Unfortunately, the weekend was looking bleak for a ride and I really needed to get some good double digit trail miles in. I wanted to get 20 miles on the books, but the more I looked at it the more depressing it became. Sunday was calling for rain all day (which in fact did happen) and while Saturday was looking great, Dusty worked in the morning and I wouldn't get out of the house until after 1 pm which meant hitting the trail at around 3 pm, so very limited time to ride. When Friday rolled around it was looking like a short ride Saturday late afternoon.
I had two surgeries planned for Friday morning, but then one got canceled. I was always trained to arrive at least an hour before start time and I work in a lovely operating room where the staff is more than happy to get things rolling as quickly as possible. My Friday surgery ended up going early and I finished before my start time even rolled around. I was happily walking out of the hospital at 9 am.
I should have gone back to the office, but instead the brilliant idea of stealing off to the woods on my mare snuck into my brain and took hold. I ran home, changed clothes and headed to the barn in the truck.
Gem was not too pleased to see me two days in a row and showed it by galloping and bucking all around her pasture. I just stood still holding her halter and waited for her to stop being an idiot. About 5 minutes later she came walking up to me breathing hard and covered in a film of sweat. I just shook my head, slid the halter over her head and led her to the trailer.
After a quick text to the hubby to let him know where I was going and what trail I planned to ride, I headed off to Croft. I feel much more at ease when going out alone knowing that at least someone has some vague idea of where to look should I go missing.
I was surprised to find the parking lot nearly full mid morning on a Friday and saddled up without an issue. I was putting my hydration pack on when a lady came riding up to the trailer on her horse. I poked my head around and she jumped out of her saddle a bit in shock. She said she wanted to look at the trailer as she really liked it and didn't realize I was there. I actually get this quite often, so I just laughed and told her about the trailer. Seriously, I think I get asked about it about every other time I take it out somewhere.
As I started off, the temperatures were already in the upper 70s and climbing. I decided to do the ride I did last time backwards because the only on trail water was the river crossing on the outer loop that was 4 miles in when I went the other way. Going backwards would put it near the end.
We started off on the familiar Forest Mill Loop and Gem was game and ready. Not anxious or jiggy, but ready to move out when asked and didn't try to stop or screw around. The first couple of miles flew by and then the breaks came on. Gem began to walk a lot and really slowly. My own head was feeling a bit dizzy even with using the hydration pack to drink frequently.
We reached the picnic tables at mile 3.5 and I got off her to look her over.
|An extremely hot mare|
|Absolutely lathered and dripping with sweat even over the areas that were clipped.|
She was breathing harder than she should have been given the effort and I knew she needed a cool down. I took the bit out and sat with her debating on what to do. The trail that led to the water was a 6 mile loop back to the trail head and I guessed the river to be about 2 miles from where we were. The way back also led to water at parking, but would be a mile farther and had more hills to climb.
It seemed best to proceed forward, but I walked it in hand to give her a chance to cool down. I walked her the entire 2 miles to the river, but it only took about a half a mile for her breathing to return to normal although she was still lathered and dripping. A quick look at my weather app showed temperatures had soared to 85, near record breaking highs, and the sun was blazing hot.
Once in the river, I cursed not bringing my sponge along and instead stood ankle deep in the refreshingly cold water to splash water onto her chest and legs.
|Feels so good!|
|Don't even think about asking me to leave this river|
I continued to splash her until I felt her skin was cool and she was looking refreshed and then forced her big hairy butt to move on.
Once we reached the bank, I got back on board. She was spunky underneath me once again and I let her trot the flat and down hill sections, but walk the up hills on the 4 mile trip back. She kept asking to trot the uphills and she was cool enough to do so, but I didn't want to risk anything happening to her and made her walk.
By the time we made it back to the trailer, we had done around 10 miles in just around 2 hours and she was cool and calm. That was with the time I spent hand walking her and stood in the river. She had been really moving out when asked.
I gave her a full body hose done at the water spigot and loaded her bucket up with water to cover the feed. She gobbled down her entire soupy mash and happily walked back to the trailer with a spring in her step.
Honestly, looking back I think she would have been just fine on the ride had she not spent 5 minutes working herself into a lathered mess back at the barn. When I tacked up, she was dry and breathing normal, but I don't think she was fully recovered internally. Record breaking highs and a partial winter coat didn't help matters at all either. I should have hosed her down once we got there to get her cool before I even rode which is a trick I learned from local riders when I first moved south. It works super well to get them started off cool, but she had been dry and looking fine when I tacked her up. Lesson learned for sure.
She drank deeply once she got back home and quickly started devouring her amazing hay. I don't know where the BO found it, but it is the best looking hay I have seen since moving to SC. By the time I parked the trailer (all by myself too!!!) she was rolling in the grass and starting to graze.