Blackwater Swamp Stomp 2017


This is a new ride in the NE region, close to the SE region so I expect I’ll see many faces I don’t know attending this ride.  My daughter Naoma is the timer at this ride so I must go and support it.


Okay, winter weather in the Northeast has been crazy, to say the least.  We have four or five days of weather in the upper sixties, low seventies, then we have three days of weather at or below freezing.  It *IS* still winter on the date of this ride, and coming into the ride week we had temps in the upper 60’s … but it *IS* still winter.

Ten days out from the ride, the temps in Ivor, VA were predicted to be 69 and sunny.  That is going to be a hot one for the northern horses wearing full winter coats.  Many people started giving their horses body clips.  I, on the other hand, being unconvinced that Mother Nature and The Weatherman actually have any kind of relationship, chose to hold off on the body clip….because it *IS* still winter and my horses live outside 24/7.

Bless my disbelieving heart, four days before ride date, the weathermen predicted a cold front dipping down into the Carolinas and the temps for Ivor, VA were changed to barely reaching 40 on Saturday and only 44 on Sunday, the day of the ride.

Whew.  I am soooooo glad I didn’t body clip my horses.  We’ll be fine and we’ll need to wear rump rugs all day as the morning of the ride temp is predicted to be only 22. And this is going to be a perfect Dodie-Weather day.  YAY!


Now for those of you that read my blog, but may not be “in the know”, after five years of competing on Miss Daizy, I sold her last fall to a featherweight endurance rider.  After two seasons of causing back pain to Miss Daizy and trying no less than seven different saddles, I made the decision that I was simply too big for her as a heavy weight rider and she needed someone who would keep her working endurance but weighs way less than I do.  It broke my heart and I still miss her every day, but she is in the best of homes and she will continue her endurance career.

While being horseless last October, and not really doing much horse searching, as I was doing more soul searching about whether to continue in this sport or just quit, I was contacted by a good friend of mine.  She had a young mare that I have admired for a very long time, and had suggested on occasion that the mare didn’t want to be a show horse, she wanted to be an endurance horse.  Apparently, I was correct.  She was not happy in the show ring and they wanted a new career for her.  The question of the day was, “Are you interested in having her?”

Why YES, yes I would like to have her.  Thank you so much.

This was the day before my birthday.  Happy Birthday to me!

Her trail experience was limited to short rides around the farm.

Oh boy.

Am I (at my age) really going to start all over again working a young horse for the next three years to get it fully conditioned into the endurance world.

Why YES, yes I am!

Happy happy joy joy.  I really liked Penny before she became my partner, and now that we’re started to develop a rapport, I love her even more.  She is smart, level headed, no nonsense and really loves trail work.  We are going to be a great team someday.

On to the story.

110416November 2016.  Started working Penny on trail.  Slowly slowly.  Walking walking.  Look at stuff, touch stuff, see the scary squirrels jumping out of trees at you in the crisp fall leaves.  Yep, she was not fazed by any of it.  In fact, it really surprised me how quickly she adapted to trail work with no spook, no fear, and she wanted to be the leader.  Always be the leader.  She is a very bold horse.  She will do very well in this sport!!!

010617aDecember 2016.  It got bitter cold in the beginning of the month.  Like single digits cold.  We did a couple local road drives.  It kept her mind busy while I snuggled up under a couple blankets to stay warm while we were out.  I am excited to try driving this year.  I have never driven a CTR and this will be a new experience for me.  I bought Penny a lightweight cart and a nice nylon endurance harness.  At the end of December, I got very ill with pneumonia.  Of course, right before spring decided to get sprung for January.



122516-5 January 2017.  I spend the first three weeks of January sicker than a dog.  Yes, I am sick and the weather is in the upper 40’s and low 50’s.  I kid you not, January was remarkable.  Now it did rain a lot in January so a lot of the warmer days were too wet to ride.  Penny and I only got out on one trail ride during January.  The rest of her work was ground stuff like trotting in hand, standing for a vet to poke and prod and check heart rates, and general manners.  Now the nice thing about this one trail ride we did in January, we did it alone.  She has not been happy with bring in a trailer so I figured this would be good training on many levels.  One, she will be alone in the trailer.  Two, she will be alone with me on the trail.  Three, let’s see how bold she really is, being alone on trail.  OMG, she rocked it.  now I will tell you that she hollered while getting tacked up and she hollered for the first mile or so on the trail, but one she figured out it was just me and her, she got up into a nice trot and we tooled around doing 11 miles all by ourselves.  It was fun.

blue_marsh_021817dFebruary 2017.  Now, spring is in full swing here in the Northeast.  Yes, we are having days with temps in the upper 60s and low 70s and most people believe that the groundhog Phil was smoking crack when he predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  It is glorious riding weather.  We got out every weekend in February and one weekend, we actually got out on Saturday for a hard 15 mile ride, then rode again on Sunday a light 6 mile pleasure walk.  It was a good ride, and good for her brain to figure out that she had to walk on trail, too!

I tell you all this because I almost cancelled my entry for Blackwater Swamp Stomp.  I did not feel that Penny had enough experience, nor enough conditioning to do an LD ride.  I was not confident that her brain was prepared, nor was I confident that her body would hold up.  We did one ride in February of 22 miles with a 20 minute “hold” to let her eat some grain and rest before pushing on.  We knocked that 22 miles out in four hours and she did pretty good, but she was with riding companions she knew.

If Dom hadn’t suggested to me that she ride Steel as her trail companion, AND Dom was out of character in being proactive by sending in her entry and everything, I would have cancelled my entry.  So, in the scheme of things, Dom is responsible in many ways for Penny’s first endurance competition!

ON TO THE RIDE STORY!  *finally, I know 🙂

truckI had everything packed and ready to go in the new trailer.  It started snowing just as I finished.  How’s that for timing?  My biggest fear was that my water was going to freeze over night before I left for the ride.  That could be a problem.

Now, I want you to know that yes, I am from WV so that does make me a hillbilly.  And according to hillbilly protocol, whenever you pack a truck, it has to scream hillbilly.  I am still waiting for someone to make a comment on my truck and trailer packing skills.


Oh?  Is that a new trailer?  Well, it’s new to me. I traded my old trailer on this used gooseneck trailer last fall, also a birthday present as it was four days after my birthday in October.  It’s a weekender, not an LQ, but for me, that is all I need.  I have been camping in a tent for 17 years, this is going to be a treat!  I have a heater, too, and since they were calling for a low of 22 degrees Saturday night, I was ready to camp!

I got up at 4:00 am and did my morning stuff.  I was at the barn by 5:00 am and didn’t have to chase anyone in the pasture so I was loaded and out of the driveway by 6:00 am.  Only incident was Penny hating to be in the trailer, she popped her foot up, caught her hay bag, and ripped it to shreds.

Well, Penny, now you’ll have no snacks for our six and a half hour long trip because I don’t have another hay bag to give you.

Off we go.  The trip was pretty uneventful until I reached Washington DC.  This is a Saturday morning.  And all the lanes of the highway are packed and stacked with cars doing well over the speed limit, hopping in and out of lanes trying to get ahead, and generally scaring the bejeezus out of me.  I was so concentrating on my mad trailer driving skills that I forgot the truck needs fuel once in a while.  I heard “DING DING DING” just about the time I remembered that I  needed to stop and pee once in a while.

I look down and the gas light is on.

OH HORSE FEATHERS … at 12 mpg, that means I have about 10 miles before I’m stranded on the side of the road being run over by idiot drivers.

Ignoring the pangs of suffering emanating from my bladder, I get over into the slow lane and start watching for the blue “gas at this exit” signs.  I am behind a trucker who is blocking me from most of the idiot drivers.  Well, until two cars flew off an on ramp, right in front of the trucker, without ever even touching their brakes to do it and the trucker had to smoke his brakes.

Oh yes, he was smoking his brakes so hard that my field of view was blocked and that horrible smell filled the cab of my truck.

Well, at least that was the only horrible smell that filled the cab of my truck.  No, I did not crap my pants as I stood on my own brakes.  I promise you, this is not an exaggeration.  As I came to a forceful and brutal on the horses stop, my front bumper just kissed his back bumper.

Whew.  That could have been disastrous.

The very next exit was a gas station so I didn’t have to get stranded….however, being a gas station in the city made getting into the station with a rig a bit on the hairy side and the station only had one entrance/exit.  No way for me to maneuver to turn around, so I did the only thing a hillbilly like me could do.

I drove over the curb.

It’s all good.

The rest of the drive was totally uneventful.

I arrived exactly when I told everyone I would.  12:30 pm.  Many helpful volunteers there to get us stacked and packed in the parking area.  I goofed, though.  I put myself into the wrong corner of my slot.  So my door to get in and out of the bunk house is inches away from my neighbors door to get in and out of their living quarters.  This is going to be fun in the middle of the night when we both open our doors at the same time to go to the bathroom.


campingI started setting up camp when Naoma arrived.  Adam helped me get the panels setup and the kids took the horses for walk while we were doing that.  Gotta love grandkids.  They do all the grunt work.

Penny has no camping experience and as much as I tried to get her on a weekend away from home, either weather – my sillness – or time got in the way and I did not get her out.  This is her first official camping experience and I’m about to die from embarrassment because I’m sure she will be the horse running through camp at 2:00 am that has everyone popping out into 22 degree weather in their PJ’s yelling “LOOSE HORSE.”

palm slap to forehead

At 12:40 pm, Dom told me she would be to camp in “about two hours.”  So I expected her around 4:00 pm.  Lo and behold, her and Mike rolled into camp at (sit down) 2:48 pm.  She was only off by eight minutes.  This is now two things out of character for Dom.  Entry sent in early and she’s in camp before dark.

How will the rest of the ride go?

My sister, Lisa, who lives in Norfolk, showed up about the same time Dom did so we had a very merry gathering at my camp.  We ran out of chairs and were sitting on coolers and mounting blocks, but it was a great time.  Several riders stopped to talk to us and my sister was very impressed by the rapport and camaraderie of the riders at this event.  I told her that there were no nicer people in the horse world than endurance people!

goodnightWhile we’re sitting there I hear someone way down in the field yelling “LOOSE HORSE”.  I quick glance over and (whew) it’s not Penny.  She is contentedly munching on her hay.  The temps are starting to drop so Dom and I put blankets on Steel and Penny.  I have no idea if Penny wore a blanket before and she was an absolute gem putting it on so I suspect that was no surprise to her.  I also added glow sticks to Steel and Penny’s halters … just in case … because if I hear “LOOSE HORSE” at 2:00 am, when I hop out into the cold, I want to be able to find my horses quickly.  Especially wearing a black blanket!

The ride meeting and dinner was wonderful.  I had a slight mishap when my filling came out of one of my teeth.  Yep, now I’ll need to call the dentist on Monday.  I was struggling to pay attention to Mary talking about the ride because my tongue kept sticking itself into the jagged hole in my mouth.


Trail sounded easy enough to follow and Joe promised that every turn (and every wrong turn) were well marked.

Got it.

We are started to get cold.  The sun has dipped to the horizon and it’s a wee bit breezy so we’re definitely thinking

fireFIRE ….

What the????

Just over the tree line is a huge fire.  Flames are shooting up and we can see the huge glow it’s putting off.  Mike and Dom ran over to check it out and it was the farmer control burning his fields.  Ah, and if I had run over, too, I could have gotten warm from the fire.  A wee bit scary to see it and nice to know it was a planned fire.

bunkhouseI decided that I was too cold to sit outside anymore so I fired up my Mr. Buddy heater and hopped into my bunkhouse.  Poe was thankful to be on her soft bed and off the sandy ground.  She was probably a wee bit chilly, too.  I sat on my little mini sofa seat reading for a bit when I noticed I was starting to breathe kinda hard.



Which is weird. I do have some breathing issues with heavy dust or smoke or fried oil in the air because I had severe pneumonia in 1998 which scarred my lungs.  But no-one was in here cooking with oil or smoking and it certainly isn’t dusty.  What the heck?

I read a little bit more and I was breaking a sweat on my forehead, as well as breathing pretty shallow.  I looked at Poe and she wasn’t breathing so good either.

OH NO, the heater is sucking all our oxygen out of the bunkhouse.

I quick opened the top vent and the door to let in fresh air and sure enough, we both were breathing easier.  Lesson learned.  I know the heater has an auto shutoff for carbon monoxide but (apparently) my pneumonia scarred lungs noticed the problem much sooner than the heater did.  No running the heater while I sleep tonight.

– check –

It’s time to go to sleep.  I close the vent, close the window and shut down the heater.  it is pretty warm in here.  I look at my phone and the outside temp is 34 degrees.  it is supposed to go down to 22 degrees tonight.  Right now, inside my bunkhouse, it is very balmy.  I should be okay tonight.


1:11 am – I shot awake because I hear Steel making some noises and Penny is having a coughing fit.  And as soon as I sat up I started to shiver.  Oh my gosh is it cold … very very cold.  I touch the roof and there is frost on the inside of my bunkhouse.

Holy crap, fire up that Mr. Buddy heater.

Throw a second set of clothes over the ones I’m sleeping in and run out to check on the horses.  They are still in their pens but Penny is coughing.  Almost like a choke cough.

What now?

Grab my flashlight and let Poe out and Penny stopped coughing and was quietly munching on hay.


Well, let me take Poe for a pee walk while I’m out here and let the heater warm up the bunkhouse.  I met Mary (the ride manager) while I was out and she was desperately looking for a lighter to start her heater.  I gave her mine and told her to keep it in case she needed it again.  She was cold too.  The temperature on my phone said it was 26 degrees.

Back to bed and I’m going to sleep in both layers of clothes and put Poe in the bed with  me.  I turn off the heater, curl up with Poe and sleep deeply until

5:00 am, horses are talking outside which means people are up feeding.  I get up and quick look out, yes, I see two glow sticks in the pens where they should be.

YAY!  Penny’s first camping experience and she stayed in her pen.


I feed my guys, start a pot of coffee, turn on the Mr. Buddy heater and open the top vent then take Poe for a pee walk.  It is very very cold out here.  Frost is on everything.  And I’m kinda thankful for that because frost will not soak my shoes like dew would.

new bootsMike and Dom get up and Naoma and Katana come over to my camp.  Naoma tells me she just found out there is a lot of pebbly road work on the first loop so she wants to put Penny’s new boots on her.  Oh, man … I’m not sure this is a good idea.  I have been conditioning her barefooted on some pretty rough trail and she’s been fine.  However, I also know we’re going to be working at speed and wearing boots on pebbly road is safer than not.  Okay, put her boots on.  I do not like to change anything on a ride (like a different saddle or saddle pad or bridle or whatever) and I think that this might now be a good idea, however I also thinking making Penny lame because she’s going to work 25 miles at speed in her barefeet is also not a good idea.  So here she is, wearing her new boots that she’s never wore.  Can we say, “Blisters?”

morning warm upKatana wants to know if she can walk Steel to warm her up.  SURE!  Love the grandkids and their assistance.  I ask Dom is she will walk Penny and I’ll walk Poe and we’ll get everyone out and warmed up.  Steel was very good for Katana.  Penny, on the other hand, was dying from curiosity about what was going on in camp and what was all the hubbabaloo about.  I love this picture of Dom going left and Penny going right.  Penny is not at all worked up, she’s just trying to see everything and get a grip on what is happening.  Horses are hollering, some are dancing in their pens while getting tacked up, and suddenly we hear

“LOOSE HORSE” as three horses go ripping through camp.  Not mine, thank god, not mine.  One horse beelined right to Mike (who was taking all these really cool photos) and he easily captured him.

Then down at the bottom of the hill I hear, “LOOSE HORSE” and I see a chestnut with his tail up over his back and his head up in the air prancing around a trailer like, “Look at me, look at me.”  And I see that the other two loose guys were running with him.

Oh this is great fun.

startTime to tack up and get serious.  Okay Penny.  Here we go.  No turning back.  We’re leaving on our first official AERC ride.  Now don’t get any ideas about this ride, it won’t be difficult, you have done this mileage before.  This is an LD (Limited Distance) and is only 25 miles. BUT!  You will have to pay attention, work hard, eat and drink on trail and (I hope) you have a lot of fun. Because if  you aren’t having fun, I won’t have fun and then Dom won’t have fun and Steel won’t have fun.  So it’s all on you, Penny!

start1As with every horse I start to this sport, we wait until the last rider has left to leave camp.  We leave camp at a walk and we are relaxed and we don’t get excited and we pretend this is just another conditioning ride.  This plan was working very well.  We said goodbye to Naoma and the kids at the timer tent and we headed down the trail.  Penny saw two horses way out in front of us and did her little “airs above ground” thing she does when she is happy.  Oh god, don’t dump me now.

A couple hundred feet past the timer tent, we crossed a little stream and Penny is doing her 1000 mile search down the trail looking for those two horses that suddenly disappeared, and we are ready to head up the open field when Dom says, “LOOSE HORSE!” I turn around and see a bay with a blue blanket headed right to us.  I jump off Penny (mostly because I didn’t want her doing her “airs above ground” with me on her) and reach for him.  He came right to me.

I passed him off to Dom because Penny was doing her “airs above ground” with me trying to hold her and him.  We’re hollering for someone to come and get him and no-one seems to be hearing us, so Dom starts back across the stream ponying him by his halter.  At the stream, he got loose from Dom, ran back over to me, I caught him and gave him back to Dom.

Oh my freakin’ gosh.  This is how we are going to start this ride?

I see someone running towards us with a lead rope.

Yay for Dom.  (and Steel.  I have to mention here that Steel has been a total steady eddie this entire time … Penny?  Not so much!)

I tell Dom I’m just gonna hand walk Penny for a little bit until she calms down from the excitement of the loose horse.  We head up into the field and Penny is dying to eat some grass, so I let her eat some grass.  We’re losing time and I don’t care.  I want Penny to have a good first experience so calmness is a must.  We’re looking for a log for me to use to mount up and found one about 1/2 mile from camp.

I get on, look at my phone for the time and it’s 7:55.  We are half an hour lost time.  Oh well.

And we’re off.  Penny is doing very well leading along the trail and she’s happy happy happy.  Steel is content to follow along behind and Dom and I are chatting about everything.  The trail is marked so well that I could follow it blindfolded.  This is amazing.  nice open fields and we’re moving at a very good clip.  We round one field and suddenly I notice I haven’t seen a marker.  And this trail master marked this trail like every 5 feet so I knew we were going wrong.  We turn around to head back and suddenly Penny decided she was a snorting Park Horse.  Her head came up, her back hollowed out and Dom said her hocks were up to her ass and her knees were up to her nose.

Oh my, Penny is in this bridle and I feel like I have absolutely no whoa.  I have her in an “S” hack, and she was used to riding in a double bridle when she was a show horse.  I am hoping that our miles of work together was enough for her to pay attention to me now.  She is not really pulling me, but she is in the bridle and it’s all I can do to keep her at a regulated 12 mph trot.  She starts popping her front end, which I know means she wants to let it out and canter.  Right now, trying to find where we lost the trail turn, a canter is not a good idea.

I see the turn ribbons ahead that we missed.  I also see that Dom has dropped way back and I use that as my opportunity to turn Penny into the woods.  Love this horse, she turned and stopped.


I let Steel take the lead through the single track trail in the woods and we walked for quite a bit until Penny dropped her head and relaxed, rounding out her back and getting her brain back on.

Double whew.

first loop trail1We came out of the woods into an open field and I was prepared (if necessary) to handle a keg of dynamite.  Nope, Penny came out of the woods into the open field, took the lead and was relaxed and doing fine.  Nice 10 mph trot on a loose rein.  She is happy happy happy.  And we work the next four miles with Penny in the lead and Steel being her old mellow self following along behind with her chatty rider, Dom.  Thank goodness for Dom.  I am sooooooo thankful that she offered to ride Steel and keep us company on Penny’s first ride.

We reached the little dogleg where we had to ride out a half a mile to a spotter, then ride back to pick up trail.  This is where things became interesting again.  Some of the front runner 50 milers had caught up to us.  Since they’ve already done 10 more miles than we have, and they’re moving fast, this got Penny all wound up again.

Airs above ground. She really is a Lipizzaner at heart. I dismount. We stand and wait for about ten minutes while 50 miler horses to get on past us.  A group of three cantered past us, didn’t even ask if we were okay, and Penny almost jumped on my head trying to follow them.


She is really wound up and is yanking me all around.  Again, Dom to the rescue.  She took Penny’s reins and ponied her while I walked along behind them.  Yes, we’re losing time again. Oh well, it is what it is.

After walking maybe a half mile, Penny calms down and we find a bank that I can use to get back on her.  I am expecting her to get wound up again, but she doesn’t.  I let her take the lead and move at her own pace and once again she’s happy happy happy.  Doesn’t take much to get Penny back when she loses it.  She just needs more experience and more miles.  I have to admit, right now my fun-o-meter is on empty, I am disappointed in myself and Penny as a team and I’m wondering if she will be safe to make into an endurance horse.  I am too old to have a hot head for a mount.  I already had one of those and I had no fun at the rides.  I am missing Miss Daizy like crazy and I’m ready to pull at the hold and just not finish this ride.

first loop trail2But, Penny is moving along the trail on a loose rein and chewed up the last four miles easily coming into camp at 10:04.  Now, let’s talk about that.  We probably lost a total of 45 minutes doe to Penny being a Fruitloop.  So really, we did 13.5 miles in under 2 hours.  That’s a very good speed.  Penny is alert, eating and drinking and her first vet check is all A’s on  her card.  Pulse CRI 56/48 … WOWZA … and at homoe I was having a lot of trouble with her breathing.  She was panting like a crazy woman on the rides we were doing.  No panting today, in fact I was carefully monitoring her breathing while we stood in line for the vet and it was about 18.

Okay.  She is more fit than I gave her credit for.

holdcampAt the hold, Penny was like a professional endurance horse.  She was eating and drinking and she peed.  My fun-o-meter was starting to come back up, especially since Mike was being an angel and helping me out more than I really needed.  He even gave me part of his hoagie because he didn’t want me to eat a piece of stale bread.  (Little did he know I make stale bread on purpose because it helps me to settle my stomach before taking pain meds.) And honestly, for some reason, I wasn’t really hungry all day.  I don’t know why because I’m like the food vacuum, sucking up every piece of food I can find on a ride.

Let’s talk about pain meds for a minute.  I didn’t pre-medicate myself before we started and at the hold, I felt fine so I didn’t medicate myself then, either.  Penny is very comfortable to ride (this is where I don’t miss Miss Daizy and her pogo-trot) Dom on the other hand was having some lower back pain, which is unusual for her.  She took some pain meds and bundled up.  Yes, it is still chilly.  Temp at the hold is a balmy 34 degrees.  The sun was shining and I felt comfortable.

out on second loopTime to go, I’m in no rush but we actually got on the horses before our out time and were leaving just about 5 minutes past our out time.  So we didn’t lose anymore time there.  Penny is confused.  She’s like, “Hey!  Why are we riding again? I want to go back to that fluffy pike of hay that Mike put in my pen.”  Thank you Mike for being there for us!  And for taking all these photos … the photos are awesome.

So this is us leaving for the second loop.  I feel good, no pain anywhere and Dom is so hysterically funny (not to mention kind) that my fun-o-meter is almost full again and my worry-o-meter is almost empty …. until … I see that there are two  horses directly in front of us, starting their second loop at the same time as us.

For a moment I think I’m gonna have some troubles with Penny but nope … she tracked in right behind them with no pulling, excitement or even desire to be out front.  And we’re on the blue loop.

OH MY GOSH the blue loop was the bomb.  It started out with all these twisty turny knee knocking single track trail and it was so much fun!  We were weaving in and out of the trees and at one point the two horses in front of us made a wrong turn so we got in front then they were behind and Penny was leading and she was happy happy happy.

TRUE STORY!  When I first got Penny and we were working single track twisty trail, she had no idea how to bend at a trot.  On two separate occasions, when trotting through trees, she almost fell over trying to figure out how to get around the tree at a trot and bend.  Really!  We toppled and I don’t know how we didn’t fall.  Then one day, while trotting through trees, I saw a light bulb shine over her head.  Yep, all of a sudden it struck her to bend her rib cage and once she figured that out, trotting through twisty tree lined single track has not been a problem for her.

Here we are, leaving everyone in the dust because Penny is leading and she’s got a big trot on through the twisty single track.  However, Steel didn’t think this was safe (and neither did Dom) so they got in front of us and we walked a bit through some really stumpy and slippery trail.  Penny was quite alright with that. In fact, she is far more relaxed this loop.

passing horsesWe are now up to a six pack of horses.  I asked the people behind if they wanted to pass and they were fine where they were.  We came out into some service road where we left them behind.  Penny got into her big trot, Steel was cantering, and we were happy happy happy.

At one point, we started having riders coming at us.  These would be 50 mile riders on their second go at the orange loop.  Since Penny was the leader at this time, I was prepared for some explosion, or argument from her, but Penny took it all in stride like a pro.  She continued a nice easy trot, they passed her, she watched them go and she kept her forward movement.  Oh my gosh, this is awesome! She is starting to “get it” (or she’s getting tired).

Halfway through the second loop we picked up Becky and Pilgrim.  We’re now a threesome, finishing the ride together.  At one point we cantered for about two miles.  This is the first time I let Penny canter for such a long distance and she was loving it.  Becky, riding side by side with me, said Penny was going “WHEEEEEEEEE”.  And Penny handled that like a pro.  I told her it wasn’t a race, and she settled into a comfortable pace and never asked me to go faster again.  Loose rein, three horses cantering, and she was happy happy happy.

first loop trail3Loop two was Penny’s loop.  She was a doll that entire loop.  She led, even through the scary muddy bogs.  At one point, towards the end of the loop, two riders blew past us on a cross trail at a canter.  Penny lifted her head, watched them go, got a little excited but did not fight to chase after them.  I told Dom that this was remarkable how much she changed on the second loop from the first loop.  And on another note, Penny very quickly put two and two together about the turn ribbon setup.  I almost missed a turn on the blue loop and as I was looking to the right for a confidence marker, Penny turned left. I started to gather her up and correct her direction when I saw the confidence marker just ahead.  SMART PENNY!

Coming into the last mile to the finish, we were on some hard service road.  Penny was getting a wee bit tired, but still chugging along at a peppy pace.  her boots, however, were slapping the ground and Becky said that Penny’s green boots were like galoshes.

OMG snort

And that will forever be in my head!!!!  So now those boots will be forevermore referred to as “Penny’s Galoshes”.

finishlineWe come out onto the sandy driveway leading into the finish and we’re all in a big trot, side by side, and Becky (again cracking me up) said she could hear the theme music from Bonanza playing.  Yep, that put an earworm in my head and I couldn’t shake that song for about half an hour after we completed.

The most excitement (for me) was the vetting at the end. I was very anxious to see how she did.  We finished that 12.6 miles in just under two hours riding time.  We had a brief 15 minute break where we let them eat hay and drink water and that’s where we joined up with Becky and Pilgrim.  So they were doing a steady pace for the second loop and I wanted to see how Penny’s vetting would go.  I dumped her saddle at camp then we went straight up to vet in.  Her breathing was still good and she was relaxed, simply wanting to eat and eat and eat.

Final vetting, one B on mucous membranes and the rest all A’s.  Final CRI 52/44.  WOWZA.  And her overall score for the day was A-.  Dom and I tied for 20th place.  I am so excited for Penny.  She did most remarkable.

I was a bit on the mentally-disturbed side at the end though.  I have not ridden an LD since 2006.  So, now the ride is finished at 25 miles and I keep feeling like I need to be eating and getting ready to get back on.  it took me a long time to settle down after we finished.  My mind and my body were screaming “Hurry Up” and everyone kept saying, “Settle down, we’re finished”.  It was a very weird feeling!

My bonus for the day?  I did not need pain meds.  I felt great.  In fact I felt so great I decided to start packing camp and take the girls home tonight so I would not be driving around Washington DC and Baltimore during Monday morning traffic.  The girls were eating, drinking, pooping and peeing.

on our way homeNormally I would NEVER EVER make my horses ride six hours in a trailer after competing.  It was an easy flat ride, they weren’t tired (in fact, I believe Penny could have ridden a 50 mile competition today, she finished fresh and still very energetic) and I figured that I would stop a couple times to offer them water for their hydration.  Note to new riders.  I do not recommend driving your horses more than two or three hours after a ride competition. And had I competed in a 50 mile today, I would NOT have taken them anywhere.  I would have suffered the freezing night for sleeping and the Monday morning traffic and let them rest.

(this story still in progress, I’m sure Dom will remind me of things I forgot to put in here – stay tuned)