Hacks in the Woods
The footing was OK in the ring. Not great, but OK. The trick was that we were hitting the base below the sand, so there were a few slippery spots. The base is a clay intensive dirt and when only the top thaws, it can be slippery.
I rode Toby first and headed right out to the trail. He was a little cautious on the still semi-frozen ground. Other than that and his determined insistance on stopping for a graze at the edge of the field on the way home, it was an uneventful ride. When I got back, I trotted and cantered a bit in the ring, just to stretch him out and give him a little real exercise. What is funny is how certain he is about getting a carrot once he's untacked. There is no doubt he knows that's the deal we struck years ago and he intends to hold me to my promise of a carrot after every ride.
I saddled Chance up next and put the running martingale on. (Thanks for the reminder, Claire) I think it needs a few more holes to be a little shorter, but it did help some of the head flailing. Again, I had to laugh. I mounted up, headed around the ring and as soon as we reached the gate to the woods, Chance made it very clear that he wanted to go out. He balked, napped, and was very insulted when I insisted we go on around the ring. I trotted him for a good stretch. He started out really fast--some of it my fault because I kind of leaned forward and went with him. But he is a little quick at the onset anyhow so it's easier to just let him go a little and work him down. Eventually, I sat more upright and slowed my posting, giving him short checks now and then and he slowed considerably. Too slow at times as whenever I crossed the centerline he tried to stop. Still the steering was so much better and he put his head down into a stretch fairly easily. It is far from steady, but balance and time will fix that.
When I felt he was no longer overeager to go on, I brought him back to a walk and headed for the gate. Out we went for a hack. He was quiet and calm. There was only one little hiccup when something ran through the dry leaves in the treeline. I think Chance gave a little skip for one stride, then shrugged his shoulders and went right on.
Chance is shedding like crazy, so I gave him a good raking with the shedding blade when we got back. I think he enjoys that and also enjoys his carrot. I guess I'll have him spoiled soon too.
That left Tucker. I swear he has grown. I will have to measure him on a perfectly level surface one of these days--my barn aisle is not--but a quick check today suggested he may actually be closer to 17h than 16.3. All I know is that he is BIG.
We had a nice school in the ring for about 20-25 minutes with some good trot work and some nice canter. I did a spiral in at the canter starting on a 20 meter circle and closing it up to less than 10 meters. Then, I did a bit of leg yield to open it back up to the 20 meters, really engaging his hind end. From that, I will eventually work up to the canter pirouette. In the meantime, I need to do some "square corners" at the canter to get him to lift his shoulder around. The idea here is to ride a square instead of a circle, getting the horse to bring his forehand around ahead of his hind end at each corner. But that is for another day when the footing is really solid.
We headed out on the trail next. Darn if that scary noisy leaf rustling critter wasn't back in action in the same spot. Tucker did a complete 360, ending up with a snorting stop facing the woods where the "critter lurked." I am pleased to say I sat it out quite securely and wasn't even shaken. It took a few more circles and lots of neck stroking to get him to go on as he would have preferred to head home at that point, but as soon as I got him moving again, he dropped his head and settled in.
The rest of the hack was quiet until we were nearly at the end of my fenceline when, we came face to face with........another horse and rider!!! It was Jay, a guy from the barn on the next road over with his superquiet trail horse. Tucker was an absolute gentleman--calm, quiet, and polite. Two years ago, such an encounter would have sent him into a tizzy. Today, Jay and I had a nice chat while both horses stood quietly. Jay told me he may buy a 5 yo palomino. He will be retiring from the NJ Fire Department very soon and thinks he will be able to keep on leasing this horse, buy the young one, and have a lot of time to spend with the both of them.
That'd be great! I have his number somewhere, so the plan could be to trailer the horses somewhere to do some trail rides. It would be nice to have someone to ride with once in a while.
Back at the barn, Tucker the new trail star, chomped down his carrot with delight. Then I bedded all three stalls with fresh shavings and fed the little herd as the snow began to cover the ground.
Yes, snow. It doesn't look good. I'm not sure how much we are going to get, but the ground is already white and it's only been snowing for a little over an hour.
Oh, well. As they say, "There's nothing you can do about the weather."