An early start on Saturday morning had us at the ride site with just enough time to vet through and hit the trail in time for the 12 mile (20k) set speed ride. Carol and I went over to the vet check, all tacked up, but found there were over 40 entries and with a staggered start, we had close to 40 minutes to spare before our out time. We ate one of Bentley’s carrots, wishing we had eaten lunch before the ride. Bentley decided to share with me, and we had a lady and the tramp moment with the carrot.
The ride itself went ok. We finished in good time and earned a grade 1 (best grade) completion. The trail was lovely except for a few deep muddy spots, and the horses were happy to be out with each other since they are madly in love with each other. When we came back, we had discovered our friends Ron and Julie had set up our whole camp for us, we were so spoiled!
Sunday was the big ride – the 50 miler (80km). Start was out in a field (different from the other rides) to help for a racing start -not an issue with this ride, but it was being tested for Pan-Am in the summer. Everyone congregated near the start and the horses chowed down on the lovely alfalfa. The timer called out “1 minute to start”, and literally NOBODY came forward to the start line. Solstice and I had planned to hold back at the start, but I guess that was everyone’s plan. So we shrugged and shuffled over, and with Michelle, we trotted out first over the start line – in a very sane and quiet manner.
Solstice and I stuck together for the first loop (a 15 mile “long” white loop) which took us through lots of 2 track trail. The air was still relatively cool – just enough to wear a long-sleeve comfortably and the horses came in nicely – I got off to walk Bentley in the last little bit as per usual. New for this ride, we didnt carry our own cards, so that was nice. Bentley stood still to be sponged, which was great because I didnt have any crew. He was very polite and easy to manage – which isn’t always the case after the first loop. I waited the 8 minutes to pulse down, which is his usual, and found that he was down to 52! Do’h! Wasted time. Need to remember to bring my stethoscope to the crew area next time! He vetted through well and we went back to hold for an hour. Still, he was easy to manage – staying where he was told while I puttered about feeding myself, preparing his food, and refilling buckets. What a good boy!
Next came the orange loop (20 miles). Solstice had vetted through before me so I was off on my own, but about one mile in, we connected with Emma Webb who was great company for the ride – Bentley seemed to like Zillary! Well, not for the whole loop, as another few miles in, Earle Baxter and Pat St. Jean caught up with us, and Bentley decided to stick with them instead. So we managed to keep good company throughout the loop. This loop took us to the far end of the forest and into the forest centre. We did see several motorized vehicles along the trail but they were all very respectful of us.
When we came off the rail-trail right at the end (there is a field we go around before the finish) we saw some horses way off in the distance. Bentley got immediately psyched up and was determined to catch him. This was odd because he had been so calm about other horses all ride. I said” Cool it, they probably arent even in our ride, you don’t need to beat them” which triggered a conversation with Pat “they are endurance riders, see one has an orange pinny” “but everyone got orange pinnys” “no, see one is wearing blue, orange is for endurance” “but Carol got an orange pinny, and shes doing the 12 mile” then Bentley emits a high pitched “whee heee heeen” Oh crap. It IS Carol (though still only appearing to me as a dot). HOW DOES HE KNOW THAT! Needless to say, he trucked to catch up to them, no negotiating, no getting off to walk. We crossed the finish line just as we caught up, and his pulse was VERY high.
Both Carol and I had trouble managing the frantic boys through this and we tried to keep them separate. Bentley wouldn’t eat while I sponged him down, and Cairo pulsed higher than normal on his finishing pulse. How in the world did the timing work out so horribly?! When Bentley was down, I took him to the vetting area where we discovered he had very low gut sounds and we had to re-present before our hold was up. Not too surprised as he tends to get low around this mileage and the whole friend chaos had preventing him from tanking up on food and water as he usually would do. He was still not that interested in eating when we came back, but when Cairo returned from vetting he was more willing to eat – but mostly just carrots (because OOPS! I had over electrolyted the grain/beet pulp and it was way too salty. In my defense my PNW had turned into chunks, so I had stopped measuring by scoops, and measured instead by “this feels like a good size chunk” – not very scientific). By the time the hour hold was up (I was so thankful that we had a whole hour instead of the usual 40 minutes!), his gut sounds were back and we were cleared to go.
The last loop was the blue loop (17 miles) which we were told had a lot of new trail. Pat had caught up to us again at the water trough, and we were happy to have company for the ride. It was lovely! There was some nice gnarly trail that we both loved, weaving and bobbing around the trees. However, some of the trees weren’t cleared for a 16.2hh horse and reasonably tall rider. Flattening myself on Bentley’s neck, the loft of his trot had me whack my head hard once on a low tree. Thank goodness for helmets! One area had us out in new fields, which were beautiful and rolling. There was a good size cross country jump in the one. Pat dared us to jump it, and had we been in loop 1, I would have been game, but after 48 miles (60 if you counted Saturday), I decided it might be a BAD idea. We played rock paper scissors to see who would “win” the 6th place ribbon and I won with rock. Pat was just a little disappointed as he had won the lovely pink ribbon at the last few rides, and wanted to be chastised by Fred for it again. Lucky for him, 7th was a beautiful lavender and should fit well with his collection. We both trotted nicely over the finish line with smiles on our faces.
It took quite a long time for Bentley to pulse down. The heat had gone up substantially and all our sponging water was warm. Charli was there and helped me sponge him. He was good for it all and appreciated it, but we just couldn’t get him cool enough. The breeze had also disappeared. After about 20 minutes, he was at parameters and we vetted through with all A’s and +’s. I chose not to stand him for Best Condition because the vet check is so far from camp. So either I would have to make him wait an hour at the crew area, or take him back and return. Either way, he had given me such a great ride, I know all he wanted was to be with Cairo, so we went straight back to camp where he dozed and ate quite happily (and this time I didn’t get bit in the vetting!). Yeah, I got the message Bentley.
Overall, we had 2 great rides and I am successfully meeting my goals of upping the distance this year. Speed is of no concern – with the exception that I want to ride each loop at a consistent speed (and DID!), just want to get those miles done! Just like at Aprilfest, Bentley’s maturity astounds me. Big difference between this year and last year. Is it age? Is it experience? Maybe its both! One other thing I was very proud of (which is going to seem strange to non-horse people or even non-distance riders) is that he peed when he came in from every loop. He is a shy pee-er and usually will only go once during the ride – to his detriment. It may seem little, but the little tweaks now are so much bigger!