Yesterday my mom and I rode in our first ever competitive trail ride - a 12.5 mile ride on Green Mountain.
We arrived on Friday afternoon at the campsite, checked in and got the horses settled in. Once everyone else had arrived, the judges began going through the pre-ride inspections. Because the ride is quite strenuous for the horses, it is important that close attention is paid to their condition, respiration, heart rate, and soundness (of feet and legs).
We woke up at the crack of dawn - to boot and saddle the horses, pack the saddle bags, scarf some breakfast - since the ride started at 7 am.
After a quick tack check, the judges started sending off the riders, in 30 second intervals. We ended up right in the middle of the group.
The trail consisted of two loops, both starting and ending in camp. The first loop stayed mostly in the woods and on logging trails, about 8 miles. Though both loops covered very challenging, rough terrain (steep hills, narrow, winding trails), the second loop was particularly rocky, with steep drop-offs.
My mom riding Marmot; I'm on Cheerio.
A beaver pond.
The logging road.
View from the top. The Olympic Mountain Range.
Me, on Cheerio.
At the P&R check (pulse and respiration). After one long uphill climb, everyone had to dismount and wait with their horse for 10 minutes. Each horse was timed as it came in, then checked by a judge. If either the horse's pulse or respiration were over 64/minute, they had to wait 10 more minutes and recheck. If they failed the second time, they were disqualified. Cheerio is famed for her ability to fall asleep within seconds of stopping, so of course hers was very low! I think she was at 16 and 48.
Cheerio, wearing all four boots. She definitely needed them, considering the rocks they had to climb on.
Approaching the rocky area with the big drop. Unfortunately at that point two mountain bikers came tearing down the hill around a blind turn. They managed to slide to a stop just in time, and surprisingly Marmot (in the lead) didn't even flinch. But as we were passing one of the bikes slipped back onto the trail towards Marmot. He, being just barely 5, spooked and jumped to the side. But with the drop-off the footing was really soft and he went down. Of course my mom came off, but they're both fine! I feel bad for the bikers because it really wasn't their fault, and they were so shaken when they watched it happen. They probably won't go near horses for a very very long time, judging by the look on their faces!
Thankfully that was the only dramatic occurrence during the ride. Both horses were great - and fit enough to make it the whole way with no problems. And the weather was perfect!
Amazingly, despite our lack of experience with these rides and pacing our horses, and our confusion with the map and mileage, we made it in the time limit with just 25 seconds to spare! We obviously didn't win, but sure had fun and saw some beautiful scenery.