Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Walla Walla May Be in a Valley, But It's the High Point of Our Year! (Catch-Up, Part 2)

After announcing my retirement in March, after 15 years at Lincoln Elementary, spring was a bit of a whirlwind, what with gearing up with Kate, and winding down at school.  The last two years, the Walla Walla competition had been the weekend before school got out, but this year the date got moved!  I had to ask to use my saved personal day on the last day of school, usually a no-no.  My principal was understanding though:  "What am I going to do, fire you?"  So I said goodbye a little early to my colleagues and parents and 464 kiddos, and packed up the trailer.

The Cowboy Mountain Trail Challenge is what got me hooked on mountain trail competition almost three years ago. Put on by a group a friends who call themselves the "Wild Cowgirls," it is a well-organized, well-run, user-friendly competition, with lots of choices for horse and rider.  Two main options, the "Cowboy" and "Cowpoke" divisions, provide greater or lesser levels of challenges, as well as speed.  My first two years I was happy to stay at the Cowpoke level, for initiating Kate and my experience. In 2013, Kate won the "Ranch Mare" three day sequence, and I felt like it was time to move up.
With the goal of the regional championships in mind, I decided to try the Cowboy division, to push our limits as much as possible.  The biggest issue here was that I did not feel comfortable with loping Kate out in the open yet, so I would automatically be dinged for that expectation whenever it came up.

Friday's course was along the Walla Walla River.  We had a few problems here and there, and, as expected, lost points on one lope request, but overall, I was pleased with Kate's "try."

Looks impressive, right?  Well, we were supposed to lift one end of the pole and swing it like a gate to enter the corral.  She never did let me put it back where it belonged!
Once in the corral, I dismounted and "branded" the plastic cow, while Kate stood ground-tied.  I've not done much of this before (the ground-tying), so we practiced for a while before the class.  It took a try or two, but once she stood, she stood quietly.
This was a series of obstacles built into this ridge along the river.  That's the judge watching us from behind.
The "waterfall" to the left of the photo is coming from a wooden chute above us.  Kate was dubious, but crossed the bridge, then the "creek", and then went under the waterfall.  (On Sunday, however, we were to circle the rock right under the cascade, and she didn't do as well.)
 Saturday was on the new course the Wild Cowgirls have built--more open and inviting.  Kate was somewhat antsy, waiting her turn, but that translated to two very forward and willing runs.  She was being a bit of a putz about her side-passing (she often is), but we dealt with it.

After side-passing fairly well to pick up the rope, Kate's job was to back up, pulling the hide up towards the pulley at the top of the stump, then lower it back down to the ground.  She did this really well, but then refused to return the rope to it's notch (the side-passing thing!).
This jumble of logs, stumps and rocks, down a gully, was no big deal for Kate.
That was followed by several navigation-type obstacles, where we had to maneuver around, over, and through various trail sequences.
I was worried that Kate might refuse to step up on this huge stump, but she never hesitated!
She really had to umph to get up there!
Her trot here was so strong, I missed the turn to the next obstacle! Rider error!
Sunday's course was back at the river, but the photographers didn't have as much time on the course, as they were busy trying to burn everybody's CDs to take home at the end of the day.

A couple of riders in front of us there had been some sort of problem, and Kate got impatient waiting for her turn to "shoot" the bear [hide], but then we headed upstream to more obstacles. 
I think by Sunday, Kate was getting close to being "done" for the weekend, but we still had improved our scores steadily through the weekend.  Not to mention, improving our partnership and skills!

Unfortunately, three weeks later, my retirement plans changed.


  1. Looks like fun! But I don't like the sound of that last sentence . . .

  2. Oh no, tell me you didn't have to un-retire! This course looks very challenging and I think you both did great.