|And one photo of the most excited mare in all|
We were both feeling particularly burnt out from the ring after a weekend of grueling (but good!) lessons, so last Wednesday I saddled up and slapped Annie's fancy purple biothane hackamore on and we headed out, intent to garner some trail miles. I trotted her for a few minutes along the shoulder of the road and she felt good - I worked a bit on lowering her neck and getting her to stretch and to my surprise, she picked it up quite fast in the hackamore. She seems to really like it, which is a plus!
The trail head is a short 10 minute walk from the barn, and one left hand turn down a dirt road. There is an ATV trail which runs parallel to the dirt road (shown in the video as the road above the trail). It's kind of overgrown, but not too badly.
The trail itself is a single track - meaning you have to simply turn around and come back the way you came. It also features one significantly steep and muddy crossing (that I have no media of) that I had to dismount and lead Annie across. The mud was very slick, and with frequent ATV use, the ruts were pretty prominent and dangerous. With Spud, I always exit the cart and lead him across as well. Annie was fine for crossing it the first time, but the second time figured she would #worksmarternotharder and leapt across the entire thing. Overachieving and all that.
Anyways, going back to the start of the trail... The ATV branches off back onto the road in several places (you can kind of see on the right hand side at the start of the GIF). It's much more scenic than walking on the road, and I like that there are random fallen branches, rocks, logs, etc to challenge the horse and keep them more engaged with where they are placing their feet.
Annie was great tho - she got a bit quick mid-trail, but otherwise was happy to march right into the BC wilderness on her own. She hasn't been terrible to trail ride, but on "new" trails, she can get a bit hot and anxious when she is on her own. Certainly nothing that wet saddle pads won't fix, and now that she has found more of her adult brain this year, we happily plodded along without a care in the world.
Annie really likes looking at things - her head is swiveling and ears are rotating as we trail ride. She is a curious creature.... I don't think she will ever be one of those horses who plod along with their head to their feet, haha.
Best part of all tho, is that she was happy to comply with my requests. In certain spots I asked her to halt, just to drink in the view of the river and mountains, and she happily stood without protesting I was taking too long. (Someone is growing up!).
Although, this typically deserted and quiet trail was bustling with activity, and we ran into a mountain biker who was logging some kms. He whipped around a corner behind us and I think it startled all three of us, haha. I pulled off to the side tho and let him pass. We met back up again when he was on his way back, and it was around a corner again, so Annie kinda spooked in place before realizing it was "that weird guy wearing spandex". He let us know there were more people ahead on the trail tho, and that they had a dog.
The trail offered a lot of new opportunities tho - as we went further in, there were protruding tree roots, overworked ground from ATVs and of course running into random people. Annie did great tho, and although the dog gave her a bit of a scare (the dog was terrified of Annie and of course, had to pass us on a narrow section of the trail. He barked/ growled/ yelped and just carried on when Annie turned her head to look at him. Annie, bless her friggen heart didn't spook, but certainly tensed up).
We logged a nice 4.3k and it ran us just over 45 minutes, which was a nice quick but relaxing trail ride. On days where I work, it is sometimes hard to manage having a young puppy at home (and maximizing his out of crate time) as well as riding horses after leaving the office. I have a system tho, and it is working out really well so far. I have been pretty proud of myself for not rushing at the barn - taking my time to tack up, taking my time to groom, putting things away properly...
It sounds silly, but I used to rush around trying to get everything done, or do two things at once and it only ended up frazzling me. As part of being a #ZenNinja this year in the saddle, I have also committed myself to being one in the barn (and at home!). Some days I still tack up in 5 minutes, but I don't pressure myself with being home by X time or making sure I do X, Y, Z before I head home. Some days I do, some days I don't. But I don't pressure myself either - I put my brushes away, I sweep the aisles, I let Annie cock a leg in the cross-ties while I mix up her mash or brush Spud.
And while I do have a general time frame for things, I don't pressure myself to do it all in one day. If the dogs don't get a lengthy walk because the horse got ridden instead, so be it (and vice versa).
So, I just work with what I have. It can be hard to compare yourself to other riders, or to other scenarios, but at the end of the day we are all just trying to do the best for our horses with what we have available. And that's all we can really do.
And as I look back at our previous years blog posts, I can't help but crack a smile at the things I was fretting over, or the things I was worried about ruining.. When in reality, things are coming together. It's kind of like an intricate knitting pattern - some spots require a bit more attention, but regardless of where you are going, you are still gaining forward momentum to the final goal. Each row of a blanket takes time, and each small design is a part of the bigger picture.
We keep moving forward, one little stitch at a time.
All that being said, I always strive for a balance for my horses - pure ring work is not where my heart (or my horses hearts!) are. Yes, I want to improve and yes I want to meet our goals, but not at the expense of sacrificing the fun and other milestones I have in mind for this year.
Things like time off and "chill" days just spent grooming and hand-grazing are important too.
We have quite a few clinics on the docket for this year, and as we are learning and growing and evolving, I don't want to forget the important steps in between. Kind of like Emma commented on one of my last blog posts about the hackamore - the bridle has been directly associated with "fun stuff". It means we are going to go out and have fun. It means there is no pressure to perform a certain way - other than to keep all four feet on the ground pls, haha.
And it's been... refreshing to be back on the trails. To just let the natural bends and curves of the trail direct Annie's feet. And if I am being all too honest... I'm mostly just along for the ride.