Saturday, January 30, 2016

Winter Escape

Well, our luck ran out and we finally got snow. A ton of snow. The blizzard forced me to hunker down so I wasn't able to get out to the barn until today.

Quest has been hanging out in pasture for about two weeks though she was doing quite well all snug in her blanket (I'm so glad I had remembered to bring the heavyweight Rambo earlier in the month and just in time).

I debated what to do the entire drive up to the barn. If the trails were too icy, I simply hoped to do a handwalk on the street or groundwork. If we were lucky, I could maybe even hop on for a bareback jaunt around the pasture. Well, we got SUPER lucky and the trails ended up being nice enough for us to get in a leisurely 6-mile ride. We walked most of it and only moved out where the footing was even and safe. It was our first time cantering in the snow and mareface did so well!

Traffic on the trails was low; there were a handful of hikers and we encountered a few cross country skiers. It was Quest's first experience I think as she was all ears-up and alert the first time though it was NBD every time after that. I love how quickly she figures stuff out. 

We detoured off the trail to head to the hay field for some zooming but I immediately spotted a hunter's blind when we entered the big clearing.  Even if it was unmanned, turning around seemed prudent. We opted for more trails and got more cantering in that way.

There is something truly magical about riding in the snow. It was incredibly relaxing and I found myself feeling nothing but pure happiness. There was really no where else I'd rather be.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Steady Goes

The sun came out, if for a moment!
I think it's just my bad luck that the past two weekends have been rainy and gray. Still NO snow though (knock on wood)...I'll totally take rain over snow at this time of year.

Quest was polishing off breakfast when I got to the barn so I was able to get right to business and had all of our tack out by the time she finished. Her blanket was a very muddy mess. So glad I didn't have to brush all of that off of her though mareface was quite very appreciative of grooming. Most of the time she politely "tolerates" my affections but today, she stood happily with her head down and eyes half shut enjoying the head and ear rubs.

For this weekend's ride, I decided to explore the north trail a bit more. Word to the wise, maps are not always representative of true conditions- you think I'd learn that by now with all the bushwhacking I do. We ran into a dead end where the trail dropped off a rather steep gravel incline...which I was not going to chance navigating downhill so we backtracked a little and found something much more horse-friendly and continued on our way. Miles flew by and Quest moved out well.

On our solo rides, I have been making a point to bring a dressage whip which has helped immensely with getting her mind unstuck and back on me when she stops listening. I haven't actually needed it much since just carrying it makes all the difference. On our way home, there was zero jigging which I was very pleased about. The trails were a bit busier than normal- lots of bike riders and hikers. We had two instances of dogs off-leash on the trail that came charging up to us, growling. I simply asked Quest to stand still and waited for the profusely apologizing owners to wrangle their animals. Mareface was quite unbothered in both instances- very good girl.

Also, Quest FINALLY drank out on the trail!! I've been trying for the longest time to get her to drink- she obliges when I point her at streams and puddles by lipping at the water but nothing more. Today she finally took sips from the stream; I heaped praise on her. We were about 2 hours in and at the 12 mile-ish mark. I'm thinking it probably takes at least that distance before she'll feel like drinking.

When I got home, there was package waiting for me.


Since we're finally getting more mileage under our belt, I figure it's time to start keeping more detailed records of our rides. I have been struggling with my phone GPS for the past year since it's a huge drain on the battery and...well, having a working phone on the trail just might be important for practical safety reasons. I plan to use this to keep track of time and mph stats at rides too.

I'll do a proper review of it once I have had some time with it but right out of the box, this is as intuitive as they come. I couldn't resist taking it along when I went for a brief walk later in the afternoon- and so far, I like it. Simple and straightforward. I stuck it in my jacket pocket and worked with no problems. Can't wait to play around with it on the trail!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Damp & Dreary

Despite the wind and rain, we ride!

1 9 (2)

Quest and I got in a solid 12 miles this weekend. I woke up Saturday morning and wanted to laze in bed forever after an exhausting work week but I remembered how this time last year we were buried in nearly a foot of snow and ice. With snow expected THIS week, I knew I’d be kicking myself if I missed what may be my last chance to ride on non-frozen solid trails.

J and B had traveled down to Florida earlier in the week to ride in a FEI 1* endurance ride which left me very much alone at the barn. When I arrived, there was the backhoe parked by our normal tacking area next to a giant hole I presume it had been working on. I fetched mareface from the pasture and got her ready in a different part of the paddock. She could have cared less about the giant holes and heavy machinery. Good mare.

Because of the wet footing from the rain and a near slip & fall we had on pavement months ago, I have been handwalking her the first 1/2 mile down the road on our solo rides and then mounting up by the trail head. The road is a bit narrow at points with sharp turns so it’s been beneficial for all parties involved if I was on the ground leading when we head out.

Heading home is NBD. But you get a sense of the roadway we share with vehicles

Mounted up, we set off on the south trail with intentions to ride until we hit the construction area/temporary trail end point. Quest and I have done the route twice before though it was always with company so this would be our first time solo. Mare was a little looky when we got started first but soon settled into a good groove. The weather is quite a bit colder than where I live 50 minutes east; there was snow along the trail and sections of ice where the perpetual puddles usually were. I hopped off so Quest and I could play billy goat to go around the worst of the ice. She was good when I mounted back up on the trail. We passed a couple people walking, a few with dogs, but no other riders. All was quiet asides from the sounds of her hooves and our steady breaths as the miles flew by. The trail intersects the river at a few points and we crossed bridges solo for the first time- the first bridge was a longer conversation but each one after were short and simple. With time, with time.

1 9 (1)When reached the turnaround point, Quest decided that jigging would get us back home faster. Haha no. I immediately put what J taught me last week to use and asked for forward with collection. It definitely was a hot mess at first. Quest shook her head from side to side in sassy protest to evade my hands. But I kept quiet and persistent, rewarding the smallest efforts when she gave me what I asked for.

Eventually we figured it out and for a few glorious moments, I felt it- rounded up through the back and driving power from behind. Quest has always been pretty light on her feet but her movement in that moment was airy, almost floating. I’ve read and heard collection described as feeling like the horse is ready to do anything you ask it to. Quest actually felt like that, a live wire, a coiled spring- ready for anything. So I played with walk/trot transitions all along the way home. Whenever Quest got too quick and “strung out”, I’ll ask her to collect again and she’d go back. It’s certainly not consistent yet but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Best of all there was no jigging, no arm pulling. It was fantastic- certainly one of the better trail rides we’ve had in a while.

Things will be VERY different when we are surrounded by a full field of endurance horses at a ride. Adrenaline and excitement will definitely charge up the mareface’s hot brain. Physically, I am confident that Quest will be fine. The challenge will be her getting over herself mentally. So at home we’ll do what we can to prepare and manage the inevitable, hairy moments that will be by installing and practicing emergency brakes, safety buttons and reset cues.

GPS'd the first half of the ride before my phone complained. So double that for rough time and distance.

Now give peppermint.