"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Good Trail Ride

A couple of exciting things have happened since the photo session with Charles. On Tuesday of last week, Tina and I went on another trail ride, and this one was much more successful! Thanks to our ditch sessions, Lily crossed them under saddle without any kind of hesitation, walking or trotting across as she saw fit. I let her choose. She was a really, really good girl, and she was proud of herself, too-after the first ditch, she pranced her way to the second one!

We made our way to a different branch of the trail, where you still had to cross the stream, but there was a LOT more room on the banks at either side, with some proper sandy shore on the far side and 2 different paths leading from the shore that connected to the main trail. The stream was wider here, and a few inches deeper. The ground on the near side was firm, but looked like mud, and Lily immediately balked. She was not going to go forward, even after Tina and Houdon had already crossed. I couldn't blame her, though-our last stream experience hadn't exactly been a positive one. After spinning around like a top for a minute or so (she kept trying to turn around, but I'd bring her back to face the bank), I dismounted and led her across. This time we were prepared-she was wearing her rope halter over her bridle, with a lead rope attached and tied to my saddle. Lily didn't hesitate, following easily behind me as I chose my way over the rocks across the stream. Tina had made her way up the path so she'd be out of the way. Both branches of the trail coming off the far shore were quite muddy, one softer than the other, and we chose the better one. Once we were on dry ground, I re-mounted.

The trail led onto an enormous corn field, surrounded by a proper track. A track! This is part of a historical park, and is maintained consistently-no gofer holes nor obstacles in the way. Tina said a lot of riders used it for conditioning work. At the moment, the corn field was completely cut down, so you could see the whole expanse of land, and how the track went around it. The loop is about a mile long. Rita asked if I wanted to trot or canter, but Lily felt like dynamite underneath me just then, and I had a feeling if we went faster than a walk, she would really take off.

The cornfield and the track in the summer. This photo is from the barn website www.millhavenhorsefarm.com Rita and I were going in the opposite direction around the track, but it gives you an idea of what it looks like. :)
We went around, to where another trail leads away from the cornfield, over a hill, down a gravel drive and across a bridge (I'm VERY proud to announce that Lily owned that bridge! I wasn't expecting any problems though, thanks to the artificial bridge in the outdoor arena at the barn). This leads onto another wide path that goes around a regular field. It's like conditioning heaven. At this point Lily had relaxed considerably so I gave Rita the ok to trot. And trot we did. We did the loop around this field, then turned around and trotted part of the way back. Twice the horses broke into a canter, but Lily let me rein her in both times. She still wanted to fly at the trot! Writing about this now, I wish we had cantered more, but at the time I was feeling so timid, between my foot having been recently injured and my confidence being shattered on that last solo trail ride back in FL, when Lily succeeded in bucking me off.

I'm itching to try these trails alone, but want to get some more miles on Lily with company. It sucks being grown up sometimes. In my 20s I wouldn't have given this a second thought, but the truth of the matter now is that I need to have a fully functional body in order to continue to make money to keep my horse. I've been nearly off my feet 3 times in the last 8 years (2 of those in the last year and a half ) with horse-related injuries, and it was very hard financially. The first time I had plenty of money saved up and was able to switch to a job where I could sit down a lot more during the day to give my hip time to heal. The second time, I had a properly diagnosed broken AND fractured toe, but I lucked out in that at the time 2 receptionists were going to be out, so the hospital needed coverage at the front desk. It was a VERY lucky coincidence, and it allowed me to rest my foot for the mandated 4 weeks. My hours were cut slightly, but Charles and I had enough money saved up at the time that we were able to cover the difference in our bills. I was also valuable enough as an employee that, while they hired more techs to fill the gap in ICU (they hired 2 techs to cover my abscence...that was a big ego boost right there...), they still put me right back on the floor the minute the doctor cleared me to return to full work. This time, I deliberately refused to go to the doctor because I didn't want to know, I didn't want to hear it. I'm pretty sure I had at least 2 hairline fractures in my right foot-one for sure in the first joint between my 2nd metatarsal and proximal phalanx. And there was probably a crack in the metatarsal itself, too. I could curl my foot if I did it slowly, but lifting the toes back was impossible. Walking on it the first 2 weeks was a bitch, but I had to work-I had just started this job! So I treated it like we would on a dog-I splinted it with Vetrap, and wore my widest sneakers and kept on trucking. The second week was especially awful, because throughout the course of the day, the swelling would vary a LOT-the foot would be puffy when I woke up, so the bandage would be uncomfortable when I first placed it. Then throughout the day, the swelling would go down, only to start back up towards the last few hours at work. Deciding how loosely to apply the bandage was a pain, quite literally sometimes, and I'd have to wake up at least 10 minutes earlier in the morning to allow for extra time to play with the bandage. This is week 4, and I can walk normally on it now. The 2nd toe still swells a bit, but movement actually helps it. Theory: maybe non-displaced fractures would heal faster if people were allowed to walk (carefully) with minimal bandaging.

So you can understand, given all of this, why my daredevil riding days seem to be over. I am most certainly looking forward to gallops on these trails, but only after Lily is accustomed to them.

The trail ride with Tina was awesome though, and we had a great time. Lily was going to cross the stream on the way back, until her feet really sank to the fetlocks in the mud on the way down the bank. Again, I got off and led her easily across. After reading Dom's archived post on Ozzy's misadventures with mud in this part of the country, I have a whole lot more respect for Lily's instinctive fear of mud. I knew her fear is to protect her from this kind of situation, which is why I would never punish her for this fear, and why my main interest is to just get her used to the trail that we know is safe. But I had no idea a horse could sink that much, that easily, that quickly in mud that felt firm to the human leading him! Very, very scary. Yes, I'm totally hooked on Dom's blog right now and I've been going back to read it from the beginning. :)

On another note, this day was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the high 60's. We rode for an hour and 15 minutes, and Lily broke the best sweat I've ever seen on her-her entire front end was wet, and she had foam between her back legs. Maybe we've finally snapped her out of her anhydrosis?

That is aaallll sweat! She received a bubble bath after.


  1. Sounds like you've got some AWESOME trails to play with out there.

  2. Oh how cool that you're reading! Thank you for commenting! Yes, they trails here are pretty awesome! I'm told they continue for miles and miles. Maybe I'll finally be able to give endurance a try. :)