Grace had a hoof chip out of her heel, and I was unsure if I should bring her to this ride. I started to load her sister Faith onto the trailer instead of Grace and Grace was having a fit about it. I trotted Faith in a small circle, and noticed that SHE was the one that was off, hoof abscess. YIKES, what to do. Grace was sound, though the hoof chip was worrisome to me. Taking one look at her, you can see that she was lively, upbeat and ready to tackle new adventures. She was paying close attention all day to the trailer getting camping supplies added to it, she knows what that means, and she was getting excited to go. Already she was watching us, walking around and hanging out by the gate. Then she had begun to reach her big, beautiful noggin over the gate and began to push at Jim from over the gate several times insisting that this was her chariot to take her to HER event, not her sister.
So I looked at the fit/eager to go adventuring horse, looked at my crew that is my sweet husband and three kiddos, the loaded trailer, the fact that the dogs were already at the sitter, animal care was arranged for home, the campsite was paid for and decided to put Grace on board. If nothing else, I thought, we could all just go camping and not ride if she presented any ailments. So, as our family motto seems to be; onward and upward, let's load up & go.
Grace eagerly aimed for the trailer as we pulled her from the paddock, ears up, eyes bright and he marched up practically breaking into a jog as we approached the trailer. She likes to GO places. Do things. See new things and have some adventure. I have to share with you, no matter how eager she was to load onto the trailer, she truly seemed to pause, toss her beautiful forelock and in a bit of a haughty way pause to look deeply at Jim just before she set her hoof onto the trailer, she paused long enough to swing her strawberry blonde forelock into his direction, *just* long enough the give him the "I TOLD YA SO." look as a follow up to her insistence that it was HER day, her ride and it was SHE that was to be loaded on to the trailer. Well, turns out she was right.
Second Time at an Endurance Event for Grace
I figured that we would haul up and vet in, and if there was something off, we would just camp and enjoy the weekend. Well, she was quite happy to be someplace new, she vetted in and camped like a seasoned veteran. Hers, and my favorite part is walking around the campgrounds, just being together. So we did this a lot. We had an absolutely beautiful moonlight all weekend. It was so bright out, perfect weather, so comfortable and truly, just a magical weekend. The kiddos were getting along well. Life was pretty good at this ride. I have learned to treasure & soak those moments up, because they are not guaranteed and don't come often enough. After a few beautiful moonlight walks we settled in and slept well enough.
Early next morning, we vetted in and she trotted along at her little trot just fine. We saddled up and got ready to head out on the trail. One of the things I adore LOVE about Grace, is that unless you hauled in with her, she really does not care for other horses, does not have to be with them, lets them leave her on the trail or she can leave them. She just doesn't get attached easily and does not care, both of her parents were the same way.
Out on the trails we all started out slowly as it is a short, steep and stony decent onto the trail system. Once there, there were sporadic sections of mud, and rock. We just set out riding to my intervals right away, and I was overjoyed with her as she responded immediately and so well to the set intervals. The beginning several minutes of a ride can be so hectic/rushed once riders release their excitement and begin to trot along the trails. Beep. Timer goes off, time to walk Grace... Grace, okay Chris, no problem. Love it
And so the ride went along. I did meet up with another rider from (I think) Iowa, and we leap frogged a bit, enough that I apologized profusely for my intervals, she asked what those were and that opened up for conversation and we chatted the several miles we rode together. I found out her 19 year old horse was making a comeback at this ride after a serious bought with strangles. Not too far into the ride, we almost got lost! As we came to paper plates with names of roads and north etc, though no markings of which way for 50's, 25's or 100's....
THANK GOD Sherry Aune was there and knew the way to go or I am sure I would have gone left over the bridge and been lost. Thank you again, Sherry, for helping me out on trail. The Iowa rider (or maybe it was Nebraska?) and I motored along at roughly the same pace so she decided to travel with us at our intervals. We saw some gorgeous old, thick stand of trees that must have been on land that swept downhill, because as you looked into the tall pines, all you saw was the bareness of the lower branches and on into darkness- the thickness of the tress was odd, as there were no lower foliage, only dried evergreen needles carpeting the forest floor. It seems the depth of the trees was so great, that it simply was void of light. It escapes me how to describe them, though there was simply no light in that section of trees and it was quite intriguing and mysterious. We rode on over a creek with a culvert, and the rushing sounds made Grace uneasy, though willingly she went forward to the lightest touch of my heal into her soft sides.
The trail was full of hills, rocks and mud, and she eagerly went forward to explore it all. Just about half way to the turnaround point we followed the curving path and the morning sunlight shone over what we call here, dragon's breath, the light patches of fog flowing like a river through the forest, the sun shining over the treetops into this tiny meadow was golden and so beautiful. The air smelled clean and fresh as it had been raining the day before. All was good in the world.
We rode up onto other riders who had already reached the turn around point, and everyone was smiles and waves and enjoying a good day on their great horse, many of us not only saying "Hi Hello! Beautiful day to ride!" though also calling each other out by name. What an amazing place to be, and how blessed we all are to experience abundance and freedom to live such lives. The stand of trees just before we turned around was a short section of trees, though I think they were mostly birch trees or some lighter trees and again, and they seemed to glow, as the light was hitting them just right. Glorious, like riding in a painting or movie scene.
Both her horse and mine were doing fantastic, and the day just had a feeling of being completely special.
I started sharing about Endurance Horse Podcast with my fellow rider, and she shared all that had been going on with her gelding and his health scare that was actually quite serious, she nearly lost him. We parted ways a few miles from the vet check so she could work on him being better with riding solo. It is not all sunshine and daisies, I had a rider that I like get upset with me because she wanted to pass, I was at a slow trot and she had a LOT of room to pass and didn't want to at a trot, as so many other riders had already done. Enough said, she was unhappy. We ended up passing each other all day, so it was a tad awkward. Though I refuse to get bullied on trail. I ride my ride, unless there is an unsettled horse or something dangerous then I will do whatever I can to help someone, though this just another rider just being bullish. Later that day I helped her carry a saddle rack to her trailer, so I hope that made amends. This is not the first time she has yelled at me on trail. So.... ride your own ride, unless it is a safety issue. Relish all that is good, let the negative go to the aside.
The second half of the trail I was quite happy that they were ahead of me, actually, as there were 2 or 3 spots on the trail where I truly was unsure which way to go. I had gone with my instincts, and when I would catch a glimpse of her red jacket and it was a relief to know I had not made a bad choice and had NOT get lost, yet, WHEW!
They also led me to this beautiful gem off trail, a pond created by an artesian well. It was glorious! I braved pulling my phone out for a quick pick, hoping and praying not to drop it into the gorgeous water. That extra minute to take the image gave Grace long enough to decide to drink this lovely water and she tanked up on it, and it was like giving her a monster energy drink, she had been already doing well, but now she had extra vigor. We had a particularly hilly/rocky loop and she just motored through. I cannot tell you how proud I am of her. She's my Gracie Girl. There were many moments on this trail that I counted how blessed I am to sit upon the back of a mare that is the combination of two horses that I love dearly. God is so good. Like is hard, it storms, it pours it thunders and lightning- and then you get the rainbow and the growth after the rain.
Me, as a navigator did get a big confusion one more time. Though GOD BLESS Ruth Casserly, who happened to ride along and point me in the correct direction. Thanks & hugs to you Ruth. We motored on in, happy horse, then we saw three pony carts- Grace's first time seeing carts & horses, and she was like, uh, okay. Thought the little pony pulling the lead cart had a spook moment. The handler quick as a cat leaped out of the cart and to the head of the startled, beautiful paint pony. All was well, and that was the cutest trio of paint ponies pulling carts that I have ever seen, ever. It all turned out ok. Turns out they had been all shined up for a horse show that was canceled and decided to go for a drive in the woods.
Almost back to camp, end of the ride, so I jumped down, unhooked the reins and loosen the saddle. Well done, Gracie Girl, what a pleasure she is to ride through the woods. Jim and the kiddos were all set up with saddle rack, mash, chairs and games to keep the kids busy. We stripped her tack right away and I started sponging her legs while she dove into her beet pulp. Our polar heart rate monitor no longer works- why do they not allow you to replace the batteries in them??? They are freaking expensive. (side rant over) so Jim struggled with a Walgreens stethoscope and his Apple Watch to timer her heart rate...and his watch kept going into power saver mode....slightly ticked off crew husband
He immediately went to Amazon Prime and ordered a much better stethoscope....and it actually beat us home!
DINNER & AWARDS:
If you have never been, you really should go to an endurance event awards and dinner.
It is a potluck, everyone who completes the ride gets an awards- we almost never know WHAT it will be! Which is a lot of fun. And, it is a bring a dish to pass, much like a church or family potluck, which will further make your endurance ride feel like a spiritual event.
Snazzy Cup for finishing the ride