So this is what I did instead. I changed my clothes and drove out to the long-abandoned Copperopolis copper mine to learn how to judge a trail horse competition. And seeing my old friend Mary was more invigorating than any nap -- she's the one who's been right there as horse trainer to all my young horses, riding coach for me and person-to-turn-to in all dire horsey emergencies. Plus she's just a good buddy! Her latest venture is hosting a trail riding competition sanctioned by The American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA). She and her family laid out a trail through the hills, creek beds, and slag heaps of the deserted mine that lies on over 300 acres just a stone's throw from our Main Street. All these years living here, and I never even knew that the mine was there. Anyway, she'd asked if I'd like to judge one of the obstacles and of course I said, "Yes". The fact that I had no idea what this entailed didn't stop me at all. By Friday evening it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't have been so quick to sign up, but Mary assured me that I'd do fine as a judge. She explained it all and I spent the rest of the evening at my laptop watching videos on how to judge a trail horse obstacle.
And then it was the next day and I arrived at the mine hoping I knew enough to be at least an adequate judge. Barring that, I hoped that at least I looked like a judge. Summer has blasted into northern California several months early and we were in for another 100 plus day. I wore shorts and so did many of the other judges. Point for me.
This was the judges' meeting. It is a universal truth that a clipboard and a pen makes anyone feel and look more official. A hat also helps. But not as much as a clipboard.
Of seven judges, only one had judged before.
But Mary explained it all in a way that gave us all confidence. Plus we had the clipboards.
Bruce (along as a photographer and my official chauffeur) drove me to my obstacle: "Trash Compactor"
All it consisted of was a bunch of plastic bottles thrown in a ditch. The riders job was to have their horse walk down the middle of them without argument or hesitation. My job was to keep score of how well they accomplished this.
Some horses quickly decided that they were being unreasonably being asked to walk through a valley of monsters and made a point to walk up the sides of the embankment rather than let their hooves touch plastic.
Others just stepped right on down the middle of the bottles and took no mind of scattering them. The man on the left was an elderly gentleman whose horse took heartwarming care of him. The girl on the paint horse on the right was in perfect communication with her mount. They both radiated happiness and trust -- lovely to see!
It was a joy to do something horse-related after none-stop school for so long. Now my mind is turned to riding Corny and putting some of these obstacles in front of him. I want to see how he walks through plastic bottles (he'd probably try to eat them...). This has been good for my soul.