Thursday, November 8, 2012

Outside the Sandbox

As much as I love trails rides and tout the "outside the arena" work as Pia's primary salvation... I still hadn't taken Prairie on a proper trail ride (until today).

We've done lots of property walks (which are exciting enough, thanks).  And she worked the perimeter of the property out at Summer Camp back in September, but I haven't headed out on an honest to goodness nose-to-tail ride with her yet. 

Perhaps it's because I'm not 100% confident in our brakes, or because more often than not when we leave the property there's a not so small part of the mare's brain that is totally cool with running away with me.

Maybe that's why.. ..

But the fact of the matter is that our current barn is blessed to be backed up next to a few decent "mountains" with tons of trails.  One of those mountains is actually a horsey-house-development and it has awesome trails (some wide, some narrow) twisting all the way up and around the hills.  Basically it's extremely horse friendly and all the dogs/chickens/teenagers that lurk in the shadows are used to horses passing by and tend not to behave like idiots. 

So when the weather was crisp but clear when I arrived for my lesson this am, S suggested we bag the transition drills and go do some hill work on the trail. 


I opted to put Prairie in jump tack (with martingale and extra brakes in the mouth) just in case she was a little... distracted.  S had ventured up one of the hills with her on Sunday with no drama so my anxious mind was at east, but this time we wouldn't have a stalwart trail veteran with us.  Just Prairie and another trail-green-bean to freak each other out and no one to take the lead.

Turns out it wasn't an issue.  Prairie was perfectly willing to blaze the trail (literally, since said trail was hidden under a colorful layer of fall leaves...) and aside from snorting and blowing like a dragon for the first 20 minutes she totally held it together.
Prairie was just as confused as I was as to where the trail actually went...
 We had a few moments where she had to stop and snort at an offensive stump or fencepost.  But she eventually went past everything without much drama. 

The really cool part is that this trail system is all hills all the time and at first I nearly thought the mare was lame, but then S helpfully pointed out that she wasn't lame, she was just lifting her back and really pushing from behind.

ohhhhhh.  So that's what that feels like.... neat.

We turned around after about 30 minutes and although I was nervous about descending the crazy hills that we had already clambered up, Prairie was oddly mindful about sitting back and carefully picking her way down the muddy slopes.  I was shocked that I could basically give Prairie her head and let her pick her own way down.  If I were a betting woman I would have put good money down guessing that the mare would be a loon and skid/scramble/run down without much head for footing or her limbs...

So I was quite pleased when our entire ride back home was just as careful (if a touch faster) as our ride out. 

It also didn't hurt that the weather was gorgeous, the forest was beautiful and a total break from our normal routine.

When we got back to the farm I popped into the arena for a few transitions to test her focus.  She went right to work and I called it a day after only a few minutes of serpentines. 

So fun.  Maybe she'll be able to keep up with Pia on the trail after all....


  1. Sounds like an awesome lesson! I love riding outside!

  2. Love riding in this fall weather...if only it would last!

  3. Fun!!!!! Trail rides are the best and it sounds like you have some awesome ones. I would kill for trails like that. I have to ride on flat, ugly, paved roads lol.


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