NJ CDR Nov 2021

NJ Devil CTR/CDR November 7, 2021

Creature Feature, aka Willow, and I worked very hard all winter to enter CTD events in 2021. My grandkids rode or drove her weekly and I took her on every conditioning ride I did with her pasture-mate, Bee.  (Have you see pictures of Willow conditioning?  Here’s one for you. She is off-lead and usually leads the trail ride.)  We were totally ready to begin her new career in 2021.

We all know that COVID rules have been hard on ride managers this year.  NJTRA had to cancel Bunny Hop in March and then cancel the NJ100 in May.  Both rides I was fully prepared to enter.  I thought we’d be able to enter Brookfield CDR in June until I found out that the ride manager was not allowing riders to go out with drivers.  I had no intention of putting Willow to work on her first competition without the comfort of her pasture mate going along, so that ride was out.

At this time I am totally depressed that I would not have any opportunities to compete Willow.  I looked for a small person to ride her, and no-one was interested.  I looked for other CDR rides and couldn’t find anyone to haul my cart to the GMHA ride.

THEN!!!  NJ Devil ride and drive was ON!  I was too excited.  I hadn’t done much with Willow after the Brookfield drive fell through in June  so when I saw that the NJ Devil ride was a go, I literally had four weeks to tune Willow back up.  Due to this lack of work I had no clue which distance I should do with Willow.  Bee could do any distance without an issue.

I reached out to Lucha (bless her heart) with two entries that could be the 25, the 15 or the 10 – I couldn’t decided how I wanted to go…and Lucha, can my horse and rider please be with the pony and cart…and Lucha, can I make a decision on the distance the week of the ride…and then, Lucha,  can I change Bee’s rider at the last minute.  THANK YOU LUCHA for your patience.

And so, I finally decided on the 10 mile because Willow would be working in sand, something she had never done and we all know sand is hard on a horse.  How does that saying go, can take the horse from the sand to the mountain, but not from the mountain to the sand.  Well, Willow has been conditioning on our local mountains for a year … and is a tough pony … but sand might knock her socks off, all four of them.

The night before the ride, while out for supper with my husband, I get a call from Lucha.

“Hey, Dodie.” She starts the conversation. “We cannot let you go out on the 10 mile loop, so we’re moving you to the 15 mile loop.”

I must have made a noise because she continued, “Now wait, I know that’s not what you wanted to do but after today’s ride, we found a very dangerous water crossing on the 10 mile loop that a buggy just cannot do.”

“Oh,” I sighed. “Okay, then we’re probably gonna be overtime as Willow has not done sand rides so I won’t push her.”

“No problem, Dodie.” Lucha says. “You know with us only doing Pass/Fail this year, you can go as much as 30 minutes overtime and still get your mileage credit.”

I chuckled, “Yep, but it might be even longer than that.  This is her first competition ever and I want her to enjoy it.”

“It’s okay, Dodie.  We totally know this 15 miles isn’t what  you wanted to do.  I’ll move you to the 15 miles and see you tomorrow morning.”

I looked at my husband and shrugged.  I’m still too excited to be going and quickly sent Dawn a message that we were going to be doing the extra miles.  Wheeeee.

Now, here’s a great side note.  I am well past being child-excited yet I could not sleep Saturday night.  I kept waking up and looking at the clock, sighing, laying back down, falling asleep for an our, waking up and looking at the clock.  Good grief, Dodie.  Get a grip.

We arrive right at 6:30 am at the ride.  We get everything settled and go up to check-in and Donna meets us halfway, again apologizing about changing our distance, and telling us that we literally have 3.5 hours to do the 15 miles, with the additional 30 minute time for the pass/fail option.  (Time on a normal judged 15 mile is 2.5 hours to 3.0 hours)

Lucha was also apologetic as she misspelled my name on my score sheet (this cracks me up) and she’s also sorry that they moved us from the 10 mile to the 15 mile and she spends several minutes describing the dangerous water crossing and why the buggy should NOT be involved in that.  (This also cracks me up).  At this point, Dawn and I both are very very glad that we entered on Sunday and not on Saturday.  Had we rode the day before, we could have been on the 10 mile and probably drowned in the water crossing.

As I am driving, I get the option of where to start.  I choose out first so that a) We can get ‘er done and b) Willow can get experience with people passing her.  And so at 8:00 am, we are off on our 15 mile adventure.



When I was hooking Willow, I had to drag the cart through the packed sand in the parking area and that was a chore, I cannot imagine how she is going to feel pulling this cart and me around the 15 mile course in loose sand.  I have my fingers crossed that she’s going to do okay and not die.  I will miss her if she dies.

Video of Bee and Willow on their competition (courtesy of Dawn Hilliard.)

We did get to experience lots of trail situations.  Mud puddles covering the entire trail so yes, Willow – you much get your feet wet.  And people passing us.  Yes, Willow – that is totally okay that they go on by.  And a motorcycle that tried to kill us.  No, Willow – just because Bee did airs-above-ground, does not mean that you need to do the same.  And moguls.  Oh, these were way too fun in the cart.  I was giggling like a little girl.  Yes, Willow, your driving is too silly. And sand.  Lots and lots of sand.

Willow maintained a steady pace without hesitation.  She never struggled, she never asked to quit, she only got overly excited on one mud puddle that she could not go around … until Dawn came back with Bee, grabbed Willow’s bridle and told her to put her big girl panties on.  After that, no mud puddle was an issue at all.

Happy happy happy for the entire 15 miles. This is her on video coming into the final mile of the ride.

Dawn and I finished the ride in 2 hours and 45 minutes and Willow’s final pulse was 48, respiration was 12.  Yes, she was in much better shape than I gave her credit for and I was soooo pleased with her.  She vetted without any issues, standing still for the vet to check everything before and after the drive.  Did her trot out with her high stepping “whee” gait.  And she was the hit of the Sunday ride as everyone came to meet her and tell her how cute she is.

Creature Feature is a registered Hackney Pony standing 49” tall.  She may never get to go to Tevis like Flash did in 2021, but she is ready to tackle any ride that 2022 can give to her!

Thank you Dawn for riding Bee at a steady 6 to 7 mph, even though Bee wanted to go 300 miles an hour …  and for giving Willow the opportunity to begin her career. Thank you, Donna, Lucha, Rebecca, Stacey, Dr. Art and all the other people there to make this a great event. And Thank You Mother Nature for providing perfect horse weather for the weekend.