BROOKFIELD 30 mile CTR
In the fifteen years I have been competing distance, I have not had the opportunity to attend the Brookfield ride. I am told that the trail is awesome, views are beautiful and I will enjoy it immensely. I am very excited. Dom will be riding Steel in the 30 mile on Saturday.
Sometimes, it’s nice to hear another person’s perspective on the ride. This is Dom’s Blog. Notice that I am not the only one that has MIS-ADVENTURES!
Brookfield 30 (and how a drunk driver hit us on the way home)
I have another ride coming up this weekend, so I should probably suck it up and write about the last one I did!
I had never heard of the Brookfield CTR before I was signed up to ride it this year. This is really a shame because it is an amazing ride, and I would highly highly recommend it to everyone. When Sandy found out I was riding it, she told me that it would be her favorite ride if it wasn’t for the fact that the horses have to be kept stalled in camp. Honestly, after Steel’s trailer-side antics at Cheshire, I was relieved to have her safely contained. I think Dodie felt the same. This would be Steel’s first official CTR, but I felt confident that she would be great.
The nice thing about CTR with Dodie is that I don’t have to worry about when I get there. As long as I arrive in time to throw a leg over the horse, things are fine. Since my big lesson days are Fridays and Saturdays, and since it’s the peak of cutting season for Mike, my ride schedule is often determined by how many days off we can afford to take (not many). The fact that Mike and I could work a full day on Friday before heading up to NY state was a definite selling point for this ride.
Admittedly, the idea of driving 300 miles to NY after work on Friday, riding 30 miles on Saturday, and returning Saturday night was a bit daunting, but we like to live on the edge.
…so Mike and I worked our long, demanding days, came home for a quick dinner, guzzled a few extra cups of coffee, let the dogs out one more time, and hit the road. The first stretch of the drive took me over familiar roads to the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my summer in 2010. It was eerie and flashback-y.
Before long, we hit the open highway. There was a surprising amount of cars on the road, but we made good time. In the dead of night, there wasn’t much to look at, and we eventually ran out of things to talk at. We killed a good bit of time just reading the funny names off street signs. After that, any time it got quiet, Mike would chant, “Lackawanna, lackawanna, lackawanna…” I also now have the burning desire to name a dog Chenango and a kitten Harpurr.
We cut a full hour off our estimated travel time and arrived in Brookfield around 1am. After driving the local ‘highway’ through towns that reminded me of my summers in Walton, we made our way down a few dirt roads and arrived at the Madison County Fairgrounds. Thankfully, the gate was merely closed, and not locked.
Mike and I drove quietly through camp, locating Dodie’s rig, and finding an out of the way spot to park. We got out of the car long enough to stretch our legs, pee, and take in the unbelievable amount of stars. Then we crawled back inside, kicked off our shoes, threw back the seats, and went to sleep.
Rise and shine at 5am. We quickly spotted Dodie, decked out in yellow for easy identification. I greeted her cheerfully, asked where there was coffee to be had, and figured out where I was in the sign in process. Breakfast was being served in the dining hall. Steel was vetted and ready to go. I still had to sign a release and pay a fee.
I moseyed over to the sign in trailer, where it appeared that nobody was up yet. When the door popped open, it turned out that I knew the ride managers. They were the couple who I rode 80 miles in Maryland with. That was the year we all got stung by bees three miles away from the finish line. I’m glad we’re able to laugh about that cringe-worthy experience now…
The ride briefing was the night before. Apparently it was one of the better ride meetings anyone has been to, and I really missed out. Dodie filled me in on the basic details. We would be riding one lollipop loop. The hold was at the far end, and would be pretty much impossible to find without a local. I told Mike that it would be great if he could make it to the hold, but that we would understand if he couldn’t get there. Dodie also pointed out a good person to follow.
The rest of the pre-ride passed quickly, but peacefully. There was a distinct lack of that ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality. We got the horses out of their stalls and cleaned up, then let them graze for a little while before getting them tacked up. Once I had Steel decked out in our matchy-matchy lime green, I swung a leg over and let her wander around camp at her own pace. She was definitely interested in things going on around her, but never put a foot out of place. Good girl.
|Dodie and I before the start.|
At 7 o’clock on the dot, we were off, with a 5h to 5h30m ride time window. We set off at a lively trot down the road in front of camp, and I was impressed at how much Steel’s extended trot has improved. The little girl can really boogie.
A little way down the street, we turned left into the forest. A few moments later, we came to a narrow wooden bridge that then turned into an even narrower wooden bridge. The horses in front of us weren’t having anything to do with it, and Daisy needed a little bit of encouragement, but Steel clip clopped right over it like she’d been doing it her whole life. (She hasn’t. She was a show horse for the first 14 years!)
As I looked left and right off the bridge, I started to sorely regret not bringing my helmet cam to this ride. It’s so hard for me to edit and process video right now, that I end up getting frustrated and letting the footage sit and sit (or go to waste entirely). I opted to leave the helmet cam at home this time and just bring the point and shoot. The views at Brookfield were amazing. From the water crossings to the fairytale-like forest to the magical lighting. The trails were gorgeous, and I never tired of the scenery.
|The view from the bridge.|
Next thing I knew, we were flying through the forest. Daisy was setting a fast pace, and Steel was keeping right up. I stood up in my stirrups and got out of her way. We were weaving between ancient trees, flying around bends and twists in the trail, and motoring up and down hills. For a moment, I thought, “I wish we were doing endurance, not CTR! We’d rock it!”
After passing a few people, however, Daisy started to get some race brain. Dodie wasn’t having any of it, and dismounted to let Daisy remember her manners. Daisy was furious. “Lady, what are you DOING?!?!? Those other horses are passing us. We could be WINNING.” Steel just stood there. “Ok, we’re stopped now. That’s fine…”
Once Daisy settled, Dodie mounted up and we moved off again. From then on, we had a brilliant ride. We rode some country streets and some logging roads, one of which was an active logging site, complete with roaring machinery and piles of tree trunks.
We only had one minor mishap on the first loop. There were a lot of wooden foot bridges in the boggier sections of the trail. The horses went across them without hesitating. At one point, Steel got a little too comfortable and tried to trot across one. She slipped on some wet leaves on the already slippery wooden surface and her feet went out from under her. She went down hard, and I really thought I was going to eat dirt for a second, as her legs splayed out in all directions. But, somehow, Steel managed to regain her footing. She stood up, puffing slightly, and looked over her shoulder at me with a slightly panicked look in her eye.
“Good save, pretty girl,” I patted her neck and tried to get my heart rate down.
Towards the second half of the first loop, we started to catch up to people again. Our horses were going pretty fast, and we had to ask to pass a few people. One group seemed irritated by our jingle bells, so we offered to get in front of them and put some distance between us.
The next to final stretch to the hold was a big up hill climb, unfortunate when you want to start bringing your horses’ pulses down. I was grateful that we were in the shade, and was awestruck by the trees and the lighting around us.
We finally reached the access road to the hold, and passed the truck that Dodie has instructed Mike to follow.
“Did a little blue hatchback follow you up here?” I asked the driver.
“I didn’t lead anybody up,” he answered, and my heart sank. “But other people did…”
As we came trotting up the gravel road to the hold, I spotted Mike standing by the in-timer, camera in hand. I was thrilled. It turns out he had not only found the hold, but helped the ride management set it up. As usual, he was making a good name for himself in camp. I swear, we’re like the distance riding power couple. Haha.
|Coming into the hold.|
I set to taking care of Steel right away. Despite the fact that ride management had set up many beautiful watering sites along the trail, Steel wasn’t drinking. The lack of eating and drinking under saddle has been a concern with her since the beginning. It’s a habit she retained from her show days. She just waits until the end of the ‘show’ to gorge herself. That may work at CDR’s, but it certainly won’t fly in endurance. I reassured Dodie that I suspected she would be a horse that would drink at twenty miles.
Thankfully, she’s also a horse who responds really well to sponging, and I had her pulse down in no time at all. We made our way to the vetting area, trotted perky and sound, and got good scores both for hydration and gut sounds. Steel certainly didn’t seem any worse for the wear.
With the horses happily chowing down on their mash, I took the time to take care of myself. Thanks to Mike’s influence (“Don’t make me applesauce you…”) I have started to eat and drink during rides instead of waiting until after. In fact, I brought a bottle of Gatorade with me in my saddle bags and actually drank on trail. *gasp* Actually, I drank the entire bottle over the course of the thirty miles! Ride management also provided a ton of food for riders at the hold. I chowed down on a sandwich and shared my snacks with Steel.
Dodie glanced at her watch, did some math, and decided that we were going a little too fast for ideal time, especially since we’d spent a good bit of time waiting for Daisy to grow her brain back. If we went as fast on the second loop, we’d come in before ideal time. We decided to wait an additional ten minutes at the hold, and rode out at 10am for the second half.
The way out of camp was much more technical than the way up, and we rode down a steep stretch where we couldn’t go any faster than a walk.
Shortly after that, we emerged at a lake, where several riders were wading their horses to cool them and encourage them to drink.
|Dodie and Daisy in the lake.|
I was snapping pictures when someone asked, “What’s that in the water?”
Suddenly everyone was evacuating the lake. This ride may not have had bees, but it certainly had leeches! Big ones! Some were close to a foot long! I’ve never seen anything like it…
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Daisy chose exiting the lake as the perfect time to shake her bridle completely off her head! I turned around, and there’s Daisy with nothing on her face! Apparently this isn’t news, though, and Dodie had it completely under control before I even realized what was going on.
|At least it looks peaceful.|
By this point in the ride, Dodie and I had found a lot of common ground and were basically laughing all the way. As we rode into a section of trail that is covered in pine needles, which completely mute the sound of hoof falls, Dodie said, “This looks like the type of place where you’d expect to see Sasquatch.”
“Well, I do have my camera ready…”
“Shhh! Don’t say that out loud or we won’t see him.”
“Can you imagine? Sasquatch would like to be friends on Facebook. Would you like to accept?”
“Facebook! Too funny…”
“Yeah… Sasquatch sent me a friend request… also a death threat…”
Sasquatch became our running joke for the ride.
Periodically, Dodie would look back to see how I was doing (usually when I got distracted by a bird and ceased my endless bantering). My response was, “Yay! I love trail riding! Weeee! Horsey!”
At one point, we rode through a puddle and a frog hopped out in front of Steel.
“A frog!” I exclaimed. Then, “Two frogs. THREE FROGS!!! FOUR FROGS!!! So many frogggggs! Coffee coffee coffee…”
I provide my own entertainment.
And just as I thought I was cracking up and that nothing was actually as funny as I was making it, we passed this sign:
|You should see Mike’s impression of a slow-mo goat.|
We did not see the slow goat, but we did pass many dogs and cows, and an entire hoarde of fat, white turkeys. They were exceptionally loud.
Shortly before we came into a water stop, Dodie spotted a boot on the ground. I think it was a Renegade. I dismounted, strapped it to my saddle, and rode on. Shortly after that, we ran into a volunteer who was looking for that precise boot. Hooray!
At the water stop, the most exciting moment of the day happened. I dismounted and approached one of the sponging buckets. Without wasting a second, and almost knocking me off my feet in the process, Steel stretched out her neck and drank deeply from the bucket. She drank and drank, and I cheered and cheered. From that moment on, Steel drank from every trough we passed. She even sipped from a stream at one point! Good girl!
There was a good bit of road riding on the second half of the 30. Thankfully, there was a nice berm on the side of the road, so we weren’t on the actual pavement much. We were also in the middle of nowhere with minimal traffic. Also, I’m pretty sure all the cars we saw were crew and ride volunteers. The views were lovely.
By then, it was getting hot. We kept going as fast as we could to keep the horses from baking at a walk on the hot pavement. This is when we caught up to the couple whose boot I had picked up. Apparently, they were having a lot of boot-related issues, and were concerned they weren’t going to make their time. At first, they asked permission to pass us because they were in a hurry, but when they realized the pace we were traveling at, they asked permission to have us pull them along. Steel and Daisy were happy to do it. In fact, I think having horses behind her gave Daisy the extra momentum to really go. We cantered most of this part of the ride.
Once we were off the roads, we were doing a lot of hills in the woods. There had been a lot of rain in the week prior to the ride, and with horses traveling them all day, the trails were getting pretty torn up. There were several mucky spots. We were able to trot a lot of them, but some were bad enough that you just had to walk. This stretch of trail was slowing a lot of people down, and it eventually cost our friends with the booting issues their ride. Miraculously, Steel was navigating all of this without so much as a mis-step.
And then, coming down a nice, slight down hill, things fell apart. The footing was soft, but solid. We were cruising along at a canter. Unbeknownst to me, there was a tree root just under the trail surface. Steel and I must have been lucky number 100 for the day. As Steel passed over the root, it sprang up from the footing, catching her front leg. Steel tripped hard, but she’s spry and immediately tried to regain her footing. I heard her step on herself and I knew it was bad. I turned to look over my shoulder, pulling the mare to a stop. There, in the freshly churned up trail, her shoe glinted at me.
“Dammit,” I muttered.
I dismounted, retrieved the shoe, and looked over Steel’s legs and feet. It was a front shoe, but the foot was in tact. She didn’t have any fresh marks on her legs either. I re-mounted, tucked the shoe in my saddle bags and cautiously trotted off. Steel felt sound. She’s normally barefoot and had been shod specifically for this ride, so I hoped the lost shoe wouldn’t cost her the mileage. Steel’s attitude seemed to be, “I don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!”
Unfortunately, I did end up losing the shoe somewhere along the way, and couldn’t waste time going back to find it. Thankfully, there was a farrier at camp and he had her exact shoe in his truck. She also has the type of feet that you can nail to pretty much straight out of the box. Good girl.
By then we were on familiar ground, retracing our steps back to camp. The last few miles flew by and the mares still had plenty of go left. Steel led for a little bit to get Daisy’s go flowing again, and then we cruised right along, making our way to that final wooden bridge.
We reached the road to camp right on time, and had a beautiful canter in.
We came in right in the middle of our ideal time. I got my in card, ran down to the barns, and stripped the tack off of Steel. We sponged the horses and Steel drank a ton more water while we waited the twenty minutes to pulse.
Unfortunately, the pulse was being done in the stalls. It was hot and stuffy in the barn and Steel pulsed in at 50, low enough to complete, but higher than I want to see.
From there, we were off to trot out and wait for hands on. Steel trotted out great. Our circles were sloppy, but only because we were under an overhang and it was a tight area to trot in.
Even without the shoe, Steel was sound and completed.
We tucked the horses in their stalls and wandered off to get lunch. That’s when we found out that a lot of people were coming in over time. Apparently the mud and the technical stretches were really costing people time. It wasn’t an easy ride, but I thought there was plenty of time given the conditions, and was surprised to hear how many people were struggling to make it within their window.
After lunch, we went over to hands on. Steel had some interference marks, but otherwise looked great. She was well hydrated with good gut sounds and seemed perky, alert, and ready for more. I really think she’s ready to do a 50!
We spent some time grazing the horses, then went back to Dodie’s rig to relax. By then, it was really hot and I was pretty sleepy. Surprisingly, I wasn’t at all sore from the ride, but my lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. Mike and I debated going home, but I really wanted to stay for awards, so we drank some beer and had some laughs. Dodie called Mike a fairy (not really) and we told him all about our new friend, Sasquatch.
I’m glad we stayed for awards because both Daisy and Steel did really, really well. Daisy wound up being Reserve Champion for the 30, and Steel and I came in first in my division, with a pretty impressive score of 95.5. We were just trying to match our ribbons to our halters 😉
Since we had already stayed for awards, and dinner was only an hour away, Mike and I decided to stick around for that too. After all, our meals were already paid for. I’m glad we stayed. We wound up sitting with a great group of people and we laughed our way straight through dinner. It turns out the family we were sitting with already had an inside joke about Sasquatch!
At one point, Mike went to the bathroom. When Dodie came back to find his chair empty, she said, “He’s invisible!” I chuckled and she threw in, “Fairies can do that, you know.” I just about snorted chicken out my nose!
We stuck around for the 50/50 raffle too. Mike had bought some tickets and was going to donate it back to the trail fund if he won. We didn’t win, but it was a good effort.
After that, we decided that we really had to hit the road. We still had a long drive home. Dyandra had watched the dogs for us all day, but I really wanted to get back to them, and get to bed so we could enjoy our Sunday together.
The ride back flew by, and we made good time again. We even saw a lovely sunset along the way. It was lining up to be a perfect weekend.
Then, after an uneventful 600 miles of driving and thirty miles on horseback, we got into an accident pulling into our driveway. We pulled onto our street at midnight, with Blake Shelton’s Ol’ Red playing on the radio. As I turned on my blinker to turn left into our driveway, I briefly noted that a strange looking set of headlights had appeared behind us at the end of the street, seemingly out of nowhere. We had been the only ones on the road for quite some time, and I was puzzled. That’s all the thought I gave it though, and I turned into the driveway, glad to be home.
Suddenly, the world was a mess. Mike was yelling, my car was skidding sideways, my head was hitting the dirver’s side window, and the sight out my windshield didn’t even make sense. There was a man in what looked like a very badly messed up car. He was bouncing around like a basketball, and I really thought I had killed him. There were tree branches everywhere and my windshield wipers were going a million miles an hour. My turn signal still clicked sadly from in front of my steering wheel.
It took me a second to register that we had just been in a car accident, and I had no idea how it had happened.
Mike was already out of the car and screaming at the guy, who was not only alive, but very, very drunk. I was having a moment of panic because my door wouldn’t open and I hadn’t gotten it together enough to climb out of the passenger side.
It turns out the drunk guy was in a Polaris Rzr, not a car, which is why I thought the vehicle was so badly mangled. It’s basically a roll cage on wheels. He was ripping around in the woods for a couple hours, and was on his way home (just down the road from us). He came flying out of the woods and onto our street. He was probably going 60-70mph. He claims he didn’t see us, but I think he was just trying to get around us. He tried to pass on the left as I turned into the driveway, and t-boned me, right in the driver’s side door. The force of the impact shoved us sideways off the driveway and into a tree. He ended up in front of my car, between my hood and the tree.
When Mike jumped out of the car, the guy tried to get away. He put the gas pedal to the floor, and the engine screamed over the music he was blasting. Thankfully, the whole front end of the machine was destroyed and it didn’t move. I really think he would have run Mike over otherwise.
Then he tried to take off on foot, but Mike stopped him.
By then, I was on the phone with 911.
“I’ve been involved in an accident with a… a… a… WHAT IS THIS DAMN THING ANYWAY?!?!” I was pretty hysterical at this point, and was yelling obscenities and crying because the car’s not even paid off yet.
When they asked if we needed an ambulance, I turned to ask the other driver if he was ok, which is when I realized that he was gone.
“This mother fucker left!!” I yelled into the phone.
That’ll be on recording forever and ever. *sigh*
The local police arrived pretty quickly, but we had to wait on the state police since the accident technically took place in three different towns. We were in one town, the guy came from another town, and we landed in our driveway, in a third town. Have I mentioned we live RIGHT on the corner of three different places?
The state trooper we got was a very serious guy who I would not want to mess with. He immediately made it his personal mission to nail this guy.
In the meantime, we had found a Gatorade bottle full of vodka, several empty beers, and a whole cooler of booze in the Polaris. No wonder the guy fled the scene.
Our dogs were going nuts on the back deck and a neighbor stopped by to see if everyone was ok, and to report that he’d heard someone running on foot down the street by his house. Six months and we hadn’t met any of the neighbors yet. We met several that night.
Our drunk friend then went on to call a buddy of his, who came to pick him up in his own truck. They then DROVE PAST THE SCENE. I recognized him in the passenger seat and tried to alert the police, but by the time they ran the plates on the truck and confirmed it was him, it was too late.
Unfortunately, you can’t nail someone for drunk driving unless you catch them while they still have alcohol in their bloodstream. Bummer.
At one point I asked Mike, “Does this thing have a glove box?”
Sure enough, there was one, and the guy’s insurance information was in it. That didn’t prove who the driver was, but I did some internet stalking and confirmed that it was him.
Our plan of going to bed early was shot to pieces. We stayed up waiting for the Polaris to get towed and filling out information for a police report.
The police didn’t catch the drunk driver that night, but they knew where he lived, and they stopped by the house with a photo so I could confirm that’s who was driving. Eventually, they managed to track him down. He was given a dozen citations, from illegal passing to leaving the scene. I was told I’ll be getting a subpoena for his court date.
The drunk driver also stopped by here during the week. My landlord intercepted him and told him I wasn’t home (I was). He took his contact information and told him not to come back. Mike called him that night, and he was very apologetic. He says he made a lot of bad decisions that night and he wanted to make sure we weren’t hurt. He also offered to ‘make it right’ if my insurance doesn’t cover something. It certainly doesn’t excuse what he did, but I’m glad he’s not looking for further trouble. We’re just letting insurance and the police handle it.
As for my car… it was towed on Wednesday, before the holiday weekend. I haven’t heard anything back yet, and I’m starting to get concerned. I am planning to call my insurance company about it this afternoon. I have gap coverage in case it’s totaled, but that would really put us in a bad spot.
Ugh… I just can’t do anything without it being a huge ordeal.
Anyway… have more photos from the ride:
|Decked out in green.|
|The Infamous Dodie Sable 🙂|
|First time distance rider on a lovely medicine hat gelding named Tonto.|
|Our friends from dinner.|
|Nice shot Mike got at the finish.|
|Wait, don’t dismount yet!|
|The reason they named her Steeln My Hartss|
|Best crew <3|
|You can see how far off the driveway we got pushed…|