The weather in my area has been unseasonably mild the past couple weeks and thus far, we have been spared our annual dose of snow. The latter means that the trails have been clean and clear of the usual seasonal hazards and prime for some good riding!
This past weekend Quest and I led A and Mel on their first trail outing at the barn. A few minutes out, we walked by a section of trail I mentally dubbed the “junk yard” because of the random trash we always see dumped there- from empty buckets, plastic trash bags to rusting mini fridges. It makes me angry to see litter and I know for a fact that it also bothers other people because I’ve seen some of the junk “magically” disappear…only for more stuff to take its place. Ugh. I’m planning to make and post no littering sign. Not sure how effective that would be but it may somewhat deter the usual suspects.
For the most part, Quest could care less about the junk but sometimes the objects on the side of the trail were odd enough that they caused the sideways eye and snorting and sometimes even a full stop. On this particular day the new item was a shiny pleather 2-seater couch that was tossed end over end, laying on its side.
I felt Quest wanting to stop and told her to keep walking forward past it. She kept moving, giving it as much berth as possible though. The entire time I kept her facing the obstacle and used my “outside” leg to gradually move her a little closer to it. Once past it, I rewarded her with a “Good girl” and a quiet pat and we walked on.
A, who was riding behind me, said“Don’t worry, that also made Mel look.” Her comment made me wonder how different people would view and handle a horse's reaction to something spooky. IMO, of all the spooks a horse could possibly have, giving something a look is highly preferable to the huge number of other reactions possible…e.g.; drop shoulder, spin, bolt. Of course ideally, we all want a bombproof horse/unicorn that doesn’t spook ever at all but we are interacting with flight instinct animals.
For me, I am okay with my horse expressing her concern/curiosity in a safe way by looking but when I say “Okay, I see it too and it’s fine- keep moving”, I want us to keep moving. Depending on what/where the object is and how she is that day, we might stop and do the “touch it” thing but lingering at stuff sometimes causes more angst for Quest. The whole, move along-nothing scary here mentality usually works best for her.
The rest of the ride, for us at least, was rather uneventful. It was mareface’s second time on those trails, she was just as game as the first time and led the entire way. We did short little trot stretches where the trail was flat and clear and Quest clearly enjoyed moving out. She was feeling really good and I couldn’t help smiling to myself.
When we got back to the barn, I untacked and let her soak up the sun for as long as possible before putting her blanket back on. Of course mareface took this opportunity to go for thorough dirt mud roll (she even rolled uphill, I couldn't help but be impressed) so I had to brush her out again before re-blanketing when I left the barn. I felt a little bad because the weather was so nice but the ridge gets windy at night and then it POURED buckets of rain and sleet the next two days.
Last night I went to the barn to get a rehab ride in. Midweek nights are typically busy at the barn since the in-house trainer uses those as lesson days for his adult students. The indoor arena is a decent size but it does feel too crowded with more than 5 horses. Fortunately for me it was a non-lesson night and there was at most 2-3 others in the ring at one time and we all did our own thing. I got Quest cleaned up- she was covered in mud thanks to all the rain – and tacked her up in the bareback pad. We warmed up at a walk and started doing our trot sets. She was feeling really good so I cut the trot short and decided what the heck, let’s do a little canter. And off we went.
It was our first canter in almost a year and it made me realize how I much I missed riding my mare <3 It’s been awhile for both of us so it wasn’t 100% pretty I’m sure but we managed. Her left departs were great, the right we had to do a couple times until we got it clean though that is likely more my issue (lopsided back muscles due to mild scoliosis) than hers.
Quest has been blasting around in pasture on her own for months but we are now cantering again undersaddle. Hopefully this means we are entering the last phase of mareface's rehab and though it took a long time, I think taking a super conservative route has paid off well in our case. Fingers crossed we’ll be back to unlimited work in a month or so, in time for spring trail adventures!