Sunday, October 2, 2011

Shhh! Don't tell Mother Nature -

Can't believe we're still enjoying temps in the 80's and summer-like sunshine.  Crazy!  Although we could really use some rain.

When the phone rang this morning with an invitation to join some friends on their year-end 4-H trail ride, I couldn't resist, even though I couldn't talk T out of watching football and into riding with me

The ride always starts at Sunny's trainer's place just down the road 1/2 a mile or so from the farm, making it easy to just ride down and meet up with them.  I took the trailer out anyway, since it was already hooked up.  Didn't want to forget anything critical this time!

The actual ride goes back past the farm and winds around a section split into four quarters where the north/south/east/west mile roads cross.  The ground is all owned by the pheasant hunting lodge that borders the farm to the south.  It's a beautiful location to ride, especially in the fall before hunting season starts, because they mow nice wide strips that are perfect for riding - the holes are easy to spot - and you can also spread out into the long grass if you want to.  The terrain rolls gently and the fields are varied: corn fields, shelter belts, grassy strips, marshy sections with cat tails... there's even a creek/stream bed to cross.

The ride was supposed to start at 1 PM, so at about ten minutes til I was trotting down the driveway with Thunder in tow.  I ended up waiting fifteen minutes or so for the last riders to get mounted.  Not a big deal, though - standing and waiting patiently is good for patience-building.

There were probably 25 of us riding, ranging in age from around 5 to 80+.  The majority of the mounts were Quarter Horses.  A couple of paints and a lone Appaloosa rounded out the group, with Sunny and Thunder being the only Arabs.

On the road the group spread out, and Sunny and Thunder walked along politely with no issues, but once we turned off things tightened up.  Sunny isn't at his best in crowds, especially when all the horses are strange.  And the crunchy leaves we were riding through made the other horses sound a lot closer behind us than they actually were.  I maneuvered my way to a spot on the edge of the front-most clump of riders, and let Thunder serve as a buffer.  With a clear escape route in front and to the right of him, Sunny settled down and quit jigging.

Thunder, bless his heart, just walked along taking everything in.  All those rides with J and C have really been good for him.

After things finally spread back out
We rode for three hours, mostly at a walk.  It didn't take long before I remembered why I spent a fair amount of time getting off and walking when I used to do this sort of ride more frequently - too much time in the same position at a walk, and my right foot goes to sleep.  Poor Thunder - I kept stretching my leg out in front of his nose.  But with two of them to juggle, I wasn't getting off to walk!

The next exciting moment came at the streambed crossing.  No water, but the bottom was still a bit muddy.  Only ankle deep or so, but there were a few horses that weren't enthused about crossing, so of course things packed back up again.  Sunny was doing better with the crowding by this point, and both horses cocked hips and waited. 

I wanted to cross where the sides were fairly low, since I didn't want Thunder jumping.  Once the refuser in front of us was finally convinced he wasn't going to die if he got his feet muddy, I pointed Sunny at the bank and gave him his head.  D (the one who started Sunny years back) was doing trailmaster duty on the other side.  Sunny decided he didn't like the look, or the squish of his first step.  He didn't suck back or jump, but we did get to the other side a LOT faster than I'd planned.  Thankfully, Thunder came right along, and UP! the bank we went. 

D's comment as I patted Sunny's neck, "Well he should go across that - he must have crossed it a few hundred times before!"  The two of them logged a lot of miles at the pheasant ranch that summer.  And Sunny and I will be back there again practicing in that streambed until he can WALK across, but as crossings go, it wasn't the worst we could have done.

D spent most of the ride shuttling back and forth between the front group where his daughter and her friends were leading us, and the later-most group where his wife was riding.  It gave him a chance to visit with everyone - many of us were riding horses he's started or "adjusted" with 30 days riding.  He commented on how quiet Sunny is getting to be, and also how calmly Thunder was handling everything. 

Riding a combined strip through corn
destined for the Corn Palace murals
I'm still hoping Thunder's owner will finally have him started properly, and if D would be willing to take him... well, let's just say I have my fingers crossed.
Strung out on the trail
We finally wound our way back to the gravel, and back past the farm to the D's place.  I hadn't brought a halter for Sunny, so after thank yous and see you soons it was back down the road through the stragglers towards home.  With all the other horses headed in the other direction, Sunny was convinced we were going the wrong way.  He dragged his feet until we finally passed the last of the riders, then perked up once he finally realized where we were headed.

Tired ponies
Thunder hasn't learned Sunny's trick of resting his head on his leadrope to sleep yet, but his nose was propped on the trailer.

This is why I ALWAYS check their hooves   
Seven completely clean feet, and one big rock.  In Sunny's off hind wedged in next to the frog.  Feet clean, saddle marks brushed off, fly-spray re-applied, the boys were very happy to hit the waterer and mosey down to their tree to nap in the sun.  And I was equally happy to park my behind in the truck and turn the AC on for the trip back to town. 

Hope everyone had an equally wonderful weekend, pony-infused or not.

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