Because of the slick footing in the dressage arena on Friday and it only got worse as the day progressed- the organizers stopped everything with the last 7 competitors' still waiting and decided to have them compete on Saturday morning. The marathon start times would get pushed back about an hour and because one of the hazards was under water- it was excluded. We would all simply go through the In gate, make a U-turn and exit through the Out gate. This was a good thing because the footing was beyond slick, any way you tried to go through it.
Since Kat would need all of his energy for the day, I didn't lunge him or hand walk him at all. I just harnessed him up in the stall, changed my boots, grabbed my gloves, put him to and started heading for the holding area by the starting line. As we went out the driveway, he spotted the people volunteering for the start of Section E. For whatever reason- they. freaked. his. shit. out! He got really flighty, tried to spin around to the left and Bolt! I managed to keep him from taking off, but dang he wanted no part of going past them at all. Thankfully I went with the butterfly bit that day. Had I used the snaffle as I had considered- I don't know if I could have kept him under control when that happened.
One of them told me that the ground on the pathway coming in was firmer and we would likely be better off up there. I told him the slick, deep mud was working in my favor to make the going tough and help keep him from flipping out altogether. If he had to really work at getting through it, he would have less traction if he really wanted to get outta dodge. And just as quickly as he seen them and freaked- he was perfectly fine and we went on our way. He was still a bit amped up, but he was listening and responding to me.
The marathon is in three sections. Section A is generally on pretty even ground and the same distance for all levels. You can also go at any pace in any level, but you still have your minimum time allowed and maximum time allowed. It is stressed that this is a pace, not a race. For small ponies the minimum time allowed was 23 minutes and the maximum was 25 minutes. Talking to one of the other Single Pony entries later on- you are encouraged to use as much of the time as you can, although you receive less penalty points for going too fast than you do for going too slow.
As we were cruising along, I kept checking my watch and trying to do the math in my head. We started at 11:41 and I checked my watch, did some quick math and figured we had to finish section A around 12:06 or so. I'm pretty sure my math was off from the start so I kept checking my watch and trying to refigure, always coming back to the same conclusion and thinking- "Crap, we have Got to make up some time!" Part of the problem- I couldn't see the pony that went before us. At all.
Last year, I could see that horse and just kept a steady pace behind them and kept them at a steady distance. I figured they had a 'gator, I would use them in a way and judge it by them. We came in well in good time last year doing that so why not this year? Only this year I had nothing to go by. Any pace is allowed? Fine. I let Kat run. As fast as he wanted to go- we went! I kissed to him once and eased up on the reins and he gladly took off.
I couldn't see the end checkpoint of section A and still thought we were behind on our time so we ran some more. Kat was really good about it and kept his head about him. He didn't get all squirrely on me and whenever there were mud puddles in our path, I slowed him down and guided him around or through them and we took off again. And because of all of the mud- It was flying everywhere! Large chunks were coming off the wheels and flying up over my head and landing all around us. Some of them even landed in the basket of the cart and since it is diamond mesh steel, I ground it through with my boot. We didn't need any extra weight on the cart or any souvenirs for later. As it was- there was plenty on everything else anyways.
Kat did slow down for the few places we crossed the paved roads, but once back on the dirt and up next to the farm fields- off we went again. Finally I could see the checkpoint for the end of section A. We were still in good time so I eased him back down to a trot. He actually walked up to the checkpoint and wanted to stop before going over the line and ending our time. Kind of a good thing he did as I would find out later on.
Then came Section D, which is a walk section. We had 12 minutes or less to complete it and again I figured my time on it and what the maximum would be. Kat was more than happy to walk as I think he burned off plenty of his exuberance and excess energy blasting along through Section A. Part of it too was that Section D for the most part- is heading back into the property and familiar territory for the horses. As it was, we came in well within the time allowed. Section D is followed by a vet check and then a mandatory 10 minute rest period. You can offer the horse water and let them stand around or even keep them walking. This is also a good time to put on your protective vest for the next part, if you weren't already wearing it.
At the vet check, a gentleman came over and acquainted himself to Kat before trying to take his temperature. Kat wanted no part of that and half reared as he half tried to sit down. I haven't ever had to take his temperature before so that was a new one for him. Not wanting to cause any issues, the temp was scratched unless I wanted it done. I don't really have a need, so we skipped it. When the vet came over to take his respiratory and heart rates, he was getting fidgety and interested in why all of a sudden he was such the fuss?
The man taking temperatures stood by his head to help keep Kat quiet. Kat started sniffing him and huffing and puffing about it. The vet was trying to get his respiratory rate and this was not helping. Then Kat just held his breath. That didn't help her any either. Finally she just stood back and looked at him, watched him interacting with the temp man and determined he did not look to be stressed or overworked, he wasn't labored in his breathing, just not cooperating so she noted that and went for the heart rate. His resting HR was 44 and we joked about him trying to hold his heartbeat and if he could manage that, then we had issues. The vet looked him over once more before letting us go for our rest period. She wanted to be sure about his breathing which she decided was fine and let us go.
To be continued...