Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ears At the Top

Yesterday a new endurance riding mentor and friend picked Deli and I up in her trailer and took us to a riding park. It was sunny but not unbearably warm, and when we got there the park was all but empty. It was an absolutely lovely day to ride: much of the park involved riding through groomed trails where we were surrounded by fall colors and falling leaves. The sky was brilliantly blue, and the river we rode along at one point reflected the color of the sky, and the trees. Our companions were superb company, and I probably chatted someone's ears off asking questions about endurance riding and talking about horses in general.

It was Deli’s third time trailering out to trail ride – and the first time she trailered out to ride with an unknown horse. We were lucky that the gelding was as sweet and polite as can be, and Deli was not at all concerned by him close to her or far ahead of her (he never got behind us because he was a much faster walker!). It probably helped that she seems to be in her last heat before winter. That could also explain why she felt a bit lazy despite having quite a bit of gas in the tank – being in heat makes her lazy.

We worked on simple things – and these trails were easy so we even got to do some trotting and a short bit of cantering. Deli was not that forward at the walk, which is how she shows her uncertainty, but she certainly became more relaxed as we rode on. She even led for some trot work when we were riding around a large farm field though she was less willing to trot out in the front in the closer confines of the woods with all its blind turns (though she was happy to keep pace with our gelding buddy).

Overall I’m QUITE pleased with her. She was less spooky and nervous than I expected. She definitely looked at a couple of things in that suspicious way horses do, and refused to do more than put her front feet in the river, but she did go into some muddy spots and puddles and was clearly curious about where she was and happy to be out and about. Even if she was slow at points she never refused to keep moving forward, which is great. She also pretty much hopped into the trailer both times despite being nervous. She didn't even scream that much as we pulled out of the driveway! I am amazed with how much she trusts me sometimes, given that trailers for the past two years have meant I was moving her to a new barn. As we do more trips OUT to trails, she will realize her home-life isn’t being uprooted every time I ask her to get on a moving box and drive down the highway.
I gave her a bath when we got home using some lovely herbal-smelling medicated shampoo. Soon the Pacific Northwest will welcome in the long rainy season. Since Deli's in pasture board again I really want to keep on top of her skin health – a bad case of scratches would squash our plans of endurance rides in the coming spring. 
At home again. Her winter woolies are pretty evident already.
Right now I’m tentatively planning on the time and location of our first sanctioned endurance ride: Home On The Range. The big downside of this particular ride is that it’s quite far from us – in Eastern Washington. The eight-hour trip may be worth the stress what what I hear hear is a fairly easy ride with forgiving footing (somewhat sandy) in the rolling grassland  on the arid side of the state. I also hope to do the limited-distance ride at Mt. Adams. I volunteered at the last Mt. Adams ride (in May, 2013), and was awestruck by the scenery and brisk mountain air. However, the more challenging terrain of the Mt. Adam's area (along with rocky footing) makes me think that a less physically daunting ride would be preferable for Deli's first time competing!

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