Sunday was thankfully not too early a start. Linda was kind enough to feed the morning grain to Bentley at some ungodly hour (no idea when, I had taken a sleeping pill and was out cold for the night – thankfully the police hadn’t come looking for me after the previous night’s 911 incident). Poor Jess too, I guess Bentley was not happy with his hay and decided to move his portable paddock around in search of fresh grass. In the process he had also hit his light up necklace (which I kept on in case he got out as I suspected he wouldn’t stay in his paddock with all that tasty grass around – technically he DID stay in the paddock though) so it switched into obnoxious flashing mode. I hope it didn’t interrupt too many people’s sleep that night.
I dropped down my left stirrup one more and switched into my tall boots, hoping it would improve the rubbing (it did!). Saddled up and hit the trail with Solstice. The horses were strong but not silly, Bentley did throw in a few happy hops, so I held him tight through loop one both to keep the speed in check, and because I didn’t trust giving him his head yet! Only one issue where we were climbing up the BIG hill and found a scary blue sweater in the middle of the trail. I dismounted to pick it up and Bentley decided to keep going. Luckily Solstice has quick reflexes and caught him as he tried to edge by. I am sure the horses behind us would be thankful I got the scary monster out of the way despite the trouble it caused us. We came in and vetted through quickly. Lee had come up that morning to crew us, and I was so thankful to have him holding Bentley while I attempted to sponge him and got everything together for loop 2.
Loops 2-3 were much easier. I put on gloves because my hands were getting sore from holding Bentley back, but I didn’t end up needing them. He was relaxed and forward and really using his rear engine to cover ground at a steady trot. No drama and lots of fun. What a perfect way to ride! His brain has been fantastic this year, and I am attributing it to a bit of extra maturity with age, lots of training on our flatwork, and The Edge supplement which we both use, and seems to work better on keeping him calm than the B vitamin I previously had him on. It mellows me out a little too I think, but in a good way!
Throughout, I was keeping my eyes on any signs that Bentley might be uncomfortable in my Derby saddle, intending on switching if there was any issue. There was no issues however. Only thing that could have been an issue was that I had my pack on there, making me feel a whole lot fatter than usual to him. He did take longer to pulse down in the later loops, but that was no surprise with the weight and the humidity that had developed through the day.
Between loop 3 and 4, we took Bentley back to our campsite so he could pee in peace, and he had a bit of a snooze too. He wasnt exactly keen when I saddled him again as he seemed to be enjoying the nap, but once I gave him a bit of a nudge he woke up fully and sprung back into form. In the last loop I asked for canter (well, with Bentley its more like allowed the canter, never have to ask) and he was happy with this as a reward. We finished in great time (6 hours and 1 minute) and got to work sponging. He was pretty hot and sleepy by then, and finally realized sponges arent knives, standing nice and still while we sponged, towelled and dumped water over him. He did take quite a long time to cool and pulse down, it was muggy and all the sponging water was warm. Thankfully since there was no fight, we were able to get a team of us working on him (thanks to Michelle K and Phyllis!) and he pulsed down well in time to earn his completion though his 10 minute CRI (to stand for Best Condition award) was pretty high.
With that completion, we earned 2nd place (tied with Solstice) as well as Bentley’s 500 mile marker with OCTRA. What a spectacular way to (potentially) finish the season!