Weather predictions for the day of the ride about a week out indicated temperatures in the 60s, which meant clipping would be a primary concern for me. However, given that Mother Nature has been unwilling to provide either seasonal or consistent temperatures for months, I opted to wait until as close to the ride as possible to commit to a clip for Nimo. As the days went by, the expected high for the day of the ride crept downward. I decided to get a head start on clipping by doing a trace clip three days before the ride. The weather was gorgeous, with highs near 70, so I knew a trace clip would not mean I would have to blanket and Nimo would probably appreciate some relief as well. And even with cooler temps, a trace clip would be helpful for cooling without taking too much hair off for Nimo to need a lot of blanketing. Two days before the ride, I finally committed to doing a modified chaser clip and as temperatures plummeted below freezing (remember I said Mother Nature was a bit off?), I shaved more hair off of Nimo in anticipation of a high of 46 degrees on ride day. I should emphasize that my experience with Nimo is that if he gets overheated on the trail, he will slow down, never to pick up a decent pace again, and no amount of ice water or other cooling technique is going to perk him up. It is critical that I keep him from overheating in the first place and that means clipping fairly aggressively and blanketing in cold weather. This is what I ended up with:
|Not the prettiest clip I've ever done, but I figured it would get the job done!|
Bright and early on Saturday morning (the ride was on a Sunday), I got up, made a quick cream cheese-based filling for the dish I'd be bringing to Saturday evening's potluck dinner (it turned out great, so if you are interested, click here for the recipe), packed the last few things that needed to be packed, and headed out down the road. One minute later, my husband called me to tell me I'd forgotten my kindle, so I turned around and stopped by the house to pick it up before once again heading down the road.
Luckily, I'd padded my schedule with about 15 minutes, so having to go back for the kindle was not a big deal. Plus, I'd already loaded everything and had the trailer hooked up already, so when I stopped by the barn, all I needed to do was fill a water container and load Nimo. He was already in his stall eating breakfast, so my timing was perfect. While he finished eating, I got the water, double-checked a couple of things, and then loaded him.
My friend and I planned to caravan most of the way to the ride, and my friend came up with a route that completely avoided I-95. It would take us a little longer (assuming there was no accident or any other of the many completely random delays that tend to plague I-95), but we would be able to avoid driving amongst all the people who are idiots who also tend to plague I-95. So about a half hour after I loaded Nimo, I met up with my friend and followed her for the next 3 1/2 hours as we wound our way south through Virginia. The trip was pretty uneventful. We stopped about halfway through for gas and to check the horses. Both were blanketed, but the temperature seemed to be warming up, so I wanted to make sure Nimo wasn't too hot (he wasn't) and give him a quick snack.
In keeping with my usual custom of traveling to new places, we missed a turn near the end because the sign was crooked and we couldn't see the name of the street we were supposed to turn on. (This happens ALL THE TIME in Virginia and it is beyond annoying when you are hauling a trailer. I spend a lot of time furiously hoping that the idiots who flip the signs will spend an eternity in hell where they have to travel places and all the signs are messed up or missing...) But we were able to find an abandoned business parking lot to turn around in, and we were back on track within in few minutes.
And then about 20 minutes later, we were within a mile of camp. I found myself getting excited as we drove down the gravel/sand lane to the park where the ride was based. I could see the ribbons marking some of the trail and we passed the separate ride 'n tie camp on the way in. Even though I have struggled so much with whether the effort to train for endurance rides is worth the sacrifices, on that day, with the sun shining and the air crisp with spring, it was hard for me to deny that all the conditioning and clipping and blanketing and packing and planning was worth it for the opportunity to see new trails and catch up with fellow riders.
We arrived at camp just after 1 pm, and we managed to get the best parking spots ever. Literally. Parking was incredibly limited at the ride and it had filled weeks before, so I had expected we'd be crowded and parked inconveniently. Instead, the ride management had carefully arranged and numbered parking spots and were making sure everyone was parked appropriately, so each rig had enough room for ample pens for the horses and maneuvering room to get parked. My friend and I parked across from each other because she had a bigger trailer and there was separate parking for bigger trailers to make sure they had enough room. To my left was the check-in camper and tent for food, as well as the camp fire. Talk about conveniently located! I was also close to the vetting area, so if I'd been doing a longer ride, I could have easily crewed from my trailer.
After I got parked and took a couple of minutes to be in awe of how lucky I was, I unloaded Nimo and tied him to the trailer so I could unload the livestock panels I use for his pen. A minute later, the ride manager herself stopped by to say hello and asked if it was OK if she walked Nimo while I set up his pen. I was so surprised, I kind of didn't know what to say. (I mean surely the ride manager has more important things to do than to help me?) After stuttering for a minute, I finally agreed that yes, she could take Nimo for a walk (apparently she had a friend who loved Friesians and wanted to introduce them). So Nimo got to socialize and eat grass while I set up his pen. And about 20 minutes later he came back to me attached to someone else who loved him and I got him set up with hay and water.
Then I went to check in, which was easy because I'd already submitted all my paperwork, and then I spent some time chatting with my friend as well as others I knew in camp. I think all but 2 or 3 of the regular riders that I know ended up being at the ride, and I have to admit that it made me feel right at home. Then I got my tent set up despite the fact that I apparently completely forgot the process I had come up with, so I spent a lot of time swearing and looking harried while I tried to remember how to get the *&%$ing thing up. Eventually, I decided it was good enough and got the rest of my stuff in the tent and set up for the night.
At that point, it was time for the vetting in to start. The line was pretty long for about an hour, so my friend and I just chatted and watched while we sat at my trailer because I had a lovely view of the process. I have to admit that I have never had a chance to really watch so many horses do their trot-outs, so it was definitely a great opportunity. Lots of beautiful, fit horses. Finally, as the line dwindled, we decided to get our horses and vet in. And of course, because I finally remembered to both order and bring a dozen grease markers with me, the ride management had plenty and were marking horses for everyone. Nimo was letter A. Letters were used for Intro riders, and I think we must have been the first to register. We vetted in without any problems, and then I ran my friend's horse for her because she has a bad knee. Her horse vetted through just fine too, and we put them back in their pens.
By then, it was getting close to dinner time, so I finished making the appetizer I had brought and before long, it was time for dinner, followed shortly by the ride meeting. The ride meeting was pretty short, with the trail manager explaining how the trail was marked. I did have a feeling of foreboding when he said, "Only a real idiot could get lost out on that trail because it's been marked so well." If there is anyone who can miss a perfectly well-marked turn, it is me. And if there is anyone who can't read a map to save her life, it is me. And I have a horse who isn't much better. So there's that. The pulse criteria was the standard 64 bpm for the holds and 60 for the finish. There was also a post-ride meeting just for new and intro riders, so I stayed for that. I wanted to make sure my friend got the full experience and also, while I have accumulated quite a bit of knowledge, it had been 10 months since my last ride, so I figured a refresher was not a bad idea, especially given the previous situation with my tent.
The new rider briefing was sort of the usual stuff - basically going through much of what had been said at the ride meeting because new riders always seem to need the extra confirmation of the information they thought they heard and offering some basic tips. The only thing that I really remember standing out to me was when one of the speakers (maybe one of the vets?) said that trotting was a much more efficient gait than walking and that a person's horse would actually stay cooler and in better metabolic shape if she trotted him than if she walked him (at least that is how I perceived what she said). I'm not sure I've heard it said exactly that way before, but I have heard something like it in the past. Here's the thing: I'm going to need some scientific evidence for big black horses before I believe it. I'm not sure if this idea is more relevant for Arabs, and I will admit that Nimo pulses down a lot faster than I expected, even when I trot him almost all the way in to the vet check, but I really struggle with the idea that going faster is easier than going slower. Sure, trot is an efficient gait in terms of movement, but that doesn't mean it is always the best gait. I know some horses who actually seem to do better at the canter, and for Nimo, it would be abuse if I asked him to keep trotting when he was tired. (Plus, let's not forget all the gaited horses who don't have a trot.) It is certainly possible that I've missed a nuance with the concept, but I'm not sure it is the best advice to give to new riders, whose horses may not be as fit as they need to be. In my opinion, every horse is different, and it is paramount that a rider learn to pay attention to the horse rather than apply one-size-fits-all rules. Anyway, I don't bring it up to criticize the person who said it, but rather as a reminder for myself to keep it in the back of my mind to think about and do more research on.
Everyone went their separate ways soon after the ride meeting ended because the cold was creeping in. The expected low was 25 degrees and the temperature was well on its way to that end by 7 pm. I got my trusty heater running in my tent and snuggled in for a bit to read before I took Nimo on his usual pre-bedtime walk.
|My trusty propane heater|
At about 9, I pulled myself out of my toasty warm cocoon to walk Nimo for about 20 minutes and make sure he had hay and water for the night. Then I tucked myself into bed, read for a bit more, and turned the lights off at about 10, hoping for at least a little sleep before the ride the next morning.