|I finally managed to remember to grab a photo of the beautiful hand made bridle charm that Karen of Trails to Lead Old Cowboys Home fame made during Gem's injury. It is perfect for us, fit onto the bridle well and I just plain love it.|
The ride started late, 10 am, and the parking area was already filling up when we pulled in at a quarter to. Registration was quick and soon we were making the trek to the start just as the sun came up and started to heat things up. A lot of riders were decked out in Christmas apparel and I warned Gem that next year she would be getting a nice hat to wear.
The starting guy was hilarious as usual. You would think his approach would lead to some really confused and lost riders, but somehow he manages to be funny and make things stick. His assistant was holding up the large purple arrow used to show turns and pink ribbon for trail marking as he informed us that we needed to follow the green ribbon and red arrow. I laughed as always and waited to be counted down.
Gem actually wanted to lead at the beginning and I edge her out in front of Waffles. The first mile was up a large hill that got both mares breathing pretty good but the time we crested the hill. I don't nit pick on Haley during our rides since I am not a trainer, but I do focus on safety and proper etiquette. When we got to the top, the tight twisting trail opened up and she got ready to ask for a canter, but I told her to walk to allow the girls to catch their breath and not overheat.
|Proof we do actually go in front at times|
It didn't take long for Gem to return to normal, but Waffles was still breathing pretty hard as we descended back down. Once at the bottom, she was breathing normal again and we took advantage of the cooler, shaded air by the creek to get moving. The trail remained tight and twisting in the woods for the majority of the ride.
The trail floor was covered in a thick layer of leaves that made it hard to discern the underlying conditions. Gem has really learned her job though and I trusted her to slow down when needed and pick the trot back up when able. At times, the leaves would give way to a carpet of pine needles and we would shift gears to a canter.
This ride had less open fields than any of the previous ones which was a nice change of pace. When the grass would show up under the horse's hooves we would open them up and giggle as we chased the wind.
|One benefit of pony clubbers marking the trails: a sense of humor!|
One of Waffles major flaws is her inability to follow a trail on her own. When Haley stops riding, Waffles will take the opportunity to go off trail. This has led to her going down a steep bank and crashing into the woods. As we were cantering down a cleared grassy lane with the woods on either side, Haley lost focus and I watched as Waffles made a 90 degree left into the trees at a canter. Gem and I kept going forward and they eventually caught back up to us. I've cautioned Haley about losing focus and stopping riding and at this point I figure she will have to learn it the hard way. Nobody was hurt, except her pride I believe.
The half way point was the jaw dropping gorgeous back yard of someone far luckier than I am in life. Thankfully, they had brought not only drinking water for the horses, but sponge water as well. I jumped off and sponged the lathered sweat from Gem's chest and neck. She breathed a sigh of relief and was much happier afterward.
|Can I move in here please?|
|I won't be a bother, I swear!!|
We had been warned that after the hold would be a series of fields with newly planted grass. We were to stick to the very edge to avoid damage. They seemed very concerned that any damage would lead to future loss of land use. As we came up to the first field we saw the warning sign. To our left was the field and to the right was a house with a fenced in yard. We were told to hug the fence. As we approached the fence three very large, very loud and aggressive dogs came charging the fence growling and barking. Both mares stopped in their tracks and would not budge. Eventually I got Gem moving and we made our way along the fence line watching as one dog attacked its housemate in its frenzy over the horses. I made the comment, quite loudly, that if the people didn't want their grass trampled they should have put the dogs in the house.
After that the trail wove in and out of the woods and through fields. We came upon a picturesque pond and Haley remarked that it would be the perfect spot for the photographer. Just as we passed the pond we saw the photographer hiking her way to the pond. We had just missed her.
All too soon we saw the trailers in the near distance. The trail made a sharp right to the outskirts of the parking and wrapped around the lower parking field, then between the lower and upper and then along the edge of the upper field to the finish in an uneven figure 8. As we came into the field, Haley did the other thing I am working hard to get her to stop doing: she stopped riding. I am all for a slow start and fast(ish) finish and Haley will just sort of lose interest close to the end and let Waffles slow way down to a crawl. Nope. I want off my horse. I want to get the tack off my horse. I want to let my horse eat and drink and chill out. I don't want to amble on in.(So I told her to get her butt moving and get across that finish line!
We crossed and I immediately jumped off Gem. She was dripping with sweat, but breathing normal even with a nice canter uphill to the finish. Waffles was just as sweaty, but breathing hard and I told Haley to take her bit out and loosen the girth. We hand walked the mares back to the trailer where they immediately both peed and stuffed their noses into the hay bags while we got their grain ready.
Gem looked pretty darn good at the end and we left the pace with two tired mares.
|She looks skinny to me. I need to build up her top line again which will help her overall look.|
|Look Mom! I'm on the hood.|