Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Embarassment of Riches...

The last week and half has been an absolute blast for Sug and I.  Last Saturday we got to ride over the grounds of the USET Headquarters at Hamilton Farms (sqeeeeeeaaaalllll!) on a hunter pace and on Monday we took part in a gymnastics clinic given by eventing legend Jim Wofford. (Double squeeeeeaaaalllll!)

The Somerset Hills Pony Club Hunter Pace almost didn't happen for us, as it was pissing down rain the day before and the forecast for Saturday looked bleak.  However, the closer we got the forecast improved to the point where it looked like we'd have a window of good weather in the morning so we got up extra early and made it work.  My friend Marissa and I are fair-weather riders. I mean, really, 8 miles in the rain is not our idea of fun - we're not the pony express, for god's sake - but it's not like normal horse people have lots of chances to ride on grounds where the legends of this sport have ridden, so darned if we were going to miss this opportunity!

As I mentioned above, Sug and I rode with our usual partners in crime, Marissa and her horse Tucker, of Tucker the Wunderkind fame.  Tucker and Sug get on like a house on fire, as do Marissa and I, so anytime we can ride together is a hoot and a half.

Now what have you dragged me into?
We thought we were going to ride all over the old cross country course and some of the training facility that is left. Sadly, much of the grounds have been sold off to create a golf course (Boy, did we ever want to go rogue and gallop over those perfectly manicured greens!) and homes in a gated community called the "Cottages at Hamilton Farm." Cottages my ass!  These things are enormous!  My home could fit five times over in one of those "cottages."

The ride meandered over some of the old training grounds (we passed some of the extra schooling rings) and the system of trails that go throughout the old Hamilton Farm estate.  It continued over some of the  neighboring estates.  Holy crap, were these things ever gorgeous!  Enormous old mansions situated on acre after acre of rolling hills - this is truly how the 1% live.  Some were still working farms, occupied by sheep and cattle.  Marissa and I rode past with our jaws hanging open, gawking at the sheer size and beauty of these homes (palaces?).  We starting playing the fantasy game, picking which one was going to be ours (like we could afford even 1/100th of these properties).

We called this one "Pemberly"

Tucker thinks he could live here

Curious onlookers

It had rained the night before so the footing in some areas was mucky.  Madame Mare is definitely not a "mudder" and let her displeasure be known by grunting and complaining as she picker her way through the muck.

I think that's a bit unfair.  I'd just gotten and mani -pedi and new shoes and I didn't want them ruined!

When we did have good footing, we'd trot or canter.  At one point there was a gorgeously manicured straightaway next to a line of trees, and Marissa and I decided it was the perfect place to pick up a canter.  Marissa nudged Tucker into a canter, and I cued Sug.  Her Majesty interpreted my request to mean "Take off like a bat out of hell" and complied.  Marissa, hearing us thundering up from behind, figured we wanted to gallop and let Tucker go.  At this point Sug channeled her inner Secretariat and hit a gear I'd never before encountered on her.  Seriously, I've never gone that fast on a horse, and more to the point, had no clue Sug could hit that kind of speed.  It was what I call "Oh Shit" exhilarating.  You know, where part of you is 13 again and having a blast, while the over 40 part is considering how pear-shaped this could go and wondering if your healthcare would cover the kind of catastrophic accident that would result from this idiocy.

Wheeeeeeee!!!!!  This is awesome!  Wheeeeeeee!!!!!!! Eat my dust, suckers!!

I had a hell of a time pulling Sug up at the end of the straightaway. I literally felt like I was water skiing, with my feet up by her ears and my body back on her butt, hauling back on the reins in an effort to stop the runaway train my mare had become.  She wanted no part of stopping, and had her head up in the air and was shaking her head to avoid my attempts to put on the brakes.  When she finally acquiesced to my request, she refused to walk quietly next to Tucker.  Tucker had come back to a relaxed walk, and my sassy 18 year-old senior citizen was up on her toes, jiggy and shaking her head from side to side.

Didja see me?  Didja see how fast I was going???  Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, ain't nobody as fast as me!

After a while Sug finally condescended to walk normally, and we wound through woods and fields as we finished the rest of the 8-mile trek.  At this point a few clouds had rolled in, but it was nothing that looked imminently dangerous, so we didn't worry. Well, clearly we are never gonna be weathermen, because the sky let out with a tremendous crash of thunder, startling us and the horses.  We were in shock, as the sky was mostly blue with only a couple of gray clouds - whoever heard of thunder coming from a mostly blue sky?? We couldn't believe our ears, but then a few more huge rumbles and sprinkles of rain convinced us the weather was serious and we picked up the pace as best we could for the rest of the ride.

Happy mare

We finished before the skies opened up, scraped the mud off and groomed up our tired ponies and rewarded them with pieces of Entenmann's chocolate frosted donuts, which made the whole activity worthwhile for Sug.  She does love her donuts!  After we rewarded Sug and Tucker, Marissa and I rewarded ourselves with donuts and mimosas, our traditional post-pace treat. 

And all was well in our worlds.

(Promise - I'll try to get to the Wofford clinic recap soon.)