The situation could not be more rife with potentially hilarious hijinx. For example, I don’t know jack about endurance. In fact, I can barely endure getting out of bed in the morning. Also, I am a weakling. And a moron. Also, my noble mount is to be Pearl, my fat and nutty pet Arabian who hasn’t been ridden in 3 years. Heck, with all this going for me, can there be any doubt that I will win both the race and the bet?
[Photo: the author tries to keep Pearl from chomping her iPhone]
Of the many impending struggles, none can be more pressing than the question of my turnout. I have perused the Google, and disturbingly, it appears that endurance ladies fashions run along the lines of sweat pants and teal windbreakers. It is also the custom to tie to the saddle about 47 different nylon sacks stuffed with assorted granola bars, clothes, and water bottles, giving the rider the appearance of membership in the Royal Mounted Bag Lady Guard. I can appreciate that an endurance lady might, at mile 30, be knackered enough to not give a shit about looking awesome in her Tailored Sportsmans and ankle-vise Vogel field boots, but such a paradigm shift is going to be a challenge for this natty-ass crone.
Meanwhile, my first order of business is to acquire a butt-friendly saddle. Currently nothing in my tack room fits Miss Thing, including the expensive dressage saddle I had fitted for her prior to her semi-retirement. Pearl’s body type is what is known as “propane tank,” mutton-withered and cylindrical. With no professional saddle fitter on retainer, I fear I am looking at a lengthy process of long-distance saddle trials.
You may point and laugh, but I have ordered a treeless saddle with which to commence these travails. I await its delivery with some trepidation, for it is ugly, and I am afraid.
One week later
Meanwhile, no sooner did I start old Pearly on our first phase of conditioning — 15 minutes of walk/trot on the lunge line — than it rained buckets for two days.
So what, you say? Well, as you know, water in all its forms is the bane of my existence, and this most recent gullywasher was no exception. For, like, three years of extreme drought there’s nary a drop and then, boom! The minute I start an outdoor project, 47 inches of rain. Not only was I forced to suspend the exercise program for those two days of active deluge-ing, but the resulting tarpit-quality mud has left me nowhere to work out even though the sky is now blue and the climate brisk.
Horsekeeping Tip #1: Forget building a barn; do not even contemplate bringing your horses home until you’ve got your sacrifice paddock sorted. Because there’s always a slender chance, however ludicrous it may sound, that it might rain.
Anyway, right before the flood, and without really thinking it through, and pretty much riding an uncharacteristic wave of
confidence foolhardiness onto a whim, I slapped a bridle on old Pearl and hopped up on her bareback. Like I mentioned, nobody had ridden her in 3 years. Well, you’ll never believe what happened.
She just stood there. For about 3 seconds. Then I could feel — I dunno — something, a sort of over-wound watch-spring sensation. It was vaguely familiar. That’s right, it was the Imp of the Perverse roiling just beneath the surface. I began to recall dimly why I used to have to put that dumb Arabian-style running martingale* on her, for as we moved off down the driveway she unraveled about 15 extra feet of neck and gave me to understand that she fully intended to turn her head upside down in the very near future. Still at the walk, I managed a smallish sort of circle on the lawn, then slid off and declared it an unqualified success. Here at Dreadful Acres, any ride is an unqualified success that doesn’t end with me writhing on the ground, calling brokenly for a margarita and a Vicodin.
Horsekeeping Tip #2: Before you start legging up a gonzo Arabian — and if you’re a pretty crummy old re-rider — maybe build a round pen or an arena or something.
Did I say my first order of business is sorting out a saddle? I meant I’m calling my contractor today for some round pen quotes, and tossing a bit of custom Dover’s way for one of those Michelin-Man body armor eventing vests. Until then I’m ground-drivin’, baby!
* It is the fashion, in certain Arabian circles, to employ a modified running martingale rather than simply train the horse properly. Pearl came to me having been “trained” in this manner, and since I lacked the chops to fix it, it ain’t fixed. But this will change (she said with enormous confidence, eyeing the eventing vests on the Dover website).