Quest and I reached a mini milestone together this past weekend- we did our first out and back solo trail ride to the main barn!
Before heading out, we did about 30-45 minutes of arena riding mostly working on cantering in our bad direction and making
adjustments to the new girth (it was our second ride using it). Finally
satisfied with tack adjustments and getting extremely bored of the dustbowl with each passing moment, I decided that we needed to get outdoors. I brought along my dressage whip and used a handy lawn chair to hop on, still ever pleased that Quest could care less what I utilize for a impromptu mounting block, and off we went.
We walked along the inside property fence line visiting the other horses the turnout paddocks and making loops along the fresh snow. The weather was still blustery but it was 34 degrees, just warm enough
to cause snow laden trees to shed their load at a nearly continuous basis. Quest spooked once at some snow that slid off from a tree about a yard away in front of her nose- I can't fault her too much for that since it startled me too- but once that happened, the snow afterward was not a problem. After about 10 minutes, riding around the property was getting boring too since there was no where to really go. So we headed out.
It was our first time riding trails since winter started and our second trail riding solo venture together, I picked the main barn trail to set us up for success. Our first solo trail ride was us making our way back after escorting A and Smokey to the big barn. Today I was asking Quest to go out and back 100% by herself, something she had never done before yet.
There were a few conversations on the way out. Quest first gave pause to the highway bridge and when I asked her to go forward, she decided to back up. I kept my hands off of her face and used my legs to say forward, any backward motion was her own volition and created extra work for herself. When she attempted to twist her head and butt around to try and turn back, I tapped her hindquarters with my dressage whip and she straightened. When she realized that forward REALLY meant forward, my legs stopped asking and life was much easier. The next two sections were her usual sticky points but the conversations there were much shorter than the first. She attempted to kick out once in frustration during the third section but I got on her case immediately because that is a big fat "no, NEVER ever do that". She was extremely compliant after that.
The rest of the ride went without a single hitch from there on. We kept everything at a nice swinging walk and stayed on the designated trail because of the snow. Best of all there was no pulling, no rushing, no crazy, and no jigging. Not having to micromanage her very step and speed made riding in a suburban forest after a snow fall quite relaxing.
The main barn was our turn around point so I pointed Quest back and she marched along home. I couldn't help but daydream about how awesome it would be to finally get that rig- that day where we could go anywhere and everywhere with no limits. When we got back to the barn, per usual I rode past the gate in both directions before heading in, absolutely giddy with pleasure. While Quest and I are very rough around the edges and still have a lot to work on, we've come such a long way in that time together.