Sunday was supposed to be chilly. Chilly enough that we debated bringing W along this time. We worried he would get cold being out for 2 hours. We bundled him up in thick fleece pants, a heavy long sleeve shirt, fleece coat and hat. I also brought along a vest in case the coat was too warm and a lighter pair of pants, just in case. We hooked and loaded everything up on Saturday and planned to leave after his morning nap - around 8 am Sunday to get the horses loaded and meet out babysitter (K) at 8:30. Let me just add here how incredibly lucky we are to have her go up with us and watch him at "base camp". I don't know if we would go if it meant leaving him behind and missing an entire day with him. Anyway...back to the story.
Sunday morning dawned chilly as expected and we headed out only slightly behind schedule. If we moved quickly at the barn we wouldn't be late. We got the barn and immediately realized we had forgotten the stroller back at home. Not good. While W loves to crawl around and play in the grass we couldn't ask K to carry him the entire time without the stroller. Crap. The barn is 11 miles from our house. It takes roughly 10-15 minutes to drive. I had 20 before we were to meet K. Off I sped back home with poor W in the van with me. I made it round trip only 10 or so minutes late and then off we were to meet up with K who was waiting by the highway.
The drive was longer than expected. Google had said 1 hr 6 minutes, but it was really closer to 1 hr 20 mins and longer still with the trailer. Not a problem though because for once W decided to sleep. Which made for a happy and ready to go baby at base camp. The sun came out and things started to warm up very quickly. We got the event around 10 am and had to shed a layer immediately. We signed up, tacked up, kissed W goodbye and headed to the starting line.
After doing 2 events I have noticed a couple "issues" pop up. Instead of dragging down the story now, I will make that the next post. :)
The trail headed out from the horse show grounds at FENCE and through the cross country course. It was really neat to ride on the cross country course since I had never been on one before. There was even a water complex that you could play around on. I should have got a picture, but the horses had decided to come off the trailer spooky as can be and everything was bothering Gem. Shadows made her jump 3 ft sideways. Leaves blowing made her stop in her tracks. Sign posts, ribbons, pavement, rocks...you name it and she thought it was going to eat her. I didn't have the courage to drop the reins to get my camera out until the 3rd mile in. The hubs popped Pete over a nice jump and headed off up the hill to an up bank, but I was confused and called out to him. There was a group of riders headed off to the left and another going to the right. There were pink ribbons everywhere and I was confused as to were we needed to go. We chose to go off to the right where the person who left right ahead of us went and followed the cross country course out through a field and onto a paved road.
A bridge of doom loomed up ahead and we crossed with very sideways unhappy Gemmie ears. I managed to grab my first pic there.
The horses were still feeling it and were moving along well. I didn't pay much attention to my Garmin the first few miles because Gem was being unpredictable, but when I got home I noticed we did the first mile at 6.8 mph which was a pretty darn good pace for her.
Then we hit a gravel road. I find it interesting that while Pete chooses to ride along the side in the leaves and grass, Gem likes to walk down the middle of the road. I let her and she never comes up sore. I haven't had her trot or canter yet, but she does ask to. Her feet are very rock solid.
|The Manly Team with Pete on the side|
|Gemmie choosing to ride on the gravel|
|Lots of gravel road riding in the first half|
What was really odd was how alone we were in the beginning. The woman who started right ahead of us had taken off and either took a wrong turn or was just a speed demon because we never saw her again. Right before the half way stop a woman came up behind us, but she was walking and we took off at a trot to get some distance. The half way point was in a big grassy field and as we neared the timers, we jumped off. I like giving Gem the break and I wanted to tighten her girth more anyway. I was offered a beverage. This is a super nice touch at these events. 3 guesses what I was offered? Anyone?? 1.) Water (which I accepted), 2.) Port, 3.) Southern Comfort, 4.) Champagne. :) I was tempted to get the champagne, but the thought of walking the rest of the way looking for my horse was not a pleasing one.
Off once again and this time the trail headed into the woods.
|Heading away from the half way point. Love the mountains!|
|The hubs leading the way with lucky number 13|
|Beautiful leaves everywhere|
These trails were great. Or at least we thought they were great. Pete hated them which is highly unusual for him. He went so slow at first. The hubs had to keep kicking him along to get anything but a snails pace out of him. At one time we were going 1 mph! I think it was two fold. 1) the leaves were covering the entire trail and I think there were more rocks and roots than we thought and he was very uncomfortable placing his feet down. Not sore, but unsure since he can't see through the leaves. 2) it was most definitely not chilly any longer. The sun was shining and it was 74 degrees!!! Our poor ponies have grown nice, thick WI winter coats and they were hot. They were both covered in sweat. We crossed a few streams and stopped to let them drink, but they weren't interested. Pete almost rolled in the one and so we had to move out before the hubs got wet.
What made these trails so awesome were the amount of jumps present. Every so often a little side trail would shoot off the main one and a sign would indicate jumps. The trail would then parallel the main trail and have 3 or so jumps and then meet back up. We missed the first one because we were unsure where it would meet up and didn't want to take a wrong turn, but the jumps were nice a little and we wished we had done it. It might have perked Pete's interest back up. The jumps seemed to get bigger the farther we travelled, so we just ignored them. If you did go down the jump trail, it was cut very narrow with the jumps the entire width and no way around (steep sides and trees) so you basically were committed to jumping.
Through the woods we went on our overheated and grumpy horses. Eventually we came across a group of riders coming towards us on a single track trail. We asked where they were going. Apparently they had turned left in the cross country course (remember I said it was confusing?) and it brought them here. With pink ribbons abounding they thought they were okay. But they weren't because they were doing it the wrong way. We were about a mile from the CC course, so those poor horses got a little extra trail in for free :)
But at least we knew we were only about 1.5 miles from the finish. We wound back through the CC course and headed towards the show grounds. We got back to where we came out of the grounds and not seeing any ribbons, we headed back the way we came. There was a nice lady in front of us on her first solo outing and we basically just followed her. We got stopped half way back and informed we went the wrong way. Ooops! Apparently we were not supposed to come along the drive back to the show grounds, but keep going straight. So we headed back out. When we hit the main road again it dumped us onto the steeplechase course. What a blast!!! A nice, wide, green, grassy lane fenced in on both sides with the steeplechase jumps removed. We opened up the horses and let them pick up whatever speed they could muster and crossed the finish line in style :)
We finished the 8.5 miles in 1:49 and some change. Not terrible, but really not that great either. Overall pace was 4.9 mph. She did have a max speed of 14.4 mph which was a nice canter up a grassy hill, so that was good to see. We had fun, but the poor horses overheated and were not prepared for a southern winter. 74 and sunny with a super thick, yak like coat is not pleasant. We had brought 7 gallons of water with us that we poured over them and allowed them to drink if they wanted, which they didn't and they chilled by the trailer while we grabbed lunch.
Lunch was BBQ chicken, pork or hamburger and it was delicious! W had a great time playing in the sun eventhough he was overdressed. He bummed baked beans off K at lunch along with his yogurt and banana, snacks and formula. He then got more beans and BBQ chicken from me!
We left happy, tired, full and a little dehydrated and headed off home.
Distance: 8.19 miles
Average pace: 4.5 mph total, 4.9 mph moving
Elevation gain: 691 ft
Elevation Loss: 688 ft