Bernadette Kilcer ventures outside her comfort zone–and likes it.
I fully admit I am a hunter/jumper princess. I like my “civilized” horse shows. Walking three miles through wet tall grass at 5 a.m. picking up ticks along the way to scope out the jumps that are definitely going to hurt if you hit them is not my idea of a fun!
That said, a good friend of mine who volunteers with the Marlborough Horse Trials said, “Hey, we are running a hunter pace this weekend to raise money for new jumps–you should come.” I’m not quite sure why she was asking. Was it because I had gone on a week-long trail ride vacation this summer and I might actually enjoy myself, or because she would get a huge laugh out of watching this “princess” out in the woods and the muck? Either way she was getting the $35 out of me so it was a win for their organization!
The original plan had been to go through the five-mile course on the babies first. After the rain the night before I said to my teammate (also a first-time hunt pacer), how about we take the “sturdy” ones first? That was probably the best decision we made all day. The first mile or so we were both rethinking our decision to do this. The trail was super mucky and had more than one water crossing. Definitely not baby friendly. Heck, we were beginning to wonder if it was US friendly.
Now, mind you, I was on a pony who had never been trail riding before but thank goodness for his little Haflinger brain! He stopped at the water and looked at me. Are you REALLY sure about this, lady? I encouraged him forward and he went. There were LOTS of praise and cookies on the other side, as we all know Haflingers are motivated by cookies.
We continued through the woods enjoying the scenery and having a running commentary along the way. Groups would blaze up on us all in a lather and steaming. We would turn around so they could see us (more importantly so our mounts could see them) and let them pass, leaving our two mounts wondering where everyone was going in such a hurry.
Occasionally, we would come up on a jump. After walking around it and checking it out we would either try it or go on our merry little way. The 12-year-old draft/thoroughbred who had never stepped foot out on a cross-country course walked and trotted through the water like he had done it his entire life. He even jumped out up the bank! The pony had other thoughts and since he was not going to be a cross-country pony we just sat there enjoying watching everyone else splash around. Honestly, Buddy, I don’t blame you, but even the OTTB went through water her first time out.
Optimum time was 50 minutes. We completed the course in two hours and 15 minutes. As came back we realized we were off course but headed in the right direction. As we popped around a group of bushes the timing guy said, “You guys know you are disqualified right?” We looked at each other laughing said said, meh!? By the looks on their faces I’m guessing they weren’t expecting that as an answer.
To sum up the day: I only got off and remounted once. No one came off even after a few close calls with scary bicycles, hunters (who weren’t suppose to be there) and other teams coming out of nowhere. Underpants were clean and intact. No anxiety attacks. Most importantly, we laughed and laughed and laughed. New rule, unless it is fun we aren’t doing it again and this, THIS was fun. Even if we were an hour and 25 minutes off of optimum time. Hey guys, maybe next year you should have a Grandma Award–we’d totally nail that!
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