October 31, 2013

A Walk In The Woods

A beautiful Saturday afternoon : 65 and sunny with the sun speckling the ground covered in newly fallen leaves. Crunch, crunch, crunch....slide...spook...stop...crunch, crunch, crunch. The lovely sound of my trusty steed  sane Gemmiecakes' hooves on the forest floor. Crunch, crunch, thump, crunch. A fallen log across the trail that we soar stumble over. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. My heart pounds with excitement as we cover the ground and explore new places.

I needed a trail ride. For my sanity. For my peace of mind. For Gem. The arena stinks. It is large and has nice footing, but it is still a big square and it is boring. The trails are alive with spooky monsters, twists, turns, bridges of doom, raging streams that could knock you off your feet (if you were an ant) and new places.

Saturday afternoon, once the hubs was done with work, we loaded up the minivan with W, the two dogs, the hiking back pack and snacks. We also loaded up the truck and headed out to the barn. Gem loaded up ok. Nothing too bad, but she was nervous about why Pete wasn't there. Pete was furious that he was being left out of the fun. Poor guy. Sorry, Pete. The Hubs needed W time. You'll get to go on November 10th.

30 minutes later and we were at the trail head without incident. She unloaded fine, looked around and settled in. She is such a different horse when alone. Its like she turns her brain off when Pete is around and figures he can handle it all, but once alone she takes charge and puts on her big mare panties. I ran over and looked at the trail map. Lets see....shortest loop is 6.5 miles. If we moved at competition pace we could easily cover that in about an hour which is all the time we realistically had. It was 330pm and W lasts about an hour in the pack plus the sun would be starting to set and we needed to get home for 6 for dinner. But....this is Gemmie and me alone in the woods. Chances of us moving much faster than 3 mph were slim. Better to just go out 30 minutes and then turn around to get about an hour in. See how many miles we cover in the that and then decide if pushing forward or turning back would be better.

All tacked up, we headed to the trail head with the hubs, two dogs and W hot on our heels. Immediately into the woods we encounter a Bridge of Doom. A wooden bridge with a treacherous canyon yawning away into the depth underneath. Or at least that's how Gem saw it. In reality it was a bridge about 3 feet wide and 5 across with tall sides and a mini ditch underneath we could have walked if the bridge wasn't there. Gem hates wooden bridges. Not because it is a bride. But because it is wood. It took me an insanely long amount of time to figure out that she is scared of bare, dead wood. I don't know why she is, but my old jump standards that the hubs made in WI were unpainted wood and it was a pain in the donkey to get her over those. Brightly colored and flowered jumps are ok. She hates wood. She went over the bridge slowly, snorting and glaring back at me the whole time, but she went.

Through the woods we walked on and elated in the feel of the sun and the sounds of the woods. We left the hubs behind us (well, a little ways anyway) and came across a group of 3 headless horsemen sorry, Halloween is getting to me, horses coming towards us. Test #2 - would she spin around and try to join them? I pulled off the trail and she was a butt head. She really despises horses passing her in either direction. Competitive little mare. Once passed, she moved on out in our direction without pause. Good girl!

More walking. Walk. Walk. Walk. She wasn't trying to move out and I wasn't looking to push her much. Test #3: Road crossing. She is funny at roads. She likes to amble across at a snails pace. And look around. I on the other hand like to cross quickly to avoid a screaming, burning painful death. We settled on a decent pace somewhere between the two.

At this point, the hubs was no where to be seen or heard and later I found out he went left where I went right. After the road crossing, I asked for a trot. The trail was smooth enough and it went straight for a bit. She actually moved out. The first time it was for all of 3 strides and then she slowed, but the more I asked the longer she held it and eventually we moved along. It felt like the worlds slowest trot ever, but it was definitely a trot, so I was happy with it.

When you ride alone you get a lot of these types of pictures. We came to test #4: a stream. She usually doesn't mind water. She isn't diving in and going swimming like Wonder Pete, but she usually doesn't put up a fight either. We got to the stream (or raging river as Gem likes to call it) and she got half way across and decided enough was enough. She spun around to go back. I turned her around again and across we went. Once over to the other side, we picked up a trot again.
More of the same until we got to a dirt access road. To this point I had been keeping green arrows to my left (which was wrong, incidentally. Apparently trail marking were supposed to be on the right) but at the access road I couldn't see any at all. I could go left or right down the road or straight across onto a trail through the woods. We went straight. We trotted on for a ways, but I wasn't seeing any green arrows at all and it was getting close to the 30 minute mark. I turned her around and we headed back. Once at the access road, I made a right (would have been a left coming from our original direction) and low and behold! There was a green arrow on the left! Ha! I wasn't lost!
She did great, but it was time to turn around if I wanted to be back at the trailer at the 1 hour mark. I turned her around and she was a bad mare. Seriously. She had no interest in turning around!!! I was elated. Well, kinda annoyed that she decided to misbehave, but really? She wanted to continue to explore and not go back!!! It was awesome!!
But...we had to go back. The loop was 6.5 miles and at the 30 minute mark we were 1.5 in. There was no way we would finish in time. She gave me some decent gruff on the way back, but eventually settled in and away we went.

We made it back to the trailer in one piece and had a great time!! I think we will be doing more of that in the near future. If I stick to the 1 hour mark for now, but try to include more and more trotting I believe we can do the entire 6.5 mile loop in our hour (or only shortly over it) and then eventually we can increase the time spent out and about. I'm excited!!!

3.14 miles
1 hour
235 ft elevation gain
Average pace: 3.1 mph

Now those are pretty lame statistics, but given where we were 4 years ago when she refused to even move? Its great. Plus...even when we were trotting and it felt like we were going slow as molasses, her average trotting pace was 6.5mph and we had some over 7 mph. All I need to do is work on maintaining that pace over time. Then we have our 50 in the bag :)


  1. I love the way you write! You made me feel like I was riding with you! A.J.