Thursday, March 10, 2016

Answered Prayers (or, "any ride can have a silver lining!")


Anyone remember the line from a Garth Brooks song, "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers?

At the Jan. 30 Broxton FEI Endurance Ride in South Carolina, I had a chance to ponder the lyrics of this song. Young rider Hanna Weightman had come all the way from New Jersey to try to qualify for the North American Junior and Young Riders Championship on my mare Siena. Despite the beautiful job Hanna did riding her, Siena was pulled at the 30 mile mark for a minor lameness.

 As my gelding Gryphon and I headed out by ourselves on the first of three 15-mile repeat loops, I tried not to think how hard it would be to trot past Siena’s pen at both the beginning and end of each loop, six times total. Instead, I reflected on the unspoken prayer I’d sent heavenward just before heading down I-95, that whatever God’s will, somehow this weekend I’d make a difference for others.


That black & white loop took us through my favorite section of Broxton trail, along a palmetto-frond decorated swamp, where I’d once crossed paths with an armadillo. The weather was perfect and by the end of the loop, I felt a bit better.


After vetting through without issue, I listened to Hanna’s report from the treatment vet – Siena had no serious  issue and should be sound soon. I wished she and her parents a warm farewell, promising to use my I-phone voice record the young riders meeting later that night so they could start their long drive home.


Heading out on the second of the repeat loops, I found myself riding beside my friend Amy’s husband Ricky, who was tackling his first 50 and was on the last loop of that three-loop ride. He had hurt his back pain a few days earlier while moving hay, then crewed for his wife in the 100 the day before, but said he was feeling fine. But he was worried about his mare Ziggy, who hadn’t had good gut sounds at the last hold.


I noticed her eye looked a bit dull, and told Ricky I’d stay with him. We stopped at each water tanks with hay scattered around. His mare refused to drink, bur watched Gryphon drink and eat, then grabbed a mouthful of hay each time. We also stopped to let our horses graze briefly on green grass by the trailside, with Gryphon’s appetite seeming to influence Ricky’s mare. At the final water tank, the mare finally took a long drink and I had the joy of telling Ricky, “her eyes are bright and shiny now, you got this!” They ended up in 10th place.

I was a mile out of camp on my last loop when I came across a young rider and her mount standing in a patch of grass beside the trail. The rider, Kimmie, was trying to get the mare to eat but she seemed listless and uncaring. Another challenge! I explained that my young rider had been pulled and that I’d be happy help her get through the loop. She said this was the first 75 for both her and the mare, and that she was also trying to qualify for the North American Junior and Young Riders Championship that was to be held later that summer.


“No worries I said, we’ve got plenty of time and just need to keep a steady speed,” I reassured her. Four riders doing “negative splits” passed us, but we kept a slow, steady trot, stopping at each water tank. Gryphon again showed his companion by example that it was OK to eat. When Kimmie mentioned not having any Chapstick, I loaned her mine and also tried to cheer her up with my “glass half full” perspective.


“We’re in the single digits now!” I proclaimed as we neared the loop’s midpoint, with less than 10 miles to go. “We probably won’t even need our headlamps!” I enthused as we passed the last water stop just after 6 p.m.


We crossed the finish line just after dark, cheered on by the horse’s owner and crew members.


Receiving a completion, then getting a hot shower and real meal, were not the only things that made my day complete. Witnessing Ricky and Kimmie’s pride and joy at their accomplishments was a wonderful answer to my prayer, as was the heartfelt thank you from Adri Dinkleman, whose horse Kimmie had ridden.


Even when an endurance ride doesn’t turn out quite as you’d hoped, stay open to the unexpected answersed prayers that may arise!