Since the AERC season runs from Dec 1-Nov 30, the 2021 season is over and the 2022 season has started. While I brought Liberty home in 2020, we didn’t actually get to our first ride until Dec of 2020, so the 2021 season, making it our first full ride season that we did together.
So, how did it go? To put it mildly…”not according to plan.” But we finished the season on a strong note, and learned a ton along the way. It’s also been the most prolific season I’ve had with my own horse, making it to 5 rides. I had planned on more, but between schedule conflicts, horse colds, and mystery lamenesses, that nixed at least 3 of the rides I had planned. Ah, well. I’m thrilled with what we were able to do, and am trying to embrace learning to take things as they come and roll with whatever changes get chucked in our path.
Jingle Bell Trot 25. After a rough fall of having conditioning and ride plans curtailed by horrific air quality from wildfires, and personal life priorities, we finally hit the competition trail and started our season off with a solid finish on the LD. It was the confidence boost I needed, and I started to get my first glimpses of what Liberty could do when she was fit and conditioned.
Schedule conflict month; the Tonto Twist ride fell on the same weekend as the Mark Rashid-Jim Masterson clinic, and ultimately, I decided that the clinic would probably be the better long-term investment in myself and my horse. I was right, and it ended up being a very learning-full weekend.
We were all set to go with Wickenburg, and Libby came up with a cold: snotty nose, cough, and temperature. Obviously that cancelled our ride plans, and it took a couple weeks for her to be back to her sparkly-eyed normal.
Old Pueblo 50: Otherwise known as “Snowmaggedon 2021.” We made it 42 miles on our first 50, doing the first 26 mile loop in a blizzard. The cold weather made her not want to drink very well, and she got a bit out of whack on her electrolytes, and had an erratic, hanging pulse at the end of the second vet hold, so after talking to the vet, we decided to Rider Option. Lesson Learned: Don’t ride in a snow storm. Seriously, though, I was so impressed with how she handled the snow. She stayed sensible, never slipped once, and was totally game all day, albeit a bit of a fire-breathing dragon for the first 5 or 6 miles.
Bumble Bee 50: Our 2nd 50-mile attempt. We made the full distance this time…and got pulled at the finish for lameness. (Most likely hoof soreness, most likely cause by yours truly being an idiot and trimming too close to the ride.) That one I feel bad about because it was likely caused by my own error, and the big mare didn’t deserve that. She did amazingly well all day long. We went from the cold of Sonoita to unseasonably hot at Bumble Bee, and she wasn’t phased at all by the heat. Drank like a fish all day long, and was super cheerful and always happy to go — I never had to ask her twice.
The plan was to head up to Flagstaff for the Cinders Trot, but a couple days out from the ride, I still wasn’t happy with how she was moving, and pulled our entry. That was also the unofficial “end” to the first part of the AZ ride season until the fall, and with our questionable spring, I definitely wasn’t going to make any out-of-state plans and associated expenses until I was sure we had our ducks in a row.
My goal for the summer was to just keep her tuned up as much as possible. It wasn’t easy, with the heat, and there were quite a few 3am wakeups but I was able to consistently put some good mileage on and head into the fall season in good shape.
Man Against Horse 25: While we stayed fit over the summer, I wasn’t confident that it was “conquer Mingus Mountain” level of fit, and again, after our spring, I really wanted to stack the deck in our favor and set ourselves up for success, so opted to go for the 25 instead of the 50. I don’t regret that decision at all. She was strong and fit all day, had fantastic vet scores, and a solid finish.
Lead-Follow @ McDowell 50: Third time’s a charm, and we finally got that 50-mile finish. She had no problem going the distance, had awesome vet scores and P&Rs all day, and she had so much gas still left in the tank at the finish. This was probably one of the best finishes I’ve had in my endurance career in terms of having a fresh, spunky horse who truly could have gone out for another loop, and on that alone, makes it one of my rides I’m really thrilled with and proud of how both my horse and I did.
With that, the ride season ends…and we roll right into 2022. While most of the country is on their winter break, Arizona is in the thick of our winter season, and there’s a ride on the calendar every month from now through May.
All ride photos are courtesy of AZ Cowgirl Photography; Susan and John Kordish