I decided that we would take advantage of the fact we were alone and do a longer ride taking the south rail trail all the way to the end and turn back for the return loop. It would give us at least 4.5 miles, entirely doable within the time constraints (BO has been getting super strict about closing up the barn by 8:30pm...) and give Quest plenty of chances to move out with her big trot. More importantly it'd also be a fair gauge of how she fared solo on a longer ride doing trails that she's only been on once before in the past. I didn't want to overwhelm her with too many new factors so speed was the lowest priority.
The kids soon headed home into the neighborhood and we continued on, making the first street crossing. Once we got to the other side, I let Quest move out into her floaty trot. We had the trail entirely to ourselves so I let her cruise along to see what she would do. For the most part she maintains pace quite well on her own though she would break into a canter if she got too speedy. I made it my job to try and tune myself to that point as the extreme and see if I could rate her speed for something in between knowing that was the upper threshold. I kept up light contact and on the buckle. While I didn't have to continuously haul for a downward transition, she definitely was stronger than normal so I can see how the excitement of a real ride could and would cause her to behave much differently.
Miles done at a trot fly by, literally. I only slowed Quest to a walk to give her a breather/quick grazing break and when we encountered other trail users, large loose gravel, and street crossings. While I do moan and gripe about the trails here, one positive thing about riding in suburbia is the amount and variety of random distractions that can be used as training moments. We passed a lot of joggers and dog walkers on the trail, all of them were courteous and gave us ample berth to pass. Road traffic was not a problem- I had planned to hop off and lead across if Quest had ever felt overwhelmed by any of it. The mareface did just fine- waiting for my cue to cross and only two of the four streets we weren't able to cross on first attempt but were no problem on the second try.
This is a monumental accomplishment for her. Given the fact that months ago Quest would have been a lathered mess at the sight of traffic, crossing busy streets completely solo would have instigated an absolute meltdown. She has come SUCH a long way since then.
|Heading back towards the barn. Ahead is the first (and least busy) street to cross when we head south.|
So remember how I said we were inundated with non-stop rain earlier in the week? The smallest recessed areas on the trail in some areas were transformed into puddles. The trail was littered with puddles. A sea of puddles. Suffice to say Quest seems to have an extreme aversion to any body of water that is not contained in a trough or bucket or wash stall.
The first puddle was small enough that she dainty skirted around it at a trot. That was enough to fortunately somewhat prepare me when she totally slammed on the brakes for the next one that was too big for her to skip her way around. I didn't topple off but I growled at her to keep going which she did...bulldozing her way through brush on the side of the trail. All to avoid a puddle. I couldn't help from laughing out loud. Since we had to be back at the barn before closing, I didn't make a huge deal out of the puddles this ride though the sudden stop and go was an somewhat annoying test of velcrobutt abilities. But next session...oh yes are we going to have fun with that.
When we got back to the barn, we actually had some time left so we tacked on the main barn trail loop for a total 6 miles in little over an hour. As per custom, we rode past the gate a few times before heading in with no complaints and honestly Quest didn't even look like she was just got back from a ride asides from the saddle sweat marks. Someone was nice enough to leave a couple of carrots inside my tack bag while we were out so she got a well deserved treat back in her stall.
Quest's extreme aversion to water puddles is an interesting quirk but fortunately something that we can work on. Maybe part of that could be attributed to her show past and being only/mostly worked in dry indoor arenas where she never had to deal with trivial things such as puddles. Sorry Quest but if you're going to be a trail pony, water crossings are an inevitable part of your future!