This past weekend was the Queens Bush Training Ride up in Chatsworth, Ontario. After getting my mother’s blessing to go riding on Mother’s Day, I agreed to join Linda on this 12-mile training ride. As the date got closer, and I checked the forecast, I started to become a little dubious about the plan. Seeing words like “rain snow” and “feels like -1” were starting to turn me off of the idea. Its not one of the closer venues to us. Linda was still game to make the journey and brave the weather (calling me a bad Canadian being afraid of a little cold) so Sunday morning, we got on the trailer and headed north.
Very quickly the weather turned to rain, then sleet, then snow as we drove further north. Linda kept saying things like “dont you see the blue sky up there?” We were accompanied by a woman named Amber who is interested in starting distance riding with her Arab gelding also. She eagerly agreed to crew for us that day despite the weather.
We got to the ride site and the clinic had already started. We decided to leave the horses on the trailer for a bit since it was so windy and cold. We took them off a little later as we wanted them to drink, but Bentley instead chose to chow down on the wonderful looking grass. I don’t trust Bentley in the hi-tie so I spent a lot of the clinic just holding him and Sable (alternating with Linda) as they mowed the lawn. It was very cold, and I was glad I brought along my oilskin jacket.
Moving on to vetting, Doug has a lovely arena on site where the vetting was to take place out of the elements. Unfortunately the high winds caused the coverall fabric to flap and bang, and Bentley considered the arena to be a deathtrap and wouldn’t pulse down enough to start. Fortunately the brave volunteers were willing to come outside in the ick and vet him there. He got a pulse of 40 and showed off his fancy footwork in the trot-out. Clearly feeling good.
We tacked up quickly and Linda and I were the first ones out on trail. Jess and a new rider joined us. Less than a mile in however, we ended up splitting up. I thought I heard the new rider (I think her name was Nancy?) say something about not having used that saddle before, and spent a lot of time on trail adjusting stirrups. That’s an important training lesson to learn, never try something new away from home! So Linda and I were soon off on our own. We had to go slow and did the first loop in under 6mph (i cant remember exactly what it was) because there was lots of mud, tight trail, and lots of hills. For most of loop 1, a pellet snow (perhaps it was hail?) stung our faces and I was thankful for my sunglasses. I wished I had brought Bentley’s bonnet to keep the pellets out of his sensitive ears.
We got into the hold slowly, took us 8 minutes to pulse down. I think it was mostly due to the nasty weather keeping Bentley alert. At this point, I was barely able to stand upright due to the wind, and Bentley would walk with his head down and twisted towards me in order to shield himself from the wind and pellets. It was very cute. We had also put his blanket on him immediately as I was paranoid about him being cold, but it ended up being useless because the wind would catch it and fly it up over his head…yet somehow he didn’t find this scary at all, “just keep me out of that arena” he said!
Here we are getting ready to go out for loop 2.
We had the option of how long we wanted to take for our hold: 20, 30 or 40 minutes. I immediately said “20, I want to get out of this cold and get home!” The ride camp was much colder and windier than the forest since it was open, so the longer I had to wait to get back into that shelter, the more miserable I knew I would become. Linda eventually agreed, we left tack on, and got out of camp asap!
As soon as we entered the trail, we noticed something… the trail looked entirely new. Why? Because it was now very white! It was like riding a completely different trail. We opted to go even slower on loop 2 for several reasons. 1) Had already been chewed up on previous loop 2) hard to see what was underneath and 3) where were those trail markers again? Yes, loop 2 quickly became difficult because despite Doug’s fantastically marked trail (tons of white ribbons and orange arrows), the white ribbons camouflaged in with the snow, and the now very sticky blizzard had covered the signs. Linda and I felt that being the first ones out on trail (especially since it was training ride) it was our responsibility to brush the snow off as many signs as we could. So lots of stopping there. A few times we went off trail, since it was so well marked, we never got too far, but we did worry a bit about the other riders who may be following our tracks and also go off trail.
By the end of loop 2, there was a good inch of snow covering everything. We were very close to home and some of the pine branches were over the path. Bentley would duck, come back up, rocketing the snow onto me, or under my seat (if I was posting) which was quite uncomfortable. Anything that didn’t get me, got Linda and Sable who were (as always) right on Bentley’s rear. I told Sable that’s why she shouldn’t get so close. Of course, with all this snow dumping on us, we squealed and laughed. We may have been a bit delirious at this point. I removed my glasses at this time as I was nearly blind, Linda mentioned that next time she may bring her ski goggles. What a thought! Well, there were some very beautiful moments as the snow came down through the trees, quite picturesque.
We came out of the forest and down the road, and to our surprise, almost all of the trailers were gone. What happened?!?! A bit of concern rising, but before we knew it, we had crossed the finish line and the volunteers were pouring out of the arena to congratulate us. Only 2 other riders had gone back out for loop 2 (Jess and Tracey) and everyone else had gone home. Explained a lot!
As you can see, our entire fronts were white (despite the fact we WERE brushing ourselves off along the way)
I think I may be saying something here about not being able to feel my fingers. Bentley doesn’t look as pathetic in this picture as he did in real life… he was pretty soggy and snowy.
This time he DID allow himself to be in the arena, though we vetted outside to be safe. I did NOT want to go through all that only to not complete because he was afraid of the arena! We only got our completion pulse (52) and opted not to get our scored pulse. We estimate that he would have recovered down to about 40, but in the arena there was no way I could get him to stand still for a 60 second count, and it was the completion that mattered to us. I wasn’t going back out in the blizzard for that pulse!
We got our ribbons right away, Linda wanted to do a scored pulse so Bentley and I walked around for a while inside the arena. He was pretty happy when he found bits of Tracey’s grain in the dirt and dragged me along the path where it was spilled. Both he and Sable had eaten well (despite Bentley making one very rude lunge at Sable when she eyed his dinner – aka her leftovers from loop 1) so we put them right on the trailer. I could barely get out of the way fast enough for Bentley, he wanted in that trailer BAD! Made things nice and easy for us. We were so fortunate that Amber had packed all our chairs and blankets already and after a quick goodbye to everyone, we were on our way home.
The snow was still terrible, and not 10 minutes into our ride, I got a phone call from my parents asking where we were. As they were on the way back from the boat (30 mins north of where we were riding) and they had seen a horse trailer (barely believing that we actually WERE crazy enough to ride in that stuff) they figured out we were just ahead of us on the road. Neat! We didnt see them until at least an hour later when we were passed by a van, with an arm sticking out the window waving. Linda thought something fell off the trailer, Amber thought it was horse fans, but I clued in that it was Mom’s purple sweater! Cool!
After another hour or so, we pulled back into Myrddin, and there was dad opening the gate for us! Very unexpected and touching! I took Bentley off, gave him his dinner and a good pat, and I went home with Mom and Dad, later taking us all out for a Mother’s day dinner.
What a day!