For the first time ever, a ride went off without a hitch! No spills, no stress, my horse was fit and took care of himself- everything was perfect!
This was our first two day ride and I am so proud of Boomer for finishing so strong! We did 50 miles Saturday and 50 miles Sunday. I am so amazed by him! He didn't feel any weaker on Sunday than he did Saturday. Our time Sunday was only about 40 minutes slower than Saturday! How awesome is that! Each loop was about 15 minutes slower than we did it the first day- which is pretty darn consistent!
John and I headed to Washburn, MO on Friday morning. We got to ride camp around 2 pm and set up camp. There were already a ton of people there and parking was tight. I got us between the woods and a large tree so that Boomer could have shade. It ended up being a nice setup. We were at the back of camp and only had 3 other rigs in our area.
We vetted in and Boomer pulsed in at his usual 44 and got A's on all of his scores. His pulse is usually 36 or 40 at home or by the trailer and seems to always be just a tad higher at the check in areas.
Washburn, MO is in the SW corner of the state and is in the Ozark Mountains. I don't know what I expected, but this ride is HARD. I later heard from a few people that this is considered the hardest ride in the area.
Boomer started out on ride morning nice and relaxed. As soon as we started trotting down the road he turned in to the crazy horse. He just does NOT like being passed. I tried to start towards the front so that we could maybe get away from traffic, but his trot just isn't as fast as other horses. So, we got passed and he threw a fit. He likes to swing his hips out in front of the horses who are trying to pass us. Not nice. I apologized and the people passing were nice and said something to the extent of "I've been there too". After about an hour he was much calmer.
By the second loop of the first day I ended up riding with Eric, a guy from Kansas City. We rode together both days. He rode two super sweet mares. We 'turtled' both days. First day, he got turtle and second day I got turtle. It was really nice to have a riding buddy. I enjoy riding alone or with a friend, but it was a nice trail to have a friend because it did get slow at times with the hills and rocks.
The trail had hills. Steep hills. Long hills. Hills covered in flint rock gravel. Boomer learned to tail me up hills. I learned to ski down hills. Boomer really seems to be a powerhouse about hills. He loves to go up hills. I did get off for most of them (there were probably 4-6 hills per loop) but sometimes I would stay on when I felt him getting determined about heading up.
The best part of this trip for me what how much Boomer and I both learned. We did a few new things and I was so impressed by how well Boomer handled them! First was being sponged. I won a sponge leash at the Okmulgee Cougar Prowl and this weekend was a ride that required sponging because of the heat. I was a little nervous about his reaction to me tossing a sponge off him because he has been nervous about me riding while holding things. However, he handled it like a champ and by the 3rd or 4th time he didn't even care because it felt so darn good!
Tailing uphill was another new thing. For those who haven't done it before, tailing is where you unclip your reins and hold them in your left hand like a lead rope and hold the horses tail with your right hand while he goes up a hill and pulls you along. It helps you get up the hill and saves a ton of energy for the horse since he doesn't have to carry you. The first time we did this we were behind Eric and Rouge and he just went right along like he had been doing it his whole life!
Perhaps the most important part of the weekend and the one that took a HUGE weight off my shoulders was that Boomer finally learned to take care of himself and drink. In the past, he has never drank before 30 miles. Not on the trail and not at camp. After that he will drink at camp a little and he might drink on the trail. He would ever drink out of the communal buckets at the vet stops. This was very stressful for me because I was afraid that we wouldn't ever be able to do summer rides and that he was going to be difficult to maintain metabolically. I guess the heat and hard work got to him because on the first day he drank about 22 miles in out on the trail and then he drank consistently after that. On the second day, he drank about 5 miles in to the trail and at every single stop on the trail. He also drank deeply from any bucket at camp. I know this doesn't sound like a huge deal, but it is something that, to me, determines his suitability in this sport! In the past we have tried everything- soggy beet pulp, grain mixed with water, Horse Quencher, etc. Nothing worked. It was something that stressed me out to no end. So, to have him drinking at streams, ponds, puddles, buckets, and tubs means the world to me! He drank and ate all day and his scores showed it!
Another thing that was new was that we rode the last 25 miles of Sunday's ride in just a halter. Boomer was not that interested in eating and when he did eat, he ended up spitting out wads of chewed grass that got stuck in his bit. So, I just took of the bridle part of his halter/bridle and hooked my reins to the sides of the halter. He was no different to ride and he ate MUCH better. So, that was pretty cool! Probably can't do that at the beginning of a ride, but it will surely help for the last two loops!
After we got home on Monday, Boomer stepped off of the trailer like he was fresh and ready to go. He was arching his neck and prancing and I almost wanted a stud chain for him! I had to have John hold him in the wash rack to hose him off, he was acting like he used to 2 years ago! He had so much energy and was so excited to be home! I was floored that he was so fit after doing 100 miles and riding in the trailer for 5 hours! He got out to the pasture and trotted around, chasing the others and having a grand time!
What a fun way to spend Memorial Day Weekend! John was great to me as usual! He is an incredible crew. He always has beet pulp soaking, a bucket for sponge water, and a camera (he took over 200 pictures this weekend!). He sits at the trail head in to camp and waits for us with Charley and a camera. It is so nice to come around a corner and see him there. I would wave, hop off, water the horse and then head to the vet area. John would run Charley to the trailer and then meet me at the pulse area to strip tack and sponge. Then he was right there to help me tack back up when it was time to head back out! Not to mention that he drove to get more water, ice, bug spray, cheeseburgers, etc! I know lots of people do this sport on their own, but it is so amazing to have my best friend and husband there to crew for me and support me.