So I took a longer road to conditioning, working three days per week, and a little unconventional way of riding, using intervals, and I choose to start at a ride event/venue that not only lined up with my training calendar, though also with the type of footing suited to a barefoot horse that was aiming to complete her first distance ride. We choose ARKDALE, WI. Beautiful camping facilities, very accommodating with great pens to put horses in. Water, shade, electricity and portapotty with in easy walking distance. More importantly this trail has almost zero hills, nearly no rocks and a friendly environment for her first time going this distance at a good pace.
We arrived with a nice amount of time to set up, vet in and generally enjoy the place. I always love the cooler nights here in northern Wisconsin and the night skies here seem to that much more abundant with radiant stars. Grace, as you can see from the above image, settled in like a good little camper. She never called out to other horses, she ate, drank and generally enjoyed her new surroundings. Much like we did! Our kiddos are old enough now to set up their tents on their own, and that makes the trip that much more enjoyable. Mom & Dad get the camper part of the horse trailer ;)
As hoped, I was able to ride pretty much alone much of the ride. My interval training made this ride a breeze for both of us. I cannot tell you how happy I am with Grace, though you could listen to episode 24 of Endurance Horse Podcast to see a baby picture of Grace & to hear the catch of emotion that got to me out on the trails as I recorded for that episode. Grace was truly amazing, we bred this little mare, owned her mother, so she was born right here. She has been such a pet to me, I rode my other horses in distance rides, though not Grace, I just had not seen her that way, then decided she needed to have some experiences and get to traveling, which she loves, she has the soul of an adventurer.
She was completely amazing. One part of this endurance ride, I knew from before on other horses, goes along a road and across a wide creek via a bridge. I wondered how she would handle this- two new thing to her. She was fabulous. Two very experienced horses/riders were balking at the bridge and would not pass, Grace put her ears up, I gently nudged her side and she happily trotted across the bridge. The riders behind me yelled "This horse has 5,000 miles and the other one has 3,000 miles and they would not cross this bridge. I turned and leaned over Grace's rump, just a proud momma moment and with glee said "This is her first ride!" I meant no disrespect, I was just a happy momma. She took everything in stride, the mud, the bridge, the other riders passing and us passing other riders. The single track, the wide tracks, the windy, twisting slippery tracks and the few boggy patches. One of my happiest moments was when we came to the very wide river and I gently asked her if she would step in, and she did up to her knees. She sniffed the water and eventually completely tanked up on the river water. It was like adding new batteries and new life to her. She got a recharge from that river water and she finished so strong, so happy and completely healthy.
I got to return to camp and take care of my angel mare, the depth of emotion in knowing that I not only loved her for who she is, though combined with the love and adoration for who her parents are, as well as the leap of faith I took to try a very different way of conditioning her. It was somewhat a hard choice to pass up several rides since May, to wait all summer until August to ride, though I believed whole heartedly that for this little teenaged mare, who had never been truly conditioned before in her life, it was the best choice for her to wait and take all those long months to put the base of conditioning on her.
Now, God willing and the stars aligned, we hope to start out in spring 2020 instead of late summer. What will the future hold? We shall see. One thing I have learned with horses is that while it is fun to plan, plan to stay flexible because you just never know what will happen. Until then, stay tuned, our next camping adventure is set for September at Colorama in the North Kettle horse trails. Until then, happy trails! Ride far, ride well, the skies the limit.
Here are some Arkdale 2019 Camping photos. I have the best crew & sweetest husband, all in 1. Thanks Jim for making everything possible. Love ya, babe.
Horse Camping at Ukarydee: http://horsecampukarydee.com