As with my post about the Massie Autumn Colours ride, I would like to interject my Mongolia stories with what is going on in the here and now. This will be one of those stories.
Last Weekend (September 13 & 14), Cayuse Creek Ranch hosted the Ganny Gallop and Masterfeeds Challenge. This was the test event for the Pan-Am Games being held in 2015 – so it was set up just as they are hoping to set up next year, including the same trails as will likely be those which will be ridden next year. There were a few things that they had that made it a bit different from a normal ride – the ride booklet said there were motion activated cameras in the forest as we passed certain checkpoints – COOL!
I was fortunate enough that a few people had offered to drive me there or back – Thank you Lesley, Deanna, Linda, and Jess! I had a few days where I had not thought it would be possible for us to go… and I really needed to blow off some steam by riding through the forest for hours on end. Some stuff around homelife had me down, and knowing the weather was cool (thats where Bentley shines), I was very sad thinking I couldn’t make it. So these angels stepped in and helped make that happen!
Linda and Solstice rode the 50 mile ride (80km) together on Saturday. Their horses are I’m No Angel, and Angel, so thats always fun. It was the AHA championship ride, and they tied for 4th place.
Solstice was set to ride again on the Sunday, this time with her other horse Desiray. Because we were cross -entered in the FEI and Open categories, there was some bizarre conflict in rules that I had to start with the senior riders, and then wait 15 minutes just across the start line so that Solstice could ride with me (as juniors cannot ride alone). So I started with a bit of a handicap, and a horse who was hopping and dancing and didn’t understand why we had to stand in a field for 15 minutes when all the other horses were on trail.
For the first several miles, the horses were feisty and fresh, it was cool – we were in our winter jackets already and ice covered everything. We had the big trot going, as well as lots of spunky canter. We started on the orange loop, which is the longer of the 2 trails – 24 miles out of 52 total we would ride. It was also the tougher of the 2 trails – having some tight turns, rocky and washout footing in some places. The horses traveled it beautifully. There were lots of hills, and being as this was the first ride I intended on “letting him out” I allowed some trotting down the more gentle hills for the first time. He managed spectacularly.
We pulled into a check, 15 miles down the trail. There we had a mandatory 10 minute hold. We arrived, and 3 of the other riders were still there, we had almost caught up the 15 minutes! I dismounted and removed some of our warm gear – thankfully the stewards offered to take it back for us! Bentley ate his electrolyte and grain slop which I carry in plastic baggies in my backpack, and we were on our way! Well, not before handing off some zipties to a rider whose reins had broken. Thank goodness for Derby training to have me carrying everything I need right on my back.
Back on the trail, we continue in good form, enjoying the music blasting from the speakers in my backpack. We drop our reins and start sharing out best mounted dance moves. We start getting hungry, so Solstice tries her best to get the food from my backpack as I lean sideways and backwards off my horse (they wouldn’t stand for this of course), and eventually we gave up and went hungry. We cruise into the camp, feeling great considering the length of the leg.
We come into our crew area, Desi is down right away but Bentley takes some work to get pulse down – not uncommon as Desi is a freak of nature (in a good way) and Bentley is very big for an endurance horse. Bentley vets out all A’s but Desi has to be called back for re-evaluation. Unfortunately Desi is lame and had to be pulled from competition. Upon a full examination, it appears that a piece of her frog, which had been peeling off previously, must have come off during the ride so she was a little footsore and landing toe-first on the affected hoof. Thankfully it isn’t a major or lasting injury, but it was enough to ruin a great ride for Solstice. What a disappointment!
I set back out on the trail alone, half a minute behind Mandy who was leading, and about another half a minute ahead of Debbie. I caught up to Mandy easily, and we rode the loop together. Bentley seemed to like her mare and they paced really well together. Perhaps it was because she was a bay mare named Angel – Bentley seems to always find a way to ride with bay mares with “Angel” in their name. He was a doll the whole loop and I was feeling great, with the exception of one small spook which had me jamming my thumb into his neck with an audible CRUNCH! The loop itself was 14 miles and mostly 2 track with good footing.
I came in so fast that I was crewless, thats ok, because I gave Bentley one swipe of a wet sponge on his chest, and put the stethoscope to my ear. Looking at my watch, he was already down. What?! That never happens. It was the fastest he has ever pulsed down… EVER. I had to check it again to make sure I wasn’t accidentally listening to some other heart… you know, that backup one he is hiding. Everyone showed up and I was just like “Nah im good, time to vet!” All A’s except the CRI, which was a little high as Solstice tried to blanket him immediately after his trot-out, which was met with a major spook. Oops!
I had vetted about 2 minutes ahead of Mandy, and being that I wanted to ride this seriously, and see what he can do, I left alone. Trotting the first 2 miles of that loop, I swear Bentley turned into Dudley, the slowest horse ever. Then, I heard thundering hooves behind us, and Mandy and Angel were galloping up behind us frantically. “She wanted to be with him so badly!” and it looked like he did too, because he perked right up and was a happy camper again once she re-appeared. Apparently Angel also had a fit when Bentley left camp without him. Oh boy, how did Bentley become such a heart-throb? Angel was happy to park herself behind him for another 14 mile loop and we enjoyed the company.
We tried to pick up the pace, which was fine on the flat, but both horses wanted to take the tiniest walk steps down hills. Towards the end, we were passed by the 75 milers (we were doing the 50) galloping along, and got caught up in their updraft. From there, Bentley was awake again, and I asked for a gallop for the last mile or so of the ride to see exactly how much he had left in the tank. We crossed the line in first place, with Mandy and Angel about a minute or two behind us. I believe our total ride time was 6:19 for 52 miles – very decent considering the terrain in the first loop!
We decided to stand for BC (best condition). As we finished the 10 minute CRI, I was told we were selected for a drug test. No surprise there… we did win after all! So I got an entourage while we all waited for Bentley to pee. And waited, and waited. I also was met by members of the local newspaper for an interview, and cleaned him up for his BC showing. He never did pee (eventually, about an hour and a half later) we were released from their watch as the winner of the 75 miler came in. No worries, he peed when he was allowed back at his campsite and it was lemonade. He did have to have blood drawn, which he was not happy about. It happened 9 mins before we had our BC exam, which made him pretty cranky when being touched on the neck and the full bladder had him not so eager to trot. I didn’t think it had gone very well, but thats ok, its good practice and he had every right to be cranky.
Could you imagine my surprise, when awards came and it was announced Bentley had won BC and High Vet Score? Ok, well, it turns out we won by default – nobody else stood… but when my scores were announced, there was a murmur of approval from the crowd. I am new to this whole BC thing, but it sounded like the scores would have been deserving of the award even if others had stood. Off the top of my head, I believe the scores were 678/800 for AERC, and 374/400 for FEI. Perhaps someone with more experience reading this can tell me what that means. I should get my scorecard back once the scores are submitted.
I can’t believe how well Bentley has done. Not only statistically, but he didn’t make one bad move throughout the ride. He has become such a trustworthy and dependable partner, and always gives his best effort with no drama. He certainly deserved the win, and I am so proud of him in his debut FEI 1*.
As I wrap up this post, I would like to give a shoutout to 2 of my product sponsors form the Mongol Derby. First is The Edge – Bentley and I are both on their supplements, and there are so many benefits to the supplement that I know they played a role in how great we both felt during and after the ride. Second is KnixWear athletic underwear. I was wearing the FitKnix Air throughout the whole 52 miles and didn’t have any discomfort or fashion faux pas! I can’t say enough good things about both of these products, they are staying in my everyday routine!
Lastly, for those who may take on the Pan-American Games next year and want a sneak peek at the trail (or those who are just Cam junkies), here are the rest of my uncut videos from the Orange loop (38km) showing the different terrain and footing. Our horses are both completely barefoot. The white loop is mostly 2 track with good sandy footing, my cam battery died after loop 1.