Riding in the Vivian Forest

I’ve gone over to the Vivian Forest to ride a couple of times this week. It is a beautiful place to ride. The footing is mostly sandy, and there’s a pond for the horses to drink from (though it’s often full of wet, gleeful Labrador Retrievers, sticks, and tennis balls)

Veronica had her first ride on these trails and was quite impressed by the beauty of the forest. Ella was, in a very Ella sort of way, alarmed by all the raucous dogs at the pond party, not to mention the guitar player. Ella’s alarm is manifested as a slight widening of her eyes and a momentary hesitation. Veronica thinks that it would take a serious predator (a grizzly perhaps?) to bestir Ella into actual flight. One would have to think that this may have contributed to Ella’s total failure as a (Standardbred) racehorse. Actually Ella didn’t even earn the title of racehorse. She was a failure at being a racehorse prospect long before she could go to an actual racetrack to qualify 🙂 However, she seems to be making a terrific start at being a bombproof trail horse prospect.

Ares’ Excellent Trail Ride

Today was a big day for Ares and Anastasia. We loaded Dressy and Ares into the trailer and took them over to the Vivian Forest for a real grownup trail ride. This was Ares’ first ride away from home. And he was a star!

He loaded up on the trailer without hesitation, and rode quietly. Which I pretty much expected, given that he’s a Standardbred off the track. They get a lot of trailering experience. He ate almost all the hay in his hay bag on the way over. Which is impressive. It’s only a 15 minute drive. But as a racehorse, he’d never have been given hay on a trailer before. And it obviously surprised and delighted him.

He stood quietly while Ana tacked him up, eating what was left of Dressy’s hay bag. And he stood like a rock while Ana mounted. He is amazingly good about that. I’ve been watching him over the last week, and haven’t seen him even shift a foot while she gets on. She even got off him a couple of times out on trail today to adjust tack and he stood perfectly while she hopped back on.

First we headed down to the dog pond. Dressy normally marches directly into the water. But there was a guy with a guitar, singing loudly, by the shore. Neither horse approved. Dressy kept staring at him with her laser beam mare glare and it took her a long time to commit to going into the water. She loves water. But I think she was afraid it would slow her down if she had to bolt off madly to safety. Ares was just sort of hiding behind Dressy. He did eventually follow her partway into the water. Though I don’t think he really drank much.

The trails had a lot of washouts from the heavy rain we had yesterday. But the sand was wet and packed, so it was mostly good footing. We did a lot of walking, just to give Ares time to look around and get confident. But he seemed quite happy to be out there. He went in front, went behind, and travelled beside Dressy. When he was out in front, he showed considerable interest in any little singletrack side trails. So he’s showing signs of being an explorer.

At one of the worst washouts, he wasn’t too sure how to negotiate the holes, and opted to turn around and go behind Dressy. But otherwise he was good out in front. We did a bit of trotting here and there. And towards the end of the ride, I let Dressy gallop up a couple of hills and Ares followed just a bit more sedately at a canter.

All in all it was a most uneventful ride. Just exactly what you’d want for, and from, a green horse. Ana had a big smile on her face at the end. A little over 9 miles in 2.5 hours, and she wasn’t even very sore.

Another Ride in the Vivian Forest… With Cookies

The little creek that feeds the dog pond
Today, I loaded Dressy on the trailer, and picked up Diego on our way to the Vivian Forest to ride. Diego has really started loading on the trailer well in the last little while. It was about 2-3 minutes to load him up this time. I suspect that he’s so happy to see Dressy that he doesn’t think much about resistance.

The weather was beautiful and consequently the forest was very busy. Lots of people, bikes, and dogs. Mostly lots and lots of DOGS. All well-behaved, amiable dogs this time.

There is a big rock along the trail to the dog pond that has a bronze plaque. Dressy has always been sure that big rocks are a really bad thing. Plaques ON rocks are downright evil monsters that stalk and kill horses. But I have finally convinced her that if she could just bring herself to sneak up and touch it, or even pretend to touch it that I will most likely come across with a delicious cookie. So she steels herself and sneaks up on it with quivering legs.

If I touch this evil horse-eating rock, do I get a cookie????

We went to the pond first, where we had our usual splashy bath, then headed out to loop around the trails. Dressy was quite calm and relaxed, and so was Diego. Though of course there were moments of excitement here and there.

Let me go! It’s just WAY easier to gallop wildly up this hill you know…

Dressy knows that I always carry a few cookies in my pommel pack, so she listens carefully for the sound of the zipper. But she’s also figured out that Misha carries cookies in her pack. And that Misha is very easily seduced into handing over the goodies. So sometimes she just reaches out, rests her nose on the pack, and wiggles her upper lip while looking coyly up at Misha. It always works.

Gimme those cookies Misha!
Do NOT feed those to Diego! He has no appreciation for cookies. I should get ALL of the cookies.
Ha! Score! I got all HIS cookies too!!!!
Lots of people at the pond. Dressy watches them carefully, but mostly hopes that they will have treats to hand over, just like Misha. That waiting family did not have goodies but they did admire her extravagantly, which she accepted regally as her due.

Diego was again a very good boy. He did get himself caught up in a stick at one point and came to a very abrupt halt from a canter. Which smashed Misha’s face against his poll with a rather loud “thwack!” It sounded quite uncomfortable. But it really wasn’t bad behaviour, just clumsiness. And at the end of the ride, he walked directly on the trailer without hesitating for even a split second.

Ice, Mud, and Spring Run Off

I’ve been feeling very guilty for not riding much over the last couple of weeks. The footing looked kind of yucky, and I just didn’t feel too motivated. So today I yanked up my bootstraps and took King across the road, figuring that we could just go slow and be careful in any slippery or soggy spots.

Well, yuck. Ugh. And double yuck. The footing is horrible. It alternates between sheets of wet, slippery ice, and bogs of wet, sucking muck. With the additional treat of some pretty deep run-off water washing across the trail in a few spots.

I guess my procrastination was valid. No riding for a few more days. I am really itching to get going with King. He was coming along so well after working through all the snow this winter. I could feel how much stronger he was getting. Now we’re at a total standstill.

I probably ought to get a load of sand put in my round pen, so I could at least do some schooling in there during mud season. Even the footing in there is impossible. The soil around here is heavy clay.