There are probably a lot of grumpy endurance riders who rode today at the Oktoberfest ride in the Dufferin Forest. It was wet and cold, and got worse through the day. However, I am not one of them. Dressy and I had an absolutely marvelous day on the trails.
We rode in the 25 mile Set Speed ride with Chrystal who was riding her young mare Grace. It’s been a long road to competition for Grace. She came off the Arab racetrack a couple of years ago, and instantly came down with a dreadful case of EHV, badly complicated by bleeding ulcers. She nearly died of it. And once she recovered from that, she had to get over some behaviour issues that caused some injuries to herself (bolting and cutting a leg among other shenanigans). She’s a very competitive little mare, and very fast.
Chrystal is a good match for Grace. But Chrystal has a quirk. She does NOT like to get up in the morning. So as is usual with her, when the set speed horses started at 8am, Chrystal was still tacking up her horse. I rode Dressy in circles… round and round and ROUND. Dressy was not happy about it. She knew perfectly well that we were late and we had horses to catch. But eventually we got all sorted out and got going. With two minutes to spare before the cutoff start time of 20 minutes.
It did not take long before we started passing horses though. Grace quite obviously loved that. An entire day of passing other horses is exactly how Grace likes to organize things. And remembering how Grace behaved on trail just a year ago, I was really pretty impressed at how well she kept it together. Not too much sideways galloping, no knocking other horses off trail (or their feet), and only minimal running off without permission. Dressy was happy to go with Grace. She had no problem trotting after Grace’s gallop, and even broke to a gallop here and there.
At the mid veterinary check, Dressy was in great shape. She had a minus on gut sounds, but that was just hunger. She was otherwise all A’s. Grace also looked good. She often gets girth galls, but this time she seemed fine. The cooler weather probably helped.
We again were a bit late going out after our hold, so we lost another ten minutes. But both mares trucked right along and again started passing horses. I think we actually sped up throughout the loop. And towards the end, as we turned to go up a long grade, Grace picked up speed, and Dressy bolted to catch up. And she actually flattened out into a dead run. And she maintained it for a considerable distance. It was a balanced, fast, racing gallop. When I first started riding her a few years ago, she couldn’t gallop or canter at all. Then she developed a sort of off beat gallop. Quite a gangly odd thing. Then she sort of developed a better uphill gallop. Then managed it a few times on the flat. And lately she’s started doing a few strides of canter. But she has never flattened out before and run like that. I was a bit flabbergasted.
We walked in for the last mile and a half or so, as we were a bit ahead of our maximum speed (7mph in a bronze level ride) and needed to kill a bit of time. Dressy met parameter, and vetted through her 30 minute check with a Cardiac Recovery Index of 44/36. Which means that she had her pulse taken (44bpm) and then had to trot out 125 feet and back. Then have a second pulse (36) taken exactly 1 minute after the first pulse. It’s a measure of how quickly they recover. Normally you want to see the second pulse be no more than 8 beats higher than the first pulse. But Dressy was 8 beats LOWER. So there was no question that she was absolutely fine. Better than fine in fact, given that she also had all A’s and very loud gut sounds all the way around. She was perky and still trotting way faster than I could keep up with in her final trot out.
Both Grace and Dressy got a Grade 1 finish, which is the highest score you can get in a Graded Set Speed ride. Sort of like a perfect score. Misha thinks there were two other horses with Grade 1, and maybe one with Grade 3, and a bunch of Grade 4. But she rode the 50… in the pouring rain (not Misha’s favourite thing, rain!) and I am not sure if her brain was thawed enough to take it all in. So there could be more. She rode someone else’s horse to a 5th place finish (exactly the pace his owner wanted, so a big success).
Once we were done, we went back and I threw a rain sheet on her. And went to have a cup of hot chocolate (Chrystal’s daughter Olivia made it for me… Chrystal has the BEST kids!). However, on the way over, I ducked under the gooseneck hitch of their trailer, wearing the hood of my raincoat so I couldn’t see, and brought my head up just a little too soon. Oh man. I bashed my forehead so hard I went down like a felled tree. I am now sporting a big goose egg bump on my forehead. It was starting to bruise within a couple of minutes, so it’s probably going to be pretty tomorrow. Seems to be superficial though… no headache. Just a bit of residual humiliation.
It started to rain a bit harder while I was eating some lunch, so I went to check Dressy. She was starting to shiver, even with a blanket and a rain sheet. So I put her on the trailer, packed everything up, and brought her home without staying for the awards. She looks terrific now that she’s home. Bright eyed and happy. Ate her dinner and is back with her herd, Queen of the Universe.
I believe it was the best ride I’ve ever had on her. She was forward, fast, and steady all day. She didn’t overheat. We had absolutely no issues other than just WAY too much fun 🙂