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[RC] Oklahoma Hospitality - the MSNM Ride - rdcarrie

Wow - Katrina and Mary Mosshammer really know how to roll out the red carpet!  Any rider who did not feel pampered at their Mid-Summer Night's Madness ride this past weekend must have been sleeping.  Well, maybe they were, since it was a night ride.  I hadn't been planning on going to this ride, since Oklahoma is a long drive from Huntsville, Texas (down near Houston).  And, it was hot...and I don't handle heat well.  But my friend Kris Anderson wanted to do it.  She and her mare Belle had done their very first LD there last year, and were going to try their first 50 there this year.  Kinda symbolic.  She managed to talk me into going...I figured that since it was a night ride, I could probably handle the heat.  And this ride was in southern Oklahoma, so it not as far as the other Okla. rides.  I'm st ill not quite sure if she wanted me there to make sure she didn't quit, or so that she could lounge in luxury in our LQ trailer...I think it was mostly the latter.  LOL  My husband Ross couldn't make it, so it would be a girls only trip.  Look out Oklahoma, here we come!
Kris spent Friday night at our house.  The trailer was packed and ready to go.  We got up around 5, and pulled out a little before 6.  First stop was Jack in the Box for breakfast and COFFEE.  We headed up I-45 toward Dallas.  Kris was navigating, but I didn't quite like the hedging words she was using, so before we got to where we needed to leave I-45, I pulled over to look at the map myself.  Not that I doubted her, but...ok, so I doubted her.  Directions confirmed, we continued on.  I only took one wrong exit, which was quickly remedied.  We continued on without incident, stopping in Hugo, Okla. to pick up a few items, then back on the road.
The ride flyer mentioned a couple of big hills on the gravel roads leading to camp that one should keep momentum on and not stop.  Kris said that last year she'd met someone coming down one of those hills and had had to back to the bottom and start over.  Hmmmm...  We turned into the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area, where the ride would be held.  Very pretty area.  Very conveniently, ride management had placed a pie plate saying, "hill starts here" to let everyone know that this was "the" hill.  And a doozy it was!  I put our dually in granny gear and and just let it crawl up the hill, which it did with no problem.  When we hit some loose gravel, I put it in 4WD to give better traction.  We didn't go up fast, but we went up without incident.  After the hill mellowed out, we sped up at bit, then made the final turn up to camp, and hit the last little steep section .  We crawled up that, and then were at camp.  We found a nice slot to back into.  I had a heck of time backing the trailer into it...took me about 5 or 6 tries.  Our big water tank had slid back and to the side during the steep hills, and was blocking my view, so I was having a hard time seeing on the right side.  We finally got parked and got the horses out and got them settled in their pens.  They each drank several gallons of water, and dove into their beet pulp mashes.  It was HOT...I turned on the generator and cranked the AC in the trailer up on high.
This was a gorgeous area.  It was very hilly - more like mountainous (remember, I live in flat East Texas).  It was forested with shortleaf pine and post oaks, with a scattering of other hardwoods.  The trees, including the pines, were rather short.  The understory was quite open and grassy, with lots of rocks.  It was beautiful.  The wildlife manager in me immediately recognized it as excellent habitat for quail, turkey, deer, and many other species, and I saw the evidence that the area was regularly prescribe burned as a management practice.  The ride flyer had said that there was also a herd of elk on the management area.
We headed up to register, and there I met RM Katrina Mosshammer and her mother Mary.  No, wait...these two cheery, laughing people could not be remotely involved with managing the ride.  They looked and acted much too carefree, and were laughing way too much.  But yes, they were, indeed, running the show.  We signed up, got our numbers, and moseyed back to the trailer and the cool air it contained.  Did I mention that it was hot? 
After the horses had had time to eat and re-hydrate after the hot drive up, we vetted them in, and they got all good scores.  We'd noticed the rather sharp-looking rocks in places, and decided to put Easy Boots (now *there's* a misnomer if I ever heard one!!!) on their front feet, even though they were shod.  I wrestled Bear's boots on, and then handed my husband's horse's boots to Kris for her mare.  She got them on, and we returned the horses to their pens.
The ride meeting was short and sweet.  The 50s would start at 7 pm and do the 16.4 mile loop 3 times.  In daylight this would be repetitive, but at night, no big deal, since one can't see much anyhow.  The 25s would start at 7:30 and do the 16.4 mile loop once, then a shorter, cut-through loop, to make their total distance.  Ride management had water placed out on trail in a number of places.  Holds would be 50 minutes.  There were 17 in the 50, and I believe 12 in the 25.
Knowing that this ride had rocks and lots of gravel roads, I'd elected to delay Bear's re-shoeing for a week.  Our farrier comes every 5 weeks, and had been scheduled to come the Thursday before the ride.  I'd checked Bear's shoes on Tuesday, and they were good and tight, and his feet looked good.  So, I'd called Gabriel and rescheduled for the following week, since I didn't want Bear to possibly be a bit ouchy on sharp rocks after having shoes reset two days before the ride.  Remember this...
Kris had been eager for her mare Belle to do a 50.  So, she'd loaned her to me at the Old Glory ride in May for a 50.  Belle had lost a front shoe on the last loop.  We'd been going slow, and I didn't have time to lead her the last 8 miles and complete (and I knew that there were some nasty sections coming up), so I elected to pull and cut trail back to camp...which still took me an hour and a half of leading her on foot.  Kris then sent her with me to Fort Stanton.  I rode her on day 4...Easy Boots over shoes in front, shoes in back.  On the first loop she got two stones wedged in the crease alongside her frog...we managed to pry them out, but it caught up to her 7 or 8 miles later, and she was off.  I led her on foot for - you guessed it - an hour and a half into the vet check.  She trotted out sound there, but I elected to pull her.  Belle's rider ending up on the ground leading her was becoming a tradition on her 50 mile attempt s.  Remember this too...
We tacked the ponies up, and I got our propane lantern ready to light when we came back in.  Before we knew it, we were ready to go.  I'd asked Kris several times if she had her vet card...she answered each time that she'd get it.  Once she even went into the trailer where it was, so I figured she had it.  As we milled around at the start, I asked again...her response was, "OH CRAP!"  We'd go right by our trailer when we started, so we would stop and she would get it then.
Trail was open, and we all headed off rather sedately through camp.  Kris and I stopped so she could grab her vet card, and then we continued on.  The trail was marked with pie plates hanging from white ribbon.  Turns were marked with big white lime arrows on the ground, as well as glowsticks.  The horses were moving out well.  In addition to the water tanks ride management had placed on trail, they had also marked several water sources that were just off trail, with big white lime "Ws" and arrows.  Bear was fussing and wanting to chase down the horses he could see in front of us, as usual.  He is usually a saint on conditioning rides, but morphs into a different creature at rides.  He was actually better than usual at this ride, but was still pulling and fighting to go faster.  Belle was motoring along like she was on a mission.  We alternated trotting and cantering for the first few miles, and quickly came to the first of the many water sources RM had provided.  They had set out drinking tanks and sponging tanks.  After a quick stop, we continued on, stopping at each of the water sources.  We joined up with Lucy Estabrook on her gray gelding Worm.  Almost before we knew it, we were at the halfway point, where there was a hole punch...it had only taken us an hour to cover the 8 miles.  And this is where the pampering comes in.  It was hot, we were pouring sweat, and RM had a big barrel of ice containing bottles of water for us!!!  A cold bottle of water has never tasted as good!  Thank you Katrina and Mary!!!  And they had a big tub of snacks - little packages of oreos, crackers, granola bars (oats and honey - Bear's favorite!), and more.
After refreshing ourselves and punching our cards, we continued on.  We visited one of the off-trail ponds...the route in was littered with large rounded rocks, but the pond was lovely.  We decided it would not be a good one to visit in the dark.  But it would not be missed, because management had place so many water tubs on trail that we never went very far at all before coming to more water.  It was just wonderful!!
At some point I noticed the distinctive "tink" of a loose shoe...uh-oh!  I got off to check, and sure enough, Bear's left rear shoe was loose.  Dang!  All 6 nails were still in, but I could wiggle the shoe around.  Now the stress set in...would it last?  Guess this is what I get for delaying re-shoeing (remember that decision?).  But darn it, I'd checked them and they were good and tight.  *sigh*  We continued on toward camp.  We hit the dreaded long steep climb (I think it's around a mile and a half or so).  Part way up there was a level stretch that we resumed trotting.  Kris suddenly commented that Belle wasn't moving quite right...we watched, and it appeared to be in the rear.  She dismounted and trotted her out, and our consensus was the left rear.  A quick exam showed nothing, but Kris felt that she'd stepped on a r ock.  Lucy and I continued on the last 3 miles or so to camp, and Kris began leading Belle in the growing dusk (remember what I said about Belle and 50s and her rider leading her back to camp?).  Darn!!!  I was so disappointed for Kris, but hoped Belle would not be pulled and we'd be able to put an E-boot on and continue.
Lucy and I made it back to camp as full darkness fell.  Our horses pulsed right down and trotted out fine.  I headed back to the trailer with Bear.  He was eager for his beet pulp, but was calling for Belle.  I examined the loose shoe more closely, and saw that I could probably save it by tightening the clinches.  I got out my tools and did that, and was happy to see that it snugged right up and was good and solid.  My out time came, and still I dawdled, hoping Kris would make it in and Belle would be ok to continue.  Just as I was about to mount up and go out, here she came...Belle had been grade 1, and not pulled.  Ok...we were back in business.  Kris went to get two E-boots from Nancy Mitts at Stablegear tack for Belle's rear feet.  Since we'd come here to do this ride together, I decided to wait for Kris.  Both horses were chowing down.
We headed out on loop 2 about 10 minutes after Kris's out time.  The horses were fired up and ready to rock and roll, so we trotted and cantered for a while, then they settled down into a business-like trot.  After about 4 or 5 miles, I heard it...tink.....tink...   That darn shoe was loose again.  I spent the rest of the loop stressing about it.  Kris had to dismount a couple of times to adjust the cable on the new E-boots, and she checked the shoe for me...I didn't want to look at it again.  LOL  It was loose, but still there.  Ok, as long as I can hear it "tinking," it's hangin' in there.  We made it to the halfway point in good time, chugged more ice water (mmmm!), gave the horses some granola bars (they'd worked hard), and headed out.  Trot, canter, trot, with the shoe giving its little "tink" now and then to let me know that it was still with us.  Kris's back was really putting her in agony, so we took some walking breaks for her.  We admired the night sky with all the stars, and talked about how magical it was to be riding under a Tevis moon.  We talked about the people we were pulling for at Tevis, and wondered how they were doing - Jonni Jewell, Lucky Duffy and Romeo, Dr. Q, and others.  It was kinda neat knowing that the Tevis riders were looking up and seeing the moon from the back of a horse the same as we were doing.   Before we knew it, we were at the long steep up hill, which we walked.  Then the 2.9 mile stretch back to camp.  Yippee, we're 2/3 done!  The horses were down immediately, and trotted out great.  Back to the trailer, and they devoured everything within reach.  We ate and drank cold stuff.  I was starting to feel queasy from the heat, and tried to drink as much as I could, including some elytes (gookinaid).  I felt better, then worse, then better.  Kris's back was killing her...she has chronic problems with it.  She had some Darvocet with her, but had never tried it.  I told her now was definitely the time to take one!  She took one, and hobbled to her feet.  Ok, time to head out.  I got an E-boot from Nancy Mitts to take with me in case the shoe decided to give up on us.
By now the moon had set and it was DARK.  I prefer to ride at night without supplementary light sources, and luckily Kris does too.  I did have a headlamp along in my pommel bag for fixing E-boots, etc.  So we headed out into the darkness.  The horses had no trouble seeing the road, and we could actually still see the lime and pie plates a bit once our eyes were accustomed to the dark.  We trotted along briskly.  I was still feeling queasy, so I put Bear behind Belle, so that I didn't have to think...just ride.  Belle motored along without hesitation.  After a few miles I started to feel a bit better, so came up alongside.  We took some walking breaks here and there.  The Darvocet was taking effect, and Kris was feeling much better...whew!  A quick stop at the "refreshment station" for ice water for us and granola bars for the horses, then on to the last 8 miles!  In no time we were climbing the steep hill for the last time, as the first morning light began to filter through the trees.  We reached the top and headed down the home stretch.  The horses felt good, so we picked up a canter.  When the finish line came in sight, we galloped across, Kris holding back as she wanted turtle.  At the finish line Mary told us that there was still one rider behind us, but she didn't know if she'd make it in time.  She also encouraged us to stand for BC, as we were 8th and 9th, and they were giving an award for high vet score.
We headed in to camp and vetted through right away.  Both horses looked good, although Belle was a little tired.  Kris decided not to show for BC, but I figured what the heck, it would probably be the only time Bear got to do so...and I really wanted to see what his vet score was.  We did our 15 minute CRI, then headed back to the trailer, where he ate nonstop for 45 minutes.  Took him back up for his vet score judging, then back to camp.
The awards were at 9 am.  Ride management had scrambled eggs and sausage, biscuits, pastries, orange juice, and COFFEE for everyone!  Wow!  More pampering.  Completion awards were 50 lbs of a corn, oats, barley, and alfalfa mix.  (yum, say Bear and Belle!)  We also got sponges for being top ten.  The last rider on the 50, Susan Young, had made it in right at 7 am - yay!!!  No turtle for Kris, but good for Susan!  So, 10 of the 17 50s completed.  High vet score went to Lucy Estabrook's horse - Lucy finished 2nd.  BC went to the first place rider...I can't remember his name.  (sorry!)  In the LD, I think 10 out of 12 riders completed.  There were two first time riders in the LD who were overtime.  I heard them telling another rider that t hey realized they were going to be OT and they decided not to push their horses to make the cutoff but rather to just keep a steady pace and enjoy the ride.  Kudos to them.  They were all smiles and had a good time, and said that they will definitely do another ride.
Kris and I headed back to the trailer and crashed...we got up at 1:30, packed up, and headed home.  The trip home was uneventful, except that I took the same wrong exit on the way home that I took on the way up.  Oh well, at least I'm consistent!  LOL
I highly recommend this ride.  Ride management is awesome, they do a great job of marking the trails, putting out LOTS of water for the horses, taking care of riders, and are just plain fun people.  We didn't get to see the elk, but we did see a quail with 12-15 brand new baby chicks on the road by camp as we were leaving.  They were little cottonballs on toothpicks.  Adorable.
Dawn Carrie, Huntsville, Texas
and Little Bear TC (still got that loose shoe!)

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