It’s not that I didn’t know it before, but this past weekend proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Endurance riders are the Greatest Sportsmen on Earth.
I say this not because of their athletic abilities or their commitment to their horse(though they are both great), but because of their commitment to the sport and their fellow riders.
The ride this past weekend offered several distances – there was something for everyone starting from those crossing the line on their first ride, up to those who are trying to be selected for national teams for the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
With Shore to Shore in mind, my initial plan was to try 2 days, 50 miles each day on Bentley. Unfortunately, Bentley was not 100% sound. We have been dealing with Arthritis in his fetlocks since the start of the season. I am still not sure whether the arthritis is already bothering him again (after an aggressive treatment in the spring) or he just tweaked something in the field, but he was only about 98% sound. I know, it sounds like its good enough right? Nope! I am sure he would pass the vet check, but something is Not Quite Right and I am not willing to put his future at risk – this sport demands too much to go in without 100% confidence!
It has been very frustrating, I would really rather him have some big gash or something obvious – at least we know what we are dealing with and how to fix it. NQR can drive a rider crazy.
So it was time to switch to plan B. I had seen a few riders posting on Facebook groups that they were looking for riders for FEI horses. As I am qualified, I approached one who I had heard nice things about through friends (and we had 500+ mutual friends on Facebook!) and we decided to go ahead and enter the 2*. Woo hoo! I won’t have to sit around camp feeling sorry for myself and fielding the “Why aren’t you riding?” questions! I am always thankful that these sort of opportunities come around, it takes a special person to offer a horse to a stranger – even with results, references and reputation!
I won’t get into details here, but all was going kinda-sorta according to plan, when the day before the ride I got the bad news – the paperwork was filled out incorrectly and the horse would not be able to cross the border.
Crap! I was really looking forward to this!
Plan C time! Knowing how last minute it was, I decided to put out a call anyway, posting in a few groups seeing if there were any riderless horses out there.
In only a few short hours, my post had been tagged and shared a lot, as well as comments with condolences and well wishes. Before I knew it, I had been offered several horses at several distances.
I nearly cried. I was so moved by these efforts. I don’t think anyone even really knew HOW much it meant to me. It has been a rough few weeks between Bentley and some personal problems, and to feel the community rally for me – well, I am really speechless!
I won’t delve into the ride much (hey, if I am potentially done for the season, I will need something to write about again later!), but I will say I became even more astonished at the trust and selflessness of our group.
Thank you so much for Emma Webb for loaning me Secret to ride Saturday in the 50 miler. She also trusted me enough to take care of her mare alone overnight. It wasn’t the easiest ride I have ever had – she gave me some of the mare ‘tude, but it wouldn’t be fun if it were easy right?
Thank you to the Llop family who brought Milo for me to ride on Sunday. Unfortunately Milo had a bit of an accident in the trailer on the way up and despite being sound, we decided he was best to take the time to recover (on a related note, Splash also gashed herself up this weekend and did not start… she could have, but Ashley made the right call and saved her horse for another day). What really made this special however, is that they (more specifically Anne Dewar) offered me to take over the ride on her 100 mile horse. I was overwhelmed at their generosity, sacrificing their own “fun” ride for me(I use quotes because I have never done a hundred, but I imagine its more fun after its done lol). I declined – doing another 50 was definitely within my capabilities, but I felt I wouldn’t give my best ride in the 100. This was partly due to my knee being a little crunchy, but also because I had all of 45 minutes of sleep on Friday night (sleeping with an OPH is stressful!). Counting down the hours of sleep I could get before the 5am start (with potentially up to 24 hours of riding), I would be beyond exhausted and that’s not fair to the poor horse trying to carry me.
Also thanks to everyone else who approached me at the ride, asking if I had found rides, offering rides for next time, and genuinely happy to see me up in the saddle. Sometimes its great when everyone knows everyone else’s business!
I cannot think of any other sport where people epitomize “Sportsman” more. I am so thankful that I have been accepted into this family. The care that everyone has for each other is one of a kind. We celebrate each other’s victories and mourn each other’s losses. When things go South, we offer assistance and community. It is because of this family I am able to keep the cheerful demeanor that people know me for.
“Why are you always so happy?” People ask me.