Monday, May 3, 2010

Ranch Ridin'

No posts in over a month! I've been committing the pinnacle of blogger sins with my prolonged silence. I have so many updates on Halo that I barely know where to begin. We've had some very good rides, and some very not-so-good rides, but she has made some amazing progress in the past couple of months.

The first thing I want to catch up on is a ride we went on at the very end of March. Casi and I were supposed to go trail riding at a fun place not too far from town, but an opportunity arose to haul out for an all day ride on a 1,500 acre ranch. How could I say no?

Of course this required us to get up at a very early hour, as evidenced by the semi-darkness and Halo's cranky face.

It was about a two hour drive down to the ranch. Halo did great with the trailering, and was quite content to eat all the way there. It amazes (and pleases) me that she trailers so well. My previous horse had trailer anxiety and would inevitably arrive at any destination covered in sweat.

She was a little hyped when we got there, but I saddled her up and longed her for a couple of minutes to take the edge off. I was still a bit nervous after how the beginning of our 12 mile ride went just a couple of weeks before. The barn owner gave Halo a little bit of Ace to keep her head cool for the morning, and that made things much better. While I generally don't think Aceing your horse is a great solution to problems, it can be a huge help in keeping them calm through a new and potentially scary situation. The Ace ended up wearing off by after lunchtime anyway, which kept things interesting.

Here are a few scenes from the beginning of our ride:

Casi on Louie before her knees started to hurt (still cheerful):

We started out in a big open field, and eventually made our way up into the hills, which were covered with scrubby bushes and trees. Halo was pretty mellow about the whole affair, and stayed in the middle of the group. I like being there because she needs to learn that she can't always blast off to the front. She's a little nervous about having horses behind her, especially unfamiliar horses, so it's good practice for her to get used to that.

The only incident we had on the way to lunch was at a man-made reservoir. The trail leaders decided it would be fun to ride up to the edge of the reservoir, which was in a big built-up hill made out of very soft dirt. The footing was very loose, so the horses had to scramble a little to get up the hill. Halo was fine getting up, but then the path around the edge of the water was very narrow. A fence around the water was on one side, and a lovely steep slope of loose dirt was on the other side. We did fine until about halfway around the pond when we had to take a sharp turn to stay along the fenceline. Halo decided she wasn't going to go that way, and headed off down the hill. It took me by surprise, and I couldn't pull her around because I was afraid of her losing her footing. We did a slip and slide down the hill to the bottom, but made it in one piece. I wasn't about to try and go back up there, so we stayed along the bottom of the reservoir until everyone else came down on the other side. Halo was a bit anxious when she realized she'd separated herself from the other horses, but she listened to me well and we made it back to the group without incident.

I tied her up for lunch, and she took a nap under the trees like she'd been a ranch horse all her life.

After lunch we went through some very beautiful wooded areas. The pictures don't do it justice at all. Everything was incredibly lush and green, and the ground was carpeted in purple and white wildflowers.

When we came out of the woods, the group split up. A few people were ready to get back to the trailers, so they headed out. Casi had a bit of trouble getting Louie to go with the group of unfamiliar horses back to the trailers, so she ended up swapping horses to ride Buddy, who is less herd sour. Halo and I also had a very exciting moment right before the split - our first canter! Brynn, who is 15 years old and gutsy, was more than happy to take her horse out to lead Halo and I in a canter. Domino is a 17h giant, so Halo had to work plenty hard to keep up with him. We did the turbo trot of doom, and finally opened up into a lope. It was an amazing feeling! No bucking at all - just a nice big canter out into the open field. We cantered out and then back to the group. I was so excited I had to let out a whoop on the way back in. I'm a dork.

I felt a lot more confident after the canter, and felt like I had somewhere to direct Halo's abundant post-lunch energy. After a bit more riding in the trees, we finished off the ride with a gallop across a big open field. The wind stung my eyes, reminding me of the time I galloped Smot on the beach years ago. I felt like I was finally home on my horse's back.

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