Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wallflower Abloom: Volunteering at Owyhee Fandango International 2009

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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Lori Skoog said...

I'm not very tuned in to your favorite glad you were able to go. How long would it take these riders to make 50 miles?

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful blossom yo are!

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi Lori -- A moderately paced endurance ride (7.5 mph) would require 6 hours, 40 minutes of actual ride time. Add in a couple 40 minute "holds," during which the horses must pass veterinary criteria and have opportunity to eat, drink, and rest.

Real "race pace" can be much faster, depending on a wide variety of factors such as weather and terrain. If I remember correctly, last year's AERC national championship team completed 50 miles in about 4:10, which is an average pace of 12 mph...but you'd better have spent years building a VERY fit horse before trying anything like that.

There is no minimum time limit for endurance, but there is a maximum. A 50 must be finished in 12 hours or less (including holds) in order to earn a completion. Generally speaking, you wouldn't want to "race" any slower than half-walk, half-trot. Most people trot almost the whole ride; some scatter in a bit of walking and/or cantering. Again, it all depends on the individual horse, rider, trail, temperature, etc.

Goodness, Kim! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

wow a gift of yourself to volunteer way 2 go


Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

gp -- I'm pretty sure I got more out of it than I put in. Volunteering is like that. :)

ellescee said...


Thank you so much for the great pictures! It was wonderful getting to finally meet you, too! I can't wait for Pink Flamingo--I'm sure you and Consolation will be ready.

P.S. Jasper and I had QUITE the adventure on Monday...more on that later. (Don't worry, not a rodeo type of adventure...more of an off-trail type adventure. It turned out great, though!)


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I couldn't get enough of all your photos. Wonderful photography. All the riders look so focused and the horses calm and ready to go.

Are most of the horses Arabian, or do other breeds excel just as well?

You inspire me to still live my dreams, even if I can't ride for a while longer. I can still be around horses without riding, as you have proven.
And it seems almost as exciting as being in the saddle.

Thank you for sharing your experience,

Merri said...

I missed you there! I was out at the ranch vet check all day. Or maybe I didn't recognize you without Aaruba
: (
anyway, great pictures!
The first one in blue and yellow is a lovely young gal from Sweden, Maria Hagman-Eriksson. She finished 9th in the 100.
I don't know the next 2 ladies...
Third in white on gray is Jan Marsh who won the 50 on Morning Line.
See you here in September maybe???

clairesgarden said...

it looks like a fabulous day. its a shame not to be competing but still fun to be there and meet so many experienced people.