Summer’s End Ride

On Friday, we loaded up Diego and Ella to go Summer’s End. Ella (Spanish Lady) is technically my horse. She’s another of my Standardbred re-homing projects. She was given to me by a trainer who wanted her to go to someone nice. Veronica has been leasing her since last winter, and they’ve gradually been getting fitter together. I suspect that I will have to officially hand over the ownership very soon, since Veronica is getting quite attached.

We took the horses over to Chrystal’s place, which is just a few minutes from the ridecamp, so we could visit a little bit. Nancy and Charlotte were visiting too, so we put the horses out in the back paddock and they chowed down happily.

Diego and Ella in the early morning mist at Chrystal's place.
Diego and Ella in the early morning mist at Chrystal’s place.

On Saturday, I was teaching at the distance riding clinic, but it didn’t start until noon, so Diego and I went out for a ride with Nancy and Luba. But first we had to get tacked up and out of the yard. Diego was very worried about being taken away from Ella (he’s still very herd-bound). And Luba didn’t really want to leave her new boyfriend, Seneca, in the next paddock. I had just gotten on Diego, when Luba managed to untie herself from the trailer and go trotting back to Seneca. Which pretty much sent Diego into his crazy head space. We went around in a whole lot of circles for a while, until Nancy and Luba were ready to go. Walking out was a bit more exciting than I might have wished. It doesn’t help that I am never very happy riding around open fields, since they used to set off King’s opportunistic yahoo moments, and thus tend to be a little tenser than normal. But once we got across the hay field and on the trail, Diego subsided back into his usual mild-mannered self.

Luba floated along in a very mellow trot, and Diego jogged along on a loose rein. It turned into a lovely ride. I taught Nancy my riding song. “Riding on a Donkey”, which I learned from my mother back when I was about three years old. (It’s not the same lyrics as the Great Big Sea song.) It’s in 3/4 time, which works really well with both trot and canter, so I’ve always used it when I want to settle my horse (horses don’t mind off-key singing NEARLY as much as humans!).

We had to leave for the clinic as soon as we got back from our little ride, so we rushed out to Chrystal’s van, got Nancy’s daughter Charlotte loaded into the van and headed out. Just down the road, my cell phone rang. Oh. “Umm… Hi Veronica. Guess I forgot you hmmm?” Had to turn around and go back for her. Not one of my finer moments obviously. Oh well. Veronica will get plenty of mileage out of that one I’m sure…

The clinic went pretty well. It can be hard to keep it all on track and focused, but I think we managed to get most of the basic information presented. My talk was really just a step by step walkthough of a 12 mile set speed ride for a complete beginner. There were lots of questions, and everyone seemed quite enthusiastic. Phyllis, the ride manager, is very organized, so not much ever goes wrong at her events.

We stayed at Chrystal’s on Saturday night too. I didn’t sleep well though, because I spent half the night worrying about how to make sure Diego and Ella didn’t see each other during the ride, since I was doing the 25 and Veronica was doing 12.

Prophetic as it turns out. Both horses were calm and well behaved trailering over and going through vetting (Ella paced instead of trotted… every step of every trot out all day. To the great amusement of the vets) until I tacked up Diego and tried to ride away from Ella. Then they both started yelling at each other… “Don’t LEAVE me!!!” Luckily for me, I was the one going out. Once Diego was on trail, he was perfectly fine. Ella, who is normally a placid slug of a horse, was circling Veronica and having a bit of a hissy fit. It sounds like Veronica was pretty stressed trying to deal with it all. But she did manage, with a bit of help from Sandy’s pit crew (I have forgotten her name… but she was wonderful! Helped me a lot too.). They went out an hour after me, and luckily they went out with Emily and her wonderful little Quarter Horse, Duke. He is just about the steadiest little horse ever. He trots along like a metronome. Up hills, down hills, around corners. In perfect rhythm. No spook, no fuss.

I was riding with Sandy and Benson. Last ride, Benson was very spooky for some reason. But this time, he was back to his usual perfect self. Diego was very good through the first loop. We made good time. The trail was lovely. It’s the Ganaraska Forest, and the footing is sandy. There were lots of water stops. One section was an out-and-back that had a deck of playing cards at the end. We had to bring back a card to prove that we’d done the full distance. Although there was no announced prize of any sort, I thought it might be a good idea to take cards that seemed likely to be part of a good hand. Benson wouldn’t step quite close enough to the post, so I grabbed the deck and looked through it. Picked out an ace of spades for me, and an ace of hearts for Sandy.

For much of that first loop, Diego followed Benson. But over the last few miles he definitely started picking up speed. He seemed to know the loop was nearly over and I suspect he was going back to find Ella.

At the mid-check, Diego had one minus on gut sounds (out of four quadrants), which was mostly just because he needed to eat. I took him over to Sandy’s trailer and he scarfed down a lot of his feed tub. Sandy was very impressed by Diego’s feed tub actually. I had put a selection of things in it for him in different piles. Carrots, roughage chunks, trimax, and beet pulp. With perform n win electrolytes sprinkled all over it. He at the carrots first, then the roughage chunks then beet pulp and trimax. And a flake of hay too. Very hungry boy.

In the meantime Veronica and Ella came in, so I ran over to make sure all was well. Veronica was trying to bribe the judge into pulling Ella. But it didn’t work. Ella was fine πŸ™‚

I wasted quite a bit of my hold doing that though, and Diego had realized that Ella was somewhere around, so it took a bit of extra time to get him standing to be tacked up and mounted. Dave, bless him, came to my rescue and held him for me. We were about 9 minutes late going out. Which is bad, because the clock runs whether you’re on trail or not.

The first part of the loop went well. Diego settled right back down to work. When we got to the playing cards, Benson was more willing to step up to the post. Sandy handed me an eight of spades. I made a face at that, so she sorted through and found two queens instead. The queen of hearts and a queen of spades. Yep. Much better πŸ™‚

The 12 and 25 mile trails converged and diverged at different points. So we did occasionally run across 12 mile riders. And eventually, Duke and Ella turned up behind us. GAH! I quickly turned Diego face first into a bush so he couldn’t see Ella. They rushed on by, trying to get out of sight. I don’t think Ella knew it was Diego. But Diego must have caught a glimpse of Ella, despite the face full of leaves. At first he just seemed a little confused. But then he decided to go after whatever horse that was, just in CASE is really was Ella. So we spent the next mile or two prancing and dancing. Circling back behind Benson. Galloping sideways. Tossing head. Circling behind Benson. Bouncing. Circling behind Benson. We lost a ton of time to this foolishness. Once the 12 and 25 mile trails separated again, I was able to let him move out a little bit behind a couple of horses that passed us. That seemed to help him blow off a bit of steam. Then we hit some single track trail and we put Benson in front to block. After that Diego settled down and behaved.

We used up a lot of time on that second loop unfortunately. Between going out late, and bouncing sideways down the trail for a couple of miles, we dropped down to just under 6 mph. But Diego’s heart rate was good at the end, and it was a hot day so there were lots of higher heart rates. We ended up 11th out of 19.

Veronica and Ella had come in just a little before us. So I heard the war whoop Veronica gave when they told her that Ella had passed her final check in good shape. I think she might have scared the vet a little bit, since the riders are usually too tired to make that much noise. Veronica probably IS too tired to make much noise today. She looked nearly catatonic by the time she’d eaten her dinner and gotten her award.

There were no pulls at all this ride. One final heart rate that was slightly high, so the horse got a mileage completion. But everyone finished despite the warm weather.

It had occurred to me that maybe Sandy and I ought to swap playing cards so we each had a pair. I had no idea what sort of scheme might be in place for those cards. But knowing Phyllis, I figured there had to be something. Luckily I never got around to swapping with Sandy. The award was for 21. We each had a queen and an ace. Sandy and I tied for that award. We got hats. A very nice black cap with the ride name embroidered on the front.

And the best news of the day for me… Diego’s back was perfectly fine at the end!!! I did surgery on my good Christ pad. I split a 3/4 inch Cashel foam pad lengthwise and used it along with the regular inserts to build up the Christ pad so there was a good spine channel for the Barefoot London, which is a treeless dressage saddle. I asked the ride vet to check twice to make absolutely sure his back was fine at the end. And then I checked him again myself before I loaded him up to go home. And I checked him again this morning. All good πŸ™‚

Overall, it was a pretty successful ride. Veronica and Ella finished their first competition. Diego’s herd-bound issues are nothing new. It is the biggest remaining issue that we have to work on. But he wasn’t all that terrible. He didn’t buck or attempt to drop me in the nearest shrubbery (though Sandy thinks she saw a tiny little levade in all that silliness). Just fussed himself into a lather. It was very irritating and frustrating for me, but it didn’t feel dangerous. The saddle fit thing seems to be solved for the moment anyway. Which should allow us to at least do 25-30 mile rides. Progress!

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