Due to some unforeseen circumstances, John and I ended up being the first ones out on the trail. Technically, two riders went out ahead of us, but they were 15 minutes ahead, re-checking the trail markers. This was good and bad. Good because there were no horses to “catch” and bad because there were not many hoof prints to reassure me that I was on the correct trail.
The first five minutes were extremely unpleasant. John was convinced he knew which trail we should be on (not the one I was trying to take us on) and he saw the photographer with her umbrella (did you know umbrellas eat horses?) I was very glad to be riding with the Mylar combination bit, because I can’t imagine what these five minutes would have been like in my smooth snaffle with a martingale. After about five minutes, he settled down and went to work. I never settled down.
Every time he took an odd step or shortened his stride, I was worried. Did he hurt himself? Will he be lame again? My better judgment told me that this horse has been taking missteps and misbehaving without problems for years, but its hard to wipe out one bad ride without at least one similar ride that went well. Mostly I worried about keeping my own thoughts at bay and keeping John at a slow, steady pace.
We came into the hold after about 2 hours. Perfect timing, with a 20-minute hold and 12.5 miles to go, I was right on track. John pulsed down easily to a 48 (woo-hoo – glad that problem is solved – he needed a 60). We went over to trot out and I was filled with trepidation. The horse that trotted out ahead of me got pulled – lame in three legs. I will let you imagine what was going through my mind.
We trotted the line and the vet said, “Very good, thank you.”
We went back to the trailer while I got a snack and then headed back out onto the trail. As we were riding out of camp, I noticed that I had not fastened John’s throatlatch when I re-bridled him. It was flapping in the wind with every step. Rather than dismount, I rode over to the P&R volunteers and asked one of them to fasten it.
As the gentleman fastened John’s throatlatch, one of the ladies exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, we need to tighten your girth too!”
The man said, “Wow, I guess so, I’m glad you noticed that!”
I quickly replied, “Oh no, I did that, please leave it where it is, its on 2 and 3. He doesn’t like it too tight”
The man looked at me incredulously and said, “A cat could crawl between your girth and the horse’s belly!”
I merely said, “But not a large cat, right? Thanks for fixing my throatlatch!” And I rode away.
It should be mentioned that the forecast for this Sunday in August said showers later in the afternoon. I packed rain gear for horse and rider, but after reading the forecast, unpacked it, in an effort to pack lighter. We would be riding early, before the rain came.
It started raining at 4 am. The photographer has a great shot of John and I coming out of the hold. He looks perky and ready for the 12.5 miles ahead. The look on my face says, “12.5 more miles and I can put dry clothes on.” It’s a great photo.
The second loop went much like the first. We rode the same trail so I knew where to walk and where I could make time. The only difference is that this time there were more horses around us, so we practiced following and not chasing, and riding our own ride. I still worried about every misstep.
I used almost all of the time I was allotted on the trail, riding back into camp after 4 ½ hours. The first thing anyone said to me was, “Did you ever tighten your girth?”
Once again, John pulsed down without a problem (another bonus of a rainy day – its good Morgan weather). We went to trot out and I was nervous again. Of course he could not match the antics of his trot in, (“Oh yeah, I remember what we’re doing now, I can behave mom.”) But that’s okay, we weren’t going for a perfect score, I needed a completion and a sound horse.
And that’s what I got. He scored a 95 out of 100, losing 1-½ points for change of gait on his trot out, 1-½ points for changes in his wind puffs and 1 point for suspensory tenderness (a new one for us). I was happy. Doubt and worry left the building.