I had to go see a friend and I decided to take a few horses in the trailer for some trailriding since it would take me too long to see my friend, come back, and still have decent riding time. I loaded Rain, Gemini and Tina and planned to take them for a nice long trail ride.
They had to wait in the trailer for a bit while I helped my friend out, but we managed to get to the trailer around 5pm. With the short days, I knew we needed to hustle if we were going to cover the whole 7.5 mile loop. We went to Hidden Mesa, which has some great open areas for moving out and some steep climbing and rocky areas - great for conditioning the horses. It's dark by 7pm now, so I knew we'd have to move out on the open areas to make it back to the trailer before dark.
I brought my dog Deuce, too.
Hidden Mesa is shared by bikers, hikers and equestrians. Sometimes the bikers are not so horse savvy and don't share the trail well. I was slightly concerned that with my "wide load" of 2 pony horses and a dog, we might run into trouble. I was counting on Friday night at dinner time making the trail a quiet place to be. I mean really, don't people have plans on Friday night?? :-)
Anyway, Tina did so so well. We cross a running creek and she was very unsure about crossing it. Rain and Gem think nothing of it, but I did not allow the lead on Tina to get tight. I saw her hesitation and we waited - Rain and Gem standing in the water while Tina decided if it was safe. After 20 seconds or so, she put a foot in, then another... Having two horses to follow makes it much easier for her. Giving her time to think about things is just what she needs to gain confidence. Then, we were in the open area - time to cover ground!
This trail has a high population of prairie dogs who leave hoof-sized craters in the ground everywhere. I'm not inclined to steer horses around holes in the ground. I treat them as obstacles and I want my horses to pay close attention to where they put their feet. Also, if one foot steps where there is no ground, the horse will use the other 3 to regain balance. I would not take a horse galloping over a prairie dog village but a walk or trot? Absolutely.
Gem did slide a front into a hole for a moment and quickly rebalanced on the other 3 and he never did it again. Tina was meticulous about where she landed her hooves - never once hitting a hole. That takes thought and I was very impressed by how much "thinking" Tina was doing. This is her 3rd time ponying on the trail and definitely the toughest trail she's encountered. I always ask myself, would I ride this pony horse? Is this horse ready to be mounted on the trail? With Tina I say, "Yes, she is!". She's ready. She's thoughtful and responsive - she does what she's asked as long as she can and she aims to please.
Gem was actually great too, except for the desire to be in front. He wants to lead the trail - he's a brave and confident horse with a desire to be the leader. I expect that from him. I would have ridden him on this trail ride too. He was a very rideable horse tonight. I'd like to someday develop him as my trail horse where I can pony others from his back but at this point, I do not trust him like that.
Gem had some trouble on the rocks and I wished I'd booted his front feet. I forgot how rocky some of the trail is and he does not have great, strong feet. He has a nice shaped hoof and a nice solar dome, but he can barely walk on the rocks at home and he's been barefoot his whole life (to the best of my knowledge). Next time, I'll boot him. Sorry, Gem. After a while, I let him off the lead rope so he could pick his spots to walk and give himself more comfort on his feet. We came upon a biker while he was at liberty and I'm sure we were quite a site. Me on Rain ponying Tina, my dog right close to my horse's feet, and Gemini behind us with no strings attached. The biker stopped to let us by and Gem trotted straight up to him to check him out. Gem is a huge horse and I quickly said, "There's a lot of us, but we're all perfectly harmless!". The biker seemed to get a kick out of Gem coming up to him and he pet Gem's face for a moment. I just had to laugh.
We made it back to the creek and Tina crossed it with only a slight hesitation. Rain was sweaty and thirsty so we stood in the water for a bit. We'd trotted and cantered a lot of the trail, only walking with the rocks were dangerous and it didn't make sense to move faster. Tina wouldn't drink and I found that interesting. I'd like to know she'll drink on the trail for the times we take even longer rides.
We made it back just as it was getting dark. It took us 1:45 to do the whole trail and the horses were well exercised. Everyone loaded with ease and we headed home. Deuce was asleep in the front seat before we even left the parking lot. Now, that's my idea of a great Friday night!
Note to self: teach Tina to back out of a trailer.