October 1 2016
(You better sit down this one!)
Well, I came here to fight, and Africa threw the first punch! I started out the ride on Cowboy, setting out with 9 other riders on our first loop. It was impossibly beautiful starting out at sunrise with the wild game, until the buffalo attacked! Buffalo in America are fluffy cows. Buffalo here are tanks happy to charge horses and chase them if you come up on them unexpected! Luckily, Rachel and I got to sit on our horses and watch them chase the front runners instead of being chased. We waited until we were sure they were gone and continued our ride. I had a great loop with Cowboy, he was the smallest of my string but had the biggest trot! We went all the way around the loop, and started making the decent into camp. Suddenly, he was tender going downhill. I thought to myself "Oh no, this isn't happening, this is my first loop and first horse, he can't possibly be lame!" But when we got to the vet, he was footsore. He could technically ride again in 2 days, but we will probably give his miles to another horse.
As you know, if there is something wrong with your horse at Sandymont, you must repeat the entire loop...
And that's how I ended up riding 160k (100 miles) on my first day!
I did it in about 12 hours. After Cowboy vetted out, I became conscious of the fact that I was now in last place by a matter of hours. But luckily I was able to instead focus on doing the best for my team that I could, which did NOT include bumrushing to make up time, but getting them around safely and slowly, so we could keep going through the week. The course is a huge challenge, and more technical than I had given it credit for. I re-rode my first loop on Aviatrix, then rode Zara and Hidalgo as well. Luckily, I was able to get around without further penalties. Aviatrix is a solid veteran, takes care of herself and won't be rushed! Zara did her first endurance ride today, and rocked it, even if she is a bit green under saddle! Hidalgo is also a veteran, but would happily gallop every loop if I let him. He was not impressed by my attempt to get him to slow down.
So everyone else finished in between 1 and 4. I finished just before 6. On my last loop, I got a really nice surprise when fellow rider Tines packed his truck with friends and beer, and met me on the turnaround one extra loop! It was really awesome of him, It was a fantastic pick-me-up, and made me feel better about being out there so long. What a great competitor.
Elias says a bad beginning means a fantastic ending. At the end of day 1, I'm hours behind and have 40k extra on my legs. But...my horses look great, and I feel fantastic! Have you ever seen a more beautiful challenge?!?
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