Spoiler alert: it was a bust.
Northeastern Oklahoma isn’t exactly teeming with cross country courses to school, so when Feather Creek Farm in Norman announced they were opening their course for schooling on Sunday, I jumped at the chance to go. Feather Creek hosts the only USEA recognized events in the state; I rode Moe over their course last summer at a schooling show, and it checks all the boxes. They have water, a crazy bank complex, ditches, and your run-of-the-mill logs, coops, and pheasant feeders. The venue is about 2.5 hours west of where my horses live, which, in Area 5, is practically right next door.
I spent last week obsessively checking the weather. Rain was predicted for both weekend days, but Saturday dawned sunny and mild and I held out hope that Sunday would be nice, too. When Wunderground refused to adjust its prediction of rain in Norman, I sent Feather Creek a message on Facebook, asking if they were still planning on opening for schooling. They replied immediately that if I wanted to brave the possible rain, I was welcome to come.
That sealed it- I was going to school even if it was rainy. I’ve ridden in the rain before. It isn’t my favorite, but it’s completely tolerable. Light rain is okay; even moderate rain doesn’t bother me much. I wasn’t worried about Moe, either. He goes just as well in damp conditions as he does in dry ones. If the footing was too sloppy, I’d just take it easy.
Moe eagerly hopped in the trailer on Sunday morning and we headed west. As we drove, the sky got darker and darker, until I finally saw the rain line. I drove on until the rain was coming down hard enough to make it difficult to see; I took the next exit off the highway and checked the local weather radar. The storm appeared to be moving east, away from the Norman area. I figured by time I got there, it might still be a little misty but the real rain would have moved on to Tulsa. I got back on the road and eventually drove out of the worst of the storm.
It kept raining as I exited the highway onto some godforsaken back road with a stop sign every two miles. (Google Maps needs a “driving a trailer” option for your route!) When I was about 20 miles away from Feather Creek, I ran into a road block- literally. The road was closed because of flooding. After finding a place to turn around, I pulled into a nearby gas station to refill the truck and dig out some snacks from my trailer. I checked on Moe, who was totally unruffled. I fed him a dozen donut holes and left him to his hay bag.
I briefly considered finding an alternate route to the farm, but decided I should probably just go home. After all, if it’d rained enough for flash floods to be a concern, the cross country course would probably be a sloppy, muddy mess. I probably wouldn’t be able to school things I wanted to work on the most (water combinations and down banks); who knew if anyone would even be at the farm to let me in?
After locating the cache of miniature candy bars I keep in the trailer for emergencies, I headed home. The storm was moving east, so I spent the entire two hour drive back to Tulsa peering through the veil of rain and cursing people who hadn’t turned their headlights on. Traffic was slow, thanks to several multi-vehicle wrecks on the highway; I was relieved when I finally arrived back at the barn.
I unloaded Moe, who seemed more than a little puzzled about why he’d gone on a four hour trailer ride to nowhere. Moe isn’t one to think on such things too long, though. After eating another dozen donut holes, he trotted out in the pasture to meet Gina (who tried to bite him) and settled down to graze in the rain. I parked my trailer, drove home, and tried to decide if I’m insane, determined, or stupid.
I’m trying to be optimistic about the fact that I essentially drove in a circle for four hours yesterday. I got some valuable experience driving in wet weather conditions. I can feel confident my horse will travel well on a long trip. I even backed my trailer into its parking spot at the barn in record time. It wasn’t all bad, I suppose.
I’ll still enter Moe for Willow Draw- just with a bit less confidence than I was anticipating. I don’t foresee us having any real problems on course. Moe has seen about a dozen different cross country courses in his life, and has handled them all well. I used last fall’s hunter pace as a schooling opportunity, and he was fantastic. I knew this weekend’s outing wasn’t for his benefit; it was for mine. I wanted to string together several obstacles, practice my weakest jumps (drops), and feel certain Moe wouldn’t be weird about anything.
Feather Creek is offering another open schooling day next month, the weekend before Willow Draw. There’s also a dressage clinic with Aaron Wilson that day; I wanted to take Moe to the clinic since I like Aaron, I’ve ridden Moe with him before, and we can use the dressage help. I might see if Feather Creek would let a group come school during the week. If they will, I’ll try to round up some friends and head out there. If not, I’ll probably opt for the clinic and just count on Moe to see me over all the jumps in Texas!