April 3 2023
The 2023 ride season started for Hillbillie Willie and me at the local Tough Sucker ride that we help Regina put on down the road.
For me it was a tossup as to whether we’d start our season with a 25 or a 50. With the same crazy winter most all of us have had this year, (this Ice Princess is not complaining :) ), and because at home we have so many cows out all over the place it’s hard to get a long hard sustained workout without running over baby calves, Willie wasn’t as fit as I’d like. He *could* do a 50 as this is not a hard ride, but he would be best fit for a 25. Then there was the usual Tough Sucker weather to deal with: it’s always windy, and more than anything, I hate the wind. HATE the wind. Plus there would likely be some rain/hail/snow showers to go with the wind. I was leaning toward the 50, but I’d decide in the morning.
In the morning, after I saw that Willie had not eaten much (I’d brought along some new hay, which, bummer, apparently he does not particularly like, though he didn’t eat much of his regular hay either) nor had he drank much. That was the clincher. We’d do the 25 and consider it a good training ride for our next event.
We struck out on the trail with one of Willie’s cute friends, Girl, ridden by Jill. We’d ridden together at City of Rocks last year on a 25, and they’d matched up well. Girl set a smoking pace out of Ridecamp and we kept it up for most of the 16 mile first loop. Trails were just about perfect footing - soft but not gopher-holey, and no dust to speak of yet! I always ride Willie with a heart rate monitor now, so I kept an eye on that. While he was running 10-20 beats higher at times that he normally would when he’s fit, he was handling it well and dropping on downhills or flats. And he was enjoying the quick pace with his cute partner, who always made sure Willie respected her space. We loved the winding canal trail after the Snake River.
It’s fun to watch Jill and Girl; Girl is all business and they have both put in a lot of time doing dressage work. She moves along the trail so nicely and balanced.
We eased up a bit the last couple of miles, and Layne and Atlas caught up with us and passed us. It was Layne’s first Endurance ride back after back surgery and a long recovery/rehab process, so this was a big test for her!
Willie wasn’t interested in any water on trail, nor did he want a drink from the troughs when we got back to Ridecamp for the vet check. However, when I picked up a sponge bucket full of water and held it up for him, he took a nice drink. Hey, whatever works! He only took a minute to pulse down to 60, so, so far I was quite pleased with his ride.
I took Willie to his pen for food (he wanted his grain, no hay, though later he did munch on a bit of alfalfa), and by the time I remembered - oh yea, I forgot to take him to the vet, (how long have I been doing this???), his pulse was down to 48. Yay!
We hooked up with Girl and Jill for the 9-mile second loop, which we took at a more casual pace.
At the finish, Willie pulsed down right away, just behind Layne and Atlas and Jill and Girl.
We went back to show for Best Condition in an hour; Willie’s CRI reflected a horse that wasn’t fit yet - 44/52, but that was not bad at all! We had a fun ride which was a great conditioning ride, which will help us toward our next Endurance ride.
And best of all, we finished before the crap weather hit. Bigger wind, rain/sleet/even bigger wind/dust/mud/ice pellets. Willie was safely ensconced in his blankets either dozing or munching, while the braver riders and horses kept doing their thing out on trail. Of course, once you’re already out in it, it’s not that big of a deal, but once you are finished and your horse is tucked away and comfortable and you are hiding in your car out of the elements, you’re grateful you’re not out in it.
A super special shoutout goes to the Volunteers Extraordinaire, Barb, Ann, Tami, Pam, Yvonne, Roz, Lynn and I sure hope I did not miss anybody, for toughing out that weather to patiently wait for riders to come in and pulse horses down. You guys rock! And that of course includes thanks to ride manager Regina and our super vets Jessica and Jake, out there in the storm vetting horses in as usual, with smiles on their faces, until the last ones came in! And thank you Steve Bradley for the photo!