Happily, the weather has cooperated for the 4H trail trial. It was warm and sunny and very little wind. Belle loaded beautifully – I never want to take that for granted. My student’s horse stepped up beside her, and we were down the road at 7 am. The location for these trails is in the Palmdale foothills. I was looking forward to some new sights and to hopefully get a chance to push Belle for a bit of sustained speed. The first set of riders finally headed down the trail at a little after 9 am. I went as an ‘outrider’ to just make sure the judges were in place, that the riders didn’t get lost and no body had any serious problems. I teamed up with Michelle who was doing the advance loop, and then was scheduled to be the drag rider, to pull the marker ribbons and tell the course judges that they could pack up and go home. We verified that the water crossing was safe, and even got to try a couple of the obstacles. It was a fairly short loop – the organizer said it was just under 2 ½ miles. As we completed the first loop around we saw that the final group of riders were on the trail. Michelle wanted to get a bag to collect the ribbons, but I knew I could just stash them in my water bottle carrier, and on my saddle pad. So, Belle and I set out for lap two, gathering up ribbons as we went. This meant I dismounted quite a few times, so we were not making much speed, but the terrain was challenging, with lots of steep up and downs, and lots of uneven footing. Belle had no trouble with going alone either. Separation anxiety can be such a drag!!! When we caught up with the competitors, I of course had to stop pulling ribbons. But I took my cell phone and took some photos of the other riders, and I just rode on by the groups.
This time I rode into camp, to hand off my ribbons – I am sorry I didn’t get a photo – belle was wearing pink surveyors ribbon all around her neck, and I had a dozen or so stuffed down my shirt! I off loaded the ribbons collected, and tied Belle to the trailer. She immediately ate and drank! Excellent skills for the race. I made a quick potty stop, and then got back in the saddle. This time we did the loop at a strong trot, and completed it in 20 minutes – but that isn’t fast enough. So we repeated the loop the 4th time with a Lot of cantering and trotting. We only walked when doing the water crossings and on a couple steep down hills. This time we finished in just over 15 minutes. That would count as a sustained 8 mph pace – which is good enough for us. Back at camp, I stayed in the saddle for a little while longer, walking up and down the roads to be sure she was well cooled out, and also reinforcing the calm walk. It also avoids sourness heading back to the trailer, if you keep riding when you get to camp. So all together I was in the saddle 2 ½ hours, we did over 10 miles and Belle was calm at the end but not tired. She Did break a real sweat on that final lap. I really want to complete 20 miles at least next week. I am sure we have nothing to worry about, and she will complete the race on May 15th without a problem, but I would still like one very long ride this next week, as we will be easing back on work May 9 – 14th. Belle is also scheduled to get a reset of her shoes this coming Tuesday. She has grown quite a bit of hoof – hard to say whether the increased work has stimulated growth, or if it is just having a shoe on to protect her foot from wearing away. Anyway, we are on the books with the farrier, so she should be just right for the race. I can see that it is going to be super tough to keep this motivation going after May 15th. But I have to remember that Robin needs to go to Tevis – so we will keep training. And I will hopefully aim for a 50 mile race in October. If I get lucky and Belle sells, then I will put Louie into work, he is already basically fit, and it won’t take much to get him ‘up to speed’. Selling Belle would be such a good thing, I am happy to cope with any challenges it presents. mw