In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Hold

Our season has run out of rides.

The last was a two-day in the canyonlands beyond Oreana, where about 30 of us Hallowed Weenies braved chill mornings to trot the trails a final time before tucking ourselves in beneath the coming snow.

The first day took us 55 miles under cloudy skies, with just the barest hint of rain on our first loop.  I rode with Karen Bumgarner and Thunder, and Laurel and her off-track, roan mare, Buffy.  The first loop was reasonably fast and uneventful…except when Thunder’s offside hind plummeted down an unseen hole, throwing him nearly to his knees as he struggled to remain upright.  After a few, tense minutes, we judged him sound.

He stayed that way through the endless second loop, which carried us for miles up a wash plagued with gnats.  Deep sand and exposed rock prevented trotting, and the obviously thirsty mares refused to drink amid the bugs.  We crashed through brush so thick we couldn’t see the trail, depending on ribbons strung from branches to help us find our way.  Sometimes, we could scarcely see for squinting and waving our hands to fend off gnats. 

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At long last, we climbed back to the rim and trotted again, found water, escaped most of the bugs.  We wound past the wind caves, whose eerie hollows carved by the elements play like flutes in a stiff breeze.  Then it was back up the rocky, sandy wash to the vet check, and back along the morning’s route to camp.

I didn’t sleep my best that night.  Though Thunder had finished completely sound, he had a small, unsual area of swelling on his off hind.  Karen made the obvious decision: He’s fine now, but he may not be after another 50 miles.  Not goin’ tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Laurel was going to stick in camp and volunteer becasue Buffy wasn’t ready for multi-days yet.  Consolation and I were on our own.

This wasn’t a novel concept.  We condition alone most of the time.  Consolation’s first several endurance rides were completed solo, or with whatever miscellaneous company we happened to join on the trail.  But this year, got into quite a habit of riding with Karen and Thunder or Blue.  Consolation and Thunder, in particular, have kindled their own little romance.  And while Consolation seemed finally to have discovered her ability to maintain a decent pace, I remembered how draggy she could be on her own…and, on the flip side, how racy.  How much of a battle might the morrow be?

These were the thoughts that tumbled through my head all night, as my camper heater clicked on and off and the temperature outside dropped just to freezing.  Come morning, I cooked some chicken and peppers and eggs, pulled on several layers of fleece, and stepped out to see what would happen.

…And Consolation was an angel.  She left Thunder in camp with little protest and a solitary neigh.  She covered the trail with enthusiasm despite putting in a few extra miles, thanks to a wrong turn.  We had intermittent company on the first of two loops, but rode the second entirely alone, spotting other riders only twice and at a considerable distance.  She ate and drank and jogged back into camp around 4:30 to claim 5th place.  And I’d thought we were nearly last!  (Not that this particular 5th place was impressive; there were only 16 starts — 12 completions — and the winners finished so far ahead of us that we didn’t bother showing for BC.  But still.)

And now, we are home again.  Weekends are slow and still.  I drink coffee from completion-award mugs and mull over the good times.

I marvel at how far we’ve come.  (Remember the days when all my Barbs were too wild to touch?  When illness and injury seemed to block Aaruba and me at every turn?  When training wasn’t going well and Consolation was NQR and relationships were cracking and money was tight?)  And yet, the Halloween ride tipped me over the 1,000 AERC mile mark.  Consolation is at 825. 

Yes, I marvel at how far we’ve come…and even more at how far I still want to go.

But for now, our dawns bring a wreath of frost for every fencepost, every blade of grass, even the fetlocks of sleeping horses.  I hunch my shoulders and watch the cloud of my breath as I trudge out to feed.  I am greeted with nickers, eyes dark and bright in wooley faces, the hollow ring of hooves on frozen ground.

This is resting time.  Consolation will have a month to eat, relax, and play before returning to enough work to keep her reasonably fit for 2012.  I have a couple projects in mind for us — ones we can work on even in winter conditions that sometimes render trotting unwise.

Yes, we have come far, and we have far to go.  This year, we found our way to multi-days at last, and we joined in the area’s last ride for the first time.  Perhaps, next year, we’ll extend a little more to include the first rides of spring.

But not today.  Today, we loosen our cinches and enjoy the hold.

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16 responses

  1. You have accomplished a lot this year, and must be very proud of Consolation. How is Aruba?

    November 11, 2011 at 8:25 am

    • Oh yes, I’m VERY proud of her. 🙂 Aaruba is fat and happy, though I know he still misses his work. I put him in the round corral for a while last week and he amused himself by running laps. LOL

      November 11, 2011 at 8:31 am

  2. I’m very proud of you! You’ve accomplished a lot and even in the hard time your displayed a positive attitude and woman of great character. I’m proud to say your are my daughter.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

    • *blush* Thanks. I confess to some bad-attitude moments…but most of the time, they don’t last too long…

      November 11, 2011 at 8:48 am

  3. Nice work! 1,000 is a long way & through the early miles!

    November 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

    • Thanks Connie — maybe I’ll actually know something soon! 😉

      November 12, 2011 at 6:33 am

  4. I have just recently found your blog. Your photographs are amazing and you are truly inspirational.

    Congratulations on what seems like a fantastic year- I look forward to reading about your adventures in 2012!

    November 11, 2011 at 10:09 am

    • Welcome, Lorie!! So glad you found your way here — and thanks 🙂

      November 12, 2011 at 6:33 am

  5. Debby

    I asoulutely love to hear about your adventures…look forward to each one! Thank you for letting me listen to your stories!

    November 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    • Thanks Debby! Glad to have you reading!

      November 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

  6. I’ve reread that now, and find it more lovely all the time. Nice work and a good solid year.
    I’m looking forward to reading about 2012. Best of luck……..I’m partial to your horse 🙂

    November 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    • Aww, thanks, Jackie. I’m partial to her, too. 😉

      November 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

  7. Congrats on what sounds like a wonderful season of meeting goals and making new ones. Didn’t it seem to go fast? I know bad weather is just around the corner and I’ve been stealing rides as much as I could until the time change stole it from me. 😦 Enjoy your rest and good luck next season.

    November 12, 2011 at 7:24 am

    • It DID go fast — even more than usual! I hear you on the “stealing” rides!

      November 12, 2011 at 7:29 am

  8. weren’t those gnats in that canyon SPECTACULAR?? congrats on your 1000 miles and your great progress on Consolation! enjoy the winter coffee mornings and see you on the trails again in the spring!

    November 26, 2011 at 9:24 am

    • LOL “Spectacular” = euphamism du jour!

      December 4, 2011 at 8:51 am

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