But more on that in a minute!
Charles was working this weekend so on Friday we decided to haul out for Sugarloaf Mountain. They have a 7 mile horse trail that wraps around the base of the mountain and it is a fairly close drive from the barn at around 20 miles with some highway and hill driving in the mix. It was a good day for checking out the trail without worrying about the weekend crowds too.
|Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance.|
Photo from here.
I love Marylanders.
Parking was indeed at the private property, a place named Turner Farm which you can see at the bottom of this map. They have a pump for water, a porta-potty and a few picnic tables in this awesome little field with plenty of room for several rigs.
|You can see the water pump. I was pretty excited about having access to a port-john...until I realized the door was zip-tied shut. -_-|
This time I had remembered to pack baby carrots for the girls, their fly spray (which we used liberally on them), Lily's fly bonnet, and Show Sheen for their girth areas: Gracie had had some girth irritation after last week's ride which had healed up during the week and I wanted to keep it that way. Show Sheen allows the coat to slide under the girth. It's less messy than using an anti-chafe ointment and has worked well for us so far.
We set off close to 3:00 pm. Both horses were happy and eager to set out. Again Gracie was bare (I have finally figured out her boot sizing: I had ordered a 0.5W Glove to replace one of Lily's boots but it actually fits Gracie perfectly! I just need another boot for her other front and she'll be good to go for these adventures) and Lily was wearing front boots only.
There supposedly was trail access directly across the road from the parking lot but we couldn't find it, so we just rode up the gravel section of Comus Road to where we had seen the trail on our trip last time. I had the trail map with me this time and knew where we were starting out from based on the map. Anyone reading this who is interested in visiting the park with their horses: the yellow trail can be easily accessed from in front of the Westwood Mansion.
We really loved this trail, far more than the Gambrill Park trail. The initial section of trail was quite rocky but the horses were still able to trot most of it as the rocks were flatter and spaced out enough that the girls could easily set their feet between them. We alternately walked and trotted a lot at the beginning of the ride, with more walking than trotting. We were relieved to discover that this park is strewn with small creeks where the horses could drink water.
|Tiny creek, but a creek! :)|
This trail wins for being one of the best-marked trails I've ridden on in the last 2 years!
|Yellow trail mark on the right.|
Do you see the trail mark? It's there.
|Yup, this trail was pretty rocky too but this type of rockiness was much easier for the girls to manage.|
|Focused on a creek up ahead.|
|Charles gets her through it.|
Good mare. :)
|One happy G-Mare.|
OMG she LOVED this, like I knew she would! I warned Charles that she would probably start assuming that hearing the saddle bag zipper = carrots! Which of course happened. The idea was to reward maximum efforts from her. Lily is a huge perfectionist and "Good girl" with a stroke of the neck is more than enough motivation to keep her going; it has a very high value for her. Gracie has finally grasped the meaning of "Good girl!" thanks to Charles and I drilling it into her during groundwork and under saddle work, but it doesn't have as high a value for her yet as it does for Lily. Hence the carrots. Lily was offered baby carrots each time too but she's not as crazy about them; I need to pack apple slices for her.
We crossed a road and followed the trail markers onto another section of trail that was basically double-track. Rocky but the rocks were set into the earth in such a way that even if this trail had been wet, we still could have moved at speed over it. We were able to ride side-by-side for a good chunk of it and the turns in the trail were wider so we were even able to pick up a canter. This trail had occasional log steps built into it or the equivalent of speed bumps to prevent erosion.
We let the girls gallop up a fairly long incline that led onto a very pretty grassy meadow. We stopped here to let them eat grass for a few minutes while catching their breath. They were happy to oblige.
|She always looks tiny from this angle!|
|One on the left through the trees, another on the right. You can see the trail going through the gap on the right.|
The above photo was taken after a shallow but wider creek crossing than what we had done before. Lily was pretending to drink and Gracie was nosing at the water. Something small moved in the nearby bushes which got Gracie's attention and she did a perfectly executed 1/4 turn on the haunches to turn back towards the trail we had come from. It was basically a walk pirouette, actually. I mean, the mare sat back on her haunches, arched her neck and pretty much looked like this for all of 2 strides:
|This type of frame and this type of partial lateral movement.|
And yes, the above is a canter pirouette but you get the idea.
Now, for you guys to understand what's coming up next, I need to explain a couple of things.
- Charles and I speak in Spanish with a lot of English words and phrases thrown in. (For newer readers who might not know our story, he is also Puerto Rican and his name isn't really Charles; he has a typical Hispanic name though it is the Spanish equivalent of "Charles.") (It has to be comical for non-Spanish speakers to listen to us talk because of the English words correctly pronounced splattered throughout our too-fast Spanish.) I learned and read about dressage in English so I talk about a lot of dressage terms in English in Spanish conversation with him.
- Poor Charles has had to learn most equestrian terms in English AND Spanish because he has to deal with me saying things in Spanish vs the rest of the world calling the same parts/objects/tack by their English names. Equestrian terms in Spanish are as weird and ridiculous as they are in English fyi. Examples for you guys just for funsies, because this is how a bilingual equestrian's brain works ;) :
- Bridle = brida (bree-dah) Except a lot of Puerto Ricans and South Americans will also call this "freno" (freh-no) which also means "brake" when used in relation to cars, and is also used to describe the bit itself. "Freno" is also considered a correct term but one that I personally don't use. "Brida" is the most correct term but I will say that there are Latin horse people that don't know what that is. So you call it "freno." Yes it's complicated. Lol
- Bit = bocado (boh-cah-do)
- Saddle = silla (si-jah) Which also means "chair," which leads to Charles calling the saddle "asiento" in Spanish, which means "seat." Understandable confusion.
- Halter = jaquimon (ha-kee-mohn)
- Girth = cincho (seen-choh)
- Stirrup = estribo (es-tree-boh)
- Breastplate or breast collar = percherin (per-cheh-reen)
- Saddle bags = alforjas (al-for-has)
- Withers = cruz (And yes, that also means "cross". But it is the correct Spanish term for withers in the equestrian world)
- Hock = corvejon (cor-veh-hon)
- Haunches = ancas (an-kas)
- Fetlock = menudillo (meh-noo-dih-jo)
- Pastern = quartilla (quar-tee-jah)
- Croup = grupa (groo-pah)
- Frog = ranilla (rah-knee-jah)
He is now able to recognize the names of things in both languages when people talk horse lingo to him but he still has a hard time remembering the correct terms when saying them himself. It's kind of like when you're learning a new language and you can understand when other people speak it to you but you're not quite able to think in that language yourself yet. Which sometimes makes for hilarious word substitutions from him as he scrambles to find the correct words. Thankfully my man has the BEST sense of humor and is more than willing to laugh at himself when he makes these mistakes.
Back to the trail:
"That was a nice turn on the haunches that she did there," I said to Charles. Turn on the haunches was said in English.
Charles: "I totally did that on purpose."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Charles: "Yeah. Because I'm a professional that totally knows what he's doing and I wanted to practice our turn on the hedges right then and there." Turn on the hedges was said in English.
Me: *Pause, while trying very hard to not snort with laughter* "You were practicing your turn on the hedges?"
Me: "You mean 'haunches'..." At this point I can't contain my laughter any longer.
Charles: "That! 'Hedges.'"
I was roaring with laughter for the next mile.
I later explained what "haunches" is in Spanish and what a turn on the haunches is and why it's kind of a big deal that G-Mare went and did it all by herself so effortlessly. He only gets the dressage levels from a video gamer's point of view, which is also hilarious but kind of appropriate if you think about it.
The trail eventually narrowed and took us through the side of a gorgeous wooded yet grassy hillside that reminded me a lot of the Little Bennett trails that I explored with Kathy last year. I snagged a video for you guys:
The trail eventually seemed to dead end on the road but we realized the yellow markers continued on the trees by the road. I'll say it again: BEST marked trail EVARRR.
|There is a yellow dot on one of these trees. Do you see it?|
|More yellow dots!|
|Blurry shot of Charles on a bored Gracie.|
"I wanna lead again..."
|Gracie taking the lead. Check out her ears now. :)|
We dismounted when we were within sight of the field and loosened girths. I removed Lily's bit and Gracie got some more baby carrots.
|I love this photo. It is completely unedited, believe it or not!|
|"Om nom nom carrotz!"|
|Lily looking like a beefcake. The weight is creeping back on slooooowly...|
I did start her on treatment doses of UlcerGard.
Once back at the trailer, we untacked, gave the girls very sloppy mashes and rinsed them off with water from the pump. We then let them graze while drying out. We hung around for a good hour after finishing; it was after 4:30 pm and we wanted to wait until the worst of rush hour passed. Both horses looked happy and relaxed and like they could've gone out and done the trail at least 2 more times. I think our goal of making sure Gracie had fun was also accomplished.
The girls loaded up completely without issue but the drive home was a little nerve-wracking when we discovered some issues with the U-Haul-installed brake controller, especially on downhills, even at slow speeds. We made it home safe and sound but I may have some residual PTSD over braking in general after that trip...The brake controller is getting checked out by a shop that works with trailers this week STAT.
Anyway, we loved this park and are really, really looking forward to going back! It's a REALLY well-marked trail and it is very nicely maintained for equestrians: no eye-level poker branches, no decapitator branches (yes, that is now a term) and a nice wide trail that can be covered faster than a walk if you wish to. There is plenty of water on trail for the horses and grassy patches where you can stop to give them a break to eat. We had so, so much fun!
On Saturday I called Charles while I was on the way to the barn. He was at home getting ready for work.
Me: "The whole idea of riding without you is kind of boring."
Charles: "That's because I'm awesome and you learn so much from me about riding, right? I've taught you everything you know!"
Charles: "That's kind of pushing it, isn't it?"
Me: "No. My favorite thing you've ever taught me is your turn on the hedges!"