Last month, I and my husband, Walt, set off to New Mexico for the Fort Stanton Pioneer Endurance Ride. Along the way we encountered a series of unfortunate events that continued through the entire journey. These became known as our ‘God Moments’. Thanks to some wonderful clients and by the Grace of God, everything worked out miraculously.
We had stayed up late the night before getting everything ready to go for us and the horses being gone for 5 days so we started out a bit later than we wanted but still good enough to get to ride camp before dark, or so we thought… The first incident happened only about 10 miles out with tire trouble. The right front tire was losing air, but it’s not just anywhere that you can pull in with a truck and living quarters horse trailer with horses on board to get serviced. I remembered that on the far side of Coolidge there is a Mobile 1 Express that services RV’s so that’s where we headed. They were full up with customers but promised to get to us ASAP as it was getting hot out fast and we were hauling precious cargo. Within an hour they had replaced a valve stem in the tire and sent us on our way to the tune of $10. So grateful it happened near someone who could help us and they did so in a gracious and timely manner. Back on the road we went! God moment #1.
Then just outside of Benson, on the east side of beautiful Texas Canyon, our truck suddenly lost power and the “check engine” light came on. After coasting down the far side of the canyon we could only go about 10 mph which was super dangerous since I-10 is 75 mph speed limit there. Fortunately, a highway patrolman had a semi pulled over just ahead so it was decided to limp the truck and trailer to a spot in front of him so he would check on us after he was done. He came over and asked what was going on, then instructed us to move to a spot up ahead where we would be further off the road. He contacted roadside assistance for us but they couldn’t handle our size rig. So he escorted us to the next exit with a service station 4 miles away at 10 mph! God moment #2!
Meanwhile, I had been on the phone with an SOS to clients in the area seeing if anyone had a gooseneck hitch and could pick up the horses. After getting to the Chevron station with the highway patrol escort Laura Mucci and Carol Tamble, heaven-sent clients, came to the rescue! Walt had limped the truck over to Dick’s Towing and Auto in Willcox and found out that there was a fuel injector issue. The ladies went and picked up Walt, hooked up the horse trailer and we hauled humans, horses and our dog, Promise, to Carol’s house. How lucky the truck broke down where it did. God moment #3!
Carol and her husband, Tony, were wonderful. They had a perfect spot for us to park the living quarters horse trailer, set up temporary pens for the horses, and a flat bed trailer to haul the truck to Lawley Chevrolet in Sierra Vista the next morning. Walt and I were both very grateful to have such gracious impromptu hospitality. Carol said, “When Dr. Debra calls and needs help, you gotta go”. What great clients I serve!!
The next day Tony and Walt set out toward Willcox and loaded the truck on the flatbed trailer but had to borrow a ramp at Dick’s to load it as the truck didn’t have enough power to get up the trailer ramp! They strapped the truck down and headed to Sierra Vista. They were headed down the west side of Texas Canyon when the tread came off a trailer tire. The trailer was so weighted down with the truck so just pulling up on a block didn’t lift it enough to change the tire. Walt found a way to jack up the trailer under a spring and got the tire changed and they made it safely to Sierra Vista with the truck. Thinking that the truck would take at least a day to fix, I decided we best get the horses some exercise as we wouldn’t make it to the ride. Carol offered to ride one of the horses so we did a hot, fast 9 mile ride on them. On our way back to Carol’s, Walt called and said the truck would be done in a couple hours and we could either head home or on to the ride. It was decided that we would finish what we set out to do so we packed up and got on the road again thanks to many kind folks and God’s provision.
Originally we had left Tuesday morning to arrive Tuesday evening at Fort Stanton as the 3 day ride started Thursday morning. Instead we arrived Thursday morning… but could still ride 2 days. Where others felt we were having bad luck we felt like we were having very good luck!
We got the horses settled in and everything ready for Thursday’s ride and headed to bed. All was well until the knock on the trailer door at 1:30 am…and a friendly voice telling us our horses were loose…ugghhh! Luckily this fellow rider was still up and no other horses were disturbed. Desi had a minor scrape and welt from the electric fence along her right flank. It looked like she perhaps had rolled into it or had been forced against it so we decided to divide the area into two pens. We were back in bed by 2 am and up at 5 am to get ready for the 7 am start time. No real harm done. God moment #4!
The next day my white Missouri Fox Trotter mare, Desi, and I started out on the 30 mile LD. The weather was good though a bit hot and Desi was ready to go despite the hard ride at Carol’s place and her night adventure. After the controlled start we settled in second place and did well. Desi was acting a bit sluggish halfway into the first loop and I thought perhaps it was the altitude but it was an attitude! She could hear horses behind us and waited for them. She is very social but I was not happy with her and vowed she wouldn’t pull that on me again! That group rode along with us all the way to the vet check. Near the vet check I slowed down in order for Desi’s pulse to be down when we arrived. (Hold times don’t start until the horse reaches pulse criteria which is usually 60 bpm.) The vet check found the first place horse pulled for lameness and Desi had pulsed down quickly so that put us in the lead out of the vet check. Desi was ready to roll and we were making good time, that is until the trail marker ribbons stopped… and I couldn’t tell for certain which way to go though I looped around looking. Unfortunately, it gave the Texan folks behind me time to catch up to me. They asked what was wrong and when I told them they instructed me on where the trail went as they had ridden it previously. The lead horse in the Texan group went in front of me and 7 of us headed down the dirt road and came to the gate, which was closed for the first time in 9 years, but it had a ribbon! Evidently someone decided they didn’t want us there and had pulled ribbons and shut the gate?! One of the horses in the group had taken a dislike to Desi at the start and she reciprocated at the water stop. He pulled up near us at the gate and she was telling him what-for when she realized the gate had been opened and went to rush through. But there was a bit of a problem. The middle of the gate had a 4 foot T-post and in Desi’s haste to rush through it put her right on top of it…literally. She saw it too late so she reared up over it and miraculously jumped over it while twisting around it. This was truly an impossible feat. First off, Desi hates to jump and always has. Second, we were too close to the post to make it over without either impaling herself in the chest or dropping her hind legs and cutting open her abdomen therefore eviscerating herself. The other riders were visibly shaken and said they had “never seen anything like it”, “she’s the most athletic horse I’ve ever seen”, “as long as I live I will always have that picture etched in my mind”, and the most accurate, “that was miraculous”. Desi ended up with a scrape on her jugular, a long wound from her right axilla to the girth and then continuing along her side all the way to her hind leg and a small scrape on her left hind leg. She ripped the gaiter on her one hoof boot but I had a spare. So on went the spare boot and down the trail we continued. No lameness. None of the wounds needed any sutures. Guardian angel overtime duty… God moment #5!
So we continued on with the Texans to a creek where Desi tanked up on water after her harrowing ordeal. Somehow the others decided to leave while my horse and I were in the creek so that put us in the rear of the group. Not too far from the creek I realized one of the other boots had come off and I needed to stop and take care of it. The Texans continued on while I hopped off, removed the boot and hopped back on until the next official stop where someone could hold my horse while I fixed the issue. Now Desi was flying down the trail as her new friends were somewhere up ahead and she was determined to catch up to them. Instead we stopped at the next checkpoint and took care of 2 hoof boots. The folks there commented that my horse was bleeding and the Texans had told them what happened. I acknowledged the wounds and asked how she looked coming in and they said, “Great”. Exactly so I thanked them and went on as there was a water and radio stop not far up ahead which meant water for Desi. When we arrived Desi immediately buried her muzzle in the water trough and the radio man told me he was to keep me there as a veterinarian and my husband were on their way to decide if we could continue. “What?!”
I said, “NO Way. My horse and I are fine and she deserves to complete this ride.” He explained it wasn’t his decision and he didn’t want to get in trouble. I told him to get the ride manager, Roger Taylor, on the radio and I would straighten this out. I explained my horse and I were fine and coming on in. Roger said since I was a veterinarian he would trust my judgment but could I reach my husband as he was on his way up. I said I would. By then Desi was ready to get down the trail so I called Walt and let him know we were fine and continuing down the trail. Poor Walt had been checking on me with the radio manager at camp when the call came in that a white horse had been badly injured and the rider had gone down. Well… my girth was so loose that the twisting motion had shifted it sideways so far that when I got Desi stopped it and I were too far off to the right to get centered so I rolled off…and kept hold of the reins. All of this scared Desi who started backing up and dragging me until someone got ahold of her and I could let go. But I had no injuries just mild rope burn bruise from the reins. We made it into camp about 10 minutes behind the Texans and after 30 miles Desi easily passed the vet check to get 6th place. We got her washed off and doctored her wounds with just TriCare gel and Aluspray and gave her 2 grams of bute and a whole lot of food which she devoured. Her wounds never swelled and she only received 1 more dose of bute and her wounds got doctored 2 more times over the period of a week to 10 days… Truly a miracle.
That night we had a brief monsoon storm but no loose horses! Since Desi had to be doctored she had to stay in camp though not without protest. She wanted to go! Instead it was Mariah’s turn to go out on the trail. We took the lead immediately after the controlled start and rocketed out so fast that I thought I had missed a turn as it wasn’t long before no other horses were in sight except the 2 guys who had gone out fast with me. The 3 of us hopscotched the entire first loop though by the last water stop I had lost one boot and only had the gaiter for it. Luckily I had brought a spare Renegade for back up. By the time we got back to camp I lost another one and only had 2 Easyboot Gloves on. Luckily I had brought back-up Renegade Hoofboots though the toes were worn out of them. The vet check time went fast as we had to re-do all 4 boots.
One of the guys and I had the same out time so we took off down the trail. About 1 1/2-2 miles out he let me know I had lost a boot. Doggone it! Never had so many boot problems… so I got off and walked back to the boot. About that time the third rider caught up and away they went. Drats! I picked up the lost hind boot but for some odd reason had left the reins over Mariah’s neck instead of un-clipping one side and using it as a lead rope. You guessed it. She saw her opportunity to head back to her friend in camp. I tried in futility to stop her…I just said, “Are you serious?!” Hadn’t there been enough drama?! There had been trail riders we passed on the way out so I hollered, “Loose horse!” to alert them and started running back to camp. When I caught up to them they informed me they tried to block her but she didn’t even slow down and just darted around them. I thanked them for trying. Meanwhile, I called and texted Walt that Mariah was headed back to camp and why but no answer… poor Walt (later found out his phone had died and was on the charger at the time). Walt had been hooking up the trailer so we could leave immediately after the ride when he saw Mariah running in with stirrups flapping. He stopped the truck but in his haste didn’t shut it off. Someone came over to help catch her and Walt asked him to shut his truck off. He told ride management that if my horse came back without me I must be badly hurt because I don’t come off. A couple guys started jogging up the trail when Walt asked Roger if the two of them could take the gator out to find me… which they did about 100 yards from camp. I explained what happened as we headed back in. Walt asked if I was going back out with her. Of course I was!! Then I was told she had to be vetted again – seriously!!! The vets were gracious and just asked for a trot by where the comment was she actually looked better from the run. Back out we went and passed the trail riders again. As we did I said, “Loose horse, mounted horse.” The one rider said that was the fastest recovery she had ever witnessed. God moment #6!
Mariah had another boot incident where I had to dismount and fix it. I did find one of the boots I lost on the first loop though. Then when we got back to camp we were another boot shy…that was an expensive ride as the boots were almost brand new. She still took 3rd place due to the big lead we had at the start. Lesson learned. Easy Boot Gloves on my gaited horses don’t work as well as Renegade Hoofboots.
We loaded up the horses just as another big rainstorm hit and got headed toward home. We knew we wouldn’t make it the entire way but figured we could get close…but there was more adventure in store for us. We got to stop at Pistachioland – amazing place with many different flavors of roasted pistachios plus the best pistachio brittle ever! I love the award winning Atomic Pistachio brittle that is spicy and sweet – yum! We picked up some for us and some for friends back home then got back on the road to home. We were having a nice trip through White Sands but forgot to keep an eye on the engine temperature…half way up the climb into Las Cruces we over-heated and had to pull off the road. The normal tricks were not getting the engine to cool so Walt turned off the truck, opened up the trailer a bit to let air in for the horses (oh yeah, a window hinge had broken so neither horse had a window that opened just the slider and the escape doors). Well, we hadn’t sat there long when a semi pulled off about 1/4 mile up the road from us and backed down the shoulder to see why we were stranded. Walt explained the situation to the trucker who suggested he back up and chain up the truck to his equipment trailer and haul us to the summit which was 5 miles. Then it would be down hill into Las Cruces. So that’s exactly what we did. He also had horses and roped, sometimes here in Queen Creek as he had family nearby. He lived outside of Las Cruces and was headed in to pick up a front end loader and had waited until later in the afternoon to leave so it would be cooler. He just happened by at the right time and was our angel of mercy, refusing to take anything for helping us out. God moment #7!!!
The rest of the trip back was uneventful. We stopped overnight in the vacant lot next to the same Chevron outside of Willcox at TO Taylor Rd and were home Sunday mid-morning.
I am so grateful for all the wonderful folks that helped us out along the way, may God bless each of you mightily for being such good Samaritans. Most of all I am grateful for the merciful God we serve who sent human and heavenly angels to keep us and my horse from harm. I have no idea how many times God has kept us from harm behind the scenes but this trip He made sure to show us how very real He is. May He do the same for you so that you know you are not alone in this world. That there is a very real God and He cares for you too.
Happy Trails…. Vaya Con Dios