Well, it finally happened! This weekend I rode in my very first Endurance Ride at the Colorado Horse Park Challenge. I did the 25 miler with my experienced enthusiastic Arab mare. The weather was beautiful (the thunderstorms were a little coolish), the facility was really nice for both people and horses (my guys got to stay in a panel paddock together, my husband and I were able to use the showers!), the trail was incredibly well marked (woohoo!), the ride itself was pretty easy (granted I have nothing to judge it by), the ride management were all incredibly helpful and friendly, the awards meal was yummy, the prizes offered were top-notch, and most of all, the people that we met were so very nice! (A big change from a lot of the show circuit people that we meet.)
We started off our weekend on Friday by going to the CAHC Fall Arabian Show in Denver, our ponies showed in the over fences classes (Musik outdid herself yet again!) and the Sport Horse classes, then we drove up to Parker. Dave and I fumbled our way around to figure out where we needed to be, and after she had some time to relax, eat, and drink, we took Musik over to be checked in by the vet. She did great at the vet-in and then we wandered back to our "camp" area. On our travels we met Bruce, Amber, and Louise Burton (hi guys!) who answered questions and shared their knowledge with us, and reassured me that I really wouldn't need to refer to the map that we were given at the Rider Meeting. Bruce also helped answer Dave's questions about what he needed to do as my Crew Guy, and helped Dave to feel at ease with his new job.
The morning of the event came pretty early (we had gotten up at 3.30 AM Friday morning to make it to the Arab show), but I was so excited I bounced out of my sleeping bag quickly. I had made lists of things I wanted Dave to bring for Musik, as well as what he should bring for me, at our vet check. We had everything gathered up, ready to go, and then it was time to get Musik "dressed". The bridle and breastcollar that I had ordered from Hought (http://www.hought.com/endthg.html) had come in early enough for me to try it out at home (I remembered everyone's advice!), so I was able to use that on our ride. She looked pretty sharp in her purple and black! :-) She must have watched the 50 milers go out on their ride, because she totally knew what was up. She had done the endurance bit with a previous owner in 2000, and I think she must have remembered everything, and how much fun she had. She would hardly hold still for me to tack her up, and then getting on was challenging since she kept walking off....
We had a controlled start (hahahhahaha) to get going, and then we were off! I was hoping to be off like a herd of turtles, since it was our first and I wasn't sure how to pace her or anything like that. My biggest fear was that we would get pulled at one of our vet checks and/or she would wear herself out. My goal was to finish, to complete. Musik had other goals in mind. I figured we would start out at or near the end of the group, and trot for quite a while to get our bearings, enjoy the ride, etc. We ended up cantering a good deal of the first half of the ride, passing groups of people, trying to slow down (that would be me), and then passing more. I had no idea where we were in relation to the leaders, and I was just concerned about trying to get my pony to listen a little bit better in the midst of her excitement. I didn't know if it would be okay for her to gallop on, but I figured that if I didn't know, then it was a better idea to try to stay a little slower paced. I approached another group of riders, and the rider in the front of that group called back to let me know it was okay for me to pass if I wanted to. I really didn't want to (thinking it wouldn't be a good thing for her to do), so I hollered back that even though my mare wanted to, I didn't. He told me it was fine with him if I stayed where I was and rode with him and his group, which was a huge relief to me. So I did.
We get to talking and introduce ourselves, and I find I am riding with Stace and Marlene Moss (hi guys!), who were incredibly kind and gracious to share their knowledge, friendship, advice, and experience with me, and let me ride the entire ride along with them! There were about 6 or 7 of us that all rode together, and we all had a great time. (okay, I know I did!) Stace opened almost every single gate for us, Marlene was wonderful to hold my horse for me while I tried to prevent my bladder from exploding (okay, dehydration has to be the key here....), and we all talked about all kinds of things, and enjoyed each other's company and horses.
(to be continued)