Daniel and I arrived at camp Wednesday evening in time to get settled in before dark.
I like the run/walk method of training for events for me and the horses. On my shorter runs, I try to run longer before walking, but this was a long run, so I chose to run 4 minutes and walk 1.5 minutes. This worked well to the point that I finally glanced at my GPS and saw I'd already run 4.93 miles. At the 5 mile mark, I turned around and headed back. I finished 10 miles feeling great and ready for the rest of my day.
I ate some breakfast, saddled Tanna and headed toward the VA Highlands horse trail to get a look at the trail that I was a little afraid of. I had never ridden this trail before, but had heard stories. My horses are not mountain horses. We have a few small hills to train on, but that's about it. Tanna and I took our time up the switchbacks just outside of camp and then rocked and rolled through the rolling hills, just having a good time. Then we walked for a long time until we reached what I figured was the highest point on the first loop. I hopped off and we had a 10 minute break where I stretched Tanna out, focusing on his shoulders since we'd be going down hill a lot back to camp.
I remounted and we zipped back down the hill. The footing was great in a lot of places. Tanna was a maniac, ready to gallop all the way home. Course, I said no to that, but did let him move out a good bit. We had a lot of fun blasting up the roller coaster hills after we crossed the pavement, walking up some of the longer ones to make sure he didn't over do it. It was a great training ride for him. I hadn't seen all the trails, of course, but I was no longer afraid of the trail. It was a totally doable trail. I was psyched for the next day.
Back at camp, I gave Tanna a snack and cleaned him up. Then it was time for registering Sasha and getting her vetted in for the 30 mile ride. I fiddled around the rest of the afternoon, doing the things one does the day before a ride. Making sure my vet check stuff was together, feeding horses, walking dogs and horses, attending ride meeting.
Because I was doing the 30 miler ride, I was able to sleep in and got another full 8 hours of sleep. What a weird weekend this was turning out to be, sleep-wise!
Sasha and I started the 30 mid-pack, moving quickly through the first mile and a half to the switchbacks. I was fortunate to be in a small pocket where Sasha and I were by ourselves through the switchbacks. She was quite startled to have horses directly above her and below her. I talked gently to her and she managed not to have a conniption fit on the narrow trail.
When the trail widened out, we had a nice run on the wide roller coaster trail. I let her go a bit too fast here because we were both having so much fun. Near the end I had to ask her to back off and walk for a bit. After the paved road, we were on a gravel road and we moved out again to make up time before hitting the longer uphill. We just walked that. Sasha was doing great, with a great attitude and a good power walk up the hill, recovering quickly from our too fast roller coaster ride.
Just before the range land, we caught up with a couple of riders. Sasha and I quietly followed along until we saw Becky Pearman, photographer extraordinaire waiting to take our picture. I pulled up and let Sasha eat grass while the other riders went on to get their picture. When they were clear, I aimed Sasha up the hill and let her go. She cantered nicely up the hill, past Becky and caught and passed the other riders just before the crest of the hill. She passed the other horses and kept moving on at a good trot.
Next was the cows! We passed into the pasture where the cows were and I had Sasha trot confidently through. She spooked at one cow, but recovered nicely. Then I noticed a rider herding cows away from the trail ahead. The horse looked awfully familiar. It was Snap!! The 6 year old I'd sold Nancy Sluys last year. I hadn't seen him in person since I'd sold him. He was herding cows and looked amazing. I stopped to chat with Nancy and see Snap up close. What a good match those two are. As hard as it was for me to admit that I didn't have the skill set to train Snap properly, I'm happy he ended up with Nancy. They will be a great endurance team in time.
After I left Nancy and Snap, I encountered a couple of young male bulls. They were standing in the middle of the trail. I trotted Sasha toward them and finally they moved. I really wanted Sasha to see them move away from her and not let her back down first. The two split and decided they wanted to run with me, one on either side. They were about 20-30 feet away on either side of me. That was pretty fun. Sasha did not mind at all and finally they just decided that was enough and stopped to watch us go.
The vet check was just beyond and I got Sasha's saddle pulled. Daniel was waiting and trotted her out for me. Everything looked good, but the vet said she was a little tight in her hamstrings. Back at the truck, I massaged her for several minutes and then sat to eat. Sasha started acting up. Hollering and spinning. I got up and walked her over to grass, but she just got worse. And then I saw Snap. She hollered at him. He hollored back. So funny, but a bit annoying. She was done eating. We chatted with Nancy again and then I saddled Sasha up and out on my second loop, headed back to camp. I reached the out timer with 10 seconds left on my hold time.
The first mile or so of the 2nd loop was pretty flat. Sasha and I moved out, making good time as I was sure we'd have to slow down. And we did. We climbed up and up and up and up. I used every small stretch of flat, somewhat less rocky ground to make time. In between, we walked. Sasha was walking well up the hill. Powerful and purposeful. When we hit a big water trough that hooked up with the trail we'd already done and she figured out where she was, Sasha got more forward. We continued to go up and up and up until we got to the point where Tanna and I had turned around. I let Sasha trot a good bit of the good footing downhill and soon we crossed the pavement and were into my favorite roller coaster part of the trail. I didn't let Sasha gallop the hills like I had with Tanna. We just took it easy, but enjoyed the ride.
When we hit the switchbacks, I could hear riders below me. I hoped they weren't coming up the switchbacks!! Fortunately, they were down at the bottom in the creek and were headed the same way I was. I came on them soon. 3 trail riders. I hung back and waited carefully for an opportunity to pass safely. Sasha was unhappy, chewing the bit and tossing her head, but was obedient. When we got around the trail riders, Sasha did a smart trot back into camp. She vetted out with mostly As and a couple A- scores. No issues at all with her gait or her hamstrings. Whatever was going on at the vet check was gone. Overall a great ride.
We had a great time. I went to do a run, a training ride on Tanna and a 30 miler on Sasha. All 3 things were accomplished in fine style with gorgeous views and weather. Couldn't have asked for a better weekend. Many thanks to ride manager Nancy Sluys and her team of volunteers, especially the fire department, for pulling this ride off.