Monday, June 2, 2014

More Riding for St Jude! -or- Is This a Good Idea?

My dad usually hosts a "Saddle Up for St Jude" trail ride in October.  Last year, the government shutdown denied us access to the trails we usually ride on.  So, the ride was rescheduled for May.

I couldn't get a ride for Whisper or Cricket to the next state to participate, so I thought I was going to have to sit this one out...  Then, my Aunt contacted me and said, "You can ride my horse!"
A horse that hasn't been ridden since the last time I got to work with her... 8 months ago...
Sure!  Why not?

Oh, by the way, (I discover) she's never been on an actual trail ride!
Well, in 10 miles, she will either figure it out, or she won't...
...she doesn't look amused...
First, we asked her to take the HUGE step onto that trailer, then she ends up in this strange place.  She doesn't know where the home herd is...  She doesn't know where home base is...  How can she know where to run to try to get out of work?  Where is the safe place?

I bridled up and climbed on in a grassy area (in the shade!).  She jigged when we pointed back to the trailers, so we walked away.  We doubled back and again headed toward the trailer - until she started to jig...
Third time is a charm, and we walked quietly back to the rest of the group to stand in a different area of shade.  We practiced being chill.  She's a natural!

During the first 2 miles, she felt the need to charge on ahead, so we soon found ourselves second in line.  I didn't want to make her first trail ride a traumatic event, so I set her up for as little fight and fuss as possible.  Besides, I'm ALWAYS happy when they go forward!

By mile 3, we were relaxing into the rhythmic, ground-covering walk that is the mark of a true trail horse.  So, we all stopped in a field for a photo shoot!

Take note of the chestnut horse...  His story is coming soon...
By mile 5, we could fall in lie anywhere, so we practiced bringing up the rear!  Some horses feel awfully insecire when they are last in line, so I was pleased to feel her accept this position in stride.

Best Groupie Ever!
At mile 5.3, we played in another field where we explored canter!  I think the grass tickled her belly, so we had the tiniest of bucks in the initial canter strides.  So, I put my hands forward and gave her more room to canter.  She couldn't decide whether to go toward the 3 horses by the treeline or the 2 horses galloping away, so she finally gave up and just went where I pointed her!  Great Paint!!

At mile 6, that chestnut horse (you remembered him, right?) decided that he was just done.  He couldn't walk anymore.  He just stood in the middle of the trail while everyone else walked on...  I noticed, so I stopped and waited for him to catch up.  My mount stood quietly while the horses in front of us disappeared.  The chestnut still didn't move...  Finally, I decided to try to pony him.  Paint Mare has never been asked to do anything like this, but that other horse just wasn't going to move!  I took his left rein by the bit and asked Paint Mare to walk on... She headed off, and the stubborn gelding still wouldn't move.  She tipped me an ear, so I told her to just keep walking...  The pressure increased on the gelding, and he finally started walking.  Reluctantly.

Each time I let go, he refused to walk any further!  I ponied him until we caught up to the group, but he was not walking without some other form of motivation!  After a rider switch, Stubborn Gelding resumed walking without a pony, but he remained as reluctant as ever.  Rider persistance got him to the head of the line, and we ended up second again.

Heading up a steep incline, probably around mile 8, Stubborn Gelding stopped again.  This time, Paint Mare just charged on past him, not wanting to give up her own momentum, taking the lead in the process!  She led for a good while, like a proven trail master.
She lost her confidence when the sound of motorboats on the lake crept into the trees, but she carried one with one fearless leader ahead of her.

After we exited the trees, we crossed a field back to our trailers.  The trailers were in sight, but a woman on foot stopped us to ask about the trails.
All of the other horses kept walking.  Paint Mare stood quietly.  We wrapped up our conversation after the rest of the herd had reached the trailers.  So, we walked on.  A couple times, she took it upon herself to trot, as if asking permission.  A touch on the reins, and she dropped right back down to a walk.  Again - like a proven trail master!

Was it a good idea to take a horse that hadn't been ridden in 8 months on her first ever trail ride cold?  And 10 miles at that?  Maybe not.  But it turned out beautifully in this case!
All for the kids at St Jude, right?


  1. Could've been scary, but glad to hear that everything turned out lovely!!
    Beautiful horse, by the way ;)

    1. Aw, thanks!
      You're right. It could have been scary... But only for the first few miles, right? ;)



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