A couple weekends ago (10/1), Penn and I went with Hawk and Fiction to a mini-endurance thing. A slightly further away than local horse park offered an introductory and educational 12 mile ride (and 6 mile for us extra wimpy folks). It was organized by a woman whose mother had cancer and loved endurance riding. The 12 mile ride did two 6 mile loops with a vet check in between. The 6 mile ride did just the one loop. I don't really care to ride for hours on end, so I know endurance is not for me, but it sounded like fun and I was able to ride my 6 miles with Hawk's first 6 miles. I figured the 6 mile ride would be like a glorified hunter pace (it was faster in fact).
|Pulling out of my driveway (later than I wanted to) at 3:51am.|
We started by listening to an educational seminar about endurance racing. How to fold our competition papers and what to expect at the vet checks, then tack we should look into acquiring if we wanted to do more races. Most of the time was spent on the vet check and strategies on bringing your horse in with the lowest heart rate possible. Ensuring you walk the last half mile, even get off the horse and walk it, having the right tack so you can get the bit out of the horse's mouth ASAP.
There was a lot of discussion on feeding the horse at the vet check... umm what? News to me. The endurance riders who led the discussion LOVE soaked alfalfa so that it sits in the hind gut which helps the gut noises and puts extra hydration into the horse (both Hawk and I feed soaked alfalfa before riding, we were happy to be ahead of the curve on that one!). They were all about letting the horse graze at the vet check (oops, I don't have the right bridle to make that easy for Penn). It was really interesting- these people know their horses inside out. It reminded me of what I was told at the long format I did, "In the time you spend preparing for a long format, you should get to know your horse so well that you know what his favorite grass looks like."
We were dismissed and went to fetch our horses for the first vet check.
What was immediately clear was that Penn and Fiction were the biggest bodied horses at the ride. Fiction was definitely the tallest. The vets went all over the horses: listening to breathing, heart rate, gut sounds, and feeling the back, hindquarters, and legs (Penn reacted strongly to the vet palpating his legs and may have tried to kick him... at least he laughed it off). Then we jogged 125 ft on gravel, down and back, for soundness. Penn trotted sideways because I couldn't keep up with him (he was extra fresh apparently). He passed easily and we went back to get tacked up.
I had hemmed and hawed about which tack to use: jump tack or comfy dressage saddle? I ended up going with the jump tack only because it had rained and I really didn't want to expose my dressage saddle to possible rain and the ground at the vet check.
There was a small warm up area, and Penn felt really up and forward so I put him to work over his back and he was a gem. I wouldn't mind having that horse at shows! Hawk and I went to the start when they called us, and went towards the back. We knew the front horses would take off running from start, and while we were eager to get going, we didn't want to jazz up Penn and Fiction and then have possible assholes to ride for the next few hours. We walked off of start and trotted at a good pace through the front fields, during which Penn burned off a lot of his excess "fresh horse" energy (I put my hands in his neck and let him fight himself and a running martingale).
|Before the start.|
Penn managed to almost dump me in the first ten minutes. I was really regretting my choice of saddle (it's not very comfortable and is a very flat xc jump saddle not being ridden on jump stirrup length). As expected though, Penn was jumping small creeks and muddy areas. I had decided beforehand. if there was any chance of him jumping something, I'd grab a solid hold of my breastplate, sit quiet and steady, and just let him work it out... well I didn't grab soon enough and I'm not practiced at jumping anymore, and the last time I jumped regularly I was having trouble with pinching knees and sliding legs... so Penn jumped sooner than I expected over a mud pit, then went bouncing around as I flopped around on his back while shouting the very effective and helpful, "shit shit shit!"
I deeply regret not bringing my helmet camera (how often do I really get to use it? This would have been perfect!) because it would have been a hilarious video to share.
All was well though and that was the most exciting bit of the ride. Everything else went smoothly and Hawk and I had a good time walking through a very unique looking forest area- tons of skinny trees with zero foliage or branches until about 10ft up, and then trotting and cantering where the path allowed. We were passed a couple times by people who were managing to trot the tiny path that wove through the tall skinny trees. That was about the point where we realized Penn and Fiction's dressage trots are not the right gait for this- they need less powerful strides that cover less ground, but step more often. It was funny, we were passed by little horses taking teeny trot steps through the trees, but in the open when we could trot, we'd catch back up in no time! We did get to practice changing bend as we trotting through the trees, and Penn quickly learned to respond ASAP to me when I'd make a pace or bend change... otherwise he found himself slipping or headed right for a tree!
We walked the last half mile or so, which included a trip through the horse park's water complex. I tried to get Penn to canter through, but I wasn't clear on my aids because I wasn't sure he'd get in the water nicely!
We walked across finish and got checked in... this is where I could use some more experience of when the clock stops counting and when the count for the rest period begins... and the strategies for the time between we arrive back and the vet check that starts the rest period. I was confused by the hustle and bustle of people who were prepping to go back out for another 6 miles, so I didn't do the best I could have at the vet check. Oh well, Penn arrived with a low enough heart rate that we were cleared to go see the vet for another heart rate/gut sound check and soundness check immediately. Penn got the same good "grades", all A's and four +'s for gut sounds.
I spent a long time cleaning him up- the facility didn't have hoses so I couldn't hose all the mud and dirt off of him- I had to sponge it all off. It was a cooler day, so I tossed on his BOT mesh sheet and waited at the vet check for Hawk to come back from her second 6 miles. Penn was NOT happy to be separated from Fiction. He screamed and screamed and wouldn't eat grass.
|Depressed horse is sad his friend isn't there with him.|
|"My friend is back! I'm going to chew his nose while he tries to drink."|
|Penn finally wanted water after Fiction came back.|
I ended up finishing 3rd in the 6 mile race (out of 6, haha). They had a bunch of neat prizes, but Hawk and I ended up swapping prizes since we liked what the other got better!
|The sun came out in time for me to grab this pic!|
It was a lot of fun, and I'll probably go again next year... maybe I'll even do the 12 mile!