Ok before I get into the good stuff, I have one quick complaint and apology. I seemed to have technology issues last weekend which meant I have pretty much no media (photo or video) to include in this post. Last Monday I bought a GoPro helmet camera and was very excited to wear it for our ride and tie. Well we got to the ride site, and I went to turn it on to take a photo, and it was dead. My purse must have found a way to press the button and the battery drained (I haven’t checked yet whether I have 2 hours of video from inside my purse). This also must have happened to my Garmin, because at the same time, I pulled out my watch and it was on – with no idea how much battery life remained! So unfortunately, I didn’t get to capture the FANTASTIC trail this last weekend – I didn’t even bring my backup camera!
This ride is advertised as “The prettiest little ride in Ontario. But, shush, we’re keeping it a secret.” and is entirely true!
Ooops! Secret is out!
There is a little bit of everything on this ride – long slow hills, short bouncy hills, stunning vistas, tight mantracker trails to open fields, logs, rocks, tight hairpin turns and long stretches. The trail is so much fun to ride because it has a ton of challenges, all while being incredibly beautiful.
We started out with the RNT – 6 miles. My one goal for RNT was to beat our previous time of 1 hour and 2 minutes. My sister Heather rode Bentley as our safety, and as usual the starting plan was for Linda to ride 1.5 miles before tying. So I ran the first bit, making quite good time by not walking at all. Only lost a few seconds when I slipped and slid down the trail a few feet. No pain, but some mud on my leg. I found the horses shortly after my GPS clocked the mile and a half, mounted up easily and took off through the forest. Heather wasn’t having any trouble with Bentley and Sable was just as awesome for me, even offering a small canter once. She is a much different horse than last year – well they both are really. We passed Linda at a little over 2 miles and we tried to call to each other to figure out a plan. Usually I ride into the vet check but I thought I heard her say she wanted to ride again, so we went up just a little bit more, tied, and I ran. They caught up to me just meters before the finish line (halfway point) and Linda wanted me to get back on. I wasn’t sure why, but she wanted to be the one vetting Sable. I think now its because she wanted me to do all the running haha. So I crossed over the line on Sable, tied, and got running.
I did get confused shortly after starting loop 2, which was different than loop 1 as there was one point I had to go straight and we met up with the set speed trail, there was a tree down (which is Doug, the trailmaster’s, way of saying “don’t go the wrong way!”) intended for the set speed. I walked around in a dazed circle for a minute or 2 until I saw Lesley across the field (coming in from loop 1) and she told me to go straight over it. Ok…. I wasn’t entirely sure I was going the right way but looking back, it must have been correct!
Then about a mile into the second loop: disaster hit! I rolled over on my right ankle – hearing a “pop” sound loud enough that my music couldn’t mask it. I stopped for a minute, fighting back tears, deciding what I was going to do – go right back? Sit and wait for my riders? Nope – I am going to continue down the trail. I started at a snails pace hobble – still close to tears. After a minute or 2, I was able to pick it up a bit, and it continually got a bit easier each minute that passed by – to the point where I could almost hobble at regular walk speed. Eventually I was able to do a hobble-jog at about a 5mph pace (which looked more like the left-lead canter I practiced in my backyard as a kid) I kept this up for about another mile until my riders crossed me. We didnt tie this time, I just hopped up, thinking riding would be easier. I couldn’t put weight in my heel, and only seconds after we trotted off, Sable screeched to a halt – there was a scary rock ahead. I went right up on her neck – grasping a clump of mane. Hmm, maybe riding wasn’t easier than my left-lead canter. I wanted to make my ride worthwhile enough, so I rode up maybe a quarter of a mile (she offered me some canter which was a pleasant relief from posting and didn’t stop again, she must have known my dilemma) and we tied in a spot with delicious looking grass for the horses. I cantered off on foot, and being not too far from the end, they passed me once more and finished still within sight of me.
Over the finish-line, I asked Heather “do you want to do 14 more miles?” She responded with “but my butt hurts” Ok, I will ride. They vetted while I wrapped my ankle and put on my riding boots – thankfully tall boots give me better support on the ankles. We vetted through with tack, and I hopped up, ready to do the 14 mile SS.
We set out at a speedy trot – I guess Bentley hadn’t quite worked off his excitement yet. We zipped and weaved through the forest in places where I may have considered walking had Bentley not been so sure of our abilities. I was completely impressed that Bentley was able to bend around the trees and hairpin turns so easily – even at a quick trot. He also never put a foot wrong – despite there being lots of rocks and stumps and logs to navigate over. My worst fear was to get my knee ran into a tree – but we didn’t even come close – easily collecting and bending and shifting around every corner. For a big guy, he sure is agile!
We went slower on the second loop – both because Bentley was more mellow and settled and because we did a lot more walking in order to meet the optimum time. Again, he trotted easily through the forest and really seemed to enjoy the twists and turns – more so than the field work! We finished at the optimum time, with barely a sweat and a heartrate that earned us a grade 1 (best possible) completion. We were offered to go out on a third loop, but my ankle was getting quite stiff and I felt like I was posting too heavy on Bentley’s back – so I didn’t want to subject him to me for another 7 miles.
We had a lovely dinner and awards – we won the RNT with a time of 1:01 which despite the ankle and a slow midcheck vetting, was still better than our last time – goal achieved! Linda and I both earned grade 1s and were thrilled of course. The rain started up during this time, which was great it held off long enough, but meant we had to pack up in the rain. So no delays, everyone ran back to their campsite and pretty much vanished! Poor Bentley and Sable were very cold and shivering, so they were happy when we opened the trailer, and barely waited for us to leave the escape door to hop in. We had a safe ride home, and the horses warmed up and went out back home in their blankies.
Overall, a great ride that I will look forward to doing again next year!