Monday, November 7, 2016

Birthday Weekend Trail Ride

JA and I chatted about meeting up for a long ride since Day 1 when I moved in and we finally got it done this past weekend. I had just spent an entire week on the road for work and was really looking forward to being back in NJ and kicking off my birthday weekend celebrations with a low-key trail ride. Our destination for the ride was Hawk Watch, a popular spot for…well, hawk watching. JA was eager to show me the trails and claimed the views were well worth the long ride over. Quest and I need long slow distance. It was a good plan.

Originally it was supposed to be just the two of us, but last minute I found out that there were four other riders who wanted to join our outing. I didn’t think much of it at first since Quest has never had huge issues with new horses apart from making angrymare ears from time to time (probably a huge reason why she failed at being a western pleasure show horse).

The ride to Hawk Watch was uneventful and our group kept a walk-only pace. Quest and Lucy were the fastest walkers in the group and so we took turns leading the way. I was really impressed that despite the fact mareface is the newest horse at the barn and was totally new to the trails we covered, she had zero issues leading the group a good 60% of the time that entire day. Of course she still spooks from time to time when she spots something that takes her by surprise but they are shudder-in-place spooks- The stuff I can deal with.

Riding over the dam bridge for the first time. 
Brave mareface led the way across when we headed home!

We took our time, enjoying the perfect fall weather, laughing, taking pictures and eventually arrived at our destination. True to JA’s claim, the view was absolutely breathtaking.

I took this picture right before the crowds came.
It was so tranquil and you could see for miles around
I wish we could have spent more time there but the great weather enticed a lot of hikers and birdwatchers out of the woodwork. The small area started getting crowded rather quickly and I could sense Quest’s nerves getting amped up. I mounted back up and we walked a little distance into the woods working on trail skills to keep her mind busy on me while we waited for the rest of the group to rejoin. While heading back M, one of the ladies in the group, said she knew of a trail that was “easy, flat, level and safe” that would still take us back home. Since we didn’t know the way to this new trail, JA and I let her horse and everyone else take the lead and we continued on our way. M led us down a section of trail that opened up into a grass path running alongside a small lake. The view was very pretty and I was just thinking to grab my phone for a picture when M suddenly, without warning, took off at a canter with the rest of the group hot on her heels. JA and a girl named S hung back but Quest was not happy about the sudden rapid departure of her other trail buddies and started jigging to try and catch up.

Though Quest was keeping to the trail and not hauling on my hands, the trail was also NOT flat or level as M said it was. I really didn’t want to risk injury to anyone and decided it was safer to dismount and work Quest from the ground to get her brain back on me. It took about 10 minutes (which felt like an eternity) but after firm reminders of the emergency stop to chill and stand, we walked back out to the parking lot and I was able to mount back up. After discussion, we decided to go back the way we came and not risk doing M's suggested route.

The three other riders eventually figured out we had stopped but decided to not to wait and headed back home without JA, S, and me. In the end, it was much better that our group had split up because Quest was much better without the other horses around her. She even led the way home a few times and we returned back to barn sane and quiet as we had left.

While no one was hurt and everyone was fine in the end, I can’t help but be annoyed by the lack of consideration the other riders exhibited- especially when JA and I both went into the ride telling everyone we were doing walk-only. It's been awhile since I did a large group ride and maybe I took some things for granted.

This experience does remind me that I need to continue working on Quest’s “stand and wait” on the trail.  It’s been her weakness from the beginning and I really should be addressing that more proactively. She does it just fine in an arena where there is no stimuli around her whatsoever so this will have to be a "on the trail" training thing. We did lose almost a year to her injury though so naturally trail training things have been on the backburner. I’m not fazed by the setback though; it just means we have to just go out more. We’ll get better with time and practice.


  1. Happy birthday!! Sorry the group ride didn't turn out as well as you hoped tho.

    1. Thank you! No one was hurt, that's most important

  2. Happy Birthday!! Those views are gorgeous. It is very rude to go cantering off without notice when you've joined someone else's ride and they said it was walk only.

    1. Thanks, and the trek was well worth the view! I found out later on that one of the ladies was recouping from a recent bad fall...why risk re-injury?!

  3. Happy bday! I hate people who behave like that on the trail... grrr

    1. Thank you :) And yeah trail etiquette is common sense to me to keep everyone safe, it confuses me when/why people act otherwise