Monday, November 21, 2016

My First Wintery Trail Ride of the Year

My First Wintery Trail Ride of the Year

It is no secret that I prefer a trail ride over an arena ride any given day of the year.  When the weather gets crummy, I still try to eke out a trail ride.  For that matter, so do Ellen and Kevin.  That is how you would have found us a few days ago--freezing on the trail.

Actually, the temperatures weren’t that bad.  It was in the mid 30s.  The ground was covered with a light snow and though it was windy at the barn, there wasn’t that much wind in the valley.

Ellen and I left before Kevin.  This was the horses’ first day out after the farrier visit.  Cole had his shoes pulled.  Dante is barefoot year round, so he just had a trim.

The ride started out slow.  Once we crossed the river, we were off trotting.  When we got to a decent spot for cantering, I let Cole give it a try.  It could sense the moment he realized he no longer had those worn out, slippery shoes on his feet.  We had been sliding enough on them that we both became cautious.  Cole, realizing he wasn’t slipping, adjusted his gait and moved off with much enthusiasm.

When I slowed him down and let Ellen catch up, I told her we were done cantering for the day.  We would stick to a fast trot.  She understood.  Cole was getting hyper.

We fast trotted all the way to the next river crossing--the spot we planned to turn around to go home.  Dante fast trotted to us.  He did well, but seemed a bit excited.  The cold weather was putting some spring in his step.  I suggested that we might be best to just walk home.  Ellen agreed.

We started with Dante in the lead.  Cole immediately started marching past him at a very fast walk.  I think Dante might have felt threatened by Cole because he jumped in the air and took off running.  Cole thought that was a terrific idea and followed him at top speed.  It didn’t take long for us to get them under control, but it reaffirmed our idea of walking all the way home.

We didn’t walk far when we saw Kevin and Starry trotting our way.  He asked if we would join him to the river, and then he could come home with us.  We turned around.  Cole was in the lead.  I asked him to trot, and he squealed and started trotting airborne.  I heard voices behind me, so I stopped Cole right away.  As it turned out, Starry was pulling his head back and forth; threatening to buck and Dante leapt into the air.  Needless to say, we walked the rest of the way.

The night before had been very windy, so I ended up dismounting to throw some branches off the trail.  I decided to stay on the ground for a while because I knew I would be warmer and that there were a lot of other branches I could clean up.  I probably led about 15 minutes, so when I did mount, I was warm the rest of the way.

That is one of the hardest part of cold weather riding.  We have very spirited horses that can get very excited on those chilly rides.  That usually means we can’t do as much trotting as we like.  Often, it is the trail conditions that keep us at a walk.  We don’t like to trot on frozen ground, and of course, ice is an issue, too.  It is easy to stay warm if you are trotting--impossible to stay warm riding at a walk.  Many of our winter rides are spent leading, but at least we aren’t in the arena.


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