I have a confession to make.
I am terrified of going fast.
On horses, that is. At the age of 12, I had my first taste of it on an OTT thoroughbred. Out for a trail ride, the horse had spied a couple of feral goats round the back of the family farm and didn’t much take to them. After a nimble turn on his haunches that would be the envy of any cowhorse, he ran flat-tack for home.
To me, horses had until then been something to fawn over; to cuddle, to look after. Bolting through the blue-gums at that moment, I suddenly realised that they could also be powerful machines of terror and complete masters of their own destiny. I clutched Rusty’s mane and pulled the reins as best as my skinny pre-teen arms would allow, all too aware of the overhanging tree limbs above and dangerously thundering hooves below. Somehow, I made it back alive, with a newfound fear and respect for the horse I loved.
I’ve since ‘gone fast’ again. But while my riding companions kick their horses on, reins up around the ears to say ‘GO, go go!”, I’m always the one at the back- gritting my teeth, heart in throat, hands at the ready to pull to a halt at any instant. We ease back to a sensible trot, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
This year, I was determined to do something that
challenged scared me. Earlier on in the year, I acquired an ex-racehorse that hadn’t been ridden for quite some time. Luckily for me, it turned out Magic was a real sweetheart and wasn’t much into going fast either. Phew.
But Fly, our other trusty trail horse, is. So in the spirit of letting Fly embrace his inner rev-head and of me finding mine, we will be participating in this year’s Blackwood Marathon.
The Blackwood Marathon
The Blackwood Marathon is a relay race held annually on the last Saturday of October.
Competitors enter in teams comprising of 5 members: a runner, a canoeist, a swimmer, an equestrian and a cyclist. The race begins in the town of Boyup Brook and finishes in Bridgetown after journeying around 60kms through some of Western Australia’s most picturesque countryside of the Blackwood River Valley.
The five leg relay includes a:
+ 8.5km canoe
+ 1km swim
+ 16km horse ride
Fly and I actually set about training for this thing months ago. After all, even though its only 16km, I’d never done anything ‘endurancy’ before. I figured we may as well start early and give this 16km our best shot. So, back in August, Fly was bequeathed with a new set of shoes and we set out for early morning trots as often as we could. Things were getting exciting, we were even starting to ‘go fast’ until….
Fly went lame.
Now, it is worth mentioning that in all the years I have owned Fly, he has NEVER been lame, not even when he hurt his leg on the BNT.
So when he limped out of the paddock one morning, my heart sank.
There’s was no swelling in the legs, no sign of trauma, no signs of bruising on his hoof soles.
“What have I done?” I wondered.
Was it too much trotting, too soon?
Is it all too much for Fly at his age? (he’s 13 this year).
Is there something wrong with the saddle fit?
A visit from an equine body worker solved the mystery. Poking and prodding at Fly, he frowned.
“Does this horse run around much in the paddock?” he asked.
I smiled and nodded. Does he ever. Fly is the ultimate paddock show-off, galloping and gallivanting around at all hours with his admiring mares, the donkeys watching quietly from the dam.
So it appeared that Fly had pulled a chest muscle somehow, probably from accidentally splaying his legs while hooning around in the slippery paddock.
There was naught to do but leave Fly to recover, retreat inside for a few weeks, and start again.
So we did. Fly is going stronger than ever and loves his evening canters along the rail trail. We’re now a fortnight away from the Blackwood, and what with Fly’s sub-par fitness and my ‘fear-of-fast’, we’re hardly serious contenders. I’ll be happy with anything other than coming last or vetting out from a high heart-rate. Fingers crossed Fly doesn’t get himself too worked up around all those lovely mares…
But How Do We Get There?
My other hurdle, in the meantime, was how to get Fly and myself up to the Bridgetown Marathon. I don’t own a horse float, so made some inquiries. Looking at the map and working out the logistics of where to get Fly dropped off, I had a better idea.
Bugger it. Lets just ride there.
It’ll be around 220 kilometers up there. And if Fly’s up to it and the horse truck stars don’t align, we may well walk back too.
So even more than the Blackwood Marathon itself, I’m excited about hitting the trail with Fly-boy again. Bring on the Blackwood!