Sunday, April 19, 2015

Retreat Weekend

Once I had found out that I was moving to Michigan I immediately began to seek out groups similar to what I had been involved in previously. I found that not too long after we were planning the move there was going to be a CTR (competitive trail ride) held only 90 minutes from the house. I immediately contacted the ride organizer and offered to volunteer. I knew I wouldn't have Gwyn by then but at least I could start meeting people.

I kept in contact with her, verifying that I was camping, dates, that I was available and made my camp reservation and waited.  Friday, departure finally came. I packed up the car and played with Kaylee until Eric came home and then it was off on the road!  Due to an accident, it took me over 2 hours to get to Brighton Recreation Area, where the ride was being held. I was rerouted by google to avoid the accident but ended up in stupid traffic anyway when the GPS was not clear where I was supposed to go.

I found ride camp easily, they had nice signs out and met the organizer who was surprised I showed up. Apparently people flake a lot and she didn't want to count on an admitted out of stater who was 'moving' and new. But pleasantly surprised and excited to have a fresh face. She explained CTR/UMECRA, which is different from AERC and I set off to go set up my camp!

I was camping in the horse loop and there were big rigs everywhere and horses hi-lined on large posts meant for that exact purpose. Campsites were large and they all had a picnic table and decent size fire pit. I would not return to my exact campsite if I was still tent camping though, because it was COVERED in acorns. Thank goodness I had the air mattress. I was near the pit toilet but didn't have any direct neighbors since a few people canceled.

I managed to get a fire going and heat up some water to make dinner and then settled down in my camp chair to read for a bit before retreating into the tent since it was getting cold. I had an air mattress that I inflated with a car charger air pump inexpertly since the pump didn't make an airtight seal on the mattress opening. It wasn't as firm as it could have been but when I laid on it I wasn't touching the ground so I called it good. I also had my down filled mummy sleeping bag that's rated down to 20degF AND on a whim I brought the wool cooler I had purchased over FB and had mailed to Michigan.   The wool cooler saved me.

I used the cooler to line the air mattress and then pull around on top of me. I feel super claustrophobic in the mummy sleeping bag when I'm all the way in and zipped up tight so I usually keep my arms out, which get cold. So I layered a ton and snugged with the wool cooler. I perfected the method on night 2 and actually slept through the night.

In the morning on Saturday the sun was shining and it was already promising to be a warm day for April in Michigan. I walked down to the staging area and the 35 mile riders had already left. I was shown what to do for verifying the riders were out on the trail and given the task of being official time keeper. I kept track of the time that riders came in and wrote on their scorecards their vet check time and time out if they were doing another loop. I occasionally announced time to riders in their 40 min holds so they knew when they were nearly done. It was hectic and I was busy most of the day and outside in the sun. It was near 80!

The ride was successful with no injuries or pulls. There was a potluck and awards ceremony and I contributed a bag of previously frozen cooked shrimp that I had intended for dinner that night anyway, neglecting to realize that they were going to feed me for being a volunteer. I didn't need to bring the food I did. Next time I'd just bring yoghurt for breakfast and some healthy snack stuff since their breakfast was donuts. Delicious, but unnecessary.

Saturday night I made myself a bonfire with the rest of the firewood and sat and read my book by firelight. It was SO relaxing. Then I continued to read in the tent when the fire wasn't bright enough to read by and finished my book. It's a library book and it's already over due, I just haven't had time to myself enough to get through it like I usually do.

I slept much better that night.

Sunday (today) I woke up a half hour before my alarm and decided to just get up and start breaking camp so I'd be ready to go for the first wave of riders. I didn't want to be late again. I packed up quickly and drove down. There was a smaller group riding today, only 12 riders compared to 37 the day before. They were sent off in 2 waves of six and we proceeded to just sit around and chat. I got some crocheting done and finished the crochet part of my test fly bonnet!

Before I added the trim colors (creme and another purple)

I tested the fit on a warmblood at the ride and determined where I'll need to increase the size to fit Gwyn. The one I made is more suited for an Arab I think, or at least a non-draft head. It just needs ear fabric now! I'm thinking of using athletic mesh fabric to try and reduce sweating and provide a breeze for the horse's ears. 

 The weather was much chillier today, better for riding horses with a bit of winter hair still, but not so great for sitting around. It warmed up a little bit and the sun tried to peek out but soon it just became overcast. Drops of rain started up the minute the last horse passed the final vetting trot out. In the nick of time!

I met some amazing people at this ride. I want to return and do more CTRs so I can hang out with them again! I fit right in, and for introvert ol' me, I was actually energized by being around them all day. We had no shortage of conversation and they were excited that I was going to be active with them. I was welcomed with open arms and it felt wonderful. I promised to return next year and volunteer but ALSO ride ;)

I returned a very happy lady. Even Eric noticed and I think he's grateful to have 'normal' me back again. So much different from two weeks ago, let me tell you. My mood is uplifted and I feel like dancing. I feel energized. I feel like I have friends again.

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