I’ll admit that there was pretty much no way I was going to miss the Biltmore HP. I had been disappointed when the first HP at Biltmore was cancelled due to mucky conditions so the fact that the forecast high was only 39F wasn’t enough to stop me from loading up Baxter and Jen, pulling on my thermals (because yes we do have them even here in SC) and heading out for Asheville.
Jim had settled, somewhat reluctantly, on Jen after taking her out on Saturday. Jen and Baxter get along well together and I think Jim thought he would have a more exciting ride on her than on Pip. We love Pip, but he’s not a zippy horse.
Anyway. We got there just fine and were pretty much the last people to arrive. So we registered, ate a quick bowl of soup which was very yummy, contemplated why anyone needed ice for their drinks when the temp was around 34F (evidently I was the only one that thought that was odd as I was the only one WITHOUT ice in my lemonade) and got the horses ready to go.
I won’t lie to you, it was cold. But because Sharon (our Biltmore savvy HP friend) had warned us beforehand we dressed accordingly and were comfortable, which allowed us to focus on the ride. The trails were very nice and while Baxter had a few goonie moments right at the start (thank you whoever was in the port-a-john for not opening the door until we were well past) he settled right down into a nice SLOW plod. I’m guessing Baxter and Jen had discussed this on the way to Biltmore because neither of them had any go at all. To the point that I was nudging Baxter with my heels every single step (which my knees regretted the next day) and giving him occasional pops of encouragement… all met with nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. Pip-worthy even. So we plodded along following the yellow trail until Jim and I both got distracted by a deer feeder and instead of looking for the marker, blindly followed two other horses down the wrong trail. Happily we discovered our mistake quickly, but not before crossing over a slippery creek bed. So we, and our new found friends Karen and Steve, turned around and renegotiated the creek which was no problem for Baxter, but a bit tricky for Jen who is still new to this whole creek experience. Jim and Jen did a bit of gravity defying bank walking and we were safely on our way down the yellow trail.
And the plodding pace continued.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good slow trail ride any day… but… I love getting in a good gallop on a nice forest trail from time to time. Heck I would’ve been thrilled with a nice trot! But no, Baxter refused to entertain anything faster than a walk and was most indignant when I asked him to trot up a couple easy hills. I was becoming concerned that we would register the slowest time in the history of the HP. Karen and Steve were kind, but I think even they were starting to question the slow pace.
Thankfully the trail finally beckoned and I felt a couple light steps from my plodding gelding and rapidly seizing the moment I shouted a quick challenge to Jim and off we went! It.Was.AWESOME! Baxter and Jen seemed to feed off of each other and were really enjoying the gallop! Jen showed a definite preference for the left side of the trail and would block any attempt we would make to pass her on that side… I’m thinking it’s a racehorse thing (race people chime in with opinions) but Baxter was NOT to be denied and in a valiant, and let’s face it UNBELIEVABLE effort he passed her on a right hand dog leg and made the top of the hill before her. And he was pretty pleased with himself too I might add. I got the impression that Jen wasn’t so happy about it at all and after a mile of walking and trotting we found another stretch of trail that was perfect for a run. Jen was ready for the rematch and was sure to throw in a few more race-tricks to assure her victory. Rubbing, which may indeed be racing in NASCAR, is a bit scarier on horseback. So of course Jen won the second (and every subsequent) speed battle. As I said before… it was AWESOME.
So the ride went very smoothly. There were icy puddles periodically and those were easy to avoid, although Jen did have one uh-oh moment that almost threw Jim (literally) when she couldn’t decide if he wanted her to jump the puddle or go through it. Baxter saw her go squirrelly and was prepared for the Loch Ness Monster to rise up out of that puddle, came to a screeching halt, pranced sideways a couple steps, and then gingerly hopped over before resuming his nice big trot.
The finish at Biltmore is a lane between two electric fences and Baxter was determined that one or the other of the fences was going to get him (he is extremely wary of electric fences after his water and fence accident) so instead of a rousing canter to the finish we sort of trot/snorted to the end. Jim and Jen intended to take the couple log jumps but I think Baxter’s freak out effected Jen’s focus because she wouldn’t line up on the jumps and ended up blowing by both.
So we finished and went to tack down the horses. M had given me a couple Eskadron coolers for Christmas (plaid ones, on sale at Farmhouse) which came in handy as both Baxter and Jen had worked up a sweat. I have to say those coolers are really nice as both horses 1. looked snazzy and 2. were dry very quickly.
We spent a little while talking with Karen and Steve (they were parked next to us) and then decided to load up the horses and head for home.
While I know that Baxter is sometimes a difficult horse to load (the trailer is really too small for him) he usually will go on for grain, but not this time. He absolutely refused. While I know it is against the normal protocol, we ended up loading Jen (easy loader there, no surprise) and then spending the next 40 minutes begging Baxter to step on. He just wasn’t having any of it at all. Finally his belly got the better of him and he did step up and Jim had the door closed before he could even think about stepping back out! I believe that Baxter has grown a little bit since I got him in September as he really really doesn’t fit in the trailer anymore.
So anyway we left the deserted field (no one was there to witness the 40 mins of begging) and headed for home but not before stopping at the Starbucks on the way out, which was much appreciated! Not too far down the road I noticed Jim squinting and rubbing his eye… his contact had malfunctioned so we pulled off and he tried to fix it only the contact was beyond help and he ended up throwing it away. Which meant Jim, who did not bring his glasses, could not drive as he could not see properly. So I, timidly, slid into the drivers seat and started my maiden live hauling drive. Honestly I was terrified for the first 2 minutes as there was a good bit of traffic and I was afraid of slinging the horses (thinking of my poor Baxter already squished in the trailer) but then got into the rhythm and by the time we hit the Saluda grade I was feeling pretty good.
So anyway, we made it home safely, unloaded the horses, fed the other horses and hit the hay.
I believe it was the next day that I got an email from the Pace organizer with the results. Guess what?? We came in third! How cool is that? I’m sure the fact that so few people came out because it was cold had a lot to do with it, but still… Third!
Next weekend is the FENCE pace and we’re already trying to decide who to take. I’m thinking of taking somebody other than Baxter since the trailer is becoming an issue… maybe Pip or Fame… either way it should be fun 🙂