originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 19:26
Race Day 9:
Rounding up the new-fashioned way
We were up bright and early – only a bit more than two legs to go! We were on our horses by 7am, having already made sure they were well fed before we set out on our last day. We knew from the day before that quite a number of riders had already crossed the finish line, with Donal Fahey from Ireland winning the race, and we were excited to be within shouting distance of having this odyssey over once and for all. We fantasized about what food we would eat once back in civilization (pizza); what it would feel like to have clean hair (pretty damn nice); and whether or not we would ride immediately in the future (pretty damn unlikely.) It didn’t even matter that we left on our final morning without breakfast – we could get that in a couple of hours at the next horse station.
We had ridden approximately 17 km, were only 5km from the next horse station when I decided that my horse was settled enough for me to extract my last known food from my pommel bag – a plastic baggie of dates – mmmm…sweetness and energy all rolled into one. We were all starting to lag a bit by this time from lack of nourishment – seemed like a good idea at the time! (Famous last words.)
And just like the very first day of training camp, I could see it happening even as it happened – my horse did a quick 90 degree turn to the right, started bucking, the saddle slipped and before you know it, I had landed directly on the top of my head. Images of Ronald’s accident were rolling before my eyes, and I sat up with my head swimming. “Oh my God! Oh my God!” Lucy, Jess and Eveline were horrified at the turn of events. “Are you okay?” I didn’t really answer, I don’t think, other than to say yes, I think so…my head was still swimming at this point but I could see my horse bucking and running, my saddle hanging off to one side, my saddlebag seemingly going for a long gallop into the wild beyond. The horse got caught in the reins at one point and did a nice forward roll through a bit of a dip. I was thinking “Oh MAN! All this way and to have finally lost a horse…”
Lucy and Jess tore off after my horse; I turned and quite determinedly started trudging in the direction the horse had disappeared into – my mission: recover my saddle and saddlebag, even if it meant I had to walk all the way back to the last horse station, 40+ km away. My lucky blue sleeping bag was in there! What else was I supposed to do? At some point I noticed that my hand held the cause of the entire ruckus – the bag of dates. Ha! At least I came out ahead on that one, I thought. I offered some to Eveline, who quite forcefully declined, as she wanted me nowhere near her nearly-spooked horse with the offensive date-bag.
As I walked I started to think, “Now why is my ass end getting all wet? I didn’t land on my back…wait a minute!” I realized that I had broken the water reservoir in my backpack – again, all this way with no issues and now this! Suddenly I realized how it had happened and later inspection confirmed it: as I was on the ground with my horse bucking and kicking I remembered thinking “Why am I not being stepped on? He’s actually landing pretty close to me…” and the skidding hoofprint on my backpack confirmed he had gotten me on my backpack instead. Oh well, at least it was padded.
I owe Lucy and Jess a huge thank you for their horse-wrangling skills, because as I was making my way down the road they appeared with my wayward horse in tow. They had caught him as he stopped close to a shed, cut the entangled reins, removed what was left of the saddle, and returned him to me. Lucy had pressed her “Help” button, so was obliged to remain with me at the scene of the crime. Soon enough, Dr. Andy arrived with the medic van, determined I had in fact NOT broken my neck, sent Lucy on her way, and we happily discussed surfing (he’s from Australia) while waiting for the vet back-up to arrive. I was a bit concerned about my little date-bag-hating firecracker horse, what with the roll through the ravine and the reins wrapped around his legs; but the vets determined no serious harm done, gave him a shot of bute, attached him to a long lead and proceeded to the next horse station. Dr. Andy gave me an interesting concoction of pain meds with muscle relaxants, and I no longer worried about much of anything for the remainder of the race…
We arrived in HS24 the last station before the finish line at HS25, to find a reunion happening. Anne and Erik, George - Nikki had appeared from somewhere down the line - me and Eveline, Ivo, Lucy and Jess…it was like old times once again, with everyone happy to exchange stories, drink whatever was available, eat whatever was given to us. The plan was to wait for the last of the competitors still in the race – Sonja and Wendy – to pass through HS24 and then to ride the last leg together. “Sorry guys, count me out,” I said. I had trashed my (second) saddle, landed on my head, was stoned on some good (legal) meds, and felt like I had pushed it quite far enough.
I kept thinking “Jordan would KILL me if I came home dead!” and having ridden most of the race to the best of my ability, in the manner that best suited me; had not injured any horse or brought one in with any issues (except for the last one, stiffness self-inflicted in my opinion); had not incurred any penalties; had not asked for “Help” except at the very last and that was on my horse’s behalf; I already felt like a winner. “We will cheer you as you ride through the finish line!” I told them, as Eveline and I piled into the vet van for a ride to Finish Camp. It was a decision that was tough to make on one hand, but one that felt best and still does. It is a wise woman who knows her limits, or so they say. Besides, with the morning’s ride, I had clocked over 1000km in 9 days - epic ride accomplished – not bad for your average ranch woman from Canada.
Waiting to set out from HS24
We did indeed cheer them as they rode past us at the finish line. The relief to be done the race was almost palpable; and although there was considerable celebrating, fatigue and injuries were rife in the riders, keeping the finish line celebrations on somewhat a less exhuberant level than at the start line.
It's finally "Beer-o-clock" at the Finish Camp
Eveline tired but happy