Last Sunday, we hauled out to North Tract.
North Tract is part of the Patuxent River State Park, with Patuxent being one of the larger parks in Maryland, taking up two counties (Howard and Montgomery) with its 6,700 acres. It is full of unmarked trails that criss-cross it in a web. My first ridden adventures while conditioning for endurance took place in the Patuxent. I love this park: I call it The Rabbit Hole, and exploring its narrow winding forest trails is akin in my mind to wandering into the Fire Swamp. You just never know what you're going to encounter. I would not be surprised to find ROUS or fire spurts on the Patuxent trails...I haven't encountered lightning sand in there, but we have encountered boot-sucking lightning mud!
North Tract is probably the most "civilized" part of the Patuxent: it is part of the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and is currently the only US Fish and Wildlife property that allows horseback riding. It used to be part of Fort Meade and its wide, hard-packed trails were originally built for military tanks!
I've been there twice before: you can read about my adventures there here and here. I have been itching to return ever since we bought the trailer last year, since Charles has never been there.
Sunday promised temperatures in the 60's, the first real warm day of what is turning out to be a very early spring, and we had originally planned to go to Sugarloaf Mountain...but I just knew that it would be PACKED with people coming out of hibernation for the first time. So I proposed North Tract instead and Charles agreed.
The girls were a little more nervous when tied to the trailer this time. Lily was quite fidgety while I strapped protective boots onto her legs and put Vipers on her fronts for her hooves: I boot her fronts for longer hauls because she has been known to paw herself bloody on longer trailer rides...like when she was hauled from South Florida to Maryland when we moved north!
The girls loaded up and we headed out. It took us about an hour to get to North Tract but it was an easy drive on the highway. The day was gorgeous.
|The best kind of rearview mirror view is one that has a horse trailer in it! ;)|
There were several other horse trailers in the equestrian lot. The girls unloaded and stood calmly while we fed them mashes and got them ready.
|I was ridiculously excited about being out and about in a tank top on the last weekend of February!!|
|I've never met a horse that loves attention as much as this one. She was totally leaning into the jelly curry as I rubbed her face with it.|
|Getting Lily groomed.|
We mounted up and set off. I remembered the trails from the times I had come to the park with TROT and knew that they all looped back to one another. And anyway, both mares will always return to the trailer, regardless of whether it is a familiar park or not.
|Off at a trot!|
|Since there are no true natural water sources at this park, we let the girls stop at all the puddles. Lily again made a point of splashing and splashing in the water.|
|You can see how wide the trails are here.|
|Blue Heron Pond.|
|A still from the video below. Love Gracie's flying mane and Charles's solid position in the saddle!|
We had a blast on this ride, exploring the extra-wide trails. The mares were SOLID. Lily was just starting to come into season so she was a little more nervous and looky than usual when leading, but otherwise did fabulously. We didn't encounter many people on these trails at all, despite the number of individuals checked into the park. The most eventful thing that happened was Gracie spooking at a guy that was carrying a guitar case slung across his back. G-Mare backed up at speed down the trail...and Lily remained completely unperturbed. Charles got Gracie under control while Lily and I waited, then caught up to us, Gracie still snorting loudly over the offending guitar case. Silly girl.
We did exactly 10 miles in exactly two hours: a conservative pace, but more than I had expected given how much we walked! It was quite hot in the sun and I was concerned about the mares overheating, so the girls ultimately walked more than they trotted and cantered. It just goes to show how much a horse can move out on these extra-wide, hard-packed trails!
The girls had mashes again upon returning to the trailer while we untacked, had a snack ourselves, and put everything away.
The girls loaded up uneventfully and we checked out at the park office. It was another one-hour drive back to the barn. Gracie is terrible for the clippers (she needs Dormosedan for clipping: ace is not enough!) but Lily doesn't care, so I gave her a quick clip upon arrival: temps are in a steady upward trend and I wanted peace of mind in regards to her temperature regulation during future rides.
I can't wait for summer. I'm anxiously looking forward to tank top weather, long, long days, having to blast the A/C in the car, having to carry Gatorade and electrolytes in our saddle bags, and riding in a brilliantly green world again!