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.
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.|