Our First Endurance Ride.
Foxcatcher is my maiden voyage into the world of endurance riding. Nakai and I spent the last year and a half tagging along on conditioning rides while gleaning as much information as possible from M, J, and T. Each of them had unique experiences and tips. Their wealth of knowledge helped to prepare, but nothing teaches you quite like experience.
M and I packed the trailer with room to spare and loaded up the ponies Friday morning. The drive down was windy but uneventful (still thanking the traffic Gods that the turnpike and I-95 behaved themselves!). We arrived ahead of schedule and set up camp. Vetting was a breeze and Nakai vetted in with all A’s, as did Rose. Nakai was his quiet self, checking out his new digs for the weekend with mild curiosity (I had no idea how much this would change!).
It hit me suddenly that this was really happening and anxiety set in. Not sure if I was going to puke or laugh, we set about tacking up for a warm up ride. T showed up as we were saddling, and she joined us into the tunnel and out onto the expansive cross country field.
Warm-up was a short 5 miles and Nakai felt fantastic. He and Rose are lovely together (albeit a little… competitive). They do feed off each other’s energy, and I was wondering how Kai was going to handle the start and riding in a pack.
With the wind blowing violently, we headed back to camp and put together a plan for the morning. I had made a blanket nest in the Ford to sleep. On the plus side, I was so warm! Downside, I made it too warm – my top blanket was wet from condensation, and the entire truck was fogged!
Morning comes and I am feeling sick from nerves. What have I done? Can we do this? Is it fair to make him do this?? The wind had calmed, but the forecast was still the same – up to an inch of snow possibly along with rain and periods of freezing mix. Mother nature did not disappoint! The rain followed the start. As the trail opened and riders cantered off in a pack, Nakai picked up a quiet trot and followed Rose. He was excellent on trail! Although interested in the rest of the horses, he kept his own pace and let me “ride my own ride”. I rode conservatively, not sure how the extra stress would sit with him (or myself). This seemed to be an unnecessary worry, however. Sometime from July 2015 to February, Nakai went completely blind in his right eye (this is his ERU eye). Despite this handicap he handled the deteriorating trail conditions perfectly. He navigated the rolling hills and wooded switchbacks beautifully! He trotted, cantered, and hand galloped on a loose rein.
Rose was convinced that she could easily top 10 this ride, and challenged M the entire 15 miles of the first loop. M decided she needed to hand walk Rose, so we came into the hold alone and totally unsure of what to do. I made the mistake of asking “what first?” and in return had 5 people telling me five different things. Nakai came into the hold with a pulse of 60, but it rose to 68 – he nickered and whinnied at everyone, including the pulse taker! I needed to keep him with Rose during vetting to keep his pulse down. I had trouble controlling my own emotions when he wouldn’t stay quiet, and T took him from me and gave me a moment to pull myself together.
I was soaked through, and both M and I changed during the hold. It was really coming down now!
The second loop was considerably more snowy, and the footing was quickly changing from sloppy to dangerous. The hills were covered in a snow/icy combination, and the wooded trails were muddy and slick.
(This was the beginning of loop two)
Despite the conditions, I was having a blast! As long as we kept moving I did not notice the cold or wet, and M was smiling again. The last 10 miles flew by, and before I was ready we came into the finish! Both horses vetted in great – Rose had all A’s, and Nakai has all A’s except for B+ on mucus membranes, cap & jug refill. He improved those (they were originally B’s at the hold) and he went from a B on skin tenting to an A! We completed!! He took longer to pulse down (still chattering to Rose and anyone who would listen), but he did not take long to do so.
Soaked to the bone again, we changed and set the horses up in their pen. I crashed in the truck only to be awoken to T telling me that Nakai was kicking Rose! He was cranky after the ride and taking it out on her. I felt terrible; this was totally out of character for my horse (he is low man in a herd setting). Needless to say, I was embarrassed and mortified! We separated them and I apologized repeatedly to M. Poor Rose! I now know better, and the next ride I will set up a separate pen so we don’t have this issue again.
All three of us ran into town for dinner, and I reflected on my accomplishment. What a day! It was an emotional (and weather-related) roller coaster! We woke up this morning to two sound horses. Nakai was a little stiff, but after a good roll and some walking around he worked out of it. The drive home was uneventful, and I have never been so happy to get a shower. This ride also jump-started my metabolism; I am 5 pounds down since Friday and am hungry every couple of hours!