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



Friday, September 13, 2013

8.5

..miles. We did our first 8.5 mile ride within days of arriving at the this barn. That's like, real endurance training distance, yo.

No one freak out. We just walked the entire distance. Lily was fresh and happy by the end of the ride and standing square on both hind feet. In fact, here's what she looked like after her shower:

"Hey peeps. What's up?"
She was a little foot sore after from all the rocks we encountered on the trails. Can't blame her; she's been either stallbound or turned out on grass, and our former trail riding was over a much smoother path. This issue will be resolved soon. She was buted, linimented, and her hooves packed with Magic Cushion for good measure.

Ok, so let me backtrack.

We have about 15 boarders at this barn. Over half of them are diehard trail riders, with good quiet, solid horses. After riding out with Kathy and Phoebe, I was put in contact with Natalie and Jane, who often ride out to a park I had not even realized was that close to our barn: it is a HUGE state park, one of the largest in the state, taking up two counties and with an infinity of riding trails crisscrossed throughout. Locals call it Redneck Park. It's just a two mile ride to get there, and Natalie and Jane go that way frequently during the week. Kathy and Phoebe have not been able to successfully go out with these two ladies, so they were hoping that if I could make, I'd later be able to give them the tour of the trails.

Done deal!

The ride was originally going to be 2 hours, but it turned into 3 which only happened because we had to backtrack. These ladies prefer to walk on the trails (which I don't mind, especially while we're still working on conditioning Lily and getting her used to this area) and at the beginning of the ride, they apologized saying, "If you want excitement, it's not us." Famous last words.

On our way out, we met up with two other ladies on their mares, Holly and Bootsie. Natalie and Jane ride elderly QH geldings, named Newton and Ace, respectively. Ace and Newton are in their late 20's. You would never be able to tell to look at them - the two horses are muscle-bound and uber-fit. Trail riding is good for a horse's body and mind, and they are living proof of it.

Lily was by far the youngest in the group; the next youngest horse was Holly at 18. Holly didn't know her age: she squealed randomly at other horses and threatened to kick if another horse got too close to her rear end. I let Lily tell me about herd dynamics: she always knew when a squeal wasn't directed at her and held her ground, but if a pinned ear or swinging rump was aimed at her, I didn't stop her from turning and getting the heck out of the way if she needed to. She knew before I did when the issue was with her v s another horse.

My girl impressed the hell out of the other riders. She asked to lead heading out, then became a little hesitant so the other mares led for a ways. Lily, Bootsie and Holly took turns leading as we made our way through the woods, across a street, and onto a private farm where we are allowed to ride on the road. The day was glorious, with temps in the mid-70's and clear skies all around.

Stunning, yes? Yes.
We rode past soybean fields and then found the trail, over by the back of a red barn. Lily and I had been leading up until this point, but Lilybird got timid about the firewood piled underneath the barn, so Holly and Bootsie took the lead. The trail reminded me of part of Treetops Park back in FL: it was narrow, with high shrubs and trees on both sides, a creek on the other side of the trees to the right, and soybean on the other side of the bushes to the left.

And then we came across The Dog.

A Weimaraner, of all things. 

Not the individual we met, of course, but you can see where I'm going in terms of appearance. Imagine seeing this creature from a horse's point of view.
Read more about Weimaraners here.
The trail had a small fork to the right, down to the water's edge. There were two riders with the dog. The dog was off-lead, running up and down, from the main trail to the water's edge, over and over. Typical spastic Weimaraner. They are pretty dogs but you couldn't pay me to own one. His owner was the younger of the two women, and she was standing next to her horse. He scared the crap out of Holly and Bootsie in front, and Lily gave him the one-eye one-ear look as she flinched away from him. His owner managed to grab him as the other rider, an older woman who appeared to be almost in her 80's, barged right smack into the middle of the trail on her horse. (I ride with some really hard-core retired ladies between 55 to 70-something years old; this woman looked older. She gets some serious kudos for continuing to ride.) She apologized, saying that her horse was very green. Her horse was gorgeous, a dark bay with a blaze and 4 white stockings, and he was actually being a very good boy at that moment. He stood still while Lily and I carefully and slowly squeezed past him. The woman's clear pale blue eyes met mine. She was terrified of that horse; I could read it all over her face. I felt awful for her; I've been that afraid of a horse before (Rhythm; her horse actually looked a lot like him), and it is not a pleasant feeling, especially on the trails.

I urged Lily to catch up to Holly and Bootsie with their riders, and we waited for Jane and Natalie to catch up to us. Ace did NOT like that dog, and despite being a solid, quiet trail horse, there was a huge commotion. We couldn't see what was going on from where we were on the trail, but there was a lot of shouting involved between Jane, the owner of the dog, and the other woman on her green horse.

Everybody made it in one piece, thankfully.

Our next obstacle was a creek crossing. Lily has been fine with creek crossings, but this one involved a steep drop (1.5') into pastern-deep mud before actually crossing the creek. I knew she'd have problems with that. The two mares in front of us took their time crossing, even stopping to drink from the creek, so Lily got to stand in front of that bank and take a good look without trying to spin around away from it. When our turn came, instead of trying to fight with her I simply got off and led her across. She hesitated for a split second, thinking about the drop, then followed. I mounted up on the other side, no problem.

We continued on our way.

The next obstacle was A Mud Hole. It was actually a really shallow, wide creek, but the creek bed had been churned to mud by the local hunt that had galloped through the day before. Said mud was cannon-bone deep; the "creek" was about 4' wide. Going in was easy, but coming up on the other side involved leaping up onto a 2.5' bank. The bank was literally perpendicular to the mud at a 90 degree angle, looked slimy, and you could see where horses had slipped trying to get up. I wish I'd gotten a photo. I didn't like the looks of it at all.

I could have sent Lily across if I'd brought my lunge line-just let her leap across, unhindered by my weight. (No idea how I would have gotten across after her, though..) But I knew there was no way in a million years that I'd get her to step into that muck, and I didn't want her to. It was just asking for a broken leg if she panicked, and for what?

All of these thoughts ran through my head as Lily and I stood and watched Holly's and Bootsie's riders attempt to get their mares across first. Of the two, Bootsie was the only one that actually put her legs into the bog, took one step in, then immediately backed away. She refused to even think about attempting it after that. Newton made it across, but since none of the other horses would go, Jane and Natalie decided to backtrack and take us another route.

We had the horses crawl up a steep hill...

...and ended up in The Cornfield.

I had Lily follow Jane and Ace through the corn, with the rest of the group behind us. Jane was trying to find a shortcut around the creek that would take us to an area called Four Corners, from where we could head home. There was no path to speak of as we followed the tree line, and the corn just got thicker and thicker in front of us until it was impassable. So we all turned our horses around and headed back.



We did some serious bushwacking
Lily astounded me. She shoved berry bushes aside with her head and obediently followed Ace through the corn on a loose rein. Heading back, she flinched when the corn leaves smacked her muzzle, but she plowed on doggedly. I had no idea my mare had it in her to bulldoze. I discovered on this day that she does! Now I'll just have to find out if she's willing to do it without another horse in front of her...

So then we had to go back down the steep hill and follow a deer path through the woods back. The deer path was on the side of a 45-degree-angle hill. We followed it back onto a real trail around the cornfield. This part seemed to take forever. Lily and I were second, behind Newton, and Holly was walking along with her nose right up against Lily's butt. Lily normally doesn't mind this, but she kept turning her head to glance at Holly behind her in annoyance. No pinned ears, but I knew she was annoyed. She'll tolerate another horse's nose touching her behind, but not forever. I looked back and saw that Holly was placidly munching on a giant stalk of corn leaves, and realized that the leaves were tickling Lily. There was nothing we could do, however: we were right up against Newton's muscular chestnut rump and couldn't go any faster.

The trail led us up another very long, very steep and very rocky hill. Lily started to really struggle trying to stay behind Newton at a slow walk, but I held her back...and then the trail widened. I asked Natalie if we could pass, and she said yes. We trotted past her and came back to a walk at the top. At that point I realized that Bootsie and Holly had followed right behind Lily.

We crossed a road where Lily for whatever reason tried to whirl around, upsetting Holly behind her. I kicked Lily forward and we stayed in front. The forest was beautiful.




Natalie and Jane wanted to show a stone wall to Holly and Bootsie's riders, and we followed the trail until we finally found it. I missed the part where they explained why this wall was a big deal, but it was a 2' high wall that was probably a couple hundred years old that ran parallel to the trail for a ways. I tried to get a photo, but at this point, Lily was on a mission and this is all I got:

You can kind of see the light on the top of the wall to the left. Terrible photo. It could just as well be a photo of Big Foot for all you can see of the wall...
The trail started to go downhill gradually. Lily was going at her most forward walk: we were still about 4 miles away from home, but she definitely knew where we were headed. There were a lot of logs to step over, varying in height from 6" to 2' thick. Some of them were embedded in the trail, forming steps and banks, so the horses had to step over them and down. This was Lily's first time negotiating this kind of obstacle. She did it without pause. I spent most of this ride patting her neck and praising her!

You can see a fallen tree up ahead on the trail that we had to negotiate.
We came to another small creek crossing, where two riders were headed in our direction. We got out of the way so they could pass, then Bootsie and Holly went ahead across the stream. Lily followed like no one's business. She didn't even look at the creek.

I'm glad the other two mares went ahead. We followed the trail up an incline, to a point where it did a right angle and veered sharply to the right. Bootsie and Holly suddenly spooked and tried to bolt right at the corner where the trail turned. Lily didn't react to the mares, and I was really happy about this, because we came face to face with...

...A Bow Hunter.

In full camouflage gear, bow laid across his lap. He was sitting stock still. If the mares hadn't reacted so strongly, I would have never seen him, despite him being only 4' in front of us. Lily pricked her ears at him, recognized him as a person before I registered that it was actually a living being and not a mannequin (he was that still), then said "Whatevs" and followed after Holly.

Lilybird, I love you.

The trail took us right onto the edge of another soybean field. But we had one more obstacle:

The Dog.

Yes. That dog. Again.


Again, not the individual we encountered.
The two riders were on their horses, with the dog closely at their side this time. They stepped back to let us come through. Holly and Bootsie's riders turned left to follow the trail along the soybean field and we rode up a ways so Jane and Natalie could follow us. Jane informed us, however, that we had to go the opposite direction, which was being blocked by the two riders with the Weimaraner.

The older woman and Jane got into a yelling match. Then the dog's owner spoke up and clarified that they just wanted us to step aside so they could go down the trail that we had just come out of. Jane immediately switched gears to a more polite tone, and we all made room so they could go down towards the bow hunter. We then turned around to continue the trail up the other way, following the tree line by the soybean field.

We came to another fork in the path. Bootsie's and Holly's riders had to be back at their barn by noon. Holly had some sort of freakout and I didn't get to see what it was about because all of a sudden Lily just about jumped on Jane's lap trying to get away from the other mare. Next thing I knew, both mares had taken off down the trail at a trot, Holly still bouncing around, half-bucking and swishing her trail angrily. I held Lily back so we could stay with Jane and Natalie. Lily had absolutely no problem with letting the other two mares go ahead.

We continued our way back home, Lily and the two geldings, in peace, following a dirt road through meadows, sod, and more soybean fields.



Once back at the barn, Jane, Natalie and I parted ways by their paddock, and I continued with Lily solo around the property. She hesitated a little at being separated from the other horses, but I urged her forward into a jog. Once we were at the main bridle path, I let her come back down to a walk until we came to our gate.

Seriously, my mare is a superstar. I gave her a bath, rubbed all four legs and her back with Sore No More, gave her treats, packed her hooves with the Magic Cushion, gave her a scoop of bute mixed with a handful of sweet feed, then put her away in her stall with extra hay and a whole flake of alfalfa, her favorite. She had more than earned it.

And then I gave her the next three days off! She had earned that, too.








6 comments:

  1. Gangsta Lily is the best Lily. Gangsta you is also highly comical to me. YO. BITCHEZZ.

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    1. We gotz this mofo shit hella down! Fo shizzle. ;)

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  2. I share your assessment of Weimaraners. I always point them out to D and say stuff like, "I hope those owners are cross-country marathon runners who like to jog with dogs." Labs and terriers get reputations for being crazy, but the gray ghosts are cracked out with the best of them.

    I still think your new barn sounds amazing. I hope that my first group trail ride is as good as, while slightly less adventurous than, your ride!

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    1. "Cross-country marathon runners"....lmao! Yes, that is the perfect Weimaraner owner! I've only ever met one that was sane. Her owner was a tech, and that's what they did together: distance running.

      I hope your first group trail ride is even better than mine was! (And definitely less adventurous!)

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