Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maston Trail

Shar had the idea a while back of doing a mock endurance ride so that some local folks who haven't done it before could practice in a safer, saner, smaller environment.  It's becoming a reality, and so many people are interested that we had to move the venue from Shar's property to somewhere else.  We've chosen Maston Trailhead, as it has ample parking and even a good area for the lecture part of our planned day.

We've only been riding here once, and it was in the snow, so we didn't know much about the trails and what to expect.  We looked at a map and planned out two four-mile loops (there will be a fake vet check in between them, just as there would be a (real) vet check between (longer) loops at a real ride).  We figured we'd go ride them today and make sure they'd work, see where there might be a scenic spot for me to take photos of the riders, and plan some more details of the ride in the actual environment.  Next week, we'll probably go place some ribbons, then the event is the following week, so we'll need to check on our ribbons and place more on Friday. we showed up, un-trailered the horses, and it took me way longer to tack up than it took Shar because I had to hook up the heart rate monitor to give it another try, read the manual to figure out what settings I needed the watch part to be on (it had been wrong last time, which is why it never worked), and re-strap my pommel bag down (I'd loosened it last week for saddle fitting photos, to get it out of the way), in addition to the usual tasks.  Poor Shar mounted up way before I was done and had to wait for me, but luckily Flash was patient.

We set off on the trail, and remarked at how awesome the footing was (sandy, but not too deep) and hoped it stayed that way.  We easily navigated the trails thanks to the signage and us having previewed the map.  Our ride attendees will have it even easier when we put up the ribbons.  :-)  After a couple of miles, we came to a canyon along the Deschutes.  Really nice view--the photos don't do it justice.

After the first little bit, we went ahead and let Arya lead (she's got a faster walk, but doesn't always like to lead, but our solo rides have made both of us a little more confident), but then her trotting was WAY slow, between just naturally being slower than Flash, being very "looky," and being headed away from the trailer out into the unknown.  When we turned for home, her trots got a lot faster and more purposeful, so that was nice.  We had decided we'd have Arya lead on the first looop, then Flash lead on the second loop (and Arya learn to leave S P A C E between her and Flash--both she and I have gotten very bad about riding super close behind him since he doesn't mind, but it's not a habit we should be in, especially when sharing trails with horses who aren't Flash).

When we got back to the trailer, the humans took a potty break, and I had a little snack.  The horses (well, Flash has learned this lesson MANY times over, so really Arya) got to learn that arriving back at the trailer doesn't mean being done for the day, as we loosened the cinches but left them saddled.

After a quick break, we tightened those cinches back up and got back on.  Arya didn't even blink at us leaving again, even though it was RIDICULOUSLY windy.  In fact, the wind only affected her behavior a couple times.  I was really impressed with how well she did out there today.  We saw bikes (from a distance, and she has seen them before, but still), hawks, and had LOTS of wind.

What she didn't do so well at was the distance thing.  At the walk, I'd allow her to get up close to Flash's butt (or, I admit it, slack off and not pay attention), then make her stop, back up, and stand a minute.  She got a little carrot tidbit when she did it well, and had to back and/or stand for even longer when she didn't do it well.  This, of course, put her well behind Flash again for the next little while, until she caught up and crammed her face right up against his butt again.  Lather rinse repeat.

At the trot, however, she was not quite so compliant, and it didn't seem like a good idea to do that same exercise from a trot.  I tried slowing her down with my seat cues (post slower, sit deeper, etc.), which only worked a little bit and only a very few times.  Mostly, she just wanted to catch up to Flash, which in her mind means close enough to sniff his tail hairs up her nostrils.  So I ended up pulling the reins more than she would have liked, which resulted in her tossing her head a lot, which in addition to freaking me out a bit, also has the added bonus of her having NO idea what her feet are doing, so she trips more.  Fun times.

We did lead out a few times on that loop after all, and mostly she trotted slowly again, but there were a couple stints where she got a nice pace going.  One of which, we were trotting along at a nice clip on a winding section of trail, and the trail turned right but Arya turned left.  Not sure if it was just a coincidence, or if she was actually following the hoofprints that were ahead of us in the dirt, but it was weird.  We're just chugging along, and I'm watching the trail so I can anticipate her turns, and boom...we're off under a tree all of a sudden.  Heh.

Anyway, so we need to work on not following Flash so closely, but she really did do great today.  Next week, we'll be doing the exact same trails, and I really hope the weather is better, and I bet Arya will do great again, too, though next time we'll have a TON of ribbons, so we'll see how that goes...

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