We got invited to the Eglinton Caledon Hunter Pace meet on Labour Day. Not an actual hunt, but a long course across country, very far from the city. I think I've found Oakley's calling.
The course is simple, we follow a marked trail 19km long, which wends its way over hill and dale, across meadows around crops, along paths and through woods. Sometimes we walked, sometimes we trotted, sometimes we cantered, and sometimes we galloped full out. Still kind of fun to pass my friends like they were standing still. I believe I've mentioned how fast Oakley can be. He is still fast.
The fun part is no one knows how long one should take, except the rider who did the course the previous day. It's not about being fastest, it's about matching time. Which, it turns out, is best done by simply having fun. Chatting while walking over much of the course, laughing while racing as fast as possible over parts. And not getting lost. Some of the little flags were hard to see.
I was invited by two friends, neither of whom knows each other, to the the same event. S., who lives near where the hunt pace takes place, told me about it while we were trail riding earlier in the summer. Then E., from my barn, suggested we could go. Then, C. twisted her ankle, so she couldn't join us, either.
It rained that night. Poured. Thunder and lightning. I was awakened at 3:42 by a loud crack and my room was lit up like daylight. I went to the window with Ailsa, my two-year old flat-coated retriever, and we looked out at the lightning. She loves watching it, doesn't mind the noise, and thinks its fun. I wasn't so thrilled.
None of this boded well.
But once my alarm went off, I saw it had slacked off, and the meet was a good distance away, so it probably wasn't raining in that part of the province. Or at least not that much. Nothing saying the meet was cancelled, so I got myself to the barn in good time, loaded Oakley on in the drizzle (it's an outdoor sport. who's afraid of a little rain?) but then E.'s horse wouldn't load on the trailer. She would not be coaxed on for oats or by encouragement. In the end, she couldn't come along. We are going to get together to do some extensive trailer training, sometime in the near future.
This was not a good start.
I barely had time to get myself there, saddle up, meet with S. and his friend H., who had joined at the last minute, sign in, and we were were off. It turned out to be a near-perfect day, with just enough cloud to keep the heat off, enough wind to prevent bugs, and a perfect temperature for good long ride, not too hot and not cold.
Exploring the countryside, going into placed usually closed off and inaccessible was a treat and a couple of hours of chatting with friends, cantering, talking of many things (you know the rest of the poem). My horse certainly had wings, and he was thoroughly enjoying himself. He wasn't even out of breath, which speaks volumes to his -- and my -- fitness. We jumped logs and low fences and over ditches along the path. (The only one he refused was the one that looked like a cross-country jump. Sigh.) I guess he's really a very good trail horse, still not an Event horse.
It was a brilliant day, and I think we will definitely do something like this again.