The first ride of the season in Michigan is the Brighton CTR (Competitive Trail Ride). This is the ride that I dipped my toes in for Michigan endurance and took a weekend to go camp as a volunteer with total strangers one month after arriving in Michigan in 2015.
The Michigan distance riding group is pretty small. You see the same people at all the rides. It's nice, in a way, because you really get to know them. They're a wonderful group of people and I'm so glad I found them.
Last year I was due any day with Hazel and didn't make it out to Brighton, though I really wanted to. This year I swore I would be going with Gwyn. I wanted to camp, but Eric disagreed (because it's April and might snow, plus kids) so we compromised and I day tripped. Brighton is not far, about an hour and 15 minutes away and on pretty direct highway!
Given that I really haven't ridden much this winter, I opted to do the 15 mile intro ride, especially since hoof protection is recommended, there are a bunch of hills and we'd be doing it barefoot. Lots of factors. I also opted for the tutored ride that they offered for new to the sport people. I figured it would be a guaranteed group to chat with on the ride and I might learn some things, especially about CTR which is a bit different from AERC rides. Plus the intro had a later start time, which would make day tripping easier.
Sometimes I feel I cheat at hooking up the trailer...
Saffron started braying AS SOON as I was backing the truck up to the trailer. She knew. She knew.
The next morning Gwyn came trotting down to me. I put on her halter, grabbed a lunge line and gloves and prepared to argue about her getting into the trailer. I had the lunge line because she sometimes tries to rear and twist and run away, and the gloves so I could hang on and I wanted to school her if she tried that. Instead, I stood to the side she normally ducks out on, pointed to the trailer and in she hopped.
I kind of stood there in shock for half a second, wondering if that really just happened, then I hopped up and attached the butt bar and gave her a scritch for a job well done. She munched on some hay while I closed the rest of the trailer up and grabbed the last of the things I needed. Then I gave her a carrot because DAMN. That's the first time that's ever happened!
I think I channeled Dom for a moment...
We got to the ride with plenty of time to chill. The intro ride groups were going out starting at 10 am and my ride group of 4 was going out at 10:50. So Gwyn got a good grooming and I rebraided her mane since I was expecting the day to warm up and her mane is thick.
She vetted in wonderfully. Mary was the vet and she is fantastic. The vetting is really thorough for CTR. That's where a lot of the points can be lost.
Warm up walking around the day tripper parking/ride office camp. The actual campers were up on the camp sites in the loop nearby. It's a really nice park for equestrian camping.
Gwyn was really relaxed, even with horses leaving in groups.
In CTR you go out in groups of 3-5 riders every 10 minutes. Instead of having a maximum allowable time and no minimum, you have a time window to aim for where your speed would average to 5-7 mph. We had 2h40m to ride 15 miles. Our window was 2:25 to 2:35. If we came in before 2:25 pm or after 2:35 pm there would be points deducted. Everyone starts at 400 points and you want to lose as few points as possible!
This was my first time riding the trails in this park and it was just absolutely fantastic. While they were certainly no Mount Spokane steady mountain hills, they were rolling and STEEP. Gwyn was a powerhouse. She got frustrated being behind the horses we were with because they didnt' get up the hills fast enough for her and we'd end up in another horse's butt, which obviously was not a good thing. I did my best to manage and we only got a raised butt once and she backed off after that.
Our tutor was Mindy, who was on a half-arabian. The lady in front of me was on a welsh pony that was too big to be a pony. The person behind me had a quarter horse mare who was WAY out of shape and could barely handle the hills.
New helmet! I haven't written about my previous ride, but I did make an unplanned dismount and a cracked helmet was involved. So this purchase had to happen FAST.
This is probably the best creek crossing I've ever been through. It's been shored up to withstand horses and the ground through the water is wonderfully solid and non mushy. We crossed it twice, and it made for a good drink stop for the horses. No hesitation from Gwyn, she charged right in and after drinking her fill she thought splashing was most fun.
There was a spotter to make sure we did the lollipop loop here. She took our numbers.
Up behind the tutor rider. We also led for a bit, which Gwyn fully enjoyed. She had no trouble keeping pace with the fit Arabian. That's my girl :D
So, also on CTR, once you hit the 2 mile mark to camp you MUST maintain forward motion on your horse. You also may not dismount at any time on the ride and walk beside your horse. Once into camp you are given a rider card and a time 10 minutes from when you get there. That is when you get pulse and respiration checked. You are not allowed to sponge in that 10 minutes. All cooling must be done with hay/water/grain/air. If we were going back out on another loop, 30 minutes after that P/R would be our out time. Since this was effectively our final vet check, after getting that P/R we went to the vet for our final inspection and trot out.
Gwyn got a PERFECT vet score. No soreness or interference marks, lots of pep and energy left in the trot out. The only point off we got from our 400 points was because her P/R was not the minimum they set. But when you compare her recover P/R to what she had at vet in, she was down to baseline, her baseline just isn't what would get you 0 point deductions.
I'll take that win.
Sweaty at the end. We came in perfectly in our
We got 5th place in the heavyweight rider category! Yay!
There was just a slight discussion about loading, but she self loaded AGAIN. Then it was home we were bound.
Where she had a touching moment with Kaylee before rolling.