|Successful trailer loading after a 20 minute session last week.|
Kathy and I decided to pack up Queenie and Gracie to go to the Agricultural History Farm Park nearby for a brief trail ride to see how the blonde bombshell would do with riding off property.
Honestly, I had no doubt in my mind that she would take it all in stride as she has everything I've presented to her so far.
She loaded up into Kathy's red trailer within 10 minutes. She started out right away with putting her front feet on the trailer but was not following up with her hind legs. Twice I had her back up and lunged her a couple of turns in front of the trailer, then led her up to it. Twice she put her fronts on but didn't step on with her hinds. The third time I had Kathy, who was holding the trailer door open, tap Gracie's hind legs with my dressage whip. This was all the encouragement she needed: she stepped right on to discover there was a full haynet waiting for her. Gracie tore into the haynet while we closed the partition (Kathy's trailer is a slant load) and loaded up Queenie. This was Queenie's first time in the second compartment of the trailer. She hesitated for a second at the reduced space then went right on with minimal encouragement.
We got into the truck and Kathy drove all of us over to the Ag Park, only about 10 minutes away.
It turns out that there was an ultra marathon going on at the Ag Park and they were using part of the horse trails for running. (Mel and Funder, I thought of you gals! Mel, we even saw a guy with a racing vest!) One of the guys from the event came over to let us know where to park and told us what the course was so we could watch out for the runners, which was really nice of him.
Both mares unloaded uneventfully. We tied them with long lines to the sides of the trailer so they could graze while we tacked up.
Gracie stopped her grazing to watch the runners as they were coming in and out of the woods:
|You can see one of the runners in the distance here.|
|Queenie says, "Runners? What runners? All I know is this grass is delicious!"|
I hopped on and her mindframe didn't change: she continued watching the runners with the same curious, calm alertness:
|The runners were behind the trees.|
One of the first obstacles is a short bridge over a creek. Gracie took one step onto the bridge, heard the hollow "BOOM" of her hoof on the wood and took a step back. She sniffed at the bridge and I encouraged her. She took one more step. "BOOM!" She spun around and actually got behind Queenie!
Kathy and Queenie led the way across the bridge, Gracie following close behind them.
Once on the other side, Gracie and I led the way around a huge, huge corn field. It was noon around this time so we technically had plenty of time to go all the way around the corn field and return to the trailer. But as we came around the hill, the clouds started becoming progressively darker and more ominous. We found a trail that seemed to cut through the center of the field and followed it, but it basically dead ended in a stand of trees. We turned the mares around and backtracked.
|Dark clouds up ahead|
|Really dark clouds up ahead!|
We decided to continue on down the trail instead of heading back to the trailer.
This trail leads onto a very long wooden bridge. Gracie strode purposefully towards it, then stopped in front of it, lowering her head to sniff the wood. She hesitated long enough that Kathy thought her and Queenie were going to have to take the lead again. Gracie, however, took one step onto that long bridge she had never seen before...and another...and another. With every step she received a "Good girl!" and a pat on the neck. Before we knew it, we were on the other side!
Next up: the long dark tunnel. The tunnel runs under one of the main roads, with the creek flowing by the trail. There is a ton of echo and voices literally bounce off the walls and reverberate. It's also long enough that it can be quite dark and intimidating for horses to go into the first time.
I was not surprised that Gracie didn't want to lead the way in, but then Queenie, who has been here before, didn't want to lead either. Laughing I dismounted and led Gracie through, Queenie and Kathy following behind us. Gracie pricked her ears, rolled her eyes and blew loudly through her nostrils as we made it to the other end of the tunnel but she followed along obediently, staying right at my shoulder throughout. Good girl!
I mounted up on the other side and we rode a few hundred feet more. We heard dogs barking in the distance and, this being the area where Phoebe and Deja were attacked by two Airedale terriers off leash a couple of years ago, we decided to turn around and head back. It was 1:30 pm by then and Kathy needed to be back at the barn by 3:30 to meet the saddle fitter; I wanted to return to the trailer by 2:00 pm in case we had any trailer loading issues with Gracie so Kathy could still make her appointment on time.
Gracie walked right back through that tunnel leading the way without me having to dismount. She snorted and walked slowly, tentatively along, but she was very brave and I made sure to praise her every step of the way.
We made it back to the long bridge and there was no hesitation whatsoever:
|Stepping onto the middle section of the bridge, which is directly above the water.|
|Sideways ears listening to the echo of her hooves on the wood.|
Greater echo because this section of bridge is higher above ground.
|She was listening to Queenie's hoof steps behind us as Queenie and Kathy stepped onto the middle portion of the bridge.|
|Happy mare already looking around for the next thing.|
We gaited most of the way back.
|Kathy beaming on Queenie :)|
|The blonde and the redhead, all ready to go!|
We made it back to the barn with time to spare for Kathy's appointment!
Once at the barn, I hosed off Gracie's legs, doctored her healing cut (just washed it and applied Betadine) and turned her back out in her field. I then fetched Lily from the back pasture that Angel is sharing with her. Lily saw me coming, went right up to the fence and whinnied and whinnied and whinnied for me. I burst out laughing. With time she continues to become more and more talkative towards me. "Wow! All that just for me?" I said. Lily whinnied yet again. I was grinning from ear to ear.
I had no lead rope so I led her into the dry lot from her grazing muzzle and she just stood next to me patiently while I let go so I could lock the gate back up behind us. She was moving fantastically today after our ride yesterday, but I was glad I had given her the day off. I wrapped my arms around her head and she closed her eyes as I gave her kisses on her face. She's always been a sweet mare but she's been so, so incredibly sweet lately. It makes my heart all warm and fuzzy.
Lily had managed to grind her entire body into the mud in the pasture so I just hosed her off. It was warm enough (mid-80's) that I knew she'd appreciate the shower. I then set her up with a haynet and her dinner so she'd be one less horse for Rolando to take care of at dinner time.
And here are some pics of the two marefaces together!