My stomach dropped, but I realized, well, that's not so bad.
So, I said I'd come to her trailer in the morning and we could go out together.
She was such a sweetheart. But I start spiraling with anxiety when I know trail is fixing to open and you're not yet in the saddle. However, she managed to get in the saddle and we headed out at 5 minutes after trail was open.
Now, first loop was supposed to be a 21 mile loop according to two different GPS devices from Ride Management. So, I knew we needed to move when we could.
The start of the ride was gorgeous. This would be the only time the LD riders did this loop, which was both a shame, and for which I was grateful.
The trail was beautifully marked, and I'll never forget as the horses made the first climb as we looked down into a valley beneath us that was adrift in morning fog, how blessed I felt, and what a miracle it is that I get to do what I do, with a strong horse, and to see such beauty as the world beholds. However, no pictures because I'd managed to crack my phone's screen on Wednesday night (had it on the dash of the truck, and think I tossed a metal ring and carabiners on it while I was trying to stretch out across the front seat...all I know for sure is it wasn't cracked when I went to bed, but it was cracked in the morning). So, while I'd PLANNED to carry my phone all weekend for pictures, I opted to leave it in camp so it wouldn't get further damaged. Trust me though when I say, the view was AMAZING and one everyone commented on all weekend.
So, we keep on going, and we were told that at least at one point we'd go by a bathroom. So, maybe 5 or 6 miles in, we pulled over so my riding companion could stop and go. After my fiasco at Last Hoorah, I'm not going to begrudge the use of a REAL bathroom.
Now, we had to go down into some washes, which was both interesting...and kind of creepy. You're down in an area where the grasses are higher than your head. At this point in the ride, Strider was happy to lead (guess who was on the hunt?). However, ride management had had to saw a tree in half, but, due to the sheer size, were unable to get it off the trail. Now, I -thought- Strider would move over enough and step OVER the damn log laying IN the middle of the trail. But I guess because it was laying at an angle...well...he didn't. Damn near took my leg off. Instead, I ended up with a REALLY bad shin bruise that I SWORE tore most of the skin off my leg (only took a good sized patch off). I wasn't the only one who almost lost a leg to the tree. It was painful!!!
Anyway, so we're leapfrogging at the back of the pack, and I can tell by my Garmin, we're not going fast enough to get this done.
At this point, we stop again as my companion needs to go potty. My anxiety is almost through the roof at this point, but, and here is where my inner voice starts warring.
I want my companion to have a good and successful ride. I want to earn my own completion. I'm not willing to ditch her out there, so I keep telling that voice of anxiety to shut up, somehow, we're going to get through it.
Up and down hills. Walk and trot. Keep moving. Move and pick up time when and where we can. We'd leapfrogged again at some point and were ahead of the last 2 riders, but we'd needed to pull over after clearing some of the dramatic ups and downs. I opted to stop again. I was making sure I was diligent about my water intake this ride and using my NUUN tablets in my water.
I mention, after this last potty stop, we really need to pick up the pace some. So, if the trail is open, let's trot. At this point, we're about 14 miles in according to my Garmin, and the day is wearing on.
And then, a miracle. A sign that says we're 2 miles out from camp. "That can't be right" my brain screams. "But, if it is...then we're back in the game" the other part of my brain screams.
We manage to get that wrapped up and boogie in to camp. Takes me a few minutes to get Strider to come down. I attempt it with the tack on (apparently, I haven't learned from Last Hoorah, he comes down faster if I strip his tack off...especially in the heat....I can leave tack on for cooler temperature rides). Scoop and scoop and scoop water on him. Then I strip off his tack. And, we're down.
First Loop; Llano Estacado on Day 1 (Garmin stats) (started it about half a mile into the ride, so it's definitely off)
I will say, I love that at this ride, all of the big troughs were FULL with big, pre-made scoops for our horses!! I loved that!!
I pulse down about 3 minutes before my companion.
Now, to come in to camp, we had had to go through this nasty, sucking muddy area. And, that's how you had to exit camp as well. With Strider, I wasn't worried because he was shod, but even on day 1, my mind started to grind out about how on earth I could manage that with Dakini in her boots for day 2. Urgh.
So, I get through the hold, and realize I have GOT to leave on time.
The ladies we had been leap frogging with had left a few minutes before me, so I knew they were out on trail. I told my companion that I was going to go ahead and get out of camp. One, because I KNEW I needed to use it as a training moment with my horse (true...he hates going out alone, so when I can have the chance to leave solo, I NEED to do it), and two, I felt she could easily catch us once she hit trail.
So, out of camp I go. We cross through the nasty mud and as we start walking out of camp, Strider is balking and stopping. I'm putting on my leg. I'm thumping him with my legs. Nothing.
Not out of anger, but as a "Yeah, we're GOING", I swatted him hard on the ass. And he gaited off. And didn't stop gaiting. Never again did he ask to stop or question me.
I'm going to pause here and say I felt guilty for a few minutes about popping him. Except I believe now that all those times he's been a shit leaving camp solo, it's not because he's tired. He's being a brat. And, I spoke with my mentor about it when I got done with my ride. She said it didn't sound like I'd hurt him, and that he probably needed that.
I know people will judge you if they think you're "abusing" your horse. And I spent a while in agony someone saw me and would report me for abuse. I worry, often, about how people will perceive me. However, one firm "Yes, I really DO mean it." isn't going to break our relationship. And I am hoping that we can begin to put his balking behind us.
So, we're gaiting along merrily at a nice clip, and I'm having a good time. I manage to catch up to the two riders who had left camp before me, and I asked if they wouldn't mind if I tagged along. They said they didn't mind at all!!
We had a great time as we chewed through the last 7.5 miles of trail. Lots of laughing and just general merriment.
Pausing again; look, I'm socially awkward. But for some reason, at endurance rides, I meet people and strike up friendships. It probably helps that we have a few things in common (most obviously horses and endurance), but somehow, my circle of friends grows and grows. And I'm so blessed by that.
We get through the last section of trail, and back in to camp.
As we're at P&R, my companion drives by with her truck and trailer. She'd lost her boot at the muddy section so decided to call it a day. I was bummed for her, but so glad she was still smiling as she left. I do hope to see her again at another ride!!
My final vet card for day 1 with Strider?
All A's except an A- for skin tenting.
Ride time total was 6:37
Second Loop; Llano Estacado on Day 1 (Garmin stats)
|Day 1 Done! Looking good!|
I keep checking in with my mentor about my teammate out on trail (they were doing the 55). She said that they were still doing great, looked and acting great.
I enjoy the rest of the day back at my trailer. Until late afternoon....the clouds begin to form. Rumbles of thunder.
And, yes, we get a torrential downpour. I manage to get my alfalfa stashed in the trailer, my square bales beneath tarps and anything that needed to be protected put away. So, I take a few moments to just stand in the rain and let the water rinse away the sweat and grime from the trail. Think about the people out on trail for a few moments before I duck in to my trailer to get out of the rain, dry off, change in to clean clothes and read.
The rain lasted in camp for quite a while. It was glorious to listen to it on my trailer as my little fan just blew on me. It wasn't hot in my trailer (shade, it makes a difference!!!), and I was quite happy to enjoy a few hours respite to relax and read (the Anne of Green Gables series).
Of course, after the rain blew through, I stepped outside to check on the decimation that the ponies caused. What was a perfectly nice area for their pen was now a mushy, gookie mess.
|Well, that WAS their pen.|
Thankfully, my neighbor told me to move my pen closer to her trailer and on to firm footing. So, I got my pen set up all over again. From the lights zip tied to my step in poles (all corners and 1 on almost every other step in around the perimeter) and my flashing fairy lights around their pen. AND, the ponies all had glow sticks tied to their halters before I went to bed every single night AND they each have their name tags on their halters with my address and phone number. I'm not messing around with that any more.
|Nice, fresh grass. Space to move and lay down if they wanted.|
|Professionals at conserving their energy!!|
|You're on deck Dakini!! Tomorrow, it's you and me kid!!|
After a nice ride meeting, headed back to camp, switched out breast collars, made sure everything was packed and ready for my day 2 ride, then went and TRIED to go to sleep. I never sleep well, so I think I stayed up until about 1 am reading (what can I say, the Anne series is SO GOOD). And even then I was still wide awake, so I forced myself to turn off my book (what an odd, funny and yet true phrase) and go to sleep.
Day 2 was coming!!!