Aprilfest and the Many Emilys

Friday night, my two pit crew kids, Ana and Emily (who I will call Emily1 for reasons that will become very clear), arrived here at the farm. They slept in the horse trailer that night so they’d be ready to go first thing Saturday morning.

We had to run down the road early to feed the horses at work and get back home to meet another Emily (who will be Emily2). Emily2 has a lovely little Quarter Horse named Duke. She emailed me some time ago about mentoring. So I’ve been answering her questions as best I can. Aprilfest was her first ride. It can be a bit hard to find the entrance to the ride site, so she followed us up with her truck and trailer.

The ride offered a 12 mile set speed ride and a ride n tie on Saturday, and then a 12 mile and a 25 mile set speed, and of course a 50 mile endurance on Sunday. Emily2 was planning on doing the 12 mile set speed rides both days. When Emily2 asked about resting heart rates, I offered to check Duke’s. Expecting a resting rate of 40 or more (given that he’s a Quarter Horse, not an Arab), I started listening. Holy. Cow. 28. That’s low. Especially given that he was freshly off the trailer, and had to be at least somewhat stressed at being in a whole new situation (though he sure didn’t look it!).

Dressy and I did the 12 mile set speed on Saturday. I am pretty sure I’ve never seen that many people in a 12 mile ride since I started in OCTRA. Up until last year, all our 12 mile rides were just mileage rides. But last year, set speed was voted in as a new discipline (sport) in OCTRA. And at the AGM in February, we decided to include Set Speed in the calculation of points towards the year end overall trophy (along with endurance, competitive trail, and ride n tie). So there’s a bit more incentive to ride even the shorter distances.

We rode with Sue and her good endurance horse, Clay. He’s a very mellow Arab. Just travels on down the trail. I’ve ridden with them before, and Dressy really quite likes Clay. She doesn’t always like other horses, often because they are too slow, or inconsistent in their speeds. It’s probably irregular speeds that bother her the most. But Clay goes steadily, and Dressy was very happy. Sue is fun to ride with. She has such a good time that it’s impossible to NOT have fun yourself.

My pit crew kids were awesome. We had another one join us at the ride… Viktoria. She’s a horse crazy kid that wandered up to me in a parking lot to visit my horse. We ended up chatting about distance riding and she got really interested. So her dad drove her up on Saturday for the afternoon. Chrystal’s daughter Olivia acted as the crew captain, since she has been crewing for years and is highly competent. The girls all sponged Dressy madly to get her cooled down at all the vet checks. Despite the cool weather, Dressy was very hot at every check. That may have been because of… well… all the fun (speed) we were having 🙂

I was very happy with Dressy’s final pulse on Saturday of 36. Her vet card was perfect, all A’s. Of couse it was only 12 miles, so really it should have been perfect. But that 36 meant that, since we finished at the maximum speed of 7mph, we got a Grade 1 completion (the best possible), and we tied for high score with Lesley and her lovely Anglo Arab, Tate. I have to give my pit crew credit for this one. Dressy is always too hot (temperature-wise, not temperament-wise… well, sometimes that too!) at competitions. Her heart rate is almost entirely dependent on how fast I can get her cooled down. By myself that can be a daunting task. But with Emily1, Anastasia, Viktoria, and Olivia all helping me sponge her, it made it much easier and faster.

Right after we finished, we tacked back up and headed out for the start of the 6 mile Ride n Tie. There were only two teams, so it was a lot quieter start than the 12 mile set speed. I teamed up with Chrystal’s older daughter, Emily. Who of course will have to be referred to as Emily3. She is a running enthusiast, which is my absolute favorite kind of ride n tie partner 🙂 I am an abysmally bad runner. But I have learned (with my experience of hotwalking thoroughbreds) to walk at a very good clip. So Emily3 started out running. I rode Dressy. FAST. All the way to the three mile check. There was a lay judge and another volunteer out there waiting for us. They were very startled to see me come in that quickly. I’m sure there must have been smoke drifting off Dressy’s hooves, given the speed we went. I jumped off and tied her, and left her there for Emily to vet through when she got that far. Then I started hiking. Made myself walk as fast as possible and only ran the downhills. I was pretty impressed to see, looking at my gps watch, that on the flat I can hike at up to around 4.5 mph. By the time Emily3, riding Dressy, caught up, I’d done 2.25 miles. I jumped on Dressy, rode her almost to the finish and tied her for Emily3 to ride to the finish. So we both finished before either of the other team (which included Em’s dad… who had to listen to the both of us crowing about it for the rest of the weekend).

So Saturday was a great day for Dressy. Two starts, two firsts 😀

Sunday we were in the 25 mile set speed ride. I had planned to enter the Silver level. But she’d done so well on Saturday, and though the mileage was not high, she went very fast all day. Fastest in the ride n tie actually (10-12 mph with lots of big hills). Silver level would have required that she go a bit faster yet (8mph). So I chose to drop her down to Bronze, which has a 7mph hour maximum average speed. And I’m glad I did. She had a great day, and did well, but it was enough.

We again went very fast on the first loop, riding with Sue and Clay for most of it, then dropping back to let her go. On the second loop I went out alone. Dressy trotted her slow trot for the entire loop. We didn’t walk at all, but didn’t hurry either. Chrystal and Emily3 caught up with us about 3 miles from the finish. Then gradually a whole lot of other horses started piling up behind us. Apparently riders are figuring out the strategy for set speed and are trying to hit that maximum speed. There were ten or fifteen horses at least who all finished right at the maximum speed.

Dressy’s final pulse was 48. Still very respectable and she got a grade 2. But her heart was rollercoastering a bit. Speeding up, slowing down. It’s a sign that she’s tired. Nothing wrong, and she still had all A’s on her vet card. But I know when she does that heart rate thing, she’s given it her all. So I’m glad I dropped her down to bronze.

She was absolutely STARVING after the 25. It was hard to get her to trot for the vet, because she was trotting over the FOOD (grass) and her mouth was sinking dowwwwwnnnnn to that luscious grass. I had a hard time getting her back to the trailer too… with all that diving for grass. After gobbling down all the food in sight, and a short nap, she was back to being bright eyed and sassy.

Emily2’s little guy, Duke, had a wonderful day too. Twice during the day he had pulses of 36. I was totally impressed with him. What a nice NICE little horse. Calm, well-behaved, and cheerful. Emily2 told me that he had a blast on the trails. Happy and forward. Duke looks like he’s going to be a star.

Sue and her horse Clay entered the Gold level of the set speed. She’s actually the first person in OCTRA to have attempted Gold. It’s a maximum average speed of 10mph. Like all the levels, in order to do well (grade 1), you have to get as close as you can to that maximum average and still have a very low final pulse. I’m not sure what Clay’s final pulse was, but it must have been good because they did achieve a grade 1 finish. So that’s far and away the best finish ever in a set speed event in Ontario.

Oh and in the endurance… Elaine won the ride. And BC. And high vet score. She had a very good day. Charlene was second. Michelle and Allieena fell, landing on Michelle’s ankle. Michelle finished the ride THEN went to the hospital to have it checked out.

On the way home in the truck, Anastasia was very enthusiastic when I asked if she wanted me to find her a ride n tie partner. So Emily3 and I may have additional competition at the next ride n tie.

Dressy was bright and cheerful this morning and quite happy to see me. I found a bit of heat in her left hind ankle, but then found a small abrasion right there. Looks like she probably banged herself on something. No lameness and no tenderness. So don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about. Though I’ll keep an eye on it.