This was one of the EGB rides that was hosting Pony Club classes, so we thought we should patronise this ride despite the fact that Jim and Natasha were aiming to ride the 30k Novice CR, rather than the 18k Pony Club Kestrel ride on offer.
We had been warned that Tugby was quite a hilly ride, and given the weather was really quite hot we knew that this ride would be a challenge of Tally and Shine’s fitness. We normally take two 5 gallon barrels and a box of a dozen slosh bottles, and thought that this might not be enough. To make things worse we realised that we had forgotten our bucket of sugar beet water, which is normally the only way to get Shine and Tally to take on water when we are doing these rides. We were also told that there were limited places that the crew could meet us, as on the first part of the rides the tracks were all cross country, and we were not supposed to crew in the villages. However, many of the fields were stock fields with troughs and there were also two fords that we had to cross that would provide water on route.
Crossing a ford at Tugby
picture by ScottDigital
Crossing a ford at Tugby
picture by ScottDigital
We left the venue and had to try hard to persuade the horses to go through a terribly scary and obviously carnivorous gate. It would have been embarrassing if we could not even get out of the farmyard. However after a fair bit of kicking and badgering we then got underway. A good proportion of the first part of the ride was across farm fields and good grass tracks but within about 2k of the start we met the first hill, whilst it was not too steep it was quite long. We then continued over a series of rolling hills across some really lovely countryside. It is a very pretty part of the country and has some very good riding tracks. Large numbers of ramblers was also using these tracks on the day. This meant that at times we had to restrict our longer faster canters, and revert to trot and walk.
There also seemed to be a moratorium on marking the route with the normal paint arrows within the villages. As such it was important to be able to read a map properly to ensure that we took the correct route.
Having limited crewing points on the first part of the ride, is not normally too much of an issue whilst you are still fairly fresh. However with the hot weather both ponies were soon sweating up nicely and so seeing Nikki just before checkpoint 2 which was 12k into the ride provided some welcome relief. We normally try to meet up about 4 times approximately equidistant on a 34k ride, so 12K seemed a long way. Excessive amounts of water were applied to both horses via slosh bottles and sponges, which they were obviously grateful for, as they did not do their normal dancing about. One of the good things about a hot day is that you do not have to worry about the horses getting cold if you apply a lot of water at the crew points, as within 5 minutes of setting off they were dry again.
We had tried to get both ponies to drink from one of the troughs on the first part of the route without success; so I decided that I would tie a sponge to my saddle so that we could try to cool off the horses when apart from the crew points. The next 5k was all cross country again this time predominantly downhill where we got to one of the fords that we were told about. We were all pretty hot again by this point so we again tried to get Tally and Shine to drink, and then I got off to sponge them down. Zip up joddy boots and chaps are very comfortable but they do leak when you are paddling in the ford. However as an example of how hot is was my boots looked dry by the time I had remounted, and my feet felt dry after about 2 minutes.
We went onto Tilton on the Hill which, was about half way. Again there were no markings so we had to check the map carefully. On the way out of the village we had to go down a fairly steep hill, which given we were on tarmac meant that we had to stick to walk. Because of this we both got off and walked with the ponies in hand, so as to give their backs a rest. However once we got to a flat bit we got back on in order to trot on some more.
By this time in the ride we had a good indication of the toll the hills and heat were taking on Tally and Shine. We normally start off fast so as to give ourselves some leeway for getting lost and to allow ourselves the chance to come in slowly, so as to improve the horse’s final pulse rates. We normally aim to do the first half of the ride at an average speed of at least 12kph, and aim to finish at an average of 10kph. Since we started doing graded rides we realised that the optimum speed to get a grade 1 pass is 10kph, as this gives the best range of pulse rates that lead to a grade 1. On this ride at the half way point we were averaging only 9kph, which was a bit too close for comfort to the minimum speed of 8kph.
When we came to another stretch of cross country a couple of riders on the 42k route came up behind us. They also complained that their horses were making heavy weather of the ride. However as soon as they went in front both Tally and Shine suddenly found their second wind, no way were they going to be overtaken! So the four of us went on together for the next few kilometres taking turns in “towing” each other, to the next crewing point. Nikki provided drinks and slosh bottles to us and our two new companions. Then on we went across the fields again. Just as we were coming to about 24k on the route trotting along a stony track I thought we were scuppered, as Tally picked up a large stone in his hoof and immediately started hopping. I got off and checked all his feet for stones or cuts. The two experienced riders we were with said that his hoof might be bruised and that he may walk it off. So for the next kilometre or so I walked beside him.
Once off the stony track I got back on again, and Tally seemed fine, the only sign of being foot sore was when we had to go through a long deep ford with a stony bottom, which he obviously did not like. However once we got back onto the road he was happy to trot on so there could not have been much wrong. Nikki met us again about 2k from the finish for a final slosh down, we were still at about 9kph average speed, as such we basically aimed to take it easy getting back to the venue so as to keep the horses pulses as low as possible.
Once back at the venue we stripped off the tack and then sloshed the horses down, and then walked them around to stop any stiffness and then off to the vets for a trot up and pulse check. All told we ended up using more than 15 gallons of water both at checkpoints on the ride and at the cooling down sessions at the end. Given the terrain and heat we knew that we were not going to get a grade 1 this time. So we waited for the results and were pleased when Natasha and Shine had a grade 3 whilst Tally and I got a grade 4.
Whilst it was a very challenging ride I can recommend Tugby as a good ride with some excellent riding tracks across lovely country.