The ride Itchy and I took yesterday didn't quite pan out for many miles due to all the windfall trees on the trail I had taken up the Blue Ridge, so this morning I decided to spend our ride down on the flatlands. I knew I had to ride out this morning as soon as possible since a major rain/snow storm was moving towards us, threatening nasty weather due about noon time.
Since I wanted to do both a jumping school, and get in some endurance conditioning with -- hopefully -- 25 miles logged in, I dressed in my hunt boots and put my hunting saddle on Itchy since my primary goal was to cruise around the countryside over the natural hunt jumps to sharpen both him and myself in preparation for the upcoming hunter pace events. Lately, we'd gotten a little sloppy over fences, and the number of injuries sustained by others while foxhunting was enough to caution me that my form needed some tightening up.
The skies were heavily overcast and I was a bit worried that my GPS would struggle to pick up the satellite, but the unit seemed to be working just fine, so I tucked it under my jacket sleeve and headed my pony west, then south. We live in the middle of Piedmont Hounds "Tuesday territory" so there are a lot of hunt jumps and coops on the first three miles down Willisville Road which is directly across from our farm. Itchy was feeling fresh and forward, and took the fences with lovely form. By the time we jumped our way into the fields at the end of Willisville Road we had taken over 14 hunt jumps and coops.
We crossed several wide hay fields and turned north onto Quaker Lane, cuising along until we hit Kentland Farm, then headed east , winding our way through the bridle paths in Kentland's extensive woods until we reached the Piedmont Hounds hunt kennels. The old hunt fences in the fencelines had been removed and new coops put in their place -- but they had "riders" on the top (a top board to prevent jumping). I had to dismount, remove one rider from a fence, mount up, hop over the coop, and then dismount, replace the rider -- a real stuggle as the board was heavy, and mount up again! It would have been so much easier to just go through a gate!
Anyway, we were now on Newlin Mill road, and so we headed southeast again, taking a route through some wonderful open fields until we reached Welbourne Road. A fun jump had been set up near the road -- a hayroll spread -- that we took quite easy. A nice girl driving by happened to be watching us jump the hayroll, and stopped to say hello. We chatted for several minutes, and I found she worked for the new owner of a nearby farm that used to be a carriage driving estate. To my surprise she told me the new owner, Fay, was an endurance rider!! How fabulous! I gave her my e-mail address and phone number -- and hope to hear from Fay that, yes, she would love to get together for some conditioning rides.
I waved goodbye to the nice girl, and Itchy and I continued on, now heading west. At the end of Welbourne Road at Rt 719, we had just about reached the 10 mile point. I checked the sky. The clouds didn't look any thicker, so... I pointed Itchy's head straight ahead and we continued on for another mile, cantering along the wide pathway, ignoring the coops in the fenceline because they jumped into horse pastures until we reached the final coop which we sailed over quite handily. I still had tons of pony left under me, and so we continued cantering west through Corotoman Farm towards the Blue Ridge Mountains, then turned north again on the old gated road that went through the back of Newstead Farm towards Trappe Road.
By the time we reached Trappe Road ( Rt 619) we had reached 14 miles. My plan was to continue heading north to put in 6 more miles, then turn and take the 5 miles heading home, but first I wanted to give Itchy a rest and let him graze on some of the newly sprouting grass just starting to green up along the way.
No sooner had I dismounted and started letting him eat, I heard a pit-pat-pit-pat on the ground. I looked down, and saw water marks on the grass, then looked up to see water marks on my saddle. I looked up at the sky as the pit-pat got louder, then glanced at my watch. It was 12:14PM.
The rains had arrived.
I debated for a moment continuing on, but....suddenly the skies opened, and in less than a second it was pouring.
Well, so much for getting in 25 miles.
I mounted up and turned Itchy's nose towards home. It was only 3 1/2 miles to our farm, but the rains got harder by the second, and within 1/2 mile the water was pouring off my helmet visor, and I could feel the rain hitting my hair through the helmet air holes. Luckily, I had layered up with two jackets, but I couldn't remember if I'd waterproofed the outter jacket. Turns out later -- I hadn't.
Of course, there was nothing I could do but push Itchy into alternating a fast trot and canter, both of us keeping our heads down against the cold rain. We stayed on the gravel roads -- making faster time than if we'd been in the watersoaked fields. The rain off my brim was blowing in my face and eyes, and even Itchy gave a few shakes of his head to blow off the torrential downpour. My hunt boots, however, kept my legs warm and dry. I sure was wishing I had on my wool hunt jacket which would have protected me and my legs better than the flimsey jacket. As it was, the final three miles were a race to get home before the freezing cold rain soaked through the 2nd jacket.
We arrived back at our farm, walking the last 1/4 mile as a cooldown for Itchy. He walked into the stable just about at parameter (64)
Grand total of 23 hunt fences jumped over 17.53 miles. A good day, and a good workout for the both of us.
Now Itchy gets a break and rest until Sunday's foxhunt -- if the rains and soaked ground don't force a cancellation.
Above: our GPS route as posted to the VVMM site