Hunter paces are my favorite thing. Typically I’m out there all by myself which is still fun, but everything is better with a friend. When I met KC at AECs and she expressed and interest in hitting one up this fall, I was practically peeing myself with excitement. Blogger friend and a hunter pace? Sign me up!
I’m an early morning fool which is usually a turn off for fellow human beings, but KC was game to meet at 9 am for the start and we were the first ones out on course. I love being the first out there as you can avoid some of the etiquette issues that pop up later in the day when the trails get crowded. Plus there is something about riding in the early morning cool air that speaks to me.
The weather was perfect as we set out following the pink ribbons on the right. Gem isn’t into leading on trail, so we ducked behind and I was sorta a back seat driver helping to point out the ribbons. It was maybe an ominous sign when the guy counted us down and we immediately made a wrong turn. About 2 feet from the start. I’m sure the guy was thinking we would never return.
The first section was through the woods leading to the cross country field. We warmed up with some nice trot and Gem and Pilgrim got along pretty well. No pinned ears or fussing and Gem was able to keep up with Pilgrim’s massive stride without an issue. At the trot anyway.
Once we hit the cross country course and the trail became wide open grassy lanes, we let the horses open up into a canter. Or well, Pilgrim cantered. Gemmie had to gallop to keep up. Poor mare was not very happy that she was getting out run by a good bit. Sorry mare, you just aren’t built to race an OTTB!
Gem is very competitive so when we opened them up on the next section, she decided that if she couldn’t out run him she would out smart him. She took off at a gallop cutting through the weeds in a straight line thereby getting from point A to B minus all the switchbacks that you were supposed to do. Little cheating mare! I got her wrangled back on trail and forced her to canter politely until we caught up commenting that Gem was likely thinking that I screwed it all up yet again.
Things were going great. Perfect weather, two game and ready horses and amazing company. We were making good time too and I was figuring that we would be pretty close to optimum at the pace we were going. Then we got a little lost. They added a poker run to the mix and told us that at the various carriage obstacles there would be a bucket with playing cards. At the end we should have five. I saw a bucket off to our left just as we were leaving the cross country field and grabbed the card but then the trail kinda looked wrong. There were markers going both right and left and the ribbons were on our left. Hmmm…we back tracked and easily found our missed turn and got back on track.
From there it was another few canters, one run in with a rider going the wrong way and turning to gallop off right in front of us, and then we hit a tiny snag.
We came to a creek crossing and Pilgrim said “oh hell no”. Gem plowed ahead and he followed her lead over the water then we paused so KC could school him over it. He went back and forth several times no issue and we moved along to conquer the rest of the trail.
We got into a lovely groove of trotting and walking with a lot of laughter and fun thrown in as we climbed up and over a large hill and descended again. The morning was flying by under a beautiful blue sky and I was thoroughly enjoying being out on trail with Gem.
We came to another water crossing and Pilgrim once again put a hard stop on that. Gem gave the lead, but Pilgrim wasn’t having it. This is more KC’s story to tell but he did go over eventually only to run smack into another crossing about 10 feet later.
We spent about 30 minutes trying to get him over. Eventually a couple on TWHs came up and tried to help. It was hilarious. The guy’s TWH must be used to teaching younger horses how to do the trail because he went behind Pilgrim and gave him a hard shove several times in the butt. When that didn’t convince him to cross, he started biting his butt. Duke just stood there calmly behind Pilgrim biting him and obviously telling him to grow a set and just cross already. I was doubled over laughing.
Unfortunately no amount of coercion worked. The other couple left us to continue on their ride and I took a look at our surroundings. While living in the woods is tempting, I wasn’t so sure KC wanted to plop a tent out there and live there with P for the rest of her days. Fortunately, there was an easy way to pop up onto the paved road that paralleled the trail and it was only a short ways down before the trail re crossed that road and entered the woods again.
This trail took us to the very secluded dressage arena. I saw a vulture circiling over head and joked with KC that anyone who didn’t do well on their dressage ride got eaten. Good luck next week KC!! Lol!!!
We thought our troubles were behind us and started joking around some more until BAM another water crossing and then another. I’m sure Pilgrim was thinking enough with the water already people!
More woods, more trotting and talking and laughing. Around this point Dusty texted me and asked if I had signed up for the slow old lady division. He is used to me being done with these in about 1 1/2 hours and we were over 2 hours at this point without an end in sight. No worries though, I was still having a blast!
There was one last speed bump at a ditch and I do believe KC threatened to sell P at this point. I’ve been there and done that with Gem many a times. The threat typically helps 🙂
The last bit was back through the cross country course and we made great time trotting through everything. I’m not sure what our official ride time was but I believe we were on for nearly 3 hours. I don’t think we are going to hit that elusive optimum time, but we did end up with a decent poker hand with a pair of aces. Since pretty much nobody found all 5 buckets we stood a decent shot at winning a free entry to another hunter pace. We will find out in a couple of days.
Gem did super well through the entire ride. I forgot my GPS watch but it felt like 8-10 miles. She didn’t miss a beat being off trail for so long although she did pull a typical spook and ran into Pilgrim over absolutely nothing. At the end she was bright eyed and could easily have gone again. I love having a fit and happy mare!
Unfortunately we were well over the time I had planned it to take and we had an important meeting at 2 which meant I couldn’t partake in the lovely lunch they had. I basically washed Gem off with some water and shoved her in the trailer so we could go. I did manage to get asked to jump judge at the HT there next weekend so that will be fun specially since KC is competing in it. I can’t wait!!!
I hope KC and Pilgrim aren’t scared off of future paces with us and that we can go again sometime this fall. Even with the few issues in trail it was a complete blast.