This was the ride that almost wasn’t.
I had a Funder style build up to this ride: http://www.fundersgoodidea.com/2014-twenty-mule-team-100/.
On my way to work on the Friday morning the truck stopped. literally, doing 30 miles an hour, the engine and all electrics cut out. Meaning no power steering, no brakes, nothing. Luckily I managed to coast to a halt on the side of the road and call my husband. He got it going again and cheerfully declared that I’d be fine: “If it cuts out, just kick it into neutral and start the engine again. No worries”.
I think not. I spat the dummy and declared I wasn’t towing three and a half tons of gooseneck with THAT, and went to work grumpy, assuming my weekend was cancelled. Which was really not good as it was part of the long term prep for “the-event-that-shall-not-be-named” (Shush – whisper – the Quilty).
However a venting, whingey type text to a friend resulted in the offer of a ute and trailer and we were off again! Albeit much later than planned as I had to UNPACK all the stuff in the gooseneck, REPACK into the new borrowed float, transfer some float yards over to the new one… I know I shouldn’t whinge but for once I had actually felt like I was organised and now all of that had gone out of the window. I finally left about 4.30, which meant we would be arriving in the dark. En route I was madly texting friends to save me a camp spot, and could I please ride with them cos I was going to miss the ride briefing so I wouldn’t know which arrows to follow…
We finally arrived at about 7. Ride base was FULL. We had 56 starters in the 80km, which is a huge number for our part of the world. Everyone is trying to get and keep at least one horse, plus a back up, fit and ready for the Quilty, I guess.
Finally we were in (nosed into a small space and practically on top of someone else’s tents – sorry Julia) but the paddock was about fetlock deep in good grass and clover so Joe was happy! Having got him settled I had a couple of glasses of red wine, forgot to have dinner, rolled out my swag on the back of the ute, and climbed into bed.
I slept surprisingly well: Joe was for once quite civilised and did NOT scratch his face regularly on the yards (always results in a lot of rattling). He was probably busy with all that clover. I woke up to this:
Much of which appeared to be on the inside of my swag… It was a cold damp getting ready session but I scarfed some breakfast (I was STARVING – funny that) and had 2 large cups of tea and left about 10 minutes behind the front runners. It was still kinda foggy:
The first leg of the ride was – well – interesting – for several reasons:
1. The bridge of doom. About 300 metres from the start was a road bridge. Not much exciting in that, except that this one was made of STEEL. Someone had covered what they could with carpet, but it wasn’t covered for the whole width, so horses walked halfway across it then BOOM their steel shoes hit the steel.
Horses slipped, horses backed up, and horses did aerobatics:
There was a real log jam, with people getting off, people swearing, and a whole lot of adrenalin in the air. Joe crossed it better tham many, but even he was a bit freaked.
2. The terrain for the ride was rolling and open, which meant that horses could see the front runners from about 5km away… And Joe wanted to catch every.single.one.. Not to mention blow off all of that inhaled adrenalin. The people I often ride with (Emma and Geoff) were having even more trouble holding their horses, so I let them go and found myself a pocket with Rita and her lovely grey Banjo.
3. That bloody mist.. yet again I couldn’t see where I was going. But then we got up high, above the fog, and things did improve.
All of the above meant we travelled leg one faster than I would normally have chosen, and Joe was pretty distracted and didn’t eat or drink as well at checkpoints as he usually does (“But mum I can see horses OVER THERE – shouldn’t we be chasing them instead of hanging around here eating?). We were back home in 3 hours and 14 minutes.
He vetted through well despite all of the above, and there was plenty of this to eat in the hold:
By now the sun was out and it was getting pretty warm. This was going to be an interesting afternoon…
Leg two was TOUGH. There were a lot of hills, and a lot of rocky sections where you could only walk.
Temperatures reached about 26 degrees, the breeze did not pick up, and the first two checkpoints were not in the shade. At the top of one hill Joe literally had to stop for breath, and was quite shaky. I was getting quite worried about him.
Luckily, the final checkpoint was in the shade, and there was more ankle high grass and clover. We hung out there for quite a while, eating, resting, and sponging some heat off my horse… This really picked Joe up and we came home strongly, and vetted through with all As apart from a B for gut sounds.
We came home the same afternoon so I missed awards. It’s not something I like to do usually but the borrowed tow rig had to go home. At least packing up was easy, with the bare bones rig we had.
Joe was very stiff getting off the float at home (not surprisingly) but on Sunday morning he galloped up the paddock with the others, moving well, legs clean and cool (he often stocks up a fair bit in the yard overnight after a ride, so movement with his paddock buddies was a good thing from that point of view.)
A tough ride in several ways, but his fitness will have benefited a LOT and we are still on track for October. We have another 80km in 2 weeks, then we shall get out the bubble wrap and try to keep him safe…