At the height of the Covid hysteria in May, I despondently reviewed my equine event calendar. Everything in 2020 to that date had been cancelled, and several events that I really enjoy in the fall were being trumped by my sister in law’s wedding in Tennessee. I had less than charitable feelings toward the wedding, because one, weddings are very low on my list of must do activities (well below anything horse related). Two, I would be missing three of my favorite equine events in a year seriously lacking equine adventures for GHLHF. Three, I hate leaving my horses for extended periods, and when I say extended, I mean more than two days. Four, my sister in law had the bad luck of being the last wedding in a string of recent weddings and I was kinda over them.
As I griped for what was probably the 1000th time about missing one of my favorite shows celebrating my favorite holiday in my favorite month that promised to be Spooktacular, Darling Husband offered a consolation event to make me much more pleasant to be around in Texas, and when we arrived at said wedding. I readily admit that as fewer days separated me from October, I was proportionally becoming less enthused about the event. I’m not proud of it, but the whole big wedding hoopla has always been lost on me. I would have happily been married by Elvis in Vegas, had Darling Husband not wanted a little more ceremony to the event. My bad attitude, however, did push Darling Husband to get creative, bless him.
“What if,” Darling Husband proposed. “We load up some horses and take them to TN with us?” Rendezvous 2020, a charity fund raising event for the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Veterans and Mustangs program originally scheduled for June would be happening the weekend after the wedding on Halloween. It was being held a few hours from the wedding location at Circle E guest ranch that boasted 15,000 acres and 200 miles of trail riding in the mountains of Tennessee. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we took all three mustangs?” Darling Husband asked. If I had to leave my own little patch of heaven in Texas for a trip to Tennessee, at least I would be bringing some of my heaven with me.
I really liked the plan, and was almost immediately more tolerable. There was just one problem. None of the stangs were started under saddle yet. Darling Husband had sat on Koda’s back and been ponied around our round pen courtesy of Great Friends. I really need to get more creative with their pseudonym. Anyway, Johnny Cash was no longer attempting to kill me. He realized there was some redeeming value to me in the form of cool showers on hot Texas days and treats that I magically produce from my pockets. I had ridden him around the round pen bareback once. Darling Husband had only sat on Denali bareback once.
With more mustangs than butts to ride them, we decided Koda needed to go see Amy 2.0 and her fiancé to be started under saddle. I boldly trudged on with Johnny Cash, saddling him every day, stepping up on both sides, but just couldn’t work up the courage to swing a leg across. I had seen Johnny Cash’s worst from the ground, I didn’t want to know if there were new depths in the saddle. So after a month, I tapped out and shipped him off to Nacho Mercedes (I’m testing this pseudonym out to see how it fits. People that know him, let me know what you think!). Anyway, if anyone had the patience and skills to figure out my horse, Nacho Mercedes was the man. With all of the trainers we trusted busy with other projects, we decided Denali would sit this trip out, and it would make sense to bring a been there done that horse from the farm in case anyone lost their $hit after being trailered 16 hours cross country to hang out in Tennessee for two weeks.
As the weeks turned into months, Koda was progressing nicely, but true to form Johnny Cash was being difficult. Nacho Mercedes was running into many of the same issues I had spent 8 months working on. Adjusting to a new location, new trainer, and new program had brought some other issues to the surface. A few weeks before the ride, I had already decided that my two trusted appaloosas, Odessa and Comanche would be making the trip, and toyed around with the idea of throwing my pony, Dixieland Delight and the Hyperbike on the trailer as well. In the end a Facebook friend I had never met in person, but knew vicariously through IHeartArabians and Ms. Pizazz needed a consignment horse shipped from Crawford, Texas to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Never ones to turn down a paying shipping gig especially one that only took us 40 minutes out of our planned route, I filled the pony’s spot on the trailer with a barrel horse.
Now both Darling Husband and I have hauled horses for several hours in the past. Darling Husband had me beat at a 24 hour round trip haul, but we had never hauled 4 horses, 3 dogs, and a toddler 32 hours round trip for a wedding and 2 week ride in the mountains. I’m usually an extremely quick and efficient packer, but as we got closer to our departure, I realized this would stretch my current packing jobs.
First, we were visiting city folk for the first week, and our usual ranch wear would be a little out of place. Of course we couldn’t completely ditch our southwest style. The whole family had cowboy boots and western formal wear complete with hats and turquoise for the wedding. Secondly, the potential temperature variations of our trip during that two week period ranged from 22 degrees to 82. We would need clothing for two extremes and everything in between. Thirdly, we were packing all the necessities for 3 horses on a 2 week journey. That included feed, hay, first aid/emergency vet supplies, buckets, feeders, and tack, not to mention the sales merchandise we were hauling for the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
With horses in tow we needed two or more of everything, back-ups for the back-ups. I had mentally packed the trailer and tack boxes at least a 100 times before we actually loaded up. I began organizing and moving everything into the trailer a week before we finally hit the road because the day of the trip we would need to pick up our paying passenger. Then tragedy struck. My friend Dressage Queen lost her heart horse of 15 years to a rattlesnake bite. So the day before our trip we picked up and hauled a tractor with backhoe to help her prepare a final resting spot for an old friend. The day of the trip we picked up the passenger, and then switched trailers to pick up the tractor and return it to our neighbors.
Despite the crazy logistics of our trip prep, we only pulled out one hour later than planned without forgetting a single necessity!
With the majority of GHLHF either on our trailer or at the trainers, we had neighbors calling to ask why the farm suddenly looked like a ghost farm. It was nice to know we had people looking out for us though! Compared to the preparation for the trip, the actual drive was absurdly anticlimactic. We planned to drive straight through the night to avoid traffic and hopefully so Offspring would get some sleep on the trip, wishful thinking.
As it was Darling Husband and I switched off driving duties at every fuel stop. I got the better end of the deal since I have no problem falling asleep as a passenger no matter what is going on around me. Offspring was blissfully watching 8 straight seasons of the most annoying kids shows ever. There should be a special place in hell reserved for the producers of a few of the shows he watches religiously. However, they are educational and did keep our 4 year old entertained from 8:00 pm when we started the trip until 6:00 am when he finally gave up the good fight and passed out.
Poor Darling Husband barely got an hour’s sleep on the first leg of my night drive. He wasn’t feeling well around 4:00 am and passed off driving duties for my second leg of the drive. Right as he was finally falling asleep and getting comfortable, the sun popped up and Offspring came with it. He started shouting “Daddy! Daddy! The suns up! It’s not nap time Daddy! It’s wake time! Daddy! Daddy! Get up!” Thankfully we were on the downhill slide of the trip.
We dropped off our passenger around 10:00 am, and headed on up the road to Knoxville, Tennessee. Our horses were pleasantly surprised to be turned out into a 25 acre pasture complete with barn albeit on a hill side. It was a nice 5 day break for them to chill out and just be horses. After leaving the Texas drought they couldn’t believe their luck to be knee deep in green grass, and made the most of it!
That closed out the longest ride for both the horses and us. We moved onto Belvidere, Tennessee the Tuesday after the wedding to set-up camp and hit the trails! We check in with Saintly Neighbor daily to see how the cats, chickens, ponies, donkeys, and sheep are doing. I’m hoping Spooky Cat and Grey Kitty forgive us for leaving them in the barn and tack room for two weeks. It was the safest place, not to mention a kitty jungle gym, but I have a feeling Spooky Cat is going to make us all pay for leaving her for two weeks. It may be Christmas before she talks to us, again!