I had the opportunity to ride the Deep in the Heart of Texas ride at Parrie Haynes Ranch in Killeen, TX this past weekend. I had never taken Liberty to a ride alone, so I was pleasantly surprised how easily he settled into camp. I set up my bed for the night: a bedroll in the back of the surburban (gotta love that ease). Liberty didn't call out to the other horses too much, though he did a little but I was impressed by the fact that he continued to eat and drink normally. He was good at check in though I bobbled the question the horsemanship judge asked me and let Liberty get out too far behind me. I hate it when I lose points over something so silly.
Liberty is a good camper, even on his own, so the night went very quietly. I have been feeding him Triple Crown safe Forage product, which is a chopped, fortified hay product. I made him up a batch of that plus beet pulp for the night, with a little electrolytes thrown in. I also hung him two bags of hay. In the morning, he'd eaten most of the mash, a little of the hay and drunk about half a bucket of water, so I figured he was ready for the day. I was surprised later in the day when he got a 3 for slow gut sounds because he ate constantly, including when we came back to the trailer for a short break between loops. I love the trail that brings us back through camp, lets us take a break and feed the horses and use a real bathroom.
Saturday morning the weather was perfect. It wasn't cold or warm and Liberty walked out of camp behind Betsy's horse, April, very calmly. We weren't in the very back, but toward the back and he seemed happy to keep his pace for several miles, even when other horses began to pass us. We went through an obstacle which was an up and down through some mud and he handled it like a trooper. Sometime after this obstacle though, April's fast walk and alternate trotting started to affect his energy negatively. He began to get very wound up and jiggy and I finally decided to pull over and let him cool off. I found a place with some grass and dismounted so he could find his brain. After letter many riders pass us, I was having trouble getting back on, until Kimberly came along riding her mustang, Peppy. Peppy is young, but mellow and she waited for me to remount and we headed off together. They kept a great pace together for awhile and we went by a creek and up a hill, where I later found out the judge was hiding. After awhile, Liberty relaxed and stretched out and we left Peppy when Kimberly stopped to make a tack adjusment.
Through the day, he got better at riding alone, though he would call to some distant horse every so often. WE had 2 good P&R's and a mount, which he walked off from (darn horse). I made a wrong turn, but was still on the yellow trail, so didn't realize it for a few minutes and had to hustle back and find the trail. His metabolics were a little off for him, but his energy level was really good. Back in camp he checked out with no fill or dimished gut sounds and his back was good. Day one in the books.
Sunday started out warm and humid with a light breeze as the horn went off at 5am. The day was cold, but clear and it was a great ride. WE failed to open and close a gate...but we did it better than we ever have. Liberty was forward and happy to be on the trail. We checked out a little off, but I honestly think he just stepped on the rock wrong as we trotted over the drive between the judges and the trot out area. In any case, he came home and ran around the field and acted like he hadn't even been ridden. IT was amazing that he actually placed 5th. I figured we were out of it completely.
I was so proud that Liberty handled being on his own as well as he did, but I can tell we still need some practice.