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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Exploring the Unknown

On Sunday Charles and I returned to the park across the street on Gracie and Lily.

Marefaces ready to go.
There was a lot going on in the barn when we arrived so we tacked up outside. Lily was in raging heat and had started pacing and calling the second I put her in her stall so she could have a snack before riding. I tied her up outside by the arena next to Gracie and she immediately calmed down.

Gracie was freaking adorable. Charles tacked her up all by himself but she kept seeking me out. "What are we doing? Where are we going?" She thought I would be riding her. She made a face when Charles mounted up. I gave her a head hug and told her, "We'll have more adventures you and me. I just need you to take care of him." She closed her eyes and flopped her ears. She was actually extra especially careful with him on this ride. I lovelovelove that mare. She is gorgeous on the outside but she has the most amazing brain in that head of hers and a heart of gold. She has every quality that I love in a horse and she has made a niche for herself in my heart in a very short period of time.

Charles waiting on Gracie while I ran into the barn to get one more thing.
Lily wore all 4 Vipers for this outing.

Gracie says, "Let's go!!"
Charles was sporting his new half chaps.
We took the back trail and on a whim I decided to follow it all the way to the end, instead of turning right where we usually do. I had attempted this with Kathy in the early fall and we had arrived at a dead end.

Now that the trails are much more visible thanks to the growing greenery, I discovered that there was another side path veering left off of the main trail. We decided to follow it.

It dead ended on a road...the road we would have to ride on to get to the next park. We found it! I had Charles and Gracie wait at the tree line while I trotted up and down the road with Lily looking for the trail on the opposite side of the road. I couldn't find it and the brush was too thick to just go cross country. However, I know how to get to that same road via car, so I decided we'd drive through on another day and find the entrance to the other park, just so we'd know exactly how far we needed to go on the horses. I don't enjoy riding on the street especially when there's no shoulder and there's only a 6" rim of grass between the trees and the pavement.

We backtracked to the main trail and eventually discovered another path leading left. This one was narrower and much more overgrown than the first trail we had found. It turned into a shallow ditch winding through immature trees (aka lots of ducking to avoid getting stabbed in the eyes by branches!) and soon also dead ended on a road. There Lily was all, "Onward! Let's cross this mofo!" I laughed at her adventurous enthusiasm and had to rein her in before she bowled straight into the middle of the road! Again I had Charles and Gracie wait while Lily and I poked our heads out of the tree line, looking left and right to see if there were any trails on the far side of the road. Directly ahead of us was a solid 6' wooden fence and it looked like on either side of that were houses. I tried looking for road signs to see where we were but couldn't spot any from this location. Again there was no shoulder on the road and barely any grass on either side of the road, so again we all just turned around, Gracie and Charles leading the way.

Gracie is funny in that she is one of those horses that really enjoys exploring and won't necessarily take you back to the barn if you're lost. Her and Charles somehow ended up taking us onto a completely different trail, a deer path leading through the trees. It was so faint that I could see only a few feet in front of us. When Gracie and Charles started veering away from the path, Lily and I took the lead again. 

I should make her show name The Pathfinder. She has an odd uncanny ability for finding trails when I can't see them. She followed the deer trail until it disappeared under a huge cluster of fallen trees. I couldn't see the trail at all beyond that: the brush was too thick surrounding the trees to try to go around them. I gave Lily her head once more and she plotted her own course through the trees, taking us down a moderately steep hill. There is something exhilarating and simply awesome about trusting that your horse will find the way when you don't have a clue about where you are. 

The forest cleared up ahead and I recognized where we were: Lily had taken us right back to the main trail, one of the sections on which we ride on all the time. 

We just followed the trail per our norm, taking turns leading. This is the trail that eventually ends in the field with the steep hill that Kathy and I liked to take at a gallop. 

I had noticed several small side trails leading off to the left of the main trail and we decided to explore ALL of them!

The first one took us up, up, up this very long and fairly steep hill. I think we climbed for a good half a mile. Lily attacked it at a canter, leaping up the steeper portions of trail as it zig-zagged around the trees. I could hear Gracie and Charles following on our heels.

The trail at the top of the hill
Both mares made it to the top blowing hard. We walked until they had caught their breaths. Both picked up a trot on their own when they were ready. The trail was well maintained at the top of the hill, taking us through a gorgeous mature forest following a different river. It dead ended at a bright yellow "No Tresspassing" sign posted on a tree. I think it led onto someone's yard past that point. We turned around and retraced our steps. 

I won't deny it: I was having the heebie-jeebies about tackling that long hill going down. It had felt mondo steep going up! I shared this with Charles, who was all, "Bah, let's do it!" Lol! As we approached the hill, I noticed a less steep trail leading off towards the right. "Look! Let's check that one out!" "No!" Charles said with a grin. "Steep hill! Steep hill!" he chanted. I laughed at him. "You've obviously never had a horse fall with you on it!" but obliged. "Yaaaaaaay!" he cheered. Yes, he is a man-child.

As we neared the edge of the hill I gave him directions on leaning back with heels way way down, keeping the reins short to encourage Gracie to sit back on her haunches, and to not let her rush. I took a deep breath and down we went, Lily and I Ieading the way. 

Lily sat back and negotiated that trail with barely a cue from me. And you know what? It actually didn't feel as steep going down as it had going up! It was no joke of a hill, but Lily had no problems with it. She went forward confidently, ears pricked and calm. Charles and Gracie did absolutely fine too behind us.

Back on the main trail, we continued on. Not too far ahead, there was another side trail. We trotted through it. It was overgrown with grass that came up to the mares' knees. This one also dead-ended, this time on the fenceline of an equestrian property with beautiful fields.

Grassy trail.
You can see the run-in shed of the barn this led to in the distance on the left.
We turned around and cantered back to the main trail.

Grassy trail back towards the main trail. This is where we cantered!
We followed the main trail to its end, then turned around. We rode through the woodlands trail, the one that takes you through the very center of the forest. I had just suggested going on towards the lake trail when I looked at my watch: we had been riding for 2 hours! Charles couldn't believe it either. We had been having so much fun exploring that we'd completely lost track of time.

Through all of that crazy trail negotiating, these babies stayed ON!
The photo was taken when I had to dismount to replace the right front boot on our way back to the barn: Lily spooked, jumped, and managed to step on the RF boot with her RH foot, causing it to spin off. I would not have expected any boot or horseshoe to stay on during that little stunt. I'm thrilled with them!

Gracie waiting impatiently for me to get back on Lily. 
We decided to head back to the barn because we still had to run some errands before going home.

Both girls had baths and their dinners. I was so happy with the performance of both of them! Gracie had been an absolute dream for Charles and Lily had been beyond awesome despite being in raging heat. A little spooky/looky in a goofy sort of way, but nothing terrible. Charles's sense of adventure made the whole outing a million times more fun. :)


  1. Tell C that half-chaps and tennis shoes are my new favorite thing . . .

    You are going to have to get a second Alta, if these little adventures continue. . . .pretty soon you will both be riding all day. I can only hope that J decides to try soon.

    And a sense of Adventure is a prerequisite personality trait, in my book. Glad you had such a good time.

    1. Yup, I've already been keeping an eye out on Lisa's FB and on eBay for any used Ludomar Altas. Lol Lily is happy in the Wintec for now, though. I'm glad I kept it and had it adjusted for her! Bonus points for it is that it is the only other saddle I've ever encountered that puts me in a position similar to the Alta, thanks to the stirrup bars being placed further back on the tree. I do get a titch sore in it, but it's not a huge deal. Just need a sheepskin cover for it and we'll be set. :)

      I hope J decides to give it a whirl! You two would have so much fun!

  2. So much fun. I'm so happy Grace is working out so well and that C is having so much fun. Couples adventure in the near future. :-)

  3. I love how much fun you guys and your mares are having -- what a great way to spend the summer! Your trail pictures always look so inviting. :)

    1. Thanks! :) The trails look so different in the summer. They are beautiful. We just keep falling more and more in love with the Northeast.