Sunday my plan was to not make the same mistake from the day before, and we decided to add an extra minute on our time just to be safe. By now, most people in camp had heard about our little slip-up but surprisingly we had lots of people asking to ride with us regardless. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
I ended up sponsoring Solstice who is a junior that I hang out with a lot at these rides. She may be young, but she is awesome and wins everything! So my job as a sponsor was to ride with her (she has to be 16 to ride on her own) and make sure she crosses the finish line in one piece. Funny thing is, shes been doing this longer than me. She ended up teaching me lots of little things along the way, and of course, it was filled with giggling and playing.
We started out our first loop with Linda and Barb but we soon realized it was easiest to split off in pairs. Bentley didn’t seem to like Sable crowding his personal space and was constantly looking back to make cranky faces at her (to be fair, she was practically on top of him) I had to punish him anyway because no matter who is behind him, I want him focusing on the trail. Keep your eyes on the road Bentley! Solstice’s horse (pony really) Angel, was much more agreeable with Bentley. Every so often they would make a face at each other, but for most of the trail we were able to ride side by side. The two were competitive also, and once up a really long hill, we had a good gallop and Solstice exclaimed “Look they are racing” and the look in the horse’s eyes was unmistakable. So we kicked on and had a fun race to the top of the hill. Don’t know who won but we were all smiles and the horses weren’t tired at all.
We did have one small scare when Bentley knocked a branch, it spooked Angel and I looked back to see Solstice hugged around her neck. Angel stopped and let her down gently, Solstice got right back up and we continued on without any further issue. The horses were all feeling very good and we had several very long canters as the terrain on day 2 was perfect for it.
We vetted through only 1 minute after Solstice, which pleases me greatly. Her horses always have ridiculously good heart-rates and recovery, and since we weren’t sponging Bentley, I was expecting to recover much slower than them. It also was good for Solstice as she didn’t have to wait around for me!
Since we had trotted and cantered most of our first loop, we were well ahead of the time. We cantered in some places on loop 2 because the horses were still feeling fresh and giddy, but in the last 3 miles we pretty much walked the whole thing. Of course, we didn’t want to come in too fast! Bentley was starting to be a little tired by the end, and on our last big long steep hill, he happily abode by my “slow down and walk the second half of the hill” rule… of course, that rule was taught to me by Solstice earlier in the ride 🙂
We had such a good time, Solstice is a very fun girl. We would play games like pretending to be rival jockeys and clank stirrups, or we would canter really close and Solstice would pat Bentley’s ears, or we would flap our wings to air out our armpits, even played “hunter pairs” whenever we saw a log – attempting to synchronize our jumps (and succeeding!).
We had a very (not) dramatic walk and eat finish, but came in not too early this time! We met parameters in under 20 minutes,our best count yet (40 bpm). However, when we did our scored pulse, Bentley was up to 45bpm because 2 flies were bugging him and he had gotten fidgety. Not sure if it was that his heartrate was up from that, or if they had difficulty counting on the squirmy beast, but it is still a grade 2. That’s what my goal was, so that’s what I was happy with (despite knowing i was SO CLOSE to grade 1). And yes, there were bugs… already…. after that stupid long winter we had, I wasn’t prepared for that yet! Solstice of course got a grade 1, and won best condition with Angel’s unreal heart-rate of 38bpm. Wow!
Overall, both rides were very successful. We (sort of) completed both with perfect scorecards both time, Bentley’s trail behavior was phenomenal, he was conditioned exactly to where he needed to be, and despite his quirky fear of wet sponges, he recovered quickly and easily. He acted so mature throughout 99% of the weekend, well beyond his years. I am very proud to have such an amazing horse with such a bright future!