Tunbridge Ride 2016

How could it get any better? After all, isn’t it enough to see amazing horses, smell that great horse smell, and meet up with riders from all over the northeast and Canada? All of this in a backdrop of quaint VT at the Tunbridge World’s Fairgrounds?  I’ve grown accustomed to anticipate the beauty of the VHC Tunbridge ride every year.  It’s more than just “a ride”.  It’s an experience!  But the experience changed.  And in a good way.
The first stop is the entrance gate for registration and Coggins checks.  Everyone’s so pleasant.  Is it just because you’re getting away with your horse – or are horse people just happier people?( Hey, wouldn’t that make a great t-shirt slogan?) 
Anyway, it’s noisy but in a good way – of people happy to see you return and of folks happy to escape for the week-end.   Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont (of course), and Quebec, CA provided riders, rigs and horses of every size and a variety. 
Friday evening everyone mingles – greeting old riders and their horses. But it is also tradition to bring old tack or anything else to get rid of and offer it like an enormous garage sale.  Peeking into everyone’s piles of goods is such fun.  I look forward to it and try to clean out my barn for this ride. I picked up a Ralph Lauren shirt and a horse emblazoned denim vest for one of the gals watching my farm (she loved it).  I also picked up some very old but beautifully tooled stirrups – to use as decorations in our home.
When Saturday morning rolls around and we all meet for breakfast – the smells of coffee, sausage, and pancakes (with real butter and maple syrup of course) are like icing on the cake.
But we couldn’t wait to hear about the trails. Want to escape today’s fast world, with its constant news, texts, and emails? At Tunbridge we converse face-to-face. There is no internet here. In fact, I had no phone service (Sprint), but my husband did (AT&T).  You can’t read about the trails – you have to listen to Karen Blow as she describes them.  And she passes out maps so that you can look at them at the same time.  Be sure to listen for the color of ribbons used. Each day is different.
We had new caterers this year and when we all came in for dinner, they asked that we take seats at the tables which were already set, complete with cloth napkins perched on our plates.  Crackers and cheese were on tables and we were served salad and bread before they opened up the rest of the food-line. Ham, chicken and stuffing were next with gravy, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and a pie table that wouldn’t quit.
I promised myself to take it easy at meal times – but fell short – as the food was awesome. Add to that a silent auction, quilt raffle, and both new and returning faces made for a lot of energy in the room.
We missed Saturday’s ride because my horse was lame. Sunday my horse was better and we were excited to get out.  For awhile the ride was familiar – riding down the class 4 roads bordered by farms and vine draped fencelines.  We followed our perfectly laid out trail of pink ribbons.  Sometimes we think our horses see them before we do. They always seems to know when to turn.  Soon enough we were off the road and into the woods – climbing.  Tall trees and deep mossy ground surrounded us.
Such peace. There were old logging trails with turns pulling us deeper into the woods.  Finally we popped out on top with a spectacular panoramic view of the VT mountains.
Breathtaking.  We snapped a few pictures and pressed on.  The horses padded softly on the trail – even when we cantered it sounded soft and muffled.  Another peek out for some foliage and back into the woods for some more riding along gorgeous turning paths.  More of this and 12 miles later we were back home with huge smiles – like always. 
Tunbridge is the best.  Catered meals, horse smells, people laughing, the bonfire and singing, but most of all a community of like-minded people who are kind, and gracious. Even the new folks were just like old friends from high school.  Nothing beats this ride. But then let’s face it – horse people are just happier people. The VHC annual Tunbridge Trail ride just might be one reason why.                                                                                                                                     
—  Bea Gorin