For a brief moment of insanity, I thought I would clean my house from top to bottom and even went so far as to purchase cleaning supplies on my way home from dropping the kiddo off. Thankfully, as soon as I pulled into my driveway, sense came back to me and instead I changed clothes and grabbed my truck keys.
As I was pulling into Croft State Park, I realized that not only was this only the second trail ride since May, but it was my first solo ride on the bay beast. This summer has been relentless in both heat and humidity.
|I forgot to put my reins in the trailer. I had zero interest in driving an hour back to the barn to get them, so I just improvised with two lead ropes.|
Gem began the ride spooky as a 2 year old who had never seen a trail before in her life. I sighed deeply and began to think about cashing it all in, selling the trailer and just riding at the barn for the rest of her riding career.
As we meandered past the camp ground and hit the trail to lead over the lake and back into the woods, I had no expectations for the ride. It was already in the low 90s although the humidity has finally come down making it more tolerable. I didn't want to overheat the fat pony, so I planned to just walk most of it.
|The lake is the lowest I have ever seen it. the Sink Hole to Hell is typically a whirling mass of water draining the lake to the river on the other side of the dam.|
When her brain decided to melt out of her ears, I changed tactics. We would work on all the principals we are learning in the arena, but out on trail. I made her march forward at a real walk instead of her simpering toddler gait and began to add in several halt transitions. I picked a certain tree and told myself that we would halt beside that tree. I began early, making sure my position was accurate and stable, then I would add core and lift and use my thighs. She would always slow down readily, but didn't actually halt, so I added in a voice command. If she still didn't halt I added in the reins. We stopped right where I wanted to each time, but I really want to work on getting her lighter about it and so we would repeat this over the course of 6.5 miles and by the end she was much, much lighter in her response.
|Thankfully the trees provided a lovely shade over the trail|
We also did trot sets and I worked hard on getting her to respond to my core and go at my pace. Trotting was harder since she spooks way worse going faster, but by breaking it down and changing her pace within the gait as well as working on down transitions to walk, it kept her busy. She still ping ponged her way down the trail, but at least we were both thinking.
The other benefit was that it set me up way better when she through in a dirty 1870 degree spin and drop the shoulder move. I barely shuffled in my seat this time and we turned around and worked some more.
|Blurry, but at least it shows her ears finally on me|
We went pretty slow and didn't even canter through my favorite section of trail due to the heat. The 6.5 miles took just shy of 2 hours to complete, but the mare was soaked through with sweat and had it dripping down her sides. I wouldn't have wanted to push her too much more.
|Soaked through with sweat after mostly walking the entire trail with some short trot sets. Hot, hot, hot.|