30 Apr 2018
100 days. Holy crap. Also, woooo!!!!!! It’s been a hot minute since I updated this blog and there are many stories to share, but in honor of 100 days til the start gun I’m going to briefly talk about the wonderful horses and people helping me to prepare.
Theresa: It was her idea. No chance in hell I would have ever thought to do this race myself.
Mom and Dad: I really thought they’d say I was insane when I mentioned this thing. They have been shockingly supportive from the first moment I mentioned it (not counting the hilarious time Mom asked if I hated her or had a death wish) and I would not be here without their support.
Andy: He’s coming too! He’s helping me prepare by making me feel better about myself and my preparation because I make it to the gym far more often than he does. Winning.
Capi, Dulci, Chagal & Tina and Pam:
When I was still solidly in the panic phase – the early weeks when I couldn’t believe I was doing this and was full on panicked about how unprepared I was (am) – I started brainstorming who I knew in the area that may be able to point me in the direction of horses that needed riding. Immediately I thought of Tina, a woman I trained with while I was still hoping to event Reggie. I texted her, expecting a “maybe, I’ll let you know if I can think of something,” and was shocked when she immediately said I was more than welcome to come out and ride a Thoroughbred gelding she had on her farm. I came out the second I was free and tried out Capi. He and I clicked immediately. He’s a big-moving, beautiful bay TB. One I would love to compete if I had the time and wasn’t trying to save money after buying a house and paying this entry fee. Capi has been an incredible project, finished but in need of polishing and exercise. I like to think he and I are bettering one another, but if nothing else he is certainly bettering me. Capi’s owner Pam has been incredibly generous and supportive of me taking ride time away from her and her daughter.
A few days into working with Capi I mentioned that he is great, but one horse is not enough to prepare. Tina offered to let me ride her mare, Dulci. A tall bay Warmblood,
wider and stronger than anything I’ve ridden short of a Belgian gelding when I was a kid, Dulci has worked wonders to get me fit fast. She is incredibly well trained, but hadn’t been worked much recently and she was strong when we first started. Turning in the corners was an adventure and there have been many times I’ve wondered if she’ll just plow through the fence. Combine jumping with that steering problem and you can see why I flew into a jump standard… We’ve since had a couple of solid jumping sessions and I am well aware that was entirely my fault. Dulci has been an awesome ride and I look forward to continuing to work with her in the coming months. Tina has also put me on her Connemara gelding, Chagal, and we have had an awesome jump school and some great rides. But in the spirit of not poaching all of her riding opportunities, I ride Chagal infrequently and only if Tina is busy or asks me to. Long story short, Tina has been phenomenally supportive and I am not sure I would feel as confident about August if I weren’t riding multiple horses most days out at her farm.
Chief & Melissa/Mom: Chief is Mom’s horse, leased to a great family down in Chesapeake. Melissa has been great about letting me come out and add him to my Chesapeake string when she isn’t planning to ride. Chief has been awesome for my strength, as I’ve taken to riding him bareback when I’m in a hurry/feeling too lazy to tack him up. There is nothing quite like cantering around an open field bareback to make you feel like a kid again and to bring you back to the pure love of riding. There is also no quicker way to increase your confidence then to remind yourself you don’t need a bunch of gear to stay on a shifty horse. Chief is as steadfast as they come and has never been so patient with me. I should know – I did most of the early breaking/training of this poor horse. He’s put up with a lot from me and we haven’t always gotten along. To say he didn’t take to jumping naturally would be an understatement… But we’ve been through a lot in the last 15 years and I think Chief is finally warming up to me. Or at least he doesn’t immediately walk away when I enter the pasture.
Tibbs, Ashes, TK & Sherry and Lowell: You will not meet more generous and genuine folk than the Blacks. I had met them and been to their ranch in Nevada once this past fall, but when I texted Sherry two weeks ago to ask if she remembered me and if I could come out and ride she instantly said of course! And while I’m at it will I take some food home with me? Heck yes I will!! Halfway through the first week in Fallon I went out and talked to them and came up with a plan to try riding their horses that weekend. I went out that Sunday and rode Mr. Tibbs and Ashes, two awesome roping horses, with Lowell. Thanks to their generosity I was able to cram in 8 rides over 4 days and continue training while traveling for work. More importantly I was able to experience a type of riding I haven’t tried in ages and to feel the freedom of galloping across a hay field on a sturdy Quarter horse. The moment TK and I were loping down the side of the field and a hawk flew out of a ditch and coasted alongside us briefly was truly magical, bested only by the almost-Zen moment I experienced galloping Ashes, a fairly unfamiliar mare, alone across the field and realizing how sturdy I felt in such an unfamiliar environment. I truly felt in that moment that, for me, this race is not that insane and will be such an incredible experience that will not be nearly as terrifying as I often assume it will.
Endurance folk: I have to assume Endurance riders are the most welcoming and helpful horse people. I have been on one ride with the daughter of my Mom’s barn owner – the owner having given up her own spot on the ride for me to join – and she let me try both of the horses and gave me tons of tips on riding for hours at a time. By the end of the ride she offered to let me ride her horse in a race this summer if she can’t make it. The day prior I met another Endurance rider who offered to find people in my area; resulting in a complete stranger offering to take me on a trail ride on one of her Arabians. I haven’t had the chance to really get to know any of these people, but the immediate offers to help me find horses, just to work and get in shape, or to ride on a 50- or 100-miler, took me completely by surprise. I have had someone let me ride their horse when my own was too difficult (I was 7 (8?), it’s a good story actually. Later.) in a hunter show, but I never thought people would just pony up a horse for me to go on a full Endurance ride! The generosity has been incredible and I am very grateful and look forward to giving Endurance riding a try.
The horses of Back Bay & Gail: I have found some people willing to let me ride a few of their horses out in Virginia Beach and look forward to giving that a try as well! I’ve only had one ride out there, but I’ve been told I can ride almost any horse on the farm and feel like I’ve been given the keys to the stable. The immediate acceptance and willingness to help has again blown me away.
I never expected so much support and for so many people to offer me the opportunity to ride their horses to prepare for Mongolia. I cannot begin to express my gratitude. In the last few weeks I have realized the greatest thing about this race may not be the race itself. It may simply be the fact that this race has opened me up to worlds I likely would not have ventured into without sufficient motivation. In being open, and somewhat desperate, to riding anything, I have tried more types of horses and styles of riding in the last 3 months than I have in the last 28 years of my life. I’m even going to add Polo lessons to the list in a few weeks! It has been absolutely incredible. I am so excited to continue training and most importantly, to learning from all of the variety I did not have when I wasn’t looking beyond riding my own horses.