|She looked like something out of one of those old champion Thoroughbred portraits...|
Like this one: Highflyer, an influential TB racehorse sire of the 18th century.
Fun fact: Thoroughbreds used to be started on the track at age 5. (Why did we move away from this?!) He was the first TB to be raced as a three year old. He died at age 19, still undefeated!
|Gracie's leg after our ride today.|
Swelling is WAY down.
All of my expectations were wrong, in a good way! I probably could have foregone the ace. :/
Since we are alternating walk/trot sets, I took her out to the bridle path hill, which is now lined with plush green grass. Lily walked out enthusiastically. There was some deep mud at the very base of the hill, but Lily didn't care: she went right through it without a second thought. Good girl! We walked all the way up the hill (it's about a mile when walking from the barn to the top of the hill) as a warm up, then walked back down to the bottom of the hill, stopping before we reached the mud. We turned around and trotted back up the hill.
Once at the top, I saw that the grass next to the bridle path was knee-high and lush, rippling in the breeze like a green ocean. Lily is allowed up to 20 minutes of grazing a day...so I stopped her next to the grass, gave her her head, and told her: "Eat." She dropped her head and took several bites of grass. When she brought her head up to chew, I turned her around and we walked back down the hill.
I laughed at her as she arched her neck trying to eat all of that grass around the bit.
|Frustrated ears. You can see the grass in her mouth as she's doing her best to chew it around the bit.|
So we trotted back up the hill and again I let her take a couple of bites of grass on command. We did this each time we had trotted back up the hill, so long as she had finished eating the previous mouthful. I was happy to see that as long as she doesn't take several huge bites of grass in quick succession, she doesn't have as big of a problem as I had expected eating grass with the bit in place.
|Happy mare with a snack.|
|I had missed the view from between those dark brown ears!|
Next up: Gracie.
Initially I was going to ride her in the arena but I decided I really wanted to do a hill workout with her, similar to what I'd just done with Lily. The plan would be to gait up the hill and walk back down. It would be good for her muscle development...and it would also be a good opportunity to see how she would do all by herself while still being close to home.
We rode out, Gracie with her happy and HUGE swinging walk (she overtracks by 6". It's impressive), no different from the way she is when there is another horse with us.
As we turned onto the main bridle path, we saw that the old man that lives at the top of the hill was mowing parts of the bridle path with his tractor. "So much for that workout" I thought. I asked Gracie to gait up the hill as the tractor came in our direction then turned away. She didn't even bat an eye at it. GOOD GIRL!
I decided we'd continue on into the back loop. This is my 4th week of riding Gracie; I'd been riding her for 3 weeks before signing her bill of sale and she already knows the back loop by heart from our rides with Kathy, Phoebe and Carol. (Carol is one of our new boarders; she is a vet tech married to a research vet that volunteers at endurance rides! He LOVES endurance and Carol is a wealth of information on the sport by osmosis. They have a wonderful little Quarter Horse mare named Katie. It's awesome to have them be the new addition to our barn! Kathy talks about Carol here.)
We crossed the lawn that takes us to the back woods trail uneventfully and continued on into the woods. The trail rises, then dips gently. Three times before in the past, Gracie has hesitated at the slight dip in the trail and has had a fit if I ask her to continue before she is ready. Kathy calls it the cha-cha-cha: Gracie cow-kicks, does a little dance with her hind legs, then cow kicks again if I insist. Like everything she does, it's very smooth, and more disconcerting to the person that's watching it happen than it is to me. I've FINALLY come to understand that this is her way of saying, "Shut up! Let me look at this for a second." If I let her look, she's fine.
The mare is smarter than her owner, I think...
This time around, Gracie didn't hesitate at all at that spot. She continued right on.
|Love that ear cocked back to listen!|
Oh man, that canter! It's a real canter, not the pacey canter that some gaited horses will do, with a ton of action and SO SMOOTH!
At the top of the hill, she broke into this huge, gliding trot. I automatically posted lightly to it, but I could have just as easily sat it. She trotted right over the logs across the trail, then went back to her rack as we neared the end of the woods. She picked up a very slow, very collected canter as we went up the slight rise in the trail, then continued at a rack as we followed the driveway that leads to the road that you cross to get to the soybean field farm.
Gracie chose to go on the opposite side of the road instead of having to duck under the trees like we always, always do. There are no trees on the side of the road that Gracie chose and you could see the property lines clearly, as the strip of grass by the road was the only section that had been recently mowed.
I wondered why hadn't any of us humans thought of this before?
There is a small house with an unfenced yard on this side of the driveway. There was a flatbed trailer with some stuff on top of it in the yard. Gracie surprised me again by starting to sidepass towards the flatbed: she wanted to go check it out! Laughing, I turned her around and moved her off of the lawn before we got into trouble!
I contemplated crossing the road out towards the soybean farm but I had to leave the barn by 2:00 pm and didn't have hours to be out riding.
I turned Gracie around and we headed back towards the loop.
Gracie picked up a very slow canter. I pinched my knees and grinned from ear to ear when, instead of going back down to a rack, she collected...and collected...and collected, until she was basically doing a slow motion canter piaffe in one spot. She wasn't nervous or getting ready to explode, she was just doing it because she could! She is a spirited mare that has the conformation for that kind of stunt.
I released her and she picked up her faster rack. We had a small argument as we made it back into the woods where she got a little too excited...so I asked her to walk. And walk she did. Before picking up her super collected gait again. It was akin to the paso corto of a Paso Fino.
We took the fork in the trail to do the "new" section of the loop (not so new anymore, since we've been riding that section all through the winter!) Gracie happily racked all through this section. We turned right at the end of the trail, onto the dirt road that leads to the wooden bridge. Here Gracie asked to walk, so we walked, enjoying the shade of the trees and the cool breeze.
Gracie balked at the bridge the first two times we had attempted it while leading a group of riders and had had to have another person go first on their horse.
Today, all by herself, Gracie crossed that bridge without any sort of hesitation.
She picked up a rack on the other side, continuing to where the trail dead-ends in a lawn, where we turned around to make our way back.
We did the main loop one more time. You probably could have seen my grin from a mile away.
Lately while in the car, I've been really tired of listening to the same 5 songs on 99.5, our local pop radio station, so I've been listening to the local country rock station instead. Enough so that I've started recognizing the current hit songs.
Yes, my friends: I am Hispanic and I love country rock. I also love Irish music, enough to where I can recognize the Irish influence in a lot of modern country music! That's where part of the attraction comes from, as well as having a mother that loved Kenny Rogers when I was a toddler. :)
For whatever reason, I had chosen to listen to my country music station on Pandora while riding Gracie. The music fit into the tone of the ride so well.
And then this song played:
Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker
Link to the video is here.
It was so perfect. Gracie's mane flew back with her movement like licking blonde flames, her gait matching the beat of the song and the way I felt matching the chorus. I couldn't help singing along to it as we rode through the woods.
We left the woods, riding across the neighbor's lawn that we are allowed on. Instead of turning left onto the bridle path, I had Gracie turn right to follow the road.
I had never been up this way. Neither had Gracie. She didn't argue or pause, she simply said, "Oh! A new route!"
And I was able to get this video for you guys, so you can hear her gait! (Kind of; it was a breezy day)
Direct link here.
We turned around at the top of the hill and headed back towards the bridle path.
Gracie walked the rest of the way home, to the beat of Florida Georgia Line's Cruise. I was grinning even more when I dismounted because it was so appropriate:
Baby you a song
You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise
Down a back road blowin' stop signs through the middle
Every little farm town with you
Love this song. Direct link here.
Conclusion: Gracie is the same, if not better, when out alone as she is with company!
Yup. Two great rides on two great mares. :)