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[RC] Brazil: Bragança Pualista - ride day - Stephanie Teeter

Saturday morning, up early and at the hotel cafeteria for breakfast
with Luis and Renato (a friend and rider who boards and trains at
Henrique´s ranch near Sorocaba). Plenty of coffee and some fruit and
bread, then off to the ride.  This is my day to do my first Brazilian
Endurance ride, on a young horse - his first 80km ride as well - with
a wonderful man who can not see, and it will also be his horse´s first
80km ride! Wow... (insha´allah...)

We arrived at the stable, and the horses were already saddled up and
ready to go (Henrique´s crew is very good!).  We rode down to the
starting area, Vilson at the head of Luis´ horse, and warmed the
horses up. Luis need to do a minor tack adjustment and I could see his
hands trembling while he worked with the buckle on his reins ... from
excitement, nerves? I do think this is one of the most incredible
people I´ve ever met. And I have to admit that I was a bit anxious
myself. Luis has ridden a lot of Endurance (also vaulting if you can
imagine...) . Last year he was invited to ride in Dubai at the
National Day Cup. He rode his trustworthy mare, and Vilson Suarez
(friend and rider for Henrique) went along to Henrieque´s amazing
horse Bodolay, as his guide. There´s a whole ´nother story....

So Vilson and Luis have done many rides, many miles together and have
developed a good/fast system for communication.  Now - we sould have
to do it in English (or very poor Spanish.) Luis studied at Columbia
University, in the US, so his English is very good, but still... He
told me that the most important things would be when to duck under
branches or overhead obstacles (the command to use is ´lay!´) and also
when to make a turn - right - derecha, or left - isquierda - or to
slow down for hazards.  But. Nobody told me that Luis likes to go very
fast! My biggest challenge would be keeping up with him and trying to
look ahead down the trail.

We started a few minutes late to avoid the crowd and danger. Both
horses were well behaved, strong but not difficult to control. But
what a different ride! I had to look ahead, to see well in advance,
and I also had to try to keep up with this crazy endurance rider. He
was usually in front of me, often galloping while I called out
´duck!´... no, ´lay!´.  It took several low branches before we got the
system down (he has quite a few scratches on his face and arms :) and
then I had to remember when to tell him it was ok to sit back up
again. But mostly it started working.

And then there were the spider webs - other riders went around them,
but of course Luis couldn´t see them, and his horse didn´t care, and I
couldn´t see them in time to warn him - ´lay!´,
´duck!´... ´spider!!´´. There was one golf ball size spider that I saw
in the middle of one web, just as Luis went flying into it. He managed
to duck in time to miss the spider (I think) but got a facefull of
web. Fortunately Luis has a wonderful sense of humor :)

And.. then I had to get the timing right for the turns. At first I
would tell him too early, and watch in horror as he turned his horse
into a hedge, or a wall. Finally I got it right. With Vilson as his
guide, Luis had learned to turn NOW! as soon as the command was
given. So once I got the timing right, we just had to deal with the
translation - left, isquierda! (with a bad accent), Now! Ahora! Ooops!
and... Luis, come back!

It was truly an adventure. I had to keep the concentration up
constantly, as the course had a lot of different trail, changing and
turning frequently, through the woods, around fields, along lakes,
through villages. A challenge even under normal circumstances. No
daydreaming. I really enjoyed it though, Luis is a wonderful man and
told me many stories, and many things about his native country.

We got to the first vet check fine, were met at the ingate by Henrique
and crew, fast efficient, horses pulsed down quickly and vetted
through fine. The second loop was more difficult - much hillier, and a
lot of hardpack clay road. And the horses were less than enthusiastic
about going back out after the 40 min hold (neither horse had done
more than 40km before... what´s the deal?) We squeezed and pushed them
out the gate, past the stable area (Luis´s horse tried more than once
to turn back into his pen) and through the feed barn past bags of
grain, dogs, tractors and men.  We finally got them out and going well
again, but it was tough going, and IMO too much hardpack and rock and
hill to keep the same pace as before... ´Luis.... slow down... come
back!..´

Good riding, but some bad luck. Halfway through the 2nd loop, Zephyr
(Luis´ horse) stumbled and pulled off a front shoe. I had an easyboot
(this time!) for Firebird, but it was large for Zephyr and not the
best fit. We made it a few more miles, but he was starting to favor
the foot, and getting worse the farther we went. Now what?? We could
just walk the horses the remaining 10km, but Luis thought Zephyr was
too sore even to walk in, so he said he would stop and stay with the
horse and wait beside the road until I could send somebody out to get
him. How sad..... we went a little farther to a shady place, and I
rode off, leaving him standing there hold his horse (he preferred to
stand, rather than sit while holding Zephyr) .

It took me about an hour to get back to the stable, but I was able to
send a message with a crew person that drove by on the way to camp, to
send a car out for Luis, and somebody to bring the horse back in. So
30 km to go, just me and Firebird.  I spent more time looking around
now, relaxed a little, and more focused on my horse. He was more
responsive now, and willing to move out, but it was very very hot and
humid and I could feel him becoming stiffer on the downhills. This was
a pretty difficult ride, and Firebird is still young, without a lot of
conditioning in the hills, so we slowed down and enjoyed the
scenery. We were met by H and crew, he vetted through fine, 40 min
hold, and out on the last 22 km loop, which would be the toughest loop
of the day.

- more to come -

Steph