Sunday morning was brisk at 40F with a wicked wind that felt like it whipped right through you. My excitement for the pace dwindled as I got ready to leave the hours in the early morning hours. By the time we arrived at the barn, Gem was just finishing up her breakfast and it seemed to get colder. I grabbed her from the pasture and she was high as a kite.
The other two horses at the barn were racing up and down their pasture screaming at the wind. A quick risk:benefit analysis showed that it would be better to just throw her in the trailer without removing her sheet and hope she was calmer at the ride for grooming.
We arrived in a beautiful little valley that was completely sheltered from the wind. Gem unloaded and got busy eyeing up the lush grass all around her as I went to check in. Wyatt hopped on up and helped me warm her up as we wandered to the start.
I started Gem of really slow. Two people had warned me that the NG shoes can be slick as skates on ice when riding over wet grass. Well as you can see from the above picture, the start was noting but thick and wet grass. We walked off and things seemed to be ok, so about halfway through the field I picked up a trot and she still moved out without an issue.
At the back left corner of the field, the trail headed into the woods and I let Gem move out as she wished maintaining a nice and forward trot. I wanted to feel how the shoes made her move.
We spent the first mile or so hugging the bank of a large stream/small river and the sound of trickling water made a lovely soundtrack to our progress through the woods. Gem was feeling good and the slight breeze that made its way through the trees served to keep us both cool as the sun began to warm the air.
The second mile came quickly and we began to duck into the woods and the skirt more gorgeous, lush fields. I began to grow more confident in the tall grass and kept Gem trotting. She never took an odd step or slipped in the grass.
Eventually the trail dumped us onto a road crossing and I made her slow way down. Farrier had never heard of the slick in grass thing, but had heard people say that the shoes were sticky on pavement and to be careful. We made our way across the road and bypassed an optional jump before heading back into the woods.
We eventually re entered the woods and the trail went up, up and up some more. As the end of the woods drew near, Gem was breathing pretty hard and I told her we could walk a bit once we reached the top. As the trail broke from the trees, I saw the steepest, longest hill I think I have ever rode on Gem. It was all grass covered and went on for forever. I apologized to the mare and let her walk half way up and then made her get going once again. At the top, the view was simply breathtaking and I felt my face break into an ear to ear grin that never faded until the end of the ride. I stopped at the top and turned around to grab a picture.
This was the only spot that made me second guess myself. The trail went straight ahead and there was a large jump. A sign read "TO JUMP" with a big, bold, black arrow pointed straight ahead to the jump. There was another sign below it that read "NO JUMP" with a big, bold, black arrow pointing to the left. Right beside the jump was a small trail and typically on these courses you can take the jump or go beside it. As I was pointing Gem to go beside the jump I saw a blue ribbon off 90 degrees to my left going down and equally steep and long, rock strewn trail. Not seeing any ribbons dead ahead, I turned down the hill. There weren't any confidence ribbons along the entire down hill portion and I was beginning to think I made a wrong turn and should have gone straight to the jump when finally we reached the bottom and I saw a ribbon. Phew!
From here the trail go even more fun. Gem hit her stride and was just flying along without a care in the world. The trail was mostly single track and wove through the trees. There were small little hills that were more like moguls on a ski slope and we bounced up and around and through the woods. I was giggling out loud like a school girl and giving Gem huge pats.
Honestly, it was moment that just made me thankful to be alive and fortunate enough to get to enjoy my time on the planet like this.
These woods plopped us out by a local vineyard and there was yet more gorgeous scenery to take in.
The trail ran off to the right up a gravel road and for once I could let gem just go. The trail wound its way up the hill in the picture above and I was laughing as we soared around the curve and then the world exploded at the top.
I have never seen a more gorgeous view in my entire life. Thankfully, they put the rest stop at the top and I just sat there on Gem like a fool with my mouth gaping open. The hold folks laughed and said that it was coined the bas view in he county. I spun around snapping pictures and just gushing. The lady offered to snap my picture with Gem and I happily handed my phone over. Gem wasn't too thrilled with posing instead of stuffing her face full of grass.
|I can't get over how shiny Gem is. She wasn't even breaking a sweat at this point and she just radiated. Well, except for her incredible angry face because I made her stop eating.|
We trotted through our dreams for quite a way and then re entered a pine forest with the trail littered in pine needles. Gem was moving well, the ground was glorious and the trail wide and I asked for a canter. Maybe it was how relaxed I was, maybe Gem was feeling the magic too, maybe it was the shoes or maybe the footing, but most likely it was combination of it all. Regardless she put out the most glorious canter she ever has. I couldn't even feel her feet touch the ground as we soared along the trail.
We slowed as the trail grew more narrow and wound through the trees once again. We were at mile 7 and I reached for my phone to take a pic of the trail we had just traveled. Except my phone was not there. It had to have slipped out of my waist band. Darn. I though about turning around, but I figured we weren't that far away from camp and I could sen Dusty running it backwards to pick it up. I made a mental note to break down and purchase one of those thigh belts that holds the phone.
All too soon we were back into the fields and the trailers came into view. We crossed the finish line with my Garmin reading 7.8 miles and I fervently wished this was a longer ride. I briefly debated just going around a second time, but money is tight right now and the boys were waiting on me.
Gem didn't even look tired at the end. Even with a faster pace and a ton of hill work, she hadn't broken a sweat and people at the start asked if we were just heading out. She is looking amazing right now!
As I was filling Dusty in on my lost phone, a woman came over to let me know someone found it and was riding back with it. I was thrilled!! As we chatted, she asked me how the ride went an pretty much everyone could see my beaming face. These were the most beautiful trails I had ever ridden and I was sure to tell everyone who would listen. Turns out I was talking to someone from the Green Creek Hounds who hosted the pace and hunt on the private property were were fortunate enough to get to ride on. She invited me to join the int which honestly, I believe I will do. They put on a summer walking with the hounds thing where you can go and just ride with the hounds, but not do the hunt so you can get the horse accustomed to being with the hounds and learn more. The attire is pretty much whatever and I plan to go the summer and learn more about it. If I fall in love, I hope to join the hunt next fall as a guest and maybe even a permanent member after that!!
I stripped her tack and we headed over to get lunch. They had tables set up with table cloths and it was very cute.
I let Gem hand graze a bunch and decided to forgo any extra grain. She didn't really work hard at all and there is no need to juice her up just to do so. I took a picture of how shiny she is too.
I am just so excited for this year. No matter what happen at Biltmore, Gem is looking and feeling the best she ever has and at 18 years of age that is saying a lot. We have so many great opportunities right now and I am just thrilled with life.