The Ed Wrigley Memorial Hunter Pace held at the Muttontown preserve was a fun event!
The day began overcast and soggy. The rain was an intermittent, light misting drizzle, adding to two previous days of the same so I knew what kind of footing we'd be in for. I called my pace partner early to see if she was still up for it. She said she didn't mind the rain, as long as it wasn't a downpour or cold. We were going!(Actually, she turned out to be a much more aggressive rider than I had expected!)
My husband helped me hook up the trailer and I left to pick up Monty, who had already eaten his breakfast and was lounging in his turn-out when I arrived. Thankfully, Monty did NOT roll in his favorite muddy spot and we were loaded quickly and on our way.
The preserve is very close to my home and the stable and we got there in good time. So good in fact, that the very next trailer to pull in was my partner's and she parked right next to us! We tacked up and headed over to the starting box where about a half dozen teams were already milling about awaiting their call to start. It turned out that there were about 35 teams entered which was a great turn out even with the yukky weather.
When they called us to the start, we were expected to jump a cross rail right before entering the woods. I wanted to try it since the photographer was there. (I'm a picture junkie) My partner said to go ahead and she'd follow. Monty trotted up and over. I, however, was in less than perfect form and I know when that proof arrives I'm gonna groan and vow to never let my trainer see it! (of course, if it's not TOO awful, I'll post it here to share!)
My partner's horse is a sweet old soul. He's about 15 years old so he and Monty are close in age. The two geldings got along well, and when we left at the start, they were most compatible and it didn't matter which horse had the lead, although I admit I kind of hogged the front. The footing was what I expected, it was slippery and even a bit treacherous in some spots, so we did more walking and trotting than we would have liked. We knew we were going to be out of the ribbons but our horses would come home safe and sound. If you want to be competitive in a hunter pace, the ride has to be done at a canter and working trot. The more you walk, the more you have to flat out gallop to make up the time.
Along the ride were some nicely maintained, natural log jumps of varying heights and almost all had go-arounds. Some we jumped, some we simply bypassed.
Of course, there was one "jump" that was a bit of a surprise for both of us.
We were galloping down a nice, open stretch of trail when ahead of us was about a 3 foot wide puddle, spanning the width of the path. As we approached, I felt Monty speed up. I had a feeling he was going to try and jump the puddle.
I prepared for the take off but he didn't jump the way I expected. I thought he would jump across the puddle, in a more flattened arc. Instead, he popped up in a big leap and landed hard on the other side. I got jumped out of the tack and even though I stayed with him, on the jolt of the landing, I bit the inside of my lower lip - really hard. OUCH! At first I didn't feel much, I wasn't even sure it was bleeding, then I wiped my mouth on my glove and yep, blood. My partner rode up and as she asked if I was okay I told her - "I'm gonna have a nasty fat lip". She looked at my face and said, "ohhh, yeah".
Well, no use worrying about it when you are out in the woods and not anywhere near an ice pack. So off we went with me sucking my lip and thinking maybe I need to brush up on my jumping.
The rest of the ride went smoothly. We were fast but fair to our horses. We were pleased that all our horse shoes stayed on, even with the mud, as we passed 2 shoes lost by earlier riders. We finished up heading back into the field where the trailers were parked and jumped the last fence, also with the photographer at the ready. Hopefully, that jumping shot will be a little more brag-worthy. ;)
Once we finished and took the horses back to the trailers. We hosed them down and loaded them. Both horses were tired and glad to rest in their dry trailers out of the now increasing rain. We riders headed over to the lunch buffet and enjoyed grilled burgers and hotdogs, salad and some tasty baked goodies. The rain was quite steady by now, we sat at a table under a tree and ate in a fairly dry spot. Then it was time to head for home.
I appreciate all the work the organizers put in to this hunter pace. The path was well marked, the course was interesting and even challenging in some places and even with the less than perfect weather, it was easy to see that all who attended were having a great time. I hope this becomes a yearly event!