NATRC's Mount Diablo Ride

Viewed through the ears of an aspiring endurance horse

by Melissa Broquard

The View

A good friend of mine suggested the Mount Diablo NATRC ride might be a good addition to my 2014 ride schedule. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I was able to get off work early, accept a trailer ride for my horse, and generally did almost no preparation. It was almost too easy, leaving me to wonder when the problems would start kicking in at the ride.. and they never really did.

For AERC rides, horses generally need a 5mph minimum pace to complete 25+ mile rides. Confetti and I have completed three of those rides over the past two ride seasons. We're used to trotting up hills, down hills, on the flats, and most of the in-between bits. Our conditioning rides are primarily in Henry Cowell, which is not known for being particularly flat.

Despite being a first-time NATRC competitor, I went ahead and entered us into the Open division. My end goal for the ride was not points, placing, or competition. Instead, I hoped we would have a polite, non-fighting ride in which I could choose our pace and where she pulsed down well at P&R stops.

Donna was kind enough to give me a quick introduction to the other Open riders at the start, and as luck would have it, I ended up quite unintentionally riding with Angie all day. There's nothing quite like doing your first NATRC ride with the same talented lady who ran the New Riders meeting the night before! She was kind, gracious, and patiently answered all of my questions as we trotted down the trail. Well, she and Beau walked - Confetti rarely deigns to engage her 4mph walk, so we had a 4mph western jog going for nearly the entire ride. (I'm not sure who won the 'setting the pace' argument - we had the pace I wanted and the gait she wanted.) It was, admittedly, a very comfortable and polite jog, with none of the pulling on me I've experienced at other rides.

Riding through the Fire Zone

Confetti pulsed down nicely throughout the ride, despite her insistence on jogging 90% of the time... including into the P&R checks. She stood fairly politely for the judged mount (horse not terrible, rider needs work!), navigated off-trail when directed, happily kicked her Big Trot into gear on a loose rein (and even came back down afterwards without fussing!), and politely sidepassed when requested (again: horse decent, rider needs work).

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, new trails, new friends. We didn't end up placing, but I was happy to see that all of my riding partners for the day scored quite well! In this regard, I suppose I've internalized the AERC motto that "to finish is to win." I completed the ride with a sound and happy horse, one who was more forwards at the final vet check than she had been at the first. Life is good.

NATRC may not fit in exactly with our conditioning and ride goals for the season, but it absolutely fits in for some of our training goals. I really valued the opportunity to work on some of our challenges in a slower group environment - and especially valued the patience that Donna had riding behind us as we kept alternating walk-trot-walk with no foreseeable pattern!

I'm already looking at the possibility of coming back next year and bringing friends... what a lovely introduction to large group trail rides at a slower speed.