|The view from the trailer as we were tacking up|
|Same spot, panorama covering the western horizon|
We were both kind of dealing with slightly problematic horses--Dalai wanted to go, go, go, and Arya was incredibly frustrated by walking through all this food and me not letting her eat. She'd try to put her head down, I'd prevent it, and she'd get pissy and toss her head. She'd give up for a minute, then try again, getting a little bit pissier each time, it seemed. We were thoroughly bushwhacking at one point, but with pretty clear spaces between lots of bushes that were spaced apart, so I purposefully wound her all around the bushes in random patterns, making general progress following along behind Shar and Dalai, but doing LOTS of turns. That did distract her from eating, so that was good.
Soon we saw that the fence was retreating away from where we were riding, plus there was a dirt road alongside it we could ride on. I was happy to be able to relax on a loose rein without having to keep Arya from eating at every step, so we took that option. We trotted for a bit, and Shar asked if I wanted to try a canter. Now, if you've been reading this blog for long, you know I have huge fear/nervous nelly issues. So I tried really hard to think about whether my gut reaction of "no" was justified or just me being scared. But I think it was justified--it was a rutted dirt road, so I really REALLY didn't want her to trip (and didn't want to have to worry about tripping), so I opted for no.
We came to a fork in the road, and Shar told me to pick which way we went. I chose left, which took us up a hill. Good views from the top, though there was quite a bit of litter on the ground.
|Cool rock formations to our right|
|And good views to the left|
|And a picture of Shar taking a picture, for good measure. She was leaning back in order to get Dalai's ears in the shot|
We came to another junction, and took the option to the right. It soon came to the crest of a hill that descended VERY steeply. Shar actually remembered having been there before, and how steep it was to drive up. So yeah, we took some pictures there, since you could see Haystack Reservoir in the distance, but didn't attempt to go down the hill.
|You can see the water of Haystack Reservoir to the left of Shar's helmet, off in the distance. Maybe.|
It was mostly downhill, so we did a lot of walking, too. Eventually we came to a cattle guard, and at first we worried there might not be a way around. There actually was, but we decided to turn around anyway. Maybe if it was hotter we would've felt like trying to make it to the reservoir to give the horses a drink, but it looked like we would've had to ride along roads without much shoulder space (though granted, also without any traffic currently), so we just called it and turned around.
Of course the way back was mostly uphill. We trotted quite a bit. At one point, I was out in front of Shar and Dalai, and trotting Arya. She'd slow down more and more, and I'd urge her faster. I was kind of curious if she'd canter. She would not, at least not while we were in the lead. She'd get a pretty fast trot going, then slow down as soon as I quit asking her to speed up. Dalai and Shar cantered past us, though, and Dalai has a big problem with cross-firing (cantering with one lead in her front pair of legs, but the opposite lead with the back pair), but she was cantering properly. Yay, Dalai! Now, with Dalai in the lead, I asked for the canter again, and this time Arya cantered TWO whole strides before slowing back down. That's fine. She's young and I'm a scaredy cat, so teeny tiny baby steps are absolutely fine. We walked and trotted our way back, this time veering off at a road that took us to the bottom of the steepest option from before, but we skirted the hill instead, and ended up at the junction where we'd chosen to go up the hill before.
This whole time, we were hearing gunshots coming from a couple different directions, but always pretty distant. (We're pretty sure we heard when the family we talked to started up again, but were over the hill and far enough away it wasn't TOO loud.) As we were walking along this stretch of road, we heard a fairly loud, fairly close gunshot. Arya got startled, and my heartbeat and breathing rate increased, too, and I'm sure my posture reflected my startled-ness, too. So she startled for a second, then checked in with me, and since I was startled too, she kind of did a secondary startle/spook. Luckily in place or without breaking stride or whatever, and we both recovered. Shar said Dalai didn't even flinch.
We continued back mostly retracing our steps, except instead of the bushwhacking leg that roughly followed the road, we actually rode on the shoulder. Only a couple of trucks passed us, and they were fairly polite. As we topped a bit of a grade, it started feeling like Arya was "wobbly." Not like she'd actually fall over, but like that feeling you get at the end of a long hike, like your legs are jiggly? We had done a bit of steep downhill, and most of the ride was either uphill or downhill instead of flat, but it wasn't SUPER intense. I mentioned it to Shar, and she watched her move and didn't notice anything too obvious. I was worried Shar would think I was just making stuff up, but she believed me. :-) At one point it did feel kind of like Arya was thinking of letting her legs buckle and dropping down to the ground (as she did once before while I was riding her!), but she didn't. I thought of getting off and walking her, but that would have taken longer, but vowed to do so on the downhill part if she still seemed wobbly by then. But she ended up feeling better, or I just got used to it or something, so I rode her all the way back to the non-gate just before the trailer. The only other weird incident that happened the rest of the ride back was that she broke into a trot for no reason I could discern, but she slowed down again right away too. Just unlike my lazy pony, especially given how tired she seemed.
But yeah, it was a nice ride. When we got back, I made sure Arya drank well before turning her loose to eat her food, and while she was drinking, I did my best to get some pitch/sap out of her mane so it wouldn't become a giant dreadlock. Then Shar and I soaked in her hot tub for a while (I stashed a swimsuit in her spare bathroom a long time ago for just such an event, or a last-minute decision to swim in her community pool, but hadn't used it until now), and I went home and crashed. And became VERY sore for the next two days. The fronts of my thighs, so either from posting (and we didn't trot THAT much more than I'm used to) or the short but steep downhill hike. I suspect the latter.
Oh, and for mid-November, it was very warm, and not too windy or anything--VERY nice weather for a ride. I was wearing a long-sleeved but not particularly warm shirt under my safety vest, and actually felt too warm a few times. Yay for unseasonably awesome weather, as well as good friends and good horses. :-)