Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trail Adventuring

I cannot quite wrap my head around the fact that it's October, and Miss Mare has been living at "summer camp" for four full months now.  I was anticipating "3 to 4 months" at the outset, but now that the leaves are changing and there's a chill to the air it feels like she's been gone forever.  Not to mention that my next trip over I really need to remember some winter clothes for the mare.  Turns out her summer wardrobe of.. uhhh well, nothing, is no longer 100% appropriate.  In fact, last week (as I was covered in that green goo) I was sadly currying out what remained of her summer coat... no mistaking it, the woolies are coming. (A fact that was particularly hard to grasp as I stood in late September sunshine basking in the lovely 70 degree goodness.)

Last week's trip was fantastic.  I canceled all my appointments, cleared the day and made what few calls needed to be made while I made my way (car and ferry.. sadly no planes) to the mare.  There is something about the energy of P's "summer camp" that just lifts my spirits.  The barn isn't fancy, the grounds aren't impeccable, but it is perhaps the warmest barn I have ever been a part of.  Everyone there loves what's happening and loves being a part of it.  Farm hands are learning the ropes of hoofcare, vet assistants make daily rounds on all the horses, flowers are pruned, dogs welcome you and all the owners seem to just unwind upon arrival.  It's brilliant.

The first order of business was going to get the mare.  She continues to look fantastic.  Still skinny and MUCH less shapely than she was, but I think we might be starting to see her "true" body emerging.  Her feet look crazy good, her withers continue to emerge from that knot of shoulder muscling that is dissipating and her eyeballs continue to soften.  I gave her some great early morning scratches, then asked her to follow me back to the barn sans halter (yay!), which she politely obliged to.
My attempt to document our halterless leading...
After her snack (which is what ended up all over her face and then me), we fitted her for a new saddle.

GROAN, I know.. a new saddle. BUT this one isn't very spendy, and at the moment, my dressage saddle is about twice as wide as she is.

So, we're getting an Aussie trail saddle.  It *sorta* looks like a dressage saddle, but it feels very, very western.  I figure, we can always use some serious trail gear, it's cheaper than my last pair of shoes (WHOOPS, that's another issue..) and we definitely need something that fits her NOW, even if it isn't our most favorite, forever, long term choice.

Twenty minutes of tracings, pictures and measuring me later, I led P back out to pasture for a few more bites of grass while us humans prepared lunch. (reason #427 I love summer camp: the communal lunch, so fun!).

After lunch we saddled up (I got Miss Wendy again, love that beast) and we headed for the trail.

This time we found a new route that took us up into the hills a bit and under the power lines.  While it wasn't the most challenging trail I've ever seen, it did ask a bit more from P and for the most part she handled things wonderfully.

Cows, barking dogs, uneven terrain, stopping, starting, inclines, stumps, loose footing, were all handled in good (forward) stride(s).

Puddles however, were apparently a big 'ol NO-GO. 

I'm thinking that maybe P's brain/body might have been tired/sore, because she's crossed serious puddles and veritable mud-flats on previous rides with not even a bat of her adorable eyelashes.  This time though, holy hell, you would have thought we asked her to walk through a swamp of snapping crocodiles.

I had plodded through the meager puddle with Wendy moments before P's rather flamboyant refusal, which in turn caused the remaining horses to all give it the hairy eyeball and leap/skirt/bound away from the offending collection of water.  This seemed to only reinforce P's terror which was matched by the apparent threat of being left behind by everyone else who had (safely) crossed to the other side.

Three more quiet crossings by Wendy still didn't assuage P's fears at which point Cowboy Man was concerned that he had already allowed P's brain to escalate WAY passed the point he wanted.  She was asked to stand still (toes in the water) for a few moments, then to quietly walk the perimeter of the puddle which was accepted as a "win" and we moved on.

P was a champ, she was interested in leading most of the ride, pausing only when the trail would enter a "shadowy" area which apparently is a pretty normal balk for new-to-the-trail horses.  She doesn't stop per se, but she does give serious pause when the shadows hit the trail.

I don't mean like one shadow crossing the trail, or even the dark hole of despair where a wide open sunny trail disappears into the forest, I mean literally walking from the sunny side of the street to the shady side.  That, apparently is enough to cause Miss Mare to consider her next step.

All in all, a very successful ride.  Wendy was adorable, P only had one mini-meltdown, from which she recovered and lunch was delicious.

It really just isn't a bad way to spend a Thursday.

On the Horizon? One more trip out to see the mare this weekend before The Boy and I pick her up on Thursday for our little Mountain Trail clinic.
I never, ever get sick of looking at that mountain!


  1. You're getting a custom aussie saddle? Ha! I demand pictures of the two of you decked out.

    Question: Why aussie instead of western? Someday, Izzy is getting a custom western saddle. Just not yet.

  2. Sounds like she did fantastic! Do you think the shadow thing is something to do with her eyesight or just a weird quirk?

    I can't wait to hear how the Mountain Trail ride goes. :)


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