Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rails to Trails

Yesterday, Guinness and I rode the New River Trail, a "rails to trails" park about an hour and a quarter from us.

We drove about a half-hour over to Sierra's house, and then transferred from our trailer to her 3 horse slant stock trailer. Then we took our two horses, Guinness & Gandalf, to meet up with another friend the park.

Sierra & I arrived first, so we went ahead and walked the horses about a half mile down the trail and then back to the parking lot. My son joined us on his bike.

Guinness was on heightened alert in this new environment! The trail runs along the New River and in some places, there are steep cliffs on one side and a steep drop down to the river on the other. It can be quite a psychological squeeze game for ME, but he handled it really well. Nothing really spooked him, but he really looked around and his head was pretty high. On our way back to the parking lot, he finally dropped his head and blew out a bunch of times.

We get together and all tacked up to ride: Guinness in my Wintec with a wide gullet & halter, Gandalf naked but for his halter, and Vanna decked out in a new western-style bosal and Parelli western saddle.

The horses did surprisingly well together. Guinness and Gandalf have met before, and Gandalf has lots of trail miles for a 4 year old. On the other hand, although Vanna is mature (10?) this was only her second trail ride. She was so mellow that you would never have guessed it!

During the ride, I mounted several times from park benches, putting some pressure in the stirrup, which he seems to be getting used to.

Guinness was surprisingly attracted to my son on his bike, riding out in front of us, and would match his speed to keep up with him, without any concern at all about leaving the other horses behind. He offered to both trot and gait while mounted!! I've never ridden a horse that did both under saddle, and was surprised to easily feel the differences between the gaits. He startled me when he offered the trot and it took a minute for me to gather my wits and start to post (an interesting proposition laden with a large fanny pack full of alfalfa cube treats). Fortunately, he seemed totally unflustered about what was going on up there on his back.

When we got back to the parking lot, the sweat marks on his back were even, with no sign of the saddle pinching him.

Highlights of the ride:
  • He stepped into and drank from river
  • He was totally willing to cross a long wooden trestle bridge twice
  • He *walked* under the I-77 overpass on high alert (very loud due to vehicles overhead, with air pressure changes) twice
  • He backed up the ramp (porcupine) onto Sierra's trailer to go home
  • He hung out on Sierra's trailer for about a half hour before we got on the road
In all, we traveled a little over four miles. I estimate that I rode Guinness for a little over a mile. This was a wonderful learning experience, and we all agreed to return very soon!

PS - I won't be posting for a week or so.

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