Two people. One horse. One tough race.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Today Kate and I finally made a date to practice a ride & tie. We’d been tossing the idea around since May, and we decided to make a goal of the Iron Mountain Jubilee ride weekend at the end of August- so that meant we really had to get out there and give it a go.

The basics are that ride & tie started in 1971, but is a pretty small niche sport. It’s a cross between endurance riding and running. I spoke to some R&T folks at the Old Dominion ride and found that there are few rules in the sport- and really we just have to try it to see what works.

So with more questions than answers between us, we met at the Hidden Valley horse parking lot with Faygo in tow and tried to devise at least some kind of loose plan of action.

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Ok.. um… so… one of us will start running and one will start riding…

I’ll ride first because I think I know roughly where the first mile marker is…

Oh good because I was hoping you’d ride first…

So I’ll tie Faygo up at the end of the second field where the shale road starts…

Then when I get on her, I’ll pass you…

I hope you pass me… if you don’t pass me, don’t tie her up because…

Right…

So if we get to the swinging bridge and come back that should be just over 3 miles…

Probably not far enough- so let’s see if we’re doing ok and if we are we’ll loop around the campground too…

That will be closer to 5 miles…

Great.

I guess we should ride at an easy canter or a fast gait…

I would think so…

Watch for cyclists- Faygo is afraid of bikes, kind of… I’m sure it’ll be fine… just talk to them as they pass…

Ok… this is so new, I’m kind of nervous…

It’ll be great- we should never be too far apart so yell if you need help…

Right.

Right.

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Kate takes off jogging while I hop on and ride Faygo out. We start with a fast walk to warm up and then I let her gait a bit. I’m surprised at how long it takes me to catch her. Kate is fast! We pass and continue on to the spot I know is just about a mile in and I tie Faygo to a tree and start running. The dogs seem a bit confused, but they go with me anyway. At some point Kate passes me on the way to the swinging bridge and so on and so forth.

It was GREAT fun. Just about anyone can jog a mile. Then you hop on the horse and get a break.

What I was surprised to learn is that we are just about as fast as she is!

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When I caught up to her after my first running turn, I could see Kate heading off. Faygo was breathing kind of hard and had JUST gotten tied. I had thought she’d be waiting at a tree, bored. We had planning to ride her not at a canter, but at a good fast pace because she’d have rest breaks. So when I caught up to her I walked her a bit to let her catch her breath… meanwhile Kate was running on ahead and I had an idea of where we’d try to tie next and I passed right by it without having caught her yet!  So with Faygo having ‘walked it out’ and doing ok I pushed her on to a fast gait then a slow canter to catch Kate… who had been running over a mile with no sign of us and started to worry.

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I handed over Faygo to Kate and we had a quick conference. We decided that we had plenty of energy to add the campground loop, and that Faygo is working harder than we thought she would- so Kate walked her a bit again to give her a chance to recover. I headed out running toward the campground. She passed me at the main parking lot and we agreed not to tie IN the campground (where technically horses aren’t allowed), but outside it.

When I got to the campground I saw the shoe prints, but no sign of Kate or Faygo. The dogs and I went around the loop and as I was coming back out I started to wonder where on earth she was planning to tie her? This has to be at least a mile right? Then I started wondering if I might have missed Faygo before entering the campground? Is it possible to not see a horse tied to a tree? When that is all you are looking for? I’m out of the campground, slowing my pace and looking harder off the road in the trees… it was like a treasure hunt- only the treasure is my horse… Then ahead I see Kate. On foot.

Ok, if I don’t see Faygo by the time I get where I saw her on foot, then I’d better turn around and start looking again.

How can you miss a horse? Could she have gotten loose and is heading back to the trailer without us?

THERE SHE IS! Woohoo!

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At this point we are only about 1/2 mile from the trailer and she’s worked harder than I’d anticipated, so I hand walked her for a while, and then rode her at a walk. Kate made it back then started walking out to meet us.

We got back to the trailer and talked over how it went and what we learned. We all had fun and did great! Faygo is great at this (as I’d suspected) and is fine with being tied. Kate and I are pretty comparable for stirrup length and pace- I think the 3 of us are a perfect team. We were both surprised to see that Faygo isn’t going to have quite as much down time as originally thought. She did fine, but it was a pretty rigorous ride for her. We chose Hidden Valley to find somewhere kind of flat to start and Ed mentioned to me that the terrain probably makes a big difference. We are pretty fast there, but with more hills we might find ourselves slower on foot. The good thing is that this will keep us all in better shape.

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In the end we did almost 5 1/2 miles and somewhere around 5-6 mph on average.

As for Faygo, considering her pasture is endless, and her activity is down a bit this year, I put the grazing muzzle on her when we got home today. I’m going to try to start dropping her weight a touch. If she struggles in summer heat it can’t help to have an extra layer of insulating fat, and dropping a few pounds means less for her to carry too. She won’t like it, but I’d like to see her body condition back at what it was in the spring. On the body condition scale she was a perfect 5 (out of 10) in April, she still looks good, but she has definitely moved up to a 6 this summer. Kate and I are dedicated to doing this at least once a week now, so her workload should go up a bit as well.

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I’m beyond excited that we had so much fun, and that we’re going to do the event in August. My body condition has lapsed a bit as well this summer and the motivation to work hard just hasn’t been there as much as it has in years past. This is just what I need as well to kick it up a notch and have a new goal.

I’m also excited that Kate is enjoying Faygo, and I now have a good way to include Faygo in some events even if she’s not doing true endurance riding. And it’ll be fun to have Kate for the night to camp out and hang in ride camp.

IMG_0524For anyone out there who might like to try ride & tie, you don’t need a horse of your own. Lots of riders need a running partner and they will help connect you. For more information you can check them out on the web at: www.rideandtie.org

We’ll keep you posted as I get two horses and myself (and Kate!) ready for the Iron Mountain Jubilee.

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