Lily actually nickered when she saw me, which was a BIG surprise! She didn't come running (maybe some day?) but she walked 2 steps towards me and waited while I closed the distance.
The tractor was in full swing, so I had to put Lily in her stall to get her ready. This always makes her freak-she hates being inside when everyone else is out, though when I'm in the stall with her she is settling down somewhat. I had to leave her in the stall alone for a minute so I could finish getting her stuff out, and when I came back out, she nickered at me again! :) I groomed her and tacked up with the Alta Escuela and the new low port Weymouth bit I purchased exclusively for trail riding. (It's like our low port pelham, except the port is even smaller, the shanks are slightly shorter, and I don't feel bad about not using the "snaffle" rings of the pelham.) Lily got lunged in the outdoor, and I discovered my mare was actually quite calm, so I got on and did some basic w/t/c while waiting for Tina to arrive and get Houdan.
Lily was relaxed, and willing to stretch out and lengthen with the Weymouth. I've noticed she is much more collected and less willing to stretch with the low port bits. Which makes sense, yes, but I'm trying to encourage more stretching, especially when I ride in these bits with almost no contact.
Tina showed up at 1:00 pm sharp, and quickly had Houdan ready. Since it was just us, we took a different route this time, through the ditches and across Rock Creek, over where the beaver dam is, to the corn field.
All this way, Lily was forward but relaxed, behaving like a seasoned trail horse, so I was able to take these photos.
Lily splashed through the stream like no one's business, no pause, no falter. Good girl! She recognized the corn field and remained calm, so we rounded the field, we trotted a bit, and Lily complied without head tossing or fretting that Houdan was getting too far ahead (he has an awesome extended trot on the trail). Tina pointed out the song of the tree frogs in the forest: peepers. This is the first time we've heard them on the trail! "Spring is definitely here!" Tina said.
There is a steep rise at the far end of the field, and here we cantered up. As we pulled up to a walk at the top of the rise, the horses saw a huge white boulder by the main track, partially hidden in the brush, and both of them spooked! Big White Horse-Eating Boulder, oh my. Tina and I brought both of them to a stop, then continued on our way.
A tree was being cut down with heavy machinery as we crossed the slope that leads off of the the corn field, and here both horses became very tense. Thankfully, the tree didn't crash down while we were in the vicinity. We followed a gravel path through a stand of trees, over another bridge, and around another field. Around this time, Lily started to get very tense. Tina suggested trotting, and I asked to continue walking-Lily felt like she was going to explode, prancing at the walk, gnashing her teeth on the bit, and arching her neck. She was worried. We had been up this way once before, but it was a long time ago, and I could tell she didn't remember.
Once we were in the trees again, she relaxed a bit. As I'm writing this, I'm starting to wonder if her nervousness in wide open spaces is all her, or if I'm contributing to it? Or viceversa-it's all me creating the issue? I do feel safer in the woods, and so does she. In open spaces, I start to worry about dogs coming out of nowhere (there was an incident with 2 trail riders at our barn where they were attacked by 2 dogs off leash-both of the women ended up in the hospital, and one of the horses lacerated a tendon running through barbed wire) and Lily wanting to pick up speed, so I think part of it is that she feeds off of me.
The path through the woods led over a giant wooden bridge-it was elevated and long, but Lily had no problems following Houdan over it. The path wound around and down, leading to a huge tunnel. A street ran over the tunnel, and the creek ran through the tunnel. The path was wide enough for a horse and a half to walk through, and there was a railing separating the trail from the water below. Houdan, who is more sensitive to noise, initially didn't want to go through. The stream flowing over the rocks echoed in the tunnel. Lily waited patiently for Houdan to settle, and then we made our way through. Houdan broke into a trot as we came out the other end, like "Get me out of here!" Lily continued to walk quietly. I was really proud of her! She's never encountered anything like this before, and she completely kept her cool.
Once on the other side, the trail turned into a track that went around a grove of newly planted trees. Here the horses sidestepped away from another White Horse-Eating Boulder, but they remained relaxed, so we let them trot. We trotted down the track all the way back into the trees.
This part was breathtakingly beautiful! The forest had a LOT of fallen trees that had been cut to allow passage through the track. The trunks were all a deep dark brown, and the track leading through was a brilliant green. I remember thinking I'd really like to get a photo, as Houdan picked up the pace, still at a trot, and left us behind. Lily got REALLY worked up right then, and tried to break into a canter. I didn't let her. Enter Major Meltdown.
Lily snatched at the bit, and when I didn't give with my hands, she tossed her head furiously, came UP in a half-rear (I'm guessing she would have bucked if we had been using a different bit, so she went for plan B). She was still moving forwards as her front legs left the ground. She did this a couple of times, coming down hard each time. I lost my left stirrup as she reared again, this time doing a perfect repeat of her Step and Twirl move from last year that made Judy bite the dust (4th paragraph down, if you go to the link). For those of you that don't know what the Step and Twirl is: Lily will rear, as she does a beautiful sidestep, to complete a 180 degree spin on her hind legs, before coming back down.
Tina had stopped Houdan when she first heard that we were having a problem and turned around. She called out "HOLD ON!" as Lily turned in the air in her Step and Twirl and my butt left the saddle. I had a good grip on the reins-they had not slid through my fingers yet. My first instinct was to go for her mane when Tina yelled, but there was no mane to be had...and then I remembered the bucking strap!!
|Bucking strap, added to the Alta Escuela back in February.|
After my heart was back in its correct spot in my chest, we continued on our way.
The green trail led through the dark forest, past an abandoned barn, through a meadow, and past a small pond. A herd of deer was standing among the trees as we neared the pond, and they moved off at a trot away from us. Both horses remained calm.
The trail eventually joined up with a gravel driveway that led to a nursery, then turned into a track that went around the nursery. By then we had been riding for an hour. And that's when we saw the 2 Canadian geese. Both horses went into High Alert mode. Tina suggested turning around. Houdan was REALLY worked up about the geese, and she was afraid he'd bolt if they decided to take flight. So we turned around to head back. Lily decided she wanted to start the way back at a trot, which I allowed, but when she tried to go into a canter, I stopped her, and she had another Meltdown, though not as dramatic as the first, that involved a lot of head shaking, teeth gnashing, and tossing her head back so high that she almost hit me on the nose with her neck. I got her stopped, and we continued on our way, walking next to Houdan this time, sometimes straight, sometimes side-stepping in what would have been a perfect leg yield if I'd actually been asking for it... Tina said soothingly, "It's okay baby girl. You can leg yield all the way home if you want." We both laughed at that one.
During that last Meltdown, my goofy horse had managed to get the curb chain off, and it dangled next to the bit. This actually worked in our favor. Without the chain, she was a lot calmer about me checking her momentum, and if she did complain, the chain whacked her on the nose. She soon learned that head tossing = nose whacking. We went all the way back with her leaning on the bit on and off, but there were no more explosions nor drama. Maybe I should use a mullen mouth 3-ring Pessoa bit for the trail, since it has the same leverage function, but without a chain?
When we got to the big creek crossing, she leaped into the water after Houdan and tried to gallop through the stream and up the bank. MARE! I checked her (this is the same mare that used to refuse to cross water!), and we continued at a walk the rest of the way, except when both horses decided to jump the ditches.
I originally had the full intention of riding Lily some more in the arena when we got back, so she'd start thinking "home = work", not "home = relaxing." But by then my feet were killing me-I had worn extra thick socks because it was cold, and with my defensive uber-heels down position, the combination of thick socks + paddock boots was cutting the circulation to my feet!
So once back home, I dismounted after all. I untacked Her Naughtiness, groomed her, and proceeded to fix the trace clip, thanks to some white medical non-porous tape.
Lily informed me that white tape also eats horses, and tried to run backwards in the cross ties when I tried to apply it to her flanks. I got her to calm down, but then when the tape touched her clipped skin, she gave this super monumental FLINCH and stepped away from me. We had to do this a couple of times before she finally realized the tape wasn't going to kill her.
|The Terrible Horrible White Tape of Death (note her ears! She was "listening" to said Tape of Death)|
|Voila! Straight lines! (And yes, she's gained back almost all of the weight she'd lost! Her topline looks much better!)|
|My new favorite photo of her. :)|
|"I waz a good girl. Can I go out with Jez now?"|
Her tail also got cleaned up:
|Yesss! Straight lines!|
|The clip looks almost exactly the same, when viewed from both sides!|
That was a REALLY long day at the barn!