Two weeks ago today I fell off my pony. This morning I woke up in the 7th place I’ve stayed since then. Healing takes time. The hardest parts of this trip have been the times when we’re not making forward progress. It’s quite a jolt to go from being a brave soul off on a grand adventure, “the current world expert on riding horseback down the length of California and crossing the USA via the Southern route during the drought” (hah – now you know the grandiose thoughts that wander through my brain as I ride along the side of the road ;-)) to suddenly being an indigent homeless person with three ponies in need of a place to be while either they or I recover enough to be able to move on.
It’s one thing to ride up to somebody’s house and ask for a place to stop for the night with everybody knowing that we’ll be moving on in the morning; its a totally different thing to ask for a place to stop when I can barely walk, much less carry a bale of hay out to the herd. It’s humbling (and scary!) to need to be taken care of by strangers, to trust somebody else to take care of my ponies, to be reminded that as much as I try to be I am not self-sufficient and cannot even procure food without assistance, to suddenly and unexpectedly need a lot of help from a lot of people, to be reminded that plans are as nothing in the face of Reality.
Healing takes time and progresses on its own schedule. In the aftermath of a concussion I still have a chronic low-grade head ache and when I’m typing I find myself looking at a homonym of the word I meant (road v rode for example) or the letters come out in the wrong order. My low back and hips are doing much better so long as I keep my body in a straight line and move slowly -> when I’m lying down with a pillow under my knees it’s easy to convince myself that I’m fine. I can now lift and carry even my heaviest pack bags, pick things up off the ground and go grocery shopping. I can wear my jeans and boots and ride in the front seat with a seat belt. It’s no longer a strain to have a conversation. I woke up this morning, alone in a lovely cabin, knowing I can be here for a week and feeling quite confident that by that time I’ll be ready to catch my ponies, tack and pack them all by myself and ride down the road awhile before I stop for the night. I’m looking forward to life getting back to what, for me, has become “normal” (and generally a lot of fun!)
But enough about the convalescence! I spent the weekend at my first ever Polocrosse Tournament and I’m so glad I was invited! The 63 players ranged from some of the top players in the USA (ie – representing the USA in international championship tournaments) to tiny kids playing their first game ever with a parental unit holding the lead-line and everything in between. It was brilliant!
Polocrosse is a totally new sport for me so I’ll assume that might be true for some of you as well and lay out a few of the basics as I understand them – and please feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong! There are 6 people per team and three from each team play for 8 minutes (a chukka) then they get to rest while the other three play a chukka (4 chukkas total). Each player must use the same horse for the entire tournament (tho since this wasn’t an official “tournament” per se people tended to change horses over the course of the weekend, using it as an opportunity to train a green horse or try out a new horse or school one of the kids’ ponies that was misbehaving. The racket has a net in a hoop at the end (like Lacrosse) and seems really short and light compared to a polo mallet. The idea is to get the ball through the goal posts at the end of the field, but there are some restrictions so the person on the fastest horse can’t just grab and dash. The shirts are numbered 1-2-3 and only the person with the #1 shirt can make a goal (from within the 30 yard scoring area at each end) and the person with the #3 shirt from the opposing team is the only person allowed in that area to try and prevent the goal. Carrying the ball across the 30 yard line isn’t allowed – so it must be bounced across the line (or passed by another team member) which makes it a lot easier to steal the ball at the crucial moment.
Polocrosse got started in Australia and there seems to be quite a bit of international travel to tournaments with the amazing (to me) facet that players don’t tend to travel with their own horses (crazy expensive to ship a horse to Australia) but instead borrow horses from their hosts. The best part of the weekend for me was seeing all the kids participating on an amazing assortment of ponies (some of them as old as 30!) at a wide variety of skill levels and so intent on the game. So much of the competitive horse world seems to be limited to people with lots of money. I wasn’t able to show when I was growing up because I couldn’t afford the outfit! Polocrosse seems incredibly inclusive and I love it for that. It’s also one of the few sports that I’m aware of in which men and women compete on equal terms.
Meanwhile, back in tech-world, you may have noticed the word “Route” at the top of the blog. This is a new page laying out my most current thoughts about how I’m getting from here (wherever here is on any given day) to Minot, Maine. On the facebook page you’ll see a “find us” button that I’ll do my best to keep updated with (wherever here is on any given day). I’m very open to suggestions, invitations and pragmatic helpfulnesses regarding my proposed route.
On facebook, my dear friend Pia tested the process and it’s totally possible to include a photo in a comment on the Free Range Rodeo facebook page – so please, please, please – if you have any photos of the Free Range Rodeo that haven’t made it onto the blog, feel free to post those on the facebook page! I’m still trying to find the balance between blog and facebook. Very honestly, the big idea of starting a facebook page isn’t my burning desire to spend more time on the computer, it’s that I’ve been told by people who should know that establishing an “on-line presence” will help when it comes time to publish a book. This is a numbers game so I admit I’m working on ways to get you to visit both the blog and the fb page regularly which will probably include putting photos up on fb that don’t make it to the blog – while maintaining my “daily updates” page primarily on the blog so that you actually have to go visit my blog in order to get that inside scoop. (Not that I’m advocating that you spend more time surfing the net, but hey, if you’re there anyway… and it sure beats TV!;-)) I’m much less clear on the rules of the fb game than the rules of polocrosse – but I’m pretty sure it’s helpful when people “like” and “share” things so please, it’s quick and free and easy and it makes me smile! (OK – I’ll stop begging now.)