Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fort Valley 2012 - Nancy Sluys

October 31 2012

Had a great weekend at Fort Valley ride in Virginia. Starting a new horse in the 30 on Friday and taking my old buddy Blue around the 50 mile course on Saturday. The weather precluding Hurricane Sandy was unseasonably warm on Friday causing  difficulty for some horses whose winter coats were growing so Tari and I just mosied along at a reasonable pace.

   I received Tari (Desert Stahar), a 12 yr old (at that time) Arabian mare,  2 1/2 years ago from a friend who was experiencing a life crisis and had to re-home her. Since then she has had her ups and downs starting with a case of mild laminitis from the change in pasture. We got through that and began conditioning. Last year she finished the 50 at JD's ride but in January was pulled for lameness in Florida. The sand was a bit too much for her. She also had a mysterious metabolic issue early in the summer which we discovered was a magnesium deficiency which we corrected. With all this in mind we decided the 30 miler would be a good test on these tough trails.  

The trail was beautiful and tough and Tari and I were having a great time checking out the scenery and taking lots of pictures. She had no problem completing the ride and looked like she hadn't done a thing at the end and the next day. I was sure proud of my little mare who I have dubbed my "Calgon take me away" horse due to her easy way of going and excellent past training. She is just so easy to ride, a real pleasure!! I  enjoyed the last loop which had been changed from the years before. Instead of doing a slow, extremely rocky loop called the "Drunken Sailor Trail" we were treated to a trip through the beautiful countryside and surrounding farms on a dirt road. It was a delight!

  Saturday was much cooler and included an occasional drizzle of rain, perfect weather for my old guy (22) Blue who has already grown quite a hair coat. He hadn't done a 50 in a year and 8 months although he did a few LDs earlier in the year and lots of casual trail riding. I really wanted to ride the tough 2nd loop which I did not get to see the day before on the 30 which is why we opted for the 50. We hit the trail on the first loop and Blue felt fantastic and really moved along, although faster than I had planned. He is pretty set in his ways and I could not convince him into a more sensible pace. He recovered quickly at the first VC so I wasn't too worried about it. After leaving the first hold I made a really stupid mistake by taking a right turn at the top of the mountain instead of the other side and did about a mile of extra trail putting me behind all the horses who had been behind me leaving the vet check. We found ourselves by ourselves which always makes Blue lose a bit of motivation. At our now slower pace I was again able to take in the gorgeous scenery and get some more pictures and videos taken as we trotted easily down the dirt road along the Shenandoah River. Leaving the river we began the long arduous climb up the infamous Indian Graves Trail. Gradual at first the trail climbs for 3-4 miles becoming ever steeper as it went along. The last several hundred yards are truly brutal with the last bit a leap up some rock faces dubbed the Cougar Rock of the east! Blue started the climb easily but soon began to slow as his breathing became labored. He has recently recovered from a respiratory infection and that was taking it's toll. As the trail became steeper I got off and hiked the last mile or so until the rock faces where I remounted so Blue could carry me over. It took us an extremely long time to climb that mountain although except for having to stop repeatedly to breath Blue handled it just fine. By the time we got to the vet check I realized that we would be finishing the 3rd loop in the dark. Blue passed his check with As although his CRI was a few beats high for my liking indicating to be that he was showing some fatague. After giving it some thought and realizing that Blue had nothing to prove I decided to call it a day and passed on the 3rd loop. We had had a fantastic day and we both felt good, I know he would have done that 3rd loop for me but it seemed like the right thing not to ask him to do it. It was the first time I have pulled from a ride with a horse that could could have continued on but I felt fine about it, after all Blue had given me a huge effort getting up Indian Graves and that was all I felt I could ask that day, we were satisfied!

Happy Trails, Nancy Sluys

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