It was the day of the Annual Hettinger Challenge Hunter Pace, held on and around the grounds of Akindale.
What the heck is a Hunter Pace, you ask?
A Hunter Pace is a timed trail ride with optional jumps, where teams of 2 or 3 compete together. However, the catch is that the competitors have no idea what the optimum time is, so it's a guessing game and therefore, half the fun. In my opinion, it's a competition without the stress of competition - and like a marathon for runners, it's a victory just to complete it. Most paces are 6 or 7 miles, and this pace was nearly 10, requiring riders and horses to be very fit!
We were very excited before the start, but Zeus still managed to take some moments and get his head in order and his game face on. Here we are, before heading to the start box.
Another fun part of pacing is the friends you see and wishing everyone luck and cheering on the other riders. Pictured with us below is a woman I look up to, Ann Leary (second from left), and her riding partner Jen, a veterinarian and avid horsewoman based out of Washington, CT. Ann and Jen ended up placing 4th in the Hunt Division!
Here's team TMF! Arliss and Siggy looked fantastic in TMF's royal blue and black colors, and handled the busy, frenetic trailer field with ease.
The terrain was challenging during the ride - lots of hills, tricky footing and winding trails that made you pay attention to stay on course. Zeus led his big brother the entire way, with nary a glance at things he'd never seen before - geese, cows, overzealous stallions, scary decorations...I could go on and on.
Both Zeus and Siggy really rose to the occasion and gave us their hearts and their trust to navigate the trail, and not steer them wrong or take them somewhere unsafe. That's a big moment for a horse and rider - when the horse trusts you enough to let you pilot them around unfamiliar territory - 10 miles of it, no less!
This photo was taken by Ann Leary, just as Zeus and I crossed the finish line, with Siggy not far behind us. I think that's a mix of elation and disbelief on my face, and as you can see, Zeus is a little warm but still alert and I think, enjoying himself!
Sunday was a day of rest for all. However, Zeus kept coming up to me when I was at the barn, noodling at me as if to say, "Are we going on another adventure today?"
He is constantly surprising me when it counts. At 5 years old, he handled an unknown competition with ease.
Now, we wind down for the winter. No major competitions coming up until the Spring, so everyone gets to take a breather through the holidays. Although we've only done two events this year, Zeus and Siggy have shown incredible heart, and gave us everything we asked for.