Posted in Riding/Horses

Breach of Etiquette Makes My Blood Boil

I shouldn’t be allowed out of the house. It just pisses me off.

My mom offered up to watch the kiddo so we could go ride. I wasn’t going to pass an offer like that up, so Dusty and I loaded up and hit the trails on the 4th. Any trail time is good, but on a typical work day? Even better.

We go ride again. Ok.

Turns out we weren’t the only ones trying to beat the heat and get a ride in before the festivities began and we pulled into an already teaming parking lot. Of course, it wouldn’t have been so bad if people actually parked with any thought outside of themselves. It was a bad omen for the rest of the day when we saw several way too large rigs pulled in diagnonally taking up multiple spaces and making the trail head a maze.

Dusty told me not to let it ruin my day, a bad habit I have of letting things like this get to me. So I did.

A gorgeous day to be out on trail

We headed out to repeat the same loop we did a couple of weeks ago. The footing was even better and we made good time when we could before Pete got tired and asked to start walking more. The big old guy is starting to wonder why he was pulled out of retirement.

Things were going well until we came to an access road. We were walking along due to the gravel footing and I just happened to look behind me and saw a woman running. She showed no signs of slowing and never called out that she was coming up behind us. Had I not looked back I wouldn’t have known she was there until she spooked the crap out of the horses.

When she nearly ran smack into Pete’s butt she turned and called her off leash dog to her. I won’t even get into my complete hatred of dogs and horses mixing here because that would take a while, but this woman didn’t even apologize. Instead she stood right next to us shrieking for her loose dog and then proceeded to take off running again once he was in sight behind her. She was darn lucky our horses are both idiot and dog proof or they could have had some serious injuries from getting trampled or kicked.

The only time the extremely affable Pete gets upset is when Gem gets even a hair ahead of him on trail. I love that I caught his glare while taking my favorite shadow picture

From there it went down hill although we still enjoyed the ride immensely and the horses were most excellent. Pete handled the terrain better than last time although I think he was a bit foot sore with all the rain making his dinner plate hooves soft.

There had been a deer up ahead in the large field

The trail has two road crossings at the end and both can be a bit hairy as cars tend to go flying down the country road. We came to the second one and saw a large group of six riders on the other side immobile. We paused on our side and watched for a little bit but the group were just chit chatting and effectively blocking the entire trail on the other side making crossing the road impossible. Our side wasn’t safe for just chilling out at: a small clearing right at the road without any shoulder and with a deep ditch on either side. We were growing restless and needed to cross but no amount of nicely asking them to move away from the road was producing results.

We did a lot more trotting which Pete handled very well. A few more times out and he may get in shape yet

Dusty hates confrontation and while I don’t go looking for it, well depending on who you talk to, I won’t back away either and started ramping up to tell them they had until we crossed to move or get bowled over. Dusty asked me not to make a scene and fortunately for him they deemed it time to move right about then any way.

At this point I was a bit tired of dealing with stupid, rude and self absorbed people. We ended up back at the trailer with two very sweaty and hot horses and stripped tack quickly to go use the single hose available. We walked over to find three of those same ladies already there. We settled in to wait for our turn while the horses enjoyed grazing.

Hot and sweaty at the end of the ride

I was doing just fine until the remaining three from their group came walking over and completely cut us off. I glared. Dusty asked me to bite my tongue. I was doing pretty well with that until the one lady looked at me and said “sorry our group of six got here before you” in a condescending not really sorry and making me really angry type of way. My mouth dropped to the floor. “Um…no your group of three were here first. The rest of you cut us off by some sort of group association and should actually be behind us in line” Dusty groaned but the woman just turned away.

The ever patient Dusty losing it a bit

So there we were waiting our turn behind six horses at the hose on an extremely hot morning. If I had been at the hose, I would have watered my horse quickly and efficiently so that everyone got cooled off quickly. Nope. These ladies held their beer in one hand, the hose in the other and talked, washed off their boots and girths before their horse and in general didn’t give a flying crap about anyone but themselves. I was seething mad by the time the last horse was being led away.

Except that wasn’t even the end because they didn’t actually move away from the hose area and I had to plow my way through telling them that they will be lucky not to be kicked if they continued to stand in my path. Rude people make me want to teach Gem to kick on command.

It was bad enough that my very non confrontational, much easier going then myself, husband even made comments. That’s a rarity. As we sprayed our two off we noted that these same people were the ones who parked diagonally across multiple spots making an already busy parking lot near impossible to either park or drive in. Shocking.

Trail etiquette people. It’s important. Or you know, just don’t be an asshat when out in public. That works too.

Horses are better than people
Posted in Riding/Horses

A Refreshing Return to the Trail

It is no secret that I’ve been lacking motivation lately. For the past year a trip to the trails meant a 45 minute drive to the barn, 20-30 minutes to hook trailer and load, 2 hours to the trail, then repeat backwards. It was a lot of time for little output. The last time I rode was with my friend Zoe and I had to get up at 5 am just to meet her at the trail at 9. I just got burned out on it.

Sunday though was too pretty not to ride: 76F and sunny with a cool breeze. Both Gem and I are terribly out of trail riding shape and it was time to head back out to test the waters. Dusty even came along with Wyatt and Einstein to hike while I rode. That meant the only time not with Wyatt would be the actual trail time.

I can’t even begin to express fully how amazing it was to wake up at 7:30 am (thats sleeping in!) and lazily make my way to getting Gem and still have her loaded up in 10 minutes since we had the foresight to hook the trailer up the night before. Then it was only an hour to my favorite trails. Once I was done riding, all I had to do was drive home. I put Gem out in the pasture and walked inside to change. That was all.

The ride itself was refreshing. With nothing looming on my ride calendar, no conditioning plan to fulfill and a fluffy, hair yak on a warm day, I had no reason to push things. For the first time in two years, I left my GPS watch and expectations at home. I just rode the trail, happy to have my favorite mare under me and my favorite views ahead. I trotted when I felt like it and walked a lot of it. I took the time to just look around, snap some pictures and breath deeply the fresh spring air. At one point, I pulled Gem up in a meadow and sat on her watching the goldfinches, blue birds and cardinals building their nests. It was amazing and just what I needed. I honestly can’t remember the last time I just enjoyed the time on the trail without staring at my watch and prodding Gem along to keep up the pace for conditioning. It was a good reminder of why I even ride.

The trail head was already busy at 10 am and I felt a little fumble getting Gem tacked up. It has been so long since I had her in her endurance gear. Once I swung up though, my butt felt like it had finally come home. I adore my endurance saddle.

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Gem on high alert. There were road signs up ahead covered in black plastic bags that were billowing in the wind. 

I chose the green 6.5 mile loop as a good reintroduction for us both. It is mostly single track winding in the woods with some breaks out in the open. The trail system places the markers on your right although I have never seen anyone ride this trail the proper direction as most don’t like riding along the road at the start. I like going this way to avoid any crowds at the trail head.

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The woods are just beginning to come back to life

I let her walk the entire first mile to loosen up. She was extremely lookie at everything, but didn’t pull any nasty stunts and mostly kept her pace. For my part, I used this first mile to work on halt transitions. I really need to remember to do this more often. When she si all nervous at the start, making her work through halts gets her to relax and think which is really beneficial.

The woods then dump out onto a dirt road. I recalled a time when we were both brave enough to blast down this section at a full bore canter, but not today. This day we just walked along, getting the feel for each other out in the open once again and enjoying the feel of the sun on my skin.

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She drank deeply from the stream at mile 2 which is unusual for her. Typically she won’t drink until mile 10 or so. The day was hot with her thick winter coat. 

Once we got back into the woods, I started to ask for trot sets. I’d ask her to trot and maintain her pace for a while. During this I really worked on what trainer J had taught me: make sure my thumbs are up, close my fingers and relax my elbows. It is amazing how hard it is to force yourself to relax!

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Going back up away from the stream. I was mean and asked her to trot all the uphills, allowing her to walk the downs. There really aren’t any flat sections in the woods here. 

For her part, Gem worked hard for me. She trotted when asked although she did ask to walk more often than I would have liked. We continued to work on our halting and not walking off again until I asked. It was hard to work on rhythm on the trail since the terrain really dictates a lot of it and when it comes to going up or down I let Gem balance herself and choose as long as it is within the gait I asked for.

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The lake is in such a sad state with the drought we have been in. The water should go all the way up to the tree line. It was all exposed shoreline the entire way around. 

We made our way through this part of the woods which wraps around the lake. I like this side because the lake typically provides a cool breeze and Gem found a second wind through here. With the lake being so low, the water was actually lapping at the shore and this made Gem a bit more nervous, but still she responded well to me and didn’t even try to drop her shoulder, turn 180 degrees and run.

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After the twisting single track around the lake, the trail dumps out onto an access road for about a mile or mile and a half

It had been way to long since I had ridden here last. When we first moved here, this trail system was only 25 minutes way so I rode here every weekend. I knew every inch of every trail. Once we moved houses and then barns, this place just got to be too far with others a lot closet.

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A rare selfie. Mental note: I need to tighten my chin strap. 

I found myself not 100% sure how much farther each section of trail was and it was a little frustrating only because I had once known it so well. Once we hit the access road though, I knew we were about 2 miles from the trailer.

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One of my favorite sections and a place I used to gallop through. This time, I stopped to watch the birds and breathe in the smells of a forrest beginning to wake up from its winter slumber

Gem seemed to be enjoying the more relaxed pace and was happy to trot when asked and came back easily to a walk. Around this point she started to act a bit funny and I knew she had to pee. She typically goes in the pasture when she sees me coming, but with the new arrangement she sees me so often she never knows what is up. Gem really hates to pee under saddle, so I kept giving her opportunity and she kept refusing but would then walk and trot as if uncomfortable.

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Enjoying the day out with my favorite mare

The access road reenters the wood with about 1-1.5 miles left and once there I knew exactly what all was remaining. I really like to finish any ride strong and was hoping to trot in the last remaining bit. We crossed the road, but then ran into a really big snag. There was a piece of ribbon across the trail,blocking access. This system is really well maintained though, and there was a new trail off to the right with hoof prints.

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Fresh trail. I get nervous on brand new trail. the footing isn’t packed down and sink holes abound. We just walked this bit hoping we were on the right track.

A quarter of a mile down, if that, there were signs of hoof prints cutting back to the original trail. As I’ve mentioned, I am a rule follower to the T though and I didn’t want to ride back on a trail that was closed off. I kept to the new trail hoping it would end up somewhere close to where we wanted to be. I go a little concerned when the new trail veered off to the right when I knew the old one went left, but I was optimistic.

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The reason for the new trail became obvious. I’m not sure if this was a purposeful, controlled burn or what but it involved a large area and was pretty fresh. 

This new trail was not very good. While it was wide, nobody had cared about the branches overhead and I found myself laying down on Gem’s neck quite a bit. Thankfully, she si awesome at this type of stuff.

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At one point, I saw the red trail off to my left. This was odd because the red and green are not together at this juncture. They run together across the road going into/out of the trail head but on this side of the road they go on their own in completely different directions. I now knew that we would not be meeting back up with green and debated turning around.

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My decision was made for me when the trail completely dead ended at a road where green does not go. There wasn’t even  nice way to reach the road. There was a 2-3 foot drop with really bad footing on the other side of this plus the road here is in a blind curve. Not very safe.

Once I hit that, I turned her around and looked for the red trail now off to my right. Once I saw the trail, I bushwhacked  over to it and just took that back to the road crossing. Along the way I saw the full extent of the fire. There were large sink holes where stumps were burned out and the heavy smell of burnt pine was in the air.

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Finally we reached the point where green and red split and crossed the road which put us about 1/2 mile from the trail head. Gem made quick work of this section, knowing we were not doing my typical green-red-green 20 mile loop, and we finished the ride happy, relaxed and having not parted ways.

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