Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another successful trail ride on Elk

Wow, I'm sore.  I don't think I've ridden a horse three consecutive days since I was a kid, and I also had a 4-mile walk/jog thrown in there.  Thankfully, my seat bones aren't as sore as they could be--Alanna's saddle is really comfy!  But my thighs are screaming "stick a fork in us; we're DONE!"  Ah well.

So today, my friend Julie (formerly a co-worker AND friend, until we were both laid off when our company closed the local location, and she's the one whose horse I'd been riding for the past little while since selling Trigger) came out to Shar's house, and we did another trail (and gravel road and shoulder of paved road) ride from there.  A bigger loop this time--we went a little over seven miles.  Not very quickly, though--our average speed, even though we had a few bouts of trotting, was only 3.1 mph.  I "wog" faster than that!

Photo I took of her while grooming & tacking

Anyway, every other ride so far, I've worked her in the round pen a bit.  Not to tire her out, just to get her paying attention to me and doing what I ask instead of whatever she wants.  I'll continue to do that most of the time, but was curious how she'd do without it.  So I tacked her up, led her NEAR the round pen, where I'd brought the mounting block to, and circled her around me a few times with the lead rope.  Then I checked her cinch (forgot to set my Endomondo tracker), and stepped into the near stirrup.  And she moved a bit, away from the mounting block, so I tried to abort.  My right foot couldn't find the mounting block, so I tried to get my left foot out of the stirrup before my right foot hit the ground (she is TALL, and that's actually how her owner hurt her leg and needed surgery), but it was stuck.  My toe hit her belly, of course, as my right leg went down down down, seeking ground (she's TALL!), and she started to back/side step away from the poke.  I was really worried we were going to have a problem, but my foot came free AND she stopped moving right at the same time.

Deep breath.  Back to the mounting block.  Deep breath.  Successful mounting.  Yay!  A couple little circles waiting for everyone to be ready, and we were off.

A lot of the ride was on gravel roads.  Elk alternated between preferring to walk on the shoulder or edge of people's property, where there was softer dirt, and the actual gravel road.  I let her pick--she has tough feet, but maybe they get tired of gravel after a while.  Who knows.  What drove me nuts, though, was that she was constantly tossing her head, rooting her head, and trying to itch her face.  It seemed at times like all she cared about was itching her face, yet when I would stop and allow it, she didn't want to anymore.  Other times, it just seemed like she was trying to get the reins out of my hand.  Uh, nope, not gonna happen.  I don't know if she was just testing me, or if something was truly bothering her, but she was kind of a stinker like that for about half the ride.  Spoiler:  She settled in and was a total angel in that regard for the last half of the ride.

Similarly, when we got onto the first stretch of actual trail (instead of gravel road), she acted like every rock and log was a potential danger, staring at them and trying to give them a REALLY wide berth.  But it was funny--as soon as we had a bit of an uphill climb, she put her mind (and body) to work, and dug in and DID that thing.  She is a MONSTER at uphills, in a good way.  She gets right to work, and is single-minded about it.  Plus, something in the way she uses her body to get up the hills makes her walk smooth out--instead of a normal walk where her back sways side to side and front to back, and you have to sway yours similarly to stay with her motion, she turns into a gaited horse and has just the smoothest walk when she's working her way up an incline.  (Downhill, though, it's the opposite, and all the swaying is much more exaggerated.)  So that was awesome, and we led the way up the hill, charging all the way.  Then at the top, we were rewarded with some nice views:

No matter WHAT the view, it always looks better from a horse!
We threw in a few trotting sessions, which my legs weren't too thrilled with but hey, the best way to get them used to it is just to DO it, right?

We got back to the barn an hour or so before sunset, and R took this photo of the three of us and our trusty steeds:

The three amigas; yours truly on the giant beast in the middle

Julie hung out with us for a bit, then she headed home.  Meanwhile, Elk got a bit of time in the nice green grass in front of the house, then I turned her loose, fully expecting her to roll, but she was too obsessed with the new feed tub that had appeared in her pasture by magic, and with the potential of food arriving in said tub (or wherever), and actually didn't roll.  Crazy!  She still hadn't when I left--maybe I'll show up to a sweat-stained but otherwise cleanish horse next time!

Anyway, Shar got Goodwin (her youngster/greenie) out for some round pen and arena time, then BOTH her boys got to graze, loose.  Goodwin still hasn't quite mastered the nonchalant releasing of the pressure when he steps on his own rope (though he's pretty good about it, and apparently much better than he was), but he'll get there.  They also wandered over next to the house and he was VERY enchanted with the handsome horse inside peering right back out at him, and even nuzzled noses with him a time or two.

Flash's butt up close, Goodwin's further away

All in all, a great ride on a great day.  Next ride:  Tuesday night we'll start before dark and ride into dusk, just on the gravel roads around the neighborhood.  Working our way up to full-on moonlit rides once the time change hits.  :-(

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