Saturday was the Calaboogie distance ride! Due to unstable (ha!) schedules and other life considerations (ugh), Sarah and FS Starlet were the lone Wildfire representatives. This was the first time in history that a Wildfire horse was out on trail without me... and not only that, but Sarah and Starlet went to the ride before me and stayed a day later than me. There was definitely some unexpected anxiety for me waiting at home!
But there really shouldn't have been. Sarah and Starlet have been a dream team for years, and the ride went flawlessly. This was the first time that Starlet was alone without her friends, both in camp and on trail. That's really tough for Starlet, who is very unsure by herself, but she was an absolute pro from the moment she set hoof off the trailer. She ate and drank well, and stayed calm and alert in her corral the entire time. She even did the entire first loop of the ride alone, which can be challenging for Starlet.
The beautiful trail was all hills and rocks. This is very challenging for horses who live and train only on soft footing and flat forest ground, but Sarah's fantastic horsemanship meant that Starlet was happy, surefooted, and strong for the entire ride (minus the unplanned dismount when a large tree branch broke right next to them and spooked Starlet. Sarah finished the next 21 miles with a nice bruised back).
The ride day was cold and humid, a difficult mix for horses who are exerting themselves because they can't cool themselves very efficiently. Coupled with periods of strong sunshine, it was a complex mix of changing conditions throughout the day. Sarah and Star looked fantastic warming up in camp, and looked even better storming up the hill to the finish line after 31 miles (50 km), passing the final vet check with flying colours!
Sarah and Starlet finished this 31 mile Set Speed ride with a Grade 2 score, the second highest grade possible. In Set Speed, score is determined by a formula incorporating both ride time (speed) and heart rate (measuring how physically stressed the horse is). What an fantastic accomplishment for a 20-yr-old flatlander horse and her wonderful rider!
And as for me? I learned some lessons. I learned that everything is not going to implode if I'm not hyper-vigilant and thinking of a hundred things at once. I have incredible horses with extremely competent horsewomen, and the bonds between them are more than sufficient to ensure that everything is done well - while having fun! I remembered how fun it was to be the "angel" helping with other horses in the crew area while waiting for mine, I gained much more sympathy for my poor hubby standing around waiting for us to appear off a loop... and after a full day of crewing my body sure knew that it's a heck of a lot easier to be on the back of a horse than your feet all day long!!