After setting up camp and vetting the horses through, we went for a quick ride. It was a lovely track, nice level dirt roads with plenty of markers warning us of any hazards or turn offs. I couldn't wait till tomorrow! We unsaddled the horses, then headed over to grab some dinner and listen to the pre-ride talk. Boy, were we in for a treat. The ride organisers had gone all out. Not only was there a stall selling gourmet burgers, there was also a pizza oven and a live singer. A roaring fire kept everyone warm as we sat around and caught up with friends. We went to bed with full bellies and warm hands.
It was still dark when we fed the horses breakfast. After my experience at Mudgee, I had started feeding Jim a warm mash of Speedibeet, bran and barley in the morning to get plenty of fluid into his gut. He hoovered it all up in no time, and Sam seemed to enjoy his mash too. Colin and I decided to wait until all the other horses left before heading over to the starting line so we could just cruise along at a nice easy pace. Both of us just wanted to complete, not compete. We made our way to the starting line fifteen minutes after the ride was supposed to start. It was so peaceful - just the two horses trotting along at a steady pace - but it didn't last very long. When we got to the first checkpoint we found fifty or so horses and riders just milling around. The person manning the checkpoint said we'd come the wrong way and had to go back. It seemed a little odd that every single rider had ended up coming the same way, so everyone waited patiently while the person at the checkpoint contacted the ride base. Sure enough, it was a mistake. Off we went again, but in the confusion Colin and I got separated.
I rode with a few different people, though it was hard to tell who was who in the dark. I ended up tagging along with Mary and Kayte, who I'd met at the Mudgee ride. They were travelling at novice speed, which suited me just fine. I wanted to take things a bit easy with Jim so he'd have energy left for the final leg of the ride. We arrived back at base in good time and Jim vetted through with ease. I had arranged to meet up with Mary and Kayte for the second leg, but after waiting around for ten minutes I decided to ride with my other friends, Cherry and her dad Michael. Jim got along really well with Cherry's little grey mare, Alice, and Michael's big grey gelding, Arrow. They were like the three musketeers, merrily cantering along the trail together. They were even happy to drink side by side at the water troughs, although Jim pulled faces at any horse who tried to go near "his herd." We arrived back at base right on novice time and I was feeling confident as I approached the vetting ring. Jim had been eating and drinking better than ever before, and he felt like he had plenty of fuel left in the tank for the final leg. Unfortunately, I didn't factor in a strained groin muscle.
After receiving almost all A's for his gut sounds and hydration levels, Jim showed up lame in his right hind leg during the trot out. I was gutted. This was supposed to be our first 100km ride together - instead it was our first vet out. I fretted over him back at camp, massaging his hindquarters with anti-inflammatory gel and giving him some bute to make him comfortable. My poor, noble horse! I felt like I'd really let him down. I should've picked up that he wasn't quite right. But after blaming myself and beating myself up over it, I realised it wasn't helping the situation. I rugged Jim and made sure he had plenty to eat and drink, then waited for Colin to get back with Sam. As soon as Colin arrived I was ready to spring into action, offering Sam a nice mash to get his gut sounds and hydration levels up. Colin took him over for vetting almost straight away and I was over the moon when he told me they passed! This was Sam's third successful 80km completion, qualifying him for a yellow logbook - a fantastic achievement for any horse.
It may not have been a successful weekend for Jim and I, but I learned a very important lesson. Sometimes, things go wrong out and there's nothing you can do to prevent it. All you can do is manage it.
Jim and I near the end of the second leg
Photo courtesty of "That's My Pic Photography"