First...we took 4th place again!!! WOOT!!! I'm very excited about that. Optimal time was just 1 min 51 secs faster than we did it. Not too shabby. I thought we were going annoyingly slow, so maybe it was a good thing the horses got tired. I think our little detour at the end helped out too. Without it we may have jumped up a spot or two or we could have come in way too fast. There isn't much room between the placings.
With 2 hunter paces under my belt I have a few "critiques" to share. Not to sound picky or whiny, but there has been a couple things occurring that I think needs looked at.
1.) Distance. They never post the distance in advance. The first one told you it was 9 miles at the start line, but FENCE just laughed when I asked and said "well, it is under 100 miles". Geez thanks. Now I know my point of view may be the thing that needs changed here, but knowing the distance in advance is not only helpful, but in my opinion, necessary. I understand they go based off time. Most rides are around 2 hours. Fine. But if you expect me to finish a 12 mile course in 2 hours I need to go at a 6 mph average pace. Not something my Gemmie is used to yet. Whereas a 6 mile course would be only 3 mph which is slow for Gem. You see the dilemma? If going into it I knew it was 6 miles I would need to slow her way down and ask for more walk than usual and basically no canter. If it is 12 miles I need to get her little butt moving and mostly trot with some cantering and very little walking. Maybe they don't think this is a big deal. But if it was a human race - wouldn't participating in a 5k be a lot different than a half marathon? Seriously. I think the problem lies in the fact that they really don't know how far it is. They don't measure it. I can't imagine going to an endurance event not knowing if I was going for 25 or 50 miles. The strategy is very different.
2.) Etiquette. Trail etiquette is seriously lacking. My theory as to why this is: the majority of the people we have run across so far are arena riders on fancy pants horses that come out to show off and have fun. Great! The more the merrier, but please learn proper etiquette before you come. Example: on Sunday we came up to 2 riders out of the half way hold. They were moving slower than us - walking when we were trotting. We called out well in advance that we were coming up on them and since the trail was super wide, we would be passing on the left. The back horse was fine and we passed. But then the front horse asked us nicely to please not trot past. Ok. I respect that. Thank you for asking. But then she kept walking! How on earth did she expect us to pass her when we were all walking??? Now we were trapped between her and her friend. Um? How does this make sense!! Move over and come to a stop if we have to walk. Or let us trot. Finally she picks up a trot (not sure why) and then we do too and pass her and then canter away. It was annoying. I don't like my horse to get sandwiched in between two unfamiliar horses. It happens time and again and people need to understand that allowing a faster moving horse to pass is safer than trapping them behind you as you refuse to allow them past. There are other examples of poor etiquette such as when we called out to pass and the person refused to acknowledge so I had to shove past her. Or the lady who kept barreling up on us from behind at a fast canter without saying a word of warning which freaked Gem out. She would then pass just to come to either a stop or slow walk and then as we got up to her tell us to pass just to repeat this again. I don't understand it, but refer back to my original theory. These ladies just don't ride trail much. Their idea of a trail ride mimics that of Crabby Acres - 10 minutes around the fields at home. They never have to worry about passing. They never come across it.
Ok enough whining. Gear talk:
I did something very bad. Something very much against the rules. I made a game day decision to make a change. EEEK! You are never supposed to do anything new on game day. Oops. In my defense, I needed to do something different. With her feet getting done by a new farrier the week before and trialing that new girth (which failed), I hadn't had time to figure out what to do and try it at home. She had big rubs from her girth the last time and I wanted to avoid it happening again. Spoiler alert: I failed. But I tried.
I "borrowed" the hubs' body glide he uses for running and smeared that on her elbows and skin right in front of her girth and all over the old rubs. I hoped it would allow for less friction. The hubs didn't appreciate getting his stick back with red Gemmie hairs all stuck in it. Sorry, Hubbybear.
Next, I flipped her girth backwards. Since I have no real idea how to put it on correctly (this one also lacks a "spaceship") and it rubbed the one way, I figured it may work the other way. Epic fail here. It was loose and allowed the saddle to slide even more. So I think I had been doing it right all along.
She ended up with new rubs :( I need to figure this out ASAP.
I changed my shoe gear and am very glad I did. I went out in my running shoes. They have a lot more cushion and my toes didn't go numb. I felt more secure and stable and lost my stirrups a lot less. My only concern is that they grip so well that if for some horrible reason I fell off my foot would be more likely to get stuck in the stirrup. For now I am going to take the chance. Wider endurance stirrups are on my "want list" and that should help as well someday.
The ponies were overheated and tired. All in all it was a good outing, but if the weather stays in the 70s this winter, I may have to clip her fur a little. I hate the thought of doing it. It is unnatural to take a horse and remove the nice coat she grew. But if the alternative is an over heated horse, it needs done. I'm going to wait a bit and see how the weather goes, but it is still in the mid 60s. Poor girl is hot.
Next one is this weekend!!! I don't think the hubs is planning on riding, so it just miht be our first solo pace!! :)