So, Shar and I rode Tuesday night, four miles in the pitch black (moon didn't come up until the middle of the night), on a new-to-me and new-to-Arya route. She did SO well, I was so proud of her! The only spooky moments we had were when cars were coming behind us on the main road, making ALL the shadows move every which way, which freaked her out, and probably disoriented her a bit, and then at a random driveway. Not sure what the last one was about, but it was back on familiar turf. Whatever. She did so awesome. About a mile or so of the ride was down and then back up a long hill, so that was good for her.
But yeah, weekend. The weather forecast was for nice weather both days, so we decided we'd probably go ahead and ride both days. Saturday, we hauled to the Trail Crossing trailhead, where we've done a decent loop up behind Smith Rock and back down, but this time we went the other way, into an OHV area that's supposed to be closed to motorized traffic this time of year. We saw a couple of road-worthy vehicles on what were actual dirt roads where it was probably allowed (they were polite), and saw a couple of quads from a distance that were most decidedly NOT supposed to be there, but luckily didn't get close to us.
The footing was mostly awesome, with a few patches where it got kind of sloppy, and only a couple places with rocks. The ponies did awesome, but Arya does NOT like it when it gets sloppy, and she tries to rush through it (which duh, is only going to be worse in the short term, but she doesn't have that kind of reasoning capability, obviously). It was kind of overcast, but I wore short sleeves and was fine. So awesome to be wearing short sleeves in February!
Here are some photos from that ride:
|Nathan on Dalai, during a section we were kind of bushwhacking, sometimes following cow trails|
|Selfie with Nathan behind me|
|Photo op at the top of a hill--got a photo of Shar's two ponies together, plus Noelle, too|
|Arya staring at Noelle|
|Ane one more, 'cause it's too cute, with Noelle looking up at her mom so admiringly|
We rode about seven miles. A lot of it was up and down. Nothing TOO steep, for the most part, but the fatties (Arya and Dalai) were breathing pretty hard a LOT of the day. Poor gals need to get into shape! We trotted a couple times, but mostly just walking up and down the hills. We got back to the trailer, I did more measurements for Arya's rump rug I'm custom ordering, and we let the ponies graze for a little bit on the very short grass before we loaded up and headed home.
Sunday, we headed to the Maston Trailhead. This is a GREAT place to ride, especially in winter. It's kind of in a banana belt, getting a bit less snow than other areas, plus the soil is really sandy, so it seems to dry out faster than most other places in the area even after it snows and melts. Similar to Henderson, it had a couple moist spots, but unlike Henderson, they were never slippery, just...damp. So that was even nicer. And while there are a few "rock garden" areas, they almost always have enough clear areas of the trail that the horses can easily avoid the rocks. Of the nine miles we rode, there were only a few linear feet of trail with unavoidable rocks. Such nice winter riding, especially for those of us who have our horses barefoot for the winter but usually wear shoes.
Anyway, it was SUCH a gorgeous day, with bluebird skies, that the entirety of Central Oregon seemed to be at Maston. The car lot was so full that mountain bikers were parking in the horse trailer area, and there were already a lot of horse trailers there, too. But our group (four trailers, six riders, seven horses) found spots to park and unloaded and tacked up.
|Arya, waiting patiently for the rest of the party to mount up|
|Shawna, about to mount up on Touche, Lianne was already up on Rascal|
There's no overlap in the horse trailers shown in those two photos above, so you can see how busy it was. Surprisingly, we didn't see many other people out there. We heard voices that I THINK we horseback riders, but we never got a good look at them because they were so far away, and we saw some bicycles and a couple hikers on foot. But considering how many people were clearly in the area, I was surprised we didn't see more. But then, there's a pretty good network of trails that criss-cross each other, and the bike trails are separate from the horse/hiker trails, so it's a testament to the trail designing that we didn't see many people.
At some point, Wendy realized the pony was getting tired, plus she had to pick her daughter up from a party, so they headed back to the trailers, while we kept going, now just a party of five horses and riders, still a decent-sized group.
We tried posing for photos. This is the only one that got all the critters in it. Noelle and Arya have just their ears representing, though. ;-) Love the mountain views we kept getting glimpses of throughout the day!
A couple miles from the end of the ride, Arya was getting obnoxious about putting her head down to eat, so I un-holstered the whip and whapped her with it once. She got better about not trying to eat; in fact, I don't think she tried any more after that. However, she kept plodding along the trail with her head down nearly to ground level. It was kind of weird. I worried she'd try dropping down to the ground again (she was clearly very itchy, and kept trying to rub her head on her leg), but she seemed to be moving along well enough to keep up with the others, just with her head down the whole time. However, when we got back to the trailer, I untacked her as quickly as I good and led her back to the mounting-up area, where there was a wide area of nice soft dirt, as nice as any arena. I didn't have to ask her twice, she didn't even try to sneak off to the edges of the dirt to snatch a bite of grass, she sniffed the dirt then immediately dropped down and rolled. And rolled. And rolled. She flipped over a couple times and thoroughly rubbed her head around in the dirt and on her leg a few times. She was in total heaven. Poor girl is just starting to shed (mostly on her face, not on the rest of her), and it was so warm that she'd been sweating all day. (In fact, when we got home, she had lots of white crusty areas where the salt had dried.) So yeah, I'm pretty sure all that hang-dog walking was because she wished she could roll, but at least she was a good girl and DIDN'T drop down.
Anyway, it was an absolutely gorgeous couple of days. We put in 16 miles over two days, definitely a maximum for Nathan (so far!), and the most mileage I've done in a while as well. Poor Shar had ridden 15+ miles on Friday as well, so she was really hurting by the end of the day, especially since a lot of those miles were spent walking (not so much bumping for your bum, but a LOT of sitting on the saddle plus a lot of the same motions, instead of switching it up, is still hard on a person, and the horse too). Flash's back was getting a bit sore after the third straight day of riding, but Shar's about to have the saddle fit perfected by the original saddle maker. Arya didn't seem sore at all after her two days and 16 miles, so that's good. Hope it stays that way as we start increasing the mileage and speed.