"A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch, but on it's own wings."
Spring eventually came and the trails re opened to horses. Having signed up for a R&T I figured I better learn something about it. I couldn't find much online, so I posted to a riding forum I belong to. I found out that just like endurance there are 100 different ways to do it. The biggest thing on my pre ride list was to make sure Gemmiecakes wouldn't flip out when tied to a tree alongside a trail while other horses flew on by. I could just picture her flipping out, breaking loose and running amok never to be seen again. That would be awful.
One weekend the hubs and I loaded up Gem alone and headed to the Experimental Forest (sorry Pete!). The plan was for me to ride while he ran. This would get some solo(ish) miles under my belt while still having him around for safety. I can't recall how far we went, but Gem basically just followed him. How unnerving to be jogging along with a horse breathing down your neck! Poor Hubby-bear. After a while we went down a nice curvy trail and decided to practice the tie. Gem has alway been great when tied to anything. She rarely gets upset, so I wasn't too concerned. I couldn't simulate other horses on the trail, but oh well.
Dusty took off down the trail while Gemmie ate grass and then hid in the trees. I then rode Gem down the trail until I caught sight of him, went a little past it and then got off and tied Gem to a tree. I patted her and told her to be good and jogged off down the trail until I knew I was out of her sight and then hid. The hubs was not to go to her unless she was being quiet. He watched and at first she was very anxious and tugged at the rope. After about a minute she calmed down and he went to her, patted her, got on and rode just past me. Lather, rinse, repeat. We did this about 4 times going down the trail and then another 4 coming back. She did really well and I was happy to know I wouldn't lose her in the woods.
Next up was figuring out what to wear. Dressing for a 12 mile ride is very different than dressing for a 12 mile run. May isn't extremely warm in the land of cheese, but 12 miles on trails gets you warm quickly. Some folks were proponents of shorts. They covered the saddle with fleece to protect their legs. I didn't own a fleece saddle cover and didn't want to buy one to perhaps only use once and knew my legs would get destroyed in shorts, so those were out. In the end my new tights were comfy for both and the hubs could wear running pants. We decided against half chaps and wore running shoes to ride in.
Water. You need water if you are going to run 12 sandy and hilly trail miles. We both had water belts for running and those fit comfortably while sitting in the saddle, so that was an easy one. Our biggest problem was the helmet. We never did solve it and if we do another one we will have to figure out something better. The hubs has a ginormously round head, sorry hubby, but you do. There was no way we could safely share a helmet and we never ride without one. There really was no way to tie it to the saddle without interfering with the rider. We ended up making the runner either wear it (like I did) or carry it (like the hubs did) and neither was a good option. Suggestions???
All was set, sorta, and ride day was coming up. We left super excited.