Well, first ride day arrived, its taken ages to update this blog because until recently, i didnt think that we were going to continue in our endurance mission :(. The morning was complete chaos as i'd been at work all week and hadnt had any time to prepare like i thought i was going to be able to. Work had also been pants, being away from GB was very, very hard. My friend Mairi-Claire was meant to be turning up to help me as we were leaving at 8am, but it was quarter to and she still hadnt arrived.....and worse, it was windy and rainy...and cold! Pah! Anyway, friend arrived and we got loaded up and were on our way to the New Forest to take part in the Silver Gambler ride run by Mid-South Endurance Group. We got a bit lost when actually down in the forest but eventually we were parked up, on possibly the windiest field ever, surrounded by wild New Forest ponies milling about! well, it was all too much for young Merlin who promptly had a meltdown. We couldnt tack him up, by the time we did his heartrate was through the roof for the initial vetting and as we left the venue, alone into the lashing wind and rain, i knew it wasnt going to be fun! We trotted down a long forest road and almost immediately we were lost. The map didnt seem to add up and after a very wound up Merlin had reared and spun a few times in order to try and join some wild ponies, i just chose a track and trotted/bounced/bucked up it. Luckily it turned out to be the right one and we saw some horses up ahead, well Merl did and proceeded to tank off after them. It really blew his mind being alone in all this wind in open country with wild ponies and donkeys everywhere and i was so wound up that i wasnt alot of help to him, sadly.
We came to a tunnel (yes a tunnel...in the Forest!) and i knew Merl just wasnt going to go through without a meltdown.....right on cue a herd of wild ponies cantered towards us through the tunnel, hooves echoing spookily (if your Merlin) and that was it, exit stage left the palomino!! After 300 metres or so i managed to pull Merl up, but all attempts at getting him to the tunnel were met with half-rears of protest and much spinning. A group of other endurance riders then appeared through the tunnel and i asked them to give me a lead through, which they did without hesitation and we were away again. Kind of....as when the horses left Merl again he went a bit mad and i had to take him out of sight, next to a lake. And here we found salvation, in the form of Nora and Anna with their horses Rosie and Juniblest. Far more experienced in endurance, they kindly let me and Merl join them and off we went over 22km of ride, trotting and cantering the whole way. I honestly thought Merlin wouldn't be able to hold the pace but he did, pulling like a train the whole way but at least settling into it by the last 5km. Back at the venue Merlin vetted sound with a heartrate of 60bpm, he was still wired. Then came the time to load him, Merlin had other ideas! Again, i was very stressed and i think Merl picked up on this, he just refused to budge, which he had never done before. Endurance being the wonderful, friendly sport that it is, i had 2 kind ladies with a Parelli halter and alot of patience by our side in minutes and Merl loaded, stress free, 20 minutes later. I vow to look into Parelli and have a serious think about ever taking Merl out again!!