Wednesday, November 12, 2014

USTR Blue Ridge Center Benefit Ride

'Tis the season for FUN rides!  I vowed that after the Fort Valley ride, we would take a couple of months "off" of conditioning rides, so Nimo and I could just enjoy each other's company and see areas that we don't normally train in, either because they aren't open to the public or are a little farther away than we usually travel.  I also wanted a break from constantly checking our pace and mileage and fretting about whether we were getting the optimal amount of miles in (possibly) and the best mix of dressage schooling and trail riding (probably not).

This past Sunday, we headed up to Purcellville, Virginia to The Blue Ridge Center for a USTR benefit ride.  The Blue Ridge Center is a privately held parcel of 900 acres that is not open to the public, although USTR members can ride there during designated times (which is most of the year).  USTR is a trail riding organization that I am a member of.  I've been a member of several different trail riding organizations in the area over the years, but USTR is the one that seems to be the best fit for me now.  There are monthly rides at a lot of different locations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and many of the members are avid trail riders and endurance riders, so the rides tend to be more suited for people who are serious about their trail rides, although almost every ride seems like it has a variety of options, including one for those who want to go slower for shorter distances.

Anyway, a friend and I met out at the BRC to do the ride together.  We haven't had a chance to ride with each other much over the past several months because of all my conditioning work with Nimo, so it was nice to have a chance to catch up.   The day was one of those perfect fall days: cool enough to wear a jacket, but not freezing, and sunny.

View from the parking area
We headed out on the trail at around 11:30.  Both horses were in good form and it was amazing to me how fast the trail went by.  The route was marked just like an endurance ride, which mostly worked well, except when my friend and I got to talking and stopped paying attention to the ribbons.  Luckily, I'm starting to develop a habit of subconsciously scanning for ribbons now, so while we did miss a turn once, we caught it quickly and got back on the right track.

The trail was in beautiful condition.  It was mostly in the forest like this:

There were also a handful of nice climbs, so even though we did mostly walking, Nimo still got a bit of a workout in (apparently it takes more than just wishing to turn off the pace and mileage calculator that runs in my head).  And there was this gorgeous little pond:

Gordon Pond

I think we ended up doing about 8 miles, and honestly, if felt like almost nothing.  We were on the trail about 2 hours and probably due to the chatting and the beautiful day, the time flew by and I was kind of sad it was over.  I know I've said this before, but I'm so amazed by how my perception of distance has changed and how much fitter Nimo is than when we started (we even did a short canter up a hill!).  And there was definitely a time when 2 hours in the saddle would have made me sore and miserable, but now, I don't experience any discomfort.

It is so freeing to know that we can handle any terrain and I never have to worry about whether Nimo is fit enough or if his feet will be sore (I booted his front feet only for this ride and that was just right).  This ride was a pleasant reminder that all we've accomplished in the past 18 months has had another purpose than just helping us to be ready for a 30 mile ride; it has given us the ability to explore new trails without anxiety and we've met so many truly wonderful people along the way.

Anyway, if you happen to live within an hour or two of the Purcellville, Virginia area, this annual benefit ride is a nice way to check out The Blue Ridge Center because it is open to the public.  The BRC trails would be a great place to condition for endurance rides, and while it takes me about an hour and 45 minutes to get there, I might add this place to my list of conditioning locations for the next year because there is a monster climb along the power lines that I think would be great for Nimo (it wasn't included in the benefit ride trail, probably because all but very fit horses would have keeled over and died if they'd attempted it).  However, it is possible that Nimo looked at that same climb and thought that it looked like a great place for me to practice getting off and walking:)


  1. *big sigh* Yes, fun rides. They're terrific. Yours sounds absolutely incredible especially getting lost in the moment and realizing how fast the trail and time seemed to fly by! I'm realizing how LOST fun became for me for awhile there and now I'm determined anew to find a way to make as much training as possible *fun*. Cheers to more fun!

    1. I have to catch myself every once in a while because sometimes I get so goal-oriented that I lose the fun aspect. And because there are two of us in this particular endeavor, I want to make sure that there is down time where our relationship isn't always based on accomplishing something specific. To fun!:)

  2. Nimo is so gorgeous!! I'm glad you're enjoying your downtime. This sounds like a perfect way to spend a day. :)