Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not So Wet For Once! (Maplewood West 2012)

Eight years ago, I did my first ever distance ride - the 12 mile novice - at this ride with Red.  It was the start of passion probably unexplainable in words as it is now simply a part of who I am.  And so, this ride is always an anniversary of sorts, and a particular nostalgic favorite ride of mine.  I was fortunate enough this year to be able to tag along with Candy and her crew, and meet up with the North Dakota gals for camping and camaraderie.
Rhio waiting to get on the road in Candy's big trailer
We rolled into camp mid-afternoon on Friday, to warm weather, sunny skies, and the happy faces of our distance family waving, smiling, and offering greetings right and left.  After the normal flurry of activity getting camp set up and horses situated, we registered for our respective rides and settled in to wait for vetting to begin later in the afternoon.  Lynne was kind enough to set up an electric pen for Rhio next to Niso and Charlie, as well as offer space in her trailer for me.  Rhio immediately made himself comfortable, settling in for a snooze on his hay.
Yep, snoozing on the bed of hay he fashioned for himself.
Around dinner, an extremely friendly and vocal young cat appeared out of the woods, scrawny and ill kept with burrs in his tail but a purr to rival a diesel engine.  Part Siamese, and with his boy parts intact, he was either a well-traveled stray or perhaps a stowaway from a horse trailer?  He would not be the first nor the last kitty to hop into the trailer at home unnoticed and unintentionally arrive at a fair, show, or horse camp.  The little guy accepted offerings of moist dog food, and later bits of chicken, then settled into the grass nearby to hang out.  He was quite healthy despite needing some groceries and a good grooming, and several members of the group discussed adding him to their families. In the end he was delivered to one of the ride vets, and apparently spent the night sleeping on one side of her while her Corgis slept on the other.  What he didn't know was that he was destined to be neutered there on the spot on Saturday!  There are not many vets that can resist neutering a cat once he or she has got the poor unsuspecting feline in possession.  
Wondering if I'll refill his feed tub with something good.
It always takes longer than I think to get ready for the morning and settled for the night, but eventually we all crawled into bed. A chorus of loons, owls, and frogs either annoyed or soothed us, depending on our state of mind, and fireflies flashed outside the windows as I slipped into sleep.  We were not starting until 7 am, so I did not even have to rise before the sun - what a luxury!

Around 5, I got up and fed Rhio, then got myself ready and ate some breakfast while he was eating.  Once we both finished, we headed over to Candy's trailer, where I'd left all my tack, to finish getting ready.  Rhio and I were planning to ride the 50 with Candy and Windsor, and we mounted up in the cool stillness of a foggy dawn.   Heading out on trail with the rest of the 50s, we settled in near the front of the pack and got down to the business of putting miles beneath our hooves.  Windsor and Rhio travel well together, though Windsor is a faster trotter and Rhio canters along to keep up.  This works just fine as Rhio is very efficient in his canter and easy to ride.  The first loop flew by, and we were back in camp before we knew it.  Rhio took about 10 minutes to pulse down, because he had to pee, and that put us a few minutes back from Candy's out time for the 2nd loop.  We took the horses back to the trailer for the 40 minute hold, letting them eat grass, and shed our outer layers as the day was warming up.
Foggy early morning warming up
On loop 2, Candy headed out about 5 minutes ahead of us and I thought we'd catch her pretty quickly.  Rhio and I raced along expecting to see Windsor around every bend in the trail, but it took us about 3 1/2 miles to catch up when we found them at a water stop.  From that point on, Windsor and Rhio did everything in parallel, including pulsing down at the checks and heading back out on trail.  Both horses enjoy company and knew they were buddies for the day.
Enjoying the trail together
The trails at Maplewood State Park are really lovely.  They are a mixture of shaded lanes, two-track, and single track through the dappled light of hardwood forest and sunny prairie tracks around small glacier-carved lakes and ponds.  The rolling country gives the horses a chance to change up the muscles they are using with hill climbs and descents, and nice long open spaces to canter.  Bob the photographer picked a lovely cantering spot to station himself for the day, and got lots of action shots of all the riders.  The horse trails are shared with hikers, and in fact pass by several hike-in campsites.  One of these is also a water stop, as there is pond access with decent footing, but the access is literally right in the middle of the campsite.  I hope the campers were warned about the plethora of horses coming through, and the earliness of the hour at which we began shaking the ground they were lying on with our hoofbeats!  We actually did not utilize this particular water stop on the first loop, as the way was blocked by a large camouflage "worm" lying on the ground.  I presume there was a person sleeping, or, rather, trying to sleep, inside said cocoon, but all I could think was "please don't move! please don't move!" as we walked past.  A human-size wriggling worm would certainly have put the horses into flight mode.
Water stop at the boat landing
Lest you think I leave out the unsavory details in my ride stories, Rhio and I unexpectedly parted ways at the start of the third loop, with me landing very ungracefully on the ground.  I have no idea what spooked him - we were still in camp not even to the trail head yet - but he slipped out from under me in a flash and there I was in a heap on the ground.  None the worse for my unplanned dismount, I jumped back on, hoping no one noticed, and we were off.  (I did kind of suspect that my left shoulder might be a little stiff on Sunday, since I landed on it - and those suspicions were confirmed.)  We also nearly stepped on a dead raccoon, I think on the 2nd loop.  Rhio swung out around a branch lying on the trail, and I looked down to see us passing over a smooshed dead furry something.  Later in the ride, when we passed that spot again, I confirmed that it was a raccoon.
One of our holds
Heading out on our 4th and final loop, we saw the winner of the 50 heading in and knew we would be over an hour behind him, but we were still running in 4th and 5th positions overall.  The horses kept pacing well together and we just kept covering ground without rushing or dallying.  Our nearest competitors caught us about 3 miles from the finish, and the four of us rode in together, agreeing not to race and to hold our current placing.  We crossed the finish line together, Candy and Windsor taking 4th lightweight and overall, Rhio and I taking 1st heavyweight and 5th overall, Joel and Chazzy taking 2nd heavyweight and 6th overall, and Amber (? I think?) and Harley taking 1st junior and 7th overall.  It was the first 50 for both Joel and Amber - way to go guys!  Rhio brought home our second blue ribbon ever and looked like a million bucks doing it.  I'm so proud of him!  175 competition miles in 4 days of riding at 3 rides in just 5 weeks, and he makes it seem so effortless.
Sunday morning ready to ride!

The gang (L-R): Jutta/Rolex, Donna/Gandloph, me/Rhio, Lynne/Niso, Mel/Charlie
Sunday morning dawned cloudy and threatening rain, the threat of which turned into an intermittent light rain/heavy drizzle, but we intrepid riders mounted up and headed out for a blissful group ride.  Many thanks to Lynne for lending me her bareback pad - my poor rubbed left calf had gotten a pretty good pinch by the end of 50 miles from my stirrup strap on that side - and off we went with Donna atop Jutta's mount Gandolph and Mel with regal old Charlie (he reminds me so much of Cricket!).  Rhio was raring to go, jigging on trail and edging his way forward through the group to the lead.  You might think he'd enjoy taking it easy for a change!  A short way into the ride, Jutta and Donna switched mounts, so that Donna was aboard Rolex (remember this?  http://trotthetrail.blogspot.com/2011/09/dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde.html) and we continued on until I had to dismount to get Rhio across a black plastic corrugated culvert, which we had crossed twice on Saturday, the first time with no issue and the second time with a leap and a little crowhop.  This time, faced with it, he said "No way!"  I have no idea why it was such an issue, but even with me on the ground leading him, he was awfully wary and didn't want to cross it.  Sometimes I certainly wish I knew what he was thinking!  Thankfully Mel dismounted to give me a boost back up, since mounting from the ground with a bareback pad is impossible (for me, at least).  We continued on for a several hour ride, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and each other's company.  I wish we could do this more often!
Always so happy to be on my horse!
The trip home was uneventful and included the requisite Dairy Queen stop.  I wish I didn't have to miss the next ride, this weekend at Forestville State Park.  We'll have about a month off until Mosquito Run in July.  

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