Photos for this installment of "Trot On Hank" are provided by Jim Edmondson of Optical Harmonics. I forgot to take any photos again. I seem to do that at the local rides. Jim (and his partner Mike) have again captured some of the best photos I have ever had of my horses and I on the trail.
We had the local NATRC ride last weekend here on our trails. Nice to only have a 12 mile drive to get to a ride! While the weather forecast was all over the place leading up to the ride, it turned out to be a glorious weekend. I normally don't really care for the rides on our training trails, as Hank and I are both bored with them. But, I realized I am blessed to have trails so close to ride on, as many of our TX distance riders have to haul much further to get in a good ride on a trail system.
Saturday we rode about 28 miles, and Sunday about 22 miles. Our ride pace, which includes our stops for water, letting the horses grab bites of grass, and any other stops we make on our own was at 5.4mph. That means, we needed to have our pace average out to that. A little quicker than some of our NATRC rides, and closer to a slow paced endurance ride. I enjoyed moving out a bit more, and it was a good test to get a feel for how Hanks conditioning is going after so much bad weather, mud, snow etc. during the winter. Hanks easy going trot, where he is most relaxed, and not trying to catch anyone is right around 8.5mph. His walk is around 4mph if I don't ask him to move out quicker, or if he is not in a hurry. He can walk over 5mph if he is in the mood, but hard to maintain that pace.
Hank was in a good mood all weekend, and I was actually surprised he did not goof off, spook at things on the trail, or act naughty. He does these things the most on our local trails. Boredom factor usually sets in, and he can be unpleasant to deal with. But instead of that behavior, I had a horse who was cheerful, not spooking, and actually did all the obstacles we were asked to do very well, and did not come up with "Hank options" like he sometimes does. Add the spectacular weather on Saturday, and nice (although not as spectacular) weather Sunday, and we had a great weekend.
I was feeling not as focused on Friday before the ride. Almost scattered. I had to keep checking my list of things to do, to make sure I was getting everything done. I made this list last year, just as a reminder. Things like having his breakfast mash and lunch mash for the next day in buckets, fill water bottles, have map ready. Just basic prep, that I do for every ride. I kept thinking that I better be able to concentrate during the ride. But on Saturday, I felt much more in tune and focused as we timed out on to the trail.
During the weekend, we had a variety of judging observations / obstacles. Both from the vet, and from the horsemanship judge. Some were spots they just watched us negotiate something like we normally would as we went by, such as a spot we went down an embankment, and then back up the other side, or watching us open and close one of our many trail gates that are built to be opened and closed from horseback. We deal with the gates on all our training rides, so when asked to go through, I did not over think it. I just side passed Hank up to it, flipped the chain off, went through, closed it, and relatched the chain. We did it smooth, quick, and easy. Had I over thought the whole thing, and tried to do it super slow, Hank would have most likely figured something was up, and did something silly. We had a trot/halt/back 5 steps. Easy enough, but it was interesting to see the mistakes many made. We had to position the horses in hand with their front feet in one jeep trail, hind in the other, and use the rise in the middle to stand on for an off side mount, and then side pass over to the left. Then walk into an area of trees, making an L turn, and stopping, and backing the horse back out the same way we came in. Again, I did not over think it, and just got it done. This worked So well for both of us this weekend, but hard to say if it would do that well at the next ride. So maybe my unfocused mind on Friday, ended up kind of working well for me.
While I know if we get back to Tevis this year, I need to be super focused, and aware of not only how he is doing, how we are both eating and drinking, but super aware of our time, pace etc. It is the most mental ride I have ever done. Shoot, one of the most mental situations I have ever dealt with. I have found that caffeine does help me keep mentally sharp, and I do not have the hard crashes some people do from drinking it. But, I have to remember it is also a diuretic, and to make sure I drink lots of water when consuming things with caffeine in the hot weather.
When we finished the ride Sunday, I had really enjoyed the weekend, even if we were riding trails I have spent many, many miles riding. Hank had been good, and he checked out sound, and with lots of energy. I have no doubts he is ready for a 50 mile endurance ride again, but now to figure which one to go to.
Dolly on Chance with us as we headed in on Sunday
I felt he had done well when judged, but one never knows until awards, and then when we see our score cards. What I did not expect was to get the scores we got. Hank placed first, and also sweepstaked (meaning highest score of all the Open division horses) with a perfect score of 100, and had 8 plus marks on his card for doing well on different obstacles. I won my 3rd horsemanship class in a row, and also had a perfect score of 100, with 6 plus marks. I can not remember EVER getting a perfect 100 for both the horse and myself at a ride with any of my horses. And, I will say, I feel that there is no perfect horse, and really, we should not see 100's, but I will also admit, it does feel pretty cool.
Next ride is in a week, in East Texas. A new NATRC ride.