Road Trial....DCA 2000
For the most part, road trials are held at the national specialty and I had been unable to haul my horse out for one. DCA 2000 was to be held in French Lick, IN...just a long day's drive my my home in northern VA. In the fall of 1999 I began to prepare for it. My horse, The Obligator, had been pretty much a couch potato for the last couple of years so the first thing to do was to get him back in shape. I began to work in earnest to build up his physical condition and my own. Gator and I both gained in endurance and teamwork. Tracey, Ravenwood Tricks of the Trade CDX MX AXJ RD CGC TDInc, had always enjoyed going out with him and had naturally taken to coaching with him. She assigned herself a position with her nose just inches from his right rear leg. Gator loves the dogs so he and Tracey were getting their routine down. I was thrilled that he was responding so well and it looked like we were going to be ready for French Lick.
Unfortunately in early April Gator became seriously ill. I was offered the use of a 6 y.o. paint gelding named Butterscotch who was as sweet as could be but didn't know much. So while Gator was recuperating, Tracey, Butterscotch and I continued to work toward our goal of an RD.
We were fortunate to have a very mild and fairly dry spring. I rode almost every day. One day we would work on endurance by going cross country at a working trot for at least an hour and sometimes two to two and a half hours. On other days we worked on the obedience exercises...the hock on, stay, speed exercise, and recall. Even though my trainer's barn is only a few miles from my house it took a tremendous time commitment...drive over, bring Butterscotch up from the pasture, groom him, go out and do our training exercises, cool him out, put him back out in pasture, go home. I also took Butterscotch on a couple of trail rides sponsored by local hunt clubs to get him used to different terrain. I was really glad I had done that when I saw the course in French Lick.
June came all too quickly and soon we were off to Indiana. Tracey loves to travel but I soon discovered that ,while Butterscotch liked to ride in the trailer, he didn't like the trailer to stop and park...even for necessities such as gasoline. We planned to take it easy and only drove to Charleston, WV for the first night. One of my email acquaintances had arranged for me to put Butterscotch up overnight at a friend's barn. I thought country roads in VA were narrow. I couldn't believe I got my trailer back into that farm in WV. But the people were wonderful and the barn was lovely. The next morning we headed off again and that afternoon we arrived in French Lick. We were actually renting a cabin at the Wilstem Guest Ranch because that was where privately owned horses entered in the road trial had to stay. I shared a 3 bedroom cabin with friends.
Saturday we went out to watch tracking and to help with the agility trial. When we got back to the cabin another road trial competitor said that she was pulling her horse as the trail would be too difficult for him. So Sunday Nancy Kramer, who came all the way from AL, and I rented horses at the stable and rode some of the course. It was steep in some places and the heat was going to be terrible but it was still very doable. Later that evening we went to the road trial meeting and discovered that the escort horse I thought I had reserved since I had reserved one from the stable manager himself was, in fact, not going to be available.That posed a problem. Butterscotch , as I said, is sweet but not very experienced. I really wanted him to have company and I feel it is in the interest of safety for riders to be accompanied particularly when riding through unfamiliar, heavily wooded areas.
Monday morning my heart was racing. Tracey turned 10 in March, 2000 so this was our one shot at an RD. I knew she could do it but we hadn't had any chance to train in oppressive heat. I loaded up Butterscotch and we headed for the resort stables. As luck would have it, my start time was 12:30...hottest part of the day. The woman who was in charge of the stable horses said she would be able to supply me with an escort rider from the stable. That was a big relief although it was still disappointing that Nancy would not be able to ride as my escort.
We did our vet check and then waited for our start. Our appointed time came and off we went. Butterscotch was definitely happier when the escort horse caught up with us. The escort rode on ahead and waited for us to do our obedience exercises.
The mounted judge was Peggy Ann Strupp, a seasoned road trial competitor. The first exercise was a recall. Since Tracey is not one to run off and need to be called back, I left her in a stay and then, on Peggy's command, called her. She came racing up to us. Then we had the "hock on" exercise. The judge tells you to call your dog to hock and the dog has to maintain the position for 200 yards. Tracey chooses to work with her nose a few inches from the horse's right rear leg. I called her into position and we trotted off. She did beautifully. Then we turned around for the distraction dog. I wasn't worried at all about that part. Tracey would never leave the horse to see a strange dog. Then we had our stay exercise. When it was over, we headed to the course judge, Karen Rockwell, for the speed exercise. On the speed exercise there is a marker which tells you when to put your horse into a canter. Then you must increase to a hand gallop. The total distance is 100 yards. Again I was pleased with Tracey's work. The judge told us we had passed so far and off we went to do the 12.5 mile endurance portion.
The trail went down a hill, crossed a road and then climbed back up the hill. In one place the trail was extremely steep. In another place it was very muddy. Tracey tried very hard to walk on the very edge of the mud as she does not like to be dirty. Butterscotch, bless his little heart, just kept on going. About a mile short of the halfway point, my escort announced that her horse was too tired and she would have to leave. She said she would send another escort. Butterscotch was very distressed by his new best friend leaving and wasn't sure he wanted to go on but he did. When we got to the vet check, there was water for all of us. Butterscotch thought it would be fun to climb in the water trough but I was able to dissuade him. We (my good friend Tana Rugg met me at the vet check) soaked Tracey down and wet Butterscotch down too. Once we passed the check we were off again with a new escort rider.
The climb up the hill the second time took its toll on the escort horse and we had to stop a while for her to catch her breath. Then we came back up into the meadow and it was so hot and unbelievably humid. But we forged on and then headed back to the stable. I could tell Tracey was pretty hot but she has never been a quitter. It took Tracey a little time to cool down to the required temperature. I would bet the temp of the dogs just sitting in cars out there would have been above normal too. But her temp came back to normal and Butterscotch had already passed his vet check so we were officially qualified.
Tracey won a lovely silver tray for oldest qualifying bitch and Butterscotch won a beautiful iron work design of a galloping horse and a Dalmatian for best owner conditioned horse. The real thrill was that Tracey now had an RD and was now also qualified for the DCA performance certificate. I am so grateful to Tana Rugg, Nancy Kramer, and Richard Smith for all their help. I am also grateful to Pann and Jim Drunagle for letting me have Butterscotch to use for the road trial and to Becky Garber for all the hours she rode along with me while we trained.