We went to the smaller park across the street from the barn (the one Lily and I visited solo here) with the goal of riding into the woods. They have several trails; most of them allow horses but the ones that don't have a crossed-off horse on the sign.
We mounted up. To get to the driveway, we had to walk on the pea gravel past the turnout fields. Rolando, the head stable hand, was cutting a tree with a chainsaw right by the pea gravel. He was wearing head phones so he never even noticed us go by! Lily and Queenie looked over at what he was doing, but my awesome mare didn't even bat an eye as we walked only 6' away from Rolando. Since she was calm, Queenie was calm too.
We rode up the long driveway, dismounted to cross the busy intersection, then continued on foot through the initial grassy path that leads into the park. It is SO overgrown right now. Once inside the park, we mounted up again.
Lily has an odd sporadic fear of giant quartz rocks, which we've randomly encountered on the trails here. (Apparently there's a lot of quartz rock in MD. Who knew?) There is a group of them in the park parking lot, and they are the perfect height to use as mounting blocks. Both Kathy and I sidled the mares up to these rocks and got on. Lily just stood for me. "Rock? What rock?" Good girl.
Both mares were a little looky/hesitant walking up the meadow path. Queenie in particular was antsy, which was highly unusual, and Lily was feeding off of her uncertainty despite being in the lead. I had Lily extend her walk and encouraged her to lower her head, and as she moved at a faster pace, she relaxed (if we'd been solo, I would have had her trot, but I didn't think this was a good idea for Queenie right at that point.) I started talking to Kathy, which helped both of us relax too. Queenie immediately settled down into her normal, calm unflappable self.
We found a horse trail leading into the woods and followed it. Right at the trail head, the trail dropped down a short bank with plenty of rocks and boulders on either side of the path. Remember how Lily stood at the quartz rock "mounting block"? Yeah, quickly forgotten. She was convinced that the largest boulder on the left of the path ate horses. I talked to her. "It's a rock; it won't eat you." Lily fretted, stepping from side to side and giving the rock the one-ear, one-eye look, and I nudged her forward. "It's a rock! Rock, rock, rock, rock." With every "rock", she took a step forward, and thus we walked right by the Evil Carnivorous Boulder uneventfully. (In hindsight, I think this worked exceptionally well because "rock" sounds like "walk", a command which she knows.) She got lots of pats, and we continued on our way. Queenie didn't care about the rock.
The trail we chose was called the Hidden Pond trail, and we soon discovered why it had this name: there is, indeed, a hidden pond a short ways in.
We made a right turn at the end of Hidden Pond, and soon we were following a creek. I took notes of areas where the path veered off and crossed the creek (some really nice wide, shallow crossings with little to no mud on the banks!) to come back and explore at a later time. This particular trail was spectacular.
|I want to gallop through that creek...|
A tiny little creek flowed across the trail to join the larger creek on our left, and Lily chose to jump over it. Further up the path, we came across a giant black mud pit. We could go around it by climbing halfway up the hill to our right, so I had Lily do this. She happily obliged! Little Miss Priss. Queenie went right over the mud and waited patiently for Lily to come back down the hillside to reclaim her spot in the lead.
We came to a fork where there were more "No horses" signs, and ended up turning around, going onto a different trail loop altogether that also connected to Hidden Pond. We followed Hidden Pond in the opposite direction from where we'd come, up a fairly steep hill. Once over the hill, we could hear chainsaws in the distance. The horses were alert but continued on willingly, until we came to the area where a trail maintenance crew was cutting down trees. Lily and Queenie were great - still alert, but neither of them was bothered by the noise. However, the trail was completely blocked off so we turned around yet again and eventually made our way back onto the meadow path. Queenie knew we were heading home, so she happily took the lead.
By the time we made it back, we'd been out for 2.5 hours. I'd recorded 47 minutes of that time with Endomondo, and during those 47 minutes we'd covered 2.26 miles. According to that, we were doing a little over half a mile every 15 minutes (sloooow..but this was our LSD -long slow distance- ride for this week, and we were plodding along enjoying ourselves), so after doing the convoluted math, I figured we'd probably done about 6 miles in the 2.5 hours.
Another fun ride under our belts!