August 25th marked Dixie's 3rd 50 mile race this season. She truly was bigger, better, faster, and more prepared than any other race we have been to.
Before heading to the race, we stopped off at a friends to help her prepare for her first 30 mile AERC ride and then loaded up in the trailer. Georgia is getting shoes on here, and stood perfectly quiet while the farrier banged away. Dixie and Georgia first met as 'wild ones' in my trailer February 2012. Yes, they were both Extreme Mustang Makeover selections! Obviously, we kept our horses after the competition (how could I have ever parted with my Dixie?!) and it was pretty cute to see them hop in the trailer together.
After a few hours, we arrived and set up. Stories from riders that day came in "So beautiful, but SO HARD!" and "that was a TRUE 50!!!!" were heard often. Some rides do not actually measure up to the actual mileage they claim, but this one did! And hills, oh the hills. I thought we better get to bed right after the ride meeting so we were fresh in the morning!
The race started in a grassy meadow. I had recently switched Dixie to a hackamore at the suggestion of a woman who had done some accupressure work on her. Not having raced in one yet, I was hoping things would go smoothly. Once we took a few jittery laps around the meadow, she seemed to settle in. As the race began, we started near the front 10 or so riders.
Immediately, you could tell they front runners were going to let their horses roll out some energy. I wanted to hold Dixie back and "save some horse" for later (we did have 50 miles!!!) so I started to let some distance between us go. Another woman, Cathy and her horse Baron were doing the same.
Within the first 1/8th of a mile we had found a perfect match for our horses.
Part of the race is certainly covering distance as quickly and safely as your horse will allow, but another part if just the sheer enjoyment of the ride. As we started talking, the trail seemed to melt away as we told each other our life stories. It is kind of like sitting next to a stranger on a plane!
I was not sure we would be able to ride for the whole race until we came into the first vet check and saw how quickly they 'pulsed down'. If one horse was in much better shape, then one of us would be held back and undoubtedly our riding together would end. First vet check, 2 minute time difference, not bad. We decided to stick together. 2nd vet check, same time! We were rolling at a nice pace and both horses seemed happy.
Dixie and me smiling for the camera. They tell you to spread out for the pictures, but Baron and Cathy are just in front of us :)
Coming into the finish together at a time of 2:05pm we took 6th and 7th place. We only passed one rider the whole ride. That means we must have 'pulsed down' quicker than other horses at the vet check. If you land in the top ten, you can show for Best Conditioned (BC).
Dixie and I running the circle. The vet watches to see her movement and look for any signs of lameness. Everyone was clapping and yelling to get us excited, it worked and Dixie really moved out awesome!
Post ride, Dixie watches as the rest of her competitors come back.
One of the best parts of the ride, was the vet card. At each stop the vet rates each function (hydration, impulsion, gut sounds, etc) with an A, B, C, D. It gives you an idea of how fatigued your horse is. Well, Dancing Dixie got ALL A's the WHOLE RIDE! I was so proud of my 'honor student'.
That was the real clue that not only is she fit to continue, but she is happy and willing. And that is the whole reason I began this crazy endurance journey to begin with!
Thanks to Cathy and Baron for being such great traveling companions. We hope to see you at our next race! Thank you to the ride managers Cynthia and Forrest for an amazing ride. You can be sure we will be back to the next Mendocino Magic 2014 :)