The Sweaty Equestrian
by Angela Leah Averitt
Tracie Williams Parker and Heather Wilkerson encouraged me to share my experience from the Broxton Bridge Endurance Ride this past weekend in hopes of encouraging someone else. This post is about perseverance, hope, the importance of friendship, and overcoming fear…
She is a mare after all and I had heard such things. I also quickly learned that Remi was quite green and extremely agile. I got catapulted off her enough over the first two years to develop some very deep-set fears which have caused me intense anxiety even at the thought of getting on her back. I was determined to keep this horse but knew I did not have the skill or the mental capacity to make her safe to ride so I recently got her back from three months of training with Elise Levasseur Rogers. Elise is an amazing horsewoman who has been an incredible mentor for me in this new journey with Remi and I am forever grateful.
Fast forward to this weekend...
Though Remi has come a LONG way in her training, I still have fear. A LOT OF FEAR! But, I recently made a pact with myself to FACE IT instead of allowing it to consume me. Elise encouraged me a few weeks ago to bring Remi to Broxton, if nothing else, just to camp. I debated for days whether either of us were ready for the challenge.
Though Remi has come a long way, she still has an occasional out of control, high spirited Arab moment when she wants to go flying down the trail and ignore her brakes. So I was thinking "no way in hell with my anxiety can I ride this horse by myself with endurance riders zooming by in all directions right?" But, I signed up anyways hoping that just maybe I would get a wild hair and JUST DO IT!
So the day comes to load up and go to Broxton. It was 30 degrees and misting with winds blowing 20mph. A year ago, I would have never even tried to load her in those conditions because she would rear up and bolt out backwards. Well, Remi decides she’s going to try an old trick.
Anticipating I would give up like I’ve done in the past, Remi spun around in the trailer, hit her head, and bolted out of the trailer. Except this time, before allowing myself to get anxious I immediately sent her back in. It took me over an hour to load her up but I FREAKING DID IT and didn't once allow her high energy to affect me. Once in the trailer she settled down and chomped on hay quietly for the next three hours. FIRST WIN for the weekend!
As soon as we pulled in camp Remi turned into a fire breathing dragon spinning around in the trailer, screaming, snorting, and pawing at the sides of the trailer to the point of making my entire trailer rock back and forth. She made quite a scene!
I somehow remained calm...how I'm still not sure. Maybe from all those times watching Elise work with Remi seemingly unaffected by her crazy. We found a good parking spot to set up camp but because her behavior was seemingly escalating, I wasn’t sure if it was safe to get her out so I called Elise for help. I did not want to reward her bad behavior by letting her out before she settled. Elise came over and calmly let her out and reassured me that she would settle down if I just walked her around and stayed calm, which I did.
All I could think about was her getting loose in the middle of the night and running into the road and getting hit by a car, because this has happened at Broxton before. I messaged Elise and told her we were going home. I couldn’t do it if she didn’t settle down asap. My anxiety was building and I was blaming myself for Remi’s behavior thinking maybe I didn’t prepare her enough for this. Elise reassured me that Remi’s behavior was not my fault and insisted I tie her to my trailer and stick it out because she needed to figure this out.
I found some gorilla tape and mended my broken corral panel, hooked up the electric, and put Remi back in there to try one more time. She shocked herself about 5x before she realized it wasn’t worth continuing to challenge and she finally stood there quietly. Tracie and Heather walked over shortly after and also insisted I stay reminding me that they've both had horses get loose in camp and SURVIVED so it would be ok. So, I decided to stay…
Night #1 was pretty miserable. I slept in my open stock trailer on a cot, the low was 25 degrees and frost covered the walls that I was sleeping next to. Remi continued to call out at least once an hour throughout the night. A few times I heard her get shocked and blow out like a trumpet. I still had great fear that she would become upset enough to tear through her electric corral but the extreme cold convinced me to stay under my sleeping bag and shut up my worries.
Day #2 I got up bright and early to keep an eye on Remi while we watched the 100 milers trot by us out of camp on their first loop. To my surprise she just stood there watching intently only calling out to them a few times as they left. I took her for a walk mid-morning and she was quiet even with riders trotting by us in and out of camp. She found some grass to graze on and even drank from the water troughs. I ran into Maddie Rogers who convinced me to ride with her later that afternoon, which we did. Remi was antsy but controllable. It wasn’t until this moment that I started thinking that maybe we COULD do the Intro ride that we signed up for the next day.
Night #2 Remi didn’t make a peep. She ate, drank, and stayed quiet throughout the night. Finally after 24 hours I got some much needed shut eye.
Day #3 was the day we signed up to do the Intro ride. The Intro ride was a 10 mile loop that was part of the endurance ride but had no time constraints. We could go out at any time and take as long as we needed. There were 85 riders total and Broxton is very open allowing you to see all the trails around you as they are not hidden by trees.
I did my best to go out at a time that other riders may not be using the same loop I picked. This made me nervous but I knew I HAD to do this!!!
Remi jigged for about 2 miles but was controllable. Several riders passed us but were kind enough to recognize her anxiety and slowed to pass making sure we were ok. I made her stand and watch them canter off before we started back down the trail.
Things were going well but she was becoming increasingly anxious the more riders she saw coming and going. I decided to let her trot to get rid of some of her excess energy. She had different plans and the trot quickly turned into a canter that became faster and faster with each stride. She totally ignored all rein pressure. It took me about ¼ a mile or so before I realized the only way to stop her was to either run her into a tree or circle her into the adjacent field which I did as my saddle started to slide with the turn.
This saddle slipping issue has caused me great anxiety in the past, so I decided to jump off and hand walk her until her energy and mine came back down. I only intended to hand walk her for a few minutes, but more horses were cantering towards us left and right and she was getting increasingly anxious. It took everything I had in me to get her to listen and quit worrying about the other horses running off.
We ended up doing groundwork at least 3 miles before she finally started to settle. I was in the process of mounting when Tracie trotted up to us and invited me to ride with them. She was having trouble with her asthma and was planning on finishing her ride slow.
The last 5 miles of our ride was AMAZING! Remi went out on a loose rein, she stopped to eat grass with horses cantering by, and drank from the water troughs. She finally figured out that it was ok that the other horses were leaving us.
This is a collection of ride stories from distance riders everywhere. Read to your heart's content, chime in through the comments, and share a tale of your own!
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The Sweaty Equestrian