September 8, 2013

Butch Kennedy Trail

Miss Thing Looking For Me
We finally got off to the trails on Saturday morning!! It has been in the works for almost a week, but I didn't want to post about it in case it didn't happen.

We got a babysitter for W for 7 am Saturday morning. I had hoped to be on the road by 7:30 and to the trail head at 8, but that required the truck to be  hooked up Friday night and the hubs wasn't up for it (he would have had to hook it up and run the 6 miles back home) and the babysitter was late and once we got to the barn someone asked if we could wait until 9 so they could join us, but I had had a message on
the barn board all week with my number and hadn't got a call so we said no we had to go and after all of that we finally left the barn at 8:15 and arrived at the trail head at almost 9. I'm getting used to being an hour behind schedule :)

Trail Map
Gem wasn't too happy to see me so bright and early on a Saturday morning. She usually gets Saturday off. The hubs hooked up the trailer while I got Gem and as soon as she saw it her ears perked up and she was excited. I tied her to the trailer to brush her out and she started pawing at the ground in impatience. She knows what the trailer means and she was happy for the change of pace.

New trails are always slightly stressful because you just don't know what to expect. We had been
 spoiled in the arctic north with great flat trails and smooth footing that you could fly over. All 4 of us loved them and we got used to that pace as our norm. Fortunately, there was a trail map in the parking lot and it even listed the various trail distances. We picked the 6 mile loop and headed out.

T. Ed Garrison Arena - part of Clemson University
The entry into the woods wasn't so great. You could tell the trail gets used a lot and the clay was sticky and deep. It was pretty slow going. After a little ways in it dried up pretty nicely and we were able to pick up a nice trot for a bit. The trail was all single track and winding through the woods which were surprisingly dense. Usually that is one of our favorite types of trail, but this
trail turned out to be much more technical than
than we had expected or were used to.

I don't know if it is because of the heavy traffic the trail sees or because of the rain this year or a combination of both, but the trail was full of foot bruising roots that reminded me of our Iowa endurance ride. Every time we managed to get in a decent trot, we would have to pull up due to an extremely rooty area or a ditch or rocks. I think Pete got pretty annoyed with the pace. I know the hubs did.

Pete and the hubs maintained the lead through the majority of the ride as usual. Gem just hates being out front - I think she takes the responsibility too seriously and she has to look at everything to make sure it is safe. She goes at a snails pace (seriously - at one time we were going at 1 mph. I walk faster than that!).
The Trail

Unfortunately for the boys it meant that they

 were the trail cleaners for us girls. The trail was a landmine of spider webs. The hubs was dodging them left and right and ended up coated in webs and spiders. It was particularly amusing when we were trotting to see him try to dodge at speed :) I did give them a break and put Gem out front a couple of times. She actually did the best to date when in the lead. We even came across a scary creek crossing (steep entry with a tree down on the other side as well) and she crossed with only the slightest hesitation. Good girl Gemmie!!!

There was one spot where the entire trail was washed out. We found the spot where people were going around it, but it was super steep and you had to walk over a slick rock to cross and then back up again. Pete went first and for the first time in 3 years refused to go. I don't know if it was the trickling water or the red clay (he doesn't seem to like the color of the dirt around here), but he just refused to go. We ended up getting off and leading them across (Gemmie and I went first - take that boys!!)

The trail also had some nice up and down hills. I'll post the GPS stats at the bottom, but it ended up being a nice hilly ride. That is definitely not something the horses are used to - most of the trails up north were flat. At about the 4th mile or so, the horses started getting bored of the slow the pace, tired of the roots and just generally tired, but we were on a loop and had to keep going forward. They were game for trotting over the sections that allowed it still and so we knew they were doing ok. At mile 4 I also stopped to tighten my saddle.
Gem is the queen of blowing out her stomach when I first put it on. I really need to remember to stop in the first mile to do this.

All in all we had a good time. I really think we could get faster at it once the horses get used to the terrain and in better shape for it. It has been a year since Pete went on a decent trail ride and this was definitely more strenuous than what we are used to. If we can get out once a month this fall I bet we will see a huge difference in the pace fairly quickly. I'm hugely opposed to nailing metal shoes into my horse's feet, so I may have to move horse boots up on my wish list if all the area trails are going to be like this. 4 sets aren't cheap though.
The Red Clay Earth Around Here
My tack held up pretty well. I do need to get off her earlier to move the saddle back and tighten up the girth. It was barely tight at all by mile 4! The first 3 miles had some steep downhills and the saddle didn't move forward much at all. It did in mile 4 which is why I got off, but I think that had more to do with the girth being loose than anything. I was super happy with the fleece cover - no rubs at all even with the terrain and length of riding. Wahoo!! An $8 fix worked for once :)  I continue to love her halter bridle. I forgot to put the breast collar on which may have been smart anyway. I should try it in the arena first. I really, really want to get a crupper and hope to by the end of the month before our first hunter pace in October. I want to train her on it in the arena first.

Looking Gorgeous As Usual
GPS Stats:
  • 5 miles (GPS is always off when in heavy cover. You end up loosing signal and once you get it again it just draws a straightish line between where you were and where you are now. The map said 6 miles and it probably is around 5.5-5.75)
  • 1:39:25 ride time
  • 3 mph average (wahoo!), but a man of 10.3 mph which is a fast trot pace for her. We didn't canter at all.
  • 793 ft elevation gain
  • 839 ft elevation loss
I find the elevation interesting. This trail was a loop - so we started and ended at the same spot. How could we then lose more elevation than we gained? Shouldn't it be equal? How did we end up at the same spot then? was a great work out for Gem both mentally and physically and I can't wait to get out there again!!!

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