Mojo carried Alex and Rob to a first place finish in the Foxcatcher 25 mile Ride and Tie at Fair Hill, MD!
On Friday, Alex skipped class and I took off from work to drive 6 hours South for a Ride and Tie competition. In case you missed our R&T debut in 2021 at NY Adventure, a ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). R&T events are typically held in conjunction with endurance rides, so occasionally there are other horses on the trail riding past horses tied to trees.
This was the first time we had been to Foxcatcher and the grounds were amazing. I thought we were in for an easy-ish 25 miles for the opening of the season, but as I found out over the ride, we covered over 2800′ of elevation (not nearly as flat as I hoped). We arrived in camp midafternoon on Friday and quickly set up our 1 pen for Mojo. This was also the first time we have only taken 1 horse to an event. It was amazing how fast you can set up camp when there are 2 people and 1 horse instead of our typical 4 horses.
Temperatures were in the low 50s, but it was windy and brisk. Mojo vetted in just fine, but was clearly aware that we were in ride camp. He was calling to all his friends that he hadn’t seen since last year and quite frisky. I took him for a very short tack ride to try out my new half chaps (why not use something new on race day) and take him through a tunnel. Fair Hill has tunnels under roads and bridges over roads; the horses have to cross both multiple times. I had to hand walk Mojo through the first tunnel during the tack ride, but after that he was fine. During the race, he even trotted through without worry.
After the ride meeting and dinner, temperatures started dropping quickly. Overnight lows were in the 30s and Alex and I were camping on cots in the back of the horse trailer. It was cold. I hated it. I want to be warm in ride camp.
We woke up around 5 Saturday morning (in the cold trailer) and got dressed inside our sleeping bags. We had some coffee and tea and got mentally ready for the day. Again, with 2 people and only 1 horse, it seemed like there was a lot more down time than I am used to. The 25 and 50 mile endurance riders started at 7 am. Ride and Tie started at 7:15.
There were 3 R&T teams – 2 in the 10 mile and 1 in the 25 mile. Ok, so Alex and I placed 1 of 1 in the 25 mile competition, but a win is a win in my book. There were also 2 10 mile Equathon riders not in the picture. Equathon is the bridge between endurance and R&T. A rider does a loop (in this case it was 10 miles), the horse gets vetted, and then a runner does a loop (also 10 miles at Foxcatcher). The rider and runner can be the same person or different.
Mojo was in full race mode on Saturday morning. He was ready to rock and with temps in the 30s, Alex and I were both ready to run and generate some heat.
Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated running and riding. Sometimes the legs were about 0.6 miles. Sometime around 1.5 miles. Our first loop was 10 miles and we finished in about 1:48. Mojo was a champ being tied throughout the day.
Mojo has to pass a vet check before continuing, but unlikely endurance, there is no hold time. Alex and I arrived in camp at about the same time and the rules require the riders/runners to do a mandatory exchange. Since Alex rode in, he had to run out, which was our plan since Mojo can be a handful during vetting. We spent a total of 11 minutes in base camp, but we weren’t worried about it and wanted to make sure Mojo was eating and doing well. Alex headed out about 8 minutes ahead of us on the second loop of 15 miles. It took 2.8 miles before I caught him, which was the longest leg of the day.
On the second loop, Mojo was less enthusiastic. Mostly because we were alone. I had requested being allowed to do the 10 mile loop first with the other R&T teams, but this put us on the 15 mile loop without any other horses. Mojo thrives on competition. We found ourselves becoming Mojo’s “rabbit to chase” until we neared the end and had some overlapping trail with a group on a different loop. Mojo came back to life and wanted to race to the finish.
Overall, the venue was amazing. The fields were huge and open. The footing for the horses was great, although it was a little challenging to run through because there wasn’t typically a worn path. Alex and looked back through the data and the run/ride time and distance was almost an exact 50/50 split. We did a total of 26 exchanges over the 25 miles and I burned 1890 calories!
After the finish, we ate some food and then packed up for the 6 hour drive home. We arrived back at home around 8:30. On the drive home, I asked Alex about our plans for another upcoming event and gave him and option of 30 miles of R&T or 30 miles of riding. He was clear that R&T is more interesting and challenging. Just riding is boring.