Road to Rockybar – Part 2

So, it had already started out being rather a traumatic experience in our efforts to attend the 2016 Rockybar ride. My poor dog was hit by one of our cars, and by some miracle was remarkably unscathed by the incident. My brother missed the turn to Biggenden and almost took us to Woolooga (again). And now here we were, waking up in our tent early the next morning after the disaster of having one of our floats come loose from the car towing it.

Surely that was enough, right? Nothing else, please!

We checked and rechecked the newly repaired towball assembly, and checked again for good measure. The tents were re-packed, the yards disassembled and the horses were ready to load up and make the last half of our journey to the ride base. Koda and Mizzy loaded back into the float without hesitation, after the fright they’d gotten the night before I had worried it wouldn’t be an easy conversation. Sirahh then charged up the ramp and Bec tied him in while I came up with Vegas. I handed the lead to my sister who took her up the ramp, but she balked halfway up and refused to budge – here was the mistake.

As I came up the ramp beside her, Sirahh’s ears went back and Vegas’s attitude suddenly changed – rather than accepting the hand I put on her hip, she threw her head up and lashed a hind foot out, catching me in the thigh.

I’ve been kicked before, but never by a shod horse. There was now a beautiful impression of a Blue Pegasos shoe tread in the middle of my thigh. I didn’t even have the protection of pants, the shorts I wore were absolutely zero help. At my yelp of pain Sirahh decided to remember his manners and Vegas went the rest of the way up into the float. Trying to ignore the throbbing I put the tail gate up, limped to the front of my ute and got in before the pain could stiffen my leg. Yeah, not liking my chances of doing that 80km. Mum didn’t even realise what had happened until we were well on our way to Gayndah and I could feel the bruise tightening my skin.

A little over an hour later we stopped for fuel in Eidsvold and I came to a very painful realisation that considering my inability to walk without looking rather like a one-legged seagull, riding was not going to be possible either. I’d rather have had a twisted ankle. My sister would have to ride, but she was only eligible for the 40km so she would go along with Kat and Bec.

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Bec and Mizzy at pre-ride vet in   Photo credit: Sarah Sullivan

Surely that was the last thing that could go wrong, right? Oh, no no no. Not off the hook quite yet…

We arrived at ride base with barely enough time to nominate and vet the horses. It was a mad rush, but somehow it was done and the riders were soon off to pre-ride talk. It was an evening ride so at least we’d all be able to sleep that night before the drive home the next day. That is what I love about night rides, the knowledge that even if you start a bit warm, it’ll only get cooler and when you are finished – bed awaits! No packing to head home straight away! A few hours of quiet, a nice breakfast, then pack up and head home. Ahh, all was good now except for the fact that I had to hobble around rather than walk or run.

Kat was going for her third 40km, Bec and Chintzia both for their second and Adriana was attempting to do her first ride of more than 80km by attempting to finish the full 100km elevator. The horses were all fighting fit and the stop over clearly hadn’t done them any harm. With luck (which we so far hadn’t had much of) all would be finishing the ride successfully! There didn’t seem to be any reason to expect otherwise.

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The riders were off in the late afternoon. Mum and I waved them all off with Adriana’s dad there to film her departure in the elevator ride. We went back to camp to sit down and have a cuppa – the 40km wouldn’t be in for another 3 hours, so it was going to be a nice quiet evening! And so it was for a time.

My brother decided to go out exploring, though I insisted that he stick to the main driveway – he went off in his ute and I didn’t expect him back for a while – but no sooner had he driven off that he reappeared in a bit of a fuss. He was clearly trying to be calm, but he sucked at calm as he told my mum and I to get in the car. What the hell was going on?

The training riders had been out for barely two hours – and yet there was my younger sister sitting on a chair by the amenities block with the first aid crew clustering around her. She’d fallen off and just been returned to camp by the driver of a car who had happened along the moment after the accident. Mum went a bit crazy, but my stoic little sister wasn’t even crying, more than anything she seemed annoyed!

The source of the annoyance soon became apparent – the nurse at the first aid station was insisting that an ambulance be called and my sister was having none of it, even though she wasn’t at that point able to walk. She explained that Koda had shied at a lizard or some other such creature and she had been flung into the dirt – which is rather like hitting concrete at speed, especially when it hasn’t rained in a while! Her right hip and taken the most of the impact and she was having trouble stretching the leg out to walk – the fact that she couldn’t weight bear made everyone panic. Except me, I didn’t panic. I know how it feels to have a broken bone and this was not a child with a broken leg.

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My mum hadn’t up till then ever dealt with a broken bone herself and no matter how much my sister and I tried to make her understand that the amount of pain she would be in if her hip was broken, she was too manic to listen. My sister was desperate not to go to the hospital, which was an hour away, but my attention was drawn away from the situation by the arrival of Koda on the rescue float. I left my sister arguing her cause against the well-meaning first aid crew and our anxious mum while I went to deal with the horse and the withdrawral. Yep, I was going to have to run the pocket rocket out and I was still more than a little lame myself!

Koda waltzed off the rescue float like bratty little princess she is, completely oblivious to the ruckus she had caused and without a care in the world. I took her heart rate and led her straight in to vetting after pulling off her gear. As I stood by while the vet took her heart rate, I looked up to see my sister, arms folded, hobbling over to us. Still no tears, just a jut of determination in her jaw as she buried her face in Koda’s neck and said she would not go to the hospital.

I had to laugh – everyone was arguing that she had to go because she could have fractured her hip, their argument for it being that she couldn’t walk – yet here she was, determined not to let them win. I finished up with Koda and while we made her comfortable for the afternoon I told my sister to just go and get in the ambulance – no one was going to let it go otherwise! She grumbled and groaned and stropped about it, but in the end she went.

I told my brother and my mum not to let Adriana know what had happened, I didn’t want to upset her or distract her – the last thing she needed was to worry about Chintz while she was out there on track. Unfortunately, Adriana’s dad didn’t get the memo. When she came back into camp after vetting for the first leg she noticed Koda was in her yard, but she didn’t ask what was going on – the usual routine is strap, vet, then take care of the rider so she was sticking to that when Gary unfortunately mentioned that Chintzia had been taken to hospital in the ambulance earlier. Ooops..!

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Adriana and Sirahh on Leg 1

Thankfully she didn’t let it shake her, I told her I was heading into Eidsvold to pick mum and Chintz up later. Adriana saddled Sirahh back up and they headed out on the second leg. Bec and Kat came in off the trainer while I was on the road to town and both were through successfully. I almost hit a very pretty looking spotty pig in the dark on the way back to ride base, which I can still see perfectly clearly in my minds eye even now – it really was a pretty pig! And thankfully nothing else untoward happened. It seemed the bad luck was at an end.

Endurance – I always took it to refer to the event itself, the training that it takes, the care and dedication, to complete. But after that ride and all it took to get there, I came to the conclusion that “endurance” is all encompassing. In the end we made it and the horses did well.

Koda was written in as a withdrawral – funnily enough it says “withdrawn on track at rider’s request” in her logbook which makes my sister snort when she flicks through and sees it. The hospital visit incidentally had turned up nothing, the doctors didn’t x-ray her hip since she could hobble around even without pain medication so they deemed it not worth the risk. In the end she was sent back to ride base with the instruction to stay out of the saddle for at least a fortnight, and that was about it!

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Another successful completion for an awesome pair

Adriana chose not to elevate at the 80km mark, she had dealt with severe pain in her side for much of the second leg so she opted to take her completion and rest. Unfortunately that meant she missed out on meeting her goal of doing her first 100km ride – that would shortly be rectified, but she was a little disappointed at the time anyway.

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The first of many well deserved awards

Kat and Bec both finished the 40km. That qualified Bec to start riding 80kms as a Novice, but it was only Mizzy’s first season so he wasn’t quite there yet. She would go on to take him to another 40km before they stepped up in distance. Kat was now contemplating 80km rides with Vegas too, especially after being awarded the Best Managed rug in the training ride!

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade. We endured the long road to Rockybar that year and we were determined to not let anything stand in our way from then on. This sport takes grit and determination, not just from the horses but from the riders and crew too. We were bound for Biggenden next with our horses, which would have something new for us in store. But before that, Kilkivan was going to teach Bec and I a lesson or two..!

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