As part of my (mostly) single minded goal to step up in endurance this season, I’m so happy to be able to afford a partial lease on a red headed Quarter Horse named Ray. He’s impeccably trained and cared for by my new trainer Terraka, and this Sunday we went out for an endurance speed ride, aiming for 5.5-6 mph. This speed means we’re trotting or cantering most of the ride, with a few walking breaks mostly on the still slippery downhills.
Protip: it’s a good idea to check your saddle before you take off! I was crooked the whole ride, something I’m generally aware of but that doesn’t make much of a difference at a walk. Three miles in my right ankle couldn’t take the imbalance and started to hate me, which matched my poor arms trying to rate a horse that was all for more speed.
I breathed deep, wiggled my butt around, popped a few dried apricots and settled in. Even as my ankle throbbed and Mr. More Speed and I engaged in a seemingly endless discussion of the meaning of “rate your speed”, the gorgeous on the cusp of spring landscape of the Molalla River Corridor flew by. We haven’t been able to ride there since October, and it felt wonderful to get out and fly.
There was only one wobble moment when I knew if Mr. Speedy Ray shied at his almost a gallop canter I would have slipped right off, but I stuck. Maybe not super gracefully, but I’m still doing planks and running and trying to get stronger so I don’t feel like I can’t keep up to whatever speed and spooks come my way. The other riders with me were gracious with my request to walk most of the downhills, and Ray never once threw a real spook, although he seriously considered a siddle sideways a few times.
With the first ride on the horizon possibly set as Grizzly in just over a month, which Ray has completed before and I have a stubborn, unbreakable ambition to complete (third time’s the charm ya’ll!) I know we can get this done! Previous trips over the mountains have taught me to drink water, eat food and by all that is holy, no coffee at all on ride weekend (I can deal with the minor headache much easier than the rising anxiety the coffee gives me), and to never, ever try anything new on ride day…like hop on a horse I’ve never ridden, in a saddle I’ve never used, with my poor kid dumped with friends in ride camp.
A few things I have just over a month to figure out include who is going to hang with my less poor kid (any takers? I’ll leave money for a trip to the Dairy Queen in Madras!), whether or not I want to chance bringing Cyrus along (probably not for the first ride, even though I think he’ll be a fantastic ride camp dog), stop leaning to the right for all that’s holy, and trying a curb bit with Mr. All the Speed, at least for the first loop. I trust in my own soft hands well enough to be willing to try a stronger bit to manage the race brain until a few miles have sweated out the Mr. Go Super FAST.
By the end of the ride, Mr. Go Fast was rating well, I hadn’t fallen off and I actually enjoyed myself. My mind’s eye was full of that utterly enticing vision of trotting mightily down a dusty trail, miles of gorgeous scenery under the saddle, ride camp in the hazy distance, a steady redhead perking up as he senses his hay bag is near.