Apr 05

Crone rides for 37 seconds

PearlMan, I always thought it might come to this, and sure enough, it has. I have to complete an endurance ride on a loony Arabian to win a bet.

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).


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  1. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Good luck! What’s the wager?

  2. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    A pint of Guinness in some Irish pub or other. In Ireland. Loser pays travel expenses. And buys the beer.

  3. Arlene

    http://harnessphoto.blogspot.ie/?zx=b5f6f32cffed0036 – This lady knows a fair whack about endurance riding and is the sort of nice person that might answer an inquiring email. Either way, best of luck with it.

  4. Val

    GET OUTTA HERE!!! Which ride have you targeted???

    (I will be at Llano Estacado 6/08-9… We may have houseguests coming in over Memorial Day weekend so I have to pretend the Old Glory ride doesn’t exist :-(

  5. pheenobarbidoll

    Y’all got rain? Wtf!!

  6. Hattie


  7. The Crone of Cottonmouth County


    Heck, I haven’t decided on a ride yet. I thought I’d wait to do that until I’d determined that I can actually get the horse to depart the barnyard without having a panic attack from herd separation anxiety. I looked up Llano Estacado, though, and noticed that it appears to involve a topographical feature called “Devil’s Canyon.” Holy shit! Ominous much? Maybe in 2014. NOT!

  8. Val

    Nah, I think most of this year’s trails are gonna be on a private ranch, so it’ll be lotsa dirt roads…


    OK, the AERC website has a wealth of info for new riders:


    (Be sure & scroll down to look at the pictures, tee hee! THIS not THAT, as the panicked gelding lunges away!)

    I think you should plan for your first ride to be the Armadillo Oct 19th… It’s our most well-established, longest-running Texas ride in the piney woods of E TX. I’ll post the entry link when it’s up (prob by July, August at the latest. I’m actually going down to help w/trail work this weekend, lots of damage from Ike & Rita!). Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for ya in the meantime!

  9. Ruby Lou

    TWO DAYS OF RAIN ? ! ?? I mean, two days of rain? Wow. But see, that’s what it takes. You have to get distracted with a goofball endurance ride project where you draw on the established presumption that of *course* the ground will be bone dry, because what else is it ever? THAT’s when it rains dogs, cats and rhinos. But rain on three years’ drought is always good and your chronicles of the ride with Pearl are even better. I am also a moron, especially about horses, but Pearl won my heart when she stepped up to the soccer ball and kicked it back and forth.

  10. Pinko Punko

    Yeah, what the hell is going on? Smokey dog was sleeping on my ear, as he does when OH NO thunder!

    Barely any sun in three days and everything is green- what is this, IRELAND?

  11. gingerest

    A round pen? Couldn’t you just, I dunno, put a leashy sort of thing on her and stick it in the ground, so she can only go in a circle, like a tether-ball, instead of handing over still more of your hard-earned cashola to your contractor?

  12. Wendy

    Yowsa-those treeless gizzies are indeed ugly ass! The first time I saw one, I had to avert mine eyes from the exceptional ugly assedness of it. But I bet it will be so comfy for you and beastie Pearl. I’ve a friend who does and loves competitive trail riding. It sounds a bit less daunting than endurance? All I can think of is Tevis, where legend has it that riders routinely dismount, grab tail and horsie pulls them up the cliff. Yoiks. Our round pen is handy dandy the first two days of use until the non footing breaks down into ligament rending beach sand. Methinks that the recommended 6′ of exotic layers of blue sandstone, hand washed granite fines etc. may far exceed the cost of post and board structure. This would be why our Pearls’ annual exposure to such an otherwise eminently valuable to rider survival contraption is so brief that they are never worked down enough for enough days in a row to then actually begin to contemplate bareback rides down the driveway. With or without wearable air bags. (Good idea by the way-get the one that inflates on impact!!) Looking forward to updates and envious of your gumption.

  13. Ron Sullivan

    My… goodness. They come in purple. And fuchsia! And the first photo that showed up, the thing was on a zebra. Takeaway point, for me at least: There’s always someone out there crazier than you. Or me.

    Place we’ve been farmsitting at now and then, just up the road a piece toward the foothills there’s a spread with a bunch of horses, ponies, a donkey or two, and what looks from the road to be a donkey-zebra hybrid.

    Happy Trails!

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