Tuesday night I got out of work a half an hour early and rushed up to the barn to chase daylight while mounted. A storm was blowing in, but wasn't supposed to hit until 8 pm, so while it was still sunny the winds were gusting for all they were worth.
Gem was a bit surprised to see me and at first wouldn't take her nose out of the delicious pile of green hay in front of her. After a bit of persuasion she left the pasture and stood to be tacked up.
With the wind flinging her mane and tail around and the sun setting faster than I had hoped, we took to the trail that leads through the woods behind the pasture and ends at the big hill leading up to the arena. I forgot my watch and for some reason my phone wouldn't open the App store to let me download Endomondo, so I can't tell you how much vertical gain or how long the hill is. I will just say that it is steep and most likely a quarter to a third of a mile in length.
Gem was UP UP UP. The wind was goosing her butt and she was looking at everything. I didn't mind though. She needed the extra drive for the evilness I had planned.
We exited the woods (maybe a half mile total of trail?) and hit the base of the hill. There was a pile of sticks to the left that she took a long look at, but I dug my heels in and moved into a half seat position. At first she trotted, but soon realized what I wanted and charged like a war horse up the hill. I was grinning from ear to ear.
At the top, we entered the arena and she was blowing hard. I kept her in a trot twice around and then we cantered once around before I slowed her to a walk and we went back down the hill. I wanted to use this as her recovery and she was told to walk. She jigged. She was told to walk. She trotted. She was told to walk.
At the bottom she tried to bolt through my aides and rush back into the woods, but instead I turned her around and pointed her back up the hill. She protested, but as soon as she felt me get into my half seat and squeeze, she once again charged up the hill.
Blowing hard, we entered the arena and went the opposite direction trotting twice and then cantering once around before I asked her to walk back down the hill.
Again she jigged and tried to duck into the woods at the bottom, but I halted her and made her turn to face the hill. She locked on. She now understood the game and as soon as I gave her slack and went into half seat she leaped from a stand still into a gallop and charged up that hill. I laughed and tried to remain as much out of her way as possible.
After the third set I let her walk to cool down completely. She was breathing hard. I also noticed that even in 50 degree weather with the cold wind howling around us, she was stating to get sweaty.
We walked around for 5 minutes until I felt her breathing return to normal and then she walked like a lady back down the hill, turned around on her own accord and stopped with her ears back at me just waiting for the signal. She was enjoying this game.
Up we went three more times until the daylight was fading too much. She was breathing hard and was lathered, so I felt a little bad for her. I thought maybe I had pushed her too hard, but once we reached the bottom of the hill and I let her know we were heading into the woods and back to the barn she just took off on me. The trail is super narrow and twisting and is not safe to take at speed. I kept reminding her that we were no longer galloping and any feelings of pity I had for my poor tired pony went out the window. She had plenty of energy to spare!
Back in the barn, I threw her cooler on her to let her dry out without becoming chilled. I was so thankful for the clip job and I am sure she felt much cooler because of it. About 20 minutes later she was good and ready to go back outside and I left feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
This was easily one of the most fun and top 10 rides I have ever put in with Gem. We were both in harmony with each other and the plan for the day. Feeling her rippling muscles go from a halt to full blown gallop up the hill was amazing. She worked hard and I believe that these hill work outs are going to really help her butt, abdominals and cardiovascular system a ton.