Friday morning felt awfully early, but Cally got all braided up, including having Liz do her tail. She looked great, and we loaded up easily and headed for Swan Lake. That involves a good bit of highway miles, up 97 and part of the Baltimore beltway, but it went smoothly, and we were making good time on the way there, rolling through the lovely central Maryland countryside. Until we headed out a stretch between a cattle field and a slight hillside. I noted a couple of the cows, big beige ones, actually loping, which was kind of unusual, because you don’t see cows run much. Then out of the hedgerow along the side of the field flew everyone’s nightmare while trailering: DEER.
The road I was on was 50MPH, and I was towing a trailer. On a two-lane road. There wasn’t much ability to slow down, or maneuver out of the way. I hit the brakes as hard as I could, but it wasn’t hard enough. The deer impacted the Yukon right on the front passenger side, with a pretty awful thud. It rocked the truck, but she kept rolling, a couple hundred yards down to where there actually was some shoulder we could pull over on.
Certainly not as horrific as it could have been, if the deer had hit head-on and come up through the windshield, or had impacted the trailer in any way. I didn’t see much fluid coming out, and the truck wasn’t making any odd noises, nor were any warning lights on. Obviously the lights were totally smashed and ready to fall off, and the grille was a goner. I glanced in at Cally, and she was totally unphased, because she is Cally, and is cool when it counts.
So I made the decision, since we were only 6 miles from Swan Lake at that point, to try to make it on to the show. I knew there would be better options for help there, and if I had to figure out how to get a ride home, or keep the horse overnight or something, it could be done there. Fortunately after another mile or two, it’s a pretty slow drive in to Swan Lake, and we were able to get there no problem. The guy doing the parking was really nice, took a brief look and didn’t think it looked too awful.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t snap the above photos after parking, send them to WBBF, then call him to consult. From what I was telling him, he didn’t think it sounded too awful, but got the location from me and headed up to check things out, and provide mental support since I was pretty near tears on the phone.
But, I figured we were already at the show, I might as well check in and show. I wasn’t super duper excited about the prospect, since I felt kind of like a pukey mess, and the grounds were pretty soggy from a solid day of rain the day prior. Including a big swampy spot right at the back of where I’d been parked, so I couldn’t tie Cally to the trailer as I normally do, because she hates puddles. And had clean white socks. So I had to get me ready as much as possible, then unload her and try to tack her up while holding her. Eventually I gave up on that and figured while my truck was already damaged I might as well be really stupid and sort of tie the horse to it too, since that was my only option. (I really just laid the leadrope over the door handle, she totally could have wandered off no harm no foul.)
Warmup was soggy, but not slippery. We did a good bit of walking as I made sure Cally felt no worse for the impact, and then just a little trot before cantering around to really loosen her up. They let us go in the ring a bit early, too, which was nice as we got a good chance to scope out the puddley and soupy areas to avoid, and figure out where the footing was good. Lots of walking as we waited for the class to start, and she was feeling pretty swingy and relaxed.
And it paid off! She went really great, and I tried to concentrate a bit on that extended trot feeling we had in our dressage tests and really let her move on a bit. But I knew who the judge was, an old-school Virginia hunt guy, and I knew I’d be better off letting her stretch down and out rather than ride so put together and dressagey. That sometimes works with Cally, sometimes not, but I figured we’d go for it. And oh, she was so happy to stretch out and float along. She’s not a Hack Winner, but I was really happy with how she’s moving. Even happier when the called us to line up for appointments and I was in third! The judge had a good time checking appointments, chatting with everyone, trying one of the lady’s sherry, probably the friendliest appointments check I’ve ever had. And he was quite happy to be judging it, actually said “kids these days” talking about lack of attention to detail in turnout, and how we were some of the few who really put in the effort. It was so charming I’d go out of my way to show under him again just for that experience!
The hack class started off well, with a repeat of her good flat performance. The jumping line seriously looked more 2’9″ than 2’6″ (and most of the time it’s barely that!), but I figured we’d be fine. Our first fence was fabulous, a nice gallopy forward distance to the vertical in, then I put leg on down the line and got to a great gappy spot…that Cally said no way to in the sloppy footing and chipped quite badly, managing to knock down the fence under the oxer and we sort of landed in a discombobulated heap. But, we got over it, I picked my stirrup back up, and we hand galloped to the appointed stopping point, and which time the horse got effusive pats, because she is the world’s best horse. No primary color for us there.
But, she was good in the Pleasure class, and got another 3rd. And they needed a 3rd horse to fill the fences. I’d been on the fence about trying it, but after the accident on the way there I was in no mental place to do that. But I told Julie, who’d ridden Cally once before for a lesson while I was out of town, that if she wanted to fill with her, I’d be thrilled. So after she did her round on her mare, she hopped on Cally, we shortened the stirrup as much as it would go, and she jumped like two warmup fences before heading in the ring. The plan was to jump the first fence, and see how she felt after that. She must have felt pretty good, because they did the whole over fences, and I got to stand there grinning like an idiot and clapping for them. Very, very good job, Cally! For that we added another yellow ribbon to the collection, and have plans to have Julie jump her around again, since I’m not quite there yet.
Liam and Daisy A Dog had shown up midway through the division, so got to see some of our very nice go. And after I untacked and stuffed Cally full of treats for a fabulous performance, he poked around with the Yukon some more while I took Daisy to the office and checked out. He thought we could make it home, despite a slow drip leak to the radiator. We topped it off, then completely refilled one of my water jugs so if we needed more water on the way, it would be plentiful. He would follow behind me in case of trouble, as far as the split on to 50 that’s 5 miles from the barn, where he could head home and I could surely make it safely. I texted Holly to let her know I was on the way and hopefully wouldn’t need a ride back, then we set out.
I drove at or slightly below the speed limit, and I kept the heat on low, pointed at the floor. Despite heavy traffic and ugly weather, we made it home with no problems and a steady temperature gauge. It was pouring rain again until we got to the barn, but I got Cally unloaded and safely tucked back in her stall with extra hay, and wrapped her hind legs, as she’d rapped them on the boxes under the jump and taken off a bit of hair.
We looked at the Yukon the next day, to see if there was any way I could entertain the idea of going down to BEST to do jumpers on Sunday like I’d planned, but we’d burned through half the coolant on the way home, so given that it wasn’t a necessary thing, or even a rated show, I figured I was better safe than sorry, and scratched. We had others from the barn going, but no empty trailer spots for me, since I’d actually been on offer as an extra spot for others. Oh well, we got in the show that counted, and made it safe.
My insurance (big shout out to State Farm!) has been great, and the Yuk went in to the repair shop yesterday morning. I’m sure it won’t be ready for this coming weekend’s dressage show, but a friend who boards near us has very kindly offered us a ride along with her, so we’re covered there, and will get to make our rated Musical Freestyle debut. As for the Heavenly Waters show the following Sunday, I’m not so sure about that. I’m hopeful the repairs will be done in time, but other friends have offered their truck if it’s not. It’s wonderfully reassuring to know so many good people who are willing to help you out if you need it! I’m just glad we didn’t need it on Friday, and that both myself and especially Cally came through unscathed.