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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Snowy Trail Ride Ever

While Charles and I were out walking yesterday, we noticed the snow plows and crews of people clearing the streets and sidewalks. I had originally thought we'd be snowed in but it had stopped actively snowing, so everything that was being cleared was going to stay cleared. I texted Kathy and our BO to see if the barn driveway had been plowed yet. (Our BO has her own equipment and the staff to do the job.) It had!

Kathy read my mind over the distance, because she texted, "I'll join you for a snowy adventure!"

I'd originally been thinking I'd just ride in the snow-filled arena, but Kathy opened the door for a trail ride.

I squealed with excitement when I read that text. Last year I got to ride Lily in the snow one time, within the safe confines of the outdoor arena at the old barn. We did do w/t/c that day, but Lily was wearing Epona shoes (glued on) on her fronts to get her thin sand-abraded FL soles through her first winter, and they did create ice balls. So this would be our first snow ride completely barefoot. And it would be our first trail ride in the snow ever. I had never ridden in the snow, period, until that ride last year, and last year I never would have even thought to take her out on the trails simply because she was so kooky that winter. The thought never even crossed my mind.

I have a little voice at the back of my head that is always warning me of the million and one dangers involved in everything I do. If I listened to that voice, I wouldn't be a vet tech. I wouldn't ride horses, never mind trail riding. (This voice had become VERY LOUD about trail riding...the safety vest helped calm it down.) I wouldn't go walking in the snow. I wouldn't go running by myself. I wouldn't stop at the gas station at night. I'd have 3 bolts on the apartment door. Just sharing my life with Charles has helped me stop listening to that voice when it starts talking about the dangers of everyday things. Moving up here and forcing myself to move out of my comfort zone in other areas has helped me overcome the fears that were downright choking my sense of adventure.

Charles had to do some online training for work, so I went to the barn to meet up with Kathy. I grinned like an idiot the entire way to the barn, just eating up the white landscape with my eyes. The stretches of clean white snow over cut corn fields and rolling hills made we wonder what it would be like to gallop over it. I had never even entertained that idea...I had never thought we'd actually ever really end up living in a place where there was snow. Suddenly, the entire idea of riding in the snow, out in the open, became as glorious as the idea of galloping on the beach. Something which I've never done either. I had no access to a trailer in PR. I got my first taste of endurance conditioning while training Lucero and Indio, my two Pasos, with the idea of doing the four hour ride following the Bayamon River, which could be accessed from the barn, to get to the beach. We never made it; I moved to Tampa before that happened. In South FL, there was only one beach within a reasonable trailering distance at which you could ride your own horse: Port St. Lucie. The permit to ride horses on the beach was $200 for out-of-towners. Mark, the owner of the trailer I borrowed, would NOT go to the beach. He HATES the beach. There was not enough bribing on earth to get him to go. Which is how we ended up going to Wolf Lake in Davie instead, which was absolutely amazing, but it's still not the same as riding on the beach...At the same time, given the way Lily used to be about water (TERRIFIED), I figured she would probably have a meltdown at the beach anyway, so after Wolf Lake, I stopped insisting.

But it's something that is still on the bucket list. Galloping, preferably bareback, on the beach, on my own horse. It's an idea that was put into my head when I was 10 years old and watched The Black Stallion for the first time. Alex and The Black splashing in the waves on the shore, free. I've dreamed about that in my sleep even more than flying.

Best beach ride so far on a friend's Paso Fino stallion. However, he was afraid of the waves, so we didn't get to ride along the water's edge. :(

I would just love to do this:


The sun came out as I was pulling up to the driveway, lighting up the snow with a brilliant glow. It took my breath away. I got chills looking out at the vast, glorious whiteness. The chills weren't from the cold! We live here, was all I could think. You guys don't understand how MUCH I've always wanted this.

I quite literally stopped the car in the middle of the driveway and got out to take these photos.
It was beautiful.

I was surprised to realize that the stalled horses had not been turned out. I got Lily from the field and met Kathy in the main barn to tack up. With the sun's appearance, the snow was already starting to come off the trees in small clumps.

Lily's low Irish clip

We decided to do the loop in the back woods, as there were no streets to cross. Both mares went barefoot: no hoof boots. We don't own studded boots, the back woods are not as rocky as the trails across the street and there was enough snow to cover the rocky bits anyway. Plus I wanted Lily to be able to feel the footing under her hooves.

The bridle path was a sight to behold.

As you can see, we were the first on the bridle path. No other hoof prints.
We took photos! Queenie was raring to go, a first for her. She took off down the bridle path and Kathy had to turn her around and convince her to stand still for the photo!

Kathy and Phoebe were going to take Deja and Queenie to the Lisbon Christmas parade last weekend. They had all sorts of Christmas gear to put on the mares for the occasion, but the parade got cancelled due to the bad weather. After going to the trouble of making them, Kathy has been having Queenie wear her Christmas accoutrements anyway. Note the jingle bell collar!
My half chaps didn't fit over the snow boots. Oh well.
As we continued on our merry way, Queenie continued leading. Lily and I trotted to catch up with her. Kathy checked her a couple of times to try to get her to slow down, but Queenie flung her head around furiously and chomped on the bit. The snow was packed firm but not icy, so I asked Kathy about letting the horses trot so Queenie could get her hyperactivity out of her system. All of her tack seemed to be fine, so there was no obvious reason for Queenie's antics to be due to discomfort. I had a feeling it was due to being locked up for 24 hours. Kathy decided to wait, and we walked on.

We trotted across the yard into the treeline, and Queenie tried to buck twice, something which she'd never ever done before. Kathy was getting really nervous and Lily was starting to feed off of Queenie's anxiety. She was tossing her head around too and just being unable to stand still. Kathy felt that there had to be something wrong with Queenie's bit and that's why she was flinging her head around. She dismounted to look in the mare's mouth, but couldn't find anything wrong. It was a mission for her to get back on, as Queenie kept trying to rub her head against her and almost knocked her over a couple of times. I didn't want to get off Lily as I was afraid she wouldn't let me get back on. We were able to block Queenie so she'd at least stay next to the trunk Kathy was using as a mounting block, and tried to continue on our way. Kathy chose to let us lead, and Queenie stayed hot on our heels, with her nose pretty much right against Lily's butt. Halfway through the loop, Queenie stopped and started frantically pawing at the snow, alternating front legs. I was starting to worry that maybe she was colicking or something. It was just such bizarre behavior from the steady-eddie mare. But she had pooped in her stall while Kathy was tacking up and had been eating her hay just fine.

We chose to turn around. Kathy told me to continue with the ride but I didn't want her to go by herself in case something happened. I let Queenie lead and Lily suddenly became an insane handful, jigging and prancing, going in zig-zags on the trail. She's beautiful when she does this, but I HATE it because she's just bottling up her energy getting ready to explode. And of course, the more she pranced and jigged, the slower she went so the greater the distance became between Queenie and her, making her more anxious. Kathy realized she couldn't control Queenie's speed, so she decided to dismount. It was kind of a mission for her to be able to stop Queenie long enough to get off! She insisted that she would be fine now that she was leading her mare, and that Lily and I should finish the trail ride.

I debated this for a second, then decided that it was probably a good idea to NOT reward the frantic behavior by going home. So I finally turned around and headed back onto the loop.

On our first trail ride on the snow in the woods. Which had been the last thing on my mind when we decided to do this ride. OMGOMGOMG...

That voice at the back of my head that I was telling you about? It was in quite a panic. I told it to go fly a kite and let go of the breath I realized I was holding.

The snow was falling off the trees in clumps. All of the fallen trees, branches and rocks were partially covered in snow, looking like half-blanketed monsters waiting to pounce. We saw a red fox run off into the brush. There were patches of black mud, ice, and slush in parts of the trail.

What did Lily do???!!!

Nothing. She did nothing at all. She reacted to nothing. Once away from Queenie, I had a happy, forward, relaxed mare that I ended up riding with a big loop in the reins as we crunched through the snow. She even stomped through the slush and mud without even pausing to look at it.

We did walk and some trot, then veered off towards the wide path that leads to a bridge (we hadn't gone that way since the leaves started to come off the trees, as the bridge had become very slippery.) The path is flat and great for cantering. When we reached this section, I asked Lily for a canter. She happily obliged. We cantered 4 strides when a hind foot slipped slightly and I asked her to slow back down to a walk. She really wanted to continue cantering! But she obeyed. I had to laugh at her.

I started out with a choke grip on the reins when we first went off on our own. The second Lily relaxed, she started asking to stretch. Halfway through our first loop, I realized it was okay to let go. So I did, and Lily stretched. She tried to pick up a trot a couple of times when I just wanted to walk but I squeezed my core and half-halted her, and she continued to walk.

The ride that could have potentially been my worst nightmare a year ago, turned out to be one of my favorite rides with my mare so far. Since I was originally going to ride with Kathy, I had not brought music. So the only sound to accompany us was that of Lily's feet crunching in the snow as we negotiated a white trail that we could both see.

The woods were beautiful in the fading light.

And returning back to the barn, the view was breathtaking too, as the slowly setting sun turned the snow pink with blue shadows.

On the bridle path, I noticed these little discs of ice among our hoofprints leading away from the barn. A closer look revealed this, and I had to get a photo when I dismounted at the gate to the barn:
The snow would collect on Lily's and Queenie's hooves, melt, freeze, then fall off as they continued to walk on with their bare feet, forming what I decided to call "hoof ice dollars". There were dozens of them littered along the horses'; they'd fall off every other stride it seems.

They reminded me of sand dollars at the beach.

It was such a magical ride. I love my mare!!
Maybe some day we will be able to do this after all...and maybe it will be this effortless...

And Queenie? She was fine. Kathy deliberately let her loose as she was arriving back at the property, and Queenie galloped and galloped and galloped in the snow around her field. Kathy caught her and took her to the arena, where she set her free to do as she wanted in a confined space. Queenie galloped and galloped and galloped again, bucking and kicking up her heels, still fully tacked! Kathy had never seen her like that, but it ended up being what I suspected: Queenie just needed to let that pent-up energy out! :D


  1. So gorgeous!! I totally get you about the voice in your head--I'm always trying to ignore my own! So glad that ignoring it paid off for you today! :)

    1. Me too! Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between that voice and gut feeling.

  2. Glad you had such a great ride for your first trail ride in the snow. I have had some of my best rides in the snow, too. I used to have a very, very quiet horse, Mingo, who was so quiet that you could take a nap on a trail ride. If I brought him out into the snow, he came alive--we had so much fun! Horse's really seem to enjoy it.

    1. Hi Judi! Thank you! I remember reading about Mingo in your book. :) How wonderful that you shared such great rides with him! Lily is the first horse I've ridden in the snow; this is only her second winter in the Northeast which makes all of this extra-special. It will be fun seeing how the other horses do. Queenie yesterday absolutely LOVED it!

  3. What a beautiful ride! I would be just as excited as you since I've never been riding in the snow before :)

  4. Tears in my eyes . . . the beach video was awesome. Glad your girl took care of you yesterday. I ride out by myself quite a bit (after letting everyone know where I am going) and know how scarey it can be. Good for you for going on.

    1. I love that girl from the video. She does all sorts of amazing tackless things with that gorgeous horse of hers; I ended up just subscribing to her channel on YouTube!
      We ride out alone all the time whenever we want to go faster than a walk. :) We just had not done any sort of trail riding in snow at all, which is why I kind of freaked out a bit about doing it alone. I had no clue how she'd react. I'm glad we went anyway!

  5. So excited for you! That's a big milestone in your relationship - going off alone into the scary and having FUN doing it! Great work.


    1. You made me snort my beer again. YES ALLLL THE THINGS WE WILL DO!!!