Ahhh...a lovely evening in late July in the South. A beautiful setting with big fluffy white clouds dotting the bright blue sky and a just beginning to set sun. A peaceful farm nestled in the hills with no road in sight and no sounds of civilization to be heard. Horses happily grazing in their fields. The whole place is energizing, refreshing and yet calming to the soul at the same time. I am anxious to get on my beautiful and athletic mare and explore the trails together as the summer sun sets behind us. Having just finished 25 miles together, the bond has obviously grown between us and we are now of one and the same mind.
I park the van and hike up the hill from the barn to gather my big bay mare out of her new pasture and begin the stress reducing ritual that is grooming and tacking her up. She walks serenely up to me saying hello. We walk back to the trailer parked outside the barn to groom and she calmly looks around her taking in the beauty that is a summer evening.
We walk, side by side breathing as one entity, into the barn with thoughts of the wondrous adventure ahead of us dancing through both our brains. And then we spy the cage of pet rabbits off to the right of the barn aisle. I see them as cute, slightly smelly, fluffy creatures chillaxing in front of their specially placed fan. Gem sees them as blood crazed ware rabbits snarling and gunning for her jugular and jumps out of her skin slamming on the brakes and trying to spin as fast as she can to get the heck out of there. Huh... Interesting...
We finally make our way past that death defying cage and I snap her into the cross ties. I pat her lovingly and walk to the tack room to get her gear. She flips out, rears, throws her head and tries to lunge forward only to hit the end of the ropes and flip out again as she flies backwards. Huh...Interesting...
Finally able to tack her up all thoughts of a lovely and serene ride on new trails as the sun sets begin to fade way and are replaced by the remembrance of how much of a tool she gets when riding at a new barn. Trailer her out to the middle of nowhere? No problem. Ride her out of the barn on familiar territory or even God forbid in a fenced in and completely safe arena on property? Total melt down.
As I throw my leg up over her back, she prances, neck arched and tense, back hollow, chewing on the bit and ready for any excuse to speed off. My brain has now completely destroyed any thoughts of even a barely passably decent trail ride and is now in "don't die, don't die, don't die" mode which it has gotten pretty good at over the last 5 years with Gem. Hmmm.....where to go? Off to the right is a fishing pond and then a big, steep hill. Sounds like a good idea and a way to slow her down a bit.
We head off over the pond and hit the uphill trail. Gem takes off in a brisk trot dodging tree limbs and basically not paying any attention to anything but her own skin. There goes that wonderful bond and thinking the same. We make it to the top in one piece and then head back down the other side. The trail is narrow, twisting and turning around trees and the limbs desperately need trimming as my head bounces off of them as we go spinning down the hill in a barely contained trot. We slam back into the main trail again and Gem decides to go right. Which goes back up the same hill. Fine. Run yourself up and down that hill all night for all I care. Up we go again and about half way up the light bulb in her brain flickers on and she realizes what she did. I manage to get her back to a better trot until we hit the downhill side again when she picks up a huge canter and flies down between the trees. Thankfully my knees are still attached to my legs.
We make it out of there alive and this time I go left back to the barn to avoid another near collision with the trees. We head past the barn and up the hill toward her pasture where another set of trails begin. Gem thinks we are going back to the pasture, so she isn't too pleased when I ask her to go left and into the woods away from Pete. She eventually defers to my wishes and we head into the woods.
She finally is going at a reasonable pace and I let my breath go. Then we come across the inconceivable: a flat rock across the trail! Oh my!! What are we going to do? I know!! Walk across it like the big girls we are. Nope. Instead we slam on the breaks, duck down and spin like the best cow pony in the world and try to gallop back out of the woods. Good try mare, but not going to happen. Eventually we cross the rock of death and head deeper in the woods. We hit a T and since things have been going...well... not good but at least a little less badly I head left to get to the big 20 acre hay field. I know there is a trail in the back right corner that goes to a big creek, but the sun is setting, my brain needs a break from panic mode, and Gem is dripping with sweat so I follow the upper portion of the field to the arena and back to the barn.
Back at the barn, I hop off glad to feel solid ground under me again and glare at my stupid pony who just acted like she had never been on a trail ride ever in her life before even though we spent the last year trailering out to different places and going on hunter paces and an endurance ride. Or the last 4 years preceding those out trail riding.
I lead her back to the barn, but those darn ware rabbits were still there trying to entice her closer and closer so they could infect her with their diseases. Once we manage to slither past them, we are back in the cross ties and acting like a complete moron. Spinning, rearing, pawing, snorting. Oh come on now! You are 15 years old and have been exposed to trails, arenas, jumping, cross country, dressage, hunter paces, endurance, camping. Why are you such an idiot?!?!
I do forgive her just enough to take her out and sponge her down before going back to pasture. I let her go and head back to clean up our mess and put things away.
On the positive side, even with not doing the 20 acre pasture and the trails off of it and going at a break neck speed that I wouldn't choose to ever do again, we managed to be out for 20 minutes. Not much, I know, but...if you add in going down the field and those two trails, even at that pace we would have been out for probably close to or just over 30 minutes. Slow it down and it would definitely be 30 minutes if not 35 or 40, but lets keep 30. Do the loop twice (which wouldn't make me slowly want to die inside. Anything over twice and I get antsy) and that would be an hour long trail ride with hills without having to trailer anywhere. Plus...there are still the power lines to explore. That's a heck of a lot better than going in a circle in an arena and better than the nothing I was doing at FS Farms, so that made me happy.