…you never know what you are going to get. That’s the fun thing about the sport of endurance. No two rides are ever the same and anything can happen. This past weekend had been a source of stress for a little while. Not only was it my first FEI-sanctioned ride (extra rules to remember, more paperwork to fill out, and more $$ to shell out), the site of the ride was the location of my first and only ever DNF (did not finish). Splash had pulled something in her shoulder. It was very minor and just required some time off to rest. This ride was more about mental hurdles than physical ones. But after much reassurance that this ride was just like the others I had completed, only much more expensive, as the day drew near, my worries began to settle.
Race day started off great. The sun was shining and Splash felt full of energy. The first two loops went by quickly. The course was very flat compared to our training grounds in the Dufferin Forest and it felt like Splash wasn’t having to try at all. However, at the end of third loop, Splash hit her wall and was tired but received A’s on all the other parameters so the plan to take the last loop slow. The endurance racing gods must have heard about this plan because at mile 40, Splash took two head bobbing steps. Since we had just ridden down a gravel road, I figured there was a stone in her hoof. I hopped off to look and was relieved to not see any stones. It took me a few seconds, however, to realize that there wasn’t a shoe on the hoof I was holding. Luckily, there was a water stop a few feet up the road with lots of grass and shady areas so we walked slowly up to there while I called the crew back in camp to send a farrier out.
While in reality it didn’t take the farrier long to get out to where I was since I was just 4 miles out from basecamp, it felt like an eternity. Just to show how awesome the endurance community is, every rider that passed the water stop asked if everything was ok and I had a few offers to borrow Easy Boots, but unfortunately none of them fit. Since I could not find the lost shoe, I made the decision to pull the remaining shoe off. I had ridden this particular loop earlier in the day and I knew there was only minimal road work to do further down the trail. I normally compete Splash barefoot and she hadn’t had this pair of shoes on for long so I figured she would be able to handle the rest of the ride.
While there were some quite slow moments and I was reconsidering why I do this sport in the first place, Splash reminded me why we do this, when on her own accord, she would pick up a trot and canter where she thought she could and even received a comment on how “spunky” she looked from one of the 100 mile riders as they passed. I had never been more relieved to see that finish line but we weren’t totally in the clear yet. We still had a final veterinary inspection to pass. Sometimes the final check can be a little nerve-wracking since there’s nothing more disappointing to find out you’ve ridden 80km only to be pulled at the last check (fingers crossed this will never happen!) It’s made slightly more stressful at the FEI level as there are now three vets watching your trot out and they do a silent vote to decide whether or not you pass. Splash felt much better and more energetic at this trot out than the previous one so I was hoping that was a good sign.
One of the biggest things I stress to people considering getting into the sport is that you do not need an Arabian to compete. This horse is living proof. We successfully achieved our 1* status!
Now Splash gets a bit of a vacation while I plan our next adventure: tackling the Madawaska Highlands near Algonquin Park at the end of the month.