Yesterday Kathy and I took the girls to a ride at North Tract in the Patuxent River State Park (aka the famous Redneck Park that I'm always talking about. It's one of the largest parks in Maryland, taking up 3 counties. You can ride in there for days. I'm surprised no one has started an endurance ride in there.)
North Tract used to be part of Fort Meade, but when the US started downsizing on military bases, North Tract became property of the US Wildlife and Fisheries Department.
What's special about this area? The trails. They are WIDE two track trails that were originally built for military tanks with flat hard footing that remains unchanged no matter how much it's rained. I was impressed: the trails in this part of Patuxent are even nicer than the ones at the Manassas Battlefield.
I was at the barn at 7:30 am to give Lily her breakfast and get her ready. In no time Kathy and I had the mares loaded up and were driving to the park, which was about a 45 minute trailer ride from our barn. Lily was incredibly "up" in the barn when I brought her in from the field, but completely relaxed by the time we unloaded at the park. I tied her to the trailer with her haynet and she dug right in while we tacked up.
We were all asked to line up and couple of group photos were taken by the TROT leaders. Then we all split into our groups: there was one walk group (Kathy was in this group), two walk-trot groups (the exercise rider was in one of these groups, to my surprise, which reinforced my thought that maybe the TB was coming back from a layup), and one w/t/c group (I was in this group). Kathy was riding with Natalie and Jane from our barn in her group and I happened to be with the lady on the black Icelandic horse that found Kathy's phone when we rode at the Agricultural History Park recently! We all rode off at once, with the fastest moving groups taking the lead.
Our group started out with 5 people: a woman on a STUNNING Arab/Saddlebred cross, the two ladies on Icelandics (one of them was the leader of our group; her Icelandic was white), and a 4th woman riding on a black Arab cross that reminded me a lot of Liz's Q.
|The Arab/Saddlebred in front of me. She looked like an Arab on stilts; she was a good 16 hh with huge lovely movement. She could trot at the same speed the rest of us had to canter!|
We alternately walked, trotted and cantered, and eventually the woman on the black Arab decided to return to the trailer parking lot; she was familiar with the trails in this section of the park and her mare was fine without other horses.
The group continued on. While it was a wonderful ride, I didn't take a lot of photos because the trails all looked the same in photos: wide, compacted dirt:
|Those little Icelandics could book it, man.|
|The lake. Sadly, horses are not allowed to ride around it.|
|Eating and staring back at the trail.|
The Icelandics and the Arab/Saddlebred cross ate until the very last minute, and then we headed back out onto the trail, re-tracing our steps. One of the walk-trot groups rode past us, going towards the lake. The two ladies on the Icelandics decided we would make our return trip as long as possible so we weren't sitting at the trailers for an hour waiting for everybody else to get back.
About 50% of the ride ended up being walk, with most trot sessions turning into canter, especially for Lily and me. I understood why Icelandics are called "horses" and not "ponies": they may have a short stride but God can they cover ground! Lily had to trot to keep up with their faster walk! The two ladies on them didn't move, even when the horses cantered. They just sat back in their saddles and coasted along. Our group leader joked that she loves that breed because they allow her to keep up with other horses while making it look like she knows how to ride. :)
The Icelandic tolt - this is the gait that Icelandics are famous for. Note how much ground they are covering and how smooth the gait is. Lily and I were trotting at a good clip to keep up. Karen, this is very similar to the paso largo in Paso finos and the running walk in TWH, though the speeds will vary depending on the individual horse and breed. :) The paso corto of the Paso Fino that I spoke of in the previous post is a slower, more collected version of this.
We crossed a bridge that took us over the Patuxent River, then rode on for about another mile or so.
All four of our horses were so good. We had such a great time! It was a wonderful way to meet new people; everyone was very laid back and admiring one another's horses, which all happened to be mares in our group. The trails of North Tract are wide enough that you could technically ride three horses abreast if you want. Since Lily was actually the slowest horse in our group, we practiced letting the other horses ride away at trot and canter and playing catch up when I asked her to, as well as having other horses pass us at the canter. Lily invariably pins her ears when this happens but otherwise doesn't do a thing: no kicking out, no speeding up. It was a great training ride for her! We did 10.72 miles in 2 hours (not including the first mile at a walk nor the 15 minute snack break for the horses) with an average pace of 5.33 mph. We never went faster than a canter, but Lily's fastest canter was clocked at 12.31 mph. Now I'm wondering how fast her gallop was at Wye Island...
|In the graph you can see the flow of the ride in terms of speed. There were 4 canters where we hit 12 mph.|
Berger cookies, a Maryland cookie invented by DeBaufre Bakery that has been around since the 1800's!
|It's a vanilla cake cookie covered with thick chocolate frosting. Umm, yeah: they are good!|
You don't need to live in MD to try them: you can order them here.
Have a cookie! Mmmmmm...
Not my plate; I was good: only had one!
And you can't tell in the pics of the trails, but I'm SO EXCITED about this:
|The cherry blossoms on our street are blooming!|