Although the weather for the LD and 50-mile riders at Home on the Range was quite lovely, a wet, windy, nasty storm front moved in on the late hours of the 75-mile riders. Even from a Swamplander's perspective, this weather was the kind that makes you thankful for a roof and a bottle of rum.
However, endurance riders being what they are, a bunch of them went out in it to finish their last loops, and tragedy struck: rider Naomi Preston and her mare Karlady stumbled into a fence. The horse spooked, dumped Naomi, and ran off into the rain and dark.
Many folks were out for hours in the worst weather, trying to find the mare, and at daybreak this morning I saw many more folks throwing saddles on their horses to seek the missing one. It was too late, however: Karlady's body was found mid-morning, caught in a fence. I spoke to the ride vet who had the sad task of filling out the AERC paperwork, and he said that it was unclear if the wire fence was the actual cause of death. The result, however, is the same: Naomi and her spouse Lee drove home with an empty space in the trailer today.
It was the kind of thing that could happen to any horse-person at any time, really: horses often seem hell-bent on glorious self-destruction. And yet, we tuck our hearts into our saddlebags and mount up.
Naomi herself said something that held my attention: she said she was glad that, if it had to happen, it happened at a ride, because she was surrounded by friends and family who understand.
I get that.
I'm told that other regions aren't so close-knit, but the Pacific Northwest region is very much like a very large, somewhat disfunctional family. We don't always get along, and we probably wouldn't ever agree on the color of an orange, but when a member is in trouble, we understand.
I'll post my own ride report (we finished Fiddle's first 50-miler!) soon. In the meantime, perhaps we'll observe a few moments of silence in honor of Naomi and Karlady.
Additional: a note from Naomi this morning says that Karlady is now buried above the house of the landowners who hosted the ride. They call it "Karlady Ridge."