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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home on the Trails

The day after we got back from WV, I took Lily out on the trail, while I still had the gumption.

During the last recheck, I had asked Dr. R about trail riding. She had said we could, as long as it was on flat terrain, with no ditches or crazy ups and downs. I knew exactly which trail we could do that met all of these requirements, but figured I'd wait until she was back on turnout before taking her out.

I changed my mind.

I had given her 1.8 mls of ace because it was the first time riding her after the trip. Jackie had hand-walked her for me while we were out, but Lily hadn't really done any significant exercise in 3 days. I was originally going to ride in the outdoor, then ditched that plan at the last minute and took her to the mounting block by the trail head.

I can't begin to say how brave of a move this whole thing was. Lily had not been on the trails in almost 5 months and the trails looked 100% different from the last time we were out there. Actually, I myself hadn't been out there in the same amount of time, which meant I had no idea what to expect in terms of the trail's appearance.

There was some hesitation from Lily at the trailhead, where it was muddy and some fresh dirt had been laid down to firm up the footing. I tried taking her around the drainage pipe at the end, but she was not having it. I ended up dismounting and, grumbling, just leading her around. She followed me fine.

There were several moments of hesitation after that, the moments sometimes turning into a literal step-stop-step-stop process. I dismounted again at the little bridge and led her across before she could even think about faltering. It also allowed me to check out the footing first, as over the winter it was extremely muddy there and I didn't want her slipping and sliding in mud with her recovering leg. The footing was nice and firm under the thick layer of grass.

After that, the going was peachy. We rode for a total of 15 minutes going away from the barn, with maybe 2 minutes of trotting, and then turned around and headed back. Of course, heading home Lily was on a mission, so we covered ground in half the time, despite being at a walk.

So I took her down to the big bridge at the end of the little road, the one we crossed so many times before.

There was A LOT of hesitation over this bridge. Lily tried turning around repeatedly, and I made her circle and come back to face the bridge. I made the circles larger and larger, so she was having to get closer and closer to the bridge. Eventually, her front feet were on it, and before I knew it, we were crossing it.

I never had to dismount.

Once on the other side, I turned her around, crossed the bridge again, and headed home. We made it back in a total of 40 minutes.

Over the weekend, I took her out again on foot so she could look at everything with me on the ground. She wasn't exactly thrilled with it thanks to the bugs driving her nuts despite fly spray, but she came along as willingly as could be expected.

On Tuesday, Tina and I re-started Tuesday trails. I gave the goofball 2 full mls of ace, expecting her to be anxious about following Houdan. She wasn't; she was SUCH A GOOD GIRL!! Houdan hadn't been out on the trails in a long time either, and he was quite looky, which was a first. Lily was like, "You're silly. I gotz this." And never once so much as looked at a single log or rock on the trail. We did the whole 3-mile Bayou trail loop, including the creek crossing, in 30 minutes flat.

This time we added the 2 sets of 4 minutes trotting that I had started on the lunge over the weekend as well, and for once, Lily loved it. Once we trotted, she was like:

"Can I trot more?"
No Lily, we have to walk.
"What about now?"
"And now?"
5 minutes walking.
"Ok....It's been 5 minutes."
No, it's been 2 seconds.

We did do our workout like the vet had ordered, but I LOVE seeing her that enthused. Despite 2 mls of ace...

The second bridge, which was blocked off over most of the winter, had been completely removed. The banks of the stream had been filled in with large gravel. Houdan thought hard about crossing, Lily didn't even pause while going across.

Oh, and she didn't take a single sore step on the gravel!

At the next creek crossing, she walked down to the water's edge quietly, then suddenly decided to hop across, catching me completely by surprise. She had never ever even attempted to jump the creek. I laughed. There is a short rise after the creek, and a giant prickly bush was pretty much blocking the path. Lily went right through it when I pointed her at it and ducked down close to her neck to avoid the branches. A la Q and Little Bit.

Isn't she awesome?

The rest of the trail was quite overgrown, and she just plowed her way through merrily. Houdan got quite ahead of us and she pranced, but came right back down to a very, very forward and oscillating walk when asked.

Her leg got cold hosed and iced after that for good measure, and she was fine.

Almost every ride since has taken place on the same trail this week. I've been taking advantage of the dry weather while I can; if it rains enough to make the trail slick, we'll be staying in the arenas or paddocks again.

I've been riding with the dressage whip all the time lately; the only ride I didn't use it on this week was on the first trail ride after the trip. 
She completely ignores its presence now, unless I use it to tap my leg as encouragement.

She has a tiny startle at the beginning of this video, and then she's fine. 

Tonight she nickered when I arrived at the barn, for the second time since her layup started. I didn't ride at all; just put her on the lunge for a bit at a walk and we only did one 4 minute trot set. She was completely sober, the first time in a while that I've lunged her sober. Previously, she had been doing all sorts of acrobatics on the lunge if I didn't give her an ml of ace prior. She'd always come right back down to the gait I wanted her at, be it walk or trot, but it was nerve-wracking to have your recovering mare doing circus tricks on her $2,000 leg regardless...

Tonight however, she was fab. Completely paying attention, tossing her head playfully when asked to trot, but no attempts at cantering or at airs above ground. I asked for a change of direction, had her walk, then asked her to come. She came to me, but stopped 3 feet away. I waited. She waited. And then she closed the distance and reached out with her nose and touched me. This is a first. I rubbed her forehead under her forelock where she loves to be rubbed, and she closed her eyes.

We repeated this two more times. Each time, she closed the distance and touched me. On that note, we finished for the evening.

Maybe someday she will trust me 100% of the time.


  1. Aww good girl Lily! That's great! :)

  2. You are brave! Rehabbing on trails is a great idea though, glad she was good :)

    1. The footing out there has literally been exactly what the doctor prescribed. :)