Well, not very far actually. Far-A-Way is only about an hour and a half from home for us so it is one of the closer rides but over Easter weekend of 2016 I was still a bit daunted by the prospect of attending it – but attend it we did.
Rebecca and I were on the road to the ride on Saturday, with Kat following with her dad not long after. Adriana was away for the school holidays visiting her family so she offered Sirahh to Bec for the ride as we felt at the time that Mizzy wasn’t quite up to the hills of the hinterland just yet! So we had Rahh, Koda and Vegas in tow. It would be my first ride with Koda and what we hoped would be Bec’s second 40km.
To say I was nervous would be an understatement, Koda’s heart rates had not been wonderful of late and I was beginning to worry she had been over worked during the summer months. She was supposed to have done the mini-marathon but we had a last minute change in our plans which meant she no longer had a rider for it – and I was not mentally up for the challenge of doing it myself!
We vetted in on the Saturday afternoon and Rob told me to go and sit down and try to be calm. Koda’s vet in heart rate of 45bpm was nothing out of the ordinary for most horses, but it was just a couple of beats higher than Rob and I were used to seeing in her and he told me I needed to calm myself down – I had no trouble putting Koda’s anxiety back on myself. We did have a laugh when my friend’s dad, currently doing his TPR training, called a vet over to re-check Vegas’s heart rate – he had counted correctly but he couldn’t believe that her 29bpm was actually real!
We planned for a nice quiet ride, but as usual Koda had other plans. In the middle of the night the cows in the paddock bordering the showgrounds decided to get up close to our campsite. They were over a fence and a distance that I and everyone else considered reasonable but this was not so for Koda who, upon hearing their snuffling and mooing at 2am in the morning, went into a complete panic and broke out of her yard, tearing a picket from the damp ground and breaking strands of the wire which, being electrified, began to zap loudly against the wet grass. I heard the commotion and looked out to see her fly past so in the darkness I quickly found a jacket and marched out to retrieve my wayward horse. Fortunately the other two horses, while startled by their little friend’s mad dash and the zapping wire, were in no hurry to leave – so Koda had realised they weren’t going to blindly follow her and returned to them, panting and huffing indignantly about the cows as she stood there!
We initiated some quick repairs and were soon back in bed. The ride wasn’t to start until around 6am so we had more time to rest – though sleep was not coming easily for me. I was wide awake early enough to hear the marathon riders heading out down the road. Soon we were up and on our way – a minor wardrobe issue had us stopping for a few minutes but that was speedily sorted and we were back on track. Bec had so far only experienced a small section of the Kilkivan track and the 40km at Maryborough so the hills of Imbil were a bit of a shock to the system! We were traversing a leg that I was quite familiar with having done it a couple of times before. Our horses tend to struggle with it as we don’t have the chance to train on hills at home.
Kat and Vegas were out there for spot on 6 hours and they still weren’t the last to complete that 40km leg, she had slowed to keep company with another rider who was alone on track. We took it at a pace that we thought was rather quick, but in the end Bec and I finished in a little over four hours. Unfortunately things were about to go a bit pear-shaped.
Our electronic heart rate monitors had been going a bit haywire lately, or so we thought. Koda took longer to strap than usual, but her heart rate was still counted at 55bpm which was the absolute maximum limit that it could be and something that had never ever happened with her before. When the counting was done, Rob looked at me and said again, “You need to calm down.” It was easier said than done, I was in a bit of a mental panic now. Thankfully Koda trotted out soundly and we were passed, but unfortunately Sirahh was not. Upon closer inspection I realised that the boots we had fitted on him that morning had rubbed a small patch of his fetlock raw where a little bit of mud fever had shown and it was stinging enough to make him appear lame.
It stung me too. I’d made the decision to use boots that Rahh didn’t usually wear and it ended up costing Bec her completion which just made it all worse. As relieved as I was that Koda had vetted through I was upset and disappointed for Bec. We had hoped she would be ready to do an 80km with Mizzy at the upcoming Rockybar ride, but that plan would now have to be deferred – she would need that second 40km completion before it could happen.
Rockybar was a month and a half away. I decided to give Koda a couple of weeks to rest before bringing her back in for our first 80km of the year at the station ride. Adriana and I were preparing for the 80-100E, Bec would now ride in the 40km with Kat and Vegas rather than the open ride. We had no idea that it was going to end up being much more complicated than that! If I thought FAW had been tough on me mentally – I hadn’t seen anything yet! Rockybar was going to prove a real challenge but not for the reasons you would think!