Major said not to worry. He settled right into camp, got on his game face for the pre-ride vet in (48, all A's) and proceeded to eat his way through the weekend. I was my ride-anxious self, not eating as well as I should and not sleeping. When I heard a thump in the night I panicked, but it was only Major laying down to get his beauty rest.
Morning dawned and still the ride didn't start! Such an early sunrise this time of year, but we did finally head out at 7am. I had the usual debate where to start, so I walked around camp a bit and then headed out a few minutes late, just walking. That didn't last long: trotting turned into passing and Major powered along. The first section is lots of fire road, also a "Man from Snowy River" sliding downhill with a creek at the bottom and a steep uphill climb after. This trail is mostly just a blur!
|heading out to the start|
|I think this is the last time walked for the first 20 miles|
|traveling! Baylor/Gore photography|
|morning blur trail, this is the only photo I managed to take on the first loop|
I saw the sign on trail for the vet check and got off to walk Major in. He drank well on trail so when he ignored the water I was okay. I had the courtesy pulse taken, he was already down! I vetted in the first 20 miles at 8:56am, all A's. This was a short 30 minute hold where Major took full advantage of his mash! Awesome SO/crew had set up a good spot for us, both holds were away, but in the same location.
Quickly, we were off again. We were in a nice bubble by ourselves until we caught up with some other riders. But this loop is fun! Lots of twisty singletrack, and better watch your ribbons, because a 90 degree turn comes up just like that! After the fun twisty section comes lots of uphill gravel road. Major kicked it into extra gear and just power trotted. He wasn't pressured or chasing, just moving. The vet check ahead sign came so quickly, and I got off to walk him in…not knowing it was an uphill half mile. Crap. I walked a bit and tailed a bit, Major pulling a tired me. Good thing this is an hour hold! SO met me there to remove tack and help sponge. Have I mentioned how awesome it is to have help?!
|coming up the damned hill into the second vet check|
|dueling cowboy hats|
Major and I shared some PB&J, I had some chocolate milk, and then it was 11:45am, time to leave already! I wasn't in any hurry so headed out at a walk. Major was okay with that, only a little insistent on trotting, so we just walk-trotted the next couple miles. Then the cavalry arrived! Four horses came up behind us and we let them pass, though Major decided he was being left behind!
|final section, heading back to ridecamp|
|while we were walking along, so lovely, until...|
|the rest of the ride is a blur|
So with my race-brain horse I rode the last 10 miles. At least he was smart enough to stop and drink at the trough. I held him back from full speed trot because on this section of trail it is an old berm with pine trees growing all over, perfect to whack your knees!
Then we came to Hallelujah Hill, which Major really likes. I was way too tired at this point (must feed myself better) and riding like a drunk monkey. We caught up to another rider. He asked if I wanted to pass (no) and what place I was in (umm, no place?). I was just happy I knew the trail and that it was only about three miles to the finish.
The finish was a little chaotic, with about five people all coming in at about the same time, timers asking names and numbers, some riders weighing for BC (!) others not. Turns out we were in 14th place at 1:02pm, wow! All I could think about was getting a completion.
Back at the trailer best SO ever untacked Major and we sponged him off. We had 30 minutes to get to 64 criteria. After 15 minutes I walked over to the vet, where we were down to 48! Mostly A's, though some B's and one C on guts, better get some food into Major! The vet was very complimentary, saying Major had such nice manners, until he tried to roll at her feet! So Major went back to the trailer, where he ate mash and alfalfa while I took a cowboy shower in the back of the trailer, and felt much better after that.
I could not believe how strong Major felt all day. I think this is what having a base level of fitness can do: smaller amounts of conditioning really stay with the horse. I am so happy with this completion, though he is so damn hot and fast it is a lot to deal with. I think my fitness level is pretty good (masters swimming, hiking, riding) but I learned I'm going to have to step it up to ride like this! I also learned that Major does not like the lower setting on his Kimberwick bit, upper snaffle setting only or he has a fit of head tossing! That was really the only misbehavior all ride, he ate and drank, though now I know to bring even more mash to out vet checks!
All this training, and this successful finish, makes me a little sad that I think this will be our only ride this year. With the cost of rides, other activities I want to do (camping, ocean trips) and the sheer amount of time all this takes I just have to balance it all. Important? Yes. All encompassing? No.