Remember that even experienced riders all had to face that first time, bumbling through the process sort of feeling. Unless you have a solid mentor in tow here are a few tips to keep in mind before you head out and after you arrive.
Before you pull out make sure you have the essentials.
- Tack (bridle, lead rope, saddle pad, saddle, blanket or sheet depending on the weather).
- Food for the horse (hay, concentrate feed/or grains, mash ingredients if your horse likes mash, electrolytes, cookies, carrots etc…).
- Feed pans, water buckets, hay nets, sponging buckets.
- Sponges (car wash sponges work fine)
- Water (did you email the ride manger ahead of time to find out if there is horse water available). You will also need plenty of drinks and bottled water for yourself. Avoid the fizzy stuff until the ride is done.
- Flash lights!
- Entry form all filled out.
- Entry fee.
- Directions to where you are going, a map or GPS in case of crazy detour.
Think through what you will need, and make sure you actually have it.
- Food for you! Pack enough so that if you come in later than expected and miss the meal, you can still grab a quick bite from your stash!
- Clothes, toiletries…what if it rains? snows? Do you need rubber boots? A slicker? Prepare.
You get the idea…MAKE A LIST. Check it off as you stow it away in the trailer.
So now you have arrived at ride camp. What to do next?
- Some rides you just pull in and pick a spot and park. Others there may be a person that points out where you need to go.
- Get your horse unloaded and interested in some hay, and set up camp.
- After your horse is all settled in, look around camp for a sign, or a friendly person to point you to where you will sign in. Grab your pre-filled out entry form, and your fees and get signed in. Tell the manager this is your first ride. You will be given a card for the vet (and the ride itself). Ask what time you can vet in. Ask what time is the ride meeting. Ask if there is a grease marker available to write your number/ or letter on your horse’s rump (both sides). Be sure to return it!
- Next stop you will need your horse in tow on a lead line to take to the vet. There may be a line. If so keep a good space between you and the next horse so nobody gets kicked, or bit. The vet will check out your horse, have you trot the horse, and hand you back your card. Don’t lose it, you will need it all day tomorrow.
- Hopefully you will have a bit of time to chill before the ride meeting. Use this time to set your gear up for easy access in the morning, in the order you will need it. It makes things easier in the dark.
- Be at the ride meeting on time. Take a pen and paper, so if needed you can make notes on the back of the map. You will be told the order you will take the loops, the color of the ribbons for the loops, and how far each one is. They will also tell you what time you start in the morning.
- Wind down, set your alarm, and be up in plenty of time to eat, tack up, and present for the start. You wrote that on your map, right?
- There will be a person there at the start, make sure they know your letter or number, and that you are starting. After this you might want to let the others leave, the dust clear a little, and set out on your horse in the back. Ride your ride calm and cool, just like you did on conditioning rides. This will avoid your horse becoming anxious and race-brained.
- Follow the ribbons. They told you at the meeting which color you will follow for each segment of the ride. They should tell you how they have marked the turns (if not be sure you ask).
- You will come in from your loop and stop at the in-timer. Have your card out for that person.
- Then the pulse gate. (depending on weather you may have to sponge your horse with water, and scrape it off to cool down first). A person there will write your out time on your card.
- Then move on to the vet. If all is good, you have a little time to feed your horse, and yourself, have a bathroom break, the hold goes quickly, so watch the time.
- You present to the out timer a couple minutes before time to leave. They will tell you when it is time to go.
- You will repeat that process until you are done with the ride.
- When they tell you that you are complete, you are all done.
- Smile great big ☺you put a lot of work into this. Be sure to attend the awards meeting, and if you missed it to turtle, find the ride manager and collect your prize.