Monday, February 28, 2011

A Snowy Gallop and ...Trails?

Winter wonderland has returned here to Spokane. Saturday's high was 17 I think so I didn't really even bother to leave the condo. I'm staying with my mom as my house has mold issues and the insurance/contractor are trying to get their -stuff- together so it can get fixed. Stalling? Noooooooooooo, surely not. My parent's have cable tv, which is about a million stations I've never even heard of before. It's like crack.

Sunday was a little warmer and I thought I could ride around on the driveway that loops around the barn as the arenas are slippery and full of snow. Unfortunately the driveway was really slick from cars packing the snow down, so the only option was to head out on the trail and through the frozen snowy hay fields.

We hit the first hay field at a very brisk walk. He asked to trot. We trotted, he asked to canter multiple times until I let him. There was about a foot of snow but he didn't seem to be slipping or sliding around, and by the time he was allowed to canter we were at the base of a hill that connects to another hay field. I let him stretch out a little, which was pretty exciting for both of us, and once we hit the top of the hill he very reluctantly came back down to a walk.

The next field is a lot bigger, and instead of following the trail that loops around to the left he chose to head for the biggest, longest, steepest hill at a trot. Then a canter. Up, up, up we went... I braced my hands at the base of his neck and he settled into a nice rhythm through the field. Until the terrifying pile of brown stuff showed up. He spooked, but I'm pretty sure it was just an excuse to take off. It's the first time he's taken off with me. With each bound I'm sure the 100s of acres were calling to him, telling him "look at how much space there is, go faster! faster! faster!" Luckily he's really not that strong (as in determined) and I got him pulled up before things got really out of control. We circled back and oh, the brown stuff is not that scary after all. Here, let me step through it. Then we cantered NICELY for a little bit more to prove we could. Then had a discussion about walking and NOT prancing. One of my biggest pet peeves, the prancing thing. After we got out of the field and onto a narrow trail in the woods he relaxed quite a bit.

All in all the ride was probably 20 minutes. The last 10 were on a loose rein through the woods and back to the barn. He walked through the last field, down the hill, and back to the barn with no problems. Got lots of and lots of praise. Gotta end on a good note.

What are your trail expectations? When you are on a trail ride or out hacking do you have a different set of rules for your horse than when you're in an arena?

My expectations on trails are that my horses walk on a loose rein. I don't care how fast they walk (mine always seem to be speed walkers), or if the meander around a little bit, but they may not prance or break gait without permission. Alexandre (not mine anymore) often stops to take in the views, especially when he's on top of a hill or overlooking a valley. He stops on his own to catch his breath on hills and will continue on when he's ready. He also "S" curves down the trail and sometimes chooses to walk through the woods. He's always happy and interested in his surroundings. I know I could keep him on the straight and narrow, but I let him choose his own path cause he enjoys it.

Jasper is not as confident as Alexandre, and is still learning how to stay on a trail. When he wonders off into the woods, which happens often, it's because he gets distracted by, well... everything. I try to use leg pressure to keep him on the trail rather than reins. I let him meander off into the woods every now and then, and he often gets himself in situations that he can't get out of (uh, gee, there's a big downed tree here and bushes on all sides, uh, duh. Or hey, I'm on top of a cliff of shale, can't really walk down that, uh...) but I figure he'll learn how to plan ahead and find a path eventually. I like to let horses use their brains and make decisions for themselves as much as possible. Alexandre can be in the deepest, darkest woods and can always find a way out. Jasper's just learning to walk through the woods and not get stuck.

And I almost always have light/medium contact at the trot and canter as the need for speed requires half halts.

Do you ride on a loose rein? Keep contact? Are you in control of your horse's every move? Let them make decisions and think for themselves?


EvenSong said...

Because most of my riding last year was with the Trail Riders club, I feel obliged to try to keep the girls at the pace of the rest of the group. In this , the two are totally different: Kate lolligags along, often not keeping up, until she realizes they're all way ahead of her, and she wants to trot to catch up...also a no-no in my book if it hasn't been asked for. She's gotten confident enough (or maybe me?) that I can pretty much leave her on a loose rein, unless she has a green-horse-moment. Maddie, however, is always in a rush! CHARGE! If I don't rate her, she'll run up on the horse in front of her, which is a major no-no. So she took to jigging last year--Drove me nuts! I did discover that if she gets to lead she's much happier, and strides out BIG, but without the jigs, which I like. But being in front can't always happen, so we've got work to do this year. I blame it all on their green-ness, but, golly, Jasper's equally green! And they're both 6 now, so I won't be able to get away with that for much longer...

Grace Miller said...

My rules on trail with beginners, or with green horses are a slow put put walk. With Larry however it's a walk or you don't go. But, with horses that are either to slow to catch up, or others that have a hard time keeping a pace of a walk, are only to walk. This last year, Margie could walk on a loose rein unless heading back to the barn. Then we had to shorten them. She used to be a trail horse, so I have no troubles keeping her slow, unless I get tense, then she too gets tense. Way to go Megan. I loved your story this morning of Jasper decided to spook at the bush. Hmm? Not much experience> ;)

Albigears said...

Oh, I suppose I should have mentioned that with Jasper walking on a loose rein means either we are alone or he's in front...

allhorsestuff said...

Hi there!
I always am thrilled to come here, and see that gorgeous photo header!

Ditto on the loose rein, front or alone worth my mare...sometimes with the right group.
I loved rereading your snowy ~ trail times! Jasper is just the most honest horse...he really needed to stretch! That was a lovely time you two had. Even if he used a brown excuse to jet, he came back and you reclaimed the time.

I've recently started to ask more on the trails...because my mare seems to have gotten sour to me asking in the arena (there's more to it than that...) So, instead of always being long low, relaxed out there. I'm asking for collected contact, laterals and everything I'd ask in the arena...just for my knowledge she isn't confused at all, with the cues.
She is opionated with terrains..and it may have been due to saddle fit for issues, but steep, slick, uneven narrow-not her thing!

Great post!!

Anonymous said...

Klein is usually on a loose rein on trail rides. I let her figure stuff out for herself. When we do hill work I purposely find something pretty steep to work up, down, and across and I let her pick where she thinks her feet need to go, and she's always right :)

I just noticed Klein and Jasper have the same b-day, except he's one year younger.

Albigears said...

ES, I have the same problem as you do with Maddie. The horses in front of him just walk too slow for his taste. Then it's either a never ending battle of half halting, or just letting him pass and walk in the front. Kind of depends on my mood as to what we'll do.

Grace, :)

ahs, Thanks! I think I look goofy in the pic but I like that the moment the photographer caught it in. I always seem to have a goofy look on my face in all my riding pics. Either that or really serious.

Yeah, I've asked a little more every now and then as well. At first he was really mad he had to get on the bit out on the trail, and now it's getting easier.

Stacey, YAY! We will have to have a big interwebs birthday celebration!!

achieve1dream said...

Fun! You're really making me miss riding. Glad you had a good time and the spook wasn't too bad. :)

Dom said...

While I love galloping in the snow, I am so glad winter seems to be behind us. I shuddered reading about the temps out there.