February 26, 2015

Night Riding

A dark trail under a starry sky. The sound of your breath melding with your horse's. The feel of power and grace underneath you as you place all your trust in their ability to carry you safely. Your eyes straining to look for obstacles or dangers ahead and the realization finally dawning on you that they can't. Following a ribbon of glow sticks hoping that you don't miss one.

I've been both dreaming of and dreading night riding for a while now. I really want to experience this magical moment with Gem as the night brings cooler temperatures and we move along covering an unseen trail. However, Gem is a spooking queen in the best of lighting on familiar trails. How will she be in the dark? Will we even make any forward momentum or just spook at everything?

Some people seem blessed with either private trails or at least ones that don't close. Around me all trails close at sunset which makes night riding a bit more difficult. My radar is set on a 2016 100 although which one is up for debate. I would truly love to do the Vermont 100, however logistics for 2016 seem to be falling apart on me. Its not being written off just yet, but I am keeping my options open. In order to do a 100, unless somehow Gemmie sprouts some wings, I will need to ride at night to complete it. I am thinking that my first night ride during a first 100 probably isn't the best idea although by that point in the ride she will be tired enough to maybe not see so many ghosts?

Enter a solution: KY Moonlight 50 on July 31. It was just posted today and I am beyond excited. The 50 begins at 5:30 pm on a full moon evening. Since my last two 50s have taken around 7 hours to complete, if we went a similar pace, we should finish somewhere around 2 am. Exciting!!! Since it is in July, I might even be able to drag Dusty and Wyatt along to camp with me.

I have some questions for you all if you wouldn't mind....

1) There will still be some hours of day light in the early part of the ride. It typically gets dark around 8ish that time of year, so that gives time to move out and cover some ground. How much slower, if at all, do you typically go at night on trail versus day?

2) Would it be beneficial to try a night ride, even if it is just playing in the fields at the barn, prior to going? There wouldn't be any light available at night on property. I guess I could go out and hang some glow sticks to work with.

3) Would doing the 50 at night be asking too much of Gem? They also have a 25 which starts at 6 pm. I'm not a 2 hour finisher, so I would still get some night riding, but not nearly as much as the 50. I'm not against 25s at all, but having moved up I would prefer not to go back down to a 25 unless there is a specific reason to.

I'm super excited about this ride. I absolutely can't wait. Even if we go so slow that we don't finish the 50, at least it would give me an idea of what I would be dealing with on the later miles of a 100 next summer.

1 comment:

  1. I did the Vermont Moonlight 50 a few years ago and it was incredible. I say if you have a chance to do that kind of ride, GO FOR IT!!! When I did my night ride, my companion got pulled at the sunset hold, and I had to ride my horse into the dark alone. It was my first time endurance riding at night (though not my first time night riding) and it was the horse's first ever time riding in the dark (and her first fifty, actually). We did slow down some in the dark. I basically let her pick the pace. She mostly did a slow trot, but when she asked to walk, I let her. They did a great job marking the trail up there, and there was always a line of glow sticks visible ahead. Still, it was weird to see a glow stick straight in front of me, only to realize that the trail twisted between here and there. The horse would follow the trail, and it would throw me for a loop every time! I definitely recommend trying a night ride first, preferably on trails you know well in the daylight. Even if you just walk, it should ease your anxiety about trying it for the first time. Plus, then you can feel her out in terms of spookiness in the dark. She may be LESS spooky with less light bouncing off 'scary' things. And as for the distance... if she has done 50's before, it shouldn't matter to HER if you do it in the dark or the light. I hope you go and have a great time and I'm looking forward to reading about it if you do!