So anyway...this morning I got up around 5:00 to feed Colletta and get myself ready. I headed out around 6 to get Colletta brushed and tacked and everything, and was over at the Saddle Club by 7 or so. I was under the impression that a LOT of people were going to be in this group, but there only turned out to be four of us including me. *shrug* Oh well. I was riding 'with' Tracy Harrell, who was riding a gelding named Little Joe. Anyhoodle, we set off down the back roads and such, and I discovered that horses are very, VERY slow walkers. It took us almost two hours to walk a quarter of the 26 miles (which would be...hmm...4 1/2 miles? That's probably wrong...*is horrible at math, esp. mental math*) Anyway, there were long stretches of boring, punctuated by occasional spooks on the part of this three year old filly that this older gentleman was riding. It took us around 5 hours to ride halfway, and then we stopped and ate lunch. At least, the others did. I took my hoody-jacket, made a little pillow in the grass, and lay down in the sun to give my poor knees and back and hips a break. At this point Tracy had her husband meet us and drop off her five-year-old daughter for the second half of the ride.
Then, after lunch, it was off through endless corn and bean fields, until we came to Appanoose Church (the 3/4-of-the-way rest stop). There, we stopped, found a nice shady tree on the lawn, and collapsed while the horses grazed. We were POOPED. After a little while and a supreme effort we made our way down this long, sloping hill (nicely punctuated with wildflowers) and into the 'sprawling town of Niota'. 'Sprawling' in this case equals 'has a population of more than 500'. But anyway...after Niota it was THE BRIDGE INTO FT. MADISON. Which, as every sane horse knows, is NOT to be stepped on at any point, ever. *rolls eyes* The road heading up to the bridge is very narrow, and then there's an incline heading up before the bridge and leveling out because there's a railroad bridge that runs underneath it. So anyway. There was this 6 year old gelding who, while leading the way, decided that 'NO, he was NOT going to go onto the bridge under any circumstances whatsoever' and his refusal to go on spread amongst the other horses. There was traffic going by the whole time too, so we had to retreat and try again. By the second refusal I was getting mad, so I jumped off of Colletta and led her up the bridge. Tracy and Joe followed, while the other two horses decided to try another refusal.
Once the bridge leveled out and Colletta calmed down slightly I got back on, and we made it about halfway across before a train decided to go through. The horses were fabulous, but even I was freaked out because I thought a semi was trying to pass us but the sound kept getting louder and louder until it went screaming past underneath our feet. It was SCARY. Then, when we were almost off of the bridge the wheels on the train started squealing which freaked Joe out and he started backing up. He backing into the guard-rail for the bridge, and then got 'stuck' and couldn't figure out what to do next. He made a little buck, twice, and then got 'unstuck' and jumped forward, and by that point he was fine.
So Tracy and I waited for a while, until the other two horses (who had been refusing back at the beginning of the bridge) finally caught up, and then we made our way across a highway, several smaller streets, a few brick-cobbled streets, an alley, and another highway (I got kicked in the foot at the highway; see, there was this three-year-old filly that the gentleman was riding, and she was funny about horses coming up behind her. So we were trying to cross the highway, and the horse in front decided 'no, I'm not going yet' and made a small pileup of horses, which made me run Colletta into this filly's backside. She didn't like that, and kicked back. Fortunately she missed Colletta, and just got a glancing blow across my foot.) before we made it into the rodeo fairgrounds. By this point I was in pain like you wouldn't BELIEVE, and I am still surprised that I didn't go numb in my legs or something. I still hurt, but not near as bad. Tracy's husband Mark met us with a trailer and we loaded up the horses (after untacking them) and headed off for home. I nearly fell asleep on the way back, I was so tired...I'm still tired, the letters are starting to blur a little as I type this. And then after coming home I got a shower and put some aloe gel on my arms, because they are really burnt--the skin feels warm and tight on my upper arms. Half of my face is pretty red too, but not as bad because my helmet has a viser and it shaded my face pretty well.
So that was my day...it's a little too early to ask if I want to do it next year. Ask me sometime when I'm not suffering from extreme saddle soreness. :D Oh, and here are some pictures that I took over the course of the day: http://picasaweb.google.com/molly.nolden/RideToFtMadisonSept9909#5379636037213279538
Enjoy! I'm going to head off to bed now...*exits hobbling*
*turns around* Oh, before I forget: there's a couple of pictures added in the 'Landscape Photography' section. Go check 'em out. *exits*