This past weekend was Aprilfest, which ended up being our first races of the season (thanks to the extended winter we had!) and Bentley and I were slated to do 12 miles on day 1, 25 miles on day 2. Perhaps a bit aggressive, but we have been training hard all winter and I was very confident in our abilities to complete. My goal going in was to get grade 2 – but since this would only be Bentley’s 2nd ride, I was expecting him to be excited and silly and accepted the notion that I cannot change his heartrate if hes caught up in the commotion, and to be happy with any completing grade and a fun ride through the trails. We also were to do the 6 mile ride & tie on Sable.
We started out early at Myrddin, where I groomed him and met up with Charlotte, who is a riding student there who wants to get into distance riding, she crewed for us the whole weekend and we can’t thank her enough! She was awesome and we had a lot of fun. It was her first time ever going to one of the rides, and I think she was just as excited as me! While we got ready, some of the lesson students came in and saw us braiding and booting Bentley and asked about whether we were going to a show… “not exactly” I would say, and give them a short spiel on what our sport was about. Everyone was very interested and asked lots of questions – students and parents alike! One of the things I love about lesson barns. I had a doughnut treat (since I had woken up early and was too excited to go back to sleep, I went to get some fresh) which I ended up sharing with Bentley, turns out he LOVES doughnuts. In fact, if I wanted to get past him, I had to pay a doughnut toll since he would somehow block me with his face and crossties. Hes such a cute moocher. We all giggled over him.
Soon Linda showed up with the trailer and Dawn who was a last minute addition to our crew, another thanks to her, we loved having her there! Bentley got right up on the trailer with almost no encouragement, and we were off! Arrival and setup went smoothly. The only trouble we had was in the vetting lineup, where Bentley charged another horse (Bentley has become surprisingly dominating at these places, where it isnt like him at home!) and then was a fuss pot to get his pulse take. Spun around in circles. One thing that didnt help was Linda had vetted and was making her way back with Sable, and Bentley didnt want his “hate friend” gone. She came back and we got the pulse taken, but it was JUST low enough to start. He also earned himself a reputation and I heard “Stay away from that young horse” a few times through the weekend (although he got MUCH better once we had done some trail)
I had calculated out in excel all the ride times, and we decided we should shoot for the fastest speed to make sure we would get in for ride and tie after. This would have us arriving at 2:42. Remember this, its an important part of my story. We were the first group to hit the trails: Me, Linda, and Amber (who rode with me at Oktoberfest). Bentley was awesome, no shenanigans. Of course, he was trucking along at a super-trot which had me catching a lot of hang-time while posting, but I loved his enthusiasm and he happily listened to my requests to collect when I knew a turn or poor footing was coming. No problems with the breaks or steering, all with the lightest feel on his mouth. Lots of control.
Another good thing, Sable was behind us making all sorts of dragon snorts, and bucking and shaking. Coming right up behind and hanging onto his butt, making snarky faces and noises. Toward the end of the 12 miles, he started looking back to give angry faces… to which I couldnt blame him, but I still had to say no because I wanted his focus on the trail (last thing we need is to trip and fall) The trail was great, Sue had done a wonderful job in marking it, and the footing was awesome (another benefit to being the first ones out!) Lots of big and steep hills to do, several that had to be galloped up. Fortunately I had tested our gallop the week before, not for speed, but for sanity. He was very good about getting the pace I asked for/allowed. Weather was also warm and sunny, so it was magical!
We finished our first loop very quickly. I am always concerned about vetting because Bentley still hates wet sponges. We are working at it slowly (I can now sponge his girth in his stall) but I chose not to sponge for this ride as I think it would have done more harm than good. Well it worked, because he pulsed down just as quickly as Sable, and much quicker than Amber’s horse. I have found that if I give him food, then offer him a drink, he will chug the water and he pulses down very quickly just by that. Hes very food-motivated and it takes him to his happy place. He was 50% better with getting his pulse taken this time around.
Back out for loop # 2, same loop as before but Amber went out with a different group as she pulsed down much later than us. Still riding wonderfully, both us riders and our horses were having so much fun. We got to the finish line and walked very slowly until the clock turned to 2:42 and we could cross the finish line. More food electrolytes and drinking, Bentley is great about getting lots of both. We vetted through with a perfect scorecard, and he was so quiet and accepting of the vet, no more nasty horse! Our final pulse was 41, which would earn us a grade 1 completion, better than I was shooting for! It was also lower than Sable who was 42. Very happy with him!
So, did we get our grade 1? Nope! Here is why: My computer calculated everything out, and rounded down to 2:42 when in fact, an exact speed of 7mph would get us in at 12:42 and X seconds. So we literally came in too fast by less than a minute and got disqualified. Very disappointing that we dont get credit for such a great ride, but hey, we proved we CAN go the maximum speed, AND come through with perfect scorecard, AND have a ton of fun along the way. What we CANT do is continue to round down… we will now always add an extra minute to be safe! Besides, Bentley doesn’t know, as far as hes concerned, we won the whole thing! I think we did too (based on my 2-hour grin throughout)
Signing off for now, parts 2 and 3 still to come!