April 20, 2016

The Sunday Crawl

When I finally pulled into the trail parking lot, I was nearly 3 hours behind schedule. The weather was absolutely gorgeous though: 65 and sunny with a slight breeze and promised to continue warming up. I was feeling calm and relaxed and decided to just see how things flowed. If Gem was doing well and we were making good time, I would salvage what was left of my lunch (Wyatt had spent the time we were fixing the tire to eat most of my lunch) and head back out again.

Gem looked just fine coming off the trailer and had eaten about half her hay bag. I noted that there was no poop in the trailer which was odd for the length of time she was in there. I let her graze which she was more than happy to do on the spring grass. I had fed her grain before loading her up and spent a bit of time really going all over her with her favorite curry.

Since I had just done the green-red-green loop a few weeks back, I thought I would hit the grey trail which had never been my favorite in the past due to a long gravel uphill that I was forced to walk because she was bare before. Now that she had shoes, we cold tackle the hill no problem.

The first section leads over a creek and then crosses a road and I let her walk this entire way to stretch out and relax after the trailer ride over. With 20 miles to go, there was no need to rush anything early on. She moved out just fine, snagging any ferns or grass she could find (which was plenty with the forest in full bloom) and making her way to the creek.

We crossed without any issues then headed across the road. I was relaxed and happy for the greenery around me, the sun shining down and the cool breeze. It promised to be a wonderful day.

Then we hit the other side of the road and the wheels fell off. I told you Sunday was a bad day.

I asked her to trot up the stupid hill and her brains melted out of her head. She spooked at everything. I mean everything: a pine cone, a shadow, a rock, the normal tree branches. She had her neck craned and her eyes looking for any reason to be an ass hat. These weren't her typical little sideways ping ponging maneuvers either. She was full fledged jumping out of her skin, all four legs going different directions, spinning 180 degrees spooking.

They had recently done a controlled burn on this side and the air was thick with the scent of pine trees, so I thought maybe that was bothering her. I kept on her asking her to move out and my watch was reading 6-7 mph. She was moving freely and was feeling good when we managed to go forward, but her brain was completely checked out.

I slowed her to a walk and tried to keep my relaxed manner even though my temper was starting to boil a bit at her behavior, This is the crap she used to do 2 years ago. I used to shrug it off as just being her, but she is 18 now and has been riding with me for years. our last ride out was in a  completely new place over new terrain and she soared over it all like it wasn't anything. I was annoyed.

We kept trudging forward, making a 6 mph pace but I was fighting hard for it and by mile 3.5  she had already nearly dumped me 3 times. I was on super high alert which is the only thing that saved me. Had I relaxed at all, I would have eaten dirt.

We came out into a meadow and I let her eat until she was content which ended up being about 10 minutes. I let her take her time and then we walked off. She was fine and nothing bothered her.

A little ways later I asked her to trot again. Her brain melted out of her ears again and she turned into the spooking monster. Gray eventually met back up with red and I hoped the familiar trail would kick her back into gear.

A cool black snake we saw on the trail. Of course the one time I wanted her to stand still so I could get a picture of it, she refused to. 

When she refused to cross a bridge that she has crossed dozens of times, I gave up. We were at mile 4 and neither of us were having any fun whatsoever.

I got off and looked her over. She was fine. She moved fine. She had no lumps, bumps or issues. Her shoes were fine. The saddle was sitting just right and the girth was not pinching. Everything was normal. I did note that while she was eating super well on trail, she still hadn't pooped at all. So I decided to hand walk her a mile and see how she moved and acted.

She walked behind me like a puppy without a care in the world. A lizard jumping on a tree above her? Not even an ear flicker. A squirrel running in front on her? Didn't even notice. I looked back often and she was chewing away, head down and walking evenly on all 4 feet without any issues.

At the end of the mile I got back on. At the walk she was fine. I asked her to trot.

Super high alert mare looking off the trail for any reason at all to spook.

I gave up. We had 5 miles to go before we could be back at the trailer and we would just walk the whole thing. I fervently wished that I could figure out what was bothering her so much and why she had reverted back to such horribly annoying behavior. Without knowing the answer, pushing her ever onward and killing her mental health seemed pointless.

So we walked. I enjoyed the sunshine on my arms. I enjoyed the smells of pine needles and spring flowers on the cool breeze. I enjoyed the feeling of my mare walking beneath me. And Gem? Well she lowered her head and walked on without a care in the world.

She eventually pooped around mile 7 and peed around mile 8, but she was no more willing to go faster than a walk than she had been before.

We tackled the hills at a walk as I thought about a lot of things that I will write about tomorrow. Mostly I just enjoyed being outside and in the woods.

Just shy of 10 miles into the ride, we came to a junction in the trail where we could go right to add miles or straight and end it. Gem knows this area super well and knows exactly which trail leads where. We were walking along and she started heading off to the right. She wanted to keep walking. I, on the other hand, wasn't interested in walking any more. The day had already gotten super long with the tire incident and now the slow pace. We still finished the 10 miles in under 3 hours which isn't great, but isn't awful. My Garmin died at mile 6.5 so I don' know the exact time or pace.

We headed to the trailer and I untacked her and looked her over super well. The temperatures had risen to 77F while we were out and she only had a smidgen on sweat under her saddle. Nowhere else. The mare didn't work at all on that ride. Well, not physically. Mentally she worked pretty hard.

I made her a mash, practiced our trot out and loaded up to go home. Dusty needed to meet us at the barn to pull coggins on her and Pete.


  1. I've found on rides like this, and trust me we all have them, that leg yields three steps to the left and then three steps to the right across the trail have a moderating effect on behavior. After leg yields, I would work on long serpentines from one side of the trail to the other, making sure I have good bend. And then maybe a side pass along the trail, first in one direction and then in the other. She may want to go slower but that doesn't mean she doesn't have to work. Ashke figures out pretty quick that going forward at a trot is much easier than the walk work.

    1. Good suggestions. I will give those a try next time and see how she responds.

  2. Sorry to hear your ride wasn't so good. It really sounds like one of those days you write off as a crap day and move on! Hopefully Gem was just having pms or something and will be back to her normal happy self by your next ride :)

    1. In the past she has always bounced back to have a spectacular ride after one of these days. We will see at the hunter pace this weekend.

  3. Ugh. What an aggravating ride. I'm glad you had nice weather and scenery to make it less unbearable, but I probably would have been tearing my hair out.

    1. Oh I wanted to. It's worse because I miss out on time with Wyatt to ride so a really bad ride feels like such a let down

  4. Frustrating. I'd write the whole day off, except for the nice views and the cool snake! Maybe hanging out in the trailer by the side of the road was more stressful than it seemed, and her brain had just. had. enough.

    1. That's what I think happened. She looked fine but I think it stresses her out more than I thought.