Wednesday March 21 2007
At 11:30 Linda and I loaded up Abigail and Savannah, and hauled them a few miles down the road toward Mt Horrible. The name has to do with the Maori wars before the Europeans came. I thought it was going to be in the big mountain range quite a ways away, but it turned out to be a little hill, barely distinguishable from the surrounding rolling hills and farmland, until you got to it and went up it. It was a nice uphill climb for the horses, and we trotted all the way up. I rode Abigail, a very nice mare, smooth and responsive, that will be going to the Nationals in two weeks and doing the 100 km.
New Zealand has adopted the FEI endurance rules and goes by them for all their rides. Here horses must do 2 novice 40 kms, then 2 novice 80 kms before they are qualified for open rides (as do riders). David and Sandy Marshall one day held an 80 km ride, and two 40 km rides, one in the morning and one in the afternoon - you could bang out your 40 kms in one day for a horse. This is Abigail's 3rd season of competing; she's done enough 40 and 80 k's and is ready to move up in distance.
Linda is a resolute trainer - it's always business for the horses on a training ride. Straight ahead, carry on, stay the same speed, which is 10 km/hr, (about 6 mph, just what we do in the US) on sand, grass, pavement, up hills, down hills, or on the flat. If you must spook, do it while carrying on. There's no stopping to smell the roses, or horse poop, like Stormy likes to do. (Of course, Stormy doesn't trot 10 km/hr either.) In the rides Linda's horses start out going their well-schooled 10 km/hr, and the pace picks up every loop on the ride, according to the horse's condition and ability.
Linda said she'd let me lead at the speed I wanted to go, since I was on the leader of the two horses, but heck no! I wanted to know what she did, not me try to guess what was best. We walked the horses a mile or two till we got to where the road started climbing, and we took off at a 10 km/hr trot, all the way up to the top. Most of the time we trotted on the pavement of the country roads - you can find some grass shoulders to trot on, but it's deep grass, with what underneath you aren't sure, so sometimes you're just forced to trot or canter on roads. Fortunately there wasn't much traffic, because here, as on the North Island where the Horse of the Year endurance ride took place, people don't appear to slow down much for horses. We did wear bright yellow safety vests to attract more attention from motorists though I doubt that makes a difference to them. We passed farms of sheep and cattle, and a few goats, rolling green hills, with the mountain range to our north-west, and the sea to our right. The horses broke a little sweat in the cool overcast day, but they powered right on up the hill. At the top, we turned around and powered right back down the pavement, 10 km/hr, stopping for a few pictures (the Raven came along again), and slowing to a walk on the downhills when it had sprinkled just enough to make the road a bit slicker. Abigail was a fine, smooth, fun and willing ride and it will be fun to see how she does in the Nationals.
Back home, after lunch we went out and cleaned another paddock of 10 bags of pony poo. We were supposed to go meet the neighbors - Morgan horses and Icelandic pony farms, but we ran out of time. Rebecca and Monica showed up, and without Linda we took 3 horses out. I rode Razzy, Linda's HOY 7th place endurance mare. She's a crabby ol' mare, the boss of the herd, will kick at anybody, and pin her ears at you when you saddle her, but she doesn't really mean it. She's a really nice horse, a lovely ride, very light and all business. We spent about an hour and a half riding in a big circle (circles? I was very lost) from the house. Almost all the ride was on the pavement, and when we'd hear cars coming, we'd pull over to the side as far as we could, because on a whole, vehicles do NOT slow down for horses. Which I find bizarre, as this is and always has been a farming community, and what with that and the Kiwis being so friendly, you'd think they'd have the common sense to slow down for people on horseback. Razzy was handling everything just fine, but Monica and Rebecca were on younger horses. Once we heard a truck coming up a hill around a corner towards us, and we motioned him to slow down. Well, Mr Cranky Truck driver wasn't so happy that he had to stop. "You shouldn't be out on this road! This is the third time I've had to stop for horses!" (Is that such a horrible thing?) The girls had a discussion with him, explaining that the horses were young, there really isn't a horse path near here to ride on, and the law says to slow down for horses. "Really?" He had no idea. The girls told me there was even an advertisement on TV to make drivers aware of slowing down - really, isn't it common sense? People must slow down for school buses - hopefully that law (common sense) happened before some young child was killed. So will a horse rider have to be killed before people learn to slow down for horses? I hope not. Less than half all the vehicles we met slowed down at all or moved into the other lane giving us more room, and I figured those were parents of young girl riders! We've been really lucky in the states, especially in the desert, where nearly all the motorbikes and 4-wheelers slow down for horses, and a good number even turn their motors off. I just find it quite puzzling here.
We got back just at dark, turned the horses out to their grain, and Linda had an amazing meal of potatoes and sausage and marrow (a kind of squash) and silver beet (like a spinch-kale) waiting. Rebecca stayed for dinner, and she showed me some scars on her ankle - a horse had flipped over backwards on her (a mare in heat who didn't like being disciplined), badly broke her ankle, cracked her femur, a couple of ribs. She had 6 hours of surgery, was in the hospital two and a half weeks, and was back riding as soon as she could. It happened only 6 months ago!
Ah, what we obsessed riders go through to get back on our horses...