Oh boy … this has been another bad winter for the Northeast. We had snow and ice since Thanksgiving (see weather reports here) and NO-ONE is ready for the first ride in our region! In fact, lots of people are skipping the rides due to lack of conditioning time. I personally have not ridden any horse for any distance since January 29th and I know I’m going to die on the ride, but I’m going anyway. Damn you, Mother Nature!
Due to Miss Daizy’s leg boo-boo I am going to be riding Steel at The Bunny Hop. We’ll see how that goes, taking Steel somewhere alone without her nemesis, Miss Daizy. I was going to shave Steel with a radiator cut the day before the ride but it was 25 mph winds and COLD. I decided to skip the shave and figured if she got hot with her arctic winter coat, I would sponge her at the ride. When I got to the ride and was vetting Steel in, Mary Coleman laughed and said Steel looked like a polar bear with her long long white hair.
BEFORE I START THIS STORY – I want to thank everyone at NJTRA and The Bunny Hop ride for putting on a marvelous ride with tons of volunteers to help out. It was well managed and went very smoothly. Weather was perfect for all concerned so we had the best day in the Pine barrens of New Jersey at the end of March 2015. I am a new member for NJTRA this year and while I’m not looking for any awards, I thought I should start supporting the organization that does so well for the rides in these awesome Pine Barrens!
LeeAnne and I have been dreaming about our date for two months. While it was snow and ice and we couldn’t ride, all we could talk about was our date at The Bunny Hop Ride. Although I was a little concerned to be bringing Steel to a ride alone as she has such a separation anxiety problem, that was outweighed by my joy to start the 2015 ride season!. She hollered on the trailer for about half an hour as we traveled down the road. I’m sure she was cussing me for putting her in there all alone.
I had to smile to myself as we were pulling into the ride. I was the second to last trailer in a line of about seven trailers going along the wash board sandy road doing like one mile per hour. I had to really pee and that bumpy road was NOT helping me! My very first action once I parked was to run to the potty.
Kevin had made a comment later at the ride about inventing a hover craft accessory for his truck and trailer so he wouldn’t have to bump along getting out of the ride. My thought process was to just invent teleportation so we wouldn’t waste so much time traveling to rides and we could just blip there instantly.
When I took Steel off the trailer she was hollering and hollering at every horse, spinning and looking for a buddy.
I quick unloaded, brushed her off (she was a muddy mess as I just grabbed her out of the pasture, threw her on the trailer in the dark, and got rolling at 5:00 am.) and took her over for vet in. She hollered all the way from the parking area to the vetting area. I was hoping thiss wasn’t an omen of things to come later in the ride.
Remarkably, she stood pretty quiet to get vetted and did her trot out nicely. Her HR was at 40. Don’t know how that happened, considering she was all worked up three minutes before we got in line!
Okay, that’s done, and it’s a chilly 23 degrees so I put her saddle and stuff on to help keep her warm and go up for the ride meeting. I am very hesitant to leave her alone tied to the trailer. I keep remembering her incident at Cheshire last year where she clobbered herself trying to escape the trailer tie.
The entire time I’m in the ride meeting, I’m worrying that Steel has managed to beat herself up, has escaped and is wandering around the NJ forest, or has strangled herself. I left the meeting and was waylaid by two new riders who missed the meeting, so I brought them up to speed on trail markers, mileage of both loops, educated them on what to expect at the holds and how to handle their little papers, and keep shooting glances towards my trailer to see if I could see Steel through the trees.
After I gave the two new riders permission to ask any questions to any person they met (grin) I ran down to my trailer to find Steel quietly munching on her hay. She had even drank about half her bucket of water. And when she saw me come through the trees, she hollered to me, to let me know she didn’t like being alone but she was handling it.
I personally was wondering how the ride would go as I have only ever ridden Steel once since I got her, at a NACMO ride, and although everyone that has ridden her loves her, I didn’t know how we’d do after 25 miles since my body was accustomed to Miss Daizy and her trouncy bouncy trotting. I told Steel while I was tacking her up that I have every apology to her for subjecting her to my HW rider self after she’s been carrying around teeny tiny Jeff and skinny Minny Dom for an entire year. This should be interesting to see how she handles me and my crooked riding.
So after my heart settled down, I finished tacking her up and went up to meet with her “date”, Jack. LeeAnne and I had been talking about this “date” for two weeks. LeeAnne didn’t have such a good ride on Jack the weekend before when we went to Blue Marsh to condition (the only ride I got in since January) and she was hoping he would be on better behavior if he knew he was on a “date” with Steel.
We left the starting line at a very nice slow walk. Jack and Steel were totally relaxed and loose. When we started trotting, they were both on a loose rein and we had the best ten miles ever. It was like being at home conditioning. No stress, no fight, just nice conversations and relaxed riding. We were doing a nice 7 mph trot and covering ground. I was totally enjoying myself. I found out that Steel is a cadillac with an excellent shock absorbing system. I didn’t even feel like I was riding. No wonder everyone loves to ride her.
We had a beautiful morning, clear blue skies and the views and scenery were most enjoyable. I had to laugh at LeeAnne, she was really glad that Jack was being on his best behavior but really sad that I wasn’t going to be riding naked. Yep, I promised her if she was having a bad ride, I would strip and be Lady Godiva. As it happens, that wasn’t necessary so I was just The Lady (to Steel).
Then it happened! Mile ten and here comes some riders that passed us. They not only passed us fast, but they would get out ahead of us and then stop and walk. Then speed up and pull ahead, then stop and walk.
What a way to stress out the horses behind (namely Jack and Steel) When I pass someone, I quickly get ahead of them and out of sight so those horses I passed can relax and not feel like they need to catch up. That is NOT what these two riders were doing and Jack and Steel quickly started stressing and pulling at their reins to catch up. Jack started throwing his head and Steel was leaning into her hackamore and striding a trot so big I could hardly post it.
WOWZA, I didn’t know Steel had juice like that!
Then about mile eleven, some riders came up behind us. Now we’re having to pay attention to what’s going on because they want to catch up to the horses in front of us that won’t get out of sight and they feel pushed by the horses behind us so for a mile or two, LeeAnne and I were working hard to keep our pace down. Finally, we pulled over and let people just get on past us.
After we let all those horses pass us, we had a better ride last two miles into camp. First loop done. Both our guys pulsed in at 44 and passed their trot outs. We were good to go. Mary did ask me if Steel was having any trouble on trail as she was noticing something in her left front. not lame, just not right. I told her that Steel was forging and interfering in the back. I wish I had entered her in the Pass/Fail division so I could have put her boots on. She was having some serious clacking going on during that first loop. LeeAnne and I just pretended we were on a railroad track and it was a train clacking along behind us.
My trot out with Steel left a lot to be desired. I tripped in the sand while trotting her and lost her reins … and almost fell flat on my face. When I realized I was trotting a horse that I was not attached to, I turned around to go find her and she was right behind me. So sweet, this mare, she didn’t even take that opportunity to run away.
Let’s take a moment to talk about this brand new helmet I’m wearing in the above picture. I don’t wear a helmet (normally) except at competitions. My old helmet was causing an abrasion on my scalp that took weeks to heal after a ride so I shopped around and bought a new one. I really wanted yellow, but settled on this nice brown one with yellow stars on it. My point is, it is so well made, comfortable and light, that I completely forgot I had it on. At one point in the ride I reached up to scratch my head and hit the helmet and was like, “Oh yeah!”. It’s that comfortable.
Jack and Steel were having a great time on their date! They shared their food at the hold and they stood side by side the whole time, almost like they were holding hands. It was so cute.
I was feeling the lack of riding all winter in my left thigh muscle and when I went to get back on Steel to go out on second loop,. I almost fell off because my left hip gave out.
Oops – and my klutzy mount from the picnic table was witnessed by several people. I waved it off and told them I was fine. Nothing like enhancing my infamous reputation.
Steel was refusing to drink the local water. She wouldn’t drink from water we passed, she wouldn’t drink from water stops, and at the half way hold, she rubbed her head on her water bucket and spilled her water from home. I know she doesn’t drink overly well away from home, anyway, but she is carrying a heavy winter coat and sweating pretty good so I was hoping she’d drink something. She was looking for water, too as she would check out everyone’s water at the hold … but she turned her nose up at the brackish forest pine water.
man oh man
Out on second loop and LeeAnne and I have the loop to ourselves for about five miles. Steel isn’t forging as bad and I’m not sure if that is because I am mostly sitting her trot this loop or because we are doing mostly single track trail instead of packed sand service roads or if it is because she is starting to fatigue. I can feel her telling me she’s tired. Trotting through the sand, carrying my fat ass, after a whole winter off – yep, I totally understand her fatigue! Jack looks great! He is in front of us flouncing his tail and peppy trotting along.
I completely forgot to reload my water bottle before we left out on second loop. Steel wasn’t the only one looking for water … I finally begged my date, LeeAnne, to have a drink from her water. She was so excited that we finally got to exchange spit on our date.
At one point, I was almost launched over Steel’s head as we came upon a muddy mud puddle and she screeched on the brakes to stop and drink. And did she ever drink. Slurping with great aplomb, she almost sucked that puddle dry.
Whew. She’s drinking.
Five miles to go and we’re talking about walking for a while because we have plenty of time … and here comes those two riders again. Passing us by quickly just so they can get out front and stop and walk.
Funny thing was, they noticed their time was WAY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE so they dropped back and we have a great last three miles walking into the final hold. I have to say, that last three miles was the longest of my life. First, we’re walking (slow slow slow), second my left thigh muscle is rebelling against me (owie owie owie) and third, LeeAnne and I aren’t talking much anymore so it was quiet.
ONE MILE TO GO! YAY!
We get into the final hold and take all their gear off and I notice that Steel handled my treeless saddle, crooked fat body, and the long ride after a winter off rather well. Her back was fine (no soreness or dry spots), her legs were fine (no windpuffs and she knocked the scabs off her interference wounds but they were not bleeding) and she was HUNGRY! She was eating everything. She drank and drank and drank LeeAnne’s water from home.
YAY, more drinking.
And thank you to Mike for seeing me in distress at the end and volunteering to do Steel’s trot out for me. I hate to be a weenie but my left thigh muscle was having spasms so hard that the cramps were bringing tears to my eyes. Steel trotted out very nicely for Mike and I didn’t have to run and fall on my face in the sand.
Jack and Steel’s date went really well! They shared their food at the hold and shared their water and shared their treats and Jack gave Steel lots of kisses at the end. It was so cute to see them having a good date. And I had a marvelous date with LeeAnne. It was the first time we had competed together. We condition together all the time but as Miss Daizy is way faster than Jack, we typically do not ride together at the competitions. I really really enjoyed myself with LeeAnne and Jack and I want to thank them one more time for being my ride partner.
And Steel was fatigued at the end but she did complete in 11th place. I am so pleased that she carried me for the first ride of the season. I want to thank Steel, too. I am on my way to the barn right now to give her extra treats and a massage.
And so the riding season 201 begins!