|Happy mare and happy me <3|
With the stifle injury hopefully well behind us, we have been working hard every weekend since then to get good saddle time and mileage on the trail. Schedule differences have prevented us from riding with J and B this whole time but the solo trail ventures have helped me and Quest gain confidence in each other. She is still alert of her surroundings but there is less tension now and more curious interest- a minute difference, but a pretty huge deal in my opinion.
When I gushed to J how well the mareface was doing, she suggested that it was time to up the ante and see how Quest handled a few more “realistic” ride competition settings. With that, the Windy Hollow Hunter Pace was scheduled to be our first ever away-from-home trail ride.
In the days leading up to the event, I was excited but nervous too. Quest has improved SO much mentally since I first had her and as eager as I am to get ourselves active and competing on the trail, I wanted to make sure it was a fun experience for her too. Almost if to assuage my worries, our ride on Saturday went particularly well- we did another solo 8 miles and trotted everything we could. Towards the end of the ride, we passed another rider on the trail who was working with a cute 5yo chestnut gelding. He asked to tag along behind us on the trail; Quest didn’t seem to mind so we helped pull them along and dropped them off at their barn. Even though Quest is still green herself, she acted like a trail veteran and power trotted past all the “scary” things without hesitation. We were moving at a good clip/our usual trot pace too- I could hear the gelding behind us cantering from time to time in order to keep up!
When I arrived at the barn the next morning, I finally got to meet the other boarder M who owns Remy, a cute stout buckskin QH mare. We chatted amiably together while we got our horses and tack ready and waited for J, B, and J’s husband P to show up with the truck and trailer. They soon arrived and while the trailer was readied, we got the horses fed and ready to load up. J told me to lead Quest on first- she stepped up without hesitation after me. Good mare! Next was Remy, then Pedro (J’s gelding pony), and finally Soup (B’s warmblood mare). Everyone on, everything packed, we hit the road.
The drive took about an hour and went by quickly since we were all chatting away. M talked about her job which involves art so that was super cool to learn about. And B told us firsthand about her AERC Nationals experience- which by the way she and Maddy won, got Best Condition, and tied for High Vet Score. Pretty awesome!
When we arrived at the hunter pace, we went to the tents to get signed up in our teams and pay. Quest and I would be riding with B and Soup in the Open division, while J would take Pedro and team up with M and Remy in the Hilltopper division. Then it was back to the trailer to unload and tack up. Quest was a little sweaty but definitely NOT a lathered mess this time so I’ll count that as a win. Once off the trailer, she was eager to graze so I think that's another win. Tacking up and mounting up was definitely a two person job this time though- probably 30% standing still and 70% moving around. While the latter wasn’t too unexpected, I’m hoping it'll get better in time since that'd make my life a whole lot easier.
Everyone all mounted up, we all set off for the starting area. In a few short minutes B and I were given the okay to move down the trail. Quest was definitely feeling good and moved out in her power trot. Soup and Quest matched each other very well in pace and we had zero issues efficiently weaving through single track forest paths and along cornfields surrounded by gorgeous autumn foliage.
|Riding the fields of corn- A first for us and no problem for mareface|
|The trails were very well marked with plenty of ribbons and signs|
|Pausing for a quick snack while humans pause to take pictures. |
I was very glad to see this!
B and Soup did the jumps while Quest and I happily took the go-arounds...Though I sincerely think Quest would have had no problem jumping if given the opportunity because she seemed to "lock on" to the jumps and I felt pretty bad telling her no each time. I guess we're going to go play with jumps soon. Very soon.
My absolute favorite section of the trail was also the most terrifying part. A little more than half-way into the ride, the trail opened up along a stretch of pristine green rolling pastures. B and I started to canter, no problem there. Then I saw B and Soup move ahead even faster. I felt Quest click into a gear that I had never felt before and suddenly we were moving faster that I've ever gone.
I've NEVER ridden a gallop before, let alone on hills going both up AND down, and we were literally charging up and down those hills. I was rather preoccupied making sure I didn't lose my seat or stirrups. But I did indeed survive. Quest never felt out of control but the speed was both absolutely thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. I went back to check my GPS later and we apparently got up to 23mph!
|We galloped the hills behind the trees|
|Walking at a much more sedate pace after.|
J and M got in about 30 minutes after we did. Since B needed to be back home early afternoon, we didn't hang around much longer then needed. All present and accounted for, we packed everything back into the trailer and loaded up. Quest was good about loading and unloading again. I checked her feet (she handled the trail with no problems barefoot) and let her back out into the pasture after she got her lunch.
All in all, I'm very happy with how the hunter pace went. Quest did much better with the trailering, she was responsive and listened on the trail, and was calm about hanging out tied to the trailer afterwards. She stayed sane, safe, and I could not have asked for a better result for our first ever off-property trail ride.