Saturday afternoon/evening/night was full of thunderstorms and pelting rain. Difficult conditions in which to vet in, which was manifested in a slightly sensitive back on Sasha and a very minor lameness/stiffness issue with Vienna. Not an auspicious start to a competition weekend! Setting up camp with sodden clothes and boots filled with rain was no fun, and instead of our usual walkabout in camp with wine glasses, socializing with everyone, we retired early to the tent to snuggle up (dry!) and play cards by the romantic light of a cell phone. At least we stayed dry overnight, although it continued to rain.... the loud outdoor party going on across the street didn't help sound sleep, though, let me tell you!
The day dawned cloudy and muggy. Because of how many horses presented the day before with sore backs/muscle stiffness from the weather, everyone needed a re-check. Vienna trotted out with an almost imperceptible irregular gait, but was cleared to start, with the hopes that it was muscle stiffness she could work out of. Sasha's back showed no signs of sensitivity and she often is sensitive at home when she's wet, so she was also cleared.
All three Wildfire teams went out together, with Vienna in the lead (where she's most comfortable!). From the get-go Vienna was not herself. She was spooking at absolutely mundane things - something she never does at home - and was very choppy. I became frustrated quickly, so I put Vienna behind Star and Sasha. Trotting was okay, but cantering was a nightmare, with Vienna bucking constantly, and not her little usual bunnyhops but big rodeo bucks. I sent Sarah and Alex ahead without me to do the first loop while I headed back to camp, thinking that Vienna was lame after all...
However, after a minute I turned around and continued down the trail alone at a walk. A minute later I asked for a trot, and what a beautiful, soft trot it was! Two minutes later I asked for a canter, and Vienna picked up her smooth rocking-horse canter, perfectly content. Lightbulb moment: this was Vienna's second ride ever and the first in approximately a year. She wasn't lame, she was overwhelmed! Because Vienna does the same mileage and speed as Sasha and Star at home, I hadn't accounted for her greenness at rides and her heightened emotions as a result. Together we rode a beautiful first loop, mostly alone, and came in to camp happy!
Sasha and Star had come in only five minutes ahead of Vienna, so all three Wildfire teams went out together for the second loop. It was hotter and more humid, but the horses drank better on trail and we electrolyted several times throughout. We met up with riders, passed riders, and had riders pass us, so it was ever-changing - part of the fun! Vienna easily picks up on other horses' emotions, however, so there was ongoing management to keep her happy (more bucks in behind Sasha, but she'll canter slightly less grumpily behind Star. All to do with the pecking order). Sarah was in charge of time management, and did a fantastic job. We all came in off the second loop together at the exact right time (6.25 hours).
Katie and Colin were waiting with snacks and drinks for the riders and more delicious food for the ponies, who hoovered everything down. Hydration parameters were all perfect and all had good gut sounds as well as heart rate below parameter, so we were all very happy and proud! First ride of the season... always nerve-wracking, always a huge learning experience, and always so much fun!
Vienna: Sassy little princess has strong emotions, and it's easy to throw too much at her, forgetting that she has significantly less experience than the other girls. She needs a slightly calmer start, probably alone, to settle in with her rider. This is a challenge for me, as I'm very focused on everyone else and making sure everything is good all around; however, Sarah and Alex are extremely competent horsewomen and even this year I was surprised and pleased at how little management they required. Therefore, next ride I will try to focus more on Vienna and give her more time to settle.
Note: after much discussion and evaluation we determined that Vienna's lower back (slight) soreness was likely due to her bucking antics, combined with a trailer ride, rainy night, and tenseness at the start of the ride. She will do a 50 mile ride in the same set up (plus her actual girth) and we will re-evaluate after that.
Note: Sasha's (slight) sore back was likely caused by a ride in Alex's western saddle the week before (she was ridden in her dressage saddle at the ride). She has been ridden in it twice and both times was sore afterwards. No more western saddle for her! She will do a 50 mile ride in her dressage saddle and a new girth (same as the other girls', which she's also used before with no issues).
A full photo album of our adventures can be viewed on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WildfireArabians/.