That’s it. We are cleared for Renegade. Kara will be picking us up around lunchtime on Friday, which will put us at ride camp in time for dinner… probably. Fingers crossed!
Farrier agreed with me that everything looks closed up, but we’ll have to forego boots in order to keep it that way. Probably my horse will get VERY tired on this ride, so probably we’ll come home with both interference wounds and overreach wounds. I just hope he finishes at all. Renegade is a punishing ride.
I can tell you that my horse did not show signs of fatigue last night. After the farrier finished it was pouring rain outside, so, with a deep sigh, I resigned myself to arena work yet again. I really wanted to breeze Blue up the big hill a few times to get his head in the right place for this weekend, but I guess we will be having that conversation during the ride instead of before.
For last night’s work, I set up six trotting poles right down the middle of the arena. Since Blue has been ridden very little in the past two weeks, we started by just trotting really fast along the rail, while I worked on remembering how to ride (amazing what a couple weeks away from trotting can do to muscle memory).
The two times that I’ve ridden Blue since our Klickitat debacle have been in the Kuda, so getting back into the Specialized was really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I really love what this saddle does for my horse, but if I don’t stretch well beforehand it can be an instrument of torture for both of us. I suspect it fits Blue better than it fits me. It seems like no matter what I do with the length and position of the leathers, they end up torquing (torking?) my hips, knees, ankles, or all of the above. And after riding the Kuda for two weeks the Specialized feels especially hard, unbalanced and rigid. Of course, the Kuda feels slick, floppy and insecure when I switch back… so it isn’t like we have a clear winner in this race.
Some day, I will have the two saddles combined into some sort of super saddle. It will be made by a local person who has seen me and my horse in the flesh and understands the challenge of designing a saddle for a pear-shaped woman and a radiator-shaped horse. This will be the last saddle I ever buy… until I buy the next one.
But getting back to last night. We did fast work, and then we added the poles. I thought they would increase the difficulty. Possibly, they did. It was hard to tell because my horse was more than happy to sail over, around and through them at every speed and angle I could devise. He didn’t break a sweat, but the arena air got extremely dusty—incongruous with the sheets of rain right outside the door. I cooled him out with more lateral work. His turn on the haunches is solid for 90 degrees, iffy for 180 and nonexistent for 360, but he’s getting better every day.
After that I untacked so we could do a little ground work. I hadn’t really planned on it, but he seemed kind of disappointed when I took his saddle off and made like I was going to put him in his stall. (What? Was this some other horse disguised as Blue?!)
Blue doesn’t lunge well, so that seemed like a good indoor project for a rainy afternoon. What started as an easygoing lesson for him turned into one of those big arguments that he and I sometimes get into. He told me that he would prefer not to go counter-clockwise. I suggested it would be in his best interest if he did. He pulled the line out of my hand, bolted for the gate, nuzzled the latch, LET HIMSELF OUT, and trotted off into the distance. *sigh* Luckily it had mostly stopped raining, and he wasn’t too much of a booger about being caught. But of course the lesson now had to be resumed in a more structured way.
By the end we were both huffing and puffing, and I was sweatier than he was. But I got what I was asking for. We stopped as soon as I had won the argument, and not a moment sooner.
So yes, he has the energy to do a ride this weekend. But THIS ride? My first Renegade experience was the 15-mile trail ride on Topper (in 2008?). We had a great ride. I was still new, so I thought that when they said “trail ride” they meant it. We probably walked 14 of the 15 miles. I think those speedy endurance riders were on the verge of sending a search party, we were so slow.
And even with our slow pace, Topper ended up needing IV fluids afterwards. It’s that kind of ride.
My other Renegade experience was with Otto. Otto is a fast, powerful mountain goat of a horse. And still, we finished only minutes from being overtime.
The problem, as I see it, is this: The trails at Renegade force me to confront my fear of falling. I don’t know when exactly I developed a fear of heights, but I do remember riding Otto along a narrow trail with a hundreds-of-feet drop on one side and having actual heart palpitations. I started to think about how dangerous this sport can be. A falling horse, a foot caught in the stirrup, and that’s it. A horrific injury and/or a lonely death… possibly for both of us. And—though I am not religious—I was bargaining with the cosmos to get me safely to the end of the ride so I’d never have to do it again.
And here I am. About to do it again.
If the fear takes over this weekend, we will do too much walking and be overtime. If Blue peters out on the uphills, we will do too much walking and be overtime. If the weather is anything other than ideal, we will do too much walking and be overtime.
So Saturday I have a very specific goal: Don’t be overtime!