While I know you are all waiting to hear my Mongolia stories, I want to interrupt that flow to write a post while it is still relevant. Though I am trying hard to get all my Derby stroeis in writing, I am still riding and competing at home. In fact, 4 days after my arrival in Toronto, I was already riding with OCTRA again.
To be honest, I was planning my return to riding in the Mongolian airport, e-mailing friends to find out who was going to Massie. Carol was planning on going and I could hitch a ride, and back in May Anastasia had mentioned she wanted to do a Ride N Tie (should I ever be willing to separate from Linda). Well Linda wasn’t going, so I messaged Ana, and it went something along the lines of “yes lets do the RNT” “what distance” “why not the 15” “why not indeed!” So Bentley was booked in to do his first RNT, plus an additional 45 miles. PS it was Ana who was the eager beaver suggesting the longer RNT distance!
So on Friday night, I went straight to the barn from work, Carol and Esau had packed up my stuf which made things so easy for me! I am so thankful they did this (considering I hadnt even unpacked from Mongolia) as there was no way I would have been organized enough on my own. We camped out that night, and I felt pretty fantastic having been upgraded from a ger with my saddle as a pillow, to a personal tent with a real FEATHER pillow. Nice.
Still being between Mongolian time and Ontario time, I was up early, went into the little town and got some coffee. A perfect, quiet morning.
RNT was first, we vetted through, barely being allowed to start – Bentley was not happy to be away from Cairo, and had the worst behaviour I have ever seen him pull in vetting. He was trying to kick the vet, heartrate way too high to start (but they let us anyway because they could see the situation) leaping and running in the trot out. And boy is he ever big compared to Mongol horse.
We agreed that I would take Bentley out of camp. There would be a midpoint vet check 3.5 miles or so on trail for the 7 milers, so I said I would tie him there since there would be people around if he had a panic about being left alone. He was pretty looky going out of camp, but quickly settled into trail mode and was just wonderful. I tied at the check, and after some pulling which had me thinking “OMG he is going to break his neck” he realized he wasnt going anywhere and I walked away. Out of sight, I started jogging.
I ran all the way into the halfway point for us, but no Ana yet. She came shortly after, and apparently got a little lost along the way. No sweat, she took off running, and I cooled and vetted Bentley – it took a little longer than usual as it was VERY hot and humid which isn’t Bentley’s forte.
We met up with Ana after a little bit, and I asked her how he was when he was tied. He was good! Hey lets try tying then. I found a place to tie where we could both see him, and to my surprise, no panic. Hm. Tie again, and go a little farther. Great! We eventually left him with no sight, but he did not seem to care. In fact, at one point he was actually ignoring me after tying and looking down the trail waiting for Ana to appear. Goodness, this is a RNT horse! He gets it!
Ana had nothing but good things to say about Bentley, a huge relief to me after his shenanigans during vetting and having not seen him for over 3 weeks (he was being ridden, but it was long for me!) We finished the ride together (ish) in our hot pink shirts – looking quite fabulous. We were the only riders who toughed it out in the 15 mile ride (24km), so completing meant we got automatic first (and last haha). I was so proud of all of our performances. Oh and it was very tough terrain – if you werent going uphill, you were downhill, and lots of rocks, trees, stumps, twists, turns, mud, lumps – but boy is that stuff ever fun to navigate.
Once we were ready, wBentley and I set back out on the trail again to do a 15 mile set speed. For those of you just tuning in from around the globe – set speed you have a maximum and minimum time/speed you can travel, and your score is based off being close to the fastest possible speed, but also having a low heart rate after completing the ride.
By the 2nd loop, we caught up to Veronica and her horse Ella. Veronica had asked me previously if I wanted to ride together, and I was happy to slow things down and enjoy the scenery – the Massie ride is really quite beautiful! Together we got through the last half and both completed successfully.
Sunday, I decided to drop down from the 30 mile distance to the 15. I knew Bentley could handle the 30, but the point of this ride was to have fun, and I really wanted to ride with Carol. Plus, I got to sleep in!
Together, we had a great ride. Bentley and Cairo are best friends, so it was a welcome change to have them together and happy. Bentley was so easy in this ride, that on the second loop, I decided to tie my reins in a knot and not use them… for 6 miles or so. Just because, why not! It was fun navigating the gnarly pole-bending forest with all its switch backs from my legs and seat. Only once or twice I had to puck up the reins to say “yeah we actually DO turn 180 degrees here” in some places where it wasn’t obvious to Bentley. He is a smart horse and knows his job – its not hard to tell him stop and go for terrain, he just gets it, and steering doesn’t take much more than looking where to go and changing posting diagonal when presented with a fork in the road.
We both earned Grade 1s (best possible) and most importantly had a great fun ride in the forest!