We shared our first winter together and spent a lot of time in the dustbowl. Though I griped about the weather to no end, the winter did us a huge favor in hindsight. The snow and ice forced me to do a lot of groundwork and hand walking on the trail- all things I know that are important in a new horse & owner relationship but easily overlooked. The cold temperatures also kept our rides short but productive. I did a ton of bareback riding and improved my seat so much during those two months- I went from struggling to sit the trot to comfortably cantering bareback with one hand on the reins.
When spring finally arrived, Quest and I spent our evenings on the trail wandering and exploring but eventually we got bored. Our 3-mile jaunts grew into a measly 6-miles as I painstakingly tried to scrape together more mileage for us. It was impossible to do a trail ride without stopping every few yards to cross a street and of course sudden encounters with ATV/motorcross bike riders illegally using the trail were a nightmare. I had a few issues with the BOs as well but I stuck it out at KBTC as long as I could because my barn friends and I still had a lot of fun making memories together while swimming in the river, painting My Little Pony cutie marks, and going for night rides with glow sticks.
Quest also proved to be a fantastic teacher and gave a few of my friends their first riding lessons. This is something that I’m still very proud of to this day. It’s not every day you meet a horse that has the get up and go to boogie down the trail but has the patience to quietly pack beginners around an arena.
By far the most exciting things that happened this year were celebrating my first full year of horse ownership and taking the first steps into making endurance riding a reality.
This past summer, I had the pleasure and privilege of catch riding in two CTRs, earning two completions and 55 lifetime rider miles. The rides sealed the deal that distance riding was going to be my discipline. Folks typically suggest volunteering at a ride first to get experience but I guess for me it was go big or go home! I learn more from doing and I certainly learned a lot. The two rides were very different though both very educational. I went from a Reserve Champion in the first ride to a metabolic scare in the second. I know the latter was not my fault but it really goes to show how difficult this sport is. And I have to say while there is the importance of training and knowing your equine partner, there is definitely a measure of luck that comes into play.
Moving Quest to WSS at the end of summer was another major step towards officially beginning our endurance journey. The barn location is both a gift and a curse- I never wanted to be a weekend warrior but it was the price I had to pay. Under the watchful eyes and guidance of J and B, Quest has been thriving and roaming acres of pasture 24/7. On the weekends, we have been enjoying the miles of trails that are within walking distance. Most of our rides have been solo due to schedule differences though we have done a handful of group rides at home. She has been doing very well in group trail rides with new horses, leading, following, though she can get saucy competitive in a neck-to-neck race. In October, we trailered off property for the first time to attend our first hunter pace. It was SO much fun.
I made a few changes to our tack- began using a rope halter/snap-on headstall combo and bought a treeless saddle and Skito pad which has been working out great so far. At J’s suggestion, I started riding with a running martingale and a full cheek snaffle bit, both of which Quest took to just fine. Each trail ride has helped me gain insight into how Quest is progressing and so far, so good! Physically, she seems to never tire. Mentally, she is starting to figure out her job and really enjoys moving out. Granted, there are still moments of looky spooks but for the most part, Quest is nose forward and straight. And she doesn’t seem to mind runners either.
I’m pleased with how far we’ve come in this year and excited for the upcoming ride season. Hope to see you on the trails in 2016!