Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dia Says I'm a Big Kid Now!

Super proud of Dia today. She did her longest ride ever!

I know I haven't posted in awhile, so here are the cliff notes. Most of you reading this, probably already know these things, but for giggles. ;)

Back in October, we moved to just outside the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (affectionately known as BSF). At the same time, we were given the great opportunity to buy Sasha's 4 year old "baby," Dia, which, of course, we (I) did. She was a fall baby and turned 5 in November. She was well started under saddle by Melissa and Mary. All I had to do was give her wet saddle blankets.

I've been working Dia over the last several months and today we went out and did a 20 mile loop in 5 hours. This was her longest ride to date and was a pretty tough ride.

The weather wasn't too bad. In the low 80s, but super humid. Not a surprise for TN in July!
 I got up early, saddled Dia and drove to the Middle Creek Equestrian trail head.

We headed north along Gobbler's Knob trail, past the Gobbler's Knob trail head and to Hatfield Ridge trail. Dia was a little tense, but a lot more relaxed than she has been the last couple weeks. We had a really good, relaxed ride on Thursday on the trails around our house and while she wasn't as relaxed as then, she wasn't very tense.

We headed east along the Hatfield Ridge trail, trotting some and walking some. Dia settled into her work and was good about not spooking too much. The flies were terrible and I spent a LOT of time grabbing horse flies and crushing them to death. The deer flies weren't bad at all, though. I had coated Dia's ears and around her eyes with Swat and that helped keep her face somewhat clear, but we had to keep moving sometimes to get away from the horse flies.

We dropped down to the Station Camp Creek trail that runs from the Big South Fork River to Charit Creek lodge. We headed west on that for a little bit, but then turned south to catch the Fork Ridge Trail. We crossed a creek here and Dia drank deeply. Good little mare!!! She hasn't been drinking on our training rides lately, so I was super pleased. This was just over 12 miles into the ride.

Along the Fork Ridge trail is a deep water hole that you can cross to go up Duncan Hollow Road to Bandy Creek Campground. I paused here and got Dia in up to her belly. Once I settled her down and she had her footing in the shifting sand, I undid my sponge on a leash and sponged her from the saddle for the first time. Dia did look at it sideways, but didn't do anything more than look. I sponged her really well from both sides and praised her for being such a clever, brave mare. Of course, the sponge didn't have to go very far since she was in belly-deep water, but I'm calling that a win! :D

We then continued along the Fork Ridge trail until it split from the hiking trail and a sign at the bottom of a hill advised caution. I'd never been on this trail before, but Daniel had and warned me it was very steep.

Dia and I headed up it slowly. It was definitely steep and even though we haven't had rain, in some spots, it was muddy. There were even switchbacks re-enforced with wooden railings! It was a hard climb, but Dia attacked it for the first half. After that, she was pretty over it, but went along willingly enough, stopping to eat whenever she had the opportunity.

Finally, we reached the top!!! We were both quite happy and we rested at the top for a few minutes before the flies drove me to remount and head on down the trail. The rest of the Fork Ridge trail was pretty easy going and we trotted, cantered and walked that all the way to where the trail turns into Fork Ridge Road and Trail.

The last miles along Fork Ridge road were slow. Dia was tired and so was I. The road is gravel, but with hard-pack underneath and I didn't want to pound on her legs. She's not conditioned to hard-pack or pavement like Tanna was from doing so much road riding. We did trot when we could get off the side of the road, but we walked a lot of it and Dia grazed along the side of the road.

At one point, a Charit Creek Lodge truck came down the road from the opposite direction. The red-bearded driver very nicely pulled to the side and stopped his truck. The road was pretty narrow there and I wasn't sure what Dia would do, but was prepared for her to be silly, even though she was tired. But when he stopped, I was very appreciative. I asked Dia for a trot to move by as quickly as possible as to not slow the man down too much and thanked him as we trotted past. Dia was actually energized by seeing another living soul and cantered for a bit until deciding to back down to a trot.

Finally we made it back to our trailer! Hot, tired, sweaty, bit by flies, but victorious! Dia celebrated with a water bucket with some Omolene 200 and Ultium at the bottom while I cleaned her up.

After we got back home, it was more food and her mama, Sasha, in the next paddock for company before both of them getting turned out in the pasture. Dia did take off at a run when turned out. No back or hindquarter soreness, tight legs, still some energy left.

So pleased with this little mare. She may make an endurance horse yet.