For this trail walk, I decided to test out the nylon western headstall that I got last week at the expo. I have been on the hunt for a biothane snap-on headstall since I decided that I want to use rope halter while trail riding. I still do like the Running Bear halter-bridle but it never hurts to play around with options. There were no snap-on headstall to be found at the expo though and the western headstall was too ridiculously cheap to pass up.
The dustbowl was looking a bit muddy because of the melting snow so we headed straight for the trails. The walk went without much incident for the most part. Quest followed my lead nicely, and grabbed shoulder-level bites to eat here and there. Good endurance pony in the making. There was still snow and random patches of ice on the ground so the going was slow and labor-intensive. Sign #2 that spring has come? Water and mud puddles and my very soaked boots. The nice weather got some of the neighbors out and we passed by a guy walking a pitbull with a big booming bark a few yards away. We exchanged greetings and the man apologized, chastising his dog. Quest didn’t react at all, good mare.
We stopped for little breaks and worked on backing up and standing still; the latter is a monumental task for Quest BUT she’s getting better at it. There was a temper tantrum involving a mini rear and frustrated kicks so we had two conversations where I asked her to stand and if she was more interested in moving, I sent her around me in small circles at a trot then walk until standing still sounded like a very good idea. I was very glad for the rope halter and my dressage whip (also an expo purchase) came very handy.
Quest was still on high alert but finally standing still so I did little things like fixing her headstall and adjusting the rope lead if it got tangled, quiet talking, and patting her neck- taking my time with everything to further encourage the idea that standing still on the trail was no big deal and it was a pleasant experience. I tried to enjoy it as well as I stood and half-closed my eyes to savor the sunlight. Still some rushing to get home so we did lots of backing up and more standing, and made sure we walked past the barn gate and further out before heading back. I also lunged her at a trot in the yard before cooling her off, untacking, and putting her in.
We only did about a mile distance-wise but I think a ton was accomplished. It’s little steps forward towards a larger goal. I am definitely itching to get started with actual distance riding/training, but it’s more important to take it at her pace and work with what horse I have for that day. While the trails are absolutely abysmal here, the number of urban obstacles we run into during a typical walk is perfect for Quest and exactly what she needs exposure to. She’s proven that she can handle a forest trail/more rural setting just fine during our solo trail ride and does fine with bikes, dog walkers, etc.
Thinking about goals for the spring and summer, I’m planning to start up my 5K schedule again and I recently read a neat article about people running with their horses doing something called "equi-cizing". I'd love to take Quest along during my run days. There is a park with riding trails about 2 miles away from the barn that I've been itching to explore. The route winds through suburban neighborhood roads before it reaches the trail head so that means we will have to work on our road skills and “earn” our access to that trail. It’ll be a nice goal to accomplish while we both get fit at the same time!
I know I found Quest with the intention of making her into a distance horse but looking at logistics and being practical, it'll be awhile before I can afford a rig and really get us out to rides. I think any "real" endurance will take a back burner at least for this year as we just enjoy each others company with these workouts and work on making her into a solid trail partner. And honestly, I'm already happy to spend time with a horse I'm able to call my own. During the the expo, J made an interesting comment about how Quest was so lucky to have found someone like me. She's not perfect and I still have a world of things to learn but she is forgiving and I am patient (most of the time). Just maybe, maybe we could be just right for each other.