After the previous month's success, Jim and I headed out to Mudgee to have a crack at another 80km ride. Unfortunately Colin wasn't able to make it so I took my ever-supportive boyfriend (and strapper) along for the trip. I was planning on meeting up with another friend of mine and her husband at the ride so there would be plenty of catching up to do. My friend was going to attempt her first 80km ride on a borrowed horse as her own horse was not quite ready to do an 80km ride. She wanted to get some experience and find out just what it's like to do an 80km ride!
After setting up camp and tucking into a delicious dinner in the community hall, my boyfriend and I crawled into the horse float to catch some zzz's. Overnight the temperature plummeted, reaching minus 4 degrees celcius! When I got up to feed Jim there was a layer of ice on his waterbucket and the water tanks in my horse float had frozen. I fed him his breakfast and ducked over to the bathroom to brush my teeth and freshen up. While I was in there, shivering along with everyone else, a woman commented "I wonder what all the normal people are doing today?" That pretty much said it all!
Just before 6am I saddled up and told my boyfriend to be ready with some warm water at about 8.30am. The ride was supposed to be very flat, but I didn't think we'd do the first leg any quicker than two and a half hours. Jim, however, had other ideas! We flew off down the track, Jim eating up the distance in ground covering strides. It was still quite dark though so I couldn't really tell where the other riders were, I just knew there weren't many people riding with us. I ran into my friend Duncan again and we rode together for a while, but when we got to the first checkpoint his horse seemed a little off. Duncan said he was going to get off and walk for a while, but he encouraged us to keep going. So we said goodbye and wished eachother luck before parting ways.
I had my new "Garmin 310XT" GPS watch on, and I was surprised to see how far we'd come. When I arrived back at base it was only 8am, just two hours after I'd set out! My boyfriend was still asleep and he stuck his head out of the float and said "What are you doing here? You're half an hour early!" I just shook my head and replied "I don't know, but you better get that warm water. Fast!" I piled the rugs on Jim to keep his muscles from cramping up in the freezing conditions, while my boyfriend scavenged some hot water from the canteen staff. After sponging Jim down with warm water and rubbing him with towels to dry him off, we headed over for vetting. I was feeling quite anxious. What if I'd let Jim go too fast? What if he'd pushed himself too hard? When the TPR taking Jim's heart rate frowned at me I feared the worst. "What's your horse's heart rate normally?" he asked. Oh no. I thought. Something's wrong. "It's about 24 at home, why?" He nodded and replied "Well, it's only 28 now." I nearly fainted from relief. Far from struggling, Jim was finding the ride all too easy!
We vetted through with no problems and headed out to do the second leg. We settled into a nice rhythmn and I ended up riding with a lovely lady called Gloria for most of the way. Her horse got along really well with Jim and I found out he was an older horse too and that Gloria had bred him herself. It was very inspiring to see someone living out my dream of competing on a horse they'd bred! He was a stunning anglo arabian gelding and boy could he move. As we approached the end of the second leg we decided to hold hands across the finish line (which means a tie). We grabbed our timeslips and rushed back to camp so we could strap our horses. Funnily enough we'd ended up camping next to eachother on opposite sides of the same fence. Gloria very kindly offered to share her hot water with me, a gesture that blew me away. Here I was, a fellow competitor, and she was going out of her way to help me! What an incredible lady.
Jim vetted through without any dramas, although his gut sounds were a bit quiet because he didn't eat or drink much at halfway. I made a note to manage this better in future by offering him a warm mash to get some food and fluids into him. We'd completed the ride in 4hours and 45 minutes, our fastest time yet! As I was giving Jim a final rub down back at camp I heard my rider number called for the fittest horse workout. Gloria and I had come 3rd in the Lightweight Division! Jim was pretty grouchy though and he did a very average workout, but I was thrilled that we'd placed 3rd in a field of 20 or so horses. The horse my friend borrowed also vetted through, so it was a successful day all round. I stayed for the awards presentation and received a lovely horse head trophy to take home with me. I was so proud of Jim - 18 years old and he's still got it!