|Post-ride.... ignore my ugly mug! (not that she's posing for the photo any better, haha)
Calling it a “trail” might be a bit of an overstatement – currently it’s about a half mile loop that starts at the fenceline of back pasture and winds through some woods before ending in the church lot next door (which we also own). Mostly it just gives us a change of scenery from the arena, with just enough baby hills to feel like you’re doing a little bit of work. Typically when we ride we’ll do multiple loops, because let’s be real, half a mile isn’t much!
|We skipped the road portion on Sunday, just looping back and forth between the church and the back pasture.
Our first mini meltdown occurred when DH stopped to open the back gate so we could ride through onto the trail. She refused to stand still, and when corrected, she would start backing up. That’s really an evasion I hate, and she just started doing it at the horse show. It made me nervous because she kept backing directly at fences, and I never want to be in a situation with her where she hits a fence while I’m on her and gets tangled up. After a few minutes of her being an absolute idiot (including backing into the gate, scaring herself, and scratching her leg), I got off, made some corrections from the ground, and led her the first 30 feet or so onto the trail. I waited until I found a relatively clear spot, then climbed back on. Thankfully, she’s still (kind of) short enough for me to do that, and all the work on giving her cookies to stand still when I mounted worked in my favor – she was too busy looking for a treat to walk off or freak out.
I figured the easiest way to make it a stress-free trip would be to have Trigger lead the way and provide some support in the form of just his normal chill meandering self. This was a grievous miscalculation – we spent the entire first loop with me trying to keep her from running up his butt and/or clipping his legs with her feet, her jigging and flinging her head and getting progressively more worked up, and me wondering at times if we were all going to live through the experience. We made it relatively unscathed into the church yard and I got her to stop and stand for a second. I think at that point DH expected me to get off and hand walk her back to the house (that’s how much of an asshole she was being). I was frustrated, but wasn’t willing to admit defeat. I asked him to just follow us back through the loop and we would try letting her lead -- she had gotten fairly confident on our hand walks, so I knew the trail couldn't be what was bothering her so much.
Voila! Magic switched was flipped and my pissy prancing pony turned back into my (semi) well-behaved, brave baby. She confidently walked out, easily navigating around branches and up and down small hills. In one area where the trail borders our neighbor’s pasture, they had parked a truck on the fenceline (which we either totally missed seeing the first time around due to trying not to die, or they moved it there in like a 20 minute window, haha), so I opted to get off and lead her by and then remount. I was afraid the neighbor would be somewhere nearby in the woods and I didn’t want him to pop out and startle her and cause an incident. Even when Trigger would lag behind (frequently, because he walks at like half her speed), she was unconcerned. Obviously she will have to learn to follow other horses on the trail, but for now, apparently leading is her jam!
She was having so much fun at the end of the second loop, we ended up going out and back another time! The second time we passed the truck on the fenceline, I stayed mounted (hadn’t seen or heard the neighbor by that point so I figured he wasn’t around), and she was totally fine. In several spots on the trail I had her stop and just hang out for a minute while I scratched her and told her what a good, brave baby she was. Aside from the same aversion Ruby has to cut tree stumps (fallen tree stumps are fine, but god forbid they be flat cut lol), nothing seemed to faze her. Finally we headed back to the barn, but DH wanted to detour by the pond to check on it. Of course, a flock of birds was nesting on the shoreline and most of them took off once we got close, resulting in a spook and jump maneuver that cost me a stirrup, but thankfully not my seat. I guess it looked impressive, because DH asked me how on earth I stayed on…. Haha. I picked up my stirrup, made her walk closer to the scary birds, then we headed back to the barn. I stuffed her full of cookies then let her out in the front pasture for some well-deserved grazing.
|They were supervised with their halters on, I just thought they deserved a treat! (and knew they'd be a PITA to catch because they've been off grass for a bit haha)
While her first dressage test was an amazing experience, this was probably almost as fun. She was worth the wait. Hard to believe it was 2011 when I first dreamt of her existence, and here we are in 2016, cruising past so many milestones.