You guys. Last weekend we did one of those paces. It was not fun.
The last time I did this particular pace was a few years ago in the spring with Bobby. I remember it being a lot of fun because of its level of difficulty. It's run by the local hunt club and is therefore run over hunt country--big, open sprawling fields into hilly forests with Novice sized coops in every fence line. That was a shit ton of fun with Bobby who had been eventing for years at that point and was too stupid to say no to anything.
|me: bobby, jump this prelim skinny from a trot|
bobby: sounds like a really good idea!
I wasn't expecting to jump anything with Opie so I figured ruling that out would lower the difficulty level to easy peasy. Enjoyable for my often trail ridden young horse, even with some greener horses and greener riders my barn was bringing along.
Then Farrier asked if I wanted to ride with her instead. Of course! Take out the green horse and rider company and it just got even more fun! Sadly Farrier's trailer ramp broke the day before the pace. No worries, back to my barn mates.
The morning of the pace, BM texts me and tells me she won't be riding either because she crushed her foot and bashed her knee. She follows that up by telling me that left me paired up with the greenest horse in the barn and a rider with no chill. I quickly squash that plan and told her we'd all travel in a pack--Opie and I, the junior rider I had ride Opie while I was gone on an experienced pony, a green rider on a usually broke adventure horse, a fellow boarder on the best Chancey Pants ever, and this neon green mare with her hit-or-miss rider.
A and I jump in my truck with Opie in tow and despite trying to keep BM in my sights behind me, we get separated getting on the interstate. No worries, she can't be too far behind me and we'll be able to park one behind the other on the side of the road where the pace is. I get to the final intersection and waffle there for a moment. Turn left and go past where the horse trials are held, travelling down the gravel road for longer first thing, or turn right and travel down the real road leaving the gravel road for the trip home?
I turn right. And then I get to where the pace is supposed to start and no one is to be found. No worries, we'll just keep driving down the road. It's all hunt country back there, we'll run into it somewhere!
We drive for eternity. We hit gravel road. We see nothing. BM calls me. She made the same decision and is somewhere not too far behind me, also wondering where the fuck everyone is.
Eventually we start seeing horse crossing signs. We see a pair of horses galloping across a hill on the horizon. We see no trailers parked anywhere. We pass another trailer going the opposite direction looking lost AF. We drive some more.
Finally BM--still on the phone--says she happened to glance down a side road and saw trailer parking. What road is it? The road where the horse trials are held. If I had turned left instead, we would have run right into it. No signage, of course, and on the website it does not say "ROOTS FUCKING TAVERN ROAD" which anyone would have been able to find in two seconds.
I pull a u-turn in the middle of an intersection and make my way back to where I'm supposed to be. I get Opie tacked up in the middle of the road without fuss and jump on while my pack of barn mates turn into loopy clueless beginners. I've said it before, but BM does not get paid enough to do her job. How she managed to wrangle four horses and four riders by herself is some voodoo magic. Finally everyone was aboard, we paid and signed away our souls, and set off into the woods.
Right off the bat, the mare loses her shit and goes cantering by Opie. Her rider seems in control at least so I leave her to her own devices. Let them get their stupids out off the bat so they'll be tired sooner and behave for the rest of the pace. The trail makes a sharp turn so we all come back to a walk. I can see a creek crossing ahead so call up Chance. Opie loves water, and he loves trail rides, but he does not love mud and he jumps any creek crossing he can. He'll worry over it before I convince him to go if he's by himself, but he'll follow another horse right over.
|dopie says he'd rather go swim in the genesee river|
Good thing we had the best trail boi that ever did live with us. This creek crossing was an actual drop down into a flowing, rock strewn creek bed with a jump up to get back out. Chance navigates it calmly so Opie jumps in after him and launches himself back out. Everyone else follows suit without much drama and off we go again.
We come out into a big field where we pick up the trot again and all hell breaks loose as everyone goes shooting past me, one of the horses dropping his head and bolting, the mare starts bucking, everyone is BAD and I HATE THEM. I scream out in the Voice of God to WALK RIGHT THIS SECOND and gather everyone back behind me. New rule: No one passes Opie, none of you can be trusted, for fuck's sake.
We finish walking the edge of the field and come to our next obstacle: an actual vertical cliff side. I shit you not. I let everyone make their own choice, but I get off. The rest follow suit. Muttering curse words under my breath, clinging to trees as I slide down half on my feet and half on my ass, hoping Opie doesn't pull a shoe or slide right by me in the mud, we all make it to the bottom. Everyone gets remounted, and then immediately we come to the next creek crossing which is even bigger and worse than the first one.
Even Chance takes a few seconds to figure out how to get across. I bash Opie's head into a tree semi-unintentionally as he impatiently waits for Chance to pick his way through it. The mare throws a shit fit and refuses to get close to it. We call the other two riders across hoping she'll think she's getting left behind and follow, only at that point two more riders have come up behind us. I'm yelling at the rider to kick the shit out of this naughty mare who at this point doesn't even care about the water, she's just throwing a straight up tantrum. Finally, one of the riders behind her, an older gentleman who has clearly been around the block, basically chases/pushes the mare into water where she calmly splashes through.
From there on out, for awhile, it's pretty drama free. THANK FUCKING GOD. There are a few logs we have to jump which Opie takes in stride from the lead without fuss. Road crossings, lots of trotting through the fields as I try to get this pace over with as quickly as possible without anyone taking off again, and another creek crossing that's so wide everyone wades in without complaint.
We finally get to a narrow bridle path with a fence on one side and woods on the other. Everyone behind me looks tired so I let the group ooze into a canter with instructions to stay behind me. Ram naughty horses up Dopie's butt, he won't care. I don't want to chase bad horses down if someone gets out in front of me and loses their shit. Again.
A, for whatever reason, does not seem to comprehend this. Whether she took it as a personal affront to her and Chance, or she wasn't understanding what I was saying, she passes by me and sends Chance off into this speed eating trot that Opie can't keep up with at the canter.
"Don't let the other horses get by Opie, it will upset him," she calls out to everyone else.
"No," I correct. "He's so lazy he doesn't care if someone else leads. I just don't want people ahead of me where I will have to chase them down if they get into trouble."
We'd talked earlier in the ride about how Chance likes to zoom with the lead horse, but once he gets in front he doesn't like to actually be leading so he slows down to a crawl. "Don't do that," I joke with her. "There's no point in being in front if you're going to be the slowest of the group."
Now having zipped past me, she keeps him gunned and tells me, "Is this fast enough for you? He's not slow now!"
Does anyone see where this is going?
We come back to a walk to navigate a muddy, ditchy crossing and when we hit a field again A instantly urges Chance into his super sonic trot again. I let Opie step into a lazy lope that's easier for both of us, and two seconds later I hear commotion from behind. The green rider is laying on the ground and her horse is being grabbed by the junior rider. I yell at A to come back and go find out what happened. When Chance and Opie set off again, her horse--who had already bolted on her once at the beginning of the ride, which is not characteristic of him--pulled the same stunt. She popped off and he clipped her knee with a foot as she fell.
SO FUCKING OVER THESE NAUGHTY HORSES AND THIS FUCKING PACE, I tell her she's going to ride Opie the rest of the way. I know we can't be that far from the finish, and we'll walk the whole fucking thing from here.
|i then had to drop my stirrups five holes this morning.|
We get her up and she's sore and uncomfortable but otherwise fine. Opie lets her climb aboard from the offside with help from A and then stands there munching grass while I wallop her naughty bastard in the fat gut with my unicorn whip when he tries to book it when I go to mount. Once on, Opie retakes the lead and Mr Bolty Pants and I have one immediate, firm discussion when he thinks running again would be more fun than hanging out at the back walking. From there on out he plods along on a loose rein.
Fucking heifer gelding.
Fortunately, we were one hill and field away from the finish. Opie gets to lope across the finish line while BAD HORSE gets to do the slowest trot of his life before walking across.
In conclusion, Opie was the only good thing about this pace. He went on a looped rein the entire ride no matter the speed. He jumped whatever was in front of him, he did his bugaboo creek crossings with no fuss, he stood to the side and waited while the junior rider jumped some of the coops, and he let a completely green rider with a busted knee ride him back into the lead and got her safely home without putting a foot out of line. He hung out in the road while I got him dressed and undressed, and marched onto the trailer with zero hesitation.
The next day we celebrated two years together by feeding him a pound of carrots with a few peppermints as a chaser. Well deserved for A Very Good Boy.
|the best cookie monster|