I got out to ride with the husband today. We didn’t get a very early start and by the time we left the temps had dropped and the wind had picked up. Looks can be deceiving and although the sun shone for the first time in days, it was still pretty cold. I’d cleaned up the horses in late morning when I went out to give them more hay. Dharla wasn’t too dirty, but Bullet was covered form head to tail in layers of caked on dried dirt. He was still sporting a wet belly and muddy haunches from a recent sun bath, but I brushed him wherever the mud had dried in hopes that he wouldn’t lay down again before we rode. When we went out to tack up three hours later both horses were caked with wet mud. Even Dharla was a muddy mess, which was a first. I guess the sun made them itchy and they both chose to roll in the wet paddock. I noticed Bullet was shedding a bit when I brushed him earlier. Our days are getting longer so it’s possible the urge to rub and itch … a ritual that precipitates shedding … has begun.
Concerned that the woods would be greasy from recent rain and melting snow, I convinced my husband to start our ride on the flat Airline Trail. I thought the horses should expend a little energy before we tackled the woodsy terrain. We didn’t go more than a mile or two before we veered off the flat trail and picked up another trail that slipped around behind a long steep ridge. It was amazing how much the ridge cut the steady wind and once we got tucked up behind it we were a little more comfortable. Unfortunately, there were several places where the footing really stunk and in a couple of cases that made me a bit nervous.
Bullet was in the lead and because he’s got a slow, steady walk I had to keep checking Dhalra to keep her from riding up his butt. She’s much lighter on her feet whether we’re going uphill or down and its easy with her natural inclination to walk faster to end up right on his butt. Because the trail is narrow, steep and rocky, it’s important to make sure there’s a bit of room between horses. I like to be able to see the ground that’s about to pass under us, especially when riding a young inexperienced horse who might not know enough (yet) to choose the best route. I don’t like to over-steer a trail horse, but until I know they have the trail sense to pick a good path, I like to be supportive and ready to help them make the best choice. You can’t do that if you’re riding up the bumper of the horse in front.
Dharla checks well. Twice I actually stopped her and asked her to wait while Bullet ascended the rocky, narrow path ahead of us. She waited patiently, then when cued, half lunged half walked forward. Given how frisky the horses were feeling and that we were climbing a steep incline, I wasn’t bugged by her somewhat over enthusiastic response. Normally, I’d use this as a teaching moment and try to get her to relax a bit more and control her speed, but I just wanted her to respond to my check and then move forward (reasonably controlled) when asked. A couple of times I felt her back feet slip sideways on the slick mud and I held my breath. This occurred at a place where the trail drops sharply on the down side to a river many yards below, and rises steeply on the left or up side. Literally, there is NO place to go if there is a misstep or a fall. Once, I actually squealed like a girl … it was SO greasy and dangerous. But Dharla quickly recovered and moved right along. I was so proud of her and I gave her lots of reassuring pats and praise!
We arrived home about 1.75 hours later. I was frozen. I couldn’t feel my gloved fingers or my toes. Still, I was glad we got out and had a chance to ride. Who knows when the next chance will be?
Time: 1.75 hrs.
Distance: about 3.5 miles?