What an incredible weekend! We went to the Old Pueblo Endurance Ride in SONOITA, AZ this past Wednesday. Our original intent was to ride the 55-mile on Friday followed by the 50-mile on Saturday and come home Sunday.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to find anyone to crew for us, so we had to adjust our goals, which worked out just fine. We've been doing our own "crewing" for the last year, but riding back-to-back e-rides is much more involved in terms of preparation, etc. Taking care of the dogs, getting horses untacked, cooled down, brushed/groomed, ice-booting their legs followed by poulticing their legs, then finally getting ourselves fed is quite time-consuming. Add to that the preparations for early the next morning, and there's just not enough time for sleep.
We decided to take Saturday off and ride the LD on Sunday instead.
Thursday afternoon, we took Sassy and Chase over to vet in for the next day's ride. Sassy vetted in with all A's and heart rate of 32. Unlike the last ride, these vets are very familiar with gaited horses, and they told me she has a beautiful Rocky Mountain gait. :)
Chase vetted in also with all A's, heart rate of 44, and his smooth TWH/Spotted Saddle gait was recognized as well. :)
It was nice to have them graded as we know they should be - gaited ponies. :)
So, the next morning, we saddled up and took off on our 55-mile adventure. It started out great; the temperature was cool, the sunrise was gorgeous, the ponies were feeling their oats. After a controlled start, horses and riders spread out, and the fun was apparent.
As typical for the start of a ride, the ponies are extremely energetic, and anxious to go. I typically let Sassy canter and gallop a little so she gets it out of her system early. So it was that morning, until, almost 4 miles into the first loop, I suddenly noticed my left rein hanging. Hmmm, I thought, that's interesting.
I managed to slow my steam engine enough to move her off the trail, and I jumped down. As I looked, there was my Mylar bit dangling, with one part of it on the left rein, and the other on the right rein. It actually had BROKEN! Obviously that was very odd, and an experience I had never had before, and not an experience I was eager to take on at the beginning of a 55-miler! LOL
Telling myself to ponder that later, I quickly removed Sassy's headstall and tried to devise a makeshift way of somehow controlling her. And those of you who know her know that was a serious challenge!
Fortunately, a rider behind us stopped and offered to let me use her sidepull rope halter. Btw, I had never even seen one before. ;) NO worries; I put said halter on the Sassinator, clipped reins to it, thanked the gal and climbed back up in the saddle.
SIDE NOTE: David (still on Chase) never moved. LOL. They stood quietly and watched.
As I climbed up in the saddle, I looked at them and said, "let's roll!" David took a deep breath and asked if I was sure about this.
I laughed and answered, "What other choice do I have? Just gotta do it!"
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Here's something I am so surprised about, that it chokes me up. While riding with no bit, and me in the saddle, Sassy and I managed to open 2 gates! David and Chase closed them.
We continued on and knew after the water break that we were getting closer to base camp and the 45-minute vet hold. Yay! I knew since we had gotten to that point without anything else breaking, we'd make it to the trailer where I could grab a non-broken bit. LOL
Well......not quite!! Only a few miles from camp, Sassy and I both recognized the trail from last year. I knew what she was thinking ~ Oh yeah.......let's fly! This section of the ride had become Sassy's favorite; the footing is wonderful, there are twists and turns, a little climbing and descending, and even bramble bushes she loves to jump over! I immediately knew she was going to be a handful. LOL Whispering in her ear, I let her know she could canter, but I was not going to allow her to gallop. We compromised on a "CANLOP." LOL (half canter, half gallop ~ Sassy language)
Suddenly, I hear a very strange noise, and I feel her gait change a little. Having no front brakes, I squeezed as hard as I could and got her to stop. I looked down, and her left rear boot had totally twisted. She was going to just ignore that little tidbit of information, but that was not allowed. I moved her off the trail, removed the boot and saw that she was bleeding; not a lot, but I still wanted to take care of it immediately. After I sprayed her foot with Vetericyn and secured the boot back on, I climbed back up into the saddle and off we went. She surprised me by completely standing still! Trust me, for Sassy, that is absolutely amazing. :)
Riding without a bit would have been the furthest thing from my mind until I had no choice. I have been told a true equestrian could ride that way any time, any place without a problem. My response? They have my utmost respect!!
For Sassy and myself, however, this is a huge milestone! We have taken only a few group lessons; sadly neither of us have had formal training. I've learned a lot from Sassy herself, as well as asking riders for tips, watching videos online, reading, reading, reading, etc. Considering the void of lessons, plus our age(s), I hope you don't mind me saying how very proud I am of us both.
We rode 16 1/2 miles, maybe a little more, in that skinny rope halter! My girl knew she could have run to her heart's content, and a couple times, she did test the waters. In the end, however, our mutual love and respect were truly recognized.
After we successfully vetted in for the 45-minute hold, we quickly went to the trailer. While the ponies were chowing down their mash and drinking water, David quickly walked the dogs and got them set back up for the afternoon, and I grabbed another bit and put the headstall back together. Time for a quick gulp of water, and back in the saddle for the second loop. That was another whirl of fun, and with no equipment malfunctions I'm happy to say. Back to base camp for our second 45-minute vet hold, and back out to the third loop. Both ponies were still looking and acting fresh as we did our trot-by third vet check and went out for the fourth and final loop. The 55 miles were suddenly all behind us; amazing how quickly it seems to fly by!!!
After our last vet check and completions, we retired to the trailer for most of the rest of the afternoon. We took care of the horses and doggies, had a small bite to eat, and then fell asleep feeling tired, but proud .... very, very proud!
Our actual ride time (moving time, not including vet holds) we found out the next morning was 7 hours, 15 minutes. We're more than ecstatic with that time! Our horses have come a long, long way in a rather short period of time; they're all heart, and they give us all they have. We're lucky, lucky horse parents!
I will be updating this post with links to some videos of ride highlights ~ you know, without a bit ~ LOL. I'll also be posting about the LD ride we did on Sunday. For now, though, I have ponies to go feed, and.....oh, a little more unpacking to be done.
Here are some video highlights of the 55~mile ride:
This one is from just before the bit broke:
Next up, this video I shot right after the bit broke, and we now have a rope halter with reins attached to it:
This next one shows where I had to pass a couple riders (usually we pass on the left, but the riders didn't move, so I had no choice but to pass on the right); Sassy was a little tough to handle here, and I tried to explain to them:
Coming up next is Sassy trudging through a bunch of water, and it's a big deal because she used to be terrified of water!