4:15 am Monday morning, BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. I begrudgingly wailed on my alarm clock until it screamed at me no longer. The rain was coming down in bucket loads and the thought of loading the horses and driving over to South Woodstock when it was still dark out didn’t exactly bring a smile to my face. I have to be perfectly honest, when Denny asked me if I wanted to ride in the 10 mile at GMHA I was open to the idea, but I had no clue what to expect. I had two thoughts that morning, and only two because nothing else seemed to process in my brain that early: 1) this is either going to be extremely boring, or 2) my Novice horse is NOT going to be fit enough for this ride and I will probably have to turn around and walk back to the trailer. Boy was I wrong about this experience in every possible way…
The ride was ANYTHING but boring and I learned a lot. Denny told Daryl and I that we were going to team up and ride the ten together, her on Jumbie (a little mare by Jumbo) a novice horse, and I rode the enormous Selle Lux. gelding, Skybreaker, a Quidam de Revel grandson-also going novice. Neither horse is your typical endurance/competitive trail horse but that certainly didn’t hold them back.
As far as knowing what we were doing, we had basically no clue what we were doing, but we talked ourselves through the ride and really thought about what our horses were capable of doing. At the start, I thought we were just heading out at a walk, but Daryl yelled at me “TROT…Lila…TROT-Let’s Go!” Woops….I thought we were going out for a leisurely ride! We were the first two horses in the 10 mile to head out and we ended up trotting the majority of the ride. We basically trotted wherever we could-uphill’s, long flat stretches and slight downhills. We weren’t going to make them trot or canter if they didn’t feel like they wanted to go…but they never said no, or I cant…so we kept plugging away. Daryl had her iphone with her so she kept updating us on how many miles we had gone and how fast we were going, which was a huge help. We left at 8:30am and we could not return before 10am. To our surprise we had gone about 6 miles in a little under an hour so we had to slow down towards the end so we didn’t come in under the time allowed.
We also thought the trails would be clearly marked so any idiot could find their way around the course. Well, we probably stopped at least 3 or 4 times to think about which way to go. Some markers pointed left, some right, some straight and some were hard to find and all had different colors. You really had to pay close attention to the signs and use your best judgement if the trails split off and we kept thinking about what the staff told us in our briefing before the ride began.
We ended up completing the ten mile in 1 hour and 45 minutes and our horses felt amazing! Daryl and I actually tied for first place overall which was surprising and very exciting. Both our horses received a perfect score of 100. Basically our horses cooled down very well and their heart rates/pulse came back down fairly quickly and they trotted out well in the jog for the vetting.
I am not sure if I could ever do a really long ride, but I have a whole new respect and appreciation for this sport. Obviously a ten mile ride is NOTHING in the grand scheme of things, especially for those avid and serious competitive trail riders and endurance riders. I honestly cannot imagine doing what we did ten times over again and in a row. There were very few 100 mile riders this weekend but what they do with their horses is truly amazing. The fitness and dedication those riders and horses possess is remarkable.
I am extremely happy that Denny made us go out there and complete our first competitive trail ride. How ignorant I was to think this ride would be boring, or tedious. I got to see beautiful farms, land, and homes that I would have never been able to see. I got to really test my horse’s fitness. I stepped out of my little eventing comfort zone and branched out. I learned about fitness and horsemanship on a totally different level. What an amazing experience and I am thinking I might try the 15 mile next fall! Thank you so much GMHA and all the volunteers who made this ride possible. Just because you are an event rider, or a jumper, or dressage rider, or you have a horse that is meant to be in the “ring” doesn’t mean you can’t go enter a competitive trail ride.