A guest post from a friend of the ride and a gentle reminder of some of our safety rules.

I was approached by a rider who shared some safety concerns they wanted to share. Because I very much respect this rider, I invited them to do a “ guest” post for us. Read on!

“Hi Darlene:
I saw Elayne’s post this morning about their prep for the Santiam ride. A light bulb went off and I had a few things to share with you—and maybe the other ride managers if you want. But I’m starting with you, since your ride is coming up next. But also, because I can hear Mary Nunn’s voice as I think about these things. Since she is half of the name-sake of your ride, I’m sending this to you! Mary was never shy about issuing a well-deserved correction for a rider, and this is sort of along those lines!

So here’s my thinking:
Pre-Covid, the RM’s task list was outrageous. The trail work alone, in some of the rides, as you know, was overwhelming. The water set up (especially with unpredictable temperatures and unknown ride attendance) must cause it’s own amount of angst. Arranging the vets, the permits via sometimes grumpy bureaucrats, figuring out the ENDLESS details and reacting to changes at the last minute—well, I cannot even imagine coming out of that anywhere near sane. And I certainly admire you guys for taking it on, time after time. Now comes 2020 and we add Covid 19 and the complications and difficulty that layered on. Not to mention that there are last minute weather/air quality complications. All of that boils down to the undeniable fact that RMs are the most courageous (and perhaps crazy) people that I have EVER met. And I am indebted to all of them.

So I was thinking about what I could do to make ride weekends less dramatic for y’all since you have plenty to deal with already. I made myself a little list. Sort of a “Commitment to Less Drama for All” thing.

First, for me, personally, bringing more than one horse to a ride—even a multi-day ride–is just too stressful for me and the horses, and today, I thought about the RM. It must be RM hell to watch my in-camp horse spinning around in circles and screaming while the field leaves camp…wondering if you’re going to have to be scrambling a vet to treat a horse that didn’t even need to be at the ride, yes? I always try to have someone who I know and who is staying in camp keep an eye on my critter, but now I have decided that I can’t even cope with it at all.

I’m going to do everything I can to practice EVERY foreseeable safety precaution—always. That is to say, proper housing for my horse, proper helmet for me (you really don’t need to transport someone for TBI), not to mention always wearing my crash vest, proper clothing and footwear, etc. The list, seems to me, is endless. But my trailer is stocked with people treatments and horse treatments, and I am happy to share that. I think of that rider who was separated from her horse at a ride earlier this year. Wearing (or having with you) proper clothes and a cell phone, might turn a bad situation into something tolerable/survivable. I will take every preventative measure so that you won’t have to come out on a quad (or a helicopter!) or with a horse trailer to intercept me or my horse and offer treatment. I’ll do my best to ride safely and ride smart and have the necessary equipment and supplies on board to deal with issues that might arise.

I’ll leave extra space in the vet line—I have seen, and probably caused, too much excitement there. I’ll leave extra space at the water trough. I’ll try to get my horse under control before approaching the pulser and/or vet (yeah, we still struggle with that sometimes!)

If I come to the ride solo, I’ll leave my pups at home so that they’re not potentially carousing through camp if they slip a collar. Now, if my honey comes with me, I may bring the dogs—and you all are on your own to try to corral him if he slips his collar.

I’ll carry extra bandana tubes in case anyone forgets a Covid mask. If that happens, send the person my way.

In other words, I’ll simplify in every way I can, and I’ll try to think ahead of the disaster to make my safety my own responsibility. It’s all that stuff we learned in 4H or Pony Club, or just by witnessing other disasters, right?! If we all take that to heart, maybe I won’t cause a problem that will ultimately land on the RM because HEAVEN KNOWS THAT YOU GUYS HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT! And maybe by my being safe, I’ll prevent problems for the other people in the vet line, the water tank area, etc.
This list is absolutely not exhaustive. I’m sure that each and every future ride will bring something else to my attention. And when that happens, I know I’ll appropriately hear Mary in my own head all over again. And I promise to work hard to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t recur.
Maybe it’s a rider’s best practices thing—or maybe this is just me being my standard paranoid self. But those are my early-morning thoughts on the matter. I look forward to seeing you guys Friday. Please add to your list to keep the air clean for us, okay?!”

Many thanks to the Guest Post’er, who wishes to remain anonymous. Some very good points! On that note, we want to remind everyone of some of our basic rules for the ride.

1) Be ever courteous and respectful to all whom you encounter. Verbal and god forbid, physical abuse of folks at this ride, in any way, will not be tolerated. This includes…everyone you encounter all weekend! If you have an issue with a person or their horse, please approach the ride steward and begin working though the issue.

2) Riders, both days, will be expected to wear a helmet while they’re mounted. Yes, you’re to have a helmet on while mounted on your horse. Thank you for being respectful of this rule.

3) All people handling horses shall be wearing some sort of footwear. Keen type sandals will be the only acceptable sandals. No bare feet, flip flops or minimal sandals while having a horse in your hands, please!

4) Pets shall be on leashes or contained safely. No loose dogs in camp please.

5) We are experiencing severe fire danger. No personal fires, whatsoever! Small propane powered campfires may be approved on a case by case basis.

Thank you for registering for the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride! We’ll do our very best to make your ride experience memorable in the best way!

We appreciate our vets, volunteers, donors and vendors who make the Mary & Anna Memorial Ride possible.

Very special thanks to the Nunn and Sampson families for their support of this ride. We absolutely love having the family support from them!

Stay tuned all week for more updates as ride days approach!

~ Darlene Merlich

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