.... the fire is bright as we sit in a dirt circle and along comes a visitor out of the west side of camp which is the CO Trail.......
Great kid, like 24 and from another state..... walks up to the fire pit and introduces herself! Can’t remember her name..... she is drunk as a skunk....... she hangs out for about 20 minutes may be a half hour and decides to get up and leave towards her camp (probably 5-10 miles away)..... she bids adieu with a small flash light and walks down the dirt road that leads to the two lane highway a block or so down. I say after she leaves, maybe we should check on her....... Julleen has been watching all of this from her chair but NOT saying much..... Julleen says I have an eye on her..... I won’t let her go much further... 😎
Then to our surprise she (our new friend) comes back around and decides it might not be the best idea....
Todd goes to our trailer and takes out a bed pad and sleeping bag and we make up the back seat in our F250..... this little gal crawls in and is out......
We go to bed, the early birds Todd and Juleen were up at dawn when our little friend sheepishly crawled out the back of the truck..... very gracious and embarrassed..... apologizes to Todd and Juleen and boogies on down the road..... I wasn’t there but I hear it was a great lesson learned on safety in the forest...... she is a lucky gal we were there and know she won’t ever forget that night...... at least what she remembers.....
Chokecherry Canyon Trail Ride and Farmington Road Apple Rally
The Chokecherry Canyon Trail Ride first began in the fall of 1978. This was the second ride organized by Judy and Bill Cumberworth in the northwest corner of New Mexico. (Navajo Lake began in 1975.) A good friend of Dr. Cumberworth was Dr. Clifford Clark who was one of the pioneers in mountain biking. At that time a bike rider made their own “mountain bike” by taking the wheels and fat tires off an old Schwinn bicycle and adapting a ten-speed road bike to fit them.
In 1981 Dr. Clark asked if the group of off-road bicycle riders--mostly from Farmington and Durango-- could race on the already marked Chokecherry trails. After some discussion it was decided to have both events on the same day from the same starting and finishing point. It has been reported that the horses and bicycles raced against each other but that was never the case. The horses started first and then the bicycles about an hour later. Since the horses were not racing, the horseback riders were asked to move over when a bicycle approached from behind. This worked all right in spite of the possibility of spooked horses.
On Saturday evening the riders of both groups shared a potluck dinner. This event helped cement good relations between the trail riders and off-road bicycle riders which have continued. The bicycle race was named the Road Apple Rally for reasons obvious to horsemen. Both events continue to the present; the Road Apple Rally is the longest running mountain bike race in the country.
Bill & Judy Cumberworth
Story by Ed Westmoreland
My first NATRC ride was at Love of Horses near Westcliffe, CO. Riding a fairly new to me Fox Trotter named Montana Hannah. As I approached the starting point, I waited for my number to be called. When the timer said “99 you’re out”, I qued her to go forward. Instead, she backed up 2 paces and fell over in the borrow ditch on my left leg. With help from bystanders, they got her off me. She stood up, I re-mounted and went on to have an uneventful ride, but I thought “Oh boy, this is going to be a day to remember.
After a season of riding novice on a Montana Hannah, fighting to hold her back, I decided to ride in open at the last ride. She was perfect. (We came out better than my experienced wife and her mule). Probably because we were riding in the same division for the first time. Montana Hannah colicked and died the following January
Story by Kay Gunckel:
I am so blessed that I was able to compete in Competitive Trail with my two children.
My son JJ started riding Competitive Trail when he turned 10 years old. His first ride we drove all the way with a friend to a ride in Herber, UT. I have the cutest picture of him running with his white paint horse, Marshmallow, with shorts and cowboy boots. Unfortunately his mare’s arthritis in her hocks flared up and she was pulled after the first days ride. JJ got to stay in camp with a nice family and play in the beaver ponds!!!
JJ was blessed with getting to ride on two experienced NATRC horses to show him the ropes-Roxanne Lane’s horse, Foxy and Linelle Miller’s horse, Dutch. These horses gave JJ the confidence he needed to compete the next year on Marshmallow’s foal, Sassy.
A funny story riding with JJ. We were tired and wanting to get back to camp. We started talking about if we were stranded out in the wilderness and we had to eat each other who would have to go first. He said I would because I was older but I said he would since he would be much more tender to eat and I would be tough. It was just for fun and got us on down the trail.
One ride we were nearly to the two mile and we stopped to let horses eat some green grass. Sassy must have gotten bitten by a bee and just started bucking. JJ stayed on for the first 5 bucks but then came off and Sassy took off. We watched her gallop all around and catch up with another group of competitors. Luckily they brought her back and JJ climbed back on. It took 15-20 minutes and now we were late getting back on time. We cantered on nice Jeep trail all the way back to camp, what fun!!!
When Ashley turned ten she joined us on her wonderful white Arab gelding, Sport. We were the three musketeers. JJ road out front, I rode in the middle, and Ashley rode in the back. Sport was a really slow walker. Once Ashley learned how to canter, she would purposely hold back just so she could canter to catch up.
It was truly a joy to ride together as a family. Just like you build a bond with your horse with the many miles down the trail, you also build an incredible bond with the riders you share the trail with. I shared many miles of trails, both in competition and on training rides, with both JJ and Ashley. Those will be years I will always cherish.
JJ and I ended up moving up and competing in Open. JJ was a fierce competitor. As a junior rider he was always someone for other open riders to watch out for winning Open Sweepstakes.
Ashley’s horse Sport was not an Open horse, so she continued riding in the Novice division. This was really good for her as she developed her riding skills. She excelled with her wonderful horse, Sport. They had many memories riding with another junior rider, Morgan, and by herself.
One ride Ashley stopped at a stream to give Sport a drink and wet his legs down. Well Sport ended up stepping on her hand, she took her other hand and smacked him to get off. Well he ended up running off. Leaving her standing, by herself, next to the stream. Luckily an unfamiliar rider came down the trail ponying Mr. Sport. She wiped her tears, climbed back on, and rode back into camp with this wonderful rider who took her under her wing. NATRC family.
My kids both competed in the show ring with their horses. I feel they excelled there as well because of the skills and confidence they gained from NATRC.
I was truly blessed to have this time on horseback with my children. NATRC is truly a family sport!
Story by Judy Cumberworth & Patsy Conner
You Can Tell by the Tail
Not all the excitement on a trail ride is related to horses. I was the horsemanship judge on one of the trail rides put on by Ms. Patsy Conner in Chugwater, Wyoming, in the early 1980’s. At that time, it was more popular for the judge to hide from the riders so that they could be observed without their knowledge. There is not much cover in the plains of eastern Wyoming. Also, like the plains of eastern Colorado, there are a lot of rattlesnakes. This was pointed out to riders at the briefings.
Patsy was acting as my secretary (as well as being ride chairman). We found a very high bank above a water crossing and were sitting close to each other with her behind me so I could whisper the judging comments. I felt her suddenly tense and I looked to my left and I saw a snake slithering by about one inch behind her. The head was not visible to me at that time. I also tensed but neither of us moved at all. It seemed like forever before the snake had moved enough that I could see that its tail did not have rattles. It was undoubtably a bull snake.
We continued judging there, as it was a good location; none of the riders ever saw us.
Story by Jennifer Poulton:
It all started back in 2009, I was into doing anything with my Palomino horse Champagne. We did local horse shows, ranch sorting, a gymkhana and tons of trail riding. On a trip to Cactus Creek ranch in Pueblo for a ranch sorting competition with a group of ladies, I was in charge of our route. Since it's a 5ish hour road trip and our horses would be stalled over night. I suggested we find a place to do a short trail ride. So I found a neat place over between Hartsel and Colorado Springs. Not knowing know what NATRC has taught me about trail maps, we followed the map to a fork and went left like the map said (thinking it was placed in position to how you should ride it, not by north, south, east, west). Came to a dead end, so we rode back to the fork and decided to take the trail to the right. Went up and down the hills through the trees etc. Came to another fork, now logic would tell you to go right at this fork and it should take you back to the trailer, but we were skeptical so we decided to ride what had just ridden to keep from getting lost. Our four horses couldn't have been more different, one was a peanut rolling Quarter horse show pony, one was a very green gaited horse that was scared of everything including his shadow, one was an older quarter-Arab cross that's age was catching up with him......and then there was Champagne, my palomino mustang cross of some kind that I got from the sale barn three years prior. She had the biggest heart and would do anything for me, not perfect by any stretch, but never let me down.
The other three horses were tired and frustrated as we had to turn around and it was snowing.
After about a 5 hour ride we got back to the trailer and were discussing the situation and our lack of map reading skills we all had and critiquing our horses. Champagne was the only one who was sure footed, mentally and physically sound when we returned. One of my ride partners asked if I had ever heard if competitive trail riding, which my answer was "no, there is such a thing"?
After we did our ranch sorting & after our trip home, I did some research on competitive trail riding. Contacted a few people from the NATRC website to picked their brains and got Information and how to start conditioning my horse for it, which is rather simple......RIDE!
I spent all winter getting ready and my first ride was an ACHTA ride that the Cumberworth's held at their place in March of 2010. The simple 10 miles and ten obstacles was not enough for my palomino pony. But a good place to gather information about NATRC. As the Cumberworth's hold rides at their place every year and the April Pinon Mesa ride was coming up, I believe I signed up that day for the ride and showed up with a very naive expectation.
OMG, I had a blast, learned a lot and was hooked. I was told that weekend by much more experienced riders....if you leave here exhausted and looking forward to the next ride, you are hooked.
10 years and three horses later.......yes, I am hooked and looking forward to the 2020 season. See you all on the trail.
Love you all #28
My Nick Name-Hissy Hayes
By Kathe Hayes
How did I get this name? It all started at the Rabbit Valley Ride. I don’t remember the date (early 1990’s probably), but I think my temper proceeded me in this naming.
I was with a group of open riders and it had been a long second day. The ribbons had been scarce (as can happen at any ride, due to folks pulling them down) and some of them were yellow and hard to spot on the trail. One had to pay close attention in order to maneuver down the trail.
We had all arrived at the 2 mile marker, after many long canyon miles, and I remember a vast plain in front of us with no trees, few sage brush and a lot of grass. As I scanned the field in front of me it was not apparent where to go as no ribbons could be seen. As you know, once you proceed from the 2 mile marker there’s no turning back. Or is there?
Being the extrovert that I am, I brazenly ventured out into the vastness surely thinking that a ribbon would magically appear and I would lead my comrades safely into camp. Well that’s not what happened.
I was a few hundred yards out from the 2 mile marker and still had not spotted a ribbon that would lead me to my victory. I chickened out on my idea to lead the forces and turned around (feeling guilty at breaking the rules, but afraid of getting lost) and came back to the 2 mile marker acting like a Whirling Dervish (google it), cussing and carrying on like a lunatic and frantic I would be disqualified after 2 long hard days.
My friend Terri Smith and several others who shall remain anonymous (mostly cause I can’t remember who) witnessed this bad behavior and said, “Wow that was some hissy fit”. The name stuck and I was forever known as “Hissy Hayes”, Hiss for short.
The funny thing is friends, totally unrelated to Competitive Trail Riding, had already dubbed me “Kitten” due to another incident displaying Dervish behavior. Those friends still call me “Kitten” my trail riding buddies still call me Hiss.
I kinda like it!
Again at Golden Gate State Park back in the 90's.
A fellow competitor was the ride manager, and could not compete. He was an open rider, and short a 1st or 2nd placing to get his National Championship. He asked me to ride his horse.
All went well until we had to step over a typical Joe Quintana log. My horse approached the log, looked at it, stepped over it with his front feet and did a turn on the forehand to get his hind end around the end of the log. Joe practically rolled on the ground with laughter.
Unfortunately, I did not place well, and the National Championship was not obtained. Never lived that one down!!!
A little time & patience pays off….
I grew up riding in NATRC on a wonderful Arabian, but left the sport when I went off to college (and then onto other horse sports), both while in college and thereafter. So when I returned to New Mexico in 2010, I jumped head first back into NATRC. I had a very nice, athletic quarter horse and attempted to compete in 2011, about 18 years after the last time I competed as an 18 year old. We got 5 miles in and we were asked to back around a tree. I’m not sure what happened, but she reared up, I came off her side. I’m sure I pulled her off balance and she came slamming down on top of me, then rolled over me. After a short helicopter ride to the hospital, it was determined, I broke 12-13 ribs (most were broken in 2 places), cracked my sternum, chipped a piece of bone off the end of my clavicle, out by the edge my shoulder, broke my pelvis in 3-4 spots and collapsed a lung….landing me in the hospital for 9 days and a wheel chair for 2 months. It took a year before my body was even partially comfortable again, while riding a horse, but it was MUCH longer before my brain was comfortable.
The next three years, I rode two nice quarter horses (not the same one that injured me). I traded the first one for a second one and the second one ended up having horrible side bone at the age of seven (yes, my bad, I didn’t vet check her). Now I was on the hunt for a sound horse. Since my body still had stiffness issues from my injuries, I decided to look for my first ever gaited horse. October of 2014, I found Copper’s Comet, a registered Missouri Fox Trotter on Craigslist, I went to look at her & fell in love with her looks immediately, but had to come back on a weekend day to do a test ride. The older lady wasn’t going to get on her, so I bravely did, with a good friend leading me around like a child on a pony ride. After a little time in the round pen, she took the lead rope off and I tried Copper out solo. She was 8 years old, rideable, but VERY rusty on what the “rules of riding” were. Let’s just say, stopping and steering we optional in her brain, at this point. But the nice lady let me take Copper home for one week, so I could get a vet check done and try to ride her in my home environment. She passed the vet check with flying colors, but was so anxious, she almost ran the vet and vet tech over many times.
On the sixth day at my house, the fall air was cold, this wind was bustling the leaves around and Copper was having none of it. I couldn’t even get her to stand still long enough to safely mount her, she was such an anxious mess. I unsaddled her and put her away, I called the nice lady and informed her that there was no way my brain could handle this green horse, she was a bigger project than I could mentally handle. She offered to sell her to me for a slightly less amount than she was asking and that I could use that extra money and take Copper to a trainer. She also gave me a six month grace period, that if I or my trainer thought she was too dangerous, I could return her for a full refund. I jumped at that opportunity. The following spring, a wonderful, local trainer took her and worked with her for 30 days. Even though Copper jumped sideways out from under him, he still said she would make a wonderful horse.
She was such an anxious horse, it took me two years of just “showing her the world”, before I ever thought about riding her in a competitive trail ride. I would even have anxiety over going on normal weekend rides with her. She did buck me off twice (darn it, she’s quick) and I never knew what she was going to do. Even though I felt like I was going to puke, I would force myself to get out of bed, hitch up my trailer and take her to where ever our ride was that day. Five minutes after swinging my leg over her, my belly would settle, I didn’t feel like puking anymore and we would have a great ride.
Our first two rides we rode as a Safety Rider, following the competitors, to slowly introduce her to the chaos surrounding an NATRC ride. May 2017, we did our first competition. Copper placed 6th out of 15 horses, but more importantly she didn’t land me back in the hospital. We did 1 more competition in 2017 and only two in 2018.
So 2019, I decided I would just compete in our four locally hosted NATRC rides in the Farmington, New Mexico area, since I couldn’t afford to travel much. In early September, a friend offered to travel with me, to split the costs, so we decided to check out a long running ride just south of Denver, CO. I wanted to see this area again, since I hadn’t ridden it since I was a teenager. Copper placed third, after she had a bucking fit in front of the judges during her Sunday morning troy by.
Now it was time for the fourth and last local ride in New Mexico and by golly Copper won Sweepstakes in the Competitive Please division. This win put us within the points needed for a National Championship. There was one last Region 3 ride near Grand Junction, Colorado in early October. I decided, even though it was a long shot, that I would at least try. To achieve the 17 points needed, I had to win Sweepstakes again, with a full class of 6 riders. I also needed the first place ribbon, out of my home state, as the second part of the requirements for a National Championship. As it turned out, one gal’s mother wasn’t feeling well, so they didn’t compete, dropping the class to only 5 competitors. So, our chances of getting the 17 points was now gone, so I just decided to have a fun ride, which it turned out to be, even though we rode out in 23 degree weather Saturday and Sunday mornings. We won our sweepstakes and earned 16 points. What to do now…….
Luckily there was another ride in Region 2 down in Wickenburg, Arizona on November 2-3. I didn’t want to take my very fuzzy horse down to the hot Arizona desert and push her on a two day competition, for just one point. Thankfully they offered a 1-day option on both Saturday and Sunday. I drove the eight hours down to Wickenburg, AZ, rode the shorter Sunday trail and completed the ride. Just completing a one day ride earns you two points, resulting in accumulating 76 points for the 2019 ride season.
A National Championship was not a goal I planned for in 2019, it just ended up working out this way. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to buy this hearty little Missouri Fox Trotter and create such a wonderful bond with her. We not only have achieved this high honor in NATRC, we have gone on many miles together on some pretty tough trails. I never own another breed of horse.
Cathy Cumberworth and Copper’s Comet
Story by Kay Gunckel:
It was the year we rode Colorado trail when we saddled in the rain, road the entire ride in the rain, and it even hailed so hard it looked like it had snowed.
I invited a 4H’er, named Tiffany, to compete with me and my daughter, Ashley. Tiffany bought a new pair of purple riding tights.
We dug every piece of rain gear and gloves out that we had!!! It poured the entire ride. By the time we were so miserable we were ready to quit and go back to camp, we realized we were far enough along the trail it was shorter back to camp to just keep going.
We got to the P & R and decided to not get off. Where we were sitting was the only place still dry. The P & R workers thought we were crazy. The horses did great at the P & R on this cold rainy day.
When we got to the lunch stop, management handed us our sack lunch and told us to just keep riding. It was the only way to keep warm. Those chocolate chip cookies sure helped to keep us going.😋
Then it hit, we all needed to pee, our clothes were completely soaked. We thought about just peeing our pants since we were already so wet. 😂 But we didn’t want to smell like pee!!
So we got off, tied up the horses, and started the disrobing process to pee. Then trying to get underwear and tights back on with wet frozen fingers. Tiffany’s gloves were lined and the lining turned inside out when she took them off. We ended up just using our pocket knife to just cut the lining off and at least still have something covering her frozen fingers. That was one of the longest potty stops ever.
We got back on and headed into camp. Some riders pulled and some were die hards and finished the ride. Riders reported pouring rain water out of their boots.
Once back to camp we went to put on dry clothes. I didn’t have a heater in my camper but my friend LouAnn did in her camper. She invited me, Tiffany, and Ashley over to use her camper to change. She even served us warm soup!!!
Well Tiffany peeled those new purple tights off and they had completely stained her legs purple!!! She looked like she was bruised all down her legs. I wondered what her mom would say when she gets home!!!
Needless to say Tiffany did not do another NATRC ride. I told her over and over most of the rides are just beautiful weather.
Mother’s Day Presents
One of the traditions at the Navajo Lake Trail Ride is the picking up of “Mother’s Day” presents along the trail on Sunday. By the third year of Navajo Lake, the Mother’s Day date was fixed. The first year we just had a pair of signs saying (first) “Happy Mother’s Day” (second) “to all you muthers”. The next year Judy Cumberworth decided to give presents to all the mothers competing. After some discussion we decided that since everyone had a mother, we should give presents to all riders.
The presents were all humorous and initially from Woolworth’s or Sproutz-Reitz. Now they are from the dollar stores. On the third year of giving presents Dr. Joyce Price brought a ceramic vase to be given to one of the riders. To say that the vase is ugly is being kind. Judy and Dr. Price decided to randomly exchange the vase for one of the presents that were chosen by the riders.
The vase has survived, sort of, for the past 40 years. It has been broken and glued back together at least three times. This only makes it have more character. Hopefully the vase can be given for another forty years.
Bill & Judy Cumberworth
Story by Sharon Roper:
Dave was new to competitive trail as well as being newly married (about 2004), and he bravely agreed to learn the ropes and ride with me. So off we went to the Purgatory Ride. The first morning out was crispy cold and not far from camp we were to cross the stream which was pretty deep and really moving along. His horse took one look at that obstacle and didn't think it was a great idea. Dave patiently kept asking and Jabez decided to give it a try but altered the crossing and went upstream.
All of a sudden Jabez fell into a deep hole and both he and Dave completely disappeared under water. In an instant of horror at this development, I only see Dave's hat floating downstream... No horse and no Dave. Then both he and Jabez popped up spitting and spurting and scrambling for the bank. Assessing the situation and finding both of them ok, Dave sat down on the bank and removed his boots dumping a ton of water out of each boot. Soaking wet and undaunted, he mounted back up and rode up the mountainside shivering and soaking wet. He finally dried out and we finished the ride.
The next day at the awards ceremony, Cheri Westmoreland presented him with a most covetous award - "the Assification" Award which graces our bookshelf to this day.
Can you believe he kept riding with me after all these years! God bless him for being such a good sport and a great husband.
I graduated college in December of 2015. As a graduation gift I was given a project horse. This 4 year old half Arabian was a horse owned by a good friend. I had the privilege of handling her and watching her grow from a foal. This accident baby wasn't bred for a purpose and the owner spend 4 years thinking of what this spirited filly was going to do with her life. I spent the spring putting her first few rides of the year on her (she had been ridden the previous season but not all winter).
When it came time to put my older beloved horse down, a mare who had raised me and taught me so much over the past 10 years, my friend knew I needed a project to focus my time and put love into. My friend was familiar with NATRC and told me that I should try it out with this little mare. Lucky for me I had friends who were already in the sport or involved in some way.
Lori Wicks encouraged me to go to the Navajo Dam ride. Her horse ended up being hurt so I rode with Scarlett and Cadence, who became my go to riding partners. My first ride was a B ride, a soft entry into long distance riding. But from that day on I was hooked. I knew this was a sport that was going to help me grow as a rider, expose my horse to different obstacles and mental challenges, and build us as a team.
I feel like I would not have built the relationship I have with her now if I had not been exposed to NATRC. I will be a long time participant without a doubt.
Sixes Peppy Lady 2009
by Kookie Feazell
My favorite memories were from my 1st year of competition. My very 1st ride was Navajo Lake in 2009 and I was only 6 years old. My rider really didn’t have much faith in me, as I was only called into service at the last minute when Bandit went lame. It was the longest trailer ride of my life, I thought I would never get out of that trailer and really had to pee. Then I was tied up all night long next to the trailer. What a new experience, but I saw no reason to waste energy trying to get loose. Standing quietly by the trailers seemed to make my “Mom” happy. Plus the amount of hay “Mom” gave me was incredible. I had all the hay I could eat all weekend long. I decided this might not be such a bad gig after all.
I was a very timid pony and spent most of my 1st ride following as close as allowed to my big white friend Nahr Amir. He was full of confidence and so was his teammate, a sweet lady named Carolynn Andersen. Nah Amir really helped me but Carolynn helped my very excitable rider even more. I actually loved Navajo Lake, it was hard work. I tried to do my best although sometimes “The Boss” gave me mixed signals. I musta done good because “The Boss” came back to the trailer on Sunday afternoon, interrupted my nap to give me kisses and hugs (which I hate). “Mom” was so excited, apparently she placed 1st and I placed 1st and then I went on to win SWEEPSTAKES (whatever that means) and there were 26 Novices horses in the competition. Nahr Amir and Carolynn Andersen took Sweepstakes in a harder division called CP. Then the other horse we trained with was Woody and his rider, Judy Mason also won Sweepstakes in Open. There was quite “The Celebration” back at the trailers that afternoon as those ladies were so excited. Apparently it was a very big deal for 3 old ladies to Sweep a ride from the same small town in Colorado.
The relationship with my mom really improved after that first ride and we became real teammates. There was always some new trick at each ride that we were unable to perform so we would go home and practice, practice, practice until the next ride. We started doing more training rides with my friend Nahr Amir and competed in four more rides in 2009. I loved being behind his white butt. Nahr Amir was my white knight, my guide and my mentor. My teammate also learned how to play the NATRC game from Carolynn, and we sure put in a ton of miles. I was Novice 1st Year Horse in 2009.
Together we learned a whole bunch about Competitive Trail Rides. I loved how much “The Boss” improved as a rider, I loved how much we improved as a team. I had to do most of the hard work but it was worth it to make “Mom” happy. We still had lots to learn together but in 2010 we swept the Year End Novice Awards.
Some of my favorite memories of my NATRC rides were all the tasty treats on the trail, all the amazing double portions of grain 3 times a day, standing knee deep in hay and a hay bag full all weekend long. I loved my job as a NATRC horse. I loved making my partner happy and most of all I loved it when “Mom” was proud of me.
My “Mom” is Juleen Feazell and she began riding NATRC in 2006 on my stable mate, Bandit. “Mom” tells me she loves NATRC because it makes her get out and trail ride, me too!
Where would I be without NATRC? I have no idea, but I doubt if it would be good. About 15 years ago I stumbled across a flyer at our local veterinarians office that said, "Come ride with us!" Being a brand new horse owner (first horse in my adult life) I blindly thought, "Oh! That sounds fun!" and two weeks later showed up blissfully ignorant to my first ride, Chokecherry.
The first thing that happened is that I met the nicest lady in charge, Jenny Smith. I was genuinely impressed with her welcoming attitude and big smile.....and the friendliness just continued throughout the day! I remember that night laying in my camper trying to sleep and listening to all of the horses whinnying around me, being in absolute heaven. The next day brought twenty miles on horseback....something I didn't think I could do, but I did it! Talk about being amazed at oneself and suddenly realizing that one CAN step outside the box and be successful! Well, I use the word "Successful" lightly. My horse was pulled after one day.....because I knew so little that the saddle wasn't even fitted correctly, the pommel resting on my horse's withers. Duh. I remember seeing a big beautiful gaited horse with the fancy endurance saddle and dreaming that someday I might have the same. I remember seeing people handling their horses with such ease and poise and dreaming that someday I might be the same. I remember seeing groups of friends laughing and dreaming that someday I might be part of their group....all things I didn't really think would happen because my life was so ....well, boring....uneventful.....and sometimes, pointless. Yes, I had a job, a family....but my life still somehow felt like it was missing something.
Well, it's been fifteen years now. I have come to realize that NATRC is part of me. My NATRC peeps are my family and friends. They are people who are interesting and fun and caring and kind. My horses have taught me a TON about myself and have helped me overcome my inadequacies and insecurities. I love this sport and without it who knows what path I might have taken. Maybe I might have taken up motorcycles, or bird watching or skydiving, either way, I am sure God intended for me to discover this sport and these people for they have surely given me a great life! Thank you NATRC....and to my NATRC peeps....I love each and every one of you!
When I was 17, I was riding in a drill team organization and thinking about becoming a veterinarian. I was limited to riding once a week, but I spent some of my free time helping out the drill organization with their weekly “vet day”, the day when a local veterinarian comes to look at any horse with a minor issue (and with a herd of over 150 horses and ponies, SOMEONE always has a minor issue!) Through a series of connections between the organization and that local veterinary clinic, I was invited to shadow that veterinarian on some of her other calls. That veterinarian is Dr. Donna Johnson.
After about six months, during which time she performed colic surgery on her own horse and “hired” me to come by after school and help with her aftercare, she realized that I really did LOVE to ride and spend time with horses and I would do just about anything to do so. So, one unseasonably warm weekend in January, she called me and said, “My friend Kathy [Shanor] and I are going to go on a trail ride at Chatfield this weekend. I have an extra horse you can ride; would you like to come?” Of course I jumped at the chance to ride more!
At that point, I think I had only been on a handful of “dude style” trail rides. I was young and naïve…but also fearless, so trotting and cantering outside of an arena didn’t scare me. A “normal” pace for Donna and Kathy on a casual trail ride is an Open pace, so lots of trotting and an occasional canter were of course involved. I think we did close to 15 miles that day and they had me doing some simple “obstacles” like side passing a log and backing up a hill. I loved every minute of it, and Sky (Donna’s “evil” horse) was a perfect schoolmaster for me (that day, at least!). Instead of scaring me off, I wanted to know when I could go again!
And again I went. She was competing more often back then and would take me with her on some conditioning rides (probably because we all know how boring riding alone can be), teaching me the ways of the trail. She taught me why she trained the way she did, how to be safe, and probably most importantly, how to read a map! I finally asked her if I could come to one of these rides with her, and she agreed on the condition that I knew it would be the ONLY time I would do a competitive trail ride with Sky since she was getting older (and is generally evil). She again played on my naivety and said, “It’s a one-day ride, we’re going to go Open!” As before, instead of scaring me off, I wanted to know when I could go again!
Eventually I found another horse to compete, and then another, and then I bought my own. I went to rides, I learned things, and I set goals. I kept riding with Donna. I still ride with Donna several times a week. Every so often, I even get to ride with Kathy, though that’s been less frequent since she moved to Texas and now Tennessee. We still do crazy obstacles, for fun. We finally competed together again in 2019, 7 years after my first (and only other) competition with her, and yes, in Open. Really, other than which horse we usually ride, not much has changed in the last 11 years.
And after four denials from vet school, I decided not to become a veterinarian. I’m not sad: I have more time (and money) to spend with my horse and my good friend, Donna!
Gosh where do I even start with my NATRC story…
I guess I was born into this sport, my parents started the first Navajo Lake CTR in 1975, when I was 1 years old. As a kid under age of 10, I “guarded” (term used loosely) many gates, marked many miles of trail and looked forward to the day I could compete.
My childhood horse, Montoya Olympia (Oly), was purchased by my parents as a favor to a friend, who needed to move, needed the cash & to get rid of two horses he couldn’t move. They bought both horses from him, sold one quickly and as Oly was munching on grass in our front yard, I calmly slid off a tree branch onto his back, he never flinched. Then one brother followed me and then the other brother….the horse didn’t care that three kids were now sitting on his back. My mom watching from the house, decided in that moment, we had better keep this horse. Later that fall, since I was only 9, a family friend rode him at his first ride, Chokecherry Canyon.
The next spring, I rode at Navajo Lake in Novice, then at Taos in Novice (with my mom’s horses’ first ride). Then Oly & I went Open at the El Jinete Caliente (Purgatory) ride, winning our first Sweepstakes (out of a VERY full open division, many rides back then had 60+ competitors) under Dr. Joe Quintana. It was at this time my parents decided I should go for a National Championship. It was a fast and furious summer chasing points. I think I was even sent with a family friend to one competition my parents couldn’t make it to.
Our last ride of the season was Chokecherry, as a stupid kid, I decided my horse needed a blanket and a hood (one week before the ride)….ugh, the silliness of not knowing any better. The hood didn’t have a snap to attach to the blanket at the withers and while he was eating dinner, the hood folded over his head, blind folding him. This horse went thru hot wire, bent a t-post, over a 6 foot tall chain link fence, rubbed his chest on the neighbor’s barb wire back fence and my parents found him doing circles in the road. He needed stiches on his chest and inside a hind leg. Dr Q, our personal vet, stitched him up and said he could compete. I rode Chokecherry without a breast collar & we needed a 3rd place with a full Junior class. Oly finished with only some slight stiffness and we achieved our 3rd place, clinching our first (& only) National Championship together.
Story by Kay Gunckel:
This is a many lessons learned ride story!
I was competing open at Willow Springs CTR. I was riding with Sharon Roper-Dashner, and Morgan Winter. This was a beautiful ride!! Sunday’s trail was the reverse of Saturday’s trail. We are riding along just enjoying the pine trees and Aspen groves. Then we dropped down to the river and then realized we were going the same direction, not the opposite direction, on this section of the trail. Crap!!! It was totally my fault. When I got off trail to go pee, we missed the sign to directing us on which way to do the loop. We had like 5 miles of mountainous trail to get covered. We worried that we would be so late we would miss the P & R not to mention judged obstacles. Luckily, my mom and Morgan’s mom were both working the P & R so they agreed to wait for us. They were worried since we were senior rider, a junior rider, and a rider with back problems. My mom suggested safety riders go out looking for us. I was so grateful when Hannah Vanpoolen showed up on her curly. Her horse was fresh and took the lead and the rest of us followed along flying down the trail. Luckily all our horses were in good shape and did well. We found out we were about an hour behind the other riders. We all agreed we didn’t want to push our horses too hard but we would try to catch up. As we passed hikers we would ask, “how long ago did you see the last horses”? They replied, “like 45 minutes ago.” We were moving at a much faster pace than I had ever ridden before, even cantering downhill. The next group of hikers we ask. They replied, “30 minutes ago”. We were catching up. Then the next group said, “15 minutes”. By the time we hit the two mile marker we met up with the other open riders and walked into camp. Emma had warn her front shoes into two separate pieces, but they had stayed on!!!
Lessons learned in this ride-
1) I could push my horse and myself much more than I thought I could.
2) Watch your map and read all signs.
3) Get your shoes reset before the ride.
If I remember correctly Sharon’s wonderful horse, Mika won Open Lightweight, Morgan’s horse, Hank won Open Junior, and Emma placed well in Open Heavyweight. (I think Ken won Open Heavyweight on his horse, Ice!)
So glad my mom was there at that P & R to send the safety riders out to get us or we may still be out there!!! 😂😂😂
I was introduced to NATRC by my friend Amelia Adair. She loved how the sport encouraged her to form a partnership with her horse and challenged her to be a better horseman. It sounded like the perfect adventure, camping and riding in beautiful places with your trusted partner. I was soon on my search for the right competitive trail horse. I was the president of a horse rescue and have been involved in all types of animal rescue throughout my career, so I knew that I could find a horse among the many in rescue in need of homes. I came across Joey on-line. He was in Tennessee and I was immediately drawn to him and his story. The rescue reported that he was a Tennessee Walker (through genetic testing, I have discovered that he is a Missouri Foxtrotter/Hanoverian cross) that was started as a big lick horse by some people hoping to make a quick buck. When Joey did not respond to their training techniques, he was beaten, shocked and ultimately abandoned- left for dead.
When I met Joey, he had gained some weight but was far from recovery. My first ride was bareback and bitless out on the trail and he was great; quiet and calm. I thought he would make a great NATRC horse. Once I brought him home and he began to get healthy, I realized that he was not the quiet horse I first encountered at the rescue, he had many unseen scars that would take much longer to heal. Joey was fearful, especially of people. I discovered that the rescue had sedated him for veterinary exams and farrier work. He would not allow me to even touch his rear end. Blanketing and grooming resulted in a bolt, every shadow a spook. But he was kind and I could see that if I could reach him, he could be great.
Slowly, overtime with the help of positive reinforcement training, I began to gain his trust. We worked the first year on handling with desensitization and counter conditioning in addition to trail riding. In that year, I worked on building his body stronger and my communication better by improving my hands, my seat and my cues through lessons in classical dressage.
In our second year together, we tried our first NATRC B rides. My goal for Joey was relaxation at the obstacles, not completion. Needless to say, we lost a lot of points! The following year on Joey’s first A ride, Colorado Trail, he not only completed all of the obstacles, but he earned 1st place Novice Lightweight Horse and Sweepstakes. Joey and I continue to improve but still have a lot to learn. NATRC has helped me work Joey through his toughest challenges and has taught me many lessons including: breathe-stop-and settle not only at trail-obstacles but in life, to see the best in a trying day, to cherish the successes, to learn from the mistakes but most importantly NATRC has helped me to find the partner I always wanted in my horse, Joey.
Story by Dee Overholt:
A long term friend and I were competing in the Golden Gate ride back in the late 90's. For those not familiar with the park, there are lots of hiking & equestrian trails with many small outhouses along the way.
During the competition, my friend had to use the facility. She dismounted, unhooked her rein, and went in to take care of business, keeping a hold on her horse thru the doorway which she did not latch. A group of fellow competitors came along at a godly pace, and her horse decided to leave her behind and follow the pack.
My friend did not lose her grip on the rein, but was dragged out of the outhouse mid-stream, with her pants down. Quite a sight. We still laugh about it to this day.
I attended my first NATRC ride this past year (2019) and what an incredibly fun experience. I came from the world of barrel racing and looked to NATRC to transition away from that sport and do what my heart loves, trail riding.
I could not believe the amount of kindness I received from everyone when I had no idea what I was doing. I heard that the Leisure Division is a relatively new class and I can honestly say it was the perfect fit for me and Radar. My 17 hand quarter horse and I had no idea what to expect. We covered some great country and the judges gave me great tips on what to prepare for in moving up in classes.
Unfortunately, my horse suffered some physical setbacks that prevented us from being able to compete in more than 2 of the events this year, but we are back to healthy and we can't wait for the upcoming year. This is an incredible group of people and I am so fortunate and blessed to have met you all.
Dee Bar and I were in the Chokecherry Ride. Cristy, w/o the H, was the photographer. We were at the "A" marker and Cristy was set up taking her usual great pictures. I have enough of those usual pictures and wanted to go for a rather more memorable one. So, on the spur of the moment I yelled, "Wait, look at this", and proceeded to stand up on my mule. My legs could not do what my brain said to do and I fell back down on the back of my saddle, scraping the sides of Dee with my spurs enough to draw blood.
She, of course, protested by doing her best to buck me off. I could see her hind legs coming up to about the height of my head and thought to myself---You are going to be really lucky to come away from this without getting your brains bashed in. Just then she gave it her all and I went flying head over heels through the air, did a somersault, and landed hard right on my behind.
I was stunned, Cristy ran up to me really concerned asking if I was alright and telling me not to move. She didn't have to worry about that, I couldn't move. I did manage to say "Cristy, did you get a picture of all that" and she replied, "I think so", to which I managed to say, "Good, cause I think I don't want to repeat that, ever".
Moral----Never say "look at this" while riding your Ass or you could end up on your ass.
Later that evening I was presented an 8x10 framed picture of the event which still hangs on my wall.
For 7-8 years I listened to my mom, Calleen Olson, tell stories of her adventures, trials/tribulations, learning experiences, achievements, etc she had with her time devoted to NATRC. It sometimes sounded scary and intimidating how I imagined the riders being judged at your every move once you don that vest. I was always so proud of her when she came home from rides hearing about how she and Dakota would do and what she learned.
When we would go out for trail rides, before I even considered doing a NATRC ride, she was already grooming me and mentoring me on how I would have gotten dinged by a judge for that mount or good job on that side pass. I was learning so much 2nd hand from her NATRC experiences, when we got a suitable second horse to compete I finally signed up and we spent a solid 9 months training/conditioning before joining her for the 2019 season competing. I haven't been competing in the saddle since I was 5 yrs old!
As an adult, it gets harder and harder to get in quality time with my Mom and this last year riding so much with her has been priceless. It's her happy place, her meditation, what keeps her sane... and I couldn't be more happy having decided to make this season a priority and join her in what we both love to do. I certainly learned a TON, met some wonderful people (shout out to Cheri Westmoreland you were a great mentor too!!), rode in new places I don't think I would ever have otherwise, and was able to connect with our new horse Sunny who has certainly been challenging at times!
Thank you everyone for your kind welcome to the NATRC Region 3 Family!
One of my favorite NATRC memories is of the Rocky Mountain Dream CTR in September of 2006. I was riding Charley, my favorite gaited horse. Jerry and I had never ridden this ride. Being September, we brought lots of coats, gloves, and warm clothes. And it was a good thing because it started to snow during the Saturday ride. In fact it snowed so hard you could not see the ribbons on the trees! Charley and I were riding with my friend Linelle Inman and she was familiar with the trail. Thank goodness, as the trees were starting to fall around us, it was a complete whiteout. We did safely return to camp and tried to dry out. That night we double blanketed the horses and in the morning the water buckets were completely frozen, Management shortened the ride on Sunday, as many people were not prepared for the severe weather conditions.
A bit of trivia: At check-in Jerry lunged my little white, short haired, 10lb, short legged Jack Russell, Murphy. He was great, got a plus for check-in!
At the Navajo Lake Trail Ride there are several named locations. One of the well-known of these is Skeleton Canyon. This name goes back to the second year of the ride in 1976. When we were marking the trail that year, we came across a group of bones from a cow which had died at the top of the canyon. These were scattered and old. I collected the bones and arranged them in the form of an almost complete skeleton. I put a sign next to the skeleton stating “last year’s last place horse”. This would be passed early on the Sunday trail.
The Saturday ride was long and hot (we pulled 17 horses at the last Sat. P & R). One of the riders was a small animal vet who could not catch his horse on Friday so he brought, and rode, his daughter’s unconditioned horse. That horse became very ill from dehydration and was treated by the ride vet, Dr. Steve Derwillis. He only had two liters of IV fluid so Judy and I each made a trip to the hospital ER (40 miles each way) and obtained a total of three cases (36 liters) of IV fluid. The horse survived but most of us were up all night with her treatment. The whole camp cheered when she peed and pooped just before sunrise.
Needless to say, the “last place horse” sign was no longer funny and I had to hurry out in the morning and take it down before the riders got there. The bones are still there, but have been supplemented some from time to time.
Bill & Judy Cumberworth
I remember as a kid riding an NATRC ride where a pony coliced at the ride on Saturday night. They walked the pony all night long hoping he would pull out of it. In the morning the vet ended up euthanizing (or maybe he just died) When they opened him up to find out what was wrong he was full of worms! It was really sad.
So on Sunday, we were at the last P & R and my horse laid down with his saddle on. Everyone worried he was colicing. No he was just hot and sweaty and wanted to lay down in the sand. I was both embarrassed and relieved!
Story by Kay Gunckel:
Matt and Roxanne put on a wonderful ride at Red Feather up in Northern Colorado. I was so excited to have a ride so close to home. I had worked for years to get the 4-H kids come compete in NATRC. Raelynn and her mom both decided to compete!!!!
Well we were hit with a summer snow storm while out on the trail. It was freezing. I took the hood off my coat and gave it to a rider that had no hat what so ever.
It became a white out as we were up on the top of the mountain. Management had to tell us to get back to camp as quickly as we could. I was riding Ashley’s wonderful grey Arab gelding, Sport. He was such a trouper. We were cantering in the snow and he had his head down into the blizzard loping like a show ring quarter horse peanut pusher.
Raelynn and her mom were softball players so her mom started pulling pine cones off the tree and throwing them at her daughter. It became a game throwing pine cones back and forth. It worked to keep from thinking how frozen we were!!! We all survived and finished the ride. Needless to say Raelynn and her mom did not compete in another ride.
I had been hearing about Competitive Trail Riding for years from friends who were into it. I had even gone so far once as to attend a mock-CTR and clinic put on by these same friends, trying their best to reel us in to the sport.
I was toying with the idea of trying a CTR when I was still back there in the Midwest, but had a hard time seeing how to do it and have it be fun for both me and the horse. First, the tying at the trailer overnight is a real sticking point for those of us whose horse has never done that. Will he have to stand all night? Will he lay down even if he can? Will he be exhausted? Will he be safe? Will he still be there in the morning? All thoughts that went through my head.
Secondly, I didn’t have a way to camp overnight comfortably. ‘Comfortably’ for me at this age (60) means a real mattress on a firm bed that is not the ground cloth of a tent. We tent-camped lots when our kids were small,…. and it was fun in a shared-survival-experience sort of way,…. but I had no desire to go back to that. I had a 2-horse bumper pull with a fair-sized tack room, but not big enough for sleeping. I tried it. I tried sleeping in my truck (not a good fit there, either). So that was a dilemma, as well.
Then my husband and I made the big move to northern CA in late 2010. More and more of my Midwestern friends were getting into the sport and I would read about all their fun adventures and see their ribbons and smiling faces on Facebook and that made me wish I was there to join in. But could I do it HERE where even a light casual trail ride invariably involves rocky trails and mountains and drop-off cliffs? HERE in the heart of endurance ride country where Arabians abound and where a “walk” often meant going 5 or 6mph on a gaited steed?
I own the loveliest of the old-style QH’s ---- Cooper, who is 18 this year. He’s done more than his fair share of trail miles and is possibly in the best condition of his life, now that he’s met with northern California style trails. But he ‘ain’t no Arabian’ and in his vocabulary “gait” means a way out to the pasture. Could we really do it HERE?
Would I kill my horse trying? Was he too old?
Could “I” stand up to the rigors of 6 to 8 hours in the saddle? Was I too old?
So many questions. So many fears of what I would be getting myself into.
With encouragement from my friends, new and old, (who I now refer to as partners in crime, or enablers..) I finally mustered the nerve to join NATRC. I figured if I took that step and paid that fee then I would feel compelled to try a ride. I connected with one very nice local NATRC member, Laura Harvey, and she and I met for lunch to talk about it, and later we did a conditioning ride where I got to pick her brain and let her watch me and my horse to see what she thought. I asked her if she thought we could do it. She said yes.
I took a deep breath and signed up for my first ride: Spring Ride at Mt. Diablo.
As I recall the conversation with Laura she described the Mt. Diablo ride as “a nice ride” and she talked about Spring flowers, and said that it was pretty, and she said other things like, “You and Cooper will do fine.” Stuff like that. From another gal I was tipped off that “after the lunch break there is this kind of big climb, -- not so steep, just long.”
I listened. I made a mental note. But in hindsight, I don’t believe I quite understood what she meant by that.
By this time, since I had joined NATRC and “had” to camp overnight for rides, I had convinced my hubby that we needed to upgrade the horse trailer, something with a gooseneck where I could at least throw a mattress. We ended up buying our first “toy” --- a little Exiss horsetrailer with a weekender LQ! Now I was more than ready on that front!
I had talked my friend, Dani, into joining me on this ride, so we arrived early on Friday and got set up in a lovely spot in a large sandy parking lot, close to the water spigot. We checked in and got our ride packets, including our numbered vests and our maps. My number was 28. We set up our stabling spots as we had been advised, making every effort to cover up any edges or jutting parts on which a horse could catch a halter or hurt himself. We set up water and full hay bags and wandered off to meet and chat with others. Sometime while we were gone the horsemanship judge came by and inspected our “stable” and gave us scores.
Next we were accosted by a man carrying a weight scale who wanted to weigh us. In front of everyone. And announce the results. !! What?? So we gathered up all our tack and put on our boots and helmets, carrying all the stuff that the horse will carry during the ride (minus food and water), just like the jockeys at the racetrack. As expected, I surpassed the magic number of 190 that separated the lightweights from the heavyweights. No surprise there. Novice HW division was mine.
The next big event was the vet check-in. I had bathed Cooper the day before and he looked pretty good, so just dry cleaning this time. The footing was deep sand, so no need to put his boots on for that. I braided his mane and washed his face clean and we were ready.
The vet first looked him over, felt his back and legs, asked his age, said something to the secretary, and then she had us trot out, lunge him in a circle each direction, and then trot back. Quick and relatively painless, though I wasn’t too sure what the results were.
We had a wonderful meal that night, followed by a raffle and a fairly lengthy pre-ride meeting, with a Q&A session afterwards for the first-timers. It was good to know Dani and I were not the only newbies. But we didn’t get to bed early!
Bright and early the next morning (well actually it was still dark) we were awakened at around 5:00AM to start getting ready for the 7:00AM start. Ugh. Feed horses first, then start preparing. It seemed like there should have been plenty of time, but I felt rushed. There was going to be a judged mount first thing, so that meant being ready by around 6:30. Getting the saddle bags on so they didn’t bounce was a struggle and I wished I had practiced that earlier!
After the judged mount, which went well for us, we very soon came to another obstacle, navigating an upward slope. We almost missed that little trail as I was not sure why the ladies with the clipboards were standing there and I was not paying attention to ribbons so soon out of camp. Sounds like I was not alone in that mistake!
I was in charge of keeping us on time, so I had set my watch at 12:00 as instructed. According to the map we had an hour and a minute to go four miles. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? In reality it required us to do some serious hustling, since it was hilly and there were a couple watering opportunities along the way where we lost some time, plus my horse (and my companions’ horses) didn’t have fast natural walks, so we did quite a lot of trotting to get to the first marker just over minimum time. There was a judged downhill as we neared that first marker.
On we went.
At the second marker there was a 15-minute P&R stop, so we got off and tried to quiet our horses so they could relax. The first person to take the pulse said, “13. Do you want a recheck?” (Um…..Yes?) I wasn’t sure, as I knew they were OK to go on if it was 16 or under, but it sounded like she was offering me something good, so I said yes. The next guy got 12 on him. As I learned at the end of the ride you lose a point for every beat past 12. Resp. 6. But the vet showed me that capillary refill and hydration wasn’t as good as it should be, so I lost points there and made a note to stay longer at the watering holes to encourage him to drink.
By the time we got to lunchtime (marker 4 on the map) we were ready to get off awhile. P&R 13 and 5, but I didn’t know yet about the points off so I didn’t ask for a recheck. Lost a point.
We ate our sack lunches in a big old pasture. There was a watering tank and hay for the horses. I unsaddled him and got some water to sponge him a bit. I gave him some of his Purina Senior and electrolytes in a soupy mash. I was happy to see him drink off the soup to get to the grain! He also drank very well, twice, so I was feeling encouraged about his hydration status. And I was so glad the air temperature remained pleasant with a cool breeze. The first half of the ride was done and we felt we were doing pretty well!
On the way out of camp they had us do a trot-by on a loose rein. My two ride partners went first, which meant I had to turn Cooper’s butt to them so he could not see them running off. Of course when it was his turn and he saw them way down there he wanted to run to catch up, but I was able to slow him to a trot, and off we all went.
Then we started climbing the Never-Ending Hill. Up, up, up.
And up. And up. And more up.
Cooper began needing breaks. Breaks became longer and more frequent. Then he started getting shaky and I was getting scared for him. Around every corner where I hoped to see a water tank sitting on top of the mountain there was just another climb.
Eventually it did happen, two magical white giant tubs of clear water appeared in the shade at what looked like the peak of the climb. Thank God. I got off and gave Cooper a big drink. We weren’t supposed to use the water for sponging, so I dumped my water bottle over the insides of his legs, his groin, the underneath of his neck, but it wasn’t enough. I thought about using my Gatorade, but we still had a long ride ahead of us. I cheated and stole a little water from the magical white tubs for a little more cooling for my horse. I figured we were out of competition by then, that we would be unable to finish within the time window, and I didn’t care. I was trying to decide whether I should try to go on, or call someone for help, or just sit and take a break and wait for others to come along. I encouraged my friends to go on without me, but they wanted to stay, afraid them leaving would make things worse for Cooper.
But Cooper was drank well and then started grazing, his usual preferred activity. Respirations were slowing, things were looking up, so we decided to slowly go on, since the climb was over. Now one of the other horses was having trouble with the downhill, so we were not trying to make up time; each of us doing whatever our horse needed to be OK.
By the time we reached the next P&R, working our way downhill, Cooper’s P&R’s were excellent! 10 and 2. He had made a remarkable turnaround. I didn’t even know how to process that. So we just went with it. The horses were more than willing to trot on the more level areas, so we let them. And we were making up time.
At one point there we had to do a trot-by for the vet, stop in front and back up 6-8 feet, and then trot on. The next obstacle was crossing the murky pond. Honestly, by the time we got there (a mile from the finish maybe?) I was fried and had put all thoughts of competing behind me. I followed the horse in front of me into the water too closely (points off) as the lady with the clipboard watched. I just wanted this ride to END. My knees and thighs and crotch didn’t want to do this any more.
But my horse must have smelled the trailer --- he got his second wind. We trotted, we made up time. We caught up with Michelle P. and her husband and I said, “How far to the end?” She said, “We’re here.” I looked around, I looked ahead. I stood in the stirrups and tried to see over her head. I didn’t see any stinkin’ lady with a clipboard and a stopwatch.
We trotted on. And on.
I had been told that the last two miles will feel much longer, and that was true. It felt like five.
Then we saw people – we had reached the end. HALLELUIA!
At the trailer I drug myself off and was happy to find my knees could still hold me. I could almost hear my horse sigh in relief.
I quickly pulled off tack and got him to water and fresh hay. I asked for advice in how to get him cleaned and groomed within the half hour we were given. He wanted to roll, but I promised him I would let him do it AFTER the check-out. We were called within about 40 minutes and waited in line for our turn. I saw others had brought a brush with them. I had rinsed him off, combed out his braids, wiped off his face, but he was still far from “clean”, in my opinion. But good enough. It would have to be good enough because that’s all the time and energy I had left.
Cooper, being the good boy he is, trotted his usual casual circle in each direction just like he was asked. Then we were excused, turned in our vests, and the game was over.
After resting and cleaning up a bit we enjoyed a delicious grilled tri-tip and chicken dinner—food never tasted so good!
The vet and horsemanship judge’s reports were fun to listen to, and of course there were the results, which were fun to witness. Cooper and I even placed, and my friend and her horse won Novice Sweepstakes! Holy cow! It was awesome.
I couldn’t promise anyone that day that I would be back for another try. It was a tough ride for us. But now, two days later…….
I just sent in my registration for Cowboy Camp!
Story by Jordan Junkermann
Coming out of lunch at one of the rides, I had gotten off to open up a gate. It was a new saddle and I honestly had not done enough homework or practice to make sure everything was fine tuned.
My girth wasn't sized properly for my little mare and it wasn't tightened as much as I thought. Needless to say I was halfway through my attempt to remount from the ground and the saddle slid practically all the way underneath my horse.
Luckily Bill and Diane Wingle had come through the gate right behind me and he was insistent on helping, my stubborn self, by holding my horse as I adjusted my tack. My horse was hot mess after lunch and ready to go and I am so grateful that he was there to help.
My favorite horse was SW Windwalker. Purchased from Sena Fitzpatrick in the 90's. Windwalker had been a NATRC horse for several years, ridden by the junior rider Jason White. I rode with Jason upon occasion, and remember that instead of saying "Hello" as you rode up, he would ask "What’s your horses name".
I had the pleasure of riding Windwalker to 2 National Championships and almost a 3rd. We were 4 points short, and ran out of rides. The only one left was in Alabama, and after much deliberation, decided not to go.
He was a very talented horse, always willing to go and do and it was a great pleasure to compete him. He was then sold back to Sena Fitzpatrick where he lived out the rest of his life.
In the mid 1990’s the San Juan Valley Trail Riders decided to have two extra B rides using the marked trails of the Navajo Lake ride (in the spring) and the Chokecherry canyon ride (that fall). Two weeks before Navajo, we had a ride called Anasazi. This was scheduled to be a regular one-day ride with open and novice. On Saturday morning we awoke to six inches of snow. It was difficult to even see the trails and it would have been dangerous to use them.
In order to save the ride, we waited until 9:30 when the sky had cleared, then laid out a new trail on the only two gravel roads. We went out toward Francis Creek above the dam and lake putting a novice turnaround marker at four miles and an open marker at five miles. Lunch was in camp then in the afternoon we did the same thing in the other direction. Out and back in morning then out and back on the other road in the afternoon totaled 16 miles for novice and 20 miles for open. The judges stayed in one spot on each “loop”. All but two riders competed and there were no accidents.
The other B ride was two weeks after Chokecherry and was called the Dave Thomas Memorial. After the riders were all timed out the sky started to get cloudy and the temperature fell. By lunch there was a cold sleet falling driven by a strong wind. Everyone—horses, riders, workers, and judges were miserable. I came back to our home and gathered every coat, hat, sweater, and gloves that I could find and took them to the riders at lunch. However, the most important thing that happened at lunch was the surprise arrival of Bill Smith with hot dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate. This was the start of our tradition of providing Saturday lunch to riders.