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



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Little Bennett Park Adventure

On Saturday, Kathy and I had planned to go to Little Bennett Regional Park in Clarksburg to ride the trails. TROT is hosting a Thursday ride every week and last Thursday they had gone to this particular park. Kathy had fallen in love with its trails and had come back excited about the idea of returning.

We met at the barn in the early afternoon. Lily had been turned out back in the mare field for the first time since her hoof bruising event. She had become used to her old routine of drylot with Kara + paddock with Angel + a boyfriend in each of two neighboring fields. So of course she was pacing the fence line because of her routine being changed. What was interesting though was that Gracie was pacing the fence line with her. Not to chase her or to share her anxiety. She seemed confused about Lily's pacing but she was doing her best to keep her company. It was so sweet to see.

I had decided to take Gracie along for this adventure as a sort of active rest day for her: covering ground at a walk to keep her loose and limber after a day of harder work with a heavier rider (Charles). I also wanted to make sure that Gracie didn't need a tune-up, since she had been weird about leading with Charles the day before.

Lily and Gracie both came to me when I walked out into the field and Lily tried to squeeze through the gate behind Gracie as I was pulling her out. She was annoyed at being left behind but I knew the main reason why she wanted to go out was to go back to the paddock next to her boyfriends. She's been in heat for the past week.

Our resident natural horsemanship trainer, Bob, was the one who started Gracie under saddle. On this day he was at the barn giving lessons and his wife, who loves Gracie too, was around. She came to say hi and asked about Gracie and trailer loading. I made the mistake of saying how good she'd been on our last 2 adventures.

Jinx!

It took about 10 minutes to get Gracie on the trailer at the barn. I ended up doing a lot more lunging than I would have liked, but she did get on. Queenie pretty much self-loaded and off we went!

About a mile from the barn, Kathy realized her trailer lights weren't working. We stopped, got out and tried messing with the connection. We couldn't figure out why the lights weren't working. Kathy managed to turn the trailer around, which was an adventure in and of itself, as we were in an area of narrow back roads and we had to pull into the driveway of a neighboring horse farm so Kathy would have enough room to turn the rig.

We made it back to the barn. Rolando used to work in Mexico professionally hauling rigs and knows the ins and outs of trucks and trailers. Kathy asked if he could take a look to see if he might know what might be the problem. He literally looked at the connection then went around to the back of the trailer and said, "The lights are working."

Kathy and I burst out laughing and said, "Rolando, you're so good that all you have to do is wave your hands over the trailer and the lights start working again!" He was chuckling too.

So we left the barn for a second time and headed out.

This was just Kathy's second time going to Little Bennett. It's about a 30 minute drive if you don't get lost. It takes you through rolling Maryland countryside, full of farms with acres and acres of land. It was a gorgeous drive. Kathy was piecing together the route as we went along. And then she wasn't sure where we were supposed to go, so I turned the GPS app on my phone on.

We did what the phone told us to do, going onto this long and very narrow gravel road. And then suddenly the phone said, "Proceed to the route." When I looked down, it was showing us travelling next to the road we were supposed to be on, in the middle of nowhere.

Uh-oh.

The road was so narrow that the truck and trailer occupied its entirety. I started praying that we wouldn't come across another car coming in the opposite direction, as there would be nowhere for us to go except backwards, uphill and around bends.

The GPS showed that we would be arriving back at a real road in 2 more miles. Relieved, we continued on our way, going around a corner and yet another dip in the road.

"OH SHIT!" both Kathy and I said in unison, as the truck came to a halt.

A freaking river ran across the dirt road!

We couldn't turn around. I could have maybe turned my Corolla around, but there was not enough room for a truck by itself, let alone a truck and trailer.

I took a closer look at the river. It had a pebbly bottom and the water appeared to be about a foot deep at most. The current was gentle, and it was maybe 10' wide max. "You can do it." I told Kathy. "You think?" she asked. "Yes" I said. Kathy took the plunge, driving the rig slowly through the water. As we came onto the opposite bank, I realized there was a deeper pool on the right that we were going to drive through. Yup, the trailer did end up taking some water, but we made it!

A mile later, we were back on a main (paved!) road and we started laughing and laughing. We couldn't stop laughing. It was ridiculous: what on earth?...a road that takes you through a river?? We had no idea how we'd ended up where we'd ended up. We lamented not having taken a picture of the river. I jokingly told Kathy we needed to go back so we could get a photograph for our blogs! Kathy said there was no way on earth she was going back to that spot, even if she could remember how to get there!

After that, we made it uneventfully to the park.

The equestrian parking area is a large meadow with trail maps and a porta-potty (that was one of the cleanest porta-potties I've seen in a long time!) We unloaded the girls and tied them to the trailer so they could graze while we tacked up.



And we were off!

The trails at Little Bennett were stunning. Kathy was not kidding when she said it was gorgeous. I told her she had the best taste in trails! This is my new favorite park to ride in so far.






We were gaiting along. Funny how motion gives a slight fisheye lens impression.

Riding along the trail, we came to this bridge. You can see Gracie's typical reaction to something she's not too sure about: she stops and stares at it carefully.  The second I turned off the phone camera, she took a step forward and crossed the bridge all by herself!

The trails wind through forest, over hills and bridges, through a river and across open meadows. The forest is impressive itself. Clarksburg is close to the mountains: you can even see Sugarloaf Mountain from the park. So pretty much no part of the trails in the woods is flat - it constantly undulates. But the trails themselves are so well-maintained: no fallen trees in the way and the brush had been trimmed back throughout. There were some steep hills, but they had steps made of 2'x4's anchored into the trail.  The footing was smooth dirt for the most part with some minor rocky areas. Queenie and Gracie did fine barefoot.

When we arrived at the first meadow. This was part of the Tobacco Barn Trail.

We cantered this stretch, Gracie and Queenie going side by side. :)
The tobacco barn for which this trail is named.

Kathy and Queenie
We covered about 8 miles in 2 hours at a walk, Gracie leading the entire way without any kind of issue. It was an easy ride for both horses: they barely broke a sweat, even despite all the ups and downs of the trails.

This section with the "steps" going downhill was one of my favorites!
On the way back, I let Gracie choose whenever we arrived at a fork in the trail, as we weren't 100% sure of the correct route. She got us safely back to the trailer. I'm always astounded by horses' ability to always find their way "home" even in places they've never been to before.




Back at the trailer, the field looked so inviting in the golden light of the late afternoon sun that I couldn't resist taking Gracie for a quick spin around it.



Afterwards, we let both mares eat beet pulp mashes while untacking.

I sadly can't add electrolytes to that beet pulp. She won't touch it with e-lytes in it. I've been syringing them to her after our rides at home.
Queenie has a true talent for getting tangled up in lead ropes and lunge lines. Thankfully she is eternally patient and doesn't freak out when she gets stuck: she simply stands and waits until someone notices and untangles her. Kathy found this grazing surcingle on clearance for 1/3 of the original price and decided to see if it would work.
We soon realized why it had been reduced to 1/3 of the price...it was a truly epic fail. We couldn't believe how much Schneider's had originally been charging for this thing...
And then it was time to load up. I led Gracie up to the trailer and she said, "No!"

After the 3rd attempt, I started lunging Gracie. She got surprisingly worked up about it and actually reared and struck out with her front feet! That is completely unacceptable behavior. I got after her by increasing the intensity of the exercise and forcing her to stay in her "box." She didn't try that stunt again.

After the 3rd attempt at getting her on while lunging, we switched tactics: I had Kathy hold the lead rope in the trailer while I lightly tapped Gracie's hind legs with my dressage whip. Gracie hopped on the trailer on the first attempt, immediately getting a Stud Muffin from Kathy as a reward. We locked her in and laughed when Queenie practically self-loaded without any command at all. "Don't forget me!" she said. Adorable!

So what was up with Gracie? I think she may have been tired. The only time Lily has truly balked at trailer loading was immediately after a 3-day dressage clinic where she had had to use her body in all sorts of new ways. That trailer had a really high step-up, and I remember her hind legs trembling every time she tried to get on. This time around, Gracie's hinds didn't quiver and Kathy's step-up is maybe 18" maximum, but she had had a big day on Friday and we had just done a respectable distance. At a walk mostly, but it had still been a significant distance. We'll practice trailer loading again at home.

We made it back to the barn uneventfully on the first try. I hosed Gracie off and fed her her dinner, then turned her out in the field. Lily seemed thrilled to see both of us return and came up to the gate to greet us happily.

The sun had already set and night was fast approaching when I got in my car to go home. I drove down the pea gravel driveway that runs in front of the mare field to check on the girls one more time and was touched when both of them started following my car along their side of the fence. I parked the car and got out, walking into the field to say good-bye. They both seemed surprised that I had gotten out, but they both came over for pets. They stayed with me for a minute, then both of them turned around simultaneously and walked away in opposite directions, one blonde tail and one black tail disappearing into the darkness. I had been dismissed.

I got back into my car grinning at how similar yet how different they are. They are two good horses.






4 comments:

  1. Love those trails! Reminds me of here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right?? They are gorgeous! Can't wait to go back! (As long as we avoid the road through the river...lol)

      Delete
  2. Gorgeous trails! I think I would have freaked about having to drive the truck and trailer through the river though...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! I don't know what I would have done if it had been me driving. I told Kathy she can add "Driving rigs through rivers" to her equestrian skill set!

      Delete