Monday, May 31, 2010

Guinness & Clare's Wild Ride

Yesterday, bright & early, Guinness and I headed back to our local forest recreation area. We've done so much arena work lately, that I wanted to put what we've learned to a purpose.

The haul over was uneventful, and when we arrived there were no other horse trailers in the lot. After unloading him, some local gaited-horse trail riders pulled in. I've ridden with these folks before - they move fast, but don't seem cruel or careless (unlike some). I decided to move quickly to get a head start onto the trail, figuring at some point that they'd catch up with us.

We started out as usual with me leading and Guinness "hiding" behind me. After a short bit, his confidence increased and he asked to be in front. At that point, I hopped up on a stump and mounted. We walked/gaited briskly down the trail, stopping to play at a creek crossing. About a mile down the trail, the other riders caught up with us.

When Guinness caught sight of the others, he got very excited and called out. I turned him to face them as they approached and then asked if we could fall in behind them for a bit. (They were going to be gone all day, and I only had 1/2 hour until I needed to turn around.) I figured that Guinness could use some experience traveling with other gaited horses to help him to settle into his own footfall pattern. So off we went!

Guinness had his work cut out for him just hanging at the back of the group of 4 horses. They hit a medium-fast pace, and it took G. a while to sort out his feet. He kept needing to slow canter to catch up with them (our first cantering under saddle!). He was wound up (RBE/LBE) from the excitement of the herd, but was still trying to respond to me. I lifted one rein at a time, when appropriate, to rate his speed, but tried to resist pulling on his face. He had only a halter on, while the other horses were decked out in long shank bits - the other riders think that I'm nuts every time they run into me on the trail.. But at least I wear a helmet!

About 2 miles down the trail, we stopped at a creek crossing to water the horses. There, I took the opportunity to dismount in preparation to detach from the group and head back to the parking lot. Guinness took this pretty well, although he did pause several times to look at me as if to say, "I think that you are on the wrong track.."

Once he had cooled down and relaxed, I mounted back up. We passed numerous bikers, joggers and dogs along the way, but no other horses. About 1/3 of a mile from the parking lot, I dismounted and walked the remaining distance (great to prevent the habit of rushing back and also to work the kinks out of my hips and knees).

Tired but happy.

When I untacked him, I noticed that his sweat pattern under the saddle was evenly wet with no ruffled hairs - yeah!! We loaded up and drove home.

He was hot and totally sweaty, so when we returned, I lathered him up and gave him his first real bath of the season. Just before I turned the hose on him, I mixed him up a batch of Equitea plus a little sugar. He was so intent on slurping the goo down that he didn't pay any attention as I washed his tail (a first).

What an interesting morning. Guinness handled himself really well given the excitement and other horses. I would love to find some other PNHers with gaited horses to ride with. In terms of pace, it is such a different experience from trail riding with Quarter Horses and other trotting horses. Boy, am I relieved to have found a saddle that is comfortable for us both!


inchwormwv said...

Hey Clare,

Sounds really great. Tell me more about your saddle? cu soon!

Naturally Gaited said...

I should do a blog post about my evolving "rig". Basically, it is a 17" Abetta endurance saddle outfitted with english leathers/stirrups and a Tucker gel seat pad. I'm in the process of redoing my girth to be more user friendly. ;-)