I pulled up on a bit of grass at the Teeter Ranch at 6:30 a.m. Coffee mug in hand, I headed straight for the nearest outhouse. (Hey, it's a long drive.) Before I could even knock on the door, a friend hollered across the clearing, "Tamara!"
And my heart lifted.
The drive had been long, you see, in more than minutes. I came in my little car, horseless, accompanied only by the tattered remains of my plans for the 2009 endurance season. This ride was, in 2008, Aaruba's and my first LD. I'd have given half my soul to be riding two 50's on him this year, plus an LD on Consolation. But it wasn't to be. Aaruba's colic and my recent injury conspired to put me in the volunteer crew at this year's Owyhee Fandango International.
But as anyone who truly loves this sport knows, it's far better to grounded in ridecamp than absent altogether. There are friends to be made and knowledge to be gained, and it's absolutely true that you'll meet more people in camp than you will on the trail. Besides, every ride needs volunteers -- and every rider can do with an occasional reminder of how the world looks from a volunteer's perspective.
And, I got to take pictures. These were snapped during the warmup for the 50 mile race, in which some riders competed seriously for both FEI and AERC recognition and others took a more casual approach. The riders below are FEI competitors; if you recognize them, please let me know and I'll be happy to identify them here.
Promptly at 7:00, they were off! The start was crowded but uneventful, so far as I'm aware. 51 horses started the race, and 39 completed.
At 8:00, the Limited Distance riders set out. Here, Elly Burnett and her green horse Jasper take a calm and sensible approach to the race, which they completed in good form. Congratulations on your first completion, you two!
During the first hold, I had an opportunity to do a little impromptu crewing for 2007 AERC national champion Bob Steller and his horse Majestic Star (pictured below). Both Bob and his wife Monika, herself a 2003 AERC Hall of Famer with her partner Markoss, are exemplary ambassadors for our sport.
We had plenty of volunteer help, so the workload in camp was light. I had the privilege of spending a couple hours chatting with Monika between passing time slips and pulsing LD finishers. In addition to being extremely knowledgeable, she is one of the kindest and most encouraging women I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Monika, you're on my shortlist of people to be like when I grow up.
All told, it was a beautiful day in the Owyhee canyonlands. I may not have gotten to dance, but I'm glad I showed up to sit on the sidelines and sway to the music.
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