Firsts and lasts

“Sam, is that a guy or a girl?” Well, he’s a tall and handsome New Zealander, with short spiky hair, usually it is fully shaved off! He’s started to grow it out now, but I like it that way – it makes his face look a little less… long?

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Blackbutt. We were back again, this time it was Adriana and I going out on the 80km together, Jasmine being swamped with school work hadn’t been able to make it so we were going to head out in the dark just the two of us.

It was a ride full of firsts and lasts. My last ride as a novice (hopefully!), Milton and Adriana would both attempt their first 80km, Koda was on her second 40km with her young rider, chaperoned by an experienced team, and we had a new addition – Sam.

Now, you’re reading this saying “Sam, is that a guy or a girl?” Well, he’s a tall and handsome New Zealander, with short spiky hair, usually it is fully shaved off! He’s started to grow it out now, but I like it that way – it makes his face look a little less… long?

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Sam sampling some sugar cane out on a ride with Spencer

Yes, Sam is a horse – Willowvale Sirahh or Rahh as we sometimes call him. His name changes depending on whether he has ripped another rug, lost another hood or pulled another freshly nailed shoe recently. He’s got quite the talent with each let me tell you! He was a seasoned campaigner who’d had a few odd vet outs until abscesses showed their ugly faces and he was put out in the paddock to rest. Since she had young horses coming up, his owner had left him to relative retirement – then I put out word looking for a quiet ride for Adriana and Yvonne came to my rescue again.

If he was half as awesome as Haze, Sam would not disappoint. I was excited to meet him, but the week before I was due to pick him up disaster struck again – we had an accident in my new ute which saw it completely written off. In the short term, I had no way to get Sam home for Adriana to get to know him before the ride, when Milton’s wonderful owner stepped in and offered to take me out and get him. I couldn’t ask for better friends, I really couldn’t!

At first glance I thought Sam was a twin of Jasmine’s horse, Hala. He really is a cheeky devil, lures you in with his polite and perky manner, his gentlemanly attitude – and then uses you as a scratching post. It was the start of something very special, little did we know how special!

blackbutt3The Blackbutt ride loomed, we found a way to get the horses there, we were ready to ride. Adriana was nervous but we rode off into the afternoon excited in spite of the nerves! I’d last ridden the track solo for the better part of the ride, I’d looked at nothing because I’d been so keen to get through as quickly as I could so that Haze and I could be done and dusted before midnight – but this time was different. This time I had a novice horse to take care of, his first two leg ride which would surely prove a struggle for his mental state. This time I had Adriana to keep me company and we had absolutely no idea what to expect from Sam – slow and steady was the order of the day.

We plugged along at a steady pace. Halfway through our first leg we passed Koda and Erin trotting along behind their chaperones, Kellie and Noname. We waved and continued past – all seemed to be going well. We got the first leg finished in 3hrs 50mins – would we vet through? Why yes, yes we would! Sam was breezing through and Milton was happy to be finished – poor boy, he had no idea what was coming…

Koda came in and vetted while Adriana and I were having a break before the next leg. Spence and Erin’s dad left to strap the little horse and help her rider vet in while we quickly ate and started to saddle up for the second leg. Milton screwed up his nose when he saw the bridle again but he took it and we were off into the darkness. As we rode to the time gate we saw the crew walking back from vetting with Koda – thumbs up, all good! With that little boost in our minds we had a little extra spring in our step as we trotted off down the road.

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Sam and Adriana – out on the first leg

It was slower going for the second leg, my poor Milt was struggling a little with the whole idea of going out again, while Sam was still as keen as a bean to get going – Yvonne had warned us that he was quite insensible of his limitations and would need to be told to take it easy, so we slowed right down until he was in a better headspace and began to move along next to Milton more steadily. As the inevitable fatigue started to kick in, we started telling jokes and singing at the top of our lungs in the darkness to keep our spirits up and the horses active. There was a group of riders behind us that we could hear but not see – they must have thought we were crazy!

We pulled in after finishing the second leg at about nine and a half kilometres per hour, quite a bit slower than the first leg but we made it – time to strap! We felt hot and we didn’t notice the chill in the air but luckily our strapper in chief did and threw rugs on our horses hind quarters while we took heart rates and gave them a light sponge down. We were ready to vet in!

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Happy chappies the day after

I was pretty sure of Milton, he was tired but he still felt strong. It was Sam I was curious about, and as I watched him trot my worries blew away – Adriana was through her first 80km and she was over the moon!

We all headed off to bed as soon as we saw the horses rugged, fed and watered. The track had been undulating and rocky compared to what we were used to at home so we were feeling the energy drain! The next morning we collected our completion prizes, grabbed our customary hot chocolate and headed home – a 100% completion weekend at Blackbutt, what more could we ask for! Milton and Adriana were a ride into novice, Sam was off the 13 month rule and back on the right track – and I’d realised my three year goal. I finally made it to Open.

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