As we turned into the park, the tack room door on L's trailer swung open. We tried to get L's attention by honking and hoping the park attendant would say something. When we got close, I jumped out and started running toward L's truck, waving my arms over my head in the universal "Hold on, there is something wrong" sign. Thankfully, she stopped before the saddle rack flipped open and sprayed her saddles all over the place. I was panting and staggering by the time I had crossed the 200 feet of pavement between where J had stopped and L had stopped. L met me at the door and after double checking it for security, I told her where we normally parked. (Our normal parking lot has two entrances to pull through the horse trailer and be able to exit without having to turn around.) But L opted for the first one we came to, which was entirely empty. It was big enough to turn the truck and trailer around in and park pointing out.
L brought Amaar down and tied him to our trailer, just so all three were in close proximity to each other. We got tacked up and after I tore two gaiters getting the boots on Ashke's feet (he is due for a trim on Saturday next, and I had to use my hoof pick to get the gloves over his very flared hooves) we were finally ready to ride out. It was to be another W/T trail ride, due to the fact that both Eddy and Amaar are very green on trail, K has just started cantering in the arena, L is riding in a saddle that is great for Amaar, but throws her forward at a canter, and not wanting to get the horses too sweaty for the trailer ride home. Although, Ashke did throw in four strides of a canter piaffe out of excitement.
J and I are fairly familiar with the trails at Chatfield, so it was pretty easy to work out a loop to ride from where we were parked. It's always more fun to ride a loop than to ride out and back, plus it gives the horses more new terrain to look at and experience.
All of the horses were up to begin with and both L and K took advantage of the large parking lot to do a brief lunge before getting on. Ashke snorted at everything, plus spooked at the little pockets of snow buried in the grass.
There were some men working on what looks like a drainage system that runs through the park. There were several large earth moving machines we had to walk past.
Okay, so it is good to note: when working with green horses, expectation is a good thing, anticipation needs to be tempered. When we first noted the excavator, generator and large water pipe a man was standing in and attempting to beat into submission with what sounded like a jackhammer, K got really stressed. You could hear it in her voice. I said something to her along the line of we are going to ride by like nothing is out of the ordinary, and you are going to let your stress go. If we have to, we can dismount and hand walk them past, but first we are going to act like nothing is wrong. We moved Eddy up between Ashke and Amaar (once again, we were riding with just geldings) and walked past. Ashke (you know, the seasoned trail horse and also the one closest to the action) stopped to peruse the ongoings to make sure nothing was going to eat us, then calmly continued. After that, the earth moving machines were no big deal.
Now, it can be different on the trail when you are by yourself. And it could have been different yesterday if the horses hadn't trusted their riders to get them safely past. I think that Ashke takes his position as herd leader seriously, and in cases like this one, having J out in front helps give him confidence. (As an aside, this was our second ride with K and Eddy and Eddy has already begun looking to J as his herd buddy and companion.) As Mark Rashid points out when he talks about the six degrees of separation, our response and expectation are communicated to our horses. Sometimes the spookiness is rider generated. If we react to something we see, it will reinforce what the horse is fearful of, rather than we (the rider) focusing on the task at hand and what we are trying to accomplish with our horses. Which, in this case, was riding confidently down the trail.
It really was a perfect winter day. This picture is proof that snow doesn't stick around (S and C) and that we have lots of great riding weather during the winter here. I know it's not technically winter until Solstice, but once we have a snowstorm that leaves measurable snowfall, I think it is winter.
J says this is her favorite picture from the day. I looked so happy and Ashke even wrinkled his nose at her.
It was really a lot of fun riding with a group (both the Teller and this ride) who obviously enjoy trail riding. I think both L and K had ear to ear grins all ride.
Although K and L rode in sweatshirts, I was pretty comfortable in my thermal shirt with the sleeves pushed up. It was mild until about the point we turned back toward the trailers, and then the wind picked up. It wasn't colder, just really windy, which isn't a lot of fun for J.
One of the things we discussed on trail was Eddy cocking his tail to one side, especially the left, to compensate for something. He peed three times while we were riding and I asked K when the last time his sheath was cleaned. She said it had been a while. In watching his urine stream (we got that treat three times) it seemed less streamy and more spritzy. I suggested she have his sheath cleaned before moving to chiropractic assessment. By his third stop, K was in agreement. It seemed to me that a bean could be a possibility. K is going to get her vet out after Thanksgiving to do a cleaning.
The Arabians walked at a faster pace than Eddy. We did better at the trot, when we could keep the three horses next to each other. Even though most of the pictures show Ashke in the lead, we did all take turns leading.
The awesome part of a four season environment is the changing colors. And although they don't look as vibrant or varied, it is still incredible.
The water was so blue. The shades of yellow, brown and beige were peaceful and resting.
There was some spooking at mud and small patches of snow, but for the most part, the ride was mostly uneventful.
Getting close to the tree line.
We moved out at an effortless (for Ashke and Amaar) 9.5 mile trot, but it was hard on Eddy, so we slowed down. K said she was posting faster than she ever had.
We got close to the end of the trail and then turned left onto singletrack. Ashke has started acting more dominant in respect to his space on trail with other horses. Mostly ear flicks and pinned ears, but still . . . . maybe Saiph is right and being out on trail teaches a horse self-confidence.
We meandered back by the lakes (there are several lakes on both sides of the Platte River) and had our only real spook of the day. As Eddy, who was leading, walked past a tree, a small, horse-eating rabbit burst through the grass and scared the crap out of Eddy. He spun and then stopped. K rode the spin and got control back. Amaar tried to spin but L stopped him. Ashke did the start and stop thing.
We got to meander through the trees along the Platte River
K had permagrin
Still living her dream.
We left the river and headed across the field following a singletrack trail. We put J out in front of us, since the trail was muddy and I was watching her back tire as she rode. The mud on the tire got thicker and thicker, until it was two inches off the tire. We have a lot of clay in the soil here. The bike got unwieldy and J slipped. She managed to get her shoe out of the lock on her pedal without crashing, but she pulled over to the side and let us go by. At that point the singletrack had a verge on either side that allowed both J and the horses to walk on drier ground. J moved her bike onto the verge and rode through the grass.
Do you know what happens when you take two inches of clay mud and mix it liberally with dry grass and straw-like weeds?
It bricked the bike.
The mud and grass created a brick to the point where the bike tire did not rotate. I had looked back and realized J had stopped and was doing something with the only small tree in the area. I turned back (followed by the others) and went to see what J was doing. She was trying to remove the mud from her bike via a small stick.
The brick was in the derailer, the spokes, matted between the tire and the frame.
J's little stick wasn't working so I rode Ashke over to a tree and broke off a branch, which I brought back for her. It worked better, but slow.
I went over and broke off another stick and went back to help. The two of us managed to get the six inch by four inch brick that had formed between the frame, the tire and the derailer out of the way, which allowed the tire to turn. Once both tires were free, J was able to get back on and by staying only on the grass, was able to keep the tires turning. It took 45 minutes of work with a stick and the hose back home to get the bike relatively clean.
When I went to get back on I positioned Ashke next to a downed tree. I stepped up on the tree to use it as a mounting block. When I put my foot in the stirrup and cued Ashke, he shifted and braced. I bounced on my back foot and went to step up. As I stepped up the tree I was standing on came up out of the grass and Ashke spooked. Then he jammed his mouth and threw his head up, back peddling away from me as I hopped after him with one foot in the stirrup. He finally stopped moving and I got my foot out of the stirrup. We repositioned and this time I made sure he understood he should stand. He still spooked but I was ready for it (finally realized what was spooking him, since I didn't figure it out the first time) and I managed to get back in the saddle. We made our way to the trailers, untacked, loaded Eddy with Ashke that time (K had to stand behind him once he had figured out he wasn't going to get to pull back and encourage him to walk in) and headed for home.
It was a great ride and another 6 miles to our November mileage.