I did it I did it I did it - and I've got the wrecked shoulders, lengthened arms, and achey thighs to prove it. In fact this has been the first day since sunday that I've been able to walk downstairs without whimpering a pathetic little 'ow, ow, ow' on each step.
Okay - to be more accurate - we did it. Bounce and me. We did the Ullswater Endurance Ride and discovered for ourselves just why the very mention of Loadpot Hill can make even experienced endurance riders go slightly pale around the edges. And we not only lived to tell the tale, we arrived back in one piece with me still in the saddle - and Glory of Glories - Bounce passed the vetting and was announced both sound and fit. Which for me had been the top, bottom and indeed middle of the whole thing. Don't get me wrong - I was delighted to take possession of (what must surely be) our hardest-won rosette yet. But ribbons would have meant nothing if I hadn't brought my boy home safe and sound.
If that sounds a bit melodramatic -(it was just a horse-ride for heavens sake - wasn't it?) - then I can only say the sport isn't called Endurance Riding for nothing. The Ullswater Ride was long, tough and demanding - and Bounce added to the already-considerable challenge, by pulling like a train practically the whole way round! Of course most people just getting into the sport will do a few pleasure rides first to get themselves acclimatised before moving up a gear into the competitive echelons. Not me and my horse. Nu-uh. No siree Bob. We just did one pleasure ride, then went straight for Ullswater. The biggie. Little wonder then that the night before the ride found me seriously wondering how all the butterflies in my stomach had metamorphosed into giant black bats.
Normally I ride Bounce bitless - we two have hunted, cross-countried, showjumped, done a bit of western and hacked for many miles together without feeling any need for metal in his mouth and in retrospect maybe I should have stuck to my convictions. Instead I decided to err on the side of caution, thinking that a bit would afford me a bit of extra brake-power. Didn't. In fact all it did do was to irritate him. I suspect half of the pulling was done to escape the bit as much as to make me let him go faster.
I rode in the company of a very experienced endurance competitor which was great in one respect as she clearly knew exactly she was doing - but in another sense added to the pressure a little bit as I was horribly conscious that we might be holding her back or spoiling her chances of making the grade.
In any case - we got home safe and sound, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was particularly delighted to see two great chums - Annie and Therry - doing the ride on their fit and very able Clydesdales and they both had a great time. Go Clydies!
So - will I do more endurance riding? I really hope so and I think that goes for Bounce as well. We learned many things on the Ullswater Ride - probably the most important thing being - that we have a great deal MORE to learn! So watch this space...for the next chapter. And here are some pix from the ride...not in any particular order...